Kale Salad

We've had next to nil kale in the house for the last year but in the last two days we've gone through three bunches. This latest obsession is a result of the visiting cooks at the Pt. Reyes Farmers' Market. Yesterday the cook was Zen chef Edward Espe Brown of the Tassajara bread and cookbooks and How To Cook Your Life movie. He made a killer kale salad.

Ed Brown is irreverent and gets off track a lot, which adds to his charm. And he seems to make up what he's doing as he goes along. I love that. Nothing was measured, he tasted with his fingers, put whatever the audience didn't finish on the tasting plates back into the bowl and never once missed a beat.

And he used his hands to mix everything. "Hands are meant to be handy," he instructed.

After making the salad twice now my hands are, as he promised, "happy."

Ed Brown's Kale Salad

1 Bunch Kale
Balsamic Vinegar
Pepper Flakes

Optional -
Red Pepper
Pumpkin Seeds
Aged Smoked Gouda

Leaving the long vein in the leaves slice the kale width wise to thin ribbons of confetti and salt liberally. With both hands squeeze the salt into the kale, mixing and squeezing for several minutes until it's juicy and bright green. Ed calls this, "hand frying."

Pour in honey, approximately two to three tablespoons. Add balsamic vinegar generously. Mix again with your hands. The kale holds up admirably to the handling. Taste and increase amounts as desired.

Mince garlic and ginger and be irreverent with the amount, adding more than you believe necessary. Continue hand mixing and tasting, also adding chili flakes.

The juice of one or two lemons can be the finish. The salad is delicious with not another ingredient. But Ed Brown went on, dicing an apple he'd picked from his yard. He broadcast pumpkin seeds into the salad and the square confetti of a red pepper. He remembered a wedge of aged Gouda hidden in a brown bag and tossed some of it in too. All delicious.

I replaced the chile flakes with a fresh jalapeno and had pan roasted walnuts and a pear for the optional ingredients. I left the cheese and red pepper out. And the salad was just as good as Ed's.

I can't believe my Grandparent's only fed the kale to the chickens.

(Added Note: My Aunt sent word after reading this that chickens actually ate a different kind of kale. It was a field kale she wrote, strong and tough. My Grandparents weren't missing out after all.)

Haiku Friday

Underground sunshine
wedged and served on a white plate --
plain roasted orange beets.

Corn Zipper

This is a funny little post but it's important given the season. It's about corn.

I have a thing about corn. Mostly about how corn is grown but that's another story. This story is about putting up corn in the freezer for winter meals. For the last two years I've been cutting corn from the cob and it's a mess. The knife blade is straight, the cob is round; the two simply aren't great mates. Kernels fly around the kitchen, some rows are cut off too close, some aren't. But I've persevered.

Until now. I was gifted with a Kuhn Rikon Corn Zipper. It's a marriage of a potato peeler and a cheese slicer made especially for corn. The blade is curved. It glides down the cob. Brilliant.

I've got twice the amount of corn in the freezer than before and we're eating half of it before I have a chance to get it in the freezer.

I'm just getting started.

This is my take on a recipe from the cute guy's Dad who uses canned corn and peppers. (Which has never stopped me from eating too much of it.)

1 Diced Small Onion
3 Coined Zucchini
1 Minced Jalapeno
1 Cup Corn Kernels

Saute onion until soft. Add the zucchini and jalapeno. When zucchini is barely pliable, approximately five minutes, add corn. Cook another three to five minutes being careful not to overcook the zucchini and serve with hot tortillas, eggs and salsa, eat alone or as a side dish. I start eating it before it gets to the table.

Coastal Clean Up

I think about volunteering a lot, but I never do it. The days are like untamed dogs that drag me along. But a friend called and asked if I wanted to pick up trash at the beach. I said, yes. It sounds like an easy yes. It wasn't. I really wanted to stay home and make jam.

I had no idea we were to be part of the International Coastal Cleanup Day organized by the Ocean Conservancy. We were given two bags - one for garbage and one for recycling. Then we were instructed to complete a survey by keeping a tally of what we picked up, which threw me into a spin. How in the heck are you supposed to pick up trash if you have to be tallying with a bowling score pencil the whole time. I didn't have enough pockets or the right glasses. My friend nudged me. "We'll estimate at the end," she whispered.

Then we stepped onto the beach and there was no trash. The shore actually looked pristine; sand, rocks, water. There was fog. I wondered where we were going to find trash, if I should stop and buy more canning jars on the way home.

It didn't take long though and my friend found a plastic bottle; the only one of the day. Then I found a lid for a plastic bottle. She found a candy wrapper, I found a piece of styrofoam and we barely stood up straight again until our garbage bags were full. Once our eyes adjusted to see trash it was everywhere. Mostly in bite size pieces.

There were a lot of plastic bottle lids and a lot of tiny styrofoam pieces. I nicknamed them snowflakes because they were impossible to pick up although we did. I'm not sure it mattered there were so many.

And somewhere between picking up an old plastic ball and a potato chip bag I forgot about the jam and realized I was having fun. Fun talking to the other people also picking up trash. Fun talking to the people on the trail not picking up trash. Fun being outside and seeing a result to our labor.

The most unexpected surprise though; I see trash everywhere now. And I name it as if I'm going to have to tally it with a short pencil. Then I have this weird reflex - I go to pick the trash up on the street like it's still my responsibility. Until I remember I don't have my work gloves on.

Next year, if not sooner, my yes will be an easy one.

Do you have a favorite volunteer job or one you resisted and then liked? Did you participate in the coastal clean up on Saturday?

No Impact Man - The Movie

It's been a long time since I've cried at a movie. But that's exactly what I did last night watching the new documentary, No Impact Man. Not crying really but weeping, appreciation and laughing tears. I fell in love with the whole family it's about; Colin, Michelle and Isabella.

While I was aware from news bites that there was a guy in NY that had given up everything (I never considered what he was gaining) I didn't read his blog or follow. Then Beth at Fake Plastic Fish had an interview post with the guy, Colin, which had me take notice. After that the Green Phone Booth posted a review of his book. I was interested.

I went to the movie with a friend who has never carried a canvas bag; not unlike Colin's wife, Michelle. While I learned new low impact tips from him I was his choir in the audience. More importantly, Michelle related to the audience that had yet to hear the siren's green call. Her distaste for worms, choice words for bike riders; her melt down at giving up caffeine. She spoke from the beauticians chair getting her hair colored and from her air conditioned office at Business Week sucking on ice. And then she cooked her first dinner. We were all changed.

On the way out of the theater my friend asked, "Do you think the growers would refill the plastic shells I buy berries in if I return them to the store?"

I tried not to cry again.

The big ahhh factor is their daughter, Isabella. She was a mimicking sprite; as happy in the dark as she was in the garden.

Admittedly I was biased toward the documentary from the beginning as Colin shopped for local food with flour sack towels and cloth produce bags. He spoke all my favorite things about sourcing food from near by. But he didn't overload our plates with food. He moved on to transportation, household cleaning products, cosmetics; the source of our power. He polished himself up for politics, volunteering, for talking to audiences. And while people were watching him, he was listening to the people doing the watching. Which is where he earned my final respect. He didn't flinch at the truth of criticism but neither did he give up in the face of it.

If you see this movie ( here's the schedule) I'd love to know how it impacts you. And take a friend. You'll want to talk about it at the end.

(Also posted at the Blogging Bookworm.)

Haiku Friday

Sunday afternoon -
ten jars of strawberry jam
on the pantry shelf.


I won a raffle once. And my mouth fell open. Then I couldn't stop smiling.

I would love to win the upcoming CUESA raffle, a year of dining out. I'd fall over if I did.

It's become tradition, if you can call three years a tradition, that I gift a friend with a ticket for his birthday too. And then wish until I'm blue his is a number that's called.

And while I'm wishing I'd love to win this raffle too. It's a benefit for Soul Food Farm, a chicken farm that recently suffered a fire. The raffle is put together by Bi-Rite in the city. There are great prizes, really great prizes, but I can't get past the year of ice cream. Truthfully I'd be better off not winning this.

But it's such a good cause I'm trying anyway. I had Soul Food Farm chicken for the first time a week before the fire. It was the real deal - chicken raised on the pasture. In spite of the fire the farm is moving forward - with a lot of love and help from their friends.

Chicken does not get better than that. Except, maybe, if you ate it with ice cream.

Here's how to get a ticket .

Late Summer Soup

The cute guy and I had a spontaneous party yesterday. We were real. The guests were imaginary. It was the soup that spurred us on.

First we gave Gretchen a seat at the table because it was her tomatoes that I'd slow roasted and added to the broth. The cute guy gave her the yellow bowl. Jesse got the next seat for the huge red carrots that were impossibly sweet for being so big. We decided to invite the entire Rancho Gordo crew after that for the Yellow Indian Woman beans that gave the soup it's heartiness. They got the party rolling.

I remembered the turnip man. He wore his trademark overalls and sat on the stairs without complaint; drank his soup from a cup. The only thing he said was, "Nice you used the greens too."

We invited the guy with the Bolinas beard that once demonstrated making kohlrabi salad with garlic, olive oil, lemon and salt in Pt. Reyes. He'd sold me the leeks I'd used. Nodded his head in approval at the first spoonful. And David Little, the potato man; it would not have been a party without him. We love those potatoes. He got the big blue bowl.

I nearly forgot the woman from Petaluma I'd bought the walla walla onions from. "They're sweet," she'd said, mimicing taking a bite of one. She was right, the onion didn't make me cry. We included the guy that sells roast chicken from the truck at the table too although only the carcass had made it's way into the broth. In fact I gave him my chair and a soup bowl from Cattlemans.

My friend Ann from Brentwood and her son arrived and we raved over their garlic. "No one else grows it as good," we told everyone. She smiled eating with our only silver spoon.

The last guests were Uncle Don and the cute guys pink wigged cousin. They had loaded him up with backyard jalapenos and I had loaded up the soup. "Have another bowl," the cute guy kept saying. I offered to send them home with some. They declined.

Instead everyone showed up again tonight for the leftovers.

So good.

Haiku Friday

Coming home too late
we snack on apple slices
sitting in the dark.

Summer Sunflowers

I can't remember the last time I bought flowers or the last time I enjoyed a bunch as much as the sunflowers I brought home Sunday. They're lemon yellow sunflowers, cut before they've had a chance to make seeds. The centers are thick with deep yellow petals and even the buds are beginning to burst with yellowness.

There's something about the way they stand in the vase, their heads held ready, not in prayer but in praise of the day, that makes me happy. As if at any moment they're going to break into a song, a bit of morning gospel or early evening Motown. I swear they have personality. There's one that stands differently, hangs back, refuses to face any direction I suggest. I've decided it's the prettiest back of a sunflower I've ever had.

I've thought about this before, this natural season of flowers. How their seasons mark the passing time; paper whites after Christmas, then tulips and ranuculus for my birthday. How the field flowers, rainbow asters, calliopsis and sweet williams don't bloom until after the last cap and gown has been stored away.

And how sunflowers any other time of the year, except now, when the sun has changed; has put on some blush; how only now do sunflowers seem right. Against all this late summer light.

Sunflowers for the Conscious Shopper's caring that made my day.

Haiku ... Saturday

Eating toast and jam
and watching sun on the leaves -
one white rose remains.

Local On Our Table - September

Farmers' Market
Asian Pears
Gravenstein Apples
Little Gems Lettuce
Little Green Onions
Pink Lady Apples
Red Onions

Back Deck Harvest
Black Cherry Tomatoes
Serrano Peppers
Shiso Leaf

(From Someone Else's Yard)
Bay Leaves
Roma Tomatoes

Peach Jam
Poached Pears

Apple Juice
Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Tomatilla Sauce