New Kitchen, New Server

My writing here has been sparse, but I hope to pick it up. We moved a few months ago and we are finally starting to feel settled in. We are enjoying having guests in our new place and it’s renewing my interest in trying new recipes and writing here.

We have already had a few dinner parties with old standard recipes, but I’m looking forward to stretching out into some new ideas.

Early Bird Ranch

Early Bird Ranch is a small local chicken ranch in Pescadero. The chickens are raised outdoors in low-density groups, and are fed a pasture-based diet.

The most important part of our operation is the mobility of these pasture shelters. As the chickens grow their waste can become a serious liability. Keeping them in one place becomes too taxing on the land and on the immune system of the animals. In order to keep our chickens healthy and fertilize our farm’s pastures at the same time, the pasture shelters are moved onto completely fresh grass twice every day at sunrise and a couple hours before sunset. This continuous movement away from waste and onto pasture keeps the chickens healthy and maximizes their ingestion of nutritious clover, wild grasses, and bugs, which in turn create a more flavorful and nutritionally-dense product.

Excerpt from: Early Bird Ranch

They’ve recently relocated to a new property and will start selling their fresh chicken starting in early August. Contact them now to pre-order!

Sorry, I think this only works for local folks here in the San Francisco area – but I’d love to hear about your local farms!

Squash Blossoms – a wonderful seasonal treat!


Photo by Bob Gutowski

Night before last, a friend gave us a bag of beautiful squash blossoms. I know they are edible, and thought I had tried them stuffed and fried somewhere, but wasn’t sure. But I love culinary experiments and The Girl is very patient despite occasional failures.

I almost never follow a recipe, but I love cookbooks?. One of my favorite resources for a conundrum like squash blossoms is Alice Waters’ wonderful Chez Panisse Vegetables. This book is full of great recipes, plus selection, storage and preparation advice for a wide range of veggies.

For squash blossoms, there are a couple recipes, and in true Feed The Girl style, I read through them and then did my own thing. Here’s a rough recipe for what I made:

Ingredients

Fresh squash blossoms
1 egg
corn flour – fine ground
Cheese (I used a wonderful sharp white cheddar from Tasmania)
Thyme
Marjoram
Basil
Sage
Oregano
Olive oil

Steps

1. Gently rinse the squash blossoms, cleaning out any bugs or dirt, and pat them dry.

2. Stuff each with cheese and sprinkle in a little of the herbs.

3. Whip the egg in a bowl, and spread the corn flour and herbs on a plate.

4. Dip each stuffed blossom in the egg and then roll it in the corn flour and herbs

5. Heat a pan with a generous pool of olive oil, until a little flick of water from your fingers sizzles

6. Fry the stuffed, breaded blossoms in the pan, gently turning them to make them brown and crisp

 

We served the blossoms hot, sprinkled with a little fleur de sel (sea salt flakes) and cracked pepper. They were fabulous.

I’d love to hear how you do with this recipe, especially if you experiment a bit with it. You might try a different cheese, or change the herbs or flour.

 

Roast Veggies for Later

Here’s a great tip. Roast your veggies and then stick them in the freezer for later. All you have to do is heat them up!

After the veggies have been roasted, they will keep their texture and flavor. They will also keep in the fridge like this for a few days. it makes it easy to throw together a quick dinner later when you don’t have time to do all the chopping and prep.

Here’s a simple recipe:

Good veggies for roasting:
– carrots
– summer squash
– potatoes (small ones are better, and different colors are fun)
– kohlrabi
– zuchinni

Simple veggie marinade:
chopped garlic
sweet onion, chopped in thick slivers (shallots and red onions can be good, too)
olive oil
salt and pepper

If your oven has a “convection roast” setting, use it!

preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Chop the veggies in bite-size chunks
toss them in the marinade to coat evenly
put it all in a pyrex or roasting pan big enough so the veggies are just one layer deep
Roast for 25 – 35 minutes

When it’s done, eat some, let the rest cool and then put it in a container or freezer bag for storage in the freezer

To reheat: Warm in the oven at 325 for 10 minutes, or toss in a frying pan or wok for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring regularly.

Convivial.org: Easy Pulled Pork Sandwich

Ran across this great short-cut to great food. This time it’s Carolina-style Pulled Pork. Mmmmm. Check it out:

Before tackling a major BBQ project, here’s a much easier way to get really tender, juicy, smoky pulled pork with an old-timey Eastern North Carolina vinegar sauce. The method: rub it, smoke it, braise it and pull it — that’s it. And, if the rubbing & smoking are done the first day, then braising and pulling it the next; not only do the tasks seem more manageable, but, the rub & smoke more fully permeate the meat.

[From Convivial.org: Easy Pulled Pork Sandwich]

I love traditional recipes and all the attention to detail, but I also like finding those easier methods and shortcuts that still produce real food.

If you get around to trying this recipe before I do, let me know how it goes!

Escargot to go!

Twitter is a great tool, and although there are some terrible spammers out there, some businesses are also using it in interesting ways.

Close to our hearts here at Feed The Girl are the new batch of food twitters, including @chezspencergo, just profiled on sfgate.com:

Laurent Katgely of Chez Spencer (82 14th St., San Francisco) is taking his escargot on the road. Jumping into the fray of the street food craze, he’s turning a former taco truck into a mobile kitchen to serve his French fare at a few San Francisco locations.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for years. I love taco trucks and always thought, ‘There’s only Mexican food. Why not French?’ ” says Katgely.

[From Chez Spencer chef takes French food to the streets]

Laurent twitters about new dishes on his menu, and about where and when his escargot truck is serving. The way he uses twitter, it’s a useful service to those who follow him. If you like this sort of thing, there’s also @cremebruleecart, although he seems to be out of town for a little while.

My friend Loic LeMeur (@loic) posted a list of these food-cart twitter accounts to follow if you live in San Francisco. Do you know any of these? Got pointers to the best ones? Know some from other areas that you can share?

My CSA – Blue House Farm, Pescadero

BlueHouseLogo

Our local CSA is owned by Ned and Ryan, a couple great guys who has been involved in sustainable agriculture for years. This is our third season in their program. For $25 per week, 25-week season pre-paid, you get a box stuffed with farm fresh organic veggies. We pick up ours at their farm in Pescadero, but they also have pick-up locations in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Kings Mountain, La Honda, and Half Moon Bay. Check their website for details and subscription availability – they are filling up fast!

http://www.bluehousefarm.org/

The quality from any CSA should be excellent. It’s rare to find farm-fresh produce even in the best stores. But what I like best about belonging to a CSA is the surprises. What the heck do you do with fennel root? What are these weird spears… oh, garlic scapes, huh? A lot of experimenting in the kitchen has been driven by these fun new discoveries, and it’s resulted in some great new recipes. Some of these things, like the garlic scapes, I’ve never seen in stores, and others I’ve been walking past for years.

Like with music, when you’re cooking it’s easy to just go straight for what you know. Regular grocery stores make it easy to stick to what you know by never presenting you much different. CSAs, farm stands and ethnic grocers can really help you expand your palette.

Got a favorite CSA? Ethnic market? Farm stand? I’d love to hear about it!