Party politics

Posted by Anita on 11.04.08 9:40 AM

Liqurious - election drinks

Just in case you need help picking something to drink tonight — other than Champagne to toast with or beer to cry in — while you’re watching the election returns, we’ve got a slew of options over at Liqurious to help you out.

Some of the posts even feature actual, real-live cocktails, as opposed to the annoying onslaught of sickly sweet ‘Obama-ritas’ and ‘Maverick-tinis’ that seems have clogged every drink-blogger’s inbox for the last three months.

Goodness knows, we could all use a strong one after the this endless campaign.

PS: You voted, right? RIGHT!?

drinks, holidays & occasions, other blogs


Green in the bank

Posted by Anita on 11.03.08 11:00 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**Last year, I found myself green with envy — if you’ll pardon the pun — over Dylan’s stores of tomatillo salsa. By the time I cleared some space on the canning calendar, though, all the Ferry Plaza farmers who normally sell tomatillos (which isn’t a long list to begin with) had finished their harvest for the season.

So when I saw the saw the first basket of tomatillos early this summer, I pounced. After a long winter without a steady supply of chili verde, green posole, or even a simple tomatillo salsa, I was long overdue. But I put off making salsa again, for reasons I can’t quite explain.

Luckily, the tomato and tomatillo season this year seems to be going on forever, and despite my folly, was able to score a big 5-pound bag at Catalán Family Farm‘s market stand on Saturday, and put up a full batch of liquid green love on Sunday afternoon.

I feel more relaxed already, I tell ya.

To my palate, the best, most flavorful tomatillos — especially in salsas, where their flavor is so distinct — are the small, purple-tinted milperos. Ranging in size from cherry-tomato-ish to itty-bitty pea-sized, out of the husks milperos look like a bag of marbles. Most are green, a few are white, some are deep purple, but the beauties of the crop are almost pearlescent, with swirls of lavender and sage. Alas, the colors turn to a uniform green as soon as they’re heated, but their intense flavor lingers on. Even their husks are pretty; the veins are purplish against a khaki-colored lace.

We celebrated Dia de los Muertos yesterday by eating Primavera green-chile tamales with our fresh batch of homemade tomatillo salsa and a dollop of rich organic, local sour cream. Yum.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

This salsa smells impossibly sour while you’re cooking it down, but fret not… all will be well when the simmering is done. Don’t be tempted to skimp on the acids; they’re necessary for safely preserving this naturally low-acid food.

Tomatillo Salsa
makes 6 half-pint jars

3 pounds tomatillos, chopped (weight after husking and washing)
1-1/2 cup chopped onion
5 serrano chiles, minced (not seeded or deveined, unless you want a milder salsa)
1 medium fresno or red jalapeño, minced (not seeded or deveined)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1T ground cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice

Prepare a boiling-water canner: Fill it half full of water and heat to a simmer. Keep canning jars and lids warm in simmering water.

Combine all salsa ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Pass the simmered salsa through a food mill fitted with the largest disc.* Return the milled salsa to pan and bring back to a simmer. Adjust salt and seasoning as needed.

Ladle hot salsa into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace; remove air bubbles and wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar; apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

Place the filled jars in the canner, and bring to a rolling boil. Process at a full boil, uncovered, for 15 minutes. At the end of processing time, turn off heat and raise the canning rack to the upper level and let jars sit above the water for ~5 minutes to gradually stop boiling. Remove jars to a cooling rack, and leave undisturbed until thoroughly cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

* Note: You don’t want to use a food processor in place of the food mill, as it will whip air into the salsa, which could end up trapped as trapped bubbles during canning. If you don’t have a food mill, just be sure to chop everything very fine before cooking and enjoy the chunkier texture of your salsa.

Mexican, preserving & infusing, recipes


A bittersweet loaf

Posted by Anita on 11.02.08 8:48 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**I must be getting old, because I actually just said out loud: “Where has the year gone?” Really, people, can I get an amen here? Doesn’t it seem like 2008 has just screamed on by? (And yet, somehow, Election Day seems like it might never come.) I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but the holidays are really right around the corner, with Halloween just past and everyone’s favorite feast less than a month away. And today’s a holiday, too: Dia de los Muertos.

I feel like I’m repeating myself a little here — we talked about marigolds, sugar skulls, and La Catrina last year. But really, there’s so much more to enjoy, so many more wonderful food traditions that go along with this fiesta. After all, the idea behind the Dia de los Muertos ofrendas — the memorial altars to loved ones — is that the living tempt the spirits of loved ones to pay a visit by putting out their favorite foods, drinks, and other little mementos of the things they loved in life.

Last year, I took a day off from work and brought home a whole table’s worth of treats. This year, the weekend snuck up on me; the best I could manage was relocating a flowering houseplant (not quite marigolds, but hey, at least they’re orange), and adding a few things I know my Dad loved: A jar of home-made tomatillo salsa, a shaker of Tabasco-flavored seasoning salt, and the little greyhound calaca figurine — Dad would never travel anywhere without his dogs.

Almost as much as he loved greyhounds and spicy food, Dad loved sweets. I knew the ofrenda couldn’t do without pan de muertos, the rich, eggy bread made just for the occasion. But I had no time to head to the Mission, and with Eat Local Challenge just wrapping up it didn’t seem right to buy a loaf filled with goodness knows what.
My first attempt at homemade pan de muertos was a qualified success; tasty, but flawed. I can almost hear Dad telling me, as he always did, that I am being too critical of my own efforts: “Neen, it looks great. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” (And he’d be right… it really does look fine, just not like I expected, and definitely not like store-bought.)

The nice thing about pan de muertos — and all of the tempting treats laid out on the ofrendas — is that they’re just as much for the living as for the deceased. Hooray, we get to eat it, too! And even though I know that the holiday is supposed to be filled with happiness and fond memories, this year I’m happy to have a little extra bit of comfort to help me get in the festive mood.

You see, this year we’re also remembering our friend Briana Brownlow in our celebrations. Bri passed away just last week, at the impossibly young age of 31, after a hard-fought battle against cancer. Though we met her in person only once, we knew her well as one of those people who makes everyone’s life online a little brighter. Even in the midst of her cancer’s recurrence, it was a joy to see Bri’s optimism, and her obvious joy as friends offered support through food (and a food-bloggers’ fundraiser).

Tomorrow morning, when I toast up a piece of the leftover pan — looking out at the bright yellow of our lemon tree in the otherwise grey, rainy yard — I’ll smear it with some of the citrus curd I made from our backyard fruit and remember the woman whose strength inspired so many.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Alas, no recipe today. I’d planned to share my variation on Diana Kennedy’s pan de muertos, but something went awry. Not badly enough to keep us from eating the bread, but odd enough to keep me from unleashing the recipe on you. The “bones” melted into the main body of the bread, and the whole thing came out far too flat and wide; I think I must have miscounted egg yolks or mis-measured butter. It still tastes fabulous, though… it just doesn’t really look the way it ought.

But don’t let that discourage you from giving it a whirl. Although it’s a time-consuming recipe that calls for fussy things like overnight rises in the fridge and multiple buttered sheets of waxed paper, it’s a very forgiving dough that’s a lot of fun to make.

baking, family, holidays & occasions, Mexican, other blogs
1 Comment »


What the cluck?

Posted by Anita on 11.01.08 2:36 PM

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**Last year, when I discovered — after reading Bonnie Powell’s excellent post — that the Judy’s Family Farm eggs I’d been buying at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market were the product of an intensive factory operation called Petaluma Farm, I was pretty pissed.

I first blamed CUESA, the market’s organizers, for allowing me to be duped. But soon I realized the real culprit was my own ignorance, and I directed my anger where it properly belonged. It was foolish, after all, to expect that all food sold at the Ferry Plaza market would meet some rudimentary ethical standard and that the products would be sold by, you know, actual small farmers. I really should have wondered how Judy’s managed to sell their eggs for a third of the price of Marin Sun or Eatwell, but I was blinded by the almighty bargain.

My frustration at having been deceived spurred me to pay closer attention to how the food — especially the eggs, dairy, and meat — we buy at the market is really grown. I spent the better part of 6 months asking a lot of questions, and I am sure some farmers got pretty sick of me. But when all was said and done, I was pleased to realize — with the exception of this one major blip in the egg department — that the Ferry Plaza was full of real farmers whose animal-care practices I can support in good conscience.

But now, with the attention CUESA has given Petaluma Farm as part of their coverage of Proposition 2 — the California initiative that would require all caged and crated animals the exceedingly modest consideration of being able to stand up, lie down, turn around, and extend their limbs — I feel I really must speak up and question their motives as an organization.

To put it in perspective: I realize that, as recently as last year, there weren’t enough pastured eggs to meet demand. Egg aficionados lined up before the market opened, and latecomers (or even on-timers) were often heard sighing over how they’d been beaten to the punch yet again. I’d like to think that the decision to permit this…. shall we say “less-than-ideal” vendor was a matter of filling in the gaps; local and quasi-free-range eggs are better than nothing. But now that Marin Sun, Eatwell, Marin Roots, and Soul Food offer a steady supply of pastured, humane egg options, I’m shocked that CUESA continues to allow large-scale, factory producers to sell at the Ferry Plaza market. There’s no excuse left that I can find.

But the thing that really sticks in my craw is that CUESA offered the bully pulpit of a prime feature spot in their weekly newsletter to the specious anti-Prop 2 arguments of Petaluma Farm’s Steve Mahr.

Mahr’s got a right to his opinions, and (for now at least) the legal freedom to cram as many laying hens into confinement as he sees fit. I’m glad to learn that he raises at least some fraction of his hens in a cage-free environment. But the hypocrisy of passing off his blatantly industrial product as the sustainable and humane gleanings of some idyllic family farm needs to be called out. And I’m absolutely furious that CUESA is letting it pass.

Mahr claims in the CUESA story that, “I will not be in business if Prop 2 passes.” To which I say: “It’s no worse than you deserve, you greenwashing jive-turkey.” At least the eggs sold at Safeway aren’t pretending to be anything other than the inhumane, factory-produced crap you’d expect.

Of course, pastured eggs are still a luxury that many shoppers can’t afford. But not everyone has room in their weekly food budget for pastured beef, either, and yet you don’t see CAFO meat at the Ferry Plaza. If CUESA is going to claim that one of the 10 reason to shop to shop at their farmers market is “to promote the humane treatment of animals … who have been spared the cramped and unnatural living conditions of so many of their brethren,” then that’s what should be offered, period. And they need to get on the bus and support Prop 2 without any ifs, ands, or buts.

(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**(c)2008 AEC **all rights reserved**

Pastured Eggs at the Ferry Plaza
Eatwell Farm
Nigel & Frances Walker
5835 Sievers Road
Dixon, CA 95620

Marin Sun Farms
David & Julie Evans
10905 Highway 1
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Soul Food Farm (at the Prather Ranch store)
Alexis & Eric Koefoed
6046 Pleasants Valley Road
Vacaville, CA 95688

Marin Roots Farm
Jesse Kuhn
PO Box 74, Petaluma, CA 94952

More information about Proposition 2
Yes on Prop 2 official site
Michael Bauer (SF Chronicle)
Los Angeles Times (op-ed)
New York Times (endorsement)
Grist Environmental News
Oprah Winfrey Show
The Ethicurean

farmers markets, farms & farmers, locavore, other stuff