She grew up on the coast of Naples, shaping pizza dough with her mama, plucking ripe juicy tomatoes from the entangled viny fence in her neighbors yard. Me? I'm just a brown skinned girl, born in the concrete jungle, raised in the south, and toting Christmas night as the only epicurean tradition worth flaunting.
Its hard for me to really define myself in brevity, or words alone for that matter. Though the content of my life could fill a trilogy I'm sure. I do know I cannot be summed up as a girl with the quintessential suburban upbringing which included rowdy siblings, dogs, picket fences and fruit trees. Lots and lots of fruit trees. Seriously, who are these people that have a lemon and cherry tree in their backyard, spent autumn weekends at the apple orchard, and canned preserves during the dark and stormy winters? Yes, I enjoyed family dinner around the table each and every night, but our food came from Publix. Always. No exceptions. Well, McDonalds on weekends if we behaved. In fact, the highlight of my lonesome childhood forays into gourmet adventures was when I finally received an Easy Bake Oven. My happiness thereafter was unfathomable. "You mean this little paper packet of powder will really emerge as a rich and moist brownie with sprinkles?" It was a miracle it didn't need fresh eggs, butter, or milk. Then again, at that time, milk originating from a cow was like telling me Santa didn't really arrive on my rooftop by reindeer-drawn sleigh.
And so sums up the life of a typical American. Whatever the TV says is real, milk comes from cartons not cows, and brownies can be concocted in pink electrical contraptions. Everyone else with their seven year old vegetarian Republican baby brother, third generation gardening mother, and hard dough bread baking, hunter-gatherer father is the exception, not the rule. So how then, did I arrive here...at this place...questioning everything? Cows are not really blissfully grazing on manicured pastures like on the carton. My happy meatballs are made with ground beef that may as well have Windex sprayed all over it. And these seedy red balls that I blend up for a cooling summer strawberry lemonade take more chemicals and use more fuel than a trip to Mexico City and back. So how did I get here? When did the rose colored glasses come off? There was a boy, a new home, this book, another book, and then this guy. A recipe for enlightenment is all it took, but its not enough to just know my food is not really food at all, I needed to do something about it. I don't have Chron's or Seliac disease, or preach veganism because of my worship of living organisms and their civil rights, I'm simply a healthy hedonist who can't afford French culinary training, or a barn in the heart of Texas, but I won't let it stop me from getting to know my food. Intimately. So intimately in fact, I'm going to watch my food have sex.
Now I know what you're thinking. Food porn literally is the best kind of porn. But I'm not talking about that perverts! I'm talking about saying goodbye to life as I know it...to go and farm in the country for a whole year. Its like Eat, Pray, Love but much dirtier, and without the nonsensical divorce. Life isn't always greener on the other side, trust me, I know from experience, but in this case, the pastures really will be greener, life will be simpler, traditional hard back-breaking work will be become a newly acquired value, and I can finally go back to basics. The decision to leave family and all that's familiar was not an easy one to make. Hmmm, that's a lie. It took weeks of thought, yes, but this is a magical chance of a lifetime that I feel the universe has pushed me towards subtly. And what fool would I be not to take it. Now don't get all huffy puffy. This is not goodbye. Actually, quite the opposite. The most exciting part about this adventure will be the chance to craft simple and beautiful meals and desserts from local, organic bounty, mostly grown by my own hands. I feel like I want to heal the world, but until I become wonder woman, the least I can do is inspire you my little reader...one lovingly cultivated dish at a time.
Shop local. Befriend a farmer. Cook from scratch. Dig into life.
BLACKBERRY FARM'S APPLE CRISP
This is the very first recipe I made from The Blackberry Farm Cookbook and it is probably the singular most popular dessert I've ever taken out of my oven. It was gobbled up in 1.5 days. And the cast iron skillet made me feel like a grandma, in the best possible way. Please make this tonight. You're welcome!
- 6 organic granny smith apples, peeled/cored/chopped
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped out
- 3/4 cup organic packed light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- zest and juice of 1 organic lemon, plus zest of a second lemon
- 1 tsp organic ground cinnamon
- 1 cup organic all-purpose flour
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 1 cup organic old fashioned rolled oats
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 12 tbsp organic unsalted butter, diced at room temp
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Place the apples in a large bowl with the vanilla seeds, brown sugar, cornstarch, zest and juice of lemon and cinnamon then toss to coat.
- Transfer to 10-inch cast iron skillet and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, oats, baking soda, salt and zest. Add butter and rub into mixture with your fingers until the butter is no larger than a small pea. Sprinkle over the apple mixture.
- Bake for 1 hour until the apple filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Serve warm with cream or your favorite ice cream!
I personally think it was way too lemony, and would recommend cutting the amount of lemon zest in half. See where that takes you.