The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

Everything’s Coming Up Dill: Our First CSA Share May 13, 2010

Zephyr explores the veggies

Our neighborhood farmers market, the Little Italy Mercato, has been going strong for over a year now, tempting me every Saturday morning with just-harvested fruits and vegetables, fresh eggs, cheeses, jams and even sea salts. Even though I don’t quite make it to the Mercato every weekend, I’ve tried quite a few new fruits and vegetables since the market began – pineapple guavas, rainbow chard, cherimoyas, several eggplant varieties, green garlic and Kalamansi limes to name a few. In the spirit of continuing to explore new flavors and add more veggies to our lives, Chuck and I recently joined the CSA program from Suzie’s Farm, one of the Mercato vendors.

Broccoli, dill, chard, lettuce, radishes

Every other week we’ll get a box of 8-15 items, depending on what’s ready for harvest at the farm. Our first box contained potatoes, strawberries, summer squash, broccoli, radishes, chard, micro-basil, red lettuce, wild arugula, chard, and a gigantic bunch of dill. That’s a lot of veggies!

Athena and Zephyr love our CSA!

Our first CSA box was definitely a success – for $25 we got enough vegetables for five nights of dinners for two people, three lunches plus some snacks for me, plus three nights of strawberry desserts, and we tried several new recipes and preparations. The Suzie’s Farm blog helpfully tells us what to expect in our CSA box, and local blogger Stacy at Little Blue Hen is also a CSA member and blogs about her box and great recipe ideas as well, so we had an idea of the items and amounts that we’d be receiving and planned a week’s worth of meals around them.

We also picked up a few supplementary items at the Mercato:

Tomatoes, butter, jam, Zephyr

Mini-tomatoes for my lunch salads, European-style butter to go with the radishes, and habanero jelly because Chuck wanted some. Did I mention that the cats really really liked our CSA box and everything else we brought home from the farmers market? They wanted to sniff everything! And Zeph liked chewing (and then spitting up, unfortunately) the ends of the Arugula. It was quite an enrichment activity for them.

Zephyr Loves Arugula

(Really, I didn’t mean for all of the CSA pictures to include Zephyr, he just wouldn’t leave them alone.)

As we put the veggies away, I did some sampling of the strawberries, basil, and dill. The bunch of dill that we got was big, and the freshness made me start dreaming of things to do with dill – I felt like everything we made should use some, since we had much! In the end that didn’t quite happen, but we found quite a few good ways to use it.

I mixed up some butter and chopped dill, to be enjoyed with some of the radishes.

Dill butter: serve with salt & radishes

And then I made what I’m calling a modified “Green Goddess” dressing, despite its tenuous resemblance to the original: mayonnaise, sour cream, dill, caraway seeds and vinegar, which I used in my lunch salads with the lettuce, arugula, basil, tomatoes, and some blue cheese. This dressing was SO good, I could eat it on just about everything! The caraway and dill flavors worked really well together.

Creamy dill-caraway "Green Goddess"-like dressing

I also made a batch of quick radish pickles by boiling some dill in a vinegar-water mixture and then simmering with sliced radishes. I used cider vinegar, but I think plain white or white-wine vinegar might have worked slightly better. I’d never actually cooked radishes before, and I wasn’t that fond of the smell as I was simmering them, but after a day in the refrigerator the pickles tasted OK. They’re my first-ever pickles and not a complete disaster, so I’ll try some again sometime!

Quick-pickled radish slices

When I think of dill, I also think of salmon, and so I tried a new-to-me salmon preparation on Saturday evening: salmon en papillote, or salmon cooked in parchment. I spread some butter on the parchment, then added salmon (seasoned with salt and pepper), dill, and lemon slices:

Preparing the salmon

I then sealed and tented the parchment, placed on a baking sheet and baked for about 12 minutes, while Chuck sauteed the squash with olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

Delicious salmon and squash dinner

We used our potatoes and chard in an Indian-style Aloo Sag spin-off – I sauteed onions, garlic and ginger, added turmeric, saffron and two sliced serrano chiles (although one would have been plenty!), then added the potatoes and covered until they were tender, and added coarsely chopped chard and sauteed until tender. We served this with chicken cooked in Penzeys Balti Seasoning and fried queso fresco (left over from chicken tacos and standing in for paneer).

Indian-style dinner using potatoes and chard

After two nights of our Indian-style dinner, Chuck made a beef and broccoli stir fry that lasted for two more nights – it was the first time in years that I’ve eaten broccoli voluntarily, and I was quite happy with the results – the broccoli was tender and mild, and soaked up the delicious stir-fry sauce. I still won’t be eating supermarket broccoli, but I’ll happily eat the stuff from Suzie’s Farm!

Chuck also made a strawberry dessert from our Nick Stellino cookbook: strawberries marinated in spiced rum (Nick Stellino’s version used marsala), served with a honey-sweetened vanilla-scented mascarpone/ricotta cheese mixture and topped with shaved chocolate. This preparation really let the flavor and natural sweetness of the strawberries shine!

Strawberry goodness!

We get the next box is on May 29th (a week late because we’ll be in LA watching the Tour of California next weekend), and I can’t wait to see what goodies we get next!

 

A Very San Diego Sangria: Strawberry and Blood Orange Black Muscat Sangria February 15, 2009

Strawberry Blood Orange Sangria

Strawberry Blood Orange Sangria

Along with my Sangria book drink through, one of the goals from my 101 Things list is to create a signature sangria of my own. A few weeks ago, San Diego enjoyed a mid-winter heat wave, and I went to the Little Italy Mercato in search of the perfect sangria ingredients. I came away with some of my favorite winter fruit – blood oranges – as well as some big, juicy strawberries grown in Oceanside.  Feeling very fortunate to have locally grown blood oranges and strawberries in January, I combined them with one of my new favorite wines – the Black Muscat from Filsinger Winery in Temecula – and added some Drambuie to round out the flavor.

Sangria Ingredients

Sangria Ingredients

This was a fun sangria to make, since I got to slice the strawberries with the egg slicer (we bought a heavy-duty one after I destroyed our original egg slicer with strawberries and mushrooms).

Slicing a Strawberry

Slicing a Strawberry

I also had fun zesting the orange with our microplane grater, but then I realized it was utterly silly to have done so, since I would have put the whole orange slices in the sangria anyway, and zesting it just created little gritty bits that made the sangria look cloudier. If you make this sangria, don’t zest the oranges!

zest!

zest!

slices of blood oranges - oh so pretty!

slices of blood oranges - oh so pretty!

combining the fruits

combining the fruits

fruit, drambuie, and wine

fruit, drambuie, and wine

This was a sangria I would definitely make again! The strawberries and rose wine make it good for warm weather drinking, or they can help you feel summery even in the middle of winter! Black muscat wine might be a bit tricky to find if you don’t have a convenient local source, but it’s well worth the challenge.

Sangria

Sangria

 

Little Italy Festa! October 19, 2008

Last weekend, we noticed that the street a block south of us was closed down on Saturday morning, and it looked like there were some chalk artists working there. Starting on Sunday morning, we noticed an ever-increasing stream of people walking down toward the drawings, and discovered that it was time for yet another Little Italy street festival – Festa!

Pre-Festa, we started out the morning well, with a delicious brunch of corned beef hash. We had already enjoyed three days of Reubens using our home-corned beef, and on Sunday we combined them with homemade hash browns for a super-easy and super-yummy corned beef hash.

By the time we made it to Festa in mid-afternoon, it seemed like every single person from the greater San Diego area was there – it was crowded! There were gigantic lines at all of the food booths, so even though the Philly CheeseSteak booth smelled really really good, we opted to save ourselves half an hour and skip it. The coolest thing we saw at Festa was a cooking demonstration by Nick Stellino, whose Mediterranean Flavors was one of the first cookbooks I owned (and is the source of my favorite baklava recipe!).

My other favorite part was the chalk drawings – all of the artists created images that were trying to capture the spirit of Italy:

After walking around for a little bit, we decided to escape the crowds and grab some gelato at Pappalecco before heading back home – yummy!

 

Stone 12th Anniversary Party August 18, 2008

On Saturday we went to the Stone Brewing 12th Anniversary Party at the Cal State San Marcos campus. It was the fourth time we’ve been to the Stone Anniversary party, and I think yesterday’s event was the most enjoyable of the four.

We started our morning with a hearty breakfast from the La Creperie booth at the Little Italy mercato: eggs, bacon, cheese, and guacamole wrapped up inside a fresh crepe, it’s like a breakfast burrito with a French twist:

mmmmm, breakfast crepe

mmmmm, breakfast crepe

We then headed over to San Marcos, arriving at the campus about 25 minutes before our session began. The line was very long but well organized, hugging the walls of the buildings for shade, and once the gates were open we slowly wound our way down into the courtyard where the party was held. With more than forty breweries attending (typically with 2-4 beers each) and ten tasting tickets each, we set out to find beers that we’d never had before or that we rarely find on draught.

We started out at the Avery Brewing tent, where there’s always interesting beer to be found. I got Ale to the Chief, a “Presidential Pale Ale”, and Chuck had Fifteen, Avery’s unique anniversary ale in a slightly sour Belgian wild ale style.

After Avery we headed to Brew Dog, a brewery from Scotland that’s just over a year old and making their debut in our consciousness. At their booth I tried a double IPA, which was incredibly malty and smooth for an IPA, and Chuck tried their Imperial stout. Both of these beers were quite good, and I’ll definitely have Brew Dog beers again if I get the opportunity.

We then headed over to Port Brewing, where Chuck tried “Just Another Barrel“, a sour Belgian style ale from the Lost Abbey, and I sampled the Barbarian Barley Wine (from Pizza Port San Clemente according to Beer Advocate reviews). The barley wine was sweet and a little less strong than some barley wines – highly drinkable but perhaps not a rich as expected.

Somewhere along the way, Chuck picked up a fan club (maybe they’ve heard rumors of his homebrew prowess?):

We also tried Double Dead Guy and Imperial Red from the Rogue tent, which were both strong and good, but which I didn’t take very good notes on. The Rogue brewpub in Portland is one of our all-time favorites, with a great atmosphere and a great variety of beers, definitely worth a visit.

Nearing our halfway point, we sampled some of the European beers: I tried Urthel Hop-It, a Flemish interpretation of a West Coast IPA, it was one of the highlights of the day. Hildegard, the head brewer at Urthel, brewed a collaboration beer with Tomme of the Lost Abbey – read about it here; I think we bought a bottle of this earlier in the summer, but haven’t tried yet. Chuck tried an ale from La Trappe, also known as Bierbrouwerij De Koningshoeven, the only trappist brewery in the Netherlands.

In case you’re suffering from beer fatigue by now, let me tell you about Mike’s Beer Cheese… a much-cherished tradition of the Stone Anniversary parties is the opportunity to sample Mike’s Beer Cheese in several flavors. These are soft, spreadable cheeses, each made with a different stone ale and other seasonings – and they are good! My favorite was the sun dried tomato/Stone Pale Ale one, followed by the Ruination IPA/mustard cheese. The others are Napalm Double Bastard (it’s spicy, did you guess?), and one with Smoked Porter and garlic .

Alright, back to the beers! We got to try some beers from The Bruery in Orange County for the first time: Black Orchard, a black belgian wheat beer, and Humulus Bruin, a Belgian brown with good hoppiness and bitterness.

Also: A trippel from St. Feuillien (which tasted hoppier than a typical trippel); a double brown from Oceanside Aleworks, which Chuck has fond memories of; Scrimshaw Pilsner from North Coast Brewing. an IPA from Rubicon in Sacramento, which looks like a fun place to go if I ever find myself in Sacramento; and the Heirloom Blend Cider from Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem, Oregon, which I highly recommend – not too sweet, not too dry, a good cider.

Another favorite tradition at the Anniversary parties is the Onion Ring tent – it always has a long line, since you can get a free sample or a whole plate of delicious Arrogant Bastard Ale-battered onion rings for only $3, but they’re well worth the wait:

These were also a great way to sample some sauces from Carlsbad Gourmet – there was a really good strawberry barbeque sauce that was my favorite, and several more flavors that were good as well.

Of course, no trip to the Stone Anniversary Party is complete without sampling some of Stone’s own brews, and this year was no exception. In the spirit of sticking with the more unusual beers, we visited their cask tent, where we tried Smoked Ported with Chipotle and the 12th Anniversary Ale.

I think having these beers on cask really brought out their flavors and unique characteristics. The porter with chipotle was quite spicy, with the chipotle adding a dryness to the usual smokiness of the Smoked Porter. The 12 Anniversary Ale on cask was the most impressive beer that we had on Saturday. We’d tried this, a Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, before at Stone World Bistro and in bottles, but the cask brought out a richness and depth of flavored that transformed this to a truly extraordinary beer experience.

See you next year for lucky number 13 :)

 

Eating my way through Little Italy… April 20, 2008

The quest to sample all the restaurants in our new neighborhood officially began last week with dinner at Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, with pizza and beer in a classic “fear-the-falling-Chianti-bottles” setting. Since we’d been to several (three?) of the other Filippi’s locations around San Diego, that was more of a known (and longed-for) experience. This week we started the true exploration with a visit to Mimmo’s Italian Village on Thursday evening. The weather was mild and the outdoor patio was full, so we headed inside and found ourselves feeling like we’d stepped into a Disneyland ride. (Really…even though it was a replica Italian village, I found myself singing “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me” for the first 10 minutes.)

I started dinner with a cup of Lobster Bisque, which turned out to be a pleasing orange-cream color. The soup was savory and just creamy enough without being too heavy, although the chunks of lobster were a bit chewy and I was wishing for a shot of sherry to add an extra sweetness. The true revelation of the evening was the Linguini Pomodoro – so simple, and yet so brilliant, the pasta perfectly cooked, the goat cheese adding creaminess and tartness, a dose of salt from the kalamata olives, and absolutely glorious fresh tomato flavor. It’s going to be hard to eat my way through Little Italy if all I ever want to eat is this linguini pomodoro…

 

 
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