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  • Smoked Quail, Pickled Redbud and Kansas Foraging.

    Springtime is pushing out of every corner right now. Ben and I took a walk and did a bit of foraging this week in Lawrence, KS.  

    The Eastern Redbuds are blooming a bright magenta. They are one of the prettiest native plants. A distant relative of peas, their blossoms, young leaves and immature seed pods are edible. The blossoms taste a little like fresh peas with a quiet floral note. We pickled the unopen blossoms which are not as sweet, to replace capers in recipes.

    The Siberian Elm is relatively new here. Introduced to the US in the early 1900's, it stands as a quiet monument to the Dust Bowl. They were planted across the prairies of the Midwest as a drought resistant windbreak to prevent a repeat agricultural disaster.  They are fruiting now. Producing small round seeds in a soft papery disk. The fruits are edible, as are the young leaves. A mild vegetal flavor and pleasant texture make them a favorite. 

     

    Clockwise from top left: Wild Violet, Eastern Redbud, Clover, Purple Dead Nettle, Dandelion Greens, Henbit, Young Sorrel, Siberian Elm.

    Two members of the mint family are some of the first to jump out of the ground with petite purple flowers. Henbit and Purple Dead Nettle are both edible and are only mistaken for each other. They taste similar, very green and slightly bitter, but not at all minty. They are perfect for adding heft and color to a dish. Henbit flowers are sweet! We ate them as kids and referred to them as "honeysuckle" in our backyard colloquial vocabulary. 

    Dandelion, wild violet and clover are more ingredients to build a salad. Violet flowers are nice in salads but we leave the flower portion of dandelions out as it can add an unwanted bitterness. The young sorrel leaves are tender and lend a nice acidity.

    We brined the quails for an hour in our One Stone Bird Brine. I trussed the tiny quails, tying their legs and lacing the butcher's twine through the body cavity so they could hang to air dry for a little while, about an hour. Once the skin dried a bit, we coated them with pomegranate molasses. We chose Missouri pecan wood for it's rich, salty smoke and balanced it with apricot wood for a lighter, sweeter smoke to avoid over powering the tiny fowl.

    We smoked them at an average temperature of 230 degrees Farenheight for just under an hour. As with all poultry, you want to hit a minimum of 160 degrees. After we pulled them from the smoker, we let them rest while we built a salad from our foraged flowers and greens. We dressed it with olive oil, salt, Pickled Green Peppercorns, the pickled redbuds and their vinegary, pink brine.

  • A Late Autumn Dinner Party

    Photo Credits: Sarah Terranova from Cucina & Camera

    Growing up, our mom insisted each of us kids pick one night of the week to plan and cook dinner. We learned basic nutrition, a little budgeting and most importantly the feeling you get from preparing and serving a successful meal. Ben and I both talk about how our most enduring frienships have been forged over stone soup style dinner parties, smokey backyard grills and campfire cookouts. Wood + Salt unfolded from this habit of bringing people together over a meal to tell stories and push ourselves creatively.
    Sometimes we get caught up in the hustle of growing this little business and forget to enjoy the company of friends, changing seasons, drawn out dinners and other small luxuries life offers. Thining leaves dropped from the trees. Fall was creeping on. We impulsively decided to host a dinner party to remind ourselves why we create the ingredients for a perfect gathering.



    Ben knew of a secret road that went missing from maps sometime after the 1950's. We went to scout it out. The old road was washed out, leaving behind a rough path suitable for walking. The spot was a perfect. Public land, low and flat in the flood plain, scattered with drift wood and limestone under the cover of hickory, oak and locust. We sent invites and directions to a few friends and threw together a menu.



    We started with a ripe Tellagio style cheese from Green Dirt paired with a hearty loaf of Sourdough Rye from Wheatfield's Bakery and crisp Rome apples. We set up a hearth of limestone, drift wood and wire. Everyone sat around the fire and enjoyed Boulevard's limited release Rye-on-Rye, a perfect fall ale, mellowed in rye whiskey barrels. An assortment of heirloom potatoes, beets and a One Stone Bird Brined chicken were laced on wires to roast over the fire. The butternut squash was packed with brown sugar, Shatto butter, a pich of curry and Winter Salt before being burried in the coals to cook.



    The sun slipped down over the water turning everything gold; then silver in the light of the almost full moon. By the time the food was done everyone had arrived. We toasted each other over a glass of homemade Nocino. 
    A soft autumn rain rolled in and a farmer's market tent was set up. Dinner carried on, warm with candle light, laughter and rye. Coyotes sang in the distance.  Our friends from Kansas City Canning Co shared buttery thumbprint sables filled with Vanilla Bourbon Peach Preserves for dessert. 


  • Community and Chilis in Ivanhoe

    Eric Person (Market Manager / Kansas City Aquaponics), Eileen Ellis, (Eileen's Sweet Vegetables), and Francine Nelson ( From Black to Green Thumb) All three are Grown in Ivanhoe Certified.
    Ben and I had been talking about doing a smoked chili salt for a while so when we landed next to Francine, Eileen and their piles of beautiful peppers from the Ivanhoe Farmers' Market at Cultivate KC's Dig In dinner we knew it was perfect. Francine and Eileen are the founding farmers at the Ivanhoe Farmers' Market, which pops up Fridays, 5-7 at 3700 Woodland Ave next to Nutter Park and playground.
    It is an incredibly mission driven market on just about every front. Francine told me she overhauled her life some years back after receiving a stage four lung cancer diagnosis. She left a high stress corporate job and among other things, began sustainable gardening. Today she is cancer free and healthy. She is radiant. In two minutes, she changed my perception of possibilities for a stage four diagnosis.
    The Ivanhoe neighborhood is short on easily accessible grocery stores.  The Ivanhoe market is a well organized community response to that shortage. Francine and Eileen were the first to sell at the the Ivanhoe Market several years ago. Now, the parking lot at 3700 Woodland is filled with vendors. Eileen said this has been the biggest year yet.
     Ivanhoe Farmer's Market features many Grown in Ivanhoe Certified growers. It is comparable to many organic certification programs without the high costs. It also has built-in education on topics including sustainable gardening, nutrition and small business. As Dina Newman, from the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, put it, "Our vendors are "small" growers and I mean they are growing in shared-spaced gardens, front yards, back yards, community gardens, raised beds, vacant lots and small farms.  All are not from the Ivanhoe Neighborhood, as we want to encourage everyone --- all over the city--- to grow and sell.  
    Grown in Ivanhoe continues to find its place in this fresh, local food arena and I couldn't be more thrilled. For us, it's not just about the food, as we are trying to teach the community about food systems, quality of health and agricultural learning and employment opportunities."
    Dina gave me a quick tour of Ivanhoe's first community garden. The Kansas City Master Gardeners helped start it as a demonstration and education garden. There are now nine growers utilizing space on this plot. I learned something new in the short time I was there. Dina pointed to a patch of sweet potatoes, and explained a recent demonstration that introduced how to cook the leaves.  I had assumed that sweet potatoes were nightshades. This is what Ivanhoe is all about. Education, nutrition, cooking and community.
    A few of the growers at the market are Kansas City Black Urban Growers. KCBUGS are actively involved with networking, nutrition, education, food justice and entrepreneurship. They are currently at the tail end of a fundraiser to get to a national conference in Oakland this month to expand leadership and community building skills. One of their goals is to bring the conference to Kansas City in 2017. As Eric pointed out in an interview with EcoRadio KC, Kansas City has some awesome policy and infrastructure in place to support and encourage urban gardening. It is well worth sharing and showing off nationally.  Click here to contribute to the KCBUGS fundraiser.

     The Ivanhoe Smoked Chili Salt is a small release this year and will not be available online. You can find it at the Sundry and at Kansas City Food Circles Holiday Pop Up on November 22nd. We are excited to work with Ivanhoe growers in the 2016. The Ivanhoe Farmers' Market is done for the season but it will be back in action next July. Follow them on Facebook to stay upto date.

  • Pepper Picking at Goat Hill Farm


    We met Mattew Lilly last winter at a dinner at Howard's Organic Fare.  He mentioned starting a farm using sustainable, non-GMO, chemical free practices with a focus on heirloom peppers. It was a perfectly timed surprise
    Ben and I were working on a pork chop rub and we had a specific chili picked out. Aji Amarillos, a bright yellow to orange variety with a sweet, well rounded, slow heat. Native to South America, they are one of the most common ingredients in Peruvian cooking.
    Matt agreed to grow an experimental lot along with a few other heirloom varietals. 
    He invited us out to his South KC farm last week to check the progress. 
      
     Goat Hill is a beautiful rolling tree studded property. We were greeted by two sweet farm cats as we pulled up the long gravel drive. The property is also home to a small heard of goats and a ferral peacock. In addition to growing heirloom peppers, there are also potatoes, tomatoes, tomatillos, sweet corn, oats, sorghum, amaranth sunflowers, paw paw, black walnut, and a wide variety of greens and herbs. Vines of beans and gourds climb everywhere. He plans to sugar the black walnut, hickory and maple trees through the same process as maple syrup. And in the winter there will be wheat growing. Matt's grandparent's brought the property in the 80's and he grew up gardening with them. In the last two years he has taken an active roll in making the land productive. Matt's goal is to grow and forage the majority of his own food.
    Matt practices a blend of no till, biodynamic, and biointensive farming methods with an emphasis on companion planting.  He is very inspired by Bad Seeds beyond organic approach. The crops grow in a very intermingled layout that looks hap hazard, but as we walk down a path between cornstalks lined with heirloom peppers Matt explains his process.  The corn is ready to harvest shortly after it gets tall enough to cause any competition for the peppers. After harvesting, it will be taken down giving the peppers the sun they need to ripen. I am curious to see how this goes. When I worked at the Ferry Building farmer's market in San Francisco one of the most sought out produce farms was right on the coast, just North of Santa Cruz. They claimed the cool, over cast micro climate of the coast caused their vegetables to grow slower resulting in sweeter, more tender veggies.  Many crops benefit from carefully monitored restrictions. If you have ever had a dry farmed tomatoe or peaberry coffee you know what I am talking about. Matt has planted the Aji Amirillos in a variety of growing conditions so we will be able to experiment with what yields the best results and emulate it on a bigger scale next year.
    We are so stoked to be collaborating with Goat Hill Farm. 
    Little green growing Aji Amarillos.
  • White Pine Salt Bake

    Fish is what I crave when summer heats up. 
    Fish and swimming holes.
    Cool. Crisp. Clean.
    The taste of a place is more than soil composition and climate. 
    It grows from an experiential terroir.
    I was so excited when Linda Hezel at Prairie Birthday Farm told me she was collecting White Pine. 
    White Pine calls to mind the snow melt mountain rivers rushing over granite.
    Rumors of gold and river trout.
    Secret emerald swimming holes.
    Happy memories from Yosimite, Yellowstone, Gila, the Grand Tetons, the Snake River Valley and the Rockies. And most fondly, the Yuba River in the high foothills of the Sierras.
    I have memories of caravanning with friends to seek out the hidden jewels of the Yuba. We spent all day on the river, swimming, fishing, playing music and napping.The ever changing collection of people who showed up consisted of farmers, cooks, artists, musicians, baristas, non-profiteers and the occaisional odd cartographer or programer. We would return sun-drunk and hungry to a small cottage built into the side of a slope. A whole crew would set to work creating a rich meal of the food brought by the farmers,  while others played music on the front porch.
    The White Pine Salt Bake is a recipe created from those memories. A salt bake is a cooking technique that takes a bit of time and preperation. It creates a lovely presentation that deserves to be shared with friends over a lengthy summer evening.
        
     
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