Sunday Shinanigans.

Yesterday was fun.

We invited my Mom and her husband Aaron over for lunch. The fog cleared just in time for us to sit outside under the plum tree in our backyard/garden, sipping champagne and eating this, that, and the other thing.

Gift bucket for Mom and Aaron. Zucchini, plums, garlic, purple sage, and green beans all freshly picked from our garden.

We started off the meal with Roasted Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Herb cheese dip. Not normally something I would make, but, it was the weekend, so… we were allowed to break a couple rules, right?

The dip was followed by Bi-color corn with Cilantro-basil and lime cream sauce. The corn was so sweet Aaron thought I put sugar in the water (I didn’t).

After the corn, we moved onto the “main course”. Atlantic Salmon filets with Roasted Garlic and Basil, then wrapped in Prosciutto, served with Asparagus. It could not have tasted better. So so so good.

The Salmon was followed by a dessert of Tart Plums with crisped Angel Food Cake and whipped cream.

Delicious food and great company made for a great weekend.

 

 

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I’ve got an idea.

I’ve been thinking for quite a while that I would like a farm.

There is a joke(somewhat) in my family, and we all casually call it “The Ranch”… “Once we get the ranch we can get some pigs Pops”… “Well the ranch will be covered in aspens, so we can see them change on our own property”… “Ugh. I guess I’ll try planting this once we get the ranch”, you get the picture.

Such sayings are a commonality within conversations on a weekly basis.

For those of you who have been to my house, you know that we aren’t THAT far-off from having something close to a ranch. Well, as close as you can get in the middle of Santa Cruz, being a quarter mile from Trader Joe’s and the MASSIVE new Target that is opening. Still though, there is a HUGE garden, many small little gardens, fruit trees everywhere, a chicken coop (the coyotes ate them), and a wide field to throw the frisbee for the dog (when she visits) in. It’s as close to a ranch as we are going to get at this moment in time (ya work with what ya got, right?).

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We are surrounded by fig and olive trees, two different varieties of plums, peaches, kiwis, persimmons, lemons (we call it the cocktail tree), and an ample supply of fresh herbs, not to mention the seasonal vegetables. I’m pretty sure there’s a zucchini the size of a baseball bat in the yard right now.

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While all of this is fine and dandy, and we really do love our place (except for the guy who we share a fence with who plays terrible classic rock on the weekends and makes it impossible to enjoy being in our own backyard), I’m feeling a change coming on.

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Something, bigger, better, and that allows dogs. No. Wait. Scratch that. WANTS dogs; and not just one, like, three, so they can be buddies, ya know?

During our road trip we drove through the Doloras River Valley in Colorado and absolutely head-over-heels fell in love with it. I think somewhere down the line, I want to live somewhere like that. Raise and grow all my own food, and just plain ol’ take it easy. No traffic, to sirens in the background while you’re sitting on your deck trying to enjoy the day. No stupid Harley riders with their insanely loud engines (yay for THAT SouthPark episode), Just peace and quiet.

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After The Kill

Not a bad day to roast a pig Hawaiian style in the sand on the beaches of Carmel, California.

This is just what we did. Although, I can’t take credit for the arduous process of creating the coals (and enough of them), digging the hole, and burying the pig. I CAN however take credit for pig-sitting duty with my dear friend Maya and drinking wine out of my Klean Kanteen while our little friend slow-cooked in the ground.

Wrapped in leaves, stuffed with things like pumpkin, pineapple, and potatoes, we unearthed the piggy after roughly 8-9 hours in the ground.

After we took it out, the butchering began. It was an interesting process because the pig was already cooked and ready to eat. So, cut or break of a limb or a piece of something, and eat it.

I’m a pig… but, I already know that so… nothing new! Maya seems to enjoy it though 😉

I can say with confidence that this whole process has been/is one of, the better experiences of my life. Not only is it food-related (already scoring points), but watching and partaking in the process of killing something you are going to eat, literally from farm to table (or paper plate in our case), is something that I value tremendously. I hope that I will have more opportunities like this one, and encourage anyone who has the chance to participate in something so tasty, to do so.

 

Kill, eat, enjoy, repeat

 

WARNING: This post is not for the faint hearted.

A couple of months ago, a Chef friend of mine told me about an adventure he was going on. It wasn’t a far-from-home adventure, but an adventure none-the-less, and he asked if I would be interested in coming along.

I agreed readily, always ready to see something new and interesting. As the conversation continued, the destination, and the ideas behind it, were revealed. We were going to a pig farm.

He is a contributing author/photographer for a local food magazine, and wanted to create a story out of killing, cleaning, and butchering pigs, straight from the farm. For this, he thought, and I agreed, a blonde girl in pigtails wearing pink would be a fun spin and would add a bit of playfulness/quirkiness to the story. Enter me.

So. One foggy and cold day, a group of us head out to a ranch just south of Carmel Valley Village. When we arrive we are greeted by the scent of the farm and chickens in the driveway. Pulling around towards the back the pigs come into view, and I start my mental preparations for what I know is coming.

We do a walk-around of the pig-pens, all along discussing the different varieties, their different attributes, and, most importantly, their different tastes.

Chef walks around, pointing, rubbing his chin in a thinking fashion, before picking out three.

We round ’em up and the process begins.

 

 

 

 

 

First, the pig is shot in the head with a very tiny bullet. This stuns the nerves system and prevents the pig from feeling anything in the next step.

Which just so happens to be stabbing them in the throat. So, you send in a baconlover with a knife.

You get 4 seconds before sensation comes back to the pigs and your kill gets a whole heck of a lot messier. So. “BANG”, hop the fence, grab a leg, make the stab, then step on it to help bleed it out. Lovely.

Once all three of our pigs were done and bled out best we could get them, we begin the cleaning long process of cleaning them.

There’s removing the hair (which takes forever), then gutting (which is about as glamorous as you think), and then, well, eating them (yum).

To remove the hair, we poured very hot water over the bodies of the pigs and shaved them with our knives. The process is a slow one, but, then again, who wants pig hair with their pork? The answer of course is NO ONE.

Once the shaving process has come to an end, gutting begins.

This part of the process was not something I partook in. Looking back on this experience, I wish I would have. It was gross, but, eh, so what? ya know? It’s gotta happen to get that tasty end result. Next time I’ll do it. Next time.

Part Two coming soon.

Some photo credits to my friend John Cox 😉

 

Leek, corn, and arugula salad

Summer is in full swing here in Santa Cruz, and that means summer salads packed with things from our garden and weekend trips to the Farmer’s Market.

This salad contains three of my favorite things: corn, leeks, and goat cheese. It is deceivingly hearty on the stomach, yet light on the pallet, and incredibly easy to make.

THE SHMECIPE:

Ingredients: Arugula and mixed greens, plain goat cheese, one large-ish leek, one fresh ear of corn, good olive oil, sunflower seeds, and salt and pepper

Once you have gathered your ingredients, begin by slicing your leek longways and then chopping into thirds, creating six leek parts of about 2-3 inches long. Separate the leek layers a bit and place in a fry pan with a bit of olive oil on medium-low heat. Sprinkle with salt and a pinch of pepper and allow to cook.

While the leeks are going, cut your corn off the cob and combine with the leeks, stirring to coat the olive oil evenly on both the leeks and the corn.

During this time you combine your arugula with your mixed greens. You may do one or the other, but I suggest both. The bite of the arugula is what makes this salad so successful (I think). So, combine arugula with mixed greens 3:1 and toss lightly with your tasty olive oil and just a hint of salt.

At this time your leeks and corn should be nicely caramelized. Turn the heat off and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

Plate salad mixture, top with leeks and corn, finish with crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds.

Not only is this salad simple, but it really is delicious. The bite of the arugula plays with the mellow notes of the leeks and the sweetness of the corn, with the finish of the goat cheese cooling the salad making it a perfect addition to a summer evening.

Sage, basil, and sunflower seed pesto

My wonderful husband Paul and I just got back from vacation.

While we were gone we asked friends to tend to the garden. Well, they watered for us, but allowed the herb garden to run wild. So, in an effort to thin the jungle that was now my herb garden, I decided to make a pesto. A quick and easy way to use a ton of the purple sage and basil that was now growing in an overwhelming amount.

I picked an ample amount of purple sage and about half of the amount of lettuce leaf basil.

In a small food processor I combined the sage, basil, roasted salted sunflower seeds, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Pulse until you get your desired texture. I was after a rough texture, in order to add crunch and texture later when I use it.

I had some chicken thighs ready for dinner and rubbed and covered them in this sage pesto and let them sit for 3 hours before I cooked them.

For dinner I pan-cooked the chicken thighs and served them with pan-fried polenta, lightly caramelized onions, and a blend of four different cheeses.

The pesto would be great with pasta, on crostinis, or even with something like steak.

Enjoy!

It’s not mine, but it’s good.

For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I just did a MASSIVE two-week long road trip.

Our first official stop, after saying “hi!” to the Grandparents, was The Saguaro in Palm Springs.

Yes. It’s as awesome as it looks.

As a matter of fact, it’s awesomer. It houses the restaurant Tinto. Lucky us.

Regrettably, we didn’t order a ton of things off the menu, just a simple Charcuterie plate and a Cheese plate. But boy oh boy were they good.

It was a simple meal, paired with a White Sangria and Red Sangria that left us both feeling like we had finally entered Vacation Mode.