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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Apple Butter

September 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

I never really fully appreciated apples until I lived on the east coast. You can definitely grow good apples in California, but they aren’t our very best fruit offering. When I moved to the east coast after college, my eyes were opened to all that apples could be. There were apple-picking excursions in upstate new york, and new apple varieties that were crisper than anything I’d had on the west coast. I remember when I first discovered what is now my all-time favorite apple, Mutsu. It literally blew my mind. I would sit on my couch marveling that an apple could be so crisp and tart and sweet all at once. I once texted a friend to brag about my apple. And for a while, I literally wanted Mutsus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was out of control.

Even though I’m back in California now, my eyes are open to all that apples can be. And I’ve noticed that over the past few years, local markets and stores have begun to carry a wider range of apples, including  Honey Crisp, Pink Pearl, and (finally!) my beloved Mutsu. As the days begin feeling more like fall, I’ve found myself craving apples once again, so I thought I’d start the season off on the right note with this simple and healthy apple butter. And, I suppose you should know that I actually made this apple butter with a future (considerably less healthy) recipe in mind. So get ready, apple butter will be making another appearance shortly! « Read the rest of this entry »

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 Agua Fresca

September 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Remember that gigantic, 25 lb watermelon I mentioned? Well, I’m still working on it! So here is my newest creation. It is simple and refreshing, and it will almost make you forget that summer is quickly fading into fall.

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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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Passion Fruit Dressing

September 5, 2012 § 4 Comments

Don’t hate me… but for the past week I’ve been in Hawaii! For me, the three best things about Hawaii are the beach, the ocean, and the tropical fruits, not necessarily in that order. This week, I really went all out in the fruit department. I ate pineapple, mango, papaya, passion fruit, and – a first for me – dragon fruit. To be honest, I didn’t hate the dragon fruit, but I didn’t love it either. It is certainly visually stunning, but it just didn’t blow me away. I decided to spice it up with this passion fruit dressing, and the dressing ended up being the main attraction for me.

Whatever your feelings about dragon fruit, I think you will love this dressing over fruit salad. « Read the rest of this entry »