Q: What’s wrong with this picture? A: Nothing.

Yesterday’s press luncheon was a wild success and I depended on many a lovely person to help bring my vision into being.

I was so caught up in my dual performances, kitchen and table, that I didn’t notice that the forks and knives had been set in reverse order until after I loaded my photographs onto the computer.

menu by Niki Ford

A bit embarrassed, I hesitated to post these photos, but then I realized that it didn’t really matter;  we had a wonderful time, I sincerely enjoyed myself and I felt very at home on my soap box, which felt more like my throne.

And I just loved the gorgeous, nude table — full of farmer’s market flowers and pappadum towers.

Ironically, as I prepped for the lunch earlier in the day, I spent a lot of time thinking about perfectionism and its downfalls.  I think that, in this meditation, I learned something of great value; I took nothing but the beauty of this day into my heart.  It made me wonder, on a deeper level, how much formal ideas around food and entertaining interfere with one’s desire to make and share food at home with pleasure and authenticity.

28 February 2012

Eden’s lettuces with garden mint

a Soul Food Farm egg fried by the farmer, Alexis, with spiced basmati rice, carrot and beet condiments, radicchio, pappadum and crispy onions

orange and cardamom granita made with our honey

Special thanks to Eden, Alexis, Julie, Kelly, Loida, Jensen, Leah, Diane and Angela


Preparing for the press luncheon


drawing by Amelia Sicat

From the Sunday market

Bean supper

Escaping the anonymity of the professional kitchen, I sit at the table and eat with those I feed.  In a sidelong glance, I note the warmth of the wooden table, spoons rising and falling, a sea of white bowls, bean soup and the percussion of spoon to bowl, chatter, spoon to bowl, glass to table, chatter, spoon, spoon, bowl, spoon, bowl.

I have nothing to hide behind when I serve such a simple meal, but when it’s right, it isn’t about me at all.  I see that people laugh, linger, help themselves to more soup.

I wanted a place at this table and it saddens me that I still feel somewhere in between.  I let my exhaustion lure me, curiously, into the unfolding of this moment.

24 February 2012

bean, barley and greens soup

Parmigiano Reggiano on the table

levain and olive bread

Eden’s bitter lettuces and roasted cauliflower romanesco with caper vinaigrette

apples and clementines

Bobby Previte and Andrea Kleine, I will miss you so much!  Thank you for friendship, understanding and saying that you wanted to kidnap me at the dinner table last night.

“Oops, I forgot to make the carrots.” — Niki Ford

Last night, I wanted to make a “coming down” sort of meal for a group of people that have been competing against each other for the last three years.  At different times, teams Organograph, Greenmeme and Silent Running have used Montalvo residencies to work on their bids for the Climate Clock Initiative; the winning team’s project will be installed/implemented in the city of San Jose, blending art and technological data to illuminate the impact of climate change over the next one hundred years.

This week, the teams have been here for final presentations with the winning bid to be announced on Monday, February 27th.

With their comfort in mind, I planned a full-on meaty, double-starch, pudding filled extravaganza.

23 February 2012

chicken and ricotta meatballs in chanterelle gravy

garlic rubbed toasts

mashed potatoes

mixed lettuces

Maker’s Mark butterscotch pudding with whipped cream

Special thanks to Aki for chanterelles and Eden for kitchen assistance, positivity and sing-a-longs

A buffet lunch on a busy day


22 February 2012

rosemary meyer lemonade

marinated olives

butternut squash and kale lasagna

asparagus with almonds, shallot rings and mizuna

Eden’s arugula and radicchio

Making room for cake

Three or four nights out of the week I serve fruit for dessert or nothing at all.  In fact, I often say that I would rather have a slice of cake when I’m apt to enjoy it — at around four in the afternoon with a cup of coffee.

Last night, however, proved to be a lovely exception to the rule.

21 February 2012

escarole with mustard vinaigrette and beets

“risotto style” barley and brown rice croquettes with spinach, carrots, asparagus and lemon

olive oil cake with yogurt and honey from our bees

Convivial, indeed!

20 February 2012

two soups in one bowl: creamy chickpea and Winter greens with hot pepper, Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil

Manila clams from the wood oven with potatoes, celery, marjoram, green garlic and a garlic rubbed toast

cara cara oranges and kiwi fruit

The kitchen soundtrack: “Accidents Will Happen” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions

From the Sunday market

Improvisations in pork

I read cookbooks compulsively.  I’m not reading for the recipes as much as I’m trying to stock my brain with many ideas about how to put together food.  Sometimes I like to sit with four or five books, cross referencing the different methods, ingredients and techniques used in a particular dish.  Sometimes, I like to read about the same ingredients used differently in four or five different cuisines.  After such a period of gathering information, I ponder, let things settle a bit and allow myself to forget a little what I’ve just learned.

Then, when I’m improvising in the kitchen, I call on these abstract resources to inform my kitchen play; making something like this pork dish, which is not traditionally Mexican but loosely references cochinita pibil, chile Colorado and mancha manteles (tablecloth stainer).

First, I covered some dried gypsy peppers with hot water to let them rehydrate.  Then, I finely diced an onion and sautéed it with olive oil and pounded cumin seed.  After that, I blended the gypsy peppers with half a raw onion, three cloves of garlic, dried Mexican oregano and black peppercorns.  I added this pepper puree to the oil, onions and cumin in the soup pot and let it sizzle and cook a bit.  Then, I added shredded braised pork, pork braising juices and roasted chanterelles to the pot along with a long strip of banana leaf that I found in the freezer.  As the pork simmered, I tasted it for  flavor, sweetness and heat.  I added hot New Mexican chile powder, sweet paprika, pureed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and honey.  Then, mimicking the flavor of sour orange juice, I added juice from one orange and one meyer lemon to the pot once it was off the heat.

The kitchen soundtrack: the album “Funhouse” by the Stooges

17 February 2012

red chile pork and chanterelle mushrooms with Mexican oregano

pickled red onions with allspice and clove

hot tortillas

basmati rice with bay

queso fresco, sliced avocado, scallions, sour cream, limes

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