Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Manna Pesto

I know, I know, it's been awhile. Stuff is happening, recipes are being made but time hasn't been there to dedicate to my little corner of the web. Es la vida! My garden is not in production at the moment. Yes, just when I thought that this year I would have a bountiful spring - especially with artichokes, the darn landlord went and tore out the guerrilla garden again. Oh well. The avocado tree is in full production mode so life ain't so bad.

Here is a little something for my fellow gardeners out there:

Isn't that great! I got this from my husband's grandparents, Ray and Paula Krotser, who lived in Berkeley, CA from mid-1970s until late 1990's. I really don't know anything more about the flyer or the group - do you?

UPDATE: If you would like a copy of this just leave me your email in the comments section. Let's spread a little Manna Pesto around, shall we?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Baldwin Park Community Garden - February

Several miles east of where I live and work lies a community garden that has been slowly taking shape over the past couple of years. Though in the past it has experienced various levels of neglect, it now seems to have gotten into its groove and looks spectacular. This garden is unique among community gardens because it serves not the general community per se, but several fourth grade classes from Baldwin Park Unified School District who visit once per month to plant, harvest and learn. During the rest of the month, the garden is looked after by volunteer Master Gardeners.

This past month I was invited to take part as a guest chef in a the "Nutrition in the Community Garden" program. Developed by the uber-fabulous Linda Hahn (pictured below), the goals of the program are to introduce kids to fresh vegetables, gardening and simple recipes they can prepare at home for themselves. Everytime I participate in her program I am impressed with the success that Linda has in engaging the kids. Her teaching style manages to be ebullient, concise and informative. She's amazing and the kids just love her program.

After a brief lesson on nutrition where Linda introduces and demonstrates the recipe of the month, she lets the 4th graders loose in the garden to harvest, wash and prepare the recipe. It's an exercise in controlled chaos. February's recipe was Salsa Fresca Salad with Nopalitos -- ingredients included tomato, corn, black beans, lettuce (harvested from the garden!), queso fresco, nopalitos, juice from a Meyer lemon and crunched up tortilla chips. Upon tasting the recipe, most of the children gave it an enthusiastic thumb up! (there were of course a few who wouldn't even taste it - but really, are we suprised?)

While I was waiting for the kids to arrive from their schools, I toured the garden pretending I was a paparazzi to the vegetable world.

Don't you just want to eat cabbage now?

Favorite grain of the Aztecs - banned by the Spanish: Amaranth

Even I was impressed that they had sunflowers in early Februaray!

And sweet peas too? Wow!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Yo soy un poblano

These days one of my favorite vegetables to prepare are Chiles Poblanos. When roasted, their flavor is complex, smoky, and mildly spicy.

A simple method is to roast them directly on the stovetop gas flame. Within no time their flesh becomes blistered and charred, turning into mummified versions of their former selves.

With a little patience, the skin slips right off. But don't use water otherwise you'll wash away some of the lovely juice and flavor! Slit them from stem to blossom end and gently brush away the seeds.

From here, I like to cut them into strips and toss them into a pan with onions that have been sauteeing already for about 5 minutes. Continue cooking the twosome for 10 minutes and then finish them off with a couple tablespoons of cream, half & half, crema mexicana or whatever is calling out to you.

Enjoy with fresh, homemade corn tortillas (or ones just reheated on the comal) and a sprinkling of queso fresco.

Buen Provecho!

Friday, January 20, 2006

January's Garden

The January heat wave came just in time to turn my Serranos red - perfect for another batch of Trinidadian Pepper Sauce. Yummmmmmm.

Fennel comes up wild in my garden - one of the benefits of being a laissez faire gardener is to end up with edible weeds. Fennel bulbs like this one pair nicely with in season citrus.

Barely blossoms - future Meyer Lemons. Sadly, since my apartment building is For Sale, and I may be leaving for a Peace Corps assignment in September, I may never get to enjoy the fruit from this recently planted tree. I've been told that to grow a healthy tree, it should be prevented from fruiting the first year to encourage healthy root growth. I don't know if I have the heart to pluck its baby blossoms though. If I do get to harvest these puppies, you can bet I'll be making Meyer Lemon Mousse and Lemon Curd. Their frangrance knocks me over!

We may finally be blessed with artichokes this spring. I thought after last year's rains this plants was a goner-it was in the lowest and therefore wettest part of the garden. Then after the landlord leveled the garden at the end of May 05, I thought it was a goner again. But, noooooo. This plant just keeps coming back.

Cabbage and wild chard.

I used to think that growing cabbage was so unsatisfying. But last year I changed my mind. It's true it does take most of the winter to grow (>6 mos), but it is so satisfying to stroll out to the garden in early springtime (when the lettuce is starting to die back from exhaustion) and pull one up for recipes and salads for the next week. Cabbage may be my favorite vegetable these days - whether making Salvadoran Curtido or sauteeing it with onions and sausage or making cabbage salad with mango, lime and chile. Que sabroso! Wild chard is a perfect addition to Panade (check out the Zuni Cafe cookbook for a perfect panade recipe!).

Friday, December 16, 2005

December's Garden

Raised bed with lovage, cuban oregano, parsely and cabbage.

A canopy of avocados

Delightful yellow flowers

We've succeeded in propagating arugula as a weed!

Somebody seems to be enjoying our cabbage

Zucchetta - in December!!!

The hardy Russian (kale)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ven! Chelly, Ven!

During the early days in our apartment, my husband & I used to get up early on a Saturday or Sunday morning in the winter time and drive up to the Griffith Park Observatory. On the way we would stop to pick up some yummy pastries and coffee at either le Belle Epoque or a little cafe one block to the south (La Conversacion, I think?). Dashing back to the car, we would race up the the Observatory and find a perfect bench with a view of either Downtown LA or of the Hollywood Hills and the sign and sit down and enjoy our breakfast picnic. What facsinated me most about that area was the vast number people from far away places that were there too, touring around LA on one of the many massive tour buses that were parked nearby. Every group we walked by was speaking a different language, many I had never heard before.

As we sat there one morning gazing at the mansions on the hillside, a small family walked by led by two small girls, maybe around 6 or 7 years old. It seemed clear that one of the little girls was visiting from out of town and her little friend wanted to make sure she didn't miss a thing. As they were about to pass us, the little girl stopped, ran towards the fence and called out to her friend, "Ven, Chelly Ven! Miran las letras que dicen HOLLYWOOD! Ven, Chelly, Ven!" It was the cutest thing in the Whole. Wide. World. Especially cute for the way she extended each syllable of hol-ly-wooooooood. My husband & I could not stop laughing and saying, "miran las letras que dice Hollywood" over and over again.

Fairly soon we should be able to resume early mornings at the Observatory, when construction is finally completed and we have a brand new shiny (ADA compliant) place to see the stars (that are hidden behind so much light pollution). It'll be grand. Ven!

Life in the shadows

As I was driving down Hollywood Blvd yesterday morning on the way to the Sunday farmer's market, my husband commented on how bright and sparkly the HOLLYWOOD sign looked in the early morning sunlight. It's true. It does look impressive, offering hope and inspirations to all the underfed starlets that arrive year after year in my hometown. Earlier in the week, I had read that our new mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, had put the finishing touches of paint on the sign, thereby enhancing civic pride. HEY - that my husband & I even noticed shows the paint job worked its magic on us! So as we drove on I was pondering my life in this iconic town, renowned for its celebrities, movies, entertainment whozie-whats-its and yet, I feel as though I live in an alternate reality. I said to my husband, with an air of melodrama, "*sigh*, life in the shadow of the Hollywood sign". (giggle giggle)

Today, it feels appropriate to name this blog in honor of that sentiment. Life here is so much more than meets the eye, so much more than "the Biz". After 9 years, we have carved out a uniquely special existence in the heart of Los Angeles. Our lives have nothing to do with HOLLYWOOD and all its business, with the exception of a few special friends. Our lives revolve around teaching, gardening, music, dance, politics, cooking, traveling and discovering the enchantments that lie in the shadows of the HOLLYWOOD sign.