Last Minute Shopping? Don’t Forget Your Local Farmer’s Market!

 

This holiday season don’t forget that your local farmer’s markets can be one of your best sources for last minute gifts. Nothing puts the final touch on the season than being able to support your local community and small business owners!

Here’s just a couple of ideas from the Orange County Great Park Farmer’s Market

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This soap has been amazing! It’s lovely to look at and delivers stress busting scent every time you wash up.

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This is the place to find that gluten free pumpkin cake for just the right dietary-restricted-super-vegan on your list!

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There’s no way you won’t find something for your Christmas list here, plus there’s the bonus of gorgeous wide open Orange County to give your head some last minutes of that valuable “room to breathe” before the final peak of holiday activity. Breathe. Buy. Support = Feel Better.

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Happy Shopping and Seasons Greetings from us here at OC Farm and Pantry!

Why Apple Pie is Best Baked in a Brown Paper Bag

 

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To be fully honest with you, we have no idea why this apple pie is baked in a brown paper shopping bag it might be an East Coast tradition? But it results in an absolutely beautiful pie and the mess is completely contained and then there’s the moment where you realize that the paper bag does not, in fact, burst into flames in your oven, so it’s all good from there.

We came across this particular recipe via the magnificent Modchik (aka Lindsey Garrett), blogger, photographer and foodie extraordinaire, when she posted the recipe from Yankee Magazine up on Facebook.  We were immediately curious. I did notice in the comments that Linsey felt that the final product was a bit too aggressively sweet, so we make a few small changes.

When the apples were peeled and had been tossed in lemon juice I also tossed them in some Calvados for good measure. I also added about a 1/4 tsp of Applewood Smoked Sea Salt to the sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg mixture that the apples got tossed in and I sprinkled a bit more over the top when it came out of the oven just to add a little highlight to the sweetness.

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More importantly, I halved the topping recipe and found that it was just the right amount of sweetness. I can’t imagine it with more sugar!  Anyway, play around, have some fun and don’t tell the Dragon Lady that I used a store bought pie crust again…in the meantime, Yum! Bring on the Vanilla Bean ice cream!

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Calvados or Applejack?

It’s Fall and the holidays are in full swing, wrapping their magic around us, returning us to the familiar security of family traditions. For us, traditions are all about the kitchen, and that means a bottle of apple brandy is going to get bought. Probably more than one. It’s a bit of a seasonal thing that comes on us around the time the spiced apple cider starts appearing on the shelves of our local markets. We switch it up from year to year, trying different labels and vintages as we can afford, but we honor the tradition.

As the spiced cider heats on the stove we consider our choices; Calvados or Apple Jack? French or American? To be or not to be? …and then we buy both, because we hate to choose and we live to compare. Budget-wise, we weren’t going over $20 a bottle so we settled for Trader’s Joe’s Calvados offering and the Laird’s NV Apple Jack available from BevMo. Taste testing ensued.

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Calvados, which is tied to the heart of the designated regions of Normandy, is generally considered the top of the heap through it’s connection to french brandy making and it’s long history, but America has also been developing a history of it’s own, applying it’s colonial brashness to the creation it’s own collection of uniquely American apple brandy. Laird’s Apple Jack was sought after by George Washington and enjoyed by Lincoln. Established in 1780 and doing trade through 9 generations of the Laird family, it remains the American standard to this day, although there are a growing number younger producers that are on the market these days.

We found the Laird’s was smoother, showing up it’s “Non Vintage” label and made the best choice for plain sipping and some of the more elegant cocktails while the Trader Joe’s Calvados gave us a much stronger essence of apples and became the choice for hot cider, apple pies and other food that we added it to. We felt it would hold it’s own better there. We didn’t worry about the lack of cash when it came to being able to afford some of the more superior examples that make up the top end of this particular bracket. There are advantages to going with a younger, more fiery product. You see, aging ads complexity and richness, but it also tones down the apple notes, and we’ve decided to light the Christmas spirit up a bit this year by going big on the apple notes in our hot apple cider!

These heady gifts from the orchard will find their way into that pot of Trader Joe’s Spiced Cider we keep warming on the stove when our families get together. It will be sprinkled over cubes of challah or toasted day old french bread on it’s way to becoming a rich bread pudding and it will have apples tossed in it when we make our apple pies.  We’ll deglaze pans with it to make the gravy that dresses our pork loin roasts and it will be the key ingredient in a late autumn sangria or an after dinner chai tea. And for our cheese boards we will stir it into warmed preserves before they graced a rich triple cream brie or tangy goat cheese…just because we can and it’s Christmas, you know?

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Earlier this week Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks fame posted our next drink on her Instagram feed. Perhaps you’s like to pick up a bottle and try it with us!

Santa’s Slay

half a champagne glass of Asti Spumanti,

a shot of golden rum (we used the Laird’s Apple Jack)

fill it up w/cranberry juice

Drink and Be Merry

(Also, feel free to enjoy my super-creative, artistic Hipstamatic rendition of the drink in the above posted picture. Santa’s Slays fuel creativity! Truth!)

Thanks Chookooloonks!

 

Also on our holiday cocktail list is this Todd Porter / Diane Cu gem from White on Rice Couple, the Apple Sidecar.

 

 

Tis The Season…for Chowder!

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To be honest, it’s always chowder time in our opinion. Especially when you’re talking about  the chowder served at an Orange County standard like The Original Fish Company in Los Alamitos. The gravitational pull of this seafood heaven anytime we are close by is irresistible and if our travels home happen to find us entering Orange County from the south on either the 405 or the 605, then we are stopping in for a couple of quarts of warm-right-to-your-toes chowder and sourdough bread to remind us that life is good.  There have been some wonderful times when our boys played Fall league baseball nearby that saw us huddled in the bleachers warming our hands on a take out container of the hot, creamy stuff, so life is good indeed!

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While we’d eat at The Original Fish Company any chance we got, it’s often only on birthdays or a rare date night that we can sit back and enjoy the perfect menu and the spot on service. Neither one ever seems to miss a beat, as attested to by the constant stream of customers that the restaurant enjoys. It’s been a solid hit out of the ballpark since 1981 and it’s the kind of restaurant that makes you feel like you’ve been going there your whole life.

But life and kids keep us busy and thrifty, so we settle for the opportunity to hit their fish market section and join the happy line up of fellow west coast chowderheads to nab some of the best clam chowder we’ve ever had.  If you haven’t thought of it, chowder goes great with Christmas and warms the heart with holiday cheer. We promise.

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The Original Fish Company

11061 Los Alamitos Blvd.
Los Alamitos, CA 90720

562 594-4553

Restaurant: Monday – Saturday 11 A.M. – 10 P.M.
Sunday 10 A.M. – 10 P.M.

Fish Market: Open daily 9 am.

Lamb for Comfort

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So I made this lamb shepherd’s pie the other day on a whim. I’d been given the lamb and the potatoes and I had all manner of loose vegetables in the fridge begging to be used, so I made shepherd’s pie. I looked up a Jamie Oliver recipe that had lamb and rosemary in the title for inspiration and then just free-rolled from there.

Two evolutions later, I had made a couple of stops for more ingredients and come up with a stellar dish that fed my sense of fall seclusion and comfort, and that made good use of many of the current inhabitants of my pantry. Is there any better feeling than nailing a dish of comfort food when you’re just drinking wine and riffing in the kitchen? If you want to give a go, here’s what I did:

4 rashers of applewood smoked bacon went into the skillet with 1 onion and 4 cloves of garlic to saute. added to that were some brussels sprouts sliced up and turned around on the heat for a moment or two and then 3 lbs of ground lamb went into the skillet to brown. We really like the butchers at Wholesome Choice here in Irvine for the lamb.

While the lamb browned, 2 lbs of potatoes were peeled and set to boil in salted water. (Note: at some point during this process you’re going to want to throw in a couple of sprigs of Rosemary…maybe a bay leaf or two as well. You’ll know.)  In the meantime it’s a good idea to drain most, if not all of the fat off the meat (lamb can be quite fatty). Next, add a tablespoon or two of all purpose flour was sprinkled on the lamb and mixed in and then a 1/4 cup or so of red wine is added, as I happened to be drinking it at the time, along with a splash of beef or chicken broth to help create a bit of a gravy.

After that, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and salt to taste, 3 tablespoons of ketchup (or to taste) and then, to finish it off,  I added about a third of a bag of Trader Joe’s Melange of Vegetables (totally cheating I know, but I use them in everything from fried race to chicken pot pies to soup. Hey! 6 kids here so they are a standard pantry go to item for me. You can totally use fresh if the idea shames you that badly). I finished it with a selection of large pieces of chopped heirloom tomatoes, which Trader Joe’s suspiciously had on offer in Fall. Perhaps it’s that amazing Southern California climate, right? I don’t know, I’ll have to look into it, but I’m very happy that I did. It added a nice touch to the dish.

Once the potatoes had cooked, I drained them and made them into mashed potatoes as I usually do, butter, milk, salt and pepper…but this time I also whipped in a tablespoon or two of the Boursin’s Garlic and Herb cheese that I had in the fridge for a nice little cheat of flavor to the mashed potatoes.

Finally, put the lamb filling into a baking dish and gently spread the mashed potatoes on top. Bake at 375 degrees until the potato topping has turned golden brown. Thereafter you can sit in front of the fire, basking in your hearty, cold weather comfort food and linger over a glass of red while you pretend the sheep have been moved into the lower pastures. Try adding a little Jethro Tull to up the atmosphere.

 

“Fire At Midnight”

I believe in fires at midnight —

when the dogs have all been fed.

A golden toddy on the mantle —

a broken gun beneath the bed.

Silken mist outside the window.

Frogs and newts slip in the dark –

too much hurry ruins the body

I’ll sit easy…fan the spark.

 

Keeping Your Edge in the Kitchen

 

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 Do you have a favorite knife?  One that fits in your hand and turns you into a kitchen commando? Do you go into raptures every time you pull a blade from the butcher block?  Ok, so maybe you aren’t as into your knives as that, the average home chef is not…unless you’re my partner the Dragon Lady. If you’re like her you’ll think nothing of having a 40 minute conversation about sharpening techniques with a master craftsmen before you hand over one of your knives to him. The good news is that since she does things like this, you and I don’t have to.

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Seriously, the first lesson of any kitchen has always been you’ll cut yourself on a dull blade more than you will with a well kept blade. Not having the right tools in any job will make you work harder, not smarter. A dull edge will slow you down and limit your abilities in the kitchen, so at some point we all need to get our knives sharpened.

You can do it at home, but it takes skill and technique and the right tools. If you have a sharpening steel, then that will get you halfway there, but it isn’t a substitute by any means and that’s where  Junhao Chen of Sharp Edge comes in.

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Junhao Chen of Sharp Edge

When he’s not doing the sharpening for local chefs, he can be found Sundays at the farmers market at the Orange County Great Park and he’s your guy. We recommend you and your knives see him about once a year if you’re the average home cook. The better your knife, the less you have to see him. But really, even your cheap knives, get them done! Nothing takes the fun out of cooking faster than a dull knife, and that’s true even for the most casual of chefs.

We like Junhao Chen. He was full of information about a recent trip to Japan where he studied to further his craft. They take a blade seriously n Japan, I can assure you. He’ll teach to you to use a steel properly, and instruct you on the care of your knives and he carries a large assortment of quality knives if you’re looking to upgrade.

Our sharpening stone has been retired since meeting Junhao. He’s a great find. If you miss him at the Great Park, your can reach him here.

SHARP EDGE

On Site Professional Knife Sharpening

1-888-594-EDGE (3343)

 

OUTREACH: Phillipines

Philippines Relief Fund

 

The world is mobilizing. Tragedies such as these are when we have finest moments and we ought to be grateful for the opportunity to reach out. You never know when it will be you reaching out to the hand of another. Trust me, the dividing line is thinner than you think.

Here are some organizations that are on the ground and could use your help to move safety to our fellow human beings:

Unicef

Red Cross

Doctors Without Borders

Americares

World Food Programme

Oxfam

Team Rubicon

 

PdM Irvine Does Dinner

Steak PDM-1

 

“Breaking Out of the Bakery…”

 

PdM in Newport’s Fashion Island has long been a favorite for their delicious baked goods, like the croissants made daily on the premises, and their beautiful salads, but it turns out that PdM’s owner, Scott McVean has been chafing to explore further culinary horizons.

At his new location in Irvine, he is doing just that with a steadily expanding menu that is all about dinner. The wonderful baked goods, the heavenly breakfasts with their perfectly poached eggs sitting atop flaky parmesan pastries decorated with arugula and a thin layer of goats cheese are still there to be enjoyed, along with the colorful salads that their Fashion Island location has long been a go-to destination for.

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But do yourself a favor and give them a try after 5pm when their dinner menu is served.

After 5pm, you’ll find a balanced menu that values Scott’s farm to fork commitment with something for all tastes. Their grilled salmon is cooked to perfection and topped with a light and flavorful mango salsa. Served with organic greens dressed in a ginger-cilantro dressing, it hits just the right note alongside the salmon.

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One of the real finds though is the Grilled Flat Iron steak. A dry-aged beauty from the New York side of the butchers knife, it is graced in a mushroom and red wine sauce and served with a cloud of mashed potatoes. Paired with either the bright, big berry notes of Weins Cellars Crowded Red or the black cherry-woodsy mushroom notes of the Mossback Pinot Noir from Crew Wines, it is the kind of pleasure that a steak and red wine dinner is meant to be.

 

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Also recommended from the menu are the fresh fish tacos and the Roasted Half Chicken. Owner Scott McVean, a rancher himself, uses only Mary’s Organic Chicken,  a highly prized free range bird, ethically and organically raised from down San Diego way. You’ll see a lot of support for California’s local food suppliers on this menu and we love that.

The menu is evolving, includes daily specials and shows a commitment to quality ingredients like Niman Ranch bacon and Tillamook cheeses. Dinner served from 5pm along with beer and wine, including a few nice choices from Weins Family Cellars in Temecula.

PdM Kitchen is located in the Irvine, Oak Creek Village Center, 5781 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA 92618.

 

**Full Disclosure – PdM was a recent food photography client of ours, and we can still say that eating the food was one of the best perks of the shoot. We’ve been happy to return as paying customers since then.

 

A FuYu Kind of Fall

Downey Fruit-7

 

It’s Fall, my favorite time of the year, and the colors around us have begun to deepen, even here in the mild climates of Southern California. At the markets and in our CSA boxes Red Pomegranates, jeweled orange Persimmons, deep orange-red baby yams and multi-colored Winter Squash are showing up in our kitchens, challenging our creativity.

 

Downey Fruit-5

 

If you like taking pictures of food, as I do, this is a pretty good time to do it. The persimmon tree in my mother’s backyard is once again breaking it’s branches under the weight of it’s bounty and we have more persimmons than we know what to do with.  Eaten like apples, sliced into fall salads, added to grilled sourdough 3 cheese sandwiches and poached into a syrup of cardamom are just some of the ways in which we’ve enjoyed them this year.

The selection in Fall is richer, if less varied as the earth draws in, giving up a little less and restoring her powers. I love the feeling of that recharging and rest. it calls me to join it, a little less can be expected of me as the weather slows us all down and It allows me to find my rhythm with life again, to pause and pick up the camera and to record the way my mother’s Persimmon tree is once again running amok with Fuyu…

 

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