Foodie Tuesday: The Fruits of My Labors

photoWhile my labors will always be limited by my well-known lack of desire to actually work, there are certain things I am very willing to get up off of my well padded posterior and Do, not least of all those food-related efforts which will undoubtedly further contribute to my padding. That’s a fancy way of saying that if there’s food involved and I get to eat some of it, I’m more likely to get up and work.

One of the things I’ve found more inspirational in that sense as I get older is my taste for and appreciation of fruits has both deepened and broadened (hence, in part, my own broadening, if that wasn’t obvious enough already). I like a whole lot of them, in fact, and in a wide number of ways. Probably no coincidence that I keep making accidental puns about size, for if I could really get my hands on all of the fruit I craved, every time I craved it, I would probably be as big as houses even though many fruits are dangerous to weight less by virtue of high calories than by the sugary kind of them. All of this being said, however, I am in no way planning to cut down drastically on my consumption of tasty fruit and fruit-filled foods voluntarily. When they’re ripe and juicy, they’re just so irresistible. To wit, one could make, with little effort, a:

Fruity MoussephotoIngredients (this time): pureed fresh strawberries, ripe banana, and pears (peeled ripe or canned in fruit juice); a pinch of salt, a splash each of rosewater, lemon juice, and vanilla, and whipped heavy cream, all to taste. Combine and blend them thoroughly. Thicken a bit more if/as needed by adding a little bloomed unflavored gelatin or agar agar, or a spoonful of minute tapioca, and chill thoroughly until the mousse sets up. I garnished mine with a pinch of pink peppercorns and a few slices of fresh pear.

This sprightly mash-up makes a decent dessert, to be sure, but if like me you’re not about to limit your fruit intake to avoid the high carb and sugar-calorie quantities therein, it also makes a dandy breakfast. Very refreshing, my dears! Well worth putting a lazybones to the tiny bit of necessary effort indeed.photo

Foodie Tuesday: In Which I Give Myself the Raspberry

 

photoFor those of you not familiar with the colloquial phrase ‘giving the raspberry’, let me clarify that in this instance of usage it means that I am placing my tongue between my lips and phonating a prolonged rude, snort-y sound, something like PLPLPLPLPLPL, whilst gazing upon my own absurdity in the mirror. Because today I pushed the ‘Publish’ button at just the wrong moment as I went through my digital file of written posts and, instead of putting up my usual Foodie Tuesday item, managed to poke that don’t-touch-it’s-dangerous red button belonging to the cyber equivalent of the Eject switch on my little laptop fighter jet.

Oops.

Needless to say, my interest in food has not flagged, nor has my penchant for posting about it ebbed. So tomorrow I’ll fill you in on a more palatable form of raspberries (and other berries), because they do deserve their recognition, even though their season is quickly ending even here in warmer climes. Hang on to your spoons, my friends, and I’ll give you the raspberry tomorrow. Wink, wink.

 

Foodie Tuesday: I Travel on My Stomach

photoYes, I travel tummy-forward. But then, you knew that, didn’t you. Of course food is the center of my travel adventures. It’s pretty much the center of my daily life, as you have seen. So one of the central joys of going on any expedition is guaranteed to be eating related. I am somewhat inclined to plan any trip around the potential dining and snacking involved in the destination of choice. The choice of destination, if I have any, is certainly influenced as well by the quantity and quality of delicious items available in said locale.

photoAs it happens, the point of this journey was determined in advance by the lovely necessity of the Berkeley Early Music Festival and Collegium‘s participation there. It was mere marvelous luck that sent us off to Berkeley, and San Francisco was of course a truly logical pit stop on the way to see our family up north, then, no? As it happens, there’s no end to the glorious eating and drinking you can do in the magnificent Golden Gate city. There are the icons of foodie worship all around that range from the Buena Vista, where Irish Coffee is purported to have been born (and is aging very gracefully indeed, I can tell you) and the venerable eateries of Fisherman’s Wharf (yes, we did pop in to Alioto’s last night and the Dungeness crab Louie was loaded with sweet crustacean dreaminess) to a nearly endless parade of newer delicacies and delicatessens.

photophotoOne thing that could hardly steer you wrong on any expedition, from road trip to round-the-world, is keeping a sharp lookout for good food and drink at every turn. The most logical place to start is any farmer’s market, food hall, CSA, allotment or other magnificent foodie emporium. Say, perhaps, the Ferry Terminal, where just by crossing the cable car line at the Embarcadero you enter into a haven of artisanal glories that will transport you to another plane. There are charcuteries boasting all sorts of exquisite hand-crafted organic meat treats, a creamery or two filled with cheeses ranging from creamy goat cheese or a fromage triple-crème smoothness to the wildest of the contemporary cultured creations and back again to the most scintillating classics like the weirdly beautiful Mimolette (not, as it appears, an alien cantaloupe but a deep orange hearted beauty of a nutty salty cheese) and of course the most glamorous hunks of lovingly aged Parmigiano-Reggiano looking ever so much like a cheesy lunar landscape inviting exploration by hungry adventurers.photoThere are the vegetable stands full of produce and forage unspeakably pristine and desirable in its purity and freshness. Sea beans, anyone? Mushrooms picked from their carefully hidden home turf this morning? Artichokes still small and tender and almost as delicate as to be able to self-destruct in a puff of fairy sparkles? Oh, my darlings, you can see that I’m bound to instantaneous loss of–well, okay, I would lose my composure and maturity if I had any to start. When I get around this stuff it just happens. And I think you do know what I mean. Be nice.photoMeanwhile, I shall be dashing hither and yon to hunt along those pretty, pretty piers of San Francisco, where the fishermen bring in their catch of the moment, just to see what tempts my hungry soul. I love fish. I love shrimp, prawns, scallops, calamari, all sorts of goodies. But what I’m most often and most likely to want any time I can possibly get hold of it is fresh, sweet, insanely delicious Dungeness crab. I will certainly eat it as many times as I get the chance on this visit to the coast. I had it at both lunch and dinner yesterday and it was barely enough to whet my appetite further. Don’t get me wrong: the crab Louis was excellent and the macaroni and cheese with D-crab in it was a dish of smooth, melting yumminess. But life is short and Dungeness far, far away from Texan turf, so I’ve a great need to fill up my innards with as much of this joy-inducing treat as I possibly can. So much work to do. I’ll get back to you later on this.photoWhat are you waiting for? You should be rushing out in search of, at the very least, a good grocery store or picnic ice chest. Get yourself moving. There’s very little time until the next meal, and who knows when it’ll be the last one, really? Hungry, I tell you, hungry and sure that time is seldom better spent in pursuit of grand food and drink than in nearly any other work known to humankind. Be reasonable. It would be quite a pity to let any such fine things go unappreciated, now wouldn’t it.photophoto

We All Love Woobibe

photoChildren pretty much love food and love to eat. Grownups are great at over-thinking them out of it: ‘Ooh, that’s too peppery, you won’t like it, Jimmy!’ ‘Oh, no, Suzie can’t have oysters; they’re too strange for a four-year-old’s taste!’ ‘I’m pretty sure Elmo is allergic to that stuff, ’cause he made a face when he tasted it the first time, so we’ll be sure to keep him safely away from it!’ Not to mention, ‘Are you kidding, let that six year old have truffles shaved onto her pasta???’ And then we wonder why “kids are such picky eaters”. Duhhh.SilverpointThe natural curiosity and openness of children should be encouraged (okay, up to a point, Lord Copper), and the people I’ve known with Good Eaters in the family simply tended to let nature take its course and give their kids whatever opportunity and exposure they could. Setting an example goes so much further than any amount of teaching and preaching. That goes not just for eating but for learning about all aspects of food, from its historic and cultural origins to how it’s raised and prepared, and how the young’uns themselves can participate in the process. The more the exposure is filled with fun and delight, the better the odds for success.

That’s how one of our nephews discovered when he was quite little that he loved the taste of that marvelous vegetable with the poisonous leaves whose super-acidic stalks have been used raw in traditional Chinese pharmacology as a laxative: rhubarb. Fortunately our nephew was, as were most of us, introduced to rhubarb, or “woobibe,” as he called it, not in its medicinal form but in its delectable sweetened-and-cooked form that tames its acid, and so fell immediately in love with the changeling vege-fruit. He admired it so much that he got his grandmother to get him started cultivating the stuff, which he still does, happily. [Yes, that’s some of his beautiful rhubarb below.]photoIt just so happens that I’m a big ol’ fan of rhubarb too. I adore it in sauce, pie, jam, tapioca pudding, chutney, and roasted and candied and simmered, and-and-and. But then, I grew up surrounded by not only good cooks but very much in the midst of people who respected and enjoyed and gave thought to and were grateful for their food. All of which made me the fan-girl I generally am in my medium-old age. Happy places to be, both the medium-old age and the fandom.SilverpointYou up-and-comers, middle-agers and glorious geezers all–and of course I consider myself to be each and every one of those as well, depending upon the moment–I bid you to take such comestible comeliness as the magnificent rhubarb, the sizzling hot pepper or the tantalizing truffle with all of the seriousness and happy enthusiasm they deserve. Especially when the kids are watching.

Rhubarb-Beetroot Chutney [Not bad at all as a relish for nice fat stuff like a scrumptious grilled cheese sandwich or a hunk of juicy grilled salmon or buttery seared lamb chops.]

Combine approximately equal amounts of peeled and cubed fresh beets,  1″-cut fresh rhubarb pieces, and sugar with just enough water to start the sugar melting a little, plus a couple of whole cloves and a cinnamon stick and a tiny pinch of salt. Bring it all up gradually to a simmer and then let it cook gently over low to moderate heat for a nice long time until it melts and thickens together. Pull out the cloves and cinnamon stick, and puree all the goodness into a nice mash. Keep cooking if it isn’t jammy enough. Adjust to your own exquisitely fine-tuned personal taste and enjoy.

Now, please don’t fuss with this “recipe” any more than absolutely necessary; only if it’s really rather easy and fun to make does it taste appropriately yummy. Extra bonus points if you bring a nice small person or two along for the preparation and savoring, because you will have a happy fellow diner for life. You’re welcome.