...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


A New Perspective on Food and Cooking

Wild chickweed on the chopping block at our campsite
It's not often that I rave about and recommend books.  Also, I'd gotten out of the habit of reading food-related books (not specifically cookbooks), but I've been greatly inspired lately by Tamar Adler's An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, which I mentioned in a recent post.  Her words and ideas have given me a new perspective on cooking not only in terms of using every last bit of food, but also in keeping it simple yet delicious, satisfying, and beautiful.  Not since reading Reay Tannahill's Food in History, which solidified my interest in food and culture; Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef, which propelled me toward culinary school; or Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which reinforced the notions I'd gained about the importance of clean, local food have I felt such a shift in the way I think about how I purchase, prepare, eat, and enjoy food.  Adler's story reads like an M.F.K. Fisher book with more prose than standard recipes and precious little anecdotes and tidbits to savor along the way.  I highly respect the author's experience--formally trained or not--and would easily put her high on my list of "food people" I'd love to meet one day.

I carried this inspiration into my crisper drawer the other day and chose to try grilling some cabbage.  I doused it generously with olive oil, salt and pepper, then Ben grilled it along with some shiitake-marinated chicken for our Memorial Day feast.  After pulling it from the grill I gave it a generous splash of white balsamic vinegar (Adler is known for generously dousing and splashing things with lots of olive oil and vinegar.)  It was our first attempt at grilling this dense cole crop, but we managed to enjoy it as part of a simple evening meal.  Even better was the day after when I sliced and added some of the leftover grilled Savoy cabbage to a cold lunch salad (with mixed greens, Romaine, parsley, pickled beets, diced apples, a little homemade mayo, some house white wine vinaigrette, and a bit of olive-oil packed tuna).  The cabbage gave the salad incredible flavor.  I'll certainly be tempted to grill off and chill even more cabbage next time just to savor it the following day.  Perhaps cabbage will be the otherwise ordinary vegetable I glom onto this season and find news and exciting ways to enjoy and appreciate it.

Last week I finally managed to get into the woods to hunt for ramps.  Knowing I was especially late in foraging them--even though this is the usual time of year I would, they were well on their way Earth Day weekend--I didn't come up with much, but exactly what I expected.  The bulbs were beautiful and juicy, but the leaves were nearly non-existent.  I was hoping to make some ramp sorrel pesto with the leaves as I have in past years.  I did get the chance, but only came up with a cup or so.  But as I was preparing the pesto in my food processor I was also trying to deal with a host of other fresh veggies and leftovers in the fridge before our three-day holiday weekend camping trip.  I had used some refrigerator-stored homegrown kohlrabi for a slaw the Sunday prior.  We nibbled on it all week and I added it to many a wrap for lunch, but there was still lots.  I decided I could pesto-ize it as well.  I ground it up in the food processor, giving it a generous dousing of olive oil (Tamar would be proud) and turned it into a coarse, but tasty condiment that I think will be a nice addition to a burger later this summer (or spooned onto a grilled brat in lieu of sauerkraut?!?!)

Ramp Pesto top row, Kohlrabi "Pesto" fills the rest
Though I may not have gathered enough ramps to process a batch of pickles as I originally planned, I have used more of them fresh this year than before.  Sometimes I'm so focused on getting seasonal fruits and vegetables preserved that I forget to savor their original flavors just a day or two after acquisition.  A new cookbook I'm obsessed with is Wild Flavors by Didi Emmons.  It's sparked more ideas for how to use my wild harvests, but also how to tackle the overgrown lemon balm and sorrel in my own garden.

Ramp and Spinach Pie with a Quinoa Crust (Gluten-Free)
Makes 4-6 servings

I adapted this recipe from the aforementioned cookbook, which called for a millet crust.  I have a boatload of quinoa so I made the substitution.  The spinach was also a liberty I took.

1 1/2 c. uncooked millet/quinoa
1 T. butter

1 1/2 c. ramps (or about 2 leeks), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 c. packed with spinach, chopped coarsely
2 T. butter plus more for greasing (I save the butter papers for this purpose!)
1 garlic clove, minced
4 large eggs
1 1/2 c. whole milk or half-and-half
Salt and pepper
1 c. grated mozzarella (or other favorite flavorful cheese...I used fenugreek-laced goat cheese)

To make crust: Bring 3 c. water to boil, add millet/quinoa.  Simmer 15 min., covered, then remove from heat.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Stir butter into grains and let rest 5 min, uncovered.  Grease cast-iron skillet with butter (or at least 8x8-inch Pyrex baking dish).  Place millet/quinoa in skillet and, using back of large spoon, press down to form uniform layer, bringing it up the sides as much as possible.  Bake millet crust 25 min., or until light brown crust develops at edges.  Remove from oven.  Turn oven to 350F.

To make filling: melt butter in skillet over medium heat.  Add ramps and sauté 6-8 min., stirring occasionally.  Add spinach and garlic, cook 1-2 min.  Whisk together eggs and milk.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Spread ramp mixture over crust.  Top with cheese then egg mixture.  Bake pie for 30 min., or until custard is set.  Serve warm or at room temp.

A camping weekend took us up to the gorgeous duned shores of Lake Michigan at Kohler-Andrae State Park.  It was great to get away, unplug, catch up on some reading, and just putter around the campsite and state park for a couple days rain and shine.  I enjoyed "eating from the trail" and got my hands on some stinging nettles, garlic mustard, and chickweed that all made their way onto our plates.  We had fun cooking on the campfire and campstove.
Dunes at Kohler-Andrae looking a lot like Cape Cod
Beach Time!
Over in the Meadow
Morning coffee walk along the Black River Marsh
Woody woodpecker was here!
Chickweed to eat!  Coincidentally I was JUST reading about this.
Garlic Mustard--if you can't beat it, eat it!
Stinging Nettle to eat
Busy bees going into a wild hive--my first experience seeing one
Olive and Ramp Tapenade with dippers at the campsite
Pasta with Ramp Pesto, Asparagus, Nettles, and Chickweed
Lamb Burgers with Sauteed Garlic Mustard, Ramps,
Garlic; Olive Tapenade, Cottage Cheese
Gorgeous sunset on our last evening there
Of course, we hit the ground running upon re-entry and I've felt somewhat discombobulated this week as Tuesday was my usual Monday.  That morning I did a garden consultation for a very talented friend who will trade her photography skills to shoot some family photos for us in a couple of weekends.  I had no idea how much fun I would have helping someone else see their yard's and garden's potential and envision raised beds of edibles.  The best part, our kiddos had a built-in, spontaneous playmate!

My mostly-edible window boxes:  Chard, Pac Choi,
Nasturtiums...along w/ sweet potato vine and
thunbergia to creep up to the living awning
We're well into salad-eating season from our garden.  I'm excited to use lots of our homegrown green stuff  to continue my regular green juicing routine as well.  Looking forward to a somewhat loose weekend in Bay View with a graduation party and HMN family picnic planned as well as two plant sales scheduled for this Saturday.  I love our neighborhood!

Our fresh salad greens/herbs mixed with some raw red cabbage
A sink full of fresh Swiss Chard


  1. A ramp is a wild leek. Very strong onion flavor. You can find out more here: http://leforthomestead.blogspot.com/2010/05/spring-foraging.html

  2. Thanks for the reminder: I had read about Adler's book a while back, and totally forgot about wanting to read it! I have been doing much better at eating up leftovers (disguising them, or just not making as large of portions to curb the amount of leftovers up front), in part thanks to you and your frugal approach to the kitchen. I look forward to more inspiration from An Everlasting Meal!