BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: ABBYE CHURCHILL

Abbye Churchill does it all. An inter-disciplinary artist who works with plants, textiles, food and community, she's a hero (ine) of ours for her deep and vast explorations of the transformative powers of beauty and aesthetics through her art practice. Most recently she's launched Rhea from her kitchen in Maine, a line of lovingly made and delicious condiments that have become overnight staples in our kitchen. "Lemon Crush" is an exquisite take on preserved lemons, and is pure sunshine in a bottle while her "Deep Black Garlic" is a modern interpretation of mole, minus the chocolate. Where art and food collide, you'll find Abbye. 

How do you start the day? 

Strong coffee with milk. Since we’ve been in Maine, that coffee has been accompanied by staring at the mountain out the window for awhile until I get myself figured out. Then, almost religiously, it’s walk the dogs, second coffee, and oatmeal with either boiled cider or brandied apple spread – both made from our apple tree this past fall. I’ve honestly never tasted apples like those before.  

What is your food philosophy?

It’s less of a food philosophy and more of an overall mission: to create experiences for people that bring them closer to their senses, to become more embodied and more in touch with the beauty and magic of the natural world. I have a pretty varied practice – from studio work, to writing and editing, to food, to curation and programming – but I think that’s the central idea behind it all. Food is one of the most direct ways to do that. I like that in this very usual activity that we take part in a few times a day there could be a moment of otherworldly pleasure. 

What's always in your fridge?

Experiments and leftovers.

What’s always in your pantry?

Jams from my mom. Too many kinds of vinegars, too many kinds of olive oils. The last big trip I went on before the pandemic was to Messinia and along the Peloponnese in Greece to learn about olive oil production and tasting. My friend Evangelia Koutsovoulou who creates Daphnis and Chloe herbs made this amazing list of recommendations of tiny taverna and olive vineyards. I’m obsessed with olive oil and at this point quite picky. Ditto vinegars. This summer I’ll be in high production mode creating a few different double fermented whole fruit, flower and herb vinegars for Rhea. I’m really fascinated by fermentation and the alchemy of flavor transformation so I’ve been sampling basically any vinegar I can get my hands on.  

What do you turn to, to make you feel your best: food and all the other practices?

In normal everyday life? Studio time, getting lost in music (hello, Oda), making dinner for my fiancé, walking my dogs and stretching. In peak-absolutely-the-best-ever-life? Jumping in a cool, freshwater lake in a Maine summer.  

Favorite kitchen tool?

Microplane. 

If we were to come to dinner, what would we have?

Candlelight, care and lots and lots of snack plates.  

What other practices do you have that feed your creativity?

Everything fuels everything else. Writing and editing helps me understand the world around me and be with other people and their ideas. My art practice helps me understand myself and the material world we live in. Cooking is just complete joy and connection.   

What are your top 5 products from CAP?

CAP is amazing for discovering new products. I found both Monastery’s Attar Floral Repair Concentrate and Liha Idan Oil through CAP and my life and skin have been irrevocably changed. My friend Christine Muhlke gave me The O’Clocks last year and they have been similarly life changing. But, actually, my favorite CAP product is your book! High Vibrational Beauty has been hugely influential – especially when I was editing Wilder magazine and writing A Wilder Life with my collaborator Celestine Maddy.  

 

Fennel Apple Salad with Brown Butter Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette and Grilled Halloumi

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 bulb fennel

1 T Rhea Liquid Sunshine

¼ cup good olive oil

1 small apple

2 lemons

¼ cup walnuts 

1 T high quality butter 

6 slices of Halloumi (about 2 ounces)

Red pepper to taste (I like the Silk Chili Flakes from Burlap & Barrel which is botanically identical to Aleppo)

Black Pepper to taste

  1. Butcher the fennel into three piles by removing the fronds, slicing the stems, and thinly slicing the bulb.
  2. Add the sliced stems, half the olive oil, zest from one lemon, juice from one lemon, and a few dashes of chili flakes. Mix together and set aside to marinate.
  3. Thinly slice the apple and combine it with the sliced fennel bulb. 
  4. Heat the walnuts in a dry pan to gently toast, stirring frequently. Remove the walnuts and set aside.
  5. Make brown butter by allowing your pat of butter to sizzle in the pan undisturbed for ~5 minutes or until the foam dissipates, the milk solids toast, and you smell toffee, caramel and hazelnuts. 
  6. Reduce the heat. Add the slices of halloumi and cook on each side until golden. 
  7. While the halloumi is cooking, combine in a small bowl the juice of the second lemon, the rest of the olive oil, Liquid Sunshine preserved lemon crush and whisk to form a vinaigrette.
  8. Plate the halloumi. 
  9. Scrape the remaining brown butter into your vinaigrette and whisk again to mix. Coat the apples and fennel bulb in the vinaigrette. Mix in the marinated fennel stem and walnuts.
  10. Plate the salad next to the halloumi and top with cracked pepper and a bit more chili flakes to taste.

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