Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Return of Zucchini

Greetings, long lost friends! Where do the months go?

Suddenly, it's summer again. I'm pretty sure I say that every summer but every year it seems that summer has a way of sneaking up on me. Kind of like these squash. You plop the starts into the ground, splash a bit of water, turn your attention elsewhere for a short period of time, and boom, the squash have taken over. Growing faster & more plentiful than we can eat them. But oh, do we eat them. And share them. One of my favorite ways of enjoying fresh zucchini is to shave it thin and eat it raw in a salad, something like this. That recipe doesn't call for it, but it's also good with a sprinkling of arugula and shaved parmesan. And of course, squash are always a good addition to pasta!

And when we weren't looking, when we weren't even paying much attention to the garden back in the winter & spring, somehow, this purple cabbage just sprung up of its own accord. The magic of the garden never fails to amaze and inspire me!

Lastly, I have to post this guide for a salad that we ate a lot of in the spring. I don't really have a recipe because I've mostly improvised, but it's very adaptable to the season and to whatever ingredients you have on hand. It starts with your favorite grain. Mostly I've used cooked quinoa. Mix a couple cups of cooked, cooled grain with a handful of sliced radishes, 1 or 2 thinly sliced scallions and one or two carrots, grated. When snap peas were in season, I'd take a few handfuls of those, and steam them for 3 to 4 minutes just to slightly cook them, and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Then dry them well and slice them into 1/2 inch pieces, not worrying if the peas pop out of the pods - just wipe the whole mess into the bowl with the quinoa & other vegetables, and dress with your favorite vinaigrette and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

Pretty soon it will be time for tomatoes, I can hardly wait! Until then, be well, friends!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fall is upon us, and already I am obsessively roasting everything in sight! But before the real cold (and hopefully, RAINY!!) weather sets in and summer becomes but a distant memory, here are a few random scenes from my life in the last month or two, in no particular order.

Those who know me have heard me complain about my commute more than any of us care to recall. And yep, it's brutal. But it's nice to stop and appreciate the surroundings once I finally get there. I took these photos on a lunchtime walk a few weeks ago. A good reminder to get out, stretch the legs, breathe the air, breathe in the color blue!

I hardly posted any garden photos this year! Our garden was modest and not very prolific, but we did get a handful of nice squash, peppers and tomatoes. This was the very last bounty of cherry tomatoes getting ready to be slow roasted and eventually frozen so we can keep enjoying them in soup, sauces and whatever else suits our fancy for months to come...

The adventures in pie baking have continued, with peach and apple pie. Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours continues to deliver, delight and inspire.

I used Dorie's recipe for the crust both times. I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe for peach pie for the filling on the one above, and Dorie's apple pie filling on this next one. Both received rave reviews!

Oh, and did I mention? I started my first class this week studying holistic nutrition at Bauman College in Berkeley! I don't expect to stop baking pies any time soon and I can't quite imagine ending my love affair with wine and cheese! But, I'm excited to learn more about the healing powers of food, and how we can all use it to strengthen and sustain ourselves. I'm sure I'll have much more to report on that topic over the next 18 months, so stay tuned, and happy Fall to one and all!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Pie Years

Confession:  I've never been all that swoony about pie.  It's kind of hard to admit it, cause pie is so all American, so comforting to so many. It's sweet, it's savory, it's breakfast, it's dinner, it's coffee's best friend!  It's the hit of the party, the belle of the ball! Who says no to pie??

I've gotta say I'm pretty sweet on cobbler and crisp and crumble and even galette.  But somehow, I'm that person who doesn't go bonkers for pie.  And maybe that's just as well, because if I'm going to be baking pie all the time, I probably shouldn't be eating it, cause I'd rather save room for butter and bacon and ice cream and wine. And cheese. Usually not all at once but... as middle age encroaches, we've gotta choose our poisons!

And yes, I did just allude to the fact that I'm going to be baking pie all the time. Which is not exactly true.  At least not yet. So far, I've baked 2 (fresh blueberry) pies over the course of 3 weeks.  Which is a lot for me, and more pie than I've baked in years.  And I aim to bake more -  much much more -  until I finally figure out how to untangle the mystery that is pastry dough.  So many recipes!  So many fats to choose from: butter, shortening, oil, lard!  To add a bit of vodka or vinegar, or not?  To cut the fat into the flour by hand, or by pastry cutter, or by food processor?  HOW WILL WE EVER FIND THE TIME TO EXPLORE  ALL THE DIFFERENT PATHS TO GET US TO THE PERFECT PIE??  And why do I even want to explore it, when I don't even really want to eat the stuff?

I guess it comes back to the fact that (almost) EVERYONE LOVES PIE!!  And I love to comfort people with food. And ok, there's a bit of vanity in there too, cause if pie is the hit of the party and you show up with pie, well then I guess you're the hit of the party too! "You" being me, that is. Yes, it's shallow!  Yes, it exposes my insecurities!  But I don't care!  I'm obsessed with pie. It's cheaper than therapy, and if it makes me feel better  to bake it and it makes you feel better to eat it, then everybody wins, right?

But the only way to really get good, or even halfway good at it is to do it.  Again and again and again.  So if you need me, I'll just be over here cutting the fat into the flour, rolling out the dough, dicing the fruit and hoping for the best. 

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Cedar Plank Salmon

Sometimes the act of cooking takes me back to being in my element, in my body. Fills me with lightness and nourishment and appreciation.  Brings me back to myself. Tonight was one of those nights.  I have been gone for days and nights on end. A succession of days and nights piled onto one another mostly due to poor planning on my part, offering little to no opportunity to cook and eat healthy.

Besides just being overloaded schedule wise, I've been mourning the loss of my dad, who left this earth and all who loved him on April 29th. That might have something to do with the way my entire being has felt like a ton of bricks that I struggle to drag around.  And there is a lot more I want to say about this, but for now, suffice it to say that grief has been my constant companion, and likely will be for quite some time to come.

In the meantime, life has a way of going on  - and in the midst of the chaos, some of the days and nights have been fun, filled with music and friends and family and sweet memories that I will always cherish.

And, some of it has just been drudgery.  Get up. Drag self to work. Zombie my way through the day.  Drag self to the next place.  Try to be present. Fail. Stagger home, defeated, already exhausted just thinking about the next day and the day after that. Consider therapy. Dream of cooking and eating an amazing meal. Or even just a decent one.

Tonight I finally got to cook that meal.  That amazing meal. Local wild salmon in season, cooked on the cedar plank that had been soaked in white wine. Barley pilaf with grilled portobello mushrooms and eggplant, and radishes with salt and olive oil. It was simple.  It was dynamite. It was therapy. It was everything I dreamed it would be.

It could have been a total disaster, as I'd only once cooked with the cedar plank before, and didn't really know what I was doing.  But some combination of intuition, research and dumb luck conspired to make everything right, and that's exactly how I felt when I ate this meal with my honey in our back yard on a warm summer evening, surrounded by our garden that is growing wildly.  And so I had to stop and give thanks.


Cedar Plank Salmon

This is more of a guide than a recipe.  Soak your cedar plank in white wine for several hours.

Take a piece of super fresh, wild, in season salmon.  You'll know it's super fresh because it won't smell or taste fishy and it will be vibrant in color. Drizzle it with olive oil, season well with salt and pepper, and drape a few thin slices of lemon across the top. Resist the urge to add more in the way of spices and sauces - if the salmon is super fresh, you won't need or want much more.

Heat your grill to medium heat.  Place the plank with the salmon on it on the top rack, so it is not directly over the heat.  Close the lid and cook for approximately 20-30 minutes.  The wine soaked cedar will steam and smoke and infuse the salmon with a wonderful, light sweetness.  And who among us couldn't use more light sweetness in their lives?  Certainly not me.

Don't flip it or anything.  And don't mess around with it too much.  Just let the steam and smoke and flames do their thing.  We had a piece that was about 1 pound, and it cooked this way for a little over 20 minutes.  And the salmon was perfectly tender and moist inside, and beautifully caramelized and roasted on the outside.

You could be content with only this, or you could do as we did, and grill some portobello mushrooms and eggplant and toss with some cooked barley, and served it all up with diced radishes with salt and olive oil, and call it dinner.  Rest a little easier this night, and be hopeful for a lighter tomorrow.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Winter Turns to Spring

Here we are on the cusp of another season.  I guess officially, it *is* another season, another season since I last posted anything here, to be sure.

Slowly but surely, the days are getting longer. The garden is getting ready to grow good things, even if the skies seem to be confused.  The worms are wriggling around in the compost pile, the flowers are blooming and I'm getting ready - scheming, plotting, dreaming, pulling weeds, turning soil, planting seeds.

Well actually, the seeds haven't been planted yet.  And when they do, they might actually be starts that someone else grew from seeds, but no matter.

Even though the fence is falling down and the whole world is getting pummeled, even though I don't feel like anything is certain these days, I'm certain that one way or another, that garden *is* going to grow.

And just the promise of it is carrying me through.  No photos, no recipes, just the promise of spring.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Citrus Season

Happy 2014, friends!

There is so much I want to share with you, like this beautiful bowl of citrus.  Some of it, from our very own garden!  The lime tree that our friend Phillip Greenlief gave us as a wedding gift has begun to produce fruit.  Not all the limes in the above picture are from our tree, but a few of them are, as are the lemons, glorious meyer lemons!

Citrus is one of the things I love about winter, and in my rare moments of time recently, I've been enjoying creating all manner of citrus-laden treats:  lemon confit, fennel lemon relish, preserved lemons, lime syrup to use in lime spritzers, and citrus salad with tarragon.

The lime syrup and the fennel lemon relish recipes both come from the new Alice Waters book, The Art of Simple Food II.  If the second book is anything like the first, I know that I'll be referring to it often. The fennel lemon relish is simple and refreshing, and bursting with flavor.  And the lime syrup is fabulous mixed with sparkling water, and I'm betting it would also be very good mixed with a little splash of vodka!

Still looking forward to making limoncello, lemon sorbet and lemon cream.  Hopefully I'll be able to find the time before winter turns to spring.

Until next time, wishing you fruitful gardens, bright splashes of sunshine, and big bursts of flavor in every endeavor, culinary and otherwise.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Normal

Greetings from the land of dog tired, bone tired, crazy all the damn time tired.

Oh and did I mention, I finally got that job I'd so been longing for?  It's a damn good job, working for a company that I feel really, really good about.  A certified B Corp.  Working with and for people who have heart and integrity. In a really lovely environment, with seriously incredible benefits.

But. My new normal is leaving the house before 7 am and often not returning until after 7 pm.  My new normal is 2 buses to get me there, and 2 buses to get me home.  But  how wonderful it is to not be stuck in traffic every day (as a driver, anyway)! And how wonderful it is to have a regular paycheck again, and to no longer have the incredible stress of not having a job!!

But.  Losing my last job was stressful.  Looking for a job and not finding one was stressful.  And, having a job, at least, this one, brings its own kind of stress.  Mainly in that I don't have nearly the time that I used to for having fun in the kitchen.  Which makes me very cranky.  But.  The upside is that the little mister is spending more time in the kitchen, and between us, we are piecing it together.  And that's an unexpected bonus. So at the end of the day, I'm tired and sometimes cranky, but usually I'm still pretty well fed, which is no small achievement. And I'm also trying to see the big picture, to realize that I need to give myself time to adapt, and that everything will likely feel chaotic for awhile, but that it won't be like this forever.  And in the meantime, I'm trying to always remember to breathe.  And enjoying my new friend the crock pot!  Which is very handy for making big pots of black beans, that go perfect with rice and can be eaten all week long.  I made them for the second time today and they were dynamite, so I'll have to post the recipe soon.

For now, my recliner, and then my bed, are beckoning.  Until I next come up for air, happy holidays to you and yours!