Category Archives: local

Plum pie with leaf lard crust

The other day, my friend brought over a big bag of plums from her tree. I didn’t have time to make jam, and figured that we wouldn’t be able to eat them all fresh before they went bad (even though they were delicious!), so I decided to make a plum pie. It’s actually pretty rare that I make a classic American-style pie, with the top dough and everything. Something about my French mom drilling into my head how much heavier 2 pie crusts are than one. But, I had some pork leaf lard in my fridge that I purchased at the farmer’s market with the intention of making pie dough and wanted to give it a try.
To some, lard in dessert may sound gross. But seriously, give it a try. There’s a reason for the foodie movement behind leaf lard pie dough. 

At the recommendation from a chef friend of mine, I used this recipe from Food and Wine. She suggested I decrease the fat a smidge and add a bit of sugar. So I altered the recipe a teensy bit and used 1/4 cup less butter, and added about a tablespoon of sugar. The result was a flaky and delicious pie crust. I’ll definitely use this recipe again when I make American-style pies. I will say, I don’t think that using lard lends itself well to French tarts. Those are better when made with 100% butter. The lard makes the crust significantly flakier, which is great for American pie, and not so great with tarts. One of these days, I want to try making Chinese egg custard tartlets using an even higher percentage of leaf lard in the crust. Since making this pie, I’ve decided the lard must be the secret to the deliciously flaky and fatty crust in those.

As far as what went into the pie filling itself- some combination of plums, sugar, tapioca and cinnamon. These plums were very juicy, so I had to use quite a bit of tapioca to absorb the juices and make sure the pie didn’t turn into a runny mess. I thought I had used enough sugar, but it ended up being pretty tart and I wished I’d used more. I never really follow a recipe when making American-style pies. I just go with what the particular fruit I’m using needs. Apparently, I should probably add more sugar than I think I need, especially when using fruit with tart skin like plums. I’m always learning!

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The epitome of locavore- 1 mile dinner

It’s no secret that I fell in love with the concept of eating locally grown food after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In it she details her family’s journey eating like locavores for a year by shopping at farmer’s markets, growing their own produce, preserving summer produce, raising chickens for eggs and meat, raising turkeys, finding local grainery mills, local wine…etc. The book was eye opening, and I’ve enjoyed re-reading it nearly every year for renewed inspiration. I try to cook seasonally and locally as much as possible and get excited when a meal I prepare is nearly 100% local.
I didn’t expect to do much cooking on Orcas island, much less enjoy a very local meal there. When we arrived at the guest house we were renting, though, I realized that this was really truly a guest house complete with kitchen, dining table and even a table and chairs on the patio (incredible view included). Trevor and I decided we needed to take advantage. The woman we rented the guest house from was incredibly sweet. She pointed out some places nearby that we might like to check out- like the seafood farm less than 500 meters up the road (basically through her backyard). She told us that they had clams, crab, oysters, salmon…oh my! She also said we were free to pick fruit from her plum trees and told us about blackberry bushes just down the road from her house. I was thrilled! Our dinner ingredients would come from less than a 1 mile radius from where we were staying.
After getting settled in, we decided to take the quick walk to the farm to check things out. Note the beautiful views along the walk.
See those bushes to the left of the barn? Those are blackberry bushes.
Getting close!
Nose of the boat, pointing us in the right direction.


When we arrived at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, we asked some questions, found out that they farmed the shellfish and had fresh caught salmon. They also had some zucchini, berries and fresh eggs for sale, because this isn’t just a shellfish farm. There’s actually quite a large area for growing produce plus a big coop with about 30 chickens. They were so friendly and we asked if we could go visit their chickens. We’re a little obsessed right now with less than 2 months until we acquire feathered friends of our own. Little man enjoyed looking at the chickens, and then we left, telling them that we’d surely be back before the weekend was over. 
 
We confirmed with our friends, who were also attending the wedding, that they were available to come for dinner on Sunday night. So Sunday morning, we went blackberry picking to get enough fruit for a crumble. Little man absolutely loved it and probably ate half the berries we picked. We could barely keep up with all of his requests for “more” (signing, not asking with words quite yet), as soon as he had shoved a blackberry in his mouth. 
 
Later that afternoon, we headed back to Buck Bay Shellfish Farm to buy some salmon and zucchini.  When we got there, though, I realized that I was going to be short about $6 in the cash I needed to pay for the food. Here is the ridiculous interaction that ensued:
 
Me: Oh I only have X amount of money. Can I get 2 lbs of salmon instead of 3?
BBSF employee: Oh it’s okay, I’ll just write you an IOU. 
Me: (kind of in shock) Wow, umm, that’s really nice but we’re leaving really early tomorrow morning and wont have time to get to an ATM and bring you the cash before we go. 
BBSF employee: You can just send us a check when you get home. 
Me: (more shock) Are you sure? I mean, that’s so kind, but really?
BBSF employee: Yea, we do it all the time. We’ve never had a problem. 
Me: Okay then. Thank you! Here is the money I do have.
BBSF employee: You can just keep the cash and I’ll write you an IOU for the full amount.
Me: (flabbergasted) You’re really sure about this? 
BBSF employee: Yup, everyone has always sent the money they owe us. It’s really no problem. 
 
Wow…can you believe such a thing? We had heard rumors that Orcas Island was a very friendly place, but now it was confirmed. It was later confirmed a third time, when our host offered up anything in her kitchen we might need to make dinner (while she was not going to be home). I’m telling you- friendly friendly people on Orcas!
 
Now onto the food:
Exhibit 1: Zucchini from Buck Bay Shellfish farm. Less than a mile away.
Exhibit 2: Blackberries picked on the way to BBSF (i.e. even closer).
I went with a simple preparation. Cubed up the zucchini, cooked it in butter with salt and pepper. Fresh ingredients don’t need much to be delicious. 
The beginnings of a crumble. I added some plums, also picked on the way to BBSF. A little sugar to counter the tartness of the fruit. I probably could have added a bit more, but oh well.
A very local meal with a not so local beer. But at least it’s local to us, so we’re supporting our local economy. The salmon, I put on a sheet of foil brushed with butter, removed bones, brushed the salmon with butter, added salt, pepper, chives (from host’s garden) and the juice of a lemon. Then a broiled it for about 12 minutes. Again, fresh ingredients speak for themselves. It was delicious if I do say so myself.
Blackberry and plum crumble. Even the flour was local. We found it (along with the sugar) in the bulk bin of a natural food store on the island, which was perfect since we didn’t need much. The butter, I’m not sure about, but it did say “homemade” and the sugar is almost surely not local. So 6 ingredients out of 9 were local – 5 of which came from less than a mile away. In case you’re curious how I make my crumble topping, it’s approximately equal parts butter, sugar and flour. Mix with your hands until you get a crumble texture. Top fruit with crumble and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. 

So that’s my epic tale of locavoring it up on Orcas Island. Thank you to all the friendly people on the island who made it such a memorable trip. We will definitely be back! And if you go, be sure to visit Buck Bay Shellfish Farm. The salmon was AMAZING and next time we’ll surely be trying some crab, clams and oysters.

Leek tart


Let’s get back to some food blogging, shall we? This spring and summer, we’ve received a lot of leeks from our CSA. I absolutely love it when we get leeks because they’re so versatile (and usually expensive at the grocery store). I use them in smooth soups often, but lately I’ve been into leek tarts. They are very quick and easy to make, but look fancy. You can make the components ahead of time and assemble and bake at the last minute, making this a perfect party food. I’ve even gotten the stamp of approval from an 8 year old boy- the ultimate taste tester. 

Leek tart recipe:

Ingredients for 1 Leek Tart:
– White and light green part from 3 leeks
– 4 tablespoons of butter
– Salt & pepper to taste
– 1 sheet of puff pastry dough 
Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Thinly slice the leeks and wash them well. Make sure to separate the layers of leek as much as you can with your hands so that all the dirt washes out. Strain water out with a sieve.
2. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan (I use cast iron) to medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the leeks. The most important thing about making this tart is to allow the leeks to cook very slowly. Leeks, like onions and garlic, are notorious for burning easily and you need to make sure to prevent this from happening. They should slowly “melt” so keep the heat fairly low and be patient. Stir often. 
3. While the leeks are cooking, remove your sheet up puff pastry dough from the freezer. Butter a tart pan and when the dough is defrosted enough (but not too soft), roll it out so that it’s just slightly thinner than how it comes in the package. I use a tart pan like this one, so once I get the dough in and molded to the sides, I just use the metal edge to cut the dough off. 
4. Season the leeks with salt and pepper to your taste. You can also add some dried rosemary (chopped) or dried thyme if you’d like. Once they are soft, put them in your prepared tart pan and spread them evenly. 

5. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes. I start checking after 25. The tart is ready when the puff pastry dough is golden. Allow the tart to cool a little bit before removing it from the tart pan. This is nice served with a salad for lunch, or as part of a buffet at a party. Enjoy!

High Ground Organics CSA- Week 1

Today was our first CSA pick-up of the season. It included potatoes, baby kale braising mix, carrots, beets, butternut squash, leeks and green cabbage. I won the jackpot though…someone put leeks in the trade box. So I got an extra bunch of leeks in exchange for my cabbage! (Not that there is anything wrong with cabbage, but as long as I’m nursing Quentin, I will avoid it. I was traumatized by an ultra gassy night early on).

I’ve already made baby food with the butternut squash, and Quentin had some cubed steamed carrots tonight for the first time. He loved them and did so well picking them up and chewing them up.

I will probably make him some leek puree with one of the bunches, and a soup for Trevor and I with the other bunch. You might think leeks for a baby is kind of weird, but I made him some last week and he absolutely loved them. In fact, he pitched a fit when they were gone.

I haven’t decided how I’ll use the other veggies yet, but I’m definitely excited about having our CSA back! We’ve had very busy weekends for the last month or so, and because of that have been slacking on going to the farmer’s market. The CSA greatly simplifies this problem for us. If you’re local to the SF Bay Area and are looking for a great CSA, High Ground Organics has always provided us with a nice variety of very fresh and beautiful organic produce. We have really loved them. Check them out!

Lemon Curd and Scones

Here is our dwarf Meyer Lemon tree. It is currently weighed down with delicious Meyer lemons. It’s a small tree, though, so “weighed down” for this little guy probably equals about 30 lemons. The thing is, this isn’t our only lemon tree. When we bought our house last year, there was a big Eureka Lemon tree in the back yard. Now THAT tree is a big producer.

In the fall, Trevor pruned it because there were branches touching our roof. He pruned it quite heavily, but there were still plenty of lemons left on it. We couldn’t let all those great lemons go to waste, so we picked them off of the pruned branches. When all was said and done, we had 70 pounds of lemons. What did we do? Make limoncello, of course! Here is a funny picture for you: It’s 10:30 am. Quentin is 10 weeks old, and I’m pushing him in the stroller. We stroll into BevMo in search of Everclear to make limoncello. This BevMo is new to me, so I have to ask where the Everclear is. With my 10 week old. Seeing as I have 70 pounds of lemons, I’m forced to make plenty of limoncello, so I buy 4 bottles of Everclear and a handle of Vodka. With my 10 week old. I swear I’m a fit mother.

Anyway, tangent over. This time when I went out to the backyard and noticed the Eureka lemon tree heavy with lemons, I decided to make lemon curd. You know, for a more “proper” use of my lemons. And what lemon curd would be complete with scones and tea (only on this occasion we actually had espresso…Her Majesty the Queen would surely disapprove).

Trevor and my good friend C has close family ties to the UK and his mother and aunt were kind enough to share their lemon curd recipes with me. I checked with him to make sure it would be okay to share the recipe here and he gave me the go ahead. So here it is!

Lemon Curd:

Ingredients:
4 large lemons
5 large eggs
1/4 lb butter
1 lb sugar


Directions:
1. Wash and dry lemons. Grate the rind and squeeze the juice of all 4 lemons.
2. Beat the eggs in a medium saucepan.
3. Add the rind, lemon juice, butter and sugar to the eggs.
4. Stir over low/medium heat until all ingredients are combined.
5. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens. Do NOT allow to boil. This may take 10+ minutes.
6. Once thickened, pour the lemon curd into warm jars and cover the top of each with a circle of wax paper.
7. Seal tightly and refrigerate. Keep for 1 week in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer.

For a printable recipe, click here.


I used some butter I made a little while back for both the curd and the scones. Lucky for us, there was some left that we got to enjoy on the scones.

Unfortunately, I used a different recipe than I normally do for the scones and they weren’t quite up to par in my book. So I’ll have to share my usually recipe another day. I’m sure the problem was that there wasn’t enough butter in the scones. A mistake I will not soon repeat.

Pesto, heirloom tomato, pepperoni & zucchini pizza

I think I pretty much gave the recipe away in the title of this post. Pretty basic pizza, but don’t let that boring word “basic” fool you. Sometimes the simplest meals are the best. You really can’t go wrong when you choose ingredients at the peak of seasonality, make your dough from scratch… oh and the pepperoni was from an artisan “charcutier” at the San Pedro Square Farmer’s Market in San Jose. I have to say, it was pretty delicious. For more specific “sub-recipes”…the dough recipe can be found here, and my pesto recipe is here. And the rest is pretty independently obvious. Have fun coming up with your own pizza creations!

And since this was such a short post, you get another pizza picture! Enjoy!

Making Homemade Applesauce

Last weekend I visited my good friend and her family. When I arrived, she immediately told me to keep my shoes on- we were going out back to see her compost. “I got my compost pile to steam!!!” Of course, this was something I wanted to see. She and I have long been on the same wavelength about the way we want to live our lives. We take immense satisfaction in doing things ourselves- even if it takes a little longer- in order to maximize food enjoyment and minimize our impact on this earth. In high school, we baked together and went berry picking together. We’ve long dreamt about our adjacent farms, complete with chickens for eggs, goats for cheese, vegetables and fruit galore, and and a brick oven for baking bread and pizza. Clearly, her parents have something to do with ingraining this lifestyle in her, because when they got married and purchased their home 30 years ago they planted many fruit trees, which are now thriving. They have lemons, oranges, nashi (kind of like asian pears), persimmons, nectarines, and apples. When I saw the apple tree, I asked what they were planning on making with the apples. My friend said that her parents don’t use the apples because they tend to be very “buggy.” She asked her parents, and they said I could take as many apples as I wanted! Hmmm…..it didn’t take me long to decide I would make my year supply of apple sauce to freeze. So we set out to pick apples, and boy did we pick apples- 17 pounds in all! I also ended up with about 5 lbs each of lemons and nashi. Yum!

For the next 3 days, I was cutting and slicing apples (making sure to cut out any bugs, of course!) and cooking the slices down into applesauce. The recipe is a very simple one- apples, a little lemon juice (to keep the apple slices fresh until you are ready to cook them down) a little water (if the apples seem dry), sugar (if the apples are tart), and cinnamon (if you’re a cinnamon kind of person). Really, all you need are apples. The other ingredients are up to you/the apples. It’s also up to you whether you peel the apples or not. I opted to not peel them, but I did run the sauce through the coarse setting of a food mill to break down the peels a bit after cooking them. Once the sauce was ready, I jarred it, labeled it, and put it in the freezer to be enjoyed throughout the winter and spring.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, 17 lbs of apples ended up filling 12 pint jars, plus several smaller jam jars and a medium-sized tupperware container.

Thanks you Travis’ for all the apples, and the nashi and lemons too!