This is, quite possibly, the coolest thing ever. Check it out:
Yes We Can is a community canning project. They can fruits and vegetables from local farmers during their peak season.
What an amazing way to savor the flavors of summer all year long, either by simply buying a box of canned apricot jam, pickles, or tomatoes, or by signing up for a workshare and participating in the processing and canning.
They can Apricot jam in June, cucumber pickles in July, and tomatoes in September.
The canning happens on Sundays and there is a party for you to pick up your (canned) goods the following Wednesday.
This is where I will be on Sunday, June 7th. I cannot wait!
Hail the urban food preserver and yea for the start of the jamming/ canning season!
P.S. Portland, don't you think this is worth starting??
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Did I mention that M.F.K. Fisher lived for years in St. Helena? Her house is still standing on Oak Avenue, one block shy of Main Street. I flew by it several times a day as I ran back and forth to get coffee, drop wedding gift bags, pick up small boxes of gorgeous chocolates, and change from dusty dungarees to wedding appropriate frocks.
Though I hardly had a moment to stop and breathe, much less stop and think about M.F.K. Fisher, it was fun to tread in her footsteps. I wonder what she would think of St. Helena. Now it is a charming tourist town with bumper to bumper traffic on Friday afternoons, and expensive boutiques that sell bright, fancy, resort clothes. It is hardly the low-key pastoral setting she gravitated towards so many years ago.
Still it was sort of fun to think of her getting her morning cup of joe at Napa Valley Roasting Company or enjoying a glass of wine at Cook before walking home to her little yellow house on Oak Avenue.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
I didn't take nearly as many photos as I wanted this weekend. It had something to do with the winding roads, my huge bag (the camera was always floating around at the bottom, never to be found), and the craziness associated with a four day wedding weekend extravaganza.
But here is one photo that proves the point -- California wine country is very very different than Oregon!
Yes, both are prone to grey, foggy mornings: cool sunrises that beg warm cups of coffee and scones from a local bakery that is open early, warm, and quiet. And yes, in both places the grey and fog (hopefully) burns off mid-day revealing a much warmer, much sunnier and brighter world. And oh yes, there is wine, and pastoral charm and lots and lots of vines. But for me, the similarities end there.
California wine country looks and feels different. It is bigger and more developed in every sense. Even the vineyards seem to be more expansive -- stretching longer distances, traversing bigger jumps in elevation and stretching over rounder and even more rolling hills.
I'm not going to say that one is better. After all, isn't it a matter of taste -- the difference between a big Cab and a softer, more austere Pinot Noir? But I will say this -- my time in St. Helena made me miss the slightly ramshackle, laid back and friendly Oregon wine world.
I am home now -- detoxing from red velvet wedding cake, too much coffee, and meals eaten on the fly. Yesterday we ate a late lunch and finished a bottle of 2004 Pavillion Blanc du Chateau Margaux white wine. I love drinking mid-day while moving slowly and staring out the window. It is one of life's great luxuries. We took naps, read on the couch. I let M make all three meals for me, from toast and coffee in the morning to homemade tortillas, pork, and fresh sliced avocados for lunch, to a simple salad for dinner.
Home again, home again. It is divine.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Please pop on over to one of my favorite websites, The Kitchn where I have a guest post up about the method and madness behind making the French treat Cannele.
If this is your first time visiting me, please take a look around, make yourself comfortable, and come back and see me again sometime soon. I won't be around for a few days -- I'm off to the St. Helena sunshine till Monday-- but I guarantee when I come back I'll have more things to share.
Till then... happy grazing!
I eat alone often, so often that in many ways this entire blog is a chronicle of what I eat, do, think about, when I am alone.
But for other people, eating alone is a rarity, such a rarity that there are entire books of essays and recipes published to address the idea of eating alone. The most recent is Deborah Madison's, What We Eat When We Eat Alone. I haven't read it yet, and I don't know if I will. After all, I know what I eat when I eat alone. I'm not sure how curious I am to know what others eat solo. Right now I'm a tad more interested in entertaining, gathering people together, and cooking up a storm.
Still, I found Madison's essay on the Powell's website intriguing. Eating in bed? Pouring margaritas over bread? Swilling scotch? These are not really things that I do -- alone, or in a crowd!
It's lunchtime and I am getting hungry, so I'm off to compose my second meal of the day that will be eaten alone. The first was noshed in the car -- granola bar, banana, coffee. The second will be a bit more refined: cold chicken, salad, beans, toast... I'm not quite sure yet, which I guess, for me, is the REAL joy of eating alone.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
I spent most of the weekend with the oven on. Not just on, but turned all the way up to 400 degrees. Did I mention it was in the 80s in San Francisco this weekend? Did I mention we live on the third floor and -- the rumors are true -- heat rises?
Why, you may ask, was the oven on for two straight days? I spent the weekend deeply involved in a kitchen caper that required working in fits and spurts: first turn on the stove, boil, strain, mix, then wait awhile. Then turn up the oven, make sure it is nice and hot. Then wait awhile. Then cool what came out of the oven and wait some more. Then start the whole thing all over again.
It made little sense to turn the oven off and on, especially since it was crucial for the oven to be very hot and tuned to exactly the right temperature. So as I was waiting, having swept the floors and emptied the garbage and wandered around a bit, I decided to make granola.
I've shared my favorite granola recipe before. This granola recipe is my mom's and it is even easier. No melting or stirring pots on the stove, just mix, dump, and bake. The granola is low-fat, crispy, and golden colored. Seeing as it is spring, this batch was spiced up with the addition of almonds and chopped dried apricots, though any fruit and nut combo will do. It looks pretty yummy and I am excited to pack some with me as I leave on Thursday for a multi-day road trip/work adventure.
Make some for yourself. You'll like it, I promise!
5 cups old fashioned oats
2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup honey
2 tbl. canola oil
1/4 cup brown sugar (optional, if you leave it out consider adding a tablespoon or two of maple syrup or maple-agave syrup)
1 Tbl molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla (Elicit confession: I reached for the wrong bottle and made this batch of granola with rum! Oh my! It is pretty tasty...)
Bake at 400 degrees on a large, preferably dark cookie sheet for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring often. Add 3/4 cup dried fruit of your choice.
Stores well in airtight container.
Monday, May 18, 2009
This salad is a riff on a nearly perfect salad I had at Union Square Grill in New York. Theirs was a salad of perfectly sliced Cara Cara oranges and thin rounds of fennel, translucent strips of ricotta salata, a smattering of pine nuts, torn mint (not too much!) and a very light vinaigrette. It was so good I practically licked the plate. I did, in fact, take a piece of french bread and sop up every last drip of the vinaigrette as I continued to sip at my white wine.
Yes, it was February, yes there was a massive storm coming, but for me, it was spring time and citrus. It was a food moment.
I haven't done a very good job of re-creating the recipe, partly because I've been scared that it wouldn't live up to the shining, orange coated memory in my head. But this salad has been a very good stab at combining the perfect tastes of citrus and fennel and greens.
If you are a light eater, it might be enough for a meal, or else it is a beautiful accompaniment to almost anything: fish, meat, grains. It is, however, imperative to have near perfect citrus, as lovely chunks of orange scattered across the greens are part of what make this salad so seasonal and divine.
Fennel, Orange & Nut Salad
1 tablespoon butter
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, outer layer and fronds removed, thinly sliced
2 large oranges, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted nuts (pine nuts or pecans work nicely)
1/2 cup crumbled cheese (I like ricott or ricotta salata)
6 to 8 cups greens
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
fresh ground pepper and salt
In a medium skillet, heat butter. Saute onion in butter for 10 minutes over low hear. Cool. Place fennel, orange slices, nuts, cheese, and onions in a large bowl. Add mixed greens and toss to combine.
Make dressing by whisking together all ingredients until emulsified. Dress lightly and serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
This salad is based on a recipe from one of my "secret weapon cookbooks": Small Plates, Appetizers as Meals, by Marguerite Marceau Henderson.
Friday, May 15, 2009
I made this dish a few weeks ago when a friend was in town. I have some leftover ricotta in the fridge and I think I will make it again tonight. This week has been long and busy, and there's just something about pasta on a Friday night that sounds comforting, don't you think?
This pasta is nice because it is chock full of veggies (you could even add in fresh peas or favas), and the ricotta and lemon make it light and seasonal and very very tasty.
Three cheers for the weekend!
Orecchiette with Asparagus, Ricotta, and Prosciutto
1 pound dried orecchiette pasta
2 Tbl. Olive oil
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ to ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup ricotta cheese
Grated zest of one lemon
3 ounces prosciutto, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta for about ten minutes, or until al dente.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a deep large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the asparagus and sauté, tossing with tongs, for about three minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook one minute, making sure the garlic does not burn. Lower the heat and add the broth, ricotta, lemon zest, and prosciutto. Stir to combine well. Season with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the ricotta mix. If it is too dry add a bit of the pasta water to moisten (I added olive oil instead, just a tiny bit). Toss to combine. Serve in shallow pasta bowls and pass parmesan cheese, if desired.
I added favas, peeling them and then blanching them before adding them in with the asparagus to get them nice and hot and let all the flavors get yummy!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Because some days I am much less obsessed with what's for breakfast-lunch-snack-dinner and much more obsessed with fashion: new clothes for spring, what to wear to the super fancy wedding I'm attending next week, and snazzy socks, a gift from a friend who is the ultimate fashionista.
I wore these fancy long socks yesterday peeking our of wide leg blue jeans. I felt very French, and kind of like I was carrying around a little secret all day. I think they are kind of like lingerie for the toes -- a little pick-me-up for special days.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Our backyard is a bit of a Northern California jungle. It is steep and sloped and there are funky terraced parts, weird brick walls, and lots of over-grown plants. When I look outside I see a mess. It doesn't look like the neat, flat, green backyard I grew up with in Salt Lake City. When M. looks in the back yard he sees a Trader Joe's tiny rosemary bush he planted that grew and bloomed, a huge lavender plant, tiny spouts of chard that grow (despite the fact we don't care for them nearly enough), a tiny fig tree that produces only green figs, an avocado tree that never blooms, and lovely, tall calla lilies. He also sees green garlic.
We have enjoyed green garlic all spring. M. pureed it and stirred it into rice, made a green sauce to scoop over white fish, and even chopped up the tiny white blossoms and used them in a divine, faintly garlicky vinaigrette. We were in love with green garlic.
So it seemed like a good idea to suggest a green garlic harvest. The pureed green garlic could easily be frozen and put into the freezer for future use. It seemed like a brilliant plan. M. rolled his eyes a bit when I suggested it, but was happy to comply. He went out to work in the yard, and I stayed in, reading the Sunday New York Times, staring out the window, and drinking coffee. Then I got in the shower.
When I got out, I noticed there was a a small trail of dirt that dribbled from the front door to the kitchen sink. And what was in the kitchen sink and piled on the counter tops of the kitchen? Piles and piles of green garlic.
"This isn't even all of it," he said, bringing in another armful. I watched as small clumps of dirt and bugs settled on the clean floor and counter tops. Was this really my idea?
But now it was too late to look back. We picked through the green garlic, washed it, and left it to dry in batches on the dish rack. Then M. cooked it down (as you would with any green) and pureed it. I filled bag after bag and popped them all neatly in the freezer.
We've used some of it, but the spring time produce is starting to be so abundant there is really no need. But later in the year I think we'll welcome something dainty and green and fresh to remind us of our first spring in San Francisco.
It is also an excellent reminder for us city folk to look a little more carefully at our green environment. Since discovering green garlic I have seen it everywhere: in the Mission, poking out of small plots of ground that don't look as if they could produce anything at all. Of course, I probably wouldn't want to eat green garlic picked from a curbside on Valencia Street, but the point is, it is possible to be an urban harvester.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I left oh-so-early on Friday to begin my Alaska Airlines trek to Prosser, Washington where a dear friend lives. The weekend was a dream: good food and wine, lots of laughter, and a most complete tour of the greater Prosser area. Highlights included FIESTA Foods -- an amazing Mexican Market, Spicy Chicken Pollo Asada and Gorditas at Garcia's -- a very cool and funky Mexican joint, and a late afternoon of spirited board games.
The city is fun, but the country life is pretty amazing too!
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
There have been two things I have been trying to do for the past couple of weeks: cut out my afternoon cup of joe, and stop paying for coffee when I could be making coffee at home. These things come in addition to other "good for me goals" like going to yoga, sitting up straight while I am at the computer, and doing more sit-ups. Is it any wonder I have moved the coffee tasks to the top of the list?
I have done pretty well on both of these tasks, but occasionally the craving for coffee hits. On Monday morning I was at home writing and really wanted another cup of coffee. I wanted it so badly I was convinced an extra cup would make me work better and harder for the next couple of hours -- my productivity was going to soar through the roof and out into the Castro. So I made that cup of coffee, sat down, took a few sips, and promptly got jittery. Into the fridge the cup of coffee went. (Even if you don't want it, tossing a perfectly good cup of coffee is pretty much a no-go in my opinion. I get that from my father.)
Cut to today. I'm heading into a serious four hour work session. I must be productive. I feel my energy waning and remember the cold coffee in the fridge. It is only half a cup -- not nearly enough to keep me up tonight (I hope). The coffee is poured into a pretty glass, topped with cold milk, and on a whim, a spoonful of Trader Joe's Maple Agave Syrup -- because if it is afternoon and I need caffeine I also need sugar.
This could be my new favorite treat: sweet and cold, a little perky pick me up. Which leads me back to the Trader Joe's Maple Agave Syrup. I have become quite a fan in the past few weeks. I have used it (a blend of maple syrup and agave syrup that is less expensive than the real maple stuff) to sweeten tea, granola, yogurt, and now, coffee.
I don't mean to be a product hawker, but seriously, this stuff could change your life -- I am just hoping it doesn't lure me back into my two a day habit.
P.S. Thanks to The Kitchn site for this fab photo, saving me (and the book) from the minutes I would have spent taking a photo of my Maple Agave Syrup bottle. The Kitchn talked up the syrup a few weeks ago. I was already a fan. Who knew I was at the fore of Trader Joe's trends?
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
I just finished breakfast alone. It is gray and misty and rainy outside. Very much a curl up and read or write day not a go to work day. But it is a work day form me (I do have to do something besides writing the book, you know).
My breakfast has to be good and pretty hearty. This morning I ate a big bowl of plain yogurt and a Banana Blueberry Cornmeal Muffin. I am in love with these muffins. They are not too sweet, due to the fact that they have no processed sugar -- only one tablespoon of honey. They taste good, like real food, and healthy.
One of these mornings I will get tired of them, but for now I am in love.
Banana Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
From Martha Stewart Living
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal, ideally stone ground
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus two tablespoons all purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups mashed bananas (about three ripe bananas)
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 tablespoon brown rice syrup or honey (I used honey)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 and 1/2 teaspoon sanding sugar
Preheat oven to 375. Line a standard (12 cup) muffin tin with paper liners. Coat liners with cooking spray.
Whisk together cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 cup flour. In a large bowl, stir together bananas, buttermilk, rice syrup or honey, lemon juice, egg and vanilla. Fold cornmeal mixture into banana mixture just until combined. Toss blueberries with remaining 2 teaspoons flour, and gently fold into batter.
Spoon batter into prepared tin, filling each muffin cup to the brim. Sprinkle each muffin with a little sanding sugar (for sparkle!) Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in a pan on a wire rack.
I think this would also be an excellent base for other additions: banana raspberry muffins, banana dried cherry muffins, etc. Enjoy!
Monday, May 04, 2009
I made these tiny coconut shortbread cookies to serve as dessert on Saturday night. They are a little sweet, a little salty, and a whole lotta coconutty. Plus they are very easy to make and, since they are a slice and bake cookie, I saved some of the dough to keep in the freezer for future dessert emergencies. I anticipate a dessert emergency to be coming soon...
Tiny Coconut Cookies
1/2 cup coconut (I used sweetened)
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 1/3 cup flour
Toast coconut in toaster or regular oven until lightly browned -- watch carefully! Once the coconut is toasted it only takes moments for it to burn. It took about 8 minutes for my coconut to toast. Let cool and then grind in food processor or blender until coarsely ground.
Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl for 2 minutes. Mix in salt and vanilla. Beat in flour in two additions and then stir in coconut. Gather dough together and fashion into two logs (it will be very sticky!) Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least an hour.
Line baking sheet with parchment. Slice cookies consistently and place on baking sheet, leaving extra room between cookies as they will spread.
Bake cookies at 325 degrees until golden, about 20 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for ten minutes then remove to wire rack.
Friday, May 01, 2009
The grocery store was closed today. Closed! Not all of them, of course, just the one I wanted to go to: Rainbow Grocery. I had a long list of things I needed: bulk nuts and chocolate, kefir and buttermilk, asparagus, and fennel, and greens.
But Rainbow was closed for May Day, also known as International Workers' Day. My peace and health loving grocery store co-op dared to close the first day of May to celebrate the social and economic achievements of the labor movement.
I could have gone to another grocery store. But instead I decided to wait it out and head to the grocery store tomorrow morning along with the dozens of others that were shut out today. I am sure there will be lines and crowds and complete aggravation. But Rainbow, its bulk food bins, and local and organic produce are worth waiting for. Plus, how can I not support workers' rights?
So I cooked from the pantry and made Olive, Apricot, and Pistachio Couscous to go along side the last of the leafy greens I had hiding in the fridge. It was a lovely light meal, though it was far more springy than the weather -- it poured nearly all afternoon.
Olive, Apricot and Pistachio Couscous
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
1 and 1/4 cups water or stock
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 dried apricots, chopped
6 tablespoons coarsely chopped green olives
1 cup couscous
4 tablespoons shelled pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for finishing
Salt and fresh pepper
Bring water, salt, and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add apricots, olives, and couscous, swirling pan to submerge ingredients. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for five minutes. Stir with a fork, then fold in pistachios and lemon juice. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.