Spicy Asian Slaw - february 26, 2011

In the past couple of weeks we have eaten at least five cabbages. Winter, or spring in some places, is cabbage season. They are beautiful in the garden, gathering dew with dusty hues of plum, pale and bright green. And they are great in salads of all sorts, stir fried and steamed. But sometimes I'm just not sure what to do with them all.

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Roast Chicken Tacos - august 3, 2010 (click here for just the recipe)

Tonight's chicken tacos were the best dinner ever. In addition to both kids eating it, my daughter ate five radishes. Five! I've been putting beautiful little radishes - in red, pink, purple - on the table and eating them with great relish around my family for years now, but I I've never seen her eat more than one tiny nibble, until tonight. Truth be told, I don't even like radishes that much. But I eat them anyway.

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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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Fava Bean Tagine - may 18, 2010

I love the way that rolls off my tongue - fava bean tagine. I bet if I made it into a little song and dance, while I served dinner, my daughter would repeat it all day long - just to annoy me. But would she eat it? Well, yes, under duress. I spoon fed her all the fava beans (which she enjoys raw, but not cooked) and sweet potatoes, in exchange for a bowl of super sugar clifford crisps, or some other fake-healthy organic sugar cereal. The chicken and cous-cous she ate on her own. My son refused the vegetables outright, but that is nothing unusual.

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Lemon Chicken Salad - may 6, 2010

 To come clean, lemon chicken salad makes our dinner sound more special than it actually was. Ina Garten's recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook calls for grilled lemon chicken, which I'm sure is delicious, but was just not in the cards tonight. I used the remainder of our roast chicken from earlier this week, and while slicing it up, marinating it and then cooking it again on the grill was enticing, it was also too ridiculous. 

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Joy of a Roast Chicken - may 3, 2010

Today was a near perfect spring day - fitting, since May Day was this past Saturday. We had no plans this morning, which allowed me to tidy the kitchen to near acceptable standards of cleanliness, something it hasn't achieved since early two thousand six. There was only one timeout for the kids while I swept and rinsed and scrubbed and sorted, they were largely good on their own, playing "camping" in the sunny living room by redesigning the sofa into a tent complete with special secret agent devices.

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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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 Grilled Chicken with Harissa and Mint - april 21, 2010

Harissa is a fabulous thing. I recently had some with couscous, when I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at Chez Panisse. I love harissa because I can make it myself, put it in a little clip-top jar with a quarter inch of oil covering the top and keep it in the fridge for a thousand years. Its been so long since I made harissa that I don't even remember what is in it. You don't have to make it from scratch, though, its easy enough to buy at a middle eastern grocery or probably at Andronicos or Rainbow. But if you happen to have a food processor and access to Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, you can make it pretty easily too.

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CoffeeCake  I came across this recipe when looking through Jesse Ziff Cool's Your Organic Kitchen, thinking it was one I had made in the past and loved, but really I had something else that uses sun dried tomatoes in mind.  I'll have to find that one and try it out.  Chicken and Orzo stew is a good one for using up some greens and serving some pasta.  Its quick to make - my husband cooked it up while I shuffled about doing some other terribly important thing - and tastes pretty good, though I think I would leave out the wine if you're cooking for kids. At our house, at least, wine in food just seems to be a flavor they don't enjoy. So of course, neither of them ate it. We finally managed to convince them that the chicken wasn't so bad if removed from the stew and accompanied by a cream cheese sandwich.   

Early this afternoon I was lucky enough to have some culinary adventures of my own, in one of my favorite neighborhoods - Hayes Valley. I love the grassy green space filling the Octavia Boulevard's esplanade, especially for the really big art installations that change every year or so.  I love the sunflowers and black eyed susans that grow at its edge and the kids' climbing structure just beyond. We refer to it as The Spider Playground. On sunny afternoons I like to take my kids and stop at the Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk on Linden, then savor my coffee at the playground.  Next we cross Octavia Boulevard and pop into Miette for a treat to have after lunch and then continue on down the block for lunch and a loaf of bread to go at La Boulange.

But this morning, I was on my own.  I stopped for some beans and an iced coffee at Blue Bottle, and also picked up a tiny coffee cake made with Magnolia Stout from Magnolia Brewery.  Magnolia has been on the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets, in the upper Haight, for many years. Back in its early days my husband and I dined there weekly. Magnolia's brewmaster Dave Mclean makes really great beer and is an all around nice guy - so the cake was too great an opportunity to pass up.  Blue Bottle's pastry queen, Caitlin Williams Freeman, baked my little treat, and I'm told she and her husband, Blue Bottle founder James Freeman, are really nice too.

So back to my cake.  It was good - nutty and spicy and genuinely unusual with its caraway seed finish - but just begging to be eaten with a hot cup of coffee and not an iced one.  So with much anticipation, I'm saving it for tomorrow morning. 

While puttering about over there, I came across something else I haven't encountered before - Project Homeless Connect's Community Garden. Community gardens have been popping up like mushrooms lately, partially due to the Mayor's Healthy and Sustainable Food Directive of last year, I suppose. Which is all good and well - I am a huge fan of community gardens. However, its hard not to look at them with a more critical eye, simply because there are so many. They're just becoming too trendy for their own good. 

But this one is different - its focused on connecting homeless people and housed people, in an attempt to create community. Its a really intriguing idea. I can think of many reasons why homeless and housed people might not want to connect at all. Can a garden bring them together?  I'll be checking in on their website to see what develops.


Chicken, Orzo and Greens Stew (adapted from Jesse Ziff Cool's Your Organic Kitchen):

6 oz orzo

1 1/2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips

1 red onion or shallot, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine (I wouldn't add this if you're trying to feed young kids)

2 cups chicken broth

3 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

1 pound greens (chard, stir fry, spinach, whatever), thinly sliced

Parmesan or Asiago cheese, grated

salt & pepper

Cook the orzo according to the package directions, drain and place in a large serving bowl. 

While the orzo is cooking, place the mustard seeds in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.  Add to the bowl or orzo.

Heat the oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until browned and cooked through.  Remove with a slotted spoon to the bowl or orzo.

Add the onion to the skillet and cook for 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the wine, broth, oregano and greens.  Cover and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the greens are wilted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and add to the bowl with orzo.

Toss to blend and garnish with cheese.



Green on greens.

I realize the calendar listed "bean stew with herbed pesto" for tonight's dinner, but when I went to soak the beans this morning, and happened to check the recipe, I realized we had no chicken stock.  And while most of the time I would just sub in water, I bought special beans that look like little cows for this one, so I didn't want to mess it up. 

Instead, I put a chicken out to thaw and finally got around to using the greens from last week's CSA box. I've been so taken with the first asparagus and shelling peas this spring that I've let some of our more ordinary workhorse items - leeks and greens and green garlic and spinach - fall to bottom of the fridge.

This recipe is an oldie but goodie - we've been eating it for years.  Usually we make the sauce and greens with tofu and rice, but when I need chicken stock, it only makes sense to eat some so that I have leftover bones to simmer all night.  Either one is good. At our house the kids won't touch tofu unless it is completely tasteless and floating in a bowl of broth. So usually, if we have languishing greens, we'll eat the tofu version for a late supper after the kids are in bed.

Any kind of greens will work, what we get are actually called stir-fry greens, and are made up of young leaves of chard, kale, spinach, mustard and all sorts of other leafy green brassica-like things.

I managed to make it in to Omnivore Books this afternoon, to pick up a copy of Gordon Edgar's Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge.  He has been working at Rainbow Grocery's cheese counter since 1994, which is only one year longer than I have been shopping there. According to Omnivore, he is "witty and irreverent, informative and provocative".  I can't wait to read his book. I also can't wait to see him speak at Omnivore this Saturday, at 3:00 pm.  How could you not want to hang out and hear the dirt on cheese?


Greens and Tofu/Chicken Stir-Fry (adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone):

1 large bunch stir-fry greens (or any other sort of greens)

12 oz firm tofu or 2 chicken legs (thigh and drum included)

4 large garlic cloves or 4 green garlic stalks, finely chopped (depending on the season)

a two inch or so piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 Tablespoons dark sesame oil

4 Tablespoons sesame oil

8 teaspoons brown sugar

6 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Before you do anything else, start a rice cooker with a couple cooks of rice in it. Next, pull the leaves off the stems of the greens, then wash them in a salad spinner.  Spin dry, and put them aside.  If using tofu, slice into 1/2 inch x 2 inch pieces.  If using chicken, cut the meat off the bone and into 1 inch square or so pieces. 

Mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oils to make the sauce. Put the vegetable oil in a wok, and heat it up.  The whole point in stir-frying is that the pan is so hot, the food just needs to be stirred around for a brief period of time - so crank up the heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the tofu or chicken.  Stir it around for a minute or two, then add the garlic and ginger.  Let the garlic and ginger soften, but not color or burn.  When they are soft, add the tofu or chicken, and stir-fry.  When the meat (or tofu) looks done (slice open the biggest piece you can find to make sure its not pink inside), dump the greens on top of the chicken/tofu, and stir-fry them as well.  When the greens are wilted, pour the sauce over the greens and chicken/tofu.  Stir it all together and turn off the heat.  Serve over rice!