Archive for the ‘food flotsam & jetsam’ Category

2010 Harvest Calendar

January 5, 2010

Happy New Year! I wanted to share with my peeps one of my favorite holiday gifts (thanks again Marge), this lovely harvest calendar by artist and organic plant nursery co-owner Helen Krayenhoff.  It’s filled with photos of tempting produce and each month includes a recipe — Picante Cabbage Slaw for January, Bok Choy Sauteed with Garlic & Ginger in March, Chard Frittata for October.

There’s also a list of produce in season each month and helpful tips for storing and handling, such as “never store tomatoes in the fridge, they will lose their flavor.” Sound advice! (Recipes are translated into Spanish and Chinese as well.)

Twenty percent of proceeds from the Celebrating Our Local Harvest Calendar pictured goes to Oakland school gardening programs; some schools, including one I’ll profile here soon, sell the calendars as a school fundraiser. They’d make a mouth-watering gift for folks in the Bay Area and beyond.

For the past few years, those of us with kids in Berkeley public schools have received a cheery food calendar sent home in September. The BUSD calendar includes school lunch menus, recipes from cooking teachers, and luscious produce pics by Terri Hill.

The calendars are intended to encourage family cooking, jaunts to the farmers’ market, and community building — along with a healthy appreciation for eating well.

Above my desk The Organic Kitchen Garden 2010 Calendar, by sustainable gardening author Ann Lovejoy with bold produce shots by Robin Bachtler Cushman, reminds me how fortunate we are to have so much fresh food available. The BUSD and local harvest calendars grace the walls of my kitchen. Our little home is bursting with ideas & images for eating lots of local goodies from our friendly farmers’ markets.

Wishing you, dear readers, a bountiful 2010 as well.

P.S.: Just received a copy of The Edible Schoolyard‘s Calendar of Values (thank you Marsha), filled with inspiring photos by Bob Carrau and words to live by. Makes for a lovely journal. Fittingly, the first entry: abundance.


New Year’s Food Resolutions

December 31, 2009

We all know the scoop on New Year’s resolutions: They rarely stick. Especially those ones about eating better or less.

So this year, instead of making a vow I’m unlikely to keep beyond February, I’m going for a modest goal. I’d like to host more dinner parties.

Okay, let’s get real here. I’d settle for serving up a meal for six to eight adults at least once in 2010. The kind where courses are served and grown-up banter can be had. Sounds like fun and seems doable, right?

Somehow these days I find all sorts of reasons why I don’t dish up dinner to a group of friends — too busy, tired, immersed in familyland or intimidated by others culinary skills or dietary restrictions. Just excuses, really.

So let’s see if I can follow through on this intention. If you have any advice about a plan for operation dinner party, bring it on.

And if you have your own food-focused New Year’s resolution — I mean goal — let me know below and perhaps readers will chime in with tips that might help you meet your target in 2010.  Happy New Year!

Seeking Comfort Foods During Season of Excess

December 28, 2009

Had too many fancy-pants dinners lately? Sick of rich desserts? Over overindulging on the eating and drinking front at holiday parties?

If I’m in Australia this time of year I start to O.D. on nibbles like taramosalata dip, champers, and triple-cream Brie. In California, it’s enough with the holiday cookies already.

So, quick question: During this season of excess consumption, what foods do you seek out to bring back balance in your diet?

For me, it’s porridge or granola, fruit, & yogurt for breakfast. Manchego cheese, rice crackers, & fuji apple for lunch. A big green salad or roasted root veggies for dinner.

What foods help you stay on track during the holidays? Do tell.

Menu for Hope

December 16, 2009

Here’s a shout out for a worthy cause sponsored by food bloggers around the globe during this season of giving, getting, and overeating.

Menu for Hope is an annual, above board, fair dinkum, fundraising campaign to help feed hungry people worldwide. The devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia provided inspiration for the first campaign, which raises funds for the UN World Food Programme.

In the past three years alone the event has collected nearly a cool quarter of a million. This year the money goes to help local farmers in countries of need through a program called Purchase for Progress.

What is Menu for Hope? It’s essentially a virtual raffle. You plonk down 10 bucks a bid on a delicious donated item, or two or three. Could make a great holiday gift for family, friends, or, you know, maybe even your good self. Just purchase tickets by December 25. That’s next Friday.

Browse the array of prizes on the award-winning blog Chez Pim.  And kudos to Pim Techamuanvivit for kicking off this campaign six years ago.

I’m eyeing a bunch of tempting prizes up for grabs on the West Coast including foraging excursions, photography workshops, artisanal goodies and cookbooks signed by celeb chefs. Hmmm…what to choose?

Scroll below for a list of prizes in your neck of the woods hosted by five fab food bloggers & an in-the-know wine guy (high fives to you folks):

US: West Coast: Shauna Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl.

US: East Coast:  Helen Dujardin of Tartelette

Europe *and* the UK: David Lebovitz

Canada: Tara of Seven Spoons

Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand: Ed Charles of Tomato

Wine Blog Host: Alder Yarrow of Vinography

You might get lucky.  You’ll definitely do good. And feel good.

Winners announced January 18 on Chez Pim.

Let the bidding begin.

‘Tis the Season for Eating, Giving, & Doing Good

December 4, 2009

Last night I attended another classy holiday party hosted by those savvy gals at blogher. As at previous blogher events, invitees were encouraged to bring canned goods for distribution at a local food bank. Stellar idea.

As I headed to the groovy gathering carrying my brown paper sack filled with canned beans I passed people in need on every corner on a particularly cold winter’s night along the streets of San Francisco’s South of Market area.

And, as often is the case, I was left with the uncomfortable feeling that I’m not doing enough as a person of privilege and modest means. (Trust me, I gotta pay the bills like everyone else.)

This holiday season I swear will be different. To kick things off, I’m unabashedly lifting this brilliant idea from the generous Cheryl Sternman Rule over at the delightful 5 Second Rule. So do stop by her blog, and while you’re there, check out her recipe for Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup. Sounds perfect for this chilly weather.

But before you go, can I encourage you to give a little? Here’s how it works: If I was a little more techno savvy you would see a “button” on the right side of the screen in the sidebar. Alas, I’m not, so instead just click here and it will take you to a link to Network for Good, a reputable online charity hub. As you’ll see, I’ve selected the Alameda County Community Food Bank, a nonprofit that serves some 40,00 people in need every week, as my local charity of choice.

Click on the button and donate as little as $5 or as much as you like. That’s it. Just takes a few secs. Honest. A small amount (4.75%) covers admin costs at the Network of Good, the rest goes directly to feed people in need. (If you want your entire $5 to go to food, then donate $5.24.) Learn more here.

Think about it, for the price of a chai latte and a scone (my fav breakfast treat) you’ll be making a difference in someone else’s life.  Your donation is both tax deductible and guaranteed to make you feel good. Promise.

I’m sensing you might prefer a Portuguese tart and some tea for your troubles. Let me send you one, virtually:

Here’s the back story to today’s post and my pitch for convincing you all — yes, that means you too — to fork out five bucks: I spent the better part of the day trying to load a widget onto this very page so that %$#@&*@!!! charity badge would show up on my site. It wouldn’t work — even the good folks at Network for Good couldn’t tell me what was up.

I’m ashamed to admit I was so frustrated I had a little tanty about the whole thing. Not a good look. Very bah humbug-y of me. Then I fielded a call from a friend who just got laid off. She’s the breadwinner.  It’s a few weeks before the holidays. Why do %$@^&^%!!! employers do that?

Let’s just say I got a little perspective. So I can’t load a widget. Some folks can’t put food on the table. Get a real problem, girl, you know what I’m saying? I’ve forgiven myself and made amends (I hope) in the forums where I blew off steam. I’m grateful to good samaritan and fellow food blogger Ron Doyle, who set me straight (that widget was never gonna load given my current setup. Sigh.) Time for a site upgrade, perhaps.

Which reminds me of an amusing link my friend Cheryl (see above) sent today: It’s to a post on dealing with, ah, people like me and their vision for a site redesign. But you get to click on the funny button after you do the right thing and make a contribution, okay? That’s your little reward.

While I’ve volunteered in my community for years, I’ve never done something like this before. I’ve never, you know, asked. But together I think we can raise a respectable sum this month. I know my techno-obsessed son and I will eagerly watch the numbers on the widget inch up during the season of sharing and I’ll keep you posted.

I’d be so grateful if you’d join us. And please spread the word.

Feel free to leave a comment or email me after you’ve donated. And thank you, in advance, for your generosity. And, um, just a reminder: Click right here to contribute.

Listening & Leftovers

November 27, 2009

This I believe: Everyone has as story to tell. So, today with a fridge full of leftovers, there’s plenty of time to step away from the kitchen to sit down with someone you love to hear a tale or two.

The Storycorps Project heard on National Public Radio, the people who brought us the book, Listening is an Act of Love, encourages all of us to start a new holiday tradition the day after Thanksgiving–and it doesn’t cost a cent. All you need for the National Day of Listening is a notebook or recording device so you can document an in-depth conversation with a family member or friend over an hour or so — a lot less time than it takes to cook a turkey.

In both my professional and personal experience, people have a yearning to be heard. Given half a chance they’ll bend your ear, tell you their secrets, or reveal the good, the bad, and the ugly. So I doubt you’ll be sorry you took time to talk with a relative to learn more about his or her life. But you may regret not doing so.

I know I do.  In my final year at university I had to conduct an oral history for a class assignment and I chose to interview my paternal grandmother. We adored each other in the uncomplicated way that grandchild and grandparent do. She religiously read the student newspaper I wrote for, offering gentle but pointed critiques: “There is no such color as nipple pink and even if there was you have no business using such a term.” When her eyes started to fail she got books and magazines on tape. I can still remember sitting on her bed as we listened to an issue of Newsweek; she liked to keep up on and discuss current events. She kept a poem I’d written about her when I was 8.

But when the day arrived for our interview Gran called to reschedule; it was too rainy and she worried about me, a relatively new driver, navigating the then-treacherous windy roads that led to her home, about 90 minutes outside of Sydney.  The deadline for the assignment loomed so I interviewed somebody else (I don’t recall who) and I never did have that discussion with my grandmother.

I’m fortunate that I know the broad strokes of her life: Born Florence Marion Alderton on May 3, 1900, she grew up in a big clan in a lovely, leafy, waterfront area of Sydney. She went on to become one of the first female pharmacists in the state of New South Wales. She married my surgeon grandfather, Dudley de la Force Henry, just shy of her 29th birthday; the two met when Gran went to work at Grandpa’s practice. And, of course, she gave birth to my Dad, her only child.

In the early 1940s, she served as a driver for longtime parliamentarian Sir Earle Page, a relative who was very briefly (we’re talking 20 days) Prime Minister of Australia. In the early 1970s — in her 70s — she spent a year in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, where my grandfather provided medical assistance. An avid gardener (she won awards for her roses and camellias), horrible cook (instant mashed potato…need I say more?), and keen conversationalist (always happy to have a chat over a cuppa). That was my Granny Henry.

But there are many questions I’d have liked to ask her if we’d kept our appointment. What was it like growing up in the Depression? How did the two World Wars impact her life? How was it as a young, professional woman in a male dominated field? What did my dad like to do as a little boy? How was it chauffeuring a politician? Did she want more than one child? What was it like living in PNG?  What were her greatest joys, sorrows, secrets, good deeds, missteps, and regrets? What life lessons did she want to pass on?

That opportunity is lost to me now; my grandmother died two years after I moved to America. So my suggestion, dear readers, as you contemplate how to spend your post Thanksgiving feast day, is to settle in somewhere comfy, perhaps with a slice of pie or a cup of tea, and let a loved one do the talking.

I leave you with an insight gleaned from Listening is an Act of Love that’s bound to have you searching for pen & paper or batteries:

Be curious and keep and open heart. Great things will happen.

Gobble, Gobble & Gratitude

November 24, 2009

Hello peeps.  I know many of you are busy prepping for the annual American food fest, so I won’t keep you long.

First, full disclosure: I do not (heart) the holidays. And nothing announces the official start of the festive season than Thanksgiving. Well, I guess there’s also Halloween, the end of daylight savings, the beginning of cold & wet weather, but I digress.

Here’s my beef with end of year celebrations: Too much expectation and anticipation followed usually by, let’s be real here, disappointment. Throw in some cultural disconnect, a bit of family drama, a smidgen of self-diagnosed seasonal adjustment disorder, and meat-centric meals and, well, me and the holidays aren’t a good match.

But — wait — don’t go, this isn’t going to be a bummer blog post, promise.  When you have a kid in the picture you just have to get over yourself and any party pooper tendencies that set up shop in your psyche this time of year. I’ve learned ways to navigate this potentially challenging period (nothing like practice) and I’ll share some of them with you all. And recipes too! So stick around.

Think different. Who says you have to eat turkey and that weird Jell-O-canned-fruit-Cool-Whip concoction your relative brings every year?

The last TG I hosted I fed a hearty batch of Lentil Soup to six vegetarians on a cold winter’s night. An unconventional but popular choice.

Find more veggie fare for Thursday’s table at NPR’s Kitchen Window from San Francisco food blogger Nicole Spiridakis, along with gluten-free recipes for the big day by another local scribe Stephanie Stiavetti.

Pecan pie or pumpkin cheesecake not your kind of sweet note? I hear you, so try starting a new tradition for the end of the meal. This year, thanks to a prolific tree, I’m going to make the Meyer Lemon Tart  from the new My Nepenthe cookbook. (Recipe follows.)

Keep cool. If you suffer from last minuteitis, you’re likely scrambling to come up with a menu right now. Relax, you’ll find a great little guide over at Food News Journal, complete with hand-picked recipes for every course that should serve you well. I especially like the look of Brussels sprouts with buttered pecans courtesy of Gourmet (R.I.P).

Practice gratitude. Last year, my first solo TG in two decades, I received more than a dozen invites for dinner. A dozen. Now I know how the homeless feel: Everyone wants to feed you on Thanksgiving.  I attended three fun soirees — flirted with trouble at one, observed the raw anger of a recently divorced dad at a second (note to self: bitterness may be a key flavor but it does not make for good company at the dinner table), and plopped down for dessert & dish at a third. All that and dance class with my galpals, added up to a pretty stellar day in my mind. And while the food was good everywhere I went, it was the connection with friends that sustained me that day.

This year, my boy and I will visit with two families he’s known since birth.  We’ll take a hike and picnic with one, and then have a low-key meal and play highly-competitive games with the other. (Heard of the card game Spit? More fun than the name suggests and super addictive.)

The food will be good at both venues, natch; we all like to eat around here. But what’s likely to nourish me most on the day is the generosity, kindness, and friendship of the posse who have served as my surrogate family in the more than 20 years I’ve called this country home.

And that, from where I sit, makes for a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

Flickr photo by Road Fun used under the Creative Commons license.

Meyer Lemon Tart

—From My Nepenthe: Bohemian Tales of Food, Family, and Big Sur by Romney Steele

Serves 8 to 10.

Sweet Dough:

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
4 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup flour

Lemon Curd:
5 or 6 Meyer lemons (1 cup juice)
3 eggs plus 3 egg yolks
7/8 cup granulated sugar, or to taste
4 tablespoons butter

1. Beat the butter with the sugar, salt, and flour until just combined.

2. Press the dough evenly into a 9-inch round fluted tart pan.

3. Freeze the prepared tart shell for at least 30 minutes before baking.

4. Zest half the lemons (setting the zest aside), then extract the juice from all the lemons to make about 1 cup.

5. Whisk the eggs and sugar until well combined in a medium nonreactive, heatproof bowl, then whisk in the lemon juice.

6. Place the bowl over a gently simmering pot of water and whisk continuously until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

7. Whisk in the butter in pieces.

8. Cook, stirring frequently, until the curd coats the back of the spoon, another 5 minutes or so.

9. Taste and adjust the sweetness, as needed.

10. Strain the curd into a separate bowl, then whisk in the zest.

11. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface while cooling.

12. Bake the tart shell for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown in an oven preheated to 375°F.

13. Cool slightly, then spoon the lemon curd into the shell, spreading evenly with a spatula.

14. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, until just set but still slightly jiggly in the middle.

15. Serve chilled with a dollop of lightly whipped cream or fresh berries.

Photo Meyer Lemon Tart: Sara Remington

Fear of Flying: The Food’s a Factor

October 15, 2009 photo by nicholas.blah used under the Creative Commons license.

I’ve recently spent 27 hours in the air, something I do on a relatively regular basis, so I think I’m well qualified to weigh in on airline food for the long-distance traveler. It’s horrible — no surprises there. But what’s to be done about it?

In the days of People Express (remember the low-cost, no-frills, no-food airline of the go-go ’80s?) I used to brown bag my own sandwich, fruit, and nuts for a cross-country trip. I gather that in these cost-cutting days, with “free” in-flight meals a thing of the past on most domestic carriers, edible offerings can be had — for a price — some developed by celebrity chefs no less.

But on a recent trip from San Francisco to Sydney, which leaves around 11 p.m., I just didn’t eat. I don’t get hungry in the air these days. In part that’s because I’ve developed a debilitating flying anxiety disorder over the past decade or so after years of winging my way across the Pacific Ocean without a care in the world.

Folks who similarly suffer in the skies know just how crippling flight anxiety can be. Yesterday I had a full-blown panic attack, complete with whole body shaking, as I white knuckled my way through 90 minutes of turbulence thanks to a tropical storm off the coast of Australia. When the attendant told me to expect more of the same — and worse — in our approach to San Francisco (the day after the biggest deluge in the city’s past 50 years or so) I cried. Flight anxiety is irrational, embarrassing, and exhausting, especially on a long-haul journey. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.

It’s also a total appetite suppressant. Probably just as well, given what was on offer in the cabin. Was that weird yellow goo resembling glue really eggs? And what was that mush underneath? Surely not potatoes. I usually stick to the yogurt and fruit plate but on the leg into Sydney the fruit was warm, ditto the orange juice. One sip and i almost threw up — and not from nervousness.  I stopped bothering to request a vegetarian meal ages ago, since the veg trays were comprised of dishes as dry as cardboard and who needs to get even more dehydrated at 35,000 feet?

So help me out here fellow travelers: How do you handle the food factor when you’re flying internationally? Are some carriers known for better nibbles than others? (I’m a slave to my frequent flyer account — aren’t we all? — so when I’m talking about bad airline eats I’m really talking about what passes for sustenance from the folks in the friendly skies aka United Airlines.)

This very funny letter sent to Virgin’s Richard Branson earlier this year about a hideous dinner served in-flight from Mumbai to Heathrow makes me think that this is a global phenomenon for those of us who fly cattle class.

Is the only answer to bring your own chow for overseas trips so when you hit that cruising altitude you’ll have something edible to eat while you watch movies you’ve already seen and can barely hear, wincing in your seat at every bit of bumpy air?

Ah, the glamor of international travel.