I am so honored and thrilled to share that I’ve written a guest post on my recent weaving adventures in Oaxaca over at Fringe Association, one of my all-time favorite blogs run by the illustrious Karen Templer. Many thanks to Oaxaca Cultural Navigator for the opportunity and Karen for the honor of sharing my experience with her community. You can read the full piece here.
Happy Summer Solstice! I put together a mix for you, perfect for a long drive to the ocean or hot kitchen mornings baking a summer fruit cobbler (see the last track). Lots of love and sunshine to you on the longest day of the year.
More soon. xo
Seasons (Waiting On You)
I Never Learn
I Never Learn
The Moon Rang Like A Bell
Days To Come
Days To Come
Skinny Leg Blues
Geechie & Elvie
Mississippi Blues Vol. 1
The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger
Big Wheel and Others
Youth Culture Forever
I wasn’t planning on writing another post before I leave for Mexico, but this soup came out so well, and its ingredients are so fleeting, that it would be shameful not to share it. It was inspired by a cup of spinach, parsley, lemon soup with sour cream that I tasted at Soup’s On, my local soup stop in Baltimore. The flavors were fresh and bright, a perfect blend of acidity and umami, and I couldn’t wait to try to recreate it at home.
My version has the spinach, parsley, lemon juice and sour cream. But! It also has some heat from the addition of curry, a little funk from a dollop of chèvre, and and a bit of a bite from a cluster of ramps, those much-beloved garlicky cousins to the leek and the onion that grow wild in the mountain forests of Appalachia. If ever a food were a tonic for chasing away the ghosts of winter from the body, this would be it.
An important note on ramps:
Due to their recent surge in popularity over the past several years, ramps are at high risk of over-harvesting at their current rate of harvest and consumption. The problem is exacerbated by the way ramps are harvested. Virtually all of ramp reproduction is not from seeds but from rhizomes, a web of underground stems that connect multiple ramp shoots together, which are uprooted along with the bulbs and leaves. When harvesters pull up the plants, they are also diminishing their potential to reproduce. As if that weren’t enough, a 10 percent harvest of ramps will take 10 years to grow back – and that’s a liberal estimate. You can read more about ramps in an article I wrote for NPR last year.
So. What is a ramp-loving cook to do?
Eat them sparingly. Eat them lovingly (preferably sautéed with butter and mineral salt). Ramps have deep roots in Appalachian and Native communities and are interwoven with local traditions and ritual. They are one of the first foods to surge through the soil in the spring, staving off starvation, replenishing the winter body with green life. They are medicine, they are sacred. Treat them with the honor and respect they deserve.
As for this soup, ramps are a worthy ingredient here. Of course, you can also substitute the ramps for green onions or a couple garlic cloves. The choice is yours.
spring goddess soup
1 pound spinach, rinsed, tough stems removed
1 small bunch of green onions, both white and green parts, roughly chopped
1 bunch ramps, cleaned well with the rough parts of the bulbs removed, roughly chopped (or substitute with green garlic or crushed garlic cloves)
1 pound yellow or Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes
1 bunch parsley, stems removed
7-8 cups homemade vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon chèvre
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sour cream per serving
Combine all of the ingredients, except the chèvre, lemon juice and sour cream, in a big witchy pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the bulbs of the green onions and ramps are completely soft.
Using an immersion blender, or a normal blender in batches, quickly puree the soup until smooth. Don’t over-process the soup, or you risk making the potatoes gummy. Add the chèvre and stir it in to melt it. Add the lemon juice. Taste for salt, adding more if needed.
To serve, put 1/4 cup of full fat sour cream in the bottom of a bowl, and pour a ladle of soup over it. Blend the sour cream and soup together with a whisk. Top off the bowl with more soup, and stir to combine with the sour cream. Enjoy immediately.
In less than a week, I’m headed to Oaxaca (wuh-HA-kah). I have wanted to visit Oaxaca since I was about 17 years old, a city and region of southern Mexico famed for its crafts – pottery, weaving, and textiles, primarily – and its food. (Oaxaca is known affectionately as the Land of the Seven Moles for a reason.) And now, I have a reason to go – one of my closest friends is getting hitched to her Costa Rican sweetheart in the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, a cathedral built in the 16th century with a towering cactus garden on its grounds. And I’m a bridesmaid!
In addition to, you know, being in the wedding, I will also be completing a weaving and natural dyeing residency in Teotitlán del Valle, a small village famed for its long history of woven rugs. My instructor is Federico Chavez Sosa, a third-generation Zapotec weaving master who learned how to weave, spin, and card wool when he was eight years old from his grandfather. For those of you who are interested in the program, I signed up through Oaxaca Cultural Navigator, an incredible source of information and more in the region.
I have taken some weaving courses in the past when I lived in California years ago, but my skills are rusty at best. But I’m diving in, heart first. My fingers are ready for fibers, rough wool dyed the color of blood with precious cochineal. My skin is ready for the scalding desert sun. My tongue is ready for the song of chipotles, limes, chocolate and masa. And my deepest self is ready for the jolt of color – brilliant, unabashed, shameless color – that courses through everything.
Of course, if you’ve been to Oaxaca, I am all ears. Please leave your recommendations in the comments! And please follow along on Instagram at @thekitchenwitch where I will be documenting my trip.
And now, for a most un-Mexican meal, but a colorful one that has become a regular feature in our home. Behold, this dreamy coconut red lentil soup.
This spring on the east coast has been stop and go, and soup season has been lingering much longer than usual. Not that frigid weather is the only proper time to eat soup – I’m a huge fan of enjoying a variety of soups year-round as an inexpensive and delicious way pack a punch of vegetable power into your meals. And this one, guys and gals, is a keeper. Bright red lentils and yellow split peas, blended with curry, ginger, and turmeric, stirs up the digestive fire and delivers a steady stream of energy throughout the day. Feel free to play up the spices to get the heat and flavor you want.
spiced coconut red lentil soup
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
1 cup yellow split peas
1 cup red lentils
7 cups homemade vegetable broth
1-2 carrots (depending on size), peeled if not organic, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger root
2 tablespoons curry powder or Thai red curry paste (Note: the latter might have fish sauce in it, if you’re vegetarian)
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee
2 shallots, minced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 14 oz. can whole-fat coconut milk
pinch of sea salt
fresh cilantro and Greek yogurt or sour cream, for serving
Rinse the lentils and split peas in several changes of water until it’s no longer murky. Put them in your biggest witchy pot, cover with the vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer, adding the carrot and half of the ginger, until the lentils and split peas are tender, about 30 minutes.
In a separate saucepan, melt the coconut oil or ghee over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ginger and raisins and cook 5 minutes more. Last, add the tomato paste and stir well into the shallots and ginger to make a paste. Add this mixture, along with the spices and coconut milk, to the lentils and split peas in the soup pot.
Let the soup simmer with the spices for another 30 minutes or more. Add more water if the soup get too thick for your liking (I like it). Add salt to taste. Serve with cilantro and yogurt on top.
Happy weekend! Here is a recipe for the springiest of springtime recipes, rhubarb vanilla cordial. I shared this illustration last year on The Great Kosmic Kitchen blog, but thought it worth revisiting with the warming sun and coming new moon upon us. Enjoy!
It took us awhile to get here, but we finally made it. The moving boxes are completely unpacked and everything is in its place, mise en place, ready for creating. The energy is heavy with it, with the readiness. Projects are stirring, travels are calling, and hands are aching with the eagerness to be gripping, kneading, pulling, sculpting. Spring.
But there is so much to do and never enough time for the doing. Leading, inevitably, to impatience, stress, meltdowns. O tells me that everything doesn’t need to be done now (correct) and that maybe I should go for a walk outside (good idea). So I take a walk. Did you know that vitamin D actually can’t travel through windows? You have to go outside to soak in this essential nutrition from the sun. So I walk, or run, through the city, get a good cup of coffee or a sandwich, and I always, always feel better.
With the new job and new commute from Baltimore to DC every day, there is never enough time to cook and bake as often as I’d like. But I am developing my tricks to get me through the week – freezer meals, family-style casseroles that with lunch leftovers baked in, and staples that can be combined into a quick dinner on a weeknight. And one of my new go-to’s is baking up a batch of muffins, scones, or biscuits on Sunday evening for breakfasts on the train during the week.
Enter the jammer – a flaky scone filled with a dollop of jam. It’s the commuter’s dream breakfast, with the all-so-necessary smidgen of jam tucked neatly inside the biscuit without worry for drips or a mess. And it’s substantial. By the time mid-morning rolls around and lunchtime is still two hours away, I reach for a jammer with the morning’s second cup of coffee, and it fills me up until my next meal.
The recipe is adapted from Grand Central Bakery’s infamous jammers in Seattle. I’ve subbed half of the white flour for buckwheat, which lends a nutty and buttery flavor and texture to the jammers. Definitely search for buckwheat flour if you can, and if all else fails, give whole wheat flour a go. Use whatever jam you have on hand – my favorites are dark berry jams, like blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry jams, that I put up last summer after our weekend berry-picking excursions. O’s favorite is strawberry.
adapted from Grand Central Bakery
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups buckwheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cold buttermilk (or whole milk with 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice mixed in)
about 1 cup of your favorite jam
Mix the flours, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together with a whisk in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife or your fingertips, like you would if you were making pie pastry. (See my recipe for pie pastry here for more detailed instructions.) The goal is to keep the butter as cold as possible, with visible flakes of butter (about the size of peas) distributed throughout the flour. If you’re prepping the pastry the night before and intend to bake in the morning, stop here – cover the dough with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight. If you’re baking the jammers now, proceed with the recipe.
Slowly pour the buttermilk into the flour mixture and stir it in with a wooden spoon. Keep adding buttermilk, a little at a time, until the dough *just* comes together. You want it to be a little shaggy and dry in spots. If your pastry gets too wet, add in more flour.
Now, quickly knead the dough together on a lightly floured counter until it comes together. There might be some floury scraps – that’s okay. Just press them into the big mass of dough the best you can. Press your dough into a circle about 1 1/2 – 2 inches high. Using a biscuit cutter or the rim of a drinking glass, cut your jammers out of the dough and set aside. When you can’t cut any more jammers, smoosh together your leftover dough and cut it with your biscuit cutter again until you’ve used up all of your dough. You should have about 12 jammers.
Preheat the oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place your jammers on the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each one.
Using your thumb, gently press into the center of each jammer, making a quarter-sized hole in the middle. You don’t want to press through the bottom of the jammer, and you don’t want to push too forcefully and crush the delicate, flaky layers of the jammer. If you ever made pinch pots in elementary school, put this technique to good use here! Fill each hole with a tablespoon of jam.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. The finished jammers should be a deep golden brown.
1. We moved to Baltimore. During a snowstorm. It all worked out and this city has *just* the right amount of grit, art markets, old churches, mohawks, communist bookstores and Old Bay paraphernalia to satisfy our running list of what defines the “perfect” city for us. In short, we’re in love.
2. For the record: living with your best friend is awesome.
3. I started a new job. I STARTED A NEW JOB! After four years at the same gig at NPR, I am now a digital strategist at a PR firm in DC. It feels fantastic.
5. This weekend’s full moon is a doozy. Can you feel it? The astrological report from Kaypacha, per usual, is spot on.
6. Spring is almost here, really. If your poor chapped hands and lips are begging for mercy, for goddess sake, make some herbal salve. I made a big batch of medicinal herbal oil during the last summer solstice, and made it into salve during the winter solstice. It’s a great way to honor the seasons, care for yourself, and share your care with others. It’s easy to make and it really works – one friend used my salve on her lady turtle (yes, turtle) who was battling an infection that turned septic, and she got better. Plant power!
solar-infused herbal salve
carrier oil of choice -
Olive oil and almond oil make a great combo, and that’s what I used. A blend of coconut oil and coconut butter is delicious.
organic beeswax (I bought mine here)
10-20 drops essential oil of choice, such as lavender or tea tree (optional)
dried herbs of choice -
Choose your herbs depending on how you’d like to use your salve. You could make a basic, all-purpose salve for chapped skin and minor irritation, or a salve that’s specifically formulated to help heal cuts, rashes, and bug bites. You can also use fresh herbs, but you have to ensure that all moisture is removed from the herbs before using, because any moisture in the infused oil could spoil it.
Some wonderful, all-purpose healing herbs for the skin include St. Johns wort flower, comfrey leaf, and calendula. A salve with goldenseal, echinacea, and 10+ drops of lavender oil make a great disinfectant. Rosemary Gladstar has a divine recipe for pregnant belly oil that calls for 1 part roses, 1 part lavender, and 1 part chamomile.
In my summer solstice salve, I used equal parts chamomile, lavender, oatstraw, rose, St. Johns wort leaf, calendula, comfrey leaf, and marshmallow root.
For other recommendations on what herbs to choose, check out the list on the bottom of this page.
First things first – infuse your carrier oil with your herbs. You can do this in a couple different ways. The most common (and easiest) is through solar infusion. The sun is increasing in power with the coming of spring, so this might be an option for you if you have a very sunny spot in your home. Otherwise, you can infuse your oil in a double boiler or on very low heat in your oven.
Solar method – Pack a sterilized glass jar with your herbs. Fill the jar with herbs to just 1-2 inches below the rim. Fill the jar with oil to the very top and seal with a clean lid. Note: Make sure the herbs are fully submerged in the oil, and the oil comes to the very top of the jar (no air spaces), to avoid spoilage. Stick the jar in the direct sun for two weeks to infuse completely.
Double boiler method – Put your herbs and oil in a double boiler or crockpot, leaving 1-2 inches of oil above the submerged herbs. Cook, low and slow, for 1-5 hours. Be careful not to fry your herbs!
Oven method – Fill a glass jar (or jars) with herbs and oil in the same manner as the solar method. Put the jars in a larger pan or oven-safe pot and fill that pot with enough water to cover the bottom half of the jar. Turn the oven on the lowest temperature possible (100 F is ideal) and allow the herbs to infuse for 1-5 hours. Check frequently to prevent the herbs and oil from overheating and burning.
When your oil is sufficiently infused with your herbs, strain it through a fine cheesecloth or jelly bag. Store the oil in a clean, airtight jar. You can use the oil directly, or combine it with beeswax to make your salve.
Make the salve – In a pot, combine your medicinal oil with beeswax on very low heat until the beeswax is fully melted. The basic formula is 1 oz. beeswax per 8 oz. oil. To test the mixture for proper firmness, place one tablespoon of the mixture on a small plate in the freezer for a minute, and check for firmness. If it’s too soft, add more beeswax; if it’s too firm, add more oil.
When your salve is at a consistency you like, quickly pour it into prepared tin containers or small glass jars and allow to cool completely before using. Salves will keep for 1-3 years.