Community Supported Agriculture, Farm Shares and Spring Soup - april 20, 2011

Spring is here again!  The plum trees have bloomed, asparagus is in the stores, the end of the school year is fast approaching and I am officially another year older. These are the usual markers of my favorite season beginning, or as is often the case, being halfway over by the time I get around to giving it my full attention.

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More Fava Love - june 8, 2010

This morning the kids and I harvested breakfast and dinner from our garden. Not a full meal, but at least part of it. For starters, we had a handful of home grown strawberries - a few of the tiny white alpine ones, and half a dozen nice red ones, minus a few slug bites. It turns out that a strawberry takes at least a week or so as a red berry to become fully ripe. We didn't realize this right away, and I had doubts our garden could actually produce sweet berries. But now I know, it just takes a long time for them to be ready. The red berries need to be dark red and super shiny, swollen looking, almost. Just turning red isn't enough. The little white ones are harder to gage, but the best indicator seems to be that they get larger than I expected, soft, and dry out a little, so that they are lighter in weight than their less sweet neighbors.

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Polenta and Blood Orange Sorbet - may 9, 2010

Polenta is a rather intensive affair, when cooked at home from dry crunchy grit. The traditional recipe calls for near continuous stirring, for half an hour to fourty-five minutes. Deborah Madison offers a more modern walk-away version, but it needs to sit in a double boiler for an hour and a half, after two separate pots of water are brought to a boil, one at a time, on top of each other, all before the grit even comes into play. At my house, a cooking time that long and with that many steps could only be accomplished with very well orchestrated planning, which is not my forte.

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More Pasta and Veg - may 3, 2010

We had a busy weekend, as usual, with one of the highlights being Urban Sprouts' Greens, Eggs & Jam brunch on Saturday. My husband, kids and I rode our bikes along Golden Gate Park's panhandle bike path over to Ida B. Wells High School in the Western Addition for the party. The greens and eggs were fabulous - lots of yummy food from NOPA, Radio Africa & Kitchen and Contigo Restaurants, and the bluegrass band was fun. My daughter was stumped when asked to identify their instruments - "a violin and three guitars" she told me. But it was actually a fiddle, mandolin, banjo and one guitar.

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No eggs for egg salad today, after yesterday's debacle.  

I love fava beans.  To me, they are the harbinger of spring.  Yes, they are a pain to prepare - first you shell the beans, then you boil them really briefly, then you skin the beans - but I find it a reasonable tradeoff. Favas start showing up at the market around the same time as shelling peas, asparagus and lilacs. Lilacs are my absolute favorite, except for  Lily of the Valley, yet another springtime superstar of the garden. I would gladly trade a year's worth of chocolate to get both of those to flower every spring in my yard.

Pasta Primavera, on the other hand, I have mixed feelings for. It is one of those foods usually more fatty and salty than good, and can range anywhere from comforting to frightening, depending on who makes it for me. But this one is from Canal House Cooking again, and is both a joy to cook and to eat. Like the name implies, it actually uses young spring vegetables, not old crufters you might find at the grocery store in January.

Its ham and spaghetti appeal to kids and manly meat eaters, and the veggies aren't too hard to separate out, should someone deem them unfit for consumption. The only caveat to easy assembly are the favas and peas. I recruit my kids to help shell them. Its the one time I encourage them to shred food, so they don't mind helping out. Getting started on those early on in the day is a good idea, they can sit out on the counter just fine and will benefit from a few minutes of attention here and there.

Today was the perfect spring day - I made dinner with the kitchen doors open to the deck and wandered down to pick mint from the garden. Lots of sun, not too hot. Hopefully tomorrow I'll make it out there again to start some seedlings, but that is looking doubtful. I hope the weather holds until Thursday. 

My bad decisions of yesterday were replaced by plain old bad luck today.  We managed to make it to the Garden Railway at the Conservatory of Flowers, which was very cool - a miniature railroad featuring city landmarks all built of recycled trash - but the fog machine was broken, so the 11:15 fogging I had promised the kids didn't happen.  Instead, we identified and counted the kitchen gadgets used to build the Ferry Plaza building. Then this evening at dinner, I managed to break two corkscrews while attempting to open a bottle of riesling.  Luckily, I found my old swiss army knife while cleaning out my top dresser drawer this past weekend - and it did the job just fine. 


Pasta Primavera (adapted from Canal House Cooking volume 3):

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup diced smoked ham (if you have kids who will like this part, double it)

1 cup fava beans, shelled, then dropped for 30 seconds into boiling water, then peeled. 

1 cup shelled peas

1 bunch chopped thin asparagus

1 stalk green garlic

1 pound spaghetti

1 Tablespoon tomato paste 

A few finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Grated pecorino romano cheese

For starters, you can prep the fava beans and peas in advance.  The peas just need to be shelled.  The favas need to be shelled (the easiest way is to break the end off the bean pod, squeeze out a bean, then break it again to get to the next bean, squeeze it out, and so on).  Then drop them for 30 seconds into a pot of boiling water.  Drain them and dump them into a bowl of ice water.  Then peel them (the easiest way is to pinch a bit of the skin off, then just squeeze the bean so it pops out of the pinched spot).

When its time to make dinner, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium heat.  The pasta takes about ten minutes to cook, so don't start it until fifteen or so minutes before you want to eat.  Instead, turn the heat down to simmer once it boils, so that your water is ready to heat up quickly when you are ready for it.  Put about two Tablespoons of olive oil in a large, low sided pot or pan over medium-low heat.  When it is hot (it will shimmer, but should not smoke) add the ham.  Stir it around for a couple minutes until it starts to brown just a little bit, then throw in the green garlic and peas.  Add about 1/2 cup of the boiling pasta water, stir it up, and let the peas simmer in it for five to ten minutes, until they seem done to you. Then add the favas and asparagus and cook it for about five minutes more.  Remove the pan from heat and don't put a lid on it.  

If you haven't already, put the pasta on to cook.  Turn the heat back up so that the water boils vigorously, then pour it in and mix it up right away, to prevent clumping.  When it is done, drain it and then put it back into the pot.  Add the tomato paste and about three more Tablespoons of olive oil and stir to coat.  Then add the vegetables and ham, along with any pan juices, to the spaghetti and stir it together.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve into bowls, sprinkle with the fresh mint and grate some cheese over the top.



AsparagusAndSnappeas  I have to say that the Easter Bunny has a tough job - hauling all that candy around, hiding all those eggs, I'm shocked he hasn't run out of creativity and taken the holiday off yet.  But I see that Paas has taken some sort of road out because this year there were only five colors in our box.  Pink, orange, yellow, blue, green. No purple.  No turquoise, or whatever that other one usually is.  But lots of Cars stickers - and three plastic egg wraps.  I guess that is supposed to take the place of the two missing colors.

Its a good thing our bunny took the high road in terms of candy this year, and shopped at Miette, the best candy store in the country.  Walking into the Hayes Valley Miette is like going back it time, to some magical candy store I never had as a child. I love it.  

The candy store I do remember from my childhood was up at the corner of my block and the cross street that would take us to school.  It was called Prospectors because it was on Prospect street.  They stocked ice cream bars and Bottle Caps, Twinkies and Snoballs and those weird snacks with Andy Capp on the bag that only highschoolers ate.  But the best treat of all - Wacky Packs.  And how wonderful if you spent 20¢ and ended up with one of the rare ones - like Hipton Tea Bags or Kook Aid.   I always seemed to have multiple copies of Chock Full o Nuts and Bolts or one of the cigarette spoofs, which my mother would confiscate.

Anyway, all this bunny prep necessitated an easy dinner - and it was.  The kids wouldn't eat the salad, but the pitas and chicken disappeared, which is good enough for me.

Grilled Chicken Pita Salad (adapted from Sunset Magazine April 2010):

2 chicken breasts

1 bunch asparagus

handful of snap peas (if you have them in your garden)

lettuce for four (one big head or a similar sized bag of mesclun)

2-4 pitas, sliced into 8 wedges each

3 Tablespoons olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

salt and pepper

Cook the chicken breasts on the grill.  Because grills are so different, its hard to estimate when yours will be done.  To test for doneness, cut into the thickest part of the breast.  If it is opaque and releases only clear juices, it is done.  If you don't feel like grilling, use a grill pan on the stove or just pan fry them in a bit of olive oil over medium heat.

Wash and dry the salad.  Bring a pot of water big enough for the asparagus to fit in to boil.  Wash and trim the ends of the asparagus, wash the snap peas, pull off any leafy bits you don't want to eat.  When the water is boiling, drop the asparagus and snap peas in for a minute, then drain them into a colander in the sink.  Brush the sliced pitas with olive oil, sprinkle salt on top and toast them, either in a toaster oven or regular oven, set to 450˚ or so.  Keep a close eye on them so that they don't burn. When the chicken is done, slice it.

In a small jar, put two Tablespoons of the olive oil, all of the lemon juice and some salt and pepper. Put the lid on and shake it up. Put the salad greens in a large bowl, shake the dressing again and just before serving, pour it over the top.  Toss the salad, then divide it into bowls.  Also divide up the asparagus, peas, pitas and chicken into each bowl.  Serve right away and eat!





 What is a home without tequila?  As I found this afternoon, perfectly fine, as long as there is vodka around. The margarita recipe I posted last friday works well with either one.

Today I had the honor of meeting Novella Carpenter, author of the book Farm City about her adventures in urban agriculture in Oakland, CA.  She was great, even more Farmy than I had imagined she'd be.  As she likes to explain in her book, she is not the first to raise a garden and livestock in an inner city.  Its not that uncommon in other countries, and even some parts of the United States. Today, I'm told, Detroit has the most active urban farming community in our country.  Nonetheless, her story of breaking ground for a farm in Oakland's Ghost Town neighborhood where she raises poultry, rabbits and pigs is pretty impressive.  

As for my garden, I took the big step of planting our pre-sprouted bean seeds today.  if you remember from a day or two back, the seeds have been growing in paper towels as my efforts to settle them into the ground were thwarted by uncooperative children.  Today I finally dispensed with my need for family planting and planted them by myself.  Naturally there was much shrieking and rending of garments when my children learned the fate of their seeds, but luckily I had a few left for them to drop into holes in the ground.  And now, thank goodness, it is done.  

For the second time this month we ate an asparagus and pea salad, from Canal House Cooking's spring issue. It is so good that I plan to make it again before the season ends.  We also grilled salmon, my college pal Jenny Nelson's recipe, that Jason and I first ate years ago on the east coast in their wonderful garden. This spring pairing is great, and for the kids (there were five - my friend Shelley and her munchkins joined us for dinner) there was also a side of buttered pasta, some sort of twisty noodles they were very fond of. I had some too, really not a bad addition to the meal.


Asparagus and Pea Salad (adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume 3):

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches thin asparagus,  sliced crosswise after tough bottoms have been trimmed off.

1 cup fresh peas, shelled

4 skinny spring onions, thinly sliced

1 small head butter lettuce, washed and chopped

8 pieces cooked bacon, chopped

1 handful fresh mint leaves, chopped

pepper & salt

Bring a pot of water to boil, and toss the peas in for two minutes, then the sliced asparagus.  Boil for two more minutes, then dump the pot into a colander in the sink.  Then immerse the vegetables in a big bowl of ice water to stop them from further cooking.  Put the lettuce, onions, mint and bacon in a salad bowl, then add the peas and asparagus when they are cool.

Put some water on in a kettle to boil, keeping it warm until the rest of your meal is almost ready.  At that time, heat the water back to a boil and mix 1/4 cup of hot water with the parmesan and olive oil.  Whisk it until smooth.  Add the pepper and some salt.  Pour this dressing over your salad, toss it and serve.



Jenny Nelson's Grilled Salmon:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon honey

fresh wild caught salmon filet for four

Put the olive oil, soy sauce and brown sugar into a teeny-tiny pot over low heat (I use a metal measuring cup).  Bring it to a gentle simmer, then add the butter, ginger and honey. Stir it all together, then let the sauce simmer until it thickens, so that it is not terribly runny any longer. Remove it from heat.

Lay each piece of salmon skin side down on a sheet of tinfoil, and fold up the edges to make a sort of boat around the fish. This will hold the sauce in place, so the tinfoil edges should be close to the fish edge, and at least as tall.  

Heat the grill, and when it is medium heat, put each fish boat on the grill, and brush the sauce on with a pastry brush.  Try to divide it equally among the fish pieces.

Close the grill lid and wait five or ten minutes.  Then check on the fish - it will be a paler pink color and opaque looking when it is ready.  You can cut into the middle of the fish with a knife to see how its done and judge for yourself.  Bright pink is undercooked, but you don't want to cook the fish so much that even the middle is overcooked, so a completely opaque middle section is too cooked.  When the fish is ready, you should be able to scoop it off the foil, leaving the skin behind, with a spatula.


today's dinner is

Risotto Croquettes

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Risotto Croquettes
today's food lit is

Eat Drink Vote

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Eat Drink Vote
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