Shelled purple hull peas

Have you ever bought things at the farmers' market solely because they're pretty and catch your eye? That was me this weekend, I bought these beautiful flowers:

Aren't they cute? They're called:

The blossoms feel like velvety 70's wallpaper and the deep burgundy color is so decadent looking. I can't help touching them every time I walk by the coffee table. I also bought some of these gorgeous peas. I asked the vendor what type of pea they were and she said black-eyed peas. Not these Black-Eyed Peas:

but rather the kind you eat at New Year's in Hoppin' John. Anyhow, I discovered after I shelled them that they were actually purple hull peas. I've heard they're creamier tasting than black-eyed peas so I thought I'd give them a whirl. I ended up cooking them with some bacon, garlic and onions- "Southern style." The house smelled absolutely divine while the peas were simmering. The dish itself turned out lip-smackin' good.  Mmm-mmm-mmm, I wish I had bought more peas! Next time I might try serving it over a plate of rice or with some homemade cornbread. I've heard sopping up the pot liquor with cornbread is the way to go.

Purple Hull Peas and Bacon


1 cup purple hull peas, shelled

3 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into small pieces

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper


1. Place the bacon pieces in a pot and cook until the fat has rendered. Add onions. Cook over medium high heat until onions become translucent. Add garlic, cook for another minute. (Do not drain bacon grease.)

2. Add shelled peas and enough water to cover the peas by 1-inch.

3. Bring to a boil. Continue to allow ingredients to boil for about a half hour.

4. Then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about an hour. Add more water if necessary to keep the peas covered.

5. Once the peas are soft. Remove from heat, drain off some (but not all!) of the liquid.

6. Season with salt and pepper. Serve while still warm.

So it's been about a week since the attempted break-in at my cottage. The police department came by with a photo line up for me to look at and whattaya-know Ms. Junkie-Burglar's mugshot photo was right there. It may sound heartless but I hope it's her third felony offense and they lock her up and throw away the key. In the meantime, my landlord is looking into putting in security gates around the cottages. It's unfortunate that this happened since this is a really nice part of Midtown. I guess it's not as crime-free as I thought though. I asked around and it turns out that another cottage neighbor had a break-in shortly before mine and they got in and stole some stuff including her laptop. Additionally another neighbor across the street has had their car broken into repeatedly. Talk about the suck.

Other than the burglary, it's been a pretty quiet week- I attended a girls' night get together at a buddy's casa, made loads of homemade strawberry jam, hung out with friends and tonight I saw a really cute movie (with Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg) called, "Celeste and Jesse Forever," at the Tower Theatre. It had a great line in it that made me do some introspective thinking- "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" I'm guilty of choosing the former a lot. I think I need to work on that. The visit to the movie theater also made me think a lot about how the Tower Theatre sucks and is in need of a serious renovation- the seats were so shot in the theatre we were in that I literally had a metal spring digging into my left butt cheek during the entire movie.

Anyhow, to balance out all the strawberry jam I made; I decided to try my hand at homemade peanut butter. Now I could have taken the easier route and bought already roasted/shelled peanuts and gone from there...but oooooh no, not me! That would be too simple. Instead, they happened to have raw, unshelled peanuts at the farmers' market this Sunday so I bought two pounds. The prep took a wee bit more effort but the end result was delish. Kidlet #1 and Mr.S. both gave it the thumbs up.

Peanut Butter From Scratch


2 lbs. raw peanuts, in the shell

Kosher salt


Canola Oil (or peanut oil)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Shell peanuts and rub the inner filmy skins off (if you have little ones that like to "help" when cooking , this is a great task to assign to them).

3. Place shelled peanuts on a baking sheet and spread them out evenly in a single layer.

4. Place baking sheet with peanuts in oven, cook for roughly 25 minutes. Toss the peanuts gently with a spatula, midway through the cooking time.

5. Remove baking sheet from oven. Allow peanuts to cool for 10-15 minutes.

6. Place peanuts in a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of Canola oil. Process mixture for a few minutes.

7. At this point, add salt and honey (to taste).

8. If the peanut butter looks a bit dry, add a bit more Canola oil. Pulse until desired smoothness.

9. Place peanut butter in an airtight container and store in fridge.

Did you have a nice weekend? Mine took a turn for the crazy right near the end. I spent Friday and Saturday at a friend's in Lodi, where we did an insane amount of canning- pickled red onions, marinara, spicy red pepper spread and dilly beans. Supervised by Miss Mija, tiny dog extraordinaire:

My feet ached intensely by Saturday night from standing all day, thank goodness we were able to drink a lot of wine to dull the pain. Sunday, I thought I had a little bit of time to laze about before attending a dinner party in the eve, but that plan was shot to hell when a crazy drug addict tried to break into my cottage- in the middle of the day, WHILE I WAS HOME. When I confronted her, she tried to tell me her cousin lived here...what the hell? I ended up calling the police, they came out and took a report and they think they might know who the perp is. Luckily, the dinner party was fun and took my mind off of things. Funny enough, I wasn't scared by the burglary incident, I was MAD though!

Anyhow, while in Lodi, my friend Cate and I made several jars of pickled red onions. They came out terrific and since you can eat them right away, I did! (I've had a hankering for pickled onions ever since Mr.S. and I stopped at a nearby Mexican restaurant and they threw a few on my carnitas.

Pickled Red Onions (adapted from "Put 'Em Up!" by Sherri Brooks Vinton)


6 lbs. small red onions
6 cups distilled white vinegar
3 cups water
9 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salt


1. Sliced onions. We used a food processor.

2. In a large non-reactive bowl- mix together: vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Make sure the sugar and salt dissolves thoroughly.

3. Add the sliced onions and stir well so that everything's coated.

4. Let it sit for about an hour. Once the onions get wilty, you can go ahead and put them in jars.

5. We were able to make 11 half-pint jars and 2 pint jars. Refrigerate, will stay good for at least a month.

6. Be sure to keep the leftover extra pickling juice- you can use it when making vinaigrette for your salad.


1900 V Street, Sacramento, CA 95818. (916) 442-8237.
M-F 8-5pm, Sat & Sun 9am-3pm. Accepts plastic.

When my friend, Cate, decided to throw a sushi party two years ago for her birthday I accompanied her to Sunh Fish on Broadway to pick up a few seafood items. I had heard about Sunh Fish before but had never stopped in there. The seafood we got there was great and I kept meaning to get back over there again, but life got busy and I never did. Flash forward to this year, I read about Sunh Fish moving to 19th and V Street into the old Verge Gallery. It was now within walking distance from my cottage! But did I ever get there? Nope...not until this week and I could kick myself that I haven't visited sooner.

Earlier this week, a chef acquaintance of mine had posted a tantalizing photo of some plump Tiger shrimp and creamy looking stone ground grits on his Facebook and noted that the shrimp were from Sunh Fish. Mr. S. and I had just been lamenting recently that there was such a limited selection of places to buy good seafood at in Sac; so when I saw that post, I decided to shoot the chef an email and ask if Sunh Fish sold whole fish retail and whether the fishmongers there would gut and scale the fish for you. I got an enthusiastic, "Yes!" back. So on my way home from running errands Thursday afternoon, I popped in there. Sunh Fish has a nice (free) parking lot, so you can swoop in and out easily. As I entered the building, I immediately noticed that the "store" area was one big room- warehouse big! There was an office to the left and then a large display case housing sushi-grade sashimi and salmon. Also in the case were fresh diver scallops, mussels, about four different kinds of prawns and an assortment of other delectable seafood. Walking up, I was immediately greeted with a friendly smile and an offer of assistance. I knew I wanted a whole fish to grill but I wasn't really sure what kind, so I asked the gentleman behind the counter for some recommendations. He suggested the Branzino (aka loup de mer, a European sea bass that has firm meat, not too many bones and is sustainable). I bought two, which came out to roughly two pounds. While I was waiting for him to scale and gut my purchase, I chatted with an elderly Japanese lady (a fellow customer) who had nothing but rave reviews for the store and suggested next time I try out a few of the oysters. I also wandered over, perused the cold case on the adjacent wall and noted that they carried several different kinds of tobiko and other sushi odds and ends. As I was checking out, the gentleman that had been assisting me was kind enough to answer my numerous questions about grilling fish whole and offered a few helpful cooking tips.

So if you're thinking of cooking up some seafood, I would highly recommend paying Sunh Fish a visit- excellent, quality seafood and phenomenal service. Plus they're open 7 days a week.

Here's some quick instructions and tips on how to cook whole Branzino. The prep, cooking and clean up turned out to be quite simple. Although we had a bit of an issue with the fish sticking a bit to the grill, it tasted fantastic - light, flaky and fresh. We'll definitely be opting to cook fish whole more often...maybe next time we'll try the salt crust method.

Grilled Branzino


2 one pound whole Branzinos, gutted and scaled
extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons, thinly sliced
1 bunch of fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
kitchen twine


1. Preheat your grill (medium-high heat) or if using charcoal, start your fire. Word to the wise- make sure your grate is extremely clean and be sure to rub it down with LOTS of oil (or use an oiled fish basket). We thought we had used enough oil on the grill but the fish skin still stuck. Boo! Next time we'll have to use more.

2. Rinse the fish under cold water (inside and out- be careful of the dorsal fin, it's spiny and sharp) and pat dry. Cut vertical slits into the side of the fish, about 1 inch apart. Turn fish over and repeat.

3. Rub the fish inside and out with olive oil.

4.Season the inside of the Branzino with salt and pepper. Then gently massage the outside of the fish with salt.

5. Place lemon slices and thyme sprigs in the cavity of the fish.

6. Cut two pieces of kitchen twine for each fish. Tie them around the thickest part of the fish to secure the inside ingredients from falling out.

7. Place the fish horizontally on the grill over direct medium-high heat.

8. Rule of thumb: grill the fish about 8-10 minutes/a side per 1-inch of thickness.

9. Place a spatula under the fish (or use two spatulas- one on top, one underneath) and flip the fish over.

On the stuck a little

10. To check for doneness: insert a metal skewer or a small knife into the thickest part of the fish's flesh, if it's done it should have some give and slide in easily. The skin should look crispy and the flesh will be moist and flaky.

11. Remove from grill, allow to rest for 4-5 minutes. Serve warm with lemon.

The Aftermath

The Olympics are over, the State Fair has come and gone and now the kidlets are getting ready to go back to school (I'm excited about that, them not so much). Doesn't it seem like summer just flew by? Well, if you'd rather squeeze in one more trip to Osaka-ya for snowcones or sip on some Moscow Mules while watching Shark Week on cable then engage in some heavy-duty cooking, here's an easy recipe you can throw together in a flash. Remember that pesto we made awhile back? Pull it out of the freezer because you're going to need it.

Orzo Salad with Pesto and Feta
makes about 3 servings


1 cup orzo

3/4 cup homemade pesto

3 tablespoons sun dried tomato slices (or fresh, chopped tomatoes)

3-4 tablespoons sliced black olives (or halved Kalamata olives)

4 tablespoons feta


1. Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain.

2. Mix in pesto. Place orzo in the fridge to cool.

3. Once cool- add in tomatoes, olives and feta. Mix well.

4. Serve.

5. See, how easy was that? Now go grab that snowcone, Shark Week's starting to get GOOD!

I know it was 100+ degrees this weekend, but did you check out the Japanese Bazaar at the Buddhist Church of Sacramento? We popped over last night around 7pm, when it had slightly cooled down. The bazaar is one of my favorite food events of the year, mainly because they serve some of the best BBQ teriyaki chicken in town (and this comes from a girl who's normally not even very fond of teriyaki). The price went up a buck this year (from $6 to $7) for the chicken but was still worth it. Mr.S. and I got an order of that, some ribs and a few rice balls to chow on while we listened to the East Wind Band bust out some upbeat R&B, soul and funk jams ("September," anyone?). There was also giant teriyaki beef sandwiches, croquettes, sushi, udon and various Japanese side dishes to grub on. Everyone around us seemed to be having a jolly time eating, drinking, chatting and playing games; some brave folks even got up near the stage and got their boogie on.

The festival is going on until 9pm today (Sunday, August 12th) so if you get a chance, check it out...and get the chicken if you can. :)

More info: Buddhist Church of Sacramento
2401 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento
Admission is free. Food cost varies.
Street Parking.

Ribs, Japanese Slaw & Rice Balls

Basil, with the warmer temps we've been having, it's growing like mad everywhere. And it's also evidently hiding out in my kitchen freezer, since I just found a giant jar of pesto I made awhile back, lurking behind some cappuccino popsicles. As soon as I discovered it, I was on a mission to make something with it...something great...but what?  Pesto pasta, pesto pizza, pesto salad? After taking a quick inventory of my kitchen goods, I decided to go with a tart. You can never go wrong with a tart.

Pesto Chicken Open Tart


1 skinless chicken breast
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2  tablespoons Herbes de Provence
Kosher salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed to room temperature (Pillsbury's makes a good one)
3 heaping tablespoons homemade Presto Pesto
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a small mixing bowl, combine - olive oil, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper.

3. Slather mixture on chicken breast. Place breast in a oven-safe pan/dish.

3. Cook chicken breast for 30-35 minutes, until juices run clear.

4. Remove chicken from pan, Cube.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

6. Take the puff pastry sheet and place it on a non-stick surface - parchment paper, Silpat, etc. atop a baking sheet.

7. Roll it out slightly. Schmear the pesto in a thin layer onto the dough.

8. Sprinkle the cubed chicken across the dough the season lightly with salt and pepper. (You can customize it too if you want by adding diced tomatoes, bell pepper strips or artichoke heart slices.)

9. Sprinkle cheese on top.

10. Bake 20 minutes, checking to see if the cheese is melted and the crust is golden.

11. Remove from oven, allow to cool. Cut into slices and serve.

It's funny- when I was in high school and throughout my twenties, most of my friends were guys. I'd say a good 90%. I found males to be less drama, more logical than emotional and much more fun to hang out with than female friends. I despised the cattiness and sense of competition that seemed to go with female friendships. Guys just seemed more up front. But since hitting my thirties, I've found myself gravitating towards being friends with more and more females. I still have many guy buddies but now some of my closest friends are women and I look forward to our "Girls' Nights." The vibe is different now- it's more relaxed, less drama and there's a strong sense of community. I know I can call any one of my girlfriends if I'm in crisis mode and need someone to talk to, need a lift to the hospital or I just would like a hand with my project-of-the-month. I'm not sure if as women we evolve as we get older to be less judgemental and snippy of each other or I just happened to stumble into some friendships with some amazing ladies. Either way, I feel lucky. My life is definitely more enriched with the female friendships I've cultivated in the last few years.

Last week, my friend Sheri was visiting from Portland (she recently moved there from Sacramento) and another friend of ours Emily decided to host a girls' night get together for her. Of course, good eats are always necessary- so there was pasta salad, various cheeses, pickles and veggies, hummus and homemade lime sorbet. I didn't have time to prepare anything fancy since I was gone all day so I decided to throw together a quickie dessert. I had purchased some Vol au Vents awhile back, so I decided to take those, press some goat cheese into them and top it off with some preserves. I did half with homemade apricot preserves and the other half with homemade ginger-Asian pear preserves. If you're not familiar with Vol au Vents, they're miniature, hollow puff pastry shells that are very light and crispy. The ones I used are made by a company called Erica's Kitchen and are shaped like super cute little flowers. I think they must have came out pretty good since the dish was empty at the end of the night. Next time, I might go the more savory route and make some Wild Mushroom Vol au Vents or maybe stuff them with some brie and brown sugar. What do you think would make a good filling?

Girls' Night Vol au Vents


1 package Vol au Vents (12 mini puff pastry cases)
3 oz. goat cheese
your favorite homemade jam or preserves (I used apricot and ginger Asian pear)


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat mat, and place Vol au Vents on mat, spaced evenly.

3. Press the middle circle of dough down, then place about teaspoon of goat cheese into each Vol au Vent. Gently push the goat cheese down into the opening.

4. Top with a teaspoon of your favorite homemade preserve.

5. Bake the Vol au Vents for approximately 10-15 minutes or until layers are golden.

6. Serve warm or at room temp.

After being away for four days on vacation and eating such nutritious snacks as Hostess Ding Dongs, chips-n-onion dip and Slim Jims, my system's in full DEFCON Level 1 mode and revolting against itself. So to appease my angry belly, I decided to make a simple HEALTHY lunch today of avocado bruschetta (pronounced [bru'sket:ta]). I've been making this dish (usually as a midnight snack) for years and never seem to tire of it. Each bite of the smooth, fresh avocado is punctuated by the crispness of the crusty warm bread...mmm, now I'm hungry again, might have to go make more!

Avocado Bruschetta


4 slices of crusty, rustic french bread- sliced (about 1/2 inch thick)

1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled

good quality, extra-virgin olive oil

1 large (fresh) garlic clove

red pepper flakes

sea salt and fresh ground pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Slice the clove of garlic crosswise and rub it on each bread slice.

3. Lightly brush the bread on both sides with olive oil (I like to use a pastry brush to do this).

4. Arrange the slices of bread on a baking sheet and cook for about 10-12 minutes or until golden.

5. Cut the avocado into small cubes and place in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and mix gently.

6. Spoon a portion of the chopped avocado onto each bread slice. Season with a sprinkling of sea salt, fresh ground pepper and red pepper flakes.

* Alternatively if you'd like more of a char to your bread, you can grill or broil it.
The North Shore Cabin

 Cabela's : 8650 Boomtown Road, Verdi, NV 89439. (775) 829-4100

When Mr.S. invited me to North Lake Tahoe for a family vacation, the last thing I expected was it to be "Sacramento hot" there. It was definitely a hot one; however, the weather was beautiful, the lake was bright blue and we brought along shorts, tanks and sandals. His brother graciously invited us to stay again at the same gorgeous cabin we stayed at this winter; with 5 spacious bedrooms (3 master suites) and 5 bathrooms- there was more than enough room for the eleven of us to kick back and relax. There was shuffleboard in the game room, movies (and the Olympic coverage) on the upstairs telly and a huge wraparound balcony to enjoy wine on while taking in the majestic view. During the day, we lounged on King's Beach (the kidlets even took one of those giant trikes out onto the water) and in the evening, we cooked dinner or went out to indulge in some fine dining. On Saturday, we took a jaunt out to Cabela's in Verdi (near Boomtown). Mr.S. was pretty sure that I would be bored off my rocker at Cabela's, but I had a blast. There were loads of rifles in the gun library, a huge selection of fishing gear and tons of camping gear and hunting/camo equipment throughout the megastore. They even had hollow point zombie bullets for sale. Eeep!


 Hungry Bass, Carp and Catfish

Zombie Ammunition

While we were there we shot targets in the old time shooting gallery, watched the giant fish being fed, made up stories about the various stuffed wild game (elephants, polar bears, hippos, oh my!) and then just when we were starting to wane a bit, we retired for some lunch at Cabela's Grill. Mr.S. went straight for the buffalo burger; whereas, I opted for the elk burger. The elk burger turned out to be good, the meat tasted much like your regular beef burger just denser. The accompanying coleslaw lacked flavor although it did taste like it was freshly made, as opposed to from a carton.

Cabela's Deli & Grill

Elk Burger & Slaw

Anyhow, we made it out of there without doing too much damage to our wallets, although it was fun watching Mr.S. looking like a kid in a candy store. Men! ;) Also, the kidlets had a fab time. Their Grandpa indulged them a bit with purchases of camo gear and air pistols, which they couldn't wait to get back to the cabin and use in the film they were making.

Tomorrow's Monday again...Ugh! Maybe I should have bought some camo gear, then I could hide from the giant pile of laundry and other various housework that I need to attend to.

What's better than reading a great book about food? Getting to read it and eat many of the tasty dishes mentioned in the memoir with some new friends. Last night, was Community Tap and Table's Foodie Book Club night and we discussed, cooked and tasted our way through Nigel Slater's bestseller, "Toast."

“It is impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. ”
 ~ Nigel Slater

Since pictures oftentimes tell a better story than just words, I snapped a few photos of the various dishes we had:

Cream Soda Cocktail: St Germain Elderflower Liquor, Vanilla Cream Soda, and Lime Juice over ice. Quite scrumptious!

Toast: Fontina Cheese w/ Caramelized Leeks and Mashed Peas atop toasted bread.

Tea Sandwiches.

Hearty Lamb Stew with Sweet Apricots

Pommes Dauphinoise: Baked potato slices layered in cream and milk.

Trifle: Berries soaked in Rosewater, layered with Ginger Whipped Cream and Booze Soaked Ladyfingers. Finished with Blueberry Marshmallow Cream.

September's book choice will be, "Four Fish" by Paul Greenberg. For more information contact Community Tap and Table.