Ally
Are you ready for the 3-day weekend? There's so many fun things going on around town- Chalk It Up!, the Sacramento Greek Festival and of course- the Norm Lopez Pub Crawl. I love that Sacramento is always poppin' with fantastic community activities. Last Sunday, I was able to check out Music in the Park at Curtis Park. What a wonderful event! There was free music and a pretty big turn out. Lots of Sacramentans, kids and dogs came out to enjoy the festivities.



For those who had the munchies, there was easy accessibility to the food trucks. The first shift was done by Wicked 'Wich and the second by The Big Red Bus. What? You haven't heard of the Big Red Bus? It's the latest addition to the Sac food truck scene. The brainchild of the folks over at The Street of London, TBRB has already been seen at several popular venues around town. At the helm of the rowdy group of rapscallions is the executive chef of SOL- Martin Hutton.



According to the chef, the TBRB will be serving a global fusion of nibbles. During my visit to Music in the Park, I had the opportunity to taste the curry fries (crispy French fries with the perfect amount of curry flavoring) and the Carnasian. The Carnasian is a large wrap packed full of spiced shredded beef, fresh Asian slaw, cheese, a slightly spicy sauce and fries. The fries are actually inside the wrap giving each bite a nice crunchy texture factor, kind of like fried wontons. The Carnasian was quite delectable, although I wish the wrap part was slightly softer (mine was a bit dry and hard)...a lavash might make a good substitute. I would order it again though, I loved the mélange of flavors.



The other menu item that caught my eye was the Fat Elvis. If you are jonesing for a juicy burger made with Track 7's Delta King Saison ketchup, cheese, produce and some lip smackin' peanut butter glaze--- then this burger is for you, it's fit for a king! For those who have their heart set on some UK fare, TBRB offers up the Moby- Icelandic cod in a Newcastle beer infused batter with a serving of fries.

Sound good? To get your grub on, all you have to do is look for Jeeves, the big red "bus".
Today, you can find Jeeves at New Helvetia on Broadway until 4pm. Cheers!

FB page: The Big Red Bus
(916) 233-9267

Ally

319 6th Street, West Sacramento, CA 95605. (916) 372-2436
 
 
 

If you watch, "How I Met Your Mother," you might remember the episode where the gang goes running around NYC frantically looking for "THE" burger. Upon finding it, the following conversation takes place:

Lily: This burger is so good, its like Christmas in my mouth. Meat Christmas.
Ted: Its like an angel from heaven landed in the kitchen of McClaren's... where the chef killed it and ran it through the meat grinder.
Barney: I love this burger so much I want to sew my ass shut.

Well, quite frankly, that's how I feel about the lamb burger at Broderick. If the calorie and cholesterol count wouldn't kill me, I'd be there every other day wolfing one down. Yea, it's that good!



How did I come by this burger? Purely by chance. I heard all the chatter and read all the press last fall when Broderick opened. I kept meaning to go and check out what all the hub-bub was about but I couldn't find the time. Then I got a post on my blog's Facebook page from a Kristina Becerra telling me that I really need to check out Broderick and that they serve "some of the best pub grub ever." Well, who doesn't love pub grub? So about two months ago, a friend and I stopped into Broderick after a jaunt through the West Sacramento evening farmers' market. We used the GPS to find our way over there and I'm glad we did, it's tucked in a little nook off of 6th Street and if you're not looking closely, it's easy to zoom by it. As we were walking into the building, two guys pulled up and asked us if it was a church. Pretty funny, but I could see how they could make that mistake. The building's exterior has a bit of an old mission look to it. The interior lends itself more towards a roadhouse-like vibe though. To the right is a large bar and high-top tables and to the left is a small dining room with TV. The predominant theme to the décor was black, dark wood and more black and dark wood. ☺ For this visit, we sat on the dining room side. Surprisingly there were a lot of families with small children at Broderick. My friend and I both ended up ordering the lamb burger that was shown on the table tents and a pint of refreshing grapefruit-sage kombucha. The lamb burger was amazing! The meat was cooked perfectly (nice and juicy) and the flavoring was spot on. The menu said the lamb was spiced Lebanese-style, I'm not exactly sure what that entails but my tastebuds loved it. I'm pretty sure I tasted some cumin and coriander somewhere in there...and maybe some mint? The burger came outfitted with goat cheese, roasted tomato, arugula & balsamic vinaigrette-- all on a super soft bun. The accompanying hand-cut fries were wonderful. I skipped the upgrades and just went naked on my fries. They had just the right amount of crispiness and salt/seasoning.

On my second visit to Broderick, I ventured out and tried their duck burger for lunch. It was described as, "smoke pepper crusted, slathered in fig jam & garlic aioli; served with fried onion crisps and arugula." Oh hell yea! The duck burger was awesome- like a sweet and savory flavor bomb. One diner at my table thought it was a tad too spicy but I only noticed a slight bit of heat in the aftertaste. Again, the fries were cooked perfectly. (Whoever their fry guy is, he or she consistently knocks them out of the park.) I wanted to order their tasty kombucha again but was told that they had discontinued it due to lagging sales. What a bummer. Hopefully they bring it back. It was the perfect (non-alcoholic) refreshment for a hot day.

On my most recent visit, I dragged Mr.S. there. Yes, dragged is the correct word. We had just finished seeing "The King and I," at the Wells Fargo Pavillion and were absolutely ravenous. The only problem was that it was 11:30pm on a Friday night and there's not much open in Sactown. So I called Broderick and was advised that they do serve food until midnight on weekends. Score! I could tell Mr.S. was leery but he begrudgingly agreed that we could go there. Later he told me about his concerns- that Broderick was in a bit of a rough neighborhood, we walked into what appeared to be a dive bar and that he was pretty sure he would probably end up with some freezer-burned burger concoction and soggy fries. Well Mr.Skeptical was 0-3. No one stole his car, the staff was super nice and he ended up loving his lamb burger and couldn't stop raving about it for several days. I ordered the same along with a nice, cold pint of Ruhstaller. Again, the burger exceeded my expectations. I hate to mess with a good thing but one of these days I may need to deviate from their lamb burger and try their famous banh mi fries (fries topped with slow roasted pulled pork, pickled vegetables, jalapeños & house made citrus caramel sauce). They also carry several other delicious burgers (I've heard raves for the True Bleu and the Johnny Cash), sandwiches (these are the same guys who run Wicked 'Wich), a mean mac 'n cheese and several vegetarian selections...and of course there's a full bar.

The service I received on all three visits was attentive, helpful and friendly. The staff members I encountered were eager to make suggestions, happy to answer questions and willing to make accommodations/modifications for dietary needs. My only gripe with the place (and it's a very small gripe) is that it always seems to be hot and slightly stuffy in there...I wish management would crank up the AC a bit to make it more comfortable.

So if your looking to pacify a burger-craving or just want some solid pub grub, make the trek out to West Sacramento and try out Broderick's. Oh and definitely order the lamb burger! As for me, I loved Broderick's unpretentious bar food and the old school atmosphere and have a feeling those won't be the last lamb burgers I get under my belt.
Ally


I'm not much of a mayo girl. Usually if a recipe calls for a hefty dose of mayo, I'll sub in Greek yogurt. I never, ever go the Miracle Whip route- that stuff tastes vile. Anyhow, once in awhile I'll get a hankering for seafood salad- you know the goopy, white stuff with chunks of veggies, shrimp and crab? When I do, I opt to make it with Kewpie. Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese mayo that's been around since the mid 1920's. It comes in this weird squishy bottle (that kind of reminds me of a colostomy bag) with a creepy, open-armed, naked baby as its logo. Despite the odd packaging, I've been eating the stuff for years. My mom used to make Japanese potato salad with it when I was a kid (in fact I nowadays I still prefer my potato salad with Kewpie over the standard mayo). To me Kewpie has a much smoother, creamier texture than Best Foods or Kraft and tastes less eggy (they use twice the amount of egg yolks). Also it's made from rice vinegar as opposed to distilled vinegar, so it imparts a slightly sweeter taste. Kewpie also has a bit of umami to it, making it great for incorporating it into a variety of dishes. I've used it in deviled eggs, in oyster motoyaki and drizzled on okonomiyaki.   If you like mayo with your artichoke, asparagus or French fries, try switching it out for Kewpie. You won't go back. Additionally, if you mix it with sriracha, it makes a fantastic spicy dipping sauce.

 
 
 


Creamy Shrimp and Avocado Salad

Ingredients

1/2 lb. of cooked, medium-sized shrimp

5-6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (optional. I skip this sometimes as Mr. S. is not a raw tomato fan)

1 firm but ripe avocado, chopped into small cubes

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/3 cup Kewpie mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 garlic clove, finely minced

1 teaspoon of shio-koji (or sub in a pinch of salt)

fresh ground pepper, to taste


Instructions

1. Slice cooked shrimp into small bite-sized pieces. Place in a medium-sized bowl. Combine with cherry tomatoes, avocado and red onion.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together Kewpie, lime juice, sriracha, garlic, shio-koji and pepper.

3. Pour dressing over shrimp mixture. Gently toss together.

4. Give the flavors a chance to meld together (I throw it in the fridge for a half hour).

5. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Makes 2 servings

* If you're in Sacramento, Oto's sells Kewpie.


Ally


If you're one of the lucky ones who has ready access to a flourishing fig tree, I'm sure you're up to your eyeballs in sweet, ripe figs right about now. One easy way to use up some of your bounty is to make some fig jam. This is a super easy recipe that utilizes honey instead of sugar. I just made a batch this week with a bag of plump Mission figs my friend Dawn gave me and some local honey I buy from another friend, Neal. Since it was a small batch I skipped water bathing the jam and just popped it in the fridge. It'll keep there for about a month, but I'm sure it'll get eaten up much sooner than that. Plopped on some Greek yogurt, spread on some fresh-baked bread or accompanying a simple cheese platter...mmm...I'm getting hungry just thinking about the uses!





Small Batch Honey-Fig Jam

Ingredients

2 pounds fresh figs, cut into quarters

1.5 cups good quality honey (go for the lighter color honey, so that it won't overwhelm the flavor of the figs)

6 tablespoons of water

lemon zest of 1 lemon

4 tablespoons of lemon juice


Instructions

1. Sterilize your half-pint jars in boiling water. Place your lids in a pan of VERY hot (but not boiling) water for at least 5 minutes.

2.  Wash figs and remove stems. (I don't peel them as the skins get quite soft during the cooking process and I like the texture.) Slice figs into quarters.

3. In a large saucepan, combine the figs, honey and water. Let sit (unheated) for about 25-30 minutes.

4. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat immediately to a simmer and cook for about 30-40 minutes. Stirring frequently (you don't want the honey to burn). You'll notice that the figs will start to break down and the mixture will thicken. (Optional: If you want smaller bits, you can mash them up a bit with a potato masher at this point.)

5. Add lemon zest and juice. Stir. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.

6. Remove from heat. Ladle into hot-sterilized jars. Place lid on. Allow to cool, place in fridge.

7. Will keep for about a month, refrigerated.





Ally

Received the email below today and for those of you who used to order Kira's pies and picked them up at Corti's back in the day, you know how delicious her pies, galettes and quiches are.


Dear Valued Customers and Friends:
 
It is with immense happiness that I announce the rebirth of the Real Pie Company.
On Friday, August 30th, I will begin offering a limited menu of Real Pies two afternoons a week to my customers. The pies will be available on the 30th at East Sac Mercantile (http://eastsacmercantile.com) from 2:30pm to 5:30pm. The pies will then (after the 30th) be available every Thursday and Friday afternoon from 2:30pm to 5:30pm. The Mercantile is located at 3257 Folsom Boulevard in East Sacramento, and has ample street parking. I plan to expand my baking days in October to include Saturdays.
 
(*Note: I will NOT be baking Thurs/Fri, September 19/20).
 
(* Note: I cannot take credit cards until the first week of September! Cash or checks only on the 30th. Sorry about that).

As always, our menu will change weekly depending on the produce we are able to source from our region's wonderful small family farms. Each week, I will send out the menu of available pies to subscribers of my email list. (Important: If you would like to be removed from our email list, please unsubscribe below).
 
In addition to our ever-changing seasonal pies, tarts and galettes, “staple” items that will (usually) be on the menu include our Jumbleberry pie (packed with blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries) and some version of our rustic apple galette (or pie), simply because there’s always such a high demand for these items.
 
Unfortunately, I cannot take pie reservations at this time due to my limited production. Sorry about that.
 
I look forward – with much joy – to be baking for you again. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at kira@realpiecompany.com.
 
Warmest regards,
Kira O’Donnell
Real Pie Company

East Sac Mercantile
3257 Folsom Boulevard
Sacramento, CA 95816


www.realpiecompany.com (website under construction at the moment!)
Ally


Ahhh, sugar plums. I always look forward to those tiny plums coming into season but at the same time lament that they signal the end of summer. You start spotting them around the end of July/beginning of August and their availability is short-lived (usually around 3 weeks). This year I decided to purchase some (I got mine at the Co-op, they're from Full Belly Farms I believe) and make Marian Burros' famous Plum Torte. Marian Burros is a cookbook author and a food columnist for The New York Times. Her plum torte recipe has been the most often requested and the most republished recipe in the NYT for twenty years. Crazy, huh? You know it's got to be a pretty good recipe with a track record like that. I think most of you will really like this torte- it's quick to prepare, requires few ingredients and it makes your house smell phenomenal. The cake portion is crusty and airy, the plums sweet and there's a whisper of cinnamon and sugar. You could make this recipe with any old plum; but trust me, if you want to bump up the flavor profile of the torte and truly make it shine, use sugar plums. These bite size plums have a wonderful honey taste that can't be beat. The whole shebang is absolutely delectable but it tastes even more fantastic served warm with a side of vanilla ice cream or topped with some sweetened whipped cream. Best of all (gasp!), this torte freezes well so you can enjoy these juicy, sweet plums in the dead of winter.




Sugar Plum Torte  (New York Times)

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
24 halves pitted sugar plums
Sugar and cinnamon for topping

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream sugar and butter in a bowl. Add flour, baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.

3. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter (I didn't, it doesn't really matter). Sprinkle lightly with sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, or to taste. (I mixed some sugar and cinnamon together and then sprinkled that across the cake.)

4. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired (but first, double-wrap the tortes in foil, place in a plastic bag, and seal). Or cool to lukewarm, and serve.

5. To serve a torte that has been frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.

Yield: 8 servings.

Ally


The 6th Annual Midtown Cocktail Week has started. Unless you've been living under a rock in Sacramento, you're probably familiar with the event. This year though the Midtown Business Association and the local bars and restaurants are going big with several days of tastings, events, classes and merriment. The festivities started off today with a Educational Vendor Expo at the Citizen Hotel. I tagged along with two of my favorite people from Berryessa Brewing, Clint and Jenni, to sneak a peek (and a few tastes) of some lovely libations. We taste tested some tequila from Don Julio, bourbon from Buffalo Trace and Kahlua Midnight (a rum and black coffee mix) amongst several other spirits. Hey, no judging...sometimes I girl needs to get her drink on...at 1pm...on a weekday....

Out of all the vendors, my favorite liqueur ended up being from a company I had never heard of before- Pavan. The gorgeous art nouveau bottles initially drew me to the table, but the drink itself proved to be superb. We tried it straight and then in a simple cocktail. Pavan (18% ABV, distributed by Suntory) has an intoxicating floral scent and tastes like a wonderful mixture of sweet fruit and delicate flora. According to the rep, Pavan is crafted from a base of white muscat grapes from the south of France and a subtle touch of orange blossom. You can drink it straight, on the rocks as an aperitif or use it in your favorite cocktails. The rep suggested mixing it with sparkling wine, using it to make sangria ( just add some Perrier and fruit) or just mixing it with some vodka. Currently in Sacramento, you can only buy it online through K and L, but according to the rep some of the local bars like Shady Lady will soon be offering cocktails made with Pavan. Can't wait!



My second favorite, was the Kahlua Midnight (35% ABV). Being a coffee-junkie, I was excited to check this one out. Although it smelled a bit like acetone as I was raising it to my lips, the Kahlua Midnight tasted great. It had a deep, robust dark roast flavor with a smooth rum undertone...and a hint of something...maybe almonds(?) in the aftertaste. The Midnight is much darker and less sweet than the original Kahlua, which appeals to me. It tastes a bit more polished. I could definitely see turning to this liqueur in the winter months, maybe mixed with some Peppermint Schnapps (or Irish whiskey) and my favorite coffee.



To cleanse our palates, we stopped by the only table offering a non-alcoholic drink. The folks at Tea of a Kind were offering tastes of their Citrus Mint Green Tea, Pomegranate Acai White Tea and their Peach Ginger Black Tea. Jenni and I tried the pomegranate tea and I really liked it. It was light, natural and best of all only 20 calories a bottle. Also, their patented nitrogen bottle cap keeps the drink fresh so that they don't have to add any chemical preservatives. You just twist the cap and it infuses the tea. It goes from white to brown before your eyes. It's pretty cool. You can buy Tea of a Kind at Bevo currently but it will also be carried at Raley's grocery stores this fall.



Midtown Cocktail Week : http://www.midtowncocktailweek.org/



Ally

Mark Your Calendars




 
 
 
 
 
Ally


Tilden Park website: http://www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden.htm#about

Have you ever gotten sidetracked from a destination and ended up in an even better situation? That happened to us a few weeks ago. During a particularly hot weekend, we decided to take the kidlets to the ocean for the day. We left the house on time but from there the day went askew. We got stuck in traffic (it took us over an hour just to get from Sacramento to past Davis), the kidlets were bickering non-stop in the backseat and Mr.S. was in Defcon 1 grumpy mode. At some point just outside of Berkeley, Mr.S. flipped his lid and threatened to just turn the car around and go home. Everyone was pissy, hungry and sick of being in the car. Not wanting to sit in the car for another hour, I poked some information into the search engine on my phone and pointed out to Mr.S. that we were about ten minutes from a lake in Berkeley. So we went searching for Lake Anza. Honestly, none of us knew what to expect but our derailment turned out to be a nice surprise. After meandering through a billion residential streets and going up a hill, we reached a small lake in what appeared to be a giant park. We later learned that Lake Anza is situated in the heart of Tilden Park, a regional park that that houses an 18 hole championship golf course, a merry-go-round, a miniature steam passenger railway, a tiny farm animal zoo and a gorgeous botanical garden. There's also tons of hiking trails, a picnic area and a campground. All in Berkeley, who knew?! We decided to park our butts down by the lake, eat our lunch and soak up some sunshine. As we ate our sandwiches, we watched a few brave souls jump into the lake (swimming is allowed and there are lifeguards on duty), a team of ducks paddling about and several happy dogs playing fetch (most areas of the park are dog friendly).



Afterwards, we ambled over to the Regional Parks Botanic Garden. We were pretty impressed with how well kept it was and that it was so incredibly peaceful. Even the kidlets quit quarreling and enjoyed the serenity of the nature surrounding them.








I'm thinking, Mr.S. and I might have to make a trip back out to this urban oasis soon, just the two of us for a day trip date. Next time, I'll pack a real picnic lunch- some crusty homemade bread, creamy cheese, fresh fruit preserves and a simple, refreshing melon salad like this one:

Honey-Mint Melon Salad

Ingredients

Melon
Raspberries
Mint (torn into small pieces)
Lime juice
Honey

Instructions

1. Cut up your favorite melon into bite sized chunks.
I used this fantastic melon I purchased at Vierra Farms in West Sac. I think it's called a hami melon? Anyhow, it's an oval, yellow-skinned cantaloupe with green speckles and white veins. The melon itself is crisp and tastes sweet like a honeydew



2. Place the melon pieces in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add in fresh raspberries and mint. I used some apple mint.



3. Give it a squirt or two of lime juice. (If you want to get fancy, you can sprinkle in some finger lime pearls instead.)

4. Drizzle with honey. Toss. Serve. Voilà! Simple as that.

Ally


It's that wonderful time of the year...the day most parents count down to (like a kid counts down to Christmas) - THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL. Although Mr.S.'s kidlets are great, by the end of summer both our nerves are pretty frayed. This year the kidlets will be attending different schools so they each had a different start date. Kidlet #1's first day of high school was last Monday and Kidlet #2 starts back up this Tuesday at his elementary school. The consensus after the first week from Kidlet #1 was that high school was "pretty cool," especially since he's already made new friends and due to a scheduling glitch he ended up with TWO lunch periods on the first day.

Anyhow, Mr.S. and I thought we'd celebrate this "holiday" by cooking up a tasty treat for ourselves. A celebration of surviving a summer of teen and preteen hormones, sibling rivalry and incessant "I'm bored's" and "He's looking at me's". I picked up some fresh, plump (or as I like to call them- fat ass) scallops at my favorite seafood store, Sunh Fish, along with some morels at the Co-op. I figured these ingredients paired with a simple beurre blanc (a velvety white butter sauce) would make a mind-blowing meal. And guess what? I was right! [I also made a side of sautéed balsamic carrots and beets greens so that we got our veggies in. ☺] The recipe didn't take too long to make, especially since I did my Back-to-School happy dance while whistling to The Final Countdown as I prepared the meal.

By the way, just a heads up-- beurre blanc is not for the faint of heart, it involves a INSANE amount of butter. Don't say I didn't warn you....




Pan-Seared Scallops and Morels in Beurre Blanc

Ingredients

1 dozen fresh, large scallops  (season on both sides with salt and pepper)
6 morels, cleaned of all grit and sliced in half length-wise
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4  cup champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2  tablespoon finely minced shallots
Kosher salt and ground white pepper, to taste
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter (cut into tablespoon-size pieces)
1 tablespoon of clarified butter
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
6 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4-5 finger limes (optional)

Instructions

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the wine, champagne vinegar and shallots to a boil.

2. Cook for about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is reduced to a thick sauce-like consistency.

3. Reduce heat to low and add in the cream. Stir.

4. Add 1 tablespoon of COLD butter at a time. Whisk each piece in thoroughly, making sure it incorporates into the sauce. Keep whisking constantly throughout the whole butter adding process. The sauce should be rich and creamy looking when you're done.

5. Season with salt and pepper.

6.  On a large plate, arrange your tomato halves.

7. In a large cast-iron pan, heat up the clarified butter and vegetable oil over high heat. (You want it smokin' hot.)

8. Place the scallops in the pan. Don't crowd them. Then don't touch them for about 2 minutes. Let them cook undisturbed, you want to get that nice golden-brown crust. At two minutes, flip them over and cook them for another minute or two depending on the thickness of the scallops. (Be sure that you don't overcook them, overcooked scallops taste rubbery and gross.)

9. Remove scallops from heat and place on plate.

10. In the same pan, you just removed the scallops, give your morels a quick sauté. Add another pat of butter if you wish.

11. Place the sautéed morels on the plate. Scoop the beurre blanc over the scallops, morels and tomatoes. Garnish the scallops with finger lime caviar if you wish. Enjoy!

* Note: Beurre blanc does not keep well, so you want to make it right before you use it.
Ally


I've been enamored with finger limes ever since I had them on some fresh oysters and in some phenomenal cocktails last year. I love how the little tiny spherical bubbles feel on my tongue and when you bite into them you get this effervescent burst of lemon-lime flavor with a slight floral undertone. They're kind of like a citrus pop rock.

Now I'll admit at first glance, finger limes are a bit fugly. They look like dried out gherkins (especially the ones with brown or purple peel) or a pudgy ogre finger, but the pulp inside this microcitrus is amazing. When you cut into the finger lime (which by the way isn't even a lime, it's a cousin to the lime), you'll see a bunch of translucent pearls. They can range in color from clear, green or pink. If you give the outside layer a squeeze, the pearl-like pulp will come tumbling out.



Finger limes are quite versatile. You can use them in drinks, marmalades, salads....You can also use the zest. The zest of finger limes is a bit unusual. It's thin and contains isomenthone, which is common in mint but unusual in citrus. My favorite way to use finger limes is to squeeze them onto fresh oysters (raw or grilled). Used as a garnish, the finger lime pearls add a nice kick of tanginess. One of the many cool things about finger limes is that you can freeze them (for 3-6 months). If you do this, you want to place them whole (uncut) on a baking sheet and once frozen, transfer them to an airtight container. When defrosting, defrost in the fridge.

Finger limes are a native bush to Australia so they're a bit hard to find but some farms (like Shanley Farms) in California have started growing them recently in small quantities. I was able to buy a container of them from the kind folks at Produce Express, which caterers to restaurants. So if you're in the restaurant biz you can order directly from them. Otherwise, I've seen finger limes at Whole Foods on occasion.  Or you can grow your own! Four Winds Growers in Winters, CA sells them in 5 gallon size tree form to area retailers.



Grilled Oysters With Butter, Sriracha and Finger Lime "Caviar"

Ingredients

1 dozen fresh oysters (I prefer the large ones for grilling), scrubbed

1/2 stick of unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon of Sriracha

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano (optional)

5-6 finger limes, cut in half



Instructions

1. Heat up your grill so it's VERY hot.

2. In a small bowl, mix up your butter, sriracha and sea salt. Place the bowl in the fridge for a bit to let it firm up.

3. Use an oyster shucker to open up your oysters. Be careful when popping the hinge, the shells are brittle and oftentimes sharp. Please don't slice open your hand.

* If you do not own a shucker or just don't want to shuck, you can place the closed oysters on your hot grill (cupped side on the bottom), with the top closed for 1-2 minutes. The oysters will open up on their own from the heat. Remove them as soon as the open.

4. Place a dollop of the butter-Sriracha mixture on each of your oyster. You can lightly sprinkle some Parmesan on the top too, if you wish. Place the oysters on the grill for 4-5 minutes (3-4 minutes if you popped them on the grill to open them). Use tongs to remove oysters from grate. The shell will be extremely hot.

5. Top with a squeeze of finger lime "caviar." Serve immediately.

Ally


It's pear season! And what goes best with pears? Cheese, of course! Awhile back, the nice folks at Rogue Creamery in Oregon sent me a shaker of their new Blue Heaven powder to try. Blue Heaven is a project they have been working on for more than ten years and just recently unveiled for Rogue Creamery's 80th Anniversary. Rogue Creamery is most famous for producing award-winning, gourmet blue cheeses so it should be no surprise that Blue Heaven is a blend of their popular Oregon Blue, Oregonzola, Crater Lake Blue and their special reserve blue cheeses. The cheeses are dried and then mixed with nonfat organic milk powder. Why should you try it? Because it tastes great! Blue Heaven is also convenient, shelf stable and made from certified sustainable raw cow's milk. It can be used in all kinds of delicious dishes- to add some zing to your mashed potatoes, to accent your soups or even as a savory seasoning sprinkled on your popcorn. There's all kinds of creative ways you can use Blue Heaven to transform your dishes. I decided to use my complimentary shaker of Blue Heaven in making a pear tart. I had picked up some fresh, juicy Bartlett pears during my excursion to Courtland this weekend and was just itching to make something with them. I used a basic tart shell recipe and made a filling of sliced pears, Blue Heaven and cream cheese. (I wanted the filling to be a bit creamy, hence the cream cheese.) Since pears tend to get tender when baked, I also tossed in some toasted almond slivers to give the tart some added texture and crunch. The Blue Heaven ended up lending a nice mellow blue cheese taste to the tart filling which I liked. It wasn't overwhelming at all.



The end result? My cottage was filled with intoxicating aromas all yesterday afternoon and the Blue Heaven-Pear Tart got an enthusiastic thumbs up all around from my taste testers and one, "Nom! Nom!" The Kidlet even liked it.

Blue Heaven powder can be ordered online via the company's website. It is also available at Laurent Dubois, one of France's finest cheese shops, and Simon Johnson's specialty food stores in Australia, for you international folks.

Website: Rogue Creamery
Facebook: Rogue Creamery
Phone: (866) 396-4704


Blue Heaven-Pear Tart

Ingredients

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup AP flour
1 package cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
2 fresh Bartlett pears- sliced   (To peel or not to peel- it's your choice.)
3.5 to 4 tablespoons of Rogue Creamery's Blue Heaven powder
2/3 cup + 2 tablespoons almond slivers, toasted
2 tablespoons honey, warmed    (optional)


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. In a small pan over medium-high heat, toast your almond slivers. Flip and stir them often. Be sure to keep a close eye on them as they can go from toasted to burnt very quickly.

3. Beat butter and 1/3 cup sugar with mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add flour, continue to mix. Remove dough from mixer bowl and place in a 9-inch quiche pan (a springform pan will also work). I prefer the quiche pan because it gives the tart a more polished look with its crimped edges and the removable bottom makes for easy release and serving. Nordic Ware makes a good one that runs about $11 and comes in a variety of colors.

3. Press the dough onto the bottom of the pan and about 1/2 way up the sides of the pan. Make sure the dough is spread out evenly.

4. Slice your pears and arrange on top of your dough. Sprinkle with 2/3 cups toasted almond slivers.



5. In a mixer bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar. Make sure the two are completely blended- no lumps. Add your egg and Blue Heaven. Mix well. (If you prefer a more robust blue cheese flavor, you can adjust the intensity by adding more Blue Heaven. At 3.5 tablespoons, my tart had a nice subtle blue cheese taste.)

6. Pour filling over pears. Spread evenly. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons of toasted almond slivers.

7. Bake for 10 minutes. Then reduce to 375 F and bake for additional 20-25 minutes.

8. Allow tart to cool.

9. Slice. Drizzle with warm honey if you wish, before serving.



* I was not compensated for this post other than receiving one complimentary shaker of Blue Heaven powder. All opinions are completely my own and I was under no obligation to write about the product.




Ally
Cruising along the Delta roads, with the river on one side and bountiful pear orchards on the other...I was ready and amped for the Passport to Farms event by the time this weekend rolled around. However, it didn't quite turn out how I thought it would. My friend and I had a pleasant enough time but I'm not sure if I'll attend this particular event next year. I found it to be a bit disorganized which is surprising because it's not the first event the Sacramento River Delta Grown Agri-Tourism Association has put on.  I was able to buy my ticket online- no problem, but when we showed up to check in at our designated location on Sunday at 930am, nothing was set up and the doors were locked. We had to hunt down someone to help us, who in turn had to hunt down another person who knew what was going on with the event. What was odd was that the event (according to the website and our tickets) was supposed to run from 9am to 5pm (???). Anyhow, we got a quick rundown from a friendly gentleman and were finally on our way. Unfortunately for us, we weren't familiar with our way around the Delta and the maps that we were given were a bit unclear so we got slightly lost. After taking the "scenic route" which involved several U-turns and a recrossing of a bridge, we were able to reach our first destination, Delta Islands Organic Farm. The two nice young ladies working the stand gave us 3 lbs of beautiful, ripe heirloom tomatoes. We even got to choose which ones we wanted from the several varieties on display. Then we were off...the flyer had stated there would be a tomato tasting but we didn't see anything set up.


Next, we headed to Steamboat Acres where there some tables set up, displaying organic pears, pear butter and fresh honey. We bought some delicious looking green Bartlett pears and then inquired if would be okay if we could walk around the orchard a bit. (Here too there were no tastings or offers to show us the grounds. What a bummer.)


 



From Steamboat Acres, we hopped over to the Double M Farms/McDowell Hunting Preserve. One of the owners was kind enough to show us these baby pheasants and let us wander around.


Aren't they adorable? I had to restrain myself from scooping them up and snuggling them. After we got our daily dose of cuteness, we grabbed a complimentary pear and headed out to look at the pear orchards, the corn and alfalfa fields and the larger pheasants.





We closed out our tour with a stop at Vierra Farms in West Sac where we were given a free Imagination melon (a seedless watermelon with an almost black rind). I'm looking forward to cutting this sucker open and seeing if it really is as sweet as the guy working the stand proclaimed it to be. (I'll let you know.)



So all in all, I guess the ticket cost ($15) wouldn't have been so bad if we had partaken in any of the wine tasting at Bogle, Scribner or the Sugar Mill but quite frankly it was too early, too hot and I didn't think it would be a good idea to be driving under the influence on unfamiliar, twisty river roads.  I have to admit, I was a bit letdown by this event. I guess from the event descriptions I was anticipating something a bit different. I felt like we ended up just visiting produce stands and what I really wanted was to see the farms. I think the event could be greatly improved if samples of the produce were offered at the various stops (not just Sugar Mill), there were a few farm tours and maybe even some cooking demos at a location or two. Something to get the attendees interested and engaged.  I would have loved to learn more about the Delta farms and their produce. Anyhow, even though the day was a bit of a bust, one thing I would like to point out is how super sweet and friendly the farmers and workers at each stop we went to were. Great folks!