Pig Roast Teasers from peden+munk

it's somewhat unbelievable, and it's gonna take me a while to come back to life, but the 40th is finally over.

it was really, really hard.  and really, really beautiful.

the fantastic peden+munk were with us for two days, capturing the magic.  here are some of their teaser photos.  i can't wait to get my hands on more so i can share them with you!

forgive me, but i need to take a little break from all of my iranicizing. not because i'm not aware of what's going on, but because i'm too aware. it's overwhelming.

i want to catch you all up on what's been going on here for the past couple of weeks:

there were 700 or so jars of apricot preserves at yes we can, which we made at la cocina, whilst ryan farr taught handfuls of laypeople how to make emulsified sausages.

there was the couscous royale at asiya's goodbye party, where i finally met jessica, the woman behind rabbits and wrinkles.

a week later, there was an educational day of canning cherries and cherry jam for green string farm, wherein i realized that cherry jam could never be a money-making enterprise. fifty pounds of pitted cherries yielded 46 8-oz jars of jam. i don't even want to think about the math involved in that.

there was the day we went over to veller's house to kill four rabbits for our dinner celebrating the release of her book. this is the least graphic photo i had. notice the fraying nylon string veller saved from her hay bales and rigged up to the tree for hanging the rabbits to skin.

but as one might imagine, the cage the rabbits were in wasn't the most secure apparatus, so one bunny had escaped two nights before the big day. he was last seen at the liquor store down the street. we searched for him for 20 minutes to no avail, so we made do with three bunnies. as soon as we left, veller said, the smart guy showed up but she couldn't catch him.

there was my lunatic idea to cook a dinner using as many backyard and urban farmed and foraged ingredients as possible to celebrate the release of novella's book, which meant that i somehow had to find dozens of backyard farmers, figure out what and how much they'd have available the week of the dinner, set up drop-off times and make time to forage and harvest, and somehow write a coherent menu around it all. it was the most involved, challenging, invigorating and fruitful experience of my cooking career.

the dinner couldn't have been more lovely:

chris cutting into the prosciutto made with novella's pigs

novella's olives (which we served with the prosciutto)

cucu sabzi, a persian frittata (my mom's is better) i made with all of the leftover foraged herbs and greens

the second prosciutto (CL got a little carried away)

CL slicing prosciutto on the beautiful berkel slicer emilio lent us for the night

the experience of seeing those rabbits on the farm over the past several months, killing, skinning and cleaning them up, then cooking with them was something i hope all cooks have at some point in their lives. chris and cedric did a fantastic job with them. we dried sunny slopes farm apricots and made a moroccan-inspired stuffing. those are little heirloom carrots from novella's farm on the outside, with fresh chickpeas from catalan farm.

all in all, it was a fantastic night, with so many of our friends and neighbors present. the sense of community was so strong that night, with nearly every table scouring the menu for the ingredients that had come from their own yards. perhaps the most special contribution was the incredible sack of mulberries from suzanne's neighbor's yard in south berkeley. thank you, everyone, for filling that night with such authenticity and love.

and finally, yesterday there was the discovery of lola's ice creams & sundaes (via aaron), a sort of beautiful ice cream version of the moro books (not much of a surprise since they come from the same publisher). i might just have to get that for myself.

i'm going to have to sit down and write all of the opportunities i've been offered on one piece of paper, all in a row. so many of them are amazing--things i couldn't have imagined for myself five or ten years ago (people want me to help them start grand projects, to join them as partners in their non-profits and for-profits, to move to the country to organize farm programs, to write books for and with them, and so much more). it's just that none of them are the one i just missed out on--the one i've poured so much of myself into for so long, the one i knew i was more qualified for than anyone else.

i have to let myself grieve for this before i can begin to be truly excited for what i decide to do next.

plan b

it's time for plan b.

one of the most difficult things about this setback is that to get what i want to get done done, i'm going to have to do a lot more legwork, and we all know how lazy i am.

plan a was easy, prestigious, and had a built-in time line to get me where i needed to be.

plan b is going to be a lot more work.

i think i'm ready for a trip to new york.

in honor of your birthday

because i love you so very much,
and because you are the best birthday rememberer i know,
because you always manage to get a card to me on my birthday,
and yet somehow i can't ever get my act together enough to do the same for you:

kelly, melissa, spanish and french/octet tryouts/everyone i met my first year in berkeley was in love with you, and with good reason/you taking me and melissa to san pablo ave./ oh, the drama with kelly/ melissa and i got you that strange wwf thing for your birthday out of sheer randomness/nursing your first true broken heart/ london, nice, monaco and italy/ those panini/ tweezing hairs on the beach/ coming to san diego--the answering machine/ YOUR ACCENT!/ you were the one who led me to cp/ the slides/ japan, italy, spain, new york/ working together in the kitchen (and amazingly we are still friends)/ trips to the farm/ walking out on the berkeley pier/ late summer dinner on the porch/ beehouse teapots!/ just so much randomness--you warm my heart.

you are so much more than i could have ever dreamt for in a friend--you let me be my truest self with you, and i hope that i do the same for you. i love you. happy birthday.

a typical spice and snacks shop in tehran. i love how ornate it all is. you never see that here.

there's a sweet article on iranian food in the dining out section of the nyt. in part, i find it sweet because something so commonplace as a mother cooking for her kids was deemed interesting enough to write about in the times. i don't think i've ever met one iranian mother who wouldn't do the same.

i was indescribably lucky to be born to a woman who cooked every single day for me and my brothers. my grandmother once told me, exasperated, that ours is the only cuisine that requires the cook to be in the kitchen all day long. that may not be completely true, but i'm willing to bet that only a few other ancient cultures manage to draw out making dinner into a day-long (or sometimes multiple-day-long) ordeal. on top of cooking time, my mom, displaced like so many others, searched high and low around town (or even as far away as l.a.) for the perfect ingredients, ones that could reawaken dormant taste buds that had given up hope of ever meeting with the flavors of the past--of the old world.

i remember feeling an incomparable inferiority to my cousins the first time i went to iran and met them, because there was no way i'd ever be as iranian as they were. and later, i realized that the food i grew up eating wasn't actually the "real thing," but my mother's closest approximation of it--the yogurt my mom made wasn't as sour as the yogurt i tasted at my grandparent's home on the shore of the caspian, and pita bread, the bread i'd eaten for breakfast nearly every day of my life, was nowhere to be found in iran. i also realized that the culture of convenience hasn't spared iran, either, and pre-prepared foods are just as common in kitchens there as they are here. no matter where she was, i saw, the care and time my mom put into making everything for us from scratch was the most authentic part of our meals, something even many iranians didn't have anymore.

i thought of all of the homes of the diaspora i visited during my childhood, with each family's own version of the past set at the table, all slightly different than what we had at home. my mother's obsession with organic produce that led us to hippie coops and natural food stores wasn't caused by any trends or quest for health-foods as much as it was a search for the flavors of her childhood, passed sitting in plum and walnut trees at dusk. for me, my mother's food was always the best (who doesn't feel that way?).

i've been thinking about my resolutions for next year, and i already have several in mind. i did pretty well, overall, with my 2007 resolutions. this was the first year that i've actually done anything like that, and i'm proud of myself. i think i chose wisely, which is what i hope to do again this time:

make a "boo blogs" folder and stay away from sites that make me feel upset, inferior, or insecure. this includes too much of facebook, and food blogs.

apart from the sugar in my tea each morning, eat no more than one sweet thing per day.

look into switching from synthetic thyroid medicine to chinese herbs or another natural treatment.

read understanding exposure from cover to cover, and take notes!

publish at least one article or essay.

get out of the country!

keep a special food journal, like my friend's mother, who has documented special meals as far back as the 70s.

forgive me for the lighting in this picture and the last--i'm still working on figuring out how to take good photos in low light situations. both of the photos are from the party i worked at on saturday. these cheeses are some of the most expensive i know of, and that stack was just one of about ten. i nearly fell over in shock when i saw so much of this particular beauty--

this cheese is called "renata," and it comes from an amazing producer in eastern washington named sally jackson. when i first heard of renata, i was kind of confused, and thought that it might be named for some sort of musical terminology, like soyoung's cheeses, but then i learned something that endeared sally and this cheese to me more than i ever thought possible:

renata is the name of one cow--a brown swiss--and all of her milk goes into making this cheese (that's why that huge stack of cheese in the photo is so impressive).

though sally jackson has been making cheese for nearly thirty years, she didn't get electricity on her farm until 14 years ago. she gets the chestnut and grape leaves she uses to wrap her cheeses from local friends, and she makes every batch of cheese herself, by hand on an antique gas stove. she and her husband roger still take all of their orders by phone or mail--to see such beauty and success on this scale in this day and age is so rare, and inspiring.

where i was vs. where i wish i were

i've really been wanting to go to the monterey bay aquarium and visit the jellyfish. if only i could have gone yesterday, instead of working at a party for people so wealthy that i felt disgusting doing the work i did. there is no such thing as moderation in their world, and being essentially a 6-year old child housed in a 28-year old's body, i had a really hard time myself. i ate so much candy i think i am still on a sugar high. blech.

i sometimes think that when i leave restaurants, and begin to work more seriously on writing, i can support myself by doing more of this uberfancy catering for the rich and famous. but it is such soul-sucking work that i think i'd be left with less inspiration to write than i have even now. in many ways, it's doing exactly the opposite of what i want to be doing. yuck. and, even though it's not exactly my goal to be rich and famous myself, when you work for them, even if you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (as some cooks i know do), you still work for them. you're not one of them. you're not at the party, you're cleaning up after the party. i'd rather not spend the rest of my life (or the bulk of it) being someone's servant, no matter how much i get paid.

soon, soon, i will go see the jellies. anyone want to come?

december polls: at the market

radicchio, originally uploaded by ciaosamin.

annabelle's puntarelle and crazy sqaush

terra firma and riverdog carrots

full belly chocolate persimmons

full belly spinach

star route fennel

star route nettles

catalan cauliflower

dirty girl speckled romaine

riverdog red kabocha squash

woodleaf satsumas

flatland flower farm red roma apples

riverdog chard

tiny update

i have been obsessed with (photos of) laduree and pierre herme macaroons lately. too bad i can't actually have any for my afternoon snack on a rainy day like this.

we've been having some internet issues at home lately, so hopefully i'll be able to put up the post i'm working on this evening.

one cool thing: san pellegrino contacted me because they want to use one of my photos of c.lee's salami on their website (for some page about the typical italian christmas dinner). i'll let everyone know when it's up.

handmade gift: marmalade and jam

apricot jam on the stove

, originally uploaded by



june taylor blah blah blah. i'm not going to sit here and write out all of the reasons to love jt because we've all heard them before. i'm just going to say that i made a bunch of marmalades last winter using her (labor-intensive) method and they were the best i've ever made. it's a lotlotlot of work, but very worth it. and by the time i was done, i realized that she wasn't charging nearly enough for her jam.

this would be a very, very special gift for anyone. you can play around with the citrus choices--buddha's hand, blood orange, and pommelo are all a bit out of the ordinary, and could be wonderful. don't reduce the sugar amount too much, though, or your jam might not set.

and if you really want to be like jt, find someone to letterpress your labels for you.


june taylor's grapefruit-and-meyer-lemon marmalade

(from the nyt)

5 pounds grapefruit, rinsed

5 meyer lemons or small regular lemons, rinsed

1/2 cup lemon juice (from 2 to 3 additional lemons)

2 1/2 pounds sugar.

1. remove the grapefruit skin with a vegetable peeler. cut the peel into 1/8-inch slivers; stop when you have 3/4 cup. discard the rest. slice off the ends of the grapefruit and the remaining grapefruit peel and pith. remove grapefruit segments, reserving membrane. stop when you have 5 cups of segments.

2. cut the ends off the meyer lemons, deep enough so you can see the flesh. leaving the peel on, remove the segments of lemon and reserve the membrane. cut the segments crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. put membranes from the grapefruit and meyer lemons in a jelly bag and tie closed.

3. in a wide and deep pot, combine the grapefruit segments, grapefruit peel, lemon pieces and jelly bag. add lemon juice and 2 1/2 cups water. simmer until the grapefruit peel is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. let cool.

4. preheat the oven to 225 degrees. working over a bowl in your sink, squeeze the liquid from the jelly bag; keep squeezing and wringing it out until you extract 1/3 to 1/2 cup of pectin. add pectin and sugar to the pot. place over high heat and boil, stirring now and then, until marmalade is between 222 and 225 degrees and passes the plate test. (spoon a little onto a plate and put in the fridge for 3 minutes. if it thickens like jam, it is done.)

5. meanwhile, put 6 sterilized 8-ounce canning jars and lids on a baking sheet and place in the oven. when jam is done, remove jars from the oven. ladle jam into the jars, filling them as high as possible. wipe the rims. fasten the lid tightly. let cool. if you don't get a vacuum seal, refrigerate the jam. makes 6 8-ounce jars of marmalade.



--european canning jars

sks bottle

--a great selection of jam jars

june taylor jams

--if you're too lazy to make the jam yourself. you can also try

blue chair fruit


we love jam



--more european canning jars

unsurprisingly (considering my background) , i don't celebrate christmas, or really any winter holiday. but i do love giving gifts, especially ones i make. i'm mostly just tired of accumulating stuff, so i try not to give stuff that won't be used. the thing about handmade gifts is that they are usually consumable, so i can rest assured that i'm not perpetuating the creation of piles of junk in the universe.

as we enter the holiday season, i'm going to post some handmade gift ideas and how-tos for you guys, some crafty stuff, and some food stuff, as well as some sources for packaging and supplies. i hope you'll find it useful...

alright, i promise this is the last time i'm going to mention sunday. i just felt like i need to write something to be able to look back on and remember how lovely it was.

i think the reason why it was so great is that everyone was included. i kind of purposely didn't want to have everything done so that i could put people to work when they got there, and involve everyone in making the meal. that's what the farm is about--connecting with land, and people, and food--and i wanted everyone to experience that. so everyone just jumped right in, cleaning pomegrantes, shelling beans and popping favas, pounding baba ghanoush and rolling pita, stuffing spanakopita, grating beets, washing lettuces, making the dressing, and cleaning tomatoes and artichokes.

so many of my friends are "city folk" and probably had no clue why i keep on yammering on about this farm, and these people who live there. but it's pretty much my favorite place in the world, and i think it's apparent why to everyone the second they arrive. like deeann said, the universe gave us a perfect autumn day, and it really was incredible.

the other thing is that all of my friends are so, so, so different--different ages and backgrounds, different places in their lives, different ways we met. people who normally would never be seated at tables together came together on this day, and helped out, laughed and told stories, were generous and kind, and shared a bit of beauty with me and each other. friends from restaurants, and college, the j-school, italy, high school, people i met that day--it was all just wonderful.

i promise that's all. no more gushing. thanks to everyone who came and shared this day with me. i won't ever forget it.

for my parents and distant friends....

the farmhouse

deeann and glasses


looking toward the ridge

rolling spanakopita

juj with spanakopita

ready to roll the pita

rolling pita

fried broccoli and artichokes

grilling eggplant

pounding the baba ghanoush

plating the tahchin


salad and bean ragu

time to eat

at the table

kids at the piano

ross churning ice cream

tres with the pinata (for whom he cried)


it's almost too good to be true: tomorrow, i turn in my big project. to say that i have been working on it for nearly six years would not be an exaggeration.

i got a bit of last minute editing help from my shakespeare-scholar-mentor-professor today (he mostly got rid of a bunch of commas. i have an unhealthy addiction to commas). tomorrow morning, i print and send.

soon, it will be time to cross my fingers and wait to see what happens.

wish me luck!