Eat In, Act Out

This coming week, July 29 through August 5, is Eat In, Act Out week, organized by San Diego Food Not Lawns. Here’s what they have to say about the event.

San Diego has the second-highest number of small farms in the entire US and yet, very little local produce is used in our restaurants or sold in our markets. Instead, our produce is shipped away, while the average store-bought fruit or vegetable has traveled over 1500 miles to our plate!

During this week of action, people across the country are choosing to eat locally and think critically about their food choices. “Eat in” refers to using local food, cooking food yourself instead of eating fast food, and “Act Out” means speaking up and taking action to change our food system and promote local food!

They have lots of activities planned, including a canning workshop and an edible bicycle tour of City Heights. For more information and the complete schedule check out the flyer or visit the Food Not Lawns website.

The temple explodes the chicken cube

My friend Jason just got back from a few weeks in China. He was there for a conference, and wandering the streets he saw lots and lots of signs like this one.

Food?

Now, I know what dumpling, fried rice, and fried noodles are. But can anybody make any sense out of these other ones? Fragrant and hot soil bean silk? Anyone? Wheat Joss-stick Cow Willow? My absolute favorite is “The temple explodes the chicken cube.” Jason said he would have walked in and ordered that one just to see what it was, but he was scared off by the fact that the sign also advertised that they served dog meat. Oooh goodness!

So it grows

Hey guess what I figured out. You’re not going to believe it, but it’s true: If you put plants into dirt and water them, they grow! Amazing, isn’t it? How they do it, I’ll never know. I mean, come on, let’s see you turn sunlight and water into green stuff that you can physically touch. And eat. It’s incredible. Plants are a-ma-zing.

No?

Well they are to me. See, when I was a girl, I had a horse, not a garden. Sure, there was that one summer when my dad rented a 6 foot roto-tiller for the tractor and drug it along behind the fruit trees to prepare the soil for a vegetable garden. Zucchini PlantAnd sure, I helped plant and harvest some vegetables. But really, the only things I remember from that time are some monster zucchini and a load of snake eggs unearthed whilst digging. Before a few weeks ago, I couldn’t tell a zucchini plant from a pepper plant, but now I’ve got both growing in my little garden plot. And let me tell you, zucchini is one beast of a plant. That sucker grew from the size of a softball to damn near three feet across in less than three weeks. It’s already flowering like mad and has apparently already had zucchini sex with itself, because it’s got four little baby zucchini. I mean, I knew this would happen at some point, but, gosh, they grow up so quickly!

About three weeks ago, I figured out that my graduate student housing complex has community garden plots. (!!) I emailed the powers that be and secured myself one. The next few days were spent doing the backbreaking labor of preparing the soil (by hand, alone) and that is some serious work. Especially with the heavy clay soil we have here. I can ride my bicycle for miles and miles, but I certainly discovered some muscles I didn’t know I had the day after I dug the garden. My Community GardenDid you know that you have little muscles connecting your shoulders to your chest? And apparently they are used when one digs. Good to know.

I’d been making a feeble attempt at growing tomatoes in containers on my patio, but the poor things were so sad. Just barely hanging on to life, getting all leggy in their quest for sunlight. The amazing thing is that they have managed to produce quite a good amount of tomatoes, considering their meager look, but they just weren’t happy. My dad helped me drag the two 300 lb tubs over to the garden area, where they’ll get more sunlight, so hopefully they’ll rebound from their sad state. In the meantime, the six plants that I have in my plot are absolutely thriving. Though they were planted late (July 3), San Diego has a warm fall, so hopefully I’ll be eating homegrown tomatoes through Thanksgiving and maybe even longer. *crosses fingers*

My Garden Plot

Left row, back to front: Burpless Cucumber, Zucchini, Red Bell Pepper, Red Bell Pepper, Chocolate Bell Pepper, Yellow Bell Pepper

Right row, back to front: Box Car Willie, Brandywine, Black Krim, Green Zebra, Tigerella, Tigerella (all tomatoes)

For now, I’ll just sit here and watch my garden grow.

Summer in a bowl

You know those magical recipes that come together effortlessly and completely capture the essence of good eating? This is one of those. Bookmark this now and make it tonight. I’m not kidding. You can thank me later. The recipe couldn’t be simpler: coarsely chop tomatoes, peaches, shallot, and tarragon. Blend with a splash of white wine vinegar, a glug of olive oil, a few ice cubes, and a dash of salt and pepper. Strain and chill. Make an extremely simple peach and tomato salsa to top it with, and done. It’s that easy. And you’ll feel like you’re eating at Chez Panisse.

Ingredients

This soup is Summer through and through. Cool and refreshing and highlighting some of my favorite summer produce, I could eat it all day long. I’m sad that I hadn’t discovered it in September of 2005, when Gourmet first printed the recipe. Peach and Tomato GazpachoThat’s nearly two seasons of peaches and tomatoes that could have become this amazing soup! Well, I guess I’ll just have to make up for lost time. You can bet what I’m serving Henning for his first meal back here in San Diego. Yep. 100%.

While my mother and I were making this soup, we had to really restrain ourselves from taste testing it too much. I swear, we probably could have finished the whole batch right there, spooning from the food processor. Oh yes, and we certainly did not “discard” the solids after straining. They went straight into our bellies, a little snack for the chefs. Who could throw such amazing flavors into the trash? So what if they’ve a few seeds and skin bits. After straining, however, the soup takes on a wonderfully silken texture, and when topped with the salsa, it’s downright heavenly. When you get a little chunk of peach in your spoon, the sweetness of the peach harmonizes with the slightly acidic soup so perfectly, my goodness. Mmm. And the light anise scent from the tarragon; it’s just plain spectacular.

(..the recipe)

Feelin’ Blue

I WENT BLUEBERRY PICKING, AND YOU SHOULD TOO!

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Ok, sorry, let me try again, but with a wee bit less enthusiasm. You need to drive about 20 miles north of Chapel Hill, 10 miles past Hillsborough on the incredibly scenic old 86, where there are several pick-yer-own blueberry patches (or find a patch near you). You’ll see colorful sandwich boards announcing their presence, and your excitement will grow as you rumble down the short gravel drive. IMG_0390 IMG_0383 You’ll see hand-painted signs welcoming you, telling you to take your time and enjoy yourself, and just drop your money in the box on your way out. You can grab a bucket and saunter out to the rows and rows of blueberry bushes. Try to be clever and go as far from the parking as you can, there will surely be more blueberries on those bushes. Listen to the chatter of families who have met here for an annual outing, bringing young children whose only interest is to eat the blueberries right out of the bucket. Crouch and look up at the bushes from below, it’s easier to see the blue bundles of joy hiding under the leaves. Be careful – there are some thistles growing there amongst the blueberries (but you should look for a ripe blackberry as long as you’re there). It’ll be incredibly satisfying for you; standing alone, silent, you’ll feel profoundly relaxed, but will have a material reward at the end of the day. The little berry’s potential will run through your mind as you mentally scan your cookbooks for recipes to use up your prize.

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After an hour and a half you’ll have about 3 pounds of blueberries. Pour them into a plastic bag, drop your $6 in the box and scoot home. You immediately whip up the most promising blueberry muffin recipe, but that only uses up a cup and a half of your sack of berries. You’ll search the internet and find a blueberry sorbet recipe. Someone has left a comment about adding basil, and you think that sounds fantastic. You’ll be right. The basil gives the sorbet an ethereal, anise-y flavor that leaves people wondering.

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You’ll have almost finished the three pounds of blueberries, and swear you’ll go back next weekend for more.

(..the recipe)