Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Chefs at the Algarden Cafe

My great friend, wonderful baker and parter in the Algarden Lunch Julia, decided to move away with her husband, who got a job in Connecticut. I was quit sad to say goodbye to her, especially as I thought of the incredible adventure and learning that had been working with her to create the Algarden lunch. 

But today, I'm happy to start a new chapter in the Algarden cooking adventure, and want to introduce the new members of the Algarden Lunch, our wonderful chefs Rachel Brand and Anna McGaraghan.
Rachel and Anna came to the lunch a few weeks ago, they are friends of friends, who came to eat lunch and experience the garden. Serendipitously they were there as I was talking about Julia leaving and needing to find some one to help me out with the lunches and they both were interested on jumping on board. 

They bring new creative ideas for recipes and great energy and I'm happy to have them be a part of the team. Here's a little something about them:

Rachel grew up in Berkeley not far from the Algarden and is thrilled to be a part of the Algarden café.  A local foods enthusiast, Rachel has taught cooking at The Edible Schoolyard, farmed on the Central Coast, helped to develop school and community gardens, completed a pastry internship at Chez Panisse Restaurant and wrote her Master’s thesis on garden based education.  Rachel currently works to develop community college Sustainable Agriculture programs, and can often be found in her backyard with her flock of beautiful chickens.  The kitchen tool that Rachel can not live without is a lemon zester.
Anna has always loved to garden and cook, and is excited to be a part of the Algarden Café. She has tended small gardens in every place that she has lived, includinggrowing tomatoes, herbs, and squash on the tiny balcony of an urban studio apartment. She was raised to think that it’s perfectly acceptable to run out in the garden and check on the vegetables while still in pajamas. Anna developed a school garden program in an elementary school on a small Maine island, and also helped to design and implement a community garden on the island. Anna loves to cook for family and friends, and is looking forward to creating healthy and creative meals with Algarden produce! The kitchen tool that Anna could not live without is her cast iron frying pan.

Come and meet them in person and try out their recipes.
Here are a few pictures of the wonderful foods they have been preparing.




I hope to see you there!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pasta from scratch

Speaking about the pasta that we made, here's the process of making pasta.
Julia and I made this pasta about a month ago. It was a lot of work but it was worth it.
All you need to make pasta is flour, eggs, salt and patience!
Our eggs came from the garden chickens, patience was a little harder to find.

We made our pasta the old traditional way, mixing it by hand.
Started out by shaping the flour into a volcano and slowly pouring the mixed eggs in the middle

 being careful of not to destroy any walls of the volcano, or else you have a big mess of eggs. Trust me on this.

This is where patience comes in

Once the eggs and flower are integrated is time for kneading. Julia was a pro at this - I still need practice, and patience...

The secret of kneading dough is to use a well floured surface, press and stretch the dough with the heel of the hand, fold over, and rotate 90º repeatedly until your hands are about to collapse

Kneading is important because it mixes together the ingredients and adds strength to the final dough

Once the dough is ready, the rolling begins.
We borrowed this pasta machine from our friend Maria. She got it in Argentina, she claims everybody in Argentina makes their own pasta.

The dough has to be divided into small balls that pass through the machine 7 times, each time at a thiner setting, turning the dough into longer strips.

After that, the strips go through the machine one more time to be sliced.
et voilà we got fettuccines

The dough was still kind of sticky so we carefully hung the fettuccines to dry on a cloths rack

The problem was convincing the cats this was not a toy for them

They look so beautiful no?

After some time drying we were able so safely arrange them for their final drying

Is this beautiful or what?

The next day they were cooked al dente and tossed with sautéd New Zealand spinach, oyster mushrooms and the Moroccan lemons and herbs that I had preserved a few months ago (recipe coming soon) 
It was outstanding!

Thanks to our wonderful photographer Steve Pon

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Spreading Seeds in Mexico

A few months ago my good childhood friends Lizy & Leslie came to visit me from Mexico. I was very excited to see them and show them my life in the Bay Area and take them to some of my favorite places. But I was mostly excited to show them the garden and have them over for the lunch.

Leslie, who is originally from Irapuato, a city know for its strawberries, actually harvested them for the first time and learned how the flowers look before they turn into strawberries. I was so proud of my strawberry patch for being so instructional to a native of the land of strawberries.

Lizy loved the home made pasta even though she does not eat wheat. 
To my surprise Leslie went home and made pasta from scratch herself - with cage free eggs. Vamos nena!

It was really nice to have both of them at the garden. But beyond that, I'm continued to be amazed with the impact that it had on their lives. A Buddhist monk once told me to spread seeds everywhere, you never know where and when they will sprout, some times in the most unexpected places and he was right.
Lizy went back home and got her husband and kids to help her tear up a patch of lawn to start their own "huerto familiar"  I'm so proud of her.  Following is a set of pictures of the work that she did. I hope it inspires you to start your own "huerto familiar"

One week later she sent me this pictures. The seeds have germinated!

If you are interested in reading more on small & urban farming in Mexico, La Jornada (a national journal) has this interesting supplement: Harta Milpa 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sun flower invasion

A few weeks ago some unexpected sunflower seedlings germinated on the zome green house. I thought about  transplanting them but as usual I got distracted with some other chore in the garden and left it for later. Later soon became too late. The sun flower seedlings turned into sunflower trees and pooped out of the zome through the opened windows.

I found it pretty amusing at first and cute to have sunflowers coming out of the zome, but they continued to grow and grow and they have now surpassed the zome height (10')

This sunflowers are now about 12' to 14' high with trunks up to 10" diameter

They are spilling over the side

They have completely taken over the zome. I want my green house back!

however the bees and the squirrels are loving the sunflowers pollen and seeds 

Look at that guy taking the entire head of the sun flower. I wonder how it lost it's tail.

No dejes para mañana los girasoles que puedas sacar hoy....