Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Inspiration for Christmas dinner...

I braved the cold and took the mysterious #9 to pick up a mystery box of veggies outside of Slow Club last night. You hand over $25 dollars in cash and get over 10 pounds of the best the season has to offer from Mariquita Farm. My favorites are their orange cauliflowers...I've never eaten such goodness. The perfect inspiration for my orphan Christmas feast! See more of what we got here.

Photo from Mariquita Farms

I'm still dreaming up ideas for the vegetarian contribution to dinner--lentils and vegetables in a red wine reduction? Something with arugula pesto? Fried polenta with a mushroom infused tomato sauce (I'll try pulling out some of the sauce Edna, Tanya, and I made and froze this summer)?

More photos of the cooking and feasting to's gonna be good.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting past that sushi craving...

Sushi is a new thing for me. It started the winter of 2006—I had my first taste of amazing sushi at a little spot on College in Berkeley. Before that moment I didn't know that I would ever crave nigiri or that I would have so much fun actually handling raw fish making homemade rolls with friends.

But I work day in and day out with people trying to save our declining fisheries—the more I learn, the more I realize how difficult it is to eat fish smart. I was on the fence, until I read this article.

I'm about two months into my no fish diet (with admittedly one slip up…couldn't pass up that seared ahi noodle dish at Pomelo) my sushi craving is coming back. Luckily this article from the New York Times about the decline in local fish even at Bay Area locavore havens like Chez Panisse, was a good reminder to take stock:

“We can no longer treat the ocean and its fish and wildlife as an all-you-can eat buffet,” said Kaitilin Gaffney, the Pacific ecosystem program director for the Ocean Conservancy. “But the ocean is pretty resilient. If we allow nature to restore herself, she will.”

There's definitely a way to eat fish sustainably—if you ask the right questions—but for now, I've decided I want to leave all the questions at the door and just focus on deliciously seasonal, local veggie meals.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Awesome Farmers comes to a close & the best thank you gifts ever.

Last Saturday, under dark and stormy clouds, the Awesome Farmers crew harvested the last veggie box for 2009 at Garden for the Environment. Loads of greens, from arugula to dino kale, herbs, and snap peas among other goodies made it through last week's unusual frost to become the basis for a weekly family meal for G house, a youth homeless shelter.

Over the past year, the Awesome Farmers came together to see how many veggies we could really grow in our foggy, sandy spot at Garden for the Environment. A garden so close to Ocean Beach you can see it on a clear day from under the cypress tree. Our group was one of changing faces from the random volunteers who showed up on a Saturday looking to get into the dirt, to a core group of a handful of volunteers and the staff of GFE.

Planting calendars and garden maps were made. Seeds were purchased and started in the greenhouse. The soil was amended and tended. Plants were nurtured and loved. We watched diseases and pests descend and we battled them without the use of chemicals. We problem solved and documented. On the side, we planted fruit trees and tackled sprawling aloe plants, felled dying trees, revived worm bins, turned-chopped-and-watered compost, and rebuilt fences. We shared stories over Arizmendi pizza lunches on sun soaked Saturdays. We huddled in the crumbling greenhouse over hot coffee when the storm clouds rolled in. And it was good.

When we were faced with ultimate success--an overflow of harvest (in particular, a hill covered in summer squashes) we needed to find somewhere for all this food to go. We found out that G house could use our bounty. So, each week we lovingly packaged up a CSA box for them and took more photos than the paparazzi we were so proud. Food Runners solved our distribution problem and a new project was born.

Some weeks the box was light--some mornings as I did my initial walk through the garden I had no idea if we would be able to fill the box. But every week we made a beautiful box--a box tended by so many hands and hearts there are too many to count. That's the beauty of a garden tended by volunteers from all over the Bay Area.

Thank you to the hard core crew Dave (for your vision, heart and wicked mapping/ documentation skills), Thomas (for your tool cleaning, harvesting, good talks, and sheer brawn), Paul (for your inspired plantings, worm compost tea, and unparalleled slug sighting abilities), Blair (for your gorgeous photos, love of answering any bug question, and your excitement over every box) Hillary (for endless good advice, passing along latin plant names, and for pushing us one step farther), Nicole (for your inspired squash hill, compost workouts and mad plant propagation skillz), Suzi (for your guidance, support, diligence and sunshine!) and to so many other GCETP grads and volunteers who lent a hand.

Watch out--I'm an urban farmer!

Beginning in 2010, I'll be able to sleep in on Saturday mornings, just a little bit...because new Gardening and Compost Educator graduates are taking over this great project. I look forward to more garden adventures. But, now I'll be armed with my buttery Felco pruners--gotta break in that holster baby! THANK YOU!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Revelation: Hash brown sandwiches!

Why did it take me so long to go to Art's Cafe for breakfast? It's just a few short blocks away from my front door. Was it that the Koren BBQ sign frightened my vegetarian sensitivities? Was it that I couldn't fathom that a breakfast for $5 could be any good?

Well, I ducked in from the rain, squeezed into a seat along the counter and came upon a revelation. A veggie hash brown sandwich: mushrooms, spinach, onions, bell peppers cheese and Korean barbecue sauce wrapped in a hash brown pancake with two eggs (over easy) and toast. Plus coffee & a tip = $8. Damn, it was good. Not to mention the conversation with the regulars, the watching them cook it all up on the grill just two feet in front of me and the post cards sent from every part of the globe blanketing the counter top.

I'm going back next week for their specialty Tofu Bi Bim Bop topped with a fried egg!

Friday, December 11, 2009

To become a veggie gardener and holiday gift ideas

A friend of mine asked what to get an aspiring veggie gardener for the holidays. Here's my short list...

First you need books for knowledge and inspiration:
Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. otherwise known as my bible. Then see if there's any gardening books for where the budding gardener lives--the bay area is blessed with the tome Golden Gate Gardening Both This Organic Life and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle are books that will inspire garden and kitchen adventures. And Edible Estates is good for inspiration on radical garden design.

Then you need compost...
websites and classes are good for learning how to make your own black gold, for the uber technical Rodale's book of composting is ridiculously exhaustive but good.

Then you need good seeds:
Get some good heritage, organic seeds here Seed Savers Exchange -- I got to spend a few days at the Seed Savers Heritage Farm and it is the most magical place! But also look for local, organic seed companies in your region--they'll have the best stuff for your particular climate.

And finally, here's the essential gardening equipment--I'm still pining for Felco pruners with these radical little holsters that become this beautiful worn leather over time...sigh.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Vegetarian restaurant love...

I celebrated a pilgrimage to Oakland today with a stop at one of my favorite vegetarian spots in the Bay - Golden Lotus. I want to try everything on the menu. But since it was freezing cold I had the Veggie Chowfun soup with a surprise of three different kinds of veggie-meat deliciousness in addition to veggies and noodles. Yum.

And I'm looking forward to checking out this brand spankin new vegan taqueria with a bias for all things local in the Mission. I know...vegan taqueria? My interested is peaked.