Sunday, October 24, 2010

Under Construction

Hey everybody! Sorry to have been away for a while, but my new site is under construction. It will have bigger, better photos and lots more information. Can't wait for you to check it out. I'll let you know when it's ready!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Put yer Hoes Down!

Last weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the 23rd annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival at Full Belly Farm in Yolo County, CA. There are so many amazing things to point out about this particular event. Established in 1985, Full Belly farm was one of the first (if not, THE first) organic farms in California. Today, they have 400 acres of mind blowing biodiversity. In addition to crops ranging from tomatoes and peaches to walnuts and wild flowers, the farm boasts an extensive livestock collection including pigs, chickens, bees, lamb, sheep, llamas, and goats!

Two of the four owners/ farmers of Full Belly were featured in book called Farmer Jane. It's definitely on my must read list, and I think it should be on yours, too!

Now on to the party...Every year, the farm hosts the now famous Hoes Down festival. Attended by thousands of yuppies and hippies alike, the primary goal of the celebration is to educate people about agricultural arts and sustainable rural living. There is an abundance of good food, music, dancing, arts, crafts, sustainable farming talks and demonstrations. There are also countless activities for the kiddies...petting zoo, bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving contests, making wildflower crowns, weaving wool, etc etc etc. With so much going on, it is no wonder that many families make the choice to camp out in the orchard over night.

In addition to promoting agricultural education, the fest is a fundraiser benefiting many community organizations like EcoFarm, Future Farmers of America, Yolo Land Trust, and their local 4H chapter.

So, whether you want to make pine nut bracelets, shop for handmade candles, gaze at the blacksmiths in wonder, play in the creek, or enjoy a hayride through the farm, there is a little bit of something for everybody.

Grilled Pizza

Just a photo that I wanted to share with you from our trip home to St. Louis back in August. Grilled pizzas are becoming quite popular. The bonus is that they are super easy to make. Just keep the dough thin and the heat high!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lamb & Figs

Roast lamb with figs, and then roll out the flatbread
By Karoline Boehm Goodnick, Globe Correspondent | October 6, 2010

Once a common roast for midday Sunday dinner, leg of lamb has lost its place of prominence. One reason is that the joint is known to be hard to carve. But now legs come boned and rolled and take about an hour to roast. With shared Mediterranean origins, lamb and figs are a natural match. Add couscous, a North African staple, and you have an appealing plate. Rub the meat with a smoky, sweet combination of paprika and rosemary. Halfway through roasting, surround the lamb with chopped fresh mission figs so their juices meld with the drippings. While the meat rests after roasting, make a quick pan sauce that will serve you again on flatbreads.

Whether you call it pizza or flatbread, this stylish pie has been embraced by chefs everywhere, and is a terrific way of repurposing leftovers. Buy pizza dough, divide it into pieces, then flatten them (don’t worry if you’re not good at this; misshapen rounds add rustic elegance). Top each with fig sauce, arugula leaves, lamb, and goat cheese. Bake them near the bottom of the oven until they’re firm and golden, then sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. New England practicality meets modern flare.

Roast leg of lamb with figs

Serves 4, with leftovers

1 boned rolled leg of lamb (3 1/2 pounds)
3 cloves garlic, halved
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
18 fresh black mission figs, stemmed and chopped
1 cup red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey

1. Set the oven at 450 degrees. With a small knife, cut 6 small slits in the lamb, and place 1/2 clove garlic in each slit. Sprinkle lamb with salt and pepper.

2. In a small bowl, mix together rosemary, paprika, and olive oil. Rub lamb with the rosemary mixture. Set it in a large cast iron skillet or heavy roasting pan (not ceramic).

3. Roast the lamb for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Continue roasting for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from oven and set the figs around the edges of the pan. Roast for 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center of the meat registers 125 to 130 degrees for rare lamb. (Total roasting time is 55 minutes.) For medium to well-done meat, continue roasting for 5 to 10 minutes or until the temperature reaches 145 to 160 degrees.

4. Transfer the roast to a metal rack set over a plate. Let it rest for 5 minutes (the temperature will continue to rise a few degrees).

5. Pour off the fat from the pan, keeping the juices. Place the pan on a burner over high heat. Add the wine and vinegar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and let it bubble for 5 minutes. Add honey, salt, and pepper. Set aside 1 1/2 cups sauce with some figs in it for the flatbreads.

6. Discard twine from lamb. Carve the lamb on a slight angle into thick pieces. Set aside 1/4 of the lamb for the flatbreads.

7. Divide the remaining lamb and couscous among 4 plates. Ladle fig sauce over the lamb.

Fig and lamb flatbreads

Serves 4

Olive oil (for sprinkling)
2 pounds commercial pizza dough
Flour (for sprinkling)
1 1/2 cups fig sauce from lamb
2 cups fresh arugula, stemmed
2 cups chopped roast lamb
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Balsamic vinegar (for sprinkling)

1. Set the oven at 500 degrees. Position a rack at the lowest part of the oven. Lightly oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets.

2. Punch down the dough. Divide it into 8 equal pieces. Dust each lightly with flour, and cover 7 of them with a clean towel. Using a rolling pin, roll 1 ball firmly and evenly, flattening it into a 6-inch disk, dusting with flour when the dough becomes sticky. Slip it under the towel and shape the remaining rounds in the same way. Divide the rounds between the baking sheets.

3. With the back of a spoon, spread about 3 tablespoons of fig sauce on each round, then add 1/4 cup arugula, 1/4 cup chopped lamb, 2 tablespoons goat cheese, salt, and pepper.

4. Bake the pizzas for 5 minutes or until the crust is firm and golden. With a wide metal spatula, transfer the pizzas to a large platter. Sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and pepper. Brush crust with olive oil.

Happy Birthday!

B's birthday is my favorite day of the year...because it means he is, once again, as old as I am! Can't wait to celebrate!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Fortune Cookie Factory

If you google "free things to do in the Bay Area," chances are that a tour of a fortune cookie factory will pop up at the top of the list. Always game for free AND food-related activities, I hopped on the chance to find out just how they got those hidden messages tucked safely inside the folds of the wafer.

Paranoid as I am about arriving at a place after hours or on an off day, I called ahead to inquire about the day's schedule. The man on the phone was clearly not a native English speaker; he merely kept repeating, "We open till 7 pm. You come any time." "Ok," I thought to myself, "This is kind of bizarre, but what do I have to lose?"

Several BART stops later, I found myself wandering through the brightly colored, lanterned maze that is Chinatown in San Francisco. 9-5ers raced through the streets around me as I desperately tried to keep stride with the New Yorker that accompanied me on this adventure. Guided by her I-phone (god knows I don't have one), we turned down an alley that looked more like a zone for illegal abortions than fresh baked delights.

And then we saw it. On the right hand sign was a miniature sign indicating that we had indeed arrived at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory. In an airy, open storefront the size of a postage stamp, we were immediately greeted by the three employees and entire operation!

The same man who answered the phone stood by the doorway offering the rejected cookies as a sample of their wares and ensuring that anyone with a camera paid the requisite 50 cents for a photo of his ladies. This included the Floridian man, armed with a video camera, who kept referring to the edibles as "egg rolls" while filming!

Behind him, two women worked the assembly lines, making sure the batter was loaded into the dispenser, discarding cookies that didn't meet their exacting standards (boy, there seemed to be a lot of them), and carefully plucking off the prime tuiles from the hot iron press, filling them with a message, and folding them to fully envelope the surprise. Together, these two women made thousands of fortune cookies everyday, and I am pretty sure that they were all the nuts and bolts of the operation.

Satisfied with our discovery, we paid for a bag of adult fortune cookies and went on our way. A word of advice: don't spring the extra 50 cents (or whatever it was) for the naughty notes - out of about 10 that I ate, 9 were the same nonsensical and non-naughty message!