The association of orange and carrot is so fundamental, it surely exists on many a flash card as a color lesson for children. “What is orange?” the teacher asks enthusiastically. “Cawwots ahre owange,” small voices cry in unison (R’s are really hard!).
However, carrots used to represent the whole rainbow. Though apocryphal, the story has it the Dutch cultivated orange carrots as an homage to William of Orange, and the average person will eat 10,866 of those orange carrots in his lifetime (see statistic here). It’s high time to taste the real rainbow!
When I find wildly colorful, natural foods, I am inspired! How do I best channel those hues and intense flavors? I’ll share my wilder responses soon, but for now, let me start with a very simple rainbow carrot recipe. Roasted in coconut oil, the sweetness of these carrots really emerges, making them almost dessert worthy. For a wholesome treat, give your pup the nubby ends of the carrot after roasting rather than tossing them from the start.
I feel warmer when I look at the magazine cover. It radiates with a glossy depiction of bright yellow flowers, knee-high leafy greens, a freewheeling chicken, plump carrots and a tender father-daughter gardening moment. It’s the Urban Farmer’s seed catalog, and by now, its pages are tattered, wrinkly and thoroughly perused. While he plotted how to fill his plots of land, I found myself caught up in the excitement of seed shopping. Not unlike combing through a favorite clothing company’s pages, I would interject with “oooh, will you buy that one?” However, this catalog shopping boasted a level of anticipation like no other.
From their exotic colors, to their wild patterns, to their poetic monikers (Silver Cloud Cannellini, Midori Giant, Kentucky Wonder, Who Gets Kissed?), each of these heirloom seeds contains a rich history and immeasurable potential. The Urban Farmer will plant and nurture these tiny seeds into fully fledged roots, fruits and vegetables. He’ll reclaim vacant land, restoring its purpose and a neighborhood’s pride, one cultivated row at a time. He’ll harvest, and he’ll nourish those who buy into this farming notion, those who will eat with confidence, knowing he has their health and wellbeing in mind every time he steps foot on that soil. His hands will callous, his heart will swell, and our cupboards will fill with new recipe inspiration,and all of this starts with pages in a seed catalog.
The Urban Farmer’s brunching mornings might be on hold for a spell, while he bends fence posts into hoop houses, tills and tills, plans his plots, and plants his seeds. Fortunately, we managed to savor a lazy waffle morning before the farm clock began to tick so loudly. This year, another farm’s beets inspired our brunch, but who knows how the Urban Farmer’s seeds will transform and inspire us next year?
Here’s to Seeds, Soil & Stacks o’ Waffles!
Roasted Beet Waffles with Sour Cherry Jam & Whipped Coconut Milk
About This Recipe: Above all, the beets add a bright, rosy hue and a faint sweetness to this waffle recipe. The cornmeal gives the waffle a bit of a crunch. The whipped coconut cream is light and fluffy, and a great non-dairy alternative to whipped cream. I recommend a slathering of Sour Cherry Jam or your favorite fruity spread.
Being that anything dog related attracts me like shiny objects attract cats, I recently watched a special on dogs trained for advanced military assignments. These dogs were fearless, fiercely concentrated and lovingly loyal. The premier trainer expounded the power of a dog’s sense of smell. I shall paraphrase:
We laymen understand a canine nose to be a powerful sniffer, but what we don’t understand is how precise their noses are. It’s not just (and yes, this is a dog talking), “I smell stew cooking from across the house.” It’s “I smell stew cooking from across the house, and that stew contains celery, ribeye, herbs de provence, garlic, broth, dried mustard, etc.” This insight really propelled my imagination.
If dogs could speak, imagine the pretentious foodie shaming that would ensue. Assuming talking dogs would be welcomed in fine restaurants, a dog could sit next to a known, pretentious foodie. Both would order a beautifully colored, beet soup. Blended, this beautiful beet soup’s ingredients would largely be a mystery. The foodie and the dog would both begin to eat, one with the appropriate, golden soup spoon, the other with an entire muzzle in the porcelain bowl. The foodie would rattle on and on, just loving the sound of his own voice and astute ingredient observations.
The friendly dog, with the beet stains forming on his fur, would say, “yes, I particularly like the blending of coconut oil, caramelized onion, garlic, sweet potatoes and parsnips.”
“Oh yes, me too,” the deflated foodie would scramble to reply.
“What’s really tasty is the chicken flavor from the stock, as well as the stock’s celery accent.”
“Yes, I was going to say the same,” the foodie would boast transparently.
The dog would continue to parse each blended and masked ingredient, while the foodie would name drop other restaurants to change the subject. The dog would proceed to put his muzzle in the glass of sparkling water to drink, bite off the fine linen from his neck, then make his way to the dog park. At the park, this esteemed palate would sniff other dogs’ butts, and if feeling peckish after such a light lunch, possibly graze on some dog shit. Oh what a giant touché this would be to our food snobbery.
For the time being, we food snobs are safe. Our canine companions cannot yet shame us with their superior sense of smell. The only shaming are those big puppy eyes that stare at everyone around the dining room table, waiting for a bit of beet soup to hit the floor. Now that I have lured you with thoughts of dog butts and dog shit, let’s make some soup!
About This Recipe: Warm yet bright and colorful, this is the perfect soup transition from winter to spring. Thick and creamy, I even recommend spreading some on a thick, rusty bread for a unique sandwich. To make this soup, you’ll need either an immersion blender, food processor or regular blender. The texture of the soup is up to you. I’m a big fan of ginger, so this recipe calls for a sizable chunk. Adjust according to your fancy. Substitute a vegetable stock in the base and coconut cream for the garnish to make this vegan.
Dumpsters and dinner. Have you ever associated these words together?
Perhaps it was the lure of the neo-hippy boys on bicycles, with dirty tans and ripped Carharts (I was still “finding myself” after all). Perhaps it was the notion of sustainability. Whatever my motivation, for one very brief, very, very brief period, I dabbled in dumpster-diving. Was I swan diving into heaps of trash? No. Was I following friends to known dumpster jackpots and reaping the produce rewards? Yes. We would find pounds and pounds of edible produce, all tossed aside because it lacked a certain symmetry or monochromatic hue. These “bastard” fruits and vegetables were deemed unsellable and chucked. We were confronting society’s waste, and seeing that much squandered food really sucked.
One particular scavenge really stands out in my memory. A friend and I were having an urban picnic at an old produce terminal during the off hours. While strolling to find the best view of downtown, we happened upon huge cases of rejected produce. With a vehicle at our disposal, we each rescued enough produce to populate a sizable vegetable stand. At first acquisition, this produce felt too good to be true, but once home, the reality settled, and the quantity was a looming burden.
On one hand, we could afford to experiment culinarily. That pillage led to my first experience roasting peppers. On the other hand, the food seemed endless. Consuming it all required spending money on other ingredients, but how could we even consider wasting the wasted and continue such a vicious cycle? We were supposed to be making the world more sustainable but at what cost to our personal health codes? It was one first-world philosophical dilemma after another, calling into question many of my personal food values. I hate the idea of food waste, but I also place a high premium on my own health and sourcing organic foods. Where do I draw the line?
I recently tweezered, spritzed, primped and prodded chopped vegetables and fruits for a commercial photoshoot (one of my day jobs). To ensure the most beautiful “heroes” for each shot, the company arrived with a stack of boxes taller and wider than many of me. At the end of the shoot, they thanked us for our work and said, “enjoy the vegetables.” Many trips to the car later, I had a backseat and trunk full of produce, and I remembered my ol’ dumpster diving days. Is this the produce I would normally buy for myself? Probably not. Could I waste it? No. I was even more determined this time to use as much of this produce as possible. It was time to be creative, rev the juicer, fire up the oven and take advantage of cooking methods I might not usually employ. Case in point: roasted tomato sauce.
With grocery aisle shelves of sauces galore, buying a jar has an easy appeal, but the flavor and added smoky flavor of this homemade version has its advantages. Maybe you rescue the rejected tomatoes from a produce terminal. Maybe you garden and you make this sauce when you have an abundance of fresh, juicy, summer tomatoes. Maybe you try to salvage what you can from winter’s sad stock, but I hope you strike a balance of nourishing yourself and wasting less. It’s a balance I’m constantly seeking.
Roasted Tomato, Garlic & Herb Sauce
About this Recipe: Roasting is a great way to concentrate flavor and preserve produce. Surely this sauce would benefit from summer’s freshest tomatoes, but at this point in the year, I saw this as a means to draw out the otherwise lacking flavor in winter tomatoes. The resulting sauce is thick, chunky and rich in flavor. It works well as a pizza or pasta sauce, added to a soup, or spread on a sandwich. The recipe is loose, so you can tweak the ingredients and quantities to what you have and to your flavor preferences. My quantities yielded a large jar with some extras.
The motor roared, the boat rocketed up, and slammed down repeatedly, but he held the extended rope calmly, effortlessly. His single ski cut into the glassy surface, and the water sprung forth like a choreographed fountain. His lean legs bobbled ever so slightly before he jumped and defied the turbulent wake. The rope still seemed to hang loosely in his hands.
My brother made waterskiing look easy, too easy.
Summer after summer I had watched Shayne glide and jump over Lake Geoffrey like a pro. I was always content just to watch, but when I was fourteen, I finally had the urge to waterski. With most of my jitters focused on a fear of water snakes, I hadn’t processed how difficult gliding over water actually is. As the life jacket awkwardly hugged my scrawny frame, I floated in the water awaiting this reality.
Advanced beyond the use of double skis, my brother and friends had to scrounge two singles for me. The cobbled pair felt heavy and off-kilter, but the jet black boat with wild flames began to rev and roar. I gripped the rope with all my might, questioning this choice of mine. Too late. My legs and arms were pulled forward, but my core lagged. Far from impressive or graceful, I looked and felt like the boat was dragging me. Try as I might, I lost the rope and spiraled into the water. Fail.
Waterskiing was not easy, not at all.
Eventually, I learned to squat. I learned to use my quad muscles. I learned not to let the boat drag me and when to let go. Eventually, I was able to lap the lake without holding my breath anxiously, and I dare say, I even enjoyed it. I returned to Pennsylvania, my brother continued to dazzle all summer in Nebraska, and I haven’t stepped foot in a water ski ever since, but at least I tried it.
Taking my brother’s talent for granted, I had underestimated the difficulty level of waterskiing. Other obstacles in life follow the opposite course. We put off trying certain activities because we lump them into a “complicated” category. With all the fancy packaging and ever expanding shelf of nut milks, I had long lumped Almond Milk into the Why would I make that myself? category. As it turns out, making your own version is super simple and straightforward.
Homemade Vanilla Bean Almond Milk
About this Recipe: I originally set out to make almond milk because I was shocked at how many extra ingredients even the most expensive and “natural” brands contain.Making your own does require a few kitchen gadgets (food processor or blender and cheesecloth), but other than that, the process is simple and doesn’t require nearly as many almonds as one would expect. The result is a super natural almond milk without the unwanted extras. Be sure to save your almond pulp as I’ll be sharing a recipe for using it to make a wholesome chocolate treat.