Posts Tagged ‘seasonal eating


end of plum season


The plums are near the end of their season.


Transitional fruits


Last tomatoes, first butternut; last melons, first persimmons.


yummy summer breakfast

One peach and one tomato, chopped; a bit of dried mint, crumbled; a drizzle of red-chile honey.


Pea shoot pasta

Even cooked, pea tendrils cling:

Pea shoot pasta


The amazing shrinking farmstand

It’s impossible to walk past the Neufeld Farms stand at our farmers market. There’s always someone urging you try their peaches, nectarines, pluots, plums, apricots, grapes… even in the winter. It only struck me today that the winter display is the same as the summer, only drastically reduced in size, by dehydration. And that they must work behind the scenes on that all summer.


When Kitchen Express and Cooks Illustrated collide

Turns out there was nothing wrong with the seal on my pressure cooker, but the pressure indicator inexplicably won’t stay up. This doesn’t affect the function (all of the beans still cooked quickly and nothing exploded), but it does make deciding when it’s safe to open the thing rather exciting.

I celebrated the lack of explosions and steam burns by using some of the white beans I cooked up to make white bean toasts, a fall recipe from Kitchen Express that works just as well in winter:

white bean toasts and cucumber soup

Mark Bittman’s recipe uses lemon juice and olive oil in place of the cream in the Joy of Cooking’s white bean paste. I left off the dried tomatoes that he suggests, since I only have smoke-dried ones, and I didn’t think that would coordinate too well with the rest of the flavors. I couldn’t be bothered to get out the food processor, so my potato-masher puree is more rustic than his, but my bread is more urbane. Why would I use a “peasant bread” when I love Noe Valley Bakery’s sour baguettes so?

But wait. What is that in the background? A totally unseasonal and unsuited to the weather chilled cucumber soup! Knowing my dedication to the joys of seasonal eating, you may well ask where that came from. I’ll tell you.

Yesterday I tested an unpublished Cooks Illustrated recipe for the first time. Even though I get their emails regularly, I’ve resisted until now because their editorial calendar keeps their test recipes so out of step with the seasons. I fell for this one because I figured the dressing on their cucumber salad would give me a good basis for trying to recreate this wonderful cabbage, cucumber, mint, jalapeño, and lime salad that Burma Superstar serves. I was right about the dressing, and I’m eager to try it with a cabbage I’ll pick up at the farmers’ market tomorrow. Meanwhile, the cucumber salad was just fine, though I was worried because the cucumbers I picked up at Whole Foods were big, seedy, and bitter.

The recipe served four, so I couldn’t finish it. Into the fridge with the leftovers! And tonight, out comes—cucumber salad in a lot of liquid:

That used to be a salad.

Immersion blender to the rescue!

Now it's a soup!

It was possibly better as a soup than as a salad. I can also see potential for it as a smoothie, or a granita, or a mixer. Come summer and small, sweet cucumbers, that is.


piggy peach risotto

Not even vaguely Tex-Mex, but still what we had for dinner last night. J-P decided to try the peach-and-pancetta version of this watermelon-and-pancetta risotto recipe that Eric Asimov posted in the Diners’ Journal a few weeks ago. It was good, but next time we will salt the rice as it cooks (we relied on the pancetta for salt this time), use more basil, and use a stronger stock (we used the powdered veggie broth we usually use for risotto, but a good chicken stock is clearly the way to go here). The flavorful bits were very flavorful and quite nice together, but the risotto itself lacked a little oomph.


Momo’s chicken soup

PJ’s “small and beautiful”* celery soup from a couple of weeks ago made me want my grandmother’s similarly delicate and unassuming chicken soup.

Yields about 3 quarts

Phase 1

  • 1/2 pound chicken scraps (backs, necks, wingtips, whatever)
  • water to cover
  • salt to taste

Put the chicken scraps in a stockpot with water to cover and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.

Phase 2

  • 1 medium potato, chopped large
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped large
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, quartered
  • 3 small stalks celery, chopped large
  • 1 medium jalapeño (seeded and deveined if that’s your thing; I don’t), chopped large**
  • 1/2 pound bone-in, proper cuts of chicken (I prefer legs and thighs); remove skins and excess fat (there’s already plenty in there)***
  • juice of half a medium lime
  • more salt
  • a generous dash ground cumin
  • lots of fresh ground black pepper
  • about 3 cups more water


While Phase 1 is simmering, prepare the ingredients for Phase 2. Skim the gunk off the top, then add everything on the list above. Return to a simmer and let cook, covered, until the freshly added chicken is done (another 20-30 minutes).

Phase 3

  • 1 ear corn, hacked into rounds that will just fit on a soup spoon to be nibbled at****
  • 1 double handful cilantro*****
  • maybe some more salt, pepper, cumin and/or lime juice, to taste


Fish the chicken out of the soup and put in the ingredients listed above, returning to a covered simmer for while you shred the proper chicken parts. Discard the bones and the chicken scraps from Phase 1. Return the shredded chicken to the pot for 5 minutes or so, and you’re done.


* Small and beautiful, as opposed to aiming for the TV chef goal of “bigass flavor.”

** My grandmother has ulcers and has been told not to eat spicy foods, but at least one chile always makes it in. When I asked her to describe what she put in this soup, the jalapeño was an afterthought. “Oh, and a pepper.” For flavor, of course.

*** I used boneless this time and relearned the important lesson that it cooks too fast and gets rubbery. Bone-in is the way to go. Can’t get it falling-off-the-bone tender without a bone to fall off of.

**** I may help my diners by shredding the chicken before serving (my grandmother certainly doesn’t), but the rounds of corn are non-negotiable. Nibbling them is half the fun. (For a non-summer version of this soup, just leave the corn out.)

***** Every time I rake a fork through a handful of parsley or cilantro to get the leaves off the stalks, I think of John Kraemer, who taught me that quick and easy technique.


blackberries and fennel

San Francisco has huge stands of feral fennel, and something in their smell reminds me of the smell of blackberries. I didn’t think of trying the two together in time to do it last summer, but tonight, the two met, in two preparations.

Savory: Fennel and blackberries tossed with a lemon-olive oil dressing, a variation Mark Bittman’s fennel and apple salad with mustard vinaigrette (number 16 here). It was alright, but not great. Maybe I should have taken inspiration from his fennel and prunes with ginger vinaigrette (number 12 here). Ginger might have helped.

Sweet: This is a winner. I wilted some fennel in olive oil on the stove, to simulate the effects of baking. Drained the fennel and tossed it and some blackberries with a little sugar and cinnamon. That would make a wonderful pie filling. Now if only I can get enough blackberries for a reasonable enough price before the end of their season…

And the end of their season is clearly coming soon. I bought my half pint at Bi Rite around 2 this afternoon, and long before I got home (around 10), they were deliquescing and smelling more fermented than herbal-tangy-sweet.


Blackberry on FoodistaBlackberry


changing of the guard

Click through to see my plans for the week’s produce.

Despite the evidence of this haul, summer is clearly on its way out and autumn on its way in at the Noe Valley farmers’ market. Apples and grapes have appeared. The blueberries, blushing an unripe pink, sit under a sign announcing that it’s their last week. The stone fruits are underripe, too, and I overhear one clerk I see often telling another, apparently new, that people like them “suavecito” (soft), even though buying ones that are “un poquito duro” (a little hard) right now will ensure “una mesa llena” (a full table) throughout the week.

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