Mystery Produce and Jalapeno Pickles

This week I picked up another abundant “mystery box” of produce from Mariquita Farm. Everything in the box I will use, however, the volume of marjoram and Napolitano basil (which turns brown quickly when warmed, bruised or cut so it’s not ideal for pesto) will take some creativity in order to use before rotting.



Cassius and Roxy are vegging out.


Here’s what I got:

  • Walla Walla Onions
  • Scallions
  • Red & Green Butter Lettuces
  • Carrots
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Marjoram
  • Summer Squash
  • Basil
  • Cayenne Peppers
  • Beets
  • Supplemental purchases:

I am really happy about the bulk bags of jalapenos. When I saw them listed on the farm’s order sheet, I planned my Saturday afternoon for canning my favorite jalapeno pickles. The recipe I use is my own and is the most popular recipe in my book, Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions (2003). If you don’t have a hard copy of the book, you can find an updated version of the recipe in a previous Brinylife blog entry. These tangy slices are great on sandwiches, chili, nachos – or really any food made better by adding salty, tangy, hot flavor.


Summer in Berkeley

My month-long summer break ends this Monday morning when I start my new position as Executive Director at Fresh Approach, a non-profit working to increase healthy food access and providing nutrition education in Bay area’s underserved communities. I’m looking forward to working with our staff, volunteers and our Board of Directors to continue to grow the organization, strengthen community partnerships and promote this important work in the Bay area.

Summer produce is what I want to eat these days. Gazpacho is high on my list of seasonal favorites. I have made blueberry jam and strawberry jam, and today I found the perfectly-sized, small Kirby cucumbers to make garlic dill pickles. I bought enough to make a few quarts PLUS a small batch of crunchy mustard pickles from my book Pickled. Grandma Patton used to make these and store them in a crock in the refrigerator. I ate a lot of chilled mustard pickles at Grandma’s house when I was a kid.

This is what I picked up at the Downtown Berkeley Farmers Market today:


  • Strawberries
  • Kirby cucumbers (small)
  • Sweet peppers
  • Orange canned tomatoes (Pomodori Cotti) – for Gazpacho
  • Pluots, nectarines and peaches
  • Sprite plums
  • Sweet basil
  • Cherry tomatoes

Cassius and Roxy with today’s farmers market finds












Thanksgiving Pickles

It was a beautiful fall day today here in the Bay area. After a busy week at work that included some out of state travel, I promised myself that I wouldn’t plan anything this weekend and just live it minute by minute.

This is the weekend before Thanksgiving so I had fun shopping for Thursday’s dinner. First I visited the Downtown Berkeley Ecology Center Farmers Market for a few basics – potatoes, onions, mushrooms – but I also picked up some ingredients to make pickles and kimchi because I am always hungry for pickled foods this time of year. Plus, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without a pickle plate! I visited the Rockridge Market Hall in Oakland for specialty foods including very fresh seafood from Hapuku Fish Shop, locally produced meats from Marin Sun Meats, and world class wines from Paul Marcus Wines.

Salting Napa cabbage for kimchi

Salting Napa cabbage for kimchi

I didn’t can my grandmother’s pickled beets this summer so I decided to make a “quick pickle” recipe that was shared with me by Jane Wilson Morton, the niece of the co-owners of Werth and O’Brien’s Deli in Flatbush. Brooklyn. This German deli is long gone but I was able to publish this recipe in my book Pickled (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2003). This recipe can be prepared 1-3 days before enjoying, and can be made without sealing jars in a hot water bath. It’s very simple and tasty!  Click on the image below to see the full recipe.


Werth and O'Brien's Pickled Beets

Werth and O’Brien’s Pickled Beets


In addition to beets, I made a jar of pickled cherry peppers (again for the refrigerator) and I began salting two heads of Napa cabbage that I bought of the farmers market today for kimchi. I also roasted some red jalapeno peppers to make a spicy version of romesco-style sauce to accompany roasted Brussels sprouts.

Roasted red jalapeno chile peppers in oil with garlic

Roasted red jalapeno chile peppers in oil with garlic

Through the years I’ve had fun posting to this blog about Thanksgiving, including a post dedicated to family favorites like Thanksgiving dressing. If you aren’t sure how to make Thanksgiving dressing/stuffing, be sure to check out that link for inspiration. I wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Slowly Getting Settled in California

One year ago, I didn’t know I would be living in California. I could say our transition started in December when J signed his employment paperwork to go to work for a company that would move us to the San Francisco area, but that’s not entirely true.

In the spring of 2014, I knew my time as Founding Director of the Puget Sound Food Hub would have to end so that the project could thrive. I willed change to happen, but I didn’t know when it would be right for me to leave or how it would happen. I needed to let go slowly so that others could assume their leadership roles and continue building and shaping the project into a sustainable, farmer owned cooperative. The goal to really expand the market for small and mid-scale farmers, increasing food access and reducing emissions by taking trucks off the road through creating strong partnerships and building a coordinated grassroots supply chain was lofty, but it was working!  I was optimistic and I was tired. How would I plan to leave a vocation that had become a central part of my identity – my torch – for the last six years? Did I do enough?


In my case there was not much advance planning. J was courted by a few companies and we decided the Bay area was the best place for both of us career-wise (me = food systems and he =  game industry) so he said yes. He drove down two weeks later and I spent the next four months wrapping up the project and passing the baton to colleagues. The weather in the Bay area would be more similar to Seattle than Los Angeles or the Midwest (yes I like clouds and rain). The decision to move was made pretty quickly but getting settled in has taken many more months and has been much more stressful than I imagined. This due to the increased cost of living, a super competitive housing market, and being a newcomer, among other things.

I am grateful to have landed a job quickly upon arriving. After living in short term housing while looking for something to buy during our first three months here, we decided to rent a home in Berkeley. We both wanted to live in Berkeley. We found a nice rental home that accepted our two dogs, and the neighborhood is comparable to our old one. We have privacy, an avocado tree and raised garden beds in the back yard. Our neighbors are all very nice. It’s an easy place to live and we are paying a fortune for it.

I often remind myself that I asked for change, and the universe answered, “OK, here ya go!” My response has been a combination of “thank you” and an 8-month long stream of expletives and resistance. I’ve been a brat many days since moving here. But I’m nearer to “letting come” or heading downward into the U.  I wish I could say I’m nearer to letting go of my former life, but that’s just not the truth. I’m working on it and have one more thing I need to accomplish (writing a white paper that tells the story of the food hub’s development). I haven’t found my next calling yet. I know I need to be patient since I’m still feeling a tad burnt-out from my last one, so I guess I should lighten up, right?

Reading the stories of refugees from Syria and Iraq on Humans of New York Facebook page this summer made me ponder the human’s ability to rapidly adjust to “the new” when faced with life or death decisions. When a person has no choice but to leave their home, they cannot afford to have a breakdown, can they? A person must simply choose to live and then put one foot in front of the other, and try to keep themselves and their loved ones intact through the transition into relative safety. I wrote a little about how people maintain their values and identity through food in my book, Pickled (2003). I read these new stories and wondered what memories will sustain these people? My guess is: a favorite tree, a familiar smell coming from the kitchen, a friendly neighbor waving hello. It’s the little mundane things, added up, that mean the most to us and make us feel like we belong. I hope and pray for their safe landing.

Memories of home can manifest in new places, but we have to be open to seeing it. Recently “home” has become a new favorite running spot, a new favorite tree, a familiar smell from my kitchen, my friendly new neighbors waving hello when they see me. I’ve been comforted at just how nice Californian’s have been to me, J and our dogs. Recently some dear friends drove up from LA to see me, and their visit lit up my home and my life with dancing and laughter.

And I’m absolutely loving the local, seasonal produce in Northern California.

The food grown in California is different, more diverse, than in Washington, Oregon, New York or Texas (the other states where I’ve lived and called home). Despite the serious drought, California’s mediterranean climate and soils provides an abundance of year-round produce that I’ve never experienced any other place. Last week I picked up a produce box from Mariquita Farm with eggplant, frying peppers, cherry peppers, pomegranate, turnips (two kinds) chard, lemongrass, green garlic, apples, tomatoes, cabbage, and arugula. I know, right? Bountiful!


This week I picked up more tomatoes, onions, plums, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, cucumbers (two kinds), and a pumpkin (not shown here) at the Ecology Center Farmers Market in Downtown Berkeley. Just two weeks after moving into this rental house, I got out my canner and canned tomatoes and pickles, and have since made another batch of slow roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers to have in the fridge for salads, sandwiches and easy pasta dishes. Last night I grilled a batch of eggplant to freeze for future casseroles and dips. I have found a new source for pastured, organic beef and pork (but let’s face it, Skagit River Ranch is a tough act to follow!)


Preparing and eating good food from my new home state is a simple, familiar way that I can connect with the feeling of being at home. I did the same thing when I moved to New York, Portland and Seattle and it worked every time. New friendships will come next. Then, hopefully, in time, a new calling will emerge.

Last week I put a deposit down for our Thanksgiving turkey through a program coordinated by Slow Food Russian River to support heritage breeds, young farmers, 4H, and organic farming. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be part of supporting this effort.

J and the dogs- my immediate family – are here with me and we are well. I miss Seattle. I missed Portland and New York when I left, too. I miss my family and friends in Texas. It’s the same small world.

But I guess time will change everything.


Garlic Dill Pickles

Garlic Dill Pickles

Garlic Dill Pickles

I have a favorite homemade dill pickle recipe. It’s really basic. The recipe calls for a 50/50 brine (1:1 water to white vinegar), Kosher salt, fresh garlic, and fresh dill fronds. Sometimes I’ll throw in a slice of jalapeno chile to each jar for added heat.

The big difference is the cucumber itself. To me the perfect homemade dill pickle is possible only if I can find several pounds of small Kirby cucumbers that are 3-4 inches long and between 1-1 1/2 inches wide. It’s larger than cornichon but smaller than many commercial Kosher dills which tend to be full sized at 2-3 inches wide and 5-6 inches long.

Unless you grow your own Kirby cucumbers and pick them when they are small, you have to wait for just the right time in the growing season to score them at the farmers market.  I have seen them in specialty grocery stores but they are never any good. These cukes are highly perishable and they begin to deteriorate and become soft even if refrigerated.  Only use firm cucumbers for pickling if you want crisp pickles.

Today only two farms at the Ballard Farmers Market were selling these smaller sized cukes, but only one farm from eastern Washington had exactly what I wanted.  I was so happy that I loaded up on $10 worth of cucumbers (4 lbs.) and 2 bulbs of fresh garlic and I went home and made four quarts of my favorite Garlic Dill Pickles.  I also used the same brine to make a quart of French beans (from last week’s CSA) pickled with garlic and dill or Dilly Beans from my now out of print, ten year-old cookbook, Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions.

Here’s an excellent link to Canning Across America where I reveal how to choose the right equipment and ingredients.  I encourage experimentation but not across the board.  Please be sure to only use clean equipment and do not experiment with acid levels, time or temperatures.

Garlic Dill Pickles 
Recipe adapted from Pickled: Fruits, Roots, More… Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions (2003), by Lucy Norris
Makes about 4 quarts or 8 pints

  • 8 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup salt (Kosher or pickling, non-iodized only)
  • 4 lbs. small Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed clean
  • 8 fresh dill fronds
  • 8 garlic cloves (peeled and root tips removed)

Combine the vinegar, salt and water in a large saucepan and bring to boil. Pack each jar first with garlic and dill then pack tightly with cucumbers. Place a wide mouth funnel on each jar and ladle hot liquid brine over the cucumbers remembering to leave at least a ¼ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a bubble freer and cap. Process jars in hot water bath for 10-15 minutes (or longer depending on elevation). Remove each jar carefully with rubberized tongs and place them on a towel or cooling rack. Allow the jars to cool and store in dark cupboard for at least three weeks before tasting. Once opened, store them in the refrigerator for up to six months (only using clean utensils when handling).

I have a German Christmas tree ornament about this size

I have a German Christmas tree ornament about this size

CSA Week 15: Quick Pickled Peppers

This is week 15 of the CSA season.  This week’s box is a great example of what’s grown around here at the end of the summer.  While the days are shorter, it’s still sunny and cool outside.  It’s my favorite time of year in Seattle. This weeks box includes:
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers (Santa Fe Grande, Black Hungarian, Serrano)
Purple Carrots
Green Beans
Onions (Ailsa Craig + Red Cippolini)
Recently I’ve gotten quite a few sweet peppers in my box, so I decided to make a quick batch of pickled roasted peppers.  This recipe is inspired by the Romanian Pickled Peppers recipe in my book, Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions, contributed by Sammy’s Roumanian Steakhouse in New York City.  This is a refrigerator pickle, so there is no need to process for shelf stability.  Pickled peppers are delicious in a lot of things.  I personally prefer them added to cold or grilled sandwiches with a lot of gooey cheese.
Quick Pickled Peppers

Quick Pickled Peppers

6-7 sweet peppers (various sizes and colors)
olive oil
1 cup water
1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced
Preheat your oven (or grill) to 400F.  In a large bowl drizzle olive oil over whole peppers and stir to coat with clean hands.  Roast or grill the peppers so that the skin has blistered and blackened then turn peppers with tongs to ensure even roasting.  Remove tender peppers from the heat and allow to cool.
With your hands massage the peel from each pepper and remove stems, core and seeds and discard. You may also wish to remove the white ribs with a paring knife as they can be bitter.  Stack the flesh of each pepper in a bowl and set aside.
In a saucepan over medium high heat, combine the water, vinegar and salt and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.  Hand pack the peppers in a clean, quart sized mason jar, tilting the jar to one side.  Toss a few slices of garlic between each layer before ladling the hot brine over the peppers and let sit to cool slightly.  Screw on the lid and store in the refrigerator overnight.  They peppers will keep refrigerated for a week or two if they last that long.
While I had the grill on last night, I also grilled the tomatillos for homemade salsa.  Last year, I made pickled tomatillos and then made a citrus-free tomatillo salsa which was a treat while I was on the Elimination Diet.  This year, I plan to make a fresh salsa using the chiles, tomatoes, onions, garlic and tomatillos from my CSA share among other things like lime juice and cilantro. Did I mention how much I love hot salsa?

The Kimchi Report

Bae Chu Kimchi

It’s been many years since I’ve made kimchi at home.  In fact, the last time I made it was during the research on my “pickle book” (Pickled: Preserving a World of Tastes and Traditions) published in 2003.  I don’t eat kimchi every day but I sometimes crave it, especially in the winter months.  A few weeks ago I was inspired to make a batch of kimchi from produce in my Sol to Seed Farm CSA share.  I thumbed through the pages of my own worn copy of Pickled to find the recipe for Bae Chu Kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi).  This recipe was given to me by Young Choi, who was owner of the now closed Woo Lae Oak restaurant in New York’s Soho neighborhood. They went through a lot of kimchi at the restaurant and this recipe is unlike other kimchi recipes that call for salted shrimp or anchovies.   This recipe gets its umami flavor from beef stock.  This is my favorite kimchi hands down.  After jotting down my shopping list, I headed off to H Mart to gather the remaining ingredients.

The result is delicious!  I’ll have to make this one again.

Here I have modified the original Woo Lae Oak recipe and added much more detail about the fermentation process.

  • 3 heads Napa Cabbage, about 6 lbs. washed and drained
  • 2 cups coarse salt (Kosher or sea salt)
  • 1 medium Daikon radish, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5-10 sprigs Korean watercress (tastes very much like parsley)
  • 1″ piece ginger, peeled finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and root tip removed
  • 1/2 cup Korean chile powder (I used Wang brand fine powder, not coarse)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock, preferably homemade (fat skimmed completely)
  • 1/2 cup Chinese or Korean chives, thinly sliced  diagonally (scallions will also work)

From the root end, cut each cabbage in half lengthwise and place on a large baking sheet.  Using your hands, work salt in between the leaves down to the root. Put cabbages into a large bowl and let sit, turning occasionally, until softened, 4 hours. Rinse cabbages and squeeze to extract excess water; set aside to continue draining.

Salted vegetables

In the bowl of a food processor, combine remaining ingredients to make the kimchi seasoning paste.  Stir in fresh chopped chives for color and texture.  Use your fingers to work the paste mixture between the leaves, starting with the innermost leaves and working outward. Repeat with remaining cabbage halves, reserving a handful of the filling. Transfer seasoned cabbages to a clean 6-qt. glass jar, adding some of the remaining seasoning paste and pressing down to compact the cabbages. Rub any remaining paste over the top of the packed cabbages and cover jar with 2 layers of plastic wrap and secure. Let the kimchi sit at room temperature to ferment for 4 days, but not in direct sunlight.  A dark corner of a basement works perfectly.  It will start to smell pungent by the second and third day.  Don’t worry!  This is completely normal.

Uncover the jar to release any gasses that have built up. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4-6 more days to let the flavors develop. Refrigerated, this kimchi will keep for at least 6 months (though the cabbages will become soft- which I do not care for). To serve, remove desired amount of cabbage and snip leaves into bit sized pieces.

I actually made three different types of kimchi: bae chu kimchi (Napa cabbage), a twisted variation of kak ku di kimchi (1/2 daikon radish 1/2 kohlrabi), and a shredded vegetable kimchi made with carrot, green cabbage and daikon.  I made sure the recipes were safe and tasty before posting this blog entry. Again, most of the vegetables are from my CSA share.  Fresh ingredients make the best kimchi.