Come Home!Shop & Eat Local
So when I start planning spring meals, I like to do something special in the meat category, something as unexpected and exciting as Swiss Chard for the vegetarian. Lamb, a clean, sustainable, locally accessible choice is often where I turn for inspiration. Lamb, in my opinion, really knows no season—kabobs on the grill in the summer, shepherd’s pie in the fall, a stew for the winter table. For Spring dining this year, however, I decided to do something exotic—and yet, homey. A pot pie with ground lamb, but seasoned—HEAVILY—with Indian-inspired spices. It got me smiles and a really great smelling kitchen!
My grandma’s chocolate custard pie was one of my favorite desserts. Her pie tasted old fashioned, not too sweet, with big chocolate flavor and a traditional flaky crust—none of the graham cracker nonsense. The pie was baked, so not a cream or chiffon pie—rich custard that couldn’t have come from a box, if you know what I mean.
As most Green Gal readers know, I worship the ground Chef Vivian Howard walks on. So it should come as no surprise that when her PBS series A Chef’s Life came to its final episode, I was inconsolable and weepy for weeks.
And then…this fall…she was back! And she was headed Somewhere South, on an incredible trip to places–yes, but more importantly into cultures, somewhat familiar but also far from her own table, not only through counties and regions of the South but also through history—much of it never told in mainstream—and deep into Black, Creole, immigrant and Indigenous cooking traditions. I’ve seen every episode and am still watching. My two favorites are about porridge and greens, which got me started on the dish I’m sharing below. Because, of course, I wanted to celebrate, too, in my kitchen!
Last year I made the decision to start ripping up my front yard—eventually I mean to rip up all my yard. The plan is to give back some of my land to the Earth: remember last year’s post She Went Native Right in the Front Yard? With the help of local native plant expert Tom Shirrell and my daughter Heather, I took out several feet of typical, useless suburban turf and handed it over to cone flowers, foxglove, monarda, hyssop, yarrow, milkweed and bee balm. A transformation from “doing something to the Earth” to “doing something for the Earth” had begun.
In college, I took two years of French. I loved studying and speaking this beautiful language. You can literally read a grocery list in French and create poetry. Pommes de terre, les haricots verts, et rôti de boeuf—that’s potatoes, green beans and roast beef, y’all.
But today? It’s pain perdu!
The kitchen as classroom—it’s certainly not a new concept. A culinary hero of mine, Alice Waters, was one of the first chefs to identify this idea with her Edible Schoolyard Project, a project that has since taken on a life of its own and been replicated in myriad ways globally, helping children understand where their food comes from, that a healthy plant-based diet can be delicious when deliciously prepared, and how cooking fosters skills that we all need. This idea is different from seeing a kitchen as a place where one learns to cook; it’s reimagining this functional space as a place where one cooks to learn.
It is summer! And for my family this year, it has been the season of gardening and living green. We finally expanded and fenced in our vegetable garden. If the crops fail, I won’t be blaming the deer this year. With a little luck and a lot of faith we may get some tomatoes, beans, potatoes, Brussel sprouts and kale. My little strawberry plant is still too small, but I did spy one tiny berry! I have expanded my herb garden, too, and our front yard is teeming with the pollinator plants I’ve been putting in for the past three years. While we will never be farmers, or herbalists, or native plant experts, it all feels wonderful. So satisfying. So connected to the Earth. And at the end of the day…I’m sore as hell and Don has a smell way beyond sweaty. You, too? I’ve got suggestions, so keep reading.
I’d like you to meet a new special friend: Here’s Maya, or rather Maya Two. She’s a gift from my friend Jane Zappia—yep Pop’s Pies Jane Zappia. Jane called at the end of March and said: “Would you like some sourdough starter? I have more than I need.” OMG. Can you say Soooooo Hippie! Of course I would!
I have several friends with whom I share a lot of passions—love of the outdoors, farmers markets, gardening, and environmental activism, among many other loves. Food is always top of the list, and I’m sure this is not a surprise to you. Conversations with my friends about food come up all the time, and sometimes these heart-to-hearts on all things yummy, healthy and local turn into something really special—in this case, bacteria. Say what?
Don and I have only made one brief trip to the fabled French Quarter, but we loved the history, the cultures and the food…especially that Cajun and Creole cooking! The Louisiana city simmers with beauty and sizzles with passion. The traditional dishes are seasoned with myriad cultures—African, French, Native American, Spanish, and Caribbean.
Needless to say, it’s the herbs that make this dish a standout—yep, you guessed it: fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. And in this season that is famous for stressed out and frenzied households, I have decided to share the recipe on the blog. Many of you will already know how to roast a chicken, I’m sure. But in case you don’t and have reached the end of a harrowing day of shopping, cleaning and whatever else the holidays have thrown at you, roasting the Scarborough Chicken will make a wonderful comforting dinner and will…well…make you feel better. Jenny and I promise.
Afterwords Books is a family-owned local bookstore, celebrating 10 years in Edwardsville. Customers can purchase new and used books, take advantage of a trade-for-credit program and join a book club like ours—there are clubs going on all the time at Afterwords, for every age and interest. Little shoppers also can enjoy the free children’s story times, while others participate in a thriving monthly documentary club. People come to shop for books at Afterwords, to be sure, but they linger for the community, conversation and coffee and tea.
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville celebrates Diversity Day each October. Across the campus students, faculty and community members engage in various activities focused on the beauty of our differences and the power of our commonalities.
If you ask Michael Turley to define “a farm”, he smiles in a way that makes you think you’re going to find his answer a little weird. It’s a hesitant smile, suggesting he is already aware that you are most likely a skeptic. But he answers anyway:
“Remember the opening scenes of the movie The Wizard of Oz? Remember the farm Dorothy lives on in Kansas—there’s Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, barely getting by with a few hired hands to help them, a cow, a horse, some hogs, a few acres of field crops in the distance? Well that’s what I think of as the American farm.” Then he waits for the inevitable response that politely calls his vision “romantic,” “quaint” but in the end “highly impractical” by today’s agricultural standards.
Well there’s a new vendor at the Goshen Community Market, who just happens to be an old friend…. Jane Zappia, of past Green Gal Keto fame, is the owner and proprietor of Pop’s Pies. She’s at the Market with her daughter Hayley this coming October—which is, like, tomorrow. Time flies. (Remember Hayley—the Cocomels Spokesmodel?)
Ok, so pies are a pretty standard farmer’s market item; every market has at least one bakery stand. But I bet you’ve never seen or tasted a pie quiet like Jane’s. (And let’s be clear here, this is coming from a green gal who can whip up a pretty mean pie, herself, so keep that in mind.)
My friend Mary Lynn is always sharing these wonderful little stories that show how food is so much more than just sustenance, just nutrition for the body. You may recall the post from a while back on her banana bread story. She also tells this touching tale about a woman—quite old and sadly in a nursing home—who was unexplainably failing quickly after living a vigorous and healthy life on her family’s small farm.
Heather promised to help me start a native plant garden. She and her dad did the grunt work in the fall, removing turf, turning soil and establishing a well-mulched patch that would get me started in the spring…all I had to do was fill it.
Success begins with a sound foundation. How many times have you heard that sentiment? Whether we are talking architecture, education or parenting, a strong foundation is the common denominator to success. This is also true of one of my favorite places on Earth: the Goshen Community Market.
I was at Dayempur Farm near the end of April, learning about this self-sufficient Sufi community’s sustainable spin on farming and living in Southern Illinois. The journey took me to the edge of the Shawnee National Forest, onto 60 acres of pristine land, some cultivated, some left wild and wooded, but none sprayed by pesticides and herbicides that mar most modern commercial agriculture.
Home is my best way to describe the cooking class out at beautiful La Vista Ecological Learning Center a couple of Saturdays ago. We were nearly a room full of strangers when we started. There were some familiar faces, but many people I’d never met. I just knew right away that I belonged.
Remember Project Drawdown— and the Eco-challenge issued through the Northwest Earth Institute to take small everyday actions that were proven to mitigate climate change? Well, I’m happy to report Project Drawdown continues and is gearing up for another round of challenges this spring beginning April 3 and running through April 24. You can register your team or just join as an individual to begin your own drawdown on climate change. But why wait! I have an immediate suggestion….
My friend Teresa Kennedy makes the best fish soup I have ever tasted, hands down. It is the dish always requested when our group of friends (That would be the Mermaids, BTW.) gets together for food, fun and frolic. Her fish soup is rich, balanced and comforting, not to mention highly nutritious. Now Teresa is a terrific cook, so it is possible that this soup is everyone’s favorite because of her mastery of culinary techniques and her inspired intuition, but when you get to the bottom of the pot, there’s quite a bit more magic in this recipe than meets the mouth. It begins and ends with love—and Betty Crocker!
Well here we are once again—saying goodbye to the old year and ushering in a new one, promising to never to “that” again and vowing to change all our evil ways overnight. Good luck.
Or better than luck, why not go with “healthy curiosity and personal-best strategies”? Make your new start into 2019 an exploration rather than an ultimatum. Start with a few small changes and keep building. I know, you are rolling your eyes and thinking: “There she goes again with her anti-New Year’s resolution stuff.” Well, ok, I hear ya. So I thought this year, I’d let someone else share her success and hopefully inspire you to find yours—meet my friend Jane, an accomplished educator, master baker, beautiful woman (inside and out) and recent convert to a Ketogenic way of life.
No…not a misspelling, so I guess you know where we are headed, right? It was after my post on the Pumpkin Cheesecake last month and my reminiscence about sharing a piece of pumpkin pie with my grandma, that I realized, while I have preached pumpkin and shared a million pumpkin recipes during the past three years, I’ve never offered to share my grandma’s pumpkin pie. Amazing.