Archive for September, 2013

Basque Cold-Poached Salmon

Earlier this year I got racks of lamb lamb from the Annual Basque Picnic here in town. I had a great time gathering together with my brother and cousins to celebrate the culture of out ancestors, listening to the language and songs, smelling amazing food being grilled, watching folk dances and seeing lots of people of similar descent (we are French-Basque) enjoy the all-day festivities. In addition to my cousin’s birthday, the day was absolutely filled with awesome activities. I started by perusing the Etcheverry Basque Imports booth, buying some great folk music and Chorizos in an Iron Skillet; I was not at all surprised to find The Basque Kitchen, which I already owned, amongst their selection. They had all sorts of amazing stuff! There was an American Basque guide book and an intriguing book on myths and legends that I added to my list to read later.

Annual Basque Picnic

Several months ago (sorry for the delay) during one of my grocery store quests for fish, I found salmon on sale and bought three pounds of it. I decided to try something different and flipped open my new Basque cookbook to the fish section. I had never poached salmon before but the recipe looked pretty easy and tasty, especially with the garlic aioli. My husband is usually not a sauce-on-the-side kind of guy but loved the aioli. They also went well with the side of steamed asparagus.

Cold-Poached Salmon with Garlic Aioli
Adapted from Mary Ancho Davis’ “Cold Poached Salmon” recipe published in “Chorizos in an Iron Skillet
 You can of course eat the fish cold, as suggested, but we decided not to wait and ate ours still hot.ChorizosIronSkillet
Yield: 4-6 Servings

Cold-Poached Salmon
Ingredients

1 qt Filtered Water
1 Sweet Yellow Onion, peeled, quartered
3 Celery Stalks with leaves
2 tsp Sea Salt, any variety
1/2 tsp Peppercorns, fresh ground
Marjoram, 1 T fresh or 1 tsp dried
Tarragon, 1 T fresh or 1 tsp dried
Basil, 1 T fresh or 1 tsp dried
1 Dried Bay Leaf
3 lbs Salmon Steaks, rinsed, boned

Directions
Boil all of the herbs and spices in the water in a large pot for 20 minutes over medium-high heat.

Wrap the salmon in cheesecloth to prevent them from falling apart as they cook and carefully place in the boiling broth. Simmer 15 minutes or until the fish is firm. Carefully remove the fish from the broth. Untie cloth and unwrap the fish, being careful not to burn your fingers.

Chill the fish in a covered container for at least two hours.

Serve with garlic aioli.

Garlic Aioli
Adapted from Mary Ancho Davis’ “No Fail Ali-Oli” recipes published in “Chorizos in an Iron Skillet.” According to Ms. Ancho Davis, the sauce gets better with times as the flavors meld together, so if possible, make this sauce A day or two ahead.
Yields: 8 Servings

Ingredients
1 C Prepared Mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
4 – 6 Cloves Garlic, peeled, trimmed, minced*
1 T Cold-Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Lemon Juice, to taste
1/8 Sea Salt, any
Peppercorns, fresh ground, to taste (optional)

Directions
Mix the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl. Adjust the flavors as necessary. Chill until ready to serve with the fish.

*Keep in mind that this is raw garlic. You can roast the garlic first if you like. If you choose to use a food processor to mix the ingredients, you do not need to mince the garlic.

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National Heirloom Exposition, Day 2

As I stated before, there were tons of exhibits to see at the exposition. It was great to see so many people, especially the school kids, come in to the expo and have such a great time. I found out some neat tidbits! People from all over the USA can participate in the festival displays by submitting their heirloom produce. In addition, all of the proceeds are donated to local school garden and food education programs.

It was pretty interesting to work at the sampling station, especially since I am not well acquainted with all of the watermelon varieties. I didn’t know know which colors to expect, so it was always a lovely surprise to behold the beauty hidden within the rinds whenever I sliced into the fruit. It was great to hear people’s responses to the melon colors, sweetness and flavors. They were as surprised as I was, many disbelieving at first that we were only serving watermelon. Interestingly, some of the tasters compared trying the melons to wine tasting, as the flavors varied in subtleties, sweetness; it helped greatly to start with the mellower flavors and work your way up.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to see any of the 100 plus lectures, but I heard that many people were interested in hearing Vanda Shiva, one of the keynote speakers, an anti-GMO and environmental activist and renowned author. The Wednesday lectures I wanted to hear were “Fermentation” with Luke Regalbuto & Maggie Levinger of Wild West Ferments and “Seaweeds for Food and Health” by Heidi Herrmann of Strong Arm Farm.  Thursday’s “Herbal Kitchen” by Kami McBride from Living Awareness Institute also sounds interesting. There was a “Livestock Barn” lecture series, with topics such as “Rabbit: Another White Meat” and “How to Cut Up a Chicken”.

As I explored the expo, I got to see all sorts of fruit and vegetable displays, including competitions for giant tomatoes and pumpkins. Sadly, I found the pumpkin contest a little disappointing with generally lower weight results; the contest is nation wide The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth  with results of up to 1480 pounds this year. Chef Ray L. Duey, the culinary artist, carved fruits and vegetables into intricate and awe-inspiring displays. There was also flower show, and I got several pictures of Aztec Dahlias‘ gorgeous specimens. Betty Finch’s incredibly detailed gourd sculptures were on display in the art exhibit; certain pieces of the sculptures were molded into shape as they grew. The only large mammals this year were llamas and hogs, but there were also sheep, goats, cute kunekune pigs and adorable bunnies!

On to the food! So in addition to all of this excitement, I visited many, many food vendors and tried my share of tasty samples. Not only were Mama Baretta and Lydia’s Organics there with gluten-free delicious goodies but there were several other companies with scrumptious bites, too. I finally tried Bloomfield Bees Honey’s liquid gold and particularly enjoyed their blackberry and orange-chocolate honeys. Byerbri and Good Faith Farms had really great olive oils with smooth and delicate flavors. Crofter’s Organic’s (the South American Super Fruit Spread was my favorite) and Lisa’s Luscious Kitchen‘s (loved every spoonful) jams and chutney’s were so delectable. The Hue De Laroque Family Farm’s and Sonomic’s vinegars were very nice, and I can just imagine using them in salads, reduction sauces and marinades. WholeVine Cookies was very impressive for it’s agricultural sustainability, charity and rich flavors; as a one of the sister companies of Jackson Family Wines (parent company for Kendall Jackson Wines), it reuses the seeds and skins left over from crushing the grapes, drying and grinding them into flours to make soft moist gluten-free cookies, like the oatmeal raisin and the peanut butter ones I tried. I was astounded by the texture and complexity of the flavors; they tasted and felt like “normal” homemade cookies but without the commonly present icky wheat aftertaste. WholeVine also had their cooking oils, seed flours and skin flours (yes, they differ in flavor) for purchase in eight grape varieties. RW Garcia demoed their “MixtBag” of yellow and blue corn chips, “English Cheddar Dippers” and “Curry Mango Dippers” (my absolute favorite), which all had delightful flavor and crunch. Real McCoy’s also gave out gluten-free and yummy samples of “Sweet & Spicy Rice Chips,” “Baked Vermont White Cheddar Rice Puffs” and “Baked Jalapeno Cheddar Rice Puffs.” My absolute favorite snacks were Saffron Road‘s crunchy roasted chickpeas in “Bombay Spice” and “Falafel” flavors. Andy’s Farm Culinary Alchemy had some of their “Phyto-Liscious Foods” out, including Carob “Chi Force Energy Bars,” “Spicy East Indian Popcorn Seasoning,” pear and peach spiced chutneys and Andy’s 60 Ingredient 4 Seasons Super Sour Kraut, which were all very tasty (especially the bars and chutneys). Amy’s Kitchen was there with samples again, this time with tomato bisque, red curry with vegetables and rice and minestrone vegetable soup. Now they make gluten-free brownies! I’m really looking forward to trying those.

Please view the gallery below for more pictures of colorful fruits and vegetables and cute animals. Enjoy!

National Heirloom Exposition, Day 1

Oh food blog, how I have missed you so! I can’t believe it’s been about a year since my last post. Much has happened in that time. My husband, friends, family and I have worked very hard to make our house more homey. There are always more and more projects to work on. Currently, we are in the midst of tackling the backyard, installing drainage, watering and electrical lines, planter boxes and a retaining wall, which all includes moving a lot of dirt around. What a workout! I am so grateful that we have so many generous people to help out. Next year, we plan on install a patio deck, but until then I hope to get some more plants in the ground. I’ve been itching to start some semblance of a garden, but we need to fill in more dirt first. I’m also trying to figure out which type of fruit tree to plant along the back fence and found some recent inspiration after visiting nurseries with some of my girl friends last weekend. So many plans are in the works. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I am volunteering for a second year in a row at the National Heirloom Exposition, which is organized by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, a great Missourian company that features only non-GMO seeds in numerous varieties of flowers, fruits and vegetables but also gardening workshops. I cannot recommend this expo enough. Oh my goodness, I am having so much fun! It absolutely amazes me that such a national event is held here in Sonoma County, let alone that it was featured on Martha Stewart’s television show.

From the looks of it, 2011 was the first of many more years to come for the expo, especially as people travel from all over to attend, even from other countries. Like last year, I made a point to not only attend but also volunteer, and this year I’m scheduled to work two of the three days (about 12 hours), which means I get free admission, parking and hot lunches on both days and leftover produce at the close of the fair. How cool is that?! I saw and learned so much last year but only experienced a small portion of all of the events. The expo provides great opportunities to meet up with like-minded people and see folks from some of my favorite local farms and gourmet restaurants. This year I hope to try out some new foods.

It is absolutely amazing to see the astounding abundance of varieties of awesome organically grown heirloom fruits, vegetables and flowers. There were cultivars from all over the world that were brought in from all across the country, let alone from all over California, that I didn’t even know existed. Who knew there are red eggplants, prickly cucumbers and olive-shaped squash? Well, I do now. There are many many kinds of watermelon, for instance, with skins in various shades of green, golden, yellow and white that were solid colored, striped, splotched or spotted but had inner flesh in solid colors of pink, red, white, yellow, orange or bi-color combinations. Even the seeds varied in color and pattern. here must have been hundreds of watermelons alone, no to mention eggplants, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, pumpkins, gourds, squash, cucumbers, poultry and other exciting heirlooms. I know there are even more heirloom fruits and vegetables available, which makes me wish that there was an expo for every harvest season, since we only get to see produce that’s available at this time of year. I’d love to see different types of berries and stone fruits, but their peak seasons are over during this time of year. It would also be fantastic to see more species of heirloom flowers, too.

There is so much going on, it’s impossible to see everything. The California Rare Fruit Growers also sponsor an exhibit with tastings in the main hall (I keep forgetting to preregister), which is interesting, since some of the inner flesh colors and patters are so different from normal store-bought fruit. There are tons of free samples to try from several other farmers and vendors all over the expo, too, but there’s also a little farmers market for people to actually buy heirloom produce and seeds to take home. Some farmers also enter their finest produce in competitions based on appearance, flavor, size and weight. The pumpkin size contest is incredible with some of the entries weighing in at over 1000 pounds. They’re humongous! Not only are there displays of tables after tables of vegetables and fruits but a whole section of the fairgrounds is dedicated to heirloom animals. I hope they have more mammals this year, like rabbits. Wednesday is kids’ day with elementary classes coming from all over Sonoma County to learn sustainable gardening and farming; in addition, many of the schools are represented in a special exhibit by their gardening projects, displaying photos, schematics and diagrams.

During all three days, there are several educational agriculture lectures given by speakers from near and far. There are topics concerning sustainable agriculture, growing certain species of fruit, interactions of edible plants and weeds, hydration systems, soil, etc.  In addition, I think there are two screens showing back-to-back food-related documentary films all day, likewise on a variety of subjects. I hope I can fit some interesting lectures and movies into my schedule this year, as last year I wanted to hear the blueberry and agroecology lectures but was working at those times. There is also a small art exhibit in the main hall with agriculture-themed paintings, sculptures, embroidery, pressed flowers, and the like. The expo is like visiting a gourmet food fest, health food fair, sustainable gardening and farming fair, art and garden show, county fair, workshop series, movie marathon, agricultural fair, interactive science museum, farmers market and concert series all in one!

The fair always seems better than I anticipate, and it gets larger and gains greater attendance by visitors and vendors each year. I imagine it would probably attract an even more people if it wasn’t held in the middle of the week.  Last year, I went a little photo crazy; I must have taken pictures of most everything, which made me feel a bit like a tourist. I know this year I’m going to take pictures, too, but hopefully even better ones. I also hope I’m not doubling up on subjects that I took pictures of already. There’s so much to see. There are a bunch of pictures in the gallery below from last year, but these aren’t even a third of the collection so far. I do hope to post more after my second day. I’m having such a great time, I know I want to volunteer again next year.