Saturday, February 28, 2009
I just got back from the Laurel Farmers Market.
The take, all organic: rainbow chard ($1.50 a bunch) broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes ($1 each) potatoes (3 for $1), kale, honey and organic eggs ($5 a dozen). I had to read the honey labels carefully for the local California stuff - some of it was from Brazil.
For lunch we had steam-sauteed chard with garlic and lemon juice; leftover lentil soup.
Stay tuned for Moroccan and Middle Eastern recipes for our seasonal greens. I want to try cauliflower with tahini/garlic sauce. Also beets with yogurt sauce, and stuffed artichokes.
The dry goods counter is part of the information booth - they're selling dried beans, popcorn, and spices.
Adina Sara, the Imperfect Gardener of the MacArthur Metro newspaper, was buying greens too, and told me she has a memoir coming out this week! Titled, The Imperfect Gardener - life and the garden. I love her column - gardening for those of us who are NOT Martha Stewart.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Sometimes I have walked the four miles there, shopped, and then carried my groceries home on the bus. AC Transit 57 and N will get you back to our neighborhood.
You could take the N to downtown Oakland, get out at Broadway, and walk eleven blocks - the Friday Old Oakland farmer's market has organic foods, Asian produce, bamboo plants, a chicken roasting truck and tamales stand. And before you load up on goodies to take home, walk down the street to the Friends of the Public Library store and get a used book to read over lunch! The 14 bus will get you to 12th and Broadway, leaving from the heart of our neighborhood.
The 54 bus goes to Fruitvale BART, where the Thursday afternoon market has a few stalls; Sunday has been looking pretty sparse these days, but it may get better in the summer. I like to go to the area for the Chavez library branch, tacos, and hand made ice cream in the Fruitvale Public Market. More on this in a separate post.
The 18 bus goes up Park Boulevard to Montclair - I wouldn't call it convenient for a Sunday farmer's market visit, but if you live near the 18, why not? 20 minutes from Park Blvd. and MacArthur up to Medau Place. You won't have to find parking!
Or start your own canning and preserve-making group in your area! I find I am more likely to do something if I have help and a structure - I am just not going to make plum jam this year unless I get people to join me. Turns out a lot of other people in my neighborhood feel the same way.
We're working on a location and date for sauerkraut next; ten people want to do it already so we are hoping we can get a church kitchen.
Meanwhile - I see in the local food magazine, Edible East Bay, that three women have marmalade businesses and are selling the product at thirteen dollars a jar. No wonder everybody wants to learn to make the stuff with foraged fruit!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I needed a decent, vegetable-heavy snack today, with some protein. Little of interest lurked in the fridge: cabbage, carrots, celery, and a large bunch of chard that really needed cooking. The weather is cold and rainy here and I didn't want to eat a raw slaw - I wanted hot food. I was also busy and did not want to prep chard and cook it in laborious stages the way I usually do, carefully cutting out the ribs and sauteeing them first.
Pamela Anderson gives this formula for "Steam/Sauteed Vegetables": prep a pound of veg, add 1/3 cup of water, a tablespoon of fat, salt, and optional aromatics. Bring it all to the boil in a heavy pot (my All-clad big saucepan works fine; she suggests a Dutch oven or heavy skillet with a lid.) Cover and steam over medium-high heat until the vegetable is brightly colored and just tender, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on vegetable size.
Remove the lid and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes longer, adding optional fresh herbs and other flavorings at this point. Saute to intensify flavors, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Adjust seasonings, including pepper to taste, and serve.
I did this with the chard sliced crosswise, not bothering to separate the ribs; minced garlic (3 cloves!) water and lemon juice, olive oil and salt. At the end I added pine nuts (ideally toasted but I hadn't thought ahead - next time). Then I heated a whole-wheat and corn tortilla, piled half the chard on it, and covered with a dollop of plain yogurt.
OMG that was so good and it took so little time. It's Lebanese-style chard because of the flavorings - tastes just like the fillings used in spinach or chard pies. The whole-wheat tortilla is pure California.
I'm choosing "low-glycemic" foods more often now, and working hard to eat more vegetables and less white flour and cheese. When I'm hungry for a snack I pick a protein, veg or fruit, and only whole grains. This "snack" fit the bill. I'm making it again.
Other vegetable ideas in "How To Cook Without a Book": asparagus with garlic, basil and soy; broccoli with garlic and green pepper; green beans with onions and thyme; cabbage with butter and caraway; and carrots with cumin. These are not cordon bleu recipes, granted. However, they create flavor quickly with whole ingredients. This recipe meant I ate hot chard and yogurt on that tortilla instead of melted cheese.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
This afternoon I needed to walk for exercise and my husband needed a break from the kids. Come on guys, I said, let's walk to Loard's and buy ice cream for Daddy's birthday dinner! They scrambled to put on their shoes.
We live about a mile away, since Loard's is technically in the Bret Harte neighborhood. Junior high students from our area walk there daily to the school across the street. In my childhood, everybody above the age of five was expected to walk such distances as a matter of course, to go to school, to visit friends or the library. Now we think it's "too far for the kids," but if we were on a family hike we would expect them to walk two miles. We took side streets, avoiding MacArthur Boulevard almost entirely.
If you're local, you know Loard's. The MacArthur @ Coolidge location is funky, even ratty-looking, and quite bare in decor at this point. But the ice cream... mmmmmm. Some Yelp reviewers claim it's better than Fenton's. I don't know, but it's good.
If you are in Orinda, you can enjoy your ice cream in a more refined atmosphere - the Loard's there has kept its 50s pink-and-white decor spiffy; it's probably what the Oakland location looked like fifty years ago. Whatever. We burned some calories and got some fresh air on our walk, and my kids enjoyed the time with me.
When you walk through the neighborhood you see the flowers in bloom: daffodils, plum and magnolia trees, irises. One neighbor's snow peas are heavy with pods that hang out of the fence over the sidewalk; many neighbors are blessed with abundant orange, lemon and even kumquat trees.
Also, more benefits of walking to the store - we met two children selling candy bars for the Laurel School, and ended up springing for three chocolate bars. I figure the kids deserve some chocolate at the end of such a hike. They each got a square on the walk, a square at home, and we're saving the rest for another day. I'm glad to contribute to the Laurel School's playground equipment fund.
Community happens when you take a walk.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Mark Bittman used to be a far-leftist community organizer. He's a top food writer and personality now, but he still holds onto his communitarian values. This week he cooked with kids at a charity event in New York, and published his recipe for a cassoulet that has less meat, more vegetables, and is good for the planet as well as your purse.
Farmer Joe's carries smoked pork chops sometimes, and always has smoked turkey legs. You could use any sausage in this recipe. Bittman further gives you the option to use cabbage instead of zucchini - a good thing, since cabbage is in season and local.
This recipe is similar to the supper soup I posted yesterday, although mine was more about kale than beans or meat - one starving sausage in the whole pot.
Read the article and consider what you would do if suddenly unemployed. How long would your savings hold out? Storing food you eat anyway, in quantities enough to last you two weeks to a month, is another way to protect yourself against economic trouble.
Our own Fruitvale Presbyterian Church gives away free food as part of the Community Outreach Pantry Emergency (COPE). Second and fourth Saturdays each month, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon.
On the last Thursday of the month, another local church (pardon me about the name, I'll update when I get out there and check) gives away free food from a storefront on 38th Avenue, just in from MacArthur Boulevard.
My child's school is running a "Pennies for Peace" fundraiser to benefit children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. We contributed already but had found more pennies. I am thinking of giving those, the daily change jar, plus the freshly-laundered dollar bills my children leave in their pockets, to either Fruitvale Presbyterian or the Alameda County Food Bank. It's very nice to send pennies to Afghanistan but our neighbors' children are hungry, too.
And remember, what goes around, comes around. Give now if you can spare it. You never know when the empty belly might be your own.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The list made me think of two favorite obsessions: our local produce, and what to keep in the pantry.
Fresh in season right now and available at Farmer Joe's, House of Produce, Food Mill, and the Laurel Farmer's Market:
Beets - lower blood pressure
Cabbage - strong anticancer properties
Pomegranates went out of season a couple of months ago, but the fruits grow locally, and of course you can still buy bottled pomegranate juice. I want to plant a bush in my garden.
Dried plums - if you have a dehydrator, you could harvest plums for free in late June and make your own. Or buy them.
Frozen blueberries - not local at all, but of course Farmer Joe's and Food Mill have them, organic natch.
Pumpkin seeds - available in the Hispanic spices rack as well as in the bulk nuts and seeds departments. Look for pepitas.
Canned goods: Pumpkin and sardines. Don't leave home without 'em! Remember my pumpkin tahini recipe? And there's always pumpkin pie, and pumpkin muffins or pancakes. Pumpkin soup! I also like sardines and use them for fast protein.
Spices: cinnamon and turmeric. Look for Ramos brand spices at Farmer Joe's; they also stock various organic and non-irradiated brands for good prices. I like Food Mill for bulk spices and tea as well.
So scan this list and see what you aren't eating. If you eat all of these already, then congratulate yourself for making good healthy choices. Then notice that you can buy everything in the neighborhood.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Supper soups include a pound of veg, a starch, a pound of protein, a quart of stock, a can of tomatoes, an onion and other flavorings.
Today I didn't have a pound of protein - I had one Polish sausage. I didn't have a quart of chicken broth so I threw in a Knorr bouillon cube. I used a bunch of kale and lots of garlic - we were out of onions! (horrors. How can I say I'm ready for the Big One if there are no onions in the house?)
Saute garlic and peeled diced carrot in olive oil. Add a 14 oz. can of tomatoes, half pound of green beans, snapped, and a bunch of kale with ribs removed, chopped. Add water to cover, bring to boil, then simmer until the greens are tender. This is going to take a while. Towards the end I sliced the sausage and drained a can of garbanzo beans and added those. Tasted the broth, decided to add the chicken cube.
Hubby says he really liked it - he sprinkled parmesan cheese on it, which added a fillip of flavor and mouth-feel.
I wouldn't serve this to company but on the other hand, it was flavorful and warming on a rainy winter's night. I also made a couple of quesadillas to fill the children's hungry bellies, while I scarfed down a couple of homemade wheat rolls left over from last night.
The article includes Oakland among cities where ACORN has found supporters for this effort.
I don't know where I stand on it - I will wait and see. But I admire the energy and organization, the collective action.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Lots of bees live around the Laurel; I know of at least two beekeepers who sell honey. Scientists at Cal noticed the bees in the Oakland and Berkeley hills and decided to study them nearly a decade ago. Now they are cultivating a bee garden over on Oxford Street (see above). Since my mother-in-law lives nearby, I pass the garden all the time, but had no idea what they were up to.
Look out for Mr. Bruno's honey at Farmer Joe's - I don't know if he is selling it this year, but I've bought jars of it in years past to give as Christmas gifts. The other beekeeper advertises with a sign posted in a yard on 39th Avenue, on the steep slope, with email and phone number.
You can't get more local than Laurel District honey.
Why should you do it?
- The earthquake - ok obvious, but remote in time (or not!)
- Save money - when you have a well-stocked pantry and know how to use it, you don't HAVE to order takeout.
- Eat healthier. Out of the pantry? Yes. Learn to cook with beans and whole grains and you've got a good dinner instead of KFC.
- Stay tuned for a list of healthy pantry foods everybody needs more of.
The SF Chronicle did a pantry cooking article last year that focused on higher-end ingredients like dark chocolate, mirin sauce, and top-quality honey. Recipes included. Read it and stock some yummy delicacies to jazz up your emergency supplies.
Vegetarian ideas for the pantry from the Chronicle.
Cook unplugged - useful for planning to cook under earthquake or power outage conditions. The SF Chronicle published this during our energy crisis of 2001 - remember rolling blackouts?
List of my recipes that work with the pantry:
Bulghur and Tomatoes
Egyptian Red Lentil Soup
Basic Lentil Soup with variations
Mjaddarah - lentils and rice with caramelized onions
I will post tonno e fagioli soon, another pantry dish I love. My current pantry recipe list is incomplete online so stay tuned for more.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Your cash may lose value or get swallowed up in the bank these days. Some people have asked - with banks teetering, why shouldn't we just store our money in the mattress?
I say, if you seriously think your money is better off in the mattress, then consider putting some of it into durable goods and food staples which you can use, now and in case of emergency. Keep a bit of your "savings" in useful or edible goods, not just cash. Here are some suggestions for how to prepare:
Stock up on water, too. Consider getting a 55 gallon food grade water barrel.Sharon points out that storing food is a way of life. Learn to cook regular meals out of your pantry, to save money, but also to get everybody used to such food. If your kids learn to love pumpkin bread, beans and rice, or pasta with tuna marinara sauce now, then if the Big Disaster hits and they HAVE to eat these dishes every night, they won't complain.
Consider what tools and implements you might need in a long term crisis. Gardening tools. Bicycles. Flashlights. Camp stove. Solar oven for when the municipal power and gas are out.
Look, you buy insurance on your property and your life which you hope you never use. Buy this stuff as insurance and you can use it anyway. Learn to cook out of your pantry and you've reduced your food bills, acquired a skill, and maybe added healthier meals to your rotation. Meanwhile, you have emergency supplies to fend off hurricanes, power outages, transportation stoppages, and sudden unemployment.
Do I have all these items stored? No. We add them as we get to it. But we have enough food for a bunch of indigent relatives and neighbors to get fed for quite some time...
These measures are largely intended as insurance against some weather or other natural disaster which disrupts food supplies for a time. They also make sense as a cushion against economic hard times. If you lose your job all of a sudden and run out of cash, you know you have food in your "bank" as well as cash.
I'm not going to buy a whole bunch of weird equipment and MREs that I wouldn't use or eat otherwise. I try to buy and store only what we will actually eat. Then I cook it and eat it, and replenish the stores.
Stocking up on all that emergency equipment recommended by the Red Cross is a good idea, too. We came home one night to find a neighbor's house completely burned up, with firefighters crawling over the roof amidst klieg lights, hacking at the attic to put out the last smoldering embers. A car on the street had caught fire and the house went up, too.
"Honey, we have to buy emergency ladders for the bedrooms," I said as we pulled into our garage. We and our small sons sleep on the second floor. What if our exit were blocked? And the $100 we'd spent might not gain much interest in our account this year anyway. Invest in equipment we hope never to use - as insurance.
Oh yes, in earthquake country you're supposed to keep a crowbar in the bedroom, too, in case you have to pry yourself out of the house.
Don't run out and buy everything you might want all at once. Take it in small bits. Keep your eyes open for garage sale and Craig's List finds; buy staples when they go on sale. I will be posting soon about shopping for the necessaries in the Laurel: your local drugstore, hardware store and 99 Cent store as well Farmer Joe's and Food Mill.
Baba Ghannoush Souffle - roasted eggplant souffle
Bulghur and Tomatoes - Sitteh's recipe
Carrot Salads - Two Moroccan Recipes from Claudia RodenChicken in a pot
Dried figs preserved in geranium syrup
Hummous - chickpea and tahini dipHeshwah - spiced meat and nut mixture for rice pilaf or stuffed vegetables
Kafta in a tray with potatoes - roasted spiced ground meatKibbeh - ground meat & cracked wheat with onions and pine nuts, baked
Kusa bi Jibneh - Arab or Sephardic zucchini and cheese gratin
Lentil Soup with variationsLebanese Mezze 101 - tips for putting on a basic Lebanese appetizer meal
Mjaddarah - lentils and rice with caramelized onions
Pumpkin Tahini - from Clifford WrightRoz bi shaghria - Rice pilaf with vermicelli. Pictured here, covered with heshwah.
Spiced baked chicken - Moroccan flavors, American recipeStuffed cabbage
Tabbouli - parsley and bulghur wheat salad
We are organizing a neighborhood party - or series of parties - to make fruit preserves from our extensive trees, and pickle sauerkraut and possibly lemons.
This district is blessed with so much fruit that goes unharvested. In summer there are too many plums - the fruit falls off and goes sticky on the ground. I often think it would be good for the environment and my purse to turn some of the windfall into preserves we can eat or share.
I posted about it on the neighborhood email list and got replies from twenty people who like the idea. Some of us don't know how to make jam or marmalade, others of us would prefer company in the kitchen. So we are organizing dates for beginning of March, April and then late June.
Post a comment if you would like to join us.
UPDATE: I was browsing Robert Van Der Walle's blog (Sustainability, out of North Oakland). He just hosted a sauerkraut party not long ago! I know I read about it then but I forgot. Chemo brain. (For those of you who don't know, I was in chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer from November '07 to September '08, still recovering, have mental blanks sometimes).
Clearly I got the idea for the food preservation parties from permaculture blogger and activist Bob Van Der Walle. Thank you, Bob!
Urban Agriculture and Food Insecurity: West Oakland People's Grocery. (PDF file)
Oakland Food System Assessment
What's keeping me up at night.
Three things I told my husband we could do to fight back:
Rainspouts into cisterns.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Our local choices affect global issues. Food choices in particular affect climate, pollution, the environment, social justice and culture.
This blog's motto reflects the concept of think global, act local. I aim to post about not just eating in the Laurel, but many other actions we take in our daily lives here that affect us in our homes but also affect our society and even the planet. It's a big topic, sure.
Foraging for food at this blog will mean going to Walgreen's as well as Farmer Joe's, visiting the Food Mill, the farmers' markets, and Lucky's. I plan to go to International and Foothill Boulevards and other areas of Oakland, looking for good food and signs of community and sustainable living.
Merritt College up the hill from us has a distinguished horticulture program, with many classes on permaculture. Check this blog for news of plant sales and other events.
I will post on earthquake preparedness and food security, solar ovens, and plenty of other issues that seem related to living sustainably here in the Laurel. Please check in regularly, and post your comments below.
Think global, eat Laurel
Welcome to Think Global, Eat Laurel, a blog devoted to food, gardening, food preservation and more in Oakland's Laurel District.
We live in an urban neighborhood full of gardens; our bus lines can take us to San Francisco, our email lists are full of "lost chicken" notices. Gardeners, beekeepers, poultry ranchers, permaculturists, bicycle activists, high tech workers, artists, writers, musicians, tradespeople, teachers, civil servants, laborers and scientists live in our neighborhood. We are one of the most diverse zip codes in the country. Our weather is terrific, a Mediterranean climate, and our yards are full of trees and plants that bear fruit year-round.
This blog will be a gathering place for Laurel District foodies: people who want to can produce, people who garden, people who like trying new restaurants and want to gossip about the latest, people who forage for food and people who forage for information on how to live a sustainable, pleasurable life here in 94619.