29 July 2011

at the table

It's where life is lived. And where I fall in love with this little boy a little more each day.

28 July 2011

book love & canning update

canning progress

I'm happy to report that the canning is happening! Remember my big hairy audacious plans? My evil plans are slowly unfolding and the jars are accumulating. True to my nature, the plan has, um, evolved a little. I'm making some of the stuff originally on the list, but... each time I leaf through my favorite canning books or, say, spy some awesome peaches or fresh-dug garlic... my greedy canning brain (what, you don't have one?) kicks into overdrive. Waitaminute, I could CAN that.

Let me reassert my total love for my favorite canning book: Canning for a New Generation, Bold Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry, by Liana Krissof. If you're into  canning and want to make some recipes that are totally unique and updated in terms of flavor combos, pick this one up. The sheer number of recipes is staggering, and they're all so interesting. There's the old-school jam and jelly stuff, but then there's also recipes for stuff like fermented yard-long beans, Persian tarragon pickles, Japanese nuka fermentation.

So, what have I made so far?

Pickled Asparagus | from Eugenia Bone's Well Preserved -- another awesome book I mentioned earlier.

Meyer Lemon & Rose Petal marmalade | from Canning for a New Generation (CNG). My first marmalade, and it's a a great recipe, if a little labor intensive (worth it). The rose petal taste is super subtle.

Pickled Tuscan Kale with Habanero | from CNG. The flavors are still melding or whatever they do in those jars, so I haven't tasted yet. But, the kale was from my garden, and it should be quite spicy, so I'm giving it a premature thumbs up. Oh, and: the recipe in CNG that got the garden shears in my hand was this: drain a jar of spicy kale and then dip little tangles (along with sweet potato slices) in tempura batter. Fry up until puffy and devour over rice with a sweet drizzling sauce made with the pickling liquid. Am I crazy or does that sound awesome.

Strawberry & Lemon preserves | Just awesome, also from CNG. With the rind-on slices of lemon in there, it's an interesting riff on classic low-sugar preserves. Next time, I would add a vanilla bean.

Strawberry & Lavender jam | from CNG. The lavender is from my garden and it's pretty subtle... just makes the jam a bit more interesting. Me like.

Next up for this weekend (probably):

Peach, Mango & Habanero hot sauce | from CNG. People, I like the spice.

Pickled Garlic, a few different ways | from CNG. I had a little garlic mishap in the garden: the tops got shaded out by the fava forest, and the papery outer wrappers just disappeared both above the ground and below. Woops. So I dug up a basket full of perfectly "peeled" garlic that needs to be used pronto. Paging, doctor canning pot. Some half-pint jars will be spicy, some less so... I have a feeling a certain toddler might want to try. He loves him some pickles.

barely made a dent

can can

And then later...

Spicy Carrots, and then perhaps I'll be able to knock off some of the Summer items on the Can Plan list. One season at a time.

Are you doing any canning this year? I keep thinking of having a canning party, but so far this stuff is happening randomly during naps and after successful early bedtimes. Someday!

27 July 2011

five years

my dear Dad, Charlie

Five years ago, I lost my Dad. Five years ago, a long, frightening month in San Diego of worrying, soothing, helping, crying came to an end in the wee hours of the morning. He went from a quite spry 74 year old to... well, (physically) gone... so quickly. Yes, cancer.

I could tell you about how scalding the dying process was, for all of us: my Dad (he had been through this with my Mom; he knew what was coming), my brothers, me. True, there were moments of quiet joy and bonding (crosswords and Padre games, set to the soundtrack of Dr Ralph Stanley), but mostly it was just very scary and difficult. If you've been through the whole thing, the hospital time, the diagnosis, followed by the eventual "time to come home"... then you know. This is a pretty recent loss for me, so I'd rather not dwell in the dark place too much today.

I'd rather tell you this. My Dad's name was Charlie. We gave Jacky his middle name in honor of my Dad. He was a child of Russian-Jew immigrants, an English teacher, a sports coach (and fan), a hunter, a one-time body-builder (evidenced above), a one-time truck driver, a restauranteur, a classic car guy, a lead-footed driver, an open-armed adopter of a young girl (me), a friend to many, many, many. He had a temper, but he was passionate and kind. He was a staggeringly generous man... and he was memorable: my whole childhood, we couldn't go anywhere without being stopped... "coach Kahan!?!" (cue children w/eyes rolling. we learned to appreciate his popularity later.). He was that guy.

He floated the Amazon twice, safari'd in Africa, drove around Europe in a VW van and both ran with the Pamplona bulls and attended the 1960 Rome Olympics (how cool must that have been!), and drove us kids up to Montana many Summers to fish and shoot guns. He was in the Navy during the Korean War, and riveted us at the dinner table with the more G-rated stories of life at sea and on Guam.

He made a perfect potato salad, a holdover from helping out in the family's deli as a child. When I would come home to visit, he always had "puttered" a little in the kitchen... while we caught up on our political "discussions," there would be a little something to nosh on: homemade ceviche, maybe some guacamole, some delicious onion dip (from the packet, natch. the best.). He loved to bake, especially with a little booze tipped in ("doctoring it up"). He was a true child of the Depression, always keeping an eye out for food and financial security. He always put his children first. In the aftermath of my Mom's death, when I called him a little depressed from somewhere in Italy (the post-college trip), and suggested that maybe I should just come to SD to help him instead of moving to San Francisco to start my career, he was absolute: no way, you follow your own path. He always knew the right thing to do.

My Dad was a life-long San Diegan, aside from his Navy years. He made friends for life, and never lost touch with people... elementary/Jr High/HS school classmates, ex-students, colleagues, hunting buddies, business partners. He taught us the Golden Rule: do unto others... His funeral is a bit of a blur to me now, but I still feel the glow of the many friends (including my Jr High PE coach!) who stood up and told stories that were heart-searing and hilarious and tearful. It was how all of us would want to be honored, I think.

I like telling people about my Dad, and I could go on. But, I think you get it. He was a special guy. He's truly missed, but we still feel him.

Thanks for reading. xoxo

26 July 2011

pesto, my way

Pretty much sums up my feelings! There are fancy artichoke or kale pestos out there, which are awesome, but I kinda go nuts for straight up basil-y pesto all Summer long. If I have a big jar of this stuff in the fridge, then you know all is well in my world.

As I mentioned earlier, I used to have trouble making a bright green, fresh-tasting pesto. I'm sure you're with me: sludge-y, dark, bitter pesto just isn't worthy of the name. Allow me to share my personal approach for a version that deserves to be slathered on everything.

Before I do so, let me say, this isn't a fancy, magical, or obscure method. Just a super simple, reliable pesto method that I like. For all I know, you might do it the same way!

It all started a couple of years ago with Heidi's "How to Make Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother" post: hand-chopped pesto with fresh-tasting, identifiable bits smothered by a truck-load of olive oil. I tried this technique, and let me tell you: it tasted AMAZING. Bright, basil-y, garlicky, incredible.

But... my wrist was hurting for a couple of days after. Granted, my "knife skills" are better now, but still. If I'm making a big batch of pesto each week, not sure this is going to happen.

So, my revised technique utilizes a food processor instead of a knife, and borrows the key ideas of the Italian Gram: don't over-chop, don't be afraid of olive oil. It's easy.

Here we go:

1. I make each batch with two large bunches of fresh basil. Don't refrigerate it; make it the day you buy/pick the basil. Pick all the leaves off and place in the food-processor* workbowl. Compost all the stems. You don't want 'em in this pesto.

* I don't use a blender for this method, b/c I think it over-mixes. A FP just chops if you use the pulse button.


2. Peel 2-3 large garlic cloves and throw them in, along with a large handful (or more) of grated parmesan. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and drizzle over a generous (~1/2 c?) amount of extra virgin olive oil*.

I don't use pine nuts! I know, crazy, but I have grown to really like the fresh, biting taste of basil, cheese and garlic. Add 'em if you want.

* This method uses a staggering amount of olive oil, but just remember you're not going to eat it all at once! Plus, it's good for you :)


3. Put the lid on the workbowl and pulse for a very short time: 2-3 seconds. The mixture should just be roughly broken down (see below). This gets everything the same size. Scrape the sides down, then add the final olive oil: probably another 1/4-1/2 c.


4. Pulse again for 2 seconds, and if you have enough olive oil, it should look like this (below). Don't process any longer, or it'll go dark and nasty. Taste for salt and pepper... and maybe stir in a tiny squirt of lemon juice? Sometimes it's just needed.


5. The trick to storing (and preventing the dread blackened pesto) is, as you probably know, to keep the air out. Scrape the pesto into a clean jar and gently float a 1/2" layer of olive oil on top. Put the cap on and refrigerate. It's probably best to use it all up within a week or two.

When you do want to use some, take the pesto out to come to room temp. Pour the oil layer off into a small bowl, then scoop out the desired quantity. To store again, smooth out the top of the pesto and replace the oil layer on top.


Of course, if you want to eat the pesto right away, what's better than pizza? :) Yep, it's the same recipe as last week. It's gotten the Toddler Thumbs Up.

pesto pizza

pesto pizza w/summer stuff

yum, pesto pizza

Soooo, I'm curious, how do you make pesto? Do you? There are a million different ways and ingredient combos. I'd love to hear about it!

21 July 2011

garden update: mid-summer

As a follow-up to yesterday's tiny taste, here's a huge main serving of what's up in the garden. Summer has come to San Francisco! At least, this week.

Seriously, it's been heavenly here: warm, so the plants and people are happy, but not like crazy mid-west heat-wave hot. It's been lovely, which makes a girl want to linger over watering and finally bring the camera outside again!

wild morning glories in the sun
hello morning glories (they're wild here)

herb strip
herb city (who needs some mint? sage? thyme??)

summer veg beds

The timing of Summer in SF is, as you must know by now, a tricky thing. The reliably gorgeous late Spring can trick you into planting heat-loving plants, only to have them go all yuck in the fog. (See: last year.) This year, I decided to wait out the fog a little and hold off on the big-time Summer stuff (tomatoes, squash, etc) until now-ish or a little later. Still figuring this place out.

But, even though Summer here is elusive and tricky, it's undeniable that it's a time of transition and overlap out back. Spring plants have been holding on for a long time (we still have peas & favas!), the kale seems to know no season (hello harvest!), and the squashes (summer & winter) are off and running.

It's a season of many players:

1. The pretty

summer flowers
sweet peas & sunflowers
(plus our other "weed": nasturtiums)

'cupani's original' sweet pea
'cupani's original'

'april in paris' sweet pea
'april in paris'

'cupani's original' sweet pea
'cupani's original'

blue borage volunteer
volunteer blue borage (ok, it'll be prettier when it blooms!)

baby sunflowers
super baby sunflowers

blackberry flower
the promise of blackberries

2. The yummy

alpine strawberries
Alpine strawberries

"regular" strawberries

3. The Future

baby blackberries
more blackberry promises (aka bee mecca)

climbing beans
wee, delicate green bean vines

tiny baby green bean
...and the wee beans

future snackin'
future snacks (aka sunflowers)

summer squash
summer squash (we're growing regular zucchini & 'ronde de nice')

tomato transplants
future slicers
(for Kristen's dad;
I've learned, begrudgingly, to limit myself to cherries and other small tomatoes)

4. The New

tall raised bed
new standing-height bed for herbs, lettuces, overgrown(!) spinach and blueberries

native flower bed
new native plant bed

native flower bed
so fuzzy

native flower bed
love this foliage

'starlight' echinacea


5. The Old

bolting & climbing
the bolting kale & the very tall, very senior peas.
i'm saving seeds for both.

bolting lettuce
beautiful bolting lettuce.
it will give me seeds for my new favorite lettuce, so it can stay and do its thing.

cilantro flowers
cilantro, in flower

dill seed head
dill, in flower.
these you can dry and put whole into pickle jars. pretty no?

6. The tenacious

lemon verbena
lemon verbena, from the previous homeowners
we've built a deck in its sunlight, squashed it with bags of soil.
it wont stop, and it smells soooooo good.

20 July 2011

wordless wednesday


19 July 2011

pizza | sun, stripes & pesto

pizza: baby summer squash, sungolds & pesto

Remember pizza? It's been a while. This one incorporates a few of my favorite things: sungold tomatoes, stripey baby pattypans and really good homemade pesto.

mkt day

On Sunday, Jacky and I triked down to our local farmer's market to fulfill his (ok, our) berry needs. Plus, beets and whatever else we found.

It's the first year that our little hood has had a market and I try to go as much as possible so it'll be back next year. Being a small market, I kinda figured it would be populated by the usual suspects (basic fruit & veg). You know, good but not wow.

Wrong: we bought cardoons! interesting red mizuna... dandelions... red baby bok choy. There are flower vendors, pastured eggs, good fish... fronds laden with fennel pollen.

And I realized a major gardening error this year. I have a handful of different squashes (summer & winter) growing out back, but didn't plant any pattypans. You know, the flying saucer-shaped summer squashes. I love those guys and we ate a lot of them last year. I think was silly and thought I was sick of them. Woops.

Well, I bought some instead. The tiniest, cutest, stripiest little babies.

To the pizza they went. Well, two of them.

pizza: baby summer squash, sungolds & pesto


Sun, Stripes & Pesto Pizza

basic pizza recipe + homemade pesto* + shredded mozzarella
+ thinly sliced baby pattypan squash (2) 
+ handful of sungold tomatoes (halved)
+ sliced red onion
drizzle with olive oil, especially exposed dough. sprinkle with salt.
bake per recipe.
slice and devour.


pizza: baby summer squash, sungolds & pesto

* Any interest in my pesto method? It's kind of a no-brainer, but I have to admit I used be to stumped by making really good, fresh-tasting pesto (versus: gloppy, dark, bitter pesto). If so, I'll post, b/c tis the season!

14 July 2011

Renegade: what I bought

So, the drive back from the lake wasn't too, too bad on Saturday (made it back before (everyone's) naptime--yes) so I rallied for a Sunday morning outing to Renegade. Yay!

Last year, there was a small fire the day I went, but this year, the excitement was all in the wares. And the people... I met some very lovely people. Which is one of the things I love best about Renegade: there's a little hipster posturing here and there, but most everyone is super friendly, authentic, and will enthusiastically talk process and general art-making. Makes me happy. (Just between you and I: I hope to sell stuff at Renegade some day.)

So, wanna see what I bought? This haul is funny to me: I wandered around picking up this and that semi-impulsively, but the net is such an accurate picture of where my head's at right now: linen, geometrics, linen, hand-drawing, nubby textures. And linen. Yup.

Renegade 2011
(clockwise from top left) Small Planter, The Ranch Design Group;
Tribal Brooch, Voz Clothing and Art (I think--no branding on the pin, oops);
Linen Coasters, Erin Dollar; Linen Napkins, Linea Carta;
"Small Abstract Orb" ink drawing, Erin Dollar;
"Stuff" linen zipper pouch and linen iPhone cozy, Jen Hewett.

Renegade 2011
I especially love this drawing by Erin Dollar. It's original art, not a print, which I love.
Plus, she was such a sweet person to talk with.

Renegade 2011
I had a bit of an itchy wallet freak-out at The Ranch's booth.
Seriously, if you also dig earthy 70s-style ceramics, get thee to their website and check it.
I love their stuff so much. Still freaking out.

Renegade 2011
Another really sweet person, Jen Hewett. I think this iPhone cozy is just so darling.
And, somehow, I really like teal again.

Renegade 2011
I have visions of rockin this one all Afrika Bambaataa style. Rad right? Ha.
Actually, I'll probably just pin it on a bag and call myself cool enough.

Renegade 2011
And, linen. I cannot resist. Especially dinner napkins in a borderline obnoxious (in a good way!)
color palette. I will always say yes. Plus, the designer, Diva Pyari,
was also very nice to chat with.

Anyone else go to Renegade? LA is this coming w/e!

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