Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Up in the cool gray north

Ok, so driving in a rental car on a rainy night through a city I've never driven through before--a little hectic! But I cowboy'd up and now after a night on the aerobed, I'm up and at 'em in cool, gray Seattle, drinking some good french press coffee at the Sun Cafe in Phinney Ridge. Mike and I went through the T-day menu last night, and I did have to do a little special pleading to get some green stuff on the menu--in Mike's eyes, completely superfluous on a day dedicated to stuffing, mashed potatoes in multiple flavors, gravy, turkey pit-cooked in the Weber, marshmallow-topped MBY casserole ("more butter than yams"), Velveeta mac n' cheese, 3 kinds of pie, an a jello mold. But I'm flying my Cali flag and bring the famous Bay Wolf pomegranate-and-persimmon salad to the table, perhaps without the goat cheese and pecans since there will already be a maple-walnut pie to follow. And maybe I'll even slip in a panful of lemony-garlic kale, too.

Lots of greens--dino kale, ruby chard, broccoli rabe--growing in the neighbors' front gardens here, which is nice to see.

More to follow! And feel free to post or call with all your piemaking questions--operators are standing by!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pie Therapy

Happy Thanksgiving week, from the Pie Queen!

Or, as she's being called these days, the Pie Therapist.

Talking about pies, as I do all the time but especially at this time of year, I'm continually amazed at how many people have serious fear of pie-ing. So I put out a call for potential patients, and got three: Kevin, Leslie, and Nancy, all of whom got a free one-on-one session with the Pie Therapist, and at the end, a hot pie coming out of their very own oven.

More fun stuff from the archives:

Lard Crusts!
I'm writing this deep in the Southwest Airlines scrum at Oakland Airport, on my way to the festivities in Seattle. My ticket to the party at Mike and Renee's? A tub of organic, local, happy-pig lard, packed in my suitcase next to the sweaters. This is not the first time I've traveled with apples and lard in my suitcase. Which makes me either a) weird, or 2) dedicated to supreme pie action.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

turnovers to the people

Well, hello! I missed you.

But not enough to write, you say. Thanks for working those abandonment issues, PQ!

Mmm, yes, well, be that as it may, PQ is back and just in time for Thanksgiving, pie time! As usual, we are offering a free fear-of-pie-ing class. Have the PQ in your kitchen, get covered in flour, and be freed from your dependence on those horrible frozen crusts forever! Flour, salt, a little sugar, butter and/or lard: voila, pie crust!

In fact, I'm getting going early with the pie-making this year, thanks to the benefit for Julie Kahn's Florida documentary Swamp Cabbage on Sunday. Turnovers for 150? Sure! It would only be more difficult if I had to take all of them up to Marin on the bus. But amazingly, PQ has a car now--her first ever! It's been a friend these past couple of months, toting crates of apples and boxes of pears home from hither and yon. The theme of the benefit dinner is wild & foraged, and really I should have been picking blackberries and scavenging for local apples and figs all these past months. But time got away from me, or something, and all of sudden, I was madly searching around for turnover timber that I could get for free or cheap. What's in the kitchen now:

-25 lbs of apples and a huge, beautiful Musquee de Provence squash, gotten in trade from Julia at Mariquita, for working at her bi-weekly Mystery Box pickup outside Piccino on Thursday. I ferried flats of strawberries and big plastic bags of veggies into Smartcars and Priuses for a few hours, and came home with a sense of duty done.

-Another milkcrate of knobby little apples, picked with Lauren of Produce to the People. Through Neighborhood Fruit, Lauren heard of a guy out in the avenues who had extra apples up high on his backyard tree. Being a fellow Bernalite, she picked me up in her truck and we nipped over there, ladder and pickers in hand. The guy was rather bemused to have two flannel-wearing cheerful ladies in his backyard, taking turns getting the fruit off his tree. Weirdest part: after telling us about a recent surgery he had to remove some moles from his torso, he insisted on whipping up his shirt to show us the rows of metal staples in his back and chest. He then followed us down the street and gave us both his card.

-40 lbs of beat-up kitchen pears from Frog Hollow, which I had to pay for, albeit much less than their usual $4/lb.

Wish I could have scored some quinces and huckleberries, but these will work...so now onto the pastry making! Am thinking of trying the quick-puff recipe in my Williams-Sonoma baking book, which is essentially just regular pie crust that's rolled and folded, rolled and folded three times to increase the flakiness and butter-layering. Report to follow!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We're Jamming...

You'd think, working in a place full of fruit, jam, and pastries, my first priority on my day off would not be making bread and jam. But it is! I could spend the day trying to find my mysteriously-disappeared cell phone, but I've done what I could, and short of a little more desultory searching, I don't think there's much more I can do to bring it back from Buenos Aires or wherever it's decided to go junketing. So instead: apricot jam!

This is a special windfall batch of jam, courtesy of the Free Farmstand. Tree and pals gleaned over 400 lbs of beautiful Blenheims from an old orchard up in Davis. They brought back the bounty to the city, where the promise of fruit (and the beautiful Sunday afternoon) resulted in an actual line snaking back from the table--something I'd never seen before. The offerings on the table were mostly mixed-up greens (including some very nice bunches of orach, aka mountain spinach) and bunches of herbs...the greens (including the radish greens from the Star Route Farms French breakfast radishes for which I'd traded a few super-ripe candy-cot apricots the day before) made an excellent mess sauteed with young garlic and a little soy sauce and sesame oil over brown rice.

But mostly it was all about the fruit, and along with a couple of other intrepid jam makers I scored a whole flat of very ripe Blenheims to take home for jamming. Ten pounds of free fruit, gathered with love and generous intent, plus a few knobbly lemons from someone's backyard.

Right now, batch #2 is simmering on the stove, along with a pot of black-bean soup, and the dough for whole-wheat oatmeal is rising on the table. After a cold, cold start, it's a lovely sunny day out there, and the first flower has opened on the Royal Chocolate salpiglossis, living up to its name.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Seeds are Sprouting!

Another day off, another post! Starting the day with coffee and homemade corn muffins with Sarabeth apricadabra jam, then pulling all the random empty glass jars and bottles out of my pantry so I can go to Rainbow Grocery and fill them up, courtesy of today's 20% off coupon.

Yes, any Wed & Thursday, you can use that 20% off coupon from the back of the Yellow Pages. Go, look in your phone book. There's one coupon for every month, so you can save up the pricey stuff you buy, like cheese or vitamins, and get it snappily discounted. Pretty cool, and thanks to my Facebook pal Sara S. for alerting me to this. Maple syrup, honey, dry beans, weird flours--I'm stocking up!

And soon it will be strawberry jam-making time, too. The jam cupboard is pretty much empty by now, except for a few jars of leftover winter marmalade. Time to start filling it back up with summer fruit! Lagier might have sour cherries for pie and preserves this weekend at the Ferry Plaza farmers market--maybe this will be the year I finally make my own brandied cherries. This jam season will be a good one, if only because I finally found the one tiny piece of jam-making equipment that had been missing: a lid-lifter! Essentially, just a chopstick with a magnet on the end, but completely necessary for fishing hot flat lids out of their sterilizing water. Thank you, Cole Hardware and your well-stocked preserving shelf!

What else to do today? Get my glasses fixed at the always accomodating Urban Eyes, brave the fashionistas to see if I can get lunch money for some castoffs at Buffalo Exchange, research & write a bunch of columns for Cosmic Cooking (hello, Gemini!) and Bay Area Bites (hello, rose wines!), and pick up some more pots for the patio. Yes, the Summer Salad Project continues apace.

The lettuce has popped up, as have the radishes. Even the carrots are finally sending up feathery little emissaries to the wider world. Very exciting! Picked up some yarrow (a temptation for the pollinators, and a good drought-tolerant flower) and another salpiglossis (yes, we're representing the solanums pretty heavily this year, what with the potatoes and tomatoes too) at Flora Grubb last week--now I just have to hit a more common-man nursery for ordinary stuff like marigolds to keep the aphids away.

Happily, there's one just down the hill, Flowercraft Garden Center on Bayshore at Cortland. They have loads of good stuff geared more towards people with yards (rather than people with lofts, like FG) and they're not too proud to carry pansies and petunias and yes, marigolds. Plus, numerous lavenders, and even six-packs of honey-scented sweet alyssum, a cute little bedding plant that's also a great habitat/food source for various beneficial bees and wasps. It's such a good home for aphid-munching wasps that even the big organic farms, like Lakeside, interplant it among their brassicas (broccoli, kale, collards, etc) to keep the crawly population down. They also had tons of big, healthy-looking early girl tomatoes, and I'm wondering if I can fit one more big bucket out there for one more tomato plant, even though it never really gets warm enough for tomatoes here. By the time the temps warm up, in Sept/Oct, the days are too short. (I had dozens of tiny still-green tomatoes on my plants come last November.)

And because I'm such a sucker for seeds, I also came home with seeds for borage and chives. The chives because the flowers make such a pretty pink vinegar, and because if you're growing potatoes, you ought to grow chives. (Where's my sour-cream bush?) The borage for its pretty starry blue edible flowers, but also because it's such a great bee-feeder. Bees love blue, and they particularly love borage, as do butterflies. The young leaves supposedly taste of cucumber, but they get big and hairy fast. Susceptible to powdery mildew in our damp climate, but we'll see if Gayla's milk-and-water spray helps with this.

So, on the patio now: lettuce, red and green; easter-egg radishes; cherry tomatoes, 2 kinds; morning glories, blue; marigolds (planted among the tomatoes); sweet alyssum; salpiglossis, red and chocolate-brown; sunflowers; borage; chives; scarlet runner beans. Seeds still to plant: cucumbers, sugar snap peas, more lettuce.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

blogging in my underwear

Well, hello! One thing that's become abundantly clear, these last few months: full-time job=good for bank account, bad for just about everything else, especially writing! It feels like I barely have time to wash my hair and eat cereal before getting back on the bus to work these days, a feeling definitely exacerbated by having to work 11 hours+ every Saturday. And then needing to write for Bay Area Bites and other places in my 5 minutes of spare time.

But you didn't come here to hear me whine, did you? After all, I have a job, which is no mean feat these days, even if it's one that I'm not especially trained for or good at. Right now, I'm good enough and hopefully getting better as I get it together.

Today, though, is a Day Off, and what am I doing? Lying on the bed in my underpants typing, obviously, but mostly I'm waiting for the seeds to sprout on the back patio. The Summer Salad Project is underway, and right now, with nothing but a few square feet of concrete, I'm going to have a garden or else. I'm on the waiting list for a couple of community gardens in Bernal, but until then, it's container gardening for me.

(A good inspiration/resource for beginning city gardeners is the website and book You Grow, Girl. I'm particularly intrigued by her suggestion of using a dilute (50/50) milk-and-water solution as a foliar and soil feed to prevent mildew and generally boost plant health. Also with adding crushed eggshells to the soil, or adding crushed eggshells to your watering can, so the water used picks up minerals from the shells).

The fingerling potatoes, planted back in early March, are looking very good. Or at least their leafy parts up top are; presumably, somewhere in the 15 gallons of dirt below, beautiful baby potatoes are growing, too.

This week's backyard determination came from Sunday's inspiring trip to the truly cool and awesome Flora Grubb. Even if you don't have a single corner in which to put a plant, it's worth it to grab a pal and swing down here on a pretty afternoon. You can treat this place like your own private garden, one full of palm trees and swaying tropicals and relaxing lawn chairs and little tables for your shiny red coffee cup. Yes, Flora Grubb is that very San Franciscan place, a nursery with an in-house Ritual Roasters coffee bar.

S., bless his heart, stood in the long sunny-afternoon/Mother's Day line and brought me the most velvety cappuccino you'd ever want to bless your lips, then went off to admire a pink-leaved hip Hawaiian beauty while I hit the seed rack and tried on sun hats. Came home with seeds for French baby carrots, heavenly blue morning glories, emerald-and-ruby salad mix, and my favorite multicolored easter-egg radishes.

The lettuce, carrots, and radishes are planted, and I've been going out every morning to drizzle on water to keep the seedbeds evenly moist, as promised. A few scarlet runner beans have been shoved into another pot, and now I've got to go out and plant the morning glories, already starting to sprout after their two-day water bath.

Nothing has come up yet, since it's only been a couple of days, and carrots in particular are verrrry slow to germinate. But that hasn't stopped me from squinting hopefully at the dirt as I shake on the water, looking for a jump-starting cotelydon.

What else? I'm blogging about astrology and food over at Astrology.com, your portal to the stars, and being a wee bit jealous of Maria Helm Sinskey's wonderful life over on KQED. I've got to re-start my lovely Eatwell Farms local-wheat sourdough starter, since I left the last batch a wee bit too long and it started growing some fairy-hair mold around the edges, although the rest of it looked great.

Friday, April 24, 2009

LA Book Fest!

Headin' south! Yes, I'm zipping down to Los Angeles on Friday. Why? To party at the LA Festival of Books, of course. Look for me on Saturday and Sunday at poet-party central, a.k.a Manic D Press booth--#666, as if you had to ask, over by the LA Times stage-- signing and selling cute pink copies of the cute pink Astrology Cookbook. Come by, say hi, and I'll sign your book, your arm, your cleavage, whatever you want. Got to pack the pink glitter sparkles now, but see you down south!

Friday, April 03, 2009


Come on down! I'll be demonstrating some hot Aries delights at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market this Saturday morning, April 4th, at 10:15am. Heckle, munch, buy an Astrology Cookbook and get it signed. Buy 12, and hand them out to your adoring friends! And then stick around to see my pal Bibbi do her own cooking demo at 11am.

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is outside the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street, every Sat. from 8am-2pm. If you're standing in front of the big clock tower, the outdoor kitchen is under the arcade on your left. See you there!

I'm also heading out to the Twin Cities over Easter weekend, and would love to do a demo/book signing/radio show anywhere out there. If you've got contacts in the Minneapolis/St Paul area, let me know!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saturday Demo at the Ferry Building!

Well, I've been shamelessly remiss in hyping the brand-new fabulous Astrology Cookbook. The book party at Red Hill 2 weeks ago was awesome, if I say so myself. I cooked like a madwoman in the 2 hours between getting home from work and wriggling into my red crushed-velvet Susie-Bright-mojo dress. Having been at too many cheese-cubes-and-hummus parties, I dived through aisles of Good Life Grocery and came home with lamb, lamb, cilantro, bacon, and bacon, emerging smokily from the kitchen to load up S.'s shiny red car with tubs of pig candy, loads of lamb meatballs with yogurt dipping sauce, piles of fresh strawberries, brownies from the shop, and a slightly squashed heap of lemon madeleines.

We had to use the story-hour kiddie chairs as a makeshift bar for the Arkansas wine and fizzy juice, since Red Hill isn't really set up for cocktail parties, which is what the event turned into. First, though, I had to do a dramatic reading from the book, no mean feat for a cookbook author. But hey, I'm game, and by the end I was writhing on the floor and crawling up Roxxie's legs to demonstrate just how naughty Scorpios can be. Cookbook signings don't usually include a floor show, but they should, and they will, if I have anything to do with it.

I don't know if this Saturday's event will be quite so racy, but I'm going to do my best. Come down to the Ferry Building at 10:15am on Saturday, April 4th, and find me at the outdoor kitchen (out front, to the left of the main entrance) demonstrating some fabulous Aries recipes and taking on hecklers from the audience.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Have a Nice Day!

There's a really fabulous Clive James poem out there that begins,

The book of my enemy has been remaindered,
And I am pleased.

The rest of the poem is great, too, but like the title of Snakes on a Plane, those first two lines tell you everything you need to know. Schadenfraude is not nice, I know, but don't we all indulge in it, and isn't it satisfying in an evil and unnecessary way to see some really hubristic, over-hyped tome sitting around with the $4.95 sticker on it at Dog-Eared Books.

Except, of course, when it's YOUR book. And not even stickered, but in the free box. Or, to be completely honest, not even IN the free box, but simply dumped on the Saturday-morning steps of the still-shuttered Red Hill Books with the Lance Armstrong biography and the tattered movie tie-in edition of Lord of the Rings, just ASPIRING, hoping for a home in the free box.

Yes, that was me yesterday morning, admiring my name up on the poster advertising last week's Astrology Cookbook party, when I looked down and saw my name, again, this time on my own previous book, which had been dumped like an old pair of shoes on the steps.

The pages were studded with post-its; whoever had owned the book had liked the recipes for hot honey lemonade and avocado-honey hair mud enough to make it easy to find the right pages. But clearly, not enough to provide continued indoor bookshelf space.

I called E. to tell him, since he'd been privy to the labor it took to birth that particular book, and of course he laughed with me. "Did you pick it up?" he asked, and the answer was damn skippy I picked it up! It's mine!

And then, still talking, I got on a BART train downtown only to see a dude sprawled on the front seat, pants around his ankles, pissing grandly into the carpet in a show-stopping arc, a fountain the likes of which I'd really never seen before, even when changing the diapers of my infant nephew. I wish I could erase this image from my brain, but I fear it's going to be there for a long, long time. Even four years of riding the NYC subway hadn't really prepared me for this.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Hamantaschen Time

Whoa! Things are sneaking up on me this week. Like daylight savings time, which I didn't realize was happening today, since my phone aka watch automatically re-set itself. I was a little surprised that I'd slept til 8:30am this morning, but figured it was just a reaction to working a long 10+ hour day again. And suddenly it's plum-blossom and Girl Scout cookie time, and very soon, Purim, arriving on Tuesday! Which means, of course, that hamantaschen must be made. But where to get the correct, gorgeously wrapped gummy sheets of apricot paste, made, I believe, in Syria? Back in Brooklyn, they sold for cheap at Sahadi's, my friendly local Lebanese grocery store. Here, I'm sure Haig's out in the avenues has them, but it would be great to find someplace closer to home. There's a Middle Eastern grocery store on Mission near 26th St that I've been meaning to check out; now may be the time!

Why apricot paste? What you want for your hamantaschen filling is what's called lekvar: a thick, dense paste of sweetened dried apricots, which can then be pureed with golden raisins and mixed with orange and lemon juices for balance and complexity. Apricot jam WILL NOT do; it's too runny. You want the concentration of dried apricots, so the filling won't run out or burn during baking. You could, of course, soak, cook, and puree your own dried apricots, but the sheets sold in middle eastern grocery stores--imagine a 1-inch thick brick of apricot fruit leather--work like a charm. (Like canned pie filling, canned apricot lekvar is, unfortunately, usually filled with corn syrup and other junk). I've posted numerous hamantaschen recipes here, but here is the best one, adapted from the fabulous Jewish Holiday Baking book by Canadian baking Jew Marcy Goldman. Prune filling is also surprisingly good; poppyseed, another trad filling, sounds good but requires a special grinder to pulverize the seeds correctly.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

sitting in your house, and spanish chickpeas

Alas, my Rockridge idyll has ended abruptly, a week early. My good pal Leslie and her roomie had both departed for other timezones, and I got to housesit Leslie's adorable cottage, complete with comfy bed and backyard lemon tree. It was lovely to have real privacy and get out of the tiny, chilly environs back in Bernal. And, of course, it was easy enticement to get the East Bay-dwelling S. over for dinner with no bridge in between. I was looking forward to another week of warmth and tea in the kitchen and good books to read from Leslie's library.

Until Leslie's roommate got sick in Manila and decided to come back early, putting an end to the need for my housesitting duties. Bummer! So I'm back in Bernal, counting down the days til my hoped-for next East Bay housesit, also in Rockridge, for Shar's sister-in-law. Not I'm around much, what with working million-hour days right now, but still...privacy is bliss, especially when you're around the public all day.

So, you need your plants watered or your cat cuddled, let me know! No smoke, no drugs, no loudness, and I might even leave you homemade muffins in the freezer.

I did have fun cooking on the beautiful Wedgewood stove in Leslie's kitchen, including this last-minute, made-up-on-the-way-home-from-BART rainy-day dish.

Sort of Spanish Chickpea Stew

a couple strips of bacon or a few slices of chorizo
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
a good splash of red wine
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 28-oz large can diced tomatoes
2 tsp smoked paprika (pimenton)
1/2 tsp thyme or rosemary
salt and pepper, and hot sauce if you like it
1 cup frozen peas, optional

Dice the bacon or chorizo and cook until fat renders. Add onion slices and olive oil, and fry until onion is beginning to brown. Add garlic, carrots, and celery. Saute for another couple minutes, stirring frequently. Add wine,chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices, plus salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, turn heat to low, and cook until flavors are blended, 15 minutes or so. Add a handful of frozen peas at the end for color. Serve with wine and good bread.

Monday, February 16, 2009

PQ & You!

The Book has a print date! Hopefully, all going well, it will ship from the printers on March 10, getting to CA sometime around St. Patrick's Day. Come on down to the Bernal Heights premiere party on Friday, March 20th at 7pm at Red Hill Books on Cortland, hurrah. This is a particularly Bernal-icious event, given that the bookstore is just a few blocks from both PQ Castle and the world headquarters of publisher Manic D Press.

On April 4, at 10:15am, I'll be cooking up some hot Aries love at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in downtown San Francisco. This is one of my favorite places to do a demo, because they have a fabulous display kitchen and it's great to be able to walk around the market with a basket early in the morning, sourcing ingredients from some of the best farmers in Northern/Coastal CA. Green garlic, artichokes, lamb, and hopefully strawberries will all be involved! Stick around after my demo and check out the skills of pal Bibby G., who runs a cooking-class-as-team-event business called Parties that Cook. She'll be doing her thing at 11am, same bat channel.

Also on the PQ docket: I'll be at Omnivore Books on 2pm on Feb. 28th in Noe Valley, talking about cooking with kids and signing copies of Kids in the Kitchen: Fun Food. Tasty snackies will be served at all events, so come on down!

So, what is this new book of which I speak? It's The Astrology Cookbook: A Cosmic Guide to Feasts of Love. It has a fabulous, very Daily-Candyish cover, and supertasty recipes guaranteed to woo the Scorpio or Capricorn of your dreams.

More exciting promo events and info to follow as the publication date gets closer, but until then, I'd like to take a page from the promo-brain of the wonderful Brooklyn author Ayun Halliday, who did a 30-day "virtual tour" by stopping by 30 different blogs in 30 days to promote her food memoir, Dirty Sugar Cookies. Some bloggers interviewed her; some talked about the book, others took the day off and let Ayun guest-blog. I'm thinking that May will be PQ's virtual-blog-tour month; if you'd like to have PQ on your blog some day in May, please let me know! All hosters will get a copy of the book, and maybe even cupcakes!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From the Mailbag

Let's open up the mailbag this morning, shall we? Oh, it's a couple of questions from our good pal Shar in Oakland. (Somehow, this reminds me of Carole and Paula on The Magic Garden going over to talk to the Chuckle Patch...)

Dear Piequeen,

I have a fabulous couple getting married at the end of March who is pretty certain that they want my Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes with my decadent Kahlua Cafe Au Lait icing but for their non-choc option I wanted to offer them cupcakes featuring a seasonal fruit for that time in our region. what is good that time of year in general and how about this year specifically? What crops are gonna be in next month? I want to start getting a box from Frog Hollow. What will be in it??

Your biggest fan,

Thanks for writing, Shar! Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Kahlua Cafe au Lait icing, mmmmm. Those are my favorite, too! So, fruit-wise, your main local option at the end of March is sunny California citrus. Meyer lemons, tangerines, blood oranges, navel and juice oranges: they will all still be available, probably coming from central and southern California. I'd suggest Meyer lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting, or orange cupcakes with orange frosting.

The best way to get citrus flavor into cake batters is to use the aromatic rind. I swear by my microplane zester, which gets the zest (colored part) off quickly and easily without taking much of the pith (bitter white part underneath). I also like to put the sugar I'll need for a recipe into a bowl and zest the peel directly into it, mixing it in well to get all the aromatic oils well-distributed. The fragrant sugar can then be added to the recipe as directed. Here's a recipe for candied orange peels, in which the fruit slices are soaked in syrup and then baked for that stained-glass effect--cut into triangles, these might be a nice decoration on the top of each cupcake.


2 large, thin skinned oranges
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

Wash and dry oranges and slice as thinly as you can, about 1/16th of an inch thick. Use a mandoline if you have one or a very sharp knife. In a medium pot, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool ten minutes. Add oranges to pot. Cover and let stand 2 hours. Preheat oven to 225°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Arrange orange slices on baking sheet and press flat. Bake two hours or until golden. Cool completely. Store in an air tight container in single layers or between layers of parchment.

What else? Dried fruits, of course, and nuts like almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.

As for Frog Hollow, I would wait to sign up for a weekly CSA box until the farm's own fruit starts coming in, in May. Right now, they are sourcing fruit (citrus, apples, kiwi) from other farms around the state, and the quality/mix is not much different from what you'd get at the farmers market or a good market. I would wait til late spring/early summer when you can be sure of getting their fantastic Brentwood-grown cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, and nectarines.

Monday, February 02, 2009

All the Single Ladies

"Men are Unnecessary" could have been a headline for yesterday's New York Times, what with the lead Style section piece on womyn's land in Georgia and a companion piece in the magazine, 2 Kids+0 Husband=Family, about a tight group of 40-something co-parenting single moms, none of whom are dating and all of whom have daughters adopted from China. Both these articles followed a Home & Garden piece, Living Together, but Apart, about 2 older, single female artists creating a new shared live-work paradigm out of a pair of lofts. Did the editors just assume that no guys would be reading the paper on Superbowl Sunday? Or were they giving a little nudge to the beleaguered women in the kitchen stuck mashing the guacamole as their spouses slumped slack-jawed on the couch, beer in hand? "Pssst!" the NYT seemed to be saying. "There's another world out there, ladies. A place in the woods where you'll never have to shave your legs or watch car commercials ever again."

The womyn's land piece was pretty good, even if it did have Dr. Leakey-ish online headlines about "Lost Tribes of Lesbians." Personally, I don't think these women are lost; I think they know exactly where and why they're there. But it was great to see pictures of fabulously wrinkled and white-haired old lezzies (having, natch, a potluck) in place of the usual whiny fluff about Botox and bridesmaids. And just to see even a little lesbian-separatist herstory in something as mainstream as the NYT is really, really cool.

The co-parenting piece was intriguing, as was the Thursday piece about the artist pals who created separate, but still joined, live-work spaces for themselves in a Tribeca loft. (What was especially intriguing was that although the loft was bought outright by the more affluent friend, both women supposedly had equal say in how their spaces were redesigned, including a poshly outfitted kitchen for the non-owner (the owner herself had be talked into having even a minimal kitchen; a microwave and a coffee maker are all she uses.) The financial breakdown--who paid for that fancy stove?--wasn't detailed, except to say that the women had talked everything through but had little in writing. Presumably, the non-owning friend pays rent, but how do you make renovation demands/requests when you're not footing the bill?) Still, it's encouraging to think of the different options out there beyond the usual Noah's Ark couplings.

(Well, I could dig into this much deeper, but alas, deadlines loom, and I have a cold and much need for tea and really spicy Thai chicken soup. More to come!)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

As Bees in Honey Drown

Yes, the El Rio concert was great. West Grand rocked out, thanks to Jackie, Debbie and the dude twins (no, for real, they're twins) on bass and drums. They were followed up by Reform School Girls, fronted by my old pal Pam Russell, who could read the phonebook on stage and be fun. This time she had false eyelashes AND a ratted-up bouffante, like Joan Holloway (from Mad Men)'s slutty little sister. As they claim on their Myspace page, "No women's prison can keep us out!"

Coolest thing is that Pam's gotten a book deal for her (deliberately) bad poetry, thanks to a savvy agent who saw her original chapbook. The Better Off Dead dancers may have to come out of retirement to promote this! As they clai

It's crazy warm out again although you'd never know it from being inside my freezing-cold house. Am off to soak up some vitamin D now, and possibly hit up the Free Farmstand for greens and herbs and whatever else they've got. Being a regular customer there, I feel I should give back a little--am considering whipping up a batch of vegan lemon cupcakes to bring along, since I've already thawed out a bunch of last year's frozen Meyer lemon juice to make cold-fighting lemonade this morning. Have to remember to bring a copy of my Honey book for Free Farmstand organizer Tree, also an urban beekeeper. A lot of people who like honey think of the hive as a honey factory, and bees as merely the anonymous means of production. Beekeepers, however, often end up fairly indifferent to honey. (As one home beekeeper told me, "Now if bees made chocolate, that would be something!") They may get into beekeeping for the sweet stuff, but they stay with it because they fall in love with their bees, every one of them. One beekeeper told me that if a stray bee finds its way into his car after he's been caring for his hives, he has to bring it back. He puts himself in the place of the lone bee: "If you've been constantly surrounded by 30,000 of your best friends, you'd be pretty lonely out on your own all of a sudden."

Tree, too, just gives away his honey, while wishing more people would appreciate the beauty and community organization of the hive, rather than just wallowing in the sticky end result. A recent in-depth investigative series by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about corruption in the global honey industry should, I hope, get more people buying their honey locally, where they can know their producer, and where their producer knows his/her bees. It's also time to warm up those cupcake-making muscles, since I've promised to bring some cupcakes to the ladies of nearby Veritable Vegetable, in exchange for some fabulous pixie mandarins from their hotshot produce stash. Who needs Davos when you can network at Eco-Farm? Will bake/write for food, that's how we roll here at PQ Castle.

What else? Mike S. finally got his cherimoyas, only a year after his initial request. But late as they may be, he's got 'em now, courtesy of S., my produce connection, who took care of my needs through his cherimoya-growing buddy at the Berkeley Farmers Market. 4 super-jumbo, hard (so they wouldn't turn to mush in the process) 'moyas were shipped off to Seattle, where they're currently ripening to tropical sweetness in a paper bag with a couple of bananas. Looking forward to getting the full report once they're eaten!

Out of the kitchen, PQ has started writing for Bay Area Bites, the food blog for local public tv/radio station KQED. This week, my first post is about the potential for making foie gras more humane and sustainable--by shifting it to seasonal-only production. Read it and please post a comment there, if you like.

Friday, January 30, 2009

West Grand Rock N' Roll

So, what's up tonight? A rockin' show at El Rio, your dive! My pal and all-around butch stud mama hero Jackie Strano is back on her stage with her old Hail Marys band-mate Debbie in a new band. Called West Grand, they're describing themselves as "Jeff Buckley meets Black Sabbath" and I am very excited to go...I like Jackie's acoustic stuff but really, rocking out is what she was born to do.

I remember going to one of the very first Hail Marys shows, back when it was Jackie and a bunch of gay boys; it morphed into an all-dyke lineup later. At one point Shar & Jackie set me up with their new drummer, whom I ended up dating for a couple of years. I've been to more shows of theirs than I can count, and go-go'd onstage for them many times. This isn't the same band, of course, but the punk rock and roll heart will still be there. Don't miss it! Show starts at 9pm; West Grand probably goes on sometime around 10-10:30. $5 cover and cheap drinks all night long.

And, thanks to Downtown Donna's Facebook postings, I just realized that the line-up includes Reform School Girls, another all-girl band featuring the fabulous Pamela August Russell, of Better Off Dead Poets' Society fame, and ex-Pussy Tourette backup singer Sally Dana. Wheee! This is a night for an outfit and eyeliner, for sure.

And, you know, free oysters!!! from 5:30pm til they run out.

Monday, January 12, 2009

car pooling to eco farm?

So, who's going to Eco Farm next week? As usual, the carless PQ is looking for carpooling options...I can get down to Santa Cruz if necessary, but would love to get a ride from there. Happy to oblige with entertaining chat, gas money, and navigation assistance...Any driving farmies out there?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Cafe Gratitude, Chez PQ

Yep, we're rolling our own here at PQ Central. What are we grateful for, right NOW?

Nextmuni, which means never having to loiter on the corner praying for the otherwise-mythical 67 bus.

Debbie Harry, who is still performing, this time in a benefit for my Brooklyn writer pal Ayun Halliday's kids' school.

Qupe Syrah, red roses, charming company and beef carbonnade with silky mashers at the sweet and perhaps underappreciated South Park Cafe, tucked away South of Market between 2nd and 3rd Sts, between Brannan and Bryant.

Finally finishing the final edits on the cookbook manuscript, wheeee!

Swedish popstress Lykke Li and her acoustic, nearly a cappella version of Dance Dance Dance with Bon Iver, and Jane for turning me on to both.

Talking to my mom this morning, and hearing about her fab trip to Florida to visit her beau, always a good reminder that love can find you at any age.

Oops, Nextmuni is telling me the bus is almost here! More to follow!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

bonfire of the aloha cowgirls

Well, it just goes to show...there PQ was, yapping about her untarnished greens-hoppin' john-cornbread history on New Year's Day, and what did I have for dinner this Jan. 1 but roast beef, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, gravy, and yes, a couple of black-eyed peas. I had my beans a-soaking when Shar called up to say that Mama was making a roast, and that's all it took, after a morning brunch at Rose's Cafe in Cow Hollow (mimosas and the salmon "cozy", a fat slab of fresh salmon tucked into a thin ciabatta-like bread with herb mayo, greens, and radishes)to nip on over to Fruitvale to knit, help with the gravy, and make cookies with the kids. And, of course, eat more meat! First, though, we had to wander through North Beach for a cappuccino at Caffe Trieste, perfect as always. It was a sunny, washed-clean day, a good one to wake up to after dinner at Chow (bacon always makes Brussels sprouts better! Really, their Brussels sprout app--done in the wood-burning oven, I'm thinking--is fantastic, as is the very nice roasted chicken with sweet-potato mash), a Marga Gomez show, and a little champagne party in Bernal the night before, with Roxy, Nance, and Papa Sueno.

The key to Brussels sprouts, as with its other brassica sisters like cauliflower and cabbage: caramelization! Get those suckers cooked through and then BROWNED, in the oven or in a hot, greasy pan on top of the stove, and you'll eat them like candy, I swear. Lynn, Shar's Canadian mom-in-law, did a bang-up job with these for dinner on New Year's Day, and even though nothing can compete with a rare rib roast, they came pretty close.

And then, a couple days later, there was Papa Sueno's cocktail party, featuring tasty Cable Car cocktails of rum and curacao with a cinnamon-sugar rim on the glasses, mmm. Plus sushi AND cheese balls, both made by star cooks Susie & Heather, who also did the amazing food at Papa S.'s wedding last year. Handmade cheese balls, two kinds! Who would have thought, besides Amy Sedaris? There were also dainty little Rice Krispie treat balls dipped in milk chocolate, which I didn't try (being distracted by the miniature dark-chocolate milky way bars) but which garnered numerous moans of molar-curling delight. And as if that wasn't enough, I nipped on over to Lulu's bonfire afterwards, a posse of lovely ladies gathered around the fire pit in her Emeryville backyard. I passed out homemade pumpkin cookies (still tweaking the recipe, but will post soon) and shopped the clothes swap, donating some of the dresses and shirts passed to me by my older sister, and coming home with a snuggly black-velour coat, an excellent "Aloha Cowgirl" t-shirt, and many other pretty things.