Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Dear friends, I implore you to get to your farmers' market this week...that is, if you have one open near you, especially if you live in southern California. Today's market was bursting with greens, not the thick winter kind, but the fresh, light, tender spring kind. The greens that require only a dunk in hot water to cook through. The greens that can be eaten raw or sauteed gently in butter. I was more than thrilled to see my favorite farmers back again this week. They had nothing to sell in the last few weeks, which explained their absence, but today their stand was overflowing with beautiful and unusual produce. The variety was absolutely astounding and as I stood there, inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of the herbs piled high on the table, I must admit that I became a bit giddy and a bit greedy. I grabbed fistfuls of aromatic herbs and baby greens, stuffing my two bags full to the top. I was surprised when they totaled it up, I only owed them $12.
These pea shoots look too beautiful to eat, don't they? I love the coiled tendrils and dainty white flowers. But they will make for a fantastic quick stir fry, or even taste wonderful on top of a lightly dressed green salad....not a horrible way to meet one's maker, I suppose...
I have no idea what this is, but I thought it had the most exquisite coloring. I love the pink and green...so pretty, so preppy. Of course I asked the name, and a petite, visor-clad, older Asian lady standing nearby told me the Chinese name for it, because that's the only name she knew...and since my Chinese is a bit rusty (I wish) I cannot for the life of me remember what she said. She shared that it is in the spinach family, but slightly more bitter, and is a quick and healthy dinner when stir-fried. As it cooks, it releases a pink juice that she used to use, along with some chicken stock, to cook her children's tofu. Pink tofu was the only kind they would eat. "It wasn't boring that way," she said.
And would you just look at these herbs? There is dill, cilantro with root attached, and BASIL. Oh basil, how I have missed you! I mentioned that the root is still on the cilantro because it is so difficult to find it that way. But the root is edible too, and packs quite a punch when it comes to flavor. It can be ground up and used in sauces or marinades, and if you like cilantro as much as I do, you will be surprised at how much more cilantro-ish something can taste. In addition to all of these beautiful things, I bought lemongrass, ginger, snap peas, apples (yes! available 'til May), limes, strawberries, asparagus and bok choy. I'm sensing Thai food ahead...I'll share a recipe with you as soon as I figure it out.
Another quick thing before I go...do you ever read the section in some magazines where they share funny overheard conversations? The farmers' market it a great place to eavesdrop. For example today I heard...
"Mommy, can we please, please, please buy this?"
"NO! Stop asking me! You won't eat it!"
The girls were frantically pointing at a pile of asparagus. Now that's what I call an opportunity lost. Such a shame. Sigh.
Well, I'm off to look through my cookbooks, and sit by our warm and crackling fire, which is probably the last one of the season. I hope you all have time for a sit-down, comforting Sunday supper with your friends or family.
I try to do due diligence to the news, the worrisome stuff, conveniently plastered all over the front pages. Today's news? Oakland Mourns 3 Slain Officers (a fourth fights for his life) and Some Rich Districts Get Richer As Aid Is Rushed to Schools. Or how about this one: U.S. Strikes Stagger Al Qaeda...wait a second, I think that might actually be GOOD news? What? On the front page of the paper? But mostly I scan those articles quickly, looking for something light, fluffy, and preferably mouth watering. In today's NY Times Magazine, there is a piece about fish tacos....that look delicious. And another, more serious, but equally interesting and newsworthy article is about how the "Food Revolution" is in season. Those are much more my speed. I don't want to be completely ignorant of the news of the day, but too much is...well, just too much. We need to live, and even enjoy that living too. Yes?
Well, I'm headed out to the farmers' market, another favorite Sunday activity. I am a bit reluctant to go, what with the rain and all, but the farmers have made an effort to be there, so I should too. They also have mouths to feed, and feed those mouths by feeding mine. It is a food chain of sorts--a circular one. And one that I am so very happy to be a part of.
Have a beautiful day...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Luckily, here in California, we have a rice grower that is far above the rest when it comes to sustainable farming. According to their website, "Lundberg Family Farms is a leader in producing and marketing high quality organic and eco-farmed rice products in a sustainable and beneficial manner." They have a fantastic variety of rices including brown, white, jasmine, basmati, red, black and wild that are available at specialty grocers like Whole Foods and Bristol Farms.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Okay, people. Remember how I said I was going to try to make a martini out of the foam I skimmed off the strawberry jam? Well I did. And it is fabulous. And strong. And not too sweet, which is good, because as everyone knows, sweet drinks are for sissies (kidding...I just don't care for them). Let's just say that if you go through the hard work of making the jam (it really isn't that hard, but it does require a bit of effort...), you deserve a cook's treat, like the extra piece of bacon you nibble on when making a spinach salad (or the skin off the turkey). We need to reward ourselves for a job well done. Happy Friday everyone! Have a fantastic weekend.
After making jam, reserve the syrupy foam and set aside. Refrigerate until 5 o'clock exactly. At the appointed time, remove from fridge and place 2 T of the strawberry syrup and 2 ounces of your favorite quality vodka in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice. Using the same lemon, rub the edge of your martini glass. Dip the wet edge of the glass into some sugar to make a nice sweet rim. Place lid on shaker and shake the vodka and strawberry mixture vigorously. Pour into glass. Drink immediately...Skoal!
There is nothing more heavenly than fresh strawberry jam spooned over a cream biscuit. When I was a little girl, strawberry jam was my favorite...and I suppose it still is. Chunky with ruby-red fruit and glistening in the jam pot, it looks almost as beautiful as it tastes. I have made strawberry jam several different ways, including outside on a thin sheet pan covered by a screen. But perhaps the easiest and quickest way is to make it thus; smash some strawberries together with a bit of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, simmer for a bit, then put it in a jar to refrigerate. It's so simple even a child could manage it. And if you make a smallish batch, you won't need to process the jam because it will be eaten up before it goes bad, especially if you serve it with these heavenly biscuits. It would also taste fantastic swirled into oatmeal or yogurt, over toast, or in a trifle. Yum.
makes 1 pint
2 pints of ripe strawberries
1/2 C sugar
1 T lemon juice
Hull strawberries and put in a heavy bottomed pot. Pour over about 1/2 C sugar and using your hands (or a potato masher), break them apart, making the pieces as small as you like (I like to leave some large chunks). Add lemon juice and turn on heat to medium high. Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat to low and skim foam about every 5 minutes or so. (By the way, if you save the syrupy foam, it tastes amazing poured over some vanilla ice cream...but I think I might mix it with vodka and make a strawberry martini later...). It should take about 20-30 minutes for your jam to be soft set and will congeal more as it cools. You will know when it is ready because it will spit and sputter, and when you stir, you should begin to see the bottom of the pot. Pour into a sterile pint sized jar (you can boil it for 3 minutes or take it out of a hot dishwasher). Top with lid and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Jam should last about 3 weeks in the fridge, but I'd be willing to bet you'll use it up long before then.
James Beard's Cream Biscuits
makes 1 dozen
2 C flour
1 t salt
1 T baking powder
2 t sugar
1-1 1/2 C heavy cream
6 T butter, melted
sugar for sprinkling (if desired)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar in a mixing bowl. Slowly add one cup of the cream, stirring with a fork. Gather the dough together. It should feel soft and tender, but if it is still a bit shaggy, add more cream until it holds together but is not sticky. Place dough on a lightly floured board and knead for one minute. Pat dough into a square that is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut 12 equal sized squares and dip each in the melted butter to coat. Place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle tops with additional sugar if desired and bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve hot or cool to room temperature if using for a berry shortcake.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Getting back to my garden...my apple trees are also leafing out. I planted their spindly bare roots just last month, and already they are springing into action. I have resisted planting fruit trees of any sort, because the house we live in was supposed to be our little starter house...and it takes so long for fruit trees to reach maturation and bear good fruit, so it seemed like a waste. But here we are, now eight years later. I keep telling myself that we are going to get the heck out of dodge, but with the housing market plunging into the toilet, it seems like we might be here for awhile. So I planted 2 lovely apple trees, and one nectarine tree...all of them "super mini dwarfs" which means that they should top out at five feet. I was also supposed to top out at five feet, according to some orthodontic x-rays, but I reached five foot five, so I am optimistic that these little beauties might also achieve a decent height. I am also optimistic that the future owners of this house will be here to enjoy them and not me. It's like the Murphy's Law of fruit trees, once you make a long term plan (like committing to fruit trees), you have to (get to) move! We'll see.
Like the daffodils in my garden, I saw many other signs of spring at the farmers market this morning, most notably asparagus. I bought a bunch, and grilled it tonight alongside some chicken. You really must try asparagus this way. We grill it for just a few minutes so it is still crisp, but tender too, with the tiniest hint of smokiness. Of course, if you live somewhere where you aren't quite ready to uncover the grill, you can roast it in a hot oven (475 degrees for about 10 minutes) with much the same effect. Before you cook it, toss it in a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.
Grilled Coconut Chicken