Old Blue

It had been awhile since I had a good, renewing cook. Convenience food and leftovers have reigned in my kitchen throughout the holidays and breakfasts have been in large part old standards. But the hectic pace of the holidays eased and to ring in the New Year I got some white wine and put Paul Simon on much louder than Paul Simon was ever meant to be played.

I'm a white wine fan. White wins in every category for me, value, less teeth stainy and ability to mix with Sprite. So cast off that white-wine-is-for-drunk-aunts stereotype and gitrdun with gerwutz, grub some grenache and cop some riesling.

Sometimes my food decisions are made for me and when I woke up New Year's day my stomach all but wrote it in blood on the back of my door. Macaroni and cheese is the epitome of comfort food and is extremely easy to fancify as much or as little as you like.

*Quick digression: This is one of those times where I'm not sure how much I'm channeling Rachel Ray. I fear that the defining technique in this mac recipe I learned from her bright-ass kitchen but I hereby promise not to use "YUMMO" or "ENTREETIZERS" in any way besides sarcastically.*

I find myself buying things in the opposite order that food safety or common sense would dictate. I buy the tasty, interesting stuff first and then end up forgetting, say, the macaroni. This trip to the Coop was no different and I started off in the wine aisle. I ended up getting a French (sorry House Republicans!) blend that included a grenache blanc. Le Vieille Ferme Cotes De Luberon was on sale for like $14, got me a cooking buzz and added some delicious complexity to my mac. All I can really ask for. Ohhh, also screw cap bonus points.

I do abide by the Food Network staple phrase "Don't cook with anything you wouldn't drink" but given my status as an optional Rossi drinker it doesn't restrict me all too much.

Matt’s “and Cheese”
Brought to you by the Dairy Farmer’s of America in conjunction with the California Milk Processing Board

6 ounces butter for roux
2 ounces butter for sauce
4 ounces flour
1 lb macaroni
1/2 white onion
2 garlic cloves
1 glass white wine (6 ounces)
2 tb dijon mustard
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces grated cheddar, medium sharp
3 ounces grated fancy cheese (dry jack, fontina, almost anything would be excellent)
6 ounces chopped rocket (arugula)

Go ahead and get the pasta water boiling while we talk about the steps involved. A pound of pasta is going to take quite a bit of water to cook correctly. Remember to get the water to rolling boil, salt it, dump pasta and turn down the heat while stirring everything so you don’t get pasta stick. They key here is to undercook the pasta slightly because it will cook more as you mix in the sauce and wilt your greens. Cook it to the point where it tastes rawer than al dente; a fair amount of bite to it.

Not counting the cooking of the pasta, this essentially a three step cooking process. First you make a roux, then from there a sauce and finally, you finish the mac and cheese with fresh herbs and greens. I’m not all too sure about whether dumping chopped greens into mac and cheese is a step in the same way spending the better part of 30 minutes making a roux is a step, but this is my recipe, and I can classify however I please.

The roux serves one of two purposes well, a thickener for sauces or a flavoring agent when making dark stuff like gumbo. When Forrest was working on his gumbo recipe in Salem I spent many hours perched on the counter next to the stove is he constantly scraped his roux around the bottom of the pot. You begin by melting 6 ounces of butter in either the bottom of a nice pot or in a separate, heavy skillet. Add the flour a little at a time until it has a kind of doughy consistency. Roux develops flavor by cooking the flour and the addition of fat makes it easier to regulate the cooking process.

To say making a roux is mesmerizing is somewhat inflationary but I think its about right. It changes color the same way that sunset does, imperceptibly if viewed constantly but close your eyes for two minutes and the difference is clear as night is dark. It transitions from a creamed butter color to a rich orange but for this recipe I wait until it has gotten more of a coppery pumpkin.

It’s a matter of personal preference and patience. I was in the zone (read: wine + Peter, Bjorn and John) and thus didn’t mind spending a half hour slapping roux around old blue. I took the roux out and put it in a bowl so that I could sauté my onions and garlic and deglaze some of the flour that went rogue. That extra 2 ounces of butter melted mighty fast on the already superheated pan and the onions sautéed in no time flat. I added the garlic once the onions were almost done and then deglazed with the white wine. Cook that down a little and mix the mustard into that reduction. This might be one of the best smelling cooking stages that I have ever stumbled upon. Scrape your roux back into that mix and add the milk. Whisk heartily and peep your sauce. Since for the most part I just made it up I have no idea how authentic it was, but doesn’t it feel French?

Put your cheeses in there and then your slightly undercooked pasta. Mix well and add your greens.


I used some of my Christmas tupperware to give some to my man Chaz aka Cheese aka De-Yo and I got one of the best compliments about my cooking that I had ever received.

“So I was really drunk and come home to lay into that macaroni and cheese but tasted it and felt that the flavors were too subtle for me to appreciate while that drunk. So I ate it the next morning and you know what, I was glad.”

Thanks buddy.

I’ve always considered myself to be fairly computer literate but I am having the hardest time finding a better way to disseminate beats. But here is my Mix & Cheese for the BB faithful each song lovingly uploaded one at a time to Box.net.

The Dramatics – In The Rain
Dept. of Eagles – Teenagers
Peter, Bjorn and John – Objects of My Affection (off Writer’s Block)
Dept. of Eagles – Floating on the Lehigh
PB&J – Paris 2004
Dirty Projectors – Remade Horizon
Lykke Li – Little Bit
Paul Simon – Run That Body Down
PB&J – Say Something (off Seaside Rock)
Aberfeldy – Young Forever

How Matt Came Into Employment and a Great Deal of Pastrami

Focusing on food- where it grows, how it grows, what it provides, what it requires, what it tastes like, prolonging it’s bounty and how to eat responsibly is as much about the seasons as it is about calories or permaculture. I was surprised to see strawberries at yesterdays farmer’s market and am still somewhat skeptical of their origins. Like the strawberry, my employment history of the past year and a half had fooled my body into associating work with the summer. No more. Now my evenings are spent learning the ropes as a busser at a farm-to-table restaurant as I try my damnedest not to pour water on anyone of import and rattle off facts about our butter to inquiring minds.

My parents, understandably relieved by this development, have each read the various accounts of working in a restaurant and asked questions ripped from the pages of books like Heat, Service Not Included and Garlic and Sapphires. After relating some of my first impressions and tribulations to my parents, my father, wearing his ignorance of the internet proudly on his sleeve, asked if “there wasn’t some sort of diary you could write on the computer.” If I didn’t already have a blog I would start one now.

Lord, we don’t need another blog about the restuarant industry.
There are twitters and tubmlrs- enough to browse.
Enough to last, until the end of tiiiiiiimmmmmmeee.

So aside from getting a job and screwing up my sleep schedule, there have been no shortage of foodie projects afoot in my kitchen. My white whale, the project that took me to Bacon’s house to learn the art of smoking and to various delicatessens for “recipe investigation” and kept our largest pot out of commission for three weeks was the homemade reuben.

In the initial stage, everything was to be homemade. I had visions of smoking pastrami while the rye baked, the smell of sauerkraut wafting up from the basement and finding some obscure Russian dressing recipe in some leather-bound cookbook from Time Tested. Well, two out of five ain’t bad.

My first real exposure to the Reuben was right around a year ago at Short Stop deli in Ithaca. Heavily buttered and toasted rye bread slathered with a tomatoey Russian that provided the bond for the sauerkraut into which the swiss cheese melted and mortared the aforementioned ingredients to the smokey cured perfection that is pastrami.

A lot of misconceptions surround the reuben. The first and most common, is that pastrami is pork. Nope. It’s funny to me that the reuben is a product of the Jewish deli tradition and yet so many people think that its main feature is a food that Jews cannot eat. Pastrami is a beef brisket that has been cured, rubbed and smoked. The brisket is actually two distinct muscles, the pectoralis major and minor, commonly referred to the flat and the point of the brisket. If you are buying pastrami, likely it has been separated and you are getting the larger flat.

Now, this is all science, and anatomy, some Good Eats shit. Its relevant to the sandwich because the brisket is a tough cut of meat. A tought cut of meat requires long processes. You hear about brisket a lot when talking about southern barbecue and smoking because it takes forever to cook a brisket, to break it down and make it tender. That’s why the first step of making pastrami takes three weeks and a cup of salt…

You can dry cure meat (like salami) or wet cure it, more commonly called brining. Brining a cut of meat in a salt bath does not actually cook it, but it prepares a dry cut by essentially forcing water into the cells of the beef. To be done well this takes patience and a fair amount of checking in on your beef baby. Brining a brisket is a lot like having a fish. It doesn’t make a lot of noise and all you have to do is change the water every once in a while. Also, you’re feeding this fish bay leaves and garlic cloves.

I dissolved a cup of salt into a gallon of hot water and then let the water cool. I tossed in about five bay leaves, a crushed head of garlic and some black peppercorns and then a 5 lb. trimmed brisket from Lucky Dog farms down in Dixon. I threw that in the basement and checked on it every day making sure that the meat was submerged and that a mold did not develop on the brine. I changed the brine twice over the three weeks, taking care each time to rinse off old brine. After taking it out, I soaked it in unsalted water for a few hours to get the excess salt. THIS STEP IS VERY IMPORTANT. EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. If you don’t do this it will taste like meaty ocean. I won’t show you a picture of what it looked like when it came out, because, well, it was hideous; just a big brownish slab of meat.

Okay, maybe a picture. But this is red because of the paprika in the rub.

Mmmmmmm. Smoking is a delicate practice, and it takes more patience and active maintenance than the brine. Smoking is more like having a child than a fish. But different because you don’t keep your child in a barbecue for 30 minutes a pound. Or, at least you shouldn’t.

Misconception #2: Smoking is just barbecuing with wet wood chips on the coals. It isn’t. Smoking is cooking the meat by the indirect heat of the smoke. If your meat is directly above the fire, then you’re doing it wrong. It takes forever, and is such a hassle to keep such a little tiny fire going but by the time its through, well, you have a tasty smoked treat.

Necessary companions on a cold day of smoking meats.

I had a hard time getting the pastrami up to adequate temperature, so I finished it in the oven at 220 for an hour. After that I took it out and, well, ripped into it even though I was supposed to wait. I had done enough waiting. I was hungry.

The rye bread went unmade, but one of the perks of my job is free take-home bread at the end of the night. Acme down in Berkeley provides all of our bread so the fact that what has been called “the pioneer of the artisan bread movement” was my standby wasn’t too shabby.

I won’t even really go into detail on the kraut, because well, its really easy to make sauerkraut. Its like three steps. Get a jar and fill it with salted cabbage and then wait. Boom. Easy button.

That is how last night whilst listening to “All Things Must Pass” for the first time ever on vinyl I came to eat a sandwich that I made somewhere in the neighborhood of 30% of. If anything else it has made me feel that saying “I made a sandwich” is a total lie.

Tomorrow morning there will be snow on the ground in Sacramento. The fact that it comes this soon after making a sandwich I first fell in love with in snowy Ithaca cannot be a coincidence.

Working on a seasonal little mix that I’ll put up when my roommate isn’t uploading and ganking my bandwidth.

Fry Day

Yesterday morning gave me the opportunity to take some Crisco for a spin. I’m housesitting and I have long held that my first attempt at frying any dougnutty sort of thing was not going to be in my Sacramento house, what with its lack of a hood fan and any sort of fire retarding equipment.

Frying is serious business not to be undertaken lightly or without the proper equipment. Crisco itself makes it clear right there on the can with such colorful warnings as:

“Not intended for use as spread” Yuck.
“If shortening catches fire:” Grab marshmallows

One warning not put on the can was concerning proper attire for frying. DO NOT try to make fritters without a shirt on. Praise the lord that I was blessed with Burt Reynolds-esque hair genes or else Fry-Fest 2009 could have taken an ugly turn. While a liability at the beach and around zippers, chest hair saved me a trip to the Shriner’s hospital for first-degree burns. Enough about my body hair.

Fall is approaching quickly. Now that I’m no longer in school the only way for me to know the seasons are turning is by the proliferation of apples at the market. On Tuesdays my stand is next to Skip, aka Pear Guy, and all summer long he has pushed us to pair cheese with his fruit. We humor him because it is a natural compliment and he is a marked improvement over the psychotic old guy who used to sell pears, we’ll call him “Lucky.” Lucky has a distinct style of conversation, typified by the first time I ever spoke to him.

“Hi Lucky, I’m Matt. Nice to meet you.”
“What do you know about economics? What was your major in college?”
”Politics, also Rhetoric-”
“Well, shit. You probably think this Obama guy has it figured out. Don’t you?”
“-and Media Studies. It seems like the recess-“
“Know what inflation does? Do you understand what led to the collapse of the Soviet union? You probably don’t know what socialism looks like, do you?”
“Jesus. Was that even a question?”

Skip could probably run a Flea Circus on his table while yelling in Esperanto and still
sell more fruit than that asshat.

Digression, ho! Anyway, Skip and I have become pretty folksy on Tuesdays and now that fall is upon us I have more Fuji apples than I know what to do with. I conferred with a Junior League cookbook my mom had laying around from an era bygone but could only find a recipe for banana fritters. Well, a little fiddling around led to my development of a pretty tasty fritter recipe.

Pear Apple Fritter Thingies

Terrible picture. Shakey due to tremors I was experiencing as a result of insulin shock from eating the ugly ones.

½ teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup flour
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 eggs (separated)
1/3 cup buttermilk
3/2 diced fuji apples
1 peeled and mashed up extremely ripe pear
CRISCO BRAND FRYING FAT. Use only CRISCO. Don’t think about any other shortening. No the fine people at CRISCO aren’t paying me to all caps their product and hence jock their fat, its just such a really funny product.

Make like you’re baking and mix the dry ingredients. Blend the egg yolk and milk with the mashed pear and mix with the dry ingredients. Let that sit. Just like pancakes of yore, if you’re making a quickbread like this, the key is to let the dry ingredients absorb the mixture. The trick is after it sits to beat the egg whites stiff as you can and (along with the apple bits) fold that into the batter. Egg whites make for a fluffier fritter and that’s something we can all get behind. After folding the whites in, plop two big spoonfuls at a time into 375 degree shortening. 375 is really the magic number for frying things like this. Any hotter and it may not cook all the way through, but any colder and you’re not going to feel well after eating these as they will be doused in fat. “That’s not frying we can believe in.”

Flip your fritters once. The cook in you will want to fiddle with them a lot. Resist the urge. A fiddled with fritter makes for a faulty fryjob. Take it out and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Feel the rush.

My last post talked about my larger life project and how this blog fits into the grand scheme. Well, to be honest it doesn’t, but to act like the two acts are mutually exclusive is a false choice and just me being lazy.

The pipe dream lives on, and is more directed now than ever before. At this point it becomes simply a matter of starting. I have now taken a marketing class so that I can throw around terms like “target market,” “ROI” and, my personal favorite, “psychographic.” The steps to turning this from a marketing class homework assignment to something that puts burritos in my stomach is a matter of effort.

So how about this. I am soon going to embark on my first raised bed planter. I’ve consulted books, looked at websites and talked to enough self-described “garden consultants” to last a lifetime, and its time to starting getting dirty. Much in the same way that I described the trials and tribulations of a first time garden I can describe what happens when a yard kicks it’s addiction to grass and water and starts becoming a place where food comes from. Who’s with me?

Neon Indian – Deadbeat Summer
B & S – Summer Wasting

Hey, there’s still a couple more weeks of it left. Let me have it.

To grow and to feed

My time writing here has given me more than a simple appreciation for breakfast. It has seen me develop as someone who cares about food. Being a part of the food blogosphere has kept me thinking about the role food plays in my life and the lives of those around me. I try, to varying degrees of success, to think of ways to have my passion line up with what I’m doing every day. So far it has worked out pretty well for me; I’m at Farmer’s Markets five days a week and have been connecting with the people that grow the food that I eat. The little tiny Michael Pollan that sits on my shoulder telling me not to eat at the Squeeze-Inn thinks that’s pretty cool but the prevailing winds of food politics are shifting from self-congratulatory to the realization that food systems need to change fundamentally if we are to be a healthier society. Michael Pollan is no longer satisfied that I eat locally, he wants all of us to eat locally. Michael Pollan’s appetite for sociogastronomical change is never sated.

It shouldn’t be; there’s so much to do. I live within two miles of four farmer’s markets. I can be in the produce section of one of three supermarkets in fifteen minutes by bicycle. Food academics speak a lot about food security, a concept that describes a person or family’s access to sufficient and nutritious food (thanks, Meg). Between the location of my house, the nature of my job and the nutritional content of the food I have access to, I have high food security.

Where were we? That’s right, why Michael Pollan isn’t coming to my birthday party. It isn’t enough that I started growing tomatoes and cukes and shook hands with the guy who grows my onions. I’ve never known hunger, I don’t have diabetes and I don’t work to support a family on a blue collar wage. New foodies can sit around and have locavore dinners and talk about how they haven’t eaten corn syrup since the election but it doesn’t change the price of a Little Caesar’s Hot ‘N’ Ready in Knights Landing. What I mean is that a great deal of rural and urban families have limited access to fresh ingredients and whether or not I can name the farm from whence my beets came doesn’t matter one pinto bean to them. So what is the answer? In short, it is to change attitudes toward food as well as public and private spaces. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Here in Sacramento, we have some pretty amazing organizations that are working to put fresh foods back into the hands of working families. Freedom Farms is literally giving away local produce to Sacramentans who need it/want it/promise to use it.

Freedom’s produce comes from community gardens planted through grants and donations. The gardens are spread out in the increasingly revitalized Oak Park neighborhood and are maintained by volunteers.

I have a vision for something similar. So similar, that when Sally broke the news to me that “there’s already a guy doing that down at McClatchy” I was kind of pissed. After I got over that selfish “but I want to change the world!!!” reaction I shaped up. What I propose is different. My vision departs from that of Freedom Farms in where we grow as well as how we sustain ourselves. While the “pay-what-you-can” system does a good job of getting foods into the hands of those who need it, it necessarily can’t stand on its own. By shifting x% of the harvest toward value added foods like pickles, jams, chutneys and salsas and selling that to the foodies who can afford to pay the premium for food grown not just locally, but in their metropolitan area, then a system of socially responsible local ag could be viable and expansive.

That’s the plan. Sounds easy enough, right? I bring this to you, the reader, to let you know why the recipes haven’t been exactly forthcoming. I’ve been feeling listless about the direction of my endeavors and I think using this space as an outlet for both my morning cookery as well as my dream through might be the trick to bring a renewed sense of purposes to these pages.

This idea needs a lot of feedback, so write me if you know of anyone in your neck of the woods doing anything similarm any good books or online resources, of if you know of some highly productive backyard gardens in your ‘hood. I’m going to be devoting a lot of time to meeting gardeners, local ag folks, basically anybody who might have something to offer. If you want to get involved, email me. Let’s grow.

This here blog

This marks my 50th post and just a week before my year anniversary of my first post. Time has really flown since I started a website about what I eat for breakfast.

This might be irony, though I’m not sure because I rarely use the term irony correctly, but one thing when I started writing here was that I wanted to show breakfast as something someone with a job can do every morning. I wanted to talk about its benefits and how with a little effort you can eat well in the morning for less than a McGriddle.

Then I left my well paying, full time job to research recipes at Waffle House before moving back here to lay roots and look for work. It sort of sneaked up on me but I’ve found it. Now I’m falling back into the same cycle of bad morning eating that got me started on this whole kick anyway. Cheese curds and coffee do not a breakfast make, and here I am preaching.

All is not lost, however. My recent efforts in the kitchen have been geared at extending the bounty of the summer. Making jams, pickles and sauce kind of burnt me out on cooking for a bit but making preparations for a trip to Worldfest out in Grass Valley got me thinking back on the horse, as they say.

Farmer’s market strawberries are already on their way out and really not a moment too soon. I have already eaten three seasons worth of strawberries and really need to change my relationship with this little fruit.


Long time readers may recount my battle with marmalade. While not epic in scale or fraught with setbacks, it was disappointing from a yield standpoint. Jams and preserves have what’s called a “gelling point” and I have a pretty hard time getting there. It occurs when the pectin stored in the cell walls of the fruit skins is in the correct ratio to juice for coagulation. To get there you need two things, heat and time. Oh also a spoon and a freezer.

There’s a million recipes for jam. Some are probably better than mine. I like mine because I made it up. I used some basic ratios found in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and some special ingredients. I also got to enlist some sweet child labor in the chopping and mushing process for the jam. I don’t consider the jam recipe to be proprietary, but I don’t think that its quite ready for the masses yet. What I will share is what I did with it, in preparation for WorldFest. I made more granola.

YET ANOTHER GRANOLA RECIPE (this one is really good though!)

2 cups honey
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds
1 cup filberts (hazelnuts)
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup strawberry/peach/nectarine jam
1/2 tsp cayenne

Often when I read recipes, most of the ingredients makes sense to me except for one. “Why are you putting lychee fruit in this?” “FENNEL?!” Maybe you might be asking yourself why the cayenne in here, particularly such a piddling amount. Now, I’m not a chef but I have put “familiarity with flavor profiles” on a number of job applications and two things that tend to compliment each other are sweet and spicy. Instead of the sweetness kind of dying on your tongue, the little bit of cayenne carries the flavor around the mouth. It’s the difference between something that is sickeningly sweet and something that is sweet but also feels like breakfast. A real breakfast.

How you do this depends on what you have. I have a big nonskillet and an aversion to dishes. If you don’t have the nonstick skillet, proceed in a saucepan and I’ll let you know what to do next.

In your skillet, warm up the honey and when your honey is runny add the vanilla, cayenne and jam. Stir and turn down to low. Meanwhile in a food processor chop the nuts up until there are equal parts big chunks and nut powder. Pour the nuts and oats into the honey mix and stir well with a wooden spoon until its covered.

Now- a matter of taste. Do you like big crunchy clusters and also don’t have that skillet? Grease a cookie pan and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so until the top is a rich brown. Not big on clusters and have a skillet? Keep it in said skillet and bake for ten minutes and stir until brown throughout. Take it out and let cool next to your favorite air conditioning vent.

Anybody been listening to Bonnie Prince Billy? Maybe it was five days in the woods with people from unincorporated Nevada and Plumas counties but this guy is gooder than good.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I Won’t Ask Again
Bonnie “Prince” Billy – I Am Goodbye

Happy milestones and solar eclipses, anniversaries and whatever else the last week of July brings you and yours.

Getting Warmer

Talking about the weather has always been portrayed as what you talk about when you have nothing else to speak of. I find myself shying away from the subject just in case my life is actually a Raymond Carver story (oh to be!) and he’s trying to establish that my relationship with whomever I’m speaking to is shallow and doomed. I’d like to take a minute out of my acute self-awareness to relate to you how the weather relates to this here breakfast blog.

Even those of us who are compulsive about liking the valley have trouble turning its damning and intense heat into a positive. I compiled a brief list but found none to be all that compelling:

-No polar bears
-I’ve never bought antifreeze.
-The undeniable superiority of warm weather clothing for the ladies.
-My back porch has a defrost setting.

Like everybody else I’ve talked to about this (which isn’t that many since none of my relationships require such drab conversation as the weather!) the hardest part of the 108/85 degree days isn’t the high- that comes in the afternoon and is why God made pools and beer- but the 85.

85 in the morning is just ridiculous but can be dealt with by thinking a little ahead. I’ve taken to starting the shower warm and then moving to ball-retractingly cold halfway through. Another approach that doesn’t scream “I’M CRAZY” quite so loud is makin’ tea. I am currently starting to dry some of my herbs to get real loose later in the summer but for now, this little guy ain’t too shabby.

Lavender Ginger Iced Tea

Most of the ingredients are just to taste but, I’ll give you some rough ideas

4 ounces dried lavender
5 slices fresh ginger
2 dried red peppers (the cheapest with the least English on the package)

A word on the lavender: I am using lavender incense from a very Redford lookin’ guy at the Sunday/Wednesday markets. Gentlemen, keep an eye on your ladies around this purple hunk; I’ve seen him flirt with many a ringed hand. Great lavender, though.

Honestly, its just tea and I don’t need to detail how to make it. My mother’s current embrace of all things Goodwill got me a little gold teapot with an infuser, and this is exactly the type of thing to use it for.

If you look closely you can see me without a shirt on, OMG

But wait! I just told you how to make the tea, but not the secret of the icing. It has been previously documented that our lemon tree out back still pumps out the citrus and I saved some of their juice in ice cube trays. I probably overdid it on the lemon cubes, but mixing about half water with half lemon juice and a pinch of sugar makes a pretty good team.

Store it in jars in the fridge and crack one in the morning instead of your usual Natural Light. Oh, you don’t do that? Sorry.

For those that are inclined to like orchestral pop out of the UK and like to namedrop, then Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch’s latest story-as-music effort, God Help The Girl dropped last week and out Belle-and-Sebastians Belle and Sebastian. The good people at Matador threw a couple extra free downloads into my record sleeve so I have 5 more free downloads to give out to you, my readership. Listen and decide if its worth the time to email me. I think it is.

God Help The Girl – Funny Little Frog

Soulstice Freshness

Transcontinental apologies are in order for Fabrizio, organizer of a cross-blogdiscipline celebration of summer’s bounty. If you haven’t already (most likely you haven’t as many of you need my gentle hand to guide you around the blogosphere) you should check out the other participants and their aesthetic and sonic homages to this most righteous of seasons. Matt Andres put out an original piece, thirsty has a befitting mix up, and dust and groove is probably running his hands over his shelves upon shelves of records.

Cue B-Legit – So International, cause baby this blog has got bros from here to Ipanema.

My delay in posting was due in large part by being intimidated by wanting to put out an original recipe while honoring the themes of soulacious, summertastic, monounsaturated fats and fresh. I think I hit the mark.

-initiate literary food digression that only tangentially relates back to recipe-

One of my more recent and refreshing summer finds has been avocado smoothies at Flamepoeira in Boston’s North End. To say that this place is funky is an understatement on the level of describing Guy Fieri’s hair as misguided. However out of place this LGBTQ friendly cafe in the heart of old old old Italian people, this guy knows how to blend a smoothie. It was my first introduction to the sweet possibilities of avocado. Blended with a little vanilla ice cream this creates a rich, smooth flavor that made me suck down two of these a day for a week.

Avocados are cheap and plentiful right now, so I thought I might try to incorporate these little guys into my morning routine and perhaps recreate the magic of Langelo’s smoothie in breakfast form. I settled on the following, perhaps my most out of the box breakfast yet, but satisfying as all get out. I have no friggin’ idea what would taste good with this, so I won’t guess. Actually, I will… PBR.

Avocado Freedom Toast

1 avocado, pitted, skinned and diced
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp vanilla yogurt
8 slices bread*
canola oil – Not butter! Discussion to follow

Freaked out by the thought of greenish hued freedom toast? I was too; but its not all that ugly. Ch-ch-ch-check it out.

It’s not like Green Eggs and Ham green, at this point its still just kind of flecked with little bits o’ green.

First item is dealing with the avocado. To dice it just run a butter knife in parallel lines down the fruit and then across. The smaller it is the easier it will be to mash up. Scoop out with a spoon and mash on the bottom of a wide mixing bowl. Mash mash mash. Keep mashing. Now dollop your yogurt in there and whisk it up with the yogurt. There’s that greenness you were worried about. Its okay, its about to get subdued. Toss the salt, vanilla and eggs and whisk thoroughly for maybe a half minute before adding the milk slowly. See? A lovely, lightly green soaking liquid for the bread.

Really, freedom toast (Thanks Congressional Republicans!) is all about the soaking. You can’t just dip a piece of toast into some goop and throw it in a hot pan. The key here is to let it sit for as long as two minutes. Because it needs to sit you need some good strong bread, something that’ll hold up to moisture. Recently I became a regular at New Roma bread here in Sacramento and their milk bread is perfect for this job. Other good ones include challah, any dense wheat or pain levain, though in this case sourdough is probably a bit much.

As its sitting, get your fat hot. Orangette’s post on using canola oil for the frying convinced me to give it a try here and I was not disappointed. The key is fairly low heat. Burnt toast sucks and should be avoided. By frying it for a bit longer on lower heat the inside will become softer while the outside gets super crispy and nice and golden. As I look at it now, it kinda resembles that cheese toast that I got as a kid at Sizzler. This is why I’m a good cook.

So fry it for a bit, then switch it on ’em. Flipmode. Flipmode’s the greatest.


I couldn’t help but put that song up as its been in my head throughout this whole post. However head over to thirsty and check out “Summer Prova.” Tighter than size 28s on David Duval.

Open Letter to the DIY Movement

Hey guys, its great and all that you’re getting back to what it means to make a living. I love hearing about trial and error in the kitchen and places like Sacramento’s Bike Kitchen are living proof that teaching a man to fix his bike allows him to pedal for a lifetime. The New York Times is, as it often does, taking a movement to its logical end with this articulate yet ultimately self-congratulatory argument for working with your hands.

I find it fitting that this attempted return to self-sufficiency is being brought about by a group labelled “The Expectation Generation” in the echo chamber of newsmagazines. Regardless of the media’s overwhelming desire to label entire generations of people, there is a lot of validity to the argument that from kindergarten we have been raised to believe that we can do anything. We are all unique and if we put our minds to it, we will achieve our dreams!

So when I set out to make fridge pickles with backyard goodies the other day, I just knew that I was going to strike gold. As soon as the brine hit the pepperocinis and cucumbers my cell phone would ring and the Vlassic Stork would offer to buy the recipe to the world’s best pickle.

I assumed success and all I got was a stomach ache that makes riding a bicycle and going up stairs terrifying. I did it myself!

So I didn’t really eat yesterday on account of this here tummy beast and woke up this morning ravenous. I need fiber, and protein and no cheese and certainly no pickles. Determined to do very little of this breakfast myself, I turned to Everybody Likes Sandwiches, a blog that has never let me down.

Well, she is where I got the fridge pickle recipe, but I changed it up in a few fatally flawed ways. I have only myself to blame.

Toasted Oats with Yogurt and FROOTS
Adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tsp cinnamon

I use my cast iron guy for this.Toss the oats into the cast iron and throw under a broiler for about 3 minutes, take out and mix the nuts and cinnamon in. Another minute or two and you should be golden.

Take it out and let it sit while you dump the yogurt and berries into a bowl. Cover with oat/nut mix and

The Hissing of Summer Gardens

My first attempt at a garden has been peppered with some decidedly rookie mistakes. Short sightedly cramped planting has turned the tomatoes into a neck high and impenetrably dense hedge of fruit. Miscalculations in the lumber aisle have left only one side of our garden plot with defense only against an animal as dense as the tomato hedge.

Hedge Fun

I’ve always been a proponent of reasoned pessimism and never having gardened before I didn’t think it wise to assume a high bounty. But a funny thing happened on the way to the Vanagon; my morning inspection turned out to be, well, quite fruitful.

tom tom club

I have to say that gardening in Sacramento is like bowling with bumpers on- its pretty hard to fail completely. There is still a great deal to do; corn and leeks to plant, starts of radishes to transfer and sunflowers to sow, but the knowledge that at the very least I can eat fried green tomatoes from my own backyard I thought deserved something a little special.

Blackberry Kefir Scones

Preheat to 477 K

7/4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry diced fresh berries
1/2 cup rasp/black/blueberry kefir
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 tsp milk

My introduction to scones was as a baker of them, 6:00 a.m. in Salem, Oregon. I drew the employment short straw at the Bistro and once a week, with the help loud loud rap I made scones from scratch mix.

I didn’t know much about scones, anything really, besides that they were big, dense and usually drenched in frosting. Not my idea of breakfast fodder. However after making these little guys, my opinion has changed. These are moist, light and airy, chocked full of berry flavor and really receptive to being made healthy.

Did you notice theres very little butter? I was confused too and pretty inclined just to put more in it, but I placed my trust in the hands of the recipe I jacked from the internet and restrained my fat kid urges.

Start things off by preheating. What with the mercury pushing 90 recently I find the only time to bake is the morning. Bright and early with coffee in hand and nibblin’ on toast. Baking days are made for simple sustenance. Mix your dry stuff, the sugar, salt, flour and baking powder. Cut the butter into the flour with a fork and let it marinate.

Mix your kefir and sour cream and distribute your berries throughout. Blend with floured hands and split into two balls of dough. Flatten them out on a greased cookie sheet and egg wash for aesthetics. Egg wash is a little water and egg that, as the name implies, is just wiped on the top of a baking goodie to give it a golden top. Thats all.

Bake, baby, bake for about 7 minutes. Take it out and using a spreader cut the rounds into pie wedges, as big or as wee as you like. Throw it back in until the top is right golden. Then sit back, relax and eat your breakfast.

Mark your calendars for June 21st. We here at BB are teaming up with some blogosphere heavyweights to bring you the Sights, Sounds and Tastes of Summer. I’ll be throwing down a bunch of new recipes while blogs like thirtythirsty will be trotting out new mixes.

Charles Trenet – Jardins Du Mois de Mai
Foster Sylvers – Misdemeanor (ripped from Soul Summer)

That’s Quacktastic

My laundry hamper reeks of Kingsford and the bathrooms of asparagus. Its undeniably grilling season and not a moment too soon. Figuring out how to translate barbecuing successes into morning glory has occupied a inordinate amount my time.

The last thing I’m looking to do as temperatures here push 100 is stand over my hotbox. That doesn’t mean that I have to give up eating painfully large breakfasts, it just means I have to think two steps ahead rather than one.

The Bee is devoting more and more column inches to profiling River City bloggers, and commanding the most space so far is Hank Shaw over at the very deserving Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. There isn’t much new I can say about his take on the intersection of food and internet besides that it got me thinking. While I sat around feeling sorry for myself for not getting invited to a Sacramento Food Blogger Party of the Century I actually said “fuck it” out loud and decided that for the night I would be embrace all my inner hunter, angler, gardener and cook.

Hunter, you ask? I’m a proud member of the California Waterfowl Association and ever since I was old enough to not be a danger to myself or others I have gone duck hunting with dear old dad. As I read Hank defend hunting as a locavoristic endeavor and a way to get closer to our food, I thought back on all the times I had to defend my hunting background from my hamburger chomping friends. Sweet irony.

Wild duck is unlike anything else to come across your plate. Domestic duck is much richer, lighter in color and in my experience is kind of porky. Wild duck, on the other hand is lean, gamy and a dark red meat. It makes sense that this skybeef is red, the Pacific Flyway makes I-5 look like a dragstrip.

In the course of housesitting I stole two of the early season ducks out of the freezer and immediately set them out to thaw. This is real food, with holes in it from where it was shot, and birdshot in those holes- dental insurance is a good idea when trying wild duck. I stuffed the defrosted ducks with backyard lemons, oregano and chives and threw them over red hot coals. Whenever I’ve had duck in the past its been charred to shit anyway so I’m used to it. Oddly enough after flipping them five about every two minutes or so, the outside was a deep brown and the meat felt, done but not dry.

I carved the bird and set aside one for the morning. I took some nibblets out the Second Saturday crowd that without fail develops on our porch and proceeded to convert some vegetarians. I then relished in the thought of a great big plate of duck hash while new friend Carly cried out, “Is this a fucking bullet?” Kinda.

Duck Hash With Garlic Quark

Serves 3 pretty well
1 duck’s worth of meat chopped and screwed
3 eggs
.75 cup chopped carrots
.75 cup chopped onions
3/2 cups chopped taters
1/2 cup green garlic cloves
1 tbsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
coupla tablespoons chopped parsley

3 tbsp garlic quark from Spring Hill creamery in Petaluma. What’s that? Can’t get it? Well come down to the Sunday Farmer’s Market and pick some up from me as I recently got tapped to mong (yeah I made that up) cheese at the market.

I think you can see where this is going.

Hot fats.

Sizzlin’ taters. Hey now they’re browning. Might want to get water simmering for the eggs.

Onion carrot one two punch. Toss a little vinegar in your poach coach. And then your eggs, one at a time. Remember?

When adding the carrot I toss the honey in. I just think that carmelized carrot really can overpower and the sweetness helps balance it out. Hey the carrots are almost cooked, Throw the duck meat in.

Allocate the has in such a way that you get more of it than the people you cooked it for. Top with parsley and quark.