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

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

as summer starts to give up the fight

Walking along the trail she can feel the air around her body taking on a thrilling thickness as it kisses her skin. Even the shadows are sexy and unpredictable these days. As the sun moves lower in the sky she thinks how summer is giving up the fight. We’ll be waking in darkness rewarded with amazing sunrises. Snuggle up around the old stove outside grilling crabs and fall vegetables lazily sipping that luscious vionger. Butternut squash time she thinks. Risotto with caramelized onions, roasted butternut and shaved Manchego or lentils dense with lovely chunks of orange Delicata and freshly ground curry spices.

Lovingly her gaze wonders to the garden where tomato plants are shriveling next to breathtaking hued lettuce and kales. Peppers shine proudly deep magenta on their cold worn branches, determined to last another week or two accumulating as much sugar as possible. Those bad boys are getting eaten raw first, stuffed with cheese and grilled and roasted next to the last tomatoes in the end. Beet tops push through loamy soil promising a bounty in a month or two, little tops as soon as a week will garnish astoundingly sweet, fresh lettuces.

Apples are in for the season, resting in boxes in the cold cellar, waiting.
So juicy this year, snapping, crunchy, juice running down her chin as she chomps into it. Oh yeah, this is right and good that food should be so fresh, tasting of earth and love while nourishing body and soul. Eyes closed she tries to tease out all the different flavors blasting in her mouth and brain. Honey, alfalfa, pineapple all sparking a different idea or thought of what to do with those apples, cooked or raw.

Sun is sinking into a purple and pink horizon and the fire is waning as the day starts dimming down, she gingerly stands up and stretches like a sleek cat, as tempting sounds unconsciously escape her mouth. Mmmm, time to start dinner she thinks, or is it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Clean nuts, apples and my face on twee twee's stool

Walnuts, almonds and other large scale nut growers have a nasty secret that not too many consumers know about. Along with spraying the trees and ground with chemicals, the nut meats, after shelling, are also sprayed with fumigant to prevent moth worms and beetles from infesting their massive storage bins full of years worth of nuts. Raid is a fumigant just to get a picture of what I'm talking about here. I do not know about you, but that just does not work for me or my son or my clients that trust me to feed them real food. Alternatively you can get your nuts at a farmers' market and be sure after discussing growing techniques with the farmer what is going on with your nuts. Besides the fact that you aren't poisoning yourself, nuts bought in season from a local grower really taste awesome. Almonds actually taste like almond milk, sweet and creamy. You start to realize that marzipan made with almonds like these could actually be really tasty. Walnut have less of a furry tongue tannin coating leaving a less harsh acidic after taste and a downright full flavor after toasting in a nice hot oven for a few minutes. Pecans return to the place they belong as a seasonal nut addition to very special baked goods and treats. Do your own taste comparison and see what you think and remember that if you absolutely can not get to a farmers market to pick up your nutritionally packed super food nuts and have to get them at a grocery store, unless the nuts specifically state organic on the label they are probably sprayed with fumigant. Talk to your farmer and ask them how they treat their nuts and see if this is the way you would treat yours, if you grew them.

Catalan Tomato Sauce
This sauce is especially appropriate for this time of year as it uses the end of season tomatoes, fresh almonds and fresh dried grapes (raisins). These raisins can be found only at the farmers’ markets and are made from the current crop of grapes. The difference in flavor of fresh, current crop almonds and raisins is astounding. Do you own sample test and get in on this well kept secret. You will never buy almonds or raisins from the store again!

6 to 7 large tomatoes of your choice
5 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
3 tablespoons good olive oil
½ cup fresh almonds, toasted and then chopped
2 tablespoons capers
¼ cup fresh raisins
juice and rind of 2 oranges
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Core the tomatoes and drop into the boiling water for about 10 seconds each. Remove from the water and peel tomatoes when you can comfortably touch them. Cut peeled tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds. Chop tomatoes and pulp. Set aside.
In a sauce pan heat the olive oil. Sauté garlic and onions in oil until opaque and slightly caramelized.
Add tomatoes, capers, almonds, raisins and orange juice and rind and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper.
This sauce can be used for pasta but tastes great on grilled chicken or grilled salmon.
Makes about 2 cups.

Walnut and Basil Tapenade
Tapenade is a Mediterranean relish that can be used for chicken or fish and this particular tapenade is very good on pasta as well. I always use the rind of the lemons before I juice them no matter what I am making. Toasting the walnuts first will leech out some of the tannic acid so prevalent in walnuts and give them a nice golden hue. You can toast your bag of walnuts all at once and store the unused portion in an air tight container in the freezer.

2 cups fresh basil leaves, in season
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
½ cup toasted walnuts
1 6 ½ oz. jar pitted Greek olives (found at Trader Joe's)
3 cloves peeled fresh garlic
juice and rind of 2 lemons
¼ cup good olive oil
I tomato of your choice, chopped
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, place the olive oil, lemon rind and lemon juice.
Add the herb leaves a little at a time, pulsing after each addition.
Add the olive and pulse more to fully incorporate.
Season with salt and pepper and remove from processor to a bowl.
Stir in tomato.
Makes about 2 cups.

Apple season is here again filled with an amazing array of apple varieties to choose from. We had an apple festival at the Diablo Valley Farmers market last weekend and it was a blast. Apple comparison tasting and apple cooking demo along with Rainbow Farms hot, spiced apple juice. The clown formerly known as Twee Twee, now Cesare Menedez, balloon man extroedinare, was there and I found out that I have the dubious honor, along with Oprah, Brittany, Liberace and more, of my face on one of his kiddie stools. I actually got to sit on my own face! You can too! Yippee and thank you Cesare.

Apple Sauce
This will make about 4 to 5 cups depending on your apple choice. Also if you use a sweet variety you may want to use water instead of juice and adjust the lemon juice. The lemon juice has the added effect of keeping everything a nice color as well. You can store unused sauce in a jar with a tight fitting lid in the reefer and use within the week. Be sure to make it up and down the aisle at your farmers market to sample your perfect tasting apple or combination of apples!

6 large apples, peeled, cored, rough chop
¼ cup white grape juice or apple juice
ground cinnamon
a couple drops good vanilla
Juice and rind from a lemon
Place apples, juices and lemon peel in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Cover and cook until apple are soft enough to mash. Serve warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Apple, Onion and Squash Gratin
This is a perfect Thanksgiving side dish that I created because I am not overly fond of marshmallow sweet potatoes and needed to fill that void for fear of getting in trouble with my Dad. It has been a family and friend favorite since that first time!

2 apples of your choice, get sweet if you like sweet and tart if you like tart, cored and sliced thin
1 red onion, sliced thin
2 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 pint cream
Spray a large baking dish and layer apples, onions, garlic, squash and cheese in dish. Drizzle cream over and sprinkle fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Bake in a hot *400 oven covered for 30 minutes and remove foil and cook for 20 minutes more until browned on top. Serves 4.

Autumn Greens w/ Apples, Walnuts and Citrus Dressing
Autumn is a great time for greens of all kinds as they love the cooler weather and thrive in it. Crisp, sweet and full of flavor they are good in any combination anytime! This is especially good as apples and walnut are in season and abundant at the farmers’ markets. Blue cheese is a great addition too.
½ head of romaine lettuce, washed and torn
½ head of red leaf lettuce, washed and torn
2 cups of arugula, cleaned
1 apple of choice, sliced
½ cup fresh toasted walnuts, chopped
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons lemon oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix greens together in a salad bowl. Toss in apples and walnuts. Sprinkle on oil and vinegar, salt and pepper and toss. Garnish with cheese. Serves 4 to 6.

My Version of a Waldorf Salad
I do not like the taste of mayo and mini marshmallows messing up the flavors of amazingly crisp, sweet, juicy autumn apples so I use yogurt and a drop of vanilla instead. Current crop carrots, raisins (dried grapes) as well as fresh almond and walnuts make this a great salad on the merit of the ingredients alone! When they are in season in early autumn you can also add fresh grapes into the mix for an amazingly sweet, crunchy addition.
3 crisp, sweet apples of your choice, cored and sliced thin
½ cup toasted almonds, chopped
½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 ribs celery, sliced
½ cup dried grapes of your choice
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons local honey
1 lemon, juice and peel
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Lettuce leaves
In large salad bowl, mix together yogurt, peel and juice from lemon, honey, vanilla and salt. Add in apples, nuts, raisins, carrots and celery. Serve on a lettuce leaf. Serves 4 or 5.

Fresh Fruit Crisp
6 cups fruit
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar or turbinado sugar
½ cup butter, melted
2 T vanilla
1 t cinnamon
½ c oats
1 T salt
Preheat oven 350*. Butter baking dish. Place fruit in dish. Mix flour, sugar butter, vanilla, cinnamon, oats and salt in bowl. Crumble onto fruit. Bake 1 hour until fruit bubbles and top is crunchy and lightly browned. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cold the next day for a very decadent but sensuous and utterly fulfilling breakfast. Serves 6.

King Size Apple Cake
This cake is best served the day after it is made to let the flavors mellow. It is moist and dense and is great for in the morning with coffee or tea or dressed up with a Lemon Glaze
1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons good quality unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ cup hot water
3 cups grated fresh apple (about 2 ½ medium sized apples)
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1) Preheat oven to 350*F. Heavily butter and flour a 10 inch bundt pan.
2) Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, until pale yellow and light. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat the mixture until it is light and fluffy.
3) Sift the cocoa, flour, salt, cinnamon and allspice together onto a piece of waxed paper.
4) Add the baking soda to the hot water and mix until it is dissolved. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the soda and water mixture beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
5) Stir in the apples, raisins and nuts. Spoon the batter (which will be very thick) into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is deep brown and springs back when lightly touched, about an hour and 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then unmold from the pan and allow to cool thoroughly before serving.
1 10 inch cake (10 to 12 servings)