Ally

Mmm, olives..."olive" them! Stuffed with pimentos, pickled garlic, bleu cheese- I seriously just can't get enough of them. I also won't go into how much olive oil we go through in the kitchen at my house. It'd blow your mind. Needless to say, we keep those olive farmers busy! Anyhow, next Thursday (September 8th) myself and several other local Sacramento food bloggers get the pleasure of attending a special tasting dinner at the Greek Village Inn showcasing Star Fine Food's newest olive oil.

Interested in winning a place at the dinner table for two on September 8th? Leave a comment below naming a Star Fine foods product you currently have in your kitchen or one you would like to purchase. Also, please include a way to reach you. A winner will be announced Monday, September 5th. (This contest is being run by a few blogs, so odds are dependent on the final number of entries from all blogs.)


~MENU~

Appetizers

Grilled Artichoke, rubbed with Star Garlic Extra Virgin Olive Oil,
served with Star Capers and Lemon Thyme Remoulade

Spicy Imported Dodonis Greek Feta dip with Star Garlic Extra
Virgin Olive Oil served with grilled Pita Bread

Imported Kefalograviera Cheese Saganaki sauteed in Star California Extra
Olive Oil, flambeed table side


Salad

Traditional Horiatiki Salata with Heirloom Tomatoes and Imported
Dodonis Feta Cheese, Kalamata Olives tossed with Star California Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Main

New Zealand Roasted Lamb Shank basted with Star California Extra Virgin
Olive Oil and Roasted Lemon Potatoes

Dessert

Grilled Fresh Fruit, marinated in Star California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
and Brandy, served in a Meringue Cup


Ally
Mr. S. and I woke up Saturday morning and it was such a beautiful sunshiny day that we decided to take a leisurely drive down to the Delta and explore the small town of Locke. I've heard about Locke often from several of my history buff friends but have never actually been there. [Located near Walnut Grove, it was founded in 1915 and considered unique because it's the only town in the US built exclusively by the Chinese for the Chinese.] We had a nice time poking our noses in the small gambling halls, school houses and various shops. The kitchen in one of the museums caught my eye with the big wood burning pit stoves to accommodate the multiple woks and also the farmhouse style sinks for cleaning up after large groups. I wonder what kind of meals were served back then?



Anyhow, we had such a lovely time on our drive that we decided that we should do some more day trips. If you have any suggestions of places to check out, I'd love to hear them. :)
Ally


(print by PragyaK)

August 26th- Sacramento Wine & Dine  

August 27th- Davis Farm to School's Village Feast

September 11th, Sac Chefs Forum Dinner

Sept 15-18, Lodi Grape Festival

Sept 17, Fair Oaks Chicken Festival

September 29th, Southern Foodways
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Ally


Need a tasty vegetarian appetizer for an upcoming party or potluck? Look no further! Mexican Wontons to the rescue! This weekend I had some pull double duty for me. Saturday afternoon, I made one batch of the filling then refrigerated half of it. I then whipped up a batch of wontons for a fun filled ladies night I was attending on Saturday night and then another platter for a double-birthday party/get-together on Sunday evening. They're easy to put together, healthy (baked, not fried) and the ingredients aren't expensive.

[*Note try and pop them in the oven right before you plan to serve them, if they sit around too long and get cold they get kind of gummy.]

Mexican Wontons (from Leslie Sarna)

Ingredients

1 package of wonton wrappers

8 oz. black beans, rinsed

8 oz. can or 1 ear corn, cooked and zipped

1 tomato, diced and de-seeded

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

a handful of cilantro, chopped

a handful Mexican blend cheese, shredded

1/4 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt


Instructions

- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

- Mix all the ingredients (minus the wrappers) in a bowl.

- Place a small amount of mixture on the center of a wrapper. Wet your finger in water and run it along one corner of the wrapper. Fold the corner to the other and press down forming a triangle shape. Pull the two opposite corners together and seal with water. Place on a greased cookie sheet and repeat till the sheet is full.

- Spray the top of the finished wontons with cooking spray and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until they are golden.

- Serve warm with your favorite salsa or dip.
Ally


The winner of the 1st ever Girl and Her Fork Giveaway is (drumroll, please...)---Chantel Marie Elder! How exciting! Congrats & I hope you love your Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving! Happy canning! :)
Ally


The other day someone had asked about corn recipes and I got all excited and suggested, "Mexican Corn," well after that Mexican Corn was stuck in my head and I began craving the sweet fresh kernels of local summer corn. When I ran the idea of making it by Mr. S. I got that arched eyebrow look that he gives me when he's not happy with an idea, turns out he's not a fan of eating corn off the cob like I am---too messy. I know, I know... let's not even start on that topic. But the craving was already in place, eating away at my food soul, so I decided to go with the less tradition "Mexican Corn off the cob" to appease Mr.I-Don't-Like-To-Get-Corn-In-My-Teeth. Nonetheless, corn on the cob, off the cob---it was delish!

Mexican Corn (adapted from Homesick Texan)

Ingredients:

5 cobs of corn

2-3 tablespoons of butter

4 tablespoons of mayonnaise

6 lime wedges

3/4 cup of cotija cheese, crumbled

Cayenne to taste


Ingredients

- In an oven heated at 350, cook corn in husk for 25 minutes.

- After taking corn out of oven, let it cool for 5 minutes, and then pull husk layers off.

-To cut the kernels off a corn cob, put the flat stem end in a bowl and run a sharp chef's knife down the length of the ear using a sawing motion into a bowl.

- Add butter, mayo, cayenne, lime, and cotija cheese to warm corn kernels and mix together. Ingredients should melt into corn.

- Serve while still warm.
Ally

I'll be honest I'm not big on leftovers. They don't excite me. I like to eat a meal when it's fresh, then maybe I can eat it one more time the next day for lunch...after that you've usually lost me and it'll sit in the back of my fridge slowly turning into green sludge, growing a white furry coat, or fermenting (which is why I love cooking for others, no leftovers). But there was no back fridge chemistry going on with this recipe, I made it as a side dish last night and I also ate it for lunch and dinner today (it was that delish!). I ate it until I ran out of it. Additionally, Mr. S. took some to work for lunch today. It's from one of my fav cookbooks, a quirky read called, "In the Small Kitchen" by Eisenpress and Lapine. The peanut sauce is probably one of the best ones I've ever had. I think next time I might make a double batch and set some aside for satays.

Helpful hint: The sauce, in my opinion, tastes better at room temp so when you pull your leftovers out of the fridge let them sit a bit and "warm up" a smidge, the flavors will come out more.

"I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing" Noodles in Peanut Sauce Salad (from In the Small Kitchen)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon diced peeled fresh ginger

1 clove, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon chili paste

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

3/4 lb. spaghetti noodles or fresh udon noodles

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 bunch scallions (green parts only), chopped

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded & julienned

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted


Instructions

- Pulse the ginger, garlic and sugar in a food processor or blender until the mixture resembles a paste.

- Add the chili paste, peanut butter, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Process until smooth.

- Add 1/3 cup of water, and pulse to combine.

- Taste, and add the salt if needed. Set the sauce aside for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld.

- Bring a large part of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles, following the package directions. Then drain, rinse with cold water until chilled and toss with the vegetable oil.

- In a large mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the peanut sauce. Serve in individual portions, topped with scallion, cucumber and toasted sesame seeds.
Ally
Nothing irritates me more than when I'm visiting the Bay Area (or any place for that matter really) and someone asks me where I'm from and I say I'm from Sacramento. I see the city snobbery wash over and inevitably the cow town jokes kick in. Then when they find out that I like food, I get the eye roll and the ones who "think" they're funny will ask which Chili's is the best one to hit up for baby back ribs the next time they're cruising through Sac on their way up to Tahoe. Well, Sac may not be San Francisco but we're home to many great restaurants and I think it'll continue to attract many great, innovative chefs as we move forward into the future. But restaurants and chefs aside, we host a lot of fun culinary and cultural activities about town- this weekend for example. There was the Vegfest, the 65th Annual Japanese Food and Cultural Bazaar and the Banana Festival all within a few miles of my house. Feeling pretty ambitious I ended up hitting up two of them, sneaking in a short afternoon nap in between.

The Vegfest was held over on Del Paso in the Artisan Building and in the courtyard of the Greens Hotel (about 2 blocks away). Showcasing a variety of vendors, musicians and artists it was a festival to celebrate all things pertaining to raw, vegan, and vegetarian foods. My friend, Cate and I started out the festival with a delicious free sample of watermelon Italian ice from Little Jimmy's Italian Ices. It was refreshing, not overly sweet and non-dairy (the latter, being a big plus in my book!). We checked out a few more vendors including a quick peek at the Wonder Wormin' Vermicomposting System (we meant to come back for the speaker/demo, but forgot) and the cool succulent garden/sitting area of the Greens Hotel, then mosied over to the sleek Artisan Building. Things were a little busier over there. There was an array of tables set up including - vegan knitwear, vegetarian dog food, organic food delivery companies and sprouts. While we were looking we stopped by the Nacheez table to say hi to Ilsa and to try some of her spicy nachos. They were delish! Several of my vegan and vegetarian friends have been raving about Nacheez for awhile now but I hadn't gotten around to trying it. My loss. This stuff is really good and tastes just like real nacho cheese. It's soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, 100% vegan, low in calories (20 calories per 2 tablespoons), no cholesterol, a high source of B6, filled with B12, contains raw cashews and comes in mild or spicy. The only thing it doesn't do is give you a back rub. I ended up buying a jar in addition to the nachos. (Mr. S. really wants to try it now and see if it tastes like the "real stuff" like I say.) I also snuck a vegetarian egg roll from Loving Hut while we were listening to the band (which included a didgeridoo). It was pretty good, I may go check out their restaurant on Stockton Blvd. Did you know they offer a $4.95 lunch special, Tuesdays through Fridays? Sounds like something worth investigating.







Saturday night I took Mr. S. to the 65th Annual Japanese Food and Cultural Bazaar at the Buddhist Church off of W Street & Riverside Blvd. I love the event but some years I've skipped it due to out of town trips or because of the 100+ degree Sacramento heat. This year the temp wasn't too bad when we headed over at about 530pm. The place was packed as usual (they estimate about 50,000 people come to the 2 day bazaar) and after giving Mr. S. the tour (vendors, game booths, exhibits), I steered him over to the chicken line. Now Mr. S. is a sharp cookie and after 5 minutes of being at the festival he was dialed in that this was no cultural bazaar that I was bringing him to- it was all about the food...especially when he saw that I came armed with Wet Wipes (hey, this wasn't MY first time at the rodeo...I know how messy that chicken gets!).  [Now if you've never had the chicken there...go next year and GET IT. For $6 you get half a roasted chicken. It's seasoned and barbecued perfectly...they call it "teriyaki chicken," but it's not that goopy sugary sweet stuff, don't worry- not even close. It is messy though so bring wet wipes and get ready to grub down with two hands.] So with a tray of fresh off the grill steamin' chicken, somen salad topped with shiitakes and glazed Asian ribs served with steamed rice, we squeezed our way onto a table and finally kicked back. We ate, we chatted and we noticed how everyone seemed to be getting along. There was a real sense of community spirit. It was nice. And as I licked the last smidge of sauce from my fingers (in the most ladylike way possible) and gazed up at the paper lanterns above, maybe it was the chicken euphoria kicking in but I was already thinking about next year's bazaar....


Ally
There aren't many people that I know that don't watch True Blood, the campy HBO vampire show based on the Sookie Stackhouse book series. Although I may not always get to watch it on Sunday nights, Mr. S. and I DVR it and try to keep abreast on the happenings of the vamps, werewolves, werepanthers, witches, fairies, shifters and other curious residents of Bon Temps, Louisiana. But to be quite honest, I don't really need to travel to the backwoods of the swamplands to see supernatural creatures walking about. I'm pretty sure I just saw one the other day in Mr. S.'s kitchen. In fact I'm quite sure of it...it was during a BBQ we were throwing and I believe a daughter of one of our friends turned into a python-child...part python, part child.

You see, I made these deviled eggs. It's a recipe I got from my friend, Sarah, they're spicy horseradish deviled eggs topped with candied bacon. Yep, you heard me right...candied bacon. They're amazing. I had them two years ago when she brought them to a party and was instantly hooked, now they're a staple at my house. Kidlet #1 loves them, as does Mr. S. Anyhow during the BBQ, I had just come into the kitchen to grab some more wine to bring out to the patio when I saw this little willowy elementary aged girl, pop a deviled egg in her mouth and swallow the WHOLE half without chewing it, just like a python. She may have unhinged her jaw, I'm not sure...it happened so fast but there definitely was no chewing involved. As I watched, she grabbed another one...same thing...she opened her mouth and "Gulp!"....gone., in one swallow. Wow.

PS Just heard True Blood just got picked up for Season 5!

Spicy Horseradish Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon (recipe from Undercover Caterer)


For Candied Bacon:

Ingredients:

1 pound thin sliced bacon

1 cup brown sugar

1 Tbsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp. black pepper


Instructions:

- Preheat oven to 350*.

- Lay bacon slices on a rack placed over a foil-wrapped sheet pan.

- In a bowl, mix the sugar and cayenne.

- Sprinkle the bacon with the sugar mixture, then pat down so the sugar is evenly distributed.

- Sprinkle with black pepper.

- Bake for about 20 minutes, until crispy and browned.

- Turn the pan halfway to avoid burned spots.

- When cool, cut into 1/2 inch slices and set aside.


For Deviled Eggs:

Ingredients:

18 large eggs, hard boiled. See method above.

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

4 Tbsp. extra-hot horseradish

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

2 green onions, quartered lengthwise, then minced

salt and black pepper to taste


Instructions:

- Slice eggs in half lengthwise and separate the yolks from the whites.

- Mash the yolks with a fork and mix in the mayo, mustard and horseradish.

- Mix in the cayenne and lemon, and add salt and pepper to taste.

- Stir in the onion.

- Using a sandwich bag, pipe the yolk mixture into the egg white and grind a bit of black pepper on top.

- Garnish with slices of candied bacon.
Ally


I wasn't planning on posting a second blog post today but man, I need a night in after the last 24 hours. Before I start telling you about my recipe, let me tell you about my last 24 hours and you'd probably agree with me that it's a good night to throw some PJs on, pour myself a glass of wine, turn on the TV and type away. No driving around, no gallivanting about and definitely no interacting with others!

It started yesterday with my UPS guy getting slightly PO'd with me. Apparently he had tried to deliver an overnighted package that needed a signature (a parcel that I was not expecting) at 10am and I wasn't home. He swung back by in the late afternoon and I was home...but he was still upset and wanted to let me know. So first day back from vacation and I'm already getting scolded by the UPS delivery guy.

Then last night I got woken up around 1:45am by two cars smashing into each other loudly outside my home, followed by high volumes of yelling and more uses of the F-word than in the entire Boondock Saints movie....seriously. Based on the usage of the expletives and the bits of the conversation I heard, I'm pretty sure both drivers were highly intoxicated. I had a *&%#$^%@!! time falling back asleep!

So we come to today...new day, new start, right? Ha! I was doing ok until I left the house. I stopped by Kaiser to pick up a Rx. As I'm leaving, the woman a few cars down from me places her Jack Russell on the roof of her car while she places her stuff in her auto. Nothing too weird about that, right? Well as I watch her, she forgets the dog is up there, gets in her car and starts to back up her car! I had to run over there, scoop up the dog and thump on her window...then I kid you not, she pulls ATTITUDE ON ME! She practically rips the dog out of my arm and tosses him in the car, mumbles something about how she "didn't forget" (yeah, right) and drives off without a "Thank you."

At this point, I should have gone home but I decide to stop at a nearby book sale. Bookstores usually soothe me. This one would have if there wasn't this guy with 4 kids who was letting them run loose like they were at a playground. I have nothing against kids, I don't but when you're outnumbered 4 to 1, you don't take them to a bookstore to browse...especially not these particular kids! They were running around like cracked out spider monkeys disturbing everyone within a 10 stack radius. One even trampled my big toe with her hot pink Croc in her pursuit of another in a game of tag. "Dad," of course, was busy ignoring them.

As a last ditch effort, I made my purchase, limped out of the bookstore and stopped by a coffee shop for a coffee on the rocks. My usual Midtown coffee spot didn't have any parking so I resigned myself to stopping at a nearby Starbucks (and the hits keep on coming...I just didn't have any energy today to challenge anything like I normally do. Usually I'm a spunky, take no prisoners type of gal!). I was so busy digging in my purse for my wallet, that I didn't realize that the barista waiting on me was the girlfriend of an ex (from a loooooong time ago). I was "graciously" handed my drink with slitted eyes; which I'm pretty sure bore holes in the back of my head as I walked out. With the type of day I was having, I wouldn't be surprised if there was spit in my coffee either.

Ugh. FML. Is it the day over yet?

Well, even if the last 24 hours for me have been craptacular, I can make yours fantastic by letting you in on this great little recipe for Hongos Rellenos de Chorizo aka Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms. Now I know not all of you are fans of chorizo- and hey, that's okay- you probably could sub in Soyrizo, although I have not tried that yet. And if you haven't had Manchego cheese before---it's quite tasty!

Note: The recipe called for white mushrooms which I'm not a fan of, they taste like styrofoam so I subbed in criminis.

Hongos Rellenos de Chorizo aka Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms (recipe by Daisy Martinez)

Ingredients

1 Spanish chorizo (about 4 ounces), casing removed, see Cook's Note*

18 large (about 2 1/2 to 3-inch) white mushrooms (I subbed in criminis, they have more flavor)

1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon

1/3 cup finely diced onion

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons bread crumbs

1/4 cup homemade or store-bought reduced-sodium chicken stock

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves

1/3 cup coarsely grated Manchego cheese

*Cook's Note: Spanish chorizo has a much firmer texture than Mexican chorizo. Cutting it with a knife doesn't really cut it. Pulsing the chorizo in a food processor gives the nice little pieces I'm looking for here.



Instructions

- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

- Cut the chorizo into 1-inch pieces and put them in a food processor. Pulse until the chorizo is finely chopped. Set aside.

- Remove the stems from the mushrooms. Mince half the stems (this can be done in the work bowl of the food processor). Reserve the other half of the stems for another use or discard them. Brush the mushroom caps with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and set on a baking sheet. Set aside.

- Pour the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and minced mushroom stems. Cook, stirring, just until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bread crumbs and toss and stir until toasted golden brown. Scrape the bread crumb mixture into a bowl and set aside.

-Wipe the skillet clean with paper towels and add the minced chorizo. Cook over high heat until fragrant and glossy, about 3 minutes. Add to the bread crumb mixture. Add the chicken stock and parsley and fluff with a fork. Stir in the Manchego cheese. Use a spoon to fill the mushroom caps, mounding the stuffing attractively. Bake until stuffing is lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
Ally


Lately I've been wearing my black cotton dress with the cross-over front a lot and that's not necessarily a good thing. Now don't get me wrong, it's a super cute frock and I get complimented on it often but I know when it becomes my "go to outfit" that usually means I've put on a pound or two (or three) around the midsection. The dress in question is comfy, loose and black---and hides a multide of sins (and bulges). So what to do? Try and go healthy, I suppose. In an attempt to exercise good nutrition and lose the bulge, I usually try and up the salad and veggie intake which is pretty easy given the accessibility to the farmers' markets this time of year; but sometimes I just really want some (gasp!) carbs on my salad...just a little. something to give it that satisfying crunch...but something just slightly different then your average ol' boring crouton. That's where polenta croutons come in. They're like croutons...only better. Still not sure? Ok...close your eyes---now, picture a crouton, then picture a crouton with a superhero cape...and now you know what a polenta crouton  looks like. ;)

Parmesan-Garlic Polenta Croutons (recipe from You're Gonna Bake It, After All)

Ingredients:

Instant polenta (1 cup)

Grated Parmesan cheese (1/4 cup)

Herbs to taste (I used fresh rosemary)

Olive oil for drizzling

Garlic powder & salt, to taste


Directions:

1. Prepare instant polenta according to package directions, using a whisk.

2. Add in herbs and grated Parmesan cheese.

3. Coat a baking sheet or pyrex/ceramic dish with cooking spray. Spread the polenta mixture into the pan quickly, and spread evenly with a spatula. Place pan in refrigerator to cool and set for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400F.

4. Cut the polenta into squares or triangles.

5. Drizzle both sides of polenta pieces with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder/salt (if using). Bake at 400F for about 45 minutes, or until crispy. Turn them half-way through to make sure they get crispy on both sides. Cool on a rack when done.

6. Best if used the same day, but you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator and reheat them until crisp the next day.
 
 
Ally
I recently purchased a piece of art for my home that looks similar to this :


(photo by emrooney)


It's a piece by an Arizona artist named Emily Rooney and is made of weathered tin mounted on a wooden frame. The piece itself is nothing fancy but the lyrics on it hit a soft spot with me. They're from a song by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. It's a ditty that first I got hooked on, then Mr. S. then the kidlets followed suit....now you'll often find the four of us singing it at the top of our lungs on car trips. Although one of the lead singers looks like a cult leader, the song's so melodic and the lyrics, well like I said, they hit...home.



Soooooooooooo if you've been wondering where I've been the last few days, I've been vacationing with Mr. S. and his fam up in Sierra City (it's about 1.5 hours past Truckee). His family's been going for a couple of decades up to these cute cabins (kind of like the ones in Dirty Dancing but minus Patrick Swayze...and well, the dirty dancing) called Herrington Sierra Pines Resort. Surrounded by the mountains, river and several lakes...it was so beautiful and serene. I loved it. The boys caught lots of trout, we saw (and almost hit) a deer, had campfires and even played some pool--it was great. (I didn't partake in the fishing this vacation, instead I lounged and caught up on some reading by the lake---I finished A Girl in Translation [a good, easy read] and started A Year in Provence.) Anyhow, we got back yesterday afternoon and it's nice to be home, sweet HOME!

Stay tuned- tomorrow...polenta croutons!
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Ally


Discovering canning this past year has been such a blast that I want to share the canning fever with you too, readers, and what better way to do that than to give away a copy of the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving!

This giveaway will run through August 19th and entering it is super simple. There's 3 ways to do it:

- "Like" A Girl and Her Fork on Facebook. (If you're already a fan, you're automatically entered.)
- Post a comment on A Girl and Her Fork's Facebook page stating what your favorite item to can is or what you'd like to learn to can.
- Post a comment on the blog itself in regards to a particular post.


* The details:
Open to US residents, 18 & older only. The giveaway will end at 11:59pm PST August 19, 2011. The winner will be randomly chosen and will be notified by the email that they provide on the comment. If the winner does not claim their prize within 72 hours, another winner will be chosen and the prize will be forfeited.


Cheers & good luck!
Ally

Remember when you were a kid and you got to have summers off? It was all about laying poolside with your cousins or having sleepovers with your friends. Well my friend Katy is a teacher and is still lucky enough to get those long summers off. And lucky me got to spend this Tuesday with her. Last year Katy made this amazing rosemary plum jam which we decided to try and recreate this year. We picked up 2 big bags of plums at the Co-op. On the way home we stopped by the Fremont Park Farmers' Market and scored a flat of beautiful peaches. They were ripe and wonderfully fragrant, just right for jamming! So in addition to the rosemary plum jam, we decided to make a spicy peach butter, a vanilla bean peach butter, a peach gin jam, and a few white peaches in light syrup. Talk about a long day- almost 12 hours total. I was seriously waning towards the end, but Katy was like the Energizer Bunny, her energy never ran out nor did her happy demeanor.




Peach Gin Jam  (recipe from With a Glass)

Ingredients:

1 kg very ripe peaches weighed without stones and peel

40g pectin in powder (not necessary if you like a runny jam or if you cook it long enough to be dense)

300g sugar (or more if peaches are not very ripe)

juice from 1 lemon

100ml gin (we used Bombay Sapphire)


Instructions

- Put the peaches in boiling water for two minutes. Take them away with a slotted spoon and place immediately in cold water. After a couple of minutes the peel will come off easily with fingers.

- Remove the stones and cut the fruit into small pieces (do not throw away the juice!). Weigh it.

- Put the fruit, the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of water into a non reactive pan and cook on a rather high heat until the peaches become soft. Stir it often and watch the pan constantly (if there is not enough liquid they will burn). Add the sugar and simmer on a low heat for ten more minutes.

- Add the pectin and more sugar if the jam is not sweet enough, stir it and cook for another ten minutes. Put aside.

- (Here you can pour the gin and stir the jam once more before filling the jars).

- Spoon hot jam into sterilised jars, cover with lids.

- Leave the jars to cool.

- Place the cool jars into a big pan, cover up with hot – but not boiling- water to the level just below the lid.

- Bring to boil and keep on a very low heat, in simmering water, for around 20 minutes.

*  Share with cousins, friends and neighbors! :)


Ally


Wondering what do with those all beautiful tomatoes that are starting to ripen in your garden or all those luscious tomatoes you see beaming at you at the farmers' market? Try this super easy recipe for tomato sauce! I made this recently made this at my night at Community Tap and Table and am now using it on everything- pizzas, ravioli, or my current fav- throw a dollop of the tomato sauce and a some goat cheese on some sliced baguette, pop it in the broiler for a flash and bam!- you've got some tasty grinds to munch on while relaxing in your backyard.

Tasty Tomato Sauce (recipe adapted from Community Tap and Table class)

Ingredients

Fresh Tomatoes

Fresh Basil, torn into small pieces

Fresh Oregeno

Fresh Garlic, peeled & diced

Salt and pepper

* Tip: Handle tomatoes with care, don't store them in the fridge (it slows the ripening process) and don't process them in metal, the acids can react.

Instructions

- Bring salted water to boil.

- Cut crosses in the non stem side of the tomato and blanch in the water. Blanch means to put them into the boiling water for about 15 seconds, then drop them into a bowl filled with ice and water for another 15 seconds. Then when you lift them up, grab the skin from the crosses you cut and peel them. Peel over the pan you're going to sauté in.

- Once they're added, sauté them with olive oil and garlic. Add in basil, oregano and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer down until cooked to desired consistency. The longer you cook it, the smoother & "saucier" it'll get.
Ally



http://communitytapandtable.com/

Every so often my friend Beth and I get together for a drink and some eats in the Grid and catch up but this last time around we were looking for somewhere/something new to try. So when I happened upon the Sacramento Press' article about Community Tap and Table I decided to run the idea by her to see if she'd be interested in checking it out. After all it did have the major components we look for- food and beer...the only difference was we would have to do the cooking ourselves but that might turn out to be kind of fun.

Community Tap and Table is described as a club for "beer bellies with a cooking problem." It was started by couple, Emily Baime and Darin Michaels, and offers cooking classes, brewery tours and beer dinners. The cooking classes can range from four to eleven people. The night we went was a Tuesday and the class consisted of five "beer bellied cooks". Both Baime and Michael were quite welcoming when we showed up at their South Land Park home and extremely hospitable throughout the night. The class we chose to attend was called, " Grilled Flatbreads and Homemade Summer Flavors," and the menu consisted of:

- Green tomato jam served with sliced baguette (not what I expected at all- the cinnamon made it almost dessert-like, yummy!)
- Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote served with goat cheese and water crackers (absolutely divine!)
- Tea-Smoked Salmon, Homemade Ricotta & Fresh Tomato Sauce on Grilled Flatbread (yum, the salmon was so good I could have eaten it by itself)
- Wild Plum Cardamom Syrup & Pork Belly over ice cream (crisp chunks of pork belly!!!...seriously, need I say more?)




Baime handled the food portion of the evening. Several stations were set up and ready to go in their gorgeous kitchen with the appropriate ingredients (all fresh seasonal fruits, veggies and herbs from the farmers' market) and needed tools. As we started our respective dishes and chatted with each other; Baime circulated and talked, joked, and answered questions. Baime's laid back nature makes the cooking fun and stress-free, so don't worry if you haven't spent much time behind an apron, you'll be fine. Once all the courses are ready, Michaels takes over at the dinner table with the beer pairings. We received a brief but informative overview on beer making, then he describes each American craft or micro brew that's been chosen for the course we're eating. We got to try- Blue Moon Summer Honey Wheat, Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale, Imperial Barley Wine Ale and Trumer Pils. They were all tasty but I think the Lagunitas was my favorite both in taste and in back story.



On the whole, I love what Baime and Michaels are doing. They're marrying the concepts of food, beer and people. What's not to love about that? If you're looking to meet new people, looking for a fun night of beer tasting or to hone a few cooking skills give CTT a go I think you'll have a great time. You'll definitely come home with a full belly, a big smile and maybe even a few recipes and a leftover or two. It's a great addition to the Sacramento food scene and I look forward to attending another one of their events.
Ally

This gorgeous weather has been holding up and Mr. S. and I just wrapped up our 2nd annual big summer BBQ this weekend. We each got to invite a couple of friends and their kidlets over for some eats, drinks and merriment in the backyard on Saturday night. We ended up with around thirty five people and it was great to see everyone intermingling and getting to know each other. It was a good amount of people- enough to make it a party but not too many where it was overwhelming. The dog was on cloud 9 chasing after all the kidlets and getting fed under the table; in fact post-BBQ, he snuggled up against me all tuckered out and his breath reeked overwhelmingly like tri-tip. Bad Pepper-pup! :)  It was a fun time but man was I pooped the next day.

Anyhow, I wanted to have at least one colorful dish on the table that showcased some bright summer veggies from the farmers' market so I decided to make an Israeli couscous salad that I came across on Bon Appetit (* I subbed in some red bell pepper for the frozen green peas to give it some extra pop of color).

Israeli couscous, also called "p'titim", is a tiny pearl shaped, semolina pasta. If you've never cooked with it before- it cooks fast, it's versatile and it's cheap (you can buy a box of it at Trader Joe's for a few bucks and many places sell it in bulk). Give it a whirl!

Israeli Couscous Salad

Ingredients


- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

- 2 large garlic cloves, minced, divided

- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel

- 1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous (6 to 7 ounces)

- 1 3/4 cups (or more) vegetable broth

- 2 1/2 cups slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces

- 2 1/2 cups fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed 

- 1 cup shelled fresh green peas or frozen, thawed

- 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives

- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese


Instructions

- Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and lemon peel in small bowl; set dressing aside.

- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat.

- Add couscous, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until most of couscous is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

- Add 1 3/4 cups broth, increase heat, and bring to boil.

- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 10 minutes, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if too dry.

- Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat.

- Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, and remaining garlic clove.

- Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables to large bowl.

- Add couscous to bowl with vegetables.

- Drizzle dressing over.

- Add chives and cheese; toss.

- Season with salt and pepper.