Spring is officially here in the vegetable garden. We've had a good stint of alternating rain and sunny warmth, so with this great weather and some sprinkling of fish emulsion, it's been baby veg heaven out there. This being our maiden voyage into gardening at this new house, I'm happy to report that our site is very warm (for SF) and not very windy so far. Looks promising for my cherry tomatoes this Summer... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
As for the Spring veggies, most everything is popping up like crazy... peas are reaching and grabbing, climbing higher and higher. The favas are super eager, growing an unbelievable amount each day (Seriously, what's not to like about growing fava beans? They're ultra vigorous, I love eating them and their roots feed the soil. Win win win). Spinach, carrots, leeks, chard, kale, beets, garlic, shallots and many others are happily chugging along. I was a little tardy with thinning, so there's a little wonky legginess going in the chard patch. But I think they'll make it to my sautée pan OK.
Speaking of tardy, the Mexican Sour Gherkins FINALLY emerged from the soil. (Maybe they heard my fingers tapping on the edge of the raised bed?) Someday soon, they'll probably steal the show: they're a vining plant that looks like a micro-watermelon but tastes like cucumber.
And speaking of cucumber, I recently planted some rare-ish herb seeds, including Blue Borage (fuzzy foliage and tiny blue flowers that taste like cucumber), nigella sativa (sometimes called Black Cumin, the seeds can be harvested and used in baking), plus two types of bee balm. I'm all about tempting Mr and Ms Bee to the garden.
Most recently, Toby completed the beautiful redwood slatted benches for the bluestone paver patio. I love them and can't wait to add a table, umbrella and tasty grilled dinner.
Late March in the veg patch. I recently moved some container roses up here, as they're about to start flowering. I think flowering non-edibles are fabulous in an edible garden -- why not?
'Windsor' Favas and 'Sea of Red' Lettuce
Stained-glass effect: 'Sea of Red' Lettuce
Mexican Sour Gherkin seedling. Come on, little buddy.
Beautiful red beets
'Laxton's Progress' Peas. I just love the tendrils of all climbers, but especially peas. So graceful. They do, however, bring out the micro-manager in me: I crouch down in the garden and attempt to "help" them find a good support to grab onto. Silly.
OK, this is one of the most exciting parts of the garden. I've planted 3 baby, heirloom apple trees, two of which ('Gravenstein' and 'Ashmead's Kernel') will be trained against the grid support, as espaliers. The third apple ('Hauer Pippin') is planted out in the open ground.
The new benches! Beautiful redwood slats. Now I just need to finish planting between the pavers, huh. I'm using edibles here too: intensely aromatic Corsican Mint, super micro Elfin Thyme, and some variegated creeping Oregano. (Though I really don't think we're be garnishing dessert with this mint.)
...and what it's really about: the harvest. A couple of the radishes I planted beneath the peas. These were chopped up, quick pickled and made a tasty taco garnish.
More late-March photos here.
30 March 2010
28 March 2010
Some rain is on the way, so today we paused for a bit, to soak up a little late March warmth. Jacky and I took a walk in the canyon, looking for doggies and rocks (what can I say, it's the simple pleasures). We ended up in the grassy field across the street from our house on our new picnic blanket, with a few snacks. Baseball games are starting up, so I guess it's officially Spring. Nice.
While Jacky fiddled with the snacks, I quickly snapped these shots, but didn't see them until tonight. So precious, I can't even find the words. He is so sweet.
Bonus is that that t-shirt was Toby's as a toddler, circa 1972.
25 March 2010
Not sure what this means, but I dreamed up this dish while in a company meeting earlier this week. My mind tends to wander to food (you too?). Next to my work notes was a shopping list for my walk home: salty, pungent cheese and wide ribbony pasta. The dab of arugula-pistachio pesto--stirred into the pasta right after this photo was taken--was a lively counterpoint to the meatier main recipe.
Baby Artichoke Pappardelle
We're totally on an artichoke kick. Love the little thistles. They're the perfect match for this type of "clear sauce" pasta, where you use the pasta cooking water to pull the dish together.
5 oz. pappardelle or other wide pasta
2 rashers bacon, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
1 lb. baby artichokes (weight before preparation)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 c. dry white wine
sea salt and black pepper
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
good handful of grated pecorino
couple dollops of Arugula-Pistachio Pesto (recipe below)
METHOD: Prepare baby artichokes: remove tough outer leaves (down to tender yellow-green leaves), slice off top 1/2" and brown bottoms of stems, peel stems and cut into quarters. Hold in a bowl of water into which a whole lemon in squeezed.
Put a big pot of salted water on to boil. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, until it's almost done and crisp. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant. Add prepared artichokes and olive oil, turn heat to high and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until artichokes start to take on deep color.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to package directions.
In the artichoke pan, pour in wine. Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes, until wine is almost absorbed and artichokes are very tender. Uncover, add juice from remaining 1/2 lemon, plus the parsley, season with salt and pepper, stir and remove from heat. When pasta is cooked, reserve 1/3 cup cooking water. Drain pasta and immediately add to artichokes, stirring to combine. Add 1/2 the pasta water, 2/3 of the cheese, a little more olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Loosen with more pasta water if necessary (there should be a little clear "sauce" clinging to the pasta). Plate, sprinkling with remaining parsley and cheese. Drizzle with a touch more olive oil if you're feeling generous. Add a spoonful of pesto to each plate and serve.
I whipped up this garlicky, yummy Spring pesto the other day in something like 1 minute. The kiddo was waking from a nap and I needed something standing by for lunch (I tossed it with some farfalle and asparagus). It's just that easy. I used baby arugula because that's what I had on hand. I'm sure teen or adult arugula would be just fine too. And, this is one of those "to taste" recipes (is that a contradiction?)... so just sample, tweaking the seasonings and lemon as needed.
1 large garlic clove, peeled
small handful shelled unsalted pistachios
huge handful (or more) baby arugula
1/4 c. (or more) good extra virgin olive oil (I'm currently really into Arbequina from Stonehouse)
big pinch sea salt
generous grind of black pepper
juice from 1/2 lemon
handful of grated parmesan cheese
METHOD: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the garlic until finely chopped. Add the pistachios and pulse until they're broken down but still retain big, chunky texture. Throw in everything else and pulse until the arugula is finely broken down. If needed, add more olive oil to make the texture a thick slurry... or however you like your pesto. Taste and adjust seasoning. Unlike basil pesto, you don't have to worry about discoloration, so just pop extras in the fridge in an airtight container. It'll keep for days and you can use it on everything.
23 March 2010
Some of my current inspirations, cravings and delights.
(top to bottom, left to right)
Eureka Lemon tree -- I recently spotted this in Sunset magazine. A striped exterior and pink flesh. Cute! Pink Bauer Pottery doesn't hurt either.
Sweet-Wrap Shoes from Anthropologie -- I am on a little shoe-buying bender right now. It's kind of how I shop: big, long dry spells followed by a burst of spending. These are a little pricey, but have that vintage, lady-like-but-cool look. Hard to resist.
Barquentine Wrap Skirt from Etsy seller Makool -- Maybe it's the photo with the bike, maybe it's the hemp & organic cotton fabric or the big flouncy bow, but this skirt has been on my mind for a while.
Vertical gardens -- This past Sunday, Kristen and I attended a vert-garden workshop at Flora Grubb Gardens, ground zero for vertical gardens. I've already purchased two of the panels needed (which I was lusting after previously), so I should just get started already huh?
Aloes -- Everywhere you look around here, there are flower spikes reaching up to the sky, getting ready to put on a beautiful show. I'm really considering using some aloes in Project Outdoor Room.
Hi-Flax Spelt Bread from Grindstone Bakery -- This is the most delicious, healthy, hearty bread ever. Jacky and I eat this every morning with breakfast. You get a TON of healthy flax meal in each slice, and the bonus is that it tastes so incredibly, insanely good. We eat it very well toasted with a smear of goat cheese, lots of mashed avocado, plus salt/pepper.
Scandinavian homewares -- Cozy, felty and stylish. One of my favorite blogs, Chez Larsson is written by Benita, the Swedish organizing maven. She recently shared a link to Swedishness, where I can indulge my cravings for Scandi cool.
Coffee! -- Since giving birth, my caffeine intake has gone from almost none to... lots. Lately, it's steadily ratcheted up and up. People, I am kookoo for the stuff right now. Just love the taste (and the, ah, perks).
Hipstamatic for the iPhone -- As I've mentioned before, this app is so fun. Gives the crappy iPhone camera a reason for being. A sexy, nostalgic, vintage-looking reason.
Castelfranco Radicchio -- An interesting, striking but delicate-tasting version of the usual burgundy variety. I've been using it in salads, but it would also be great wilted with ribbony pasta. If you see it at the market, try it.
Solar outdoor lights -- Found these at IKEA. Most options out there are cottage- or Tuscan-style, which isn't my taste. These are simple and dignified-looking.
Bed head... awww :) With Jacky, each nap wake-up holds the possibility of hairstyle awesomeness.
21 March 2010
Artichokes are here! These tasty little thistles are big in our house. In fact, growing up, artichokes were my absolute favorite food. I loved the way they look, the ritual of eating them (we were/are a lemon+melted butter family), and of course the taste. It never occurred to me that people from other places didn't also adore this peculiar-looking veggie... When I first moved to San Francisco, some of my flat-mates were English. They took one look at me, tucking into a khaki-green thistle, scraping each leaf on my teeth, placing the leaves in a giant heap... and they just couldn't believe it. I had lost the plot.
I've been planning this pizza for a couple of weeks, as soon as artichokes started coming into season. And it was delicious. Cooking with baby artichokes is so fun. We do pastas, braises etc., and everything's edible: no choke, no problem. Plus they're so cute.
Baby Artichoke Pizza
Do ahead: Par-roast the baby artichokes. Oven to 500˚ (seems high but this is your pizza-cooking temp). Squeeze half a lemon into a small bowl of water. Remove tough outer leaves of 3 baby artichokes (down to the pale yellow-green leaves), trim tops and bottoms and peel the stems. Slice lengthwise, 1/4" thick. Drop slices immediately into the lemon water to prevent browning. When all artichokes are prepared, drain the slices well. Toss with extra virgin olive oil plus a little sea salt and roast on a tray for about 10 minutes, tossing once, until the slices just start taking on color. Remove from oven and set aside.
To assemble pizzas: start with basic pizza recipe. Thinly slice one clove garlic and steep it in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes. Roll out your dough and brush with garlic oil. Reserve garlic. Sprinkle oiled dough with a handful each of grated mozzarella and comté* cheeses. Arrange the artichoke slices on the pizza, plus about 12 thin slices of a cleaned leek. Add a few sprigs of fresh thyme, some red pepper flakes and a few slices of the reserved garlic. Drizzle with a touch of extra virgin olive oil, to ensure the vegetables finish cooking. Lightly salt the entire pizza and cook according to basic recipe.
To serve, sprinkle with a bit of baby arugula. Squeeze a lemon wedge and enjoy.
*Comté is a delicious French melting cheese. Gruyere or Fontina are good substitutes.
18 March 2010
Some warm weekend evenings -- especially at the switch to daylight savings -- there is a call for a dusky, stylish, not-too-strong cocktail. The kind that you should drink outdoors while wearing a maxi dress, barefoot. ...you know, it's only civilized.
Last weekend, after a sunny Spring day outside, we sipped a simple, fruity and pretty drink while assembling pizzas with my brother. This photogenic cocktail -- Hipstamatic for the iPhone strikes again -- came together effortlessly, and is in debt to two inspirations: the new-to-me Lillet (recommended by Jora, the always-stylish blogger... and my high school classmate), plus the moody, beautiful drama of blood oranges.
Lillet & Blood Orange Cocktail
In a stemless wine glass or sturdy low tumbler, pour an inch or so of Lillet over just a bit of ice. Add an equal amount of sparkling Italian blood orange soda, with an attractive slice of blood orange. That's it. Now, go sit outside and enjoy.
16 March 2010
Green jammie man
So, we've been having fun with a couple of new camera set-ups, both with vintage appeal. Being children of that decade, we love that 1970s backyard summertime photo look -- and these are just so groovy.
First, Toby bought a polaroid back for his Lomo. If you're a Lomo lover, the instant back is sooo worth it. It brings all the Lomo quirkiness, plus the added layer of polaroid color and softness.
Second -- and I'm totally late to the party on this one -- I'm dying over the coolness that is the Hipstamatic pack for the iPhone. So fun! So cool. Without it, iPhone photos are pretty crappy. With it, they are AMAZING. Dreamy vintage looks, with lots of "lens," "film" and "flash" options.
Either way, it's a good excuse for some cute kiddo photos, huh?
14 March 2010
Some scenes from a beautiful, sunny weekend in the vegetable garden... Hope the sun was shining where you were!
'Windsor' Fava Beans
Favas with 'Sea of Red' Lettuce
Nasturtiums. I've kind of given up fighting them (in our neighborhood they're everywhere).
'Paris Market Mix' Mesclun
Garlic 'Italian Early'
'Crapaudine' Beets and Tuscan Kale
The most beautiful "weed" I've ever seen
More photos here.
08 March 2010
I have a secret. I eat baby food.
Actually, I eat toddler food. And it's delicious. Don't tell anyone.
OK, no, it's not that disgusting celebrity diet fad where starlets attempt to become repulsed by food by eating jarred baby food. Ick.
Since his first bite of solids, I've made Jacky's food from scratch. From purees to the above burgers, it's been homemade all the way. We do so much cooking in this house that it's like second nature, really. And pretty fun.
And, like I said, I partake in this fare, too.
In preparation for Jacky graduating to solid foods, we were given an excellent book, Cooking for Baby. I've cooked my way through the book, from baby's first purees to Indian dal to ricotta-blackberry parfaits. I've at least had a taste of everything (it's only fair, no??) and some of it, I've eaten right along side Mister Toddler. Delicious stuff.
I usually tinker with the recipes, and this one is no exception. I pumped a bunch of chard into the otherwise plain lentil patties, and attempted to make the texture more moist. I eat mine topped with Greek yoghurt and Sriracha. Jacky has his "buh-guh" as finger food, smeared with minted yoghurt. Happy mommy, happy baby.
Secret Lentil-Chard Burgers
Adapted from Cooking for Baby, by Lisa Barnes
Pick over 3/4 c. brown lentils, discarding rocks or irregular pieces. Place in a pot and cover with 2 c. water. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. When done, drain and set lentils aside to cool. Meanwhile, coarsely chop 1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats in a food processor and set aside in a shallow bowl. In the same processor work bowl (no need to clean), process 4 large, clean and stemmed chard leaves by pulsing, until coarsely chopped. Turn chard into a medium bowl and add cooled lentils. Mash together lightly until the texture is to your liking. Add 1 clove minced garlic. Season with 1 t. each curry powder and ground cumin, plus sea salt and black pepper, to taste. Add 3 T. ground oats, reserving the rest. Lightly beat 2 eggs and gradually add to lentil mixture, mixing well. (You might not need all the eggs--add just enough to make the mixture moist and cling together.) Using your hands, form mixture into 6 equal-sized patties, about 3/4" thick. Coat exterior of each with oats and set aside on a plate. When all 6 patties are formed, chill uncovered in fridge for 15 minutes or longer. Heat 1/2" organic canola oil* in a heavy-bottom pan until very hot. Fry patties in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan. Cook each side undisturbed until deeply golden, then drain on paper towels or rack. Serve with minted Greek yoghurt, plus hot sauce for grown-ups.
* This may seem like a lot of oil, but assertive searing is necessary to hold patties together. If you get your oil very hot, the burgers will absorb a shockingly scant amount of oil. Alton Brown told me so, and it's true.
07 March 2010
Asparagus is here! We got a screaming good deal last week on a pound of thin, young spears... so we went for it. Spring is here, I don't care what the calendar says. They weren't the prettiest ever, but they made a fantastic pizza ingredient.
I'm not sure what got into me with the basketweave motif. Perhaps it was a pure design decision: it's a law of nature that long and thin stuff likes to be placed in a pattern. And prosciutto only helps. Or, perhaps I wanted to see how far I could make Toby's eyes roll back in his head (mission accomplished).
This pizza also includes one of my favorite cheeses: ricotta. It's milky, mild, Spring-like and a great foil to meaty asparagus and salty prosciutto.
Asparagus & Prosciutto Basketweave Pizza
Start with basic pizza recipe. Chop one clove garlic and steep it in extra virgin olive oil for a few minutes. Roll out your dough and brush with garlic oil. Reserve garlic. Sprinkle oiled dough with a small handful each of grated mozzarella and gruyere cheeses. Snap woody bottoms off of 6-8 spears of thin asparagus and slice lengthwise (for quicker cooking). Thinly slice a couple of prosciutto pieces, in a corresponding width to the asparagus. "Weave" the asparagus and prosciutto together on the pizza, laying strips over and under neighboring pieces. Spoon a few dabs of whole-milk ricotta cheese in and around the spears. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and reserved garlic. Spray toppings with olive oil (we use a Misto) so they cook properly. Lightly salt the crust and cook according to basic recipe. Slice and enjoy.
04 March 2010
So, we're living in a new home. A cute 1930s house with a 2009 deck on the back. In the remodel process, we converted the windows in the two bedrooms into sliding doors, and put in a 22.5' x 7' redwood deck. It's heaven out there: warm, with a view of the whole yard.
The space isn't really working as a destination, though. The problem is that, since Toby and I are both in visual fields, we both have definite opinions about home decor. Some dudes don't care about this type of stuff, but not my dude. (Actually, let me back up: this isn't really a problem. Toby and I can speak "visual" with each other and it works.)
The thing is that we are each opinionated, but we have different priorities. Toby is toiling away in the garage, making some beautiful benches for our lower patio (photos soon!). But, I am currently longing to turn our new but naked upper deck into a fantastic "outdoor room." Toby thinks this is nice, but it's not high on his to-do list. Since we kind of do "design by committee," we often end up in home decor inertia.
So, I'm taking the bull by the horns: Introducing PROJECT OUTDOOR ROOM. I've never really designed a home space in such an organized, focused fashion. I'm granting Toby veto privileges, but I'm hoping to push this project through to completion before Spring really hits.
I may be deluding myself, but this sounds fun! I do mood boards for work, so why not for home? I'll set a budget, do some research and sometime soon... voila. Fabulous, tranquil, stylish... and outdoor. Stay tuned...
See above for some of my initial thoughts and quick web-scavenging. Ideas/suggestions?
03 March 2010
I can see from my robot minions out there that many of you are interested in thin-crust pizza. Hey, me too!
Though I do owe you a bit of an apology, as we've recently tweaked the master dough recipe... and I kind of sat on it for a while. Woops. There were garden posts to do and such... OK, today I'll level with you.
You really must use the right flour. A different flour than what I originally said. It makes a big, huge, chewy, crusty difference.
You must use an Italian pizza flour. We managed to get our hands on some real-deal "tipo 00" flour... and it's heavenly. Makes a thin crust light, almost effervescent and deliciously flavorful.
Look for this brand: Antimo Caputo, tipo 00, which can be bought at your local fancy-food shop, Italian grocer or online.
The master recipe is now updated. Phew! Happy pizza-making!
02 March 2010
My dear friend Nancy visited this past weekend from Southern California. So much fun (so much that I forgot to take photos!). You know the type of weekend: coffee, walks outdoors, girl-talk, cooking, baby cuddling. More coffee. It was her first time visiting our new house, new neighborhood, new family life.
Nancy and I have known each other since we were 17 (!): it was dorm move-in day at college (our beloved Cal Poly SLO). I, for one, was terribly nervous about the whole thing and working the whole petulant/annoyed teen angle. Somehow, our moms started talking (isn't that always the way?) as we waited in the check-in line... we discovered we were to room across the hall from each other... we had a rollicking and hilarious freshman year... and the rest is history.
Once we were free from dorm life, we were roommates until she graduated (I had changed my major from architecture to art, landing on the 5-year plan). Nancy is that true-blue type of friend: fun, side-splittingly funny, considerate, giving and sweet. The type of person who makes you feel good, and when you talk after a long time apart, makes you feel like no more than 5 seconds had passed. As she would say, she's a gem. ...and did I say funny?! She comes from a family of irrepressible entertainers.
The other morning, as I was chugging along on BART to work, the 3G stars were aligned for my iPhone: I was able to download my mail while on a moving train. Underground. Technology... sweeeeet. Nestled amongst the spam and the daily J. Crew sale email (seriously... daily?) there was a little gem from my virtual pal Gwynnie.
No, Gwyneth Paltrow and I are not friends per se. But she does email me (and many others) a weekly tid bit on life, food, travel, spirit etc. I'm not exactly sure why Gwynnie is in this biz, but the emails are usually interesting.
Last week, as I was looking forward to Nancy's visit, the GOOP (Gwynnie's strange initials) email was about friends... actually it was about "divorcing" friends. Not a super warm fuzzy topic, but it was mostly a discussion about discerning between "true friends" and those you end up gravitating away from. How and when (and whether) you should decide to keep only friends who are positive influences...
I especially like the response from priest/writer Cynthia Bourgeault, excerpted here:
“Old friends” and “true friends” are not necessarily identical. Old friends have stood the test of time; true friends are timeless. True friends may have been in your life since your childhood or they may have shown up only yesterday, but it’s from the quality of the heart that you know them, not the number of years you’ve logged together.
"...these “friends forever,” however they play out in your particular life situation, always seem to share three characteristics: (1) They have a capacity to grow with you (and you with them) through life’s changing circumstances; 2) They are low-maintenance, rarely-to-never imposing themselves or laying expectations on you; and 3) contact with them, when it comes, is never a duty, but always a gift “heart to heart.” Such friends—always a rare and special breed — have an uncanny knack for being able to stay in tune with you emotionally over huge gaps of time and space. Maybe you don’t hear from them for three years — or thirty — but then the phone rings and there they are again, and it’s like picking up as if you never left off."
I am lucky to have a small but precious number of these true friends. They are truly cherished.
Online version of the GOOP email here.