Turmeric Pickles

Turmeric PicklesNothin’ But Time
So here we are at the end of May still with a lot of time on our hands. If you planted a veggie garden at the beginning of all this, time may not be all that you have on your hands. My tomatoes have been going crazy, and even more so with the recent heat. I don’t have any actual tomatoes yet but they are definitely coming. What I do have are cucumbers.

I love cucumbers. I use them in salads, obviously, but I really like to use them by slicing them up and putting them along with a fresh mint sprig in a pitcher of water to keep in the fridge. The cold cucumber water is especially refreshing on hot days.

The best use for an over-abundance of cucumbers is, of course, pickles. These Garlic Dill Pickles are my favorite but sometimes the same old thing gets, well, old. My sister is big into pickling and has a number of favorite recipes—but the one I think she uses the most is the turmeric pickle recipe from the Mustard’s Grill Napa Valley cookbook that we highlighted for one of our Cookbook club dinners. Mustard’s is a Napa Valley icon and, since things seem to be opening up in those parts, it might be worth a trip in the weeks to come…

In the meantime, try these pickles if you have the inclination. They are excellent when made with both cucumbers or zucchini which means you will always have a way to handle an over-producing garden. I like to add a dried chili in there for a little extra kick….

Turmeric Pickles
Yields about 4 Cups
Adapted from Mustard’s Napa Valley Grill Cookbook  Read more…

Sophie’s Chocolate Ice Cream

Sophie’s Chocolate Ice CreamBirthdays in Quarantine
This week is birthday week. It happens every year…obviously. It starts with my boys, then me, and ends with my daughter. The boys turned 16 on Tuesday, (we won’t talk about me), and my daughter will be 14 on Sunday.

Having a birthday in quarantine kinda sucks. They should be out with their friends and having a good time. Instead, they are stuck at home with their parents which, I like to remind them, isn’t that bad…I mean, I think we’re pretty cool. They’re not convinced.

The biggest challenge for me is how to make their day special when every day seems like Groundhog Day. They didn’t really ask for anything as far as presents go. How do you make a birthday special while sheltering in place? My answer: favorite foods.

The birthday dinner requests were pretty telling as far as personalities go. The boys chose chicken cutlets with mashed potatoes and milk gravy. They were adamant that there be no vegetables or anything with a color that wasn’t beige. And, for dessert, we had S’Mores Dip (with a side of Tums) #TeenageBoys.

My choice for dinner is take-out BBQ from Slow Hand BBQ my favorite place near my house and a Texas Sheet Cake courtesy of my daughter. We ate outside ‘cause I’m sick of being inside—so, that means BBQ.

And then, there is my daughter. There was no question in my mind that she would choose something out of the ordinary and I was right. Her request? Dim Sum and Roast Peking Duck. So I am trying to figure out how to make this happen in a shelter-in-place world. Dim Sum is all about the experience of going out and picking tasty things from the carts that roll by. Making my own is possible but too difficult if you want variety…and don’t get me started on the duck!

The good news? Her request for dessert is an easy one. She wants to make the homemade chocolate ice cream she made in her class last summer. That I can handle…

Sophie’s Chocolate Ice Cream
Yields approximately 1 quart Read more…

Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory Granola

Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory GranolaA Gracious Plenty
One of the greatest things about living in California is that we have access to the best produce in the world. Literally. California is one of the largest if not the largest producer of fruits and vegetables for the planet and most of that is grown about an hour’s drive (depending on traffic) away. So it should come as no surprise that while other regions of the country are currently struggling to put produce on their shelves because of logistical issues, here in the golden state, we’re doing okay.

Right now our produce department looks great. The bins are full of fresh leafy greens and, due to a bit of luck that could only happen because of a pandemic, we just got some outrageously good oranges in that would normally be bound for Japan. If I had to choose the item that has been brightening my day for the past few weeks though, it would be the bright colors of the organic heirloom tomatoes. They call to me like a siren song every time I go down that aisle and I am unable to resist taking at least a couple home. But even those beauties don’t hold a candle to the ones you grow in your own garden which is why, over the weekend, we planted a garden.

It’s been a number of years since we’ve planted a veggie garden for a few reasons. The biggest roadblock was time. The number of hours we spent running around going from this place to that—sometimes staying overnight—made tending a garden impossible. And, then there are the critters. Chickens, you may be surprised to know, can be as destructive to plants as locusts and don’t get me started on the squirrels…

Now that we’re doing a lot less running around we decided to give a garden a go. Of course, something ate my pepper plant the first night but the tomatoes are still there. We chicken-proofed our planter bed and it seems to be working for now.

The plants are already thriving so I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll have a good harvest. In the meantime, I remain thankful for all that we have access to an look forward to the coming weeks and the start of the stone fruit season…

Tomatoes and Ricotta with Savory Granola
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
Yields 4 servings

The granola adds a crunchy topping to this delicious salad—and there is plenty left over to sprinkle on other salads and dishes. The lemony ricotta negates the need for salad dressing. Use the best heirloom tomatoes you can find for maximum flavor. Read more…

News From the Fancy Food Show & Tahini Noodles Recipe

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and CarrotsPlant Food
In what has become an annual tradition, I spent my Martin Luther King holiday walking the aisles at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco looking for and tasting the latest and greatest that the culinary world has to offer. As per usual there was plenty of gorgeous chocolate and cheese from around the world—including a guacamole cheese that was divine despite being a dark green not usually associated with cheese in a positive way.

There were teas, there were coffees and there was an extraordinary number of waffles, both of the regular and of the Stroop variety. I like waffles as much as the next gal. But, do we really need that many? And there was bottled pickle juice…because, of course, there would be bottled pickle juice. (I brought one home for my kids to try. My pickle loving son tried it and said it was too intense yet he keeps going back for another sip. Kind of like a bad accident. You can’t help but look.)

There was no missing the one big take away from this show: The future of food is plant-based.

From beverages to snacks, to frozen foods, each and every grocery category had multiple vendors showing their plant-based products. There were plant-based frozen desserts being offered down every aisle either by the pint or as bars. Plant-based meat alternatives have grown way beyond the Impossible Burger. The snack category was huge including puffs made out of avocado that were a big hit at my home, as were the butternut squash pretzels. While I expected to see more plant-based noodles than I did, they were still well represented as were the Asian cuisines they support.

Staunch carnivores should not fret too much, though, as there were still plenty of offerings for them. Duck Sausage anyone? Small family-owned ranches held their own amongst the plant-based surge by offering natural, humanely-raised alternatives to beef like venison, bison, elk, and even wild boar. And while the jerky revolution has died down some, there were still plenty of meat and salami sticks to be sampled.

While plant-based foods comprised a large percentage of the products being shown this year, it was very obvious that we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to plant-based innovation. This is not a food trend that will just fizzle out. The possibilities are endless and the masterminds are just getting started…

Tahini Noodles with Green Beans and Carrots 
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…