Ah, the photogenic popovers in winter sunshine, with narcissus shadows…
This winter is so much nicer than the last two.
Remember all that unrelenting gray rain?!
Bay Area blackberry lovers, listen up!
The blackberry season may be late this year, but it promises to be the most slammin bumper crop I ever did anticipate. The blossoms are so big, they’re bouquet-worthy. In June they covered the brambles in pinkish white masses.
The bees have been on them like nobody’s business.
If you only go blackberry picking once in your life, let this be the summer. Put it on the calendar for 3 or 4 weeks from now.
That’s all I gotta say.
Woops! Where did March go? I think Camera Shy may be distracting me a bit.
I am quite smitten with the arugula flowers.
Did you know you can eat them? I didn’t. I like them. Hard to describe the taste without sounding weird, but… they make me think of fresh wood. No, not like eating wood chips. Nothing like that. Much nicer.
I like throwing them on top of everything, just like I was throwing the leaves on everything all winter long. Makes sense, to go from winter to spring, leaf to flower.
I got shut out of this show for dragging my feet on the buying of tickets, but that’s ok cause a week later they played for free(!), outside(!) at Cal & I didn’t have to cross any big water for that.
Eating: brown rice, pinto beans (from a can, even), the first Hass avocado, Bariani olive oil, Maldon salt. Feels like cheating: you aren’t really cooking but it tastes so good, you can’t imagine eating anything better. Unless you’re steaming Dungeness, which also doesn’t feel like cooking. Ditto the first artichokes (boiled) & the first asparagus (roasted). I like this theme.
Rearranging: furniture. (Lest you think I’ve gone all lazy, with those non-cooking meals & all.)
Smelling: plum blossoms!
Gazing in wonder: the tulip magnolias are stunning right now. No picture can do justice. Go out & look, if you haven’t already.
I would show you cherries & apricots too, but I’ve been eating them up too fast. Happy summer!
Did I mention I got me one of those Census jobs? It’s kicking my ass! I’ve been enjoying my walking tour of North Oakland mezuzahs, dogs, & rosebushes, but still, I’m tired! So please forgive my laziness if I just link to Dan’s post about my Chicago gig instead of telling you all about it myself. Click on it if you wanna come to my slide lecture this Thursday night in Chicago. Otherwise, feel free to ignore, & just imagine me trudging from door to door in various parts of Alameda County, trying to build up Census stamina.
I’m still here….
What are we going to do to stop her from posting salads all the time?
Do you think an intervention is in order?
What if we ask her to post some flowers or something? She likes flowers. Probably as much as she likes food.
As much as she likes salad?
Yes, I think so.
The last sweetpeas of the season.
They kept going all the way into October! Pretty cool.
Red leaf lettuce, treviso, Warren pear, red onion, Iberico cheese, sherry vinaigrette….
Hey! What happened?
She may be beyond help.
I think it’s her coping mechanism. She’s just trying to make it to Election Day without having a nervous breakdown. Like the rest of us.
Things I’m thinking about cooking & eating:
Tomato sauce: Anticipating our freezers in winter, Plastic Lam & I split a 20 pound crate of dry-farmed Early Girls. I made my sauce using Pim’s brilliant concept & it kicked ass! Now I’m thinking I shoulda got a whole crate for my own greedy self.
Salade Niçoise: Something got me thinking about Niçoise lately, I’m not sure what. Then I had a lunch date with Cooking Show & we went wandering down College Av. looking at menus, until we saw that Somerset had a lovely back patio & Niçoise on the menu. Perfect! ...we thought. The patio was wonderful, but the salad? I’m sorry, but I could do so much better. Sugary-sweet salad dressing? GONG! No green beans, when we are at the height of green bean season? GONG! The conspicuous absence of green beans was made more glaring by the presence of asparagus—where did it come from at this time of year?! The hard-boiled eggs had their yolks whipped (think deviled eggs), which felt like trying too hard. Seared fresh ahi, too, seemed like a nice idea on paper but on the plate also felt like trying too hard. Gimme a can! Cooking Show loved the fries that came with her steak sandwich, though. We agreed we would go back there just to eat fries on that nice patio. Meanwhile, I am determined to make my own Niçoise, one that’ll show Somerset’s salad what’s what.
Chocolate coconut tapioca pudding: I should probably spell this out more clearly. Tapioca pudding, made with coconut milk. Then color it chocolate. First encountered at Good Earth in Fairfax, with the following ingredients: coconut milk, chocolate, tapioca, maple syrup, vanilla, salt. Seems like it should be easy enough, right?
Apple pie: I think I mentioned this before. I even bought the apples last week in the midst of that oddly autumnal moment we had. Then the weather snapped back to the September that I know & love: scorching, brilliant blue skies—in short, weather for…
Or, a scoop of Earl Grey & a scoop of saffron orange blossom from Ici, floral & refreshing. Happy late summer, Bay Area!
Here are the Japan food photos I promised!
It was ume season & we saw this little ume giveaway on the street. Note the perfectly knotted plastic bags so thoughtfully provided:
It was also hydrangea season. Cherry blossoms get all the press, but I thought the hydrangea enthusiasm was pretty dang intense too:
More pretty sweets:
King of Nosh took us to a cute French-Italian place that was tucked away on a quiet lane in Shibuya. When it was time for dessert they brought us this adorable little corkboard:
He also showed me a very good okonomiyaki time in Shimokitazawa. I don’t understand why okonomiyaki isn’t everywhere, all over the world, especially in breakfast places in the USA. Pancakes, homefries, eggs, okonomiyaki… why not?
Four variations on the matcha donut theme:
They like their bread tall:
I always thought I didn’t like eggplant, but apparently when you slather it with miso & grill (broil?) it to perfection, I fuckin love it.
I also fuckin love ice cream, but that’s not exactly news. Gelato from the very-mobbed Pariya in the Foodshow basement of Tokyu Dept. Store, also in Shibuya: lychee, plum, jasmine chocolate cake(!), & coconut banana maple. Then we went back & had green tea tiramisu, apricot, & cherry.
Five Bay Area girls went for a stroll through our beloved redwoods. We grew up in, respectively, El Cerrito, Berkeley, San Leandro, San Francisco, & Mill Valley (heh). As we were remarking on the rarity of being in such extremely local company, Mrs. Art Stove told us how she recently confronted some out-of-towner who had picked a California poppy from a neighbors’ front yard. “I couldn’t believe she picked a California poppy! & then she was twirling it around, & every time she twirled it, it was like she was twisting a dagger in my heart!” Mrs. Art Stove confronted the woman, informed her of the illegality of her actions, & asked her to Please Stop Twirling That Poppy!
Listening to this story, my other friends all nodded with complete sympathy & understanding, until I timidly ventured, “wait… is that really illegal? How come I’ve never heard that?” Four pairs of shocked native Californian eyes turned upon me. What?! You didn’t know it’s illegal!?
Things like this always confirm one of my more insidious suspicions: that there are certain important bits of information that everyone knows except me, & nobody tells me because they assume I must already know. Like the time (years ago, but the trauma remains fresh) I was wandering around Oakland Chinatown with Chinese Scholar & the Witch, wondering where we should eat, & they said, well we could always go to Vi’s, & I said “What’s Vi’s?” whereupon they both looked at me as if I’d said I didn’t know you could get to San Francisco by crossing the Bay Bridge. They felt so sorry for me that they practically carried me straight into Vi’s & of course I loved it, but then too soon after that it closed & I never got to eat there again. Alas!
Anyway, back to the poppies: seeing how mortified I was, & not wanting to make me feel worse, my friends quickly recovered from their shock & patiently informed me that there is a huge fine if you’re caught picking poppies, because it’s the state flower & even though it’s not endangered now, it used to be, & so on & so forth. I said, “but even from your own garden? I mean, I would never pick a wild one, it just wouldn’t occur to me…” See! they said, this just confirms that you actually know you’re not supposed to, you have the correct instinct & you’ve just forgotten the details!
Still bewildered, I continued, “I’ve picked a poppy that I grew in my own yard…” to which Mrs. Art Stove replied, “but you probably cooed over it & admired it & respected it & put it in water & made a painting of it, you didn’t Just Twirl It Around!”
So it went, & eventually we talked of other things. But I remained quite disturbed, not to mention skeptical about not being allowed to pick a specific flower that wouldn’t have existed if I didn’t plant it in my own garden. As you might expect, I have now done a little googling, & am almost just as bewildered to find that my very smart pals have been had by a myth! The law actually prohibits cutting any plant from a highway, but says nothing about California poppies specifically, let alone ones growing in your own yard.
See, I thoughtMrs. Terwilliger would have drummed it into my head if I wasn’t allowed to pick poppies! By the way, speaking of Mrs. T & childhood environmental education, am I the only person who still snips those plastic rings from soda cans? It’s actually a very satisfying thing to do on many levels, not just environmentally: the plastic is a pleasurable consistency for cutting, there are just the right number & variety of holes to make the job interesting but also very quick (we’re talking seconds), & I always make a little game (not a very challenging one, but I get my thrills where I can) of making the fewest cuts necessary while ending up with a whole piece, no loose bits.
I’m still kinda anxious about the fact that I had never even heard of this poppy myth before. What if it had turned out to be true? Once at a pie-baking party, someone said, “I didn’t know you could keep butter in the freezer.” I was astonished. I never in a zillion years would have thought I should go around telling people they can put their butter in the freezer. I started wondering what kinds of things I might not know that she would consider obvious—so obvious that she wouldn’t realize she had to tell me. Somehow I have to let go of this way of thinking before it drives me completely nuts.
Welcome to Cooking With Weeds!
Weed Recipe #1: Allium Love
The wild onions love one corner of the yard & every year appear more numerous there. We are trying not to be alarmed.
Time this so you have fresh buckwheat fettucine just cooked when you want it. I think I dropped it in the water a couple minutes before the capers went in the sauce.
Chop all these on the fine side & cook em up in a large pan with olive oil & butter:
a bunch of wild onions
1 bulb of fresh green garlic
[Edited: oops, I forgot about the pine nuts. A small handful.]
about a tablespoonful of capers
Italian (aka flat-leaf) parsley
You start with all the alliums (sorry if I’m butchering the Latin language; I never learned any of it). [Edit, cont’d: put the pine nuts in after the alliums.] When they’re about done you add the capers, & a minute or two later sprinkle on the parsley, turn off the heat & throw the pasta in. Mix it all together with a little more olive oil, & serve with Pecorino & some onion flowers on top.
We served this with salad of spinach, strawberries, & caramelized onion, the essence of which I have already blogged.
For dessert, Weed Recipe #2: Meyer Lemon Mint Garden Granita, a hybrid between two of the granita recipes (Lemon & Mojito) from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.
If nobody has ever told you this before, take heed: DO NOT EVER PLANT CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT in the ground. Always keep it in a pot far away from the actual dirt of your garden, because “invasive” does not even begin to describe the voracious habit of the insatiable mint. We will go to our graves regretting the day we innocently stuck the tiny little mint plant in the ground. That shit is everywhere now. If you lift up a corner of the cardboard sheet mulch, sprawling seeking reaching mint roots are waiting there to send up a zillion shoots of everlasting, unstoppable mint.
Of course, this means we are never lacking in mint. The garden is also kind enough to give us lemons. So all I had to add for this was sugar, water, & a functioning freezer.
Put in a pan:
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
About 2 lemons’ worth of zest, microplaned directly into the pan
Boil that until the sugar is all dissolved, then take it off the heat, dump in a cup of mint leaves & cover the pan for a few minutes. Then remove the leaves, squeezing them out a bit to release more minty goodness.
2 cups water
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
a few fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
Stir it all together, pour into a wide casserole-type container (I use a very deep pie dish), & freeze for about an hour. Then you take it out & fork the frozen bits from the edge toward the middle, chopping & mashing with the fork. Put it back in the freezer, & repeat the fork action every 15 minutes or so until you end up with a nice pile of fluffy ice crystals. (Lebovitz has much more detailed instructions.) Garnish with yet more mint leaves (after all, there is an infinite supply) & a strawberry slice, if you like.
Totally unrelated to weeds, I have been seriously on the matzo brei. It was the first thing I was able to cook last year after the terrible pelvis fracture, so it claims an even fonder nook of my heart than it did before, which is pretty fucking fond. I basically follow Ruth’s recipe, but my dirty little secret is this: you really don’t need remotely that much butter. I probably use 1/3 of what she calls for. Salt too, a little less. What can I say, I’m a Californian.
It’s spring! Today I planted sweetpeas.
Next, the lovely lettuces. Plus I have to figure out where to put the rest of the sweetpeas. Of course there’s always more than can fit in the designated sweetpea location. Of course they would fit if I could ever restrain myself to just one 6-pack. Of course I am totally incapable of such restraint—how could I choose between Black Knight & Purple Streamers, especially when they would look so excellent together?
This planting activity was quite the accomplishment for my long-suffering body. I’m quite proud of myself, even if I am icing my hand right now. (How, you may ask, do I do that while blogging? Let’s just say I have developed some special talents…)
Happy Year of the Rat!