Week 17: Back in the Kitchen

Last week left off right in the middle of our second dining event here at Pepperfield. Over a leisurely evening we shared a fantastic meal with Rowen White’s seed keeping network.

Monday morning started by begining the braised lamb shoulder. Afterwards I cooked some beans for the starter plate. While those were cooking I took the time to french to racks of lamb and tie them into a crown roast. Then I portioned some cornbread and picked some flowers – borage, beesbalm and calendula – that were going to be used on the dessert. I took a break to compose last weeks post and then got ready for game time. I prepared a apple-butternut buerre blanc, put the crown roast in the oven and then finished the stuffing. At 6.30 we started the meal which began with three sisters – three ways (picture above). Next was a lamb duo of braised lamb and crown roast, served with cornbread stuffing and broccoli. The meal finished with raspberry sorbet and amaranth biscotti. The following day we spent serving breakfast to some of the our guests that spent the night from the dinner. Mid morning I split off to finish cleaning the kitchen and get the house reorginized. Afterwards, I went to town to run some errands and then met for a few hours with Hans, a gentlemen I met back at Sankt Hans Aften – the solstice party. I got back in the early evening to put together dinner. Korbin and her co-worker Meridith stopped by to help process double red corn (the corn used in the top most picture) and then stayed for dinner.

Wednesday I spent my entire day cleaning garlic. David had dug the entire patch and I sat, in the warmth of the hoop house, washing and peeling off the outside layers. I was amazed the different gradients of maroon that streaked across the skins. Korbin came back solo for another corn processing night and stayed again for dinner. We wrapped up the night with some dessert leftovers: raspberry sorbet, calomondin curd, cake and frozen yoghurt. The next day David and I went to the hospital. We planted the second crop of broccoli and summer squash. I came home briefly to get changed for an interiew and then headed back to town. Once I got back to the farm we spent a casual evening eating more leftovers.

Friday started to look normal. I mowed the upper vineyard and then helped David bag the remaining ears of corn. After lunch I did small house chores and went to my first day of work. I have obtained employment at a local burger and fry joint. [A quick aside, this is in no way the direction I am chosing as a chef. This is emplyoment to procure supplemntal income to offset my cost of living while here in Iowa. I have another interview scheduled for a gasto-pub, something I hope will be far more interesting than flipping burgers and dropping fries.] That being said, I had a tremendous amount of fun “flipping burgers and dropping fries.” I have never worked short order before, being able to bang out tickets at a lightning pace for endless hours was great. There was no stress, maybe some pressure, but everyone remained cheerful and the service went smooth. The following day was Nordic Fest. This is a huge event celebrating Norse – really all Scandanavian – cultures, in food, art and festivities. Check back next week for a full spread on the Nordic Fest food scene! I ate at a bunch of different food booths and spent a few hours wandering the streets watching people work and sampling their wares. I returned to work later in the evening. We were busier than the night before and it was still exciting. Sunday was spent catching up on the farm, I started with weeding various neglected areas and then helped transplant our second crop of broccoli as well as Chinese cabbages. I took a break for lunch and then went back out to finish the area I was weeding. Ellis made a dinner of chili, which we all enjoyed out on the deck until the mosquitos waxed and the sun waned.

Make the Food and They will Come

Both of the recent dining events at Pepperfield were extremely rewarding on many levels. Each guest left stunned and satiated from the beautiful symphony of food.

At the first event, as people gathered in the house, the yeasty aroma of fresh pita wafted through the air. A collection of bowls sat on the table with various prepared items. A brilliant mandala sat at the center of the room.

As the evening progressed the tables filled and the meal began; for the next few hours the house was filled with the sounds of dining – clinking plates and forks, groans of satisfaction and light conversation between bites of food.

And at the second, in similar fashion a collaboration of indigenous communities assembled outside. The valley produced a surreal ambiance of songbirds, gently rolling streams and the occasional call of a rooster. The meal commenced with a tribute to the sacred foods of the Native Americans, and a relaxed evening of food continued until sunset. “Stunned and satiated”, how do I know? At the drop of each plate they only break in the silence was a gasp, phones and cameras documented each evening and exclamations resounded as each course brought new flavors and aromas.

“…Great food and memorable experiences will innately draw attention”. Another question is, were the guests drawn in? Frankly, I don’t care; that wasn’t my goal. The beauty of these events was not the praise and admiration that Pepperfield and I recieved. (Although it was appreciated.) The true beauty was seeing part of my food philosophy demonstrate itself in real time. My goal was to prepare the food in such a way that the flavors – the food – converged to create an explosion of enjoyment and satisfaction; using ingredients at their peak in flavor, grown only a few hundred yards from the guests, I employed my creativity to create culinary art. Images that will be remembered longer than the five seconds of fame from facebook. The food did most of the work. Contained within each bite, scattered across each plate, hidden in the food, was the potential to captivate and amaze. My role was simply to understand the potential of food and allow it to happen.

Week 16: Making it Look Easy

This week has been approaching with much anticipation. For nearly a month we have had two major events on our calendar and I have been preparing for them.

Monday was spent getting some things in order for our upcoming events. David and I went to the hospital to harvest kale and squash, but also to check on some of the plants to make sure we had no surprises later in the week. Unfortunately the squash plants had begun to fall victim to vine borers, a little worm that eats the plant stalk and kills the plant. We left the hospital and stopped in town to complete a few errands before returning to the farm. I am scheduled to cater another event in early September so I went to a quick meeting with Ruth and Patsy – two chefs from town – to discuss logistics and plan. My docket this week included catering the Seed Savers board dinner, a potluck at Heritage Farms and then a dinner for Rowen White, a Native American who spearheads a seed rematriation group. The next day I made marinade for chicken thighs that were going to be used at the potluck. Then I made a tomato consomme to be used for a small starter for the board dinner. Shortly after I made a lamb stock and a red wine reduction to be used for the sauce for the main course of that meal as well. I finished my day by making raspberry sauce for a dessert and then went down to the garden to pull out the spinach patch.

Wednesday I began preparing the hors d’oeuvres for the board dinner and started by making a tomato-anchovy sauce. I then transitioned to making a goat liver pate before marinating the chicken thighs for the potluck. I got some more dessert mise en place ready by making a calamondin citrus curd, pavlova, honeycomb candy and frozen yoghurt. I finished my night by making a lemon vinaigrette that was going to be used at all of the events. The following day was the morning of the board dinner. I started an early morning by peeling potatoes for mashed potatoes and cooked some beans for a cassoulet as well as a bean salad. I took a break for lunch and then finished the hors d’oeuvres by making baba ganoush, pita bread and chacik. About 5pm, I put the leg of lamb in the oven to roast, finished the sauce to serve with it and spent the rest of the evening catering the event. It started with about an hour of wine and hors d’oeuvres and then transitioned into the meal beginning with one of David’s salads. Then I served my appetizer, a tomato parfait with tomato gelee, creamed ricotta and a basil bavois. The main course was simple: roasted lamb, mashed potatoes, beans and beet greens and broccoli. After dinner was done I served a dessert of Pavlova and Kalamondin Curd (with the raspberry sauce, honeycomb candy and frozen yoghurt.)

Friday was the day of the potluck but I had most of my prep done. I began my day by making a corn and bean salad and then left the house around 3pm to head over to Heritage Farms. I setup three grills and charcoal to match and began cooking my coals. About an hour later I began grilling the chicken. All told I spent 3 hours in hell’s inferno as I was overcome with smoke and heat. I got back to the house around 6 and spent the evening chatting with some of the board members. Saturday was a quick reprieve from food and I spent the day cleaning up the house and catching up on some personal errands. I went to town on a quest for employment and also stopped at a few stores to pick up some equipment to make my job easier. I returned mid afternoon and spent the day cleaning and relaxing as I prepared for the next event on Monday. Sunday I started another early morning by making raspberry sorbet before moving onto baking amaranth biscotti and cornbread. Then I soaked some beans and cooked some string beans for the appetizer. Afterwards, I made a smoked mayonnaise and then started dinner. We were having a Elder of Rowan’s tribe for dinner so I prepared some braised short ribs over polenta. I threw together a dessert from the previous night and served a dessert parfait of kalamondin curd, frozen yoghurt and honey-oat crumble. This adventure will continue is actively continuing right now, check back next week to see what happened.

Pans & Perspective now has an official domain name. There have been a few hiccups and the site is not ready to be shared live, but watch this week for an update.

Buttermilk Recipe

Making your own buttermilk is extremely simple. It is a great ingredient to have around for pancakes, cornbread and other baked goods.

Yield: 1Qt

3.75C Milk
.25C Buttermilk – this is your starter

1. Pour milk into a clean glass jar.2. Pour buttermilk into jar with milk.3. Mix it for about 30 seconds with a spoon, cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. This is the inoculation period.Notes:The buttermilk has bacterial cultures in it that will produce lactic acid and essentially sour the milk; don’t worry about leaving it at room temperature to inoculate. This can be kept for for weeks as long as the jar remains clean. We recommend putting this into smaller batches one its made to help preserve it. You can use this buttermilk as a perpetual starter and continue to make more buttermilk from your own.

Wüsthof 7-inch Nakiri Classic Review

Wüsthof produces its knives out of Solingen, Germany. Since 1814 this family owned and managed company has produced high quality tools known universally around the world.

Each product is made to last and is backed by a lifetime warranty. Currently I do not have a ultility knife in my kit, but this knife fills that role nicely. It is extremely versatile with the ability to take on almost any task. This is a great tool for the amatuer home cook or seasoned chef!

Weight: 7.6 ounces; this light knife boasts some fantastic heft, cleaving through tougher vegetables with ease. The weight of the knife is balanced more towards the handle offering an extremely light tool, especially if the user chokes up on the handle.

Design and Appearance: 58 HRC, high carbon stainless steel, Precision Edge Technology – the blade is 20% sharper with twice the edge retention – Polyoxymethylene handle, a synthetic material with a tighter molecular structure to resist fading; standard European handle design offering a fully comfortable grip. Full tang construction with no bolster to allow sharpening of the entire cutting surface. The hollow edge creates air pockets, reducing drag and friction while helping to loosen food from the blade.

Use and Application: It has no issue breaking down tough skin vegetables like winter squash. It makes quick work of any lighter vegetable too. The 7-inch blade offers slightly more control than an 8-inch knife which makes this knife perfect for mincing onions, slicing vegetables and other medium sized tasks. The softer steel does make for frequent sharpenings under heavy use, but overall the blade holds a nice edge and can be sharpened to a razor edge.

Price: Ranges from $109.72 (amazon) up to $139.00 at various sites (William-Sonoma, Sur la Table) MSRP is $177.00

Rating ***

What the stars represent: ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor, fair or satisfactory. One star, good. Two stars, very good. Three stars, excellent. Four stars, extraordinary.

Week 15: Here Comes the Harvest

We are just beginning to see the start of the early harvest. Spinach and Parsnips have gone to seed and are almost ripe and we dug the first garlic just a few days ago.

Monday we had our bed and breakfast guests in the morning. David did a squash blossom omelette and we spent about an hour with them talking about various happenings on the farm. David and I went to the hospital and planted a second crop of beans. We also harvested kale, chard, summer squashes and cucumbers for the kitchen. When we got back I trimmed down a hedge in the back yard that was making some of our lawn maintenance cumbersome. Most of it was fed to the goats and the rest was left to compost. I gave the herb garden a quick weeding, it’s not nearly as bad as the last few times now that it’s being maintained. We had another dinner event for a group from town and I prepared a few light snacks – cucumbers, zucchini, carrots and ranch – before presenting an appetizer plate to start the meal. I still haven’t quite come up with a name, but this dish featured eggplant, garlic puree, lemongrass vinaigrette and a few other touches. Here’s a quick plate up demo:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJ5C4Pgh6SQ?start=255&w=560&h=315]

Check out the P&P Youtube Channel to see the full thing. For dinner we served vegetarian chili and cornbread and David made a mandala salad. The following day we served the same group breakfast. It was eggs and polenta with vegetable succotash. We had a full – messy – kitchen after these two events so I spent a few hours getting everything in order. Afterwards I helped put up an electric fence around the corn to keep the raccoons out and then helped David harvest pea seeds for next years crop. I spent the rest of the afternoon pulling weeds and tidying up parts of the garden. Then I continued cutting down another part of the hedge in the back before retiring for an early evening with wine time and relaxation. Wednesday we started early by getting David’s other vehicle to town. It had many flat tires and a dead battery so we wanted to get it to the shop for repairs and a checkup. When we got back, I made raspberry vinegar and then changed gears for some outside work. I finished cutting down the last of the hedge for goat food and then moved some dirt to fill in a hole that had developed from rain in the goat pen. In the evening, I moved to the kitchen afterwards and made corn bread and raspberry sorbet for the week.

The next day I started by weeding the front paths. They are laid stone work and the dirt gets between the cracks and then creates a tiny home for weeds and moss. After about an hour of pulling and scraping I begin preparing some items for our dinner. We had frozen some of the pork from the pig roast, so I pulled that and then made baked beans. While they were cooking I helped cover the second crop of broccoli plants with bird netting for some protection. We wanted to get ahead for one of our events so I made some yoghurt and then got ready for the evening. Dinner was simple but delicious: pulled pork, baked beans, cornbread and braised greens (almost felt like I was in the South). Friday I made a sourdough starter and baked another cornbread; David has a huge corn supply he wants to use, and my volunteers – Ellis and David – enjoy eating it. It had rained that morning so I did another couple loads of dirt to try to fix that hole in the goat pen. As I was completing that task, John – David’s friend – showed up to catch up with David and see the farm. I did some research in the late afternoon before meeting up with Dennis Larson – the gentleman who hosted the Sankt Hans Aften party – for a potential catering gig. There was a tremendous storm in town that tore down many branches and trees but we fared well at the farm.

Ellis has done a fantastic job maintaining and marketing the B&B, we had yet another round of guests for Saturday morning. We served pancakes with grain, eggs and milk all sourced from the farm. I did some garden work to correct some of the damage from the storm by mounding corn (picking up the stalks and creating little supports of dirt in a mound around them) and picked up some stuff in the garden. We had another row of corn eligible for tying and so David and I quickly secured it so it wouldn’t fall down next storm. Afterwards I cleaned the garlic harvest so it could be braided later. We are in a phase where lots of fresh produce is coming in and so my goal is to help use up old inventory in the freezers so I prepared a dinner of brined pork roast, amaranth, beans and corn. Sunday we served breakfast to our guests for the final day of their stay. Still picking up some pieces, I cut down plants that had fallen in our paths from the storm. Shortly after, I braided the garlic – pictures to come, it has to cure first though – and helped David protect the corn from cross pollination with bags. I was visited by Cindy and Alan, two friends from Florida and we had a nice dinner of chili, cornbread and romano beans as we caught up about their adventures and mine as well.

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