Thursday, June 2, 2011


Our garden is full of arugula, beans, peas, fennel, nasturtiums, and on and on! But while I pluck weeds from alongside our rows I find myself always looking for a wild thing.

Purslane, a little known, humble succulent, grows all over Michigan. It is tender, chewy, tart, and perfect in summer salads and soups. Purslane especially loves corn fields and wide open spaces, but, if I'm lucky, one or two purslane plants will creep up next to my arugula. If not, I'll be forced to find an obliging cornfield.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Doctor

I am, slowly but surely, translating a culinary anthropology of Tunisian food uses in the 1930's. The book was commissioned by the Ministere de Culture et la Patrimonie, and Dr. Ernest Gustave Gobert spent years interviewing friends in the city, rural villages, and nomadic communities to compile an anthology of Tunisian food uses and rites. Gobert was a french Doctor who was passionate about nutrition and food. He lived in Tunisia for more than fifty years, writing, doctoring, and taking photographs:

A potter in Djerba

Habib Bourgiba, the first president of Tunisia

Making couscous

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Clean like the february snow.

When everything starts to melt, and the street corners get a bit dirty, I crave tart, slightly grimy, sheepy cheeses. This is Labna, a skimmed sheep's yogurt cheese that has migrated from the Arabian Penninsula to North Africa.

Line a sieve with cheesecloth.

Pour in full fat sheep's milk yogurt.

Twist the cheesecloth into a firm ball and tie with string
(I could find only this classy red ribbon).

Suspend the yogurt in a receptacle a few inches from the bottom
(I could find only this flower vase, so fancy!).

Let the labna drain until it reaches the desired consistancy. Overnight will give you a labna that is soft and great for pairing with honey, three days will give you a firmer farm style labna that can be brined in whey and salt and eaten with olives, preserved lemon, tuna!

pardon me, have you seen these colors?

When last this rind was seen, we had juiced the fruits and the fate of the peel was uncertain. The rind was still full of flavor, some juice, and delicious pulpy bits. We decided to make citrus syrups for cocktails and spritzers. One pound sugar, one pound water, and 83 g. citrus rind became three beautiful syrups. Next up, marmalade! Or is it candied peel?! Who that say to waste this rind? No way. No how.

Citrus Laboratory

Wintertime is Citrus Time. It's also Science Time. It all started with the citrus: ruby grapefruit, blood orange, meyer lemon.

We juiced the fruits with the back of a spoon, and measured in a liquid measure, which is just accurate enough for our purposes.

We recorded the weight of each fruit whole, the fluid ounces and weight of juice gained.

(Grapefruit wins the weight of fruit/weight of juice ratio; blood orange wins in color; meyer lemon in ease of spoon juicing and delicate florals.) We also recorded the weight of waste.

In this case, 'waste' is the lovely rinds with healthy bits of pulp and color and flavor.

Oh no, these are not meant for the compost bin, that we promise you.

Cheese. Glory.

Lincoln Log from Zingerman's Creamery.

Dusted with fine semolina, pan fried, eaten with whole grain toast and dates (!).

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Hand hammered copper couscoussier. Need we say more?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I like this Sheep's face.

This is the Tunis Sheep, an american heritage breed, and this story has it all: historical figures, fame, death, near destruction, redemption, good wool, great milkers...

The Tunis Sheep is a descendant of the Tunisian Fat Tailed Sheep, a breed that exists mainly in Tunisia, but crosses the border into Libya and probably Algeria (see earlier posts on Liya!). But the birth of the Tunis Sheep for us begins with the birth of our country.

George Washington, looking very pastoral as the battle rages on.

In the mid-late 18th century, shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed, George Washington received a small flock of sheep as a gift from the Bey of Tunis. They were placed with Judge Richard Peters of PA, who gave lambs away and made rams available to spread the breed. The Tunis Sheep soon topped the list of Most Popular Breeds in the states.

By the Civil War, the south was flooded with Tunis Sheep. Then it flooded with worn, and hungry soldiers who ate everything in sight. By the end of the war the Tunis Sheep population was almost entirely decimated.

Hungry Civil War folk in fields, and hungry Civil War folk in front of a tent.

The remaining hundred odd pure Tunis Sheep were moved to the Great Lakes after the war and have been successfully bred in Michigan for the past century and a half. Of the four breeders currently producing Tunis Sheep in Michigan, four of them live within 80 miles of Ann Arbor.

These sheep are well loved for their gentle natures, great milk, wonderful wool, and delicately flavored, tender meat. As descendants of a desert breed they love pasture living and are very hardy. I can't wait to build a small herd full of these faces! Just look!
For more info on the Tunis Sheep check out the American Heritage Breeds Conservancy website:

Cocktails; loaves and fishes.

The Dromidaire

Bou Said Gin Fizz

Preserved Lemon Drop

One Happy Fish (Daurade)