Fall Amaranth Porridge

October 25, 2012 § 2 Comments

In my family, we have a tradition of giving fruit trees as birthday gifts. I seem to be the most consistent participant in these exchanges. I’ve been on the receiving end of a an Asian pear tree and a pomegranate tree. My mom has a persimmon tree, and I just recently gave my dad an avocado tree – we have yet to see whether avocados can really thrive in the Bay Area.

I’m not sure how this tradition developed, or how I became one of the central participants. Neither of my sisters have been on the receiving end of a tree gift! Maybe I just loved fruit more than the average kid? I know that Asian pears and pomegranates were among my favorites from a young age. Or maybe it was because I used to spend a lot of time climbing fruit trees? When I was four and five, I would spend hours and hours perched in a fig tree in front of our house. The fig tree died a few years later – hopefully not as a result of my climbing – but I’ve never forgotten how much I loved that tree.

However the tradition began, it’s a great one. There aren’t that many presents that stick around year after yea! I guess if you weren’t a fruit lover, it would be an odd gift choice, but for me, I can’t think of anything better!

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Leek and Onion Tart

October 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

This tart has been one of my go-to dishes for years. I’m not sure exactly when I first made it. I have a suspicion that it was with my friend Janina, maybe when we shared an apartment in New York. Or possibly for one of our themed dinner parties back in California, which are themed more in terms of attire (or in some cases, costume), than they are themed in menu. We like to cook all of the dishes that are most exciting to us that day, which often leads to an eclectic, but still delicious, combination of items!

Whenever it was that I first came upon this tart in The Art of Simple Food, I have not forgotten it since. I have brought it to many a pot-luck, cooked it as a Thanksgiving appetizer, and made it more than once simply to satisfy personal cravings. I’ve had friends request that I bring it to parties, and countless people ask for the recipe. And I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who didn’t like it.

Besides the enjoyment of eating this tart, the best thing about it is its simplicity. It requires only eight ingredients, and though there is a bit of waiting in the process (to let the tart dough chill, and later to bake it), the steps are all very straight-forward. I’ve stayed pretty true to the recipe over the years, with only limited alterations. My main adaptation is to use a combination of leeks and onions, instead of onions alone. I’ve also omitted the thyme – I prefer the purity of onions and leeks seasoned only with salt. Besides these alterations, you have Alice Waters to thank for this tart. When something tastes so good, you don’t want to mess around with it too much!

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Rustic Yellow Tomato Sauce

October 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Several years ago, I had one of the best summers of my life, and especially of my “adult” life. I was leaving NYC after living there for just a year, and was getting ready to settle into Berkeley. But for a few months in-between, I headed to Nevada City, CA to live with my friends, Andrea and Drew.

A little back story: Andrea was my freshman year college roommate, and it was basically friends at first sight. Drew lived just down the hall from us, and became a close friend through all the best college interactions: dorm pranks (in this case, stolen mattresses and ransom notes), extended all-you-can-eat cafeteria meals, late nights of studying, and campus yoga classes. Oh, and did I mention that Andrea and Drew are now married? Together, I think we have lived most of the college clich├ęs you can think of!

Okay, going back to my summer in Nevada City. Drew had just started a small organic farm, and graciously allowed me to come work with him, despite my complete and utter lack any farm-related knowledge or skills. And the rest, as they say, was history.

That summer, I learned a ton about farming. I learned how hard it is, how much planning goes into every crop, and how long the days can be. I also learned how fun it can be to work outside in the dirt with friends.

I learned how much I love to swim in the river after (or in the middle of) a long day on the farm.

I learned that I love Sungold tomatoes more than any other tomatoes, but that I am allergic to tomato pollen. This is inconvenient, because when you harvest tomatoes you can always sneak a few to snack on, but if you are allergic to tomato pollen, your considerate friend Drew gives you different jobs to do on the farm.

That summer, I got to stay in a converted barn that had a full library (with an actual sliding library ladder!). And I got to sleep in the barn loft.

And I learned how to make delicious tomato sauce. When you work on a farm, there are bound to be tomatoes that over-ripen on the vine. These tomatoes can’t be sold at the farmers’ markets, but they always make the best tomato sauce, and Andrea is an expert sauce maker. On more than one occasion, we collected all of the unwanted tomatoes and made gigantic pots of tomato sauce together. These sauce-making sessions were the source of unlimited fun and deliciousness, and still serve as my inspiration every time I decide to make sauce from scratch.

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Thai Inspired Kabocha Squash Soup

October 3, 2012 § 8 Comments

It has been in the mid-eighties in the Bay Area for the past three days. Eighties in October! In sync with this crazy weather, I’ve been particularly inspired to cook and bake. I’ve been trying new recipes, re-working old recipes, and overall spending way too much time in the kitchen considering how hot it is! I’m hoping that with this squash soup I will be ready to take a (brief) rest from my stove-top hovering, at least until the weather cools down slightly.

I began perusing winter squash soup recipes about a week ago, when it was actually feeling like fall. And once I had settled on an idea, I just couldn’t wait for the temperatures to cool down.

I’ve also been impatient to use the beautiful kabocha squash that I harvested from my garden a few weeks ago. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that I didn’t actually plant this squash. I added some fresh compost to my garden back in the spring, and a tiny squash plant sprang up a few weeks later. I can take a little credit after that, because I decided not to weed it out, transplanted it, and faithfully watered it for the next several months! But I still feel like it was a little garden surprise.

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