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Food & “Farm” Update – Summer 2009

19 Sep

This summer has been very interesting and busy! Here’s what I’ve been up to:


  • Two tomatoes plants (out of the original 4 varieties that I planted in March) have produced fruit – the Tomatoberry and the yellow Marvel Stripe heirloom – those most are still green.  I have one (color TBD) bell pepper still growing, a row of too-tiny-to-mention purple carrots and a handful of fava bean plants that may or may not be unhappy. All but two of the other plants that I bought as seedlings have survived in pots for months and are now happily residing in a big pile of soil enriched with the compost I’ve been preparing for months: oregano, sage, mint, strawberries and two kinds of lavender. The 3rd kind of lavender was trampled by a construction worker and the basil – well, so far I cannot get basil to work in the clay and debris filled soil back there. See garden photos here.


  • Eat Real Fest – held on the weekend before labor day in Oakland, CA. It was hot. No, I mean HOT – like nearly 100 degrees and for the Bay Area… that is HOT.  But it was much more interesting that the Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco last year. Eat Real Fest was all about food for the masses – not just the people who could afford to spend hundreds of dollars for exclusive tasting events.  The food was great – local, organic and inexpensive. Street food vendors and taco trucks filled Jack London square and sold a variety of dishes – all $5 or less. The also had a large indoor farmers’ market. I’d definitely go again.  See pictures here.
  • Ghost Town Farm tour – This was held on the same weekend as the East Real Fest as both were in Oakland. Novella Carpenter and her partner Bill are essentially squatting on a lot next to the apartment in which they live and have turned it in to a little urban farm. Novella has since written a book, Farm City, about her experiences with developing the farm and raising plants and animals in such an urban environment. It’s a great read and a great inspiration. I think what I love most is how they put something together pretty much out of nothing and created not only a garden, but a community as well. Her blog is here and my pictures are here.
  • A reading from the book, Cooking Beyond Measure,  by cultural historian, hippie, cook and writer Jean Johnson.  The reading was a joint venture between the Culinary Historians of Northern California and Omnivore Books in San Francisco. I have been to a few CHoNC events now and usually feel a bit out of place since most of the other members are professional chefs, food writers and culinary historians and even though Jean is a bit of all of those, I feel like she could make anyone feel at ease. She came of age in the 60’s, lived for a decade on Native American reservations in the Southwest and is just a genuinely nice person. When the reading was over I went up to her and said “You’ve just written the book I was planning on writing in a few years after I got my act together.” Somehow, I’d love to grow up to be the combination of Novella Carpenter and Jean Johnson! Jean’s blog is here.


  • UrbanKitchenSF is my new best friend! With one-off, 2-3 hour classes that are fun, informative and inexpensive. They are all about slow food and cooking styles for the urban dweller. My first podcast was about their first pickling class and I plan on doing an interview with the founders of UrbanKitchenSF in a future podcast. I’ve taken all but two of the classes – one I had already taken and one I missed – including kombucha, pickling, butchery, cheesemaking and bread baking. I have pictures of most of the classes here. My kombucha and homemade pickles have turned out quite well!


  • Occassionally, I lament the fact that I never got my undergrad degree. While the study of food history and culinary anthrolopogy are becoming more well known and wide spread, it is a challenge to find classes for the beginner or hobbyist. So, instead of allowing myself to pine, I finally got myself a Library card. Seems a bit sad since I’ve been living in San Francisco for 7 years now. My first two books are Food in the USA and The History of Taste – both a relatively large collection of essays and heavier than most of the school and college books I’ve had over the years. It does make me happy to know that there are others like me – who are fascinated by the evolution of food and its impact on human development, society and culture and who can explain it a heck of a lot better than I can.
  • Wild Fermentation – not only a cookbook but a really good read as well. As the title states, this book is about fermentation and not only provides many, very approachable recipes, but talks about the health benefits, taste and history of the craft.  I have successfully made a bright pink sauerkraut and am now trying a batch of kvass which seems like a lovely way to use up stale bread!


  • Ah, well, I am always trying new experiments and recipes. Lately, it has been all about sourdough and some of my favorites of late I have found online and am happy to share them!
  • I have also just tried my hand at sprouting grains and as I type, they are slowly toasting in the oven. Studies suggest that sprouts are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet and the act of sprouting (as well as fermenting) breaks down the harmful but natural enzime inhibitors present in seeds. My first try was with some local red wheat berries which, when sprouted, kinda tasted a bit like grass.  But since wheat is a grass, this makes perfect sense.

Ok, well that’s all for now!

Good food & friends!


New Recipe: Spiced Sourdough Corn Fritters

25 Jul

Spiced Sourdough Corn Fritters (Vegan)
This recipe gets 4 Purkle Stars


  • the kernels of 4 fresh cobs of corn
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp. tumeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 – TBSP vegetable oil

Place kernels in large bowl. Add sourdough a bit at a time ( 1/3 cup or so) until all kernels are covered but mixture seem a bit thick. Add all seasonings and mix. Add baking soda last. Mixture will rise a bit, becoming smoother and easier to stir. Add vegetable oil to a frying pan and let heat up to about medium-high. Gently drop in corn mixture until it forms a medallion about 3 inches across. Let fry about 2-3 minutes on each side or until each side is a nice orange – gold color.  Serve warm with your favorite hot sauce or tomato sauce. Feeds 4-5 people (my general rule is one corn cob per person.)

Summer Observations

25 Aug

This is most definitely the best time of year for produce at the farmers’ market. Just about everything that is available at any time of year in the Bay Area is in season. My favorite things available right now are the fresh beans (black-eyed peas, cranberry and edamame) the wonderful berries (blueberry, strawberry, blackberry and raspberry,) fresh mission figs and dry farmed heirloom and early bird tomatoes. There are plenty of squash varieties too and lots of interesting melons. I love keeping track of when certain things are in season. Blueberries, edamame and figs tend to have a relatively small window of availability and I look forward to the different seasons of produce.

This is also the time of year for tourists. The city is full of visitors right now and, as I live in one of the most visited parts of San Francisco, I run into them frequently. It is interesting to see the different kinds of tourists, where the are from and how they respond to the small mountain of steps they must walk up or down when visiting Coit Tower. The gardens on Telegraph Hill are in full bloom right now, and continental Europeans walk up and down the hundreds of steps with ease, while British and American tourists voice there disbelief at the thought of anyone actually living here. How do people go shopping? Do they have to CARRY everything up and down these steps? How much further is it? What do you do if you need to run and get some milk?

Sometimes I feel like a bit of an oddity as I turn towards the building I live in and away from the people-filled steps as they watch me carrying groceries or household items. My cat is fond of following us up and down the steps as well and sometimes I catch her posing for photographs with the tourists. It’s terribly adorable and I often get the urge to tell people that she is my cat. She walks around like she owns the place.

Now, back to the food! Below are the recipes that I have made today, using the wonderful local ingredients that we picked up today.

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Farmers’ Market Excursion and a New Recipe.

28 Apr

So I was finally able to meet up with a good (and busy) friend of mine and took him to the farmers’ market. He brought his 3 year old son, who is adorable and smart and calls his father by the nickname of Gravel Balloon Face. How can you not love that? I recorded most of the trip and, assuming it all sounds pretty good, will be putting together my first podcast.

The weather has been really warm this weekend and I got a pretty good sunburn while walking around today. Due to the heat and not wanting to stand over a hot stove and cook dinner, I made a chilled soup which turned out great. The recipe is below.

Chilled Pea Soup
This recipe gets 4 Purkle Stars
  • 1 1/2 cups steamed fresh English peas
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 cup fresh lettuce/mixed salad greens
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1-2 Tbs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the zucchini into a few pieces and put in food processor. Put all other ingredients (leave the salt and pepper until last) into processor and blend until creamy. This recipe is similar to others out there but has less liquid and is lower fat so it won’t get perfectly smooth. You can add cream or stock if you are going for that texture. Otherwise, this is a pretty bright, crisp and fresh soup.

Serves 2-3.

Sharing the Purkle…

22 Mar

So last night my significant other made the main course for dinner. In my opinion, it’s the best thing he’s ever made and wanted to ‘share the yum’ with the rest of the world. Or, at least the people that read this blog.

Red Snapper with Capers and Mushrooms
This recipe gets 4 Purkle Stars
  • 2 lbs Red Snapper (I bought ours at Whole Foods)
  • 6 Portabellini mushrooms sliced, (8-10 brown mushrooms would also work well)
  • 2 Tbs capers (or so)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Tbs white Balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the snapper into 2 inch thick strips. Place in skillet (already warm with olive oil) with mushrooms and add the rest of the ingredients. Keep in mind that aside from the fish and mushrooms, I guessed on the amount that was used as the information was not written down and I was busy with friends and drinking the rest of the white wine. Adding a bit at a time and tasting along the way probably won’t hurt. The end result should be a perfectly cooked, flaky fish and mushrooms that have absorbed all of the liquid.

This was served with a nice salad! I wasn’t smart enough to get a photo!

New Recipe: Tangy Ketchup

10 Feb

Tangy Ketchup
This recipe gets 3.5 Purkle Stars


  • 1 small can of tomato paste (organic, of course!)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 TBS agave nectar
  • 1 TBS molasses
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

Mix tomato paste and water in a pot on medium heat. Put all whole spices in a spice bag or cheese cloth. Add all ingredients to pot and cook at a low boil for 15 – 20 minutes or until onions and garlic are soft. Remove spice bag and blend in food processor until smooth. This recipe is a bit wet so you can add a bit less water for a thicker sauce. This makes about 2 cups

Recipe: Squash Ravioli with Rainbow Chard

24 Nov

Squash Ravioli with Rainbow Chard
This recipe gets 3.5 Purkle Stars

Ingredients – Filling

  • one smallish kabocha or buttercup squash, cooked with skin and seeds removed
  • one small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp crushed coriander seed
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients – Pasta

  • 1/2 cup semolina flour
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water

* I initially doubled this recipe but ended up making one more as well (which actually made it triple) but I suggest starting with a double recipe first. Once you’ve made it, it’s not that difficult to just make a bit more.

Ingredients – Rainbow Chard

  • one bunch rainbow chard (beet greens) chopped into 1-2 inch pieces (including stems)
  • handfull of fresh, chopped fennel
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut squash in half and cook (I find it easiest to cut in half and place open-face down in a glass dish with 1/2 inch of water. cover with plastic wrap and cook in microwave for about 10 minutes) remove seeds and skin and place flesh in large bowl. Cook onions, paprika and coriander seeds in a little olive oil until soft and a little carmelized. When done, mix with squash in large bowl. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Pasta: The recipe above comes from the following website: which says to mix all ingredients in a bowl, wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. I never do this… I mix, knead a bit and roll out pretty much immediately. My pasta usually comes out a bit thick.. maybe this is why! I also roll my pasta by hand with a pasta roller. Basically this is like a thin rolling pin without handles. I roll out about 1/3 of the pasta dough and cut round shapes with a glass. Cut out all the shapes while the squash mixture is cooling. Once you’re ready to make the ravioli, place a small amount of the mixture (about a large teaspoon) and either trace the edge of the pasta with a wet finger, fold pasta in half and pinch to close or place another round shape on top. Set raviolo aside where they can get a bit dry, otherwise the mixture will keep the pasta wet and if touching, they can easily stick together. While these are drying, heat a large pot of water to cook. Wehn water is boiling, turn heat down to medium-low and add pasta. Chop the greens and put on medium heat in a skillet with a little olive oil until leaves are wilted and stems are soft and flexible but still a little crunchy.  Add some salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat off, add chopped fennel and stir. These should both take 5-10 minutes to cook. Drain pasta.

On the plate, prepare a bed of chard ( around 1/3 of what’s in the skillet) and top with 4-6 Ravioli. Eat! This recipe makes enough for 3 people (with some ravioli left over if you used the fold-over method) but you can always cook up more of the chard (or some other dark green) and fennel.

Even our friend who normally wouldn’t dream of eating something vegan liked this dish a lot.