Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sweet Life

Sunday morning arrives sunny, with a cool breeze. By the theoretical opening time of 9am at the farmers' market, all the parking spaces are taken, the market is packed with shoppers and some are already leaving with full baskets and bags. But we are undaunted, in spite of the crowd. It is a beautiful day and I’m in the mood to shop.

The Mountain View market is not fancy. Most vendors just throw their produce out on a table with no fanfare and it sells itself. But there are a few who take a little more care. I love this stall where today the young woman tending it had decorated her space with artichoke blossoms. 

The first treat of the morning is the long-awaited arrival of the Brentwood corn. Picked early this morning, probably before dawn, and delivered straight to the market. Due to our cold and rainy (non-existent) spring the corn is over a month late to appear this year. I am not the only one elated at the corn's arrival. I later pass a man who shouts with glee to his wife in the distance “BRENTWOOD CORN!!!”  and I know exactly how he feels. I have great plans for corn this week, digging out some of my favorite recipes.

And then there are figs. The first of the season. How sweet it is! We will have balsamic fig, goat cheese and arugula pizza for dinner tonight to celebrate.

There are so many people today, it is difficult to take photographs. But I can't resist elbowing my way in to snap a few photos when I have the opportunity. We are fortunate to live in a place with such beautiful local produce and I just have to show it off. Now if the tomatoes would just hurry up and get ripe. I’m still pining for my Tomato Guy.

In contrast to the glorious morning, as I finish writing this post, I received a call from my daughter-in-law with tragic news. Matt spent the weekend attending a bachelor party rafting trip for one of his closest friends, a young man we have known and loved since they attended college together. The groom’s father apparently drowned on the trip in the deadly rapids of the Kern River this morning – they still have not found him tonight. Please keep the Kilgore family in your thoughts and prayers as they come to grips with terrible event. Our dinner was not the celebration that we had planned, but I am reminded once again to treasure every moment.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Newton's Fruit Thins

As part of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker program, I recently received a package of Newton’s Fruit Thins, a new cookie from Nabisco, the makers of Fig Newtons. I have been known to eat an entire package of Fig Newtons in one sitting, so I couldn’t image how they could improve on such a great cookie. But I was more than willing to try these new cookies to see what I thought.

Fruit Thins come in four flavors, Cranberry Citrus Oat, Blueberry Brown Sugar, Chocolate Raspberry and Fig & Honey. When I signed up hoping to receive the cookies, I wished for either the cranberry or fig. No such luck. I got blueberry. I am not a huge fan of blueberries. But when I opened the resealable package, I was pleasantly surprised. The aroma of freshly baked blueberry muffins wafted from the package!

And they taste like blueberry muffins, too! We loved these cookies. Light and crisp, they have somehow captured the essence of a muffin into these yummy cookies. It was difficult not to eat at least half the bag in the taste test. I am a cookie purist and don’t usually make them into other things, but these might make a great crust for a pie or topping for a fruit crisp. Now I can’t wait to try the fig and cranberry flavors. That’s all I need – more good cookies to tempt me!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Going Greener

I’ve been trying to eat more greens. I’ve always consumed more than my fair share of fruit, but am not a lover of “greens”. Even growing up in the South, those turnip, collard and mustard greens were always just icky and I refused to touch them. But I learned recently if you treat them right, they can be your friend.

Especially if you are fighting cancer. I keep reading how important it is to consume enough leafy green, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables to ward off those nasty cancer cells. So I’m making a conscious effort to eat at least seven servings a day. My grandson, Isaac, is setting a very good example as he is a lover of all fruits and many vegetables. Here he is eating seaweed last weekend for lunch. Who would feed their baby seaweed?!!! A mother who loves it herself! And so does Isaac. But not me. I tried it out as one of my greens, but it maybe it’s like cilantro - some people have a gene that make it taste nasty. If so, I definitely have the nasty- tasting seaweed gene. Seaweed did not make my list of approved greens. But go, Isaac!

Many weeks at the farmers’ market I’ll try something new that’s leafy and green and we’ve made some good discoveries. I’ve gently sautéed kale as a side dish before, but never used it as the single green in a salad. I found a kale salad recipe on that I have modified a little. Something different from an everyday green salad. The kale has a more substantial texture than lettuce or a spring mix.

Kale Salad

2 Tbsp dried cranberries
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 bunch kale, center ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise
2 Tbsp pine nuts lightly toasted (pecans or almonds would also be good)
Fresh Parmesan cheese shavings

Whisk balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, honey, oil and salt in a large bowl. Add kale, cranberries and nuts. Toss to coat. Let marinate 10 minutes at room temperature, tossing occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle Parmesan over salad to serve.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Killer Good Curry

Oddly shaped flat green leaves bundled by a rubber band. What could they be? I queried the lady at the farmers’ market regarding their identity. Kaffir lime leaves. I'm thrilled! I’ve seen a number of recipes calling for these leaves and never knew where to get them. I didn’t dare put them on the grocery list since Larry gets really annoyed when I list exotic ingredients that I can’t even describe. I readily paid $1 for the leaves.

But of course, when I got home, I couldn’t find any of the recipes I had seen previously. But I had the leaves and was determined to use them. So I did a search on to see what I could find. I selected a vegetable curry and a Thai shrimp and noodle soup to use the leaves.

If you’ve thought that I haven’t been cooking much lately, you would be correct. For the last couple of months, I just haven’t had the energy. Sometimes I plan menus and make the shopping list, but Larry has done all the shopping and cooking. He’s actually done almost everything except the laundry. After he turned all my white clothes blue on our honeymoon, he has never again been allowed to touch the laundry.

This vegetable curry was the first thing I’ve been interested in cooking in ages. And I was not disappointed. I’ve never tried making a curry from scratch – I’ve always started with a ready-made sauce and added some custom touches. This sauce was rich and complex, with plenty of spiciness and enough heat to suit my love of spicy food. You can always adjust the heat based on the amount of the chiles and remove the seeds if desired to make it milder. I based this recipe on the version, but adapted it based on my experience and for ingredients I had on hand. Although this version is vegetarian, this same sauce would be perfect for shrimp or chicken and cashews would also make a nice addition. We served it over brown basmati rice and it was definitely a filling meal.

South Indian Vegetable Curry
Adapted from Bon Appetit
(It says 4 servings, but we thought it made at least 6)

1 large onion, cut into chunks
3 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 piece fresh ginger, 2” x 1”, peeled
3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp garam masala
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Thai bird chile, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp packed golden brown sugar
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 whole green cardamom pods
1 lb yams, peeled, cut into 1” cubes
12 oz. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1” cubes
¼ - ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
3 large carrots, peeled, cut into ½” rounds
2 tomatoes, cored, chopped
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Handful baby spinach leaves
Fresh cilantro leaves

Puree first 7 ingredients in processor until a paste forms. Cook in a large pot over medium heat until aromatic, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste. Cook until mixture begins to darken, stirring often, about 5 more minutes.

Add broth, brown sugar, lime leaves  and cardamom. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring often and scraping up browned bits.

Add yams, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, salt and pepper to mixture in pot. Add coconut milk to taste. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Remove and discard lime leaves and cardamom pods. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro leaves.