Everything new is old

Posted by Anita on 08.17.09 10:12 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*Years ago, I knew a guy who fancied himself a gourmet cook, even though his culinary skills were marginal at best. His one saving grace, kitchen-wise, was his signature pasta dish: Linguine combined with mozzarella — right in the hot pasta pan, so it got all stringy — then tossed with ripe tomatoes, loads of garlic, and a bunch of basil.

It was a good meal, even great when the seasons were right, but its real charm was its artlessness: No measuring, no fancy technique; just good food, simply prepared.

Even though tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil is a classic summer combination, I hadn’t thought of this pasta for years until I read our friend Jennifer’s post last week, where she described a remarkably similar dish. Her version keeps the cheese separate until the end, uses a combination of Mediterranean herbs, and omits the garlic. In a way, it’s a lot like seeing an old friend again after a long absence: A few things have changed, but the basic features are unmistakable.

For this week’s One Local Summer dinner, we whipped up a batch this new/old favorite, using some of the first tomatoes from our garden, along with basil, parsley, and chives from the herb beds. We used our favorite local pasta from Eduardo’s, a dense, wheaty fusilli. If you use a similar hearty pasta, this recipe makes four generous servings.

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Pasta alla Jenblossom
– adapted from Last Night’s Dinner

4 to 5 ripe tomatoes (enough for 4 cups coarsely chopped)
~1 cup fresh herbs, coarsely chopped (I used 3/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parsley, 2T chives)
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp crushed red chile flakes
sea salt, to taste
8oz good-quality dried pasta
3T olive oil
8oz fresh mozzarella, cut into smallish chunks

Put a pot of well-salted water on to boil. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes into large chunks, and combine in a large bowl with herbs, garlic, chile, and sea salt. Toss and let sit to combine.

Boil your pasta according to package directions, stopping at the al dente stage. Just before the pasta is done, combine tomatoes with the olive oil and mozzerella. Drain the pasta and add it to the bowl with the tomatoes. Toss well and let sit it soak for as long as you can bear the heavenly smell of summer. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s recipe:One Local Summer 2009
Thomas Family Farm, Corralitos: Hard-neck garlic
Bariani, Sacramento: Olive oil
Belfiore Cheese Company, Berkeley: Bocconcini
Eduardo’s, San Francisco: Pasta
…and our homegrown tomatoes(!), basil, parsley, chives

locavore, One Local Summer, other blogs, recipes


Salad of the gods

Posted by Anita on 08.10.09 8:13 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*It’s finally happening: We’re finally harvesting enough fresh vegetables from our garden to make a meal, or most of one. True, this week we still bought tomatoes — although, look how gorgeous they are… can you blame us? By next week at this time, when our first branch of tomatoes is fully ripe, we’ll be able to make this recipe without much help from the farmers. This time around, we’re proud enough that half the bulk of our One Local Summer dinner for the week came straight from the yard.

To celebrate this harvest milestone, I wanted to make sure that we found a recipe that wasn’t diluted with a lot of extraneous stuff. Looking at our bumper cucumber crop, I immediately though of Greek salad, but every recipe I found was almost half lettuce — which seemed a little counter to the occasion. Our lettuce patch is eking along pretty well in our mild coastal climate — we’ll have enough to spare for the BLT Challenge later in the month — but it seems a little sacrilegious to bulk up fresh tomatoes and cucumbers with a bunch of leaves. So I improvised a simple salad, and both of us were extremely happy with the results.

We served our garden bounty alongside a coil of grilled Basque-style sausage from our friends at Fatted Calf, and scooped everything up with a batch of homemade pita bread, made with a mix of locally grown whole-wheat flour (from Eatwell Farm) and locally milled Giusto’s bread flour. It was, if I dare say so, a feast fit for a Mediterranean deity.

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Greek Salad
3/4 pound tomatoes, cut into chunks (about 2 cups)
2 cups cucumber, peeled and seeded if desired, and cut into chunks
1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 T red wine vinegar
3 T chopped Italian parsley
2 T fresh mint
1 T fresh oregano
1 T chives

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces)

Toss all ingredients except feta in medium bowl to blend. Gently mix in cheese, and season with salt and pepper.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s recipe:One Local Summer 2009
Lucero Organic Farms, Lodi: Heirloom tomatoes
Capay Fruits & Vegetables, Capay: red peppers
Catalán Family Farm, Hollister: Red onions
Bariani, Sacramento: Olive oil
O Olive Oils, San Rafael: wine vinegar
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: Feta cheese
…and our homegrown cucumbers, parsley, mint, oregano, and chives

garden, locavore, One Local Summer, recipes


Whole hearted

Posted by Cameron on 08.02.09 8:59 AM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*We were caught unawares, but isn’t that how it always happens? It seemed an innocent enough Sunday cruise through the Marin Farmers Market, looking for the coming week’s dinners. With a Marin Sun Farms chicken and some Devil’s Gulch pork chops already safely tucked away, we drifted into the Santa Rosa Seafood tent and were suddenly entranced.

Odysseus could hardly have been more enraptured by the Sirens than we were enchanted by the beautiful, sleek, glossy-eyed fishies staring out from their beds of crushed ice. Sorting out which finny critters had been caught locally took some shouting between the guys working the floor and the fishwives (well, hell… what else are you going to call them?) gutting customers’ orders, but eventually we learned that the bright red, medium-sized rosefish had been hauled out of the water near Monterey. Not only were these guys beautiful, they were also just the right size for one of the few Thai dishes that I can claim as my own: whole fried fish.

Now, this is no batter-dipped chip buddy — it’s an entirely different kettle of… er… fish. A typical batter crisps up while leaving the fish underneath tender. But to cook a whole fish Thai style, you cut a series of deep slashes in its flanks, dust it with tapioca starch and drop it — fins and all — into hot oil for an extended bath: 20 minutes or more. This treatment drives the water out of most of the meat, turning it into a delicious, chewy, crunchy treat that comes off the skeleton in bits that are perfect for dipping in tamarind-based hot sauce. I’ll leave it up to you whether to let your guests in on the secret treats: The fins and tail (and in some cases the exposed bones) become as crunchy as potato chips, and there are plenty of succulent bits to be had in and around the head.

But our story isn’t quite done yet. We were within a hair of being able to make this our One Local Summer dinner for the week, but the sauce recipe calls for tamarind — not exactly a Bay Area native. Fortunately, I roll with the McGuyver of the Kitchen, who suggested that (local) pluots combined with lime juice would bring the necessary tang and body to our dipping sauce.

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Crispy Fried Fish with Chili-Tamarind Sauce
- adapted from a recipe by Kasma Loha-unchit

A 1-1/2# firm, white-fleshed fish (such as snapper or perch), scaled and cleaned
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 fresh red jalapeño or Fresno peppers, minced*
2 shallots, minced
1-inch section fresh peeled fresh ginger, minced fine
1 T minced cilantro roots (or stems)
10 white peppercorns
2 to 3 cups peanut oil (for frying)
3 to 4 T tapioca starch
2 to 3 T Thai fish sauce
1/2 cup thick tamarind puree
1 T palm sugar, or more to taste
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves
A few sprigs of cilantro or Thai basil for garnish
2 to 4 Thai bird chiles, sliced thin, for garnish

Check to see that all the scales have been removed from your fish, and that the innards/guts are removed. Using a sharp knife, cut 3 to 5 deep gashes (depending on the size of the fish) in each side of the fish. The cuts should be at a 45-degree angle to the midline of the fish, with the top of each cut closer to the head and the bottom closer to the tail. Rinse the fish, drain, and pat dry. Rub evenly with a thin coating of salt and white pepper. If the fish has been refrigerated, let sit out up to an hour to warm to room temperature before frying.

Mix the garlic, peppers, shallots, ginger, and cilantro roots/stems. Using a large, heavy mortar and pestle, pulverize the peppecorns. Then add the minced aromatics, stir to mix well, and pound to a smooth paste.

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until a bit of tapioca starch (or other test tidbit) dropped in the oil begins to bubble almost immediately. Coat the fish with a very thin layer of tapioca starch, and slip it into the oil. Fry the fish, turning it and ladling oil over it as necessary, until it is browned and crispy on both sides from head to tail (about 10 minutes on each side). Manage the flame to keep the oil bubbling vigorously, but not frantically, so that the fish can crisp thoroughly without burning. Remove the fish from the oil and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before placing on a serving platter.

Pour off the oil from the wok, except for two tablespoons. Add the pounded chili mixture and sauté over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add fish sauce, tamarind, and palm sugar until the spicy, sour, sweet, and salty flavors are equally balanced. The sauce should be the consistency of a thick salsa — thin with water if it becomes too dry. Cook a minute to blend the flavor, then stir in the basil and cook just enough to wilt.

Spread half the sauce evenly over the fish and the other half along sides of the platter. Garnish with cilantro or Thai basil sprigs and the sliced chiles.

* Note: Do not seed the chilies unless you wish the sauce to be mild. For a medium-hot dish, remove the seeds from half the chilies.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s recipe:One Local Summer 2009
Santa Rosa Seafood, Santa Rosa: Rosefish (Monterey-caught)
Hunter Orchards
, Grenada: Garlic
Xiong Farm, Fresno: Thai bird chiles, Fresno chiles, ginger
Dirty Girl Produce, Santa Cruz: Shallots
Kashiwase Farms, Winton: Pluots
Paradez Farms, Exeter: Limes
…and our own homegrown Thai basil and cilantro

locavore, One Local Summer, recipes, Thai


New crops, old crops

Posted by Anita on 07.26.09 11:30 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*This week, we had so much going on that we lost track of our One Local Summer meal entirely. It’s not that we didn’t enjoy lots of fresh, fabulous treats from the market and our garden, we just weren’t diligent about documenting any of them. Many dinners were repeats of past OLS post, or just the kind of no-recipe suppers thrown together on a summer evening.

We’d planned to make up for lost time at the end of the week, but other things came up — a touch of a sore throat, followed by a last-minute weekend trip — and we found ourselves empty-handed for this week’s roundup.

Luckily, we had something we’ve kept in our back pocket in case of just such an eventuality. We first tossed this simple salad together back at the end of May, just as we were reaching the end of our first shelling pea crop. The plants had begun to die off, and we were ready to turn them back into the soil and plant another crop. But there were just enough peas left for one last splurge.

And actually, it’s the perfect salad to enjoy at the beginning of a pea harvest, too — a place we find ourselves this week, with our second pea crop — or any other time you’ve got a mixture of mature peas, immature pods, and a few small tendrils. If you’re a cleverer gardener than we are, and you’ve mastered the art of successive plantings, you can even use the thinnings from your next batch of peas, too.

But even if you buy every last stitch from the farmers market, you’ll be rewarded with a light, fragrant salad, equal parts crisp and creamy.

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Pea and Radish Salad with Feta
- loosely adapted from Bon Appetit

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp honey
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
3 springs fresh thyme, leave stripped

1-1/2 cups fresh shelled peas
6-10 snow peas (or immature homegrown peas), julienned
5-7 medium radishes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 oz)
1-1/2 cups pea sprouts or very tender pea tendrils

Toast the cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Cool the seeds, then grind in a spice mill or coffee grinder. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients (cumin to thyme); season to taste with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that feta can be quite salty.

Blanch the peas in boiling salted water until just tender, about 3 minutes. (Timing will vary based on freshness, age, and size of peas.) Scoop peas out of the pan and into an ice-water bath. Repeat blanching with the snow-pea strips; this will take about 1-2 minutes.

Drain peas and snow pea strips very well. Combine them in a medium bowl with the sliced radishes and crumbled feta. Drizzle with about half the dressing and toss. Taste and add more dressing, salt, and pepper as needed.

Divide pea sprouts or tendrils among 2 or 3 wide salad bowls, and top with the dressed salad. Serve at once.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s recipe:One Local Summer 2009
Marshall’s Farms, American Canyon: Honey
, Sacramento: Olive oil
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: Goat feta
…and our own homegrown lemons, thyme, peas, and radishes

locavore, One Local Summer, recipes


Not suffering one bit

Posted by Anita on 07.19.09 10:22 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*At this time of year, when the garden’s finally kicking into high gear, and all of our favorite foods are in plentiful supply at the farmers market, I rarely pick up a cookbook, and hardly even use recipes.

The vast majority of our summer meals follow a dead-easy formula: A little bit of meat, usually rubbed or marinated and then seared on the grill; an unfussy starch, finished with a knob of fresh butter or a drizzle of olive oil; and big helping of vegetables, either in the form of a chopped salad or a simple saute. Usually, there’s fruit for dessert — maybe paired with ice cream or cookies, if we’re feeling fancy.

The few recipes that find their way out of the files are usually tried-and-true favorites, and this one is no exception. We’ve been making this succotash for nearly three summers now — it first appeared on the blog as a passing reference back in 2006 — and it feels like an old friend. We’re finally seeing peppers in the market, so we hauled it out for the first time this summer, and enjoyed it as the centerpiece of this week’s One Local Summer meal, alongside a grilled tri-tip with a Santa Maria-style rub (equal parts salt, pepper, and garlic granules, moistened with olive oil).

We’ve made some changes to the succotash recipe along the way, swapping out the original’s summer squash (which neither of us really likes) in favor of other summery flavors like green garbanzos or late-season peas. But no matter how many  tweaks we make, it remains one of those tastes of summer that we anticipate all year long.

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Summer Succotash
- adapted from Bon Appetit

1T extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced sweet red pepper
1-1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces slender green beans, trimmed, cut into 3/4-inch pieces (~1 cup)
1/2 cup green garbanzos (or substitute mature favas or starchy peas)
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 2 ears of corn)
2T cream

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion; reduce heat to medium and saute until beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add pepper, thyme, and garlic; saute 1 minute. Add garbanzos and 1/4 cup of water; cover and cook until the garbanzos are just beginning to soften, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Add the green beans and saute until all vegetables are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes more. Stir in corn and cream, and saute until just heated through. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:One Local Summer 2009Bariani, Sacramento: Olive oil
Everything Under the Sun, Winters: Red onions
The Peach Farm, Esparto: Red frying peppers
Hunter Orchards
, Grenada: Garlic
Catalán Family Farm, Hollister: Green garbanzos
Pinnacle/Phil Foster Ranch, Hollister: Corn
Claravale Farm, Paicines: Raw Jersey cream
…and our own homegrown thyme and green beans

locavore, One Local Summer, recipes


Local Seoul food

Posted by Anita on 07.14.09 12:33 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*One day a couple of weeks ago, I decided to make a batch of homemade kimchi using an extra head of cabbage I had knocking around. Of course, this simple use-it-up kitchen project required a trip across town to a Korean grocery store for the requisite red-pepper seasoning mixture, but I’ve got an anti-food-waste streak a mile wide.

In a bit of kitchen synchronicity, I’d been meaning to make our friend Matthew‘s recipe for Korean tacos — a recent trip to L.A. left us with a hankering for this hipster street chow but unable to stomach Kogi‘s ridiculous 3-hour lines — and kimchi seemed like a natural accompaniment.

Last weekend at the farmers market, our list was very short. Knowing we were heading off to New Orleans last Wednesday, we really only needed to make one dinner at home. Could we combine our Korean supper with our One Local Summer meal? Turns out, the recipe doesn’t require any exotic ingredients, and by stretching our challenge’s seasoning exemptions to include soy sauce and a small amount of sesame oil, we were able to source everything we need from within our 100-mile radius.

Of course, the best-laid plans often lead to disappointment, and my first batch of kimchi never really got the hang of fermentation. I tried again a few days later using a different recipe, and although it seemed headed in the right direction, the cabbage never released enough liquid, and the result was dry and funky.

But although I still haven’t found a kimchi recipe that works for me, that didn’t stop me from including it in our locavore feast. Turns out, there’s a locally made brand — King’s — that all the nearby Asian markets sell. It’s spicy and fresh-tasting, even if it’s not as beautiful or as romantic as the homemade sort.

This recipe also gave us a chance to try out the meat slicer we bought a few weeks ago. If you don’t have a fancy gizmo like ours, you may be able to ask your butcher to shave the meat for you. Or, you can freeze it briefly (although not until it’s completely solid) and use a very sharp knife to cut pieces as thin as possible.

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Korean Rib-Eye Tacos
- adapted from Matthew Amster-Burton

3/4 pounds rib eye, sliced paper thin
1T soy sauce
1 to 2T sugar
1T minced garlic
2 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp sherry or mirin
1 tsp water

1-1/2 tsp soy sauce
3/4 tsp lime juice
3/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
toasted sesame seeds

chopped avocado
kimchi, Korean red pepper flakes, or fermented chili paste
corn tortillas (6 to 10, depending on size)

Combine the meat with the rest of the marinade ingredients, and refrigerate for between 2 and 24 hours. Bring meat to room temperature, then cook under a broiler or in a well-heated skillet. If needed, chop into smaller, taco-friendly pieces.

Whisk together the soy sauce, lime juice, and toasted sesame oil. Toss the lettuce, cabbage, and red onion in a large bowl with half of the dressing. Add more dressing to taste, then garnish generously with sesame seeds.

Warm the tortillas over a gas burner or in a dry skillet. Top with meat, slaw, avocado, and your choice of spicy condiments.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:One Local Summer 2009
Marin Sun Farms, Point Reyes: Grass-fed pastured rib-eye steak
Hunter Orchards, Grenada: Garlic
Paradez Farms, Exeter: Limes
Marin Roots Farm, Petaluma: Romaine
Dirty Girl Produce, Santa Cruz: Cabbage
Mariquita Farm, Watsonville: Red onions
Will’s Avocados, Soledad: Avocados
Primavera, Sonoma: Corn tortillas
King’s Asian Gourmet, San Francisco: Kimchi

locavore, meat, One Local Summer, recipes


Pork times four

Posted by Anita on 07.05.09 11:03 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*When I first read the recipe that served as the inspiration for this week’s One Local Summer supper in the September 2006 issue of Bon Appetit, I knew we would have to make it. The official name of the dish was the prosaic “Spanish Pork Braise”, but the real hook was rendered in 48-point type over a stunning photo of braised pork shanks and sunny garbanzo beans: “PORK x4″. Really, have you ever heard of a happier notion? Not just pork — pork four times over!

Of course, with September being the height of San Francisco’s Indian summer, the idea of a hearty braise heating up the house wasn’t really appealing at the time. But I knew, some foggy summer day in the future, I’d have the perfect recipe at hand.

Finding osso-bucco–style pork-shank pieces at the farmers market isn’t really an everyday occurrence (although Marin Sun Farms will do them by special order), so I never found myself hunting down the recipe. But then, last week, while browsing through my recipe file looking for a way to use up some porky odds and ends in the freezer, I rediscovered this captivating clipping. The pork shank I had on hand was whole — we’d brought it home from our pig-butchering class — but a braise is a braise is a braise. Even if pulled meat doesn’t look quite as nice as a neatly tied shank steak, it still tasted delicious.

The original recipe is served with a side of garbanzo beans dressed up with a sprinkling of gremolata. We were lucky enough to pick up fresh, green garbanzos at the market last week, and substituted them for canned, after a quick pan-poaching. If you’re wondering what to do with the starchy late peas you’re finding at the market, I suspect they’d made a great alternative, too.

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Pork Times Four
- adapted from Steve Johnson’s Spanish Pork Braise, Bon Appetit

4 to 5 pounds bone-in pork for braising
(such as a whole pork shank, or 6 x 2-1/2-inch thick shank pieces, or a meaty soup bone plus large chunks of shoulder meat)
1/2 pig’s foot
1 to 2 links Spanish-style chorizo, sliced
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 large carrots, medium dice
1 large onion, medium dice
6 large garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 T chopped fresh savory (or 1T chopped thyme)
1 cup medium-dry Sherry
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes in juice, tomatoes coarsely chopped
2 cups pork (or chicken) stock
3 dried ancho chiles, halved, stemmed, seeded
2 T tomato paste
1-1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander

2T olive oil
3 cups cooked garbanzo beans
1 large clove of garlic, minced
large pinch of saffron
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 thin slices proscuitto or ham, minced
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
1T grated citrus peel, preferrably orange

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sprinkle pork and pig’s foot with salt and pepper. Heat a wide Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the chorizo slices. Saute the chorizo, adjusting heat as needed to render the fat and brown the meat. Remove the browned chorizo to a plate using tongs or a slotted spoon. Increase heat to medium-high, and saute the pork until brown, turning to caramelize all sides. (Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to work in batches. If your chorizo is particularly lean, you may need to add some additional oil.) Remove browned pieces to a plate or baking sheet, and reduce heat to medium low.

Add carrots, onion, garlic, and herbs to the pan, and cook until onion softens, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the sherry to the pan, and deglaze. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, stock, chiles, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a boil, and return browned meat, chorizo, and pig’s foot to the pan. Return to a boil, then cover and place in the preheated oven. Braise until the meat is tender and just pulling away from the bone, 90 minutes to 3 hours.

When meat is cooked through, de-fat the sauce with a spoon. (Alternately, you can cool the mixture and refrigerate overnight; the fat will solidify and be easily removed the next day.) If the sauce remains chunky, you may want to remove the meat and puree it with a stick blender; if so, take care to leave some texture.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add beans, garlic, and saffron, and saute until heated through. Mix in the proscuitto, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mix together parsley, almonds, and zest in a small bowl.

To serve, place equal amounts of pork on 6 plates, spooning sauce around. Serve garbanzos on the side, and sprinkle the whole plate with gremolata, reserving some to pass at the table.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:One Local Summer 2009
Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Nicasio: Pork shank & picnic meat
Marin Sun Farms, Point Reyes: pig foot
Fatted Calf, Napa: Chorizo
Bariani, Sacramento: Olive oil
Mariquita Farm, Watsonville: Onion, savory
Hunter Orchards, Grenada: Garlic
Tierra Vegatables, Santa Rosa: Ancho chiles & carrots
Short Night Farm, Dunnigan: Green garbanzo beans
Boccalone, Oakland: Proscuitto
Star Route, Bolinas: Parsley
Alfieri Farms, Esaclon: Almonds
Paradez Farms, Exeter: Blood orange…plus our own home-canned tomatoes & paste (from Mariquita’s tomatoes), homemade pork stock, and homegrown coriander.

locavore, meat, One Local Summer, recipes


Huevos con amigos

Posted by Anita on 06.28.09 3:01 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*Two weekends ago, we ran into our friend Jeanne at the farmers market, as we often do. Jeanne had just returned from an East Coast trip, so we had a lot of catching up to do. But after chatting in the summer sun for a while, Cameron and I started to get antsy: We had to get home to start curing pork belly, the first step in making a batch of homemade bacon. Hearing this, Jeanne mentioned she’d always wanted to make her own bacon, but didn’t have the space for a smoker. “We have a smoker you can borrow whenever you want,” we offered. “Or, you could just come over next weekend, and smoke some bacon with us.”

Jeanne is nothing if not determined: When she discovered that none of the farmers market vendors had any pork belly left, she scoured the City for a piece, so she could cure her own batch at home. Knowing that Jeanne and Cameron share a devotion to the Red Sox, I set the bacon-smoking time so that we could all listen to the game together: 10am Sunday. With pork curing in two fridges and the schedule nailed down, our discussions turned to more important things: What should we make for brunch?

“What do you think about huevos motuleños?” asked Jeanne, linking to her own recipe for the classic Mexican egg plate. “I think your fondness of things Mexican equals mine!” (She knows us well — it took me all of 30 seconds to agree.)

So last Sunday, Jeanne arrived right at 10am, with a bundle of cured pork belly, a bottle of homemade hibiscus-lemongrass agua fresca, and a ripe plantain. After we’d loaded up the smoker and dialed in the temperature, we popped back into the kitchen to finish up our brunch. As the sauce warmed, I refried the beans and crisped the tostadas; Cameron fried three sets of over-easy eggs to perfection (all at the same time!); and Jeanne sauteed the plantains and poured tall glasses of delicious agua fresca. Everything came together at just the right time — amazing what you can make happen when three avid cooks share the work. And so, as the smell of applewood began wafting in from the backyard, we sat down to a colorful and delicious Mexican brunch.

Despite its international origins, our team effort made a perfect One Local Summer feast. With the exception of the fried plantains — I claim a brunch-guest exemption! — everything in our meal came from local sources. It took a little creativity (substituting a salty local feta for Mexcian queso fresco) and a few extra steps to keep things locavore-friendly; you could certainly simplify things by using canned black beans and store-bought tostada shells if you weren’t as set on having an all-local feast.

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Huevos Motuleños
– adapted from World on a Plate

1-1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced (divided use)
3 serrano chiles, cut into strips

1 ripe plantain, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices (optional)
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 to 2 cups black beans and their liquid
3 oz ham, cut into matchsticks or small dice
1/2 cup fresh peas, blanched or quick-braised
1 oz (about 1/4 cup) crumbled queso fresco or firm feta
8 eggs
4 corn tortillas

Roast the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, 4 inches below a very hot broiler, until blistered and blackened, flipping to cook both sides. Cool tomatoes in a bowl, then peel while catching all the juices over the bowl. Coarsely puree the tomatoes and juice using a stick blender or in a food processor.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1T oil over medium heat. Add about 3/4 of the onion and saute, stirring regularly, until onions golden, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chile strips and simmer over medium-low heat for 15 minutes or so, stirring often, until the sauce is beginning to thicken but is still juicy. Season with salt to taste, and remove from heat to let the chiles steep.

(At this point, you can cool and refrigerate the sauce overnight.)

Pour a 1/2-inch depth of oil in a shallow skillet or frying pan. Warm the pan over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add tortillas, one at a time, and cook until golden; flip with tongs and crisp the other side, then drain on a wire rack over newspaper or over a cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining tortillas until all are toasted.

Pour off most of the oil, reserving some (2T or so) for frying the beans, and leave about a tablespoon in the pan. Return to the heat, and lay the plantain slices in a single layer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side until richly browned. Sprinkle with salt as soon as you take them out of the oil, then drain on paper towels and hold in a warm oven.

Add the reserved oil to the pan, and saute the remaining onions until golden and soft. Add the diced garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the beans and a spoonful of their cooking liquid to the pan. Mash with a potato masher until beans are soft but some texture remains. Add more liquid as needed to achieve a spreadable texture, and keep warm, covered, over very low heat.

Mix together the ham strips and the peas in another small pan or dish, and warm gently over low heat. Crumble the cheese into a small bowl and set aside. Remove the chile strips from the tomato sauce, and set the pan of sauce over low heat to rewarm.

Finally, fry the eggs using your preferred method. (Traditionally, you want a runny yolk, so sunny-side up or over easy.) Spread some of the beans over each tostada, slide an egg on top, drizzle the tomato sauce over and around the eggs, letting it run off the tostada and on to the plate. Sprinkle each portion with the ham, peas and cheese. Serve immediately.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:One Local Summer 2009
Bruins Farm, Winters: Tomatoes
Catalán Family Farm, Hollister: Onions
Chue’s Farm, Fresno: Serrano chiles & garlic
Rancho Gordo, Napa: Black beans
Boccalone, Oakland: Ham (proscuitto cotto)
Iacopi, Half Moon Bay: Shelling peas
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: Goat feta
Eatwell Farm, Dixon: Pastured eggs
Primavera, Sonoma: Corn tortillas
, Sacramento: Olive oil
…plus our own homegrown epazote for the beans

breakfast, locavore, Mexican, One Local Summer


A silver-lining salad

Posted by Anita on 06.21.09 8:31 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*A few weeks ago, we headed down to Los Angeles for a quick getaway. Ostensibly, the occasion was our seventh(!) wedding anniversary, but truthfully the real purpose of our trip was to eat at all the places we’d been adding to our ever-expanding “must-try” list.

At the very top of said list was Pizzeria Mozza, the newish joint venture from Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton. After hearing rave reviews from pretty much every newspaper, magazine, blog, and friend, we decided to schedule Mozza in a prime Friday-night slot, to make sure we were getting the A-team of cooks and servers.

I won’t bore you with the litany of every thing that went wrong that night — we’re over the tedious exercise of writing negative restaurant reviews — but here’s the short version: Unexciting food, abysmal service, and pacing so unbelievably rushed that we were back in our car just 29 minutes after our first (and only) glass of wine hit the table. Seriously.

But every cloud has a silver lining. And at Mozza, that lining took the form of a fabulous melange of slender haricots verts, sweet shallots, crunchy hazelnuts, and creamy whole-grain mustard dressing (which, ahem, arrived in place of the roasted-cauliflower dish we’d actually ordered). Amid a menu of fair-to-decent dishes, this small plate stood out, and we quickly realized that we could easily duplicate it at home. We combed through every Batali and Silverton cookbook we own, but found nothing similar. However, Googling “beans + mustard + vinegar + hazelnuts” led us to a likely recipe — not from either of the Mozza chefs, but from Chef Dan Barber of New York’s Blue Hill restaurants.

Although we’re still a few weeks away from finding slim haricots at our market, their larger cousins are already becoming plentiful. And though hazelnuts aren’t grown in the Bay Area, we have plenty of other local options. We opted for walnuts, but made them a little more decadent by rubbing off their skins after toasting them lightly in a pan. After that, the rest of the dish comes together in a matter of a whisk here, a blanch there. And when served with a quick-brined pork chop and the first new potatoes of the year — as we did, for our One Local Summer meal this week — it makes for a great summer side-dish.

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*

Summer Beans in Grainy Mustard Vinaigrette
– adapted from Dan Barber

1 T finely chopped shallots
2 T balsamic vinegar
12 oz trimmed green and yellow-wax beans (about 4 cups)
1/2 T whole grain mustard
1/4 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 T chopped chives
1 T plus 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 T blanched nuts (we used walnuts) toasted, peeled if desired, and coarsely chopped

Soak shallots in balsamic vinegar in a small bowl for 30 minutes; set aside for later use.

Fill a saucepan with 2 quarts of water and 1T salt; bring to a boil. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with water and ice.

When water comes to a boil, add beans and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain quickly and shock beans in the ice-water bowl. When fully chilled, drain beans well, pat dry, and set aside.

Stir mustard into balsamic-soaked shallots. Gradually whisk in olive oil until blended. (If you’d like a creamier dressing, buzz with a stick blender until well emulsified.) Add the chives, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper; stir until combined.

Toss dressing with beans and nuts until evenly coated; serve immediately.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:One Local Summer 2009
Marin Sun Farms, Point Reyes: Pork chop
Fox Barrel, Fairfax: Hard cider (for brine)
Eatwell Farm, Dixon: New potatoes
Dirty Girl Produce, Santa Cruz: Shallots
, Sacramento: Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Dwelley Farms, Brentwood: Green and wax beans
Boccalone, Oakland: Whole-grain mustard
Glashoff, Fairfield: Walnuts
…and our own homegrown chives and homemade chicken stock

locavore, One Local Summer, recipes, restaurants, SoCal


Easy peasy

Posted by Anita on 06.13.09 8:34 PM

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*One of the greatest pleasures of growing your own food is standing next to your plot — preferrably while still in your pyjamas — and nibbling on the tenderest first bits of your harvest. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said that Cameron and I probably ate a quarter of our shelling-pea crop in just that way. And even though it cut down dramatically on the number of peas that actually made it to the kitchen, I wouldn’t change a thing.

For this week’s One Local Summer meal, we enjoyed the last of our pea harvest in one of our favorite recipes, a risotto so deliciously savory that we’ve made it three times already this year. We’ve got another batch of peas already slinking their way up the trellis — courtesy of our mild summers, we get to enjoy spring crops nearly all year long — and already I am counting the days until we can make this simple supper again. Because although it’s fine with the regular farmers-market ingredients, it truly becomes its very best when made with tiny, super-sweet, just-picked baby peas.

(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*(c)2009 AEC *all rights reserved*

Risi e Bisi (Venetian Style Pea Risotto)
- adapted from Molto Italiano

2T extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 oz prosciutto, cut into in 1/8-inch dice
3/4 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
1 quart chicken stock, warmed
1 cup shelled fresh peas
2T butter
1/4 cup grated hard cheese, such as dry Jack or Parmesan
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a tall-sided 10-inch skillet or saucier pan. Saute the shallots, celery, and prosciutto over medium heat until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes, until the grains become opaque. Add enough stock to just cover the rice, and stir until stock is absorbed. Continue to add stock a ladleful at a time, waiting until most of the liquid is absorbed before adding the next bit. Taste the rice, and season with salt and pepper. Add peas and cook for 4 minutes, until peas are just tender. Remove from heat, add butter and cheese, and stir until just melted. Serve in warmed shallow bowls.

Farmers and food artisans who created the ingredients for this week’s meal:One Local Summer 2009Bariani, Sacramento: Olive oil
Dirty Girl Produce, Santa Cruz: Shallots
Catalán Family Farm, Hollister: Celery
Boccalone, Oakland: Proscuitto cotto
Lundberg Family Farms, Richvale: Eco-farmed white Arborio rice
Spring Hill Cheese Company, Petaluma: Butter and Dry Jack cheese…plus our own homemade chicken stock, made from Marin Sun Farms and Soul Food Farm chicken bones and our own homegrown English shelling peas

locavore, One Local Summer, recipes