Category Archives: seasonal

Roasted Delicata Squash Tarte

Let’s get back to a food post, shall we? 
I know I’ve deviated quite heavily from my original “food blog” posts, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love and appreciate good quality, delicious food. I’m for sure preparing simpler dishes these days, and definitely not throwing myself into complicated dessers like macarons, but I do still enjoy cooking. 
I’ve mentioned our CSA before. If you’re local to the bay area, we get our weekly produce from High Grounds Organics, and I absolutely love them. We’ve tried other CSAs, like Eating with the Seasons, Farm Fresh to You and Full Circle, but none of them have compared to the quality of our fruits and veggies from High Grounds. I’m planning on putting together a post about all of them, so that’s enough CSA comparison for now. Back to the food.
We’ve started getting more fall produce in our box these last few weeks. Yes, we still get tomatoes (yay California!), but we also get leafy greens, root vegetables and winter squash. 
Last week, we got two delicata squash. I wanted to change things up from my usual protocol- cut squash in half, dig out seeds and roast, probably blend into soup. Instead, I decided to make a tarte. It turned out lovely. Sweet and savory, warm and comforting, especially with a bowl of soup on a cool day. 
Ingredients:
– 1 delicata squash
– 1 sheet of puff pastry 
– olive oil
– salt
– a few sprigs of fresh rosemary 
– dried thyme
– a handful of shredded parmesan cheese
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut off the ends of the delicata squash, cut it in half and peel it. Then slice it into 1/2 inch slices. 
2. Lightly coat the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil. Place delicata squash slices in dish. Sprinkle with salt, drizzle a little olive oil, and place rosemary on top. Bake for 30 minutes, until a sharp knife goes into the squash easily. 
3. Mold puff pastry into your buttered tarte pan (you’ll have to let it defrost on the counter for 10-15 minutes before it will be pliable enough to do this). Brush the puff pastry with olive oil, sprinkle parmesan cheese to the bottom, and transfer the roasted squash slices to the tarte. Sprinkle with dried thyme. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (still at 375 degrees). 

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

An overabundance of zucchini in the summer is a very common first world problem. I’ve heard stories of people leaving bags of zucchini on their neighbor’s door, and sneaking away to not give the poor unsuspecting neighbor a chance to politely decline the bag of summer weeds. I found myself with a boatload of zucchini last summer and was getting tired of my usual sauteed zucchini with garlic (which is delicious btw) and zucchini soup, so I went to facebook. One of my facebook friends came through for me in a big way and sent me this recipe, which I’ve since been making at least every 2 weeks ever since. I even froze enough shredded zucchini last summer to get me through the winter without giving up my beloved chocolate zucchini cake. Thank god for breastfeeding, because I would never have lost the baby weight while continuing to eat this on a regular basis otherwise. 
Here is the recipe so that you can enjoy too:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 4×10 inch loaf pans and set them aside. 
  2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until well mixed. Add the eggs, mix well. Next add the vanilla and mix well. 
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder and whisk together. 
  4. Add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on medium-low speed. When the dry ingredients begin to incorporate, add another 1/3 and mix again (you don’t need to wait until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated to add more). Repeat one more time. 
  5. Next mix the yogurt into the batter, then the zucchini. The zucchini should moisten up the batter significantly. Finally, add the chocolate chips and mix until they are well incorporated. 
  6. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 50-60 minutes. (Check after 40 minutes, since ovens can vary widely. This cake usually bakes for 55 minutes in my oven, but the original recipe calls for 40-45 minutes of baking). 

Enjoy with coffee as an afternoon pick me up. Or, if you prefer, do what I did- ignore the 2 sticks of butter in the recipe, change the name to Chocolate Zucchini Bread instead of cake, and have it for breakfast. The calories are negated that way. It’s scientifically proven…or something.

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!

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!

Poulet au Citrons Confits (Preserved Lemon Chicken)

I realize that the picture above does not look like much. Don’t let the image fool you, though. This chicken recipe is flavorful with chicken falling of the bone. You will want to go back for seconds. The only downside to this recipe is that it requires that you first make (or somehow procure) “preserved lemons,” which takes a month. It’s really easy, though and it will be worth it. Believe me.

Preserved lemons:

Ingredients:

  • 6 lemons (preferably organic…you will be cooking with the whole lemon once these are ready). I like to use Meyer lemons, but any variety will do.
  • Several cups of sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • You will also need a large, gallon-sized mason jar.

Directions:
1. Wash and dry the lemons.
2. Cut the lemons into quarters length-wise, but leave one end of the lemon intact.
3. Using a paring knife, remove as many seeds as you can easily access. Don’t worry, though, if you miss some seeds. You can get them out later.
4. Sprinkle about 1/2 c of salt in the bottom of the jar and about half of the coriander seeds.
5. Stuff as much salt as possible into the just-about-quartered lemons. Then stuff the lemons into the jar. After each lemon you add to the jar, sprinkle some salt on top. You certainly don’t need to fill up the jar with salt, just make sure there’s plenty in there. About halfway up, add the rest of the coriander seeds. Don’t worry about smushing the lemons. It’s ok, they’re going to soften a lot anyway.
6. Wait 2 days. The salt should extract the lemon juice and the lemons will start to be submerged in their own juices. If after 2 days, they are not submerged, add enough boiling water to cover the lemons. Put the jar in the fridge and wait at least 1 month. After a month, they are ready to use. I’m not really sure how long they’re good for. One recipe I have says they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. I have personally used them after a longer time than that, but of course, if you do, it would be at your own risk.

Preserved lemons

Now, you can finally make the preserved lemon chicken, or as I prefer to call it “Poulet au Citrons Confits.” That sounds much better.

Poulet au Citrons Confits:

Ingredients:

  • 1 large yellow onion. Peeled and cut into rings.
  • Olive oil
  • 6-8 chicken drumsticks.
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed.
  • Juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 4 preserved lemons
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seed
  • Pinch of saffron

Directions:
1. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with a paper towel. Douse it with fresh lemon juice and a little salt. Set aside.
2. Rinse your preserved lemons and cut them the rest of the way, so that they are now fully quartered. Remove any seeds that you see and can easily access.


3. Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Cook the chicken until it is golden brown on all sides. Remove chicken and set aside.


4. Add a little more olive oil. Place the onions, garlic, coriander seed, and preserved lemons in the bottom of the pot.

5. Put the chicken on top of the onions and preserved lemons. Add enough water to just submerge the chicken. Add the pinch of saffron.



6. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through and very tender. Serve with rice to help soak up the extra juices.

Enjoy!