Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beet Salad with Winter Citrus

This week tiny white flowers started popping out all over the garden.  They are each the size of a pin-head attached to a long wiry stem protruding from an umbrella of familiar round leaves.  Upon close inspection, they have a striking similarity to watercress.  Yesterday when I was foraging for wild herbs in one of the coastal valleys and ran across a stream bed filled with wild watercress, along the banks I noticed the same plant growing that I had seen in our kitchen garden.  After some research I identified the herb as Bittercress (Cardamin Hirusta) which like other members of the Brassicaceae family (ie Wild Mustard and Radish) flourishes as an invasive plant along the Central Coast.  Despite the name, I find the herb to have a pleasant spiciness slightly more subdued than peppercress. 

Tonight’s dinner salad is a classic rendition of three familiar flavor pairings - Citrus, Cress and Beets.  I crusted fresh goat cheese with dried green olive, fennel pollen and pistachio.  Kumquats were marinated with elderflowers and combined on the plate with blood orange and meyer lemon.  A sauce is made from fresh squeezed orange juice and saffron and a few leaves of bittercress are combined with wild red watercress to finish the plate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Guard Tower

This morning I spotted a vulture on top of the sculpture at the entrance of Post Ranch.  He appeared to be stretching his wings and enjoying the early morning sun and was not in the least bothered when I tiptoed up to take his picture.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fresh Seafood

As a I opened the box of local black cod I could tell something was not right.  The filets had a dull finish and indented easily with a gentle press of the finger.  Droplets of water percolated out of the loins and I could immediately tell the fish had been frozen.  The person who had sent me the fish is a reputable local business, but unfortunately deception and misrepresentation are rampant in the fishing industry.  Angrily, I called the distributor demanding that he bring fresh fish within the next hour and remove the garbage he had sent.  There is no way of telling whether he meant to send the offensive product, or simply overlooked a shipment from his own distributor, but either way these occurrences happen all too frequently across the wholesale fish industry.  It does not matter whether you are buying direct from a fisherman, or from a National seafood distributor, it is a problem deeply engrained in every aspect of the business.

For me, this was the final straw, it was time to cut out the middle man and go directly to the source.  I live only a few blocks from the commercial wharf in Monterey, where numerous fisherman and shops process seafood on a daily basis.  Armed with a 50 gallon trash bag and my tiny BMW roadster I departed on a mission.  A local prawning boat had just pulled up and I was able to get a few pounds of still-jumping spot prawns.  Tiny Sanddabs and a few giant black cods were just being loaded onto ice.  I purchased 15 live Dungeness crab being held in the tank of a boat inside the marina and barely fit the thrashing bag into my trunk.  There is simply no substitute for picking out seafood in person and I plan to start visiting the wharf as often as I can.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Persimmon Update

The last of the persimmons have been harvested for the season.  The hoshigaki we hung last month are fully dried and some are beginning to bloom with sugar.  From my experience with these dried persimmons you get the best sugar bloom when you wrap the dried persimmons in a container and let them sit at room temperature for a few days.  The final product is just as I had hoped, dense and sweet with an intense persimmon flavor.

We also took a few very ripe hachiya persimmons from our tree and crushed them with whole wheat flour and a little water.  As this mixture sat the wild yeasts on the persimmon skin and inside the wheat flour multiplied creating a wild yeast starter for a new country sourdough bread we are working on. 

I am sad to say goodbye to this year’s persimmon crop, but that just means we are one step closer to spring. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bay Laurel Flowers

The California Bay Laurel continues to surprise me.  First it was the revelation that young bay laurel leaves contain far less phenolic compounds and can be used to replace European bay leaves in classic recipes.  Then it was the bay fruit with its avocado like texture and floral aroma.  Recently it was the roasted bay nuts that grind into an aromatic – chocolate like paste.  Last week brought the first tiny buds to the bay trees on property and our small heat wave made a few of them blossom.  The flowers are very mild with a pleasant texture.  Upon nibbling a few this morning, I immediately thought it would be interesting to prepare them like capers.  While many people don’t realize it, capers are actually the unopened blossoms of a Mediterranean shrub which have been salted or pickled.  Having never tried fresh capers I can’t say how their flavor compares with that of bay laurel blossoms, but I suspect the texture is similar.  Over the next week or two we will be collecting as many blossoms as we can and preserving them for the coming year. 

Monday, February 4, 2013


We have set forth an ambitious plan for our ecology team this year - in the works here at Post Ranch are Bee Hives, Chickens and a full-size greenhouse.  These will bring us one step closer to sustainability and to  preserving the ranch’s agrarian heritage.