Grist for the Mill
Every season as we get the magazine ready for print, we home-test the recipes we include. It’s a festive time, often close to deadline, and even more festive at this time of year when the walnuts are fresh and we get to put Grandma’s nutcracker back to work as we did for this cover back in 2011.
The process starts when we get the recipes, from our contributors. We shop the ingredients, follow the instructions, edit so the instructions are clear and consistent, take photos, and voila, we get to eat the product.
We’re lucky here at Edible Shasta-Butte that our designer, Cheryl Koehler, likes to come up to Chico from her home in Berkeley to lay out the magazine pages and enjoy some country days. We’re lucky, since we enjoy her company and also because Cheryl is willing to eat just about anything, so there’s plenty of taste-testing along with recipe-testing. The crew’s gotta eat.
We’re also lucky that Sara Calvosa Olson steps up to test pretty much any and every recipe we ask her to try, and she also photographs them. Sometimes I vow to get a camera like hers, though I’m sure mine’s a case of a poor carpenter blaming her tools. Sara’s outnumbered in her house—three males to the one of her—and from what I hear, all three are like Cheryl, willing to eat everything, and in much greater quantities than Cheryl. Plus Sara loves to cook.
Three’s a charm—and our third stroke of luck in the recipe-testing department is staffer Erin Bianchi. I mean, her Instagram is @thefarmerandthecook. Point taken.
For this issue, I tested three recipes myself, the Meyer Lemon Shrub, Eggplant and Chevre Roulade, and Chocolate Walnut Torte. Left to my own devices, I’m more likely to treat a recipe as a series of suggestions to veer off from at will, depending on what I have in my pantry, but for the magazine, I’ll follow the recipe line by line, since I imagine some readers might want to do so as well. If I run into questions, I can get back to the cook/chef who offered the recipe and ask for clarification before I pass that along to you readers.
Speaking of the three recipes I tested, I can say that the Meyer Lemon Shrub is absolutely delicious using champagne vinegar and alfalfa honey. The Eggplant and Chevre Roulade offered me the happy pleasure of using the last of my garden eggplants (in mid-November!!) in a tasty and easy recipe with its surprisingly bright flavor, because of the cinnamon and currants in the sauce. The Chocolate Walnut Torte? Well, it is a labor of love, and if you sit and crack three cups of walnuts with your grandmother’s nutcracker, it gets the torte off to a very good start, because from the get-go, so much love is in hand.
The intense energy of summer is long gone, and we have learned to rely on winter as a time for us all to find center again.