It’s almost CSA season

As the weather is growing warmer and I’m beginning to ponder what to do with my own garden this year, it occurred to me that it’s time to sign up for our CSA share for this season.  In case you don’t know what a CSA share is, it’s a farm share that provides us with local organic produce for 26 weeks a year.  We pay a fee up front and then receive a box of vegetables at a local church only three blocks away.  Every Wednesday, we pick it up, and each time it’s like Christmas! It’s such a joy to open the box to find a variety of vegetables, some of which are familiar, and others that are not at all.

Through our participation in a CSA last year through Grant Family Farms, my husband and I discovered so many new vegetables: garlic scapes, kohlrabi and multiple types of squash.  We also discovered how much we like kale and beets (okay, maybe I discovered this more than my husband, but he still ate them anyway).  I loved being forced to try new foods and experiment with vegetables I’d only ever seen in the supermarket, but have never had the impulse to try.

I believe we have an obligation to support local farmers, when possible.  In addition to all the fun we had discovering new dishes, it feels good to know that I’m supporting something I believe in.  So, I encourage you to think about getting a CSA this year.  If you don’t know how to find one, check out Local Harvest — this is a great website that will help you find a CSA in the area.

I cannot say how happy I am to have been part of a CSA last year and I’m looking forward to the wonderful lettuce and greens that will begin to arrive for us in June.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cookbooks, visions, and chicken in a pot

The final result looked just like the book cover!

Every year for Christmas, my husband buys me a cookbook.  For our first Christmas together, he bought me an Ecuadorian cookbook so I could learn to make the foods of Quito, where we were living.  Oh how I struggled to understand some of the recipes, which were all in Spanish!  What a wonderful way to improve my Spanish vocabulary as we tried new foods.

Each year he devotes an incredible amount of time researching the cookbook he’ll give me.  And every time, he makes a wonderful choice.  I now have books on traditional Spanish cooking, international soups, and classic baking. My favorite Christmas activity is to curl up on the couch and read the book cover to cover.

This year was no exception.  I received Dorie Greenspan’s Book around my french table, which highlights all my favorite flavors: thyme, garlic, mushrooms, cheese, and white wine.  Best of all, everything I’ve made so far has been very easy to prepare.

Almost every time I try a new recipe, I have a vision of what I think it will look and taste like.  Unfortunately, the end result is often drastically different than what I had imagined.  We’ve all been there…you end up with a dish that is edible, and may even taste good, but the appearance leaves something to be desired.  This is why the recipe that I’m going to share is so special:  The final result looked just like the cover of the book!

This dish is extremely easy to prepare and tastes absolutely delicious.  We cooked up some quinoa to add to the mix and we had a full meal.

Chicken in a pot: the garlic and lemon version

Recipe from Dorie Greenspan, with my substitutions

zest of 1 lemon

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes

2 medium onions, cut into 1/2 inch strips

6 carrots, trimmed, peeled, and quartered

4 celery stalks, trimmed, peeled, and quartered

2 heads of garlic, separated, but not peeled

3 thyme sprigs

2 rosemary sprigs

1 chicken, about 4 pounds

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine (key ingredient!)

About 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

About 3/4 cup hot water

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Veggies-pre sauté

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the vegetables and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until veggies are brown on all sides. (If necessary, do this in 2 batches).  Spoon the vegetables into a 4 1/2 to 5 quart Dutch oven or other pot with a lid and in the herbs and lemon zest.

The veggies are sautéed and ready for the chicken

Return the skillet to the heat, add another tablespoon of oil, and brown the chicken on all sides, seasoning it with salt and pepper as it cooks.  Tuck the chicken into the casserole, surrounding it with vegetables.  Mix together the broth, wine, and the remaining olive oil and pour over the chicken and vegetables.

Put 1 1/2 cups flour in a medium bowl and add enough hot water to make a malleable dough.  Dust a work surface with a little flour, turn out the dough, and, working with your hands, roll the dough into a sausage.  Place the dough on the rim of the pot–if it breaks, just piece it together–and press the lid onto the dough to seal the pot.

Chicken and veggies ready for the oven

Slide the pot into the oven and bake for 55 minutes.  (This took much longer in our oven which tends to cook very slowly.  I’d give it an extra 10-15 minutes)

After you take it out of the oven, let it sit for a few minutes.  Then, carefully, take the lid off the pot.  Dorie recommends using a screwdriver, but I found this unnecessary.

Carve the chicken to your liking and serve with the vegetables and broth over quinoa.  I think couscous or rice would taste great too.

This recipe was so easy to prepare and was so simply elegant in its presentation.  This may just be my new favorite recipe for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Italy: Eating my way through Rome and Milan


I’ve just returned from eight days in Italy, where I was lucky enough to visit Rome and Milan for work.  Hoorah!

This was my first visit to Italy in over 12 years.  The last times I visited were when I was a Rotary exchange student in the Netherlands for a year and I had the opportunity to visit Italy twice.  The first time I visited my friend Rose, who was also a Rotary exchange student.  For the duration of a week, Rose and I devoured pasta, gelato, mozzarella, and most importantly, white wine.   As a result, my Italian vocabularty was focused on phrases such as un gelato per favore (an ice cream please) and due bicchiere di vino bianco per favore (two glasses of white wine please).  I may not have been able to find the bathroom, but I could always order something to eat!

In my second visit to Italy that year, I went as part of a Rotary European bus tour for all the Dutch exchange students.  It was a whirlwind tour, but I remember falling in love with land, the air, and the food of Italy.  I have vague memories of sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome and getting pooped on by a pigeon in Sienna (apparently, it brings good luck!).  But so much of those trips is now a blur and I was excited to see Italy through my new eyes at age 32.

Of course, Italy was everything I hoped it would be and more.  The city of Rome is magical and many parts of it feel like a movie set.  It is classic, chic, gritty, and elegant all at the same time.  Oh to spend a few months in Rome!

And then there is the food.  I had been so looking forward to visiting Rome just to taste great food in its origin.  I was curious about the “real” Italian food beyond bad marinara sauce and fettucini alfredo.  To be honest, I don’t really like Italian food in the United States.  But I also know that I love Italian ingredients.  Certainly, the real deal is much better, right?

Espresso for two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rome did not disappoint.  I am enamored with the espresso bars and the ritual of drinking caffè.  I was surprised (why, I do not know) by the sheer number of pasta dishes on every single menu.  I was thrilled that it is artichoke (carciofi) season and that there seem to be more types of pork product in Italy than in Spain. Did I just say that?

One of my favorite experiences in Rome was having an aperitivo at Panella.  The aperitivo is a brilliant concept: You order a drink at a slightly expensive rate and then you have access to as much hot buffet finger foods as you’d like.  And we’re talking amazing finger foods: slices of pizza, polenta, little bowls of ratatouille, soups, cheeses, pasta, charcuterie, and quiches.  Incredible.  In fact, so incredible that we ate there twice.


Another memorable meal was a Vecchia Roma.  I’m not a pasta person, but when my host Luca told me I had to eat their pasta, I couldn’t say no.  In order to prepare it, they do a flambe in a large Parmesan round.  Then they add the pasta and sauce and mix it all together to create an amazing tomato cheesy sauce that is incredible.   That dish sold me on pasta.

Adding the fire to the Parmesan

Spaghetti, sauce, and cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milan is a three-hour train ride north of Rome and, in many ways, in another world.  I didn’t have as much of a chance to sample as much food as I wanted, but I did eat my best meal in Italy there.   My host Luca took me to a small family-run restaurant with two brothers serving in the front and the mom in the kitchen making great food.  They welcomed us like family and we ate an incredible meal consisting of spinach gnocchi, thick cuts of cured bacon, and steak with spinach.  It was so good that I had to give my compliments to the chef personally.

Spinach gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce

The chef!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Italy, the delight in food is in the details.  Everything is beautifully packaged and presented and the real art is simplicity.  I discovered that dishes cooked with prosciutto and sage are called a la romana.   I discovered olive oils steeped in hot peppers, which adds just the right amount of zip to a dish.   I fell in love with the gelato all over again and remembered how much I love pear juice.   I would love to eat each and every meal all over again and so I leave you with a few pictures.

Just a few of the reasons Italy is so amazing

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog!  I have been wanting to start a food blog for awhile now.  Maybe it’s because I am always talking about food or sharing recipes with coworkers.  Maybe it’s because I also enjoy reading other food blogs and getting new ideas and inspiration.   I have also noticed that a large percentage of my Facebook photos are of food; I realize that I am obsessed!  My goal here is share some of my passion for food with you.

And then there is travel.  For me, travel and food are inextricably linked.  Certain flavors and aromas can conjure up images from moments I’ve spent across the world.  I’ve invested so many hours in foreign kitchens trying to replicate my flatmate Eva’s incredible caldo (broth), or trying to learn the secrets of my Dutch host mother’s brussel sprouts recipe.  Every dish has its own story, it’s own time and place in my life.

Roasted cherry tomatoes with garlic and pimenton

Also, living abroad and traveling have taught me to cook.  One of my first memories of trying to cook something without a recipe was when I was living in Argentina. I was trying desperately to recreate my then-favorite meal: black bean soup.  You see, Argentine food derives its inspiration from Italy so  pizza, pasta, and incredible ice cream were everywhere. However, black beans were incredibly hard to find and in the days before google, recipes were just as difficult to discover.  I fumbled my way through sips and tastes to create the soup recipe from home.  To my surprise, it wasn’t bad at all!

Now I find myself trying to recreate recipes for my Argentine favorites: tarta de pascualina, noquis, or empanadas. Because I first lived on my own in Spain, so many of my oldest and favorite recipes have strong Catalan influences and use incredible amounts of tomatoes and olive oil.  I love that, through cooking and eating, I am able to travel the world.

When I am on the road, I enjoy eating everything I can get my hands on.  I love the breakfasts, the snacks, the long lunches with endless courses and wine.  I love the bakeries, the fromageries, the markets, the kebab stands, the hole-in-the-walls and the greasy spoons….I love it all.  My goal is to share some of the food I try along the way.

Incredible meal featuring pimientos de padron at Zero Zero in San Francisco

Lastly, my husband and I also signed up for a farm share last year through Grant Family Farms.  With our farm share we received a large box of organic and in-season vegetables from a local farm.  I loved the journey that our farm share helped my husband and I travel.  I discovered so many new vegetables (kohlrabi anyone?) and was challenged to try to use everything up every week.  And what a challenge it was.  I learned that, while you can prepare kale a dozen different ways, kohlrabi can be a bit more difficult.  Still, I have loved the surprise of what each box contains each week and the challenge of trying new recipes.

So there you have it! Welcome and I hope you will join me on my journey.  I will be sharing recipes, ideas, and fun dishes from near and far.  I hope you will enjoy it!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized