52 Foods Week Seven: Kiwis

The Farmer’s Market can be an odd beast in winter. It seems impossible that five stands could succeed selling nothing but oranges, yet there they are, week after week, with 5 and 10 pound sacks of citrus. Some do buck the trend, selling only apples, for example, another common fruit which is, perhaps, under-represented at the market. Still others carve out more unique positions, like Frank Stenzel’s all Kiwi table.

There is much to admire in the humble kiwi—which is actually a berry, not a fruit—the hairy skin, the lustrous green flesh, the myriad seeds surrounding the white center like an inverted cat’s eye. Of course there is also the flavor. Slightly tart and sweet. Smooth and never cloying. Distinct but accessible. I would be content to eat kiwis plain, but the rules of this project demand that I prepare each food, and so it was, under duress, that we made a tasty kiwi tart.

This excellent recipe calls for a filling of cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and cream, topped with sliced kiwi and a glaze made from apricot preserves, a roll-call of many of my favorite flavors.

Kiwi Tart Ingredients

Given instructions this simple and beguiling—”Combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and cream until smooth.”—there was no need to improvise or interfere. We mixed up two L’Étranger cocktails, followed the directions, chilled the tart for an hour or so, and attacked.

Enjoyment Time

Two hours may have been a more appropriate chilling time, as the center of our tart had a little trouble holding up when sliced, but honestly, I ate my piece so quickly, I hardly noticed. The most challenging part was pausing to take the photos.

52 Foods Week Six: Apples

Sometimes you pick the meal, sometimes the meal picks you. The latter happened this week, when I came upon a gorgeous haul of Pink Lady apples from Mt. Moriah Farms. I quickly filled a bag with 10 or 12, not certain what we would do with all of them, but confident that a plan would become clear. Placing the apples alongside some leeks we had purchased earlier, I realized that the meal I should make—the meal I had to make—involved that most apple-loving of meats, the humble pork chop.

For the meal I envisioned, I needed thick pork chops. Pork chops thicker than any I had seen in Davis. Fortunately, I had a hunch about where these might be obtained: Corti Brothers in Sacramento, a 64 year old Italian grocery that I had heard tales of for years, but not yet had the pleasure of visiting. Corti Brothers did not disappoint, with nearly 2-inch thick pork chops that were a pound each. We bought three, along with some other treats. A plan was coming together.

Back in the kitchen, I submerged the pork chops in a marinade of Wild Turkey Bourbon, sel gris, fennel seed, crushed red pepper and Pernod. The anise aroma of the Pernod filled the room, conjuring thoughts of a robust and complex cocktail. I figured the perfect opener to our pork meal would be a cocktail that offered a preview of the pork’s flavors—apples, anise, whiskey—an apple Sazerac cocktail.

Pork Chops in Whiskey Brine

I am a huge fan of rye whiskies, and, with the recent rye shortage, have been stocking up like a squirrel preparing for winter. I believe I purchased the last bottle of Wild Turkey Rye in the Sacramento Valley and recently acquired a dusty bottle of Sazerac Rye, a spirit that has been absent from the shelves of both liquor stores and bars for at least nine months. Bravely, like Abraham acting in faith but against judgement, I emptied nearly half of my Sazerac into a carafe over a chopped apple.

Apple Infused Rye Whiskey

I left the whiskey to infuse overnight, then strained the apples from it. Tasting it, there was a light sweetness, but the apple was barely noticeable, still trapped within the pithy fruit, along with some of my precious rye. I transferred the apples to a measuring cup and muddled them aggressively, then strained this juice back into the whiskey, creating a charming, apple accented rye.

Back to the pork. I chopped the white of two leeks, and sautéed them in some olive oil, then seared each of the pork chops over medium-high heat. Once the pork chops were seared, I stood them on edge, about half an inch apart, and filled the pot with 4 chopped apples. I reduced the heat to low, and added a couple ounces of water, then covered the pot.

Fill Pot with Apples

I left the pork to braise for about 2 hours, occasionally rearranging the apple pieces to sit lower in the pot as they softened, and flipping the pork chops once. After removing the pork chops and slicing them, I turned the heat up again, to cook down the apple and leek mixture for a few more minutes. I strained the apple-leek solids out to serve on top of the pork.

While the pork rested, I mixed up a batch apple Sazerac cocktails for our guests, which we served right before the food was brought to the table. The cocktails’ offered a perfect introduction to the pork, which was sweet and fruity with a hint of anisette.

Apple Leek Pork Chops:

3 lbs thick cut pork chops
2 leeks
4 apples
2 tbsp olive oil

For marinade:
1 cup whiskey
1/2 cup sel gris
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp crushed red pepper
2 oz. Pernod

Combine all marinade ingredients and cover pork for 12-24 hours. Chop leek whites and sautée in olive oil in large pot. Push leeks to side and sear each pork chop on both sides, 2-3 minutes a side. Chop apples into 1/2 inch pieces. Stand pork chops on edge and fill pot with apples. Add a few ounces of water and cover. Cook over low heat for 2 hours, turning pork chops once. Remove pork chops and increase heat. Cook leeks and apples an additional 10 minutes. Serve strained apples and leeks over pork.

Apple Sazerac Cocktail:

2 oz. apple infused rye whiskey*
1 tsp. 2:1 simple syrup**
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Pernod rinse
1 apple wedge

Rinse glass with Pernod and place apple wedge at bottom of glass. In a cocktail shaker, combine rye, simple syrup and bitters. Stir with ice for 15 seconds. Strain over apple and serve.

Apple Sazerac Cocktail

* Soak chopped apple in 12 oz whiskey for 24 hours. Muddle apples to release juices. Strain into a clean bottle for storage.

** Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/4 cup water and cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to boil. Let cool and refrigerate.

52 Foods Week Five: Carrots

This week I had intended to cover fennel, but my fennel went bad before I could put something together. Instead I turned to some carrots that were leftover from an earlier meal. Since I hadn’t planned on using these for Fifty Two Foods, I neglected to get the name of the Farmers’ Market Booth we got them from.


A few months ago, I made my first batch of pickled carrots, and I was extremely pleased with the way they turned out. I mostly ate the carrots whole as snacks or palate cleansers at the end of a salmon dinner, but I also tried them in a sandwich, where they added a fantastic zing. I decided to make some carrots especially for sandwiches, and sliced them before pickling so they would be ready to go right out of the jar.

My pickling recipe is still a bit of a work in progress. I wanted the carrots to come out nice and spicy, so this recipe is really heavy on pepper—both black peppercorns and ground cayenne. It also has mustard seed, ground coriander, juniper berries and a bay leaf.

Pickling Spices

I toasted the spices in a sauce pot over medium-low heat, until they were nice and fragrant. Then I added equal parts water and white vinegar, along with some salt and sugar, and turned the heat up to get it all boiling.

Toasting the Spices

After the mixture boiled, I poured it over the sliced carrots in a canning jar, then let it cool for about 45 minutes before putting the lid on and placing them in the fridge. These should keep one to two weeks in the refrigerator.

The sandwich I mentioned earlier was a fig and chèvre grilled sandwich, with sliced pickled carrots in the middle. I used a tasty Dalmatia fig spread, which I’ve seen in many grocery stores, and a nice Sonoma made chèvre from Laura Chenel.

FIg Spread, Carrots and Goat Cheese

Butter the backsides of two slices of bread, and then spread chèvre on one slice and the fig spread on the other. Place a layer of carrot slices in the middle, then grill in a panini maker or in a skillet. The spiciness of the carrots plays really well with the sweetness of the fig, and the smooth, cool flavor of the chèvre brings it all together. You may want a second sandwich, so make sure you pickle enough carrots.

Grilled Goat Cheese with Fig Spread and Pickled Carrots

Pickled Carrots:

Scrubbed and sliced carrots
1 tbsp. mustard seed
1 tbsp. ground coriander
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. juniper berries.
1 bay leaf
1 1/3 cup vinegar
1 1/3 cup water
2 tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar

Toast mustard seed, coriander, black peppercorns, cayenne pepper and bay leaf in a sauce pan over medium-low heat. When spices become fragrant, add vinegar, water salt and sugar. Cook over high heat until boiling and salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour over sliced carrots in a canning jar. Let cool and refrigerate at least 12 hours before enjoying.

Pickling Begins

See all the photos here.

52 Foods Week Four: Walnuts

I don’t recall precisely when I first had an Italian soda. I know it was in San Francisco, shortly after getting a haircut. I also know I ordered an almond soda, and was intrigued by the oddly labeled syrup: “Orgeat.” I don’t order Italian sodas much these days, but if I did, orgeat would still be my flavor of choice.

Orgeat syrup seems a curious survivor of years past. It was originally made of barley rather than almonds—orge being French for barley—and, according to the Art of Drink, it was often used in place of milk in the days before refrigeration. Today, it is mostly used in the aforementioned Italian sodas and in Mai Tais.

Seeing the many locally grown walnuts, this winter, inspired me to attempt a walnut syrup along the lines of orgeat. Sweet walnut concoctions—like my favorite Baskin Robbins’ flavor, Black Walnut—really do it for me, and the idea of making walnut cocktails really floats my boat. I bought my walnuts at the Davis Farmers’ Market from McDonald Orchards, in the Capay Valley.

I followed the Art of Drink recipe, though I cut the portions in half, and arrived at a very nice walnut orgeat. I have previously made this recipe with almonds, and I feel like the walnut flavor is slightly less powerful than the almond. In the future, I’d like to try this with a greater quantity of walnuts and brown instead of white sugar.

Making orgeat is not terribly exciting visually, but I do have a few shots from the process.

52 Foods Week Three: Chicken

The French are, in a word, sérieux about where things come from. Whether it’s wine, cheese or lentils, there are rules—sorry, laws—and they must be heeded. I like rules. Rules are good. Rules beget constraints and constraints beget challenges and challenges beget intrigue. I like intrigue, too.

Calvinball is an example of what’s great about rules. Calvin Ball is fun, intriguing if you will, not because any action is possible, but because any rule is possible. Changing the rules changes the game, and infinite rules provide infinite possibility.

At last week’s Farmer’s Market, I was hipped to another rule the French have. It concerns chicken, namely the Poulet de Bresse. The Poulet de Bresse has blue feet and is the only chicken with AOC status. It is raised in one region under strict guidelines. The appellation is protected to the point that one is forbidden from removing the live birds, their eggs or even dressed birds from the country. What does this have to do with California?

Poulet Bleu is an American equivalent to the Poulet de Bresse. It was bred in British Columbia in collaboration with California producers, and introduced in 2004. We purchased one from Cache Creek Meat Co., where they are raised as free roaming animals. Ours weighed about two and a half pounds without the head and feet. It’s a slightly slenderer bird than a typical U.S. chicken, with the characteristic blue coloring visible on the tips of the drumsticks.

Poulet Bleu Ready to Roast

We were cautioned that indelicate cooking might dry the bird out, so I selected a recipe I was confident would maintain plenty of moisture. Turning to the Silver Spoon, I noted their recipe for Pollo Arrosto, which calls for cooking the whole bird in a large pot atop a layer of carrots, onion, celery and rosemary.

Fresh Rosemary

I followed their recipe quite faithfully, with only the addition of a Meyer lemon in the bird’s cavity and a little white wine in the pot along with the vegetables.

The recipe calls for searing the bird on all sides before reducing the heat to cook it slowly. In the future, I’ll try to use a little more oil, because the skin stuck and tore a bit. It didn’t impact the final product in the least, but for appearances sake, intact skin would be nice.

Seared Bird

Speaking of the final product, this was one tasty, tasty bird. I’m usually 100% dark meat when it comes to my poultry preferences, but the white meat on the Poulet Bleu was absolutely transcendent—light, juicy and flavorful. We will definitely return to the Poulet Bleu in the future.

We served the bird alongside some butter roasted orange cauliflower and carrots.

Carrots and Cauliflower with Butter

Please check out all the pictures.