Category Archives: Food: Recipes and Stories

The more things change, the more they stay the same

From Cedar Street Times

I saw on the news Monday night that Seaside firefighters are now equipped with Kevlar vests and are expected to wear them for protection when they respond to a known crime scene. Otherwise, they’re just going in blind. Sad state of affairs, when the people who are supposed to be rescuing people might end up needing rescuing themselves. Bullet marks on the door of the engine made by the crazy guy who shot two cops in Santa Cruz show that it’s not just Seaside that needs protection from the public.

A hundred years ago, when I worked for the San Jose Fire Department, we got a call late at night to respond to the scene of a shooting. As often happens, we were the first responders on the scene – before the police, before the ambulance. We were trained paramedics, of course, so we started working on the victim.
In the middle of our efforts, the phone in the house rang and one of the crew answered it. “Look, pal, I shot him, I want him dead, and if you bring him back I’ll shoot you, too.”

Lucky for us, we didn’t have to make a choice – the victim was beyond “bringing back.” Continue reading

Invite a Firehouse Cook for Thanksgiving and you get a smoked turkey

We got through Thanksgiving with flying colors – literally. What a beautiful spread, with colorful contributions from friends, neighbors and relatives, some of whom are very colorful themselves. But that’s another story.

At Thanksgiving, we usually think about traditional dishes. What would it be without Grandma’s green beans with the little canned French onions on top, Ocean Spray cranberry sauce from a can, butterflake rolls from Costco . . . Continue reading

How to improve on chocolate chip cookies

Facebook strikes again. Despite her best efforts to disconnect, Her Editorness can’t help checking it to see what her friends are up to; it has paid off in spades.

Back up to Christmas and a cookie-and-wine pairing that Richard Oh of Otter Cove Winery hosted. Well, she couldn’t go to the pairing but when he posted something about bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookies on Facebook it piqued her interest (most cookies do that) and she hopped in the car and went to his home in Pebble Beach and picked up the leftovers.

Then she was hooked. The quest for bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookies became her obsession. The reason she got up in the morning. There were recipes on the Internet, but she had to have the one from the Otter Cove pairing. She began prodding poor Richard every time he put a recipe out, looking for the bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookie recipe to end all bacon-and-chocoate-chip cookie recipes. Finally, and to her great delight, the author of the recipe, one George Herbert – a friend of Richard’s – saw her pleading on Facebook, took pity on her, “friended” her and gave the the recipe. Continue reading

Perfect Pie Crust, no Chain Saw Required

Perfect pie crust? One word: Cold

My grandma made perfect pie crusts without ever measuring. She had a favorite bowl and she knew where the flour and other ingredients should fill on that bowl. She’s thrash it around a little bit and roll it out, and get perfect Cornish pasty and pie crusts every time. She used 7-Up instead of water, and if someone gave her some bear fat, she was in heaven. Second favorite was lard.

Today, we don’t use either bear fat or lard and I can’t make a pie crust to save my soul, though I may have discovered a secret recipe while attending Fall Harvest Foodie Camp at Asilomar last month. I haven’t set out to try the recipe, but I saw the results with my own two eyeballs so I’m confident in sharing it. The secret is cold. Continue reading

Foodie Camp (with recipes and pictures)

When I was a kid, I never got to go to camp like some people remember doing. When we went camping, it involved putting an old mattress in the back of Dad’s truck and sleeping under the stars, usually at Arroyo Seco. A weekend adventure for this farm boy raised in Aromas was to go to Pacific Grove to see Uncle Dick at the Pt. Pinos Lighthouse, though he was retired by then. One of the guys at school bragged about church camp, but when you go to a two-room school out in the country, odds are none of your friends went to Boy Scout Camp let alone Nature Camp.

Nobody ever heard of Foodie Camp.

Asilomar’s Harvest Camp for Foodies has got to be the most under-advertised, food-filled, relaxing self improvement weekend I ever heard of. Al Saxe talked us into going, having attended the last one a few months ago himself, so Her Editorness and I hiked the few blocks down to Asilomar and turned ourselves over to the chefs and sous chefs and various experts on hand to learn all about autumn harvest cooking. Where else, for $175, are you going to get two dinners, two breakfasts, a lunch, and at least five cooking lessons at a facility like the incomparable Asilomar? Oh, and an apron, a Victorinix boning knife and a corkscrew to take home, not to mention an apple pie and a pumpkin pie, freshly baked, with your own fingerprints in the crust?

Continue reading

Corned Beef Hash: No Corn, No Cornishmen, No Hash

No corn is harmed when making corned beef hash!

Nor is there any hash in it

Even though my mom was Cornish, that has nothing to do with corned beef hash either. Corning is a process of soaking a beef brisket or pork tenderloin in brine (preferably with some herbs and spices) in order to preserve it. It was developed in the days before refrigeration was common. I read someplace that it was called “corning” because the salt used in the process was coarse, like kernels of corn.

Be that as it may, my mother made the best corned beef hash ever, and she made it out of leftover corned beef. At Ft. Jameson, we don’t often have leftover corned beef being the carnivores that we are, so I always do two briskets in order to have any for hash or for sandwiches. Continue reading

Care & Feeding of SCRAMP volunteers: Breakfast Surprise-A-Pie

More than a dozen years ago, a firefighter friend of mine gave me free tickets to see the Superbike  Race at Laguna Seca. Who am I to turn down a freebie? Now, I’m not the world’s biggest race fan, but all the hullaballoo and excitement is infectious, plus there were displays of vintage motorcycles which is one of my personal interests.

It was my first introduction to SCRAMP, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula. I joined a year later, and have been volunteering since 1998, proudly wearing the requisite blue shirt and patiently explaining over and over what a “SCRAMP Official” is, as it’s emblazoned on the back of the shirt in two-inch letters. Continue reading

Chicken: Fried, Roasted, Served with Lemon, and Made Into Soup

Ha! Bet you thought winter was over, what with those few days of marvelous weather we had. Hope you didn’t put all your sweaters in mothballs, because winter is back. Let’s hope it stays long enough to rain a bit and recharge the aquifers.

I’m told there were lots of people sniffing and sneezing at the City Council meeting this week. They probably thought that spring was here and got out the shorts. They need chicken soup! Continue reading

Regional Biscuits

Watching the inauguration the other day, I was struck once again with the extreme variety of people who bless this country. In an age when other parts of the world are busy practicing ethnic cleansing, we are so lucky to live where we do, where everyone celebrates where they came from, but with an eye to the future and the melting pot that is America.

Each immigrant group brings their own food and their own terminology to this country, but it’s amazing how many of the recipes are alike. We all know that “chips” in England are what we would call “cottage fries” here. Noodles seem to be universal, no matter who claims to have invented them. Pasties are related to empanadas. Turnovers look like scones. Everyone makes soups and stews. And “cookies” in the U.S. are akin to “biscuits” in the U.K. Which brings us to biscuits, American-style.
The basic recipe that I start with is the standard baking powder biscuit: Continue reading

Chicken Salads: Traditional and Curry

Wintertime picnics

The weather has been so great for over a week that it makes me think of picnic outings and eating al fresco. We should make the best of the weather while we can and just hope for rain later. Thank heavens we’re not in Minnesota where it’s -40 degrees and your lunch would freeze before you got it to your mouth.

I’ve always been a big fan of a certain brand of moveable feast – hiking, backpacking, motorcycle picnics. . . I still have a lot of my old camping gear and picnic stuff, even though today it would probably be called antique. We used to go away for days on a solo motorcycle and were able to carry everything we needed in the saddlebags, including a small stove and a two-cup coffee pot, a pop-up tent, two sleeping bags and air mattresses and clean clothes. Nowadays, we take that much on an outing to the grocery store. Continue reading

Winter Vegetables for All Year

Amid all the doom and gloom about the economy, Wikipedia (the online citizen encyclopedia) sent me a tip of the day about 7 ways folks survived the last depression. The assumption is, of course, that they will work this time, too, if in fact that’s where the economy is going.

One of the hints they gave was to grow your own food. Not easy in a drought. Not easy to find “full sun” sometimes in Pacific Grove. Not easy if you have to go to work every day and can’t afford to stay up all night to keep the deer and raccoons out of the garden. Continue reading

Cobbler From Purloined Fruit Tastes Best

Maybe it’s the reminders in the news of hard economic times. Maybe it was that poem in Cedar Street Times last week by Rachel Krasner, a high school student, called “The Emigrant.” Maybe it was cleaning out some boxes of my late mother’s things that made me think about what it must have been like for her, and my grandparents, to emigrate from Cornwall and come to the United States, leaving one depression only to land in another. Continue reading

Pumpkin Guts and Squash

I probably should have done this story just before Halloween, but I had other fish to fry.

I love riding through the agricultural areas of our county at this time of year, because some of my favorites are ripening and the fields make me so happy to be here. At Halloween there are pumpkin patches all over the place and piles of pumpkin and squash out in front of the grocery stores. Now, I know I can get many varieties of squash all year round thanks to the miracles of greenhouses and high-speed transportation, but autumn is particularly bountiful.

Pumpkins, of course, aren’t just for piling around in decorative displays on your front porch with leftover corn stalks, nor are they just for carving. (Carved pumpkins shouldn’t be eaten after Halloween is over, primarily because the candles leave the insides all smokey and the pumpkins often start to get a little fuzzy around the edges.) And the best pumpkins for carving aren’t necessarily the best ones for eating. But the stores are still full of beautiful specimens of some unique varieties and I’m here to tell you to pick up a few and try them, especially if you’re a fan of squash.

Here are some of the best eating varieties of pumpkin:
Kabocha, or Japanese pumpkin, has green skin but is orange inside. It’s usually really sweet, and can be eaten just by steaming it and adding some butter. I used to find it in my vegetable tempura when I went to Charlie Tanaka’s at Cedar Tree Plaza (no relation to our newspaper!) in Santa Clara. I don’t even know if Charlie is still there, but he used to do a lot of seasonal vegetables in his tempura. If he was out of kabocha, he’d do sweet potatoes. Continue reading

Some Fishy Stuff

Santa Cruz Steelhead
6 steelhead (or salmon) steaks
2 c. unfiltered apple juice
1 large white onion, sliced
2 c. peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples
6 garlic cloves, smooshed
2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 sprigs fresh sage
¼ c. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Soaked rosemary branches

Place the fish steaks in a large shallow baking dish. Top with the sliced onion, apple, garlic and sage. Sprinkle the soy sauce all over it, then pour the apple juice all over it. Cover and marinate overnight or at least 6 hours. Soak your rosemary branches in water: this will make them smoke and flavor your fish. Continue reading