Tuesday, April 21, 2009

early birds

Early arrivals to a party can be tricky. What do you do with them when they appear at your door, carrying a bottle of wine, an hour early? If you're like me, you put them to work, peeling, chopping, or some other last minute task. When we're talking about fruit after the long hiatus of winter, you welcome your guest with open arms. Don't get me wrong; rhubarb has its complications. The long, red stalks remind you of celery, but it is usually treated like a member of the fruit family. It's bitter, but that makes it a handy compliment to sweeter food. And when it shows up at the farmers market in early spring after the cold winter months, I put it to work. Like in this strawberry rhubarb crisp recipe. As long as it lasts, it's a very good guest at the table.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
3 cups strawberries, chopped
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
Mix the strawberries, rhubarb and honey together and place in an 8x8 inch ungreased pan. Mix the other ingredients until crumbly and spread it over the fruit mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Serve with vanilla icecream or yogurt.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

eating tradition

I love trying new recipes. But somehow, whenever a holiday rolls around, I crave the food that we made when I was growing up. Traditions are powerful, especially when it comes to food. It's one of the connections to childhood; the familiar things from the past create comfort in the present. Usually around the Easter season, I break out this salad, and serve it as a side dish throughout the spring and summer.

Pea Salad
4-6 cups greens, rinsed and chopped (I used a mix of red leaf lettuce and romaine)
1 small onion, chopped, or a bunch of scallions
2 cups cooked peas
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 ounces cheese, cut into small blocks
2 teaspoons sugar
Place half the greens, onions, peas and cheese in a large bowl. Sprinkle with sugar and 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise. Repeat the layer, then cover and chill for two hours. Toss before serving.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bread Country

I have always been a fan of home made bread. Toasted, slathered with butter and jam -- it just doesn't get any better. Or so I thought until I tasted the bread from the Downtown Bakery and Creamery in Healdsburg, CA. I ripped off a piece of the loaf that I bought, and thought,"this could be dangerous." We ate it so fast I didn't have time to photograph it. The doughy texture, combined with the exact amount of crunchy crust made me want to work at the bakery just so I could eat it for free. As I licked the last crumbs from my fingers, I thought that this region of CA might just have to change its name.

I read an article that referred to the town of Healdsburg as "the Tuscany of California", so of course we had to see for ourselves. I have not yet traveled to Tuscany, but this part of the state is truly beautiful. Row upon row of tidy grapevines cover the green (at least during the rainy season), rolling hills. And the wineries are in abudance, up and down the Russian River Valley. We made many stops, tasting different varieties. It is amazing how different wines taste, depending on where the grapes are grown, the type of soil, how much sun they receive, and the types of barrels used.

We finally turned homeward, already missing the landscape and wine. Life is good in bread country.