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

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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Sparkling, beckoning slyly in their sweet little bunches

Probably the best perk of being a self employed food freak would be the countless hours of mandatory research required to compile information (food) that makes one a, well, a fairly respectful self employed food freak I guess. Current crop of evolving seasonal fare requiring shopping and gorging in the name of research includes winter greens of all kinds. Bok Choy, Yo Choy, Gai Lan, Thai Broccoli, Chinese Broccoli, Hmong Broccoli, Red Mustard, Rappini, Italian Broccoli, Chinese Mustard, a plethoric rainbow of chards, spinach, arugula to name a few. There are so many braising types of Asian greens in season at the farmers’ markets it is enough to make your eye lashes longer just looking and most come in compact little bunches costing like a buck making it easy to buy 5 or 6 at a time and prepare them for one or two meals a day. Loaded with calcium and iron they are also powerhouse free radical fighters going to bat for your health and longevity not to mention your sparkling eyes, pink cheeks and sculptured waistline with every brilliant morsel savored. Awesome simply steamed in water, veg stock or chicken stock doused with a bit of lemon oil and cracked sea salt or try adding chopped greens to your favorite soup or stew. Can not beat a nice sauté with olive oil and garlic with soy sauce splashed in at the end. Warm tummy, happy day.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Citrus mania or how to slack a thirst

There is no end of variety bizarre or not and an amazing supply of citrus in California in season now. Blood oranges, Chou Chou tangerines, pommelo, Fairchild tangerine, citron (Budah Hand) kumquats, tangelo, Cara Cara oranges and the list goes on. You can usually find them all and usually at the same time at your local farmers' market. I like to say that before reaching for the juice, eat the whole fruit to slack that devilish thirst.

Blood Oranges
Harking originally from Sicily in the 1500’s, slicing into Blood oranges can be shocking to the virgin taster with crimson shot scarlet flesh and juice. A mutation of sweet oranges, Bloods can be smaller than their cousins lacking nothing in flavor when purchased fresh, locally, at their peak. Less acid along with a weird fruit pigment combine for a winter treat that lingers shortly prompting immediate seek and find maneuvers at farmers markets. Haunting tropical tastes with raspberry nuances, Blood oranges lend their talents smoothly to a plethora of culinary pleasures. Try fresh squeezed juice in champagne blushing the cocktail pink to go with your cheeks. Margaritas crave the addition of the Blood juice as well. Sliced roasted yellow beets blend color and flavor with magenta segments tossed with rice vinegar placed on winter arugula dotted with chevre creating a stellar main or side. Fennel, jicama and Bloods make a stunning salad, brilliantly crisp. Reduce Blood juice with a bit of cream, adding segments at the end, luxuriously thrilling a roasted chicken breast. Toss sharp watercress with Blood segments and juice drizzling lemon oil and cracking salt creating the perfect foil for fresh grilled fish. Three words, fresh, now, aaahhhh.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Seasonal Fable
When the weather turns cold in California and the peaches and strawberries are a distant, warm memory, the citrus show comes to town.
They tout their wears as the “New Winter Fruit”
Satsuma’s, Blood Oranges, Cara Cara, Minneola, Honey Tangerines, oh the names so exotic you can feel the warmth on your skin.
“But wait”, they say “We are the cool weather crop.

Ahhh, the mercury begins a slow ascent and the light stays longer to the day and a new show comes to hawk their goods to let you know that they alone are the seasons best.
Earliest the Berlat, Black Tartarian, and Tulare. Not to be out shined the more leisurely step up to brag, Bings, Royal Anne and Rainer.
Yes, we think pies, tarts and the luxury of standing in the velvety Northern California spring with asparagus on the grill, cleaned strawberries on the counter and cherry juice dripping down your arm.

Monday, January 5, 2009

making thumbs green without paint

One of my gigs is school gardens. Building, maintaining, planting, creating, whatever you want. My friend Stephanie and I started small, just getting one in at our kid’s middle school. We really just wanted to enrich the science curriculum and get some fresh food into the cafeteria but it has morphed into this amazing way to teach kids about food and where it comes from. A lot of the kids have never really put their hands into soil before let alone grown anything with those little hands of theirs. Most of them are totally convinced that their food comes off the shelves in Safeway.
Some of them are way to cool to be messing around with some crazy old ladies and wormy dirt but the cool factor disappears in about five minutes when they realize that they are actually part of this idea that that can actually grow something. As soon as this happen we no longer have to worry about vandalism because if these kids catch any of their posse messing with the garden and their pepper plant, some ass is gonna be kicked. They check their plants daily. We love bringing them over to the green side.
Getting them to try it is another story. Most of them will eat dang near anything I put in their hands but there is the ick contingency and depending on the popularity of the ick person it can trigger a chain of icks and then no one will try anything. We are starting to do cooking demonstrations in the garden with the stuff that we grow at lunch time. We are starting this at the high school where there is a closed campus policy so we have a sort of captive audience if you will.
Hope they like the beets……..