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Pans and Perspective

You provide the food and I will provide the perspective." – Anton Ego, 2007

Month

May 2018

Miyabi 9.5” Chef Knife, Artisan Series Review

Many years ago I purchased a tool that really has become an heirloom in my kit. Brilliant in appearance and effective in design, this is my go to chef knife!

A subsidiary of Zwilling, Miyabi offers a variety Japanese style knives hand honed in Japan. The Miyabi line takes the classic German techniques and pairs them with the finest craftsmanship of sword and knife producers in Seki, Japan.

Weight: 9.6 ounces; this chef knife is well balanced between the handle and blade. The thin blade helps manage the overall weight and the result is a moderate to light chef knife. Consumers who desire a light knife will be pleased.

Design and Appearance: 63 HRC, SG2 Powder steel, clad with layers of nickel and stainless steel, pakka rosewood, tsuchime finish; full tang construction. The handle is solid construction with an attractive steel end cap and brass pins built into the handle. The handle is crafted in a D shape to allow a fantastic feel in the user’s hand. It has no bolster allowing for easy sharpening of the entire blade. The blade fades perfectly into the handle providing a natural point for a no-slip grip.

Use and Application: The blade glides effortlessly through any soft object. It’s light design and proper balance prevents hand fatigue but still offers a strong knife for mincing, chopping and slicing. This knife is not meant to be used on bone or hard objects, the hardness of the steel makes it susceptible to chips and nicks if used improperly. The long blade can be a bit cumbersome at times. It is great for large tasks but lacks control for smaller jobs. It is fantastic for processing large vegetables but struggles with shallots and garlic. (I use mine for these though and don’t have issues, practice teaches control.)

Price: $290, although it is almost exclusively sold at 229.99, my guess is a marketing tactic. (It is the reason I purchased this knife.)

Rating: ***

What the stars represent: ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor, fair or satisfactory. One star, good. Two stars, very good. Three stars, excellent. Four stars, extraordinary.

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Week 8: A Study in the Totalitarian Law of Physics (or Murphy’s Law)

Anything not expressly forbidden in the universe is compulsory.

If it can go wrong, it will.

This was by far the most unproductive week, although maybe one of my earlier weeks of residence in the snow was comparable. The week commenced with more rain hindering us all from getting anything done. I spent the day indoors cleaning different parts of the house, browsing the internet and reading. Tuesday began to look optimistic; operative word: began. David and I started at the hospital garden with transplants. We had already established the beds earlier in the previous week so the work was easy going. We returned to the farm for a lunch break and then dove right back into more planting. This is when Magnifying the Magnificence of the Mundane occurred. The TL;DR is that during the first few minutes of work the roto-tiller stop functioning. Undeterred we persevered on and I turned the ground by hand with a spading fork. Deepest respects extended to all homesteaders of the earlier generations that did this, it is quite difficult. Once I got the ground turned, a 30 minute project that normally takes two minutes, I mulched the bed and transplanted eggplants and peppers. I really was farming. On our way back to the house, I took a brief detour and planted some amaryllis bulbs and mulched them as well. We shared a dinner of pizza, crafted by Chef Ellis, with David’s daughter and son-in-law, over discussions about their upcoming wedding party. The following day I helped David move the goats into one of the neighboring pastures. David wanted them to graze some of the forage before we mowed it down. I made the transition back to the garden where I did some more earth turning before mulching it with leaves. Afterwards David and I transplanted calendulas into this soft ground for both decoration and consumption later in the season. I continue to putter around in this back garden with weed management and some soil excavation as well. After a long day I retired to the kitchen and made some cornbread and did some knife sharpening.

I have to make a quick aside about this. For nearly three years I have struggled to maintain sharp tools. In school I was a knife skills tutor and have knives that were razor sharp; they could take the hair off my arms. But over time, for one reason or another, which I still haven’t determined, I failed to get my tools even remotely close to that edge. After some feedback from a neighbor of David’s who is an avid knife fanatic I have managed to bring my edges back to razor sharpness. Thursday, still awaiting a repaired tiller, David and I spent our morning moving all of the tropical plants from inside the house to the deck. It was like moving furniture with odd angles because each tree had a different shape and fitting them through each doorway, some large, but most small, required a different kind of patience and poise. We went back to the hospital garden because we still had a few beds left that we could plant in and I spent my time mulching them before moving on to turning a row of earth. Friday was the day that we expected to get the tiller back so we started with light tasks to fill the morning. Moving with the theme of the week, our truck had a flat tire, mounted securely with rusted bolts. Just another hindrance to our spring planting. I moved some pallets out of the way of the mower to provide easier access to some of the grounds. Afterwards I rabbit-proofed the walk-in gate for the squash patch with some guidance from Ellis. I have to say I was pretty proud of my handiwork. With the assistance of AAA we managed to get the tire off and made a trip to town to find a replacement. On our way we stopped at the hospital garden and I turned some more earth. At this point the tiller was so close to complete I could almost feel – I know my body sure felt it. I made corn pudding that night for our meal and we took off for an musical showcase at Luther College. It was a commencement concert for the graduating class and it feature both symphonic orchestra and choral pieces. Oh yeah, still no tiller.

Saturday started early again with the goats. They are animals of habit and even though we had made this small pilgrimage each day for the last few, they were still giving us trouble. Luckily after only a few minutes of herding – and cursing – we managed to get things under control. I spent the early part of the morning cleaning for the bed and breakfast guests. I then moved to to reading and checking emails while we waited for a new update on the tiller. But it wasn’t long until we were operational. About an hour later David returned with our machine and we began in the garden. Currently we are in a record breaking hot spell with temperatures in the high 90’s, with a humidity percentage to match. I set up piles of manure and spread them into rows as he tilled it under. Seeing this happen in a fraction of the time and an exertion of my energy just as low I was ecstatic. Birte came down to help and together we all transplanted lettuces, Asian mustard greens and more peppers. I did a few more rows afterwards for future squash transplants and finished up with some watering before retiring from the heat. One of David’s acquaintances, Peter, stopped by to camp out for a few nights. He brought wine and some snacks and we spent a leisurely evening together. I made stir fry with some of our odds and ends and the conversation continued through dinner late into the evening. Sunday morning we ate breakfast with our guests. I spent some time talking with Peter about some of his hobbies and he did a celestial chart reading for me as well. Back in the swing of things I spent the morning setting up more planting beds in the garden before jumping on transplanting. We had an extended lunch to dodge more of the oppressive heat. Shortly after David and I went to Highlandville to plant a garden for one of David’s old neighbors. We got back about an hour later and I prepared a dinner of pulled pork, baked beans and some other fixings as well. Again the conversation went deep into the night and I ended my day moving a bale of hay from the goat barn to the hoop house before going to bed.

Check out what you may have missed this week here!

Magnifying the Magnificence of the Mundane

Imagine…

The crisp air lightly brushes against my skin. Rays of the afternoon sun beam down with glorious intensity bathing me in a contrast of deep warmth. Each step through the lawn is met by the gentle rustle of grass under foot, almost like a broom running across an old wood floor. With each step creatures, beautiful and unique in design, bellow forth to escape the oncoming assault to their once serene resting place. I reach the old worn wooden gate, paint peeling from its many days standing watch over the bounty housed just behind. It creaks gently as it is pushed open, moaning from arthritis in its hinges. The timid robin flutters away, each wingbeat reverberating through the air to create a soft rumbling. Welcome to the garden.

Intricate plots of seedlings push forth from the Earth, woven amongst patches of dirt and weeds, delicately swaying in the breeze, creating a surreal quilt surpassing the second dimension. I slowly walk across the grass paths, savoring each step among the culmination of our work. The grass abruptly transitions to earth which gently depresses as I waltz across the tilled ground towards my objective. I pull my yellow leather gloves from my back pocket and little bursts of dust and dirt liberate themselves from the mass of their caked-on brothern. As I split my hands into them the crust continues to crack resembling the ground to my left that offers the beans a chance at life. I grab the black tarp and gently pull it off the pile. Some of it disintegrates in my hands into black ribbons. A myriad of organisms come to life as the sun pierces into the once darkness. Prehistoric insects scuttle across the compost into crevices and earthworms writhe, like oiled spaghetti in a dish, before descending into the mass of decay.

I grab my manure fork, my senior by countless years, rust encasing each tine creating a brilliant gradient of rich brown tones before fading into a brilliant sheen at each tip. A quick thrust into the compost produces fleeing arachnids and a cacophony of crackling branches. Each matted scoop permits a resounding thud as it slowly fills the wheelbarrow. Again, again, and again. The air looms with the aroma of old leaves, rich earth and the slightest hint of fungus. I spear the fork back into the earth; it juts out like a piece of giant silverware in a chunk of chocolate cake. I tilt the wheelbarrow forward as it releases a quiet grown, vocalizing my sentiments as well. I push the load across the lawn with little resistance to its final resting place. I tip the wheelbarrow forward, rocks clatter against the metal and the compost scrapes out onto the ground. A collection of neat nodes of compost create an invisible line. I spread it in rows, new beds for the future. In the distance David pulls the cord to bring the tiller to life. A quick snap pierces the air proceeded by a flurry of colorful commentary. I look up from my work to see David scolding the tiller as if it were a misbehaved child. The simple task of setting up planting beds had no been brought to a screeching halt in only 15 minutes.

Pictures from Week 7

Week 7: Spring Smackdown

I tore out of the gate this Monday after a lesuirely breakfast with the crew and Jim, the maple syrup guy. (He usually stops in on Mondays and the last time I reported this I mistakenly called him Dave). I began at the hospital garden with transplanting which took the better half of the morning. I then rotated back to Pepperfield and began the process of setting up planting beds for corn. This was the usual procedure of laying manure and tilling it into the ground. With corn, since the plot of land required is so large, there is no leaf mulch. This process resulted in a few hard hours of work and 11 prepared corn rows. Keeping with the theme I tested a Corn Gateau and we all sat down for a relaxed early dinner. Ellis invited me along for an evening morel hunt, which I graciously accepted and we set off into the woods until the light faded away. But alas, the hunt was fruitless. Tuesday was predominantly occupied by potato planting. This involved tilling the ground, digging a series of small holes, dropping the sprouted potatoes in with sprouts towards the sky before backfilling them into place. We started at one end of the plot and worked backwards to prevent other beds from getting trampled in the process, exactly how you mop a floor. I took a quick break in between some of this for lunch but resumed it shortly after. Upon completion I moved a little manure and prepared one row of beds for turnips and rutabagas. Dinner was simple composed of leftovers. The next day brought bean planting. I learned a lot about the different categories and requirements from David and then began by sowing seeds in trenches along the trellises. I only tackled half of the planting and then moved onto setting up beds for tomatoes. It was the usual drill of manure, tilling and mulching. Fortunately these rows are much smaller so I completed it quickly and then proceeded to move onto the actual transplants. Birte was in on this and we made quick work of the whole thing. David ran off to go pick up some guests from the airport and I spent that time collecting dirt for potted plants. We called it an early day as David’s friend Tess arrived for a dandelion green harvest. We all gathered for an early wine time and spent a few hours conversing over italian wine, an assortment of homemade pickles, preserves and cheeses and various breads. Our guests departed and Ellis prepared fish cakes for dinner that were fantastic.

First thing Thursday I made a sourdough starter. Then I finished up the tomato transplants starting with the beds and then moved onto some weeding. Most of our weeding is easy, it can be done with the tiller or hoes, both of which are simple and fast. Our biggest nuisance is quack grass, it is rhizomatous which means it has deep thick roots that if left in the ground will sprout again. I was tasked with digging out these beasts which took a solid hour. Both David and I were exhausted so we elected to take a quick nap before getting back into things. It was only a brief 45 minutes but it was refreshing. I got back to the garden and began planting bush beans. These don’t require trellises so it was just like sowing seed for a regular crop. Again with Birte’s help, we tore through four rows of planting and called it quits. David made a vegetable lasagna, the same one I enjoyed upon my arrival at Pepperfield and it was just as good as I remember. Friday graced me with more weeding. I fought back the quack grass and creeping charley in the flower patch and then turned over the soil in it. I finished the bean planting and then David and I crafted a bean teepee. This was cool, both the construction and concept have given me some great insight for future gardening. I got a start on corn planting only completing one row before it was time to stop. I harvested some spinach for the week and baked a couple loaves of sourdough; they were good but in my opinion, not as good as the last. We all spent Saturday at the hospital garden. Ellis and I arrived first and started with some some weeding. When David and Birte arrived we formed a symphony of workers each tasked with a different component. Within a few hours we had all of our work completed. My job was mulching the tilled beds with composted leaves. Truth be told I had a relatively easy job compared to my other teammates. Once I got my task completed I helped Birte finish up the transplants. We all departed for lunch and afterwards I resumed corn planting back at Pepperfield. Dinner offered a brief taste – and smell – of summer as I grilled off chicken quarters and marinated potatoes over the grill. The rich aromas of charcoal, roasting meat and wood smoke bombarded our small valley filling it with a glorious combination of smells that were reminiscent of summer. Sunday was predicted to rain so we all spent the day indoors on domestic tasks. Mid-morning, after an absence of said rain, David decided to do some flower transplants. It was a quick hour of work. It was before noon and I decided to run off to town to catch a movie. I was pleasantly surprised that my admission was only six dollars. I got back to Pepperfield mid-afternoon and I got changed for a graduation party. One of David’s friend’s kid, Rye, had graduated high school and Birte, David and I spent the evening at the party with pulled pork sandwiches, cole slaw, grilled vegetables and an assortment of snacks. Even with a relaxed Sunday was was exhausted from a busy week; I departed for bed at 7.30 and slept for 12 hours.

Click here to see what you missed this week!

Corn Gateau

Here is a recipe for a super light corn cake. It is fairly sweet so I reccomend serving it as a dessert.

Yields 10 Portions

Ingredients

2/3C Sugar
1/2t Salt
2C Cornmeal
6 ea Eggs
3/4C Butter
1/4C Milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven as you are measuring out ingredients to 375.
  2. Melt butter on low on stovetop, separate eggs. Simultaneously beat egg whites to stiff peaks adding in sugar gradually as they start to aerate.
  3. In a separate bowl mix cornmeal and salt, form a well in the center and drop the reserved yolks into the center of well. Mix the yolks in gradually to the cornmeal mixture as you slowly pour the butter and milk in. It will look crumbly.
  4. Fold a quarter of the whites into the crumb mix. You can be aggressive with this mixing. One this mix is loosened by the whites, fold the rest into the batter carefully as to not deflate the meringue. Bake for 30 minutes, checking at the 25 minute mark with a cake tester.

Notes: The recipe yields a super light cornbread with no leavener. When making the meringue ensure that the bowl is clean from any fat residue. Any contamination will prevent the meringue from inflating. Following this recipe will allow you to minimize required tool clean-up because you will have made the meringue with clean utensils and can safely use them for the next part of the recipe. Be careful to not overbake this recipe, I can attest it will turn into a hockey puck. The sugar can be backed off to a ½ cup.

(Vegetarian) Chili

Here’s a great recipe for a meatless chili. Check the notes below if you want to add some!

Yields 10 Portions

Ingredients
Chili Paste:

1.5C Tomatoes
2 ea Onion, chopped
1c Sundried tomatoes, reconstituted, save the liquid
4T Cumin
3T Coriander
1t Allspice
1T Hot pepper – optional, and depending on peppers used amount may vary
2T Salt
8 ea Garlic cloves

Remaining Ingredients and Garnishes

1qt Tomato juice or sauce
2# Beans of choice
2# Meat if desired
1# Eggplant
1# Corn
1# Diced tomato

Garnishes

Minced onion, crumbled queso fresco or desired cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips

Method

  1. Cook beans to 80% doneness. While cooking prepare the chili paste by combining all ingedients in the blender until smooth.
  2. Sweat the chili paste in 1/4 C high smoke point oil. You want the oil to be smoking so that it fries the paste.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Add in the sundried juice, tomato juice or sauce and beans and simmer for 30 minutes. Add in the remaining vegetables and cook for 10 minutes
  5. Serve with minced onion, cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips.

Notes:

If using meat feel free to saute it in the oil before frying the paste. Leave the brown particulate on the pan and it will infuse the flavor of the meat. If the chili is to thin you can use masa harina or corn starch to thicken it. Add this at the same time you add in the final vegetables.

Week 6: Its Begining to Look a lot Like Springtime

Check out this quick post for some updates to Pans and Perspective!

David has aptly named the month of May and June spring planting. We began the week at the hospital garden. Our full crew, David, Ellis, Birte and myself, spent the day on cleanup in the garden. Some of it involved shoveling excess dirt away from the paths. We tore through the work and left soon after. Ellis and Birte ran some errands in town while David and I tilled Raul’s, a friend of David, garden. When we got back I tested a pavlova recipe and found a great website for tips on making it. We enjoyed an evening of leftovers and waited with anticipation to see how the pavlova turned out. The next day I hustled down the stairs and pulled open the oven to see what it looked like. I let out a defeated “Damn!”, because the merignue had cracked and deflated by 25 percent. But it was still the best version I have ever executed. I took some notes for future corrections and I am excited to give it another go. This quest for a perfect pavlova has a long story for another time. David and I made another trip to the hospital to finish up a segment of the beds. It involved tilling and mulching the beds before actual transplanting could happen. When we finished we returned to Pepperfield for a quick lunch and then transitioned to our garden. After many wheelbarrows of manure we were prepped to do some more transplanting. I spent the better half of my afternoon up to wrists in dirt and compost. Dinner was a repeat but our dessert was the pavlova served with fresh whipped cream and local berries from last years harvest. It was fantastic.

Wednesday brought profuse rains and I spent most of my day indoors. I got ahead for the week and prepared egg salad and a bacon vinaigrette. I ate my lunch and took a much needed nap that lasted for too long. Nevertheless, I woke up quite rested so I jumped on a tomato sauce for meals for the week. Thursday was spent back at the hospital with more transplanting. David and I returned for lunch and afterward I took off with Ellis for some store runs. I got back a couple of hours later and finished up a few tasks here on the farm as I was greeted by and early evening rain. The evening evolved into taco making and preparation of a sourdough starter. The next day I awoke to the pattering of rain against my window. The better part half of my morning was spent working on tasks for Pans and Perspective. My day slowly melded into recipe testing as I made my sourdough loaves and a corn gateau which – like a true shoemaker – I overcooked into a monstrosity I came to call as corn rock. One of Pepperfield’s acquaintances, Gloria, joined us for a dinner of venision chili. Later in the evening, our bed and breakfast guests arrived for the weekend. I closed out my evening with Michael Pollan’s, Cooked, as I drifted off to sleep.

Saturday commenced with a lesuirely breakfast with our overnight guests. David ran off early to aquire some wood chips for mushroom propogation and I helped shovel them into place. We spent the rest of the morning in the gardens and called it an early day. Our afternoon and evening was spent at Decorah’s innagural pride parade. I have never attended an event like this but I was glad I could offer my support and it was thoroughly enjoyable. We skipped the post parade festivities and had a relaxed evening. Sunday was much a repeat of the day prior. We enjoyed a long breakfast with great conversation and followed it by a morning in the garden setting up more planting beds. We took a quick break for lunch and then followed suit with the same cadence at the hospital garden. The weather was perfect and after a quick stop at David’s neighbor’s farm, I returned home just on cue for wine time. A few of David’s friends stopped by to check out the skunk cabbage bog and we met up. Dinner was late and I called it early night after a busy week.

Check back later in the week for recipe updates from week six as well as some other cool posts!

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