August 12, 2014 § Leave a comment
Ever have one of those days when you come home from work, and it’s — ugh — too hot to cook dinner, and yet, you still want a satisfying, homemade meal? Sometimes you just gotta go with your cravings and make something on the fly! This was exactly what long-time 650 resident and avid gardener, Suzanne, did last week. Her answer to dinner on a muggy 650 night? Create a delicious Tomato-Watermelon Salad with items she had on hand, some of which came from her own garden. She posted the result to Facebook, and it was stunning — not only beautiful, but easy to make!
I think everyone who saw that post asked for the recipe — including me. Except, there wasn’t one, exactly. Suzanne knew what she wanted to make, but couldn’t find a recipe that worked for her, so she created her own. And fortunately for us, she’s been kind enough to provide the recipe for her Tomato-Watermelon Salad here on 650Food. The text and image below are all hers (thank you again, Suzanne!). Quantities are approximate, so just adjust to your taste and enjoy!
On a recent warm summer evening with uncharacteristic residual monsoonal moisture (I confess, I am a Bay Area Native and can’t tolerate an ounce of humidity!), I craved a watermelon-tomato salad. Not being completely jazzed about some of the recipes I’d seen, I decided to create my own. Fortunately, I was blessed with fresh tomatoes and basil from our garden – and with simple dishes such as this, freshness is essential. It was quick and easy — and just right for beating the heat.
Recipe: Tomato-Watermelon Salad
Yield: Serves 2
For two servings I used approximately
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup watermelon
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
½ can white cannellini beans
2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon minced jalapeño,
Juice of one lime
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh-cracked black pepper
- Combine the two fruits with red onion,white beans, basil, salt, white pepper, jalapeño, lime juice, champagne vinegar, olive oil.
Splash in extra-virgin olive oil and champagne vinegar to taste.
- Finish this simple, cooling dish with fresh-cracked black pepper.
What are you making with ingredients from your garden? Have you created a simple, fresh dish that you’d like to share? Or maybe even a decadent cocktail or dessert? If you’d like to share a recipe and the backstory on its creation here on 650Food, contact me by leaving a comment below or through 650Food’s Facebook page (where you can also give us a “Like,” if you’re so inclined).
July 1, 2014 § 4 Comments
How did you mark the official arrival of summer? Did you barbecue at home with the family and neighbors? Take your kids to the park for a picnic? Pass a leisurely afternoon day drinking with friends on the patio of your favorite restaurant? Whatever you did, I’ll bet it included friends or family and food!
I get a little giddy when I think of all the wonderful, fresh food that’s available from our gardens and local farms this time of year — which you could probably figure out from my recent posts about local stone fruit and coastal strawberries. We’re so fortunate to have fine weather and a long growing season here, but also a culture that values growing, making, and sharing good food.
So how did I mark the official start of summer? With some delicious food and fine cocktails, of course! CUESA’s Summer Celebration at the Ferry Building on June 22 was the perfect summer kickoff party. The event, which benefits CUESA’s educational program, celebrated the bounty of summer produce with small plates and handcrafted cocktails created by some of the city’s best chefs and bartenders. (There were also fresh nonalcoholic libations: juice blends and shrubs.) Each plate or beverage was inspired by one of six categories of summer produce — or “culinary families,” as CUESA calls them:
- Grains and legumes
- Leaves and flowers
- Stone fruit
Most of these food families are probably familiar to you — especially berries and stone fruit. Alliums and cucurbits might be less-familiar names, but you’ll recognize their family members. Allium, the latin name for garlic, includes all varieties of garlic and onions, including shallots, leeks, and scallions. But what the heck are cucurbits? (Ok, am I the only person who hears Bill Cosby’s voice saying “Riiiiight. What’s a cucurbit?”). The cucurbit family includes vine-growing produce, which are botanically classified as fruits: squashes, melons, and cucumbers.
More than just a tasting event, CUESA’s Summer Celebration brought together farmers, chefs, beverage crafters, and food lovers of all kinds from around the Bay Area to taste, savor, and learn. While you might know CUESA as the people who put on the Ferry Building farmers’ markets, much of what CUESA does involves educating consumers about sustainable agriculture and local food systems. (Want to know more about their mission? Check out their site.) The Summer Celebration included a variety of fun and creative educational games to teach attendees more about each culinary family. (An added bonus for food geeks!)
Santa Cruz’s Dirty Girl Produce had a gorgeous display of alliums and challenged attendees to an allium “sniff test.” Could you tell the difference between onions, leeks, shallots, and scallions with just your sense of smell? Not as easy as you might think! I had a chance to test my berry knowledge by spinning the Wheel of Berries to answer a berry trivia question. My prize? Yum — a tasting of fresh berries! However, one of my favorite games of the evening was “What’s Your Stone Fruit Name?” (I won’t tell you how it works, but there’s not much skill involved). For the rest of the evening I was “Flavor King,” and my date? “Golden Blaze.” We wrapped up our game-playing at Grains & Legumes Jeopardy, rocking the Grains category, but stumbling on the Legumes. Looks like I need to brush up on my legume facts, but it was fun all the same.
The event was also an opportunity to connect one-on-one with food growers, such as Frog Hollow Farm, Sierra Cascade Organic Blueberry Farm, Star Route Farms, and Dirty Girl Produce. I learned some “Fruity Facts” and talked food waste solutions with the Frog Hollow folks, who grow some of sweetest, most flavorful peaches and apricots in the area. I got the lowdown on how Sierra Cascade’s farmer, John Carlon, created a sustainable farm by understanding and working with the synergy between the blueberries, bumblebees, and gophers. And I experienced edible blossoms and leaves (oh my — Meyer lemon blossoms! Floral, perfumey, sweet, and citrusy, with a bit of crunch.) at Star Route Farms’ beautiful display.
There were so many delicious creations to try, but here’s the short list of favorite tastes from the event.
The Sweet Onion and Tasso Ham flatbread from Il Cane Rosso doesn’t look fancy, but it’s so flavorful and craveable. To me it was like a next-level nacho plate. The flavors paired well, as did the contrast between the crispy flatbread and the tasso ham. Even thinking about it now is making me hungry.
Most of the handcrafted cocktails showcased locally produced spirits — and gin seemed to the spirit of choice. I’m not a gin fan, but this cocktail of raspberry, lemon, bitters, and No. 29 gin was a favorite. Plus, it had a super-cool (pardon the pun), large ice cube.
Everyone I talked with listed “the pork belly” as one of their top tastes of the evening. 1760’s tasting spoon paired rich pork belly with a sweet berry compote. A bit of bad planning on my part, as I tasted this one later in the evening, not leaving enough time to round back for seconds… or thirds…
And this is why I love tasting events: being surprised by something unexpected! I was thinking “yeah, yeah, stuffed squash,” when I saw this plate, but this stuffed squash from Bluestem Brasserie was delicious!
I was holding off tasting most of the desserts until later in the evening, which meant that I missed out on a few — and maybe that worked out for the best. Yigit Pura’s Panna Cotta was worth it, and he has restored my faith that there is well-made, creamy panna cotta in the world. Perfect summer dessert: light, balanced, fruity. Trust me, if I weren’t so full, I would have eaten two more.
Grains & Legumes
Andrew Court’s Ancient Grains & Seaweed Salad was another surprise of the evening, which is why there’s no photo of the plated dish. (Sorry, you’ll have to make do with this fancy copper baby bathtub full of the grains and legumes used in the salad.) I pretty much inhaled it once I tasted it. The grains were perfectly cooked, the seaweed added a bit of umami flavor and crunch, and the dressing brought it all together. Deliciously healthy, and yet indulgent at the same time.
Leaves & Flowers
Here we have the first gin cocktail of the evening, and it might have changed my opinion about gin! This one, made with the 650’s own Rusty Blades Gin, was probably my all-around favorite. Again, not a gin fan, but Rusty Blades reminded me more of an aged whiskey and was really tasty with a bit of sweetness. The cocktail was summery, citrusy, and floral, and garnished with a pretty flower. Loved it!
Smoked salmon? Yes, please! I thought Gaspar’s English pea and chive blini would be nothing more than a delivery device for the salmon, but I was so wrong! This bite pulled together the sweet flavor and soft, creamy texture of the blini with the smokiness of the fish and the herbal accent of the chives. So good!
If you’ve read past posts, you know that Campo de Ecanto Pisco is regular in my home-bar lineup. Pair that with Frog Hollow Farms apricots for Rye on the Road’s Pisco Apricot Tropical, and wow! Yes, I’ll be doing some major “research” to reverse engineer this one at home.
Last, but in no way least, was A16’s Stone Fruit & Roasted Beet Salad. The beets and fruit played perfectly together, while the yogurt and nuts added texture and flavor. The kind of salad you could eat all summer long!
Did you attend CUESA’s Summer Celebration? What was your favorite drink or small plate?
March 28, 2014 § Leave a comment
For the past month or so, new dietary guidelines from Brazil have been making food news here in the US. Marion Nestle’s blog, Food Politics, lists the ten easy-to-understand guidelines proposed by the Brazilian government. There are no pyramids, no squares, no “this many servings,” just common-sense advice for eating well and mindfully.
Fresh food, moderation, mindful eating, and sharing meals with others are key points of these guidelines. This approach puts the power of eating good food back in the hands (and mouths) of consumers. And it reminds us of the simple pleasure of enjoying and sharing the food we have. So many of us seem to have lost our connection to the food we eat — or we’re connecting with food that’s not healthy for us — and Brazil’s guidelines could be a wake-up call for Americans, particularly with new US guidelines due from the government in 2015.
While I agreed with the entire list — and was awed by the simple, common sense of it all — the top three guidelines for me are:
- “Prepare meals from staple and fresh foods.”
- “Eat in company whenever possible.”
- “Develop, practice, share and enjoy your skills in food preparation and cooking.”
What I appreciate most about these guidelines is that they make a point to incorporate the planning, preparation, and sharing of food into everyday life. Healthy meals and good food are essential to our well-being, and we need to stop treating them as an afterthought. And I’m not talking about fancy food either. I’m talking about making a fresh salad, homemade meatloaf, or whatever suits your budget and skill level, and enjoying it with family and friends.
I really believe that the experience of food is to be shared — it’s a fundamental reason I started this blog. We create community by sharing our recipes, our successes and failures in making food, our dining experiences, and even what we do with the food that grows in our yards. Equally important as what and where we’re eating are food issues, such as dietary guidelines and food waste, and how we can affect change at home and in our communities.
The day after Ms. Nestle’s post about the Brazilian dietary guidelines, I had lunch with my friend Patricia at one of my favorite restaurants in the 650, Osteria Coppa. Osteria Coppa focuses on fresh, seasonal food, sourcing their ingredients from local foodcrafters and farmers. Patricia is a renaissance woman: baker, cottage food advocate, writer, and career coach — just for starters. Obviously we had a lot to talk about, including food! I remember thinking that our lunch together was a great example of what the Brazilian guidelines espoused, easily checking off at least half of the guidelines. Which is to say that following a different set of dietary guidelines might bring a greater benefit than just counting calories and checking off how much you ate today.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, skip on over the Food Politics blog and read through the Brazilian dietary guidelines. Sound like something you could follow? Do you already? What plans do you have for making, sharing, and eating fresh food in good company this weekend?
November 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
While I was being all giddy about my first CSA (“farmer’s market”) box, I was not being a good blogger and photographing what I actually did with the contents. So, this post is more “tell” than “show.” I really wanted to go with simple uses of the produce in the box to enjoy the flavors, so you won’t find any fancy cookin’ this time around. Oh, and I promise more food porn going forward, but for now… read on…
Kale and Potatoes
I used the kale and potatoes to make Mark Bittman’s Kale and Potato soup (from How to Cook Everything). The recipe is a super-simple and low-fat take on Portuguese caldo verde. With Bittman’s recipe, you simmer the potato and kale in veggie broth — each vegetable in a separate pot with its own broth — then puree the potato and use it to thicken the kale-broth mixture. With no added fat in the recipe, I felt rather healthy eating this soup, but the recipe was a bit bland. I would make it again with a few modifications: more potato for a thicker soup and more spices… possibly a bit of olive oil added. The potato and kale flavors came through well enough, but it needed something more to give me that can’t-stop-eating-it experience.
Red Romaine, Persimmons, Apples, Pears… and Those Radishes
When I mentioned the contents of this box to a friend of mine, he said “That just sounds like one big salad to me.” Nothin’ wrong with that — I love salads! For me, making a good salad is a lot like making good chocolates: choose fresh ingredients that taste delicious and that add a variety of flavors and textures. (What do I know about making chocolate? Lots! Check out my previous gig.)
The red romaine was the foundation for my salads, then I just mixed and matched ingredients I had on hand:
- Radishes, potatoes, tuna
- Persimmons, dried cherries, goat cheese, toasted pumkin seeds
- Persimmons, pears, apples, cashews, and a sprinkling of shredded parmesan
- Smoked salmon, pears, goat cheese
You get the idea (and yes, I had a lot of goat cheese on hand)! Needless to say, I didn’t get through all of those radishes before the second box arrived. Which leads me to… tah-da!
The second CSA box in all its glory…
(1) small bunch Nantes carrots
(1) small bunch herbs (sage, oregano, rosemary)
(1) bunch broccol
(1) butternut squash
(6) Satsuma mandarins
(1) container cranberries
A colorful assortment as we head into Thanksgiving week! Already I’m thinking about roasted veggies with fresh rosemary, maybe even butternut squash soup garnished with fried sage leaves. First up, I’ll definitely be making my favorite Cranberry-Orange scones. The apples, though, are already gone. My 17-year-old kitty, Dante, absolutely loves apples, so we shared them for breakfast. It’s a good morning when I can share a sweet, organic apple with my favorite boy.