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.