Thursday, April 8, 2010

Apple Blossoms

I'm a potter, a farmer, and a foodie. They all go together so beautifully. Come see why at our upcoming pottery show...

Hinckley Pottery’s 19th Annual Student Show and Sale

Sunday April 25, 2010
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Hinckley Pottery
1707 Kalorama Road, NW
Washington, DC
Hinckley Pottery’s 19th Annual Student Show is a lively rite of spring that showcases 26 talented potters and a beautiful array of their work. Their pots make wonderful gifts for Mother’s Day or any other occasion. Come meet the potters, enjoy a delicious spread of food, and find the perfect presents for housewarmings, mom, graduations, weddings or yourself.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


This year I'm working on helping Mike get more volunteers out to the farm on Sundays. We have a flyer, and a Facebook page!

We're excited to get a group of local food bloggers out to the farm later in May as well.

If you are interested in volunteering, please join the Facebook page!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Farm 2010!

Yesterday marked the start of farm season 2010! Andrew & I both went out to Eco Farms to seed flats with Mike. We did 33 flats of cabbage (2,376 plants!) and two flats each of fennel, rapini, and buttercrunch lettuce... and we got to start the pimientos de guernica, which we saved seeds from last year! We heard a pair of owls and a pair of foxes, and found that the chocolate mint has broken dormancy. It was great to have real salad again!

Who's in for next week?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ten Reasons Why I Volunteer on a Farm

10. To ask questions, and learn about bio-intensive agriculture.

9. Midafternoon snack break: Santa Claus Melon. It's indescribably good.

8. Little tomatoes warmed by the sun. They make you dance.

7. Someday I'll show up and the plants will be tall enough to shade out their own weeds. Someday...

6. Drinking wine out of wood-fired pottery.

5. I had no idea there were so many kinds of basil.

4. To remember that the best part of a salad actually is the greens.

3. To get out of the city and get my hands dirty doing something productive, outside in the sun.

2. Because local farms (and local farmers) are important to me.
1. To meet new wonderful people, like you! If you're in DC, and can meet up in Adams Morgan on Sunday (any Sunday!) at 12.30, come along!

Friday, August 7, 2009

In which I cook a GIANT zucchini.

I've been reading a lot lately about how to cook in season vegetables from the farmer's market, or your garden - well here's a vegetable we all come home to after a week-long vacation and have no idea what to do with! Yesterday at work, my coworker gave me a GIANT (like, 6 lb.) zucchini. How big? Check this out:

How the heck and I going to cook this thing? Well, one year when I was about 13 we came home from the family vacation in Maine to find zucchini just like this in the garden out back. Prevailing wisdom is that summer squash left to grow this big is stringy, tough, and bitter. Suitable for maybe grating into a zucchini loaf, and nothing else. I'm afraid to admit, I think we tossed ours. But my 13 year old head was buzzing with ideas... and that's when I came up with zucchini parm (like eggplant parm, only... you get it). Haven't had an opportunity to make it until now... no giant zucchini have crossed my path since that summer... UNTIL NOW!

Of course, I had to update the zucchini parm idea a little. For one thing, I had no mozzarella in the fridge. As I started thinking about recipes, I realized I better cut into this zucchini. This could be a battle.

My good chef's knife only made a dent. I switched to a bread knife for the benefit of the sawing motion. This thing is like a tree. And it smells more like a pumpkin than a zucchini! There were some seeds big enough to roast like pumpkin seeds (now there's a project for another day!), and the very center was stringy. So I made rounds.

Wave to some of my pottery in the background... hi garlic jar!

After dipping the rounds in egg & bread crumbs and frying, I decided to make these in individual tart pans, filling the center with a slice of tomato, also from my coworker's garden. (Thanks Alison!)

Then pesto. Then brie with herbs.

Then another round of zucchini with tomato.

Then bake at 350 for 20 minutes. YUM!

Yay! And... that was just half the zucchini.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Call to Collaboration

I’ve often reflected about the convergence of sustainable agriculture, cooking, and pottery in my own life. But I’ve said little on the Garden Variety Philosopher about what it’s like to work in the nonprofit sector. When we work with communities in the nonprofit world, especially communities in trouble, our first step is to stop identifying needs and gaps and resource deficits and to start identifying assets, connections, networks of influence that can help achieve great things. We need to start looking at the nonprofit community itself, and DC in particular, in the same light – and start collaborating to make this a better city.

Here is a case study. Today, I find myself in the middle of four local DC communities that have so many growing opportunities to collaborate: local farms, artisans, restaurants, and nonprofits. Every day, new ties emerge.

We know we have common ground. Because of the work of pioneering organizations like DC Central Kitchen and Greyston Bakery, nonprofits are already working together with restaurants and catering companies to employ & train an underserved population as entry level culinary professionals. Volunteering at EcoFarm, I see that local farmers are working together to market their produce directly to restaurants throughout DC. On Sunday, the farmer’s market donates leftover perishable produce to the Capital Area Food Bank. Local pottery studios donate students’ seconds to soup kitchens to use as bowls. Local restaurants are beginning to support the broader base of local artisans as well as farmers: Restaurant Nora serves soup out of handmade pottery, and Andy Shallal of Busboys and Poets even attempted to put a potter at the wheel on display in his new restaurant Eatonville before that idea was squashed for food safety reasons. There are a whole bunch of innovative ideas swirling around in this space – how can we nurture this kind of cooperation?

We all know that our city’s best restaurants want to source local ingredients, display local art and support efforts to employ the underserved populations of our city. If we work together, this group of restaurants, farms, nonprofits and artisans can be the heart and soul of this city’s economy. As more and more farms, restaurants and nonprofits struggle to survive, and unemployment in our city surpasses 10%, I think our goal is more than clear.
I can imagine a city where it’s natural for restaurants to get not only their food from local farmers, but their plates from local artisans. Where culinary training involves a hands-on field trip to a local farm to learn about bio-intensive agriculture. Where farms not only market to restaurants, but get their volunteer power from local chefs wanting to learn more about the farm to table principle.

What else do you envision? And where should we start?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pizza adventures

My friends have pointed out recently that I haven't written much on the Garden Variety Philosopher about my pottery adventures. I think that's because I hadn't really achieved a balance yet between creating something in pottery that has a real purpose, beyond just being a well-designed vessel for something. People ask me whether I'm a ceramicist or a potter. I'm not sure of the difference technically, but I think I'm a potter. I don't create things to be works of art, I create things to serve a function. (Of course, if they do that elegantly, they're the best kind of art.) But last night, I was finally able to let one of my best original pottery designs fulfill its purpose in my kitchen and my cooking. Here's the story:

About four months ago, I decided to throw a pizza stone in pottery class. I chose a really dark grog-heavy clay (lots of grit) called Laguna, and threw it as if it were a giant plate with no rim. It was perfectly flat save for some throw lines, and about 3/8 inch thick. After I finished, I decided to let it spin on the wheel while I drizzled some white slip over it for decoration. My amazing pottery teacher Mike had the foresight to yell, STOP! when I'd added enough white slip to create a good design, before I overdid it. As it dried on my teacher's shelf for about a month (thanks for your patience Mike!!) we watched anxiously to see if it would warp or crack. It was ready for the bisque kiln with a slight warp and no cracks. When it came out of the bisque kiln, though, the warp had gotten bad enough that I wasn't sure I wanted to put it through the second firing (no glaze on a pizza stone, of course). But, a leap of faith and $15 in firing tickets later, it came out less warped than it had been before! I thought, this is actually kind of good!

And then - Now that it's done, I might have to actually make pizza...

So of course, nearly every week after Mike would ask me if I'd made pizza yet. Last night I finally did! I'd been worried about how to transfer dough to the oven with the stone already in the oven for the pre-heating stage, which is necessary for pottery. Then at the farm on Sunday, the amazing baker Silke suggested I use parchment paper to transfer the pizza from wooden cutting board to the hot pizza stone in the oven. It worked perfectly.

I've always been a big fan of making dough, but since I wasn't sure how this experiment would go I decided to control one more variable and just get store-made dough. I put the pizza stone in the oven and got to preparing some toppings. I caramelized some onions with bacon, added some sage, salt and pepper, and sliced up some apples and sharp cheddar. When the oven was at 425 (I know, I'm a wimp. Higher temp next time) I put the dough in to pre-cook. That step turned out to not even be necessary with the even heat from the pizza stone. Then I took out the dough, knocked some air out of it since it had puffed up a little, and put the toppings on for its second round in the oven. Less than five minutes later, I had amazing homemade pizza! Crunchy crust, perfectly cooked.

I think a lot of restaurants are beginning to understand how much joy it can bring people when you join good cooking with locally farmed ingredients. Pottery is the missing piece in this emerging convergence. At Mike's farm each Sunday, eating just-picked salads and drinking wine out of pottery that was also made by hand results in this same happy energy.

For me, the pizza stone experiment taught me that not only can I take mud and make a plate, or a bowl, to serve food I have made to friends and family; but I can also create something that then has a role to play all its own in my kitchen, and helps me make something I could never have dreamed of making without it. It's a handmade world, so come join the adventures!

Send me your favorite pizza topping combinations, because I think I'm going to be living on pizza for awhile... and come out to the farm on Sundays to join experiments with grilled pizza (not to mention, to learn bio-intensive farming techniques!). And let me know if you're so inspired that you need a pizza stone. Loving homes only!