July 31, 2007

Disappearing Zucchini

Following up on my last post about zucchini bread, which I am still enjoying, I must admit that I have found a few other uses for the zucchini that has been showing up in my weekly box. Let me insert here that the zucchini coming from Eatwell Farm is incredibly creamy! This is a pretty exciting discovery to me, who always found zucchini so borrrrring.

I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle a month ago. Sigh. What a lovely read that was. I love the way it was educational without being preachy. If you don't know already, the 'year in food' chronicles the family's move from Tucson, AZ to a family farm in the Virginia's Appalachian mountains. Their aim was to live as sustainably as possible for one year, growing as much as possible and getting the rest from neighbors. Go out and read this if you haven't, yet!

You can visit their website for recipes that are printed in the book. One recipe that stuck with me is the Disappearing Zucchini Orzo. I have used this method to great success in various ways. It comes in handy when trying to feed a 2 and 4 yr old who are both opposed to most things green. Grated zucchini seems to disappear in just about anything. I've used it to make pasta sauce, bulgur salad, risotto and fried rice. The zucchini is totally camouflaged in the last two dishes as it is the same size and shape as rice. As for the pasta sauce - I sauteed some garlic and diced onion, then added the shredded zuccchini until softened. I then added some chopped tomato (I actually had some leftover heirlooms!) and basil and let them simmer. The sauce almost had a creamy consistency and was delicious AND nutritious :)

July 27, 2007

Summer Abundance

In this weeks' box were:

Heirloom tomatoes - 3 small, 2 large and 2 pints of cherry tomatoes
Cucumber - some of them were so long they wouldn't fit in the box! I wonder how long mine was to start with...
Eggplant - a pretty shade of lavender. I should take a picture
Onions - flat, white ones that are larger than a cipollini but smaller than a regular onion - at first I thought they were huge heads of garlic
Strawberries - swear to you. and in my opinion, they are now at their sweetest
Green beans - I have no idea what to do with all the green beans in my fridge!
Corn - three ears
Serrano chiles - 3 peppers
Zucchini - 3
Basil - a bunch

Stay tuned for our weekly meal plan. I think we are having pizza tonight - my mouth is watering thinking about a pizza covered in tomato, eggplant, zucchini and basil! And, still no problem for us to turn on the oven to 475 even though it is July 27. Gotta think positively about the San Franciscan weather.

July 26, 2007

The Requisite Zucchini Bread Post

I had all these grand plans for zucchini this summer. It's not that I have a bumper crop from a garden to contend with, as they wouldn't grow well in my yard (too cold, foggy, windy and wet). I knew we'd be getting them repeatedly from the farm and was armed with ideas on how to tackle them. I had visions of making zucchini fritters, stuffed zucchini, ratatouille, zucchini soup (ew?), etc, etc. Anything to avoid zucchini bread. And for no good reason, because I *love* zucchini bread. It's just so, I don't know, uncreative? Obvious? Because no one else in my house eats it but me and so therefore it ends up on my hips?

Well, I broke down. I couldn't hold out any longer. At 10:30 PM the other night I adapted a recipe from Betty Crocker. There are so many variations on this theme out there, but for things like this, there is nothing wrong with using an old standby.

Zucchini Bread (adapted from Betty Crocker)

3 cups flour (white or whole wheat or a combination)
4 cups shredded zucchini (you read that right! I said 4 cups)
1 cup white sugar (this could be reduced, I'm sure)
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2/3 cup oil (I used canola)
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
few good shakes of cinnamon
2 shakes of ground clove
a good grating of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two bread pans.
Mix zucchini, eggs, sugar and vanilla until well blended.
Add dry ingredients to the wet and mix until blended, but no more!
Divide into the bread pans and bake for about 45-60 min depending on your oven. Keep a close eye on them.
Lick the spoon. Salmonella, schalmonella.
Let cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing the loaves to cool on a rack.

For some weird reason, I like to have a slice with a little peanut butter for breakfast.

July 22, 2007

I'm No Remy...

Nor does it dazzle like this (shedoesnthavekidsyetshedoesnthavekidsyet), but it was damn tasty!

It occured to me that the release of Ratatouille was brilliantly timed with the onset of the nightshade vegetables in the dish. When I opened my CSA box on Wednesday and saw: eggplant! zucchini! tomato! well, es mus sien.

I haven't made ratatouille since I gave up vegetarianism over 10 years ago. To be honest, I never really liked this dish. How, you ask in horror? This is how: you're from the Midwest and your version, like all your food, is drowning in cheese and tomato sauce.

There was something about the seasoning, too... the basil stewing with the pepper... so imagine my relief when I opened Mastering the Art and found the recipe was seasoned only with salt, pepper and parsley. (Parsley. If that isn't in season now, nothing is.) She also has you cook off almost all the tomato juice. Exactly.

And well, I like ratatouille sans sog, sans basil, with a mere smattering of cheese.

Better yet, I get it. I feel like we've travelled so far from where food comes from that the obviousness of combinations in traditional dishes is no longer obvious. I don't know whether to be more embarrassed of being outsmarted by a little rat or the marketing executives at Pixar, but here's to many more mid-summer ratatouilles to come.

July 20, 2007

On cleaning up

One of my favorite ways to use up the remnants of a week's vegetables is by making fried rice. We always seem to have leftover rice in the fridge, which is the ideal state the rice should be in for a stirfry (each grain needs to be separated to avoid clumping). The great thing about fried rice is that you can really throw in almost anything and it will always taste great.

Last night I used onion, garlic, zucchini, cabbage and the previous night's leftover scallops and lobster from the birthday feast we had thanks to a local Chinese restaurant ;) I'm realizing as I write this that I had one shabby ear of corn whose kernels I should have thrown in there. Oh well, there is always next week!

I now have a LOT of green beans in my refrigerator and need a creative way to use them up.

This week's contents included the aforementioned green beans, zucchini, basil, onions, garlic, 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, 2 heirloom tomatoes, and strawberries!! My perishable leftovers from the last week or two include cabbage, zucchini and green beans. I don't foresee those three ingredients being thrown together in anything (except maybe a curry?) - so stay tuned for what we come up with...

July 19, 2007

Suffering Succotash

We get our box on Wednesdays, which means Tuesday night is generally clean-up night. Last week we did more eating out than usual, so I had to forego the shiny new vegetables (eggplant!) from our box and use what was left. I committed a crime, maybe even a mortal sin: we didn't eat the corn right away last week. Or even soon. It was still in the fridge after a week. Partly because we only received 2 ears and we have 3 uh, mouths that eat corn. This is how I handled it:

Some chicken stock
handful of barley
cut off corn from 2 ears
grated zucchini
paprika just because

Cooked the barley first, then added corn, then for the last 5 minutes zucchini. WHIZZED (thanks Miche, I love that word) it in a blender to chunky and voila.

July 17, 2007

Cost Effective

While organic foods frequently cost more than their non-organic counterparts, eating a local, sustainable, organic diet can end up costing less.

Along the way, as we integrate more local foods in to our meals, I want to document the costs for all to see. I pulled some old grocery receipts to see what we were spending pre-produce CSA. It turns out that on produce, we were spending roughly $45 a week, give or take a few dollars. That entailed prewashed, packaged salads, garlic and onions and a host of usual suspects: broccoli, spinach, kale, red bell peppers. Those vegetables all might be nutritional powerhouses, but lack of variety is not good for the diet. We also purchased fruit, mostly what was in season, and a standby bunch of bananas.

Now, we get a box of produce each week from Eatwell Farm that costs $24.50. We spend roughly $10 on fruit at the Temescal Farmer's Market each week, and my husband still gets his $1.19 worth of bananas, but I'll wear him down on that one yet. Our weekly total on produce is now $35.69.

That's a savings of almost $10 week on what turns out to be a larger quantity of much higher quality produce. Higher quality because everything comes to us, directly from the farm, at its peak, within a day of being picked. The quantity we now receive - which used to seem prohibitive in terms of cost when I shopped at a certain pricey, natural food chain store - means more of our meals center on vegetables. That creates a savings in terms of other food purchases, of which, I'll maybe someday bore you with the details.

July 16, 2007


Better late than never...I get to our plan for our CSA contents this week.

In my box were:
cabbage, onions, plums, swiss chard, garlic, zucchini (why does Eatwell insist on calling this summer squash instead of zucchini? is it a regional thing? all summer squash that is not yellow is, to me, zucchini), green beans, yellow finn potatoes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, 2 big heirloom tomatoes (yellow & red). I was really bummed there was no corn! Hopefully Ruth got some to make up for the week when it was in my box and not hers.

I pick up my box on Thursday. It is now Monday, and all of our plums and cherry tomatoes are long gone!

For the two heirloom tomatoes, red onion from last week and the garlic, I am going to make a panzanella for my lunches.

Last night, I made a lemon slaw with the cabbage. Gist of the recipe is this:
4 cups cabbage
3 carrots
1 cup (bunch) scallion
4 tbsp mayonnaise (or 2 tbsp mayo + 2 tbsp sour cream)
1/2 tsp lemon zest
4 tsp lemon juice
s & p

It was so delicious - and I am not a big slaw person. Ruth has been talking it up for a few months - I should have listened a few months ago!

Tonight we are having chicken tikka masala and will add zucchini, green beans and maybe even some potatoes. The prepared curry is admittedly A/ not local B/ not organic and C/ REALLY GOOD.

Tomorrow night will be sauteed chard next to some potatoes and fish or steak.

Wednesday is my birthday and we were talking of having....lobster ;) Hey, it's only once a year! I'll be making up for it by eating totally local Friday night at this restaurant.

Local Beershed?

On Saturday, my husband installed his Father's Day gift, a kegerator, in to an old fridge in our basement. He is obsessed with Racer 5 IPA and will now have it on tap. The brewery is in Healdsburg, so I guess this qualifies as a local product, though the hops hail from the Pacific Northwest. At least it will significanly reduce packaging waste.

I now have the freezer of said fridge to fill with local meat. Chop chop.

July 15, 2007

Tipping Point

You know the concept where an idea (really, an epidemic), gains critical mass? Reaches a point where vast acceptance (or infection) happens at a rapid rate? I've had my own personal tipping point with cloth diapers.

I'm environmentally conscious, but when I researched cloth diapers for my first-born, there was something too cumbersome about the process: the folding and the clipping and the diaper cover and the muck was too much to bring down a fence sitter. I told myself I'd revisit the idea when it made sense. That didn't happen until the second child was almost a year old.

Enter Fuzzi Bunz, a cloth diaper almost as easy as disposables, every bit as effective, and frankly - because it matters - much, much cuter. It's a colorful, snappy, self-contained device that you throw in a hot water wash every few days. What Fuzzi Bunz has is *ease*.

How does this correlate with eating locally?

We started this blog because we both believe deeply in the local food movement. But despite it having several years momentum, despite all the information readily available online, despite a growing number of locavores, the process of eating locally is still a bit of a puzzle. Like Sunday, New York Times crossword puzzle.

Cooking is a passion for both of us, but we are busy moms with small children. Admittedly we haven't found the ease in the process. If it's not there for us, how do we convince other busy families to give up one stop grocery shopping and convenience food in exchange for a cobbled network of raw materials? What makes people give up prewashed salad (e. coli?) in exchange for whatever green happens to be ripe in the fields that week, oh, and it's been raining, so it's caked in mud and requires multiple rinses before you can even start to prepare it? Or a loaf of bread for a pile of grains? Canned beans for dried? A carton of ready-to-pour stock for scraps of bones? (See previous post re: FLAVOR) Essentially, how do you simplify a process and package the concept - NOT THE FOOD - in colorful *ease*?

This blog is our process of discovering just that. We believe there is a way to make cooking local foods an enticing, integral part of daily life for everyone. A small percentage of people eating locally is a great start, but we need to reach the tipping point to have real, global impact. So we're here to discover the ease for ourselves and share these findings along the way. We aren't setting out to be the tipping point, but we would like to infect our share of people along the way.

July 14, 2007


Today, I made chicken stock as if it were something as simple as brushing my teeth. I've been doing my own stock for a few months now... just waiting to see what would come of the process. It's wasn't something I was sure I could keep up, but today, I'm sure. I hate to think of any food preparation as rote, but I think the habitual element is necessary to sustain the process. If I had to really pay attention and think about this every week, I might go back to pouring the stuff from those cardboard jugs. Nah, there's simply no comparison.

Last week I ladled freshly made stock over sauteed greens and let them simmer. It was simplest and cheapest of side-dishes, but it was profoundly satisfying. Theres a softness to food you make for yourself. I don't know how else to describe it; maybe a gentle mouthfeel that let's you keep tasting the real flavors. That's this stock. Well worth the now routine effort it takes to make.

July 13, 2007

Local Ice Cream

Really local - like the homemade kind.  You can't escape the frenzy around here, in the food blogosphere or in the food sections of major newspapers

It was only fitting that I yank out my 6 year old Krups ice cream maker, a wedding present that I used maybe 5 times the first year I had it.  After Ruth told me about a batch of apricot ice cream she made that turned out so great, I was encouraged about the process and decided to try it.  I attempted two batches tonight:  vietnamese coffee and a no-egg (aka: kid friendly preparation) strawberry recipe I found.

Well, we haven't had either of them.  Unless you count putting the vietnamese coffee mixture along with some ice cubes in a blender at 10:40 PM because you are so desperate to have some...

My #$%^@ ice cream maker takes forever to freeze and neither batch would set up!  I hope, for the kids' sake, that it will work by tomorrow.  They will be oh so sad and disappointed if they can't have their vietnamese coffee strawberry ice cream!

If all fails again, we will repeat what I did tonight and just turn everything into a milkshake.  Or, we will just have to visit one of these places:

July 9, 2007

Basil Dressing

As I lamented (yeah. poor me.) about in a previous post, I had a lot of basil on my hands this week since I foolishly bought some before getting a nice bunch from the farm on Thursday. I often find myself getting bogged down by ingredients, feeling like I have to do something extra-creative with them. This is why I wasn't going to make pesto. Been there, done that. I know this is silly, but half the fun of having the CSA is being forced to experiment with ingredients that are either new or in abundance. After slicing up the pretty tomato (yes, that's singular. one tomato. they're not quite ready, yet!) and sprinkling some basil on top to let it marinate before dinner (this makes a big difference, in my opinion. for bruschetta topping, as well. let those flavors marry before eating!) - I realized I had to make lunch to bring to work. One of my favorite things to do with extra herbs or veg I have is to chop it all up and add it to bulgur for a salad. My 'recipe' for this will come in another post. The bulgur always needs a dressing. Knowing this recipe isn't THAT creative, I am still sharing it because it was tasty and pretty enough to post here...not to mention a good way to use up basil.

Basil Dressing
In a blender put:
2 cloves garlic
huge tablespoon of dijon
couple glugs of vinegar (i have been using an orange/champagne/muscat from Trader Joe's that is fun)
equal amount of olive oil (i like it vinegary)
a bunch of basil leaves - to taste (i used about 25 smallish leaves)
salt and pepper

WHIZ on high in your blender until emulsified. Dressing made this way will not break, and will keep well for at least 4-5 days. Would also make a good dip for veg, spread on panini, marinade for poultry/fish, and probably 5 other ways I haven't come up with ;)

July 8, 2007


Long vilified as cholesterol laden muck, eggs are actually a great, healthful source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Don't bother with the store bought kind if you have access to pasture raised eggs. Yes, we pay $6 a dozen. Worth every penny and we can never go back.

How do we fit this in to our weekly food budget? Supper, that quaint little tradition of eating a light evening meal. This is fast, fast food for those nights when the baby shrieks and clings to my leg and the 4 year-old has not yet burned his requisite 60,000 calories of boy energy and is in to more mischief than my weary bones can describe. Besides, they do it in France.

We make: omelets, frittatas, quiche, and hardboiled eggs in salad. And for the aforementioned mischief maker: two eggs, sunny-side up. I know you're never supposed to become a short-order cook for your child, but it's far too late for us to go back.

The cooked egg dishes are a lovely repository for left-over vegetables, even the slightly wilted variety. We may eat a side salad if we have lettuce, or maybe just some steamed veggies to go along side.

July 6, 2007

Before there was Ratatouille, there was Over the Hedge.  A perfect Friday night movie for a family with small children.  It's a story about a group of forager animals that you would typically find in a wooded area (raccoons, turtles, porcupines (from Minnesota),  and squirrels) trying to get 'over the hedge' to gain access to the human food supply (aka garbage).  

I have to note that Ben Folds does the entire soundtrack!

I love this clip from the movie that describes everything (that's wrong?) about the typical American 'food delivery' system.

Summertiiiimmme...and the eating is eaaasyyy

[I haven't decided whether to remain technical or get creative with post titles, so you will have to excuse the dorky ones (ahem, like today). Maybe I should just stick to the date of my CSA delivery and leave it at that?]

In my box this week (R's might be a bit different. Did you get carrots or beets? I got neither. Hmph!):
Sweet corn, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomato + two babies, lettuce, garlic, red torpedo onions, basil!, lemon verbena, zucchini, plums and a mix of small potatoes (red, white and blue).

I'm most excited about the corn, which I still insist on eating just off the cob, and the basil. I did just buy basil at Trader Joe's because I *had* to have some, even if it was from Mexico. This is a slow weaning process, this trying to eat locally thing! At least it was in season. Now that one daughter is in swim class every Saturday morning, I am barred from getting to either of our two farmer's markets. Typing this now reminds me that I should try to find one near her class.

Last time we got lemon verbena, I made it into a tea to drink hot or cold. That was lovely. I think this time I need to get more creative with it and make an olive oil cake or something else sweet. I have a constant supply of it as my friend has a bush in her backyard (thanks!).

As for a menu - we haven't quite figured it out this week. Also, all the produce is so fresh and ready-to-eat that I don't think we really need a real menu on how to incorporate these vegetables.

July 3, 2007

Grains and Beans!

I just signed up for a share of California grown grains and beans. The first delivery is in 5-6 weeks. Which means, project organize your freaking kitchen had better get in to full swing. More to come.


Oops, I'm already not keeping up with this!

Contents of our box last week:

4 ears of CORN!
pint of cherry tomatoes
4 large, light green zucchini
bag of BLUE potatoes
swiss chard

A few things we have done with the contents:

Steamed the corn and ate it pronto.
Grilled the zucchini and last week's yukon gold potatoes
Sauteed the swiss chard with the onion (wow are they sweet!!)
Parsley has had many uses!

The thing about summer produce is that you don't really need to really 'do' anything with it or to it. I'm going to have to start getting creative with the zucchini, though. Seeing Ratatouille over the weekend reminded me what a great dish that is in the summer.

July 1, 2007

Corn Vindication

Reading Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemna, it is hard not to come down on the wrong side of corn. The first third of the book is devoted to the intrinsic ability of corn to be a superplant, both in the way it grows and the many uses that American corporations have derived from it. So, it is not too hard to develop negative feelings towards poor corn, knowing that it is the spawn of such 'evil' (high fructose corn syrup!, mineral-depleted soil!, overusage of pesticides and nitrogen in order to grow it!).

And then, I had an ear of corn from Eatwell Farm. Glorious, fabulous, oh so sweet 'butter-sugar corn' (as we called it in upstate NY - is that true of everywhere?) whose kernels were jumping off the cob, they were so fresh. Oh meeee. Oh myyyy. I started stealing my kids' corn, it was so good. It didn't even need salt or butter, but old habits die hard.

Corn, how I love thee. In your natural/organic form, you are better than ever.