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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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Bay Leaves

Californian Chef Leif Hedendal Forages a Micro-Seasonal Meal

San Francisco-based chef Leif Hedendal creates an exclusive meal for NOWNESS with ingredients foraged locally in the Bay Area, from Laird’s Landing in Point Reyes and Slide Ranch in West Marin. In the resulting photo series by Jake Stangel, the delicate petals and leaves of pennyroyal, lemon balm and bachelor buttons feature alongside the more robust flavors of lardo, abalone and oysters. Hedendal has always operated across both food and art worlds, exploring those points where the two converge. This August he is taking up residency on artist-run Rabbit Island, in Lake Superior, and in September he will be feeding those artists aboard Doug Aitken’s cross-country train project, Station to Station. The chef has staged in the kitchens of Noma and Chez Panisse, and in 2008 created Dinner Discussion, a bi-coastal dinner series where invitees have included designer Yves Behar, his partner, the art advisor, Sabrina Buell, and food-centric artist, Jennifer Rubell. "The next one will be hosted by Alice Waters, which is pretty special,” he says. "I want to put together a curatorial project where I commission new work by artists doing dinner-based work.” Shot at the J.B. Blunk House, with its majestic views of the Pt. Reyes seashore, our shoot looks at those flora that form the basis of Leif’s signature dishes. "These days it would definitely be wild flowers and medicinal herbs. You will be eating ingredients you have never heard of before.”

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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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