April 17, 2012

winter + spring // a retrospective

farmer’s markets // shared meals // kinfolk

the Oregon coast // crab feast

trains // planes

pdx // student teaching // coffee + beer + food

Oklahoma friends visit // San Diego exploration

exams // interviews // bike rides + lavender popsicles

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Farmer’s Market Mushrooms

November 7, 2011

Yesterday was an unusual day in the perceptually sunny state of Southern California. A brisk cold, ushered in by November, brought a weekend of rain and chilly air. I spent the better part of Friday and Saturday inside. After becoming accustomed to my daily dose of outdoor air, Sunday invited me out, and to the Farmer’s Market, despite another forecast of rain.

The Hillcrest Farmer’s Market has become my favorite among all the ones that I have been to thus far. It is a Sunday experience. People of all types walk to the bustling market, where children run circles around their parents feet, samples are bountifully offered, live music provides a soundtrack, and there is both prepared food to enjoy while perusing, and a colorful array of produce vendors. Though the conditions were not ideal, the faithful makerters walked the aisles, collecting fruits, vegetables, cheese, and flowers for the week ahead.

I met a friend, and we both had objectives – she wanted a whole chicken, and I had mushrooms on my mind. We went straight to the farm vendor where we hoped to find the chicken. The rain turned from a drizzle to a steady pour as we ducked under his tent. As we inquired about the bagged birds sitting on the table between us, he graciously answered all of the pressing questions we had about what sort of life the chickens had lived. His calloused hands gestured how the chickens had run around freely, and had the liberty to eat bugs. He told us that he himself had killed and cleaned each of these chickens – it is his Friday routine. And at the end of it all he assured us, “This chicken actually tastes like chicken.” Assured we were. Chicken in tow, we pressed on.

The mushroom farmer was a lovely woman with wild reddish hair, a kind smile, and middle-eastern accent. She happily bagged up a mixture of porcini and white mushrooms at my request. I told her that I was considering making a soup with them on this dreary day. She responded by telling us about  a simple lentil soup that she loved to make in her home country of Iraq. I paid and thanked her, so satisfied by the mushrooms, and by the glimpse into the story of this woman’s life.

All that to say, I had been considering a cream of mushroom soup, but I fell across some great recipe ideas for creamed mushrooms on toast. Butter, mushrooms, creme fraiche, and bread? Sold. Really simple, and just as the chicken farmer felt about his chicken, I experienced too with the mushrooms – they taste like mushrooms! This is the beauty of shopping at the farmer’s market. The food is so fresh that your preparation can be pared down. The food tastes as it is supposed to and does not need excessive sauces or spices. This simple way of preparing the mushrooms was earthy, warm, and satisfying all at once. I ate them on toasted french bread, alongside a simple salad of spicy greens dressed only with olive oil and pepper.

Farmer’s Market Mushrooms on Toast 

(inspired by Smitten Kitchen & Orangette)

10-11 oz. of mixed mushrooms
2 tablespoons of butter
1 clove of garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons creme fraiche 
good bread 

Clean the mushrooms with a paper towel, just to knock off the dirt. Slice mushrooms lengthwise in 1/4 inch pieces.

Melt the butter in a skillet on medium-low heat. Add the garlic and saute until lightly fragrant.

Add the mushrooms, turning the heat up a bit. Allow the natural juices to come out, stirring occasionally. Let them cook until your desired tenderness. And as Julia says, “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!”

Let the mushrooms reabsorb their own juice and add the creme fraishe. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve on toasted bread. Enjoy immediately.

Makes: 1 large serving or 2 small servings.

Travel: San Francisco

October 24, 2011

My program afforded me the opportunity to go to San Francisco for a week of in-class observation. I spent my mornings at Pacific Rim Montessori School in a bilingual Chinese/English classroom, and spent my afternoons exploring the bay area. The people, public transit, food, and landscape were inviting and inspiring, to say the least. I utilized friends’ suggestions as well as 101Cookbooks’ post on her hometown favorites.

Spent an afternoon biking around and across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Muir Woods in the morning was a sanctuary of light and redwood trees – so quiet it was unnerving.

A dear friend of mine from college works at the de Young Art Museum – where I got to expereince their Chamber Music Day, and roam their vast galleries. It is always so gratifying to see work that I studied in school, as well as be inspired by new work. He also took me to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where we saw Richard Serra’s Drawing Retrospective. It was incredible – simple in its black and white color palate, large in size, and borderline installation art. The immediacy of the hand and the intimacy of the work contained it as drawing.

The Modern had on its rooftop gallery one of Blue Bottle coffee’s shops. Super clean design and excellent espresso.

Other foodie haunts: NOPA for cocktails and dinner (got to sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen!), the DeYoung’s locally sourced café, the Bi-Rite grocery, Molly Stone grocery.

The infamous, yet unassuming Tartine Bakery. Famous for its fine pasteries, I joined the line that wrapped around the building to hold in my hand one of their buttery croissants. So good!

Also loved Four Barrel Coffee. A sweeping warehouse shop and roaster, with warm wood bars, bike racks, and solid espresso.

I also had to touch the door of Chez Pannise in Berkely. Unfortunantly, I was not able to savor a meal here this trip… someday.

There is so much about this city to fall in love with. But as with every trip I take, I find that regardless of the innovative food, excellent art, established architecture, natural beauty, colorful farmer’s markets, etc, etc, etc… it is the interactions with people that make the places so dynamic: the strangers who helped me find my bus route, the friends of friends who hosted me, the people that I met in restaurants, at cash registers, standing in line, the old friends that I got to reconnect with, and the beauty of newly cultivated friendships. It is the people that make this beautiful backdrop of a city come alive. Many thanks.

summer love.

June 21, 2011

 

 

 

Photo credits: snocone, biking, fireflies, tomatoes, cold brew coffee, al fresco dining, swimming

 

 

 


For the past ten days, I have had the joy of galavanting around Southern California with my family (sans sister). We met some incredible, and hospitable folks, drank great wine, indulged in fresh foods, and soaked in the beauty of both the coast and the mountains. It was a nourishing and inspiring vacation.

We spent an ample amount of time on the beaches of San Clemente and Dana Point. (The handsome man pictured here is my dear brother.) When I was not being mesmerized by the beauty of the water or the grace of the surfers, I was reading: The Help, The Absorbent Mind, French Women for all Seasons, back issues of Saveur, or Ecclesiastes.

We got to go to a few stunning farmer’s markets, brimming with California’s finest – avocados, citrus, and berries of all sorts. Keeping most of our cooking simple, we often grilled fresh fish and loads of vegetables.

On Saturday, we took a day trip to Temecula Valley – Southern California’s wine country. The scenic drive from the coast took us through lush mountain passes, and dropped us off into what felt like the South of France – rolling hills dotted with sprawling vineyards. We enjoyed a stop at Mount Palomar where we ate a Medeterrainian style lunch in their bistro. I especially enjoyed the baked brie bowl (pictured above, soft brie placed into a sourdough bread bowl, lined with fresh basil leaves, then covered with roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes and pine nuts). They recommended enjoying it with their Dry Riesling – perfect to cut the savory richness.

  We followed lunch and a small hike around the vineyard with a leisurely wine tasting. They had a wide variety – my favorite was called Castello Trovato, a red metitage of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc grapes. Everything I love in a red – hints of black cherry, earthiness, robust, with a long finish.

One of the most inspiring pieces of the trip for me was the landscape – especially the vegetation and plant life. Flowers, succulents, and trees of all kinds offered color, texture, and smell that I am unaccustomed to in the midwest.

On our final day, we had the honor of sailing with hospitable friends out of the Dana Point Harbor. It was a breathtaking adventure to go out on the water and feel the freedom of Pacific air. They also graciously took us to a lovely restaurant, Chart House,
overlooking the harbor, where we had a number of quentessential California/Pacific inspired hors d’oeuvres. Pictured top right:  tuna tartare drizzled with wasabi cream paired with seared peppered tuna & avocado, with kim chee slaw & plantain chips. Bottom left: jumbo lump crabmeat tossed in remoulade, layered with avocado & mango.

California was a breath of fresh air and I eagerly anticipate the time that I will be spending there in the near future.

May 30, 2011

I hope that my days are measured not by lists and calendars, but rather by lingering al fresco dinners, loaves of bread, good cheeses, bottles of wine, and the friendships that surround them. 
 
(Thanks to Lauren M. for the photographs.) 

cheers

May 22, 2011

Congratulations to my beautiful sister, Lori Beth, for graduating high school!

To celebrate properly, I baked a variety of pies and tarts: a Lemon Cream Tart, Strawberry Cream Cheese Torte, Dark Chocolate Cream Tart, Blackberry Cream Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Pecan Pie, and Apple Pie. Most of the recipes I used were from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours. I found them to all be lovely recipes, using classic French baking techniques paired with Dorie‘s expertise to create homey, inviting desserts. I also drew on my invaluable experiences baking alongside the family of Cuppies and Joe in Oklahoma City, of whom I will forever be indebted to for teaching me not only how to bake delicious desserts, but also how to serve them forth with love.

It was a joy to share these sweet comforts with friends and family alongside coffee and stories of our graduate.

Here’s to you, pretty girl.

I love being in the kitchen, finding fresh, interesting ingredients and trying new recipes. It is enjoyable to pour a glass of wine, saute some onions, chop vegetables, and let the meal begin to unfold. While the process is of great pleasure, the greatest joy happens once I am sitting down around the table with friends and family to share the abundance. On Thursday, I found this beautiful set of 1960’s dishes at a thrift store. The mustard yellow color and intricate pattern is so lovely.  I got to thinking about what the draw is, and why I would spend money on more dishes. While I have had a number of meaningful meals over paper plates, I think there is really something special about the plates and cups that we use to serve food.

The dishes become something which hold value and sentiment, as families use them again and again for celebration and holidays. They can represent a style or a period of time. They can be carefully crafted pieces of pottery made by someone you know (read: my brother) or an artist that you want to support. They can be a colorful set that inspires or an antique set inherited. Beautiful food deserves beautiful presentation. It helps us cultivate a more meaningful relationship with the food we eat and the time we take to eat it. It is a small thing that deepens the ritual. It creates a whole dinner experience.

It is important for us to develop a meaningful way of thinking about the things that fill our home. Things are not here to define us, but because there are so many items that are essential for living and functioning, why not buy things that mean something? If you spend time to research and use your money on the things that inspire, or are made well, they last longer and begin to contribute to the overall experiences of life. Being a good steward of what we are given involves taking care of what we fill our homes with, especially those used daily, such as plates, forks, and cups.

Curious about what other food lovers had said about the subject of dishes and dinner presentation, I turned to my role model, Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse in Berkley. At her resturanunt, all the tableware is from Heath Ceramics. Heath is made in California, and focuses on a blend of functionality and modern aesthetics. She chose them because they are made locally and each piece is crafted carefully with sustainability in mind.

She shares some insights in relation to her project Edible Schoolyard, which works to bring healthy, whole foods and gardens to schools.  Though this article is directed towards kids, the implications are great for all. The whole interview can be found here. A few highlights:

We’ve made a place that is comfortable, because that shows them that we care, too. We want them to see beautiful things, as well as to smell and to taste beautiful things. For example, I love to put down the tablecloth. That’s all a part of telling them that we care. We’re creating an atmosphere that naturally fosters goodwill and respect — an everyday experience that encourages civilized conduct.

We set the table with a tablecloth, and real plates, forks and knives. We think about the center of the table. Maybe it can use a little centerpiece. The kids choose what that might be, whether it’s flowers from the garden, something from the kitchen, some vegetables, or something that’s going to be part of what the kids are eating. The improvements to the food or the surroundings don’t need to be costly. They can be quite simple.

Strawberries.

May 13, 2011

Strawberry season is here!

I have always had an affinity towards strawberries. They seemed like a hands-off, once a year sort of treat. Still to this day, when I visit my grandparents home, the treasured dessert is vanilla bean ice cream topped with strawberries from their garden. In its simplicity, it speaks of freshness, family, and the coming of summer. In one of my favorite books as a child, The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, the little mouse tries to hide his ripe strawberry from the big hungry bear. (It is another that I think my father had memorized due to reading it over and over and over again.) I love this!

While the berries are best enjoyed when ripe, simply on their own, there are also many great ways to bake and cook with them. My sister and I transformed the lovely berries into a simple galette to complete a fresh spring dinner. The strawberries baked down with butter and sugar, nestled into a classic tart dough making a warm treat reminiscent of strawberry shortcake. I like making galettes instead of pies, because the dough to fruit ratio is more equalized, and I also love how rustic it looks. The recipe for the galette is below, and here are a few other strawberry recipes I hope to try in the coming weeks:

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Strawberry Basil Salad with White Balsamic by Just Pinch Me 

Strawberry + Leek Quesadillas from Sprouted Kitchen 

Heidi’s Roasted Strawberries from 101 Cookbooks

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake by Fork Spoon Knife 

Strawberry Basil Pesto by Chocolate and Zucchini 

Strawberry Galette 

adapted from Martha Stewart
For The Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
 
For The Galette
1 pound strawberries, hulled
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

  1. Make the dough: Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add ice water, and pulse until just combined (dough will still be crumbly). Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out a 10-inch round, and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the galette: Cut strawberries lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Reserve end pieces for another use. Toss slices with 1/4 cup sugar and the cornstarch, and immediately arrange them in concentric circles on dough. Start 1 inch from edge, overlapping slices slightly. Fold edge of dough over berries. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. Whisk together yolk and water. Brush dough with the egg wash, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Dot berries with butter. Bake until crust is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

snow day scones.

February 9, 2011

I have been friends with Rachel for over a decade now. There are few things I can count in my life that have had such permanence, and reliability. It is good to have a friend who is true, knows me for who I am, and still sticks around.

When we first lived together in the Ayers Street house, she made a morning phone call to her grandmother, Cordova, to request her scone recipe. Not only has this scone recipe stayed with us over the years, but the index card that she transcribed it on has too. This little card has not only directed us on how to bake the scones, but has reminded us of many times spent together around the breakfast table with loved ones.

As we anticiapted another snow day last night, I said  – can we please make Cordova’s scones in the morning?

Yes, ma’am.

And as the unbelievably translucent powder covered the ground in white, it was the faithful scone recipe that brought us into the warm kitchen, coffee in hand. Scones are famously fickle – often too tough, or too sweet. But these scones are flaky and light, slightly sweet, and open for any sort of additions, such as lemon zest, blueberries, dried cranberries cinnamon, or nuts. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of fat – either crisco or butter – I used 1/4 cup of each, crisco for texture, butter for flavor. Today, I also added zest from one whole lemon, and a handful of frozen blueberries. They are best served straight from the oven, with a bit of honey.

Cordova’s Scones

2 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup crisco and/ or butter
1 egg
a little less than 1 cup of milk

Preaheat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in crisco/butter. Place egg in 1 cup measuring cup, beat lightly, and fill up remaining area with milk. Add to dry ingredients, mix until the dough holds together.

Turn out dough into lightly floured surface and form into a circle, pressing down until about 1/2 an inch tall. Cut into triangles and place on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.