Sunday, October 19, 2014

Vegetarian Pepperpot

Bowl of Vegetarian Pepperpot
Colorful and Comforting

Recipe Adapted from Live Earth Farm

After a month in the UK, I’ve returned to California, where it’s suddenly autumn. Shorter days, yellow leaves, and pumpkins in the market are sure signs. Though I seriously miss the delicious UK foods, I’m jumping back into US cuisine with the compellingly named Pepperpot soup. Traditionally, Amish folk prepared Pepperpot with tripe. I’ve never prepared tripe, and most likely never will. Luckily, our CSA recipe maven Rebecca Mastoris sent us a vegan option in a recent newsletter. I’ve doubled the amount of veggies to make a thicker, heartier soup (and to use more of our CSA share veggies), and have adjusted the spicing. The result is a warming, well-spiced bowl filled with early fall veggies. What a delightful American way to welcome the new season!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Seasonal Greetings from the UK

newgate market sign
Newgate Market on Wednesday
I've been visiting England and Wales this month; hence the scarcity of recent posts. While in York the other day, my husband and I enjoyed perusing Newgate Market. All sorts of handcrafted goodies are available at the Market along with fresh veggies, eggs, fish, flowers, and baked goods. Readers might like to join us on a visual journey by viewing a few market highlights. I've been gathering cuisine and recipe ideas in England as well, to be subjects for future posts. Summer has turned to fall, and signs of autumn are everywhere, including the market. Enjoy the change and the newly ripe fall produce.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Summer Squash with Lemon Herb Butter

Two kind of summer squash, basil, parsley, capers, and shallot
Simple Summery Ingredients

Recipe inspired by Vicky and Live Earth Farm

If I had to pick only one vegetable to enjoy for the rest of my life, I’d choose summer squash. Of course, that’s cheating because with the near-infinite varieties of summer squash available, that’s hardly just one veggie. Summer squash colors, from palest yellow through golden through spring green to deepest emerald, delight the eye, particularly when prepared in combination. I’m a big fan of plain steamed squash, but recently rediscovered herb butters when my friend Vicky graced me with her back issues of Herb Companion magazine (now sadly defunct). Then a quick look through our CSA’s recipe index revealed a recipe for Lemon Caper Squash, which gets a flavor boost from herb butter. Now is the perfect time to harvest both squash and herbs from your garden, or find them at your local Farmers’ Market. The season for both will soon be past, so let’s revel in them while we can.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Classic Caprese Salad

Circular Salad Viewed from Overhead
Caprese Eye-Candy

Recipe by Robin

Few salads are as attractive as Caprese salad when compared with the amount of work needed for their creation. Caprese’s bold colors, reminiscent of the Italian flag, appeal to the eye as the simple combination of basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella appeals to the tastebuds. Though home chefs will be hard pressed to match the restaurant version with cheese and tomato slices exactly matching in diameter and thickness and perfect tiny basil leaves, the home-based result is plenty appealing when carefully arranged. Garden basil prepared chiffonade-style and sprinkled over the top fools the eye into thinking that the tomato and cheese slices match more perfectly.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Strawberry Apricot Pizza or Pizzettes

Pizza with Mozzarella, Ricotta, Strawberries, and Apricots
Fabulous Fruit Pizza

Recipe adapted from Rebecca Mastoris

With the ancient grain festival of Lammas (Lughnasadh) just past us on August 1, traditionalists are thinking of homemade breads. And yet, traditional breads require long preparation time and extended use of a hot oven—not really the thing for August. Enter the pizza, America’s near-favorite bread (just behind hamburger buns, go figure). And what more seasonal way to celebrate grains than pairing the pizza crust with plentiful summer fruits and young cheeses? This recipe will make two 12-inch pizzas or 6-8 small “pizzettes.” Throw an informal pizzette party by inviting family or friends to roll their own dough, then arrange the apricots, strawberries, cheeses, and garnishes on their food creation. Pop them into the oven for about 10 minutes and enjoy for a mid-afternoon treat, or for a fun lunch or dinner.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Plum Galette

Slice of Plum Galette with Whipped Cream
Sunny Summertime Fare

Recipe by Robin

As readers know, I’m not a piecrust expert, but summertime fruit is an excellent motivator for experimenting with pie-making. Galettes, also known as one-roll pies, have crust edges turned up to cradle fresh fruit and are made on baking sheets. Their informal appearance is perfect on for summer. Treat yourself to a galette after a hot day by preparing and chilling the piecrust during the day. In the evening when it’s cooler, roll out the crust, fill the pie, and bake for just 20 – 30 minutes. Cool slightly, slide onto a serving platter, and enjoy!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Honey Ginger Plum Sauce

Pot of Plum Sauce before Cooking
Sweet Plum Sauce Before Cooking

Recipe by Robin

Inspired by my successful Spicy Plum Sauce, I wanted to try making a sweeter, milder plum sauce. Like the spicy sauce, this sauce contains garlic, ginger, and Chinese Five Spice. Adding honey and sugar and leaving out the crushed chilies makes the difference. Note that ginger still adds a noticeable kick, and you can adjust the amount to anywhere between strictly sweet to downright zingy. Since commercial plum sauce is made with salted plums, you can stock a trio of salty-spicy-sweet plum sauces in the pantry to prepare for any culinary occasion or mood.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How to Conserve Water in the Garden

Scarlet Runner Beans in Garden
Established Beans Don't Need Much Water

Compiled by Robin

In these days of water restrictions and drought throughout California, conserving water is more important than ever. Knowing the needs of each plant in your garden will help you water efficiently for maximum harvest and minimum water waste. I’ve gathered together some general watering tips as well as specific advice on how to water 15 of Santa Cruz county’s most popular home garden crops. Even during years of plentiful water and in areas of adequate rain, gardeners might consider the unpredictability of the weather and possible climate changes. Careful water use protects our future resources as well as lowering our financial commitment to the garden.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Low Sugar Mirabelle Plum Jam

Plum Jam Being Spread on an English Muffin from a Pot
After a Jam Session

Recipe by Robin

Yellow plums and apricots seem similar, but they’re nothing alike to the food preservationist. True, they both belong to the Prunus genus and can be hybridized into such oddities as apriplums, plumcots, pluots, and apriums. But plums have more sour flavor components, thicker skin, and lots more water than apricots. Many plums also have less pectin than apricots. So tweaking my apricot jam recipe to preserve our Mirabelle plum tree’s bountiful harvest has been challenging. At last, after 3 years of experimentation including large batches that did not gel, batches that gelled too much, and over-sweetened batches, here is the perfected low sugar plum jam recipe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spicy Plum Sauce

Cooking pot with plums, onion, garlic, and ginger
Savory Ingredients with the Sweet

Recipe from Jon

Because our Mirabelle plum is an overachiever, producing huge amounts of sweet-tart yellow plums every year, I’ve wanted to make plum sauce for a long time. This year my new friend Jon, a master of sauces, dips, and all things Asian, graced me with a recipe. This plum sauce has the characteristic sweet-sour-pungent flavor interplay, plus quite a kick from the red chili flakes and large amount of ginger. In truth, I didn’t quite use the recommended chili dosage, choosing instead a heat zone with moderate and pleasant afterburn. The key is to taste the mixture at various points as you prepare it. Jon points out that tasting is also important to achieve your ideal level of Chinese Five Spice. Different batches of Five Spice and red chili flakes vary in strength, so feel free to fine-tune this recipe to your own tastes and ingredients.