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fooling around in the kitchen (2010-2011)

Low-sugar cakes are increasingly in vogue as we slowly move back to a more centered place in terms of our health.  we begin, en masse, to sense the connection between our health and the state of the greater ecology.  where the rubber meets the road is when you're at a party and someone has brought a low-sugar cake.  blackberry & polenta birthday cake is a low-sugar model that makes these other cakes taste like 'weak sauce'.  polenta cracked in the blender makes for a fun, full-flavored texture that goes great with chocolate and blackberries.  plus, you can cook it in an iron skillet, which looks pretty awesome when it hits the table.
august 29, 2011... covelo   

I
n the midst of summer when squash & zucchini are in full swing, its hard to imagine that the incas regarded the summer squash as a rare specialty.  Every year we try our best eat enough zucchini to hold back the guilt of actually throwing most of it away (in the compost).  Botanically, zucchini and squash are actually immature fruit, though they are commonly regarded as vegetables.  Though summer squash comes from the americas, the variety of squash known as zucchini comes from italy, and so we know it by its italian name.   

Our friend betsy introduced us to this surprising hot-weather soup.  It has an excellent balance and presentation of flavors: basil, feta cheese, zucchini, cilantro, hot pepper, cumin, wow!  Its the kind of soup that still tastes good when it cools down, and its a great way to get a lot of vegetables and herbs onto the supper table.  We like to put the feta on the table so we can put more in- feta seems to be a real summer cheese.  Without any further to-do, we offer you perfect summer zucchini soup.
august 2nd, 2011... covelo   

W
hile casting about for ways to include more coconut in our diet, we discovered how easy it is to make coconut macaroons.  whipped egg whites lend a light and impractical touch to this fine member of the cookie family.  when fresh, these cookies are excellent... and with a little chocolate poured on top, they're deadly.  Sometimes we enjoy an afternoon snack of macaroons and iced toddy, or cold-brewed coffee.  brewed in this way (its very simple), coffee has a sweeter flavor and a complete lack of bitterness that one normally associates with coffee.  It also has less than half of the acid of a regular 'cup of joe' & goes great with milk and ice and too many macaroons.
july 27, 2011... covelo


N
ot long ago we were at a yarn shop in eureka, CA where they happened to be selling some hand-made chocolate bars.  There was something about the packaging and label we found intriguing, and the yarn lady informed us that the manufacturers were members of a well-known local bluegrass group.  At 8$ each we confined our purchase to only two of these wallpaper-wrapped bars.  Now fast forward: the bars were delicious.  Texture and flavor: just amazing.  This chocolate is made by two ex-furniture makers from the band Huckleberry Flint, and they use a completely in-house, bean-to bar approach.  It puts us in mind of Intelligentsia Coffee, another recent discovery.  Eight dollars may seem like a lot for a choco bar, but bear in mind we are all starting to become aware of how much things actually cost.  If you want a real chocolate bar, we suggest you try one of these.  (Disclaimer: there are probably many other hometown chocolate manufacturers out there- we don't mean to slight you, we just haven't tried your stuff yet!)  As we emerge from more that 60 years of poor products of every stripe, its great to live in a time when people are starting to make things that can we can all be proud of.  Hi-five slap to Dick Taylor Craft Chocolate in humboldt county, CA! 

p.s. did you know that chocolate is a fermented food?  The seeds or 'beans' are fermented for 3 to 4 days immediately after harvesting.  This just means that they sit in the shade at ambient temperature (all cacao comes from hot climates) and the skin ferments, altering the chemistry of the bean, similar to the way coffee is cured.
july 20, 2011... covelo

A
t 11 o'clock or so when i get a 2nd cup of coffee in my hand i really dont might having a few sand cookies to go with it.  These light cookies are buttery, crunchy and 'sweet as a nut'.  This recipe is another fine example of kamut flour at work: the butter in the recipe accentuates the natural buttery flavor of the grain, and its pretty surprising how tasty the combination is.  The grainy texture of the kamut is the X factor: theyre fun to chew!  All our friends adore these cookies, and there can be a bit of polite tension in the air when theres only one left on the plate. 
may 12, 2011... covelo

H
ere is a recipe we have been meaning to share with you all winter: turkish red lentil soup.  our friend betsy brought this recipe back from turkey, and now its a part of our menu at home.  We usually make a big pot because the leftover soup goes great with lots of stuff: a handful of chopped & toasted walnuts (just toast them in a pan until theyre a bit burned at the edges), some cooked ground lamb, a few crumbles of feta cheese, a poached egg...
may 11, 2011... covelo 

The weather here in round valley is very warm, with an early summer feel.  the maples and oaks are all leafed out, filtering the sun around our house.  we can no longer hear the river (its flowing quietly now, much lower), and birdsong mixes with jazz and the sound of kids on ATVs out in the lane.  when its hot outside and you're feeling kind of poached, a plate of cold spaghetti chicken with a teeny-tiny glass of cold pilsner is a little bit of alright.
may 5, 2011... covelo 

A
fter a scrumptious pancake breakfast at harbin hot springs just the other day, we seem to have been suffering from a pancake-shortage around the house.  which ruby thankfully ameliorated with a surprisingly munchin' and good-for-ya
combination of kamut flour, oat flour and buttermilk.  kamut-oat buttermilk pancakes carry on the pancake name proudly, despite superior nutrition, and hold their heads high in the pantheon of breakfast cakes.  this recipe reflects our recent kamut flour jag: this ancient grain continues to please in a variety recipes.
may 1, 2010... covelo    

F
irst sunday in may means: pancakes for breakfast, working in the greenhouse, strong coffee,  recuperating from previous days' mountain bike ride, preparing for today's ride, seeing bear poop in the mountains, jumping into the river, & running barefoot on the rocky trail down to the falls.  for those of us back at the house, the day included: bike riding around town, trying to kill gophers, corresponding with friends, reading, cooking, lying in the sun... we got a lot done between the two of us (good job baby).  later on in the afternoon we did a fair amount of relaxing, enjoying cocktails and time on the couch.  then we tucked onto the brilliant result of ruby's time in the kitchen: quiche florentine (florentine-style quiche is lighter and creamier that your regular model), which really goes down a bundle on a warm, spring sunday afternoon.  soon it will be summer, but for now we hope to see you around the neighborhood.  happy beltane!
april 29, 2011... covelo


O
ne of the nice things about living in northern california is access to fresh oysters.  oyster farming was at its height in 1895, when our national output was 170 million lbs (in 2002 we were at 50 million).  on a recent trip down to tomales bay we enjoyed a doz of some of their finest at the hog island oyster company.  while we were there i got to thinking what a mighty role the oyster has played in the human story.  as a keystone species, they are the 'key' to the health of the waters surrounding them: they consume nitrogen-containing compounds, filtering up to 50 gallons of water a day: each oyster!  Even more importantly, oysters have an alkalizing effect on the ocean.  in the face of the depopulation of our fisheries and the acidification crisis the worlds oceans now face, this is an important detail.  unlike most sea-foods, every oyster you buy and eat (if its from a reputable oyster farm) helps the ocean recuperate.  oysters are an excellent source of zinc (so is red meat), and they were an important food source for our hunter-gatherer ancestors.  with all this great returning to the source eating going on, like local eggs, raw milk & butter, and organic pastured livestock, oysters deserve a place at the table.
april 25, 2011... covelo 

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n conversations about food with friends and strangers, one dead-end we often run into is whenever we mention whey.  their eyes glaze over slightly and you can tell you've lost them, even though they may continue to listen politely.  whey is a near-magical ingredient that can transform your ingredients into a nutritional bucket of gold.  and, its easy to make.  as a key ingredient in our mayonnaise, whey pickles, beet kvass, and the recommended method for soaking grains, we think everyone should know how to make it.  all you need is a quart of plain organic yogurt, a strainer and some cheesecloth.  you dump the yogurt into the cheesecloth and strainer and let it sit overnight- that's it!  the watery stuff that drips out the bottom is the whey.  the 'cream cheese' left in the strainer is a by-product of the process, and tastes awesome on some toast, crackers or in your scrambled eggs.
february 28, 2011... covelo 


Back when we lived in hawaii, our friends paul & karisma introduced us to fernet branca, an italian herbal liqueur or amaro.  sometimes after young Salem went to bed we would hang out & chat with our friends over a glass of iced ginger ale with fernet branca.  its made from a load of herbs and you can tell from the first sip: bitter and kind of magical.  karisma is originally from peru, where fernet is popular in the clubs and cafes.  she insisted we try the stuff and the rest is history.  in italy it is commonly served as a digestif (an after dinner drink thought to aid digestion).  goes great with conversation, sacking out on the couch after dinner, and yelling at your dogs when they get into the neighbors trash.
february 19, 2011... covelo

I
f you get huge cravings for comfort foods over the winter, take a crack at this super-rich mendo baked mac & cheese.  baked pasta and cheese with dill, a hint of cayenne and a crumbly top: boom!  OK, so its not the healthiest choice, but when those pleasure endorphins start coursing through your system you'll forget all about that.  plus you could do a lot worse, health-wise: its an awesome dish.  sometimes its nice to indulge your inner hedonist... and who knows?  it may lead to pleasure seeking in other areas of your life.
february 6, 2011... covelo

A
fter more than a year into our crush on four barrel coffee, we have finally purchased a certain item they have for sale: the hario mini mill.  according to somebody, a blade grinder (ie: the electric grinder that wakes everybody up) squanders the tasty aromatics and delivers an uneven grind along with all that noise.  well, now we know what they mean.  its no understatement to say this grinder has taken our coffee scene to a whole new place.  this small, inexpensive appliance might be the biggest improvement you can make in your home coffee situation.  p.s. its hand-powered, which is kinda sexy.  but not in a sexual way. 
january 23, 2011... covelo


W
e had lots of great food down in argentina and chile: fresh pastas, langostinos, mounds of shellfish, real cheeses, goat meat, espresso, honey, alfajores (dulce de leche sandwich cookies), empanadas, lamb, chimichurri sauce, delicious potatoes, fish, smoked fish... its a long list.  one of the best meals we had was at a little bodega in valparaiso where the proprietress made a daily dish to sell to the neighborhood residents.  as soon as we walked in, we knew something nice was simmering in the back.  it turned out to be porotos granados, a classic chilean summer soup (opposite weather down there).  served with several dollops of pebre, this fresh-bean soup was wonderfully home-style after all those weeks of dining out.  thanks to Ana Cadiz for her patience & charm (and for sharing her recipe with us! we will 'trot it out' when summer gets here and the beans are around).
january 17, 2011... covelo


J
ust returned from patagonia!  on our way home from SFO we listened to karyn sanders radio show the herbal highway.  after something like 36 total hours of travel, we may have been experiencing exhaustion and/or hypnosis, but that show really captured our imagination.  on that day, eyebright, cayenne and goldenrod were the subject of karyn's ruminations.  the show made an impression, and we have been adding a sprinkle of cayenne to our first-thing-in-the morning beverage: hot water with lemon.  hot lemon water wakes up the liver (starts working with the kidneys to eliminate toxins) while cayenne stimulates digestion and tonifies the heart muscles.  the circulatory boost from this prominent nightshade member is something to take note of.  we encourage you to experiment with it: cayenne is what the herb people call a catalyst or action herb
january 16, 2011... covelo

I
f you dont want to go all winter eating the same old vegetables like potato and onion and whatnot, sooner or later youre going to have to meet the parsnip.  for those of you who havent yet had the pleasure, dont be shy: get in there and introduce yourself.  a long-lost relative of the carrot, parsnip is kind of like that one super-interesting cousin who just came back from europe and is smoking italian cigarettes on the porch at thanksgiving.  we call this raw grated parsnip recipe old world parsnip salad since the vegetable is more common in europe.  plain yogurt and fresh dill team up with parsnip to make a great before-meal salad that folks will be knocking back faster than you can serve it.
november 24, 2010... covelo   

W
ith temperatures on the decline here in round valley, thoughts turn to stuff like sweaters, hot drinks and baking.  with loads of good-looking winter squash around, we dreamed up a red kuri coffee cake to go with our mid-morning brew.  btw: under the loving influence of kim boyce's book good to the grain, our baking has begun to reflect a whole-grain emphasis.  her creative recipes really honor grains like quinoa, millet, kamut, spelt, and oat.  but it takes more than just chucking in some whole-grain flour to make the magic happen: kim did her homework and came to recognize the affinities that different grains have for certain kinds of baking.  red kuri squash has a nice nutty flavor and adds a real country feel to this coffee-partner...  spread on some butter and dont look back.  
november 14, 2010... covelo              

O
ne thing we like about indian cooking is their treatment of cauliflower.  most indian restaurants have a variety of dishes that do justice to this nutritionally dense vegetable.  Gobi Aloo (indian style roasted cauliflower and potatoes) is just such a dish: toasted spices, roasted vegetables, lemon juice = wow.  be sure to get enough on your plate to stock up on indole-3-carbinols, the likes of which boost DNA repair and block the growth of cancer cells.  all that aside, the knockout flavor makes it hard not to go back for seconds when this dish is on the table.  p.s. the math guys will be eager to point out that cauliflower has a fractal dimension of 2.88 
november 2, 2010... covelo 

B
iting into a nice bit of warm pie is one of those millionaire moves that anyone can make.  being able to make your own pie or galette is an essential and perhaps liberating skill.  should you choose not to cultivate this craft, at least cultivate the affection of those who do.  with a piece of apple ginger gallete in one hand and something nice to drink in the other, you may just become the most pleasant thing for miles around. 
october 25, 2010... covelo

P
ersian (ie, iranian) cuisine was one of the earliest and most influential culinary traditions.  their recipes and techniques spread east to europe and west to asia, eventually becoming part of the 'invisible past' that we all draw upon.  when we look to the persian tradition, we find lots of 'new takes' on old ingredients:  borani-e esfenaj (iranian spinach and yogurt salad) is a delicious karate chop to the old tried-and-true steamed spinach dish.
october 20, 2010... covelo

The leek is a member of the Alliaceae family, along with onions and garlic.  we love leeks, and we really like they way they taste roasted.  something about almost burning them really brings out some great flavor.  so, since its getting cooler and soups are more on the menu we offer you roasted leek & potato soup.  go ahead and give it a go: rustic flavors and sweet pepper make a stunning duet.  you can drink it out of a jar on your way to babysitting lessons.
october 8, 2010... covelo       

M
ost people are down with fresh corn.  ditto for hot cheese.  so its hard to go wrong with corn & leek quesadillas.  this DIY snack uses fresh corn in a nontraditional way and is guaranteed to please the vegetarian and meat-eating members of your set.  any time you can get into some fresh corn without doing the old 'hey, corn on the cob!' thing, thats good.  and if you manage to get your hands on some organic corn tortillas like they ones they have for take-away at gracias madre in the mission, youre really hitting a triple (flour tortillas work fine, too).  a big plate of these and a glass of something cool will go great with whatever youre watching on TV tonight. 
october 4, 2010... covelo

R
oasted tomatoes were recently featured on the cover of Saveur.  ruby took up the challenge, spurred on by the presence so many lusty-ripe tomatoes on toms farm.  according to our friends, the dish is a success, and now we pass the whole affair on to you.  roasted tomatoes with thyme & garlic makes a tasty snack or supper, and since it calls for turning on the oven, its a pleasantly house-warming dish on a cool fall evening.
october 3, 2010... covelo 

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e are not big brandy drinkers.  At least we weren't until we discovered Germain-Robin, a very highly regarded mendocino county distillery.  The first sip tells you everything you need to know: the flavor goes on for what feels like miles.  They distill from premium varietals like pinot noir, and their list of accolades is pretty substantial.  All of which is beside the point once you tip back your glass: an impressive heritage spirit that might make a brandy drinker out of you.  on top of everything else they are not expensive, and they might even embody that vague ideal of the sustainable small-scale genius art business.  if all this interests you, check out their wikipedia page.  hey, they also do some impressive grappas.   
september 13, 2010... covelo 

O
ur friends josh & jodi got married over the weekend, and we did a table of hors d'oeuveres for the post-ceremony snack time.  It was a simple affair: bread from arizmendi bakery, cheeses from cowgirl creamery, pickles and beets from our own larder, asian pears from toms farm, baba ghanouj, and roasted red peppers & olive oil.  ruby has been roasting lots of peppers the past few weeks.  green and red peppers have different flavors, red being sweeter and the green more piquant. anyways, here's what i learned at the wedding... roasted peppers kick ass
september 12, 2010... covelo


Making your own salad dressing is pretty cool.  the basic ingredients we use are: olive oil, vinegar, tahini, and lemon or lime juice.  that is just a starter kit, so dont feel confined to that short list.  tahini and cilantro salad dressing is a great exercise in making your own dressing, and its a decent excuse for using a bunch of cilantro.  p.s. you're gonna need a mason jar with a lid you can shake the heck out of. 
september 9, 2010... covelo
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