Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Mountainous Feast

It's funny what happens when you get together with family and friends to put together a big meal. You wake up early before the sun is high in the sky to harvest fresh veggies from the garden, last minute trips to the store are made, and finally a small army of people descend on the kitchen to lend a hand in preparing dinner. Everyone pitches in, chopping and mixing and skewering, all to prepare this feast they have been waiting all day to enjoy.

This particular feast featured the bounty of my Mother's home garden, supplemented with fresh corn from a farm just down the road. On this particular morning, we picked no less than 63 pounds of tomatoes, from Early Girls to Romas, Better Boys, Whoppers and beautiful heirloom Copias. A few peppers came along for the ride,and before 10 A.M. we had half of the ingredients we would need for that night's dinner. We would be serving 12 people at this dinner, a celebration of my Father's retirement, and a simple summer dinner that featured the amazing fresh vegetables of the season seemed to be the perfect thing.

On the menu for that night was chicken, pork and vegetable kebabs and corn on the cob. The veggies were primarily from my mother's garden, and we seasoned the kebabs with the lemon garlic vinaigrette we used for the Panzanella. A few Portobello mushrooms (not from the garden) were also thrown onto the grill with a little olive oil for the few of us that enjoy fungus.

The corn on the cob, meticulously prepared for our meal by T, E, & M, is one of my favorite things to make during the summer. After the corn is shucked, place it on a sheet of foil about 16 inches long. Add a pat of butter, a couple pinches of minced garlic, the juice of 1/2 of a lime, a couple shakes of chili powder, salt & pepper, then roll the foil up around the corn making sure to close it up tight. We cooked it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 - 60 minutes, and it was perfect. The grill works too, if you have room.

The caprese salad featured a collection of fresh, ripe and beautiful tomatoes from the garden, including the amazing Copia and those succulent Whoppers. The basil was grown on the back patio, and picked right before we made the salad. Drizzled with olive oil, it made the perfect compliment to the other dishes.

This weekend was all about good fresh food, and getting to share it with friends and family. And it was about harvesting copious amounts of tomatoes and other veggies. I had a great time harvesting the garden and working in the kitchen with everyone pulling this feast together in honor of my dad, and even more fun eating it. Thank you to the Oldhams, Criders, and Megan for making it out to celebrate my dad and helping to prepare this amazing meal. Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009


It's been down right ugly on this side of San Francisco these last couple of weeks.  Seriously, while most of you out there have been enjoying the warmth of Summer with muscle shirts and ice cream cones, we're wearing sweatpants and watching TV under a blanket.  Well, some of us are, anyway.  I guess it goes without saying that summertime in San Francisco is a bit, uh, out of the ordinary.

So when you're left out of all the good summertime fun, it makes a certain amount of sense to travel somewhere that isn't in the middle of a seasonal identity crisis.  For us, this came in the form of my Father-in-law's birthday party up north in Sonoma County, where the sun would actually be shining and shorts could be worn by all.  In honor of the day, we picked up some treats from some favorite local spots, and all of the fresh ingredients to make a bright and flavorful bread salad.  This panzanella was wonderfully simple to put together, and could easily be a surprise hit at your next party.

9 cups day old country bread, torn or cut into 1 inch pieces
2 lbs. tomatoes, large dice
1/2 cup thinly sliced sweet onions (torpedo, Maui, or Vidalia)
2 medium English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and cut into large dice
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces
salt & pepper to taste

Lemon-garlic vinaigrette 
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
3 - 4 medium garlic cloves, sliced thin

Whisking constantly, pour the olive oil into the lemon juice in a thin stream, mixing until well blended.  Mix in zest and garlic, and season with salt and pepper.

Toss all of the bread with 1/2 of the vinaigrette, ensuring the bread is coated completely.  Set aside at room temperature for about 10 minutes to allow the bread to marinate.

Here's the fun part:  After the bread has marinated, add the remaining ingredients and second half of the vinaigrette to the bowl, and using your (clean, I hope) hands, mix the salad combining everything and coating evenly with the vinaigrette.  Let the salad rest for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mix and mingle, although it gets better the longer the flavors get to do their little dance.

Serves about 8.

Thanks to Chow.com for the great recipe.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Patriotic Cheesecake, Holidays, and My Blog's Birthday

We've had a busy couple of weeks in the Tiny Kitchen. There was a (mildly) disappointing day at the freshly opened Thursday Market at the Ferry Building, some holiday with loud explosions and greasy food, and oh yeah! My blog had a birthday!

I'll try to keep the words short so y'all can enjoy the pictures, but let me run them down for you. Just before the holiday weekend, the missus and I travelled down to the Ferry Building for their Thursday market, hot on the scent of chicharrones and peanut butter bacon brownies. Unbeknownst to us, chef Ryan Farr and his tasty pig treats were not scheduled to appear until the next week, so I got all pouty and soothed my wounds with a couple of tacos from Tacolicious.

Pork shoulder and Coca-cola braised steak tacos, to be exact. Yeah, yum. Apparently we got there at just the right time, since the lines for all of the food stalls, including Tacolicious, Namu, and Roli Roti stretched down the sidewalks with the lunchtime financial district crowds. There is Joe, owner of Tacolicious and Laiola, in the picture below getting the goods to his ravenous customers. In the foreground is the busy cook, hurriedly dropping meat into the tasty little tortillas.

And then there was the holiday. Independence Day. July 4th. In honor of the occasion, I decided to dress up my basic cheesecake recipe with strawberries and blueberries. You know, to make it all patriotic and what not. (If you haven't caught my ramblings-on about cheesecake, you're either new or not paying attention. Here's something to get you started.)

The finished product. Quite fetching, if I do say so myself:

And then of course my humble little blog, Six By 10 Tiny Kitchen, turned 2 years old on July 10th. My blog is a toddler! You know, they just grow up so fast. I'm truly honored that you, my faithful readers, have read my witless ramblings for this long. I really appreciate all of you stopping by from time to time and visiting my little corner of the blogosphere. Here's to many more years of eating well!

Celebration: Thanks to all of my awesome friends who raved about my patriotic cheesecake. We had a great Fourth with delicious food, exciting fireworks, and amazing friends. That's what the 4th of July is all about.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rooftop Garden Redux

Ok, let me just start by saying that I killed the tomato.  I'm not proud of it, it happened, we're moving on.  What lesson did we learn here?  Young tomato plants don't do well unprotected from strong coastal winds.  In fact, they snap in half.  True story.  I'll spare you all the gory photos.

With head hung low, still mourning the loss of an innocent tomato plant, I dropped by Sloat Garden Center to find something a little more sturdy and able to deal better with our wacky weather here on the west side of San Francisco.  The sun is starting to come out more, but the wind is pretty consistent; I needed something a bit more established that won't get knocked over.

To replace the fallen tomato, I grabbed a green bell pepper plant with a good thick stalk and big, healthy leaves.  It was even starting to push a little fruit.  I figured a good perennial leafy green would be a good addition as well, so I potted a small french sorrel plant.  I've never actually tried sorrel, and since I never see it at the grocery I guess I'm just going to have to grow my own.  As one of the staples of French cuisine, the sorrel will make a great addition to pastas or quick salads.  I can't wait to try it.

So I guess for now I will have to rely on my friendly neighborhood farmer's market to get my tomatoes.  No problem there.  But for a few key ingredients, bell peppers, sorrel, shallots, and even a little garlic, I won't have to go very far at all.  Wish me luck (again) on getting my little garden to grow.  It's a learning experience, to be sure, figuring out what will grow in our little micro-climate, unsheltered from the coastal air.

And of course, I'll let you all know how it comes out.
(The shallots should be ready soon, and I think they are each going to be about the size of a baby's head.  Seriously.)

Big, beautiful shallots: