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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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 clichés 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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Garden Transitions

September 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

With my last two posts about watermelon, I finally feel like I’ve taken full advantage of summer and am ready for all of the incredible produce that comes with fall. To be honest, as much as I love the stone fruits, tomatoes and berries of summer, if we were talking favorite seasons, I’d probably have to go with autumn. There is something so crisp and lovely about the season.

My garden offers a particularly good illustration of seasonal transitions this year. Back in January, when it was time to get my seedlings going, I had surgery. This meant a late start on seedlings. Then, when it was time to transplant my seedlings into the garden in April, I was still on crutches (yes, I was on crutches for over 3 months). So I had to wait until late May! Given how late I was, it is really no surprise that I grew only one successful melon, that my tomatoes didn’t hit their full swing until mid-September, or my zucchini plants have just now stopped producing. I also have yet to see if any of my peppers or eggplants will ripen before the winter cold sets in, and today’s harvest included both a perfectly ripe melon and a deep orange winter squash!

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Watermelon Tomato Salad

September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m going to brag for just a second. This week, I’ve had in my possession a 25.2 lb watermelon (yes, I weighed it). And it gets better. Not only is the watermelon massive, it is also organic and it cost only $5! For anyone familiar with the Bay Area farmers’ markets, you know what a steal that is! Finally, and most importantly, it is delicious. Like, really, one of the best watermelons I have ever had. Great texture, great sweetness, and perfectly juicy.

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Zucchini Crostini with Fresh Ricotta

August 17, 2012 § 4 Comments

I always dedicate a large part of my garden to summer squash. I just can’t seem to help it. It doesn’t matter how many times I grow more squash than I can eat, I always think I’m going to want more.

This year, instead of repeating my standard zucchini habits, I’m trying to branch out in my squash skills. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still making plenty of steamed and stir fried squash dishes, and I definitely plan to make zucchini bread, but I also want to get more creative.

In that same spirit of creativity, I also decide to make use of this incredible cheese making book that has been sitting around my house for months now. On a regular basis, I open it up and page through the many amazing recipes it offers. Every time I do this, I commit to buying a few of the (many) cheese cultures used in the book. And then I forget, and the next time I want to make cheese, I am sadly lacking ingredients.

Despite this silly cycle, I realized I could still make ricotta…it doesn’t require any cultures! And it was so yummy that I am newly invigorated to buy some cultures and expand my cheese making capacities.

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Garden Pasta

August 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

Back in June, I visited a relative’s home in Sebastopol. Simply put, her garden was out of control.  Her squash had already peaked, and mine had yet to bloom. Her beets looked as though they had been growing for years, and mine were just starting to look edible. And she had leeks that were literally 4 feet tall.

I left feeling impressed, but also a bit inadequate. I knew my garden was doing just fine, but I was still jealous! Well, now that it is August, I have to say that I am pretty happy. My garden is just on the verge of peaking. I have started to get squash, and still have tons of blossoms on the plants. My tomato plants are several feet tall, and are drenched in green tomatoes. And my eggplant and pepper plants are speckled with buds and flowers.

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