Community Garden photo updates

by Heguiberto on September 15, 2013

Summer is almost over folks. We harvested lots of things from our garden this year. It is almost time to plant Fall/Winter crop! We will miss our tomatoes, squashes, herbs and other stuff we got used to having during the Summer. Missing it already…

Here are some pics from the Season:

Vegetables:

Veggies With Potrero Hill Terroir - Community Garden

Baby Brazilian Squash Mugango and Sprout:

Mugango - Brazilian Squash

Garden Spring 2013:

Vegetable Garden Spring 2013

Picking Veggies:

Picking veggies

Heirloom Rhubard:

Rhubarb - Summer 2013

Artichoke Flowering:

Artichoke flowering

Sutro Tower and Twin Peaks in the Background – Potrero Hill Comunityty Garden:

Sutro tower and twin peaks in the backgrond

Basil and California Poppy Flower together:

Basil and Poppy - Summer 2013

Dhalias:

Dhalias

Garlic in Bloom:

Garlic in Bloom

Gorgeous Dwarf Sunflower:

Gorgeous Sunflower

Nasturtium – Capuchina Flower:

Nasturtiun - Capuchina flower

Adult Brazilian Squash Mugango:

Adult Brazilian Squash - Mugango

Gigante Beans, by the end of the season we will have enough for a meal!

Gigante Beans

Zucchini and Blossoms: Zuchinni and Blossoms

Community Garden Plaque:

Community Garden

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Our friend John prepared this dish for us long ago. Completely delighted, I meant to ask for the recipe but kept forgetting. The southeast Asian mix of fresh garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili pepper is divine.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

Recently I was craving it so I decided to take the risk of making/mixing my own sauce. I may have made it a bit Japanese with the addition of mirin and rice vinegar for an extra bit of sweetness and tartness. You know rice just goes so well with these two flavors, right?

Another thing I find makes me eat with gusto is atypical use of cucumber, here served in a warm dish. I grew up eating cucumbers only in salads so enjoying them any other way is incredible. The cukes were warm but still crunchy. I think Persian or Japanese cucumbers work best for this dish.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

1½ cups rice (Thai Jasmine, Basmati or Spanish)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb wild caught shelled and deveined medium sized shrimp
6 Persian cucumbers
sea salt
1 clove of garlic
Chili pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

sauce:

juice of 5 large limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 green or red chili pepper seeds partially removed
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin
2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves

Heat olive oil in a large pan, add rice and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat rice with oil. Add 2 and ½ cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce temperature to low, cover pan and cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft and water absorbed. Removed from heat and keep it covered for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut a ¼ inch top of the cucumber and rub cut sides together for good luck and good flavor. This will create a bit of a gooey slime that you should rinse away in cold water. Cut cucumber into ½ inch disks and soak in cold water. Repeat process for remainder.

Turn oven on to broil. Rinse and pat dry shrimp. Toss with juice of ½ lime, salt, chili flakes and one garlic clove that has been crushed. Spread shrimp loosely on a large baking sheet then broil for about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let rest. For a delicious charred flavor and lovely grill marks use your outdoor grill.

To make the sauce, put garlic, sugar and pepper in a mortar and grind ingredients to a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Add lemon juice, mirin, fish sauce, soy sauce and cilantro. Toss to combine. This sauce should be salty, sweet, sour, and pungent with a spicy kick. Taste and adjust flavor with more of any of the ingredients. If you find my mix to strong you can dilute it with a bit of cold water. You should have around ¾ to 1 cup of sauce.

Drain cucumber slices and pat dry on a dish towel.

Mix rice, cucumber, shrimp and shrimp juices carefully not to break the rice too much. Drizzle most of the sauce over and carefully give it another toss. Taste and add more sauce if needed.

This is a delightful, simple, and chock full of flavor meal.

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I really enjoy using ingredients that have sour flavors: lemons and limes, tamarind, tomatoes, berries and, as always, wine vinegar make me happy. I never tried sorrel until a couple of years ago when my friend John prepared a French fish dish with this delightfully sour veggie. I think he just steamed the fish and served it on a bed of sautéed sorrel. Yumm, just the thought of sorrel makes my mouth water.

warm carrot salad with sorrel

warm carrot salad with sorrel

I harvested this sorrel from a garden in my neighborhood, so it is extremely fresh and I know all about where it was grown. It is always exciting to eat things that have not had to travel too much to your table. The carrots are organically grown from Capay Farm. They produce the most delicious Nantes carrots. Any time I go to the Alemany market I make sure I get plenty of them. Normally I eat them raw as a snack, but this last time I exaggerated on the amount we purchased. They were on sale: buy two bunches, get the third one free. Who can resist a good deal like that?

One disadvantage with sorrel is that it discolors very fast when you cook it, so don’t be discouraged by a grayish green look here. The wonderful sour flavor surely makes up for the loss of the vibrant green.

warm carrot salad with sorrel

1 bunch Nantes carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Black pepper
Sea salt
2 cups sorrel leaves, julienned

Add carrots, 2 tbsp of olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt to a pan over high heat. Cook until it sizzles and garlic becomes aromatic but not brown. Add few drops of water and cook for few minutes until carrots are tender but still a bit crunchy. Remove from pan and transfer to a serving bowl. Let cool down for a couple of minutes. Add julienned sorrel, the remainder of the olive oil adjust flavors with more salt and black pepper.

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vegetable paella

by Heguiberto on July 10, 2013

Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty attacks again! His vegetable paella is divine. It is full of color and flavors. If pilaf and paella have the same linguistic root, then I think this vegetable paella must be either an early progenitor of both or perhaps the modern trans-national child of the pair, as it not only uses saffron threads, but also turmeric and chili powders common to Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines: incredible! And then there’s the sherry… Wow.

vegetable paella

vegetable paella

Yotam recommends using Calasparra rice but to be honest I have never heard of it before, so couldn’t even begin to think of where to find it. At any given time my rice pantry will always have few different varieties, so I made do with what I had. My choice was Thai jasmine rice. I selected this kind because I’ve made successful paella before with it. He also recommends using freshly shelled fava beans which would have been great but I was not able to find them in the market. Instead I substituted them for a fresh frozen shelled bag of edamame.

This dish is vegetarian and vegan. So flavorful, your meat eating loved ones will enjoy it too.

vegetable paella

6 tbsp olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion sliced thinly
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 yellow pepper cut into strips
½ fennel bulb cut into thin strips
4 garlic cloves crushed
2 fresh bay leaves
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chili powder (cayenne)
¾ cup sherry
1 container of saffron threads (0.020oz)
2 cups Thai Jasmine rice
3 ½ cups vegetable stock – hot
thin half-moon-shaped lemon slices
4 tbsp julienned sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
8 halves of grilled artichokes, preserved in oil, drained
¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 pint of mixed small heirloom tomatoes, halved
~ 2tbsp chopped parsley
Kosher salt

You need a paella pan or a similar large shallow pan for the dish. On high heat, add olive oil followed by the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add sweet peppers and fennel and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Peppers and fennel will soften a bit but still hold their crunch.

Mix in turmeric, bay leaves, paprika. Add rice and mix it again so rice gets some coloring. Stir in saffron and sherry, continue to cook long enough for the sherry juices to be absorbed/evaporated. Add vegetable stock, and kosher salt to taste, lower the temperature and cook for about 18 minutes. Liquid will be almost fully absorbed by the rice. To prevent the rice from breaking refrain from stirring while cooking. Turn off the heat.

Tuck in olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lemon slices, then sprinkle with parsley. Let rest, covered, for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, drizzle with some extra virgin oil and serve.

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This recipe was adapted from Plenty by Yottam Otholenghi. I remain a huge fan his book. We’ve prepared many of his recipes, often more than once: a total success at home, as you can see here: Ottolenghi’s roasted eggplant, sambal okra, and chickpeas with chard. Mmmm!

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

This is another yummy recipe. It is decadent as it is loaded with dairy, but I think it’s a-okay to indulge every now and then. The watery crunchiness of the endive combined with the creamy texture of this sauce is divine!

Funny thing is that I made this salad right after we came back from France. Could we be suffering from dairy deprivation so soon?

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

3 heads white endive, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
1 head red endive, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
a small portion of micro greens, rinsed and dried
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup walnuts, slightly toasted, with sprinkle of salt, cooled to room temperature
Kosher salt to taste
whole leaves of Iceberg lettuce
1 cup crème fraîche
2 tbsp water
~4 tbsp crumbled Point Reyes Monterrey blue cheese

In a bowl whisk together crème fraîche, water, blue cheese, some salt and pepper. Taste it and adjust flavor adding more of any of the ingredients. It should have a somewhat runny texture; taste savory, with that punchy flavor that you expect from a good blue cheese. Toss the sauce with the endive. To serve, pile seasoned endive over iceberg lettuce leaf cups on individual dishes, top with micro greens and toasted walnuts.

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Ah, Burgundy! The name alone sounds so romantic. Even the French, Bourgogne, though almost impossible to say properly, is magical.

stunning rooftop at Hôtel-Dieu des Hospices Civils de Beaune

stunning rooftop at Hôtel-Dieu des Hospices Civils de Beaune

view of part of the famous Burgundian Côte-d’Or

view of part of the famous Burgundian Côte-d’Or

Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette as seen from across the vineyard

Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette as seen from across the vineyard

Last month, Hegui and I met some friends at a stunning resort in a refurbished château nestled in the village of Meursault, part of the famous Burgundian Côte-d’Or, or “gold coast.” Kay and Pascal live in a small city adjacent to Geneva, Switzerland, so visit this famous wine region often. It’s only a few hours car ride on the French autoroute for them. Since we’d never been, we let Kay plan the weekend of relaxation.

To start, everything is really pretty. All those lovely towers, castles, vineyards, colorful rooftops and gorgeous churches made Hegui a maniac with the camera. Our resort, Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette, was absurdly beautiful, situated as it was on a vineyard surrounded by gentle hills, a quaint view of the village, etc. Even the pillows were wonderful! Look for yourselves.

beautiful courtyard at Hôtel-Dieu des Hospices Civils de Beaune

beautiful courtyard at Hôtel-Dieu des Hospices Civils de Beaune

Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette

Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette

cute car parked in Beaune

cute car parked in Beaune

La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot

La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot

pillows from Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette

pillows from Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette

Meursault from the back of our resort

Meursault from the back of our resort

Despite the frequent, unseasonable rain, we did lots of nice things. Hegui and I were enchanted by the Hôtel-Dieu des Hospices Civils de Beaune, where they have that famous wine auction every year. We bought tasty souvenirs at La Moutarderie Edmond Fallot. Naturally we ate a lot of French pastries, cheeses, butter, breads, and so on. One evening we drove to Dijon for dinner. I was really struck by how tiny this most famous of wine producing regions seemed. We went slowly, in the rain, through all the various world-renowned villages, like Nuits St. Georges, Vosne-Romanée and Gevrey-Chambertin, yet made it to Dijon in less than 45 minutes. Small!

enjoying my apple tart, baguette and cafe au lait at a small patisserie in Beaune

enjoying my apple tart, baguette and cafe au lait at a small patisserie in Beaune

Hegui slicing a country loaf with what looks like a machete

Hegui slicing a country loaf with what looks like a machete

the front yard at our resort, Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette

the front yard at our resort, Château de Cîteaux La Cueillette

more cool cars in Beaune

more cool cars in Beaune

Of course, we tasted some Burgundian wine, too. Kay arranged for us to visit the lovely Château de Meursault and Château de Cîteaux Philippe Bouzereau, the later, right across from the resort. Wine tasting in Burgundy was fun and seemed very glamorous. I was a bit underwhelmed by the wines themselves, sadly. Sure, we tasted reds and whites from the celebrated 2009 and 2010 vintages, plus a few older ones here and there. Don’t get me wrong. These were okay. The whites, with a single exception, tasted a lot like “new” low oak California chardonnays. The reds, generally, seemed too acidic and prickly to really enjoy. Perhaps they need more time? Maybe I’m a Burgundy rube? My real worry is that my Burgundian wine “a-ha” moment might be a lingering sense of mild disappointment. Alas.

an enjoyable, if forgetatable white from Château de Cîteaux Philippe Bouzereau

an enjoyable, if forgetatable white from Château de Cîteaux Philippe Bouzereau

me with our friends wine tasting in Meursault

me with our friends wine tasting in Meursault

posing in front of the world famous Chambertin vineyard

posing in front of the world famous Chambertin vineyard

Hegui and I wine tasting in the caves at Château de Meursault

Hegui and I wine tasting in the caves at Château de Meursault

Burgundy was an amazing experience and going there has completely changed my perspective. Now it remains to be seen exactly how.

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Steven’s co-worker owns a rental property in the Central Valley. The small apartment building sits on a big chunk of land which her husband planted with fruit trees. A few months ago she gave us bags and bags of citrus. Now that we’re nearly in summer, we’ve entered the stone fruit season. Thus far, she’s given us some cherries, plums, apricots. I don’t even know if cherries qualify as stone fruit. Are they berries? Anyway over the past week we got two bags of sour plums from her garden. The first batch I devoured in no time after dinner. Yum! The second one Steven wanted me to bake into something. So, ta-da: sour plum upside-down cake.

sour plum upside-down cake

sour plum upside-down cake

Sour plums tend to be a little sweet in the middle but sour near the skin and close to the pit. I love taking a bite of a plum and tasting all these flavors. Well with this cake, despite the sugar caramel coating the bottom of the pan, the sour flavor came out in FULL! We loved it: perfect with some tea or a cuppa coffee. We ate this entire cake in a couple of days for breakfast.

sour plum upside-down cake

~2 lbs sour plums, skin on, pitted
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup soy or almond milk
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp butter
Cast iron pan (12 inches diameter, 2 inches deep)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Add one cup of sugar along with one tablespoon of water to cast iron pan over medium heat on your stovetop. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar melts and acquires a nice caramel color. If some sugar sticks to the wooden spoon scrape it off and let it melt until all lumps are gone. Spread the caramel all over the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat to cool down if caramel starts to burn. You just want a caramel color, not a smoking ruin. Cooking to long will make the flavor bitter. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, put remainder of the sugar, then eggs, salt and vanilla. Whisk it to combine. Add oil, soy milk, flour and whisk it again to combine. Lastly incorporate baking powder into the batter.

At this point, although still warm your caramel may be hardened and stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pan. Worry not! Spread the butter until all melted over caramel and sides of the pan. Add sour plum, along with juices if any and spread the fruit evenly over the bottom of the pan. Gently top with the batter. Bake about 35 minutes. Check for doneness via inserting a tooth pick in the center. If it comes out clean then baking is done, if not then you know what you have to do.

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Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables and whenever I see a new recipe for it I just want to try it right away. This recipe is featured in the March 2013 edition of Saveur Magazine. A few years ago Steven’s colleague at work lent him a wonderful cookbook, “Pei Mei’s Chinese Cookbook Volume 1.” That book had an excellent recipe for Sichuan Eggplant.

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

He made it once and we were hooked. I’d say we have this dish at least once a month. It is so flavorful with black bean sauce, ginger, sesame oil, scallions and other delicious ingredients—and eggplant, of course: sweet, savory, sour and lots of umami flavor.

I would say that this recipe is actually a variation on Steven’s version. Both are Sichuanese style using very similar ingredients. In Steven’s recipe he cooks the diced eggplant in a hot pan, just tossing it around until they are done, so the oil absorbed is very little. This recipe calls for deep frying the eggplant, which I did, despite the guilty feeling. To prevent the eggplant from absorbing too much oil they suggest soaking it in ice water first. I’m not sure if that helped much, but it hardly mattered, as the dish itself had such a lovely delicate flavor, you could hardly tell.

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

4 Japanese eggplants
2 cups chopped Chinese chives
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh ginger paste (I used fresh ginger that I ground with a fine micropane)
2 tbsp Chinese chili bean sauce (Toban Djan)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1½ tsp sugar

Quarter the eggplant lengthwise. Make incisions in a lozenge pattern in the flesh without piecing the skin. Soak pieces in salted cold/ice water for 5-10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Fry in hot oil (350F) for about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and lay eggplant pieces on paper towels.

Drain all but two tablespoons of frying oil from pan. Add garlic, ginger and cook for a minute just until raw aromas disappear. Add Chinese chives and continue cooking for another minute or so to wilt. Add chili bean sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Continue cooking to warm through. Add eggplant, one cup of hot water, black vinegar and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil, transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle some Chinese chives over and serve with some rice cooked in the Brazilian way.

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basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

March 5, 2013

My default winter squash is either kabocha or butternut. I rarely buy acorn but they were so fresh when I spotted them last week at the Alemany Farmers Market that I couldn’t resist. Plus it was a bargain: organically grown and it cost me less than a couple of bucks! I borrowed the idea of […]

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Michael Mondavi Family Estate, Napa

March 3, 2013

My aunt Mary Ann, came for a short visit last week. She lives in New Hampshire and has been overwhelmed by the brutal winter they’re having back East this year. Blizzard after blizzard would make anyone long for sunny California. She’s only about 13 months older than me, so really we grew up together, almost […]

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