Monday, June 29, 2009

Why Cali is better, Part II

I left off having just acquired the Farmers Market job. It turns out, the job is bomb! And my boss, the owner of Catalan Family Farms, is pretty amazing, too. She is generous and kind (even though she makes me work hard), and at the end of each market, she donates food to Food Not Bombs without hesitation. I worked both markets this weekend, one in downtown Berkeley, the other in Temescal, and both left me with wonderful gifts of produce, breads, homemade kimchi from Cultured, a local fermenter, and clabbered cottage cheese from Cowgirl Creamery.

I have a fridge filled with more veggies than I can handle, so I've been on a steady diet of organic zucchini, crookneck squash, onions, garlic, cherries, tomatoes (first of the season!), leeks, carrots, cabbage, lettuces... and more. I also salvaged an entire box of summer squash that were being tossed out because harvest is this week, and there will be many many many squash if these were kept around.

So I've been trying to act quickly and use what I have while I can. If it looks like my goal is unattainable, I'll donate them to friends, but I'd like to see if it is achievable. So far I've made a light salad of mandolined squash, mint leaves, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice. Next time I'll add French feta. I've added it to pasta, tortellini, and chicken dishes. This morning I mandolined a skinny zucchini and one clove garlic into a 4x2" baking dish (very small), thinly sliced in tomatoes, tossed in about 1 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper, and added two unbeaten raw eggs. I baked this mini casserole in an oven set to 350 for 20 minutes, and out came zucchini-tomato baked eggs for one. I dare you to try it.

Friday, June 19, 2009

And this is why Cali is better

Update: Apologies for 10 days having passed without a post. Since the last addition, I moved to California for the summer, found an apartment, moved in, and acquired not one, but two temporary food-related jobs. I have been rather busy, but I have also been cooking, a lot. I've resumed my old job cooking for Christian Noto of Split Pea Seduction, and I've also managed to hook up a farmers market gig. I biked to the North Berkeley market yesterday and, since I am currently living completely alone, spent very little money on terrific produce!

You know me, I get my kicks from reading cookbooks as literature and strolling down gourmet supermarkets' aisles. So hand-picking organic produce at the market AND getting hired to work for an organic farm in the same day is quite exhilarating for me! Tonight, as I was too tired to actually go out and not motivated enough to find myself a charcoal grill to borrow, I used some of the vegetables I bought yesterday.

I found the cutest baby eggplants, no longer than four inches in length, maybe one and a half inches in diameter at the largest part. I split them in half, lengthwise, lightly olive-oiled them, stuck them in a pyrex baking dish, cut-side down, along with three cloves of unpeeled garlic, and roasted, at 375, for 12 minutes. Then I turned the eggplant over, placed 1/2 a teaspoon of grated parmesan on each, and threw back in the oven for 2 more minutes.

Out they came, my cute little baby eggplants. Six halves of delicious, organic, fresh, local baby vegetables. Needless to say I am very, very happy to be back in the bay.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quickle Pickle!

So our CSA started up again last week, and we got some awesome veggies. You know, it's not even that I even care exactly what comes in the box. It is just so refreshing to eat fruits and vegetables that taste as they should. Someone in my grad program told me she likes it when carrots taste like water, not like earth. Carrots are not supposed to taste like water! Is this what we've come to? People appreciate fruits and vegetables when they taste like NOTHING? This is the sad truth of the reality big agribusiness has created. Human beings are victims, fooled into thinking they actually enjoy tasteless produce with which they feel no connection. Truly outrageous.
As you can tell, I'm real happy our first CSA box was ready for pickup last week. There's something to eating vegetables as they are, without trying to cover the true taste and texture of the original. Maybe that's why I love California cooking, and what sets it above the rest. In New York, the food tastes good, but not in a way that really lets the ingredients shine on their own. I mean, that's understandable considering that for a large chunk of the year, there is no growing season. Produce is imported from near and far, and maybe it loses that specialness you can only get from fresh, local produce. It feels like an honor to cook with and eat fresh vegetables that taste as they should, and not like water!

Tonight I made a mild pickle of farm-fresh breakfast radishes and salad turnips. I sliced 10 radishes and 3 turnips thinly with the mandoline, and refridgerated them in this vinegar recipe for 15 minutes. Results=delicious!

Vinegar recipe
1/4 c brown rice wine vinegar
3 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c water
2 T sugar
sprinkle of salt

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then cool to room temperature. Pour over veggies and refridgerate.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blueberry Oven Pancake

As a young child, every year, my family would travel to San Diego to visit Grandma and Grandpa. Every year we would see the same sites (I can't tell you how many times I've been to the zoo, Sea World, and Balboa Park) and eat at the same restaurants. One of these restaurants was the T-Bird Diner, an old-school replication of a 1950s Diner, complete with servers in poodle skirts and paper hats. I loved that place, if even just for the thick shakes.
Another of these over-visited restaurants was what I think is part of a California chain, called Pancake House (which is, somehow, different than IHOP). I remember always being intrigued by their giant pancakes that were not flat and floppy but puffy and light. This style of pancake, my brother informed me, is very popular in the Netherlands--it's actually known as a dutch baby, but my have more German roots, and be a descendant of Yorkshire pudding.
Anyway, I really like the recipe I made, which was super simple, faster than making batches upon batches of griddle cakes, and super tasty! For some reason, I always have a thing for casseroles, or just dishes that are baked, all at once, all servings originating from the same vessel. I really don't know why- I am just drawn to these meant-to-be communal dishes! This blueberry oven pancakes makes the cut as such. I hope you do enjoy! And serve with maple syrup or powdered sugar, if you've got it on hand.

Blueberry Oven Pancake

1 T butter
4 eggs
1 c milk
1 c flour of your choice (unbleached or wheat)
1 t vanilla
pinch salt
1 1/2 c blueberries (frozen will do just fine)

1. Preheat oven to 450 with cast-iron skillet in oven.
2. Mix eggs, milk, vanilla with a whisk.
3. Add flour, salt, mix well.
4. Remove skillet from oven, and spread your butter all over it, bottom and sides, before it all melts!
5. Pour in batter.
6. Sprinkle blueberries on top.
7. Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then lower heat without opening oven, to 350, for 8 minutes.
Be sure to use oven mitts to remove this bad boy- I've had nasty skillet handle burns before. That thing gets HOTT!