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...

What’s The Best Program To Help You Lose Weight?

Everyone wants to know the best way to lose weight, but few people realize that the problem has already been well and truly solved. While many people anxiously wait for the next crackpot diet involving baked beans or baby formula, there are others who are walking, talking examples of what we already know. Look around you and you probably know many people who have been overweight and got back in shape. You probably also know a lot of people who have managed to stay at a healthy weight their whole lives. It’s unlikely that those people explored The Blood-Type Diet or The Alkaline Diet, which seem to be much more based on marketability than fact. The medical profession has brought us cures for some of the most horrific diseases, including polio, diphtheria and other diseases that once plagued millions of lives. This same medical community has already brought us a cure to being overweight, and it doesn’t involve chomping on asparagus or nibbling on fish bones. The answer lies in calorie-controlled diets, just as diet plans by Weight Watchers and the medical profession has been telling us for an eternity. For most of us, the problem is rarely not knowing what food and diet will help us lose weight. It all comes down to the emotional pull we find ourselves under as we lead busier and busier lives. Humans also have hedonistic hunger. This is when we want to eat not because we’re hungry, but because of the pleasure we derive from it. “Subjective feelings of hunger are more likely to reflect our hedonic hunger level than our body’s...

Peaches – nature’s candy in my hand or can or pie

“Peaches come from a can / They were put there by a man / in a factory downtown.” This is one of our family-inside-joke sort of songs, one of those ludicrous and vaguely hilarious things I found before a summer Big Sur road trip. It went on the Big Sur Road Trip playlist, along with Cows With Guns and Bongo Bong and a bunch of other songs that probably go a long way in explaining why we are the way we are, and we listened to it while driving from our Julia Pfeiffer Burns environmental campsite to a civilized dinner at the Big Sur Bakery and back. Enjoy “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States. embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube Direkt...
Easy scallion cakes (green onion cakes)

Easy scallion cakes (green onion cakes)

Scallions (also known as green onions, spring onions, salad onions, table onions, green shallots, onion sticks, long onions, baby onions, precious onions, yard onions, gibbons, or syboes) are the edible plants of various Allium species, all of which are “onion-like”, having hollow green leaves and lacking a fully developed root bulb. -Wikipedia Smitten Kitchen got me hooked on scallion cakes. It’s all because her recipe for Japanese vegetable pancakes, or okonomiyaki, that caught my eye one afternoon. Sliced cabbage, carrots, scallions, and kale mixed with eggs and a little flour to bind it all together. It sounded fresh and fast and a different sort of way to get some veggie love in with dinner. I gave it a shot. It was fresh, only too fresh, like an iceberg salad without the dressing. Perfectly acceptable, but with no depth of flavor – nothing I’d crave, or even think to make again. It was a good starting point, though. I liked the idea of the recipe, but I kind of wanted some punch. Everyone seemed to agree. After his first bite, LL said, “These would be really good if they had lots of onion, like scallion cakes.” Scallion cakes? That is not a dish I knew about, ever saw on a menu or tasted. Now, after doing the tiniest but of research, I’m just not sure how I missed them all my life. A.K.A. Cong you bing, 葱油饼; scallion pancakes, green onion pancakes . . .  this dish is one of Asia’s great street foods, as ubiquitous to Chinese cultures as muffins are to your corner Starbucks. I had to make it, yes. I love green onions. But you do know it’s tricky – even dangerous – to attempt...

Top Chef Masters Season 5

Summer of Top Chef love starts tonight with the first episode of Top Chef Masters  – woot! Not sure how much love the chefs will be feeling once they find out their first challenge is . . . skydiving? Really, Bravo? I was ready to go find a tranquilizer just WATCHING this preview. Not sure I would have made it on the plane; I certainly wouldn’t have made it off like this: I enjoy Top Chef Masters, in part because they compete for charity – a $100,000 prize! – and seem much more . . . collaborative. No claws. Bryan Voltaggio makes the jump from Top Chef finalist (Season 6) to Top Chef Masters contestant, the first chef ever to make that jump. And in this season’s Top Chef twist, each chef is represented online by sous chef – well-deserved exposure for an equally talented group. Here is tonight’s clip: I’m going to try my hand at live tweeting tonight’s episode. You can follow me on Twitter...
Desserts inspired by modern art

Desserts inspired by modern art

I can’t tell you how much I love this:   Caitlin Freeman, pastry chef at SFMOMA’s Blue Bottle Cafe creates these edible masterpieces inspired by the museum’s works of art. I have complete admiration for those who make the elusive, yet obvious connections and execute them perfectly. Talk about food-meets-art . . . here is her Warhol-inspired Jello: The museum’s Blue Bottle Cafe is closed until sometime in 2016 for a big museum renovation. Luckily the cafe’s closing coincided with the publication of Freeman’s book “Modern Art Desserts,” a step-by-step guide to creating sweet Mondrians, Liechtensteins, Kahlos, and Diebenkorns of your own. She’s not taking a break, though – you can buy the book and follow her blog. I did, and am looking forward to hearing what she’ll be creating...

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...
What do you do with 12 pounds of salmon?

What do you do with 12 pounds of salmon?

Don’t let the prospect of purchasing 9 or 12 or 15 pounds of salmon ever keep you away from buying a whole fish – although you do need a dependable freezer. Surprisingly, it goes faster than you imagine. Here are a couple of tricks I’ve picked up from my fishy friends for preserving that fresh sea flavor: Get it home as quickly as possible while keeping it cold. Fisherman Frank assures me that temperature fluctuation hastens that “fishy smell.” Exposure to air also makes your fish smell fishy instead of like the sea, so if you have access to a vacuum sealer, fantastic. Just vacuum pack individual portions and then freeze. No worries if you don’t, though – you’ll have to just MacGyver it. Put individual portions into freezer-friendly zip-lock bags. Seal almost all the way, and then suck the air out yourself. You know, with your mouth. Like in the old days when you smoked. Do it right and the baggie collapses around the fish, and you can breath freely again. Finish zip-locking it and freeze. Now you have freshly frozen pieces of salmon to defrost and cook at your leisure. Your first meal with that super-fresh salmon could be little sashimi. You don’t have to be a sushi chef to do this, just use a super-sharp blade and respect the fish. Slice thinly. Layer with a little avocado, while you eat close your eyes and imagine the sea:   I don’t like to use any sauce or marinade on salmon that is this fresh – I just toss it on a super-hot barbecue dressed with a little lemon, salt,...
First fish

First fish

A quick stop at Day’s Market for a bag of ice was the daily de rigueur in the sailboat days of our early marriage. No refrigerator on the Ericson 30 we called home, just a deep insulated box under the speck of formica counter that needed constant replenishment to keep our chardonnay chilled and sundries shivery. It had been a long time since I’d even glanced at that sign – a grow-the-baby-to-the-cusp-of-his-twenties length of time, and stopping there again that Saturday morning for a bag of ice made those memories misty and my nostalgia shivery. It wasn’t the time or place to reminisce, though; I had a date with a salmon. This email, from Fisherman Frank of the Gayle R, came late one Friday, 4 or 5 days after the opening of commercial salmon season: Dear Salmon Fans, Plenty of fish, but the early bird always gets the worm!  (No earlier than 10 o’clock though, please). The cost is $10/lb for the whole fish.  Frank will filet and/or steak the fish for you.  Please remember to bring an ice chest. Cash is preferred, but local checks are OK.  If you don’t think you want a whole fish (average is 11-12 lbs), find a friend to split one with you.  Can’t beat the price!! Thanks ~ see you at E-dock! I was a newbie on his list, the one he sends when he’s on his way back to the harbor with a fresh load of live Dungeness crab, so didn’t realize his repertoire included salmon. Who could resist the lure of the freshest, local-est, line caught fish around? Not me. I was there by 10am after a stop at the bank, the...
Yiayia loves to milk her goat

Yiayia loves to milk her goat

Grandma Yiayia does it again in Athenos Feta’s new commercial, reminding us all that “milk comes from teat, not box.” (Well, yes it does. I hope we’re not so removed from our food supply that this is news!) Watch the commercial – it’s short and very sweet: embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube Direkt I milked a goat and made feta, just like Yiayia. My chance was at the amazing Love Apple Farm’s wonderful cheese-making class. (superlatives are deliberate) Yes, indeed, my very own feta with this milk. Witness:   Should you try your hand at cheese making and have no Chef Jessica or Yiayia around, the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company has equipment and recipes. Just don’t keep the goat in your...
Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29

Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29

True story: I once had a gig in espionage. Honestly. I can’t really share any details – statute of limitations and all that – but money and information did change hands, and I operated under a code name. A not-very-cool-sounding code name, but still. Once I let it slip to The Kids, and the look of astonishment on their faces was priceless . . . I was sad to have to dash the visions of Spy Kids that I knew was running through their brains. And what kid, really, hasn’t had fantasies of becoming a spy, or discovering his otherwise boring parents had an honest-to-goodness secret agent life? The dashing Axel Avian, a friend of mine who is an actual career spy, has recently turned to storytelling, drawing on his insider knowledge of the espionage game to tell a pretty great story of Colt Shore, a boy who discovers that, well, that he is part of a family spy dynasty. His life changes in an instant and becomes packed with gadgets and castles and rock stars, and it’s all quite exciting and thrilling . . . just ask Kid Two, who gave the story and early read for Axel and gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up . . . “engaging, interesting, and different” were his exact words. And Kid Two knows books – they keep track of these things at school, and he consistently reads several million words worth of stories each year. So here is a shameless shout-out to Axel and Colt. Congratulations, my friend. It’s a great story, everyone, just click here to read the prologue and first chapter to see...
50 and Counting with the Rolling Stones in San Jose

50 and Counting with the Rolling Stones in San Jose

There’s got to be something wrong with getting dressed up and sipping roasted truffle bisque before a Rolling Stones show. Maybe not as wrong as Jessica Biel wearing a clip-on nose ring to Chaos to Couture, but when said roasted truffle bisque is accompanied by lobster tail and is served in a restaurant arena at a special reservations-required seating before the show, it’s cause to wonder. While Mick and Keith were backstage, possibly channeling eternal youth inside matching hyperbaric chambers, a legion of similarly-aged fans sat inside The Grill at the HP Pavilion at a $72.95-per-person-pre-fixe-Rolling-Stones menu, selecting from house made chanterelle pasta, red wine marinated poussin, applewood bacon wrapped filet, or potato scaled turbot. And drinking wine. Check it out.

A dog walked into a bar . . .

A dog walked into a bar . . .

Pup took me for a walk this morning. He didn’t seem to want to take our usual route around the block to the empty field above Seacliff Beach to dig at gopher holes, so I followed him to see what he wanted to do. He made a beeline for Kid Two’s bus stop, where he sniffed around, left his mark, then took me down the side street bordering the field – past a hidden garden plot and the Meals on Wheels office and the carpet wholesaler and then around the corner away from the beach, where he jumped in fear at the sight of a small forklift. He tried to get into Strock Real Estate – the owner’s dog is a neighbor and friend – but the door was closed. Pup kept close to the storefronts lining Center Street, past The Healing Hairdresser, past the man washing windows outside Pizza One, and then . . . straight into The Med.   The Med was the dive bars of dive bars, the seedy underbelly of Seacliff Beach, where Black Panther Huey Newton was once arrested for shooting a gun during an argument. Maybe pup heard there’s a new owner who cleaned it up quite a bit and wanted to see for himself. 9AM is a little early for me, though. Luckily little dogs are easy to coax away from neighborhood...
Naoki Honjo kitchen photograph

Naoki Honjo kitchen photograph

  This photo absolutely captivates me. It’s the illustration for Tessa Hadley’s short story “Experience” from an old New Yorker, and I wish you could see it full-page size, as I did. I instantly imagined an entire persona from this peek at a refrigerator. It’s impossible for me to read the New Yorkers each week, so periodically I page through a stack, making sure I’ve read all the good bits and tearing the Table For Two columns before reluctantly recycling them. Invariably, doing so makes my life richer....
Can you print me out a burger, mom?

Can you print me out a burger, mom?

I am completely flabbergasted at this Jetsons-meets-Chickienobs notion that one day in the not-so-distant future we’ll most likely have the ability to push a button on a kitchen device and be delivered a steak or burger. It’s called “bioprinting,” and people are actually working to figure out ways to let us have our cows and eat them too. Check it out.