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Awake at the Whisk: July 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Foiled Again: The Great Melon Debacle

Last year, I toiled over my watermelons. I started out with about 14 ripe ones, so I had room for error. It took me all summer long to gain the knowledge needed to pluck a truly ripe watermelon from my patch. (Answer: you look for the vines coming out of the fruit to fade and turn brown.)

This year, I assumed these same methods would be true for my muskmelons. A good friend gave me some organic seeds, and they instantly blossomed, producing a great harvest of 10 Eden’s Gem melons. Since I impatiently plucked so many of my watermelons prematurely last year, I was determined to wait for the vines to turn brown around my muskmelons before picking them.

Boy was I wrong again!

I take a daily tour around my garden. That’s the only way to keep up with weeds and zucchini. That’s also when I check in on my other budding veggies. During my last few spins around the raised beds, my sniffer has picked up on the delightful scent of fresh muskmelon. Yet, when I inspected the vines, they were always bright green, looking new and fresh. This was not at all like the browning vines on last year’s ripe watermelon. I dismissed the number one cook’s tool (my nose), and went about my other plant inspections.

This morning as I toured my garden, the smell of delicious melon was even stronger. It was as if someone had just opened a ripe melon on my kitchen counter. My nose must be right! This time, I decided to inspect the underside of my melons in case one had turned rotten. Sure enough, as soon as I lifted my melon ever so gingerly, SNAP!, off it came. On the underside I found a nearly over-ripe bruise. In fact, nearly all the melons’ skins looked nearly translucent. Instead of the soft green skins, I noticed a lot of orange peaking through. And the glorious smell! There was no denying they were ripe.

Now, instead of throwing out under-ripe melons as I did with my watermelon last year, I will be gorging myself rapidly on juicy, bursting muskmelons as fast as I can eat them. This is a task I am well suited to pursue!

Note to self: next year, as soon as these melons’ skin turns from pale green to light orange, it’s picking time!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Basil Guacamole

Sacramento summers are too hot for cilantro. Mine grows beautifully all winter long, but past spring, it wilts and fizzles in our heat. Basil, the wonderful, spicy herb that I adore, however, loves the heat. Since avocados and tomatoes are fresh at the farmers’ market, and I was craving guacamole, I thought I’d experiment and substitute basil for cilantro.

Winner! I actually liked this more than the original version. I used a hybrid basil that volunteered itself in my garden this year. It’s a blend between cinnamon and Italian basil, so it’s got an extra bite and sweetness. Stirred into the guacamole, it sent bright bursts through every morsel. Hello, new friend!

Basil Guacamole

2 avocados, peeled and seeded
1 small tomato (I prefer Brandywine), diced
1 tiny red onion, diced (I used the baby-sized onions from my garden—about the size of a tea bag)
Juice from one lime (don’t skimp here—this stuff makes a delightful tang that enhances the whole dish)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 Tablespoons basil, julienned (chopped finely)

Mash the avocado with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Serve with organic blue corn tortilla chips. Or, eat by the spoonfuls.

Serves 2 as a light appetizer. If you’re hungry, double up!

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Monday, July 13, 2009


Food, Inc.: A Film Review

Prepare your mind for a wild ride! Food, Inc. delivers awe, intrigue, and inspiration. If you’ve been apathetic to the whole local food movement, you need to take the small step of watching this movie. It’s entertaining!—in a whole new way.

In this moving film, you’ll experience a range of emotions. You’ll want to cry. To scream. To jump out of your seat and hit the streets with a picket sign. Your stomach will lurch. Your heart will break open. Your eyes will fill with tears. Your mind will set fire.

You’ll meet a number of folks within the vast food system:
· A mother whose son died after eating a hamburger containing e-coli bacteria; learn how she’s fighting back.
· The Vice President of the Corn Growers Association; hear his passionate opinions about the changes corn farmers have experienced in the Midwest.
· A Virginia farmer working independently to raise grass-fed, organic chickens, pigs, and cows; watch his meaningful connection to the land and animals, and learn about his philosophy on providing food to his community.
· A Midwestern seed cleaner whose legal battle with Monsanto threatens his business; see the personal struggle this kind-hearted man endures to save an age-old farming practice from the hands of big business.
· Wal-mart executives; learn about the ways this corporate giant is responding to consumer demand for healthier food in the grocery aisles.

This film is teeming with emotional stories. You’ll experience the heart of so many real people along the food chain. Chicken farmers, immigrant workers, factory owners, organic farmers… The vastness of the system itself seems endless, while the stories anchor a rich and moving film.

You’ll want to bypass going home after this film. As the credits roll, you’ll surely be bursting to discuss, rant, and strategize ways to help with your friends.

I thought I knew a lot about the problems with our food system. Then I saw Food, Inc. This is a documentary blockbuster that could challenge any fictional Hollywood flick. If you’re looking for a film with teeth, you’ve got to watch Food, Inc.

A 5-whisk film!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Whole Grain French Toast with Fresh Berries

I love to start my morning with whole grain goodness! That nutty, chewy, crunchy experience makes my mouth happy. It fills my belly and keeps it full clear till lunchtime.

I usually kick off the morning with a tummy warming bowl of oatmeal, but on the weekends, I like to spice things up. When I have leftover whole grain bread, I’ll make French toast smothered in chopped, fresh walnuts from the farmers’ market, B-grade maple syrup, and whatever happens to be left at the end of a week.

Hurray for berry season! This weekend, we enjoyed our French toast piled high with the bursting, dark gems. Not only do you get the crunch of whole grains, but a “pop” from your fruit, followed warmly by a slide of syrup on the back of your tongue. Bliss.

Whole Grain French Toast with Fresh Berries

4 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (feel free to use it even if it’s past the sell-by date—the thicker and chunkier, the better!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cardamom
8 slices of whole grain bread
Grade B maple syrup
Chopped walnuts
Fresh blueberries and blackberries (or any berry you have)

Preheat a griddle pan over medium heat. Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Combine eggs, buttermilk, extracts and spices in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine. Coat griddle pan with a little cooking spray. Dip one slice of bread into your egg mixture, coating on both sides. Drop onto your griddle pan and leave it for 2-3 minutes (or until it smells done and is golden brown). Flip the bread over and bake on the over side.

As each slice finishes, pop it into the warm oven. When you’re ready to eat, pile the slices onto plates, sprinkle with walnuts and berries and serve with maple syrup. Resist the urge to lick your plate, the syrup lid, and your sticky fingers!

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