20150621-SaladDan Jurafsky's Medieval Salad
june 21, 2015

This salad comes from the days of castles and knights in shining armor - the fourteenth century, or 1390 to be exact. It is surprisingly modern and you can find something similar on the menu of many San Francisco restaurants right now: the ingredients are fresh, simply prepared and able to speak for themselves through a light dressing.

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Minestrone with Arugula PestoSteve Sando's Minestrone with Arugula Pesto
march 19, 2015

We all love pesto at my house, though it is usually made with basil and pinenuts. This one is made with arugula and parsley instead. Both have parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and salt. I used the blender tonight, instead of the food processor, and I think the latter is better: the blender makes it too smooth.

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Orange-Fennel Salad

Orange-Fennel Salad
january 25, 2015

I don't usually love bitter greens in my salad, but this one is quite good. It turns the more typical mix of grapefruit and a less disagreeable flavor (like butter lettuce or avocado) on its head, with frisée playing the part of cranky old endive. Orange, fennel and balsamic vinegar join the bowl to sweeten things up. A combination of cara-cara and blood oranges work especially well here.

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20150114-SoupFennel Matzo Ball Chicken Soup
january 14, 2015

"Matzo ball soup is chasing a memory," my husband said, as he turned up his nose while we ate it for dinner. But I've got no memory of my own for it. I didn't eat it as a child or as an adult, and worked hard to tell the story of unleavened bread and the escape from Egypt to my children tonight.

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Poached Halibut with Fennel & Lemon Balm

Poached Halibut with Lemon Balm
august 1, 2014

I wasn't quite sure what to do with the lemon balm in our CSA box, but combining Lorraine's suggestion from the Eatwell Farm newsletter with a favorite recipe from Canal House Cooking did the trick.

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Shrimp Risotto & Shaved Salad
april 11, 2014

There is a recipe for shaved fennel and radish salad in this week's Eatwell Farm newsletter and both ingredients in the box, along with green garlic. Chicken broth, arborio rice and green garlic seem like natural companions to me, so I'll add some shrimp and we'll have risotto with a little sauteed kale and this salad on the side.

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Buy the bookBraised Fennel and Shrimp - may 10, 2013

Deborah Madison's new book is really quite good, I love all her writing on the actual veggie plants themselves: it's a kitchen and garden go-between. 

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Love Your Mother: Lamb, Carrots and Fava Salad - may 11, 2011

This year I made my desires for Mother's Day known well in advance: no gifts, just a day at home in the garden and a big dinner, cooked as a family.  It was delicious, and I got gifts anyway - three of Andy Goldsworthy's books, much loved by my kids after we watched his Rivers and Tides together a week or two back.

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Such cute little beans, just like miniature ponies.

Today was one of those days just plagued by bad decisions. In the morning we headed out to see the train at the Conservatory of Flowers, only to find it closed on Mondays.  So we went to the zoo, where Little Puffer was closed as well.  We looked at the lemurs, giraffes, patas monkeys, penguins, and finally, the train tracks.  Our whirlwind tour ended with a delicious hotdog and lemonade "lunch", after which I delivered both children to preschool, ten minutes late.  At least it was only ten.  Lately they're running a half hour behind on most days.

After taking an afternoon stab at working, I was really looking forward to cooking a stew from Rancho Gordo's Heirloom Beans cookbook, using their Vaquero Beans I picked up at Rainbow last week along with lots of things in the produce box. But, sadly, that is when my worst mistakes of today occurred.  

For starters, I chopped the pancetta before adding it.  This recipe requires that the pancetta be left in one piece and removed after cooking, and there is good reason for it.  A big chunk of pancetta is nearly impossible to chop with a dull knife, even after being sauteed.  Plus, the texture is really bad, like little bits of tasty pencil eraser.  But that was not nearly the worst of it.  

My pesto making with the blender was a bit heavy handed, and it turned out as more of a puree than pesto.  Kind of a bright green slime - just like in the TV show You Can't Do That on Television from the 80's.  I thought I was doing a good thing by following the recipe, but actually, I only know how to use a blender to make yogurt and strawberry smoothies.  Apparently I just don't have the proper technique for anything else. I even have a past history of problems pureeing soup.

But that was really not such a big deal.  The whopper was thinking it was a good idea to give the kids a dozen easter eggs to peel while I finished up the stew.  Tuna and eggs seemed like a nice accompaniment. A little extra protein for my daughter who would surely turn down the beans.

I have to admit that the eggs were a bit worse for the wear from the start.  Two and four year olds have a habit of smashing them up during dying and hunting. Plus, they spent most of Easter day outdoors, being licked by the local raccoons, rats, possums and cats.  And then the fridge was too cold, where they developed a coating of ice under their shells. But after my kids got ahold of them they were truly a mess - bits of shell covered the floor, table, butcher block and both kids.  They hadn't had too much luck separating the insides from the shells, so most of that was smeared all over the floor and tabletops as well.

Then they brought in the brooms, and the real fighting broke out. I have trouble concentrating when two people are beating each other with broomsticks and dustpans in the same room with me, so of course I made a mistake and added all of my bright green pesto puree to the stew, instead of the one cup indicated by the recipe.  Luckily all I could do was laugh - it was just that horrible.  "Hot green soup" as my pink obsessed daughter would say, referring to the color and not the temperature.

I suspect this makes a really great dinner, if you can manage to follow the instructions properly.  We didn't eat ours, except for Jason, who will eat most anything. I actually found it pretty good as a spread for toast, but just couldn't bring myself to eat it as a soup, even though I have no problem eating green soups that are supposed to be green.  This one was just too accidentally green, too oily, and the beans too floaty.  


Bean Stew with Herb Pesto (adapted from Heirloom Beans from Rancho Gordo):

2 thyme sprigs

2 flat leaf parsley sprigs

1 bay leaf

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium carrot, cut into three pieces

1/2 celery stalk, cut into three pieces

1/2 medium yellow onion, quartered

1/4 medium fennel bulb

one 3 to 4 oz piece pancetta

1 pound yellow eye, vaquero, marrow or white runner beans, soaked and drained

4 cups chicken stock

salt and pepper

Put the thyme, parsley and bay leaf on a piece of cheesecloth, gather the corners and tie the bundle securely.  This is a good thing to do so that it is easy to pull them out of the soup when it is finished, because bay leaves are major choking hazards.  Not just for kids, but for grown-ups too.

In a soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the carrot, celery, onion and fennel and saute until starting to color, about 10 minutes. Add the beans, cheesecloth bundle, chicken stock and water to cover by one inch. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the beans are just tender - about 1 and 1/2 hours.  Add the pancetta and let them simmer over very low heat for another 1/2 hour or so. Season with salt and pepper - and don't forget to taste the broth, since it will take a while for the beans to soak it up.

For the Pesto:

4 cornichons

2 teaspoons capers

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 soft cooked egg (or hard boiled one)

1 oil-packed anchovy fillet

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 cups arugala leaves, roughly chopped

2 cups spinach leaves, roughly chopped

1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves

salt and pepper

Put the cornichons, capers, mustard, garlic, egg and anchovy in a food processor (or blender, if you think you can handle the challenge). With the motor running, slowly add the oil until it is completely incorporated. Add the arugala, spinach, and tarragon.  Blend until it looks something like pesto and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add about one cup of the pesto to the warmed stew (the recipe makes 2-3 cups), ladle into bowls and serve with bread.



Paste Ingredients for Leg of LambEaster Lunch
april 5, 2010

We had a wonderful lunch today - and the best part?  I didn't cook it.  My husband, who likes meat, cooked a leg of lamb and  a pot of beans.  He made fennel and blood orange vinaigrette. My friend Laure brought cream puffs.  All I had to do was go out into the garden and snip some lettuce and arugala. Luckily, I have a nice raincoat, because it was wet out there.

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