Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Veggie Queen Lets Off Steam -- Pressure Cooking Joy

It amazes me that I chose the hottest day of the year to film my pressure cooking DVD but perhaps it was a reminder about why I choose to pressure cook -- it's a chance to let off steam, literally, and get great tasting food with not much work.

My ambitious schedule included 16 recipes but I had to cut it down when I got too hot and tired to do the last one which was for Curried Vegetables to serve over Alter Eco purple Thai rice. I did make the rice and it doesn't look nearly as good on film as it does in person but heck, it takes only 3 minutes at pressure, the same as white basmati or jasmine rice. The time savings amazes even me.

I bet that the crew was happy to be filming food versus plastic surgery. I'm sure that the plastic surgeons don't provide food after each section is complete. I started with breakfast and went straight through dessert. The leftovers could have fed a small hungry village almost anywhere in the world. I didn't let them go to waste as I fed my assistant Ellen and her family, my husband and me, and put some in my mother-in-law's freezer as payment for letting me use her kitchen (while she was out of town).

It'll be interesting to see the finished product. Any ideas for a title? Currently it's The Veggie Queen Cooks Under Pressure: Delicious Dishes in Minutes. But until the cover goes to the printer, I am open to suggestions.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Anxiously Awaiting New Potatoes

I will reluctantly admit that I am somewhat of a potato addict. And while many in this country choose to eat them as French fries, that's not the way that I like them best.

I most enjoy potatoes baked, grilled or as a non-creamy potato salad. While filming my pressure cooking DVD (still untitled, so if you have any ideas, please send them my way), I made my Garlicky Green Bean and Potato Salad. It takes just 3 minutes to cook, and has a dressing with garlic and lemon juice. And it's wonderful.

Because of the timing for filming, I couldn't wait until our local potatoes popped up but got California Yukon golds. I would have preferred to have made red, white and blue potato salad, and have been assured by one of the potato growers that they might have them by July 4th. But I've found that they usually appear later than that.

It took me many years to realize that potatoes are really more of a summer crop although I think that most people eat them in the winter. I like them all year round but try only to eat the local ones which don't last all winter (maybe in a root cellar but not in the dark of my garage).

I know that there are some people who say that potatoes aren't good for you. And that may be true for some people, especially those of you who have blood sugar problems. It doesn't mean that you can't eat them but that there are better choices for you. And if you do eat them, watch the quantities. Also, you may not know it but potatoes that are chilled and mixed with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice will cause less of a rise in blood sugar than potatoes eaten hot and plain. Of course, there's no need to discuss mayonnaise-laden potato salad or French fries, here.

If you enjoy potatoes as much as I do, and can eat them, then be on the lookout for new potatoes, in whatever colors and varieties you can find them.

I wrote this entire post and then went to the farmer's market in Sebastopol. Larry, of Triple T Ranch and Farm and the produce stand that was formerly Bob's Fruit Truck, both in Santa Rosa, called me over when I was at his booth. He showed me a bucket. And in it were yellow Finn potatoes. I let out a whoop and then went behind the table and got down on my knees and started picking through them. My inner potato fantasy has been satisfied and I know that there will be more to come. I'm off to cook now.

Seeing My Students at the Farmer's Markets

What a joy it is for me to be at the farmer's market and see my current and former students shopping there. Sometimes I might see as many as 4 of them in just a few minutes. It makes me feel as if I have done my job getting people out to buy fresh and local food.

Yesterday I saw April again who now rides to the market on her bicycle or carpools with a friend. She is taking steps to decrease her "carbon footprint" and that's impressive. Another student, Nathan, rides his bicycle to work all week, and also shops the market. If he sees me when he first gets there, he stops by for the market tip of the day.

I've thought about setting up a booth at the market, like the advice booth in the Peanuts cartoons, to tell people what is great that day. April was lamenting that the pea people weren't there yesterday. Lucky for me, Carey Nelson was at my Sunday market. And once again I am "rich in peas" (which was something was son used to say when he was little).

As for my students, if I can get at least one a semester to go the farmer's market regularly, it's worth all my cajoling. Often, I think that when they see the beautiful produce that I bring in to class, that they get to use, they know that it's in its prime and they want to get it. I mean, it's not as if you can buy zephyr squash (they are mostly yellow with a little light green), Suyo long cucumbers or truly ripe peaches at the store, all of which can be found at the market.

We are also lucky enough to have a great local farm stand. And I've seen my students there, too. I guess that my evangelical tirades about eating fresh and local are working. I am hoping that everyone can get the concept but it has to happen one person at a time. This is the time of year to check out the farmer's market.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Apricots, Peaches and Cherries, Oh My

Here in California we are into the stone fruit season with an abundance of wonderful, fresh, ripe apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, apriums, pluots and other new stone fruits that are crosses -- the names that I can't remember. Also, there are cherries.

This year my friend Ellen had a bumper crop of cherries and she made a pie. I don't really eat pie but I do love the fruit inside. I prefer fruit crisps for their taste and higher nutrition value with oats, nuts and cinnamon and other spices which enhance rather than enrobe the fruit. I am not into crust. But oh, the cherries -- which Ellen gave me a bag of since I didn't want pie. I am savoring them. They are ripe and deep red bings.

Amazingly, that same day I was able to pick Ranier-type cherries from my late friend Jon's tree and ate far too many before going out to dinner. They taasted much better than dinner. I realize that I could sit and eat cherries for much of a day, if I had the intestinal fortitude. And I mean that seriously since cherries, like all fruit, have a lot of fiber. So when you eat too much of them, you know it. Therefore Mother Nature has created something of a perfect system, unlike that of manufactured food such as potato or other chips, where it's almost impossible to eat too much fruit without suffering the "natural consequence".

My favorite summer salad contains stone fruit, lettuce and bitter greens with spring onions and a raspberry or strawberry dressing, topped with toasted sunflower seeds and ripe avocado. It is divine decadence and so satisfying. And the good part is that you can eat quite a lot, in fact, pretty much all you want without feeling stuffed. I urge you to try this and see how you feel.