Well, well, what have we here? Clockwise from top left we have: chard, kale, lettuce, beets, parsley (I took an orphan, too,) baby bok choy, kuri squash, apples, carrots, radicchio, tomatoes, and cabbage.

As well as an indifferent blogger, I’ve been an indifferent home cook lately, so I had to get rid of some sad old greens to fit this stuff into my fridge. I kept the chard and beets because Poto asked for them, so I hope to unload them by the weekend. I will definitely be serving roasted carrots for Thanksgiving, and I’ll bring an apple pie to the Thanksgiving warm-up I’m invited to on Saturday. The parsley I plan to chop up as part of something like a mirepoix and freeze. The radicchio is still destined for the grill, but may go from there into a risotto. I had some yummy coleslaw for lunch that put me in the mood to make some of my own, and I will stir-fry the bok choi and attempt to Eat More Salad. And make some pasta sauce to freeze, too.

Tonight I’m off to a meeting of the Community Advisory Group for the Water Pollution Control Plant, starting another week off on the wrong foot by not cooking. I’ll have to plan carefully for Sunday morning, maximizing the produce I use for the workday lunch.

Alviso gets what it wants

Yesterday, the SCVWD Board voted 7-0 to approve the Alviso Slough “Restoration” Project, as Paul Rogers reports in the Merc. (The Board meeting itself was interrupted by a visit from Governor Schwarzenegger, who chose SCVWD headquarters as the backdrop for signing the water conservation bill.)

I haven’t got a lot to say, other than I’m disappointed, but not surprised.

Pumpkin Gnocchi, untasted

I wake up on Sunday mornings wondering what I’m going to cook at the farm workday. Today I wanted to use pumpkin, and after contemplating the lack of an oven, decided on pumpkin gnocchi.

I brought flour, butter and an egg, plus bought a cheap saute pan on the way to the farm.

Angela was dividing a large clump of sage, and salvaged some broken branches for me. When I found the other squash under the stairs, I sliced them up and steamed them.

While they were steaming, I helped break apart the plants in the giant pile to ready them for the compost heap. Union rules in San José prevent us from using power tools at the park, so we have to wrench stems apart by hand before we put them in compost piles. Todd says our piles are always on the verge of dying, but he somehow nurses them along.

And then I stopped taking photos. But I’ll tell you what came next. When the squash was tender, Bethany and I scraped the flesh out of the skins, then mixed it with flour and an egg. When it was of the right consistency to be rolled out into snakes, we did so. In between helping sift compost and talking to Amie about winning the Patagonia $2500 prize (yay!) I melted a stick of butter and let it brown with the sage leaves (for the sauce,) then cut the snakes into gnocchi and dropped them in the almost-boiling water.

And then I had to rush home. I hope the whole thing turned out OK.

Before I left, Pete told me that he never feels that the work he does during the work daty is sufficient recompense for the food we make, but I replied that I never feel as though getting to cook with fresh ingredients for a large crowd that is so appreciative of what I do is working as hard as everyone else. So it’s all down to what you like to do, I guess.


Another rainbow assortment today:

I’ll admit right off that I left a bunch of chard in exchange for the radicchio and an extra cabbage, and I would have left the beets if I had unearthed them. I have a lot of roasted beets already.

Clockwise from the bottom we have: carrots, potatoes, eggs, apples, beets, lettuce, baby bok choy, scallions, basil, collards, cabbage, radicchio and eggplant. The scallions say stir fry to me, maybe even eggplant with garlic sauce, although I’m also partial to spaghetti alla Norma. The basil is so beautiful that it’s a shame I’m going out tonight; I never have much luck keeping it nice. And I’ll grill the radicchio while I still can. We’ll see about everything else.

This time of year, I become a dried persimmon evangelist. If persimmons come up in casual conversation or (more likely) in email exchanges in our neighborhood mailing list, I pipe up with my plea that people try dehydrating Hachiya persimmons. These aren’t the cute, squat Fuyus that you see in salads, if you’re lucky, and which you can eat as soon as they turn orange. These are the pointy ones that are inedible raw until they reach the consistency of a water balloon, although much less durable. And they must be picked off the tree unripe (although still a vibrant orange) so you have to keep them around the house while they ripen. They’re pretty, but oh so fragile, and they seem to mold in an instant if their skins break at all.

Of course, that’s an entirely necessary step if you’re going to bake with them, or use them in my favorite holiday dessert, steamed persimmon pudding. But when life gives your persimmons, it’s nice to have something to do with them right away.

Enter the magic of dehydration. If you’ve never experienced a Hachiya persimmon before, you may wonder why it’s necessary to let them get gloopy, when the lovely Fuyu can be eaten out of hand. That’s because unripe Hachiyas are full of mouth puckering tannins. Bite into one all unaware, and it will take hours for your mouth to get back to normal. But dehydrating unripe Hachiya persimmons magically neutralizes these tannins, leaving a nice dried fruit somewhat similar to a dried apricot.

I core and peel the firm fruit and slice them about 1/2 inch thick, then dry in my dehydrator at 135 degrees F for at least 24 hours. The ones pictured above were dried for 36 hours (because I forgot to unplug the dehydrator last night) and are quite firm, but not brittle. I still keep them in the fridge, so they don’t mold, but at Christmas time they vanish.

Any breaks in the skin of an unripe Hachiya condemns it to moldy waste; dehydration is a good way to salvage broken fruit. Since persimmon season is upon us, the dehydrator will be running for the next couple months.

Día de los muertos

Despite the extra hour vouchsafed unto me by the federal government, I dragged my sorry self to the farm an hour late this morning. I stopped at Mi Pueblo at the corner to pick up queso fresco, salsa, pan de muertos y masa harina and we made veggie fajitas (“no meat-ahs”) with fresh tortillas. Corn tortillas are one of those foods where the freshly made version is so much better than a boughten one that they might as well be different foodstuffs. Lisa channeled her abuelita and patted out perfectly thin, round tortillas, which she cooked on our nonstick griddle that wasn’t a comal, but played one on TV today. Then when she was done, and the griddle was hot, oh my, I fried sliced red onions and sweet peppers very quickly. We ate them with salsa, both from the store and made from our tomatoes, along with the good bread, cheese, jam and salami that Todd brings every week. Then we sat around in a stupor until we could get up the strength to clean up.

Here’s a photo of the fajitas, after we ate as much as we could hold.

and here’s a photo of peacocks in the parking lot. Can you find four of them in this picture?

If you read this blog and sometimes come to the farm, or ever even think about it at all, I encourage you to show up of a Sunday. We have so much food lately; we need more people to help us eat lunch. Todd made apple crisp, too.

I came home and used my Italian seeder-skinner (for what is positively the last time) on tomatoes I brought from the farm. The extracted pulp is cooking in a slow oven for what I hope will be something like Hank Shaw’s preserved tomatoes, but which I’m afraid will only approach it in the way that stale tortillas from Safeway resemble the ones Lisa made by hand this morning.

But I’m buying a chinoise now; I’m sick of that stupid machine.

Eco Farm

I just registered for the 30th annual Ecological Farming Association Conference, which will be Wednesday, January 20 – Saturday, January 23, 2010 at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove. I attended EcoFarm in 2008, when I had decided that I wanted to get involved in local, sustainable food systems, but didn’t know how to connect with like-minded people beyond reading lots of blogs. It was a very interesting experience; it rained non-stop, the Santa Lucia Mountains above Big Sur (where we went on a school gardens tour) were actually dusted with snow, I had a creepy roommate who invited some other woman in to sleep in her bed without telling me, and, of course, I didn’t know anyone (except Debbie and Tom from Live Earth Farm.)

But I met lots of very interesting people, and the talks, though of varying quality, were inspiring and fascinating. I saw the movie King Corn and heard Eric Schlosser give a very impassioned speech. The food was delicious, and Asilomar is a gorgeous facility.

I’ll be going with folks from Veggielution, and I hope we’ll learn a lot that will help us on the farm (Mark is very excited about the pest control talks) and that we’ll make good connections with the people around the Bay who are doing what we’re doing. As Winnie the Pooh says, “It’s so much more friendly with two,” or five or six, as the case may be.

Your tax dollars at work

So I got a little pink slip in my mailbox yesterday, because I wasn’t home to sign for a certified letter. I schlepped down to the Post Office to pick it up, and I was surprised to see that it was a package from the Santa Clara Valley Water District. For me!

I open it up, and it’s the Response to Comments for the Final Environmental Impact Report of the Alviso Slough Restoration Project. It’s 190 pages long, with a color cover.


Did I comment on this project? Why yes, I did, back in July of last year.

Short and to the point. Of course, is it going to do any good?

Who knows? But this isn’t the outrageous thing. Remember that this was sent certified. Go back and click on the first image and see the postmark. The District spent $10.05 to send this thing to me, and every other person who commented. And how much did it cost to print them? Haven’t these people heard of PDFs and email? I am flabbergasted at this profligacy with public money.


Clockwise from bottom left: peppers, carrots, kale, lettuce, parsley, nappa cabbage, tomatoes and chilis, onions, eggs, and red kuri squash, apples and eggplant in the mush pot.

I feel compelled to admit that I left chard, beets and another head of lettuce behind, but took an extra nappa cabbage. I sauteed a head of nappa cabbage last night in butter, then stirred in a bit of sour cream at the end and ate the whole thing for dinner. It was yummy.

I also preserved some quince earlier this week (sans photos.) It was a recipe form the Joy of Cooking that was obviously an old one; it had me “pare” the quince (I peeled it, but discarded the cores, since they were all riddled with insects) then boil the parings with a lemon and an orange and strain out the (pectin-rich) liquid. Then I sliced the rest of the quince and cooked it in the liquid with an equal weight of sugar until tender, then strained those slices out of the syrup and boiled the syrup down to pour over the cooked slices. No added pectin, because quince has so very much of it. I was a bit disappointed that I achieved neither the beautiful rose color nor the incomparable floral aroma I remember from previous experiences, but then today I saw a very timely article in the LA Times that told me I need to have tree-ripened fruit for those things. I picked these quince at Amie’s house about a month ago; the were falling off the tree, but still green. Next time, I’ll wait a bit.

Racking my crush

You may recall that I took home some crushed grapes from Calistoga, lo these may weeks ago. I had been keeping half an eye on them, sitting in their bucket in my back porch. I would punch the must back down into the juice, smelling a faint whiff of fermentation. But there was no furious activity, no foaming and overflowing. Probably a good thing, considering how busy I was with the dinner, but I finally got concerned enough to ask Poto who, even if he hasn’t made grape wine, is the closest thing to an expert among my acquaintance. He suggested that, since I hadn’t bothered to measure the potential alcohol level before starting anything, I just taste the juice to see whether it was still sweet. I’ll admit that I had been harboring secret fears that I was going to be giving lots of homemade vinegar out at Christmas, but there was no acetic taint. It tasted, in fact, like wine, although a rather harsh one.

So I racked it off into a carboy. First I had to extract the giant bag of skins and stems.

The bucket holds seven gallons, and I had significantly less than five gallons of juice left.

(It looks like even less in that photo, but the bucket was more than half full.) I sterilized the carboy and the tube with my Campden solution, then siphoned the juice off of the sediment.

Siphoning always seems like magic to me.

The carboy wasn’t full

so I topped it off with water (which will make for a lighter wine, which is OK with me) and put the whole thing into the dark coolness of my basement vestibule, with the nifty airlock bung to protect it.

Now we wait for a while, and hope.

You’ll have to trust me on this one

At today’s workday, I separated heads of garlic into cloves, planted same, cooked a dish of cauliflower, broccoli, broken spaghetti and black beans, ate same, along with Todd’s bread, cheese, chicken, carrots, rice, ice cream and brownies. But I didn’t manage to take any photographs

The east plot has been cleared away, there are baby carrots, turnips and bok choy under floating row covers in the original plot, and people were clearing out stakes from the acre. We had a good number of volunteers today, and it’s always satisfying to ring in the changing seasons, clearing out the old and putting in the new.

Working to build a local, sustainable food system in San José