Benishoga’s Birthday

With grand aplomb I am pleased to announce another installation of Zukémono’s Adventures Beyond Culture.  Thanks to Andy Gladstone for this magnificent piece of creative prose.  Andy took some of my own memories and remixed them into his maybe-not-so imaginary heroine’s creative endeavours.  So please enjoy the following perhaps-rather plausible series of indomitable events.



Zukemono awoke (as if that begins to cover it) with the dawning of the day.

eagerly bounding from her bed refreshed, excited, energetic, imbued with the dream she had so smilingly snoozed into reality.  a dream which ceded no ground, paid no credence and proffered no nevermind to the alleged duality of awake/asleep.  holistically speaking, our girl could never be bound by the unwholesome restraints of a black/white, “this is it & that’s all there is” seriousness of a culture that has confused wisdom with the ability to jam a round world into ever shrinking square containers, regardless of the damage done.  sure those boxes could be neatly stacked, and, from a full frontal view, do indeed appear to be ever so properly & logically constructed.  however, a quick peak behind those frigid boxes (& whom who knew would not expect Zukemono to pull back the curtain) reveals our precious spirituality oozing out the back.  the infinite and ever expanding laws of the universe cannot be so easily constrained by the transient powers that be, those purveyors of modern rationale, no matter how strong their current tenuous grasp.  their folly no different than the oft repeated myth that all we paid was trinkets for the island of Manhattan, when in fact the cost included an ever increasing diminution of our decency, the further sacrificing of our soul, and the additional ravaging of the richness & depth of the knowledge that we are all one.


Benishoga awoke, just as his cousin Zukemono had seen in her dream.  rocking to & fro, at one with the clattering of the iron horse along the steel tracks, softly drifting his gaze out the massive window into the world of wonder which is deepest China.  a potpourri of brilliant images filled his head, overwhelming his senses.  towering glaciers miraculously rising over desert sand, tattooed with ancient cave paintings deep within their frozen bellies, five hundred year old marketplaces framed by thousand year old city gates, a town linked by terraced grapevines and ancient waterways along which groups of women slowly simmered horseshoe crabs.  yes, horseshoe crabs, biologically more closely related to spiders than crabs, categorized as “living fossils” for their status as the last remnants of a once proud & enormous biological family, dating back over 250,000,000 (some say 400,000,000) years and whose rare blue-blood (calm down you jealous red-blooded european noblemen, a fact’s a fact) is today considered a medical miracle with properties which may, dear reader, one day save your very life.


a deep thirst welled up inside Benishoga, as if; blazing desert sun had parched tongue and throat, fiery desert sand had infiltrated each & every breath, glistening waters cascading off majestic glaciers were an isolated unknowable delight.  he did not yet suspect that his desiccated longing was a mere magical prelude to the manifestation of a dream.  he reached around his seat feeling for his tea jar, wrapped within a ball jar cozy which had been lovingly crocheted by Zukemono as a bon voyage gift.  securing the jar, he headed towards the front of the rail car and the old-fashioned thermos of steaming “kai shui” (open water) to add to the tea leaves in his jar.  as he lurched forward he suddenly felt quite hungry.  this mysterious hunger appeared as swiftly as had his overwhelming thirst and still, he remained unaware of the mirthfully magical powers at play in his longings.  he slowly poured the scalding water into his jar, fully appreciating his cousin’s cozy which permitted him to hold the jar with no discomfort, and made his way back to his seat.  he sank down with a welcome sigh & closed his eyes for a moment.  a vision of his favorite boyhood treat danced in his head as with sight gone, hunger, for the moment, ruled the roost.

as Benishoga opened his eyes, his mouth too opened wide with surprise.  on his small table, built in to the railcar, next to the open window, adventure had surely begun.  a gilded platter of brilliantly colored (and beloved) umeboshi (pickled plums) danced beside his freshly poured steaming tea.  slowly, a smile of loving recognition spread across his face.  with the dawn of the day came the dawn of the realization that Zukemono was making merry magic.  at that very moment, as if she sat beside him, he heard her whisper “happy birthday cousin” and felt her kiss his cheek.


his silent thank yous echoed off the glaciers, majestically rising above the dry arid desert, and rode the four winds to simultaneously arrive at Zukemono’s door.




It Burns So Good… Amazing Apple Pie

I had a bucket of apples in my kitchen.  They looked delish, well I thought so and so did a bevy of teensy little flies.  In the past I would have just gone on autopilot and gone into the zone, the peel, core, slice zone, then thrown the lot into a heavy pan with a dab of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice and badabing – applesauce.  I wanted something different for my apples this year.

My lunch today: Apple Butter, olive oil, salad greens and goat cheese.  It was amazing.  So I settled on apple butter and apple pie.  But more first on the apple butter.

The process is similar…  now for applesauce I leave the skins on cos I’m a little lazy and cos someone told me to keep my veggies and fruits as close to their original nature as possible for the full spectrum of nutritional benefits.  For the apple butter you simply must remove the skins.  It’s a texture thing.  So my apples denuded were thrown into my heavy cast iron skillet with a little more butter than i would normally put in applesauce…  I know they are going to cook a lot longer.  I put them on medium low heat, and kept an eye on them…  for a bit.  Well for a little bit till my daughter told me to come and check this cool thing out on the internets…  half of an hour later…  my husband comes home from work and I wake up from singing Beatles songs with Kailee and there’s a rather sweet and slightly burnt smell coming from the kitchen.  The bottom layer of my apples had burnt themselves onto the pan.  I gave them a good stir and tasted…  and what a surprise….  burnt caramel apples.  I let them cook for another 20 minutes or so put in a dash of sea salt for good measure and transferred the apples into the crock pot to simmer on low all night long.  What a treat…  perhaps I’m mellowing in my age, perhaps I’m assuming some grace but in the past i would have used the burned treat as an opportunity to self flagellate and give my naughty inner beatle maniac a serious dressing down.  Instead I allowed curiosity to get the better of insecurity and my result was I think the most complex and magnificent apple sauce ever which transformed into a complex, sweet and intense apple butter that I’ve put on pork chops, ice cream, buttered bread, cheese and salads so far.  I’m sure I’ll think of a couple more applications before the jar runs out.  Now of course I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to perfectly duplicate these results…  how can one encourage oneself to be forgetful?  I don’t know.  Personally my spirit animal is the goldfish so I have an advantage in that quarter but I wish you luck. 🙂

As for the apple pie I’d like simply to share a recipe with you.  This recipe is from the New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.  I love this cookbook as it breaks down each topic and gives useful information, cuts, varietals, pairings…  good stuff.  This recipe is for an apple pie with cheddar and mustard in the crust.  Salty sweet perfection.

Apple of her Eye Pie


3 cups of unbleached all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch of salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold

1/3 cup solid vegetable shortening, cold

3/4 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, grated

6 to 8 tablespoons ice water



8 tart apples, such as Granny Smith

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



1 teaspoon sugar

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Prepare the pastry dough: Combine the flour, sugar, mustard, and salt in a mixing bowl, and toss well to blend. Using a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips, cut in the butter and shortening until the mixture forms small clumps. Then add the cheese, and work it in until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle the water, 2 tablespoons at a time, over the mixture and toss with a fork until the mixture can be gathered into a ball. Knead it once or twice in the bowl and divide it into slightly unequal halves. Wrap both halves, and chill in the refrigerator for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350.

Prepare the filling: Core, halve, and peel the apples. Cut them into 1-inch chunks. Combine the apples and melted butter in a large bowl. Add the remaining filling ingredients, and toss until the apples are evenly coated.

Roll the smaller portion of chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a 12-inch circle. Transfer it to a 10-inch plate, and press it into the bottom and sides of the plate. Trim the dough leaving a 1-inch overhang. Reserve any excess dough.

Roll the larger portion of dough out to form a slightly larger circle.

Fill the pie plate with the apple mixture, mounding it slightly. Brush the edge of the bottom crust with water. Then transfer the top crust over the apples, tucking it slightly inside the rim. Trim off any excess, allowing a 1-inch overhang. Seal the edges of the crusts together with a fork and crimp decoratively. Trim away any remaining excess pastry.

Prepare the topping; Mix together the sugar and cinnamon. Prick the top crust with a fork in several places, and cut a small vent in the center. Brush the top lightly with water, and sprinkle it with the cinnamon sugar. If you like, cut out shapes, such as leaves or apples, from the dough trimmings and decorate the top crust with them.

Bake until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden, 1 1/4 hours. Serves 8.

A drink for Safia… and everyone

This drink is in honor of my cocktail hour-loving BFF and her birthday this week.  She is a vodka Martini girl and did turn my gin Martini rule into more of a preference.  Then I tasted the pickled ume plums from Zuké and knew that they were perfect cocktail garnish.  They would also be great in a salad dressing, but that can wait till after cocktail hour.

Safia Sake-tini

1.5 oz of good local Vodka **
1.5 oz of Sake
2 ume plums pickled by Zuké

If you are a stirrer go ahead and ignore the directions.

1)   Measure the Sake and Vodka into a cocktail shaker.  Add the ice.  Large cubes work better as chipped ice makes a slushee.  Shake them up until the spirits get really cold.

2)   Pour into a Martini glass.  Add the ume plums as garnish.  It may take more than two – they are so good I ate a jar of them while developing the recipe.

** For Vodka, I would choose something local and more mellow like Syntax Vodka from Greeley.  Their nice vibe perfectly compliments the Zuké lusciousness.

winter is a comin… Raw Salsa Recipe

The farmer’s market this weekend was a blustery affair, complete with spits of hail and rain. It was heartwarming to see all the hard core locovores, out in their wellies and wool hats, filling their market baskets with the harvest of the season. On Friday, when the air started to turn chilly, I was over at my friend Jen’s house. Jen is an amazing gardener and she was out harvesting like crazy, trying to beat the frost. My timing happened to be good- I came just as her tomatillo basket was overflowing and I got to take home some the goodness. I found this great recipe for raw salsa verde on Nourished Kitchen and adapted it just slightly to tame the spice for my kids.

  • 1 lb tomatillos (husked and halved)
  • 8 to 12 jalapeno or serrano peppers (seeded if desired and chopped)
  • 1 medium head of garlic (cloves, peeled and crushed)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp unrefined coarse sea salt
  • starter of choice, I like whey or kombucha
  1. Toss tomatillos, peppers, garlic, lime juice, salt and starter culture or fresh whey into a food processor or blender and process until smooth, adjusting for seasoning as necessary.
  2. Transfer the sauce to a mason jar or a vegetable fermenter  and allow to ferment at room temperature for three to five days before transferring to cold storage. Serve the salsa verde over grilled chicken or fish or as a garnish for tacos and burritos.