Monday, 12 January 2015 | 28 comments

Melissa Clark’s pinto beans braised with bacon & red wine

I took a little holiday break from writing here but not from writing, which was an interesting experiment that caused me to descend into some pretty dark stuff that no one, trust me, wants to read. So! Happy new year. Let’s talk about beans and definitely not about feelings, feminism, guns, or country music.*

I don’t pretend to be any high arbiter of bean quality, but if you like food, we live in a golden age of beautiful, heirloom beans, no small thanks to seed savers and discoverers like Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo. Heirloom beans are worth the money, and sometimes I special order them for particular dishes or to have on hand for a treat. I could spend a long time convincing you of the merits of gorgeous Good Mother Stallards or Christmas limas. But beans are supposed to promise a triple threat of nutrition, rib-sticking satiety, and economy. And at $6+ a pound, heirlooms don’t exactly satisfy that last qualification. So let’s talk about budget-conscious beans. Enter the humble pinto.
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Monday, 15 December 2014 | 10 comments

Java + Bali

After a few weeks of work in Indonesia last month, I was lucky enough to have Ben join me. (Ever tried getting someone who grows perennials for a living to come on vacation? It takes some prodding.)

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Saturday, 8 November 2014 | 44 comments

Bonfire night

“Moreover to light a fire is the instinctive and resistant act of man when, at the winter ingress, the curfew is sounded throughout Nature. It indicates a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against the fiat that this recurrent season shall bring foul times, cold darkness, misery and death.”
—Thomas Hardy

It’s difficult to explain about the bonfires. It started five years ago, right about the time I returned from living in Tanzania, just a few months before I created this site. Most people know about Guy Fawkes Day from the movie V for Vendetta. If this is your only acquaintance with the day, you probably picture eerie masks and explosions.

If you don’t know anything about Guy Fawkes Day, here’s your primer: on November 5th, 1605, a group of Catholic extremists in England tried to blow up the House of Lords and kill King James I. They were thwarted, and a man named Guy Fawkes was arrested. People lit a bunch of bonfires to celebrate and hated on Catholics. Like everything in England from Henry VIII on, it was about Catholics versus Protestants. Bonfire Night (a.k.a. “Gunpowder Treason Night”) caught on.

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Monday, 20 October 2014 | 17 comments

Sweet & sour delicata squash

We’ve been keeping busy. Lots of early mornings, driving from trains to winery to long days in the office, and late nights. I haven’t had my hands on as much good fall seasonal stuff as I would have liked this year. There will be no cutesy photos of the chickens milling about some decorative pumpkins. As usual, I thought I would plant a fall garden two months ago. Ha. I’m learning big lessons about this, about how some seasons I really get to dig in to the good things, and some I just suck it up, keep my head down, and pay the bills.

Ben picked me up from a late train home the other day with two hot pizzas in the backseat. Do you know how good that feels? What a guy.
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Tuesday, 7 October 2014 | 25 comments

David Tanis’s lentil & sausage cassoulet

Sometimes the recipes that are real workhorses in our household evade documentation here. I discovered this dish early in 2013, when it was still frigid February, and in subsequent cold seasons have made it (or a variation on it) more times than I can count. By the time I realized, this year, it was such a keeper that I had to write about it, it was spring. And writing about warming things like braised lentils is anathema when there are green things sprouting. Now, though, there’s a chill in the air again. This recipe has bided its time.

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