Archive for August, 2009

School Lunch – Film Noir or Chaplinesque?

August 31, 2009

Our district goes back to school this week, staff meetings Monday and Tuesday, our first day with students on Wednesday….I have spent the summer dining on fish tacos, grilled veggie tacos, prawn tacos, venison tacos, with chipotle coleslaw, rice vinegar slaw, avocados and cucumber. I have eaten pizza with tomatoes and basil, pizza with fresh pico de gallo. Pizza with nicoise olives and fresh mozzarella. I’ve slurped four different recipes for clam chowder, new england style, with/wo bacon, gooey duck or razor clams, super light, and creamy thick. I’ve been cooking vegetables in coconut milk and adding green curry paste, garlic, lime juice and chili flakes.

we can make a chowder that will appeal to most of the students, these are kids k-12. There are some really decent canned clams out there. And we do grow the best potatoes here in the valley. There is a great pork processor up north of Bellingham that makes a nice smokey bacon.

I think students will eat the fish, Alaska Cod, whole muscle, baked with Panko, in the soft warm white corn tortilla. The condiment is a problem. Cabbages, Brassica!, are so wonderful, crisp, unique in flavor, and feared by those under thirty like a closed bathtub shower curtain when you get home late at night and realize you forgot to lock the front door.

Ok, ok, I know the simple answer is to let them pour on the Ranch, and we will do that……yet, I want a vegetable in there somewhere. Got any ideas?

Our ranch dressing is made with non fat plain yogurt, low fat mayonnaise, actually very good, lots of fresh garlic, fresh parlsey, dill, white pepper, and some low fat buttermilk, I figure they slather about 1/2 cup on top of their pepperoni pizza ( yes, they do that, and spaghetti too) so it would work with the taco too, I’d count it as protein….but the USDA wouldn’t. There is enough garlic/herbs to make it a tonic flush, but don’t tell anyone…

I am going to make a pizza with a salsa-esque topping, again, garlic, cilantro, basil, all the fresh herbs possible. maybe pepperoni on the side? Ken makes a killer pizza sauce that stands up on the spoon, so rich and sweet.

You can check out our September menu at the LaConner School District website. watch out for those corn dogs. They’ll kill ya.


Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad Pictures

August 31, 2009

The recipe for this is a couple of posts back on the 26th of August. I did use one crushed garlic clove with the olive oil tossed with the croutons, which is not in that recipe. This salad is interesting in that if you make it ahead and the croutons become saturated with the tomato juice, balsamic, and oil, they are soft and delicious. Yet, eaten just after tossing together is quite wonderful too. Crunch!

The Night Sky Late August

August 28, 2009

just before midnight and a sweet, kind wind moves in from the west. So gentle it belies the fact of rain in the morning. The stars still show, Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper in the northwest. The arm is made up of four stars called the Mizar Zeta. These are my friends who give great comfort in the dark.

E7 A7 B9

Albert King was my grandpa

in the same way I often sit at night

in the cup of Ursa Major,

letting my arms drift out behind me

along the Mizar Zeta stars,

spine stretched out, not taut,

but languorous,

lifted by the way the man’s

voice can move me,

move me

out into the stellar midst

where we dance, really dance, really dance.

There is a science in the tension of string,

there is an art in the brush of a man’s fingers,

the way the man’s fingers move on.

I feel them clasp behind my shoulders

perfectly, releasing

as I raise arms above my head,

then around his neck,

and he makes mudra within

my shining body:

how is it that just three chords

can do that?

Tuscan/Western Washington Tomato Salad

August 28, 2009

I am describing this salad as “Tuscan” because this will immediately give you certain ideas of what the salad is about….but really, it can’t be truly Tuscan, because hopefully, the tomatoes are coming from your garden, or from some garden really near by….this summer has been the best, the best, for tomatoes from our garden. Yet, it does have the fabulous, olive oil drenched crunchy croutons, the olives, the cheese, everything that is powerful, and healthy about summer eating.

The Bio-Regional Tomato and Bread Salad  serves about 4

3 very ripe tomatoes from the garden, 1/2 to 1 inch diced

2 slices of thick whole grain french style bread, 1 inch cubes

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, cut in thirds

1/2 yellow bell pepper, small dice

1/2 cup red peppers, small dice, roasted in oven

1 T. minced red onion

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, 1/2 inch diced

2 T. shredded parmesan cheese

6-10 big fresh basil leaves, minced

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, (EVOO) now’s the time for it!

1/4 cup red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1/4-1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper

Place the bread cubes in a small pan and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the EVOO. Bake at 375′ for 10-14 minutes, get them dry and crusty.

Add all the vegetables (olives are a vegetable), cheeses, and bread together in a bowl. Sprinkle the oil over and gently toss. Add vinegar next, with salt and pepper. Toss gently. Taste a tomato. It should be, salty, tart, sweet, mostly in that order.

We add the oil first, to prevent too much soggy-ness. That is important.

This could be a main course, add a bit more cheese, or…! Add some fresh grilled tuna, diced up.

Lunch Lady/Cooking Teacher

August 27, 2009

So, this is my real job, or, the activity for which I am paid, or what thrills me that I get to do everyday, fall, winter, spring. I make menus for our school lunches, chat with and order foods from giant food distributors, local farms, and small, devoted, food purveyors. The menus must be nutritionally correct per the National School Lunch Program brought to us by the USDA and the Washington State OSPI. And it is! Sometimes I go overboard on the butter, which shows up under saturated fats. So, I modify, modify, modify with olive oil.

I like to help teach 4th and 5th graders more about nutrition using the standard school lunch tray, you remember that old plastic tray, don’t you? I show them how I make a lunch menu for the day, filling in each one of those compartments. After some practice and ideas, I have the class make up a menu for 1 day that we will serve to the whole school. The most popular entree has been the Ice Cream Sundae. We use a plain Klondike bar, with banana slices placed on either side, and the commodities sliced, frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup, ladled on top, with a garnish of whipped cream, real, out of a pastry bag. It takes one other server to prepare this on the line, but it is worth it in happiness

I ask students and parents what they want to be eating. I make up new recipes, talk to staff about how we could possibly make them in quantities of 500 because that is our target number every day for lunch. You can go to the LaConner School District website and click on the food services to learn about what we are doing. Thanks for reading!

Subtle Changes

August 26, 2009

Our summer table is loaded with the last of the best vegetables.  I notice that the little french bean leaves are picking up a tinge of the orange rust that indicates they will stop blooming soon… of the pickling cucumber plants has given up it’s ghost. We harvested 8 honey dew melons off of 2 plants…..there is such a tangle I don’t know how many per plant.

One of the fruits we don’t grow here is watermelon, which makes one of my favorite sorbets.

Watermelon Sorbet makes 3 cups

2 cups of pureed watermelon, all seeds removed, chilled

¼ cup water

1/3 cup sugar

2 T. light corn syrup

1 T. lemon juice

Add the water, sugar, and corn syrup together in a small sauce pan and heat to boiling. Chill completely, add the watermelon and lemon juice. Pour into ice cream maker and follow directions. When firm scoop into a container and place in freezer to harden for at least 2 hours.

A real treat: before freezing add 1 T. of very finely minced fresh basil for a very interesting heady experience.

Oh, why not, here’s my raspberry sorbet recipe too:

Raspberry Sorbet makes 4 cups

4 cups fresh or frozen raspberries juice from 1 lemon

1 cup sugar 2 cups water

mash raspberries and run through a sieve to take out pulp and seeds. You should have a least 1 cup juice. You can run 1 cup of water through the sieve to help get all the juice out of the pulp. Discard pulp and seeds. Chill the water/juice mixture.

Mix 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in sauce pan and bring to boil. Cool and chill syrup. Add the juice, syrup and lemon juice together and pour into ice cream maker. Follow directions. When firm, place sorbet in a container and place in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours.

I’m going to make one of these tomorrow…..hopefully pictures too.

An Important, Yet Small, Digression

August 23, 2009

As humans we have this propensity for language that muddles up how we see anything. We don’t look without thinking….but I believe we can if we train ourselves.

The reason for this kind of looking is the sharpening of the connection between ourselves and the entire spirit world. The knowledge on a non verbal level. Not unconscious……non verbal.

This knowledge expresses itself as deep feeling… names please! Refrain yourself. I can breath in the meta-meaning can’t I?

What about academia and “art history”?
In the past I have thought that this too muddles up the experience and have shied away from too much information……but, for instance, knowing about Van Gogh’s life and why the “Starry Night” looks the way it does…….is really quite separate from standing in front of it…don’t you think? It was in the Guggenheim in 1985 where I saw it.

So, thanks for your thoughts on this topic.

Feelings about Cheese and a Recipe

August 23, 2009

There is always the question of cheese. However, I choose to think of cheese being the answer to many of the haunted, hungry swings of refrigerator door. It is good to have a couple of types on hand at all times, what ever you prefer. Mountain style Gorgonzola, aged sharp cheddars, double creams like brie, and the goat could all find a place in the cheese stable. Ricotta is unique among cheeses for its delicate cool taste of clear spring waters with a hint of dry grass from late summer grazing, all this flavor emerging from what is left of the whey in the first cheese making, mozzarella. Unlike the density of most cheeses, fine ricotta is full of light, mist, luxury, and not to be saved only for lasagna or weird, low fat cheese cake recipes. I’m sorry but I just can’t get excited about that.

Omelettes 101

Serves 2

Equipment needed: 1 seasoned cast iron or heavy stainless steel 10 inch sauté pan, 1 medium bowl, 1 dinner fork, 1 silicone spatula, oven broiler.

Ingredients needed: 2 T. unsalted butter, 3 large eggs, 2 T. water, big pinch of salt, 3 grinds black pepper, ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese. You could add an optional pinch of fresh herbs, basil, fennel, Greek oregano, dill, or thyme, but try this dish first unherbed so you taste that beautiful ricotta flavor bumping up against the eggs, that is unless you’ve already eaten spoonfuls right out of the container.

Place sauté pan on medium high heat and add the butter. Crack the eggs into the bowl and whip with that fork, and when I say whip I mean have the fork lifting the egg up and around itself, quickly, for several seconds, You will see the egg foaming and coalescing into a bright yellow mass, following the fork around in a perpendicular circle. This seems to matter. Add water and continue whipping. As soon as the butter is melted and bubbling, swirl it around the pan to cover bottom and then add the egg mixture, swirl to cover bottom of pan if needed. Let this cook 1 minute while you turn on the oven broiler. Lift up one side of egg and let uncooked egg run in underneath cooked. Keep lifting up all around the edge of the pan until there is no more runny egg. Place the pan under the broiler for 1 minute to solidify and dry out the top. Turn burner down to low, take the pan out of the oven and place back on heat. Add ricotta cheese to one side of the omelet and sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Fold over the other side onto the cheese and let heat through 2 minutes. Cut into 2 wedges and place on serving plates. Eat immediately. Fruit is the only allowed addition, some orange slices, a fresh peeled peach, especially if you’ve added the herbs.

Heavenly simple without the overwhelming muddles of ham cubes and frozen vegetables laden with processed cheese food found in Denver breakfast spots. Regrets…..Denver does have some of the most beautiful brick architecture in the country.

Of all the brie “types” St. Andre is the holy of holiest in triple creams. I tend to serve it with bread and apples or pears. Paired along side cantaloupe slices, simple buttery crackers, with champagne and a joyful occasion, that prudent Lutheranian part of your brain may protest its possible satanic origins but I assure you clergy in the highest circles wisely invests in triple cream futures.


August 23, 2009

There is all kinds of sustenance I could be taking about…..but these photos of flowers below are Sunflowers, Asiatic Lilies, and Rudbeckia, or Black Eyed Susan. The colors feed me, the scent soothes me, the effortlessness of their beauty humbles me, and I am honored to live in their midst. Just some of the miracles we could be acknowledging as the atmosphere begins to prepare for those Southwestern cloud busting rains of autumn this place is famous for……we celebrate them too. But today……I won’t be foraging or cooking. You might see me out there on the dike with Monk.


Jewels in the Light

August 23, 2009