Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

basil and nasturtium leaf pesto

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steve’s homemade tomato sauce

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It’s fun (and occasionally frustrating) figuring out  as a photographer and as a gardener how to work with light. Given the state of the yard in the new place I don’t expect an outdoor garden to come into being anytime soon but I’ve been hell-bent on creating a new lush indoor herb garden. Okay, doesn’t have to be lush … just healthy and useful.


I’m trying to experiment with a few new items especially edible flowers but for the most part it is the canonical basil, oregano, marjoram, tarragon, and rosemary. Last night I took a certain chef on a tour of the evolving herb garden. He asked what was he cooking for dinner and I said, “Hmmm. Chicken with herbs, garlic and lemon.” He harvested what he needed. As he walked away with a handful of green he turned back to say, “Do you think you can plant more tarragon? I love working with tarragon.” Not a problem.




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When a certain physicist I know tells me excitedly that he picked up something really cool for me to photograph from the farmer’s market, I know that it will undoubtedly be an edible object that in some way visualizes some fundamental principle about how the world works. In this case it was a head of romanesco broccoli with its beautiful repeating pattern that is a “natural representation of the Fibonacci … a logarithmic spiral where every quarter turn is farther from the origin by a factor of phi, the golden ratio.” (source)

Indeed! Well, I did have fun photographing it. When I thought I was done, I put away my camera and picked up a knife. It was time for dinner, you see. But then at the look on the physicist’s face, I put the knife down and said, “Uhm, would you like the honors?” And so he gently broke it apart revealing and reveling in the ever smaller yet repeated pattern of the larger broccoli.

In the end he sauteed the little bits in garlic and olive oil and topped it with a bit of cheese. Quite good. And there remained just enough of the veggie to place in a little ramekin. “Like a little Christmas tree,” he said. “We could decorate it with baby capers!” I don’t think so but it looks like I will have the opportunity to photograph this tasty mathematical subject a while longer.

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Now, I have this young friend who loves to bake. She is always regaling me with tales of items produced the previous weekend. All sorts of stuff that sounds quite yummy, and also sounds quite complex. One day, she grilled me, asking what kind of cookies I liked.

I said, “Simple ones.”

She frowned. “What does that mean?”

I shrugged. “I’ll eat most cookies but I tend toward short bread, Lorna Doones, chocolate chip cookies that don’t have many chips, that kind of thing.”

She slammed her hand on the table. “I’m going to make you some cookies. What do you want in them?”

“I want it to be an expression of simplicity.”

She didn’t quite curse but I did present her with a culinary challenge.

Recently I was presented with a tupperware of her first expression.

Mexican Chocolate Cookies spiced with cayenne pepper and dusted with cinnamon sugar.

As I looked up from the cookies she said, “I’m still working on it.”

I’m looking forward to more containers filled with her simplicity. 🙂


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Mushrooms from the local farmer’s market. In the end, they were chopped, sauteed in butter with red onions, and served up on toast. Yum.

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pea tendrils

My indoor garden is in a bit of disarray. The nasturtium grew poorly in terms of foliage but continues to find strength to bloom. I’ve got peas in three little pots, their tendrils reaching for the sun. I need to decide soon if I will snip their tender tops to eat (the original intention) or let them grow tall and strong and possibly produce pods!

radish, nasturtium, and red kale greens

radish, nasturtium, and red kale greens

The radish are doing well … but I planted too many seeds and so now I have radish greens growing everywhere. Some of those little pots are designated as future salad greens, but I did find a few strong plants to put in one bigger pot. We’ll see if I can actually grow radishes indoors.  I was very successful growing potatoes indoors. They were marble-sized but that doesn’t really matter. 😉


The herbs are so far doing well. I’m looking forward to the chef in my life roasting some baby potatoes on a bed of sage and maybe doing something with grilled cheese and fresh basil.

As wonderfully disorganized as everything is … I’ve got tarragon growing in a bathroom and rosemary in a bedroom … I cannot help but find joy in this garden and in the knowledge that the growing season has only just begun.

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The recipes are good. They are simple, elegant and refined, like the family sharing its history through food.  The preface describes the book as telling the story of five kitchens and three generations of women. “Mother-daughter duo” Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams use the book to share stories from the kitchen, a place that could be both forboding and a place of great calm, depending upon one’s generation (e.g. slavery) and one’s location (e.g. north vs. south).  Traditional, mostly southern recipes, are reworked.  Flavoring agents like bacon dripping, ham hocks, and butter are replaced by olive oil, or no oil at all.  But fear not.  As I told my big brother, a traditional southern cook, flavors have been retained if not indeed heightened with the liberal use of spices. My favorite recipes were the simplest like the Warm Onion and Rosemary Salad, Herb-Roasted Salmon Fillet, Fiery Green Beans and Links Salad composed of green beans, green peas, cucumber and basil.

There’s a Homemade Peanut Butter recipe. The authors describe peanut butter “as a bass note that can carry a wide variety of top notes” and encourage users, once comfortable with the basic recipe, to add spices. Be creative. Set no limits.  It’s a sentiment that fits the family.

Many of the book’s recipes from Mama’s Tequila Ice to Eggplant Tower with Mashed White Beans open with brief headnotes that describe the family connection to the dish.  Whether its a variation on a meal served while hosting parties during the Harlem Renaissance or a reworking of a meal had as family members traveled overseas in Yugoslavia, each recipe clearly has meaning.

While its an eclectic mix of recipes, overall the book is quite a culinary inspiration.  The recipes don’t begin until page 80.  Those first seventy-nine pages are a poetic examination of five kitchens, and American history, beginning with Minnie Randall (1897-1976) through Caroline Randall Williams (b. 1987).  Reviewing the book has reawakened my desire to ask family members about their memories of food past and what they’d like to cook in the future.  You don’t need to be of African American heritage to enjoy this book.  It’s an American experience that can be shared, quite deliciously, by all.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest review.

More Info …

Author Bios


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This is what happened when raspberries accidentally got crushed in my house. They’d bounced around a bit too much in their packaging on the way home.  Steve took a look at them, rubbed his chin and then with a faraway look in his eyes said, “I have an idea.”

The next morning there was a sweet scent in the air. I made my way into the kitchen, and there on the table next to the plate of hot buttered toast sat a small bowl of warm red sauce. His recipe, more or less: crushed berries cooked with a little butter and brandy, sweetened with a touch of sugar, and flavored with half a teaspoon of crushed black walnuts.

It’s a recipe that will continue to evolve. If we accidentally or on purpose crush anymore raspberries, he’d like to try maple syrup in place of the sugar. And maybe toss in a different nut like crushed hazelnuts. I’ll try any variation on the theme so long as there’s time to photograph the results.  Have a good day. 😉

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I’ve been getting a few questions about my garden and how I can be growing everything from traditional herbs to potatoes all indoors.  Please keep in mind that some of my planting vessels are re-purposed espresso cups and cereal bowls and very few vessels are large.  Nevertheless, I am very lucky to live in an old Victorian with lots of nooks and crannies and windows all around.  Outside the kitchen, in the hallway, is a table tucked against a window.  And upon that table you will currently find …

Enter the kitchen and one of the very first things you will see is a small bookcase where cookbooks and old recipes are kept on the shelves.  On the narrow top, are the following edible parts …

And just ahead, not far, is a small table that receives plenty of light. And so upon its right-hand corner there are stacked the following herbs and sprouts …

Now to the right of the table is a sizeable floor speaker with a sturdy wooden case.  That’s right. I usurped a portion of the top and there you will find …

And, last but not least, in this kitchen there is a bay of windows.  The curvature is such that the area was just big enough for a certain person to tuck his handmade wooden carpenter’s workbench.  I held myself in check and only borrowed a left-hand corner where there now sits …

There are other plants around whose images I like to share with you, but these are the edible ones, close to and in the kitchen, always reaching for the light.  I made these guides for the resident chef so that he knows what he is snipping at but I also made them for myself as a calm way to end the day.  Enjoy. 😉

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