Archive for August, 2011

Agua de Sandia: summer in a glass

The farm stand watermelons on our vacation were unbelievably delicious.  While nothing is better than biting into a nice ripe slice, watermelon can also be enjoyed as a refreshing beverage, that is easy to make.  Here’s how:

  1. Fill your blender 3/4 full with diced watermelon (without the rind, of course).
  2. Add water until just below the top of the watermelon.
  3. Blend for 1-2 minutes, longer if your watermelon has a lot of seeds.
  4. Turn off blender and let it sit for a few minutes to allow the seeds to sink to the bottom.
  5. Pour your agua de sandia into a pitcher.  If you wish, you can add more water depending on the consistency you desire.
  6. Some recipes call for sugar, but none of our watermelons have needed this addition.
  7. Chill and serve.

They also make for delicious paletas, but more on that soon.  Enjoy!

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Mazopiya

  Domaphile has been vacationing  on the Midwestern Riviera – otherwise known as Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes.  I hail from outside the Twin Cities and it’s always nice to visit in the summertime.  This year, our trip corresponded with the grand opening of a new natural food store near my parents house.  This wouldn’t normally be of any great note, but Mazopiya – which means “a place to store things” in the Dakota language –  is much more than your local Whole Foods.

As part of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, a Native American reservation outside the Twin Cities, Mazopiya provides more than just organic produce to the community.  The project was initiated by Lori Watso, a tribal member and a nurse with a background in public health.  After moving back to Minnesota from San Francisco, she wanted to find a way to address the chronic health issues that are facing her community.  Diabetes and obesity rates are high and, on many reservations, access to healthy food is limited.  They literally started from the ground up, by planting an organic community garden on 1 1/2 acres of reservation land in April of 2010 which has already grown to a 5 acre farm that provides 50 CSA shares to members (actually, they call it a TSA – Tribal Supported Agriculture) and sells produce at a small farmer’s market each week.

  Construction on a 6,500 square foot, LEED-certified store followed that had a soft opening in early 2011 and an official grand opening this month.  Stocking everything you would normally find at your local food-coop, the store also has an array of local, native products: wild rice, Lakota popcorn, and beauty products made from sage, cedar and buffalo tallow.  The space is beautiful, like a well-curated and friendlier Whole Foods.  It has a deli and coffee bar and really operates as a community space.  Tribal members and people who work on the reservation receive discounts and there are also a variety of free classes offered on cooking and nutrition.
While the impetus for the project was to address Native American nutrition and health, anyone is welcome to shop at Mazopiya and take their classes, so the larger community benefits, too.  This has all happened in a short time in part because the SMSC has ample financial resources from their successful casino operation.  While many Native American reservations lack the capital of those that have profited from gaming, the hope is that the success of their operation will be able to be scaled and replicated elsewhere.  I found the whole enterprise extremely inspiring and am curious how it could be used as a model for other communities.  Does anyone know of similar projects going on in other places? Would love to find out more!

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Ritual Eating: Ramadan Break Fast in ‘Edible Manhattan’

A Ramadan break fast

Breaking the Ramadan fast (Photo by Joshua Kristal)

My friend Joshua Kristal is a great documentarian of rituals. Apart from being an artful event photographer, Josh has a talent for insinuating himself into exclusive gatherings, inner sanctums, and auspicious occasions, where he manages to capture people committing acts of community (see for yourself at his blog).

He also knows a thing or two about shooting food. And in this month’s issue of Edible Manhattan, you can see his beautiful photo spread capturing the communal and culinary ritual of breaking the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The shots were taken last year and show a family on the Lower East Side preparing and enjoying a feast after the daily fast. The accompanying text, written by John Kearney, includes welcome suggestions on where to get traditional items and ingredients, and some great history on Muslim settlement in New York—I love the bit about the immigrants in Little Syria who brought over laban cultures by soaking cloth in yogurt, drying it, and carrying it in their pockets. It’s a lovely piece that conveys the giddy, ecstatic pleasure of breaking a fast among family and friends.

By the way, Ramadan began August 1 and continues until August 29.

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Leonora Carrington’s surreal kitchen

Leonora Carrington, Grandmother Moorhead's Aromatic Kitchen, 1975.

Ever since I learned that Leonora Carrington died in May, I have been thinking about her.  I first came across her work as an undergraduate art history student almost 20 years ago in a class on Surrealism.  In the context of the traditional art history canon, she is mostly known for having run off with Max Ernst in 1937, but I immediately became intrigued with her work and her extraordinary life.  She was a prolific painter and writer: her paintings are otherworldly and complex, sometimes disturbing – but in a good way.  Populated with mythical beings in dreamlike surroundings, she created a world that seems imbued with symbolic meaning, yet defies any easy deciphering.

Raised in a wealthy and conservative family in Lancashire,  England,  she was expelled from a number of finishing schools – the proverbial black sheep of her family.  She agreed to appear as a débutante at the court of George V in exchange for taking art classes at Amédée Ozenfant’s school in London.  It was through the school that she first met Max Ernst at a dinner party and suddenly she was living in Paris with the rest of the surrealists. Can you imagine? But World War II put an end to that idyll when Ernst was arrested in France.  Unable to secure his release, Carrington had to escape into Spain where she had a nervous breakdown.  Long story short, she was committed to an asylum, released into the custody of her nanny (whom her family had sent for her and who was charged with returning her to England), but then escaped her watch through a bathroom window in Lisbon  where she fled to the Mexican Embassy, happened to run into a friend, the poet and journalist Renato LeDuc, married him on the spot and set sail for America.  That kind of thing just doesn’t seem to happen anymore.  After a year or so of living in New York City, she and LeDuc moved to his hometown of Mexico City where they parted ways amicably.  Mexico was very friendly to European artists who fled the war, offering many of them citizenship and fostering a creative expatriate arts community that co-existed – not always happily – with the circle of Mexican artists surrounding Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.

She spent the rest of her life in Mexico city, eventually marrying Hungarian photographer,  Emeric Weisz,  and having two sons.  Although running off with Ernst, joining the surrealist movement and her movie-script escape from war-torn Europe is the stuff of biopics, it is her settling in Mexico that is most interesting to me.  In her early days there, she became acquainted with a fellow refugee painter, Remedios Varo – who lived a similarly remarkable life – and the two of them forged an extraordinary creative friendship, much of which was played out in the kitchen.  Both were interested in alchemy and magic – subjects popular with surrealists – but brought them into the domestic sphere.  Much of her work – both painting and writing – deals with what is magical in the everyday.

The early days in Mexico City were a struggle – money was scarce and she had few painting supplies.  But Carrington and Varo had something else that – to me –  was just as precious: time.  They spent hours in one another’s kitchens collaborating on their writing and experimenting with food.  Perhaps it is because I harbor a secret desire to run off to Mexico and paint, or perhaps it is because everything sounds better in the past (see “Midnight in Paris“), that I have completely romanticized their domestic idyll.

Remedios Varo, Still Life Reviving, 1963

Together in their kitchens, Carrington and Varo spent time concocting absurd recipes: one designed to stimulate a dream of being the King of England, another simulated caviar out of squid ink and tapioca. Yet another recipe, found penned in Varo’s hand, purports to induce erotic dreams:

INGREDIENTS:

  • A kilo of strong roots
  • three white hens
  • a head of garlic
  • four kilos of honey
  • a mirror
  • two calf livers
  • a brick
  • two clothespins
  • a corset with stays
  • two false moustaches
  • hats to taste

Put on the corset and make it quite tight.  Sit down in front of the mirror, relax your nervous tension, smile and try on the mustaches and hats according to taste (three-cornered, Napoleonic, Basque, Beret, etc.)… Run and pour the broth (which should be very reduced) quickly into a cup.  Quickly come back with it to in front of the mirror, smile, take a sip of broth, try on one of the mustaches, take another sip, try on a hat, drink, try on everything,  taking sips in between and do it all as quickly as you can.

Haven’t tried this recipe yet, still rounding up the hats and looking for a corset, but the broth sounds delicious, don’t you think?

To see more of Carrington’s work, click here.  And to see more of Varo’s work, click here.

Here is a fascinating interview with Leonora Carrington (in Spanish):

And a short documentary on Remedios Varo (with subtitles):

FURTHER READING:

  1. Susan L. Aberth, Leonora Carrington (Lund Humphries Pub Ltd, 2010).
  2. Leonora Carrington, Leonora Carrington: The Mexican Years : 1943-1985 (La Tienda, 1992).
  3. Whitney Chadwick, Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement (Thames & Hudson, 1991).
  4. Walter Gruen, Remedios Varo. Catalogo Razonado. 4th edition, 4th ed. (Ediciones Era, 2008).
  5. Janet A. Kaplan, Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys (Abbeville Press, 2000).
  6. Sharon-Michi Kusunoki et al., Surreal Friends (Lund Humphries, 2010).
  7. Leonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet (Exact Change, 2004).

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Marc’s Spicy Pickle Chips

Here’s a question:  can you mail pickles? How about kimchi?  I suppose there is only one way to find out…  My childhood friend, Marc Strommer, who lives in Los Angeles, suggested we start a pickle /kimchi exchange and I am intrigued by the idea.  Marc is a professional musician who started experimenting with pickle-making when he couldn’t find pickle chips with enough kick.   When we got back in touch a couple of years ago, we bonded over our shared love of pickling and fermenting.  I made kimchi (posting about that soon). He made pickles. Why not exchange them?  Getting them from L.A to NYC seems complicated, though, so he agreed to share his secret recipe with Domaphile while we work out the details.

With an over-abundance of jalapeño and habañero peppers from his garden, Marc needed some way to use and preserve them. Inspired by an article about refrigerator pickles and by the Pickle Guys, he started with a 50/50 water to vinegar ratio and then experimented with the ingredients.  Regular garlic pepper spears were first, followed by hot pickle chips. The secret was adding a bit of sugar to the batch.

Spicy Pickle Chips

Ingredients:
(makes about 3 pints.)
12 small cucumbers
3 one pint canning jars (or any glass jars with screw top lids)
White vinegar
Water
1 1/2 tbsp Salt
30 Black peppercorns plus @1/2 tsp ground
3 cloves garlic smashed gently
3 tbsp raw sugar
Pinch of chili powder
3 habañero peppers sliced seeds and all. Scary, I know.

1. Divide dry ingredients and sliced peppers into three clean jars.

2. Cut cucumbers into 1/8 inch chips.
I like to use a cool cutter like the one shown. But, you can use a regular knife if you can’t find one.

3. Pack jars tightly, fitting as many as you can without breaking any.

4. Fill jars halfway with boiling water.

5. Fill the remaining half with white vinegar almost to the top. Watch out for spillage as you close the jars tightly. Give them a shake to distribute spices.

6. Refrigerate to seal. Enjoy! Wait a week or longer for spicier pickles.

This recipe can be adapted for garlic pickle spears. Just omit the hot stuff and sugar and add more garlic and pepper.  And cut cucumbers into spears of course.
Although I don’t have a garden full of peppers to use up, I can’t wait to make this recipe. But I am even more excited about seeing if we can send our kitchen experiments through the U.S. Mail.  Why? Because I’m sure Marc is a master pickle-maker, and he also creates these awesome labels.  Who wouldn’t want one?

Marc's Spicy Pickle Chips on Punk Domestics


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