Six years ago, my best friend was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. She fought for her life with grace, laughter, and courage. Last year, she was deemed cured. The fight continues for many people, so when I learned of Steph’s online bake sale for her Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, I jumped at the chance to donate two jars of my pear and apple chutney and a batch of coconut chocolate chips cookies.
Please head over and check out the bake sale, so many people have donated. From whoopie pies to king cake, you’ll have a chance to bid on treats from Brown Eyed Baker, Lindsay from Gingerbread Bagels and Steph, herself.
The Sale is Today 1/31. Please help Steph raise her $1,900
My mother was a master of the one-pot meal. From chicken cacciatore to coq au vin, to jambalaya, to French puy lentils with sausage, her dishes her dishes were always laced with garlic and wine and a good dose of fines herbs.
Each family member had his or her favorite dish- mine was chicken with vinegar and cream, a recipe my Uncle Johnny begged off of the chef at Oak Hill Grocery in Yountville. He was sworn to secrecy, but I loved it so much as a girl, he agreed to share it with my mother. Now, of course, I have it, but I will never publish it, so don’t ask. My brother’s favorite was chicken cacciatore- he called it red chicken. My dad’s was easily boeuf bourguignon- which he loved to pronounce in his terrible French accent. Incidentally, all of my father’s French centered around food, his favorite expressions being “á table”, “passé moi le beurre”, and “merci pour le bon dinner”
My mother never wrote down a recipe in her life- ever. I am not sure how she made her chicken cacciatore or her jambalaya or any of the one-off improvised dishes she invented. But, some of the dishes she made are in my culinary soul and I go back to my own version of them time and again.
Like my mother, some of my best creations come when I’m improvising in the kitchen, but in the last several months, I’ve had to start documenting what exactly goes … get the recipe
At last week’s market, I was found myself drawn to a ghostly, bluish, pod-shaped squash at Miramonte Farm’s stand. I lovingly shot photographs of it. I smiled as I admired it, and made sure that it was situated next to an orange and green acorn squash to accentuate it’s decidedly Victorian pallor as it patiently sat for photographs.
Upon my return home, I placed the pale, blue-tinged gourd upon my vintage French butcher’s table next to a golden-hued butternut squash. Having recently had a fantastic soup at Bar Jules with pumpkin, faro, and pancetta, I fancied a version of my own using my new blue squash, leeks, green garlic, and some of the Italiany bacony stuff.
In researching the blue “harbour” squash, the first thing I learned is that it is actually called a blue hubbard squash. Evidently, I’d misheard. I also re-learned that beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Everything I read, described this squash that I had been making eyes at, as beastly, ugly, warty (well that part was true), and altogether unattractive on the outside. People were much kinder when extolling the virtues of the tasty orange insides, and I knew the blue hubbard and I were just perfect for one another.
A side note, most people bake these and use them in heartier dishes. I rather liked the starchiness of this squash in a broth-based soup. You could substitute any winter squash here, butternut squash, pumpkin, or acorn squash soup are all fantastic! … get the recipe
My step inevitably quickens as I approach Wednesday market. Its smell hits me before I see what’s before me. Sometimes the salty sweet scent of kettle corn sneaks round the corner. At other times the warm aroma of waffles beckons, and still others, the roasted goodness of Roli Roti’s deservedly famous roasted chickens reaches my nose, first. As delicious as these things are, I’m not here for chicken or waffles or popcorn.
I come to The Heart of the City Farmers Market market for produce, for nuts, for fish. This week, I was enthralled with some Fuji apples from Rainbow Orchards; crisp, juicy, yellowy-green with red striations and lots of flaws these reminded me of the apples that grew in my grandmother’s yard and left me with a huge grin. Miramonte Farms had a bountiful display of winter squashes with rosemary and sage. I picked up a blue hubbord squash and a butternut as well as some torpedo onions. From another of my favorite producers, Specialty Produce, I picked up a golden cauliflower, some red potatoes, wild arugula, and some garlic. Last stop, the fish monger, where I procured fresh whole Monterey Bay squid smelling only of ocean breezes. The eyes were glassy, not cloudy, and the skin speckled purple.
I love warm squid with flavorful olive oil and farm fresh produce. I had a lovely version with chick peas and olives at Bar Jules and one with saffron broth and cherry tomatoes at Foreign Cinema. The interplay of … get the recipe
San Francisco has a well-deserved reputation as a food town. One might say you can’t throw an heirloom pumpkin without hitting a farmers market, gourmet grocer, or specialty market. For three days every January, San Francisco’s Moscone Center is home to the West Coast’s largest specialty food and beverage event, The Winter Fancy Foods Show.
Now in it’s 36th year, the show featured thousands of foods from 1,300 vendors, but I was there to check out the Organic and Natural Foods Pavilion which featured over 120 vendors. Today, roughly 85% of specialty food companies have organic or natural product lines. Local, sustainable, and eco-friendly products are the products that are expected to have the most growth in the coming years. I spoke with Bill Carvalho, of Wild Planet, Sustainably Caught Wild Seafood who has been an exhibitor at the show since 2003, ”No one even talked about sustainability at the show in 2003, now everyone is talking about it.”
In addition to Wild Planet there were some other exciting companies who really “walked the talk”. One of my favorite discoveries was McClure’s Pickles owned and operated by the McClure family. The pickles are delicious (I liked the spicy ones) and they slice the cucumbers by hand and pack each jar in Brooklyn and Detroit. The jars are labeled with soy and veggie inks using chemical-free plating and use wind-powered electricity.
If pickles aren’t your thing, perhaps you’ll have a taste for cheese. I met Amy Turnbull’s, Big Boy … get the recipe
I have several kinds of salt on hand. One is finely ground sea salt which I use just like you’d use table/iodized salt. It tastes better with none of the bitter metallic aftertaste that accompanies the salt you grew up with. I also love Pink Himalayan Salt as it is minimally processed and retains a lovely mineral flavor plus, it’s pink and it looks so pretty. The queen of all salts may not be the prettiest, but it does have the prettiest name, fleur de sel or flower of salt. It’s slightly wet, dove grey in color, and tastes of a grey day at the seashore. It is expensive, cherished both for it’s flavor and the way it crunches when bitten into. More variations on the salt theme that are not imperative but are very nice to have are truffle salt and smoked sea salts such as the smoked Maldon sea salt pictured above.
I also keep several kinds of pepper on hand. One of my favorites is whole smoked black peppercorns. The brand I’m currently using is very lightly smoked and adds a woodsy floral heat to dishes. Another pepper I favor is the long pepper which is slightly hotter than the black peppercorn yet adds a nutty sweetness at the same time. Its smells is funky and sweet at once. The third type of pepper that I use with great regularity is the Szechuan pepper which is a small round seed pod the color of a … get the recipe
I have always been intrigued by the idea of canning and I LOVE the rustic charm of mason jars. Last summer, I bought 10 lbs of heirloom tomatoes with the intention of jarring up the bright red taste of warm summer days. Upon reading Ball’s canning instructions, I gave up on my plan fearing there was too much room for error. As time marched on, my wariness of canning grew, but so did my varied collection of mason jars.
This holiday season, I stared down my canning fears. I resolved to finally can, and in doing that, I’d preserve the essence of the holiday. Though I’d missed out on those summer tomatoes, now it was the season to combat cold by catching warmth itself, trapping it in glass, and giving it as a gift.
At the farmers market, I found comice pears- still firm, speckled green and brown, smelling wet and sweet. A few stalls down, I was greeted with the bright and woodsy scent of apples and my mouth began to water. Though countless varieties were piled high upon the market stall, my eyes immediately jumped to a basket brimming with red fruit whose shoulders kissed by the sun, glowed yellow- the gala. Apples and pears, every day fruit, comforting and familiar would be transformed into an exotic, heady, winter chutney.
- 3 lbs comice pears, peeled, cored and diced into ½ inch pieces
- 2 lbs tart crisp apples, peeled, cored and diced into ½ inch pieces
- 2 cups
… get the recipe