Archives for posts with tag: California

pumpkin pie  As much as I hate to admit it, autumn is here.  I realize that for most of the country, this summer was a particularly hot one and the cool weather is a relief. But here in the Bay Area, we hardly got a taste of summer. It’s not that I dislike fall, but I really miss the warm weather of the south. The weather here was foggy and cool June through September and the promised indian summer never came. Now, the rains have returned, which ends any hope of warm weather.

Since there’s no use fighting it, I decided to embrace the autumn weather by making my favorite seasonal dessert, pumpkin pie. If anything is going to get me exited about the fall, it’s pumpkin dishes. There’s something about the earthy sweetness of pumpkin that is just so comforting.

Before I get to the pie recipe, I wanted to share a few other things I’ve been working on and some ideas for the blog. I’ve been quite busy lately with sign painting, screen printing, and illustrating. I recently finished up my end  an exciting project with Justin “Scrappers” Morrison for the Maui Time. I’ll share more when the project is finished and in print but for now, here’s a little peek:

sketchesseek peek

Also, as some of you may know, I work as a sign painter in San Francisco at New Bohemia Signs.  I’ve wanted to incorporate more sign painting into Illustrated Bites for a long time. My new and exciting plan for doing that is to create food-related signs and do occasional give-aways here on the blog. In conjunction with that I’ll also be selling some signs online. This new project was inspired by a sign I recently  painted for my lovely friend, Emily.

chiffonade

So, yeah…I made a pumpkin pie AND it was awesome. I will admit that this pie was pretty labor intensive because I made it completely from scratch but it’s TOTALLY worth it. The good news is that this recipe made enough filling for a second pie, so it’s sort of a two for one deal.  My sweetie’s folks were in town and his mom helped me though the process, which made a world of  difference in the workload (Thanks Nancy!)  I highly recommend getting someone to lend a hand when you make this.

pumpkin

Step one: Pick up a pumpkin. I used a sweet pie pumpkin I bought at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market. Slice the pumpkin into wedges and scrape out the guts. Use a paring knife to cut the flesh away from the rind. Don’t worry if you leave some flesh on the rind, it’s pretty hard to get it all.

Step two: Steam the pumpkin. Put all the pumpkin flesh in a pot with about a half a cup of water. Turn the heat to medium and cover.

Step three: While the pumpkin is steaming, make the pie crust. It’s easiest if you have a food processor.

Crust Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse.  Add the butter and process until the butter and flour are blended.
  2. Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle in the ice water. Mix with a spoon and then gather into a ball. If it is too dry add a little more water; if it’s too wet, add a little flour.
  3. Wrap in plastic, flatten into a disk and freeze for ten minutes.

Step four: While the dough is in the freezer, puree the the steamed pumpkin. The pumpkin should be steamed until it’s soft, and easily  punctured with a fork. Puree throughly, until there are no lumps. It will be easiest to do this in small batches.

Step five: Take the dough out of the freezer and sprinkle the countertop with flour. Unwrap the dough and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough with light pressure from the center out. Add flour as needed.

Step six: When the dough is about 10 inches in diameter transfer it to your pie plate. Press into the plate and tuck the excess edges into itself and pinch for the crust. Return to the freezer while the oven preheats.

Step seven: Preheat to 425 Degrees F. Find something to weigh down the crust while it bakes. I used a cast iron skillet but you could use tinfoil and a pile of dried beans or rice. Anything that will lie flat. Just make sure to butter the side that will be in contact with the pie crust.

Step eight: Puncture the bottom of the crust with the fork and put the weight on the crust. Bake  for 12 minutes. Then take it out of the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees F then carefully remove the weight and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

pumpking

Pie Filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch ground cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups light cream or whole milk

Step nine:  Beat the eggs with the sugar, then add the spices and salt. Mix in the pumpkin and the milk. Warm this mixture in a sauce pan over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.  Get it hot but not boiling.

Step ten: Pour the mixture into the the crust and bake for 30-40 minutes until mixture shakes but is still moist. Cool on a rack and serve at room temperature.

Extra credit: Homemade Whipped Cream
I told you this was an intense recipe!

  • Half pint heavy whipping cream
  • 4 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the cream with a whisk until peaks form. Again, this is much easier with a partner to take turns with. When the cream is stiff, fold in the vanilla and powdered sugar. Viola! Whipped cream.

Phew, that’s a monster. Anyways, you’ll feel great once it’s done and it’s so delicious you’ll forget it took like, three hours. If you’re like me, as it cools down and the winter rains start, you’ll look for any excuse to spend an afternoon in a warm kitchen. I hope you enjoy. Please let me know if you tackle this beast, I want to hear all about it!

Markets: 
1. The Berkeley Bowl: The most amazing produce section I’ve ever seen.
2. The Berkeley Bowl West
3. Tuesday Farmer’s Market: Located at Derby St. and MLK Jr. Way
4. Thrusday Farmer’s Market: All organic. Located at Vine st. and Shattuck Ave.
5. Saturday Farmer’s Market: Located at Center st. and MLK Jr. Way
6. Monterey Market

Restaurants:
7. Chez Panisse: Founded by Alice Waters. Serves all local and organic food and started the California Cuisine Revolution.
8. Gregiore Restaurant: French-fusion take out, all organic and seasonal. Great for lunch!
9. The Cheese Board Collective: A worker owned business that is both a pizzeria and cheese store.
10. La Note: Amazing weekend brunch.
11. Thai Buddhist Temple: Thai brunch on sundays as a fundraiser for the temple.
12. Bette’s Oceanview Diner

Bars/Breweries:
13. The Albatross: Berkeley’s oldest pub. It’s super laid back and cozy.
14. The Missouri Lounge
15. Triple Rock Brewery: Awesome beers and tasty bites. Don’t miss Monkey Head night on Thursdays!
16. Jupiter: Handcrafted beers and wood-fired pizza. Enjoy both in their amazing beer garden.

Bakeries:
17. Crixa Cakes
18. The Bread Garden Bakery

Coffee Shops:
19. Elmwood Cafe
20. Peet’s Coffee & Tea: The first location of Peet’s coffee.

Notable: 
21. The Edible Schoolyard: Founded by Alice Waters and located at MLK Jr. Middle School is a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom.
22. Michael Pollan: Food author and professor at UC Berkeley.

little city gardensLast week I spent an enjoyable afternoon helping out on an urban farm in the Mission District of San Francisco. The farm, Little City Gardens, is run by two lovely ladies: Caitlyn Galloway and Brooke Budner. I know Caitlyn from New Bohemia Signs, where we are both part-time sign painters. I’ve been hearing about her farming endeavors  around the shop for the past year and it was exciting to finally go check out the farm.

For most of the last year, Caitlyn and Brooke have been fighting legislation that required an expensive and difficult to acquire conditional-use permit to sell vegetables that were grown in the city. The pricey permit put a damper on their experiment to make urban framing economically viable.  Instead of shelling out they decided to challenge the law and pave the way for urban agriculture in San Francisco. Their legislative battle captured both local and national attention, even getting a write up in the New York Times last May. I’m excited to report that the girls won! April, 20th Mayor Ed Lee signed into law a bill allowing urban agriculture in San Francisco. The signing ceremony was held at Little City Gardens.

Green house

The afternoon I spent on the farm was the day before Mayor Ed Lee was coming to sign the new urban ag bill into law. What impressed me most was the sense of community on farm. The lot is nestled in the middle of a neighborhood in the Mission District and throughout the day neighbors stopped by to give their congratulations to Brooke and Caitlyn. There were also a handful of neighbors volunteering their time to help with farm duties. This is the beautiful thing about urban agriculture: it connects people to their food and the people who grow it. It’s eating local at its best.

Brooke watering the veggies

I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty and doing some hard physical labor. I made some new friends and I learned a lot too. Richard, a fellow volunteer, showed me how to identify invasive fennel, wild turnips, and wild black berries. It’s easy to get disconnected from where food comes from and spending a day farming is a humbling reminder to be appreciative of the food you eat.

While Caitlyn and Brooke have succeeded in paving the way for urban agriculture in San Francisco it is still illegal here in the East Bay. Novella Carpenter, an urban farmer in Oakland has recently run into some trouble with the city for selling vegetables from her garden. So there’s still work to be done. It’s time to put food production back into the hands of the people, not government subsidized industrial agriculture. Support urban agriculture in your area and while you’re at it, plant a few vegetables of your own.

kumquatI recently tasted kumquats for the first time. It was a deliciously intense experience. I became interested in trying kumquats after watching some moms give their little kids some to snack on. The moms were happily munching away at the fruit while the kids made the best sour faces I’ve ever seen and immediately spat them out. Their little faces were all puckered up, brows furrowed, eyes squinted tightly shut, and cheeks turned inward. It was hilarious and I knew I had to give kumquats a try.

After I bought some kumquats I had to do a little research to figure out how to eat them.  Turns out it’s pretty simple,  just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Kumquats are a citrus fruit about the size of a grape, so it’s not a big mouthful. But that tiny fruit packs a punch. The outer rind has a very delicate sweet flavor and the inside flesh is extremely tart. Together they balance out to a nice sweet-and-sour flavor.

The taste took some getting used to but I really began to love the extreme flavor. Plus, they have an amazingly refreshing aftertaste. I love trying out new fruits; if you haven’t experienced kumquats, give them a try sometime!

The Mediterranean climate of the Bay Area makes it perfect for ornamental fruit trees. Trees bursting with fresh fruit is a common sight in my neighborhood. Unfortunately, it’s equally common to see piles of rotting fruit beneath the trees. Waste annoys me (plus free food is awesome), so I usually gather what I can from branches that hang over the sidewalk (the law states that any fruit on branches growing over the sidewalk are public). I’m a novice at urban foraging – you won’t find me eating dandelions or acorns – but who would turn down locally grown, free, fresh fruit?

Like growing your own food, I think there’s something equally liberating about finding it in your environment. My first foraging expeditions were with my Mom, when I was small. In the fall we would pick up pecans that grew in a field near our house. Since then I’ve been gathering food from my environment whenever I come across it.olives

My most recent foraging haul was from a mission olive tree around the corner from my house, right next to the Buddhist Temple. Mission olives are a black olive that were originally brought to California by Franciscan missionaries. I’ve been waiting for the fruit to ripen for the last few weeks and been doing some research on how to cure the olives. An unfortunate taste-test taught me that olives ARE NOT edible right off the tree. It was indescribably bitter.

There are many ways to cure or ferment olives to make them ready for consumption, but the method that seemed most appropriate for this type of olive is dry curing. Basically, you pack them in salt for a month. Here’s how to do it:

Dry Cured Mission Olives:

Materials: Crate or box, burlap or cheese cloth, salt, and ripe mission olives (dark purple to black).

1. First, make slits in your crate or box, if it doesn’t already have slits.

2. Line the crate with burlap or cheese cloth. Secure in place.

3. Pour in a layer of salt, then put in a layer of olives. Continue until you’ve covered all the olives in salt.

4. Put the crate over a basin to catch the moisture, or put it outside where it won’t get rained on.

5. Wait one week, then dump the contents of the crate into another container. Shake well and return to original crate. Remove any damaged or rotten olives.

6. Repeat step five every 3 days-1 week for 4-6 weeks. The olives are cured when they are shriveled and smaller in size.

7. Separate the olives from the salt.

8. Dunk the olives in boiling water for thirty seconds. This melts the waxy covering on the olives.

9. Dry overnight.

10. Mix with olive oil and spices and refrigerate.

Dry cured olives

These directions are assuming you harvested a large crop of olives. I followed these same directions on a smaller scale. I used a plastic take-out box instead of a crate and cut slits in the bottom of the container and gave it some air holes on the top.  I set it on a cookie sheet to catch drips, the whole thing fit comfortably on top of my fridge. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

Update: The preserved salted lemons turned out pretty amazing. Salty and sour with a note of cinnamon. Expect some recipes with these tasty pickles soon!

My birthday was this past week and my sweetie took me out for a lovely dinner at Gather Restaurant in Berkeley. Gather specializes in local and organic Californian Cuisine that can satisfy everyone, from vegan to carnivore. With such a commitment to sustainability you might think they would be a little precious about their food (tiny servings, weird combinations) but Gather does sustainable gourmet that delights your taste buds and leaves you with a full belly and a smile.

Andrew and I split an appetizer, entree, salad, and dessert and It was more than enough food for us both. We started off with mushroom bruschetta which was surprisingly rich and extreamly flavorful.  For the main course we ordered roasted duck with pesto on a bed of duck sausage and pureed artichoke. The duck was so tender and the flavors so complex that I had to close my eyes to concentrate on the taste. The kale salad with roasted carrots, capers, and almonds was a perfect complement to the duck. For dessert we had hazelnut chocolate cake with cashew-cinnamon “ice cream.”  The meal was truly amazing and I enjoyed every mouthwatering bite.

Along with the amazing dinner we had a few fancy cocktails. Delicious dinner, yummy drinks and great company: what more could a girl want on her birthday? Dinner at Gather was real treat. If your looking for a nice evening out in the Bay Area, I recommend you give it a try!

North Carolina with fork and spoonLiving in the Bay Area is amazing but I miss North Carolina. I was born and raised in North Carolina and moved to the Bay Area after college. The Bay Area has some of the best and most diverse food in the world, but to to remedy homesickness I make southern food. There’s nothing more comforting than fried chicken in my book.

I’m more of Southern chef now that I live in California than I ever was in NC. I never made cornbread or fried chicken when I was living in back home. (Granted, I didn’t do much cooking at all in college.) In NC, southern food is the norm; if anything, it’s harder to avoid than find. Here in the Bay Area it’s quite the opposite. Obviously, it’s not the South but there are a lot of us here! You would think it would be easier to find a good buttermilk biscuit in this town. Sheesh.

When I picked up my CSA box this week I was excited to see that collard greens were included. Then I noticed the potatoes and remember that I had some chicken in the fridge and I knew then what must be done… fried chicken, with collard greens, and mashed potatoes! Heck yes!

Fried Chicken

Did I mention I love fried chicken? Because I L-O-V-E fried chicken. After being a vegetarian for almost six years it was fried chicken that brought me back. I’m still learning how to fry chicken but I must say this was a pretty delicious attempt. The mash potatoes were creamy and soothing and the collards were the perfect complement. It tasted like home. My southern boy was happy too; he didn’t stop smiling the whole way through dinner.

What food reminds you of home?

CSA Box

I recently became a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture) project with Full Belly Farms. Every week you receive a box of fresh, organic fruits and veggies and in turn you are supporting local farmers.  My first produce box came this week and I was so excited! I didn’t know what the box contained and after picking it up at the farmer’s market I rushed home to see what was inside. This week’s box contained butternut squash, celery root, leeks, red russian kale, oranges, cabbage, and walnuts. I couldn’t be more pleased. It was a great mix of old favorites and new (to me) veggies. I have to say, I’m hooked. The produce is delicious, it mixes up my diet, and you get that tingly (and slightly self-righteous) I-just-did-good-for-the-earth feeling for eating organic and local.

kale

I’ve already dug in and ate much of what the box contained. So far, my favorite thing was the red russian kale. I cooked it with leeks, walnuts, and some golden raisins I had in the pantry. It was a delicious blend of sweet and savory. Here is the recipe in case you want to try it for yourself.

Red Russian Kale with Walnuts & Golden Raisins

  • 1 bundle of Red Russian Kale
  • 2 leeks
  • 1/3 cup chopped golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  1. Chop the the kale stems, garlic and leeks and sauté in 1 tbs. of olive oil  for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the walnuts and raisins and cook for a few more minutes.
  3. Reduce heat and add the leaves of the kale and a few tablespoons of water and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Cover and steam for about five minutes.
  4. Stir, cover, and repeat until the leaves are tender but not mushy.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. By the way, if anyone out there has a good recipe for celery root or butternut squash, please let me know! This is the first opportunity I’ve had to cook celery root and I only have limited experience cooking with butternut squash, so I need some ideas. Be well and have a wonderful weekend!

It has taken a year and half of living in California for me to work up the courage to try new produce. Growing up in North Carolina, there was not nearly the variety of fruits and vegetables that there is here. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing fruits and veggies in NC, but they are much more seasonal and not nearly as diverse.  There is produce at the Berkeley Bowl that I have never in my life laid eyes upon, much less eaten. Most of the time I suspiciously peer at the alien fruits and veggies, keeping a safe distance, before I head over to select some apples and carrots. But this weekend I decided to buck up some courage and buy some of these unfamiliar fruits.

After contemplating a table of very interesting and exotic looking fruit I choose a horned melon, a dragon fruit, and cherimoya. Admittedly, I choose the dragon fruit and horned melon for their visual appeal. I knew I was going to draw them for Illustrated Bites and I couldn’t help but select the most eye catching fruit. I had heard of cherimoya before and decided to try one, even though it wasn’t as flashy as the other two.

Horned MelonThe first fruit that I sliced open was the horned melon. The interior of the fruit is bright green transparent packets of juice, similar in texture to citrus but much more slimy. The flavor of the flesh is slightly sweet. I thought it tasted similar to a cucumber, while my sweetie thought it tasted somewhat like kiwi. I read that the peel is edible but I don’t know why you would try to eat something covered in spikes.

Dragon FruitThe dragon fruit has a beautiful white, juicy interior speckled with tiny black seeds. To eat it you slice it half lengthwise and run a spoon the circumference of the section to remove the flesh from the peel. You can then lift the white part out and slice it. The peel is not edible. I found dragon fruit to be quite tasty but subtle. It was refreshing, crunchy, and only slightly sweet.

Cherimoya I was excited to try the cherimoya after reading a little about them. They are also known as a custard apple and Mark Twain called it “the most delicious fruit known to man.” To eat it you simply slice it in half and spoon out the interior. Don’t eat the seeds though, they are poisonous. The cherimoya was very sweet with a bananaish flavor and texture. It was a little too sweet for me, though after doing some reading the one I chose may have been over-ripe.

Overall I’m glad I’ve started to branch out from my usual apples and oranges. However, I don’t think I’ll purchase these particular fruit again. I found them more pleasing to the eye than the palate.  It was a fun taste test but no new favorites yet.

Thai Brunch

Berkeley has many culinary treasures but one of my favorite is brunch at the Thai Buddhist Temple. It is a unique experience that draws a huge crowd every Sunday.  Thai brunch is a fundraiser for the temple but it has become a Berkeley institution. It is extremely popular and tops the list of places to take visitors to give them a real Berkeley experience.

The food is served cafeteria style in a courtyard behind the temple. There is a wide selection to choose from and it is all tasty and cheap. Tents, folding tables, and chairs make up the dining area but it is often so crowded that diners spill into the front yard to sit in the grass.  It is a bit chaotic but it’s a lot of fun.  The temple is tucked in a neighborhood in South Berkeley and I am lucky enough to live around the corner!

This weekend my friends Stephanie and Dakota came over from San Francisco to have a taste of Thailand with me. We got there late, so there were long lines and they were starting to run out of entrees but we were still able to get a good selection of vegetarian curries. Seating was limited, so we took the food back to my apartment to enjoy it on the back porch. It has been unseasonably warm and sunny, so it was a great day for some porch sittin’. The lovely weather and sharing good food with friends made for an excellent Sunday.

If you’re ever in Berkeley on Sunday, I recommend you swing by the temple and give Thai Brunch a try!

Curries

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