Satsuma mandarins...the perfect winter snack, gift, everything!

Satsuma mandarins...the perfect winter snack, gift, everything!
peel, eat, repeat

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lusciously delctable winter delights and other treats

I know we need the rain and everything but it sure has been sweetly restorative to bask in a few days of sunshine, ramping up the vitamin D intake before it goes away again for awhile. Been getting all kinds of yard play in, trimming and digging around in my backyard garden and I found all the arugula, parsley and chervil that we planted way back in the fall. Luscious salads are topping all kind of stuff round here from grilled fish and tacos to curry roasted veggies with tofu and feta. Cabbages are tightening up and cauliflowers are just peeking curmudgeon style, starting to give up the fight and just get big for us.

Broccoli and cauliflower are in peak season in Northern California, barraging taste buds with creamy bursts of ethereal bliss. Available year round about these parts, flavors really do change in these months possessed with dropping mercury. Preparations of these cruciferous gems at this time of year are impossible to screw up regardless of what you do rendering them as the stars of any show. (Although a friend of mine found an amazingly huge chanterelle while trimming his woods today that could give them a run for their money when I sauté slices in a little butter and green garlic to sit royally atop a few slices of roasted sweet potato barely showered with sea salt. But I digress.)

We picked a few giant heads of cauliflower from the College Park garden and sautéed them with some of Shantha’s spices she brought back from her trip home to India for the special day classes. They totally scarfed, no hesitation whatsoever about the spices. These kids actually planted this stuff, tended it, helped it grow and eat it! We also picked a ton of broccoli from the CP garden and are making soup on the quad for lunch tomorrow to hand out to the student body. Totally a rush having 2300 teenagers of varying ages and stages of maturity mob you wanting to get a sample of broccoli soup. We got them trained well round here. Just for your information they also mob us when we sauté beets and beet greens with garlic and olive oil and not only eat them but rave to us about them and want the recipe. We have a whole garden box dedicared to beets, Chioggia, red, yellow, whatever dang near ready for the young masses at CP to chow. They also mob apple crisp and carrot cookies or whatever bizarre enticements we can come up with to persuade them to make healthier food choices. Gentle persuasion. Hopefully a dram of that push is trickling down to the folks at home that really make the food choices.

There was a fascinating article in the New York Times magazine today by Christine Muhlke about fish, regulations, catch restrictions and limits, and ways of getting around decimating the fishing industry while still keeping a close watch on dwindling or endangered species. Focusing on this particular fisherman in South Carolina, Mark Marhefka, the article touched briefly on the interesting angle of community sponsored fishery where the community slash customers buy a share up front and get 2 to 10 pounds of fresh, locally caught fish a month that is sold to them by the guy that actually fished for it very much mimicking the CSA’s we see more and more farmers solidly embracing. He also sells commercially the fish he catches and works with colleges and scientist on issues of fish sustainability. It kind of comes down to familiarizing the consumer with some little known varieties of fish that in out parents day may have been considered sub par or junk fish. Brings to my mind the change in attitude towards beef cuts that in the past were considered too cheap to sell and are now on the menu’s of some of the best restaurants in the country. New restrictions on familiar fish such as snapper, salmon etc. could possibly introduce the savvy fish monger an opportunity to create a new fad for the competitive chefs vying for your dinner dollar out there.

I found a new citrus yet again this year at The Pleasant Hill Market at the corner of Gregory and Pleasant Hill Rd. Tahoe Gold tangerines. Big, seedless spheres, reminiscent of sweet pepper jelly on the tongue they are easily peeled with loose skin, a perfect foil for lunch boxes, brunch snacks and all around nice to keep a few with you in the car when bad urges may come upon you to sate yourself and keep doing whatever it is you are supposed to be doing instead of going to Coco Swirl for frozen yogurt.

Try to get a hike in before the next rains. I remember saying that to myself all last winter and it never did rain.

Cauliflower Soup
1 large head cauliflower, core removed and chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
½ cup ½ and ½
½ teaspoon fresh curry powder or garam masala or to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until slightly caramelized. Add cauliflower and sauté for a few more minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes until cauliflower is soft. Blend with an immersion blender or in a blender cup and add ½ and ½. Bring back to a simmer. Remove from heat and season with spices, salt and pepper.
Makes 4 nice servings.
Alternatively add a large chopped yellow potato along with cauliflower and omit cream. Can be garnished with a nice grated cheese.

Broccoli Soup
8 cups chopped broccoli, about 3 to 4 nice heads
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
½ cup ½ and ½
1 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion, celery and garlic in olive oil until slightly caramelized. Add broccoli and sauté for a few more minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Let simmer until broccoli is soft. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add ½ and ½ and bring back to a boil. Remove from heat and season with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 nice servings.
Alternatively add a large chopped yellow potato along with broccoli and omit cream. Can be garnished with a nice grated cheese.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sun is shining and the broccoli is ready for pickin!

A new grapefruit is on the scene, exciting…ok well maybe not too exciting but really tasty whether or not you like grapefruit. Oranges crossed with grapefruit create a really big orange looking fruit that is sweeter than sweet and has a grapefruit finish. They are calling it a Cocktail Grapefruit. I am venturing to guess because the flavors are similar to a grapefruit juice drink. Yummy! Also look for a Peach Mandarin, looks like a Satsuma with a little bit tighter skin, still really easy to peel and a tropically lush flavor that actually has peach undertones. I found both of these gems at Hamada’s farm stand at the Diablo Valley Farmers Market. (Saturday 9 to 1 Kaiser Shadelands parking lot) I also found the Cocktail Grapefruit aka Sweet Grapefruit at the Diaz Farm stand at Tuesday Concord Farmers Market. (Todos Santos Park 10 to 2) They have really great citrus as well as Hamada. J and J has good fruit too but not the fancy new ones.

Good News Flash about Pleasant Hill Farmers Market: the City of Pleasant Hill is reviewing an agreement with Pacific Coast Farmers Markets, same operators as Concord FM as well as about 50 or more other farmers markets in the Bay Area. I don’t know if anyone remembers or even knew that last year California Farmers Markets tried to get the Pleasant Hill market and move it in front of the old Left Bank as well as add about 30 more farmers. California was not awarded the contract and went on to open the new Diablo Valley Farmer Market at Shadelands. That market has been great all year, probably 3 times at least as many growers as old Pleasant Hill, none of the bizarre craft stuff, just a farmers market, for some serious produce shopping. Crafters are ok when the item is truly homemade but when stuff is coming in manufactured in some factory in another part of the world it has no place in a farmers market and no claim to anything remotely resembling sustainable practices.

Pacific Coast does not have crafters in their markets either, just farmers, flowers and food. So I for one am very excited about a new Pleasant Hill Farmers Market. Is there a new location on the horizon? Maybe on Crescent? More farmers for the people of Pleasant Hill? Time will tell. Having been personally involved in the operations of farmers markets for 10 years I know well that it is difficult to get the shoppers down to the market but I also know that with effort, ingenuity and a little bit of marketing cash it can be done. Look at Diablo Valley Market. From 0 to 60 out of the gate. That market has been great from the get go because the operator gave the shoppers a lot more farms to choose from, a lot more organic to choose from and put some dough into the management and promotion of that market. It shows and I hope the same will follow for Pleasant Hill and we get a market to be proud of that farmers will be happy to sell at.

Our organic garden at College Park High School is really growing great guns. Broccoli is ready everywhere. Garlic is perfect for the green garlic love and cabbages are getting tighter heads every day. They will be ready in no time. The Brussels sprouts are adorable with their little round cabbage heads adorning huge stalks of great leaves. Students are amazed and bewitched by the knowledge that this is how they grow! Wait till we cook them together and they taste fresh broccoli and fresh Brussels....oh yeah, this is why we put in the hours and do the work, just to swivel some young taste buds in our direction of healthy choice. Yeah, their is a bit of a glow over here.....

Sun is shining magnificently today and I just got to hit the trail but wanted to drop a few recipes on you before I put on my muddy old hiking boots and borrow someone’s dog. Get outside now before it starts raining again!

This is a great soup that first night is soup and second night thickens up into a base for a nice piece of grilled fish. Feel free to add a chopped head of Gai lan, chard or spinach at the end for a super punch of nutrition.
Lentil and Butternut Squash Soup
1 large white onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash
3 carrots, chopped
6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
2 cups of cooked lentils
2 tablespoons of freshly ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons of freshly ground cumin seed
salt to taste
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Add squash and carrots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the stock and the spices and bring to a simmer. Add the lentils and simmer on medium heat until the squash is soft. Season with salt. Makes enough soup for a nice lunch or dinner for a couple of days.

Winter Vegetable Soup w/ Rosa marina
1 large red onion, chopped
1 celery root, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cups of cubed butternut squash
2 tablespoons of olive oil
6 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
½ bunch of chopped parsley
! bunch chopped Swiss chard
2 cups of Rosa marina pasta or orzo
salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion, celery root, carrots and squash in olive oil for 5 minutes.
Add stock and bring to a boil. Add pasta and simmer until the vegetables and pasta are cooked. Add parsley and chard and season with salt. Makes enough for a few days of constant soup.

A mesmerizing little simple slaw that leaves you with a great big smile on your face and people coming back for more.
Napa Cabbage Salad w/ Tangerines, Feta and Lemon Vinaigrette
1 head of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
3 tangerines, peeled and sectioned
4 new onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup crumbled feta
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon of white balsamic
Sea salt and pepper
Toss everything together in a bowl. Serves 4.