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.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Spring Broccoli Salad with Radishes and Lime

Colander of broccolini, peas, asparagus, and peas
Drain Veggies before Dressing

Recipe adapted from LoveRadish.co.uk


My husband and I will be traveling in England soon, so we hosted a Brit Night to hear stories and look at books and photos provided by our Anglophile friends. Of course, the menu needed to match the theme. My first attempt at Beef Wellington was a given, but being Californian at heart, I wanted to add a salad. “Traditional British salad” sounded like an oxymoron until I discovered LoveRadish.co.uk. This UK-based radish appreciation website contains scores of recipes for unusual salads as well as sandwiches, slaws, and snacks. Radishes are England’s first spring crop, and the harvest continues into mid-autumn. This salad pairs radishes with the early season harvests of purple sprouting broccoli, asparagus, and spring peas. Though we’re just past spring, I pushed the season by substituting frozen peas, with tasty results.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zucchini Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

Frosted Zucchini Cake Floating on White Plate
Squash Never Looked So Good

Recipe by Leslie and Robin


Anyone who has grown zucchini knows the agony and the ecstasy of a bountiful harvest. Even when planted near other squash or in a square foot garden, zucchini tends to entangle the entire area. It crowds out all other plants. Tiny zucchini hide beneath large leaves and become huge monsters in no time. That’s why this recipe was written. My beloved ex-roommate Leslie perfected it throughout two growing seasons—a number of decades ago—when our garden zukes were going crazy. I’ve enhanced the honey flavor by adding a bit of salt and sugar. The cake is extremely moist, without using a lot of oil. Maxing out the zucchini content does the moisture magic.