Sunday, September 20, 2009

Leek, Potato, and Bean Soup

We got a single, large leek in the box this week. Whenever I see 2-3 leeks my mind immediately goes to my vegetable broth where leeks are an important ingredient. But this was just one leek and it was going to be a busy week. We also received 1.5 pounds of Yukon potatoes and then I thought that potato-leek was a very common soup combo. So I went to work. I adapted an Alice Waters recipe in The Art of Simple Food using the ingredients I had on hand and this is was what opened tonight's meal:

  • 1 large leek
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 2 sprigs of sage (original recipe called for thyme. I happened to have some extra sage on hand so I used that instead. Be creative.)
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • Salt
  • 1 pound of Yukon yellow potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • Cannelli beans (I used some home-prepred beans but 1 can of commercial beans will do. More on the homemade beans later.)
  • 5 cups water or broth (Tonight I used TJ's vegetable broth from the pantry)
  • dried parsley as garnish
  • black pepper to taste
  • Trim off the root and green end of the leek
  • Slice thinly and soak in water to clean
  • Drain and dry sliced leeks
  • In a medium pot melt butter and add leeks with bay leaf, herbs, and salt
  • Cook for about 10 minutes until leeks are soft
  • As leeks cook, peel and quarter the potatoes
  • Add potatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes until coated
  • Add broth (or water)
  • Bring to a boil and then turn to simmer for about an hour until the potatoes are soft enough to mash on the edge of the pot with a wooden spoon
  • Allow to cool, remove bay leaf, herb sprigs, and puree the soup with a hand blender
  • Add cannelli beans and stir in freshly ground black pepper
  • Let simmer for 10-15 minutes
  • Add a pat of butter and garnish with dried parsley
Serve with good crusty bread and wine.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Buy Fresh Buy Local

I just picked up the latest Buy Fresh Buy Local guide at Whole Foods this afternoon. It's an excellent guide covering the entire bay area county by county. In it you will find:
  • a complete listing of all of the farmer's markets listed by day of the week
  • a Bay Area seasonality guide to let you know what's growing when
  • a listing of the CSAs that distribute to the Bay Area
  • food-friendly restaurants, stores, growers, and more
The guide is available for download at the web site.

The main website is:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kitchen Rules to Live By

BonAppetit magazine recently did an article on Italian peasant food. In it they included a sidebar with the "Seven Rules of an Italian Kitchen." While the rules were specific to Italy and Italians, I thought that at the core there were some valuable concepts that I know I try to follow. Below is my version of those rules:
  • Eat with the seasons: Pay attention to what is coming into to your farmer's market or supermarket. Choose food that is local and seasonal. A CSA delivery box does this for you.
  • Love leftovers: Never throw away food. Use leftovers in dishes like scrambled eggs, quiche, pasta, or a stir fry.
  • Keep it simple: Olive oil and garlic go a long way when sauteeing vegetables. Let the ingredients speak for themselves.
  • Taste and savor food: Take time to taste and comment on food. What works? What doesn't? What ingredients could offer an interesting variation? Turn off the TV and focus on food while you eat.
  • Cook creatively: Look at the ingredients you have on hand and figure out ways to use them. This was something I took away from the Frugal Gourmet cookbooks that I used many years ago while I was learning to cook.
  • Grow something: Find a patch of land where you can grow something. Start a container garden on the side of the house. At the very least you can have some clay pots on a window sill for growing herbs. Look in your neighborhood for a place to have a community garden. Share the produce you grow with your neighbors.
  • Share with friends and family: Eat together and invite friends over to share what you cook. I finished the cherry tomato bruschetta at about 5 pm on a Sunday. We called up some nearby friends and asked them to come over and enjoy some red wine and appetizers. We enjoyed the bruschetta, wine, and conversation for a couple of hours out on the back deck.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

This was tonight's appetizer:

In a bowl, combine:
  • 1 pint of Capay Valley's mixed medley cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Stir mixture until well mixed. Let it sit in the fridge for awhile to allow the flavors to marry. Serve with good sourdough bread and red wine. Feel free to add other ingredients you might already have in the fridge: chopped onions, capers, olives.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

In the Garden: September 2009

Tomatoes are now officially in full production! We harvested more tomatoes after this photo was shot. So there's probably about 30 altogether with more to be picked in the coming days and weeks.

Jalapeno Peppers
The jalapeno peppers are also producing nicely. They are fairly mild so they can be added to a variety of dishes without overwhelming them. One large one went into this morning's eggs (along with onions and mushrooms from the box).

The peach tree is at the end of production. There are just a few more left on the tree after I picked these.

I finally just pulled up the celery. It was not producing anything edible. Celery is a cool season plant and planting it in spring/summer was a mistake.

I spent some time in the garden yesterday picking off the flower heads on the basil plants. After attending a workshop at a local nursery, I learned that the growing season for the east bay goes through October. There is still 8 weeks of production left on the basil. So I decided to get aggressive and remove all of the flowers and "going to seed" stalks. I harvested more basil and made yet another round of pesto. I may well reach my goal of having enough pesto in the freezer to not need any store pesto for an entire year.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beet and Fennel Salad

Some of the FFTY box contents for this week have already been used. Most of the heirloom tomatoes along with some parsley were used in tonight's pasta puttanesca dinner. I dried the rest of the parsley using the oven method covered earlier.

Also in this week's box was a bunch of beets. Soon after we started the FFTY box, I learned that I actually like fresh-cooked beets. The first time we got beets in the box (2007), I made a recipe that was, for the most part, on the FFTY sheet that comes with each box. Today, I cooked the beets and made the recipe again. There's room for variation but here's the basic recipe:


  • 1 bunch beets
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp sherry vinegar (use what you have on hand)
  • 1 fennel head
  • Early in the day, preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Trim and rinse the beets - keep the beet greens for other uses
  • Place the cleaned beets in a covered pyrex dish with some water (just enough to cover the bottom) and bake for 60 minutes
  • When cooled, peel beets and slice into wedges and place into a large bowl
  • Rinse capers and let dry on a paper towel
  • Heat 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil in a small skillet. Add capers and shake skillet constantly until capers begin to brown -- about 1 minute.
  • Add 3 Tbsp. olive oil to beets in bowl
  • Stir in vinegar and salt to taste
  • Cut the fennel bulb into thin cresents and add to beets
  • Add capers and stir mixture to coat

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Time For Lunch

A recent SF Chronicle article said:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that of the children born in the year 2000, 1 out of 3 Caucasians and 2 out of 3 African Americans and Hispanics will contract diabetes in their lifetimes. As a result, that generation will be the first in our country's history to die at a younger age than their parents.

Consider getting involved in the Time for Lunch program. It is an offshoot of the Slow Food Movement and their goal is to influence legislation that governs our students lunch program to include more locally grown fruits and vegetables.