Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Candied Violets

Candied Violet

Recipe Tips by Robin

Unusual days call for unusual recipes. Today is leap year day, and we won’t see another until 2016. A recipe whose main ingredients are sugar and flowers is unprecedented for Seasonal Eating, yet violets are in season and unusually prolific this year. Considering the sugar content and the amount of finesse needed to make these Victorian goodies, this is indeed a special occasion recipe.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Classic Tomato Sauce: Pasta for Winter

Rigatoni with Classic Tomato Sauce
Classic Sauce Changed up with Rigatoni

Recipe from Bruce's family

This dish has been part of American cuisine for generations. It was born into American culture in an era when stores stocked few non-local ingredients, especially in winter. Onion, green bell pepper, tomato paste and tomato sauce have been available year-round in most of the US since the 1950s. Bruce’s family cooked this particular recipe, and my mom made a similar one.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Homemade Spicy Italian Turkey Sausage

Bruce Grinding Pepper with Mortar and Pestle
Grinding Up Spicy Red Pepper

Recipe by Bruce

Two things that I appreciate about my husband Bruce are his ability to cook and his willingness to do so. One of the first meals he made for me, 15 or so years ago, was spaghetti more or less like his Dad used to make it (recipe tomorrow)--plus the addition of his homemade turkey sausage. Back in those days, not many men made sausage unless they were professional chefs. Even my cynical roommate seemed impressed, and she didn’t even get to taste the results.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup in Classic Crock
Classic French Onion Soup

Recipe by Robin

“Onions are the Queen of Vegetables!” So spoke my college roommate Dave many a year ago. “Think about it,” he continued, “You need them for just about any kind of cooking.” We kept more onions than any other vegetable on hand in those days, not so much for their versatility, but because they were cheap and could be stored at room temperature for a long time without spoiling. I cooked so much cheap, filling, and delicious Pasta a l’Olio in those days that we abbreviated its name to a l’Olio to save time. When I felt financially flush, I’d lay out some cash for the more costly Gruyere cheese and make some French onion soup. This is an approximation of the recipe I made then, with the addition of white wine, which was impossible to keep on hand in a household of thirsty students.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Winter Week 9 Veggie List & Menu

Basket of Red and Yellow Onions
Onions We Had Before Receiving More This Week
It’s an unseasonably balmy day in the neighborhood, but that’s not unusual in many places in the US in February. Warm days and cold nights are causing the sap to rise in New England maples, ripe for harvest and maple syrup making. I’m thinking about my garden, wondering whether it’s too early to plant tomato seeds and how cold the rest of winter will be. The uncertain and curiously springlike daytime hours inspire me to shake up my menus-of-sameness.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Broccoli Oshitashi: Broccoli Salad with Sesame

Plate of Broccoli Oshitashi
Broccoli Oshitashi

Recipe by Bruce and Robin

Oshitashi! The idea came to me after scouring cookbooks for new and different broccoli recipes. The fussy broccoli-lemon-tomato casserole with great taste but odd texture, the compelling broccoli with spaghetti in yogurt and parmesan sauce that my husband vetoed, the too-dairy-rich cream of broccoli soup; these were contenders. But a simple and fresh Japanese-inspired salad won the contest.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Winter Week 8 Veggie List & Menu

Basket of Orange, Purple, and Yellow Carrots
A Rainbow of Carrots this Week
Our weekly winter menu is beginning to seem like “more of same,” as we’re getting similar veggies every week from our CSA. Seasonal eating in winter is no piece of cake. The number of onions we’ve accumulated over the past few weeks is rather frightening. Anyone have some great onion recipes? I’m thinking of trying French Onion Soup again, a dish I used to whip up when I was a hungry college student many moons ago. Hopefully memory will serve. Anyone have ideas for small red onions? Lots of them?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Garlic Ginger Kale

Plate of Garlic Ginger Kale
Get Your Antioxidants and Immunity Here

Recipe inspired by James, Live Earth Farm & Weight Watchers

Has there ever been a more perfect pairing of ingredients than garlic and ginger? Equally strong, pungent, and aromatic, they’re a classic combination in Chinese restaurant dishes throughout America. Both garlic and ginger are considered “warming” in traditional Chinese medicine. Both are used to treat stomach and digestive problems as well as dysfunctions of the lung system, which includes the nasal passages and the immune system. Combining them in a recipe sounds like the beginning of a winter tonic.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Winter Week 7 Veggie List & Menu

Basket of Red Russian and Lacinato Kales
Tale of Two Kales
My apologies for the late posting of our weekly menu. I’ve been rather under the weather, and we’ve been faking it rather than planning it. Bruce has been an enormous help with the cooking. Though it’s a great help to have a meal plan, it’s even better to give it some room for flexibility, since “life happens.” For example, if I’m not up to making the kale dish plus the carrots and parsnips tonight, we’ll save the root veggies for next week and cook up the more perishable kale. Lots of steamed veggies during trying times simplifies food preparation too.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Persimmon Crunch Bars

Three Persimmon Bars on Plate
 Delicious Granola-like Persimmon Bars

Recipe by Robin

“Use persimmons in anything that you’d use pumpkin in,” I read on the internet recently. This sounded seductive until I thought of the persimmon pie “fails” I have had. Persimmons are considerably waterier and sweeter than pumpkin, a completely different texture. Still, I think this advice is worth considering, as long as you plan for the differences.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Garden Planning

Garden Cookbook, Tea, and Homemade Muffin
Accompaniments to
Garden Planning
As snowdrops push their way to the earth's surface and open into sweet white bloom, so vague dreams of this year’s garden develop into the excitement of planning beds and choosing seeds. I must credit Renee Shepherd from Renee’s Garden for getting me started early this year by sending me some seed samples last month. I met Renee quite a few years back as my teaching assistant in an Environmental Studies class at University of California. According to my sources (a former employee), she is still as sweet and as dedicated a worker as I remember her, donating seeds for charitable projects around the world. Throughout the years I’ve grown plenty of her heirloom flowers from seed, and am excited to be branching out into herbs and veggies.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chili Spiced Romanesco Cauliflower with Tomatoes

Plate of Chili Spiced Romanesco with Tomatoes
Chili Tomato Cauliflower

Recipe by Robin

Romanesco cauliflower, what’s not to like? It’s bright chartreuse color, treelike shape, and dark green (edible!) leaves are a feast for the winter-weary eye. And it’s the only fractal vegetable that I know of. Go ahead and get out the magnifying glass. You’ll see the pattern, technically a recursive helical arrangement of cones, repeat down to the smallest segment. Since a vegetable has a finite number of cells, this is an imperfect fractal, but more precious than a perfect computer generated fractal because it has power to nourish our bodies as well as our minds.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Winter Week 6 Veggie List & Menu

Hand Looks Small Next to Giant Green Cauliflower
One Huge Romanesco Beauty
 We’ve just passed the middle of winter, and luckily the bitter cold nights are behind us. Bitter cold in central California is about the same as moderate temperatures in most parts of the country. But our plants, even the natives, aren’t adapted to the weeks of mid-20 degree nights we've had this season.  Violets seem to be the exception, peeping out perkily every morning from beneath the frost, and producing a host of flowers during the past week. I just learned that violets are edible and am curious about their flavor and uses. I found a peculiar cake recipe…to be continued.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ginger Tea

Two Cups of Tea with Shepshed Honey Bottle
With Honey from Bruce's Cousin's Apiary

Recipe by Robin

Happy Groundhog’s Day! It’s the middle of winter, yet a time to look for renewed growth and signs of spring. In Pagan tradition, today is Imbolc, the first of the year’s fire festivals, which celebrate the growing of the sun’s light. In Catholic tradition, this is Candlemas, celebrated with lighted candle processions and blessing of candles, commemorating Jesus’ first public appearance at temple. My own ritual is lighting a candle or two to celebrate the returning of sun and renewal of growth.