Farm Day!

My friends and I recently took a tour of 5 farms in Vacaville, CA. It is about an hour drive outside of San Francisco, in the Pleasants Valley area of Solano County. The tour was made possible by the Slow Food Solano and Solano Grown groups. We started the tour at Soul Food Farm. There, they have pastured eggs, chickens, and Olive Oil. They are also starting to grow a bunch of lavender in collaboration with the woman that helps run the next farm we visited, Morningsun Herb Farm. They have lavender there, too, along with culinary and medicinal herbs. The next farm we went to was the Be Love Farm. The owners of this farm also own Cafe Gratitude, and Gracias Madre, which are vegan restaurants in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. The fourth farm on the tour was Sunny Slope Orchard. There, they shared fresh squeezed orange juice and oranges and other citrus as well as showed us their fruit trees. They have apricots, peaches, plums, figs, citrus and persimmons. Lastly, we went to Mercier Grapevines. Here, they grow grapevines to sell to local wineries/vineyards. They showed us how they graft together the vines and they also let us take one vine home to grow and one already growing pot of grapes. It was a hot, fun day learning about the local farms and how they operate. I am definitely grateful for these small farmers that take the time out of their day to give tours and teach people about the food they produce. Support your local farmers! Go to the farmer’s market! Buy local! Really, it not just about supporting them, but it will help you eat healthier and it is always good to know where your food comes from. Below, there is a slideshow of the photos I took on the farms (in no particular order). All of the farms offer tours; just go to their website to find out more information!

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April Showers Bring May Flowers.

Can you believe that we are only a couple of weeks away from May, already?

I know that I was definitely busy between, uh, last July and now. :)

But now that I am all caught up on the exciting things I’ve made since then, I will now share what I made in April, since I spent the month posting about the past.

In the beginning of the month, I celebrated Passover. I even hosted a Seder for the first time! I made a (super delicious) pescatarian dinner that included veggies from the farmer’s market and fish from the San Francisco Fish Company and wine from The Wine Merchant. Here is a list of recipes I made/adapted for my Seder:

Baked Stuffed Zucchini (My favorite dish, besides the matzoh ball soup.)

Matzoh Lasagna (I added spinach to mine. Surprisingly good…almost as good as lasagna made with noodles)

Matzoh Brittle (made it twice…once for my Seder, and once for a friend’s Seder. The first time, I followed the recipe and the second time, with the inspiration from a friend that came to my Seder, I added some ginger to some pieces and some cinnamon to others)

The fish part of the meal was just some sauteed cod. I just cut the fish into pieces that fit into the pan, sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. No real recipe, just cook until fish flakes apart with a fork. I think it was about 2 or 3 minutes on either side.

Throughout the month, I also made some ice cream. I got the recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, David Lebovitz. I added a chocolate fudge sauce to it while it was in the machine churning, but it turned out I added too much, because it caused the ice cream to soften and it separated. This made it a sort of micro-chocolate chip-caramel ice cream. All in all, it was pretty good. I would like to make more ice cream using his recipes and just stick with the recipe, because I have a feeling they will turn/churn out well. (See what I did there?!)

Some other things I made this month include a simple pasta dish, an orange-lemon pound cake,  and mini tartlets, again. The pasta dish was spaghetti, peas, tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil all tossed and heated/cooked together in a saute pan. First, the olive oil cooks the garlic, then the peas and tomatoes are added, and finally the pasta. Lunch or dinner is ready in minutes!

The orange-lemon pound cake was made with some orange sugar…which is just like vanilla sugar, but with orange zest. All you have to do is zest some orange (or any other citrus, or a combo would be good, too) into sugar and rub them together. It makes the flavor stand out more. The recipe I used was more or less made up. It is a simple 1:1:1 ratio, as you may have guessed. In this case, it was 8 ounces butter, 8 ounces sugar, 8 ounces flour, and an egg, some vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Bake in a buttered loaf pan in a 350-degree oven until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 5 minutes before overturning and cooling completely on a cooling rack.

The tartlets I made were basically the same as before, using orange curd and candied orange peel as garnish. The shells were made with a pie/tart dough recipe that used cream instead of eggs/water/other liquid. But you can go ahead and use sable dough if you’d prefer.

So, that’s what I’ve made in April (so far). I am excited for what the month of May will bring! What are some of the things that made April special for you? What are you looking forward to in May? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Mini Tartlets

When I saw these in the store, I knew I had to get them! I love all things mini. There’s just something about the small size that grabs my attention more than the full-size version. Mini Snickers bars that somehow only make an appearance on Halloween. Mini muffins or cupcakes. Mini loaves of bread. Mini. Easy. One or two bites. An amuse bouche. A petit four. Mignardises. How ever you put it, I love it!

I used these to make tartlets for New Year’s Eve this past year (2011-2012). I made chocolate ganache and orange curd tartlets. I sprinkled the chocolate ganache ones with white sugar crystals (the sort of sugar that does not dissolve) and the orange curd ones with homemade candied orange zest.

Cover of "Baking"

I got the recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Baking, by James Peterson. I like this book because it not only gives you great recipes, but because it shows you steps by picture and gives you more than one technique to doing something. For example, the tart/pie dough recipe can be made with either water, heavy cream, or eggs/egg whites as the liquid (or any other liquid–maybe orange juice). It also says how to mix the dough by hand (on a table or in a bowl) or by mixer. It is a great book for all of the basic baking you might want to do.

P.S. This post is a part of my catching up series.

DB Challenge: Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

I have never even heard of a tian before this challenge, and I was excited to try to make one. I was also excited about this challenge because it made me practice my knife skills, with the orange segments. This would be a good addition to any menu, but especially for this time of year when citrus is in season. This can easily be switched to any other citrus, or any combination of citrus fruit. It had also been a long time since I used pectin (I made/canned jelly in high school once.) and so that was a great way to bring it back to my cooking skills. As always, I had fun with this challenge.

I made mine in a deep Pyrex bowl, and waited until it defrosted a bit to be able to remove the inverted bowl from the plate, and it would definitely be easier to un-mold from a springform pan or from the rings as described in the recipe. I also added an extra layer of orange segments and folded all of the marmalade into the whipped cream, rather than making that a separate layer.

I had extra dough, so I folded in some chocolate chips and scooped it for some cookies, which were delicious.

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