Monthly Archives: September 2008

Dear John Letter

Dear John Lon,

We both knew it would only be a summer romance, but did you have to end it in such an impersonal way? At first, you were only available a few hours each week. But I was obsessed, passing your farm stand every day, watching for those beautiful doors to open. At first, there were just a few select veggies to talk about, bring home, and cook for my family. But the veggies were grown without pesticides, and with great care. As the summer progressed, you were open longer hours and found a delightful local youth to join you in the work each day. You even brought others into our relationship, corn from Massoni and peaches from Frog Hollow Farm. I knew that you spoiled me, and I came to depend upon that …. even knowing in my heart that this was just a summer romance. Remember the days when you looked forward to the heirloom tomatoes? The days you proudly displayed squash, tomatoes, potatoes, honey, figs, melons, and all the riches of summer? Remember when your mom worked the farm stand and we chatted for awhile while enjoying the last three figs of the season? After all of that, to just put out a sign. Just a sign. Oh, Lon, you broke my heart.

Heron

This morning, a beautiful white heron was perched on our dock, just as the sun finished rising.  I tried to take a picture for you, but these birds are notoriously skittish.  Instead, here’s a photo from a local park.  May you have the luck to eat as fresh and local as this heron today (even if your chosen diet is of a different variety).

Enjoy your day!

Ramen, Anyone?

I do understand that I live a wonderful life.  Really.  My two wonderful teenagers (yes, the words wonderful and teenagers did both appear in the same sentence!)  both seem to be college bound.  Not only have we socked away a few dollars for their education, but their grandparents have also.  Again, a wonderful, wonderful life.  But … have you seen all of those banks and investment firms in the news lately?  Yeah … college funds … news.  Go ahead and connect the dots.

Anyone up for a blog about Ramen?!

DNA

Long story short here …. I ended up at the Tech Museum today and  had a great time connecting with my inner geek.   In the genetics  area, there was  this huuuuuuuuge double  helix made up of recipe books!  See, there is a genetic recipe for  each of us.  For me, I was impressed with the size and creativity in this display.  And for the rest of the museum …. I can’t wait to go back and finish playing with all of the exhibits!

When Life Gives You Rosemary, Make Focaccia

It is odd not having even an herb garden this year, but that is the story for another day (hint: a puppy is involved, and lucky for her she’s a cutie). My neighbor T doesn’t technically have an herb garden, but there are several large rosemary bushes in his back yard. “Help yourself, anytime!” he’d tell me. So, I started small. Just a snip here and there from the bush next to our low, shared fence. When that started to flower, I welcomed myself into his yard one day while he was out doing some pruning. “Help yourself, anytime!” he repeated. This weekend he showed up at our door with a handful of aromatic rosemary trimmings. “The bush on the far side of the yard is the best now, help yourself!” I tell ya, neighbors like this are gold.

So here I was holding a handful of rosemary and the desire to try something new. Focaccia! Yes, I know that this bread is not exactly a new item on the world’s menu, but it involved yeast, and yeast is not generally my friend. But I had LOTS of rosemary, so if the first batch didn’t work, I could try again. And, even if the bread didn’t turn out beautifully, the house would smell divine!

Knowing that working with yeast require a decent thermometer, and only finding a meat / roast type, I jerry – rigged up a little doo-dad with bit of painters’ tape that did the trick nicely. There is a story behind the lack of a glass thermometer also, but there is nothing cute involved, so I will spare you those details. 🙂 After a bit of a recipe search, I found one that used honey, and since I still have some of that yummy local honey, I went for that.

So, here we go. And remember, even if this doesn’t work out perfectly for you the first time, the aroma in your house alone is worth it!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

Directions

Combine boiling water, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and honey in a large bowl; cool to 100° to 110°. Sprinkle yeast over honey mixture; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 1/4 cups flour, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1 teaspoon salt to honey mixture, stirring to form a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down. Pat dough into a 14 x 12-inch rectangle on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Uncover dough. Make indentations in top of dough using handle of a wooden spoon or your fingertips. Combine 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon water, and egg yolk; brush over dough. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with remaining rosemary and sea salt.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.

Smith Family Farms in September

Farm stands can be found seemingly everywhere in mid summer, but by now, most have either closed their doors for the season or have drastically scaled back offerings. All except Smith Family Farms. The bounty of the seasons continues to shine at this stylish, local favorite spot! I’ve done all of my produce shopping there the past few weeks and was impressed to find an amazing array of local foods as well as a full parking lot. It is wonderful when a local business can shine so brightly!

Upon entering the area, you’ll quickly notice a little sense of humor, in that the squash(es) with the funniest shapes are prominently displayed.  Artful displays, such as these tomatoes on the back of an old truck abound.  As I was born totally without the art gene, I sooooooooo appreciate those with such skills!

For most of us, the season for real tomatoes has passed us by and we’re left figuring out if we want to go for those red orbs in the grocery store that look like a tomato but taste  like cardboard.  At Smith Family Farms, they space out plantings for months, then just keep harvesting and selling the real deal tomatoes as long as they can.  Yum!

They just put out a new type of cute little Genovese tomato that may just fulfill my desire to prepare some marinara sauce to freeze for the winter before.  (OK, I have said this for the past 3 years, but maybe, just maybe, this will be the year for me!)  When asking about them, I was told that a few local chefs are having a great time hollowing out these little cuties and filling them with crab salad in their restaurants.  Ooo, that sounds fantastic!

And peppers.  Wherever there are tomatoes, there must be peppers nearby.  How tempting are these?

All in all, its a tough life for a foodie, I know.  But, I’ll gladly take you along for the ride!

Peach Pancake

Once again, this recipe comes from a harmonic convergence of events. For one, Cooking Light featured a lovely Apple Pancake baked in a cast iron skillet on the cover of their magazine. Apple? Huh? Now? We’re still in full peach, pluot, and nectarine season ’round here. But the picture was soooooooo beautiful, and I’m a firm believer that anything cooked in a cast iron skillet is worthy of my time and attention.

Then, I was stopping by Lon’s Organic on my way home from work for my daily fix of whatever he was featuring this week, and there I saw them: 2 boxes of peaches from his neighbor Frog Hollow Farm. For those of you unfamiliar with this famous farm, just note that they have one of the most popular stands in the highly touted San Francisco Ferry Building market. But, they don’t sell them locally. Until Lon. Until now. Mind you, they are a bit pricey, but they are like slurping up a bit of heaven. Yes, these are the Eat Over the Sink or Eat Over the Lawn kinds of peaches that make you smile from ear to ear while sweet juices drip down your chin.

You see? It was clearly a harmonic convergence of the most lovely peaches you have ever tasted and a beautiful cover picture on Cooking Light.

Note: in the past I have attempted other fruit desserts that visually depended on the perfect spiral of fruit for full effect, and let’s just say that there are no pictures of those dishes. But this? Again I tell you, this was meant to be.

Ingredients

Batter:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peach mixture:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
  • 1 cup thinly sliced peach

Preparation

1. To prepare batter, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, salt, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Lightly whisk eggs in a small bowl. Add milk, butter, and vanilla and whisk lightly again. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, gently combine with a whisk. Let stand 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 425°.

3. To prepare peach mixture, coat bottom and sides of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar, cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg; sprinkle evenly over bottom and sides of pan. Arrange peach in an even spokelike layer in pan. Sprinkle peach with remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Cook on the stove top over medium heat 8 minutes or until mixture bubbles. (It looks simply delectable at this point!) Slowly pour batter over apple mixture.

4. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375° (do not remove pancake from oven); bake an additional 13 minutes or until center is set. Carefully loosen pancake with a spatula. Gently slide pancake onto a serving platter. (We served it straight out of the pan for that rustic charm.) Cut into 6 wedges; serve immediately.

Notes:

  • This was truly as delicious as it looks!
  • The original recipe called for egg substitute. I came up with the listed egg combination after a quick online search and was quite pleased with the result.
  • The next time I make this with peaches or another sweet fruit, I will cut waaaaaaaaaaaaay back on the sugar. This bordered on being too sweet. Just bordered mind you, because nothing so delectable can be Too Sweet, eh?
  • The recipe called for a 10 inch pan. I had a 9 inch pan and a 12 inch pan and went with the smaller one. Making everything else according to the recipe, I just held off on a bit of the sugar mixture and batter.
  • This is a really simple little dessert to whip up, makes the home smell divine, and comes with a lovely rustic presentation from the pan.