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Special request menu for Alexis
Wednesday November 17th 2010

Alexis had a tough day. One that started the night before with not being able to eat the same dinner as everyone else. And she was such a trooper through it all so I said “Alexis, tonight you can have anything you want – you name it!” Her request: Pesto pasta, creamy salad (aka caesar salad), and chocolate ice cream.

We don’t have any basil obviously – it’s November! But we had three bunches of farm box cilantro in the fridge. Into the blender it all went, along with toasted pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, and more-olive-oil-than-you-think-is-healthy!  But it was missing something. What to add, what to add? Well Melinda had the great idea of adding some of the sundried (oven dried actually, but who’s checking) tomatoes I had made from some early girls we got in quantity at the beginning of tomato season. What a difference they made!

We also had some merguez sausage in the fridge that really needed to get eaten up, so those got fried up in a pan and tossed in, just for hellery.

Then some creamy salad, and then some home made ice cream. Well, if you consider it home made if Ben and Jerry made it! Phish food anyone?

We were all thanking Alexis for her brilliant menu request. A great, and dare I say easy, dinner!

dinner outside with the twins
Tuesday November 16th 2010

Sorry for the prolonged absence from blogging – part of it is we went away for the weekend up to the wine country. See it was our friends Katrin and John’s 40th birthday and they arranged all the accommodations and everything, including, um, reservations at the west coast’s second Michelin three star! Yup, we got to spend (in more meaning than one!) an evening at the Restaurant at Meadowood. A great meal, sure, but earth shattering? Well, close. But a couple things came to stark reality as we ate our way through 11-12 courses. See, one of them was a goat dish. Yes, goat in a Michelin three star. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came from Dave at Marin Sun Farms. Then another dish was a bean preparation – a mix of dried and fresh beans – um, 16 of them. Yes, 16 lone little beans. But as I asked the server about the dish, he said the beans were from Rancho Gordo. Okay, listen, I cook with these all the time. Best beans around. But I can buy them here in town. Don’t worry, I’m not going to say I could cook the dishes as well as Meadowood did, but what I am saying is that the ingredients are not exclusive! The veggies we get from our Farm Box are also the same veggies that supply almost all the best restaurants in SF! So if you want to get the best, all you have to do is subscribe to the CSA!

Anyway, we’re back, and it was beautiful weather so we invited the twins, Jack and Finn, over for dinner with their parents Sara and Jim!

Com’on, isn’t little Finn a good looking little baby!

Emma was enamored with Jack and insisted on feeding him!

It was warm …

… so we put some beef on the grill. A few New York strips and a couple hanger steaks too. I sauteed up three bunches of that crazy green veggie we got in the box and it was smokin’! Especially since I laid the cut mean on it (if you look closely you can see the bits of green under all that beef!) and it soaked up the juices.

I also roasted up some of the potatoes from the Farm Box, which I promptly forgot in the oven! Again! But they turned out great. All nice and brown outside with a fluffy interior.

The cabbage was actually the hit of the meal. I did it asian style. Some lemon/lime, with roasted sesame oil, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and some of that crazy Japanese mayo – what do they call it Kimpy or something? It’s awesome. Everyone loved this cabbage. Though again it was ingredients. My friend Rio took me down to Japantown a little while back and helped me pick out some great sesame oil and soy and vinegars. Not cheap that’s for sure, but damn is it a world of difference from what you buy in the grocery store!

So it was great to be back to cooking at home after a weekend away, and finding that the best ingredients around just happen to be the ones that come in our Farm Box!

This week’s bounty
Thursday November 11th 2010

Not bad looking, eh?!

Alot of good veggies in there – is the farm pushing out high production here in the last two weeks of the CSA? Ending with a bang?!
Lettuce (Red Butter and a Red Leaf)
Sweet Potatoes
Bull’s Blood Beet ‘Greens’

What to do? What to do?

Well, it’s almost the holidays and that means I’ll need lots of stock on hand for soups and for gravies/sauces. By themselves the carrots and celery are going to be made into a veggies stock and then in a separate preparation they’ll be added as an aromatic in a chicken stock.

Lettuce is salad. Easy. And in the next day or two so it’s nice and fresh and full of water.

Beet greens and spigarello will go into a soup if the weather gets cold. Bean soup, or a minestrone, or whatever!

Sweet potatoes will likely be saved for Thanksgiving. By the way, these aren’t yams, which are a completely different family genetically.  Andy, you should write a farm report on that!

The cilantro? Hmm, I dunno. I had some fabulous carnitas at Mexico DF for lunch today, maybe I’ll make up some carnitas and use the cilantro in a salsa?

What are you going to do with your box?

Using up the last of the Farm Box
Thursday November 11th 2010

Ahh, the day before drop off of the latest Farm Box. What’s left in the fridge?  Um, some turnips and some beet greens, and just a couple lonely potatoes. Well, that’s enough for me!

I gently sauteed/braised the quartered turnips for a good while. Like at least half an hour. About halfway through I put in a half dozen garlic gloves, the beet greens, some oregano from the garden. If it got dry I hucked in some white wine.

But what to eat with it? Well, Stuart and Nicole had stopped by the other day and dropped off a bag of their new favourite item. It’s a grain of some sort, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it is. Stuart? Nicole? Can you chime in if you read this with what it is? It was just cooked 2 parts water to 1 part mystery by volume for 18 minutes. The result was this very earthy cross between a grain and a brown rice. Quite yummy with the turnip dish

The two lone potatoes were cut into long french-fry shapes, and put in the hottest part of my oven. And then I, um, promptly forgot about them. You know what they say about using all your senses to cook? Well I used my nose to figure out that I had forgetten about the potatoes! But they were perfect. A quick turn and 5 minutes later they were done.

We also had a head of lettuce left over from from last week’s Farm Box, and that was turned into a simple salad.

As I was prepping the salad, I got a call from my folks and had to play intermediary on an arguement they were having. My father asked me in as non-leading a way as possible “David, do you tear/cut your salad before you wash it in the spinner or after?” I was on the spot. I had no idea which one had argued before and which had argued after. Against my better judgement, I went with speaking the truth (I hate when that happens). “Before”, I said, because then the salad gets dryer when you spin it! Does that make sense, dear reader? You know, in the grand scheme of disasters in the world, who really cares, but this was a referee moment for a son – a critical moment!

last warm evening to sit outside!
Tuesday November 09th 2010

Before the rains came this past weekend we spent one more glorious evening outside eating the end of the summer vegetables. We had gotten one more round of beautiful summer tomatoes from the Farm Box, and decided to keep it simple. Just quartered them, then added some fresh goats cheese, some balsamic, and some good olive oil. A note on the goat’s cheese. We were throwing a big party this summer (um, pig fest!) and I needed enough fresh goats cheese to top 30 pounds of tomatoes. Okay, I’m extravagant when it comes to food, but that’s gonna be a mortgage payment worth of cheese! So I queried the experts at Rainbow and they suggested a big piece of goats cheese from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company. Nope, this company has nothing to do the big brewer! It’s a small cheese maker in Willows, CA. They also make the cream cheese that we are addicted to in our house – once you try it you’ll never ever eat that philadelphia crap again. So check ‘em out – it’s good product for a good price. Here’s the salad …

But before the salad we started with a big mess o’ artichokes. Simply boiled in salty salty (Continue Reading…)

“Putting up” pepper for the winter
Monday November 01st 2010

There are a few things I try to put up every year – Tomatoes (as sauce), Strawberries (as jam), and hot peppers. Its so great to open and use some of these in the middle of winter and get a taste of what summer tasted like!

I scored a whole whack of screaming hot jalapenos from the Farm Box a couple weeks ago and have been slowly slowly putting them up. Before the rain hit, I cut them in half and put them out in the sun to dry. I wish I had gotten them a few days earlier cuz the sun could easily have done all the work.

Sadly, the rain came, so I put them in the oven to dry. Really really low temp for a long time. Like days, folks. And each time I took them out to check if they were dry, they seemed hard to touch, but when they cooled they got soft again. So back in the oven they went.

It ended up taking at least 10 days to fully get them dry.

When they were done, it was as easy as putting them in a blender to whiz up. Now, if you’re going to try this at home, I warn you that this is actually quite dangerous. If you’re not careful with your grinding/blending and let a plume of this powder fly into the kitchen, you can get some serious respiratory distress. In fact, any time I wanted to check the progress, I carried the blender outside before opening up the lid.

In the end it didn’t get as ground as maybe you’re used to, but I kind of like it this way because it gives your fingers something to grip when seasoning whatever your making.

From the volume of fresh peppers in the first picture I ended up with 3/4 pint ground jalapeno powder/flakes. Should last the winter I hope. We tried a bit last night with some sauteed chard and man was it ever powerful, but also really tasted like summer!