Thursday, August 30

Shiitake Soup, Raviolis and Time to Back Out

It’s nice to intersperse dismal-outcome recipes with successful ones. But aggravating as hell to have the end of my passionate journey interrupted with my hip going out of place and causing me all this back pain. I ignored my stiff back all summer (kitchen-store-office-kitchen-blog, and so on, was the constant routine) and finally the body parts got together, conspired against me and went on strike. My chiropractor noticed one leg longer than the other and pointed out that I had no use of a major set of muscles that control my leg. Hip is out, he says. I guess one adjustment isn’t going to do the trick because this morning, I am still hobbling and hurting.

Even though Shiitake Soup with Lime Radish and Winged Beans and the Bleeding Heart Radish Ravioli with Yellow Tomato Sauce were both modified, because who on earth has lime or bleeding heart radish? And winged beans must be from some other planet, my substitutes turned out quite nicely, and both made a delicious lunch yesterday. Lime Radish was substituted with chayote, winged beans with soy beans (thanks to Lesley Stiles of the Contra Costa Farmers Markets who told me she knew of winged beans and that they were similar to soy beans), and I used watermelon radish for the ravioli “stuffed” with herbed cashew cheese. So healthy, so fresh, so colorful, so delicious.

My Daniel keeps threatening to write up a posting, and I hope I will be able to include something from him before I finish. It’s been hard on him. He’s busy with his business too, and even so has exclusively cared for the dogs all summer, helped out more than he’s used to with the kitchen, shared his office space with me (grudgingly), dropped everything and made store runs for me, but mostly put up with not having me accessible. I think it’s the last point that he has resented the most. So, anyway, it would be interesting to see what he would write, so I hope he does.

It is with great satisfaction that I crossed off the last of the savory dishes in the table of contents. It’s hard to believe that I only have TWO recipes left! Today I plan to tackle Recipe 51: Apple-Quince Pave with Pecan-Maple Ice Cream.
Of course quince is not in season, so it will just be an Apple Pave (whatever Pave is).

OK, left lower back muscle is calling me. Time to move to another position. Maybe I’ll hobble to the kitchen and review the recipe and think about whether I can go to work today.

Wednesday, August 29

Recipe #48: This is NOT for the Home Cook

Peel the pineapple. Cut a 4” long section of the pineapple. Using an electric slicer or a large, sharp knife, cut the section lengthwise to yield paper-thin slices....”

Yes, I’m going to cut “paper thin” slices out of a rugged, bumpy, juicy pineapple. Right. The best I could do was slice uneven hunks the thickness of corrugated cardboard, which by the way was the color of the coconut gelato: cardboard. No my friend, these recipes aren’t really for the home cook. They are a showcase of raw food at its fanciest with no regard for the untrained home cook. I was supposed to roll these “paper thin” pineapple pieces into rolls to make Tropical Fruit Spring Rolls with Coconut Sorbet.

Today was typical of the others, a scanning of the recipe, a mad dash to two stores to collect ingredients, back in the office until I’m so hungry I can’t stand it so I head down, make some lunch and Begin.

But this morning had a little exciting twist. This wonderfully impossible recipe called for the elusive longans that I’ve never found, but I’ve since learned that longans are very similar to lychees, so that’s what I’ve been using as a substitute. At the Asian market where I’ve been procuring my $1.29 young thai coconuts, I loaded up on lychees but then at the check out, what do I behold, but LONGANS! Wow, here I had given up and there they were. I tossed the lychees back in a pile and purchased these little suckers which were to be used as the filling for the unable-to-ever-roll-in-it’s-lifetime “spring rolls.”

Here’s what the Spring Rolls were supposed to look like (photo taken from the book).

For the coconut gelato, it called for honey granules. Yeah right, like I have honey granules just sitting around in my spice cabinet. Knowing better than to use liquid honey, because that might cause it to be too runny, I thought I would outsmart Roxanee and Charlie by using the rawest form of natural sugar, sucanat (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sucanat). Well, they had the last laugh (can’t you just see them snickering?) because sucanet retains its molasses so it turned my snow-white coconut gelato a dirty brown color. Just the right color to frighten the appetite. But actually, the gelato tasted wonderful, it really did!

Here’s my what mine turned out like (see photo).

This recipe could not have been any less sustainable, locale-wise. From the coconuts and macadamias from Hawaii to the passion fruit and longans from some far-off tropical paradise, this is a million dollar dessert in airline flights and handlers across the world. I wish I could say the flavor was worth it, but nah, I was unimpressed and Daniel didn’t even bother trying it.

Am glad I left this recipe toward the end. If I had attempted this one at the beginning I might have been too discouraged to continue.

Monday, August 27

How Green is Green?

In the strict scientific sense we all feed on death - even vegetarians. ~Mr. Spock, Star Trek

I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s latest Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/) and it got me to thinking about how un-local many of the foods in the raw food diet are. You would think this diet, being so literally green, would be sustainable too. But let’s think about it: the greater protein portion of a raw food diet is nuts. Here in California almonds and walnuts aren’t hard to come by. And they store well over the year for when they’re not in season. Pine nuts, too I guess can come from this region. But cashews and brazil nuts, also a staple in so many recipes…how many miles and gallons of gas do they have to spend to reach my grocer?

Another concern is eating in season. Frankly, I don’t know how one would do this. Living here in California, we are very lucky to have extended seasons giving us so many fruits and vegetables year round. But even so, each produce item has it’s time and when I think about winter…what would I eat if I wanted to eat local? How about people in Michigan?

So how green is this diet anyway? One would have to be very committed and very creative to make it work. I asked Alicia Parnell, owner of Que SeRaw SeRaw (a take-out live food restaurant) how she has maintained her diet for the number of years she has been raw.
Here is an interview:

How many years have you been raw?
I was 100% raw for 2.5 years. For two years of that time, I felt a vast increase in energy, pains in my hip joints disappeared completely, I shed 25 pounds and felt great in my body.

About three months later, I attended a talk by Bryan Clement, the Director of the Hippocrates Institute in Miami Beach, Florida. He said that their research has shown that being 100% raw for two years gives a strong foundation for the immune system. After that, 85% to 90% raw and 10%-15% cooked is good. Even after hearing this, I waited another 3 or 4 months before beginning to eat some cooked food. The reason I did choose 5% to 10% cooked food was because I didn't think I looked or felt as good as I should given my diet for over two years.

What cooked foods do you allow?
It is varied... maybe a steamed artichoke, a veggie hotdog. About once every 3-4 months, we go to Il Fornaio and I have their butternut squash raviolis. I like the salads and wraps at Herbivore in San Francisco, the cooked rice dishes at Cafe Gratitude, etc. I have not eaten any meat or fish in over 5 years, and very little if any dairy.

What challenges do you have maintaining raw?
I experience no seasonal challenges in maintaining a 90%-95% raw diet. To be approaching 61 years of age with the energy level of when I was 20 is more than enough incentive to continue eating the way I do. You can't buy that anywhere at any price!!

My challenges in eating raw occur when we travel, like our Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera last year. I finally resorted to choosing our vacation destinations based on the raw food I am able to enjoy. For example, this Christmas/New Year's, we're going to Kailua Kona, Hawaii. There are a couple of restaurants there that have raw food menu items. And fruit should be easy enough! My long-term goal and vision continues to be "having a raw/vegan To Go deli next to every Starbucks in the world." It has simply got to get easier for people to be able to choose healthy organic food. Que SeRaw SeRaw recently had a booth at the Burlingame Art and Jazz Festival. People would come up to the booth, look around and say: "A healthy food vendor at the festival?? WOW!!!!!" They were so happy!! We were right next to the deep-fried calamari!!

What about the goal of staying local with what we eat?
My mantra in every aspect of my raw food to go business is "KEEP IT SIMPLE."
I do my best to purchase local produce, nuts and seeds. I have chosen to use all organic. The challenge is that in San Mateo County, for example, there are only about three farms that grow exclusively organic. I went on a farm tour recently, sponsored by the Farm Bureau and the San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau. None of the farms we visited were organic. I was the only person who dared ask why they don't grow organic. The response from one farmer was that they want to grow as much food as possible and they have to use sprays in order to accomplish that goal. Another farm grew only strawberries. They looked beautiful, but there was absolutely no flavor. They used a light spray on them and have been for years. The restaurants in our area are not demanding organic produce from the local farmers, so what's the incentive?

What percentage of your menu items are local?
If you can broaden the "local" definition to mean within 200 miles, then I would say 90% of my menu items are local (Southern California). I order almost all of my produce from an organic wholesaler in San Francisco, and they have to go South of here to get much of our produce.

Thank you Alicia Parnell of Que SeRaw SeRaw (http://www.queserawseraw.com/w.com/) for taking time out of your very busy schedule running your wonderful restaurant to be interviewed. I’d like to mention that her husband, Aaron Parnell, is an extremely talented physical therapist who in just one session straightened my back out and I was able to walk away pain free. If you have any body issues at all, I urge you to visit him, he really sees the body in an innovative way and is truly able to reposture your body so it can heal..you get better NOW! Go to: http://www.reposturing.com/index.php?page=about

What’s a locavore? Learn more at: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_6358.cfm

Magic Cookies, Recipe #46 and Pear Salad, Australopithecus #47

I call these cookies magic, because no matter how long you dehydrate them, 18 hours, 24 hours, 48…they never get done! Roxanne instructs, “dehydrate for 10 hours or until they have the desired crispiness. They should be hard yet still moist.”

How about crumbly and doughy? Does that count?

Part of being a cook is being willing to test. So to experiment, I put five cookies into the oven, a real oven, at 350, then left the rest in dehydrator Hell.

I baked the cookies for about ten minutes, well that did the trick. Sort of. They tasted good but when you bit into them, watch out: dry quicksand. I cranked up the dehydrator to the max and left them overnight. Well, they finally were done, but same problem: one bite and poof! Quicksand Cookies (pictured here with a glass of fresh Almond Milk). I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles…(sorry, folks I couldn’t get around using that one).

The next fine day I woke up with my back stiffer than ever. In fact, I could walk as long as I imitated a little old lady (an arthritic one) and added a limp to it. So attractive for my age.
I decided to get started on the next recipe: Pear Napoleon with Porcini Mushrooms and Artichokes but I needed to go to the store for ingredients. Since sitting (and sitting in a car seat) aggravated my back, I decided to ride my bicycle to the store. Wouldn’t that stretch my back out and give me some exercise?

I popped two Advil and hit the road. Riding works, but walking, standing, sitting and god forbid, bending over, are out. I hobbled out of the grocery store back to my bike. I got home and read paragraph 2 of the recipe outlining how I was supposed to marinate the raw artichoke hearts for 8 hours first. Doh! This makes me realize just how Neanderthal-headed I am. Why won’t I just read the damn recipes before I’m ready to make them?

Since I had invited Suey for lunch and needed it in 20 minutes, not 8 hours, I decided to cheat. I’ve only got five days left, at this point, I have to just DO IT! Riding my bike back to the frickin’ store a second time to get cooked artichokes, I reflected on how hard-headed I am. I remembered I’m not Neanderthal at all, no, it is Australopithecus to be exact. According to my anthropologist friend Stephanie, I am a throw back. She says my head is the exact shape of Australopithecus, complete with the ridge running across the top of my head. She’ll reach over and cradle my head in her hands and awe over just how much I look like an Australopithecus. I’ll even catch her, after years of us knowing each other, gazing over at me with her head titled, examining my skull. I know she is marveling at the prospect of actually knowing a prehistoric woman. A hard headed prehistoric woman.

So back I came with cooked artichoke hearts and recipe #47 was born. For the side I made “BLT” salads: beautifully ripe red heirloom tomato with chopped dulse (seaweed) which added the "bacon" flavor. Yum, it was delicious. I was the only one who liked it, but that has no relevance, for I am Woman Australopithecus!

Saturday, August 25

Vibrant Driving

Took a corner, sideswiped a truck
Crossed my fingers just for luck
My fenders was clickin' the guardrail posts
The guy beside me was white as a ghost
Smoke was comin' from out of the back
When I started to gain on that Cadillac
Knew I could catch him, I thought I could pass
Don't you know by then we'd be low on gas…
We had flames comin' from out of the side
Feel the tension, man, what a ride!—Asleep at the Wheel

These lyrics lend an airbrushed portrait of what riding in the RV was like. Loaded with our two dogs, abandoning the still-not-done cookies in the frig, and towing the new buggy behind, I clung to the back of the seat (Boomer had insisted on riding shotgun), white knuckled. We were off to the raw food conference.

The thing sounded like a rattle trap. It creaked and cracked, hissed and whined. The thing was so huge it felt like we were whooshing down the road, sort of floating from left to right while forging toward our doom. The dogs were terrified, Dinah was trembling and Boomer panting. Daniel impervious.

I had all these ideas of preparing our lunch as he drove…ha! I could barely peel myself from my seat. I don’t know what got into me, but that thing just did not feel safe. We finally did arrive to the Mendocino Coastline safely though.

Notes from the Vibrant Living Expo (http://www.rawfoodchef.com/) The conference was really good! I was sad I couldn’t stay the three days, but at least I got to attend one day. Raw foodie enthusiasts discussing topics near to their hearts…like supplements, gee, I am not the only one who abandoned supplements when I started raw…eerie, no one told me to do that and as it turns out, it is common raw foodie philosophy to get your nutrients from food, not supplements. I was with My People. I discussed nuances of different sea weeds with a vendor, found out that the tengusa I had searched for on recipe #10 is actually on the endangered list…no wonder I never found it!

And what a bright and smiling eyed bunch! I swear every person who I passed not only made eye contact with me, but smiled brightly. Wow, what a warm group.

Some of the lectures included: Vitamin B12 (turns out B12 is made by bacteria! It’s not in plants or animals, but is a bacteria that grows on them, wow!), Greens from the Sea, Healing your Body through Eating, Fat and Cholesterol in a Nutshell. I learned more about the importance of enzymes and friendly bacteria. One lecturer, a naturopathic doctor, Ruza Bogdanovich http://www.thecureisinthecause.com/bio.html, said we need 85% good bacteria and a max of 15% bad bacteria, but that most Americans, with the way we eat, have the exact opposite. I thought it was interesting to note that our cravings for sweet and yeasty foods is because you likely have a high number of the “bad” bacteria, because this type of bacteria loves that kind of food. This bacteria becomes you! And you crave what the bacteria craves. The reverse happens when you start improving your diet with fresh produce and sprouted nuts and grains. Your body adjusts to a higher count of friendly flora and this bacteria loves the raw stuff, and so this is what you begin to crave more. You are what you eat, microbes and all.

Another lecturer spoke on fermented foods (beer is one, as is sauerkraut and kim-chee) and how they were one of the first foods humans learned to make. It can treat stress, prevent infectious disease and act as a probiotic to combat disease. I also learned more reasons on why to soak nuts and seeds. Apparently seeds contain a high number of enzyme inhibitors, so if you eat them as-is, you are putting enzyme inhibitors in your body—the last thing we need. So when you soak, sprout or ferment them, the enzyme inhibitors are removed, making it an ultra digestible food.

The philosophy of optimum health is simply to have quality food absorption, which allows you to assimilate them and properly eliminate them. Eating a typical American diet does not support these processes, they in fact strip us of our enzymes. Without a high number of enzymes, we can’t absorb the food we eat, without healthy flora and proper enzymatic action we can’t assimilate our foods (so we still feel hungry, not satiated and eat more = big, fat American) and then our elimination is off-kilter, either we’re constipated or our colon gets irritated at the slightest thing. It all makes so much sense. Could it be this simple?

One well respected speaker, the so-called father of the raw food movement, Viktoras Kulvinskas has done years of research. He is a mathematician and very scientific and has produced published research to back up the importance of enzymes, proper diet and the vital importance of digestion on our health.

But I did have one revelation, and the thought that this is a huge omission at the conference or in any of the materials I’ve read, which is water. For example, our water here in San Mateo contains chloramines. Chloramines kill bacteria. So when I drink our water, aren’t I killing all the flora in my gut?? I began to think about this. I noted that my rejuvelacs weren’t as potent compared to the store-bought ones. Could it be that my juice can’t ferment because the water I’m using is sanitizing it?? If this is true, no matter how good we eat, the water will keep destroying my enzymes. So, to me, the quality of your home water would be one of the most vitally important issues…where is it in the literature? More on this later.

Anyway, it was a fulfilling experience, I ate lots of raw and then we climbed back into the rattle trap and headed down the coast highway toward home. But the glow of the raw foodies must have affected me, because no longer did the rattling and shaking bother me. I booted Boomer out of shotgun position and took my rightful place up front. I even wandered in the back to pack up, swaying to and fro with the groove of the rolling boat, as Daniel (now earning the identity as Ralph Kramden) rambled us down the highway.

We all made it back, rattle-trap be damned. And the cookies? They’re back in the dehydrator. God, will they ever get done?

Carrying a Chocolate Chip on my Shoulder

When I set out to make these cookies, I never dreamed I’d be making, making chocolate chips. I mean, chocolate chips are something you buy in a bag and dump in your batter…."spoon the chocolate mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a very small tip and pipe ¼” in diameter onto nonstick drying sheets, forming 200 chips in all."

My god, this was it. The fine line between commitment and cheating. How criminal could it be to just go out and buy a bag of organic chips? "Dehydrate chips at 105 degrees for eight hours…" that means they’ll be ready at 2 in the morning, and I need the chips before I can start the cookies which take six hours, then 8-10 hours more. Why don’t I just put the frickin’ chips in the oven? They’d be done in an hour, right? I mean really, how much nutritional value am I trying to save here in a chocolate chip? But in the end, I didn’t stay committed to the integrity of raw because it was the right thing to do, I did it because I didn’t have a conventional recipe for cooking chips in an oven. What if I ruined them? No, I had to see it through.

I had even started a whole day ahead of time. And I even began by reading the recipe through (how grown up of me for once). Damn! There was no way I’d have these cookies done by choir-girls night tomorrow evening.

I cancelled my girls choir night, made, made the chocolate chips and decided to take the damn cookies and the dehydrator on the road with me. That’s right. We had rented an RV so I could attend a day of the Vibrant Living Conference up in Ft. Bragg – raw foodies from all over the world would be there, I had to go. The RV has a kitchen, right? I’d just bring everything with me and make them on the road.

This conference is coming at an inconvenient time as I have a big event in four days with the Food Society. It’s their annual BBQ which draws 200 and I’m still getting rsvp’s. So that’s a little nerve wracking, but what put me over the edge is I got a call from my other association. Where are those checks?
What do you mean, where are those checks?
I mailed them out last Friday, aren’t they there yet?

I’m not a worrier. Let that be somebody else’s job I say, which apparently is her job since she thinks the checks won’t get there. What a pessimist. I don’t like the feeling of worrying or being scared, it reminds me too much of the bottom of your life falling like a broken elevator, so I avoid it. Have a little faith, the checks will get there.

I sneak a look at my postage log. 8/16, $1.82 is carefully noted. I know I sent it, have some faith, but still I wrack my brain. What was I doing on Friday, which mail box did I leave it in? God, why is she calling me? Can’t she just relax? I’m sure it will arrive. How could this piece of mail (with $2100 in checks) get lost? I tell myself to relax. It will arrive. Then the thoughts come back, “Oh, why didn’t I FedEx it?” I try to reconstruct my Friday and it’s a void, I can remember Thursday and Saturday in detail. Note to self: write notes to self.

The Day Before. I finish up Recipe #45, Black Mission Fig Tart with Walnut Cream and take photos, too busy to write anything.

I run up to check email, she didn’t get the checks. I will now freak out. I’ve got to finish rsvp’s for two events, pack to get ready, dehydrate the cookies, pick up the trailer, work my regular schedule, and now I have to drop everything and stand in line at the post office to see if they can track those damn checks. An hour later I come back having been instructed to go online to get the phone number of her carrier. Several calls later and having found the postal employees to be surprisingly helpful, they’re telling me not to worry, it could take five days, even ten. I outwardly relax while I inwardly panic. Just what I need when I’m going out of town, something to worry about. I finish my rsvp’s, give everybody headcounts.
Then Daniel says to me, c’mon we have to go check this buggy out.
Buggy? What buggy?
Don’t you remember, he says, we talked about this.
Is this like us talking about getting a second dog and I said no? Or maybe it’s like getting the dog afterall but saying we’d only foster him and now he’s ours. Something like that, because the next thing I know I’m following him back from San Carlos as he drives ahead in our new dune buggy. He’s got some elaborate plan for towing it behind the trailer. I’m too overwhelmed to think about it. The cookies still aren’t done.

I go upstairs and check email one last time, hoping to get that magic email, that yes the checks arrived afterall. Ah, yes a new email has arrived from you-know-who. The beautiful words sing like fairies to my inner child…”the checks arrived today.” A huge weight of worry lifts and I feel like dancing. Then I think, why couldn’t she have trusted they would come? This took hours out of my day. She's holding down the worry job quite well, and spreading the joy. Ah, but now I can’t wait to go on this little sabbatical. Daniel pulls up in the RV. I stick the cookies which defy dehydration into the refrigerator. I'll deal with you later. Let the games begin.

Tuesday, August 21

Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup with Spaghetti Squash

This would have been a fairly straight-forward recipe except that for some unintelligible, are-you-just-trying-to-torture-me reason, the recipe calls to dehydrate 1 lb. of the peeled and chopped butternut squash. Then you puree that with the fresh peeled, chopped butternut, ginger and other ingredients to make the soup. So this extra step, which surely would make or break the recipe, took a day.

I loyally followed directions. I was rewarded with about two teaspoons of dehydrated squash to add to the soup. Oh now this is really going to make a difference, isn’t it? You hold up a recipe for 18 hours to dehydrate 1 lb of squash and you end up with two teaspoons. If you ever make this recipe, skip that stupid, unnecessary step. It is fascinating to note what this means: that the bulk of squash is water!

The other dysfunctional thing about this recipe is how they instruct to make the “tuilles.” This is pureed squash with water and olive oil, which they then instruct you to pass through a sieve and then spread rounds out on a dehydrator sheet. I’m sorry, but if you strain it, there's no "spreading" about it, you are pouring runny liquid onto a dehydrator sheet! But I did it anyway. It looked like runny watercolor paint: Tuille de Monet le PeePee. Anticipating complete failure, I also made tuilles out of the actual puree, unstrained.

Thank goodness, because the liquid tuilles were nothing but stain marks on the parchment: Tuille de Monet le peepee Fini. The pureed tuilles were flakey, paper-thin cakes.

The shredded spaghetti squash in the soup was delicious, and inspired me to try and come up with a raw version of Sizzling Rice Soup. The crunchy shredded spaghetti squash really reminded of the sizzled rice they serve in the popular Asian soup.
Overall the soup had a nice, full flavor and the tuilles added some “meat” to the dish. What keeps on surprising me about raw food is how filling it can be. A bowl of this soup with a small salad for lunch totally satiated me. And without the unnecessary step of dehydrating the squash, this recipe is fairly easy to make.

Monday, August 20

Vibrant Flavors and Let’s Not Forget the Wine!

“I can’t even stand how good this tastes!” I exclaimed to my husband who was staring off into space as my words bounced off his hard Polish head and floated off into the atmosphere unheard. He was busily crunching on a delicate, thinly sliced and perfectly marinated radish. He blandly vollied back, “yeah, this is great.” I think last night’s party where the Bat Boys band he played with 20 years ago reunited for Henry’s 50th left him a little listless.

Who could know that you could like a carrot so much? I mean, just a plain old carrot. Ah, but not just a plain old carrot, but a plain-old-carrot marinated. How could I really like a radish so much? I mean, a radish, with that kind of harsh-hot flavor? Ah, but a radish marinated…it changes. Then a beet. Well, we’ve all probably enjoyed beet salad, so that’s no surprise. But raw artichoke heart? Bland by itself, but marinated….a caterpillar to a butterfly. And so is born Carpaccio of Radish, Carrot, Artichoke and Golden Beet. Not bleeding heart radish as is specified, but the only other-worldly radish I could find: watermelon. Ain’t it pretty?

Husband did come to life in one way though. He did not know that raw cuisine called for fine wines and really perked up when I educated him that yes, raw cuisine does promote pairing with wine. I know I've never mentioned this before, but in fact, each recipe in the Klein/Trotter book contains a footnote with a very thorough and careful recommendation on which wine to pair with the recipe and why. Daniel thought it essential that I bring this up on the blog, and he’s right. YES! Raw foodies can and do drink wine. Wine is, afterall RAW! Wines, sherries and ports can also be found as ingredients to give many raw food dishes dimension.

This dish’s wine recommendation was a sparkling white…Blanc de Blancs from Pierre Peters or Larmandier-Bernier, to be exact. So my husband is pretty astute, and I thank him for pointing this out to me. And even though I don’t always feel heard by him, which I find infuriating, I must still be in love because my heart still melts when I see him onstage singing Little Sister.

Saturday, August 18

Bottom of the Barrel: XIV

I keep counting and re-counting how many recipes I have left. Then I go to the calendar (again) and count how many days left in August. Today it’s ten left, with 14 days to go. Totally do-able if I double up on a few days, because I know I won’t be in the kitchen for at least five of those days. (Going to the living food fest up in Ft. Bragg next weekend!)

Here’s what I have left: just one in the appetizer section: Pear Napoleon with Porcini Mushrooms and Artichokes (I’ve been saving that one for pears to come in season, and they’re just beginning!); two soups: Shitake Mushroom Soup with Lime Radish and Winged Beans. Wait, let’s just stop there. Can you guess why I haven’t made this one yet? What is lime radish? What are winged beans?

Can anyone help me out here? Suggestions for any likely substitutes??

The last soup is Butternut Squash and Ginger with Spaghetti Squash. In the salad department I only have one left: Carpaccio of Artichokes, Bleeding Heart Radish, Carrots and Golden Beets. What’s a frickin’ bleeding heart radish? Last in the entrĂ©e department is one with the same problem: Bleeding Heart Radish Ravioli with Yellow Tomato Sauce. It’s going to be bleeding heart too bad, but I doubt that I will find a bleeding heart radish to satisfy either of these recipes, but I’ll start to make the round of calls….again. Maybe I’ll get lucky like I did with the salsify and find that it will suddenly come in season.
Radish print courtesy of Rigel's beautiful art you can see at: http://www.drenculture.com/prints/vegetables/index.htm

I get to end with quite a few from the dessert department: Fig Tart which I’m doing tomorrow, then Tropical Fruit Spring Rolls with Coconut Sorbet – since the “roll” is made from paper-thin cut pineapple, this one is a calamity just waiting to get it’s picture taken. I won’t be able to put it off for much longer though, will I? Trio of Gelatos – this should be no problem, except she calls for persimmon and they won’t be in season until Fall…what to do, what to do…
Apple-Quince Pave, well, that one looks hard and also quince isn’t in season. And lastly, Chocolate Chip Cookies – they call for sprouted wheat flour with no indication of how to make it, but I can guess and also sprouted meal. OK meal of what? Again, no clue of what it is or how to make, so I’ll be improvising and testing them out on the choir girls next Wednesday.
God help ‘em.

Are you Allergic to Wheat?

I hear more and more of people discovering they are allergic to wheat. I find this ironic since wheat is like the first grain humans discovered to cultivate that kept them from starving and is probably why our species was able to thrive. How could we now, so far down the line of evolution, be allergic to something so basic? It isn’t genetically modified from what I’ve learned. Could it be because it’s been hybridized? Maybe the way it’s being processed. Or maybe we’re just getting too much of it.

Practicing this diet all summer (even though worlds have collided and I have not been pure), I have probably eaten more cleanly than ever before. I haven’t had a drop of dairy ice cream in months and months and very little bread or cooked wheat. Yesterday I picked up some wheat hot dog buns for tofu dogs. We were going to the county fair so I thought we’d eat some junk food at home to avoid the truly poisonous junk food at the fair.

I noticed after dinner my nose was markedly stuffy. Could this be a wheat allergy?? I suspect so. I bet many of us have a mild allergy to wheat and we’ve just learned to live with it. We think our stuffy nose or irritated throat or tendency to get colds is normal. Having been off wheat, as well as other cooked foods, I have noticed my usual slightly runny nose disappeared. It was all too telling when I reintroduced wheat yesterday and immediately had a runny nose all evening.

With that said Roxanne does use wheat in some of her recipes, for example the chocolate chip cookies. In fact rejuvelac, hailed to be so healthy by the raw foodists because it’s loaded with good-for-your-gut microbes, is made from sprouted wheat. But maybe it’s in the cooking?? Because I’ve not had an allergic reaction to the rejuvelac or the cheeses I’ve made from it. Or the tart shell I made the other day from the sprouted wheat flour.

So this is a curious thing. It is surprising how many food items (mostly processed) you’ll find that wheat has been snuck into, to cheaply thicken it or like in so many vegetarian items, to give it that more chewy “meaty” consistency. It’s like the pervasive GMO corn syrup found in countless processed foods.

So I invite you to question. If you’ve been feeling slightly under the weather, or downright sick, you may want to cast a suspicious eye toward that fluffy, innocent looking loaf of bread on your counter.

Salsify Appetizer / Cucumber Soup/ Mushrooms with Kohlrabi

I think they should make the word “salsify” into a verb. For example, I found it very salsifying to finally, at long last make salsify into a recipe. Would that work?

I also found salsify delicious and nutritious (salsilitious?). High in fiber, Vitamin C, riboflavin, Vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. Using a vegetable peeler to peel strips made for nice wide paparadelli-like noodles which were marinated in wine vinegar and then mixed with truffle oil and salt. The porcinis were also marinated. The sauce was pine nut puree which brought all the flavors together. Salsify is a very mild tasting root, not bitter, not sweet and I think it does have the slightest hint of the flavor of an oyster. Or else that was just subliminal on my part knowing it is also called oyster plant. The recipe was called Salsify with Black Truffles and Porcini Mushrooms. Mine was simply Salsify with Porcinis. Until I move to Europe I don’t think you’ll see truffles being a stocked item in my kitchen, ever.

Next up was the English Cucumber Soup with Tiny Carrots and Amaranth Leaves and Pine Nut Mayonnaise. She wanted me to somehow find white and purple baby carrots (of course I ran across baby purple carrots this morning, sigh). And what the hell are Amaranth leaves, I mean, PLEASE?! I didn’t even bother. This recipe was basically just pureed cucumber, but the mayo and diced (not baby) carrots on top gave it dimension.

The Marinated Exotic Mushrooms with Kohlrabi and Arugula was easy to make and I had been looking forward to using kohlrabi in a recipe. I ran into it for the first time at the farmers market years ago and feebly tried it a time or two. Since then I’ve read about it being used as a substitute for mashed potatoes because of it’s savory and mildly horseradish flavor. This was a tasty dish I might do again.

What a fun adventure broadening my root horizons between salsify and kohlrabi, and even lotus root.
How very salsifying.

Thursday, August 16

Magic Moments with Morel Mushrooms

There’s hardly anything more pleasurable than trying out weird food on new friends. You know, newly made friends who are still too polite to spit out the food on their plates or gag in front of you. It’s a pleasure because you get to enjoy the challenge they must overcome to maintain pleasant facial features as they chew.

I guess that about sums up Morel Mushrooms and Lotus Root with Beets and Fermented Black Beans. Apparently lotus root is a good source of fiber, thiamin, B6 and vitamin C. I now like lotus root and have incorporated it into several salads. I know that the food combo here may sound a little unsavory but it wasn’t bad, it was tastey. It was just the raw morel mushrooms. Yes, they’re a little strong, but even better, I forgot to wash them. No Queen of Hygenic Kitchen Award for me.

So when one of my new choir friends (it’s Wednesday night get-together with my new choir buddies again) noted that the morels tasted “a little gritty” that’s when I realized I hadn’t rinsed them. I had marinated them, does that count?? My admission of this detail quieted the room for a moment.

But the look on at least one face was priceless and I’ll look forward to future possibilities in food to recreate pleasurable moments like these.

FOUND: Strange Black Carrot-Thing

Salsify, Salsify you elusive thang
I almost didn’t find you and then you came

With just days to go
You arrived just in time
Now I won’t have to replace you
With watermelon rind

All the way from Belgium! Not local, you are
I couldn’t even find you, not even by car

But I could have grown you right here
California climate is prime
If I were a gardener, retired
or not working full time

I called all the stores,
and begged at least one complete stranger
I gave up all hope, put the recipe in the hanger

Then Rigel said, to Berkeley Bowl you must Go!
Salsify Galore
But sorry, the traffic will blow.

And now that I have you
I hope the recipe turns out
They also call you oyster plant
I hope you don't taste like old trout

Wednesday, August 15

Shooting Stars and Banana Tart, and oh yeah, Pad Thai too

Last weekend we all reclined on the new magnificent deck that William built up in Sonoma to star gaze at the meteor showers. Tonight we went to Susie’s for dinner where our new dog, Boomer showered her hard wood floor with liquid comets out of his butt.
I think you get the picture.
But Dan is really good at “saves.” As she looked down at the new spot on her floor (after I somehow got through cleaning it up without puking), he firmly told her that the floor has needed to be refinished for years. “It’s high time you got these floors re-finished,” Daniel advised her. “Now you have the impetus. You should thank us.” Daniel is so gifted at turning bad things like these around. Such a helpful man.

To celebrate the prospect of newly refurbishing her floors, I helped out by providing dessert. Recipe 37: Banana Chocolate Tart with Caramel and Chocolate Sauce.

But now I realize I forgot to post a recipe! You can tell I’m getting busier at work by my lack of postings. The Young Pad Thai with Almond Chile Sauce was so perfect! Email me for the recipe, it’s a winner and easy to do. . I had a chance to use tamarind for the first time, very interesting. And the spicy cashews with it really gave the dish dimension. I brought it to the Concert in the Park last week and it was well received by Rick and Alane. It had that wonderful nutty sauce and coconut flavor that’s so good in Thai food. Very authentic, I recommend.

The Banana Chocolate Tart? Well it was delicious, but the “tart” that I first had to soak wheat berries overnight, then sprout them (2 days), then dehydrate them (hours), then grind into flour, to then mix with some oil, maple syrup and salt and dehydrate for ten hours (getting up at 3 in the morning to remove the parchment paper)…oh, that and then she tells me (because I never read recipes through before I cook, that would be too grown up) …because the tiny shells are fragile and time-consuming, make extras in case of breakage. Well, honey, I can tell you, there was no danger of breakage with these puppies. They had the integrity of week old bread. No breakage here, Roxanne.

So I would say the trouble of the “tart” was not worth it. But the delicious “caramel” sauce (cashew milk, dark honey, date paste, maple syrup) YUM, and the fudge (made from almond butter, cocoa and syrup) drizzled over the bananas: YES! The honey walnuts were a great accompaniment.

After dessert Susie made us sit through a movie we had already seen while she disappeared into the other room. Maybe to cry about her floor. You know how they have make-up sex? Well I’m hoping my dessert is make-up dessert. I hope it was delicious enough to remind her of what a sweet friend I am next time my dog lets go on her floor.

Thursday, August 9

Life’s a Peach and then you Die

It’s raining peaches, nectarines and plums in the Valley right now. Yellow peaches with firm, golden insides that are juicy, called Baby Crawfords. Mariposa Plum, Heavenly White Nectarine, Green Gage Plum, Gold Dust Peach, Speckled Egg Nectarine. These are just a few I learned about (and some I tasted!) at Andy’s Orchard http://www.andysorchard.com/index.shtml. Rare fruit grower and preserver of over 200 varieties, Andy Mariani, collects rare varieties and has saved many heirlooms from extinction.

Most of us have only seen a single species in the grocery stores. You see, the heirloom varieties don’t ship well and they don’t always “look” like that rosy red and orange peach color that consumers think taste good, so if a grower wants to sell his peaches, he will go with a peach that can stand up to the beating of being shipped and still “look” good. They will also pick these peaches before they’re even ripe. Hey, if they’re hard, they’ll ship better.

Unfortunately, once a peach is picked it will not ripen any further and never develop another drop of sweetness. Of course these don’t taste anything near as delicious or unforgettable as a heritage peach. Next time you buy a peach in the store, look at the stem. If it’s green, they picked it underipe.

Well, I had the great pleasure last week of visiting Andy’s Orchard and tasting 80+ succulent, juicy peaches, nectarines and plums. I went down with the Bakers Dozen group http://bakersdozen.org/ and Andy rolled out the red carpet with over 80 heirloom varietals cut up and labeled there for us to taste and learn more about. They even served peach cobbler! We were gorged with stone fruit as we descended upon the orchard where Andy talked to us a little about fruit farming and allowed us to pick!

All this time I thought a nectarine was some kind of a peach-tangerine cross or something. All a nectarine is, is a peach without the fuzz! Only one gene difference between them. He told us about a peacotum (apricot-peach-plum mix)! He showed us that all you should do when picking a peach is to gently cradle it. If it drops in your hand, it’s ripe and should be picked. If not, leave it until it’s ready.

Andy does not sell underipe fruit and because he is getting a reputation for such fine fruit, and consumers are beginning to catch onto this buy local = quality thing, he is now shipping boxes of his dazzling fruit out to some choice markets.

He told us a story about an heirloom variety known as the Dinosaur Egg. It had a happy reputation as a very delicious variety and the farm was beginning to get known for it’s famous plum, which is a good thing when a farmer can make a living. Unfortunately a marketing company decided this was a terrific name, patented it and began labeling inferior plums (but ones that had the same interesting “egg” look of mottled skin and solid fruit inside) as Dinosaur Eggs. The farm was prohibited from ever using the name again. Greediness is sickening, isn’t it? These kinds of stories make me so sad. But then I see how well Andy’s Farm is doing, how committed they are to quality and goodness, and I see Good overpowering the Bad.

It’s like the seasons. Now we have so much fruit, tomatoes and fresh veggies, it’s like a cornucopia! Then the season will change and the last peach will fall from the tree. The peach will rot and feed the soil, which will feed the tree for next summer’s delicious fruits. Nothing ever dies, really, it just recycles. Compost the bad to feed the good. Now, Go eat a Peach!

Ice Cream Rolls and the Glow of Louis Armstrong

Friends shakin’ hands sayin’ “how do you do” they’re really sayin’ I love you…

Wednesday evenings are becoming music night with a couple of my choir buddies. We listen to music together, sing a lot and share dinner. Today started like this:

1:30 a.m. Alarm goes off. I sleep walk to the dehydrator to turn it off so the cake for the ice cream rolls doesn’t get too dried out.
9:30 a.m. I’m up now and check the cake. Oops, it’s not dry at all, I turn the dehydrator back on. Thank God I have all day.
9:40 a.m. Power goes out.
9:50 a.m. Husband informs me that PG&E won’t have power back on until 11 a.m.
9:51 a.m. My internal alarm sounds as I realize I need to print 120 name badges and FedEx before 5 p.m. plus deal with last minute online registrations which I now can’t get because the power’s out. AND make two kinds of ice cream using an electric ice cream maker and put the dessert together requiring electric blenders in preparation of tonight.
9:59 a.m. I talk myself down from the roof and decide to do my usual trip to the Wednesday Farmer’s Market, followed by a hike up Sugar Loaf. Heck, by the time I return the power will be back on. I’ll have plenty of time. Life is good.
11:30 a.m. Huh, that’s funny, still no power. Husband informs me PG&E won’t have power back on until 2 p.m.
11:30:01 a.m. A panic attack sets in as I wonder how I will get everything done. Why does life have to be so difficult?
11:31 I switch into “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” mode. Yes, Deb is home, Yes, she has power. Off I go with my two dehydrator trays of soggy cake batter and the carmelized nuts to use Deb’s dehydrator. Backing out of the driveway the #$%&@ ! gate won’t open. Oh that’s right, it’s electronic, no power. I call my husband who opens it manually, but steps in dog shit so hops around on one foot to the hose. I appreciate the comedy relief.
11:33 I make mental note: husbands are handy even with dog shit caked on their shoe.
11:50 Put husband to work hooking up new computer monitor. Figure this is a good way to use dead time (I never have time to boss him around for stuff like this). I turn my compost pile. I check voicemail with my cell, since my phone system is out too. I’m not panicking, I’m NOT panicking.
1 p.m. I continue to develop different strategies on how I will get the name badges done by 5 if the power doesn’t come back on. I imagine hoofing my computer and ice cream maker to Deb’s. I make more business calls.
2:15 p.m. Power’s back on! Oh no, I forgot the cake at Deb’s. My God, I hope it’s not overcooked. I barrel out of the driveway and almost ram the gate down. Damn! It’s still manual because we didn’t plug it back in yet. I open it myself this time, careful not to step in any piles.
4:30 p.m. Husband says he is going downtown. Oh! I say, would you wait a few minutes for me to finish these tags so you can drop them at FedEx? He says yes. Mental note to self: Husbands are wonderful, especially with no trace of dog shit smell.
5 p.m. I’m in the kitchen ice-creaming up the Star Thistle Gelato and Chai Ice Cream.

Later that night…The dessert turns out beautifully and very delicious. I am proud. We sing and listen to a bunch of songs together and as we sing What a Wonderful World together I feel very peaceful and content after such a hectic day, and I say to myself, what a wonderful life.

(see comment for recipe)

Sunday, August 5

Off-Key Duet and a Quartet of Soups

Somehow the dishes are getting done. In fact I discover him in front of the sink often these days. It’s kind of hard for me to believe but I think my husband’s learning where some of the less frequently-used kitchen items are stored. No, he hasn’t learned to wipe the counters clean, but he does sweep the floor if I ask. And he shares his computer with me for my blog writing and photos with a minimum of grumbling.

Why isn’t this enough for me? Why do I also want him to be in good cheer about the whole thing and to offer a supportive attitude? It’s not enough that he supports me with his actions, I want his attitude to align with mine too. There has been some friction in the household the last few days. When things are good, I reflect back on the sour times and think I’ve been too intense and should ease up on him. When things aren’t so harmonious I realize it’s definitely him, not me. No, I’m not PMSing as he likes to suggest in these situations. In fact, I think HE is PMSing, and if I WERE PMSing, he would be taking his life into his hands by even suggesting this.

Like tonight. Soup Quartet. The soups have been cupped, garnished, photo taken (by me, I’d like to emphasize). He walks into kitchen. I say, “hey the soups are ready, let’s taste them.” What’s his response?
I’ll try them tomorrow.
You'll try them TOMORROW?!
Not: Hey, honey just LOOK at those soups. Wow. I can’t wait to taste them.
So that’s what I say to him, basically. I’m sure there’s some term for this technique in psychology, like leading the stupid, pea-brained horse to water or something.
Then he backs up. “Of course I want to taste them tonight.” The horse drinks water.

One thing I work at here at the homestead is composting. I save all our kitchen scraps for the worm bin and for the compost pile. This decreases our garbage volume, adds valuable microbes back to the soil, which saves on watering the plants, enriches the soil better than any store-bought fertilizer could ever do, saves $$ on buying water-table polluting fertilizers, doesn’t contribute to the ever-piling high sea of garbage at the dumps that we’re running out of space on…gee, what else? Suffice to say I’m going to the trouble to do a good thing (remembering, of course, that no good deed goes unpunished).

Do I get a pat on the back? No, he has the nerve to make snide comments about the fruit flies that gently buzz around my compost canister. It’s not like a swarm, and I clean it out every other day. What’s the big deal?

Today I harvested compost from my worm bin and walked through the house with a bag full to spread on the lawn.
Eew, what’s that? He whined. I imagine his face all screwed up, because that’s what I see when he takes that tone.
It’s worm castings, are you hungry?
I mean, Daniel is a guy-guy. Why would something like worm castings, fruit flies or decomposing vegetables gross him out?
I think he does this just to piss me off. It does.
And so the soups provided a perfect illustration of just how different we are.

As I said, tonight I made A Quartet of Soups: Asparagus, Carrot, Corn and Celery Root (see comment for recipe). But first, a word about the soups. All very simple to make, except the frickin garnish on the Celery Root Soup took a couple of days. They wanted to marinate the eggplant quarters that are dropped in the soup, as well as the slivered celery root on top. I don’t know whether I like celery root or not, but I found the soup complex and tastey. The Carrot Soup with young thai coconut, well, I always like carrot soup or juice, so that’s a no brainer. I also like Corn Soup, but somehow this one did not work for me. Too simple, I think. It simply consisted of pureed corn and water seasoned with salt to taste, then strained and a few kernels thrown back in. I suggest making it with nut milk and not straining it, that would help. just didn’t do it for me. I found the raw flavor of blended asparagus a little wild and slightly bitter. It had celery, onion and a host of other ingredients…something just seemed off, maybe my taste buds. Like my taste for husbands.

Below is a ranked list of our favorites:
Me#1: Celery Root Soup; Daniel#1. Asparagus
Me#2. Carrot Soup ; Daniel#2. Corn Soup
Me#3. Corn Soup ; Daniel #3. Carrot Soup
Me#4. Asparagus ; Daniel#4. Celery Root

Now I don’t know if you are getting the full irony here, but we are EXACT opposites! Celery Root my favorite – his least favorite. Asparagus my least favorite—his favorite. God help us.

I guess it is interesting being married to a guy who astonishes me with such confounding differences.

What I fell in love with, and still am in love with, are the wild seemingly grab-bag thoughts that blurt out of his mouth, the man who can write music and sing it to me right on the spot, the man who cares for our dogs like they are our children, and the man who wanted to build a life with me. He has made a home for me and even when I find him infuriating or irritating, I am not alone. He is there loving me, but in his way, not always mine, but loving me nonetheless. Like by doing the dishes.

Friday, August 3

Lives Beginning at 40 and Taco Friday

You know that saying...Life begins at 40? Being in my forties, I contemplate (and even experience) that from time to time. But for my girlfriend Justine, it is really, truly happening. She just turned 40 in June and now…she is pregnant! So life really is beginning at 40 for her in a Big Way. She had a whirlwind tour around the block this year with a) losing a career job; b) getting married; c) meanwhile having health problems and at least one surgery that I know about; d) pulling out her San Francisco roots and moving back home to Connecticut; e) traveling to Egypt for her honeymoon and getting deathly ill and now f) discovering she is 10 weeks pregnant!

What better way to celebrate in her honor than with Taco Friday? Friday night’s dinner began Thursday with beginning the dehydration process of the soaked flax and sunflower seeds, mixed with onion and spices to make the taco shells. I wasn’t confident at all that they’d taste good, or more importantly have that crunchy texture I wanted, but forward I went, Corona in hand.

This is a recipe for three styles of tacos: trumpet mushrooms and fresh corn with salsa vinaigrette; jicama and Asian pear with lime and avocado salsa; mango and tomatillo with cilantro and chili salsa. The tastiest was the Mango-Tomatilla Taco...this one I shall do again. But shockingly, the taco shells were crunchy and delicious! And very filling; all alive with omega 3's. We invited our neighbors Alane and Rick over (Alane being my fabulous compost teacher) . They ate every scrap and I took this as a good sign.

They don’t have kids either, and I think like us, it has caused them to embrace life in a different way than our parent-friends. Alane is involved in many projects involving sustainability, recycling and earth friendly endeavors including education…all this in addition to her day job as a gardener. After 40, she is just really starting to enjoy the respect of being a leader in her field and being involved in making a difference in our world. And me, realizing that I can be fullfulled without that son or daughter I knew I would have. I am living my life choices that I have carefully cultivated over the years and even though I still wish so much we could have raised a child, life is blooming in some beautiful ways I could have never imagined, and I can honor from a distance (with some relief, as I see how darn hard it is!) those friends who were blessed with the parenting path.

Dessert was my first attempt at a key lime pie, or what I describe as bitter-sour mealy pie. Looks good though, don’t it? And life goes on, and for all of us there are new beginnings, all the time. Congratulations, Justine and Aaron, and welcome to your Journey.
Rick, Alane and Daniel sitting down to Friday night tacos.