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What’s came this week
Thursday September 30th 2010

I can’t believe we’re down to the last 9 week session – I think there are only 8 more weeks left!

This week is seeing a clear transition to end-of-summer-into-fall veggies. Kind of a bummer cuz I don’t feel like I gorged out enough on tomatoes. But that’s been the fate of this year’s weather – the tomatoes just haven’t ripened yet, or may not at all. And if we get an early rain, that could definitely turn things for the worse for the tomotoes.

Here’s what’s came in this week’s Farm Box:
- Delicata Squash
- Lettuce
- Tomatoes
- Spinach
- Gold Beets
- Apples
- Italian Parsley
- Strawberries

The Delicata Squash makes me think of fall. My favourite thing to do with these is actually the easiest. I cut them into approximately 3/4 inch rounds, scrap out the squash goop, then oil and salt and pepper them and lay them on a baking pan and put in a really hot oven. After the bottom is brown, flip and brown the other side. Once both sides are brown, the meat is generally soft to eat, and in fact the skin is also crispy by that point, so just eat the whole damn thing! Hit it with some good salt, some acid (like a good sherry vinegar), and some more olive oil if it looks like it needs it.

Apples also make me think of fall. They’re might go straight in the kids’ lunch pails, but I also like Katie K’s suggestion of a warm spinach and apple salad with a balsamic dressing.

There may going to be a Ladybug Truck delivering tomatoes next week. If the tomatoes from the box last I might just add them to the many pounds I’m going to buy for winter canning.

I really like the flavour of gold beets if they’ve been boiled, deskinned, and then cool and tossed in vinegar and olive oil. Real simple like. But my friend Alex in South Africa says they make a pesto out their beets! They just whiz up the beets in a food processor along with all the things you normally put in a pesto. Certainly would make for a colourful pasta sauce! I might give that a go this week.

Or maybe combine the beets with the apples. Roast the beets, chop them into smaller bits (quarter?) let them cool, add matchstick-ed apple and some goat cheese and a balsamic reduction dressing. Hmmm.

Strawberries usually last about five minutes in our house, but when we visited Andy and Julia, they had dehydrated sliced strawberries. They were yummy, and the kids might like those in their lunch once strawberry season ends. And I’ve been researching jerky on a method Meathead recommends, so I might have to invest in a dehydrator – though having another appliance in the kitchen might not make for easy spousal relations!

What are you going to do with your box?

Bridge dinner – not the Golden Gate
Friday September 24th 2010

Out at a school fundraiser (which, seeing as our kids are in public school, took place in a bar! I Heart Dalva) we ran into our neighbours Stephen and Anissa, and in some weird way that only happens in bar we got to talking about bridge. Turns out all four of us were bridge players at some point in our lives and after moving on to later night libations and nibbles at Hogs and Rocks, we set a date for bridge at our house.

I didn’t want to make anything that would get in the way too much of the card playing, and decided on a sheppard’s pie and a tomato & arugula salad.

I had some bbq lamb riblets left over from the other night, and supplemented it with some Marin Sun Farms ground lamb from our Meat Farm Box. Then sauteed down a bunch of onions to a nice brown goop to put on top. And believe it or not, I still had some potatoes from the Farm Box so I boiled those up, gave them half a crushing, mixed in some cream and lots of butter, and laid it all on top of the browned meat and onions. Into a hot oven for 15 minutes, then under the broiler for 5. Here’s how it came out …

Then there was some great spicy arugula at the Tuesday Ferry Plaza market, and those supplemented the last of the tomatoes from Mariquita. Topped with feta, and some onions macerated in balsamic, and we were good to go!

The bridge went well. Melinda is such an intuitive player, and crushed it each time she played a game. No idea how to add up points or score, but crushes it regardless! But we really just got lucky cards, and have resolved for a rematch!

Chicken with Sara for the twins
Wednesday September 22nd 2010

The twins are still lazing around in Sara’s belly - 34 weeks and counting. Can’t wait to see them! Last week Sara’s Jim took one last trip to Atlanta before the madness of two screaming babies started, and we had Sara over a couple times for dinner. Her belly isn’t really allowing her to take much in, seeing as the twins are squeezing out any available room, so we had to make sure she could at least get some good healthy protein in there.  I picked up a chicken from Soul Food Farms, and really tried hard to make a good job at roasting it.

I started out by brining it over night. Half cup sugar, half cup kosher salt for 2 quarts water as the base. I know I know, Ruhlman would curse me and tell me to get my scale out, but this amount seems to work for me. Then I put in a bunch of flavourings in the liquid – a couple crushed garlic cloves, some grated ginger, pepper corns, some parsley leaves. Left it overnight and in the morning I took it out and put it on a tray to dry out. This is a tip from Sara and is intended to dry the skin so that the skin gets nice and crispy when cooking. Worked well.

Then I tried really hard to improve my trussing. Took a couple attempts but I think it turned out okay. What do you think? I didn’t quite know what to do with the wing tips – I guess I could have just cut them off, no?

Here it is resting before carving…

And then on the platter, on a (Continue Reading…)

The Ryans come over for dinner post Playa
Tuesday September 21st 2010

Fresh from their return from Burning Man, we had the Ryan’s and their three boys over for dinner on Saturday night. It was great to see them and to hear some of the craziness that goes on on the Playa, and to hear how Claudine’s cooking school is going.

We are nearing the start of the peak of tomato season, at least for Mariquita. (Yes, I know it’s the middle of September, but it’s been cold down there!)  I haven’t had gazpacho all year so that’s what I set off to do with my little helper Emma. I big-pot blanched the tomatoes, dunked them in ice water and then Emma skillfully peeled the sinks off.

It’s not that big a deal to peel tomatoes. You’re going to core them anyway, so core them, drop them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then dunk in ice water. Do something else, come back to them in 3 minutes, and they’ll be good to go. You can see from this picture that the peels are practically taking themselves off the flesh!

Then once they’re peeled, you jam a finger down each seed pocket and push out the seeds. And here’s how it looks when they’re done.

Total active time is maybe 5 minutes, plus another 2 to wash your pot and your ice water bowl.

I took the deskinned, deseeded tomatoes and put half in the food processor with half the cucumber and half the garlic and half the onion. Added more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy, sherry vinegar, a healthy dose of olive oil, and let her rip. The other half I pulsed more gently. I didn’t really want a crazy liquidy consistency and I succeeded. Was it really better than all liquidy? No, I should have run the whole thing thinner. Oh well, live and learn.

I missed a picture of the course between the gazpacho and the main course, which was a carbonara. I had some lovely guanciale, which is pork jowl and the traditional pork product of choice for carbonara. Ended up being really successful with my technique, after Stuart had taught me a few weeks ago. Ended up nice and creamy and salty and porky and, most importantly, the eggs didn’t curdle! Next time I make it I’ll make a nice pictorial.

For a main course I did up some lovely lamb riblets that I picked up at Prather Ranch, and a couple of hanger steaks. Hit them heavily with just salt and pepper, got the mesquite going so hot that I thought it was going to turn the grill metal red, then threw them on.

And then I blanched some cauliflower, and threw them on the super hot grill after the meat was done. Really tasty, with a nice smokey edge. Could have used a bagna couda or something like that though.

And we had beets left from the farm box too so those got boiled up, skins slipped off, chopped and then mixed with balsamic, olive oil, feta, and some yummy Prather bacon.

Dessert was a super-fabulous tart with some homemade fig icecream that Claudine had made with her class the night before. Thanks for bringing that, Claudine!  And thanks to the whole family for coming over!

Roast pork and a chard experiment
Monday September 13th 2010

Okay, let me just start with a photo. A glorious glorious photo. Doesn’t that look fabulous? Whew.

It was some unknown pork cut from Marin Sun Farms, and I brined it for the day before seasoning it a bit more and then sliding it into a super hot oven. Then a long rest and it looked like this after slicing…

I made a riff on my standard salsa verde, and used lime instead of (Continue Reading…)

Oktoberfest prep
Friday September 10th 2010

All this homebrewing has got me thinking about throwing an Oktoberfest party, replete with nice hearty fare. Years ago I had the good fortune of going to the motherland and experiencing Oktoberfest in Munich. It’s where I fell in love with wheat beer, and also salty pretzels with mustard, salty roast chicken, and salty sausages!  The organizers truly knew that the more salt you add, the more beer you’re going to order!

So I got going on a hearty dinner. My mother in law Alpen is visiting and she saved the (time-starved) day by doing all the prep, alongside Melinda, while I was off at soccer practice with Emma.

I started by wilting down some chard from the Farm Box …

Then added some cubed potatoes (Continue Reading…)

The Gordo makes dinner
Thursday September 09th 2010

Sorry there haven’t been any posts for a few days - we’ve, um, been away!

Ahh, the joys of speeding around on a rubber dingy behind a boat doing 25mph. Not really the most “sustainable” thing to do, but damn fun!

So I’m catching up on some great Farm Box meals we’ve had lately. Last week The Gordo offered to make us all dinner, and was it ever a good one!

He got some great meat down at Golden Gate Meats in the Ferry Plaza building, then mixed in some egg, some chilli powder, salt, ground pepper, one of those tiny onions (finely chopped) from the Farm Box. He sometimes adds a dash of balsamic or Worcestershire sauce too. We fired up the grill and got it screaming hot, seared the patties, then add a bit of good old american cheese, then sandwiched the patty between two halves of a grilled Acme “tiny bun”. Oh god, these were the best burgers. And I’m not just saying that so The Gordo makes them for us again. They were fabulous!

He also caramelized up a few onions to put on the burgers. Don’t worry, they were way browner than this when it was all done.

So it was the burgers and a simple coleslaw from the Farm Box cabbage, and away we went!

Sat outside, had a couple homebrews, enjoyed the company of family while enjoying a fabulous meal. Thanks Gordo!

A three salad dinner
Thursday September 02nd 2010

Ah, summer has finally hit in San Francisco. To the day it was right on time, September 1st. See, when tourists visit the city in July, they ask us where summer is, as they shiver in their newly purchased San Francisco sweatshirts. We say come back in the summer – which for us is September and October!

It hit 90F in the Mission and I knew this was no time for braises or anything where the oven had to be turned on! We just got our Farm Box and it was filled with fabulous salad items. So I threw convention out the window and that’s all we had for dinner – three salads!

First there was a tomato salad made with the first Early Girls of the season (why are they called Early if they aren’t arriving til September!?). Melinda macerated up some red onions in some of Andy’s vinegar, and then I just topped it with feta and some olive oil.

There was really dense heavy butter lettuce, so that just got treated to a simple red wine vinaigrette.

And the spinach from the Farm Box got wilted with a warm dressing made with bacon fat (actually panchetta fat!), vinegar, and olive oil, then mixed with some of those macerated red onions, some feta, the panchetta, and a chopped hard boiled it. Contrary to how this picture looks, Emma actually didn’t eat her portion, rather she just ate the bacon!

And rarity of rarities, we were able to sit outside eating dinner as the sun went down and it turned to dusk! How awesome a night was that!