the middle place

The end has ended and the beginning has not begun. So here I am in the middle place between the two.

Faster than I could blog about it, my new life in Seattle came and went. A little more than a month ago, my relationship of four-plus years disintegrated, I quit the farming job that I struggled to like all season, and I packed up my shabby Honda Civic and moved back to Colorado.  

As I struggle with embarrassment and disappointment that the life I envisioned for myself (and my relationship) in Washington most certainly did not go according to plan, sitting down to write about yours truly feels like torture.  

But here I am. Because A) I pay for this website and if I don't show up here every once in awhile, it's a big fat waste of money and B) Embracing my new life as a single lady on a journey of self discovery means conquering my fears, exploring my creativity, and becoming a rich and famous blogger in the process.

Part of the reason it is so hard for me to show up here and write is that in the upheaval that is my life, my identity as "farmer" has been rocked. A big part of the niche and narrative I was creating here was tied to what was happening in the fields I worked and the produce I brought home to my kitchen. Without a farm or kitchen to call my own, I'm left trying to redefine myself and this blog space. Now that my life is significantly less grounded (a terrifying and disorienting reality, despite how much Pema Chodron I read), I'm trying to embrace the sweetness of the season wherever I happen to be at the moment. 

And where do I happen to be at the moment? Glad you asked. After a month of galavanting around the country (Moab, Steamboat, Paonia, Pennsylvania, New York City), I've landed in Hotchkiss, CO. Where is that you ask? The middle of nowhere. But more on that later. 

For now, enjoy some pics I snapped on a farm that happens to be on top of a roof in Queens (thanks for the tour Brooklyn Grange!)...

...also, a list of good recipes I made recently but didn't make up....

The Life Changing Loaf of Bread from My New Roots. Seriously, it changed my life. 

Chickpea Shwarma Dip and Kale White Bean Artichoke Dip from the Minimalist Baker. (Thanks Matt and Emma for getting a Vitamix for your wedding and then letting me move in with you so I can play with it)

Vietnamese Chicken Soup with Rice from Elizabeth Street Cafe via Bon Appetit. Ok, ok. I didn't make this, my mom did. But I told her what kombu was. Also, it's more like a porridgey glop than a soup, but don't let that dissuade you.  

Braised Chicken with Chickpeas and Swiss Chard with Marinated Onions and Brown Butter Couscous from the October issue of Bon Appetit. Once again, more my mom's doing than mine, but it was such a production we needed the two of us to pull it off. Was it super tasty? Def. Would I ever make couscous involving that many steps again? Likely not. 

a new chapter

You guys, I ate a hard boiled egg and I liked it. I think I even more than liked it. You see, this isn't normal. The stinky little things are one of the few foods on my no fly list. But you know, one mustn't stay stuck in the past.

This is not the first time I've tried to like hard boiled eggs. Way back when, when I dabbled in vegetarianism, I wished for hard-boiled love (such convenient packets of protein!), but I couldn't get past the rubber and sulfur. Not to be deterred, about once a year, I attempt a food adoption plan. I once trained myself to adore runny yolk eggs, which bolsters my hope for its eggy sibling. With the help of Taproot Farm's pasture-raised, heritage-breed eggs at my disposal, I've got close. It just never stuck. 

Well times have changed. Drastic times call for drastic measures. I no longer am surrounded by the variety of vegetable overstock and farmers market trades to distract me from egg salad and deviled egg party platters. Most importantly, I no longer have a kitchen to heat up my lunch at work. I need protein best served cold.

This week, I was in special need of quick and convenient lunch food. An amazing bachelorette weekend in the San Juan Islands left me a little unprepared for the work week when I returned to reality. Shocking, really, that I didn't sneak in any grocery shopping or meal planning between the drinking, hiking, Lemonade listening, and ferry riding over the weekend. Boiled eggs it is.

For the festivities, my co-Maid of Honor provided the inappropriate party games and more-than-suggestive decorations. I made sure there was food to go with the margaritas and champagne.  Between dance moves and glasses of wine, I managed to pull off a potato salad that went over smashingly with my fellow bridesmaids and the bride-to-be. I personally was a little too tipsy to fully taste it the first time, so I made it again to pair with my eggs. Of course, you could heed tradition and mix the eggs into the salad.. However, may I suggest you eat them separately? A) It looks prettier in a highly hip, instagrammable way (BTW "instagrammable" is officially recognized by spell-check) and  B) it feels a little bit more like a complete meal and not just a side dish when you do it this way. 

Ingredients

  • 4 Pasture-Raised Eggs
  • 2 pounds waxy skin Potatoes
  • 1 big glop Mayonnaise
  • 1 medium glop Plain Yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons Dijon Mustard, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 stalk Celery, finely chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh Dill, finely chopped
  • 1-2 Scallions or Onion Scapes, chopped
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground Black Pepper

 

 

Steps

  1. Boil eggs: place eggs in the bottom of a pot and cover with cold water. Place on high heat until the water reaches a roiling boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Submerge eggs in ice water for a couple of minutes. Refrigerate. 
  2. Boil potatoes: Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch chunks. Add potatoes to a big pot of boiling water. Salt the water heavily (like pasta--maybe a tablespoon or more). Boil until fork tender, rinse with cold water and chill. 
  3. Dress it up: In a large bowl, mix together mayo, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and olive oil. Stir in chopped celery, dill, and scallions. Fold chilled potatoes into dressing until coated. Season with lots of cracked black pepper and more salt if needed.
  4. Peel* boiled eggs, cut in half, sprinkle with pepper. Serve on the side of your potato salad, preferably out of a recycled sour cream container balanced on your lap as you look over a farm field.  

* Did you know that the ease of peeling is an indicator of an egg's age? Fresh eggs will put up a fight, but as you're struggling with tiny shell fragments, you'll rest easy knowing your egg hasn't been sitting in a warehouse for the last 9 weeks. 

Focus

With all the craziness of moving to a new city and adjusting to a new farm and setting up a new tiny kitchen, I haven't been too inspired in the cooking department lately (with the exception of the semi-regular homemade pizza endeavors)...which is a shame, because I signed up for an online creative photography class to help me get better shots of my creations. Since it started, though, I have barely made anything deserving of a photo sesh.

I'm still kind of awkward with my camera and embarrassed of stalling a meal in order to stage a yummy shot. In public, I'm shy and lazy. I don't like taking the time to set up a good frame or adjust my settings, which leaves me with a lot of so-so images.

I'm learning that to learn to be a good photographer, I've got to take a lot of bad photos. Then I have to look at all my bad photos and figure out what went wrong. I don't like being bad at things and I certainly don't like revisiting my mistakes, so it's been a slow process. 

A trip to the WIllamette valley last weekend gave me an excuse to practice while Zach caught up with his dad and long lost cousin. It was a pretty magical day with nice overcast lighting, so the practice was actually enjoyable. When my obliging models and I stumbled upon a camp-themed wine tasting event, it got downright fun. The teepees, s'mores, and artisanal meats cooked over a fire were basically begging to be photographed. A few of those photos even turned out nice. 

(Oh, and a stop at Voodoo Doughnuts, because it's basically mandatory if you're going to be in Portland.)

Herban Life

Do you know how many half-drafts I've written trying to recap how my life has changed in the last couple months? Way too many. So I'm giving up on the long version.

Here's the down and dirty instead: Goodbye Pennsylvania. Hello Washington. New city. New job (new farm). New apartment. New (aka old, tiny) kitchen. New friends (pending...). Same boyfriend. 

If you still feel a bit in the dark about the whole thing, stay tuned. Details will be released slowly so as not to overwhelm you or me.

Oh also, I have a newfound obsession with homemade pizza night, inspired by newfound easy-peasy recipe for no-knead pizza dough. Why did I hardly ever make pizza dough before? It always seemed such a hassle, something to be planned ahead and fussed with. But no more! I hereby vow to have pizza once a week! Here's to new traditions!

Week one of the new tradition went swimmingly. The new farm doesn't have a lot going in the early spring season, but it does have some herbs that lived through the winter and are going gangbusters now (thank you temperate Pacific Northwest). My favorite new one is lovage, but that's a story for another post. This recipe was inspired by the vibrant chive blossoms bursting into the scene. Because, seriously, who doesn't want to eat pizza with purple flowers on it? 

Here's the trick. You do have to plan ahead...sort of. The pizza dough doesn't require kneading, but it does require a while to rise. The method that works best for me is to make it one evening, let it rise overnight, then shove it in the fridge right before I go to work the next day. It can hang out in the fridge (covered) for a couple of days. Before using, remove from the fridge, sprinkle with flour, shape into two balls,  and let it come to room temperature for an hour or two. 

Spring Herb and Asparagus Pizza

serves 4

STEPS

  1. Plan: Make dough at least 14 hours before you want to use it. Separate dough recipe into two balls.
  2. Prep: Chop up the fresh herbs and garlic. Mix with a healthy drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of salt. Now you've got a rough pesto/herby "sauce." Chop asparagus into 2 inch pieces. Place in a saute pan with a little bit of water on high heat. Cover with lid and cook 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. Assemble I: Preheat oven to 400. Sprinkle two cookie sheets with cornmeal. Pat one dough ball into a disk shape, then lift it into the air and make like a pizza pro--stretch the dough into a large pizza shape over the top of your fists. Lay it down on the cookie sheet and gently pat/stretch it out to the desired size with your fingertips.**  
  4. Assemble II: Spread herby sauce onto dough. Top with mozzarella cheese, asparagus, parmesan cheese, and chive blossoms. Bake for 20 minutes. Increase the heat to 450. Continue baking until bottom of the crust is crispy and cheese is gooey. Top with a few more fresh chive blossoms. 

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Jim Lahey's No Knead Pizza Dough
  • 1 large handful chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, basil, and thyme
  • 4 garlic cloves (or 3 stalks green garlic)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • a sprinkle of coarse cornmeal
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
  • parmesan cheese, shaved or shredded
  • 1 handful chive blossoms, removed from stems and chopped roughly

**A note from Jim Lahey about shaping dough:

Treat it gently so the dough holds its character, its texture. When you get around to shaping the disk for a pie, go easy as you stretch it to allow it to retain a bit of bumpiness (I think of it as blistering), so not all of the gas is smashed out of the fermented dough... I offer you two approaches for shaping. The simpler one, executed completely on the work surface, is slower than the second, where you lift the disk in the air and stretch it by rotating it on your knuckles. Lifting it into the air to shape it is more fun, too.

 

 

Ecuador

A month ago, we went to Ecuador for a little bit. 

mindo

within 12 hours of landing in Quito, we are drenched with rain and lost in the jungle. within 48, we have soared 300 feet above tree tops in the questionably secure basket of the tarabita (cable car), hiked to 5 waterfalls, counted 7 varieties of humming bird, napped in hammocks, and soaked in the jacuzzi. also, a slightly risky meal at a back-alley shack featuring grilled chicken (disregard the unrefrigerated tupperware from whence it came), superbly fried yucca, cold Pilsener beer, and the patronage of a squad of local firemen.

quito

colonial architecture. swaths of concrete housing creeping up blue hillsides. diesel fumes and honking horns. clouds that crest the mountains and pour suddenly into the valley like an invading army. crowds of tourists and locals alike taking refuge in the gilded nave of el San Francisco. and of course, more Pilsener.

quilotoa loop

Isinlivi to Chugchilan to Quilotoa. an emerald patchwork quilt draped over steep mountains and deep ravines, cliffsides inexplicably covered in agricultural pursuits. the small but regal stature of iconic indigenous peasants- dressed in felt hats, brightly woven textiles, and pleated skirts, with taught dark skin, rosy cheeks, and smiles of gold teeth. literally breathtaking - 12,000 feet of altitude breathtaking, stop every four steps on the assent breathtaking, how many photos can i take before my battery dies? breathtaking. 

cuenca

walking and gawking and roof-top-tour-busing* through more colonial history. the best empanadas of the trip. the worst hostel coffee and breakfast.  the search for a panama hat (or should I say, sombrero de paja toquilla, hecho a mano en Ecuador) fulfilled and one-upped with a workshop tour at the Asociacion de Toquilleras in Sigsig. 

*the roof-top tourist bus is quite possibly the least appreciated and most undervalued way to see a city. even if the English translation portion of the tour leaves out half of the interesting information, there's no better place to eat an impromptu ice cream cone