Yesterday afternoon John had to drive to Cambria. We lived there for nearly 30 years. Moved back to San Luis Obispo in August of 2007. We are both from San Luis, so it was like going home. San Luis is 30 miles south of Cambria on Highway One. If you kept going north up Highway One you would go to Hearst Castle and in about another hour and a half....an hour and a half of winding and winding ...you would find youself in beautiful and beloved Big Sur. We both LOVE Big Sur. Who doesn't?
It felt kind of funny being back in Cambria yesterday. I have only been back twice since we moved and both times I was in the village. Not our old neighborhood. Driving through a place where you used to live feels odd. I have never really had that feeling cause we have lived in Cambria all our married life. We moved there right after we both graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.Got married, moved to Cambria and never gave it another thought. We drove past our old house and I remembered how much I loved living there. There are alot more houses now, but other than that it felt the same. I remembered the giant vegetable garden that I had. All the pumpkins and tomatoes and corn and herbs galore. Even with the deer, I managed to have a wonderful garden. I guess there was enough for everybody. I looked up at the porch and remembered how I had it covered... top to bottom with all the pumpkins I grew that year. 57 of 'em. I looked at the window that our Christmas tree stood in. Remembered getting ready to go to a Christmas party across the street. All excited, all the houses glowing in their Christmas lights. Woodsmoke in the air. You could see it curling through the pines from the houses on the hill.I remembered sitting on top of my bed during the late afternoons waiting for the sun to sink into the Pacific ocean....my kitty Schuggie laying next to me...and I was always reading a cookbook. My crockpot on the drainboard bubbling away with something ...and a can of cream of celery..my favorite at the time. Come to think of it..cream of celery is still a favorite. Cambria is remote...and small. There is no Safeway or movie theaters or Starbucks or Jamba Juice or Barnes and Noble or Trader Jo's or Food 4 Less. But what is there is peace and quite and nature. It is a different way of life. And I liked it. And I like it here too. I remember my mom used to say to me.."wherever you are...just make your spot." And she was right. If I live in Cambria or San Francisco or Los Angeles or..San Luis Obispo...wherever I have lived..I've loved. Cause you just "make your spot."
Well, I have made it to day 4 on my vegetarian kick over here. And so far, so good. But, I have to admit that I am starting to get nervous. It's fall...and that means soups and stews and pot roast and meatloaf and swiss steak and chili and sloppy jo night....I don't know how long I am going to make it. I'm a foodie. I love to shop for food, plan meals around the food I just got,read about food, cook food, eat food....how is this going to work? For now, I am taking the "one day at a time" approach. It's not really a health thing with going vegetarian...you see, I am still reeling from the fair last summer..seeing all those pigs and cows and chickens..looking at you with those eyes...little name tags above each stall...yikes...so for now..at least for today..it is vegetarian.. And in keeping with my new theme..last night I made a pasta dish that I have to tell you about. I am going to just say it here and now. It was a winner ! It was so good ! Even John ( who has been known to be kinda picky....gee I wonder how that happened ) was falling in love with it. So here it is. Make it. You won't be disappointed.
Linguine With Chanterelles and Leeks Adapted From Field of Greens by Annie Somerville
This elegant pasta is easy to prepare, and the flavors are so well suited to each other that it comes together quite effortlessly. If chanterelles are not to be found, you can use cremini or white button ( I did ), though the sweet, earthy wild mushroom flavor will be missed. Serves 2
1/2 pound chanterelles 1 leek, white part only, cut in half lenghtwise, thinly sliced and washed 2 Tablespoons butter ... I used really good butter here..Kerrygold Salt and Peppper 1/3 cup white wine...or more to keep it loose 1/2 pound linguine 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme...I added some italian parsley too Grated Parmesan cheese....use the good stuff
Wash and slice the mushrooms.In a large skillet melt the butter and saute the leek with salt and pepper till soft..3 to 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook till brown and soft. Add the white wine and simmer 10 minutes or so. If the sauce gets tight...add more wine.
In a large pot put on the water to boil for the pasta. Add a good Tablespoon of salt. Cook pasta till just tender. Drain. Add to mushroom sauce. Add a little pasta cooking water if the mushroom sauce is not loose enough.Toss all together. Add herbs and parmesan cheese.
I didn't do it, but I think some wilted spinach would go good in here.
With summer now gone, I have been making and freezing alot of pesto. And I don't know why. It seems silly, really. You can get basil all year round now at stores like Trader Jo's who get it from hothouse growers.
And maybe that right there is the point. It comes from Trader Jo's and it is grown in a hothouse. It's not picked from my garden, leaves still warm and then turned right into pesto.
But lately, there is a problem lurking. Pesto that turns dark. And it drives me crazy. I want that bright emerald green pesto. The kind you see in Gourmet. And at those fancy restaurants. What's the deal? Why does mine go dark...so fast. I tried the mortar and pestle route. Grinding and grinding by hand.This is sure alot of work I thought to myself, but if it works, it will be worth it.Things looked like they were going pretty well for a while and then....everything went south. OMG! It turned dark. O.K. I'll try the Cuisinart. No luck there either. Is it the blade on the Cuisinart that turns the pesto dark.?. So after much research and investigating, I think I finally discovered the secret (at least it was a secret to me.) Blanching. You have to blanch the basil in boiling water for about 30 seconds to set the color, then shock it with ice water. And it worked. it was GREEN. Basil Green. Fresh from the Garden Green. That was the answer. Ta-Da ! I put the pesto on a warm baby white rose potato salad. John was horrified. 'What's that?" "No mayo?"....nope, I'm mayo-ed out. I mayo-ed my way through potato salad all summer long. And I'm tired of it. Tonight it's pesto potato.
If I was really going to do it right, I would have drug out the mortar and pestle. But it's heavy. And I was expecting company in 30 minutes. I didn't want to be standing in my little kitchen grinding basil and walnuts ( yeah, I said walnuts...not pine nuts) in a mortar. They would think I was taking it over the top. Too much time on my hands and all that. And I didn't want to hear it."You're obsessed."they would proclaim. "I know."
Well, with the first day of Fall came a mood for baking around here. Especially something warm and spicy. Something that would fill the house with that "fall-is-here-and-there-is-something-baking feeling". And what could fit the bill better than gingerbread? Anything else, really? I ask you. To me...gingerbread just reeks fall.
So I got out my pan, knew right where the molasses was..cause I just bought a fresh new bottle for all the upcoming holiday baking...and assembled all the ingredients.
I mixed and whirled. Crack an egg, measured my molasses and flour and spices. It felt so good to be back in the kitchen baking. It's been a long hot summer here, and between you and me...the thought of turning on that old Wedgewood stove was not a happy one. It really heats up my kitchen. In the fall and winter I love it..but summer is another story...it is a cooker. So once again, my beloved September is here..and with it....came my baking mood.
Oh, and the plate with the turnip on it. In case you're wondering..and I know you are, that was made by my dear friend, Julie Whitmore from Julie Whitmore Pottery on ETSY.
Well, I have waited all year for this day. And it happened on the last day of summer. I was walking out in the garden this morning feeding my doves and I heard this "thud". I thought, what was that? I looked around and saw nothing..and then...there it was. One of my Seek-No-Further apples fell onto the ground. I had a friend tell me not to expect any apples off that tree. She said that variety is from New England and needs a hard freeze...which we don't get here. So my expectations were low. Which I have learned in the last couple of years is a good way to fly. You're never dissapointed. So this summer when I saw that I had a few apples on my tree...well, needless to say, I got pretty excited. It doesn't take much around here.It's the simple things and all that. So I picked up the apple, rubbed it on my pants for a quick polish and cleaning and took a bite. And it was GOOD. Surprise. Tart and sweet and fragrant.And crispy ... crunchy. I couldn't believe it. After having one of the worst vegetable gardens I have ever had this year...well, this was a prize at the end of the game that I wasn't expecting. Finally. Something. Even if it was just an apple. It was my apple. From the tree that I planted. And watered. And loved.
Hey everybody ! It's offically the Last Day Of Summer. Here we go ! And to start things off with a bang....how about these gorgeous beauties?
Went for a ride yesterday to see if Mary's Pumpkin Patch was open. I thought for sure it would be. Nope. Closed. Still setting up. But it looks so great, I can hardly wait. It's gotta be opening this Saturday. I can't wait to share it with you.
But in the meantime...he's a little something to tide ya over. While Mary's was closed... a little further up the road was an Honesty Farm. They really didn't have much, but what they did have was sitting out in the field. Can you believe your eyes? That giant orange one is a beauty. I dreamt about it last night. Sitting in that field, I imagined ghosts floating overhead in the sky, and black bats darting here and there. A howl of a black cat, the groan of an oak branch in the wind.A candle in that farmhouse window,supper simmering on the stovetop. An apple pie cooling on the windowsill..... aahhhh.....autumn nights. Cool and brisk. Windy and spooky.
I have been so excited about getting to share my TRUE LOVE with you all. It's a pumpkin patch. And it is run by the sweetest lady who ever walked the earth. Mary. It's a family effort. Mary's husband, the sweetest man who ever walked the earth and her children all work the farm. That's the farmhouse. Can you take it? It makes me so HAPPY to just see it every year. My friend, Julie and I used to sit in the car under the pear tree..yea, that's right...I said pear tree.... and we would like to guess what they were having for dinner in there. Meatloaf with gravy? Swiss steak and mashed potatoes? Roast chicken with stuffing? Spaghetti Bake with cheddar cheese on top? Is there a pot roast in the crock pot to have after a hard day in the pumpkin patch. Julie and I took a trip to New England a few years ago in October, and while we did visit alot of great pumpkin patches, Mary's ranks right up there in the top 3. We used to joke about it....3000 miles.....and Mary's...right in our own backyard.
Today my brother Mark and Julie and I rolled up the driveway, but we could see they were just setting up. All hard at work, decorating, stacking the pumpkins in neat rows.... so busy...working so hard...there is even a witches path with a cemetary, a corn maze and and animals to feed and pet.
We're LUCKY ! We live in the Paso Robles wine region and we have some beautiful wines here. It really starts to feel like fall when John and I open one of the big red wines. They taste and smell of autumn in the woods. All earthy and jammy and winey. We have been making homemade pizza for Monday Night Football for nearly 30 years.And now we have Sunday Night Football so our new pizza night is Sunday. Any excuse, really. I made the dough in the morning and let it sit on the drainboard all day. When I walked by I could just feel the yeast growing..and it smelled so yeasty and lusty. By evening we opened our wine and rolled out the dough. I sauteed some mushrooms and we put on a few olives. Sometimes I buy "special" cheese....and sometimes I use what we have. Tonight was what we had. And it went pretty well. I had some mozzarella and some leftover fontina and some of the parmigiano-reggiano we had grated for the tagliatelle night.So we sipped our wine, rolled our dough, heated the oven and baked pizzas. We sat in our little cozy living room enjoying pizza and wine.
I told John, we have had pizza all over the U.S. And at some of the "it" places, but I don't know how you could beat this. Maybe it tasted so good just because we were.....HOME.
The fall weather has really sparked a baking mood around here. Even John is into it. Yesterday morning we woke up to very cold and foggy start of the day. We both felt like a pasta supper at home so we decided to make our first Bolognese Ragu of the season. "Which one should we make?" I asked. "Mario, Rao's, Marcella, Lidia or how about Biba?" We were lucky enough to go to Biba's Restaurant one summer when we found ourselves in Sacramento. The dinner was unforgetable, but what I remember most was the gnocchi. The BEST I have ever had. But today we were on a Tagliatelle with Bolognese mission. We had some carrots and onions still from that sorry garden, so we went and picked those and set off browning the celery, carrots and onion in butter and olive oil. Added in the pancetta and the ground pork then the chicken stock and tomato paste....and no the paste was not from tomatoes in the garden..I didn't even get enough to make a pizza sauce. Total waste of time and water this year. I promise ..this is the last rant I go on about that garden.....we let the sauce bubble away on the stove for the rest of the day and went onto pasta making and Ciabatta making.
I told you all that I was following the Bread Bakers Apprentice baking challenge from Nicole over at Pinch My Salt. We are sorta out of order...and are into making sourdough bread right now.
The day ended with the most delicious pasta. It was good. There really is nothing else like that homemade handcut tagliatelle. So soft and silky.And you know what? That pasta was really good this morning for breakfast.
Today I am making homemade pizza for John for Sunday Night football. More on that later.
Well, being that our neighborhood is rumored to be about 104 years old, this fig tree must be at least that old. It sits across the lot from me in the backyard of an abandoned old house. Neglected, unloved and uncared for...I feel sorry for it. I have had my eye on it all summer long. So today, I took a stroll over and YEP, the figs have started to turn. I picked a few, peeled 'em and ate them while they were still warm from the sun. Went back and got my camera and took a couple of shots with the figs still on the tree. I have HIGH HOPES for these figs. They have found a home with me. I'm thinking fig tart already.
Today also got the serious Halloween decorating under way. I got into the old trunk upstairs and fell in love all over again. Just like I do every year. Got a few things out..but there is more. Stay tuned.
We are starting our Halloween decorating today. The heat broke...so it is full steam ahead. I got these flowers at Trader Jo's. I am not usually much of a lily fan, but these really caught my eye. The orange looked so September. And I like them sitting on my woodstove. With the orange and black, you know the feeling I'm getting off that. The little witch is part of my vintage Halloween collection. I have been crazy for Halloween since I can ever remember. As kids, we just went nuts over Halloween. We lived in Los Gatos, CA and back then there was a dime store with the wooden floors. My brother Mark and I would drag my poor mother into that store every day of the week in the month of October. It was when they had the costumes that came in the cardboard boxes. I am sure by the end of October Mark and I each had about a dozen different costumes. We could never make up our minds. Next door, was a bakery called "The Cream Puff" (how perfect is that?) We always got to go over there and pick out something for dessert that night. I usually got a .....cream puff. It is still my favorite dessert today. After we got home, my mom would call and ask Mary Alice, our neighbor, if it was o.k. for Kary and Mark to come "trick-or-treating". We would struggle to get our costumes on and after supper, when it got dark enough, over the bridge we would go for our "practice" night of trick-or-treating. And ya know what, even though about 100 years has passed, I still go "practice" trick-or-treating from Labor day till Halloween. And I still can't get enough.
the night will never stay, the night will still go by, though with a million stars you pin it to the sky; though you bind it with the blowing wind, and buckle it with the moon, the night will slip away like sorrow or a tune.