Sunday, November 23, 2008


For the last fourteen years, we have spent Thanksgiving with a group of friends. There have been times when the group has been larger - some friends have moved on and some have fallen away completely - but the core, the five of us, have been religious about this retreat. It started with a road trip to Death Valley with Peter and Harriet, where we celebrated Thanksgiving in a restaurant, which proved too depressing to ever do again. The following year, we rented a place in Big Bear with more people, including our dearest Ron, who has never missed a trip since, and cooked our own Thanksgiving, and cooked and cooked and cooked all weekend. We have since Thanksgivinged up and down California, from Palm Springs to Cambria and everywhere in between. We even went to Hawaii a couple years ago, which was amazing. We have rented beach houses and desert houses and mountain houses - in snow and rain and heat. We have played countless games of Battleship. We have schelped turkeys and trimmings and snacks and sweet hot beaver mustard all over the place, cooking in all sorts of kitchens and all sorts of ovens, for better or worse. These trips have marked time for me in a profound way. This year, we celebrate our first Thanksgiving at home. We are having a weekend sleep over at our house, and I am already so excited. I am making cranberry sauce right now, and hopefully it'll be as amazing as Harriet's always is! Here's to Thanksgiving, and to Fred and Ron and Peter and Harriet: Forever May We Eat.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Adapted From Gourmet Magazine

Yield: Makes about 2 1/4 cups

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 1/4 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks


Bring all ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of cranberries burst, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or till tiny pink bubbles appear. I reduce the sauce a bit, so it thickens up nicely later. Transfer sauce to medium bowl and add the cinnamon sticks. Cool, cover, and refrigerate (sauce will thicken more as it gets colder). Recipe can be prepared 1 week ahead!!! Keep refrigerated.

PS. I got my cranberries from Stahlbush Island Farms, which is a remarkable family farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley...they have a fantastic website and blog!


Sunday, November 9, 2008





Now that the sowbugs are under control (thanks wholly to Diatomaceous Earth, which works GREAT!), our latest moocher is the cabbage worm...
I pick them off of our cabbages, broccoli, swiss chard, kale, brussels sprouts, and collard greens every day and they're just voracious, leaving holes and poor, exhausted plants.

It's war now, and hand picking just isn't cutting it. Here's what I have learned:

Bacillus Thuringiensis

The great thing about Bt is that it only affects insects that are in the caterpillar stage. It consists of a naturally occurring bacteria that is deadly to cabbage worms. Once they consume a part of a plant treated with Bt, the worm will stop feeding and shortly thereafter it will die.
Bt is usually sold in a liquid form which is mixed with water and sprayed onto the foliage of the plants that are under attack. This organic product is safe and can be applied right up until the time of harvest. Bt works and offers complete control over many types of caterpillars.

I also read the following, which, once the worms are under control from the Bt application, I will try:

A really good natural repellent is hot pepper spray. You can make the spray by chopping or grinding hot peppers into fine particles. You then mix 1/2 cup of the grounded peppers with 1 pint of water and then strain out the particles to form a clear solution. You should spray the plants twice, 2 or 3 days apart. Just make sure the spray makes contact with the cabbageworm.

Another good natural method for controlling all sorts of pests, including the cabbage worm, is insecticidal soap. The soap is a mixture of salts and fatty acids derived from plants. It is harmless to plants and works by drying up the pest causing it to die. You can apply the spray in the early morning or late afternoon, or on a cloudy day, while it's still cool, to reduce the risk of any possible damage to the plants and to minimize evaporation.


To prevent infestation in the first place, protect your plants with floating row covers, especially in spring and early summer, when egg-laying activity is at its highest.

To prevent the worms from burrowing into cabbage heads, insert each head into a nylon stocking, and leave it on until you harvest the head.

Oh boy.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Pappa Al Pomodoro

We had our first rain of the season this weekend (of course, it rained on our garage sale day!). It's colder now, yet we still have tomatoes is a nice fall recipe from Jamie's Italy that I love making. It's so easy and takes no time at all and is delicious! Hopefully the canned tomatoes you use are from your HUGE HARVEST that you CANNED YOURSELF, but if not, my favorite brand in the world is San Marzano! Also, this soup is great with the bread on the side as well!

about 1 lb ripe cherry tomatoes (I use a variety of tomatoes here, whatever is growing in the garden that is ripe)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stems finely chopped
the best extra virgin olive oil you can find
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
two 14 oz cans of good quality plum tomatoes
about 1 lb. or 2 large handfuls of stale, good quality bread

Prick the cherry tomatoes and toss them with one sliced clove of garlic and a quarter of the basil leaves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put them in a roasting pan, and cook in the oven at 350F for about 20 minutes.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot and add the remaining garlic and the basil stems. Stir around and gently fry for a minute, until softened. Add your canned tomatoes, then fill the can 1/2 way with water, and add that. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Tear the bread up into thumb-sized pieces and add them to the pan. Mi well and season to taste. Tear in the basil leaves and let the soup sit on low heat for 10 minutes. By this time your roasted tomatoes will be done, with juice bursting out of their skins, so remove them from the pan, remembering to scrape the lovely sticky bits from the bottom. Pour them into the soup with all the juices, basil, an oil from the pan.

Give the soup a good stir - you're looking to achieve a thick, silky, porridgy texture, so feel free to adjust it with a little water. Them remove it from the heat and add 6-7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Divide between your bowls and serve with a little extra basil torn over the top if you like. The most important thing with this soup is that you have a wonderfully intense sweet tomato basil flavor!