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August 19, 2014

At Home with Diana Kennedy

Inside the Chili-Filled Kitchen Garden of Mexican Food's Grand Dame

“In 1976 I decided to create a centre for my learning and cooking,” says Diana Kennedy, the 91-year-old doyenne of Mexican cuisine and culture. “I bought some land and gradually built my ecological house.” Quinta Diana in Mexico’s Michoacán state has been the longtime home of the legendary food writer and culinary anthropologist—and following a private lunch and post-prandial stroll through her garden—is explored in today’s film by James Casey, founder of New York-based Swallow Magazine. Kennedy’s publishing career began in 1972 with the epicurean classic, The Cuisines of Mexico, most recently winning a James Beard Award for her 2010 journey into the heart of her adopted country’s eating, Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy. Nestled in the verdant hills above the small town of Zitácuaro, the fertile grounds of Kennedy’s home support an embarrassment of riches. Vast selections of meticulously sourced chilies are flanked by numerous edible plants, herbs and fruits, celebrating Mexico’s extreme biodiversity in miniature. “There’s a lot I want to do,” she says. “When I make this place a foundation it will keep my ideas of conservation and sustainability alive.” Plans are afoot to turn the property into the Diana Kennedy Center, a non-profit space housing Kennedy’s vast archives of literature, writing and collecting, a fitting tribute to a life’s work both edible and otherwise.

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Nordic Food Lab x Pestival

Six-Legged Delicacies Tantalize Foodies at London's Wellcome Collection

Moth mousse whipped with hazelnut milk, cricket broth with a side of grasshopper garum sauce and a liquorice-glazed ant stick reveal their unexpectedly delicious side in this still-life series by photographer Joss McKinley. Served up by cutting-edge culinary research institute Nordic Food Lab, the experimental menu is part of the Wellcome Collection's Who’s the Pest? season, a collaboration with a mobile arts “Pestival” in celebration of all things six-legged. Paving the way for a new ethical - and aesthetic - code for food, the Copenhagen-based kitchen-cum-laboratory is the brainchild of Noma super-chef René Redzepi, and sits in a houseboat across the harbor from his two Michelin-starred sensation. Born out of Redzepi’s quest to tap into more local and underused ingredients, it is a forum in which chefs meet scientists, chemists and academics on a shared mission to explore the 1,400 untapped wholesome crawling creatures that are edible to man. “Roasted grasshoppers are a great place to start,” says Ben Reade, head of research and development, of introducing the food's full-bodied natural flavors to more squeamish Western palates. "They're simple to make and are an excellent beer snack served with mayonnaise." It may not be long before we see them filtering into the kitchens of world-renowned restaurants, either, with Noma making waves by serving a bed of ants at their pop-up at London's Claridge’s last year. “I think in 2023," adds Reade, “we’ll be asking ourselves why we didn’t eat more insects in 2013.”

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Predictions Week 2013: Ingredients of Tomorrow

Three Leading Chefs Weigh in On the Foods Bound for Next Year’s Hottest Menus

Asked to nominate singular ingredients, culinary wizards Craig Thornton, Magnus Nilsson and Yotam Ottolenghi said they look forward to playing around in their kitchens with South American Surinam cherries, barley, and lemon geranium water, respectively. Thornton was recently the subject of a major profile in The New Yorker that cited his underground supper club, Wolvesmouth, as the hardest reservation to come by in L.A. Israeli-born, London-based restaurateur and cookbook sensation Yotam Ottolenghi has been at the center of the British food scene since opening his eponymous eatery in 2002. Swedish sensation Magnus Nilsson meanwhile rules the roost at Fäviken Magasinet, a rustic critics’ favorite situated on 24,000 acres of remote farmland in Järpen, 750 kilometers north of Stockholm. Here the gastro pioneers expand on their select future palate-pleasers. 

Craig Thornton: I’m always most excited about the new vegetables and fruits at the farms or farmers markets. Lately, I've been excited about Surinam cherries.

Yotam Ottolenghi: I am excited about the finds and rediscoveries I made on my recent journey around the Med: lemon geranium water and various types of flaked chilies such as urfa and aleppo. The geranium blossom is so fresh and wonderfully scented that I can see using it in many desserts and cakes but also in vegetable salads and white meat marinades. The chilies are smoky and mysterious and open up a whole range of options in both slow-cooked stews and freshly grilled vegetables and salsas.

Magnus Nilsson: Barley! We are going to brew our own beer!

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