CSA Season Is Here!

June 6, 2010
Arugula!

Arugula!

This year, for the first time, I bought a share in a Community Supported Agriculture farm. I’ve been wanting to do so for several years, but this was the first time I actually did the research and committed to it. One of my primary concerns was that since I’m gone so much in the summer I wouldn’t have time to make good use of the produce. But after reading Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle eating locally became a priority for me. I’ll just have to be very pro-active about freezing what I can’t use immediately. Maybe I’ll get a juicer.

Cilantro (left) and thyme.

Cilantro (left) and thyme.

The farm I bought into is called Long Hungry Creek, and the farmer is Jeff Poppen. I chose this farm primarily because they deliver in Nashville on Mondays. All the other farms that deliver CSA boxes do so on Wednesdays, which is one of my teaching days, so I’d never be able to go pick it up. Also, if I can’t pick up my box they don’t have a problem with me sending someone else to get it, and if I don’t do that all of the leftover produce goes to a local food bank, and I’m good with that.

I waited impatiently for June 1st to roll around. Since Memorial Day was the Monday, they delivered on Tuesday instead. As it turned out, when it finally arrived I had to dash down and pick up my food in between banjo lessons.

Instead of pre-preparing the boxes, Long Hungry Creek figures up the portions and has all the produce in large baskets, so you can choose your own, taking as much as the sign tells you. (I’ll try and get a picture of that at some point.) I have a single share, which is about a quarter bushel of food every week. In addition to what they grow on the farm, they augment our shares with day-old bread from a couple local bakeries (as much as we want), and they also have local eggs, cheeses, and raw foods available for purchase.

Garlic scapes. What the heck?

Garlic scapes. What the heck?

My first batch of food included lots of green stuff (beet greens, lettuce, arugula, thyme, cilantro), potatoes, rhubarb, green onions, and garlic scapes. Even though they’re now in my fridge, and they thoughtfully sent a recipe for garlic scape pesto, I’m still not really clear on what garlic scapes ARE. One Block West, a local food restaurant in Winchester, Va. (is there more than one local food restaurant in Winchester?) blogged about their own vegetarian tasting menu, which included garlic scape pesto, so I know it’s a real thing. I’m SO curious what it will taste like.

Rhubarb!

Rhubarb!

My plans for the rhubarb involve the strawberries in my freezer, which I picked at Bradley Kountry Acres last week. (Sadly, their strawberries are all gone, so what I have will have to last me all year.) But so far all I’ve been able to do with my lovely farm-raised food, since I was only home for two days this week, is make a couple salads from the greens. The salads were pretty killer, with just some olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dressing.

My grand plan is to blog about what I do with this glorious bounty every week. We’ll see how long that lasts…

The two cute potatos that are about to become tonight's supper.

The two cute potatos that are about to become tonight's supper.

Lovely green onions. I think they're going with the potatos for supper...

Lovely green onions. I think they're going with the potatos for supper...

Yummy, crispy, tender lettuce, which I paired with...

Yummy, crispy, tender lettuce, which I paired with...

...these beet greens for a couple of killer salads.

...these beet greens for a couple of killer salads.

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A Random Link or Two

May 11, 2010

It’s been so long since I posted here I had to change the title to “Casey Henry’s Sorely Neglected Blog.” But by posting here I’m actually procrastinating from writing my Murphy Method blog for tomorrow. See how that works? By writing this I’m actually NOT doing my REAL work. It’s truly staggering how much I get done while avoiding real work.

Today I have two links for you. The first is to this Andy Bernard bobblehead doll! I knew that [Ooooh! Almost burned up my quinoa that was cooking on the stove. Luckily it becomes very fragrant before it actually scorches…] As I was saying, I knew that the actor who plays Andy, Ed Helms, plays banjo because he’s played it on the show. He has even been to the Station Inn in Nashville. On the first episode that he played banjo he was playing a Stelling. On the NBC store page (were you can get a bobblehead for yourself) there is a video and toward the end of it Ed plays a little tune—a duet with his bobblehead. He’s not playing a Stelling in the clip, though I can’t identify the brand. If anyone is looking for a present to get me, this would be a good one.

Next, the blog on which I discovered the bobblehead [Have I used that word enough times yet? I love that word for some reason. Bobblehead.] is written by another Casey Henry. She’s a 24-year-old communications consultant living in Dallas, TX. There’s also a country-singing, real-estate-selling Casey Henry in NYC. And a high school senior in Oklahoma who plays football and baseball and gets mentioned in the Ada, Okla., paper not infrequently. Then there’s the Casey Henry who has caseyhenry.blogspot.com, which I want. I just like to keep tabs on these things.

And one more link for good measure. The Style Rookie, a fashion blog written by 14-year-old Tavi Gevinson. I’m not a fashion fan, but I discovered Tavi through an article in Bitch magazine about why most of the young geniuses who get attention from the mass media are boys. Tavi is a good writer. She conveys pure adolescent enthusiasm while also saying smart, feminist things. Recently she wrote several posts on the now-defunct Sassy magazine, which I was lucky enough to get a few issues of before it folded. A girl after my own heart.

Yet One More Super Bowl Halftime Show Video

March 16, 2010

Here is what I truly do believe to be the last of the Super Bowl videos from this year. This was made by our own Doug Cook, who shot the footage (except that which he’s in — he’s the first guy you see in the video), and wrote and performed the music that you hear. This video is the best of all of them because these are our people. Our crew. (But don’t look for me, because I’m not in it anywhere.) This is what we do for the two weeks leading up to the show. He captures it perfectly.

The Butternut Squash Soup Project

March 5, 2010
Casey Henry

Casey Henry

I’ve always really wanted to like butternut squash but it has always vaguely disappointed me. The flavor is so mild that it disappears as soon as you combine it with anything interesting. I’ve tried several different kinds of recipes that include it and early on I resolved to immediately dismiss a recipe if it contained the words “peel and cube” the butternut squash. Too much work for not enough flavor.

The squash that are about to become soup.

The squash that are about to become soup.

Despite this, I want to love it. It’s got such a great orange color. It’s so healthy. Roasting it is a piece of cake, as long as you’ve got a knife sharp enough and big enough to get through the rind. But even when I roasted it, it was never as good as I wanted it to be. Last month, though, I finally, finally found a complete satisfying recipe that shows off the butternut squash flavor perfectly.

The Cook’s Illustrated magazines/cookbooks/website are the most perfect cooking reference I could ever imagine. They test the crap out of all the recipes they publish and even send them out to average people to test. So by the time the recipes make it into print, they’re darn near foolproof. I don’t subscribe, but I buy the annual hardback edition, which has all the year’s magazines, complete with an index. I’m on the Cook’s Illustrated email list. In their newsletters they always include links to old recipes and demonstration videos. I don’t usually have the patience to watch the videos, but this recipe, for Silky Butternut Squash Soup caught my interest. (I’d link to it, but I’ve lost the link. It was in the November 2001 issue of the magazine.)

The baby butternuts.

The baby butternuts.

For starters, there’s not much else in it except squash. Just some butter, a couple shallots, water, and a dash of cream. And salt. Love me some salt. My local market only had these cute little baby butternut squashes, so I bought three pounds worth. You chop the shallots and sauté them in the butter. Then get this, you add the seeds and strings out of the squash, and sauté those for a while. Turns out there’s more flavor in the guts than in the squash itself. Who knew?

Then you put in a bunch of water and steam the squash over this whole mess until it’s soft. After that all you have to do it strain the solids out of the liquid. You don’t use the solids, but you puree the now-soft squash with the liquid, pop it back in the pot, add salt and your dash of cream and there you go.

Sauteing squash guts.

Sauteing squash guts.

OH! The croutons!! I forgot to tell you about the croutons. Cinnamon. Toast. Croutons. Why did no one ever think of this before? They’re the best thing ever. They add just the right amount of spice to the soup, plus they make a pretty darn good snack.

The soup is lovely and smooth and creamy and orange. (Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product before eating it all up.) I’m trying to add more orange to my life. I’m so grateful to Cook’s Illustrated for rescuing my relationship with butternut squash. Thanks Cook’s!

Laughing at Myself

February 23, 2010

I have to tell you what I did this morning, because it’s too funny not to share. I had just finished my breakfast of egg salad and rolls and was moving from my kitchen table to my office to start working on whatever it is I’m supposed to be working on right now but am avoiding by writing this blog, so I put my coffee in the microwave to warm up. While it was in there I noticed that my grandfather clock needed winding, so I went and did that. On my way back past the microwave I opened it, reached in, grabbed my mug, and continued toward my office. As I held it in my hand I thought, “This doesn’t feel as warm as it should.” There wasn’t all that much liquid in the bottom of the cup, so I figured maybe the top half of the mug felt cooler than the coffee at the bottom, so I stuck my nose down to sniff it, trying to determine how hot the coffee actually was.

What I found was that it was TEA!!! Tea that I’d put in the microwave to heat up TWO DAYS BEFORE. I hadn’t even seen it when I stuck the coffee in there, nor noticed that there were two mugs in microwave instead of just one.

I laughed so hard. There is nothing quite like the kind of laugh you get when you’re laughing at yourself and no one else is around to see it. And because I knew she would appreciate it in just the right way, I immediately called my mom, so that she could laugh, too.

The Emergency Chocolate Mousse Luncheon

February 21, 2010
Casey Henry

Casey Henry

I was working at home last Thursday—teaching, writing, and getting ready to leave at 5:00 am the next morning to drive to Virginia for a gig—when I got a telephone call. Our lead singer had bronchitis, or walking pneumonia, or some respiratory ailment that triggered the prospect of gig cancellation. It was just a possibility at that point, but she wanted me to be prepared.

By some process known only to my unconscious, the uncertainty of getting to stay home on Friday vs. having to drive five hours made me want to make chocolate mousse.

I’ve never made chocolate mousse, but I still remember the first time I ever ate it. The summer after tenth grade I went to Paris with my French class. We flew over, about twenty of us, accompanied by both the high school French teachers and their husbands, and various parental chaperones. The very first night we ate at a restaurant down the street from our hotel. It was a small place, so our group nearly filled it up. They served us a fixed menu that included chicken, mashed potatoes, and – I kid you not – green beans. It was good, but I remember being vaguely disappointed and wondering if they served that sort of thing all the time, or if they gave it to us because we were American and they thought we’d like something familiar.

But dessert. Served in nondescript white ramekins and garnished with nothing at all, they brought us this chilled chocolate stuff that was light and airy and creamy and not too sweet. I could have eaten ten times as much as was in that little dish. I thought, “THIS must be chocolate mousse!” but I didn’t want to ask anyone because it seemed so provincial to not already know what it was.

Since that day I’ve only had it a few more times, notably when my grandmother took us on a cruise to Alaska, but nothing compared to that first melting bite. When the mousse idea occurred to me, I knew I’d find a recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, both volumes of which were a Christmas present, inspired by reading both My Life in France, and Julie and Julia, and seeing the movie based on the books.

I had almost all the necessary ingredients, save for the chocolate, so I dashed out to my favorite little market, The Turnip Truck. While there I got the gig-is-definitely-cancelled call, so I wholly immersed myself in the project.
I read the recipe four or five times and gathered the required equipment—a pan of not-quite-boiling water, a bowl of cold water, my double boiler, electric beaters, metal bowl, separated eggs, measured ingredients. I don’t think I’ve ever been so prepared prior to starting a recipe.

First I beat the egg yolks and sugar for a while. Then I beat them some more over the pan of not-quite-boiling water. I couldn’t figure why they weren’t foamy like Julia said they should be and then I realized I’d forgotten to add the orange liqueur. In it went, but I think the foaming window had passed. I beat it ’til it was hot, and then switched to beating over the bowl of cold water until it was cold.

There was a lot more beating and folding and melting and stirring and by the end I was looking at eight beautiful dishes full of chocolate mousse. As I admired them I realized that if I didn’t find some help, I’d have to eat every one of them myself. I am quite capable of doing just that, but I thought it would be more fun to have an “Emergency Chocolate Mousse Lunch” on Saturday, so I put out the email call to ten friends, assuming that some of them wouldn’t be able to make it.

Twenty-four hours later I’d only heard from two people who could come so, faced with a potentially tiny crowd, I invited four more people, all of whom could definitely come. Then one more original invitee RSVPed yes and I had a moment of panic – if any more people accepted I faced the prospect of making more mousse or redistributing the eight dishes into nine or more. However, the number didn’t grow. Crisis averted.

Picture of lunch on the table.Now, having arranged a lunch, I had to make some more food to precede the already established dessert course. Carrot soup and waldorf salad (both from the Moosewood Cookbook), egg and tuna salad sandwiches (crusts cut off and cut in little squares and triangles – when I do something, I do it all the way), and whole wheat rolls rounded out the menu.

Actually, I was just going to go with the soup, salad, and rolls until I invited boys. The women would have been fine with a light lunch, but as soon as the husbands were included I knew they would be profoundly unsatisfied with such insubstantial offerings, so I broke out the protein.

In the end, everything was a total success except the whipped cream. A couple hours before people arrived I chilled the bowl and the beaters. I set the bowl in a bigger bowl full of ice water. I whipped and whipped and whipped but achieved nothing more than a slight thickening. I put it in the fridge, frustrated, but found that by the end of the meal what little “whipped” cream there was in the whole mess had risen to the top, so I carefully skimmed it off and dolloped each mousse.

I liked the whole last-minute nature of my little soiree. We got to visit, catch up, and everyone left feeling full and bearing containers of waldorf salad. The entire thing was made possible by my gig getting cancelled. Perhaps next time I have a cancelled gig I’ll attempt a soufflé!

Stage Set-Up Vids

February 12, 2010

Never has the stage set-up gotten so much (well-deserved) attention. There are a bunch of crowd videos up on You Tube now of the stage being set up on the field. The first one on this list is the coolest, because it shows the whole thing in time-lapse. Also the last two are neat because they are shot from fairly close. I don’t have the patience to go look for these, so I gratefully give credit to Bryan Ransom for sending these links.

1. Fast motion stage set up from a fan in the end zone:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lYh4x_TUTg

2. Gossip Girl talking about the wonders of stage building on the Jimmy Fallon show:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT-rbrSq2wk

3. Generic end-of-show stage view from upper deck:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icBi3WaodKk

4. Short clip of stage set up:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDUkQzWgOCo

5. Nosebleed cam:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2vjWq88Vgk&feature=related

6. More set up cam:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVwbeacLhfU

7. Field-level cam:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgChLhy7Y5U

8. Field-level cam, pt. 2:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkFjHhz8CDU&feature=related

Some Behind the Scenes Looks

February 11, 2010

This first video is from Hamish Hamilton, the director, who managed to squeeze in his own “making of” featurette while still doing all the crazy preparation for the halftime show.

This second one is also from Hamish. This is even better, from my point of view, because it has LOTS of volunteer footage. THIS is EXACTLY what we do for the two weeks preceding the game.

Super Bowl – Day 15: The Show

February 10, 2010
Casey Henry

Casey Henry

I started writing this post at the airport Monday morning, before my flight home to Nashville. Alas, my cold left me muzzy-headed and couch-bound for the following two days and I’m just finishing it now. Better late than never.

Holy cow! We pulled it off and it was a-maze-ing! The most awesome moment might have been when we were back at NOVA University (where we parked) with the volunteers after the show. Cap brought a DVD straight from the TV truck at the stadium. When the first ariel shots of the stage came on screen – with all those LED graphics going – our people literally gasped. It was the first time any of us really saw what the stage could do. From our point of view the stage looked like many, many, huge wedge-shaped pieces of metal frame, electronic equipment, lights, wheels, and wires. Impressive in its own way, yes, but it gave no hint of the spendor it displayed when plugged in on the field. On TV, when combined with the lasers, the lights in the stadium, and the pyro, it looked greater than we ever could have imagined. That DVD was the first time any of us had seen the stage from above and we were so proud.

Casey Henry

My annual halftime show self portrait - from the sidelines during the show.

Accomplishing the stage-assembly feat this year was both harder and more rewarding than at any past halftime show. Not only was the stage bigger and more technologically complicated, comprising a larger number of carts than any other stage, but since the accident last week we were under intense scrutiny from many different directions. That only added to the general stress level, which wasn’t particularly low before the stage piece tipped over.

But that accident had the effect of galvanizing our volunteers. They pulled together into a strong team that worked together efficiently, effectively, and safely. We put that monster of a stage together on the field in a time that exceeded everybody’s expectations (and by “everybody” here I mean the higher-ups) and helped bring this ambitious, gorgeous show to life. We may have jobs next year after all!

Audience participation video, on the jumbotron.

Audience participation video, on the jumbotron.

Remember the audience participation video I talked about making? Here’s a shot of it, on the jumbotron as we were setting the stage up. I’m in the second row. The phone-waving thing looked cool in the stadium, but you couldn’t really see it on TV at all.

Being on the field during this show differed starkly from the past two years. This year there was no field cast – no screaming kids running on the field and therefore there were approximately 2,000 fewer people around the stage. We and our volunteers retired to the sidelines where there was plenty of security, sure, but it was twelve minutes of relative calmness in which we could enjoy the show. I was on the back sideline; there weren’t even any photographers back there.

Some random things stick in my mind, like the guy on the field who was eating a can of tuna fish with a fork. (It does tend to be really busy on game day, so you gotta grab food whenever/wherever you can, I guess!) Since we were on the sidelines, we were right next to the stacks of speakers. Both earplugs and mouse-ear headphones made it just bearable, but the bass vibrated my entire body.

The least interesting part of the show, for me, were the old white guys playing and singing on the stage. The stage graphics, the lights, the lasers, and the pyro were what I was watching and I couldn’t have been more impressed. Now that it’s over the question on everyone’s lips is, “What are they going to do next year?”

Super Bowl – Day 14: Here We Go

February 7, 2010
Om Garden menu

Om Garden menu

Today’s the day, the one we’ve been preparing for, practicing for, stressing out over. As with the Pro-Bowl, Holly and Bryan and I, along with Holly’s neice Ashley, will meet at the volunteer parking location to check everybody in. From there we’ll board busses to the stadium, where we arrive about an hour before kickoff (which is at 6:28). It will be craziness, it always is, but it’s amazing to be there.

Yesterday we had the day off, as is always the case. It gives everyone a chance to unwind and rest (and perhaps recover from their production party hangovers) (but not me – I didn’t have a hangover) (…this year). I took the opportunity to drive down to Miami and find the two locations where my dad and his parents lived when he was a baby. I also searched out a vegetarian restaurant at which to eat lunch: Om Garden.

picture of rainbow roll

Rainbow Roll. Yum!

Just a little hole in the wall place – a little hard to find – but wonderful food. I had a green smoothie and their rainbow roll, which was carrot, beet, avocado, baby greens, cashew pate, mango, and figs all wrapped up and presented like sushi, with a yellow dipping sauce that was a little mustardy. The combination of tastes was amazing! My only mis-step was the café con leche at the end, because, being a vegan restaurant, they use nut milk instead of cow milk, and that tasted not like I like my coffee to taste. Not bad, just different. I’m so glad I found that place, and I’m bummed that it’s 900 miles away from my house.

That night for supper we went to a Spanish restaurant in Hollywood called La Barraca. They have flamenco dancing. Last year in Tampa we also went to see flamenco dancing and I suspected at the time, although I had never seen flamenco before in my life, that it was not very good. Seeing last night’s dancers confirmed that. A guitarist/singer and a percussionist provided the music, and both dancers clapped rhythmically along when they weren’t dancing. Their dancing, both together and solo, was passionate and sexy. Plus, the guy had on awesome red shoes.

Flamenco dancers and band at La Barraca.

Flamenco dancers and band at La Barraca.

I wish I was going to be here one more night so I could check out the restaurant next door to La Barraca. It was called Restaurant Transylvania and had slightly vampiric decorations in the front window. I’ve no idea what Romanian cuisine consists of, but I’m betting they use a lot of garlic.