Last Wednesday, I sat down at my computer and saw the date. January 31.
No joke, my first thought was – I have to start using the oven more!
Let me explain why this is a perfectly logical thing to exclaim in your head when one lives in California’s Central Valley and sees that it is the end of January.
Basically, we are in spring right now. It’s pretty amazing. And it will only last a few more weeks. Soon we’ll blink and 100 F will be back. Once it does, we pretty much have to kiss the oven good-bye until October.
I’m not complaining, but I am preparing myself and trying to remember to take advantage of these cooler temps.
More foods that require baking must ensue.
I feel like Thanksgiving gets much more attention when it comes to a holiday meal.
Everyone is concerned about side dishes and how they should prepare the turkey, or should this be the year they don’t prepare a turkey at all.
Christmas and New Year’s dinner rarely seem to be discussed. Is this because traditions are already set and rarely change? Pasta, Seven Fishes, ham, and tamales come to mind. Or is it that these holidays are all about the cookies and cocktails?
Well, amidst all the baking this year, I decided to throw in a side dish. And if you are more in line with desserts this time of year, despite this being a vegetable, it could very well fall into that category.
My first experience with jackfruit occurred when we were living in Brazil.
It sparked from curiosity and determination to figure out the name of the massive piece of produce taking up most of the table at the farmers market. It was every bit as large as a 2-year-old child.
I soon learned it was jackfruit and I also realized that I had been walking under these massive fruits on my walks through the park near our apartment. Thankful that none had ever fallen on my head, I started asking questions.
I feel a bit silly.
Over 5 years living in California and another persimmon season had me bewildered.
Although persimmons exist in Kentucky and Indiana, I was never exposed to them until we moved to Brazil. Then we moved to California and every fall they seemed to overflow from bins at the supermarket, farmers markets, and farm stands.
Intrigued by the orange color, I started buying them a couple years ago, mostly to photograph them. I even educated myself on the varieties.
I know the flat, squatty ones are Fuyu persimmons and the more oblong are Hachiya. I eat the Fuyu, crisp and sweet. But dang it, every time I tried to eat a Hachiya, ugh, it was awful.
So this year, I gave up.
Then a friend visited and we happened to swing by the farmers market.
Citrus is such a highlight in the winter. I look forward it every year. The oranges, lemons, and mandarins – there are so many varieties to choose from around here.
The season is just getting started and navels have started popping up at the farm stand.
As soon as I spotted that the local, in-season oranges had arrived, I knew exactly what I was going to make.
I don’t consider myself a tea person.
I drink tea. Especially the fun spiced flavors and holiday blends, but coffee holds a special place in my heart (and my central nervous system).
Despite my beverage choices, I am completely infatuated with the culture of tea. How it’s grown, traditions of consuming it, and varieties around the world. The interest is so strong that I find myself wishing I was a true tea person.
If you are a tea person, you should know there is a special aura about you. A relaxing, take it slow kind of aura. It’s the opposite of my give-me-all-the-coffee-so-I-can-do-all-the-things lifestyle. I’m envious of it.
But guess what? I’ve recently discovered that I don’t have to be a tea drinker to be a tea person. There are other ways, and I owe it to my friend Annelies for showing them to me.
I’m talking about cooking with it.
It’s finally here! The day that I can say, “It’s fall,” and no one can tell me it’s not fall yet. I get a little snarky about the whole issue.
Fall is a frame of mind for me. It has to be.
We now live in place that stays pretty well hot until nearly the end of October. Fall is my favorite season. If I don’t celebrate fall despite the heat, well, I just might go a little crazy flipping through all those pictures of leaves, apples, pumpkins, sweaters, and boots in my social media feed.
So I make a mental commitment that fall starts on September 1.
That being said, wow, have we been having real deal fall weather this week! I woke to 55 F yesterday and rain! We’ll be back up in the 90s next week so I’ve been enjoying every second of it.
Running mid-morning, reading outside, and…turning on the oven!
I feel like every time I get my hands on some figs, I want to stuff something with them. The fig and lavender cookies I made last year are a good example. There is just something that about that sweet, jammy interior that is so good when it’s warmed up and discovered inside something unexpected.
Well, it’s fresh fig season in California once again, and I was lucky enough to have several leftover from a photo shoot to afford me the opportunity to experiment with them.
I had my very first Hatch chile last week.
Every year I see the social posts, watch all the roastings that take place around the Southwest, and keep my eye out for them with no luck in getting my hands on any.
But this year, a box arrived at my door and I opened it to find a big beautiful bag of these peppers. If you are unfamiliar, the peppers are grown in the valley around Hatch, New Mexico. Only peppers grown there are true Hatch chiles, and as was reported to me, they have an earthy, fresh flavor that sets them apart from other varieties. And they are in season as we speak, just a few weeks every year.
For a long time, heirloom tomatoes were my absolute favorite thing about summer. Lately, though they have fallen ever so slightly in their ranking to make it closer to a tie with something else.
That probably seems a lot less exciting, but I think it’s because the older I’ve gotten, and the less I’ve had corn from our own garden growing up, the more I appreciate a really good ear.
I can still remember going to friend’s houses in the summer and my hosts joyfully proclaiming that we were having sweet corn for dinner. One bite into those chewy, tough kernels and it was all I could do not to set the ear down and leave it be for the rest of the meal.
That was not sweet corn. If you’ve ever had an ear at its peak ripeness, you know the difference. Good corn is crisp with kernels that literally explode with flavor in your mouth. There is nothing quite like it.
Fortunately, I haven’t had a difficult time finding good corn here. There is a farm nearby that grows corn in the summer and pumpkins in the fall and winter. I usually try to buy from them, but even the ears I pick up at the grocery store from time to time tend to be really great.