Saturday at Hog Island Oyster Co.

After having such a blustery cold rainy week, getting away on a blazingly sunny Saturday was in in order. We headed up to Hog Island Oyster Farm to spend an afternoon slurping back mollusks and enjoying some much appreciated sun. Located a little over an hour’s drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was a really wonderful way to spend a weekend afternoon with some friends. We brought along some good wine and some other picnic like food to make it a fully rounded day and just sat and enjoyed ourselves.
Hog Island Oyster Co.

Hog Island Oyster Co.
Hog Island Oyster Farms is located on a stretch Tomales Bay near Pt. Reyes with several other oyster farms. This is local eating at its best because you can see from your table the oyster beds where what you’re eating was raised. Make sure you call ahead and reserve a table well in advance because as their website says “demand for picnic tables has grown and weekend tables often book out months in advance.” You can buy your oysters still in the shell or pre-shucked as well as having them grilled by the staff. Shucking the oysters yourself can be a bit of a challenge but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy.

Hog Island Oyster Co.

Hog Island Oyster Co.

Your table should have some hot sauce on it for adding a dash of heat to the sweet briny oysters. You can also make your own and the recipe below for a standard cocktail sauce makes more than enough for a bushel. You could also make a Mignonette sauce for a extra dash of flavor. We also brought along a couple of bottles of pinot gris which paired beautifully with the oysters. Bring sunscreen since the tables are out in the open. Enjoy the view, enjoy the oysters and enjoy the company. It’s a great way to spend the day.

Hog Island Oyster Co.

Cocktail Sauce Recipe

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup horseradish (more or less to taste)
2 tsp Worcestershire
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp dry mustard
Juice and zest of one lemon
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together and serve next to the oysters. Refrigerate any left overs and use within two weeks.

Quiet nights at home.

Told my boyfriend I needed a night on my own. It happens. The world gets into my head and I need to find a way to get it out. Throwing myself into the teeming crowd at happy hour was not sounding appealing. Besides, there was that cover of Savuer magazine I saw at the dentist office when I was getting a new crown attached this week (more on that later). It had immediately struck me and I said to myself “I could try that.”

So I left the office and stopped off at TAP Plastics and picked up a sheet of plastic I thought would do the job. 90 minutes later I was happily puttering in the garage with some very thinly sliced lemons and oranges being photographed and my figuring out how to solve technical issues.

It was exactly what I needed. Before I knew it I had pulled more food to be shot. There will be a similar shoot soon to explore other forms of shadow and light and story telling with this technique. It’s a first shout out of the gate with this method, but I’m quite pleased with my results. It gives me a place to push myself and gives me a direction to focus my energy.

When life gives you lemons….

Lemons

Life is a big ball of stress at the moment. I’m handling things as best I can. Today I retreated to my back yard for some sun.

I’m grateful that the house next door is currently unoccupied. That means I can pick fruit from the trees in their yard that hang over into mine. Bowls full of lemons and blood oranges. The blood oranges are weighing down the three to such a degree that soon I’ll have bowls and blowls of them too. I haven’t decided what to do with these yet, but give me time. The down side is that they are working on the apartments and soon people living there may have something to say about my pilfering. For now, I’m grateful for the bounty.

Oranges

Quick

It’s been a crazy week. Two interviews and a lot of side work. The recruiter inteview went fine and, unlike with several other recruiters, this one actually went through my resume with me and gave me her response and listened to what I’m looking for. I meet with her temp placement colleague on Tuesday. The big interview of the week was for a Catering Manager job. While it was the kind of work that I really wish I was doing, it was clear even to me that I wasn’t a good fit. That being said they seemed to like me and there may be other opportunities to pursue.

I came home from that interview and stood in the kitchen and just started cooking. I do that. I hide behind the processes and the knife work and the fire. It’s give my brain just enough of a pause to begin to process better. This was no different. Soon I have meatballs and tomato sauce simmering away and in another pot, red chard and bacon reducing. Two friends came to dinner and were good enough to sit ad talk over a very nice Pinot. A quickly improvised Apple and Raisin crumble with an oatmeal and butter and oliveoil topping ended things sweetly.

Finding a job is hard for anyone. My resume is pretty eclectic and many recruiters or HR people really don’t know what to do with it. I’m often asked if I’m a caterer or an office manager. With my long term plans nebulous at times, finding an answer that will get me the job is hard. Getting the interview in the first place can often be harder.

So I’ll keep looking and keep applying and keep networking and just keep going. I’ll come up with new plans and new ways to get things done. In the end as long as I can come home and retreat into the kitchen and cook, I’ll be ok.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Stew

Like many people, I am still faced with a pile of Thanksgiving leftovers several days after the event. I’ve had turkey sandwiches and Brussels sprouts for lunch and midnight snacks of stuffing. And yet despite all that, I still have a ton of food to use. Rather than let them go bad or try to throw them in freezer where they would sit for months, I opted to make a unilateral use of them. It was just a matter of being honest that, no, I wasn’t going to have time to make something with all that turkey meat AND make something with all the left over side dishes AND make something with all the left over turkey stock. So I made an easy turkey stew by throwing everything (Yes, everything) in the crockpot and beefing it up with rice . The cranberry sauce added a pleasant citrus note and the chopped giblets that never made it in the gravy added richness. The left over bread stuffing dissolved and thickened the stew along with a roux.

Thanksgiving leftovers stew

This really is an easy dinner to make while doing weekend housework and will feed everyone (at least in my house) for several days. This will be especially good on a series of days where we are expecting some serious rain and chills. A quick batch of biscuits to go along with the stew makes things perfectly filling and enjoyable. Sure it’s not exactly a low fat salad, but you can go to the gym later when it stops raining.

Approximately 8-12 oz of chopped turkey
Approximately 16-24 oz of left over side vegetables like squash and potatoes.
1 large onion
3 stalks of celery
1 large carrot
2 large bay leaves
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp tarragon leaves
Olive oil as needed
3 cups turkey stock
3 cups water
1 cup of rice
1 stick butter
½ cup flour

1) Dice onion, celery and carrot. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent.
2) Add turkey and mix well and then add poultry season, rosemary, tarragon and bay leaves. Mix well.
3) Add liquids and bring to boil.
4) Add everything to a crackpot and then add rice. Allow to simmer for 2-3 hours.
5) Melt butter and add flour and stir frequently over medium heat until roux begin to color to light brown. Add to crick pot and allow to thicken.

Strawberry Tarts Forever

Whether you pick your own or snag a few baskets of strawberries at the farmers market doesn’t matter. What does count is that this time of year in San Francisco, some of the best fruit available is local and, more often than not organic, as opposed to the anemic and bruised fruit you’re likely to find at a supermarket. Making the effort to buy your berries from a local farmer pays off not only in terms of flavor but also in size and quality.

tart
Look for berries that are scarlet red without being too dark or with too much white still showing. They should also be firm and smell fruity. Pick up the basket and try to look inside. If you see mold, skip it. One moldy berry will infect a whole basket quickly. If you get them home and discover a moldy berry inside, discard it and give the rest a thorough washing. Let them dry on a lined baking sheet.

In this recipe the berries are left to their own strengths while introducing complimentary flavors in the garnish and in the custard. The Thai basil adds a subtle anise and lemon flavor that compliments the fruit well, but feel free to use standard basil as well.

1 4-inch round of vodka pie dough
1 cup heavy cream
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup roughly chopped Thai basil leaves
Approximately 6 large basil leaves cut into chiffonade
Approximately 2 cups strawberries sliced ¼” thick
½ cup apricot jam
1 tbsp water

1) Preheat oven to 325. Blind bake pastry shell and then set aside. Reduce oven to 300.

2) Bring cream to a boil and add basil leaves. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain completely. Return cream to pan and bring to a simmer.

3) Whisk eggs, vanilla and sugar together until bright yellow. Place bowl on a folded towel and then slowly drizzle in warm cream, whisking the entire time. Return to low heat and continue stirring gently until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

4) Pour mixture into shell. You may have some left over. Bake for at least 45 minutes or until custard begins to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

5) Arrange strawberries in rows or rings.

6) Mix jam and water in a small sauce pan and melt. Brush over fruit. Garnish with chiffonade.

Peas out of the pod

I love peas and always have. As a kid I’d get a can of British baby peas for my birthday and I thought how special that seemed. With time I’ve grown like the peas right out of the pods and look forward to spring when they become available.

One of the signs that spring has gotten firmly entrenched is the arrival of spring peas at the farmers markets. The piles of bright green pods might still be a few weeks away in other parts of the country but here in San Francisco, we are lucky to have them now. While it’s great to have them, the peas inside may not have had time to fully mature yet. Certainly most pods have large peas inside, but some may need another week or so before they are at their best.

Peas with their pods and spring onions with bacon
Despite that minor issue, you shouldn’t put off buying them now. The peas right out of the pods are sweet and grassy in flavor and have a pleasant crunch to them. A quick dunk of shelled peas in some salted boiling water and then dressed with butter is how most people serve them. Most people unfortunately just toss the pods in the compost. The pods shouldn’t be wasted because they have an equally pleasant crunch and flavor. This recipe uses both with a spring onion bought form the same vendor at the Galleria farmers market in the Financial District. Instead of cooking them fully, this recipe just barely lets the heat from the other ingredients warm them so they retain their fresh crunch and flavor to contrast with the other flavors.
• Approximately 1 pound snap peas
• 1 small spring onion with half the stalk
• 4 slices or 2 oz bacon
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
• Olive oil as needed
• Salt and pepper

1. Shell peas from pods. Stack pods and cut into ¼” slices. Set both aside.
2. Cut onion into ¼” dice. Slice stalk as you would a leek.
3. Cut bacon into ½” pieces. Over medium heat, render the fat out of the bacon with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Take your time here so the bacon doesn’t burn.
4. When the bacon has started to brown, add the onion and stalk and sauté until just translucent.
5. Add vinegar and deglaze the pan with the liquid. Continue to cook until reduced by half.
6. Turn off heat and add pea mixture. Toss quickly and taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Snap peas and their pods with homemade bacon and spring onions

A version of this article also appears at http://www.examiner.com/article/spring-peas-and-pods-with-spring-onions-and-bacon

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Meyer Lemon and Herb Sauce

Lemon pasta is one of our “go-to” easy meals that we have been making for years. It’s quick, uncomplicated and relatively healthy. Normally we serve it during hot weather, but with Meyer lemons being plentiful at Bay area farmers markets, it seemed like a perfect time to make it. The citrus and herb flavor just makes us feel like spring is all that much closer.

pasta_2

We try to keep it fresh by not getting trapped in a set way of making it. Sometimes we use parsley, other times basil and yet others tarragon. Sometimes we use spaghetti, other times linguini or sometimes even penne. We also make sure to add more grated Parmesan than some recipes might suggest to make sure we get a creamier sauce. Adding some diced chicken rounds out the dish for a full meal but leave it out if you want to serve this as a first course. You can also add toasted walnuts if you want to make it a fully vegetarian meal. It also fares well the next day if you need to bring something for lunch to work.

3 cloves of garlic
¾ cup olive oil
Pinch of chili flakes
2 Meyer lemons, zested and juiced
1 cup tightly packed parsley leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan
1 cooked chicken breast, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound whole-wheat spaghetti

1) Cook pasta according to directions.
2) Heat oil in a small sauté pan and toast garlic cloves and chili flakes until the garlic just begins to brown.
3) Add garlic and oil to the bowl of a food processor with the parsley, lemon juice and zest. Puree till it forms a loose paste.
4) Dice chicken and mix with sauce and grated cheese in a mixing bowl.
5) When pasta is al dente, add to mixing bowl, using a little pasta water to loosen the sauce if needed. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
This article also appears on http://www.examiner.com/food-in-san-francisco/whole-wheat-spaghetti-with-meyer-lemon-and-parsley-sauce