Monday, March 26, 2012

Swapper Profile: Lydia Rose talks Lard + Heaven Honey Drops Recipe

I am honored to introduce Lydia Rose for our next swapper profile! I met her at our recent February food swap, and was instantly enchanted by her smile, her artful swap presentions, and her genuine warmth. Her hand-rendered leaf lard was a coveted item at the swap (I am thrilled to have scored some myself) and her knowledge and passion about making and using it was instantly apparent  so of course I had to ask her to share with the broader community as well! Get ready to learn a ton, and be charmed by her answers. I especially love her favorite kitchen tool and Rapture meal...

Lydia in the kitchen!
Name: Lydia Rose

Profession: Constant student of all things food and healing

How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago?
This past February food swap in SF was my first "official" swap! I only heard about the idea a few months ago in Minnesota, and as soon as I did I wanted to be involved. Unfortunately I was a bit late and heard about it just as the MN-Department of Agriculture was having talks with the swappers around issues of closure. Then I moved to California to be part of the Cooking and Culinary Traditions Apprentice Program at Three Stone Hearth Community Supported Kitchen in Berkeley, and was eager to participate in the exciting idea of food swapping here in the Bay Area. The idea of horizontal economies and food trade is something I participate in at home on a small scale, trading cooking lessons, homemade soups, and ferments for acupuncture, massage, and other delectables from talented friends and acquaintances. I love the idea of trade!

Creamy white leaf lard for the swap
What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?
I brought some lovely homemade, hand-rendered lard from pastured pigs. This lard is a truly sacred and delicious food. Full of vitamin D from pigs out in the sunshine! I met these pigs last year and saw how happy and carefree they are. Josh and Rama at Turnip Rock Farm in New Auburn, Wisconsin, have some of the best produce and pork in the Midwest! I have been a CSA member of theirs for 3 years and thoroughly enjoy every radish and romanesco. I brought this lard because I am passionate about animal fats from animals raised on pasture. A human brain is about 60% fat (dry weight) and every membrane of every cell and every organelle inside of cells are made of fats. Many hormones, neurotransmitters, and other active substances in the body are made of fats and as such fats are extremely important parts of our diet as humans! The question then comes to be  which fats? And the answer is fats that people have been using for millennia  animal fats such as ghee, butter, pork fat, duck fat, goose fat, chicken fat, and various ruminant animal tallows. Unfortunately the food industry has not only demonized fats, but indeed the animal fats they would sell us come from confinement animals, which store drug residues and other toxins in their fat. I believe in rendering fats at home with fats from small family farms and using them exclusively in my cooking- not only to promote health and heal the earth and our bodies  but because it makes things generally taste straight-up, bang-on, out-of-this-world amazing! I rendered this leaf lard, which is the fat around the kidneys and generally thought to have the best flavor, at my home in Minneapolis, and then brought it to the Bay Area. The pastime of rendering fats is one I am passionate about and love to share and teach others. If you are interested  please contact me! You can use the fat for frying as it has a fairly high smoke point of 375° F/188° C. Lard makes the most pliable and dependably flaky crust for pies and all sorts of baked goods. In fact there is no substitute! Using it puts us in contact with our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who used pastured lard (for back then there was no such thing as a factory farm, or hydrogenated lard with BHT preservative) for all their fryin' and bakin'. My favorite thing to put lard into is a roasted butternut squash that I then puree with a bit of sea salt, honey, and cinnamon. Makes a little sweet and rich dessert! 

Cutting suet (beef kidney fat) for tallow

Duck fat being rendered

Duck fat while still warm

What’s your favorite thing about swapping?
Just as I love the idea of apprenticeship and internship, I love the idea of trade. I feel it can benefit the world and bring great healing to the economy for us as individuals to come together and be more interdependent   trading what skill we have for another’s skill. We all must let go of the individualistic atomic dream of having everything and needing no one  there is no need to go even one more minute down that path as a society. And so I think that what I might naturally be gifted at   say, cooking a broth or rendering lard  might be useful to someone who is brilliant at something I'm not  say, someone who loves to garden but can't steam a carrot. We could then get together and start an exchange of time and skill, while also creating community. As we trade skills we are also deeply respecting one another. I find food swaps to be a natural extension of this philosophy.

Who or what most influences your cooking?
Healing. The concept of healing through diet influences every chop of onion, every slice of lemon, and every roasting of bird. Right now in my life I am all about connecting the dots. I am all about healing through the puzzle. I am all about bringing the news of healing through food to others who are suffering nutritionally. I want to do this on a larger scale than just at home  because I have seen firsthand the malnutrition of my fellow peers through my life experiences. I believe the kind of food I create is the kind of food that can heal the world and connect us to the earth.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
My hands. Getting in touch with my food, quite literally, is an energetic and bacterial exchange that is healing and brings great taste and splendor to both the journey and the eventual outcome on the plate or in the jar. It also helps me to feel more connected to my ancestors. I believe in connecting to your food using the most exquisite tool created. 

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession?
That would have to be a tie  I get obsessed often and with great gusto! At the moment I'm pretty obsessed with fermented preserved lemons, homemade coconut vinegar shrubs, tiny one inch cinnamon sticks, and grass-fed beef shank curry. 

Duck fat for delicious foodstuffs
Biggest food surprise?
Gizzards and hearts. I have started to eat pastured chicken gizzards and hearts lately, sometimes I confit them in duck fat or schmaltz with shallots and herbs de Provence, sometimes I fry them with Tex-Mex spices, apple cider vinegar, and garlic. This is not something I grew up with by any means, and so each time I am surprised that I love the rich, organ-y, chicken-y bits of goodness! 

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be?
Quite a feast! A bison rib eye grilled rare with many maitake, oyster, and chanterelle mushrooms caramelized in duck fat and grass-fed spring butter, lots of grass-fed roasted bone marrow spread on a really fermented sourdough with parsley, lemon, and garlic, a big glass of purple carrot juice with fermented cod liver oil, a cornucopia of sustainable caviar, pastured chicken livers from a freshly butchered chicken seared medium rare with lard-fried sage and marjoram leaves, raw oysters, a shot of sauerkraut brine in a warm steaming cup of thick gelatinous beef broth, mashed roasted cauliflower with browned grass-fed butter and onions roasted in grass-fed tallow and sparkly red peppercorns, soft-boiled goose eggs, a platter of ferments from every country around the world, long-simmered black beans with garlic and onion and bacon fat, a salad of multi-hued radishes with jicama, cilantro, fermented green tomatoes, white onion, and cayenne pepitas, a compote of blood oranges dripping with cinnamon and raw buckwheat honey, a plate of roasted pastured chicken skins and wings and gnarled braised feet with sea salt and thyme, toasty sopes with smoky pork adobo mole, pan-fried walleye with mashed celery root and glazed carrots with rosemary, roasted candy pumpkin claufoutis baked with pastured lard, pastured eggs, and reduced apple honey syrup. Raw milk warmed with raw spun honey, cocoa, and cinnamon. A big homemade bratwurst with lacto fermented pickles and red cabbage with sautéed apples and caraway. Thanksgiving stuffing. And lots and lots of chocolate and cheese, preferably super fermented and ripe! Let the Rapture begin! 

When I'm not in the kitchen I'm _________.
reading. taking a walk and smelling the earth. smiling. listening to records. making collages and cards for loved ones. 

Favorite local food experience:
Well, since moving to the Bay Area in January, I would have to say getting to know the local vendors at the farmers markets and having the pleasure of purchasing from an all organic farmers market in Berkeley has been quite a pleasure. Also sampling all the local charcuterie, and swapping! 

Beautiful and delicious!
Recipe by Lydia Rose

Heaven Honey Drops
I just made this recipe up the evening before the swap- feel free to add or change according to your palate. Enjoy your sweet heaven honey drops! The nourishing mix of coconut with the raw enzymatic component of the honey allows us to enjoy the ancient honey-medicine-food with the stability of the coconut oil and fat in the meat- allowing for a much more stable blood sugar response and a steady, even energy boost from the medium-chain triglycerides in the coconut oil and the essential lauric acid!


1 1/2 cup of Raw Coconut Butter (I used Artisana Brand)
1 cup of Raw Honey (I used Meadowfoam honey from Beekind that I got from the Saturday SF Farmers Market)
zest of one or two Meyer lemons (I used the one from my landlords front yard, so while not organic, definitely grown with love and care!) - you want around 1 T. plus 1 t for garnish. 
one crushed 1-inch cinnamon stick (I used an organic one from Lhasa Karnak Herbs on Shattuck in Berkeley), or ground cinnamon to dust over the top. 

one glass or stainless steel bowl
one wooden spoon
one glass plate
stovetop or heating element
fridge or cooling element

1.  If coconut butter isn't at room temp and spoonable, carefully heat the jar in a pot with water filled to halfway up the jar level. Use only the gentlest of heat in order to keep it raw. This will ruin the label a bit, but makes it much easier to scoop out. 
2.  Scoop coconut butter into a bowl. 
3.  If raw honey isn't spoonable, carefully heat that using a double boiler or the method above. Try not to heat the honey and only warm it so that it is workable. 
4.  Add the honey to the coconut butter in the bowl. 
5.  Add the lemon zest, remembering to reserve a teaspoon or so for the top. 
6.  Mix the honey, coconut butter, and lemon zest together with your hands or with a spoon, or both. The coconut butter will exude a lot of watery, milky liquid as the solids fuse with the honey. Don't worry about this. Or better yet, when you are done, save it to drink. 
7.  Now comes the fun part! Get yr plate and start rolling tiny little balls, around the size of a marble or smaller, and placing them on the plate. They will melt a bit with the heat of your hands so that by the time they sit on the plate they will flatten. Continue until all the mixture is done. 
8.  Dust with the ground cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon and add a few strips of zest to each drop. 
9.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to harden. If traveling somewhere with these (i.e. to the swap!) I recommend freezing for a few hours. 
10.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let's Talk Kumquats

Seems like kumquats are the it citrus of the season this year. I've always liked them, especially since they seem kind of inside-out with their sweet peel and bitter flesh. And after scoring some amazing candied kumquats at the May swap last year, which the boyfriend and I rationed to make them last, I have been a little obsessed and itching to replenish our supply.

I did make a small batch (thanks to above swapper Sarah's tips, I adapted from Real Baking with Rose's recipe and Simply Recipes' plus added vanilla bean) a while ago, from which I realized that kumquats are pretty pricey. So I was extra thrilled to find out a pal had a laden tree in Sacramento that was ripe for my picking.

Literally laden, and this tree fruits twice a year!

Kumquats all around

Galaxies of kumquats

They smell divine

Frank has one of the best laughs around

Me, up in the kumquat tree

When we were done it looked like locusts had descended

The haul

We had a ton of fun and I think we picked something close to 50 pounds of kumquats! (Thanks Frank & Bobby) So now it is on...the Kumquat-a-thon of 2012.

In addition to giving a bunch away, bringing them to parties, putting them in a pretty bowl as decor, and munching on them steadily, here is what I've made with just a fraction of these kumquats: Dehydrated Kumquats, Preserved Kumquats in Honey & Rose Water, and Spiced Kumquats.

A couple trays worth went into the dehydrator

Dehydrated kumquats took about 2 days

Rose water + honey + kumquats

A lot of slicing and removing of seeds

I used a few types of honey, but the walnut honey was dark!

Preparing spiced kumquats

Leaving to soak overnight

After 24 hours

Into jars!

And that's it so far. I'm going to need to get serious fast though and put some of these up for real. Recipes I'm considering still include Lillet Kumquat Compote, Kumquat Habanero Marmalade, Kumquat Chutney, Star Anise Kumquat Sauce, Sweet Preserved Kumquats, and of course lots more of the famed Candied Kumquats.

Got any other ideas to throw at me?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brioche - Cook It! 2012: February Resolution + Cardamom Rose French Toast Recipe

Even though I've been madly pinning bread recipes for a while now, and have been dutifully keeping my sourdough starter alive, February was a bear of a month for me, so all the more complex bread fantasies dancing in my head were tossed out the window.

Luckily one of my favorite breads to eat is relatively easy to make, (famous last words, right?) but I've never done it before  in fact I've never baked bread it's the perfect second round of my Cook It! 2012 resolutions! {You can see my first round here, and Grow It Cook It Can It's entire fabulous pasta round-up here}

The recipe I went to for my brioche is from Leite's Culinaria, in part because the Portuguese Olive-Oil Orange Cake on this site hasn't let me down yet. It's perfect for potlucks in particular, not just because it's pretty and easy to transport, but it actually gets better after a day or two, so you can make ahead of time when busy.

On to the bread-making...

Maybe because I tend to be an improvisational cook, using recipes as inspiration more than a prescription, sometimes when I'm baking I have a hard time doing that crucial first step: read the entire recipe thoroughly ahead of time. I know this, but still often fail at it. This go around it meant my butter and eggs weren't room temperature, but I had already mixed the yeast in with the milk and sugar. My solution: I sliced the butter into pats and put them on the wrapper inside the oven. It was turned off of course, but the pilot keeps it warmer than room temp in there, so I only had about 10 extra minutes to wait until they felt soft enough to stir into the dough by hand.

Really the only other notes for next time are to use a little more butter when greasing the pans (some of the corners stuck a bit) and to start earlier in the day! Oh and maybe to start working out more. Mixing dough by hand is hard work. It's either that or buy a stand mixer. But really if I'm going to be baking brioche regularly, I think working out is the better solution.

Set out your ingredients (and read your recipe!)

Yeast activates within 5-10 minutes

Note bubbles around edge and foamy surface

Mix in your eggs

Brace yourself for an arm workout

Stir in butter tablespoon or a two at a time

Add remaining flour 1/2 c. at a time until dough is shiny

Mine was still a bit sticky, but I felt it was ready

Dough after first rise

Punch down dough and knead it briefly

Add to buttered pans and leave to rise again until doubled

Second rise, after an hour looks good

Baste egg wash onto your loaves

Prepare for a delicious smell 

And gorgeous loaves

That you will want to slice into immediately

Making your own bread is incredibly satisfying!

And the nice airy slices are pretty!

I believe the first bite of all fresh-from-the-oven bread should be with a bit of butter on it. After that I recommend eating it with brie. It also makes great toast, and bread pudding. I'm not sure there's anything it doesn't go well with, truthfully. But it is super for delicious french toast, so I went that route for the recipe inclusion.

Hot bread & butter = nothing better

Toasted with brie feels decadent

Recipe for Cardamom Rose Brioche French Toast 

2 slices of day-old brioche
3 large eggs
~3 Tbs milk
1/4 tsp of vanilla extract
Dash of rose water (you want just a light rose flavor, so don't use a lot or it will overwhelm)
Couple pinches of freshly ground cardamom
4-5 scrapes of freshly ground nutmeg
Cinnamon and confectioner's sugar for sprinkling
Optional: Scrapings from 1/2 a vanilla bean
Maple syrup and fresh fruit for serving

Cut brioche into 3/4-inch slices. Lightly whisk eggs and milk together, adding vanilla extract, rose water, nutmeg and cardamom (and vanilla bean if using).

Place a slice of bread in mixture to soak while you heat pan, adding a pat of butter to use for cooking. Turn bread over at least once so that it gets well soaked, but not sodden.

Add first slice to pan to cook on medium heat, while putting second slice into egg mixture. Sprinkle cinnamon on top side of toast as it cooks, repeating when you flip it. Cook each side approximately 2 minutes until lightly browned.

Serve immediately with maple syrup, fresh fruit and a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar.

Alternatively you may heat your maple syrup with a dash of rose water and bit of butter instead of adding to your egg mixture.

Serves 2

Speaking of two, if both loaves are too much temptation to have around (not speaking from experience or anything), you can always freeze one for some other rainy day.

Fortuitously, March's resolution is homemade butter. As noted above, you know I don't have stand mixer, which means I will make this by shaking jars around for a long time. Perfect! It goes with my work out more theme, and of course the butter can be used for more brioche and other good things.