Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sheila's Update Campo di Fiori

Today I received my first notes from Sheila in Florence. She said she would keep us informed about her travels and eating in Italy. It looks like someplace we would all love.

Gail - I've been to the market and picked up our arugula for the day,
along with other fresh fruits & vegetables for today's meals. We are
just a few blocks from the Campo di Fiori, one of Rome's open air
markets, and while shopping this morning, I took a lot of photos --
here's a photo for you -- I will post more on Flickr later tonight.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Rapini Again

I just had a delicious and healthy lunch from our share this week. I made some pesto last night with our intense basil but didn't use it all. So I thought I'd try it with our rapini. I cleaned and cut up the rapini into bigger than bite size pieces. While boiling water for the rapini, I heated up my big wok and put in some olive oil. I added red pepper flakes and a dollop of pesto. It melted nicely. I cooked the rapini until the al dente stage. While it was draining, I added some of the sungold tomatoes to the pesto mixture. When drained, I put the rapini into the wok and cooked it all together until it was well blended. This would also be tasty on pasta if you're so inclined.

It was delicious!
Now, a Warren pear for dessert.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pears and Hope

Just like the Dutch craze for tulips, there was a New World equivalent with regard to pears. There were pear parties in the mid-1800's and rampant speculation in what we would now call pear futures. According to the authors, juicy pears became all the rage in Massachusetts in the years between 1825-1875. Members of high society hosted pear tasting parties and investors threw capital into speculative orchards, most of them unsuccessful. According to P.T. Quinn (1869, Pear Culture for Profit), "There has been more money lost than made, for I could enumerate five persons who have utterly failed to every one who has made pear culture profitable." Would-be millionaires entered into fierce competition for the newest pear varieties and the idea of getting rich planting and growing pears led "legions of American amateurs to experiment with their own varieties." (The Fruit Hunters, Adam Leith Gollner and Adam Gollner, p.255)

I leave the tale of pear mania behind with some hope for today. Life went on, pears grew as did hope. The ruin of investors in pears was not quite a crisis by our present standards. As Tom Stevens of the Daily Telegraph said the word "crisis" comes from the Greek for "turning point." (Hope will only emerge when we're utterly submerged in bad news, 10/8/08) In the ancient language of flowers, pears symbolize comfort and affection. I find a lot of comfort in the fall, eating delicious, juicy pears, seeing them in crates with all their lovely colors. Knowing that I am eating the best fruits of a long history of pear breeding.

When pears are given as gifts, the sender is asking for a sign of hope. Hope is something that we adults often have a short supply of. When things are going badly, we tend to lose hope. Maybe at this time of financial worry and this season of generosity we all need to give the gift of pears and hope.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fall Begins

This is my favorite time of year. I have always loved the changes: shorter cool days, colorful leaves, clear blue skies and comfort food.

To me, cool weather harvests are comfort food. I love potatoes, yams, beets, bitter greens, onions, apples and pears. I like the unusual combinations available before the first frost. Like tomatoes and potatoes. Yams and greens.

We are gearing up for the next season of Eat Outside the Box CSA. I have taken 3 weeks off and I am really craving fresh local food. Join me!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Noon Eat In at Las Lomas

The Eat In is a potluck, free to the public. Be sure to bring either a meal for yourselves or a dish to share, plates and utensils. Bring a blanket in case the tables are full. We are not taking RSVPs so we don't know how many people will show up. This is a great way to show Congress and the world that we care about healthy school lunches in Contra Costa County.

Be there or be square!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Eat In at Las Lomas High School

Join us for a community pot-luck picnic at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek.

This event is free!

We are gathering in support of healthy school lunches. This is one of over 200 eat-ins being staged across the US on September 7 this year to send a message to Congress. As a national day of action, Slow Food is hoping to persuade our members of Congress to increase funding to school lunches and make a commitment to improving the quality of food served to our children every day.

Bring your friends and family! For the month of September only,new donations to Slow Food at any level will provide a one-year membership in Slow Food USA. This is a wonderful time to join Slow Food and support good, clean and fair food.

So gather with neighbors and others who share your views on feeding our children and have fun at Las Lomas on September 7.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Listing on Slow Food USA


Monday, August 3, 2009

Delicious Dinner for School Garden

Slow Food Dinner, August ‘09

Passed appetizers:

-sweet corn pizza with arugula, hobbs bacon and tomato

-fresh fig pizza with sweet gorgonzola and parma prosciutto

-marinara pizza: tomato sauce, olive oil, dried oregano, garlic


-burrata bruschetta with olive oil braised tuscan kale and maldon sea salt


-local spiny lobster salad with heirloom tomatoes and a medley of green and Romano beans


-hot-smoked Alaskan king salmon with fresh shelled beans and sweet corn ragout


-roasted lamb with Watsonville artichoke hash and olivada


-farmer al’s peaches with tocai sabayon and crushed raspberries


-reggiano parmesan with 25 year aged balsamic

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Start of Knoll Farms, in Kristie's Words

Basically, I grew up in Southeast Texas from the time I was zero until 11. Then from the time I was 11 to 19 I lived in Orange County, California....I basically lived in Orange County ‘til we moved – ‘ til Rick and I moved up here in ’79.

We thought it would be kinda cool to live in the Bay Area. We were dying to get out of LA, Orange County. We both came from garden backgrounds. I grew up with a big garden in Texas and Rick had a big garden in Norwalk where he grew up. We decided we both wanted to eat healthy. We had a nice backyard garden. Our whole backyard was garden. Then when we had the opportunity to move up here we had the idea to buy a 1-acre place with a nice house. We looked at some properties and they were way over what we wanted to pay and this was way over what we wanted to pay. 10 acres of alfalfa, that’s it and one building. We actually became farmers as soon as we moved here.

When we moved onto this property, we had 3 mortgages. The little garden that we planted and the alfalfa that we were growing were our pocket money. I got a job as an inventory clerk at the John Deere dealer. I wanna say we farmed the alfalfa another year. In the early winter of ’81, we decided to plant the fruit trees. We figured if we could eat fruit for as long as we could, we’d be happy. So we planted 9 different varieties of cherries, 3 different varieties of apricots, 2 different plums , 9 peaches, 9 nectarines, 3 figs, 3 pears. Each variety was a 200 foot row. Right around 600 fruit trees. And we had part of the property out back. So in the summer we decided we wanted to plant melons, Crenshaw melons into ground that had been alfalfa, they were to die for.

By January, we were out of money.

We tried for several years to make the money last all year but we couldn’t. We had to farm. If we were going to farm we needed something to keep us going year round.

We weren’t like the other people around here. We didn’t come from a farming family didn’t have it in our blood. So he thought that having a degree would give him more credibility. Planting the 600 fruit trees made it a little more than a garden. The 600 fruit trees was insane. Other than providence taking its course, you know, maybe we were supposed to be here. It wasn’t really anything that we planned. Except for the thing when I said, we’re gonna have to have income year round: leafy greens and stuff. Then he got the bright idea.. planted garlic in the fall.... He decided he would make it a product. He started planting it in beds. We were gonna haul ‘em all out of the ground and sell ‘em when we needed the money. We knew nothing really when we started doing this, it’s amazing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Anne Tom, Oral History

When we first arrived: Everyone was so friendly. We had, you know, lots of Mexican students and -- Chinese Asian, my kids were the only ones, the three in elementary school. There were grown Asian Chinese people they were the children of the owner of Centro-Mart. But they were, you know, already grown. But I met the owner Mr. and Mrs. Wong who owned a small grocery on Oak Street, just right next to Chevron gas station now. They were the nicest people and welcomed us. “Oh we have not seen Chinese students in this community for long, long time.” Especially Welling, he was such a rascal, he was active and he would not just stay around-- he roamed around, just raced around the store. And, so Mr. Wong was very happy to see a little Chinese boy running around. And always gave him bubblegum and stuff like that. And also, we were fortunate and have nice neighbors on Eureka Avenue. And in a way, nothing much changed on Eureka Avenue.... Mr. Wolfe always came by and advised me. ... Gradually, he even taught me how to prune trees....Especially now that he is gone, my memory of him – every time when I prune trees, I thought of him... I am so different – ethnic, look -- and whatever – I am so totally different -- but we were accepted to this neighborhood.

I always bumped into friendly people. They always looked at my 3 boys, they were like a little 3 steps because age-wise they were so close and they were handsome... Wherever we went I met friendly people and they had good friends in school and their parents also were nice....We were accepted to this family and that made me feel at home.

Now: The new residents seem to have no respect for anybody. Among themselves and more so to the older residents whether in age or in, you know, chronological order. They have no respect for the people who already live here. On the roads they say, you know, “Who cares about you farmers? Who cares about you? Small town people.” That is the arrogance... They have no respect to anybody who is their neighbor. For instance, let me illustrate how bad it can be. A few years ago when the new Safeway opened there was a big thing in Brentwood and I shopped there too. And I met a young mother with a cute little baby boy, wearing boots, like hiking boots -- so cute on him. I was getting in line to pay and she was ahead of me and I just made a remark, “Those are beautiful boots! What are you going to do with them? Are you going hiking?” Or something -- just talk to the baby. And the mother--I don’t think she’s probably in the mid 20’s or late 20’s -- and she turned around and looked at me: “Oh do you like my baby? You want to work for me?” And I looked at her as okay, I dress sloppily and I am an ethnic person – I need work? But I would not expect someone to say to me ...“be my babysitter!”, you know, a nanny or something. And I said “no, I have a farm to take care of.” That would be even worse. “A farm, why you want to work on a farm?” so I said, “It’s my choice.”....So, that’s how I come to see the new people, especially the younger people. They show no respect to other people. They come here and they get a big house -- they are the queen and king. You know, “we can do anything here.” So that kind of attitude really upsets me.... All they know is: “I drive an SUV, I drive an expensive car, I have a big house and blah, blah, blah.” That’s all! “We are above you, we are superior to you.” You can have your way, I am happy with my way.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Recipes

So,my computer is still broken so I am posting more recipes for summer shares instead of emailing them. This one is a favorite in my household. Summer comfort food.
Franco's Pasta with Zucchini and Potatoes
Epicurious | September 1996
by Faith Willinger
Red, White & Greens
Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
1 large (about 1/2 pound) boiling potatoes cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 1/2 tablespoons fine sea salt plus additional to taste
2 medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound total), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 pound spaghettini
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped basil or flat-leafed parsley leaves if desired
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 12 ounces)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a 6-quart kettle bring 5 quarts water to a boil. Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Add potato and salt to boiling water and boil 2 minutes. Add zucchini and pasta and boil until pasta is al dente.

Drain pasta and vegetables in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid, and in a bowl toss pasta and vegetables with oil, basil or parsley, reserved cooking liquid, and Parmesan. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Now, what to do with all the apricots? For your information, the Blenheims in this week's share are listed on the Slow Food Ark of Taste. I think they are the essence of apricots; what apricots should be. I've never tried the recipe below, but how bad could it be with apricots, butter and sugar? It's from a website called Kitchen Parade. Enjoy!
A showcase for orbs of apricot
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time-to-table: 1 hour
Serves 12 or 20

* 1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
* 1-1/4 cups sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
* 2-1/2 cups flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon table salt
* Fresh apricots (halved) or canned apricots (well-drained), enough to fill the tray
* Icing sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. With an electric mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and creamy. One at a time, add the eggs and beat until batter becomes glossy. Add the extract and incorporate. Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt, add to butter mixture and incorporate fully but do not overbeat. With your fingers, spread evenly in a well-greased jelly roll pan or a baking sheet with sides, even a 9x13. Arrange apricots cut-side down in rows so that when cut, an apricot half sits in the center of each bar. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked clear through and slightly golden on the edges. Let cool slightly and sprinkle with icing sugar. Any leftovers should be covered and refrigerated.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What to Do with Wild Greens and All that Fruit!!

Well, eaters, I am sorry there is no newsletter this week. My computer is in the shop. I hope to get it back tomorrow. In the meantime, I am using an old one belonging to my son but I don't have all your email addresses. I hope the recipes I post here will serve as a replacement.

Lambsquarters Greek Salad
2 cups Lambsquarters greens
2 Cucumbers
2 Tomatoes
2 green onions or 2 heaping Tbsp red onion, minced
4 oz feta cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olives, chopped
2 tsp oregano (fresh if possible!)
1½ Tbsp lemon juice
1½ Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
¾ tsp salt
2 Tbsp fresh herbs or 1 Tbsp dried (your choice, try dill, parsley, or oregano)
¼ tsp coarse ground black pepper
Blend dressing ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Coat the salad just before serving. from Prodigal Gardens

Thotakura Vepudu Recipe
6 big bunches fresh amaranth leaves (picked, discard thick stalks, use tender stalks)
1 big onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4 dry red chillis de-seeded
5-6 garlic flakes, crushed
1 sprig curry leaves
2 green chilies, slit length wise
big pinch turmeric pwd
salt to taste
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Boil the amaranth leaves and tender stalks in just enough water (about a cup of water) for 10-12 mts, such that the water is almost absorbed.

Heat oil, add the mustard seeds and once they splutter, add the cumin seeds, garlic flakes, red chillis, curry leaves and green chillis and saute for half a minute.
Add the onions and saute till transparent. Add salt and turmeric pwd and saute further for a minute.

Add the boiled leaves and saute uncovered for 15-20 mts or till done. Serve hot with rice. www.sailusfood.com

The stone fruits we get each week during the summer are full of antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals. Eating them out of hand is easy and delicious. But when we get as many as we did this week, recipes help a lot. You can use any stone fruit in this recipe but the apricots and almond flavor are wonderful.

Apricot-Almond Clafouti
1 pound fresh apricots (about 8 medium), pitted and cut into wedges
1/4 cup almond liqueur, such as amaretto, or orange juice
1 lemon
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup low-fat milk
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Combine apricots and almond liqueur (or orange juice) in a large bowl. Grate 2 teaspoons zest from the lemon and set aside. Juice the lemon and stir 2 teaspoons of the juice into the apricots. Let stand for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 10-inch round baking dish or oval casserole with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar evenly over the bottom. Drain the apricots (reserving the syrup) and arrange in the baking dish.

Combine whole eggs, egg white and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until pale yellow. Add milk, flour, almond extract, salt, the reserved lemon zest and the reserved syrup; beat well to blend. Pour the batter over the apricots; sprinkle with almonds.

Bake the clafouti until puffed and golden, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar; serve warm. - another healthy recipe from EatingWell

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Plums and Rosemary
Roasted plums
1 pound black or red plums, pitted and cut into eighths (6-7 plums)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
10 black peppercorns, crushed
1 vanilla bean, split (see Substitution Tip)

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

To roast plums: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place plums and 2 rosemary sprigs in an 8-inch-square baking dish. Whisk water, vinegar, 4 tablespoons sugar and peppercorns in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add the seeds and bean to the vinegar mixture. Pour the mixture over the plums. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Roast the plums, uncovered, until tender and beginning to break down, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the rosemary and the vanilla bean. Transfer the plums to a serving platter and cover with foil. Strain the roasting liquid into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour the sauce over the plums; keep warm.

To prepare pork: Meanwhile, heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with pepper and salt. Add to the skillet and brown on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes.

Transfer the pan to the oven; bake at 400° until an instant-read thermometer registers 155° and the pork has just a hint of pink in the center, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. (The internal temperature will increase to 160° during resting.) Cut the pork into thin slices and serve with the roasted plums. -- another healthy recipe from EatingWell

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Different Local

I've been in Santa Fe for the past week. Not much fresh local fruit here, I'm afraid.

However, I've been eating a lot of New Mexican food. I especially like trying blue corn enchiladas with an egg, over easy, on top. Blue corn has been a Native American staple for a long, long time. In Hopi lore, Blue Corn Maiden was the most beautiful of the corn maiden sisters. She was well loved by her people as was the delicious blue corn she gave them all year long. The tale continues recounting a war between the Winter and Summer Katsinas and the resulting limit of blue corn given to Pueblo People in summer. Luckily, the Pueblo People learned to dry and grind their blue corn into meal so I can eat blue corn tortillas in New Mexico. Well, everyone can, really.

Coupled perfectly with the blue corn tortillas is the dark purplish red of the local chile. Dried, ground and then reconstituted into a thick, spicy sauce, there's nothing better. Chimayo chile has almost become extinct. As a result, the Native Hispanic Institute started a project to revive and save the Chimayo chile.

"The Chimayo Chile Project works with local farmers, and artists in order to preserve the native strain of chile and to keep the cultural assets alive in the community. In 2006, the institute assisted the village farmers by providing them legal and technical assistance so they could incorporate and apply for the trade name “Chimayo.”


Soon, I'll be back in California and longing for blue corn enchiladas.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cherries, cherries and chicories

This week, the harbingers of spring are cherries and chicories. The two could not be more different.

The cherries I got are deep red, almost black and they are so sweet and juicy. The chicories are multi-colored greens and maroons with a bitter taste many dislike.

Chicory is known to contain a number of nutritional and health benefits. It is high in Vitamin A, calcium and potassium. It contains iron, niacin, phosphorus, among other minerals. Interestingly, chicory contains inulin. This is very beneficial to diabetics as it helps to reduce blood sugar levels. Chicory is also good for your digestion. So eat up the bitter greens!

Cherries are often called a "super fruit." They are sky high in antioxidants. They're good for your heart and reportedly for your belly too. They reduce belly fat. Of course, most of the research has been done on tart cherries that ripen in about a month, but I think the sweet cherries we get are pretty amazing too.

It seems like spring is super food season.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Seasons Come, Seasons Go

With the change in the season, we change our expectations too. All winter long, we eat dark green leaves and bulbs that grow in the dark. These things are packed with the nutrition we need to get us through the cold times. If we have thought and planned ahead, we also have food put away for winter that helps us with the uniform production of winter.

I can tomatoes, fruits and pickles almost every year. It seems like some things I never get enough of to can. For example, I used to pickle beets. Now, I just eat them as fast as I can. I don't get it. I never can cherries but this year, I plan to can some sour ones. Last year, I made enough dill pickles for several years and despite the fact that my family devours olives, we always have yearly carry overs.

I love curing olives. I don't know why. More than any other preservation I do, olive curing really changes the state of the olive. If you've ever eaten an uncured olive, you'll know what I mean. A small black bitter and hard kernel turns into an oily, salty luscious delicacy. It's very satisfying. This year, I dry cured 2 quarts of black olives. In the past, I have cured them in brine. That process takes about 2 months with weekly water changes. Dry curing this year took 10 days!! I then packed the olives in oil that can be used in salad dressing and for cooking.

So, I'm looking forward to the next season of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, full of juices.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Spring is Here

Wow!! I thought I had posted more recently than this. Many apologies to my members and blog followers.

Spring is really here. I had a friend tell me last week that fava beans are her kryptonite. I guess they make her weak. Me too! I love them so much, I gorge myself until they are no longer in season. I seek them out at farmers' markets. I search for more ways to eat them. Last night on pasta, today in a salad. My favorite is with grilled halloumi and mint. My mouth waters just thinking of these meals. But, alas all my favas are gone for the week.

I am excited about the beginning of the cherry season. Cherry and apricot crisp is my family's favorite dessert. But eating them out of hand, they are irresistible. They, like fava beans, have a short season. My tendency for eating seasonally is to eat the things I love when they are in season until I don't want them any more. Then I'm ready for the next thing. I always want fava beans, cherries, apricots and tomatoes.

I have a friend in Brentwood who grows sour cherries. I think they're Montmorency. Oh man! How I look forward to those.

Hang in there, eaters. More good things are on the way!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thoughts and recipe

I've been busy worrying about deadlines and money.

Thankfully, that's all I have to concern myself with. I have food fresh from the farm every week and I have a house to live in.

Aren't we lucky, living here in California? Today, I shelled fava beans and prepared them for a dinner with pasta and green garlic. I had a wonderful salad of mixed lettuces with farm fresh eggs for lunch. I look forward to a dinner tomorrow of onion tart and Bloomsdale spinach salad. No complaints on that front.

I imagine farmers are always worrying about money and, well, not deadlines exactly, but the calendar. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to have everything riding on the success of seeds.

I went to the school garden yesterday where I volunteer and all the pea plants were falling over with the weight of peas. The kids quickly harvested them all. A farm would be infinitely more complex.

Karin Robert sent me this message last week:

Here is a recipe out of the Saveur May 2008 issue on Cyprus:

I have adapted this recipe by adding shrimp, adding green garlic instead of green onions and garlic, omitting the parsley, omitting the lemon and adding freshly grated parmesan reggianno cheese at the end.

Horta me Avga (Sauteed Eggs and Greens with Lemon)

This simple dish, a favorite of home cooks across Cyprus, makes a light repast that's ideally suited to the country's hot climate. Trim a few inches off the top of 6 green onions (or green garlic); each onion should measure about 6" long. Halve green onions (green garlic) lengthwise; cut each half crosswise into 1/8"-thick strips. Set aside. Crack 5 eggs into a bowl. Heat 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil in a 12" nonstick skillet over high heat. Add onions (green garlic) and 3 bruised cloves garlic (omit if using green garlic); cook, stirring frequently with a spatula, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add 9 cups loosely packed arugula and 1 tsp. kosher salt; stir, until greens are wilted, about 1 minute. Quickly add eggs and 3 tbsp. roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley; stir vigouously to break up yolks and whites. Let cook, undisturbed, for 30 seconds. Break eggs up a bit with a spatula. Let cook until set, about 30 seconds more. Tansfer to a bowl, squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon over top, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper (and parmesan reggianno cheese). Serves 4-6.

I usually add the shrimp towards the end so it doesn't get overcooked. It is a fun recipe to play around with and add or omit what you like.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Fantastic Opportunity

Renewing America’s Food Traditions:
Gary Paul Nabhan in conversation with Ashley Rood

Followed by a tasting of heritage foods from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Wednesday, April 29 from 6 to 8:30 pm

Hosted by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture

Gary Paul Nabhan may be best known by farmers’ market fans for the pioneering Southwestern locavore experiment he described in Coming Home to Eat. He founded the Renewing America’s Food Traditions alliance (RAFT) and edited the book by the same name. Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods is a journey across our continent’s 13 distinct food nations that details over 90 endangered plant and animal foods and brings them to life with cultural histories, folk traditions, and historic recipes. In this conversation with sustainable agriculture advocate and contributing writer Ashley Rood, Nabhan will offer tidbits and tales of renewal from the book, discuss biodiversity in California, and remind us how our food choices can support a region’s distinct culinary identity.

The presentation will take place in the Port Commission Hearing Room, second floor of the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
Books will be for sale by Book Passage.
Tickets: $10 (plus $1.24 service fee) from http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/60855

"Renewing America's Food Traditions gives us a great food adventure to embark on—really no less than discovering ourselves through foods that we didn't even know were, in some way, ours. And what an amazing adventure this is!" Deborah Madison, from the foreword

Gary Paul Nabhan is a world-renowned ethnobiologist, food and farming advocate, conservationist, and writer whose work has been translated into five languages. The author of Why Some Like It Hot, Coming Home to Eat, Where Our Food Comes From and many other books and articles, he has been honored with a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and The John Burroughs Medal for nature writing. Founder and facilitator of the Renewing America’s Food Traditions collaborative, he is currently a Research Social Scientist at the Southwest Center at the University of Arizona.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Is the spring here yet?

It may seem to many of you that winter is still here. However, although we are still eating a lot of greens, they have changed in nature. We have moved from rapinis (although we still get some) to the softer greens like the awesome Bloomsdale spinach and the delicate mixed leaf lettuces.

My favorites for the past 2 weeks have been the baby bok choy. I spent the day on Saturday at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market extolling the virtues of these leggy but tender little bites of spring. I was eating them raw while I spoke. I just couldn't seem to stop! The amazing thing about this to me was that I normally am not a bok choy fan. These, though, I find irresistible. The stems are sweet, the flowers are bright and cheery.

I made a light, brothy soup with mine for lunch yesterday but I could have eaten the whole bunch in a salad. Try the hot dressing I included in the newsletter. I want more!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cauliflower and Arugula Soup

This is a recipe from member, Karin Robert in Walnut Creek. It sounds delicious! Karin uses potatoes in place of zucchini in the winter. You could also use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

1 head of cauliflower
1 red or white onion
3/4 lb of zucchini (approx. 2), peeled and sliced and quartered
1/4 lb of arugula
1 can of chicken broth
1 can of water (from chicken broth)
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cut up cauliflower and add to boiling water. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, drain and set aside. Saute onion in olive oil until soft, approx, 5 minutes, then add cut up zucchini and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Then add arugula and cook until it wilts. Add a can of chicken broth, cauliflower and water and cook until boiling. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat and let cool. Process in a blender until smooth. Return to stove and cook till hot. Add cheese and serve immediately.

Note: You can use potatoes in place of the zucchini.

Monday, March 30, 2009

CSA Philopsophy

This week, I want to take some time to reiterate the philosophy of CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSA members invest in a farm or farms at the beginnning of the growing season. In exchange for this investment, community members receive a share of the harvest. At Eat Outside the Box, we receive shares weekly. Not all CSAs distribute shares at this frequency. Distribution of shares is not a "given." Members in a CSA share the risk with the farmers involved in the relationship. We also share in the bounty.

In the case of our CSA, the money we invest allows the farm to invest in seeds and make decisions related to our needs. The farmer is planning and planting for us. In addition, as members we are learning what is seasonal. Sometimes, we may not like what is seasonal. My feeling is that the reason for this is that we have forgotten how to eat seasonally. Our tastes have evolved along with our supermarket shelves rather than our actual local harvests.

The goal of CSA is to create a more direct relationship with our food, to understand what is growing in our neighborhood and to raise awareness about the importance of local agriculture.

CSA allows farmers to operate on a more human scale as well. Eaters put a face on farming and farmers put a face on eaters. I also see Eat Outside the Box as mechanism to bring together people with like minds who want to eat fresh, local foods in support of local farmers. Thus we work to create a sense of community based around seasonal food and including those who produce our food.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Logistics and Concepts

I've been thinking a lot about the challenges we are facing this year in the CSA. Every year there are some issues with people not taking the time to weigh their shares properly. Sometimes, I think this is due to a lack of understanding about how this CSA works. Eat Outside the Box is unique. Most CSAs have the farmers weighing and packing all produce for each individual member or members doing this work for the group. We do neither, trusting all members to take the time to read the directions each week and take the time to follow them. For the past 8 years this has worked really well. I am not sure why we are faced with the shortages and overages we are each week in Walnut Creek. I have had some members email me what they have observed and I appreciate their willingness to share with me.

I want to reiterate to everyone that this CSA works because everyone has agreed to the system and is willing to abide by it. All of us have paid for weekly shares, even I, at the same cost. We all trust one another not to take more or less than allotted. Sometimes, in a hurry, it is easy to just grab and go. This kind of action affects everyone in the group, as we witnessed last week with all our greens packed together in bags. This costs the farm more to do. It took me a lot more time to separate out my greens this week, so it cost me more too. However, there were fewer mistakes. I still did not get green garlic or onions and someone left one of their bags of pre-packed greens. I got a lot of cardoons. I'll be cooking them tonight, happily.

But this is not the point. The point is that we all need to be more concious of what we are doing each Tuesday. When we touch and weigh our produce, it is a process that can be very invigorating. Just that. The food is alive and the freshness is palpable.

We can decide to take turns on Monday nights weighing out each share for each member. The farm will not do this without raising our prices considerably. I thinkwe all need to think more aobut our little community. Supporting each other and the farms as we measure out our shares.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Recipe from Rachael

Pork and nettle pot stickers with dancy tangelo and dried cherry sauce:

½ lb ground pork

1 cup thinly slivered nettles

1 tsp of sesame oil

1 tbsp fresh minced galangal (or ginger)

2 cloves of garlic finely minced

2 whole scallions, minced

½ tsp Chinese five spice powder

Dash of soy sauce

Salt and plenty of black pepper

I package pot sticker wrappers

Over med heat, stir fry the nettles in the sesame oil until they are wilted. Mix the cooked nettles with all of the ingredients except the wrappers and take a tiny pinch and cook it to check for seasonings. Then brush one half of the wrapper round with water, place a teaspoon in the middle and fold in half, set aside. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Heat oil to between 350 and 375 degrees. Deep fry the pot stickers until they are golden and crispy and drain on paper towels and serve with the dancy tangelo and dried cherry sauce.


Take about 2 lbs of the Tangelos, make about ¼ to 1/3 cup of zest and set aside. Then peel the tangelos and with a sharp small knife remove the outer pith. Put them in a pan with 1 cup of dried cherries, 1 cup of sugar, 1 ½ cup of water, one star anise, a piece of ginger the size of a quarter and ¼ cup of plum wine (or mirin) and a little salt. Reduce down over a low simmer until sauce is thickened a bit. Take a potato masher and kind of mash all the stuff together in the pot. Drain the sauce thru a china cap, pressing hard on the solids, or a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Boil the zest with 2 tbsp of chopped dried cherries in a cup or two of water for one minute, drain and then add the softened zest and cherries to the sauce. The sauce can be stored in the freezer or fridge for quite some time. Serve hot or cold with the pot stickers. The sauce is also good on chicken or fish. It can also be poured over fresh farmers cheese or cream cheese and eaten with crackers.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another Nettle Soup

These nettles don't sting. They provide comfort and health in the late winter. Below, I have pasted today's correspondence with another nettle soup recipe. I love these recipes and each one is different. This one is from member Lynn Coddington. Enjoy!!

Nettle Soup
Based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe in The Guardian, March 8, 2009 and adapted to what’s in our Eat Outside the Box CSA shares in early spring.

Serves 4-6

2 T. unsalted butter
3 stalks green garlic, trimmed and finely chopped
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped, or 1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 large russet potato, about 12-14 ounces, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
3.5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch of tender stinging nettles, about 4 ounces
1/4 c. greek yogurt (plain)
grating of fresh nutmeg
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
drizzle of good olive oil, like Frog Hollow Farm's

Melt butter over medium in a large saucepan or deep sauté pan. Wash the green garlic and spring onions, then chop finely. Add a pinch of kosher salt and a few big grinds of pepper. Sauté in the butter over medium heat until wilted and tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Stir potato chunks into garlic and onion. Sauté for a minute or two. Pour the stock over the potatoes, onions, and garlic, and simmer until the potato is tender, about 15 minutes.

Wash the nettles and cut them coarsely right in the colander with a pair of kitchen shears. When the potatoes are soft, take the soup pot off the heat, and put the nettles on top. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes to wilt the greens.

Whiz in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour back into a saucepan and whisk in yogurt. Grate in a bit of nutmeg. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Bring the heat up gently without letting the soup boil. Serve immediately in heated bowls with a drizzle of good olive oil on top.

For a richer soup, use crème fraiche instead of the yogurt, or stir in a splash of heavy cream just before serving.

As the season advances, substitute any tender greens for the nettles. Spinach, baby arugula, and watercress all work well.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sharing Ideas

This week I was extremely happy to open my emails and find recipes!

Simple minds, simple pleasures.

I seek recipes that sound delicious to include in our weekly newsletters. Many of them I have tried, some I have not. I try to include some recipes that are easy and some that will challenge us all. I almost always use the recipes I include in the newsletters in the course of the week. Sometimes it gets difficult to find new things to do with wild radish greens or rapini. I know from the survey results that these are two items people tend to tire of. So, I really appreciated getting those recipes this week.

I think that seasonality is something most of us have lost touch with. In our supermarkets everything is always in season. We've forgotten that tomatoes and basil don't grow locally in March. We never learned how to utilize winter produce like cooking greens. Our kids expect apples and grapes year round.

I have started to appreciate seasonality. I am challenged with cooking greens like many people. I struggle to find new ways to get my family to eat rapini. But I keep trying to tune in to the seasons. I know when the summer is over, I am ready to say goodbye to tomatoes for awhile. I am ready to eat beets, potatoes and, yes, greens too. So, I know when the greens are finished, I will be ready for them to end. I will be ready to eat eggplant and summer squash. Until then, though, I will be eating greens and knowing that they are providing for me what I need most at this season.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This week's share

This is a photo of this week's share from Walnut Creek member, Rachael Zavala. Thanks, Rachael, this looks delicious!

Time Travel

While driving out to Brentwood last week to meet a friend for lunch, I was amazed at how quickly I moved from suburb to rural landscape. I drive out on Marsh Creek Road from Walnut Creek. I do this for a number of reasons: it's faster, less congested and more beautiful than the alternatives. I also think the area on the morning side of Mt. Diablo, there in Morgan Territory, has changed less than the surrounding communities.

The day I was going out was sunny between rainstorms. The hills were green to the extreme and the mud-caked cattle, actually furry from the winter, were fat and still eating. They just dot the hills in this valley and despite the many trails they leave, they don't seem to be causing any damage. Old farmhouses and ranches outnumber the newer "villas."

It took me a little over a half an hour to get to downtown Brentwood, still quaint and sleepy. I thought about how lucky I am to live where I do. I can get out of the densely populated area where I live in a matter of minutes either in the car, on a bike or on foot. The drive to Brentwood transports me each time I make it. I know I'm heading out to where my food is grown. It seems like another age in that little valley on the way.

Painting by Paul Buxman

Monday, February 16, 2009

From Rick and Kristie Knoll

In a sustainable farm system, the soil is an ecosystem, increasing in biotic diversity, evolving through successive states and progressing to a climax situation. As ecological farmers, we have the ability to nurture this progression while extracting a living from the miraculous organism we call the soil.

The only way soil develops is by plant roots penetrating and interacting with it. And the only way this interaction is sustainable is if untold numbers and types of soil microorganisms flourish in and on the plants' roots and vascular systems. This interaction is so complex that, though we may know the complete DNA of many animals, no one has unraveled the miracle of soil—a miracle so complete that the plant and soil interaction becomes a continuum. This soil continuum is the only situation that produces truly nutritious food which, in turn, restores our bodies on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many modern organic production practices—tillage, irrigation, monocultures, hydroponics, modern organic salad production—disturb and often disconnect plants from the magic of the plant-soil interface

At Knoll Farms, we have placed this single strategy at the heart of our food-production philosophy and we will continue to be leaders in soil evolution for the production of nutritious food. Organic farming was straight-forward and had integrity until the early 90s. Due to the changes in the industry in the last decade, we believe that we are forging straight ahead while the organic industry has taken a sharp oblique. We have decided to refrain from using the "O" word in the pursuit of our next evolutionary step. The new organic law says there is nothing beyond organic. We beg to differ. We feel that the soil continuum is a fundamental aspect of ecological production that is beyond what "organic" has become!

Friday, February 13, 2009


Click Here to take survey

I have created a short survey for all members and former members of Eat Outside the Box. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey so we can make this something you love!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Let the Season Begin!

It's time for us to begin our CSA! Community Supported Agriculture is a simple, yet elegant, concept. For any of you who know me, you have seen the question "Do you know your farmer?" at the end of every email and on my business card.

Well, do you?

If you belong to a CSA, chances are you do. CSAs allow us city folks to invest in a local farm. In Eat Outside the Box, we invest season by season and reap dividends in the form of weekly deliveries of fresh locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. The amount and variety are never the same. Sometimes what we get is not really what we were expecting or necessarily what we want. But what we get is seasonal, grown locally, with great care. Our arugula is picked leaf by leaf -- by hand -- washed, and packed just for us. Our vicious varietal artichokes and stinging nettles, so full of potential pain, yield great pleasure with each bite.

We eat what the farm grows and in this way, we learn a little about the farmers who nurture that growth. We learn about why the farmer has chosen a particular green. We can eat our farm's products in local restaurants and feel a sense of ownership. We belong to the farm and it belongs to us. We ingest it physically, intellectually and emotionally.

So, with the start of the season, I am ready to get to know my farmers better. To feel the sense of connection to the earth and my community through eating.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Rain, rain don't go away!

Wow, how I love this rain. After living in western Washington and England where it seemed the rain didn't stop, I never dreamed I would make a statement like that. But California is unique. Dry summers have become dry spring, summer and fall lately. I recall a few recent winters when the rain came in deluges for weeks on end. I know there can be too much of a good thing, but not this year. In fact, this may turn out to be one of our driest spells on record. I have pasted below a report from the state Department of Water Resources. Maybe we should get together for a rain dance?

"As of January 1, 2009, statewide hydrologic conditions were as follows: precipitation, 90 percent of average to date; runoff, 40 percent of average to date; and reservoir storage, 70 percent of average for the date. Water Year 2009 is turning out dry like the 2 previous years. For the Northern Sierra 8-Station Precipitation Index, there is now only approximately a 15 percent chance of recovery to normal conditions (50 inches) by the end of the water year. Assuming average rainfall for the remainder of the season (February through September), the 8-Station Index would have a seasonal total of 40.9 inches. This means, assuming these conditions, that the total seasonal rainfall for the 8-stations for the last three water years would be 113.0 inches, making this the eighth driest 3-year span for the period of record (since 1923)." California Department of Water Resources.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Winter Season on Knoll Farm

Winter at Knoll Farms is a time for dark leafy greens: arugula, spinach, rapinis of all kinds and this year, broccoli di ciccio and lacinato kale. Eat Outside the Box is starting up on February 17 and I am ready. Although I shop at farmers' markets, I don't feel the same about the food. Knowing the Knolls and seeing the farm at different times of the year, make a big difference to me.

I would like all members to be able to make a trip or 2 out to the farms this year. I think it is important to see how and where our food is grown and will do what I can to facilitate this. Last year, our Slow Food chapter took a busload of interested people. This year, I'd like the CSA to make at least one trip. I think we have enough multi-person cars to carpool out and make several fun stops.

Also, Kristie suggested we go out to the farm when there is an abundance of fruit or tomatoes and have a canning party. People can bring their own jars, learn to can and go home with jars of provisions for midwinter when we don't get tomatoes or peaches. I can every year. I make jams, salsa, pickles, and sauces. I love to see the bright colors of the jars sitting on top of my shelves. I love to taste the summer during the winter for a change.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Call to Farms (not arms)

I just got home from the Ecological Farming Conference in Asilomar. I haven't been for a while and I return refreshed and inspired. I attended workshops on soil carbon sequestration, community supported agriculture (surprise!!), biodiversity on farms and many others.

There are always many successful farmers at the conference and this year there was a pretty large population of young farmers. I felt hope for the future (there seems to be a lot of that going around) especially after meeting an enthusiastic young couple of California farmers. These two are excited to be starting up a new CSA farm in Solano County called Shooting Star Farm. The young man is a returned Iraq war veteran. He is filled with optimism and has this infectious smile. Farming is giving him this and he is sharing it with whomever he meets.

I also met a young woman who is a farmer and a film director/producer. She farms in New York's Hudson Valley and is full of creative energy. I am hoping to be able to present her film at Los Medanos College this year. She and her collaborators have a great blog called The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles that can be reached at her film website. http://thegreenhorns.wordpress.com/Check it out, I think you'll understand some of my hope.

We need new farmers!! The population is aging and not many kids have been choosing farming as a vocation. These, and many like them, are taking up the call to farms.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sustainability and Compassion

Sustainability is a tricky thing.

In agriculture, it is often easier to be environmentally sound than it is to be either economically viable or socially just. Someone, somewhere, inevitably gets the short end of the sustainability stick.

With the start of a new era of hope in our country, I want to talk about sustainability and compassion. Compassion is what it takes to make an endeavor fully sustainable.

Economic disparity leads to dissatisfaction. The gap between the rich and poor continues to grow globally and locally. This lack of fairness is not sustainable because it is not just. Want leads to instability and dissent. Free markets do not ensure social justice: it seems the wealth just never trickles down quite far enough. As individuals we need to accept the responsibility for creating social justice in our small ways. Through compassion, we can move toward becoming a more sustainable society. We all need to try to understand the plight of farmers who are struggling to be economically viable and farm workers who deserve social justice.

When I hear a relatively wealthy person complain about the high cost of spinach, for example, I ask them how long it would take them to plant, nurture, grow, harvest, pack and transport that spinach. The inputs are huge for a pound of spinach and the rewards to the farmer are small. The rewards to the farm worker who actually does most of the back breaking labor are even smaller.

So, how much is a pound of spinach worth? Is it worth ensuring that we will have farmers growing spinach in the future? If so, then we need to purchase our food with the compassion that comes from knowing who is growing it for us. We need to be willing to seek food grown with the concept of social justice embedded with each seed. The choice will help to make our food system sustainable.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Wow another blog?

Hi Eaters!
It's 2009 and time to start eating outside the box again. This year, I will add blog postings every week. These will include informational and educational posts and will allow for all members to comment. If you would like to post on the blog, just let me know and I will post your additions.

This month I am planning an informational meeting for all prospective and current members. I hope we have a large turnout. Last year's meeting led to some great improvements. I hope to see you all soon. Stay tuned!