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New way for beets and a fresh salad
Tuesday August 31st 2010

Beets. Love getting them. Love eating them. Think they’re great. But man oh man, have I ever been in a rut on ways to cook them. Roasting them and then having them as a side veggie; boiling and cooling and putting in salads; pickling … I’ve done all those many many times this season. Last night I had three lone, but pretty big beets, and realized there wasn’t enough mass to do any of my usual ways. But what about a soup?

So I boiled them up. Really boiled them. So that when I cooled them under some cold water the skins slipped right off. That’s right – I boiled them straight up. No trimming, no peeling, no cleaning even.
After I slipped the skins off I cut them up fairly roughly. Then in the same pan I got boiled them in I got some chopped Farm Box onions going in a mix of butter and olive oil. When they were brown I hucked in the chopped beets, and after a minute I put in some veggie stock, more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy, and let it cook on for a few minutes. Oh, it’s not super red because these were golden beets.

Then I just simply whizzed it up …

… put it in the freezer to cool for a while, adjusted the (Continue Reading…)

Pesto spelled h-e-c-t-i-c
Monday August 30th 2010

What a night! The house is still recovering from the Pig Fest, there is a Mt. Tam sized pile of dirty laundry (courtesy of a broken washing machine), homebrew to transfer to secondary, kid’s soccer practice, and my friend and Best Man at my wedding Herr Wagner was coming over for dinner!

So it was triage time. It was just me and Emma at home so we tackled the messy house and got that looking better. Then Emma (Daddy’s little helper!) helped transfer a batch of beer to the secondary fermenter – looking and tasting good! Then when Herr Wagner arrived he assumed foreman/supervisor/moral-supporter role while I fixed the washing machine. Success all round!

But by the time I got going on cooking dinner, it was 7pm! So I poured some wine and laid down some snacks to hold us over. A nice chablis and some padron peppers. Damn, aren’t those padrons good this year!

I had leftover pesto, and decided on pasta. And in the interest of time, I pulled a bag of angel hair. But before I put it in I blanched some florets of the romanesc broccoli that was in the Farm Box. When they were still a bit crunchy, I scooped them out and threw them in a pan that I had half an onion cooking in. Then in the few minutes it took for the pasta to cook, the broccoli browned up. Then it was just a matter of draining the pasta and mixing the noodles, pasta, and florets together. Turned out quite well (though this crappy phone picutre doesn’t do it justice – can wait for the Canon to return to duty!) and it was nice to have pieces of something substantial in with the delicate angel hair.

It was great to see Herr Wagner again. His new job brings him to the Bay Area every couple months so we’ll be seing more of him. And like every good guest he brings more booze than he consumes!

Grilled Chicken with Massimo and Meagan
Friday August 27th 2010

Years ago, when we were living in Montreal, I was walking down the street with my friend Martin and he bumped into someone he recognised. They chatted for a bit, trying to figure out where knew each other from, when it finally dawned on them that they were cousins. That’s right, Martin has so many cousins he doesn’t know them all – he estimates over 100 first cousins!
In contast, I only have 4. Four lone cousins who I don’t get to see much – 2 in Denmark, 1 in Portland, and 1 right here in San Francisco. So it was great to have Massimo and his girlfriend Meagan over for a Farm Box dinner last night!

We had some beets left over from a previous week, so I boiled them in heavily salted water, cooled them a bit, slipped the skins off, chopped into wedges, and then dressed with balsamic, chopped herbs (chives and thyme mainly) from the garden, olive oil, and some feta. Yumm. (Oh, again, sorry for the phone picture – our Rebel is still at the doctor!)

I had alot of carrots piling up from the last couple weeks of the Farm Box, so I did my old standby – peeled, then cut on the bias, boil in heavily salted water, then dressed with butter, olive oil, and ground cumin.

We had a fair amount of Mariquita basil and wild arugula left over from Pig Fest, so I made a pesto with it all. I quite like adding other leaves than basil into a pesto. Parsley works well for example, but arugula gives a nice spicy bite to it.

Earlier in the day I got a a couple leg/thighs and a couple chicken breasts going in some brine. 4 quarts water to one cup kosher salt and one cup plain sugar. Then fired up the grill. Of course, we were having too much fun chatting and drinking that I made the cardinal error – leaving the grill unattended. Yup, burnt all the skin off the chicken breast! Damn. But it wasn’t so bad that it was inedible, and I caught it before it carbonized the meat.  At the end of the cooking I also grilled up three shares worth of spring onions. I love the taste onions get on the grill, and it’s a great way to use up a huge quantity of onions!

It was great to see Massimo and Meagan, and we’re already planning our next Farm Box dinner together!

Summer in SF has arrived
Wednesday August 25th 2010

Finally! It took til the end of August, but summer has finally arrived in San Francisco. It reached 80 degrees yesterday, and not a breeze in the air, so we set a plan for cooking and eating dinner outside. Can’t get in a hot kitchen when it’s this temperature out!

I hit Prather Ranch at the Ferry Plaza at lunch and picked up some skirt steak for the grill. Real easy and simple – heavy on the salt and pepper and then onto a really crazy hot grill.

Here’s how it looked (Sorry for the crappy phone camera – our current digital is not working!) on a bed of dressed wild arugula.

And we still had a cabbage from last week’s Farm Box, so I made up an asian coleslaw with some shaved carrots. Really, the only thing that made it asian was the use of rice wine vinegar and toasted sesame oil, but it was great nonetheless.

And what summertime dinner would be complete without a big salad of tomatoes! Yumm.

The vino? Well, it was hot, so nothing serious – a 2008 Muscadet sur lie. Perfect for sitting outside!

Pig Fest and Street Food Fest success! (and excess!)
Monday August 23rd 2010

Wow, what a party. Okay, make that two parties! Saturday saw the second running of the San Francisco Street Food Festival and also the second annual Pig Fest in our backyard! We had thousands and thousands of people on the streets in front of our house, and what seemed at times like hundreds of people in back of our house! Doesn’t hurt that the line-ups were so huge on the street that people came to see our backyard as an oasis from the crowds. And, um, the oasis had a keg. And a margarita machine. And 120 pounds of glorious glorious pig!

We started all the serious prep on Friday night with the essential delivery from our friend Ryan at Complete Fabrications of the stainless steel for the pig box! Thanks Ryan, couldn’t have done it without you.

Then I recruited 4 fabulous friends to work prep, and work they did!  In fact (Continue Reading…)

Bottling line run for Pig Fest
Friday August 20th 2010

Pig is looking great! Lying in it’s big brine bath, soaking up moisture and flavour.

Lots of prep to do for Pig Fest so it not an extensive Farm Box dinner at the house last night. Melinda made a killer corn soup though. She sauteed up some onion, then some garlic, and when both were golden she tossed in the kernels she cut from the cobs of corn from the Farm Box. Waited a bit, added some chicken stock, cooked for a little while, blended, and strained through a medium mesh strainer. Smoking soup! Thanks honey!

The designers came over after dinner to apply the labels The Gordo designed onto the homebrew for the party. Melinda and I sort of helped a bit (okay, not a fair picture of Melinda drinking here!) but it was really all Yvette and The Gordo. Thanks guys!

And here’s how it turned out! Looks great eh?! Can’t wait to crack a couple!

Pig goes into the brine
Wednesday August 18th 2010

Big morning at the homestead today. Kept the pig on ice last night and needed to get into a brine as quick as possible. I have two days before pulling it out and wanted to get some flavour and moisture in it, and also needed to get it in to a vessel that would keep it cold and food-safe. Last year I bought a huge bucket similar to a garbage can, but got it at a restaurant supply shop so that it is NSF, which means it is safe for food. If you try to brine a pig, do not use a garbage can or a garbage bag – these products may leach harmful chemicals into your piggie.

The challenge is that because it’s going to be in there two days, I needed to add alot of ice, and I mean alot of ice. In the end, here’s how the piggy looked.

That’s Alexis’ hand there checking out the ear. We’re teaching the girls very clearly that this was a living animal, and one that was way bigger than they are (kinda obvious!), and that it is important to be thankful to the animal and to respect it. So she wasn’t playing, rather just checking it out.

For those of you wanting to copy this at home, the brine was:
- for each 3 gallons we did 360g of sugar, and 600g of kosher salt. Then a bunch of flavouring – lemon rind, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, oregano, 3 heads of garlic.

But what did we have for dinner from our Farm Box?! We got our box today, and it really really looked like an east coast summer in there so I went that route.

First we had some corn. Simple corn on the cob.

And a beautiful tomato salad with some onions macerated in red wine vinegar, some Mariquita basil, and some fresh mozzarella.

One of the tomatoes was green in colour and I thought it might be a green variety. I gave it a try and nope, it was a green tomato. I grew up a Canadian boy far from the South so had no idea what a fried green tomato tasted like, but gave it a go anyway. Didn’t have any bread crumbs around so just friend them lightly in butter, and threw in some chopped basil at the last minute. Turned out pretty good!

That and a few steamed and buttered potatoes and that was dinner! No meat – we’re saving up our carnivorous side for Saturday’s Pig Fest!

The vino? A Jean Marc Brocard Bourgogne Blanc called Kimmeridgean. Very good, especially for the price.

Pig Fest prep – the pig arrives!
Tuesday August 17th 2010

We live a few blocks down from a really cool place called La Cocina. It’s an incubator kitchen that helps small businesses move from a home kitchen environment to a professional kitchen environment, so as to expand production, increase food safety, all that stuff. What’s really cool about it is that, as I understand it, it’s primarily for women, and again primarily women of colour. Not bad, eh?

La Cucina is a non-profit and it has an annual fundraiser called the San Francisco Street Food Festival, and it’s coming up on Saturday! In honour of the event, and in keeping with last year, we’re roasting up a pig in our back yard! One hundred and nineteen pounds of pork will be cooked up on Saturday. Plus a keg and margarita machine, and all sorts of sides from Mariquita Farms! Last year’s party was pretty epic (took me about three days to recover and clean up!) – check out the mini-blog I did last year at http://cookingthepig.blogspot.com and my friend Mary Ellen at ME-eats posted a video of the final moments of cooking on youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmYrik3AapE

So today the pig arrived!  It was raised humanely and had just one bad day in it’s life (um, the last one) and came from a friend of Andy Griffins by the name of Linda Ferrasci from her farm down in Monterey county.

Here it is in all it’s goodness.

Now you may  feel other than happy seeing this picture, but that’s your business. This is a Farm Box blog, not a food ethics blog, but just so you know, this animal was raised humanely and with kindness, killed with a minimum of trauma, and will be treated with great care and respect on it’s way to being cooked and eaten. And when we eat it we will say a deep thanks to it’s life and what it gave us.

Thank goodness Stuart was available to help with some of the simple butchery that was needed. See, the thigh bones are quite thick and heavy and will make for uneven cooking if not removed. And the pig won’t cook well unless it is laid flat in the pig box (aka Caja China). So we removed the thigh bones and also “broke” the back so it would splay flat. Here it after the butchery session…

By now we were very hungry and in some serious need of pork. If you’re a pig anatomy expert, you’ll see that Stuart cut out the tenderloins from this pig, and he proceeded to school us on how to cook them up in a cast iron pan.

First he got the pan hot. And I mean really really hot. More hot than I’ve ever dared. Then he turned down the heat to medium, threw in a bit of oil and then the tenderloins. Mid way through browning he threw in some whole cloves of garlic, with the skins ON! Stops them from burning he said. At the very end of cooking, before a good 7 minute rest, he threw in some herbs from the garden. Doesn’t this look like the best thing you’ll ever eat!

Thanks so much Stuart for helping with the butchery. So sorry you and Nicole can’t make it on Saturday. We’ll save you some pig!

Now the pig is on ice (um, in the bathtub – we’ll see if we can ever get the kids to take a bath again!) and tomorrow it’s into the brine!

Back from vacation – back to the Farm Box
Monday August 16th 2010

Whew, where’d the blog go?!  Very few blog posts in the past few weeks, I know I know. That’s what a couple vacations away from the Farm Box will do to a Farm Box Blog! While it was nice to get away, especially to the places we went, it’s nice to be back home!

So I wanted to get right back into Farm Box cooking, and also wanted to test drive some recipes for Pig Fest coming up (more on that later this week!). I took a look at a carrot recipe in Chez Panisse vegetables, and fiddled a bit with it of course!

First I got my mise ready. Well, there wasn’t much mise, but it was just a cool picture The Gordo took, so I thought I’d throw it in here!

Okay, first the carrots. I got them boiled and got some spices on them. Paprika, (Continue Reading…)

Turns out Farm Boxs travel well
Thursday August 12th 2010

We’re down at the Bickert/Drennan’s beach house this week, but as both families are Two Small Farms members, we had lots of veggies. And although it  sort of goes against the don’t-drive-veggies-far-away mantra, we couldn’t leave the veggies to go bad in our fridge! So we’ve had a couple Farm Box meals here at the beach.

I brought some Marin Sun Farms meat down too, so I winged it a bit with a brisket. First I braised it with some onion, carrot, garlic, and a mix of spices and some parsley. I first pre-sauteed the braising bits, added a bit of Worcester sauce and some chicken stock, and some dregs from a few wine bottles (hey, it is a vacation!), then bunged the whole thing in the oven for 2 1/2 hours. I took it out, let it rest for a while, then defatted the sauce, which eventually got reduced to a really really salty sauce, but it was still good! The brisket was close to fall apart level, but not quite. Somehow even in beach mode I had managed to time it okay. But I wasn’t satisfied with the non-brown exterior, so I got the grill here smoking hot and seared it …

Texture turned out great, and don’t let this picture misrepresent the dryness/moistness. It was actually very moist and great with the oh-so-salty reduction sauce of the braising liquid. 

We brought some zucs down too, so they got grilled up …

And we had some Farm Box potatoes, and they got a simple dice and butter treatment.


And we had some fennel too, so I stayed stuck in my rut and caramelized them. I know, I know, I do this too much, but I was worried there might not be enough moist stuff with the brisket (I was wrong), and you know, it tastes so so good, and I’m on vacation and was too busy to think of something new!

The vino? Can’t remember, but I did buy it all from the greatest wine shop on the west coast – Hi-Times Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa. What a mecca!