Summer Break

Recently I shared that I decided to leave my position at Airbnb and return to community food systems. I am excited to start my new position as Executive Director of Fresh Approach on July 17. The start date means that I have a few weeks off to restore and prepare for a new adventure. I’m grateful to have this summer break so I can take care of some personal business and enjoy the summer without too many obligations.

This week I ordered a “mystery box” of mixed produce, a dozen eggs, a pint of blueberries and a flat of strawberries from Mariquita Farm’s Ladybug Buying Club. Here’s what I got:


Cassius and Roxy are impressed by this week’s colorful and abundant display of produce. I had so much that I shared the lettuces, strawberries and tomatoes with a neighbor across the street. Also spigariello is in the foreground- it’s the bunch that looks like kale.

  • Cherry tomatoes (orange and red)
  • Napolitano basil (light green ruffled leaves and very fragrant)
  • Mixed lettuces
  • Carrots
  • Spigariello
  • Garlic chives
  • Upland cress
  • Broccoli
  • Green onions
  • Formanova beets
  • Dozen chicken eggs
  • Strawberry flat
  • Blueberry pint

An abundance of excellent lettuces, egg, basil, cress and tomatoes plus other vegetables left in the fridge from last week (and a few ounces of sauteed chicken) made a satisfying big salad for dinner.


These organic blueberries from Fruitilicious Farm in Watsonville, CA are the best tasting berries I’ve tasted since leaving Washington. Addictive!


Strawberry season is almost over so I took advantage and bought a flat from Sea Level Farm in Corralitos, CA.  These organic berries are big, red and super sweet. I sliced up a pint for the fridge, froze a quart and made jam with the rest. Look out for the recipe and details in tomorrow’s blog post.


2 Years in California

This weekend J and I are celebrating this three-day Memorial Day weekend by staying at home with the dogs while enjoying the sunshine and all things domestic (i.e. puttering). The house is filled with music and the sound of window fans to displace the stale air of a house inhabited by a working couple and two old dogs.

It’s been one year since I posted to this blog and exactly two years since we left Seattle and arrived here in Berkeley. A couple of weeks ago I decided to leave my stressful job and get back to my roots in agriculture business development and community food systems, and so my exploratory wheels are in motion and I remain optimistic.

All is well as long as I don’t pay attention to the news.  I am surrounded by the hopefulness of late spring and its been nice to begin reconnecting with acquaintances and friends.

This post holds a special treat for those who have missed the photo journal of our dogs posing next to CSA shares (check out my blog posts from 5+ years ago).  If you are new to my blog, these are my dogs Roxy (11) and Cassius (12) and here they are posing with today’s haul from the Ecology Center Farmers Market in Berkeley. Cassius has been having mobility issues due to his osteoarthritis so he wears a harness that allows us to assist him when he slips.

About the blueberries: The blueberry farmer told me that down near Fresno they are already halfway through the season. After living here for two years, I still don’t expect to see dark berries until July.

Here’s what I found today including some recipe links:

More again soon…


Lime Oleo Saccharum

Lime oleo

A few months ago, Saveur magazine introduced me to oleo saccharum, a citrus peel-infused simple syrup. I made a batch of lime oleo saccharum and am now enjoying a very tasty mojito…. Hello? Is anyone there? I assume by you have now left your computer to start a batch of your own. I understand.

Since I just posted the Strawberry Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam recipe, I meant to delay this post for a few more days. Then I realized that wouldn’t be fair. This simple recipe is perfect for Memorial Day weekend gatherings.  But don’t wait! Make it today or tomorrow and enjoy this weekend. If you have any leftover, it stores neatly in the fridge for an extended time.

To learn how to make it, please click the link to Saveur. It includes a handy video demonstrating how it’s made. All you need is your citrus of choice, a good vegetable peeler, sugar, a Ziploc-like baggie and a vessel to put it in for storing (like a Mason jar).

Seriously folks, I’m hooked. This mojito made with lime oleo saccharum has cast a spell on me. I’m going to make orange or tangerine next and make a gussied up Old Fashioned.


Strawberry-Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam

Strawberry rhubarb jam

Last week I got excited and bought a full flat of strawberries from Mariquita Farm without a plan to use them. I froze two quarts and sliced and tossed the remaining berries with a couple of teaspoons of granulated sugar to make a light syrup, and refrigerated them while I thought about next steps.

The next day, I was at the grocery store and spotted some pretty darn good looking red rhubarb stalks in the produce aisle. Being rhubarb season, the store was running a special promotion. I selected two medium sized stalks and headed over to the baking goods aisle for a bag of sugar. It was time to make strawberry-rhubarb jam!

We don’t eat a lot of jam at our house, but we like having a good homemade jar around when we want a peanut butter and jam sandwich or a fruit topping for ice cream.

The best thing about this recipe, other than being delicious, is that you can pack the slightly cooled jam into a clean mason jar and refrigerate. No need to haul the canner out for one pint!

This recipe works best if you have already chilled your sliced the berries tossed with a couple of teaspoons of sugar the day before preparing the jam. The berries are still fresh but the berry’s cells have started to break down, allowing for quicker cooking time without added pectin.

We got through the case of berries without wasting them so I’m pretty happy about that.

Strawberry Rhubarb Refrigerator Jam

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 medium stalks of chopped rhubarb
  • 2 cups plus 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pie spice or cinnamon

Combine the fruit with the berry syrup from the bowl and all of the other ingredients into a non-reactive saucepan and place it over medium-high heat. Bring the fruit to a boil and stir regularly to avoid scorching. You may need to adjust the heat to keep the fruit at a boil without letting it bubble over the side of the pot.

The jam should take about 20-30 minutes to cook, but every cook surface is different so keep a close eye and know that time will vary. The jam will be quite syrupy while it’s hot, but it will thicken as it cools. Cover with the lid and refrigerate.






Slow Roasted Tomatoes

Slow Roasted Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Garlic and Oregano

Slow Roasted Tomatoes in Olive Oil, Garlic and Oregano

Yesterday I slow roasted five pounds of small, ripe, homegrown tomatoes given to me by a generous co-worker who owns a hobby farm. By slow roasting, I mean four or more hours at a low 200 – 250 degrees fahrenheit. Slow roasting minimizes moisture loss and concentrates flavor. I wanted to reduce the moisture content – not dry it out or burn it.  

Five pounds of small to medium tomatoes (variety)

Five pounds of small to medium tomatoes (variety)

Five pounds of tomatoes, halved and placed on parchment lined baking pans

Five pounds of tomatoes, halved and placed on parchment lined baking pans


Slow Roasted Tomatoes

  • 5 lbs. small to medium sized tomatoes, stems and blemishes removed, cut in halves
  • 1 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling over tomatoes
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano, basil or thyme, rinsed and towel dried
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into four halves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line 2-3 flat baking pan (cookie sheet or roasting pan) with parchment paper. Place tomato halves cut side up. Be careful not to crowd the pan, allowing space between the tomato halves. Sprinkle the tomato halves with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and drizzle lightly and evenly with olive oil.

Place the pans on the oven racks and roast for two hours. Check every hour and the rotate pans. Raise temperature to 250 and roast for another 2 or more hours. The tomatoes will be done when the moisture is mostly reduced but still soft to the touch. The tomatoes will be much smaller and darker reddish brown but not burned or even scorched. Some of the smaller tomatoes might appear more “sundried” than the larger tomatoes. This is acceptable, depending on the outcome you desire.

In a clean quart-sized jar, insert a piece of garlic and the herb sprig. Spoon in about a fourth of the tomatoes. Then layer in another piece of garlic with another fourth of the tomatoes, and repeat this step two more times until there are no tomatoes or sliced garlic remaining. Add enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes then jostle (do not shake) the jar lightly to remove any air bubbles and then fasten the lid. There is no need to seal the jar in a hot water bath, but remember to keep the jar refrigerated and use clean utensils when handling the tomato pieces.

These tomatoes are delicious eaten on toast with fresh goat cheese, tossed into pasta, stacked into your favorite sandwich. This is concentrated tomato flavor, so a little goes a long way. Store covered in the fridge for a few weeks but I bet it won’t last that long.

The smell of tomatoes roasting makes me feel calm and happy.

The smell of tomatoes roasting makes me feel calm and happy.


Roasted tomatoes ready for the jar.

Roasted tomatoes ready for the jar.

Recipe for “This Pizza”

Oh yeah. This Pizza. Skagit River Ranch uncured bacon, Yukon gold potato, and a mix of Gruyere and Cougar Gold cheeses with caramelized onions, garlic sautéed broccoli – all placed over a heavy cream base. Incredibly warm, rich and filling this pizza is best served with a green salad and an ice cold beverage. I was sipping a negroni cocktail while making it.

This Pizza

This Pizza

Pizza dough is very easy to make – it’s just flour, yeast, salt, olive oil and water – but there are grab and go options for those who don’t want to bother with mixing dough at home. Mark Bittman has a reliable homemade dough recipe and local bakeries Grand Central Baking Co. and Essential Baking Co have reliably good pizza dough, as Whole Foods Market also sells pizza dough made with organic flour. Regardless of the origin of your dough, prepare your pizza dough hours before cooking to allow it to thaw and rise. There are gluten free options that would work really well, too. Check out this recipe at The Art of Gluten Free Baking.

Most of the fresh toppings I used were organic and sourced locally from farmers markets here in Seattle but can be found in most grocery stores that sell fresh foods. Gruyere cheese, cream and Yukon Gold potatoes can also be found at just about any grocery store these days. For those who live outside Washington state, you can order a tin of Cougar Gold Cheese and have it shipped. Skagit River Ranch bacon is available to locals only. While I believe that their bacon is far superior than anything I’ve ever tasted, you may substitute it with another uncured slab bacon or Canadian style uncured bacon. I strongly encourage sourcing your meat from local farms if possible. You’ll get a cleaner product and you’ll have the opportunity to learn how the animal was raised, slaughtered, etc. Farm direct meat is typically more expensive (because small farms are not subsidized by the government, you pay the real cost of production) but if you eat less meat in your overall diet, the quality of life will improve and the impact on your budget should balance out. I made This Pizza is a Friday night treat to celebrate the end of my summer vacation. Please don’t eat like this every day. It will kill you.

The recipe makes one 12 inch pizza and serves 4 adults (cut into 8 slices). I use a very worn 15 inch pizza stone to bake pizza but a regular cookie sheet can work just fine.

This Pizza

  • 1 prepared pizza dough (16 oz.)
  • 5 slices uncured Skagit River Ranch bacon
  • 1 large Yukon gold potato, boiled and sliced into wedges and lightly oiled and salted
  • 1/2 yellow or purple onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 5 broccoli spears, sliced thin
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 lb. Cougar Gold cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream (I used Organic Valley)

Preheat your oven to 500 F.

In large frying pan or saute pan, fry the bacon on medium heat until cooked through but not too brown. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain and set aside. Add the onion slices to the pan with the reserved bacon grease and saute on medium heat until caramelized. Transfer onions to a small bowl and set aside. In the same pan, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil and then add the sliced broccoli spears, a pinch of salt, red pepper flakes and minced garlic. Saute on medium heat until the broccoli begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Grate the cheeses using a food processor or cheese grater. Mix with your hand to combine and set aside. Arrange all of the toppings in a central work area in your kitchen where you will assemble your pizza.  This is your mis en place of boiled sliced potato, sauteed broccoli, caramelized onion, cooked bacon strips, shredded cheese and cream.)

Assuming you have prepared your dough according to instructions, it’s time to roll it out. On a hard flat surface (a wooden pastry cutting board works great), roll out your dough with a rolling pin or flatten using your hands. Once the dough is flattened out to about 15 inches round (or rectangle if using a cookie sheet), fold the dough in half, and then fold in half again and then transfer it to your pizza stone or cookie sheet. Unfold the dough carefully, pinching together any holes that may have been created during transfer. Use your rolling pin or hands to flatten again and reshape.

Now the fun part!  Assemble This Pizza.

Pour the cream into the center of the raw crust and then smear it thoroughly using the back of the spoon to coat. This is your base. Next sprinkle the cheese mixture to thoroughly cover the crust. Then place the salted oiled potato wedges in a spiral or circle around the pizza. Then sprinkle the caramelized onions over the top of the potatoes. Place the bacon strips on the pizza in the shape of a tire spoke. Lastly sprinkle the sauteed broccoli and remaining bits of garlic and red pepper flakes left in the pan, over the top. Finish the pizza preparation by pulling in about one inch of dough around the whole pizza to create an edge. This edge makes the pizza easy to handle for eating out of hand, and also helps prevent cheese leakage while cooking. This Pizza is not a very wet pizza so this last step is not required.

Using pot holders on both hands, place the raw pizza in the center of the hot oven and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Turn down the heat to 350 F and cook for another 10-15 minutes until the edges are dark golden brown and the broccoli and bacon are singed but not too burnt.  Carefully remove from the oven and set aside on a bread board or the pizza stone foundation.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes to cool and set before slicing. Slice with a sharp pizza cutter and serve warm.

Let me know what you think!





Traditional Thanksgiving Dressing: Four Family Recipes

Every year I look forward to cooking and eating Thanksgiving dinner. I have hosted Thanksgiving more times than I can remember. I have felt the anxiety as a first-time host and I remember the year I compulsively decided to cook a vegan counterpart to every meat course so that my vegetarian guests would feel included. I have attempted a few modern-day tricks (i.e. blended celeriac with the mashed potatoes), and have fretted over uneven oven temperatures in rental home kitchens. Above all I have learned to enjoy the process of procuring, cooking and sharing the Thanksgiving meal. I used to cook “at” my guests. It’s now much more enjoyable to allow my guests to contribute to the meal instead of sweating the small stuff.

Last year's "no-frills" Thanksgiving Buffet

Last year’s brown Thanksgiving buffet (yes there were greens off to the side)

Turkey continues to play a central role in the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Even vegetarians have their Tofurkey. There are many different ways one can cook or season a turkey, from hoisin-glazed turkey, deep fried turkey, spatchcocking- all perfectly sane attempts to “improve” upon the traditional roasted bird. Some Thanksgiving experiments are so good, they are adopted as tradition (i.e. brining the turkey). Some people can’t stand turkey and have replaced the centerpiece with pork roast or leg of lamb. Turkey haters seem to be more prevalent this year, at least on Facebook. There is such animosity towards turkey. Who knew!

Thanksgiving is a secular north American holiday, so that gives cooks the permission to surpass the constraints of tradition, no matter how pervasive. The meal is not bound up in religious ritual or taboo. Cooks can strictly adhere to tradition, to tinker with ingredients and seasonings or to break free from tradition all together. My family has pretty strong Thanksgiving meal preferences. My own tastes and cooking knowledge compliments them. My own style lies somewhere between traditional and contemporary, inspired by the good home cooks that came before me.

I’ve always been fascinated by the number of dressing (or stuffing) recipes that exist across the country and even within groups or families. Dressing can be stuffed in a turkey carcass, rolled inside a turkey-flavored tofu ball, or baked separately in a pan. Dressings are made with white bread, cornbread or a combination of different types of breads, even rice. Dressings include chestnuts, hard boiled eggs, herbs, oysters, mushrooms and sausage. There are probably as many recipes for Thanksgiving dressing as there is for Korean kimchi. Every cook has their own “authentic” way to prepare it.

I asked my mother Linda, my sister Shawna and my cousin Janice to share their Thanksgiving dressing recipes with me for this blog. The following recipes include cornbread (preferential to white cornbread). Each use aromatics such as onions, celery and the herb sage (Janice uses breakfast sausage which has a strong sage flavor). All bake the dressing separately from the turkey instead of stuffing it.  Stuffing the bird with dressing and then cooking it would interfere with the most important Thanksgiving food: turkey gravy! Turkey gravy is made by cooking a slurry of flour and broth or water added to the caramelized pan drippings- and gravy can’t be made like this if the turkey is stuffed.

Each recipe below is clearly inspired by a loving mother or grandmother. Part of why I asked family members to contribute dressing recipes is because “doing Thanksgiving dressing right” in my family is  a big deal. I find a comfort in reading the stories and “rules.” Our recipes show that family food traditions are inherently flexible. Good food traditions don’t disappear, they are revitalized every time each person cooks Thanksgiving, no matter how much we experiment with tradition.

I make the choice to buy my turkey from a local farm (this year I got a “secret turkey” from Skagit River Ranch) instead of the grocery store. J and I love mushrooms in dressing. I also use a combination of cubed white cornbread mixed with crusty como or sourdough bread that I cubed and froze last month. My mother sends me a box from Texas every year containing 2 packages of white cornbread mix before Thanksgiving because I cannot buy it in Seattle grocery stores.

My mom and sister both wrote out their recipes instruction-style…the list of ingredients is embedded in the instructions and precise measurements and methods are qualified. Ingredients and preparations matter- there is a reason for it. I can almost hear their voices while reading.

I hope you enjoy comparing and contrasting each recipe.  If you don’t already have your own favorite recipe for Thanksgiving dressing, please feel to borrow one of ours. Making dressing can be pretty easy. If you use one of our family recipes, please let me know if and how you altered the recipe to suit your own tastes. Served with homemade turkey gravy, I look forward to eating dressing every Thanksgiving.

Main ingredients for my Thanksgiving dressing

Main ingredients for my Thanksgiving dressing

Dressing for Poultry, by Linda Almes (my mother)

I make dressing the way I recall Mama making it.

Make cornbread. We used white meal, flour, buttermilk, baking powder, soda and salt. It wasn’t sweetened and had no eggs in it.  During the depression, recipes were trimmed down to the essentials & some of those recipes stuck. Always use a heated cast iron skillet so you get a nice crust.

Make biscuits- regular buttermilk ones. You’ll need about 2/3 cornbread to 1/3 biscuit.  Mama always saved and froze the leftovers from dinner but if you need to, you can make fresh but leave it out to dry out for a while. If you are short on biscuits you can use a little light bread.

In a big bowl break up the breads into chunks- about the size of a cherry tomato or smaller. Dice onions & celery -about equal amounts. For a big pan that would make 8 servings I’d add a cup or more of each.  Add that to the breads then add ½ Tbsp. of sage along with a bit of salt and pepper. (The amount of salt depends on the saltiness of your broth).  Mix together lightly as to not pulverize the mix. Heat chicken broth to the simmer. Add about ½ c. at a time slowly, mixing after each addition till the mix is thoroughly damp but not soggy. You should be able to make a ball of it if you tried.

Check & correct seasoning. we use a LOT of sage, probably a full Tbsp. (At this point we get little bowls and hand around to the kids who like it uncooked.) If they pronounce it good, put the rest into a baking dish, cover & bake at 350F till the onions and celery are cooked about 45 min.

Uncover for the last 15 min. to make a nice crusty top. Since it can be eaten raw there is no real worry except to heat through.

We’ve tried a lot of different add-ins over the years. Mushrooms, jalapeno peppers, pecans, boiled eggs etc. (yucko on the boiled eggs) I personally didn’t like any of them. We seldom stuffed the turkey as it was harder to get it cooked through with out drying the white meat too much. Happy Thanksgiving.

Dressing Recipe by Shawna Popp (my sister)

Make 24 Bisquick drop biscuits, recipe by direction on box. I find if I make 2-inch biscuits it has a better texture. Let them cool down. Make Martha White 24 white corn bread muffins, according to the box’s direction. I like to use butter to line muffin tins. The reason for muffins is it results in more crispy edges and it’s better for texture. Cool down. Crumble separately and be sure not to crumble too fine- no bigger than a dime pieces. Finely chop celery and onion- almost 1 cup each. Set aside. Get out rubbed dry sage, salt, pepper and 4 cups of Knorr chicken broth from cubes. Heat oven to 350. Prepare 9×13 casserole dish and coat with oil spray such as Pam.

In a very large mixing bowl you will 1st add crumbled cornbread, then add the biscuit crumbles. I think it is a 3 to 1 ratio. (3CB to 1B). Incorporate salt, pepper and sage to taste. Be careful not to add too much salt and remember that Knorr has loads of sodium and MSG. Add the celery and onion and incorporate throughout. Now the fun part: Start adding the broth. I look for a consistency of moist NOT mushy. Then taste and adjust seasoning. Once you are willing to eat the whole thing raw, it is ready for the oven. Add to pan then bake uncovered for, I think, 40 minutes. Check for that beautiful brown crispiness on top.

Understanding a lot of families have a lot of variations, you can always add to this recipe. This recipe is not completely accurate to my Grandma Patton’s, but it’s as close as I can get it. This recipe produces the taste and smells that make me thankful for my Grandma and the time and passion she put into everything she prepared.

Martha’s Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing,  by Janice Patton-Booth (my cousin)

Preheat oven 350

  • 2 bags cornbread stuffing mix (I prefer Pepperidge Farms)
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage roll (Jimmy Dean)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 3 stalks celery (chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Saute chopped celery and onion in butter till translucent.

In a large bowl place stuffing mix, broth, raw sausage, sauté veggies, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Spray Pam into a 13X9 pan. Press stuffing mixture evenly into pan

Bake uncovered for 35-45 min. I even place under the broiler for the last few minutes to brown the top.

Lucy’s Thanksgiving Dressing

You can prepare bread cubes and freeze weeks in advance. You can then prepare the raw dressing up to 2 days before baking. No need to do prepare all the ingredients on the same day as you are juggling everything else.

  • 2  6 oz. packages of White Cornbread Mix (baked according the instructions), cut in half inch cubes
  • 1 loaf of crusty sourdough or Como loaf, cut in half inch cubes
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms (foraged mushrooms such as chanterelles or porcini are best)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and minced
  • 2 stalks celery, trimmed and minced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1-2 tbsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 cups (more or less) homemade or prepared organic chicken broth
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil and add the mushrooms. Cook on medium high heat for a few minutes until browned. Add the onions, celery and about ½ teaspoon of salt and cook until translucent. Then add the garlic and herbs and cook for about a minute. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, carefully combine the bread cubes and vegetable mixture and stir to incorporate. Add a half-cup of broth at a time and stir to make sure the all of the bread cubes absorb liquid. Depending on the bread you use, this may take up to 2 cups or more of broth. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Heat the oven to 375F. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil and then coat a 9×12 baking pan. Transfer bread mixture and spread evenly throughout the pan. Drizzle olive oil over the top (about 1 tsp) and store covered in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until the crust becomes golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and cover until ready to serve. Remember to make gravy.