Sunday, August 23, 2009

TJ's organic tomatoes

TJ's organic tomatoes
Originally uploaded by love_yellow

Product of Mexico... who monitors and certifies organic produce in Mexico? Can we trust that it's really organic? It's not "certified" but I do see the USDA Organic label on it - how do they "certify it"?

I know that the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) organization certifies much of the organic produce I've purchased and apparently they use the USDA seal. But how do they monitor farming practices in Mexico?

To quote one of my friends... "I think it's a free-for-all down there." Unfortunately Mexico does have a bit of bad rep and even I usually stay away from Mexican grown produce. But that's mainly because I'm lucky enough live in a rich agricultural area (San Francisco Bay Area) so I'm in a position to buy locally grown produce - which means I also buy fruits and vegetables that are in season.

And while I do my best to keep my carbon footprint down to a minimum, in this case, the only organic option was these Mexican grown tomatoes. So it was quite a dilemma to choose between local chemically fertilized and not very ripe tomatoes vs. red organic ones grown in Mexico. ¡Ay yay yay!

Well, I'm hoping for the best and hoping that the extra money I'm paying for organic produce really is buying me organically grown vegetables and fruit. I want to be healthy and not put chemical fertilizers in my body, but I also want to support organic and sustainable farming methods that's good for the earth.

My body can only be as healthy if the environment in which it lives is also healthy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Smoked salmon cream cheese spread with chives

Making those fancy appetizers (or hors d'oeuvres) is not my thing... so painstaking and time consuming. I prefer to just throw a few things (like sliced veggies, cheese, crackers, etc) on a large platter, arrange them nicely and be done with it. The French call it crudités. It's not so much that I'm lazy, it's more that I'd rather spend the time on the main meal or dessert. So I'm all about fast and easy appetizers, but it also should be tasty and healthy (as much as possible).

Appetizer is defined as "a small amount of food or drink taken at the start of a meal to stimulate the appetite". Notice the words small amount... i.e. your guests are not suppose to be full before the lunch or dinner is served.

Occasionally, I will take the time to prepare one thing and one of my favorite easy recipes is a smoked salmon and cream cheese spread with fresh chives.

Here's how to make it...

Step 1:
Chop up the smoked salmon and place in a medium or large bowl.

This package is about a 1/2 pound of salmon (I think) and I bought it at Trader Joe's.

Step 2:
Add whipped cream cheese. I used an 8-oz package from Trader Joe's.

You can use non-whipped cream cheese. It's easier to mix by hand when the cream cheese is pre-whipped.

Step 3:
Chop the chives finely.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had some ready in my garden. Really fresh chives has a slightly stronger flavor and compliments the smoked salmon well.

Step 4:
Wet your hands a little and form a ball with the salmon and cream cheese mixture and then roll it in the chopped chives.

Once it's covered in the chives it's easier to handle and form into whatever shape you want.

That's it! You're done. I like to put it on a small plate and decorate the middle of the cheese ball with chive flowers or other edible flowers. Oh and it's awesome spread on toast for breakfast the next morning.

My favorite serving tray is made by Marimekko (Finland), in the classic vintage (1964) pattern called Unikko.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mijita @ the Ferry Building

The Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco is another one of my favorite places on earth though every time I'm there I feel like I'm in heaven... food heaven. The 100+ year old building used to accommodate commuters but now it's home to some of my favorite shops and restaurants selling some of the best quality food - seasonal and much of it locally, sustainably and/or organically grown.

More on my favorite places inside the Ferry Building in later blog posts, but today's post is about Mijita, the Mexican restaurant owned by Traci Des Jardins (Chef/Owner of Jardiniere, James Beard Award winner and Iron Chef America contestant).

Squash Blossom Quesadilla at Mijita's, Ferry Building Marketplace, S.F.

I met some of my college girlfriends here for lunch yesterday where we enjoyed a delicious meal, gorgeous San Francisco weather (after the morning fog burned off), and each others' company.

Everyone was quite satisfied with their meals and I was most happy with the chips and guacamole. The fresh corn taste of the chips came through because they fry the corn tortilla in rice oil which doesn't impart any flavor. Perfectly salted (for me that means not too salty) and a nice firmness because it was a thicker chip.

I ordered one of the lunch specials - Squash Blossom Quesadilla. It was good but I can't say it was great. Squash blossom has a delicate flavor and it was a bit lost with the cheese inside this corn based shell (which was a little firmer than I expected and not salted enough and it's rare for me to complain about that). And look at the shape... it looks more like an empanada to me than a quesadilla, but that didn't really bother me. It just made me wonder why it was called quesadilla. Whatever.

I was drawn to it because (1) it was a "special" and (2) I had experimented with squash blossoms earlier in the summer so I was curious about how it would work in a quesadilla. Maybe my expectations were too high but oh well, at least it was was a fun day with long time friends. :-)

Inside the Squash Blossom Quesadilla

Chorizo Con Huevos, ordered by my friend