Massa Organics

Last weekend, Sam spent several days at the Ethics of Eating Conference, held by the ELCA in Davis CA. The conference included talks and papers, as well as trips to various farms in the area that were practicing sustainable agriculture. One of the highlights was a trip to Massa Organics. Sam returned home with a bag of gorgeous brown rice.

If Sam and the website are to be believed, Massa Organics is just overwhelmingly, hyperbolically wonderful. They make great products, they are continually expanding their organic operations, they built a gorgeous house out of straw bales, and they are active foster (adoptive?) parents. I honestly don’t even understand how they do it. It’s like the very definition of integrity and love.

Recently, I’ve been considering ways to introduce more whole grains into our diet, thanks to a book that I am currently reading, Fat Chance, by Dr. Robert Lustig. I will write more about this book in the future, but the short review is this: it is hands-down the most readable yet comprehensive text on whole-body health that I have ever seen (honestly, I don’t think others authors are even trying to synthesize information the way Lustig is). In part of the book, he makes the case for dietary fiber, and while we get loads from all our fresh veggies, I have been cooking refined grains with them. According to Lustig, I could do better by turning to whole grains. That Sam showed up with a bag of rice from an awesome farm was fortuitous.

I know I should feel otherwise, but I have never been a huge fan of brown rice, or really any whole grains at all for that matter. Regardless, I was committed to trying again. I made the rice with some white fish and a quick parsley/caper/lemon topping (recipe below). Truly, it was great. Even the kids ate the rice (though not much – we’re working on it). Leftovers came with me to work a couple days later, and I was happy to find that lunch was extra filling and sustaining. My hope is to work at least a cup of brown rice into our dinners each week.

To get your own brown rice, you can order directly from the Massa Organics website. Of course you can get a 2 pound bag, but really, you may as well order the 20# bag and just commit. The rice is excellent, and you will be happy you took the plunge!

Parsley Salsa for Fish

  • 1 C chopped parsley
  • 1/4 C Olive Oil
  • 1 anchovy fillet
  • lemon
  • 2 Tbs capers
  • Pepper

In a medium bowl, mash the anchovy into the oil until it is mostly dissolved. Grate lemon zest and add it to the bowl along with the juice from the lemon. Stir in parsley and capers, and season with pepper. Taste and add salt, if needed. Serve over grilled white fish with a side of brown rice and your favorite salad.

Posted in brown rice, parsley | 2 Comments

Pink Salad

Let's all pretend like we can't see any carrots in that salad, ok? They were a mistake. Below, find the recipe as I would make it, if I were going to do it again. Which I will, but not necessarily quickly enough to make a timely post on the blog.

Let’s all pretend like we can’t see any carrots in that salad, ok? They were a mistake. Below, find the recipe as I would make it, if I were going to do it again. Which I will, but not necessarily quickly enough to make a timely post on the blog.

Am I the only one who hates how beets stubbornly insist on turning everything in their vicinity bright magenta? This salad only had two of the standard red types in there (three were candy-stripe), and it still looks like a mess.

Flavor-wise we’re not breaking any new ground here. I was looking for a way to use up what was in my share and simultaneously give the new 10 Minute Farro that is currently for sale at Trader Joe’s a try. The results were great, and substantial enough for a main course salad. It tasted great, even if the color was not my favorite.

  • 5 smallish beets
  • orange
  • fennel bulb
  • 1 cup 10 minute Farro
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • blue cheese

Do ahead: roast beets in tin foil at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the flesh meets little resistance. Let beets cool, peel and wash them, and then slice them in half lengthwise and then into half moons. I like to do this part the night before so that dinner comes together quickly the next day.

Measure 1 cup Farro and add to pot along with 3 – 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Drain. (NB, there are varieties of Farro on the market that are not pre-cooked as the TJ’s version appears to be. Obviously, you can simply follow the directions on one of these products to achieve the same results. Alternately quinoa or Israeli cous cous would make great substitutes.)

Meanwhile, section orange by cutting off the top and tail, and then slicing down the sides to remove the peel and pith. Carefully run your knife alongside each of the membranes to release the fruit into a salad bowl. Squeeze any remaining juice into your salad bowl.

Slice the fennel as thinly as possible and add it to your bowl.

Put walnuts and sugar in a small non-stick pan and set it over medium heat. Keep an eye on the pan, and when the sugar starts to melt, stir it all around so that it coats the walnuts evenly. Let cool.

Add farro to salad bowl along with beets, olive oil, and walnuts. Add salt and pepper and then give everything a good stir. Crumble blue cheese and dump it on top. I like to use about 1/4 cup, but you may prefer less.

Posted in beet, beets, fennel, oranges | Leave a comment

The Haul

Boy, it’s been a while since I posted a haul, hasn’t it? I think this is because we had moved from the giant share down to a smaller version, and honestly, if you are at all committed to eating veggies, a half share is just NBD. But last week, somehow we got a giant one, and now I suddenly need to make all sorts of plans.

The Haul

  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • French Breakfast Radishes
  • Celery
  • Leeks
  • Fennel
  • Bok Choi
  • Arugula
  • Spinach (just a metric ton)
  • Lettuce
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Oranges
  • Avocados

Previously, we had gotten persimmons, and so I have just recently made this James Beard (via David Liebowitz) recipe for Persimmon Bread.  It’s great, but whoa is the whiskey prominent. Use caution if you think you are making it for kids. Also, it photographed like hell, so all you get is this helpful link.

The Plan

Carrot and Beet (and fennel?) salad – I’m considering getting all creative with this one and maybe making an Ottolenghi inspired grain salad with some of these guys.

Creamed spinach and salmon – Got my hands on some salmon that a friend personally caught in Alaska, and will serve it with creamed spinach. Anticipating total walk-out from the kids this day, regardless of whether I go for the full-fat Pioneer Woman spinach recipe, or the more penitential Martha Stewart version. Would it be too terrible to put leeks in creamed spinach rather than onion? Two birds and etc?

Mallman Chimichurri – to freeze and then serve with grilled beef and rice some time when we want to dazzle our dinner guests

Ottolenghi salad with Radishes and Avocado – this still leaves me with 5 (!) avocados to manage, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.


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Post Christmas Review

So, where were we?

I didn’t really mean to take that long of a break, but then the holidays happened, and they were really fun, and I ate a lot of meals that I didn’t prepare, and so there wasn’t much to report.

In family developments, Cosmo has started doing the funniest thing. When he’s been quiet for a while, invariably we’ll call out to him to see what is up. In what I’m guessing is an effort to forestall any additional communication, after we call his name, his one word response is now, “Nothing!” So several time a day you’ll hear this in my house:

“Hey, Cosmo?”


This kept us sufficiently entertained for most of the Christmas break.

For Christmas even dinner, I busted out my crown rack of lamb and used this surprisingly killer Alton Brown recipe. Alton assumed that you have to tie your own rack. I guess he doesn’t know Kent and the crew at Old Fashioned Country Butcher. It came out perfect, and I felt totally smug about it.

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Since Christmas, we’ve been eating penitentially – less fat, less meat, less cream. Even training for a half marathon was not enough to compensate for a full month of just shoving whatever I wanted into my gullet. So we decided to get very veggie-centric for a while and aim for fresh flavors, and less of everything. Ottolenghi has been a useful guide for this project so far.

Oh, but speaking of Ottolenghi, there was a great article about him in the New Yorker Food Issue (which is about 2 months old now, but I am perpetually behind with my reading, so). In it, I was stunned to find this gem:

“I told Yotam, ‘We haven’t got the right customers here yet. We have your most boring fans, the food bloggers and the ladies over fifty…’”

Most boring! Who does your PR? Seriously, just as a general rule, try not to insult people who give you free press, no matter how true your statement may actually be. It should read, “I told Yotam, ‘We only have a small portion of your most dedicated fans coming in right now, the bloggers and the women over 50, and to be successful we really need to diversify our menu and attract a wider customer base.’” There. Fixed it for you. (Call me!)

Despite having nearly bored myself right to death, I went ahead and made Ottolenghi’s celery salad, and it didn’t even taste like spite. It was quite good, actually (no surprise), even though I am apparently completely unable to successfully poach an egg any longer. I went for years only ever making perfect eggs, and suddenly in the last month everything has gone completely to hell and they are entirely over- or under- cooked.

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Also, sorry for the fast Instagram shots. It was a busy holiday season folks. For proof, click here. That’s a 4 year old skiing, and it was so much fun to watch – until he got over exhausted and ran himself adorably right into the fence (everyone is fine – fortunately he can’t really go very fast)…

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Lighting a Candle

It’s hard to write anything in a public forum right now without being absolutely irrelevant.  And truly, I don’t have much that is relevant to say. I have spent more hours than I care to count refreshing the news and obsessively reading everything that might shed a glimmer of light on the crucial question of why. And although we all are collectively unable to answer that question, I continue still to seek meaning and understanding where none is to be found. In this way, I find that working for religious sisters is instructive.  Whereas I seek academic understanding (and fail), they seek to pray and console. I am grateful for their example.

Tomorrow (or soon) I will get back to writing about food. Today, I am still thinking and praying.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ramen, Part Two

In boring family news, we got a new car. Although I had been happily driving my 1996 Volvo 850 into the ground for well over a decade, as it got less and less reliable, it felt like time to move on. So we went the predictable suburban young family route and got the Odyssey. I like it because it feels like I can open the doors with my mind. Other than that I feel vaguely sheepish about it. I might feel less so, but at practically the same time we got the Odyssey, a good friend of mine (who is also a mom), got a used Porsche 911. That was an awkward conversation.

Their purchase prompted Sam and I to have the “what is your dream car” conversation. And here’s the thing: given where we live, the age of our kids and all that, my dream car is actually a Honda Odyssey minivan. Most days, this feels like a massive failure of imagination. Occasionally, it feels like success.


In food news, the pork continues to be most excellent. Nothing will make you feel quite so smug as pulling a pork shoulder roast out of the oven and discovering that despite only seasoning it with salt and sugar, it is one of the best tasting things you have ever made. This is one of the lessons of the buying meat locally experiment – if you start with excellent meat, all you really have to do is not mess it up.

Having had Jet’s faithful rendering of David Chang’s recipe, I felt free to make ramen my own way. This meant Top Ramen Noodles (because really, why not?), scallions, cilantro, pork shoulder, sauteed savoy cabbage, that pre-roasted seaweed stuff, eggs that didn’t even kind of turn out as planned (but that didn’t matter AT ALL), and my excellent broth. And it was killer. A++ would cook again.

In still other food news, Jet and I have a lead on poultry. We’re considering potentially putting together a buyer’s club for a local grower. We’ll post details here as they come.

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Beans and Greens

I’ve spent years feeling that I ought to like beans and greens but just can’t. I blamed it on my not being southern. Jet blamed it on my not using pork properly. Reading this, I feel like we are both right. Jet’s approach to beans and greens is far superior to everything I have done before. You’ll find it below.

In this post, Jet explains the genesis of a nickname that she uses for me. I’ve been reluctant to let her post it here because I’ve been afraid that it will come off as  self-aggrandizing, which is not at all my intent. But there was no simple way to cut it out of this post without chopping out a lot of what Jet wanted to say. So it stays, along with everything you ever wanted to know about how to make the best darn beans and greens on the planet. Please know that I love Jet but I don’t view myself in exactly this way.

– Christiana

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When I met Christiana, The Harmonious Kitchen was a relatively new endeavor for her. The honesty of her dazzlingly clever prose was much of what drew me to her as a new friend in the first place. At the time, I was fond of calling her Super-C because she is just the most astonishingly capable person. Michael, who adores her, calls her Little Buddy, less a reference to her petite stature than to my growing heft when our friendship was new. My brother and best friend from work both commented immediately after meeting her that it was odd for such a serious seeming person to have such a silly nickname. Well, Kent fixed all of that in our first meeting by re-christening her Jackie-O. Nailed it. Brilliant. Reserved. Sophisticated. Style Icon.

One of the early Harmonious Kitchen posts addresses a tragically misguided, although hilariously recounted, attempt at southern cooking in which she sort of fries risotto cakes, not arancini, and while admitting fried risotto cakes are not really southern, gets to the heart of her anxieties about deep frying. We’ve been working on this for a few years now and, trust me, they are very deeply rooted. As I am irredeemably southern, I’ve taken the matter of helping her overcome her fear of frying and other aspects of the southern table as a sort of personal quest begun in Stygian darkness.

Among my many guilty pleasures is the HBO show, True Blood. It is southern gothic at its finest and the various vampires, shape shifters, werewolves, fairies, bruhos, bigots, and zealots who inhabit Bon Temps, Louisiana are the perfect abstraction of our dismal politics and popular culture. Why this digression? The aforementioned best friend at work is also a huge True Blood fan. We both love the erstwhile drug dealer, drag queen, short order cook cum bruho and medium, Lafayette Reynolds. My friend mainly takes his appearance overly seriously, but, occasionally, after a couple of drinks, will text over the top ridiculous photos of himself. One such gem has morphed into an alter-ego, “Lafayette”. A text from “Lafayette” is certain to blunt the force of even the most heinous stressors. It occurred to me in thinking about how to best address Christiana’s problem with not completely loving beans and greens and feeling a little guilty about wanting to chase them with TJs pot roast, that Lafayette may be the perfect tutor. Looking around online, Lafayette is, in fact quoted on the topic of beans. Of course he is. He is a short order cook in the south, “Arlene, these beans is colder than titties in a brass bra.” Unfortunately, while entertaining, the serving temperature of the beans didn’t appear to be the problem, so she is stuck with me.

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Let me say first, that there is a very Jack Bishop friendly approach to this problem, which I will share below. There is also a very southern approach to this problem. As we happen to have the smoked knuckles and hocks from the hickory smoked ham picked up at The Old Fashioned Country Butcher a couple of days ago, we’ll start there. When you consider what is wanting in your nutritional powerhouse slash apotheosis of the sustainable table dinner of beans and greens, there are two answers: seasoning and umami. Southerners for centuries have relied on the salty, smoky, essential porkiness of smoked hocks and knuckles, as well as vinegar and honey or molasses to prepare mouthwatering platters of beans and greens that would never, under any circumstances, result in the thought of a TJs pot roast entering ones head. It is a pretty simple affair, sauté a diced onion until it is really caramelized, it is totally fine to add celery and carrot or fennel and carrot or celery and bell pepper, but you don’t need to, add some garlic if you like, add your beans (any shitty mass produced bean from a national chain grocery will do here, but it will be better with heirloom beans), then your smoked nugget of porky goodness, black or red pepper, then your stock (yes, water is fine, so is boxed stock, homemade is better, homemade “Italian Style Pork Broth” or the broth left over from Peruvian Home Cured Ham or Momofuku Ramen are best), if you want, stick a bay leaf in there, bring to boil, reduce to simmer. It can take anywhere from an hour to three for tender beans depending on how old they were and what kind you used.  You’ll want to season with salt and red wine vinegar, to your taste. If it could benefit from a sweet accent, add honey or molasses, sparingly. Add these seasonings and your greens at the end of the cooking time. Earlier salting will eliminate the promise of tender beans. Spinach takes minutes, collards take forever, mustard, dandelion, kale or chard will take about 10-20 minutes. They will be absolutely delicious. Hot sauce is a must at the table. Hot peppers pickled in vinegar are a plus.

So, what Christiana really wants is a satisfying plate of beans and greens that scratches her Jack Bishop idolatry itch. There are simple answers here too. Sauté a variety of the best mushrooms you can find or afford in canola oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and fresh thyme leaves until they have released their liquid and it is mainly evaporated. These will keep for a week in the fridge, covered in oil, and can save all manner of CSA Hair-Shirt dinners. If you are using them right away, swirl in a knob of butter to finish them. You’ll want to caramelize another diced onion and perhaps other aromatic vegetables to start. The beans really, really matter. Rancho Gordo is an awesome source for heirloom beans and their website and packaging tell you which ones produce the best pot liquor. I’m partial to Good Mother Stallard and Scarlet Runner Beans and you should save anything described as having the finished interior consistency of mashed potatoes for another use. Here, you are looking for beans with “creamy” interiors. Even Thomas Keller has a recipe for pork and barlotti beans. Locally, the Farmer and the Cook often has heirlooms from Del Pueblo Farm and Tom Shepherd in Carpinteria grows incredible beans. A word of caution about Calypso beans. They are beautiful and delicious, but they will turn grey when cooked and there is no amount of umami, not even a carton of MSG, to save a dinner of grey beans and weeds.  In any case, the process is the same from here as with the southern solution, just leave out the nugget of porky goodness in the beginning, use any vinegar you like and add your warmed through mushroom sauté and some of the oil as a garnish at the end. Also, use Lacinato Kale. The beans and the mushrooms deserve it. If you have some sweet peppers and thought to roast them or fry them, or you have a jar of piquillo peppers in the fridge, they will, seasoned with a little salt and vinegar, be welcome here.

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If you are curious as to my thinking around what went wrong for Jackie-O in the TJs pot roast confession post, there are a couple of answers.  Smokey, salty, pig is an obvious, easy fix. As is vinegar in the place of the lemon.  Now she has a bunch of awesome pork stock which would also help.  If you really want satisfying, Bishop friendly beans, they can’t be from a can, or be mass produced, you need a better tasting green than the muddy chard, even if you are drowning in it from the CSA, and you need to season with vinegar and sautéed mushrooms.  That said, Pollan would go for the southern fix, which easily meets the “eat food. mostly plants.” dictum and uses the meat as a condiment, rather than an aliment.  Super satisfying beans and greens are a weekend affair, not a quick week night dinner.  If you take the time to make them on the weekend, they freeze and reheat well and you can have killer beans and greens any old time.



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The Most Improbable Cranberry Relish Recipe Ever

Cranberry Relish

The most improbable cranberry relish recipe ever is my friend’s mom’s brother-in-law’s mother’s from the 1950s, and it even beats that one that they read each year on NPR for utter strangeness.

I grew up eating cranberry from a can, and since cooking my own Thanksgiving have sought each year to find a recipe that uses fresh berries and tastes more interesting. Each year I make something that I don’t hate, but never something that I would be excited to make again.

So I went to Jet to see what she knew, and she said that the best cranberry relish was super simple. “You just dump in an orange, a lemon, a lime and an apple and grind it all up.” “Oh, that sounds great,” I said, but what I was thinking was more like, “There’s no way.”

Jet sent me the recipe later, and we just had to talk about it. By admitting that she knew it sounded like an utter disaster, she convinced me to at least try it. Really, if you make this, and every fiber of your being isn’t screaming that it will never work, you’re doing it wrong.

This recipe will be the true test of the quality of your food processor. By the time I had gotten done making the relish, Sam had done enough googling to find a good deal on a Breville food processor, in the hopes that he would never have to listen to that much grinding ever again.

Also fair warning: this makes enough to feed a small army. I ended up freezing some to serve with cheese for a Christmas plate.

Mabel Jeldy’s Cranberry Relish

1 package of fresh cranberries
1 lime
1 lemon
1 orange
1 apple, cored, stem removed
1 cup of toasted pecans
1 cup of assorted white dried fruit

Pulverize everything (peels and all) in your food processor.  Work in batches if you need to and combine everything in a bowl.  Season to taste with salt and, if you think it isn’t sweet enough, a little honey.

Up next: Jet schools me in beans and greens.

Posted in cranberry sauce, thanksgiving | 2 Comments

Kitchen Remodel and Other Projects

It’s time for the big reveal! Time for everyone to ooh and ah and generally agree that it was totally worth it.



In case it isn’t totally clear, we removed two walls. Although that set of cabinets in the right most side of the first pic looks like it could plausibly be part of the kitchen, there was, in fact, a wall separating it completely from everything else kitchen-esque. When we first saw the house it was pretty clear that the kitchen could be awesome, but honestly, I didn’t even expect it to be as great as it turned out to be.

I haven’t been talking about the remodel much because what is there to say? Fully half of our belongings were without places for a month, and I had to wash dishes in the bathroom. And while, yes, I hated every last second of it, I’m also smart enough to know that if your biggest problem on any given day is that you have to wash dishes with your hot clean running water in a different room from the one you are used to, you should probably just stuff it.

My absolute favorite part of the remodel is the new walnut counter top that Sam built. I love it because it is deeply deeply beautiful, and also because it has Sam’s work all over it. It is custom, and perfect, and really, just look at it. The fact that Eleanor whacked her head against it less than five minutes after it was installed, and well before Sam had a chance to soften the edges with a sander, and ended up with three staples in her scalp after what felt like an interminable trip to the doctor did slightly dim my enthusiasm, however. I did go out an buy those edge protectors for toddlers (!) pretty much immediately after we got back from the doctor. Poor kid. It was rather traumatic for her. That whole numbing cream business seemed to be less than thoroughly effective.

In other news, I signed up for a half marathon in February. Don’t worry, I have no intention of turning this into a running blog. I read some running blogs that I genuinely enjoy, but I’m continually struck by how little there is to say about running itself – went for a run, felt some feelings about it, the end. I signed up because I needed a goal – something to drag me out of the torpor that the chaos of the remodel has induced, and this seemed likely to do the trick. I am already behind on my 12 week training program though, so it’s not working yet.

Finally, I did cook Thanksgiving this year, but mostly I did exactly the same stuff I always do, so there isn’t much to report. Thanks to Jet, I did make one new recipe, and I have to share it because it is the most improbable cranberry recipe you’ve ever seen, and also totally, unbelievably delicious. It will be coming up next.

Posted in meyer lemon, thanksgiving, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Mixed Grill

Maybe a decade or so ago my Father-in-Law lived in Brazil, and Sam and I went down for a visit. One of our evenings there, he took us for dinner at a Churrascaria. It was this sort of mind-blowing experience where waiters with large skewers of meat would swing by the table and cut up something for you, and every time you looked up another waiter was ready with a new confusing meat, that you might maybe recognize, but it’s hard to tell because of all the Portuguese. I remember really loving every second and also swearing on all that was holy that I would never in my life eat that much meat in one sitting ever again.

And mostly I have maintained this resolution. But when Jet proposed a mixed grill night to welcome Sam home and celebrate our purchases, I couldn’t resist.

Jet, having participated in the Jolly Oyster’s birthday bash last August, received a credit of as many oysters and clams as even the most enthusiastic shellfish eater could consume in a year. So we began the feast with those. We also ate chops (both lamb and pork), pork shoulder, lamchetta, and mini burgers. Jet brought octovin and chimichurri to serve with the meats, both of which were incredible.

Things I learned from the experience:

1) Really, a grill and a blender are all you need for an excellent meal. Jet continues to be right about this even though I am still keeping things as simple as possible while the kitchen reno is underway by buying dinner at Whole Foods.

2) A trip to meet the lamb lady is in order. That meat was crazy good.

3) If you actually have some dry-aged ground beef on hand, and you are still adding things to your burgers for flavor, or even really topping them with anything, you are doing it wrong. I had no idea ground beef could be that good.

4) Lambchetta is nuts, and also very very delicious.

For anyone who might be concerned about the lack of vegetables, Jet did bring some of the cutest pickles ever as well. She had just made them, and had to share. Are these not the cutest pickles ever made by anyone?

Posted in lamb project, pork project | 3 Comments