Posts from the ‘Seasonings’ Category

Rohnert Park Friday Night Farmers Market

The summer Downtown Rohnert Park farmers market is every Friday 5:00 to 8:00 pm between June 15 and August 31 (sorry I didn’t mention it earlier). It’s actually pretty big, taking up quite a significant amount of parking lot and side park area of the Sonoma County Library, where I have found some great volumes, including cookbooks, for dirt cheap. Like most farmers markets, it’s a mixture of fresh-cut flowers, fresh produce, local food and health products (vinegars, dips, jams, homemade soaps), crafts (bags, jewelry, scarves, wreathes, birdhouses), hot prepared food and live entertainment, dubbed Party on the Plaza. Not only do they have live bands performing, there are also face painting, bounce house, an inflated slide, a little petting zoo and pony rides for kids. Then there are the other cuddly critters brought by the local ASPCA. After all, who doesn’t like adorable kitties, puppies and bunnies?

The major aspect of the farmers market that did shock me was the sheer number of booths devoted direct sales companies, like Mary Kay, Pampered Chef and Tastefully Simple. Since these businesses are not farm, artisan, craftsman, food, teaching or community based, their presence felt weird to me. I mean I understand promoting your own little business to get new clients and customers, but I don’t think those types of businesses belonged there, not when there are already other actually local gourmet, kitchen tool and spice and herb businesses. For instance, I have seen Kim Cook-Fallon’s booth, Cook’s Spices many of the Santa Rosa and Downtown Windsor farmers markets; the other shop to which I’m referring to is, of course, Savory Spice in Downtown Santa Rosa run by Pat and Cheryl, both of whom I have seen at the Wednesday Night Market with some of the gals from Sur la Table, promoting workshops and cooking classes that they sometimes co-host.

Dahlia 2009.1

At the Rohnert Park market, I was always excited to visit the O’Brien family’s Aztec Dahlias booth, who’s flowers are always a joy to see.  I actually discovered their farm location in Petaluma, which is along my normal route in and out of town. All of their flowers are gorgeous and inspiring. I hope I can visit them sometime soon, plop down on a patch of ground surrounded by a myriad of dahlias in all vivid colors and sizes and just draw, carefully picking out various mediums and colors from my rather extensive collection of colored pencils, crayons and felt tip pens. I expect it will be quite different from the last time I drew dahlias for my dad last summer; those flowers were merely based on pictures I found online. Drawing them up close and in person will be much better.

nana mae's organic

Nana Mae’s was also at this farmers market, which was a nice surprise. They don’t just sell apples. Not only were they selling their apple sauce, apple juice and apples, they also had various stone fruits, which I had never seen before. They had normal plums and plum-cherries, which were so cute, juicy, sweet, and delicious, I once bought two pounds of the little guys. Believe it or not, I ate them all before they went bad, but it was a bit challenging with their different stages of ripening. They also grown black berries, pears, prunes, pluots, lemons, quince and other fruits (I’m sure). They also work with other California farms to make specialty items, like their Spiced Date Apple Sauce (The dates actually come from Flying Disc Farms, from whom I prefer to buy my dates. Remember, I talked about them after I visited them at the Ferry Building farmers market) and Apple Mostarda (made with apples, raisins, figs, white wine, rosemary, cinnamon, coriander, and ginger in cooperation with the Girl & the Fig Restaurant)

Debbie (the head baker) was at the Mama Barretta booth! Yea! On separate trips this summer to the Rohnert Park market, I bought Debbie’s anise and almond biscotti, cinnamon raisin bread, multiseed bread, amaretti cookies and a carrot muffin. Can you tell I’m a fan? Their baked goods are so tasty and comforting. I really miss their chocolate and spice flavored pezzi, which are little raw almond truffle balls made with coconut; unfortunately, they didn’t have them at the markets I attended. Just so you know, their breads can be a bit hard, crumbly and hard to slice, but I discovered a neat trick! You can cut off a hunk to either steam in the oven of microwave with the help of a damp towel, making the bread amazingly soft, easier to slice and less crumby, like it was just freshly baked. I don’t go through bread that quickly, so usually I freeze half to save for later.

I found lots of great fresh produce at the farmers market. As far as stone fruit, the white and yellow peaches, white and yellow nectarines, plums and plum hybrids captivated my attention the most. It’s was great to try all of the samples and see all of the different varieties. I bought several pounds of those, too, and they were scrumptious! I use to love peaches the most, but right now nectarines are my favorite. I found several juicy and lovely kinds of heirloom tomatoes; I particularly enjoyed the multicolored yellow and bright golden ones in my salads and sandwiches. I was also fortunate to find that the Ortiz Brothers’ booth was selling cilantro and Italian sweet basil, which I like mixing in with my salad greens to bring in more flavor, and depending on the other flavors, sometimes I like to add these herbs to my sandwiches and lettuce wraps.


Pluots (Photo credit: oceanaris)

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to tell you about this great local farmers market until after it was over for the year. The downtown location also provides a great meetup location for me to see some of my friends, who I went to school with. Besides with my old farmers market haunts so far away now, the Rohnert Park farmers market makes me feel like I’m not missing out on as much by living all the way down in Petaluma. Michele Anna Jordan of the Press Democrat also wrote a review in the “Eat This Now” section, which goes into more detail about some of the merchants at the farmers market in case you are interested.

Visit to Japantown with My Brother, Part 1

After a couple of weeks visiting my folks, my brother and I had a perfect opportunity to hang out for few days without Mom and Dad (they went on vacation in Yosemite National Park near the end of my visit to celebrate Mom’s official retirement). My brother and I spoke about Japanese food quite a lot during my stay,  and we had even tried to track down some authentic ingredients for the beef and shrimp donabe and beef curry dishes we made, but the only Asian market was clear on the other side of town, which is kind of strange with a significant number of the Chinese, Japanese, Loatian and Vietnamese restaurants in town….

Anyway, we decided to make a stop at Japantown in San Francisco on the way back to my house instead, since it was actually more convenient, believe it or not. We had a great time, which is funny to say, since we basically went grocery shopping. We also did not get along when we were younger, I am feel very fortunate that he and I have become more mature. Not only can we tolerate each other, we actually want spend time together. What a relief!

Daiso is a big discount store in Japantown that sells most of their merchandise for $1.50 (online their items are sold only in bulk). They have all sorts of stuff, from dishes and figurines to fedoras and beauty products, including some items I thought were a bit odd, like disposable underwear; on the other hand, the store also had a ton of cute and useful things, too. I was totally surprised the store had so many sushi-making tools  and bento box lunch making tools (like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). I bought a table-side purse hook, bamboo crochet hook, LED flashlight, knee-high and toe socks, skinny metal chopsticks, calligraphy brushes, and fruit chew and herbal hard candies. It’s a great little department store with a wide variety of items that periodically changes by the season. If you are in Japantown, stop by and visit; you should really take the time to look through all of the aisles. Who knows what amazing deals and treasures you’ll find tucked away.

Ichiban Kan is also a discount department store, but sadly they have raised their prices dramatically since my last visit and are now more of a general store. Like Daiso, they have a wide assortment of items, which is impressive, since they are less than half the size. They do carry some nice, useful and cute items though. I bought my favorite three-tiered bunny bento box, blue ceramic sushi dishes and adorable large kitty throw pillow there. By brother found a big package of S & B medium-hot Japanese curry roux, the same kind we used in our beef curry dinner, but it was twice as big for the same price.

Sanko Cooking Supplies is a great store. When we went, most everything (at least in the front half) was on sale, plus another 10% off. The prices were rather amazing! I’ve been thinking of getting a sushi oko (the round wooden rice cooling tub for making sushi rice), but when I saw the the kit, I realized I don’t really need one or have the space for such a big thing that I’d probably barely use. It was nice to see so many donabe there in various sizes. They had quite a selection of fine quality stainless steel food preparation knives; I was looking for a ceramic chef’s knife or cleaver though. Ceramic blades are better for cutting fruit and vegetables, like this one, since they discourage oxidation, unlike metal knives and utensils. Their whole back room is absolutely lovely and filled with gorgeous tableware, tea cups and pots, furniture, clothing, figurines, and amazingly realistic resin-cast food sets (I think they are placed at ancestral shrines).

Kippu is a brand new wonderful restaurant with great prices, friendly service, delicious food, and an inviting family atmosphere. My brother and I received so many complimentary side dishes that I’m surprised we didn’t have any leftovers; to be fair, we had a rather late lunch while we were there, which means we were two very hungry people. The waiters gave us extra salad with a tasty dressing, colorful mild chili in-the-pod edamame  (I’ve never seen them served that way before), soothing jasmine green tea and comforting miso soup, and those free foods were in addition to the dishes we already requested! I ordered futomaki (a vegetarian sushi roll with sweet scrambled eggs, Japanese pickles and fresh vegetables) and a three-item bento box lunch of seaweed salad (I thought about ordering a two-item bento….), vegetable tempura and avocado maki, which came with a dressed green salad (so that was two of green salads in reality), white rice and miso soup. My brother ordered beef soba soup (so two soups for him and a dressed salad on the house). The diners at the table next to ours ordered the Flaming Dragon specialty sushi rolls, which contained tempura shrimp, crab, spicy tuna, salmon, yellow tail, tuna and tobiko (flying fish roe) “with fire”. It certainly was exciting! The sushi roll was a wrapped in foil, set on a plate over a highly combustible alcohol set alight. Everything we had tasted amazing! We were both very impressed and stuffed full of delicious foods. I’m surprised they didn’t have to roll us out the door! It’s a good thing we didn’t have any “wafer-thin mints.” 😉 I will definitely go back the next time I’m in Japantown; I highly recommend this restaurant!

Hang in there for more of our Japantown adventure! I’ll post the second half very soon. Enjoy!

Shrimp & Vegetable Nabe with Shichimi Togarashi

With the donabe, I also wanted to give Mom a hot pot cookbook as a gift for Christmas last year, so she could learn about authentic ingredients and cooking methods, as well as gain some inspiration for cooking different dishes. When Anise and I went to Japantown, the bookstore was closed, so I looked at the local new and used bookstores in Petaluma and Santa Rosa. Nothing.

I also poked around online looking for hot pot recipes and found Harris Salat’s Japanese food blog, which has entries featuring some of the recipes (or similar ones) from the book that he and Tadashi Ono wrote, called Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals. It’s the best donabe and hot pot cookbook I found; it has lots of inspiring, colorful pictures and descriptions of the recipes and ingredients that will make you hungry. I highly recommend this book as a wonderful resource.

Shrimp & Vegetable Nabe with Wild Rice and Shichimi Togarashi
Adapted from “‘Strawberry’ Hot Pot” or
“Ichigo Nabe” from Japanese Hot Pots
by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat
Serves 8 to 10

Whole Grain Gohan Ingredients
Adapted from “Japanese Rice for Shime” from Japanese Hot Pots

2 + 1 C Filtered Water
1 tsp San-J Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce
OR Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1/2 C Brown Rice, uncooked
1/2 C Wild Rice, uncooked

In the donabe, bring the 2 cups of water and tamari to a boil. Stir in the rice. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot, and cook the rice for 40 minutes. Check the water level, and add about a cup of water as needed. Return the lid. Cook the rice for 20 more minutes or until tender. Drain the rice, and set it aside in a large bowl.

I also used Ming Tsai’s instructional video on You Tube to make sure I knew how to cook the rice in the donabe without burning the grains to the bottom. His video is for sushi rice, which normally has to be rinsed to get rid of excess starch. I did not soak my rices, since they are a completely different variety. I also didn’t really worry about excess starch, since starch adds a slight sweetness to broths naturally when they are included. As you may have noticed I do not have a special rice cooking donabe, but my rice turned out perfect with the book’s recipe. I just added a little more water than the package directions called for, which did not adversely affect the grains, since the rice had to stay in the pot to lend to the other soup flavors.

Shrimp & Vegetable Nabe
Sauce Ingredients
4 C Filtered Water
1 tsp Ajinomoto Hon-Dashi
1/4 C San-J Gluten-Free Tamari Soy Sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1/2 C Kikkoman Aji-Mirin
1 T Sake
1 Fresh Lemon, juice of

Meat & Vegetable Ingredients
1 tsp Grated Fresh Ginger
1 T Minced Garlic
1 Fresh Lemon, zest of
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 lb Large Prawns, shelled, deveined, uncooked
1 – 1/2 lb Kale, stemmed, torn into bite-size pieces
5 oz Shiitake Mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
5 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
6 Stalks Celery, sliced into 1/2″ by 4″ sticks
4 Medium Carrots, sliced into 1/2″ by 4″ sticks
6 Scallions, trimmed, halved
1 – 1/2 lb Spinach, stemmed
Whole Grain Gohan (see above)
Shichimi Togarashi, optional garnish (see below)

In a medium pot, dissolve dashi in boiling water. Stir in the tamari or Bragg’s, aji-mirin, sake and lemon juice. Heat the sauce ingredients through. Set aside.

In the donabe, saute the ginger, garlic, zest, salt and prawns over medium heat until the flesh turns pink and white and is no longer translucent. Move the meat aside in the pot.

Cover the bottom of the donabe with the kale. In separate sections over the kale, arrange the shrimp, mushrooms, celery, carrots, onions, spinach and rice. Pour the sauce on top. Cover and cook the soup for 7 to 10 minutes over medium-high heat, pressing the top ingredients into the broth after 5 minutes. Turn off heat.

With an oven mitten or hot pan holder for each of your hands, transfer the hot pot to a trivet set on half of a plush towel (so that there’s also room to set the lid while serving) at the dining table. Ladle the soup into bowls, making sure to get a bit of each soup section of meat and vegetables. Garnish each bowl of soup with shichimi togarashi. Make sure you keep a hot pan holder or oven mitten at the table with the donabe in case you have to lift the lid and anyone wants a second helping of soup. When you are done serving your bowls of soup and have more room in the donabe, you can add more vegetables that you couldn’t wedge in before. As long as the lid stays on, the remaining broth and other soup ingredients will cook the newly added vegetables.

Shichimi Togarashi Inspired by “Shichimi Togarashi” in Japanese Hot Pots
This is a customizable garnish made from seeds and minced dried spices and herbs that can be sprinkled onto most anything, like furikake. Just pick ingredients to match the soup flavors. Get creative.
Serves 8 to 10

1/2 tsp Poppy Seeds
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp White or Black Sesame Seeds
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning Mix
1/2 tsp Lemon Pepper
1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic Blend
1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash Original Blend
1/2 tsp Whole Cumin Seeds, roasted

You can mix together any or all of these ingredients into a small seasonings shaker container.

Make sure you smell or taste your seeds and seasonings first before mixing them in to make sure they are not stale or rancid; if they are, throw them away. I threw away poppy seeds, sesame seeds and fennel seeds. Also when shopping for ingredients you know you may not use very often, purchase small containers of them so you don’t end up wasting money.

Steelhead with Fenugreek Aioli and Quinoa

Whenever I visit my parents without my hubby, I try to make or eat at least one homemade fish dish, since he’s allergic. This last time in Modesto, I went to the store with my dad and brother with a plan. A plan to buy fish! At first we looked at the salmon, which looked okay but not great. Plus it was from Chile. The steelhead (technically a trout, not a salmon at all), however, looked much nicer, was less costly and from the USA. Hurray! It has a softer soother texture with a richer texture anyway. Yum! For the holidays I got my parents a bunch of fun food gifts of all kinds, two of which were quinoa (Costco-sized quantity or buy in bulk at a local organic market, like Community Market or Oliver’s) and fenugreek (from Savory Spice). What better time and way to introduce them?!

Quinoa is great! You can use it in all sorts of ways, as a ground flour, in place of rice or couscous, on salads, however you like. I actually really want to get a quinoa cookbook. (If you don’t want to buy a book there are plenty of recipes on the internet.) As an ancient “grain” from Bolivia, it is a traditional food of the Incas. Actually it’s a non-grain seed and gluten-free. It actually has lots of protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Supposedly quinoa helps eliminate migraines and headaches. It has a low glycemic index of 35 (especially important for diabetics and those cutting calories), compared to brown basmati rice at 50 and white at up to 87. Nutritious and delicious! Here’s some more information.

Fenugreek has a whole boat load of medicinal benefits (please check with doctor or herbalist first; I’m neither). In my herb and spice cabinet I have the leaf and seed, because they smell and taste so marvelous! Although it does contain some phytoestrogens (so don’t eat too much of it), they really just effect breast feeding mothers from what I can tell. Due to its natural slightly sweet maple-like flavor, it’s used to make imitation maple syrup. Fenugreek helps with blood sugar regulation and lowers cholesterol, which is good for diabetics. It’s a great digestive aid for people like my brother and me with digestion problems and acid reflux, which is another reason I got it. Amazing! It also reduces tissue inflammation, pain and swelling and can be used as a sore throat gargle or in poultice on your skin.

Salmon with Fenugreek Aioli and Quinoa
Adapted from Marla’s recipe.
Serves 4

Quinoa Ingredients
1 C White, Black or Red Quinoa, rinsed
1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, optional
2 C Filtered Water or Vegetable Broth
1 tsp Dried Basil Leaves
1/2 tsp Coarse Ground Garlic Powder with Parsley

Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer until the water running through it turns clear. Remove as much water from the quinoa as possible. If you like, toast the quinoa (to bring out a nutty favor) in a lightly oiled pan over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Bring the grains and water to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Start soaking the fenugreek. Cook the quinoa for 15 minutes. During the last five minutes, start cooking the fish. Remove the pot from the heat. Start making the aioli. Though you may be tempted, do not uncover the quinoa yet! Let the grains rest for 5 minutes. Remove the lid. Fluff the quinoa with a fork to get rid of excess moisture and mix in the basil and garlic. Add more seasonings if necessary, like I did.

Fish Ingredients
2 lbs Steelhead Trout (4 Filets in 4 oz portions)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cooking Spray
1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 tsp Garlic Salt
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
Mrs. Dash Tomato Basil Garlic Seasoning Blend

Place the oven rack on the rung closest to the heating element. Preheat the broiler to low heat. Rise the fish and thoroughly pat it dry. Lightly coat the broiler grill with oil. Brush both sides of the filets with oil. Season the flesh with paprika, garlic, salt and Mrs. Dash to form a crust of sorts. Add more seasonings if necessary. Place the fish on the broiler pan flesh side down. Cook the fish for 4 minutes. Carefully turn the fish over with a long metal spatula. Cook the fish another 5 to 6 minutes, depending on your oven’s temperature. Remove the broiling pan from the oven. Loosely tent the pan with foil.

Aioli Ingredients
2-2 1/2 T Dried Fenugreek Leaves
4 T Filtered Water
3 oz Vegan Mayonnaise with Canola or Olive Oil
1/2 Lemon (4 tsp), juice of
1/4 tsp Smoked Paprika
1/4 tsp Garlic Salt
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Black or Mixed Peppercorns, ground

Mix the fenugreek with water in a small bowl. Tightly cover and soak the herbs for 10 minutes. Squeeze the leaved with your fingers to make sure the leaves are fully saturated. Strain the leaves, reserving the liquid. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or in a medium bowl with a fork. While mixing, slowly add the reserved infusion to the aioli to thin it into a sauce. Adjust other seasonings to your liking.

Carefully transfer a fillet of fish to your plate with a long or wide spatula. Spoon the aioli onto the side of your plate, onto the fish or into an accompanying serving bowl. (It’s so good you may want more.) Get yourself about 1/4 of the quinoa.

Instead of a salad, we had a variety of vegetables for dinner; my mom’s allergic to asparagus. Plus, it’s always better to have at least 2/3 of your plate covered in nutrient-rich vegetables. No, potatoes do not count, since they are so starchy.

Greek-Seasoned Turkey and Vegetables with Gluten-Free Pasta

I made this with my mom when I was down in Modesto, visiting my family recently. I spotted the new Sunset Best Recipes issue and was instantly drawn in by the delicious looking cover. I am already subscribed to their “Living in the West” series of the magazine. I picked it up and started thumbing through it with my mom while we were waiting in line. The recipes all looked really good, so I told her, “If you aren’t going to buy this, I will.” Needless to say, she bought it for me. (Thanks, Mom!) The while in line still, I decided to make the Greek-inspired pasta dish, which was originally with chicken and not nearly as flavorful.

Yes, I know bamboo shoots are not Greek, but they taste good and also sounded good at the time. The magazine called for only one garlic clive, but since I was making the dish within the Wharton household, my dad peeled and minced eight for me. What can I say? We love garlic. Originally the recipe called for feta cheese, but I left it out due to my allergy and intolerance. Once plated, my mom added Parmesan, which smelled fantastic will all of the other flavors. At home I have Daiya mozzarella vegan shredded cheese, and I’m pretty sure it would taste great on the pasta, too.

Greek Turkey Pasta Adapted from Sunset, May 2011; Sunset Best Recipes, 2012
Serves 4 to 6

6 oz Brown Rice Spaghetti Pasta
1 1/4 lb Turkey, ground
1 Batch Greek Seasoning (see below)
1-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 C Red Onion, peeled, chopped
8 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 C Pinot Grigio or Other Dry White Wine
1 C Kalamata Olives, pitted, vertically sliced
1 C or 13 oz Marinated Artichokes, chopped, marinade reserved
2 8-oz Cans Bamboo Shoots
1 C or 4 1/2 oz Pine Nuts, roasted
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Black Peppercorns, ground
8-12 oz Baby Spinach
3 oz Parma! Vegan Parmesan or Parmesan Cheese, grated, optional
OR 3 oz Feta Cheese, crumbled
OR 3 oz Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds

Cook the pasta according to the package. Mix the meat and Greek seasonings. In a very large saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Cook the onions and garlic in the oil until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, olives, artichokes, reserved marinade, bamboo, nuts, pepper and salt, and continue to cook the turkey and vegetables 4 minutes. (I kept ours separate, since we had two different types of pasta available. We mixed ours together on the plate.) Drain and rinse the pasta with hot water, and return it to the pot. Cover the pasta to reduce cooling. Remove the meat-vegetable mixture from the heat, and stir in the spinach and pasta. Plate the pasta, and garnish it with cheese if desired.

The Sunset magazine version of the recipe doesn’t call for the Greek seasonings, but I thought the pasta needed an extra something. The herb mixture below is something that I just could not pass up on. I liked it so much I made a whole jarful for my parents. Thankfully I found an extra glass spice jar as I was going through their herb and spice collection.

Greek Seasonings Mix Adapted from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen recipe
1 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp Dried Basil
1/2 tsp Dried Marjoram
1/2 tsp Onion Powder
1/2 tsp Coarse Garlic Powder

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients with a fork. Store in an airtight glass jar in a cool dark dry place for up to 6 months.

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