applicious

October 1, 2012

IMG-20120930-01521Yes, Microsoft, please do add this ‘word’ to my dictionary because after picking 21.5 pounds of apples this weekend, I have a feeling the next few weeks will be very ‘applicious”.

The last weekend of September may have been the busiest of the month, if you can believe it. Between the Critical Mass Bike ride and the Akron Marathon, everyone but me was doing something athletic (Although I did go swimming. Twice. And when I swim next to floaters, my speed feels fast). 

Instead, I ate A LOT at the first annual “Potluck in the Park” hosted by Neighborhood Progress Inc. (NPI). Stephen used to work for the org and invited me to go (and make our lions share of  acorn bread) and the event was simply fantastic. As a registration table volunteer, I was in aIMG-20120929-01509we of the sheer number of people who came and how many amazing “chefs” live in Cleveland.

Nearly everyone brought food that was locally sourced, even though that wasn’t a ‘requirement’ and while I’m not either, it was great  to see an array of vegetarian and vegan dishes. And there was a great showing of educational tables offering tips on gardening, crafts and free non-disposable water bottles. If you missed out, man o’ man, you missed out on one of best events Edgewater Park has ever seen.

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Prior to eating two giant plates of the best homemade veggie lasagna and jambalaya ever, I spent the afternoon in Ohio City and Tremont, picking out a gorgeous reclaimed wood farm table from the Dredger’s Union closing sale and watching an episode of the 1961 show “Route 66” in the basement of a church. I don’t think I neeIMG-20120930-01526d to explain the awesomeness of the first activity, so on to the bizarre church experience: A friend sent an email earlier in the week announcing the episode that would show Tremont as it was in the early 60’s. Always interested in the history of place, I signed up for the free event.  Stephen and I were the youngest people by 50 years, except for the Pastor who was convinced he knew me since we’ve both lived in South Jersey and Pittsburgh! We had to leave early, because the film started late, but I cannot wait to see the end. Why doesn’t programming like this exist on TV nowadays?Oh, and Tremont was cool back then, too 🙂

IMG-20120930-01520On Saturday, I wished I lived on the West Side, because after spending the day there, we returned to Tremont and resided at Lava Lounge for hours, celebrating Juliana’s 29th birthday. On Sunday, I was happy to be an EastSider, as we awoke early to roadtrip to Eddy’s farm on Caves Rd for Pick-Your-Own-Apples. Amazingly, this is one of the few area farms with apples still left to pick after the severe weather we had earlier this year. There, we picked four different types of apples and sampled grapes straight from the vines. I had never done this before and it was an enlightening experience for sure. I have ever ever ever tasted grapes so, well, grapey! Amazing. I think I need to start growing grape vines. Not even for wine. Just for grapes. YUM.IMG-20120930-01524

IMG-20120930-01527As usual, Sagree was prepared with a thermos of tea, a book and plenty of blankets to lay on under the shade of the apple trees. One of the greatest things about living in Cleveland is that in minutes you can be in the heart of the city, out in the country where the landscape is stunning, or on a beach!

We tried to make a quick stop at Patterson’s for apples fritters, but that was impossible as the line to the counter was 40 people deep. Luckily, Ivy and Danny were kind enough to pick up some for us as we dashed off to pick out carving pumpkins and then ran off to Euclid Beach.

IMG-20120930-01518Prior to May, I had no clue Euclid Beach existing. Since May, I’ve been there practically once a week! It’s a fantastic city resource and used to be even better prior to 1969 when an amusement park sat on the site. Unfortunately, the Humphrey family’s park stopped being profitable in the mid-60’s and so it closed down just as nearby parks like Cedar Point were gaining traction (the advent of the interstate and Cleveland’s race riots helped shut down the  Euclid Beach amusement park as well).

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This weekend, the annual event remembering and celebrating the park occurred and once again Stephen and I were one of the youngest people by decades. I took a walking  tour of the grounds and it was so wonderful to hear anecdotes from people who remembered certain rides from their childhood. And of course, being a design freak, I loved the old postcards and token’s from big band shows and arcade games.

IMG-20120930-01515In between all of these things, I of course studied, feel asleep while studying, did laundry, shopped online, painted my nails a yummy fall color from Zoya and made the first apple dish of the season!

The super easy recipe prompted me to start last night after moving my table into the kitchen and rescuing an antique Singer sewing machine from the curb. I got it from the Glucose Design Group, an organization that is putting together a website and documentaryIMG-20121001-01542 on the impact packing your own lunch can have on your health. I found them at the Potluck and tasted this yummy concoction of apples, cinnamon, honey and orange juice and was in love.

I’ve eaten about half of it between dessert, breakfast and lunch. That’s probably not the “bring your own lunch” impact they were hoping for! 🙂

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Urban Foragers

September 24, 2012

Today you will learn how to tune into nature and turn seemingly useless acorns into edible delights. But first, a bit of blog keeping: apparently Nidhi has given up on our fair city and her socialite status. COME BACK FROM MICHIGAN and be fabulous in CLE again, bestie!!!!

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FFB4426C-C64E-4015-AA58-371CF41EFEDC Acorns are ubiquitous whether you live out in the woods or in the middle of a large city because oak trees are hardy and resilient. Acorns may also be one of the most sustainable sources of food; but certainly one of the most labor intensive. If all Native American tribes and Pioneers used this much effort in bread-making, I’m certain I would have thrown myself to the wolves. 

If you are anything like me and 99.99999% of the world, you’ve never picked up an acorn and said “I bet this is a fabulous substitute for flour in muffins”. In fact, you likely didn’t know or care to know that there is fruit inside of an acorn! And you most certainly did not ever entertain the idea of spending a Sunday afternoon boiling and re-boiling and re-re-re-re-re-boiling acorn meat to release all of it tannic (read: harmful to your kidneys) acid.

B8DA6A61-A5FA-4CC0-B11B-F76C7E3579F3I can honestly say I was not overcome with excitement when Stephen proposed scavenging for acorns, but since it was a lovely morning and I’d never been to Shaker Lakes (a travesty, I know), I agreed to the hunt if it could be prefaced a lovely brunch at Bon Vivant (see earlier post). Stephen claims he felt an urge 8BD44B7E-B2C8-4EA8-9C97-50BF2AD4742Eto Google “acorn bread” after viewing some plump acorns on the ground, but I think he must have been replaying a scene fro m his childhood, when he attended a Pioneer Day in Chagrin.

Last weekend, once we found the mother of all white oak trees (the type of oak lending the meatiest, tastiest, least poisonous acorns) I did actually enjoy myself – until I was whacked on the back by an angry acorn, tumbling 50 feet from the top of the tree.

After two hours of careful gathering (soft shells are no good, as are ones with holes in them frIMG-20120916-01421om worms or squirrels), we amassed somewhere between 600 and 800 acorns, later resulting in 12 cups of acorn flour. FYI: If the idea of behaving like Pioneers and baking, smashing, drying, boiling, blending and baking acorns is tantalizing, know that the greatest time sink is the shelling process. And I thought pistachios were annoying!

The foodstuffs you can produce with acorn flour is endless, as it easily IMG-20120923-01497substitutes for all-purpose flour; We’re thinking muffins and pancakes for starters. The bitter taste of the acorn dissipates the more you boil, but to me, it could never be something to eat on it’s own, like pistachios or almonds. However, I did thoroughly enjoy the bread and look forward to making my own to share with skeptical co-workers and friends.

Make your own by following our slightly amended version of the recipe below.

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“Urban Forager” Acorn Bread by Ava Chin, the Urban Forager, is a professor of creative nonfiction and journalism at the College of Staten Island-CUNY

IMG-20120922-01472 1 cup acorn meal
½ cup corn meal
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon melted butter or oil
2 teaspoons sugar, with a little on reserve for the yeast
1 packet of yeast with ¼ cup of warmed water
1 egg
IMG-20120922-01478 ½ cup tap water
½ cup of milk

***Stephen added cranberries and walnuts, based on rec’s from other bloggers.

1. Combine acorn and corn meal with flour, butter, and sugar.
2. Mix yeast with warmed water and reserved sugar (follow packet recipe), and allow to sit until frothy.
IMG-20120922-01474 3. Add yeast, egg, water, and milk.
4. With floured hands and on a floured surface, knead dough until stiff.
5. Allow dough to sit in warm place to rise, covered. ***We found this to take about an hour.
6. When dough has doubled in size, knead again, and allow to rise.
7. Place dough in greased pan, or fashion it into a desirable loaf shape, IMG-20120923-01492 before placing into a pre-heated oven, 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Voila, acorn bread!

Squirrels, watch out.

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Link to Urban Foraging on The Local, by the NYTimes.   

IMG-20120923-01494 Everything you ever wanted to know about acorns, and more: http://www.grandpappy.info/racorns.htm

http://honest-food.net/2010/01/03/acorn-cake-and-acorns-around-the-world/

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/12/recipes-for-the-mighty-acorn-a-forager-experiments/67228/