Roasting poblano peppers

Roasting poblano peppers

Poblanos, as I’ve discovered, are the most versatile of green chillies, my go-to heat. I use puree them for this corn and poblano chowder, cut into strips and fried with potatoes to stuff in tacos, simmered with pulled pork, even diced to season bacon jam. They have a rich flavor that’s almost fruity with relatively low heat, registering at 1,000-2,500 on the Scoville Scale, right between pimientos (100 – 900) and jalapeños (3,500 – 8,000). Steamed, stuffed, or blended, they are delicious either way.   I discovered the bitter way that ripe green poblanos are not best raw.  The very simple must-do prep step is seeding and roasting them before use to bring out their flavor. Before handling your poblanos, cover your hands with plastic bags. (This is a great way to recycle your empty bread wrappers!)  If you do have to do this bare-handed, please don’t do like I did and like scratch your eye. Capsaicin is an oily substance and takes some time to wear off of your skin. I cut the in half, discard the inner white membrane along with the stem and seeds. Sometimes I cut them into half again. Then I pop them directly over the gas burner on my cooktop, over a medium-high flame. Do not leave them alone. Use tongs. They will start smoking and crackling, and the outside of the pepper will blacken and char. Poblanos have a very thin skin that is loosened by the charring. Once it’s cool it’s easy to rub off. I also use this technique to roast red bell peppers....
Monster mutsu apples, homegrown

Monster mutsu apples, homegrown

I bought my apple tree in a 5-gallon pot near the end of summer 2011. It was a skinny 5-footer with three marble-sized apples growing on the branches. Kid Two dug a big-enough hole in the only available spot in our small front yard, right next to the front walk where it’s shaded most mornings by an enormous Ponderosa lemon tree we planted 21 years ago after buying this house. If Novella Carpenter could grow fruit trees close together up in Oakland, I thought, with enough compost and loving care I could, too. The existing apples dropped off soon after the transplant, and within a couple of weeks the leaves began to curl and brown. I pulled out the digital microscope and discovered our baby tree was a host for happy aphids and this tiny insect that I later found out is a white apple leafhopper: Aargh. I’m a laissez-faire kind of gardener, so I really wanted to give the tree all the tools it needed to help itself. No pesticides. After some research and with high hopes, I set two bags of ladybugs free to feast on the aphids, planted several bunches of chives around the trunk. and worked a cupful of fruit tree fertilizer into the soil every month. Winter set in and I crossed my fingers. Spring brought pale pink and white blossoms along with fresh green leaves. I set another bag of ladybugs free and enjoyed the apple tree chives. By May tiny apples were growing, and the leaves looked green and healthy. By mid-summer the tree had filled out nicely, shielding the growing apples. I stopped paying...
Sweet on sauerkraut

Sweet on sauerkraut

Every couple of Saturday mornings we go to the Cabrillo Farmer’s Market, where the Kids breakfast on loaded baked potatoes and sample the offerings from local cheesemongers and I make a beeline for a shot of Farmhouse Culture’s kraut juice. More often than not come home with a bottle. This is the real thing, the original superfood, boldly flavored and so loaded with goodness you can actually feel you blood cells dancing for hours afterward. Especially the kimchi juice – cabbagegingergarlicradish all condensed in a tiny cup. My notion of sauerkraut used to be clear mushy sweetly tangy ribbons of precooked cabbage that came packaged in plastic bags. The ones my mom used to buy and heat up with Polish sausage and boiled potatoes. You too? Then toss that idea out the window. It’s so . . .  last century. Or at least mid-last century. Real sauerkraut is the stuff of tradition, of home preservation, of real foods – crunchy and aromatic, and, because it’s fermented, not boiled it’s a raw food, loaded with healthy microbes and micronutrients. Plus, and most importantly, it tastes great. I was awakened to this new-old wave of sauerkraut after reading Burkhard Bilger’s profile of “fermentation fetishist” and raw food activist Sandor Katz, AKA Sandorkraut. He’s quite a passionate and fascinating guy, author of The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, The Art of Fermentation, and Wild Fermentation. He argues that we’re killing ourselves with cleanliness: pasteurization, processing, packaged prepared consumables. He’s onto something; quite a bit of recent research points to our gut microbes acting as an 11th organ system. So fermented sauerkraut is something I’d want to...

How do you choose a bottle of wine?

We have friends over fairly often for dinner, and I always love it when they bring wine. I don’t care what kind is it, how much it costs, or even how it tastes . . . any choice you make either because the bottle is pretty or it’s a tried and true favorite, whether it’s red or white, robust or dry, even just because it was marked down . . . it’s all good. I figure since there’s no way we could ever begin to sample the wine bounty out there, it’s nice to see what my friends enjoy. No wine snobs here! Here are a few bottles with a range of price points, mostly inexpensive, that have crossed our threshold recently: Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County 2010 Layer Cake Malbec Vintage 2010, Mendoza – Argentina Vernaccia Di San Gimignano, 2010 Heitz Cellar 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, St Helena Alamos The Wines of Catena Malbec, Mendoza Argentina 2010 Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery Estate Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains 2010 Gundlach Bundschu Vintage Reserve Estate Vineyard, 2006 Sonoma Valley Bogle Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Vintage 2010 Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay, 2006 Bonny Doon Albarino, 2010 It’s tough to choose a wine, whether it’s for yourself or for a gift. Instead of worrying about vintage and bouquet and all the wine-tasting niceties, I just taste my way through different California’s different geographic wine regions and see what sticks. Over the years our wineglasses have travelled through the Santa Cruz Mountains, Carneros, Lake County, Santa Lucia Highlands, and are moving on to Arroyo Grande. I’ve found that once you choose a...
Texas toast

Texas toast

Kid Two has formally requested I share my recipe for Texas Toast with you, which makes me realize that the process of preparing a simple breakfast isn’t so simple after all – it’s also part of the process of creating his childhood food memories. Here it is.