30 April 2010

poetry friday


If Nature smiles -- the Mother must 
by Emily Dickinson

If Nature smiles -- the Mother must
I'm sure, at many a whim
Of Her eccentric Family --
Is She so much to blame?

27 April 2010

interesting strawberry recipes

Image via 101 Cookbooks

Have you noticed that strawberries are everywhere? Cheap, plentiful and delicious--even beautiful, wholesome organics.* Good news for berry fans (which we are--we're living off the stuff right now)... of course, bad news for the farmers who are losing the profits they normally count on this time of year, due to a glut of berries flooding the market.

We can't help the farmers with recent bad weather luck, but we certainly can buy and gobble up their "problem."

So, the stores are chock-a-block with berries, stacked up and begging to come home with us. When faced with a "bogo" special at the market, I instinctively grab 'em. As many as I can get home. But, how to use them all up before they get mushy--and, worse, fuzzy?

First, it's important to store them right: take them out of the clamshell or berry basket, and spread them on a paper-towel lined plate, so they can't touch. They're like little kids in the car on a long journey: "she's touching me!" They hate that. If you're going to gobble them up very soon, leave them out of the fridge, as they seem to lose some flavor in the chill. Otherwise, pop another paper towel on top and put the plate in the fridge.

Now, recipes. I've been bookmarking them, so as to address the multiple pounds of berries we're buying per week. Mostly we eat them straight, but sometimes a bit of class is called for. We all probably know how to whip up a tart or assemble a shrotcake-y treat... but here are a couple of my current favorites that are a little unusual:

Interesting Strawberry Recipes

Fava Beans and Strawberry Salad with Pecorino, from Chris Cosentino, at nearby Incanto

Strawberry Ceviche. Yeah, with actual fish. Mmmm, ceviche.

Strawberry Panzanella, from 101 Cookbooks (pictured above). This is a really special, interesting recipe for perfect berries.

Strawberry Clafouti. This looks easy, stylish... good for a dinner party perhaps?

Dark Chocolate and Strawberry Tartlet, from the ravishing Tartine Gourmande. For if you're feeling ambitious... or just want to impress someone :)

What interesting ways do you like to eat strawberries? Need more ideas!


*My advice: buy only organic strawberries. They're one of those "dirty dozen" foods which you really must avoid conventionally: they're loaded with spray residue. No bueno. Hey, why not download a dirty/clean dozen wallet guide or iPhone app?

25 April 2010

the weekend, pictorially

- Act 1 -
A bit of cooking.

making pasta
Fresh pasta. Always yummy, but we both agreed we don't quite have the right recipe yet. Anyone have a good one to share?

kale-potato pizza
Pizza with garden kale, yukon gold potatoes, yellow onion and thyme. Starting with the fresh-picked kale, I then turned to our trusty Flavor Bible for some good suggestions for complementary ingredients. It never disappoints.

- Act 2 -

Told you, this kid is nuts-o for brooms. We spent some quality time this weekend perusing options in the Container Store catalog. We even fished this fine literature out of the recycling bin once. A committed obsession (and compliant parents).

- Act 3 -
Green gangbusters.

garden puttering
I did some serious garden puttering, one of my main talents.

A bit of relaxing, too.

beet thinnings
The beets needed a little thinning...

beet thinnings
...and eating, as well.

- Act 4 -
Finally, some quality time...

... contemplating the color blue.

22 April 2010

ooopsies in the garden

Thank you for the lovely recent comments on the progress of our first veggie garden at this new house! I'm totally enthralled with the daily progress. I promise you I always kiss and hug the baby and husband upon arriving home from work days, but it's never long before I tip-toe outside to see what's doing. There's so much to learn--like oh! So THAT'S how baby fennel bulbs form. Or, woops, that's what happens when you wait to thin the carrot beds. Oh. 


But, as I said earlier, there's always something positive to behold out there. Nature just keeps doing her thing (Happy Earth Day!). Tonight, I moseyed outside to pick some kale for pizza (what else) and noticed that amid all the pretty white pea flowers, there were the first little teensy pods starting to poke out, making plans to fatten up with smooth little green jewels inside.

But, oh, I assure you things are never all perfect. In the last few days, a couple of little gardening thorns have found their way to my side. Perhaps a little venting is in order? OK, here's my dirt list:


1. Dang, I started too early!
Right inside our back garden door is a wooden table covered with a green tangle of my summer crops: cherry, pear and violet tomatoes, green and purple tomatillos, two types of basil, hot Thai peppers, etc etc. For eight weeks or so, they've all been snug as bugs on a heating mat, under two sets of grow lights (two different heights). But, some of the most vigorous tomatoes (ok, nearly all of them) are going absolutely nuts, and are threatening to blow the lid off the tallest setting of the lights. The tomatillos started flowering, for pete's sake. Oops.


They NEED to go outside, get in some dirt, and really get their grow on. But, crap, it's been chilly lately. I could blame everything on some recent cold nights, but really I think I just started the seeds way too soon. (I was excited!) Now that the grow lights are at their tallest setting--and the tomatoes have started to grow around the bulbs (gulp)--I think I'm going to bite the bullet and start hardening them off (acclimating them to outside) this weekend, as we're supposed to have nice weather. If the temp dips again, I guess I'm committing to blanketing my plant babies before each cold night. Argh.


2. Woops, that's not lavender.
So, some heartier plants that I started indoors have already made their way outdoors and into pots and open beds. I moved some pretty marigolds out, some thyme, sage... and some Munstead Lavender, which is supposed to be an outstanding English variety. I love me some lavender people. Only problem is that the five cute little seedlings that I've been tending for eight weeks and recently potted up into pretty matte brown pottery... yeah, not lavender. Tonight, I got a letter from Renee's Garden Seeds, the extremely excellent local seed company that I try to buy most of my seeds from, saying that yeah... it's not lavender that you planted. It's heliotrope. Um, whaa? They somehow shipped the wrong seeds. They're really sorry.*

First of all, it's ridiculous that I didn't quite figure this out yet. Yeah, the leaves didn't look too lavender-y... Like many new gardeners, I blamed myself: obviously I just didn't know what young lavender plants look like. The crinkly dark green leaves would someday soon morph into silvery, scented foliage. Ha. It doesn't work like that.

OK, now what do I do? I checked the RGS website and heliotrope--heretofore unknown to me--is a (somewhat stuffy-looking--sorry) Victorian flower used in nosegays. You know, something so sweetly scented it could be carried around to mask unpleasant odors of the time. Hmm, I do like fragrant blooms. But, a heliotrope is so not what I was after. Toby says to just chuck 'em... hoo boy, that would be the day. I can't throw away anything useful, beautiful or potentially interesting. Perhaps I'll compost a few of them. I only have so many pots. Oh, dilemmas. Well, at least I know I'll be starting new lavender seeds this weekend: the letter from Renee Shepherd was  accompanied by the real lavender seeds, plus some bonus, fancy French Cosmos. (Oooh, pretty. Should I grow those, too? I'm pathetic.) 

So, how about you? What's on your Spring dirt list? I can't be the only one :)


* Despite this seed mix-up, I must point out that I love Renee's Garden Seeds. If you've grown from them, you know. Their seed packets are ridiculously informational, they sell interesting varieties, and they're very responsive to questions or problems. Of course, I had no idea that I was having a problem with my pseudo-lavender, but no matter. I'm sure I'd have figured it out someday. ...Anyway, I'm really hoping to mention this Bay Area company again this year: my mother-in-law recently sat next to Renee Shepherd at a professional function, where after some chatting, my MIL was offered a tour of the RGS growing operation in nearby Felton, CA. A few months ago, I was invited on this future tour as a Christmas gift--I was speechless. The best gift. Don't worry, I'll take pictures and share!

21 April 2010

simple soup tip

Since making stock last week, I've been eating a lot of homemade soup. The weather dipped back down recently, with some rain and chilly days. So, mmmmm, soup.  Especially with homegrown chard and kale.

Read on for my crazy simple soup formula (it's too basic to call a recipe), but here's my tip:

You may have already done this a thousand times, so pardon me for being so silly all this time. But, have you ever popped a parmesan rind into simmering soup? DELICIOUS!

Next time you get to the end of your chunk of parmigiano-reggiano, wrap it up and stash it in the freezer. Then, when you make some soup (or pasta sauce), pop it in for the last 15 minutes or so. It infuses the simplest soup with umami: savory, meaty, cheesy goodness. 

Do you do this? You should.


Blake's Simple Soup Formula

Aromatics: Dice carrot, celery, onion, pinch of salt... sweat it in olive oil, in a big pot.
Seasoning: Add some garlic, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, a squirt of tomato paste... cook briefly.
Vitamins: Throw in some chopped greens (kale, chard, etc)... sautée until wilted.
Liquid: Add a cup of diced tomatoes and a few cups of chicken stock (homemade!), enough to cover. 
Chef-y stuff: Throw in a bay leaf, fresh thyme, and a few springs of parsley.
Cook: Bring to a simmer, let it bubble away for a bit.
Finish up: Throw in a 1/2 c or so orzo pasta, along with the parmesan rind. Cook until pasta is done. Discard rind and "chef-y stuff" from above. Check salt & pepper.

PS: this soup makes great leftovers!


20 April 2010

garden update: mid-April

Woah. Things are really booming in the kitchen garden. Everything's going nuts! And, we've been trying to keep up, gobbling up fresh salads most every day and tucking kale and chard into everything imaginable. The radishes are nearly all pulled out and the arugula has already bolted. Things happen fast once Spring really hits. And, the peas and favas are just flowering now, so the fun has just begun.

Here's what Spring looks like in my little green heaven.

kitchen garden entrance
Step inside... the favas are towering and the wee little herb seedlings are still hiding from toddler grabbiness behind chicken wire.

beautiful peas, in flower
Beautiful pea tendrils and flowers. Not too long until we're picking pretty green pods.

Peas, Laxton's Progess - in bloom
'Laxton's Progress' pea flower. To me, this looks like a little girl's pretty Spring bonnet.

Fava Bean flowers
Fava flowers! This is my first time growing favas, so I'm so excited to see these beautiful, striking blooms.

Future Fava Bean flowers/pods
More fava flowers on the way.

'Bright Lights' Chard
Beautiful 'Bright Lights' chard. Had some for dinner tonight, tucked underneath salmon, roasted in parchment.

Cavolo Nero
Cavolo nero. Love.

Good kitty
Assistant garden inspector, checking out the greens beds. 'Heaven on Earth' rose in the background, about to bloom.

so handsome
Close up inspection.

Artichoke, 'Green Globe'
...AND! Last but not least, as promised, the artichokes are GO. Last weekend, I planted two 'Green Globe' and one 'Purple of Romagna' plants. I surrounded them with seeds of sunflowers of varying sizes and colors, as they're supposed to be good companions. Fingers crossed.

Want more Spring garden porn? More photos here.

19 April 2010


morning cozy

morning... groggy... cuddles

18 April 2010

project outdoor room: update!

Update from the department of outdoor decorating. Project Outdoor Room is moving along swimmingly -- stuff is being picked out and purchased. Furniture is being assembled. Plants are being potted. Plans are moving forward. We've had a bunch of really nice weather and completion can't happen soon enough.

In advance of the "final reveal" -- yes, we've been watching way too much HGTV -- I thought I'd give you a nice "before" shot or two:

project outdoor room - before

Silvery redwood city, huh. Not too much going on yet. This is the 7' x 25' deck that we had installed before we moved in. Even without any nice furniture or decor, it's added so much more usable space, right off of the two bedrooms on this level. It gets lots of morning and mid-day sun, and actually kind of cooks up here on hot days. Some shade is definitely needed.

So, I'll be wrapping up Project Outdoor Room really shortly. To be honest, most everything is now in place, and we've been testing out the new arrangement (tough job, but...). So, tune in soon for the final look at all the changes! 

For now, here's a little teaser montage of the new look for our favorite new room:

project outdoor room - sneak peek

16 April 2010

mama, look!

jacky & the table

Mama, mama. I found this awesome table, and then I climbed INSIDE it. With one sock on, one off. In my cutest monkey jammies. I am so proud of myself. Love, Jacky. xoxo

15 April 2010

my kinda mama gifts

I have a confession. I don't mean to offend, but... I'm not really a "mom jewelry" type of person. (At least not yet. Read on.) True, I appreciate the sentiments: unbounded love, swelling pride, the love of a little bling. I guess I just never came across any type of mommy baubles that felt like "ME" -- any little sparkly thing that spoke to who I am as a person and a mom, and all those other layers that overlap into a composite called "me." 

Until now perhaps. Gotta love Etsy.

Just putting this out there... ahem. I would be completely OK (i.e., overjoyed) to receive the sweet fingerprint necklace below for mother's day. I guess this is why it works for me: it's personal, earthy and a little abstract. It's beautiful to look at, and a little mysterious.

Since I stumbled upon this appealing bling, I kept on looking... In honor of next month's Mama's Day, here are a couple more Etsy examples of my kind of mama mementos:

Fingerprint necklace, from janewearjewelry

Silhouette portrait, from happythought -- Gosh, I love silhouettes. So classic and simple.

Personalized photo block, from photoatelier -- Photos are always a special keepsake. Combined with warm wood, totally beautiful.

Custom watercolor portrait, from laurindaillman -- I think this is just stunning. If you're not able to paint a watercolor (me, it's been since college?!), then having one done also makes an incredibly cherished keepsake. I love photography, but there's such depth and soul in painting and drawing. Sigh.

13 April 2010

stocking up

chicken stock 2nd step

For the past few months, I've been on a whole roasted chicken kick. I know I'm not the only one out there, right? It's just the perfect thing to make on the weekend. It's super easy and yields a satisfying meal, delicious leftovers, cute little wishbones, and perhaps most important: a carcass for making chicken stock. Holy cooking liquid, far superior to store-bought stock. 

Now, I'm NOT a total nut about this, like some people--we definitely have a stash of boxed stock in our pantry--but I can taste the difference. It's fresher, cleaner, more subtle and has a more "restaurant-y" (yep, that's a word) mouth-feel (yep, that too). It's all about the bones. When I have homemade stock on hand, I'll always opt for it. And, doesn't it just feel good to use something that started off looking like nothing special, but then you turn into something that's useful and tasty? Happy risottos, soups, sauces.

So, even though making stock is dead simple, I didn't get around to it, for... ah, six chickens. So, yesterday was The Day. Our freezer had been over-bird-ened (sorry) for some time. I hauled out two huge stock pots and got to work. You've made your own stock, right? If not, here's how simple it is:

1. Put carcass(es) into a big stock pot. These bones may have been in the fridge or freezer, it doesn't matter. Make sure you remove any lemons or cooking herbs from the interior of the bird. Any skin or meat left on the carcass is just fine.

2. Cover with cold, fresh water to cover bones. Bring to a simmer (tiny bubbles rising to the surface--not a boil). Hold at a simmer over low-ish flame for 4 hours or so. You can go longer if you choose, but 4 hours is long enough to get good results, while not so long as to be annoying. Just put it on the back burner, set a timer and go do something else.

3. After this initial simmering, skim any nasty bits off the top. 

4. Then add: a peeled and chopped yellow or white onion; a chopped carrot (I don't bother to peel); a couple garlic cloves (I used up my last green garlic); some lightly smashed black peppercorns (1 T. or so), 2 bay leaves, and some aromatic herbs (I used thyme and Italian parsley). If you're making a big batch, scale this up as needed. Approximate is fine. This last time I also added a good squirt of tomato paste to each pot, which is apparently a chef-y thing. Worked nicely: added some color and subtle (non-tomato-y) flavor. Simmer again for 1 hour.

5. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Let cool (I let it partially cool on the counter, then in the fridge overnight). 

6. Skim the fat off the top, then package up into containers for freezing for a few months or refrigerating for a week. 

My freezer may have lost a half-dozen carcasses (plus, while I was at it, some ancient puff pastry, a handful of mini-quiches, and crunched up, destroyed flatbreads), but it's now gained a handsome stack of frozen stock blocks. Plus the huge jug in the fridge for immediate use. Needless to say, it's time for soup!

Easy, right?

11 April 2010

pizza of the week: rapini & andouille sausage

pizza: rapini & andouille sausage

Three days per week, as I head home from working downtown, I pass by the famous
Gialina pizzeria. The homey scent and sight of their wood-fired oven is detectable right as I emerge from the BART station. As I walk past the cozy interior, I spy happy customers sipping red wine from low tumblers, and side-step a few people waiting outside for a table. If I walk home on the Gialina side of the street, I always get pizza on the brain. I start thinking about what produce we'll be receiving in our Friday organic delivery, because that's really what drives pizza for me: seasonal vegetables.

Last week, we received some young rapini (AKA broccoli rabe), with the tiniest florets. I really like a basic rapini pasta, but I think I had spied a rapini pizza on Gialina's menu a couple of years back, so that was the direction I was headed.

I think dark Italian greens go nicely with something spicy, especially sausage. So, I pulled a link of andouille out of our freezer stash. Beyond this combo, all this pretty pizza needed was simple sauce and cheese. Delicious.

pizza: rapini & andouille sausage


Pizza with Rapini & Andouille Sausage

Do ahead: Blanch the rapini. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath and set aside. Trim the bottom off a small handful of very fresh, young rapini. I selected sprigs with florets, because they add visual interest. Cook the rapini in the boiling water for about 3 minutes, just until the stems are starting to soften but are still bright green. Plunge the rapini right into the ice bath until totally cooled. Remove to clean towels and pat dry.

Assemble the pizza: start with basic recipe. Smear a very thin layer of basic tomato sauce (described here) on your rolled-out dough. Sprinkle with a handful of grated mozzarella cheese. Arrange the blanched rapini in a pleasing composition. From one link of andouille (or any other spicy) sausage, make 6-8 thin slices. Reserve the remaining sausage for another use. Arrange the sausage slices in and around the rapini. Sprinkle entire pizza with thinly sliced garlic (~1 clove), plus a pinch each dried oregano and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and lightly season with sea salt. Bake according to basic recipe. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.


pizza: rapini & andouille sausage

08 April 2010

more artichokes in our future!

There is an unruly (OK, more than one) corner in our backyard. We've sort of conquered the left/north side, putting in a bluestone patio and new kitchen garden. It's time to turn our gaze just slightly to the right, to the side I try to ignore. To the wild, messy, weedy patch you see below.

Careful, it's not pretty.

It's, obviously, being used for old furniture, dead plants and extra pots. Oh, and it's where I'm "keeping" all my weeds.

artichoke patch - before

(Wow, look who's getting more comfortable with full disclosure!)

What to do here? What to do. It's time to start digging, amending the soil and putting something in there. Time to give that part of the yard a purpose. Sitting area? Cafe table and chairs? Hammock?

Just to set the scene: that cute little brown stick to the right is one of our new plant babies: a wee Hauer Pippin apple tree. Its buds just "broke" (apple-speak for active bud growth) and it will soon begin its journey toward becoming a beautiful tree with, what I'm told, will be a slight weeping habit. Did I mention it's a locally-developed variety? The Hauer Pippin is from Aptos (south of Santa Cruz) and dates back to the 1890s. Can't wait.

Anyway, as for the rest of that space back there. I was recently on a walk with Jacky through our hood. Some of the houses around here have really cool yards--not all, as this is still a somewhat "transitional" neighborhood. Meaning, some yards are super sorted out--beautiful even-- but some yards are neglected and overrun with my nemesis, the local invasive blackberry bramble. But some are really interesting. Mostly I can just see front yards (something we are without), and some are filled with mature fruit trees, grape vines, japanese maples, and my current non-edible fave, the ravishing echium.

Back to the walk: we were a couple of blocks away and spied this house's back yard (this is a block where the houses are accessed by two streets--the front door's on one street and the back door/driveway is on the other side of the block. I love our neighborhood, I really do.). Anyway, check this out:

Beautiful, frond-y artichokes.

I love eating artichokes, as you know. I've always wanted to grow my own. I asked another kitchen gardener who's been around the block a couple of times--my mother-in-law. She's grown lots of stuff, and my impression is that she grew some artichokes back in the 70s or 80s. You know, that hippy, grow-your-own scene. She and her kids made homemade fruit leather, for goodness sake. Awesome.

So, when I asked the MIL about growing them she said it was tough to find the space to make it worthwhile. Yep, artichokes get like 6' high wide by 4' tall, with probably just a few chokes. I certainly I am not about to devote any of my precious raised beds to such a monster. But, I've recently fallen for how they LOOK. I mean, how awesome and dramatic is the photo above? I like everything about their yard, but it's the artichoke plants that make me stop the stroller, stare. And sometimes engage the stroller brake and snap some crappy iPhone photos.

Some time after admiring my neighbor's yard--and cooking quite a few artichoke dishes--it dawned on me the other day that perhaps a beautiful, dramatic, hopefully edible, "grove" of artichokes is just the ticket for the back of our yard. You know, back in that messy corner. Once they're big mature plants, Jacky can play hide-and-seek.

The plan is to start tomorrow, clearing that space. Beats my usual Friday morning date with the elliptical. (Actually, shhh, I love that machine.) I'll dig and dig, then amend the soil for better drainage, perhaps even see what the PH is. I've never tested soil before. Eventually, perhaps next weekend, I'll put in some wee artichoke babies, procured from the local garden shop. I called and they have the 'Green Globe' variety and "something kind of purple-y" -- works for me. I've also read up a little on companion plants for artichokes. Some say sunflowers, which I already have seeds for. Some say asparagus. Oh, I wish. Someday soon.

I know some of you have vegetable gardens... any artichoke-growing tips for me before I embark?

06 April 2010

how to make Mr Jacky happy


It's really very simple:

1) Strip right down to diaper whenever possible -- look at that righteous tummy! Who wouldn't be happy with that.

2) Give him "his" broom -- For those playing at home, yep, it used to be all about the spoon. Or, maybe you recall the hammer. Pshaw, salad days silliness.

These days, this boy is--inexplicably--obsessed with brooms of all sorts. The big "no-no" ones in the kitchen and yard, the small handmade ones at Mimi and Papa's. Pictures of brooms. Illustrations of brooms in storybooks. He spies one and purrs, "brooooooooom." 

OK, OK kid. So, yesterday, Toby brought home a small, clean sweep-up set JUST for the little man. His eyes lit up like Las Vegas. "For me?!?!" they asked.

Look how proud he is. 
I melt.

04 April 2010

pizza of the week: homemade green garlic ricotta with anchovies and capers

Pizza: Homemade Green Garlic Ricotta and Anchovies

Gosh, I'm on such a garlic kick. It's so 90s.

Know what I mean? Maybe it was just my own awakening to good food during that decade, but I seem to remember that during the 90s, the hot ingredient was GARLIC. Come on, remember roasted garlic, spread on toast points? Boy, I sure do.

So, right now, I can't get enough of all things garlic. We've been making Pasta Aglio e Olio, which if you don't know is basically pasta tossed with olive oil and garlic. We've been making this fantastic recipe from Cook's Illustrated, which calls for gently sautéed garlic AND raw garlic. Amazing. I keep craving it.

For a couple of weeks now, however, I've been wanting to make this particular pizza. I saw a green garlic-spiked ricotta-potato sandwich on the menu of Local Mission Eatery... and green garlic got lodged in the back of my mind. Being that it's just immature garlic bulbs, it's in season. Heck, I've got some 50 feet away, in the backyard. But, I don't dare pull that stuff up. Grow baby grow.

Anyway, this pizza was also inspired by a comment that Jora left here on another pizza post: she was/is contemplating making fresh ricotta. What a great idea. Ricotta is best when it's super fresh, bringing out its delicate, milky nature. As far as cheesemaking goes, I've only ever made mozzarella a few times. Why I didn't start with ricotta is beyond me. Far less stretching, hand-burning, etc is involved in ricotta. None, actually. It's insanely easy -- you should make some now. It's great on all kinds of things. With my green garlic-spiked leftovers, I'm going to spread it on toasted baguette slices, then briefly broil 'em. While listening to Throwing Muses.

Pizza: Homemade Green Garlic Ricotta and Anchovies


Pizza with Homemade Green Garlic Ricotta, Anchovies and Capers

Start with basic pizza recipe. Smear a thin layer of basic tomato sauce (described here) on your rolled-out dough. Sprinkle with a very scant handful of grated mozzarella cheese. Into 2/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese (I followed this recipe, using "method two"), add 1 T. (or more, to taste) of chopped green garlic, white and green parts. Season with salt, pepper and a few gratings of lemon zest. Scoop the ricotta, in heaping tablespoonfuls, onto your pizza (you may have extra cheese). Drape a few fillets of anchovies around the ricotta and sprinkle over a spoonful of capers. Spray or brush some olive oil onto the exposed crust and lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake pizza according to basic recipe. Sprinkle with a bit of chopped parsley, and if you like, red pepper flakes and grated parmesan cheese. A little drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil is nice, too.

Pizza: Homemade Green Garlic Ricotta and Anchovies

Postscript: Alongside this pizza was the first salad of the gardening season. Whee! Lovely lettuces and herbs, dressed in, what else, a green garlic-hazelnut oil vinaigrette.

first salad of the season

01 April 2010

My food soapbox

So, have you heard of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? Of course you have, it's on the tee-vee. But, have you signed his petition to bring real food to America's schoolchildren? Really, go check it out. I know this is an easy sell for some of you, myself included. I love real food, relish the chopping, the stirring, the cooking. Sitting down at a real table for a real meal. I eschew processed crap and I, frankly, adore Jamie Oliver. Done.

But, for some of you: perhaps your focus is elsewhere. This may not be on your radar. I wasn't always into cooking -- like at all*. Still, take a moment to read what he's up to. It's pretty basic. Just like the common-sense simplicity of knowing how to cook straightforward, good food for yourself and your family, his idea is simple. Kids, like all growing beings, should be given wholesome nutrition--not pizza for breakfast washed down with sugared milk (huh?)--and should be shown (by our example and demonstrated priorities) that eating real food is something valuable. And also normal.

Normal? The fact that COOKING is such an exotic, "difficult" and scary concept to many people is something worth changing. Food is culture. And the wrong food, eaten over a lifetime, can be deadly. In my opinion, no kid should go through life knowing only obesity and over-sugared hyperactivity. This terrible trend needs to be reversed.

A little more reading, if you're interested:
  • Some pretty right-on, impassioned writing from Michael Ruhlman (here, here and here, for starters) on why we should bother to cook. It's not hard, and it's not about "super easy ultra quick non-scary recipes." It's about how second-nature real food can be. How it can be integrated into your life.
So, what do you all think about this? Jamie's campaign seems ridiculously sensible to me, and I totally get the socio-economical barriers (perceived or very real) that are sometimes in the way of engaging with real food. But, I'm just shocked at the crap that is fed to kids in the name of cost-savings. Budget cuts are real, especially in California, but where are our priorities? I know not every kid can attend the Edible Schoolyard (sigh), but we should really try to give regular kids a little more equity.

* My come-to-food moment: My last year of college, just weeks away from graduation. Trying to pull out of a 10-day long mysterious illness during which I was nauseous, bed-ridden and not eating at all... I was waiting at Walgreens for some magic meds. Presciption was taking forever... I looked up at a wire rack of paperbacks and spied the Frugal Gourmet Cooks Italian. Sounds cheesy, but that book kinda rocks. I thumbed through it, and hungrily eyed some roasted eggplant antipasti, lemon olive oil, and chicken cacciatore. My first foray into real cooking. I hadn't eaten in more than a week and I was SO up for it. As you may guess, I didn't eat very much of this delicous spread--frankly, I was still pretty delirious--but I was hooked. I could make good stuff! I still have this cookbook within easy reach. Simple, delicious stuff.
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