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stock time
Friday May 20th 2011

It was raining last weekend, and there is no better time than in the rain to make some stock. I had a bunch of chicken stock from a session a couple weeks ago, so I went ahead and made a veggie stock and a pork stock. Why veggie and pork? Well, veggie is great to have around if you need a very mild stock for a soup where chicken stock would overpower the flavours, and pork is great for braised pork dishes and for dishes where you want a little more umpf than chicken stock. This is not stricktly a Farm Box ingredients post as the quantities needed were more than I had left over from my Farm Box (I picked them up on a Rainbow run), but if you find yourself saving some of these items up over the course of a few weeks then go for it!

For both the stocks I lightly roasted up carrots …

… leeks …

… onions, celery, and a little garlic.

Almost all of it went into the veggie stock. I just put the veggies in a pot, covered with water, and brought it up to a boil and immediately turned it down to a simmer for an hour. For the last 10 minutes I added in a little parsley, a couple sprigs of thyme, and one small sprig of oregano. I was trying hard to control the flavours so that’s why I only did a 1 hour simmering, and why I only put in the herbs for ten minutes.

For the pork stock, I started by roasting up 15 pounds of pork bones (two trays worth of what you see in the picture), then hucked it all in a big pot, covered with water, brought to a boil, turned down to a simmer, and then let it go for FOUR hours. Meat stock requires more time than veggie stock as the intent is also to draw out the collagen from the product. This time the lightly roasted veggies I saved from going into the veggie stock went in to the stock pot for only the last hour.

Both the stocks got cooled in an ice bath, and then it went in to the fridge for the night. This way it is easy to remove the fat from the pork stock – it floats to the top and gets solid and can easily be scooped off the thick stock below. then it was just a matter of putting it all into labeled “deli” containers.

In the end here’s what I ended up with …

That’s the veggie stock on the left – seems like I made 6 1/2 pints. There was more pork stock – looks like 12 1/2 pints.

Is making your own stock worth it? Well, it was about 30 bucks in ingredients, and about 3 hours of active time (full process was over a day). Is that worth it for 19 or so pints of homemade stock? As a comparison, before the chicken stock session a couple weeks ago, we had to buy 2 pints of chicken stock from Bi-Rite. Now, Bi-Rite has high quality product, but I gotta tell you it still paled in comparison to homemade. And those two pints were $6.99. So assuming equal quality, the stock I made was maybe 60 Bi-Rite dollars, and I paid 30 bucks plus labour – if I paid myself 10 bucks an hour then I’d come out even!

world’s smallest chicken
Wednesday May 18th 2011

Sara and Jim invited us over for dinner last night. I asked what I could bring and Sara was a little worried that maybe the chicken they planned might not be enough for all four plus two of us. Did I have another small chicken we could add to the meal? Just a small one. Did I have ever have a small one! Must be the worlds smallest chicken!

Next up, a long post on two different stocks I made last weekend.

Massimo graduates
Monday May 16th 2011

My cousin Massimo has been spending the last 2-3 years doing an MFA at the prestigious San Francisco Art Institute, and Saturday marked his graduation and the affixing of the title Master to his name. We are so excited for him, and got to go out twice to see his show on Treasure Island. And we were also very excited to host him, Meagan, his parents and her parents and a friend from LA for dinner after the graduation ceremonies.

We weren’t quite sure the number of folks until the last minute so I decided to cook up a big turkey that I’ve had a few months since the last bulk delivery day from Marin Sun Farms to our site. I brined it for a day in a simple 50:50 kosher salt / sugar mix, then dried it and rubbed in a spice rub with a bunch of differ spice I heated on the stove and ground up. I think there was coriander, cumin, mustard seed in there, then I added some garlic powder and some tumeric too. I cooked it for about 3 hours  (I think it was about 15-18 pounds) on indirect heat on the BBQ.

I had to restock the coals a couple times which was fine, but the indirectness allowed for a safely unburned skin that got super brown-ish red and crispy. Looks pretty good, no?

I also didn’t want to make anything that had to be served and eaten quickly, as I just wasn’t sure of the timing, so I pulled out some bacon (panchetta from Bocalone, actually) and got it crispy-ish, then added some shallots and 4 big bunches of collard greens.

They cooked down and then I just left them on a gentle low heat until serving. Oh, I might have slapped in some extra bacon fat. Com’on, collard greens just go with bacon fat!

I had soaked up some white beans the night before and got them cooking in some light chicken stock

Then I sauteed up a bunch of shallots, sweated them down, added tons of garlic, and then threw in that bowl of greens you see there in the picture.

After the greens were cooked down a bit, the beans got added and the flavours allowed to come together. Then it was final seasoning time – more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy, pepper, hot pepper flakes, olive oil, and then the secret which is white wine vinegar. Lots of it too. The beans are so rich and starchy that they need tons of salt, but they also need acid. I guess you could use citrus of some sort, but for my palate the white wine vinegar worked well.

Then I made my “famous” asian style coleslaw, and laid it all out on the table. I say “famous” cuz no matter what crazy seemingly difficult dish I have prepared as part of a dinner, the dish that always gets the most comments when I serve it is the asian coleslaw, and it’s the easiest dish to make! Just thinly slice up some red and green cabbage, add in an onion and/or some fennel bulb, squeeze in some lemon, add some soy sauce (in lieu of salt), some mayo (homemade preferred) and then most importantly some toasted sesame oil. Simple and oh so tasty …

We had a great time with everyone, and we all took turns quizzing Massimo on obscure art questions to check if he earned the Master label. Don’t worry, he passed all tests!

full house (bringing good wine!) for dinner
Friday May 13th 2011

Busy afternoon yesterday! My Aunt and Uncle were joining us for dinner of course, as they’re staying with us for a little while. And Sara’s out of town, so we invited Jim over with the twins so that Jim could actually get some food for himself that wasn’t mushed up leftover baby food! And then my friend Richard, who was also one of the best men at my wedding, texted me that he was in town and taking the red-eye home – could he stop by for a visit on the way to the airport? Of course! The more the merrier!

But first we all met at the Bartlett/22nd street Thursday farmers market to watch Alexis and Emma play in a concert in the market. Aren’t they so cute there playing a “duet” with their teacher Katie?

Then we rushed on home and while Alexis was at soccer practice I scrambled to get dinner for 8 ready.

Sorry, I have no prep or process photos, but here’s what I did.

I soaked some white beans overnight, then cooked them in chicken stock. Separately I sauteed more leeks than you’d think possible, plus the same amount of spring garlic. Then I took every single wintry leaf from the Farm Box and added it in. That’s kale, chard, and that dark spindly one – I forget what it was called. I set that aside and browned up some spicy sausage, added in some chopped carrots from the farm box, and when it was all done I added in the leek/garlic/greens, and a whole bunch of beans from the pot. Then I made some garlic bread to use as a dipping/topping type thing. (As an aside, can someone please explain to me why anyone would buy pre-made garlic bread?! It’s so easy to make. Melt some butter in the microwave, microplane in some garlic, add salt, spread on bread, broil in oven. 2 minutes of work, 5 minutes of time!)
In the end, I made a critical mistake of overcooking the beans making for a more mushy consistency, but the flavour was all there. Great with some drizzle olive oil and hot pepper flakes.

We had already gone through all the strawberries from the Farm Box, so Melinda bought some more at the Thursday market after the girls had finished playing … (Continue Reading…)

You cannot have a two starches on the same dish!
Friday May 13th 2011

Years ago, I decided to have some big dinners at the house where I would replicate the meals from famous movies/events. The eventual goal was the meal from Babette’s Feast (is there any more Clos de Vougeot?) but I only got as far as The Big Night. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s fabulously written and acted and has a big meal at the end for Louis Prima, starting with consume and proceeding through to a big Timpano.

As I was making dinner last night I couldn’t help thinking of the scene where Primo (the brother in the back of the house) tells Secondo (the brother in the front of the house) that the lady in the restaurant can’t have a side order of spaghetti with her risotto because “you cannot a have a two starches together.”

Why’s was I thinking of that? Well, there is one time I know of in Italian cuisine where you’re allowed to break that rule, and that’s by putting small pieces of potato in your pasta.

The fava beans and the potatoes from the Farm Box were looking so so good that I wanted to eat them, and that I’d do a variation of this Italian potato with pasta dish.

First I sauteed up some shallots and garlic, then added the shelled favas, then the greens from the radishes to try to add a spicy note to the dish…

Then I added the parboiled potatoes. This all got topped on top of some spaghetti and mixed in with some pasta water and some olive oil. In the end I think I added too much pasta, and it needed to be a bit more saucy, but it was still pretty tasty.

The pasta was so lightly flavoured and delicate so I didn’t want to pick a wine that would overpower the dish. I pulled out a Muscadet from the fabulous 2009 vintage – from the winery La Tarciere. I can hear you now “What’s Muscadet? I hope it’s not sweet!” Nope, not sweet – that would be Muscat (damn, that’s confusing no!?). Muscadet is a region at the mouth of the Loire River in western France, and the wines from there are made from the grape Melon de Bourgogne. No, this isn’t Bourgogne, like from the Burgundy region. Damn that’s complicated – no wonder consumers have a tough time buying french wine! The wines are lighter in alcohol (this one was 12%) and very mineral and crisp and acidic. This one had spent time on it’s lees, meaning the dead yeast cells from fermentation were left in the vessel with the ageing wine – it gave it a nice minerality and a little more body. In the end a great wine for this dish.

Spring garlic from Massimo Sr.’s garden
Thursday May 12th 2011

My Aunt Helen and Uncle Massie (aka Massimo Sr.) are staying with us while they attend their son (my cousin), Massimo Jr.’s MFA graduation from AISF. My Uncle Massie is, like all good children of Italian immigrants, quite handy in the garden. Isn’t this awesome: they brought some spring garlic with them all the way on the plane! How that got past TSA security I don’t know!

So we planned two preparations for the garlic – on a pizza then another as a topping for some grilled beef.

For the pizza, I took the stem ends and chopped them then sauted them in some bacon fat.

Well, it was sort-of bacon fat. Technically it was lightly cured jowl. Yeah that’s right, some pig cheeks baby!

Then Melinda put both these on some pizza dough with no tomato sauce and just some salt and pepper.

Then after cooking for a bit, she pulled it out and threw a couple whisked eggs on top, with some parmesan, and then back in the oven. Damn fine pizza. She called it pizza carbonara. Well done Pizziaolo Melinda!

The green tops of the garlic tossed with olive oil, s&p and were thrown on an excruciatingly hot grill after the steaks were cooked.

Here’s how they turned out, with some accompanying carrots from the Farm Box. Yumm…

In keeping with the Italian theme (um, there was someone named Massimo at dinner!) I pulled out a nice bottle of 2005 Vitanza Brunello di Montalcino. Don’t be too thrown off by the crazy words. This is made from the sangiovese grape (though the Brunello folks would argue that the clone is so specific as to be different, yada yada yada) and comes from Tuscany, right near Chianti. So if you feel like a Chianti, but want a little more structure and a little more, as I think of it, chocolate-y rich fruit, try a Brunello. This one was nice and rich – hope it didn’t have too much Syrah in it!

hot weather grilling
Wednesday May 11th 2011

It was a hot day the other day and we were having Jim and the twins over (Sara was somewhere awful like Boulevard, or Slanted Door, the poor thing!). Nothing like some warm weather to get the grill fired up.

I had all these good intentions of doing something with the peas from the box, but my little helper thought instead of 5 for the bowl and 1 for the mouth, that it was the other way around! I don’t think that bowl accumulated more than this picture is showing!

The burgers were made with some happy meat from Marin Sun Farms. I’m really getting into putting some  pork in the mix, and I also added a bunch of finely chopped leeks from the Farm Box and also some thyme from the garden, a couple eggs, pepper, and more salt than you think is healthy.

With the grill hot, I decided to just grill up a bunch of the Farm Box veggies and make a sort of salad out of it all. There are kohlrabi there, carrots, garlic chives (I think), but the asparagus wasn’t from the box – it was courtesy of our friends at Pisoni Farms down south a ways.

It all got simply grilled off-direct-heat for a long time till soft, including the garlic chives, then …

… chopped up into decent sized chunks and tossed with a balsamic vinegrette. Yumm!

No pictures of the burgers, sorry, but they were great. Also cooked up some Marin Sun Farms bacon for them too. Ohhh, bacon.

For wine, we had a lovely Alto Moncayo Veraton that Jim brought over. It hails from the Campo de Borja region of Spain and I believe it’s 100% grenacha (aka grenache). Big, bold, spicy and was a perfect match for the burgers and the veggie salad. Thanks for bringing it Jim!

PArsnip Soup, fish and burgundy
Wednesday April 20th 2011

Sara and Jim came over the other night bringing the twins and a bunch of food in tow. Little Jack (or was it Finn?) wasn’t behaving like a nice grown up kid, which threatened an otherwise perfectly planned meal. But he wrestled himself back into true social form (though you could argue that 5 month olds don’t really wrestle anything!) and we were able to all make and eat dinner together.

We had a bunch of really big parsnips, so I decided to bulk it up and make a soup. First I cut it into irregular chunks (helps get some brown edges) and roasted them in the oven. At the end I tossed on some freshly ground cumin and mustard seed. Why mustard seed? I dunno, just seemed to make sense at the time, and it did.

After a couple more minutes roasting, I combined with some dilute chicken stock, let it cook a while, then pureed it till super super smooth. It needed a ton of salt, plus some acid to liven it up so I put in some plain white wine vinegar. Turned out great!

For the soup, I put out a couple choices for white wine. First was a chardonnay from the Beaujolais region of Burgundy in France. Yes, I said Beaujolais, and it’s a white wine, not a simple fruity red like you’re used to seeing. While Beaujolais is generally known for reds made from the Gamay grape, there is alot of chardonnay grown here too. This is a great fresh lively Beaujolais Blanc from Domaine Cornin, retailing for about 15 bucks. Worth checking out if you’re looking for an “old world” chardonnay (i.e. not buttery oaky sweet) but don’t/can’t spend the big bucks on white burgundy from the Cote d’Or.

Personally I thought the soup would go really well with a wine with some residual sugar so I also pulled out a German Riesling with a light level of sweetness – a “Kabinett” level. I know, I know, who can decipher these crazy German labels?! But believe it or not, once you get to know how to read them, they are very informative and easy. Follow along with me here: this wine is made by the Willi Schaefer winery, from grapes from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region of Germany, more specifically from Riesling grapes from the Himmelrich vineyard which is in the town of Graach. See, easy peasy!

For a main course, Sara had picked up some lovely looking wild California halibut fillets. Jim then prepared a trademark Jim dish with caramelized onion, lemon, capers, parsley, and a few other things, wrapped it up in parchment, and cooked away. Awesome beautiful fish!

I wish I had taken a picture of the chickpea stew dish Jim made to go with it. A spicy thick dish, with tomato base (which were preserved from Mariquita Farms tomatoes last year!) and a nice Inidan curry undertone. Great with the fish.

Then the girls requested creamy salad (aka caesar!) and I happily obliged.

For wine we again went with two choices, though this time for both we kept them steadfastly in Burgundy.

Jim brought over a beautiful grand cru red from the Clos des Mouches vineyard, made by Joseph Drouhin. This wine, made from the pinot noir grape, had some age on it (1996) and was just signing. As Jim puts it “for me, red burgundy is all about balance, and this wine has just perfect balance.”  ’Nuf said! And thanks for bringing over this beautiful wine, Jim!

As Jim had graciously brought over a 1996, I though I’d pull one out too – a Vincent Giradin premier cru (not as high as a grand cru!) from the village of Volnay, from the Clos des Chenes vineyard. Hmm, not quite up to the standard set by Jim, I’m afraid! In fact, it was so unexpectedly poor that Jim thought it might be counterfeit! But isn’t counterfeiting wine just reserved for the multi-hundred-dollar bottles of wine? Nope. Check out this BBC TV bit on it!

impromptu dinner for 12+
Friday April 15th 2011

Sorry if the blog has gone away for a couple weeks. I’ve been busy at work (yeah, sad time for HD patients). But I’m back! But although I was busy at work prepping for the big analysis, I was still able to put in some time in the kitchen. Let me spend the next couple days updating you on some of the ways I’ve been going through our Farm Box.

During one of the hot Fridays we had a week or two ago, we invited Yvette over for dinner. Then Sara and Jim called to see if they could hang out in the back yard cuz it’s so so nice out (“we’ll bring wine!”). Then Stephen and Anissa needed a restful evening (and to get fed!) after letting the new tenants into their place. Then JR called saying he was a bachelor for the night and wanted to drink a homebrew or two. Then Dr. Bradley called texted asking something about whether we were enjoying the backyard in the nice weather. So we quickly went from me, melinda and the kids plus Yvette, to well over a dozen! Well thank goodness I had some Marin Sun Farms meet in the freezer and three Farm Boxes to cook through!

Somehow I had the good forethought to pick up some Acme Bakery buns from the Ferry Building that day. So I mixed up some meat for burgers – I ended up using 3 parts beef and 2 parts pork, plus some herbs and onions and a couple eggs. Really scorching hot grill and they were super tasty!

I had planned to cook up some carrots, but as more and more people alled, I just peeled more and more carrots. And the nice thing about the carrots is that they didn’t have to be steaming hot. I boiled, drained, added seasoning (butter, more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy, and some parsley), put it in a bowl and left it while the rest cooked.

I had a big bag of beets from the Farm Box so I boiled those up, slipped the skins off, sliced them, and dumped a bunch of vinegar on them. Let them cool a bit then tossed with S&P, parsley again (hey, it was in the box!) and olive oil. When it came to burger time, Stephen, who has since left us for his new home in Australia, put them on his burger! He said that in Aus even burger joints will put pickled beets in your burger! Wild. I guess I shouldn’t talk – we do some pretty weird things with our french fries in Canada!

Again, as more and more people started showing up I realized I needed more food. So out came a couple cabbages. Some mayo, some rice wine vinegar, some lemon from the garden, some soy sauce (and therefore no salt!) and the piece de resistance – some toasted sesame oil! Made it a real asian flavour slaw!

We piled through a few home brews and then got down to more serious business with the wine. We went through a fair number of bottles (um, there were over 12 of us!), but I’ll share just the highlights with you.

JR brought over one of his favourite Cali Pinots – Kanzler Sonoma Coast. For the appellation it was pretty ripe (which I liked as I think that California Pinot should be ripe – we’re not in burgundy here!), but thankfully missing alot of the pruney fruit that you can get further east in the Russian River.

Jim brought an older (well, 2004 is only 7 years old but people don’t generally age many Aussie Shiraz’s, which IMO is a shame) Aussie Shiraz from Mitolo. The GAM is their high-end bottling and the name comes from the names of the proprietor’s three kids – Gemma, Alex, and Marco. I was excited to see Jim bring this wine as I have a few bottles from the 2003 vintage. It was a very good wine, showing that typical Aussie bold fruit that was starting to calm down a bit. I’m going to hold on to open my 2003s for a few more years.

Cuz we were on an “older” Aussie Shiraz bent, I pulled out a bottle of 2000 Yalumba The Signature. Like the Mitolo, this is one of Yalumba’s more high-end bottlings. This, my dear friends, is why it’s worth it to age Aussie Shiraz. A number of years ago, I grew out of the really ripe, thick, dark fruit-forward Aussie Shiraz style. But I had already started cellaring some of the better Aussie wines. Signature, GAM, The Armagh, Jasper Hill, Command, Dead Arm, that sort of thing. I thought of selling them, but there’s little secondary market for these so I just let them lie. And am I glad I did. I think these higher end Aussies are going to age pretty well. This one had beautifully integrated tannins, depth of character, and still sweet round fruit, but had lost all the youthful jamminess. I real joy to drink.

bean dish and creamy salad
Wednesday March 30th 2011

I’ve gained a huge appreciation for legumes over the winter. Certainly helps that it’s been cold and rainy and miserable for about the last 3 months, but it’s also that I’m trying to move away from the hurry-sit-down-and-eat-while-the-foods-hot type dishes to more it’s-fine-hot-or-warm.

So I soaked up a bunch of chickpeas, then cooked them slowly in chicken stock, and then looked a what Farm Box veggies I had and started to cook!

I started with some chopped up calcots. I know, they’re best grilled and steamed and all that, but I figure they’re just onions so can’t I cook with them too?

Then I threw in a couple long stalks of spring garlic. You can’t really tell it’s there, but it is!

Then after that had cooked down a bit, I threw in two bunches of the Lacinato Kale, more-salt-than-you-think-is-healthy, pepper, hot pepper flakes and powder, and tons of olive oil.

After it sweat down, I added some of the cooked chick peas and let it simmer together for a while on very low heat.

While it was hanging out on the stove Emma helped me make some caesar salad dressing. First we whipped up what is really just a mayo.

Then I prepped some salted anchovies and another sprig of spring garlic.

Chopped it all up, added some lemon and lots of parmesan, and it was done. And no sooner was it done than Emma’s big sister, Alexis, started saying “Daddy, really, you’ve got to let me taste this again and again to make sure it’s not poisonous!” Get your fingers out of there Alexis!

And here’s how it turned out, on the little gem lettuces.

No vino for me that night – it was just the three of us for dinner that night, as Mommy was out with some girlfriends so I just had a cold beer.

But I’ll tell ya, the chickpea dish was so good that the next night we repeated the meal at Sara and Jim’s house and here’s the wine he cracked out for our oenophilic pleasure. Wow, thanks Jim!