Sharing meals with friends and family is one of life's greatest pleasures. Featured here are some of the simple, yet wonderful, celebrations that take place in our home on Any Given Sunday throughout the year.
What a great way to be welcomed into our new community (which is an inholding of about 8 small ranches within the boundary of the Gila National Forest). It's an hour to the nearest gas station or grocery store, so having neighbors with chickens is especially fortunate!
One of the many reasons we prefer road trips to air travel — in addition to the peaceful, uninterrupted hours of conversation — is the fact that we get to pack whatever we want based on the kind of trip we are taking rather than the confining restrictions put forth by the TSA. So, when we head down the highway for a trip that involves cooking (either in a part-time of unfamiliar vacation rental kitchen), we have the luxury of making sure we pack some key ingredients that will make our meals all that much better while away from home. We always bring wine (that goes without saying), but it's also nice to bring along some excellent olive oil, some hardnecked garlic found at our local farmers market that is more mild in flavor and peels really easily, a good pepper mill and a few fresh spices that can add flavor to dozens of dishes.
The best way I've found to travel with spices is by carrying them in a Masala Dabba, which is a traditional Indian spice box made out of stainless steel that containes several small compartments under its tight fitting lid. This not only keeps your spcies fresh, it prevents them from spilling all over the place as you bump down the backroads of your journey.
For our upcoming Thanksgiving trip to Santa Fe, my traveling spices include: fleur de sel, freshly ground black pepper, bay leaves, thyme, fennel seeds, aleppo pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and bay leaves from a friend's farm.
We'll also bring a couple of very good quality California olive oils, some hot smokey paprika, champagne vinegar, our local walnut oil and piquillo peppers (which are an excellent addition to a basic grilled cheese sandwich)!
And when I'm feeling really ambitious, I love making my own celery salt. This batch will come in handy when making the turkey dressing for Thanksgiving and the leftover turkey soup we'll surely be eating as part of our leftover repetoir!
Finally feels a bit like fall after a pretty solid heat wave (by Santa Barbara standards anyway), so I took the opportunity to bake bread from a batch of starter (biga) I made last weekend. This is part of an ongoing attempt to make everything we eat from scratch (which has been a bit hit and miss lately)! Here's the process in photos...
Thanks to our pals, Deborah Madison and Anna Thomas (and their books, "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" and "love Soup" respectively), I was able to create these two amazing dishes from ingredients we had on hand from the farmers market.
As is usually the case, we've been traveling a lot this summer so having three whole days in a row at home on a long weekend is considered quite a luxury. I spent four days last week enjoying time in Des Moines, Iowa all of the great folks who raise pigs for Niman Ranch. It was quite an experience and I loved every minute of it (especially the hayride through native prairie grasses at the Dream Farm, owned and operated by Niman Ranch Pork founder, Paul Willis and his wife, Phyllis). The food throughout the multi-day event, was also a highlight (pig roast, homemade pies, an extravaganza of heirloom tomatoes — all raised on the Willis farm). YUM!
At yesterday's farmers market, we went a little overboard with all we bought (easy to do in Santa Barbara the first weekend of September), so we've spent the weekend washing, chopping, and cooking tons of fresh veggies. One of our all-time favorite things to do on Saturdays after the market is to steam 2 or 3 large artichokes from the Lompoc farm, "Life's a Choke," and then eat them throughout the day with my homemade paprika mayo. It's delicious and easy to make even using store-bought mayo. Just add 1 tablespoon of picante Spanish paprika (or more if you like) to one cup of mayo and blend well. It makes an amazing dip for artichoke leaves.
Other things we brought home from this week's farmers market: baby bok choy, green beans, tomatoes, eggplant, baby turnips, lettuces, hardneck garlic, onions, peaches, golden raspberries. You see, we really did go overboard!
This is one of the easiest ways I know of to stock your pantry with something delicious and beautiful. Making herb vinegars can take less than 10 minutes to do (then a couple of weeks to steep), and they make great gifts too! A few months ago, I found these gorgeous apothecary jars at an antique store and was saving them for just the right purpose. This morning, while Carole and I were enjoying our coffee outside on the back porch, we noticed that our herb pots were overflowing with tarragon, sage, basil, oregano, thyme and parsley, so I decided to cut them and make vinegar.
I used 2 quarts of distilled vinegar (for the larger jar) and filled that with tarragon and a few black pepper corns for a traditional tarragon vinegar and then used 1 quart of apple cider vinegar (organic and distilled locally by a family who owns a large apple orchard) for a mixed herb batch. All of it took less than 10 minutes. Now they go into the pantry (aka a dark, cool place) to steep for a week or two so that their flavors can develop. We'll use them for salads all summer and fall.
It's gloomy here in Santa Barbara as it often is during the month of June. The cooler temperature and overcast skies makes life feel a bit slower, which is actually a welcome change of pace for the weekend. I am using the opportunity to do one last batch of braised short ribs since we most likely won't enjoy this dish again until fall.
After a long absence from posting here (and a long winter), I am back and newly inspired, thanks to the abundance of produce available at the spring farmers market here in Santa Barbara. Since these perfectly fresh, seasonal ingredients don't really need a recipe, I'll just post their glamour shots here. We steamed the artichokes and ate them cold with a mayo/chile dip prepared in less than a minute (chopped clove of garlic, mayo, salt & pepper and tsp of hot red chile powder from Chimayo). The carrots were steamed whole, then tossed in a sauté pan with just enough butter to coat, a little salt & pepper, and some fresh thyme. Absolutely simple and delicious!
In the spirit of the DIY movement that is thriving in culinary circles these days (or as our friend, Tamar Haspel, dubbed it the "First Hand Food" movement — my all-time favorite term for what is is we are all trying to do — connect with our food first hand!), my resolution is make — from scratch — everything I possibly can instead of racing out to the store to buy it. For starters, here's a batch of homemade fettuccine I made just this morning. It took less than 5 minutes to make the dough, then it rested for 20 minutes, then less than 10 minutes to make passes through my hand-cranked Imeria pasta machine. Since you work on it in spurts and since the actual time spent making it is so short, it's an easy thing to add into your routine, regardless of whether it's a play day or a work day. Enjoy!
Quick Homemade Pasta
1 1/2 cups Semolina flour 1/4 tsp of salt 3 eggs, beaten 1 Tbsp water 1 Tbsp Olive oil
Combine flour and salt, then add all other ingredients. Mix until you have a stiff, but not too sticky, dough. Knead for 5 minutes (I do both of these steps, the mixing and the kneading) in my stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Wrap dough in a clean, damp dish towel and let rest for 20 minutes at room temperature. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to desired thickness (about 1/4" thick), then slice the long way into two sheets. Put each sheet through the pasta machine on the widest setting once (#5 on the Imperia), then another time through the next widest (#4). Then either roll the long wide strips up like you would a jelly roll so you can hand cut into strips of desired width more easily, or else put the wide strips through a fettuccine or spaghetti cutter on the opposite side of your pasta machine if it is equipped with one. Toss strips of finished pasta with a small amount of flour to prevent them from sticking together. Store in an air-tight container or cook immediately by dropping pasta into a pot of boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, depending on thickness. Immediately serve with your favorite sauce.
If you're anything like me, you have far too many jars of jam sitting in on your pantry shelves, so for a quick dessert, I make a batch of paté brisee pie dough (2 cups of flour, 1 stick of butter cut into cubes, a quarter cup of ice water, and a pinch of salt), roll it out on a parchment lined sheet pan, then fill the center with a jar of delicious fruit jam. Brush the crust with an egg white mixed with a little water and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. You end up with beautiful handcrafted (and tasty!) dessert in well under an hour. In this case, I used our local favorite, Heidi's Raspberry Jam.