Fifty Two Foods

In honor of our abundance of good food, and because I’ve been meaning to do some kind of food series for a while, this year I’m going to choose one food each week and try to make something interesting with it. My rules are going to be pretty simple:

  • Foods must be grown in California.
  • They must be minimally processed. Cheeses and sausages will be okay, usually, while canned chili would not be.
  • They must undergo some transformation in the preparation process. It won’t be enough to simply toss some nuts on a salad.

I try to get the where, what, why, how on each food and share that along with an account of what I made. New entries are posted once a week, and I hope you enjoy them.

52 Foods Week Fifty Two: Barhi Dates

Two years ago, we escaped rainy Portland to celebrate New Year’s Eve in sunny Palm Springs. As I mentioned earlier this year, our trip involved a stop at Shields Date Garden, where we sampled many a date, including the wonderfully sweet Barhi. Barhis are small and round, with a slightly parchment-like skin surrounding extremely sweet flesh. They are also quite fragile, easily crushed into a discolored mush. As with the Deglet Noors, I was able to get a package of Barhis from Leja Farms via Siegfried Dates at the Davis Farmers Market. I knew immediately that I would use these for date milkshakes, an Indio, CA specialty I’d been longing to recreate.

52 Foods Week Fifty One: Guinea Fowl

Back in January, I shared the delicious chicken we got from Cache Creek Meat Company. Since then I’ve frequently stopped by their table for both simple and exotic animals, only to be turned away because they were sold out. Seeking to remedy this before the year ended, I leapt out of bed and went straight to the Farmers’ Market, a few weeks ago, getting there in time to have my pick of beasts. As luck would have it, they were flush with species, and I had my choice of chicken, duck, guinea fowl, and rabbit. Having just stocked the freezer with our CSA share, I could bring every animal home that I would have enjoyed, so I went with the one option I’d never had before—the guinea fowl.

52 Food Week Fifty: Lamb Shank

As I mentioned last week, we recently signed up for a meat CSA that delivers a nice mix of beef, chicken, and lamb every month. Lamb shanks have so far been a regular inclusion, which delights me to no end, since they are one thing that I’m almost guaranteed to order if they’re available at a restaurant (unless there is rabbit, in which case Thumper usually wins). I had never made lamb shanks at home, but my hand was forced and it was time to attempt one of my favorite dishes.

52 Foods Week Forty Nine: Ground Beef

As promised, it’s time for burgers. Burgers may be my favorite meal. In Portland, I did a pretty good job of maintaining at least a burger a week habit, and before we moved to Davis, I made a bucket list that was largely driven by a desire for burgers I’d heard about but hadn’t had yet. Over the last couple years, I’ve tried to perfect my technique to deliver my ideal, medium-rare burger.

52 Foods Week Forty Eight: Ground Pork

I spent much of this week contemplating recipes for persimmons, a fruit I only first had last Monday, even going so far as a failed chutney attempt. While coming up empty on good persimmon ideas, I was inspired by our friend Tracy who put out a call for meatloaf recipes. It’s been years since I last made meatloaf, and with Jen and I both furiously working on finishing the school quarter, it seemed like a perfect comfort dish that would also yield a meal or two of leftovers. This week could have gone either of two directions, pork or beef, as I use both in equal proportions. I chose pork because I’m still hoping to showcase my burger skills before the year is out.

52 Foods Week Forty Seven: Turkey

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s possible this has always been true—though Halloween may have slight edged it out when I was young—as I can recall gleefully cleaning up our house as a child, dressed as a pilgrim, something I certainly didn’t care to do the other 364 days of the year. The funny thing is that for someone who loved Thanksgiving, I was never one for turkey. I suppose this isn’t the strangest sentiment, as the ubiquitous bird often leaves the oven dry and bland, and even done well, roast turkey is not the most inspired of meats.

52 Foods Week Forty Six: Bosc Pears

Having missed the Farmers’ Market twice in a row, I was unsure what I would prepare this week. Fortunately, while stopping by Ikedas country market to pickup a pie, I happened upon a motherlode of ripe pears grown by Ikedas at their orchard in Auburn, CA. I picked up a large basket of dark Bosc pears, a delicious slightly crunchy pear varietal.

52 Foods Week Forty Five: Brisket

My friend Leon and I were planning a meal for about a dozen people, so we cruised the Farmers’ Market looking for inspiration and ingredients. We knew we wanted a nice hunk of meat to roast, so we stopped by the Yolo Land & Cattle booth to see what beef was available. Yolo Land & Cattle’s raises some excellent grass-fed beef, just north of us in Woodland, CA. I’ve enjoyed a few cuts from them, and always been pleased.

52 Foods Week Forty Four: Pomegranate

One of the more surprising features of Davis are the fruit trees that grow in every neighborhood—not just lemons and limes, but persimmons, olives and pomegranates. This last fruit is something I’ve always placed in the too-much-effort category. I find picking out the seeds to eat one by one, then having to spit each out after extracting the minuscule amount of juice from it, entirely too tedious. There is, fortunately one application for pomegranate that I can get behind: grenadine.

52 Foods Week Forty Three: Prickly Pear

“Gimme danger little stranger, and I’ll give you a thrill,” Iggy Pop sang, and he could well have been referring to the prickly pear, the fruit of cactus native to Mexico and the Western United States. Prickly pears, reddish ovoids that grow off the end of flat cactus pads, are dotted with tiny spines that easily become lodged in skin, leading to their foreboding name. Inside the unfriendly peel, the fruit is mildly sweet, with a flavor somewhat like kiwi, but less tart. I picked up six of the spiny fruits the Towani Organic Farm booth at the Farmers Market.

52 Foods Week Forty Two: Tomato

With the school year in full swing and a busy month of birthdays, out of town guests and costume parties, it’s sometimes hard to carve out time to cook. Fortunately, this lack of time coincided with the end of tomato season, a confluence that naturally led to cooking a big batch of tomato sauce that we could freeze for nights when boiling pasta water is about all the cooking energy we can muster.

52 Foods Week Forty One: Black Radishes

Some foods are charismatic by virtue of their story. The Poulet Bleu’s development in North America is as exciting as its blue feet, and while Jimmy Nardello peppers look entirely commonplace, their name, and the history it alludes to, give them a leg up on other, similar foods. Still others wear their oddities in the open in odd shapes and colors, such as the Black Spanish Radishes from Fiddler’s Green Farm that we picked up at the Farmers’ Market.

52 Foods Week Forty: Misome

Last week at the Farmers’ Market we discovered misome, a hybrid asian green designed for high temperatures. High temperatures are exactly what Fiddler’s Green Farm, a Yolo County grower, contends with. We brought home a large bunch, unsure what to do with it. Misome resembles a cross between baby bok choy and kale, with dark leaves and thin, pale stalks. Raw, the stalks are firm and a bit creamy and the leaves taste like broccoli, with a tinge of spiciness at the end.

52 Foods Week Thirty Nine: Red Ruffled Pimiento

The end of summer is truly the best time for the Farmers’ Market, both due to the tremendous selection and the incredible colors of the peppers, tomatoes and zucchini that populate so many tables and produce baskets. Among the notable specimens a few weeks ago were the red ruffled pimientos from Lloyds’ Produce. These pimientos are bright red, about the size of a nectarine and a little squat. I grabbed five of them in a trip that also yielded three pounds of bacon, some heirloom tomatoes and I can’t recall what else.

52 Foods Week Thirty Eight: Eye of Round

Along with the previously cooked ribeye steaks, our Nevada County grassfed beef order included a lovely eye of round steak. Frequently a braising cut, due to its leanness, eye of round presented an interesting challenge for me. I generally gravitate towards fatty cuts like chuck and ribeye for roasting, or quick cooking lean cuts like skirt and flank. A nearly three pound, thick piece of meat, whose only fat was on the outside, required some consideration if I was going to cook it using my favorite method: the Weber rotisserie.

52 Foods Week Thirty Seven: Mission Figs

I’ve mentioned that apricots are one of my favorite fruits, and I underscored that with two additional apricot appearances. In every instance, I combined the apricots with some kind of pork. It’s occurred to me that this trait—call it porcine compatibility— maybe the best measure of my appreciation for a given fruit. This week, to put perhaps too fine a point on it, I’ve chosen another of my all time favorite fruits, Mission Figs, and, lo and behold, combined them with bacon.

52 Foods Week Thirty Six: Okra

I am often impressed by the resolve of Southern vegetarians. To willfully place off limits such a wide swath of one’s regional cuisine would be surprising in any instance, but when that cuisine includes such outstanding dishes as fried chicken and jambalaya and even the vegetables, such as collard greens, have meat as an integral component, it would be hard to fault anyone for renouncing their herbivosity.

One culinary vicotry I have noticed among my Southern vegetarian friends is both an affinity for and a skill at making fried okra that no omnivore I know has ever demonstrated. I admit to being a bit intimidated by okra preparation, afraid I will create a sticky mess. Lucky for me, as okra season arrived, one of those aforementioned Southern vegetarians expressed interest in helping me make some fried okra for Fifty Two Foods. I nearly stumbled over myself to say yes.

52 Foods Week Thirty Five: Pistachios

My first encounter with a pistachio nut happened sometime in elementary school, when I witnessed a friend snapping open the shells of an unfamiliar nut. I became fixated on salted pistachios for some weeks after that, delighting in the precise shelling—far superior to messy peanuts—and always chagrined to find one that was too tight to open. I also loved the taste. To this day pistachios appear in some of my favorite foods, both sweet (baklava) and savory (country pâté), to say nothing of the perfection which is pistachio ice cream.

52 Foods Week Thirty Four: Lamb Liver

A couple weeks ago, I was lucky enough to volunteer at Heritage Fire, a huge meat event held in St. Helena, CA. Put on by the folks who created Cochon 555, Heritage Fire had 25 chefs, 10 butchers and at least 2 dozen wineries. Someone told me they had an actual ton of meat, and while I can’t confirm that, with 6 pigs, 20 rabbits, a few lambs and goats and a bunch of chickens, it’s a figure I would entirely buy.

52 Foods Week Thirty Three: Jimmy Nardello Peppers

I’m usually a sucker for anything new, exotic and improbable, so I was delighted to learn about Jimmy Nardello Sweet Italian Frying Peppers. Named for the seed saver who preserved the peppers’ stock—the son of Italian immigrants who brought them to the States—Jimmy Nardello Peppers are long, often twisted peppers that range from a greenish yellow to a deep red. I acquired my first haul of peppers from Good Hummus at the Wednesday Farmers’ Market, then realized I wanted more and picked up a handful grown by Full Belly Farm, from the Davis Co-Op. Those from Full Belly were smaller and lighter in color than the ones from Good Hummus.

52 Foods Week Thirty Two: Cherry Tomatoes

A few weeks ago, the night we made the rotisserie rabbit, some friends we’d invited gave us a sack of vegetables fresh from their garden. Along with some tasty peppers, there was a basket full of bright orange-red cherry tomatoes. For much of my childhood, my mother maintained a hearty vegetable garden, complete with many tomato varieties, both large and small. I would often eat whole tomatoes right off the vine—like apples—a pleasure that is hard to duplicate with most grocery tomatoes, which made me all the more delighted to receive such ripe gifts from our friends’ yard.

52 Foods Week Thirty One: Lemon Cucumber

As often happens when strolling the Saturday Farmers’ Market, Jen and I came across a heretofore unfamiliar fruit: the Lemon Cucumber. Pale yellow and almost spherical, the baseball-sized lemon cucumbers we found at Good Hummus were described as a mellow, less astringent version of the common salad and sandwich component. We snatched up two of them.

52 Foods Week Thirty: Spare Ribs

While strolling the Farmers’ Market a couple weeks ago, Jen issued me a challenge that spoke to both my pride and my appetite: “I’ve never been much into ribs before. Make me like ribs.”

We had just visited the Sunblest Orchards booth, where we picked up a jar of Apricot Diablo glaze—a tasty looking mixture of apricots with habañero and jalapeño peppers and other spices. One of the recommended uses was pork ribs, so we checked with Bledsoe Meats and scored their last rack of spare ribs.

52 Foods Week Twenty Nine: Torpedo Onion

Scouring the Farmers’ Market for an interesting ingredient, we came upon the intriguing torpedo onions offered by Towani Organic Farm. Long and purple, torpedo onions are a milder onion with a hint of sweetness and a slightly garlicky flavor. Like other onions that have passed through my care, they looked like great candidates for grilling. We decided to pair them with some goat cheese and pancetta in a sandwich.

52 Foods Week Twenty Eight: Rabbit

To celebrate passing the Fifty Two Foods midpoint, yesterday Jen and I threw a little dinner party featuring the best recipes from the first 26 weeks. Since it was Bastille Day, I decided to include a surprise French dish of whole spit roasted rabbit. Though rabbit is a fairly ubiquitous game animal, enjoyed in much—if not all—of Europe, and not uncommon in the U.S. either, it has been forever tied with French cooking for me since seeing the fantastic rabbit skinning scene in Le Grand Chemin when I was young.

52 Foods Week Twenty Seven: Basil

When I was 17 I lived for a year in Italy with a couple who originally hailed from Genoa, the birthplace of all things delicious—including pesto. As my host mom, Graziella, whirred the sauce together in a food processor, my host dad, Alberto, would tell me about the traditional way to make pesto alla genovese, which is, of course, with a mortar and pestle. His own mother, he claimed, would pound away away at the basil, pine nuts, garlic and cheeses for hours until it was perfect. The pesto made in the food processor could not compare. Graziella would roll her eyes at Alberto and told him to go pound it himself. While I disagree that pesto made in a food processor is inferior, I do maintain certain tenets when it comes to making traditional—albeit, good—pesto all genovese. I take my rules for pesto directly from the best pesto-maker I know, Graziella; Suor Germana, the celebrity cooking nun who was endorsed by Graziella; and hours of my own experimenting.

52 Foods Week Twenty Six: Sweet Onion

Ever since the weather got nice in May, we’ve been grilling regularly. A few weeks back, we cooked up some skirt steak and a salad of onion and chard. It was such a success that I sought out the ingredients again, with an eye towards featuring it on Fifty Two Foods. We picked up some golden chard at the Davis Co-Op and I got this week’s food, a large sweet onion from Towani Organic Farm, a Farmers’ Market vendor from Butte County.

52 Foods Week Twenty Five: Apricots

About a month ago, I picked up some slightly tart first of the season apricots. This was one of my quick Wednesday market missions, and I regret to admit that I’ve forgotten from which vendor I purchased them. Apricots have always been one of my favorite fruits of summer. Every summer growing up, my family made two road trips—one north and one south—and we would often stop at farm stands to buy fresh fruit. Apricots and Santa Rosa plums were my weaknesses on these stops, and I’m fairly certain my mother had to meter my consumption at times to prevent me from getting sick. Apricot was and still is my favorite jam flavor, and dried apricots are probably my favorite dried fruit. The orange glow of their flesh is even reflected in a significant portion of my wardrobe, as well as the color accents on this site.

52 Foods Week Twenty Four: Pork Belly

When I began Fifty Two Foods, there were a few foods I knew I would include. Some of those, such as walnuts, I covered early. Others, like cherries, I needed to wait on until they were in season. This week’s food, pork belly, was another that I knew I would cook from the very start, and while it has been readily available, I’ve held off cooking it, because I really wanted to get it right. Towards this end, I took a first run at it a few weeks ago, and much like collard greens, I learned a few things that have informed my second attempt—a slab of pork belly that is in the oven as I write this.

52 Foods Week Twenty Three: Ribeye Steak

I’m a strong proponent of the Good-Food-Starts-with-Good-Ingredients school of cooking, and for no food is this truer than beef. Thanks in large part to Portland’s excellent Laurelhurst Market, I’ve gone from being somewhat nervous about finding a good steak to cook at home to shopping and preparing all manner of beef with confidence, whether it’s a large roast or a quick-cooking skirt. My quest for great beef in California led me to go in with some friends on the purchase of a whole, grass-fed cow. We got about 22 pounds of meat, in a variety of cuts, including two handsome half pound ribeye steaks.

52 Foods Week Twenty Two: Almonds

About a year ago, when I made orgeat for the first time, I found myself left with a significant quantity of ground almonds. In the interest of conservation and recycling, I attempted a batch of marzipan. This involved the purchase of a very useful candy thermometer and a tasteless, gritty mass of slightly sugary almonds that stuck in the molds with which I attempted to shape the confection. I realized that my almonds were not ground finely enough—the needs of orgeat and marzipan being different—and that I had likely extracted most of the delicious oils into the orgeat, leaving nothing to flavor the marzipan.

52 Foods Week Twenty One: Bacon

Last Saturday, I celebrated my birthday with an epic dance party as envisioned by my 12 year old self. It came off like Young M.C., with tons of early 90s R&B, folks dressed in fantastic neons, silks and bike shorts and above all lots and lots of dancing. This post isn’t really about my birthday, beyond introducing the provenance of this week’s bacon. One of my early Fifty Two Foods posts covered a side dish we brought to a pork dinner some friends hosted. Those same friends brought me a truly thoughtful gift of seriously gorgeous, thick cut bacon from the same hog as that glorious dinner.

52 Foods Week Twenty: Rainier Cherries

Each year, when cherries arrive, I revisit a quest to craft a very particular cocktail: a Whiskey Cherry Coke. Cherry cola feels like the quintessential summer soda, and whiskey cokes are a favorite highball in our house. Combining the two was a natural fit, but I wanted to go beyond just mixing Cherry Coke with Jack Daniels, and come up with a recipe using real cherries. Little did I know how hard this would be.

52 Foods Week Nineteen: Spring Onions

When it’s sunny out, it’s a shame to be inside cooking. I much prefer to use our Weber grill, even if it requires a little more work. I’ve loved grills ever since I was a child, when the time spent lighting the coals and making sure that everything was cool afterwards made a simple meal of hamburgers seem like an epic endeavor. There are few times I won’t choose the grill as a cooking option when the weather allows it, and there are few things that I can’t find a way to cook on the grill. This week’s food, spring onions, were straightforward enough to grill. All they needed were a couple slices, a bit of oil and about 10 minutes to be soft, sweet and charred, but I wanted to go beyond just the onions and cook the entire pizza that we put them on à la Weber.

52 Foods Week Eighteen: Raisins

What can I say about raisins? They are delicious and ubiquitous. Once, in Kindergarden or maybe earlier, we made raisins by setting grapes out in the sun in the morning. By the end of school, we had raisins. I can’t recall anything about how they tasted, but I distinctly remember being impressed both by the sun’s capacity to transform a grape into a raisin while I learned to enumerate barnyard animals and by the ability, as a child, to make food.

52 Foods Week Seventeen: Duck Fat

The French are fairly praised for the beauty of their language. “L’amour” rolls delicately from the tongue, “Coquelicot” implies a level of intoxication that “poppy” cannot muster and even “révolution” possesses a loopy sweetness that belies the fervor with which the French have practiced it. By far my favorite French word, however, is clipped and simple. Two balanced syllables—one round and open, one thin and pointed: “Confit.” The well regarded French tome, Le Petit Robert, defines confit as “preparation of certain meats cooked and preserved in their own fat,” a description that does little to emphasize the delectable qualities of this practical preservation method. Confit—particularly duck confit, a gorgeous tub of duck legs submerged in creamy duck fat—is simply some of the greatest meat ever.

52 Foods Week Sixteen: Fava Beans

Shortly after we married, Jen and I built a planter box. It was the tail end of summer, and we planted some flowers to decorate for her birthday, knowing that the next spring we would use the planter in earnest for some vegetables. To protect the soil from an invasion of weeds, we needed a cover crop for fall and winter. From the many options at the nursery, we chose fava beans, looking forward to a tasty crop of beans in the middle of winter. The beans grew quickly—almost alarmingly fast—until December, when Portland was beset by a week or more of White Christmas. The freeze killed the fava beans, whose vigorous stocks seemed to melt with the snow into a sad What-Could-Have-Been.

52 Foods Week Fifteen: Mint

Virtually every place I’ve lived has had mint growing, usually by choice. Despite its reputation for taking over, I find the presence of mint to be largely a virtue, because ready access to it can lead to many happy experiments. Even with a decent looking mint supply blooming by our back deck, there are times when you need to purchase some. On those rare occasions, you could do much worse than buying mint from Good Hummus farm, an organic farm in California’s Capay Valley that is enjoys strong ties to the local community.

52 Foods Week Fourteen: Gailan

I decided to kick off the second quarter of Fifty Two Foods by venturing into uncharted territory—a vegetable I had not only never cooked, but that I had never heard of or seen before: Gailan. I discovered this robust looking vegetable at the Vue Family Farm stand at the Davis Farmers’ Market, and figured I could prepare it like Chinese broccoli (which it resembled) one of my favored Dim Sum dishes. It turns out that, far from some newly discovered green, gailan is Chinese broccoli. So while this was perhaps a touch less revelatory than planned, it was clear to me how I would cook it.

52 Foods Week Thirteen: Grapefruit

Is there anything better than 85° weather in March? The sun came out this week and had us lounging outside most waking hours. Davis’ Picnic in the Park, which kicked off two weeks ago, finally had proper weather, and we were so busy enjoying the warmth that I almost forgot to find this week’s food. Fortunately, with minutes to spare, I came across a stack of grapefruits that looked promising.

52 Foods Week Twelve: Collard Greens

A few weeks ago, Capay Organic was blowing out collard greens for a dollar a bunch, because “no one cooks collard greens.” While I almost always get collard greens when I eat at Southern restaurants, I had never considered cooking them myself. Committed to being one person who does cook collard greens, I brought a bunch home and attempted to cook them Southern style, guided by little more than memory and some suggestions offered by the admittedly vegetarian woman working the Capay Organic table.

52 Foods Week Eleven: Deglet Noor Dates

Just east of Palm Springs and the jutting San Jacinto Mountains, lies the Coachella Valley. Known to many as the home of a large music festival, it is also the largest date producing region outside of the Middle East. Two winters ago, we visited the valley and stopped at Shields Date Garden, in Indio, CA, whose small store is as much a paean to the date as it is a retail outlet. At Shields we tasted nearly a dozen date varietals, most of which are difficult—if not impossible—to find in grocery stores outside the valley. Because a trip to Indio is impractical on an average Saturday morning, I was thrilled to discover Siegfried Dates at the farmers’ market. They offer many date varietals from Coachella growers, including some delicious Deglet Noors from Leja Farms.

52 Foods Week Ten: Shitaki Mushrooms

Sometimes your most important cooking is a side dish. We were invited to a pork dinner that we knew would be fantastic. The hog itself, tucked into our friends’ industrial freezer, was already stuff of legend. All we had to do was choose whether to bring a side or a dessert. We chose side.

52 Foods Week Nine: Fennel

There aren’t many foods I have a distinct memory of first discovering. There are, of course, many meals I remember that gave me a new appreciation for a food that was already familiar, but very few instances whereupon having something for the first time I also fell under its spell. For many years, I knew nothing of fennel—beyond its seeds, which are key to so many Italian meat dishes—scared off by the fear that the root and stalks would be too licoricey for my taste. That all changed the first time I had roasted fennel root.

52 Foods Week Eight: Lemons

I was a little under the weather this week, which put a damper on my enthusiasm for cooking and especially coming up with new ideas. Fortunately, there is one thing I enjoy when I have a cold—a nice hot toddy—that includes lemons, which our generous neighbors have plenty of, and are willing to share.

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.

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 we should make—the meal I had to make—involved that most apple-loving of meats, the humble pork chop.

52 Foods Week Five: Carrots

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.

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.

52 Foods Week Three: Chicken

The French are, in a word, sérieux about where things come from. Whether it’s wine, cheese or lavender, 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.

52 Foods Week Two: Oranges

Every summer growing up, our family would pile into an often comically overstuffed car and drive 5 hours North of the Bay Area for Feather River Camp. The final 45 minutes of the drive were awesome: A tight, winding road cut into the sides of the Sierra Nevada mountains with multiple bridges that seemed to soar over the rocky river below. The four hours before this were pretty dull. One of my favorite diversions during the interminable drive was passing the many orchards. I loved to watch the perfect grids of fruit trees converge into straight lines then scatter back into a wall of leaves as we passed them at 60 MPH. It’s an effect that can still distract me on long drives.

52 Foods Week One: Beets

I went to the Farmers’ Market yesterday to find a candidate for the first week of Fifty Two Foods. Being winter and a Wednesday, the market did not have a lot of vendors with fresh produce. After a quick survey, I settled on beets for this week.