Pickles, Bananas and New Recipes.

13 Jul

So, finally, pickling cucumbers and fresh dill are available at the farmers’ market. I bought 6 cucumbers and they fit perfectly into one of the quart jars that came with my new canning kit. I added some garlic, peppercorns, tumeric and coriander seeds. We’ll see how it turns out! They lovely jar is sitting on top of the fridge fermenting and the rest of the dill is happily displayed in a vase in the living room. Now everything smells like dill.

Also, today, someone sent me a link to an interesting article about bananas: What’s the Carbon Footprint of a Banana? I still don’t expect to eat them on a regular basis. Bananas have never been high on my list of favorite fruits – but now I won’t feel as  bad for that occasional slice of homemade banana nut bread that one of my (evil) coworkers insists on bringing in.

Recipe Update: Last week was a bit of a failure with my recipe experiment with it being a short work week (due to the fourth of July) and 3 evenings of being social and out of the house. I did get to make one recipe from Greens, Glorious Greens and another from an online source. I know, I know. “Online” doesn’t count as one of my cookbooks. BUT – it was really good!

Pasta with Leeks and Greens. An excellent vegetarian recipe – especially topped with cheese.

Flourless Brownies: Seriously though. This is a recipe provided on the Whole Foods website. It’s made with black beans instead of flour. Makes a fabulous, nutritious, cake-like brownie.

Next week’s recipes: Well, right now I’m having a look at The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines. The recipes are a bit more on the… adventurous side.  But, since we have a local variety, I am thinking about the Sardine and Macaroni Salad and also the Garbanzo Polenta.

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This Week’s Recipes: July 3rd, 2010

6 Jul

So this past week I wanted to start small and ease into the idea of planning ahead for meals and shopping and spending some quality time with the cookbooks on my kitchen shelf.

This week’s recipes:

Book: The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors

Recipe: Polish Noodles and Cabbage

Notes: This was the first recipe I tried and had to make some last minute adjustments. I forgot to get a yellow onion so had to use red and couldn’t find any egg noodles at my local shop. It turned out well though, and I would totally eat this again. It would taste better with the proper ingredients and something else along with it like sausage of some really nice dark bread. Or both!

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Book: Greens, Glorious Greens

Recipe: Stir-Fried Kale, Carrots and Walnuts

Notes: This was AWESOME. The only thing I left out of this dish was the ginger – since I was serving this on the side with some Italian dishes. I would, and plan to eat this often.

Next week’s recipes: Pasta with Leeks and Greens & Oyako Domburi

Recipes Are Good

27 Jun

So, over the last few weeks, I have been doing a bit of a spring cleaning.. of the mind! For many months I was having trouble commiting to the effort of cooking on a regular basis. I was even having a bit of a block when thinking about what to make so, for the most part, I didn’t really make much of anything.

A few weeks ago I discovered an interesting radio show called Green Tea and Honey which really helped to remind me about some of the reasons that I really love food. It ocurred to me that a way to help get back into the spirit of cooking would be to follow someone else’s recipes. I know, what a concept…

The reality is that I have a nice collection of interesting cookbooks that I have a tendency to glance over once or twice and put on my shelf next to the others. I rarely cook using any of the recipes in these books (I am more likely to search on the internet for recipes) and I think this is a real shame.

I have already begun trying some trying some recipes but I am setting myself a goal of making a recipe from one of my cookbooks at least once a week. This should also help me with my meal planning.. since through the last few months I have not changed my shopping habits – still buying lots of great, fresh local produce and wasting most of it. Not exactly mindful or responsible of me.

I intend to post once a week going over the each of the recipes.

My favorite things about San Francisco…

27 Mar

Yesterday was Cesar Chavez Day,  a California state holiday and luckily, a day I did not have to go into work. I love having weekdays off and I decided to take an early morning walk. As I was wandering around, I saw many of the things that remind me of why I really love San Francisco. At least on days like yesterday.  Though one thing I encountered yesterday I found quite shocking! A parking enforcement officer  was driving around and instead of just ticketing everyone, was giving everyone an opportunity to pay the parking meters and even calling into some local shops to say “If this is your car, you better come and pay the meter!” Astonishing!

The Elders of the Community

One of the things I enjoy most about San Francisco are the older generations. Watching them congregate in the many parks dotted around the city teaching each other how to waltz, practicing Tai Chi or just enjoying the day gives me a sense of calm and community that, frankly, I wouldn’t mind having now.

Hidden Treasures

San Francisco has many hidden treasures; staircases, gardens, courtyards and tiny neighborhoods that few people have heard of.  It always feels like a privilege to catch a glimpse of one of these or like I’m in on some great, local secret.

Telegraph Hill

In its own right, Telegraph Hill is a bit of a hidden treasure and rarely visited by anyone that’s not a tourist or resident. The hill is covered with gardens, steps and a surprisingly large variety of wildlife including wild parrots, mice, skunks, raccoons and the mosquitos and bees that the rest of San Francisco is oddly free of. Whenever I see this hill from a distance, it always seems quite exotic and lush.

The Quiet and the Waterfront

I love being close to the water and I love the docks and piers and, once again, some of the hidden spots to sit and watch the bay. this photo was taken near Fisherman’s Wharf which is probably the largest tourist area in San Francisco. It is much nicer to visit at 8:30am and in my opinion, the morning and the sea are perfect companions.

The Fog

aka The Weather

I don’t think there is anyone that can convince me that the weather in San Francisco is anything less than wonderful. Of course there are cold days when there should be warm days and warm days when there should be cold days and each neighborhood seems to have its own micro-climate but I really enjoy these parts of Bay Area weather. In fact I think we are really quite lucky here. Fresh, local produce is available year round and within driving distance there are mountains, temperate rain forests, beaches and deserts.

And the fog? Simply beautiful.

What, Where, Why and How?

21 Feb

Recent conversations with others have made me think again about why I decided to start this blog and naturally that led me to think about where I was, where I am now and of course where I’d like to be.  When I started writing here in 2007,  my life was quite a bit different. I was starting over again in many ways due to the end of a relationship, the end of running a business, and the brink of financial disaster.  Running a small business was one of the most challenging and stressful situations I have ever been in (and not one that I intend to repeat) but working for myself did give me the opportunity to do things like teach myself to be a better cook than my mother and go to events and farmers’ markets on days when I would normally be working if I’d had another job – not to mention time to read and do other interesting things while I was working from home.

It was during this time when I went into Survival Mode and I did whatever I could to keep our costs down to a minimum. I was feeding two people on a budget of around $50 a week. Of course this sounds like a ridiculously small amount, especially for the Bay Area, but I learned that if you cut out all of the processed food, reduce consumption of meat, and make everything yourself, it really can be done.

After the business closed I decided to try a vegan diet – but not just any vegan diet – this one would be without any processed food and yes, that included all meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh or any similar products. Of course I must be honest here and remind the reader and myself that I did use some processed food products such as salt, sugar, flour and olive oil, but tried to keep them to minimum and if at all possible, I made sure these produced were locally produced.

So there I was:  single, broke, vegan-for-financial-environmental-health-and-various-other-personal-reasons, and looking for a new life and new friends with whom I might share my interests. I really had no idea just how difficult that would be. You see, being vegan-for-financial-environmental-health-and-various-other-personal-reasons (and don’t forget: not eating meat or protein substitutes) not only confused the hell out of people, but made it practically impossible to socialize.  And THAT is why I started this blog. I wanted to have a place where I could discuss my thoughts and ideas as well as lament the fact that, even in progressive San Francisco, people’s heads would catch on fire if you even suggested that they may want to learn more about the soda they were drinking or the candy they were eating and, heaven forbid, consider not buying it!

It just seems very sad to me from a cultural perspective that many of our parents would reminisce about the days when people in their family would make pies from scratch but my generation and those that are younger tend to remember cookies, cereals and candy bars. These are our shared food experiences? In more ways than one, we are a manufactured culture.

So What now? Well, it has been more than two years since my first post and though I still consider myself the same food activist I was, I find it very difficult to maintain the momentum.  With a full-time, challenging job, a relationship and debt from the business (not to mention various family issues) I often do not have the energy to cook my own dinner, nevermind making everything from scratch or tending to my neglected garden.

My goal for 2010 is to be a bit more in balance and bring back some of the things I was doing a couple of years ago. I had more head space for it at the time so some serious mental spring cleaning is needed. I must remain mindful of my own actions, intentions and what makes me happiest. From here on I’d like this blog to be more about discovery and sharing those discoveries with the people I care about most. And yummy food.

Accidental Christmas Soup

26 Dec

So, I haven’t written much over the last few months. I haven’t felt like I have had the energy to do much else other than sleep and work. We’d been looking forward to the lack of Holiday plans this year, but I do find it difficult to turn down an opportunity to feed people. So, after an insanely crazy trip to the movie theater on Christmas day, we came home and had a nice meal of Turkey Soup, Levain sourdough bread and baked apples and pears.

Turkey & Fennel Soup

Ingredients

  • 1lb left over vegetables (ends, stalks peels etc)
  • 2lb left over roasted turkey meat and bones (legs and wings work well)
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 2 medium white onions, dices
  • 6 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 4-6 carrots, chopped or sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste

First, take the lb of vegetables. bay leaf and 2 lb of turkey and bones. cover with water and boil in a large pot for at least an hour or until vegetables and meat are soft and the water has turned a rich color.  While stock is cooking, take the onions, celery and fennel and saute in a frying pay with olive oil until golden brown. Add garlic near the end of the browning process and set mixture aside when done.  Chop up the carotts and set aside. When stock is done, drain and save as much liquid as possible in another pan or dish. Pick out all of the turkey meat and bay leaf and set aside to cool.  Discard or compost the stock vegetables. Once meat has cooled, tear or chop into small pieces and put back into the broth with all of the sautéed vegetables, carrot and the bay leaf. Fill pot with a few more cups of water (I made nearly a gallon of soup) and cook until all items are soft, (at least another hour) add salt and pepper to taste and serve with slices of bread!

If you’ve never smelled the wonder that is sautéed fennel, you will be in for a very pleasant surprise! You can also add some fresh fennel leaves just before serving to add a bit of color and brightness to the flavor.

Food & Farm Update – Fall 2009

28 Nov

Garden:

Oddly enough, the Marvel Stripe tomatoes keep appearing even though I have stopped watering the plant and it is half dead. A couple weeks ago I collected all of the green tomatoes from the plant and have been pickling them – but I will talk about that a bit later. The herbs are still doing just fine in the shady spot that they are in and I have been using my most of our food scraps to start on the compost for next spring. I also discovered that some plants that I originally thought were some sort of beans (not because they had any pods, but because they were growing where I planted a bunch of beans) turned out to be sunchokes! Hurray for unexpected edible things!

Food:

I’ve had some success and some failure over the past few months. first, I had another unexpected find a few weeks ago – but this time it was at the farmers’ market.  As I was stopping by the Massa Organics booth to pick up some rice,  I noticed the farmer was there! I had not met him before and we chatted a bit. I found out that he was there because once or twice a year (litterly, two days a year – once in fall & once in spring) they have Peking duck to sell.  As an organic farmer, ducks have become an important part of his pest and weed control. So, I bought one. I had never cooked duck before and knew full well that I might totally destroy it but it seemed too good to pass up. A couple weeks later I had a small dinner party and cooked it up and it turned out great. Thanks to Australian chefs Corrine Evatt and Mary-Jane Craig!

I also took a class on making kimchee and sauerkraut. The kimchee turned out great and I even managed to trade some for a beer at my favorite local bar! The sauerkraut that I made a few months back turned out well, but this one somehow went all haywire. It may have been because of the juniper berries that were added (a flavor I am not accustomed to in sauerkraut) or there’s some new and special kind of mold or bacteria, but it had a weird, almost detergent-like flavor and left a very dry taste behind – like a really dry red wine. It smelled strange too. Since I was a bit too uncertain, I decided to compost it. It’s a pity as I was really looking forward to eating that kraut as it had a variety of interesting ingredients that I never would have thought to use. The pickled green tomatoes are working out very well! I am not sure what I will use them with yet. with all of this pickling that I am doing, I had better figure something out! I find fermentation interesting and exciting but the reality is that we never ate anything other than dill pickles when I was growing up.  So, I’m not entirely sure what so do with all this pickled food. Suggestions are welcome!