Monday, December 28, 2009

all these bananas

After a month long break working on the Los Poblanos Organic farm I switched to the warehouse for the winter season. In some ways there is more hard labor involved like sorting and packing produce into boxes, defrosting produce that is delivered from California, using a hand truck and forklift to moved boxes around the warehouse, distributing produce into CSA subscriber boxes, and lots of cleaning. I started yesterday and was both delighted and surprised by how much produce ends up in the compost or up for grabs for the workers. I took home a bunch of pears, broccoli, garlic, onions, potatoes, and a whole ton of bananas (well, not a ton but lots and lots). So I decided to eat a few, freeze a couple of bunches and use the rest to make lots of banana bread. Below is my recipe. It can be tweaked for high altitude quite easily by taking out 1/4 tsp of baking soda, 1/4 c flour, using cold eggs, and baking for only 45 minutes. Feel free to make with pecans instead of walnuts, or just take out the nuts, and/or add chocolate chips.

Banana Bread

makes 2 loaves
active time: 30 minutes
total time: 2 1/2 hours

* 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
* 2 1/3 cups sugar
* 1 cup vegetable oil
* 3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
* 1/4 cup crème fraîche
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 1 1/3 cups walnuts (4 ounces), toasted and chopped

* Special equipment: a standing electric mixer

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 (9- by 5- by 3-inch) metal loaf pans, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Sift together 3 1/4 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in bowl of electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil in a slow stream, mixing, then mix in bananas, crème fraîche, and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture and walnuts gently but thoroughly.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack.
Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey Harvest

This year I was lucky enough to reserve one of eighteen turkeys from Los Poblanos Organic Farm in Albuquerque where I participate in the work share program. I helped feed these Heritage Bronze Breasted turkeys and shovel their poop over the last few months. It was cool to have the opportunity to kill my own food and share it with my friends.

How it works: First you catch her,which was pretty easy because they were in their coop. You do this by grabbing her feet and swinging her upside down because this mesmerizes them. Then you put her head down into a bucket with a hole cut in it. You hold her straight up and down (and this is the hard part) you make two deep and hard incisions in a V shape on either side of the jugular. Once the blood has drained and she stops thrashing, you swing her around into a very hot tub of water to loosen the feathers. You pluck all the feathers out (a long and tedious process), cut the head and feet off and then remove the insides. You then clean her out and she is ready to cook. As difficult as it was to end her life with my own hands, I highly recommend this experience if you ever get the chance.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fresh fall salad - Kohlrabi, Fennel & Apple

Today was a sunny and warm fall day here. I got an early start to the farm for my weekly work share harvesting duty and I really sank into a sort of meditative groove of picking, cutting, banding, boxing and counting. I also had some nice conversation with the folks that I was working with. I think I even made a few new friends.

I got home from the farm and decided to take a run with my puppy on the Bosque trail. When I got back I needed to eat something light because it was late so I mixed up one of my favorite new salads. I was inspired to create this coleslaw-like salad last month because of an item I kept getting in my CSA box: Kohlrabi. I found out that Kohlrabi is a German turnip that is slightly sweeter than most turnips you might be used to. The photograph in the post before my last one is a kohlrabi just harvested with roots and all. It can be eaten raw or roasted, baked, boiled, etc. For this salad, you slice it raw into thin slices and mix it in with some spices, vinegar, oil, and other raw fruits and veggies (much like a coleslaw but with much bigger slices of fruit & veggie, not shreds). You can make this salad in a variety of different ways with a number of different ingredient combinations but the main ingredients I have found to work best together are:

1 large or 2 medium Kohlrabi (chop off greens and peel)
1 large Fennel bulb
1 large or 2 medium radishes (I use Easer egg because I like the spiciness)
1 large or 2 medium turnips (with green chopped off)
1 large or 2 medium apples (Jonah or another medium sweet, almost tart variety)
Handful of dried currants (or raisins)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)

The dressing I make for this is:
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
Dash of each: nutmeg, clove, cardamom, sea salt & pepper
2 tbsp champagne (or white wine) vinegar
2 tbsp vanilla infused olive oil

First, I prepare the dressing in the same medium sized bowl the produce will go into:
Mix champage (or white wine) vinegar and vanilla infused oil with grated ginger. (I also mix in a dash of pomegranate vinegar for a touch of sweetness and a tiny splash of walnut oil for an earthy/nutty flavor). I make the vanilla infused oil myself - it's super easy and smells amazing to make (the recipe at end of blog post). Add a dash of nutmeg, cardamom, clove, sea salt & pepper.
Next, I prepare the veggies and fruits and toss them all in the bowl as I slice them. Using a mandolin might make this step easier but I slice by hand with a VERY sharp knife. Chop all the greens off kohlrabi and peel the tough bitter skin off completely using a veggie peeler. (If you have a masticating juicer save those kohlrabi and turnip greens because they are sweet when juiced and taste great mixed with apple juice!) I quarter the kohlrabi and then slice the quarters into 1/8-1/16" thin slices. Next, slice apple in half and cut out core (leave peel on for red color). I slice the apple slightly thinner than the kohlrabi. Slice radish into thin slices. I use large Easter egg radishes because they are a little spicy but you can use any variety. Slice turnip in the same way. Peel 1 large bulb of fennel apart and then slice the stalks the short way creating little "C" shapes with the fennel. Toss them in as well. Next toast pine nuts (and/or walnuts) lightly with some sea salt and toss them into the bowl along with a handful of dried currants and/or raisins. Using wooden salad tongs toss it all together gently and serve shortly after it is made. I have eaten this salad the next day but it is not as fresh tasting.

I made a huge batch of this vanilla infused oil to give as gifts last holiday season:
In a small saucepan top 3 split vanilla beans with 4 cups light olive oil. Slowly heat until hot and vanilla is aromatic. Cool, strain and store refrigerated. I sealed the oil along with one split vanilla bean into little glass jars with wax.It should keep for a little over a year.

As the night falls I can see that the moon is waning and because of the fairly clear sky there is a mild chill in the air. Off to read for a bit and who knows, maybe I'll be up for going out for a beer at one of the local breweries I haven't tried yet.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Baking to find purpose

I dreamed I was running and flying around Brooklyn. I saw friends who live in the area along my path and they all looked busy. I felt weightless and free but at the same time longed for the grounding they each seemed to have. I woke up wondering what my day would be like because I had no real plan in mind. I started my morning ritual - let the dog out, made some coffee, and turned on NPR. I am still trying to develop a better sense of rigor in my art practice so I thought I should focus on that today but I could not envision what that meant in a tangible way. I pulled out the Joy of Cooking and decided to make scones. As I cut the butter into the dry mixture of flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder I felt focused. I continued to mix the cherries and candied ginger into t he mixture and moved on to mix the lemon zest, egg and cream together. As I stirred the wet and dry ingredients together I realized that my purpose right now at this very moment in my life is to integrate the various parts of my life together - my life as an artist, my life as a partner, my life as a teacher, etc. Here is the recipe for the Ginger Cherry Scones (from Joy of cooking with some improvisation on my part):

I use all organic ingredients for best tasting results:
Pre-heat over to 425 and get out an ungreased baking sheet
Mix 2 cups flour with 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tbsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt.
Drop into dry mixture 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (cut butter in with two knives tossing pieces around in flour coating well and continuing to cut until largest piece of butter is no larger than a pea.)
Mix in 1/2 cup dried cherries (I use unsweetened and cut them in half) and 1/4 cup candied ginger pieces (cut into tiny pieces) - Obviously, you can mix any variety of ingredients in like dried currants, raisins, etc.
In separate bowl beat together 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 large egg, and 1 tsp lemon or orange zest
Stir wet mixture into dry mixture using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until just combined
Work dough with hands until combined well. You should be able to lift out ball after 5-10 kneading motions leaving a mostly clean bowl.
Place onto LIGHTLY floured surface and roll out into an 8" circle.
Cut into 8-12 pieces and place 1/2 in apart on baking sheet.
brush tops (and sides if desired) with heavy cream.
Bake 10 minutes and sprinkle sugar and/or cinnamon on tops then bake an additional 2-5 minutes.
While they are baking put your coffee or tea on!
I serve with orange marmalade and/or clotted cream - yum!

Total time to make this recipe is about 1/2 hour.
Yields 8 large scones or 12 small scones.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A new life

I started this blog last Spring so I had a place to share photographs from my ongoing series Hunting and Gathering, in which I gather images from my movement through the world around me during my everyday life. I am especially interested in animals, materials hidden in an urban and rural landscape, and in general small things that may go unnoticed by the casual observer. Since leaving my full time job as a professor in CA and moving to NM I have opened my eyes to new practices, activities, ideas and ways of living. I have also had the opportunity to focus on doing some things that I have not had time to do when I was working full time. I saw in a Real Simple magazine recently the term "funemployed" and I think this might describe a little of where I am at right now. Some of the new practices and activities I have developed are cooking, baking, farming, dog training, running, walking, meditation, and reading more about my new found interests. I have also been able to work on my art practice more full time than I was able to before as a full time professor.
I am still photographing my everyday life using a variety of different point and shoot digital and film cameras but I want to expand this blog to include my experiences participating in a work share program at a local CSA farm, recipes I have developed or found, and my trials and tribulations searching for work in my new home. Some of the jobs I have applied for have included but are not limited to: crossing guard, grocery store clerk, coffee barista, movie extra, marketing manager, bartender, freelance photographer, retail window designer, retail store manager, clothes buyer at a used clothing store, computer store "specialist", and the list goes on.
Since I have moved here to the high desert a few months ago, summer has turned to fall and there has actually been snow already, which I was not expecting. The next few posts will give you a sense of the time since I have moved here...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009