My ‘moving to Missouri’ story began back in August. I had a few sessions with a renowned astrologer, as part of my crisis response to learning I had to move quickly and, essentially, charter the next course in my life. If I’m being honest, this was one of the hardest times of my life. Normally I make decisions quickly and with ease, but this one I knew would create massive disruptions in all aspects of my life.
The first thing the astrologer said to me during session one was, “Ooh, you’re a jovial warrior. Does that sound like you?” I took a moment to mull it over, then giggled and said, “Yes. Yes, that does sound like me.” No one had ever described me like that before, and I think many people would attest that it seems spot on. I have Mars and Jupiter rising in my chart, which is how he came up with this jingly nickname.
My Chinese medicine doctor recommended that I try talking to an astrologer over my difficulty surrounding the impending move and suggested one. I had four sessions with the astrologer. Four sessions seemed good enough to cover some bases about me and my life before even thinking about where to move. The first session covered me, the second my family, the third key romantic relationships and the fourth my move.
By the time I got to the fourth session, I had already decided to move to Missouri, rented a house and started the process to buy it. He was a little surprised, but I then referred him to my chart. I think and move quickly. So, in my fourth session I mostly wanted to know: what would Missouri be like for this jovial warrior?
His first comments back to me were, “Missouri, well, that is not a place I would have picked for you.”
The big question on many people’s minds is the same as his was: ”…Why Missouri?” After the initial excitement over hearing I moved to Missouri’s southern lake region, imagining me in my full glory as a quick-thinking heroine and powerful boss bitch cruising in my speed boat (thanks to Jason Bateman and the Ozarks), they say, “Wait. What? Why?”
Yes, I live in Missouri now. And to quote my astrologist, “It’s not on or near any of your powerful energy lines.” But it is close to a big portion of my family that just so happens to kind of need me. I’ve always thought of myself as an instinctual person, so in a way it doesn’t totally surprise me that I picked this new life internally. It was the external part of me that was resisting it all along.
I’m not so worried about my powerlines because I discovered, through my sessions with him, that I tend to gravitate to them in my travels; so, I feel content I will go to them and reenergize myself as I need to. I also reminded him of my chart again and that I’m not someone who can be stagnant. So, today I feel comfortable knowing that living in Missouri is not forever for me. Then again, nowhere is.
My chart also resonates with family and a strong matriarchal role, so I think it’s also a matter of perspective in terms of the energy lines here. While the lines might not show up here on my chart, there are quite a few special people that make excellent substitutes for those lines. The thing about connection – especially to people – and about love is that it’s really powerful. Thus, I need to be here.
I can feel that in the two months I’ve been here. I need them as much as they need me. That’s how love works. It was revealed to me at the end of my last session that Missouri, specifically where I am living, falls on my moon and Pluto line. These lines represent journey, family and traveling. So, it seems the astrologer and I were on the same page. This jovial warrior’s journey to Missouri is all about family…and traveling! (Thank god!)
So here I am, jovial and ready to be a warrior, on Table Rock Lake on the Arkansas and Missouri border.
Now the question on many people’s minds is, “How is it going so far?” This post is the answer to that question. It’s not coming in the form of a traditional self-reflective answer but, rather, through a hodgepodge of recipes I have conjured up since I moved to the Ozarks. This post is also as close as I can get to a commercial (unpaid and unsolicited) for those brands and products that have sustained me while figuring out where I can find the healthy, organic, fresh, nutritious, seasonal and interesting food I am accustomed to and as my soul needs to survive and more importantly be nourished continuously.
The Backstory Sometime in the middle of August, I was taking a short summer vacation in Ojai after sheltering in place for months. I needed it, and the resort where I stayed was big on safety and space. It had all outdoor dining and several pools where 6-10 feet were easy to maintain. They were also dog friendly, so off Inca and I went. The timing coincided with the northern fires which threated Bolinas and were raging across Sonoma.
It was there where my landlord emailed a 60-day notice to move. I had lived in her house for over 5 years, faithfully taking care of her home. This is not easy in Bolinas. I went above and beyond, and I was an excellent tenant.
I really want to set up the apocalyptic scene which I can still feel viscerally. The world was in the midst of a gigantic pandemic, I had been sheltered in place in Bolinas for months, and fires were raging across northern California. Residents of the notoriously expensive Bay Area were on an exodus toward the “countryside” which meant my house was prime real estate. Every home and rental (vacation and otherwise) in Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Tahoe and beyond was getting snatched by those with money fleeing the city. Mind you, there are a lot with money in the city.
Shortly after that notice, I received another notice, that Bolinas was under recommended fire evacuation and that my house was technically first in line of a new fire that had broken out. Residents were scrambling, packing up their stuff and heading out. It wasn’t sure that the fire would reach the houses in Bolinas, but weather (winds) is tumultuous out there and fires had been ripping through the dry brush quickly. Since it’s really just a one-way road in (and dangerous with the fire looming), people were following the better safe than sorry route, so I stayed put in Ojai. It was the smart thing to do. I was 7 hours away, and I had some cute clothes, my laptop and my dog Inca with me. It was there I let go of my grip on everything else, including my history in the Bay Area and the reason why I moved there in the first place. That was a big moment in my life, amidst truly apocalyptic conditions something big and internal told me to just let go. So I did, fully.
I can’t say it was easy, the moment I moved on, metaphorically and emotionally. In a way, these apocalyptic conditions forced me to move. Even though I didn’t think I was ready, I realized that I was. I think that’s what they call ‘nature provides.’
Eventually I went home, and the fire near Bolinas fizzled. The other fires raged until the day I left. I wasn’t able to say goodbye to basically anyone I had gotten to know there because of the pandemic and the fires. That was hard. As someone who often feels like a loner anyhow, I couldn’t help but feel that my connections were not that potent to begin with. I know that’s silly to think, but don’t we all think silly things when grieving?
After Pounding Out Grief throughout September and packing up my life, Inca and I got in a gigantic 26-foot U-Haul filled with dishes (truly, that’s the bulk of what I own) and drove to Missouri, leaving northern California behind. On this drive out of California, I could feel the natural release of quite a bit, including my relationship(s) there, as well as the idea that I didn’t move there for me. It never fully suited me. It felt healthy to realize all this and (physically and metaphorically) move on.
I know I was moving toward what I needed next in life, toward who I needed and who needed me. That has always been important to me, being there for those I love. I move toward what I need rather subconsciously/instinctively. Luckily, my strong intuition doesn’t allow for regrets. I feel grateful for that.
How’s it going? Inca and I drove 2000 miles together to get here and had one of the happiest times of our life. I felt like my eyes and my heart were wide open. I felt supported by the deep friendships I have and the love and excitement of my family – both the ones I was heading towards and the ones that were rooting me on. I could even feel a few key relationships deepening with new distance. I could almost feel myself growing (wiser, not taller).
My new lake house is incredible. I found it online, rented it immediately and started the buying process before I had even left. I chose it for 3 reasons. It was right on the water, with water views from almost every room in the house. There are sunset views (over the water) 365 days of the year. And it was the least “oaky” place I could fine. Most homes were filled with oak, oak cabinets, oak trim, oak and more oak. I hate the oak look. This house has less and, even though I would re-do things, I had to find something I could live in now that wouldn’t make me nuts. Oak would have made me nuts. The oak look for me is a more a metaphor or thinking and what it means toi surround yourself by things you think about and how that thinking is fueled. When I see overly oaky homes I cant help but thing ot eh following words and phrases: stuck, closed minded, doing things the only way I know how and that’s just the way it is. As you know by now, my being, like my creative outlets, cooking and writing- couldn’t be father from those words. If I was going to live here, in a place those words were potent, I couldn’t be around the oak- not the real thing or the metaphor- my home had to be different so it needed to start differently.
When I drove into the driveway of my house I felt very happy. It did not disappoint. Even though I knew Missouri would inevitably disappoint (everything and everyone does after all), I could tell this place would be the haven I needed to be successful and happy here. It has beautiful sweeping views of the lake, trees all over, and a crystal-clear lakefront for Inca to swim. Every single room in the house has views of the water and the sunset. There are two kitchens. The entire downstairs becomes my business headquarters, with lots of space for more staff and its own kitchen, and a gigantic deck, where I envision outdoor working as soon as weather permits.
The kitchen remodel is planned and pending the arrival of cabinets in a few weeks. I feel happy that my brother is doing the work. This circular exchange of my money feels important, especially after giving so much of my money to landlords for 29 years of my life.
When people ask me how it’s going, the first thing I always say is that I chose an amazing house.
The food is a different story. But I knew this would be the case before I made the decision to move here. I had spent many years visiting my brother here, as he married a woman from Missouri and moved here (he is now divorced). He raised three kids here. They are all still here and all often literally here at my house. (Which I love!) When I lived in NYC, I would spend most Thanksgivings here. (I did lots of fresh herb workshops in a tiny town called Fair Grove about an hour north of where I am now.) Back then I was aware that the kind of food shopping I prefer – call it organic, sustainable, healthy, alive, green, unprocessed, etc. – is hard to come by. I wouldn’t call this a food desert exactly because there is a crapload of cheap food here and all the ultra-processed conventional produce, meat and dairy you can dream of. But there is a gigantic shortage of the stuff I like. The stuff I think the world needs more of. The kind that I believe (real science does too) makes for healthier people and planet. It certainly has changed here over some over time, I see more progress than ever and I have even been part of that change, working in the organic produce industry for so long. The internet, traveling and logistics has made good food more accessible than ever before. But it’s still not enough and the quality and overall choices are still lacking and driven by conventional and processed mindsets and corporations and generally speaking its really hard to compete with cheap in these parts of the country. I’m certain you understand my definition of cheap here.
Now, if you know me you know I can’t compromise on healthy food. It’s not just a decision about what I am putting in my body but what I choose to support with my dollars. So, I have had to spider web my needs and do a lot of buying online.
I drive to Fayetteville, Arkansas, every two weeks, where I shop at the Ozark Natural Food Store and the closest Whole Foods. There is a new natural food store closer to me, about 30 minutes away in Branson, MO, called Nature’s Wonder. It’s a fairly big store with lots of miscellaneous things I like to buy spur of the moment, like Justin’s Dark Peanut Butter Chocolate Cups, but the meat and produce is still a bit lacking. They have fairly decent dairy products, but at Whole Foods I can buy my Point Reyes Blue, which makes and keeps me happy!
I buy some Belcampo meat online and have it shipped to my house, but I don’t do that for all my meats because it’s expensive and includes packaging waste that I don’t love. I plan to get a deep freeze and buy an entire pig and cow and share with my family here. But even that too is weird, most people only sell them to massive meat processors (not the good kind) so finding folks that produce, slaughter, butcher and package meat sustainably hasn’t been easy. This is after all the land of Tyson chicken farms, which are speckled for miles and miles and miles just south of where I live in Arkansas. That’s the kind of cheap meat that is everywhere here.
The produce and the fresh herbs are my main problem here. Like everything else, I have had to do weird things to get it, make a lot of compromises and spend some extra money. Since I moved here in late October, a garden was not an option. I am building a garden and a greenhouse, so come spring, I should be 800000x better off and am super excited about it.
Luckily my friends at Jacobs Farm Del Cabo have been kind enough to sell me fresh herbs in the meantime, so all my recipe testing and salts are taken care of and my herbal passion does not need to be quelled for even a second. The Arkansas Whole Foods and Ozark Natural Foods both have many of the organic brands I like, so that works for me. And I know come spring, summer and fall, more local options will be predominant in both, as well as some of the farmers markets here locally. Some things I miss, like the massive number of citrus options most California grocers have at this time of year. I miss fresh little gem lettuce incredibly and can’t wait to grow greens again. I miss year round chive blossoms, access to amazing and fresh cherry tomatoes, romanesco and baby artichokes from the Bolinas farm stand. I make due, it reminds me of living in Ecuador, hauling back lemons in my suitcase. Find a few things you need most and do what you have to get them.
Booze & Wine is another issue. Missouri is one of those states where it’s almost impossible for any regular company to ship alcohol to me. There are only a few big companies that do it and they tend to carry only the crappy ultra-processed brands, and, frankly, I’d rather quit drinking. I came fairly stocked with my crafters favorites, since I knew where I was heading, but I miss my small artisanal batch makers and their booze that tastes good and is well crafted. A few of my friends did some digging and found me a place in Arkansas where there is a great wine and booze store that they swear I can find some things I like, so I will venture there soon.
I’ve learned to make do, but I also recognize that me making do is still rather extravagant compared to most. That’s the girl in me that is influenced by all the places she has seen on the world, that’s the girl that can’t living and cook in an oaky kitchen.
The good news in all of this, is that I’m fine and definitely not hungry. It’s all inspired me to work on how to get better organic produce into the area, and I know I’m the perfect person to do that. I tell you now, I will.
Of the hodgepodge collection of healthy organic ingredients I have managed to find and bring together. I have also whipped up a few new recipes as well as polished a few old ones. All of this was done in a kitchen that is somewhat weird – too small, unreasonably compacted and with a shower in it and with a crappy electric oven.
If there is any lesson that I can leave you with, it’s this. Just because you live in an isolated area or an area that doesn’t seem to have a lot of choices, an area where people say “this is just the way it is” and “people don’t want that kind of food” doesn’t mean that has to be your reality. If you have strong values – healthy food (from soil to mouth) being one of my main core values – do whatever it takes to live by them. You don’t have to have an oak kitchen or processed food.
People may make fun of you, as some make fun of me for driving to Arkansas for my “fancy” food, but who cares? The thing about values is that the things that guide us in life run much deeper than they appear. So, while it’s true I like what some call fancy food, the real truth is that I like food that is grown in nutritious soil, supporting the communities that do the work to produce it. I like organic food because the science is clear about pesticides on food. I like unprocessed foods that are not riddled with sugar. In my values, the American “cheap” is way more expensive than my “fancy.”
Be a jovial warrior. Fight for healthy food. Fight kindly for what you believe in.
Here is some of my “fanciest” Missouri food, so far….
Rancho Gordo Marcella Beans, Spinach and Fried Eggs with Nissa’s Fresh Mint Harissa
One of the items I buy online (ever since Bolinas) is Rancho Gordo beans. I cannot recommend their beans enough. Their heirloom beans cook much faster than regular grocery store beans and are also more tender, with more nuanced textures and deep flavor. If you are new to their beans, the first thing you’ll recognize is that these beans have a massive amount of flavor.
I buy a big box of beans about twice a year and spend about $100 each time. I often give a bag or two away as a gift or when someone gets excited about the beans I cooked for them. My favorite is their white Marcella beans. They have a really thin skin and cook into an ultra-creamy deliciousness. I cook a batch and have them a few different ways, usually stewed with some vegetables. I like to eat the remaining part of the batch for breakfast with a fried egg and some of my fresh mint harissa. It makes for one of my favorite breakfasts and, since many folks have asked about it since I posted it a few weeks back on social media, I thought I’d share it here.
Stewed Marcella Beans with Spinach & a Fried Egg
I found amazing (Arkansas) local (greenhouse grown) spinach in Ozarks Natural Food Store, so it seems to be something I can get year-round. It’s my kind of spinach, too – a thicker, bumpy leaf savoy variety. It’s really lovely with my stewed beans. Rancho Gordo beans don’t need to be soaked because they are fresh dried beans (meaning they are not very old like some on the grocery store shelf). I do usually soak them overnight because I usually forget that I’m planning on cook them, and it gives them a gigantic jump start. I soak rice, too, for the same reasons.
1 pound bag of Rancho Gordo Marcella beans, presoaked at least 2 hours and up to overnight
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 mini bell peppers, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
2 cups chopped spinach leaves
1 fresh egg per serving
Nissa’s Fresh Mint Harissa (Recipe below)
¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
Rinse the beans well and add them along with the other ingredients to a large pot filled amply with water. The beans should be covered by at least 2-3 inches of water. Bring to a hard boil uncovered without a lid for 20-30 minutes. Add the salt, reduce heat and simmer partially covered for about 1 hour or until the beans are tender. Add the tomatoes, peppers, parsley and chives, increase heat to low and cook for another 20-35 minutes until the vegetables cook down and meld into the beans. Turn the burner off, add the spinach leaves to the top of the beans, cover with the lid and let stand about 30 minutes. Sprinkle the mint on, leaving a tablespoon for fresh garnish, and stir the beans, mint and spinach.
In the meantime, fry the egg. Place the beans and spinach mixture down, top it with the fried egg and drizzle a little harissa on top. Garnish with fresh mint.
Nissa’s Fresh Mint Harissa
Makes 2 cups
2 dried guajillo chilies, stems removed, broken
2 dried red chilies, stems removed, broken
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted
1 teaspoon caraway seed, toasted
2 teaspoons rainbow peppercorns, toasted
3 garlic cloves
1 bell pepper, roasted and peeled
2 red (fresh) jalapeno peppers, roasted and peeled
1 tablespoon lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves (optional)
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, spices are broken apart and the sauce is smooth. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Beef Mushroom Farro Dill Soup
Dill, like celery, is something I forget that I really enjoy. It’s super useful in many recipes, giving a pop of brightness and sharpness. I recently remembered a beef mushroom barley dill soup recipe from my Ger-Nis Culinary & Herb portfolio. I had been craving a beefy soup, partly to use up the Belcampo beef broth that delivered to my door. I usually make my own beef broth but I thought by having some good stuff on hand I’d be able to make a great soup faster and this recipe was just that. I believe the origins of dill in this soup hail from Eastern European influence and their winter mushroom barley soups and stews made with beef stock. Somewhere along the line for me this soup and this style was born. I love that it is beefy and brothy. The dill cuts through the richness of the beef stock, which can sometimes seem fatty without something to cut it. I cut the meat up in both 1- and 2-inch cubes, to give some diversity in size, leading to more excitement per bite. I chose farro this time around. I have farro on hand typically and truly enjoyed it more than barley.
Olive oil, for sautéing
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped medium
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 2 inch cubes and pre-seasoned with salt & pepper
½ cup fresh thyme, chopped
¼ cup fresh rosemary, chopped
½ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh dill, chopped
3 large carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 cup brown mushrooms, chopped
3 fresh bay leaves
1 cup white wine
2 cups beef stock
¾ Farro (aka pearled barley)
In heavy stew pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil and butter. Sauté onions and garlic for about 3-4 minutes or until soft and semi translucent. Add cubed stew meat and sauté until browned. Add ⅓ of each of the herbs and stir. Next, add the carrots and celery; sauté for another few minutes, and then add mushrooms. Sauté a few more minutes while all liquid is absorbed by the mushrooms. Drop in the bay leaves. Add wine and stir well while loosening all the bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan and add another ⅓ of all the herbs. Add the beef stock and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring a few times. Add pearled barley and simmer for another 20-30 minutes or until tender and to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the remaining herbs and take off heat. Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.
For Christmas presents this year I chose to give salts to as many as I could, along with a hand written Christmas card. I whipped up some rudimentary packaging and had some labels printed for three different salts. If you didn’t get a salt with your card, you can still make these salts. My method is so simple, and everyone should be able to access these ingredients. I’m also including a simple recipe for each kind of salt, in case you need an idea of how to use them!
Also, good news for my salt lovers: I believe I will start to produce and sell the salts on a very small scale commercially starting this spring– April 2021. Fingers crossed and stay tuned!
Winter Squash Salt
A recent squash photography project for a client resulted in a kitchen full of winter squash. It just so happened to be a hybrid version of my favorite squash – The Red Kuri. (You might remember my Red Kuri Apple Squash Soup & Mac & Cheese recipe I wrote for Edible Marin a few years back, which can attest to my love of this varietal.) I prefer the savory nutty notes of the Red Kuri over the deeply sweet butterscotch tones of a Butternut. One of my favorite ways to eat it is roasted with a little salt and pepper. This salt was designed just for this and all varietals of squash. It’s packed with all the hearty warm herbs that love winter squash. Sage is the predominant herb, and savory, marjoram and rosemary all lend their essences. It’s also laced with hints of cinnamon, mace and nutmeg, and I added Aleppo pepper and white pepper for a tiny kick. My maple infused Maldon salt gave it a super warming quality.
I really love this salt. Not only does it shine on all winter squash dishes, but it’s generally versatile in nature. I can see myself using it on chicken dishes, carrots and anything I want to evoke really warm comforting flavors.
Makes 3 cups of salt
3 tablespoons super finely chopped sage leaves
2 tablespoons super finely chopped parsley leaves
1 tablespoon super finely chopped winter savory
1 tablespoon super finely chopped marjoram
½ tablespoon super finely chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 red chili pepper, deseeded and chopped super fine
1 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups Maldon Salt
Pre-heat oven to 225°F.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together all of the fresh herbs, spices and red chili. Drizzle the maple syrup over all of them and mix well until the maple syrup coats everything. Gently fold in the salt and, using your fingers, make sure the herbs and the salt are mixed together well and that the maple syrup is totally incorporated. Place the salt/herb mix on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper so that it’s spread out evenly across the entire sheet and also flat. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the herbs seem to have lost all moisture. If the salt feels “caked,” it needs more time, usually about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the oven. Store in a small bowl on your counter for a few weeks.
Roasted Red Kuri Squash with Winter Squash Salt
This is a simple roasted squash recipe that shows how amazing a little of the salt can make simply roasted squash. Red Kuri squash skin is thin and edible, so no need for peeling in this recipe. Eat this as a side dish. Cool it, cut it and toss it on salads. If you’re like me, you can also eat it as a snack right out of the oven!
1 Red Kuri squash, about 2 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ½ teaspoons of Winter Squash salt
Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Cut the squash in half using a large, thick knife or cleaver. Carefully push down on both ends of the blade slowly to cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and reserve for the spiced seed garnish. Use an ice cream scoop for optimal success.
Place the cut side of each squash on a cutting board. Cut each into 1-inch wide wedges. Place the cut squash on a baking dish and drizzle the olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of the salt and mix together. Make sure the oil and salt is coated all over the squash. Arrange flat on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Place it in the oven and roast for about 50 minutes, or until a slight char appears on the skin of the squash.
Citrus Chili Winter Herb Salt
One of the things I miss most about California winter (besides Bolinas crab season) is the abundance of citrus that comes as naturally as rain. Everything from the normal navel orange and Valencia choices to the weird varietals of tangerines and pomelos. It’s all there, abundant and accessible. Unfortunately for me, most the good stuff never makes it to the Midwest. But I have managed to find some interesting offerings (again, in Arkansas) and, with that, I have created one of my staple salts: a bright citrusy salt that highlights mint, parsley and chives. This time I made it “fresh chili spicy” by adding all kinds of chili peppers from the Cabo Diablo Chili Pepper Mix that my friend Sarah gifted me with (she works for Jacobs Farm / del Cabo). She gave me a case so, to be honest, I have been chili peppered out of my mind. The end result for this salt is sure to please the lucky giftees, and its fresh taste is perfect on winter salads like the Fennel Orange & Parsley Salad I made for my family for an early Christmas celebration.
Makes 3 cups of salt
3 tablespoons super finely chopped parsley leaves
3 tablespoons super finely chopped mint leaves
3 tablespoons super finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon pomelo zest
1 tablespoon Melogold grapefruit zest
5 Cabo Diablo chili peppers, deseeded and chopped super fine
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 ½ cups Maldon Salt
Pre-heat oven to 225°F.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together all of the fresh herbs, chilies and spices. Gently fold in the salt and, using your fingers, make sure the herbs and the salt are mixed together. Place the salt/herb mix on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper so that it’s spread out evenly across the entire sheet and also flat. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the herbs seem to have lost all moisture. If the salt feels “caked,” it needs a little more time, usually about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the oven. Store in a small bowl on your counter for a few weeks.
Orange, Fennel & Radicchio Salad with Fresh Mint
If you have ever been to al di la Trattoria in Brooklyn, chances are you have had Anna Klinger’s orange fennel salad. This is my attempt (over the years) to recreate her masterpiece, which was one of my favorite dishes at her lovely little restaurant. Generally speaking, this salad is easy and hard to mess up. Tasty oranges and fresh fennel are key. My Citrus Chili Winter Herb Salt gives this recipe a final touch of delight.
Take advantage of all the winter chicories becoming more widely available everywhere. I have the basic raddichio here in Missouri. I’m not complaining, though I miss the Star Route Farms stuff in Bolinas. The Chiogga Radicchio variety pairs well with all citrus. If you can, use a medley of winter citrus, such as grapefruit, navel oranges and blood oranges.
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon sherry or champagne vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 head Chioggia radicchio, core removed, coarsely chopped to bite size
1 fennel bulb, cut in half and sliced thin, preferably with a mandolin
1 tablespoon fennel fronds, finely chopped
½ medium red onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1-2 pinches of Citrus Chili Winter Herb Salt or finishing salt
Peel the oranges with a paring knife, removing all the white pith. Slice the peeled oranges into rounds and remove any seeds. Prepare the citrus over a small bowl to reserve any juice. Whisk in the honey, vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and olive oil.
Arrange the radicchio leaves on a large platter. Toss sliced fennel on top. Place the sliced oranges and onions over the radicchio and fennel, layering them a little. Toss the mint leaves and olives over all. Spoon the dressing evenly over the salad. Sprinkle with a few pinches of Maldon salt.
I Shot a Deer; Now What? Herbal Deer & Game Salt
I’ll admit I don’t understand deer hunting (specifically deer), nor do I really believe anything people tell me about why it’s so amazing for the planet or how many families are fed off deer meat. When I look at the photos on facebook with the guys holding the head of the deer with the blood and spit dripping from the dead buck’s mouth, I just can’t help but feel there is more macho to the sport than food on the table. But I am a meat eater and also someone who is open to the idea of me not fully understanding things, so I generally try to be open and accepting. This is how I feel about deer hunting and this is my attempt at being open and supporting the folks all around me – not just in Missouri – who are jazzed to shoot deer.
Typically when I start the conversation about deer hunting, I usually land on, “How do you cook it?” I never really get much clarity from the deer shooters, except when it comes to deer sauasage part, but I think we all know that it’s the pig in those deer sausage that makes it taste good. As someone who doesn’t like deer or game meat much, I became very inquisitive about the subject. I tried bear chili once in Wyoming at a bar. It was okay, and I remember in South Africa eating all kinds of wild game that was also okay. I recently tried making bison burritos, but I thought they smelled like sheep fur so I gave them to the contractors working on my siding, they were happy.
Surely there has to be something to improve the taste of deer meat? “Maybe an herb salt?” I thought. I knew the salt needed potent, robust herbs, so I paired herbs generously in a manner I would not usually pair as potently, knowing that robust additives would help tame the excessively wild flavor of the venison and wild game meats. That was really my main strategy, also knowing that most people cook venison in more wintery recipes.
I used winter savory as my main herb. It’s one of my all-time favorites herbs. It works like salt and taste like salt, without being actually salty, so it helps the flavors pop while adding an appealing but generic herbal flavor that tastes pleasantly herbaceous. Sage and rosemary were next. Their potency pairs well with the strength of the venison; it’s like an arm-wrestling match with two equal wrestlers.
Marjoram finishes the herb mix. It’s another of my favorites and it was meant to add a softening quality that I think this man-eating and hunting world could use. It’s slightly sweet and perfumy but still potent. It reminds me that soft doesn’t mean weak.
My spices were rather simple and designed to add more depth, that I think the deer meat needs. I added white and black pepper and juniper for complexities and heat. Juniper is potent but brings a bright slightly acidic tone without being lemony, which wouldn’t work with deer. Onion and garlic powder meld with the allium flavor. Fresh bay all dried up and ground offers a strong tinge of Christmas tree taste that plays well with the other herbs while retaining a wild vibe.
Makes 2 ½ cups of salt
3 tablespoons super finely chopped winter savory
2 tablespoons super finely chopped sage
2 tablespoons super finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons super finely chopped marjoram
1 fresh bay leaf, cut into tiny pieces with scissors
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons ground white pepper
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon juniper berries, finely ground
2 cups Maldon Salt
Pre-heat oven to 225°F.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together all of the fresh herbs and spices. Gently fold in the salt and, using your fingers, make sure the herbs and the salt are mixed together. Place the salt/herb mix on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper so that it’s spread out evenly across the entire sheet and also flat. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the herbs seem to have lost all moisture. If the salt feels “caked,” it needs a little more time, usually 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to cool in the oven. Store in a small bowl on your counter for a few weeks.
I thought long and hard about what the hell I would make if I got some deer meat. I found a recipe for something called Jaegerschnitzel, which means “hunter’s cut” in German. Seeing as though I loved schnitzel and Texas fried steak, both decedents of this early German recipe, I thought this could be a great idea, so I went with it. You want to use venison medallions for this recipe, which is basically a slice of backstrap.
Absolutely make sure your meat it at room temperature before cooking it. For me this is important for all beef, but I’ve been told by many people it’s the same for deer.
For the venison:
1 tablespoon, plus 1 tablespoon reserved Herbal Deer & Game Salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
4 venison medallions
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
For the mushrooms:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon oil
¼ cup of chopped pancetta or bacon
1 teaspoon juniper berries, coarsely ground
1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
1 medium shallot
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage leaves
2 teaspoons Deer Salt
3 cups mixed fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped, plus two tablespoons reserved
½ cup of dry white wine
1 cup Beef stock or venison stock
¼ cup heavy cream
For the venison:
Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Season the venison with 1 tablespoon of the deer salt and let sit until they reach room temperature. They should not be cold at all.
Pound the venison medallions thin, in between two sheets of plastic or in a zip lock bag with a meat hammer until about ½ inch thick or less and consistently even. Lightly dust each cutlet on both sides with a little bit of flour, shaking off all excess amounts.
Heat up a large cast iron skillet with the butter and oil to medium-high heat. The goal is to get a nice sear and then finish in the oven. Once the pan is hot, place the cutlets in the pan and let them sear for about two to three minutes. You can check them at two minutes. The goal is to get a charred sear. Once they are seared, flip them and cook them on the other side for 1 minute. Place them in the oven and set a timer for 9 minutes (for medium rare). Once the timer goes off, remove them from the oven, cover and let stand for 10-12 minutes so that the juices release slowly.
For the mushrooms:
Heat the butter and oil to medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook a couple of minutes until the bacon starts to crisp. Add the juniper, black pepper, shallot, sage and deer salt and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and parsley, and mix together with the butter and bacon, allowing the mushrooms to cook a few minutes until they start to get soft. Add the white wine and cook another minute so that some of the wine cooks off. Add the stock and bring to a gentle boil for about 10 minutes until a good portion of the liquid evaporates. Take off the heat. Stir in the heavy cream and the remaining two tablespoons of parsley. Serve ladled over the deer cutlets seasoned with some of the deer salt on top.