Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ferry Building Market Winnings- San Fransico

organic Pink Lady apples, Mandarin oranges, heirloom beans (chosen for the Ark of Taste), beets, kiwi, grapefruit, lemons, nettles, broccoli, young garlic, spring onions, Farmhouse Culture sauerkraut, tortillas made from heirloom corn, white radishes, thumbelina carrots, "soft drink" made with whey and flavored with lemon balm and nettles, kale, yogurt from organic jersey milk, savoy  and red cabbage, lemon balm, spring mix and wild arugula....YAY!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Matt Davis and Steep Ravine Loop Trail in Mt Tamalpais State Park (and some picnic bean salad)

Hiking out here, in Point Reyes and the Mt Tam state park has been addictive and amazing.  The walks just keep getting longer because everything is so dramatic and beautiful that we don't want it to end.  Spring is here and there are new flowers to learn and clear blue skies to enjoy.  It also makes me realize how beautiful it is back in Tennessee and how, now that I have been here two weeks and becoming "used to" the incredible beauty constantly surrounding me,  it is easy to overlook our surroundings and keep your eyes trained on the the tips of your shoes.  Going new places always helps me open my eyes to all of my surroundings.

what to do when approached by a mountain lion

We started out after an early morning rain storm, up in the mountains.  After practicing warding off mountain lions, we traveled further down into the woods of oaks covered in rich layers of green moss and fragrant bays.  There were white false Solomon seal flanking fallen trees and beautiful little calypso orchids peeking out of the leaves and moss on the ground.

Suddenly we burst out into a wide open grassland, the sun playing games as it ducked out from passing clouds and showing off the brilliant yellow poppies and shining on blue lupines and western larkspur.  All around us were rolling hills and further out the sea.  We felt so alone in the quiet stillness accompanied only by fat banana slugs in the shadows, but the highway snaked below and we could see houses further down by the coast.  All too soon we left the open grasses and dipped back into Douglas firs and bays, walking along a stream running down the mountain-side with us.  As we switched back slowly down a rather steep slope it was almost laughably beautiful, like it wasn't even real.  I felt as though I were trespassing into a private Fairy Land where one must be far more exquisite than I was as I lumbered along, breathing in the rich and wonderful wood smells and wanting to stop and somehow capture forever that one patch of sunlight where the forget-me-nots danced.

But down down down we went, coming out near the ocean into a dry patch with thistles and false yellow lupine bush and huge white cow parsnips..  We walked though the town and sat on the beach, ready for a lunch of heirloom bean salad and fresh baguette from the bakery down the street.  After resting and a golden nugget tangerine we found our way to the continuing trail-head and began the march back uphill.  We began walking through dry scrub and the hot sun.  I had to turn around every few feet just to take in the growing view behind us as more mountains and the low-tide marsh became visible.

Then the trail went downhill a moment and we were back in the woods, again walking beside another mountain stream.  And although we were but minutes away from the first trail down, these woods  were completely different.  They were darker and wetter, protected by towering Redwoods and the ground completely covered with ferns.  Trilliums had just finished blooming and were sporting tri-seed pods.  Stone steps were set into mossy banks so we could climb our way up.   Halfway up we stopped and sat on huge Redwood stumps, drinking warm miso soup from a thermos (the Rainbow Grocery co-op in the city sells locally made white miso in the bulk section) and crunching on a Pink Lady apple bought at the market.  The clearest mountain stream ran over mossy rocks at our side and fairies dangled by their knees from the curled ends of new fern shoots.  We passed over mossy bridge after mossy bridge, climbing back up towards the clouds.

The guide book we found the hike in said we would not want it to be over, that we would want to turn around and do it again.  We laughed at that, thinking we could not possibly want to hike a trail called "Steep Ravine Trail" (for that is what it was) again.  But I wanted to turn around and do it all over again.

Heirloom Bean Salad 
with roasted beets, fennel, and fresh beet greens

Unfortunately I don't remember what the name of these beans was.  I am not good at remembering those kinds of things, and I have heard so many new names for things in the past few days.  They are medium sized and meaty and red and white, like calypso beans.   The only thing in this salad not bought at the farmer's market was the salt, although I could have gotten that there too.

for four people:
  • about 2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 large beets or 3-4 smaller ones, unpeeled and sliced into wedges
  • 2 fennel bulbs and stalks, sliced up to the fronds.
  • the greens from the beets, sliced into ribbons
  • 1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • small handful chives, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste
Cover the beans with water and cook til soft- about 45 minutes or so.  Toss the beets and fennel with a touch of oil and salt and roast in a medium oven til soft and the beets are beginning to shrivel.  Let beans and veggies cool.  Toss the beets and fennel with the beans and the chopped herbs and greens.  Whisk the olive oil gradually into the lemon juice and pour over the salad.  Mix it all together and add salt as desired.  A little minced raw garlic can also be added, if you like raw garlic.  Serve room temp or cool with fresh bread.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's not THAT hard

A few posts back I explained that eating locally was hard work; that you really had to try.  That goes for Chattanooga, Tennessee.  But here in the San Fransisco Bay area, I have to admit, it's not that hard.  The hardest thing is gauging just how big your eyes are in relation to your stomach.  There are farmers markets around every corner.  There is everything for sale from salt to olive oil to tangerines and kiwis.   For me, celery is a real treat- I don't remember the last time I bought a celery stalk.  But fresh horseradish root?  Avocados and Meyer lemons?  Sacks of assorted heirloom dried beans and baskets of dirty organic heirloom potatoes- enough varieties to eat a different one every day of the month.....how could this possibly be hard?  Going to a huge market can be a little intimidating for a country girl, and learning which farmers are the best to support takes a little practice.  There isn't as much signage here as there is at home, and the farmers might not be expected to be as outgoing as the friendly Main Street farmers are.  I just choose the booths with the most down-to-earth price signs and look for words like sustainable, small, and organic.  Out here, where they grow almost all the organic produce the rest of the entire country eats, the word "organic" doesn't mean a whole lot.  I try to look for the small-time people who have a little dirt on their sleeves and real passion in their produce baskets. And let me tell you, it is a whole lot of fun.

Asparagus, Leek, and Heirloom Potato Soup
with fresh horseradish sour cream

I usually try not to be so fancy.  I also usually never use asparagus in a soup.  Asparagus is prized Spring Candy.  I only steam it and drizzle the smallest amount of lemon juice and salt on top and eat it hot, spear by spear.  It is really only good for a short amount of time- best eaten very fresh (as Barbara Kingsolver explains in her chapter "Waiting for Asparagus" in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle).  After I brought my two bunches home, I realized that I might have jumped the gun out of pure enthusiasm.   The asparagus was clearly not picked that morning; it was a little floppy.  So I decided putting it in a soup would not be a crime.  

for four people, with leftovers:

  • 2 bunches asparagus, sliced
  • 2 large leeks or 3 smaller ones, sliced (all of the white and halfway up the green.  Watch out for dirt once you start getting to the greens)
  • 4-5 medium sized potatoes, washed and unpeeled, chopped into roughly 1 inch cubes (I used a waxy red kind but I think a more floury one would be better.  Ask your cute and friendly local heirloom potato farmer what she advises.  Unfortunately for me I didn't know what I was making when I bought the potatoes or she could have aided in creating the perfect soup)
  • 2-4 T grassfed cow butter
  • salt to taste
  • Water, veggie stock, or chicken stock (I used water and it was just fine and delicious) to cover- about 5 cups
  • 3/4 cup grassfed cow sour cream (milk share people- this is easy too- just like buttermilk (see buttermilk biscuits one post down) but you use cream instead of milk.  You can use buttermilk as a culture or sour cream- about 4 T to 2 cups) 
  • 2 T fresh horseradish root, finely grated
  • 1 small squeeze of lemon
  • very light sprinkle of salt
For the soup, melt the butter and saute the leeks in it until they get a little soft and start falling apart.  Add the potatoes and a touch of salt, cover with liquid and simmer til the potatoes are just soft.  Add the asparagus, a touch more salt, and enough liquid to cover again.  Simmer for a few minutes, until the asparagus has changed colors and is soft.  Do not overcook!  Any green soup that has been overcooked will look positively disgusting, I promise.  Blend the soup in batches until smooth.  Be careful not to over-blend, especially if you are using waxy potatoes.  Hot potatoes have a bad habit of getting gummy when over-mixed (I read all about the "chemistry" of potatoes once and learned a lot.  I don't remember any of it word for word now but I retained a lot.  There are quite a few food science books out there worth reading at least once.)  Return to pot and heat til warm. Taste for salt and possibly something sour (like lemon juice), or something spicy if you like, but remember that adding the horseradish sour cream will help with both of those. Serve hot with the sour cream you should have made while waiting for the potatoes to cook.

For the sour cream mix everything together in a bowl and keep cool while finishing the soup.

Serve with a green salad  and maybe some fresh locally made bread, although you might not need it.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Noodles with Shiitake and Greens

This is my kind of fast food.  The noodles are most certainly not locally made, but at least they are from the local Asian grocer.  I go to the sweet little shop on Hixson Pike across from the Bi-Lo.  They carry a lot of the same products that Whole Foods carries in their Asian aisle, and are beginning to carry increasingly more "clean" products (without artificial colors or added preservatives).    I stock up on noodles and seaweed when I go.  I usually get lots of udon and soba but I try other kinds as well.

for two people, with possible leftovers:

  • 1/4-1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms (or shiitake and oyster combined), de-stemmed and torn or sliced (I save the stems in the freezer until I have enough to make a rich and yummy stock)
  • 1 bunch or greens (kale, chard, collards...) torn or sliced.  I usually pull the really big stems out, but if the stems are fairly small I just chop them up with everything else
  • 2-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 dried chili, minced or ground
  • a little bit of oil (or bacon grease). Coconut oil is super yummy.
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • teeny tiny dash of sesame oil
  • large drizzle of sorghum syrup
  • 1 T cornstarch (optional)
  • water or mushroom stock
  • 2 bundles soba or udon noodles
Boil water for the noodles (about 5 cups)

Heat oil (or bacon grease) in a wok or skillet til hot. Saute garlic til fragrant and then throw in the mushrooms and chilies and cook til beginning to get soft. Add the greens and a touch of water or mushroom stock; enough to wilt everything.  Let simmer til greens and mushrooms are soft.   

Cook the noodles while you finish the sauce.

In a small bowl, mix a touch of water with the cornstarch, if using.  It will add a silkiness to your sauce and help coat the noodles but is in no way necessary.   Add the tamari, sesame oil, and sorghum.  Add more water to stock to make a liquid-y sauce.  Take a spoonful or two of the sauce and mix in with the cornstarch paste.  Add the cornstarch and simmer for a few minutes until thickened.  Taste for salt or heat and add tamari or hot pepper accordingly.  Pour everything over the hot noodles and serve warm or at room temp.