Victuals: A review and two recipes

Above, a photo that I snapped of the inside cover of Victuals the day it arrived at my doorstep– I wanted to share the beauty of this book the minute I saw it. 

Ronnie Lundy’s Victuals (pronounced “Vittles”) is a chronicle of a 4000+ mile journey through Appalachia, a story and a history told through food. It’s part cookbook, part edible atlas. It winds its way through Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina, and pays homage to the traditions of Europe, West Africa, and the pre-colonial Americas that come together in the food of the Mountain South.  It’s a book filled with seasonal and regional recipes, but also a history of the land and the people of Appalachia. Victuals reflects a confluence of climate, culture, industry, and ethnic heritage. 

Personal history also plays a huge part in this book. Ronnie Lundy grew up in Appalachia. She vividly remembers her “summers up home” in Kentucky, and recipes like the swing shift steak come directly from her childhood.

There are recipes for every season. There are recipes for bright vegetable sides and hearty meat-centric suppers. There are recipes for sweet desserts and salty snacks alike. There’s a roasted root vegetable salad that comes dressed with bacon and orange soghum vinegar. Kale potato cakes, spring ramp pot roast, miner’s goulash, and a speckled butter bean cassoulet with rabbit confit. A simple skillet cornbread, a luscious buttermilk brown sugar pie, salty cheese nabs, and the sweet-and-savory banana pudding you’ll find below. There were also a few odd but delicious-sounding pickle recipes I put on my list for the spring– picked ramps and pickled green strawberries. 

The book is divided by key food groups and ingredients. Each section is devoted to a staple food– salt, corn, beans and apples, among others. The apple section is one of my favorites. It includes fried apples, cake, a sticky pudding, and a recipe for pork & kraut in cider gravy. 

To be honest, I had no idea the food of Appalachia was so varied. Staple foods pop up repeatedly, but there’s almost infinite variation in the preparation and addition of seasonal produce. And while this book digs deep into food traditions, the recipes are modern and fresh. 

Continue Reading

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

If there’s one food item to look forward to in the summer, it’s the baskets of farm-fresh, ultra-ripe, extra sweet fruit at the farmers’ market. I’ve waiting for strawberries all season, and finally picked up a gorgeous basketful at the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market. I like using strawberries to fill and decorate cakes, or cooking them into pies of all kinds.

But there’s an even simpler preparation that yields great rewards. Jam.

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

This method works with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, stone fruits… Just about any summer fruit works here. But I like strawberries the best, for their fresh flavor and texture. 

The simplest and easiest quick jams are just fruit and a little sugar, simmered together until done. You always can fancy-up your jams with all kinds of juices, spices, and flavorings. I chose to add lemon and thyme to my strawberry jam. (Strawberries + thyme are an unexpected flavor combo, but they’re total winners to me!)

Continue Reading

Challah

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

Challah has long been one of my favorite breads. I first tried it after baking a loaf with a good friend several years ago. It was soft, springy, eggy, tender, and sweet. 

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

This loaf is from Kamren Siddiqui’s Hand Made Baking. It’s a little less sweet, and a little more sturdy than your typical loaf of challah. It’s wonderful served plain with butter, but you can also toast it up and top it with an avocado or fried egg.

My current favorite topping is nutella. Can we talk about how freakin’ adorable these mini nutella cups are? 

Also, can we talk about how delightful Kamren’s writing is? I read his book cover-to-cover for the recipe descriptions and stories alone. Kamren effortlessly links food to memories, stories and emotions. You can read some of his writing on his blog, Sophisticated Gourmet. He’s a skilled baker, but he also has a knack for compelling storytelling. Go check it out.

On to the challah!

Continue Reading

Garlic Sage Focaccia

Garlic Sage Focaccia | Kitchen in the Hills

If you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s because school has taken over my whole life. It’s midterms season. It’s total craziness over here.

Okay, okay.

That might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But things are still busy, which means less time to make + photograph + write up recipes. 

Garlic Sage Focaccia | Kitchen in the Hills

My favorite pre-exam ritual, though, is something I call “stress baking.” Stressed? Bake some cookies.

There’s just something intensely calming about butter, sugar, eggs and flour. Or, in this case, flour, water, olive oil and salt. Perfectly portioned out. Stirred together, kneaded, rolled out, and baked in a very hot oven. 

The ritual of baking instantly puts all of the busy thoughts out of my mind. After all, how can I be stressed when there’s sugar to be caramelized, butter to be browned, or dough to be kneaded?

Continue Reading

How to Roast Artichokes

How to Roast Artichokes

I never envisioned this blog as a place for how-tos, but I’m liking these simple posts. Photographed step-by-steps of kitchen basics. This might turn into a series.

I’ve shot a few of these posts so far. While I imagined them as a way to share my kitchen knowledge, I’ve actually learned a few new tricks myself. Take this post on artichokes, for example. I had never roasted them before testing out this recipe for the blog.

How to Roast Artichokes

It has been years since I had an artichoke— three, maybe four years. My parents used to steam them for family dinners every once in a while, but artichokes mostly looked intimidating to me. Sharp, spiky, messy to eat, and how on earth are you supposed to cook them without turning them mushy? The flavor of an artichoke is incredible, but hardly ever seemed with the work. 

I’ve eaten steamed artichokes my whole life, which are easy enough to make. But I was recently told that grilled artichokes are the gold standard. I don’t own a grill, and I still haven’t had an artichoke with that special charcoal smokiness. But what I do have is a very hot oven

I bought a bunch of artichokes and opted to roast them, concentrating their flavor and adding just a touch of caramelization.

How to Roast Artichokes

Continue Reading

Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

You’d think that having a blog means writing about whatever, whenever. 

Truth is, I’m sitting here trying to write a blog post about cold weather St. Patrick’s day food when all I want to talk about is warm weather recipes. Pressed juices! Grain salads! Popsicles! A million glasses of lemonade! 

But we’re keeping it together. At least for a couple more weeks.

Okay? Okay.

Brown Butter Braised Cabbage

As far as winter veggies go, cabbage is pretty darn good. Lovely spring green, crinkled leaves, a lot of crunch, and buttery tenderness when cooked. I recently had crunchy raw cabbage with the best ever aioli at a Japanese restaurant. Heaven. 

Why we’re relegated cabbage to the “unlovable” category is beyond me. Everyone loves brussels sprouts, kale, even lowly chard. But I’m yet to hear from someone that they just love cabbage. 

Continue Reading

Kale Carrot Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Kale Carrot Salad with Orange Vinaigrette | Kitchen in the Hills

I am a latecomer to most big trends. I discovered the magic of jeggings and yoga pants just last year, well after they had become cause for ridicule. I’m currently reading Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, a memoir that hit the best seller list in 2011. And food-wise? Don’t even get me started. It’s embarrassing, but I only realized that sriracha was a thing (a delicious, delicious thing) after news of the possible factory shut-down swept my twitter feed. And were we always so crazy about brunch? (Yes. The answer is, a million times, yes.)

Kale Carrot Salad with Orange Vinaigrette | Kitchen in the Hills

So it is with kale. I’ve been eating the stuff roasted, baked, and sautéed for ages. I’ve loved it in chip-form and stew-form, I’ve eaten it in pasta and alongside mashed potatoes. But raw? Not really my thing. For the longest time, I couldn’t stand the taste of uncooked kale. It was passable in juices, but I’d never put it in a smoothie myself. Definitely not in a kale salad, even if it had been massaged forever and ever. There was just something off-putting about the texture and flavor.

Until now.

Continue Reading

Parsnip Fries with Sriracha-Spiked Ketchup

oven-roasted parsnip fries

I see myself eating a ton of oven-roasted fries, especially the parsnip variety, when the weather turns colder in the fall. I love pulling a tray of hot, crispy fries out of my oven when there’s rain pouring down outside. There’s something about sitting in your kitchen and eating them warm, a good book in hand. But even in the summer sunshine, these fries are a real treat. I’ve taken to making these over the past couple of (80 degree!) weeks, and they are totally worth turning on your oven for. 

Continue Reading

Summer Vegetable Tart

corn, leek and pasilla pepper tart

Was this supposed to be a healthy recipe blog? Did I tell you that? Did I say it? I’m sorry, that must have been a mistake.* I would be making and eating these tarts daily if I wasn’t afraid of running out of butter halfway into the recipe.

This puff pastry tart celebrates the freshest summer vegetables. I chose leeks, sweet corn, and pasilla peppers, but you could use just about any vegetable that’s at the market this time of year. Paper-thin slices of eggplant and tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil. Rounds of zucchini and yellow squash. Roasted bell peppers of all colors. Blanched potato slices with rosemary and butter.

corn, leek and pasilla pepper tart

To me, these tarts are all about keeping things simple and elegant. They’re easy enough to make, but they’re something you’d be proud to pull out of your home oven. They celebrate summer produce. Sweet corn, leeks, and smoky-spicy pasilla peppers are salted, cooked down, and caramelized in a pan, and spread over a homemade, all-butter puff pastry crust.

Yes, the puff pastry is homemade. But it’s a “rough puff,” made with a shortcut method that rules out most of the tedium and difficulty of making pastry. Because, let’s face it, I wasn’t going to make a full-on authentic puff pastry from scratch. I’ll take this version— no torn pastry dough and butter messes, no hours-long process of chilling and rolling and chilling again, but still absolutely delicious.

Continue Reading