Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Locavore's Dream Project

We spent most of today working on my son's 4th grade Social Studies Project. One of the options was to create a Governor's Ball menu using only California grown ingredients, and quite frankly, the hardest part about that is narrowing down the choices!

Here are the fruits of our labor. Locavores rejoice and Jamie Oliver look out! I must say that Owen is exhausted and has a LOT more respect for what I do in the kitchen!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Our year-old tomato in a pot...still producing!

Baby cute.

One of our heirloom.

Uh...our shaggy dog, hunting lizards....

Our tomatillo plant....blooming and rearing to go!

We're still getting carrots...they are so very sweet!

Crookneck squash...

Have you planted your summer garden yet?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

At Market...Lemon Basil

I've learned the hard way that lemon basil doesn't sit around and wait for you to decide what to do with her...especially on a particularly hot and sunny day. She doesn't care if you give her a cool spritz of water, or trim her stems, or give her some nice water to drink in a pretty little vase. Here today, gone tomorrow...more like here this morning, gone by this afternoon. She's a pretty little thing, but fussy too. Kind of like my daughter. I know about the sensitive types, believe me. Rumor has it, I used to be one myself. We sensitive types need a plan of action implemented before we can put up a fight....before we even know what hits us. That way, it's done before we've had time to wilt, and usually, we discover it wasn't that bad after all.

That's why, just moments after arriving home from the farmers' market, this herb met with a what seems like a rather violent end, ground up by sharp blades in my blender. But truth be told, it was just the beginning of a beautiful marriage--a marriage of olive oil and garlic, of asiago cheese and pine nuts, and of course the princess herself, lemon basil.

If you've ever caught a whiff of her heady perfume, you'll understand why she's named after the citrus fruit. A scent as bright as her color, she has the ability to transform any dish calling for fresh basil from fantastic to fantabulous. So it's no surprise that she makes ordinary pesto extraordinary. Of course you could eat it over pasta, or drizzle it over roasted asparagus, but I like to blend it with a bit of mayo and use it to spread on toasted bread to make one heck of a BLT sandwich. Bliss!

Lemon Basil Pesto

Lemon basil is a variety of basil that can be found at your farmers' market. If you cannot find it, and want to add a lemon essence to your pesto, add the zest from one lemon, not the juice, as the acidity will destroy the bright green color. Enjoy with over pasta, roasted vegetables, as a dip or as a sandwich spread.


1 bunch of lemon basil (about 2 loose cups)
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4-1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup asiago cheese
pinch of salt and pepper


1. Wash basil well to remove any grit and cut the leaves off the stems. Place in a blender or food processor along with the garlic.

2. Using the feed tube, slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whizzing the basil and garlic until you get a smooth puree.

3. Add the pine nuts and cheese and blitz until smooth.

4. Add the salt and pepper, taste for seasoning and serve immediately. If you have made this ahead, drizzle a thin layer of olive oil over the top to help maintain its bright green color, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Pesto also freezes well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

At Market...Green Tomatoes

I tend to think of green tomatoes as being an end-of-season treat, a treat borne out of necessity to rescue what's left of the crop from blight, or frost....or both. Kind of like the gardener's way of making lemons out of lemonade. But here in California, we see the occasional box of green tomatoes at our farmers' market year-round. Though I'm from the south...okay, I was born there, but moved shortly thereafter...I'd never tried them and really had no idea what I'd do with them if I brought them home. And frankly, I have no real desire to try the ubiquitous fried green tomatoes of my native Alabama. (I think the word "fried" is a big turn-off for me.)

But there they were on Sunday, a huge, huge box of them....and for only a dollar a pound. I couldn't resist and thought that perhaps I could whip up a batch of green tomato chutney. My aunt's GT chutney is apparently the stuff of legends, but as usual, I was too impatient to get her recipe and forged ahead with my own. How hard could it be?

I'm pleased to report that it's not hard at all. In fact, it's pretty darn easy. And I'm certain that my recipe has propelled me well on my way to becoming a my own mind, at least. Like my Tomato Chili Jam recipe, this one is sour and sweet, with a pleasant kick that burns the lips. I think it would be great scooped onto some lamb chops, but failing that, we spread it on some broken bits of pita chips I dug out of the pantry. And we licked it straight off of the spoon....and out of the pot. It will be fun devising even more ways to use this gold-in-a-jar. And Aunt Bettie, I'd still like to have your recipe too. I'll bet it's at least as good. (Probably even better...)

Green Tomato Chutney

Serve this sweet, sour and spicy chutney on a cheese plate, spread it on a sandwich, or spoon it over lamb. I'm sure you'll find many uses for this tantalizing treat.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
Yield: 2 pints


6 cups of chopped green tomatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1-2 teaspoons chili flakes
1 teaspoon salt


1. Place all ingredients in a large dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until chutney is thick and golden brown in color.

2. While chutney is simmering, wash canning jars in hot, soapy water and then place on a baking sheet in your oven (pre-heated to 280 degrees) for 20 minutes to sterilize them.

3. Bring a pasta cooker (with strainer) or canning pot filled with water to a boil.

4. Remove jars from oven, and using a canning funnel, fill to within 1/4 inch of the rim with the hot chutney. Wipe rims and lids with vodka, cover with lids, secure bands and process for 15 minutes in boiling water. Listen for the tell-tale "ping" to assure jars are sealed tightly. Any jars that are not properly sealed should be refrigerated and consumed within a couple of weeks.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Scenes from a Sunday Market

What's growin' in your neck of the woods?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ratatouille the Easy Way

Sometimes pictures say more than written words can. They can paint a clear picture of a perfectly simple meal, made in a hurry, by an exhausted person who'd spent her day unpacking and readjusting to life at home after a vacation. A person who is much too tired to write....almost too tired to eat. Almost.

Luckily, there were fresh young zucchini in the fridge, and some heirloom cherry tomatoes too. Add in the sprigs of thyme leftover from Easter dinner, and a package of Rao's fusilli, and you've got a meal made in heaven for the travel-weary....the same travel-weary person who somehow found enough energy to make it to the library to check out this book, in which she found the following lovely recipe.

Patricia's Speedy Ratatouille

This recipe, adapted from At Home in Provence by Patricia Wells, has all the flavor of a slow simmered ratatouille, but in much less time. The splash of red wine vinegar beautifully sharpens the flavors of this dish. We ate this warm over pasta, but it would also be delicious chilled or at room temperature spooned over some crisp French bread.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: serves 4


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (evoo)
1 1/2 pounds small zucchini, cut into thin slices
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, stems removed
sea salt to taste
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 pound of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons of good quality red wine vinegar


1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the evoo, zucchini and 1 teaspoon of thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini begins to brown along the edges, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the salt and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more, just until the garlic begins to get golden.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and vinegar and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until zucchini is very tender and ingredients have melded together a bit.

4. Top with remaining thyme leaves and taste for seasoning. Serve warm over pasta or at room temperature with a hunk of good bread.

Friday, April 9, 2010