Monday, October 29, 2012


A CommunalTable Sunday afternoon of
 Jam making...

Jam maker and author Elizabeth Field helped guests
make jam using a recipe
from her  recent book Marmalade.*

 Orange and Pomegranate Marmalade boiling                                     

Jammy treats...
On the menu: thumbprint cookies, pb&j, guava paste and cream cheese,
tomato jam with goat cheese and crackers,
Nueske's** applewood ham on biscuits with green pepper jelly.
cheddar and chutney, and Blue Sky Bakery*** mini-muffins with apple butter

hosts Don C. and Catherine A. getting cocktails ready:
Tequila Jams on the Rocks made with blackberry shrub,
 lime and spiced simple syrup... served in jelly jars

members of the Angle Band Jam along with jammers Samuel Levine and Lucio Westmorland.
Artist Emma Tapley used band members as live models for some afternoon figure drawing,

while folks inside the house sketched still lives including
 oranges and pomegranates from the jam!

** Nueske's Nueske's NE regional rep. Terri Sweetbaum kindly donated ham to CommunalTable and we were excited to share this Wisconsin company's delicious goods!
*** Blue Sky Bakery  Baker's Eric and Jorge brought some muffins with them to add to all the other treats! 
**** and special thanks to Annabel Willis for snapping these pictures! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

the medium's the message

  October pst wherein I report on the meal I made for the poetrysciencetalk: 
poet Gerd Stern with Huey P. Newton
Beat-poet multi-media artist Gerd Stern showed three videos shot in 1973. Gerd has a crateful of tapes made using the early Portapack; a portable video recorder that opened the floodgate to mobile documentation and on the spot video art (legend has it that Gerd went shopping with Nam Jun Paik on Canal St. on the very first day the portapacks went on sale!) At this months’ pst he was celebrating having a few of these tapes digitized (a costly and painstaking process of actually ‘baking’ the sticky oxide layers of old tape so that they can be unraveled and reprocessed. This is being undertaken at ZKM, the Center for Art and Media at Karlsruhe, Germany, in their Laboratory for the Restoration of Antique Video. They’re doing this work in exchange for copies of these historical tapes for their archives.) 

Gerd showed three tapes of conversations with now deceased friends: media theorist Marshal McLuhan, activist and Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton, and anthropologist Edward T. Hall.   Wow! McLuhan was visionary in describing what we now experience living in the World Wide Web, and Newton was vibrantly eloquent, as vital today as then. It's a given our life experience is mediated, what is still a struggle though is by whom and how these experiences are distributed and controlled, and this is what Newton was talking about in the tape Gerd made.

Over the years I’ve had a share of fantasies about making food videos, imagining real time visuals with alluring background banter, but despite increasing demand for food writers to diversify from print (hence blogging, you-tubes, radio) I’ve resisted adding to the plethora of skewed cookie-cutter food-network knock-offs.  Alas, put a camera in my hands and I freeze. This is not because of a Luddite soul, or because watching, as opposed to engaging in real-time live-action can be painfully tedious. It is because videography, like any other creative venture takes skill and practice and the expectation that you can pick up a camera and be good to go seems pure arrogance.

Still, in celebration of Gerd’s presentation I decided a bit of videoed real-time cooking uploaded to you-tube and shared on my iphone would be a welcome ingredient in the evening’s menu. 

buffet offering: iphone you-tube on a plate

Using recipes inspired from Moosewood and channeling memories of meals at Food 
                     I served a vegetarian mushroom barley soup. 
A foraging friend found this amazing chicken mushroom in Prospect Park,
which I carefully washed, picking off dry leaves and blades of grass
the fungi had grown around.  Sauteed in high heat with butter
and a fair dousing of booze, it was added to the soup.

Also whole grain breads with runny cheese (I served Ribiola Bosina, a mixed milk cheese in place of Brie, which was just becoming popular at the time Gerd's videos were made) and a salad of shredded Romaine, kale (probably should've used red cabbage... did anyone eat kale back in the 70's?) and sprouts with tahini dressing, followed by apple crisp with whole grain crumble and vanilla ice cream.

No one really looked at my video…  it was enough the iphone was there... the medium became the message.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Summer Squash with Whipped Brown Butter

In August I headed to Tybee Island, Georgia with my son Sam and his girlfriend Annabel's family. We stayed in a house on the salt-marsh that faced the sunset. Egrets and pelicans flew by. I shared a room with Sam, who tip-toed in from Annabel's room at dawn- a charade in honor of A'bel's father (ha! James are you reading this?) I was a bit on edge as if I were meeting the in-laws (except we're talking high-school sweethearts.)     

The day we flew down I chipped a tooth on a frozen salted caramel and first thing I had to do was find a local dentist and then we planned was to rent bikes and ashamed as I am to admit, I don't know how to ride a bike and so I was stressing, feeling like a high maintenance ninny.

         Wa la! I rented a trike!

Tybee is beautiful with radical tide shifts. At low tide you could walk a mile into the sea. It was shell-less, and there were sink holes and tidal pools, some deep enough to swim. Tiny sea worms burrowed leaving patterns in the sand. I lucked out and found one perfect sand dollar-- a reward for braving the eerie emptiness.  

One day we wandered around Savannah, which is around a half hour from the island and had lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House  Mrs. Wilkes passed away at 95 in 2002, but she ran the place for 55 years. Famous for her fried chicken and biscuits with cane syrup, what I fell in love with was a slow cooked mashed summer squash. Many of her recipes are on-line, but not the squash. I think the key is butter. 

squash is in the foreground- there was also creamed corn, mac-n-cheese,
mashed potatoes, rice, stewed turnips, braised greens, and butter beans, to name a few!

Slow-cooked Summer Squash with Whipped Brown Butter
Trim stem and root ends from half a dozen yellow summer squash then roughly chop and put in a saucepan with a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a low flame, stirring now and again to prevent scorching, until the squash is mashable tender. Take off the lid and continue cooking to evaporate the squash water and to intensify the flavor. Stir in a spoon or two of whipped brown butter and salt and pepper, mashing as you stir.  

Whipped Brown Butter
Simmer 2 sticks of unsalted butter in a small saucepan over low heat until butter turns the color of weak coffee. It’ll take a long time- 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it because it can burn.  What’s happening is the milk solids are caramelizing and imparting a nutty sweetness to the butter. Spoon off any white foam from the surface. Pour into a container and chill till it reaches room temperature.
With a mixer, whip one stick of plain butter, then add the chilled brown butter. Whip until aerated and fluffy.  This can stay covered in the refrigerator for several weeks. Use by the spoonful to flavor vegetables.