Another Cooking Bonanza Gone Great!

It was the four of us (excuse me, the five of us…Phillip – the cutest baby ever – was in attendance) for dinner last night. The usual suspects: Annaka, Heather, Karen and…and a whole lotta good food. I went to The Local Butcher Shop to get what I have been craving a lot of lately (lamb, particularly lamb shanks to make falling-off-the-bone-lamb yumminess) and some calves liver to try a new pâté. “ICK! Gross!” You say? Organ meat can be a really great alternative to muscle meat, and is usually eaten in smaller quantities. It’s also actually really inexpensive to make pâté – a pound of organic chicken or calves liver at Whole Paycheck (eh-hem, I mean Whole Foods) can be no more than $5. But it is a taste that some of us have, and some of us don’t. Buffalo meat, anyone?

Liver is exceptionally nutrient-dense, being a key source of zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin A, copper, folate, riboflavin, selenium, protein, niacin, vitamin B6, panthothenic acid, and phosphorus, and a good source of iron. Although calf’s liver is also high in cholesterol and saturated fat (remember, the really bad fats are the trans or damaged fats!), its concentration of so many beneficial nutrients helps to counteract the cholesterol and fat. And cholesterol is not all bad. It depends on the type, and the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol. Ok, ok. Before I get too science-y on you, let’s move on to the food…and the recipe. My public is waiting (totally kidding. If I had a public, I would be stoked).

Annaka made a really good, well-flavored hummus with killer amounts of garlic and paprika (I think she may have thrown in some cumin seeds, whole, as well) with raw carrots and broccoli. She was also in charge of dessert and made gluten-free chocolate macaroons that turned out to amazing (and lucky for me she forgot her recipe at my house last night). Karen brought fixings for baked goat cheese in tomato sauce – super simple, super delectable and savory. And she made zucchini carpaccio with roasted almonds and Pecorino cheese, a specialty of one of Pacific Heights in SF most long standing restaurants, Jackson Fillmore (wanna guess where it is?). The writers of A Little Ymminess have a GREAT video showing how to make it. Super easy, using high quality ingredients, it is a staple recipe for any kitchen.

For starters…

Zucchini carpaccio


Darn Instagram made the black eyed peas look a bit more red than they were. And we were dimming the lights so that Phillip would get sleepy. And I have concluded that I love babies. Perfect dish alongside the lamb.

Heather soaked and cooked black eyed peas (which she said changed the meaning of slow food…dear lord they took a long time) in a mineral broth, with spinach, cherry tomatoes, garlic, a bunch of herbs and whatever else it took to make them a PERFECT side for our lamb…(trumpets please)…



…and plated. Heather was right; the Flintstones would have been proud.

Pretty Simple Fall off the Bone Braised Lamb Shanks (I looked through a couple of recipes, and followed a couple at a time, but made my own modifications and wrote it up with room for experimentation and “mistakes” – in quotes cause you really can’t botch this up):

  • Go to your local butcher (high quality, local, grass fed, organic) and ask for enough lamb shanks for about 6 people (you always want to have leftovers, and you can use the bones for broth!) – unsure how many pounds this was
  • 2 tbsp brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow sweet onions, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of carrots, chopped up
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped up
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced or chopped finely (if you don’t have a mincer. I don’t.)
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (preferably from a glass jar. I know…picky, but the whole BPA in the lining of the can thing is real, peeps)
  • 1 box of chicken stock (4 cups worth)
  • 1 cup any cheap red wine
  • Chopped fresh thyme, rosemary and Italian parsley – a few sprigs of each to chop finely
  • 2 bay leaves, each chopped in half
  • Really good celtic sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 pinches of Herbs de Provence (the herbs in that cute little ceramic pot – everyone should have this herb mix in their kitchen)

Rub lamb shanks generously with salt and pepper; dust with flour. Heat oil in heavy large deep pot over medium-high heat (best is Le Creuset French oven pot – and you might need two). Working in 2 batches, if necessary, add lamb to pot and brown on all sides, turning often, about 10 minutes. Transfer lamb to large bowl and set aside. Add onions, carrots, and celery to same pot; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes (may need to toss a bit more olive oil in there). Add garlic and tomato paste; stir all together. Stir in broth, wine and herbs. Return lamb to pot; bring to boil (liquid may not cover lamb completely and that’s ok). Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lamb is very tender and begins to fall off bones, turning occasionally and spooning juices over the exposed meat about 3 times over a course of about 3 hours.

Using tongs, transfer lamb to platter. Ladle juices over lamb and serve, allowing some extra juice to be poured over lamb into individual plates so it’s stew-ish. EMBRACE LIVER (or just high quality meat).  :)

Urban Homesteading…in Piedmont

We obviously aren’t as hardcore as the pioneers were. Folks had it hard back in the day. I constantly try to remind myself of this as I complain about bad cell phone reception or the fact that one of the burners on our stove isn’t working. I mean…really. I do need to work on my perspective, and there really is no one that should be blamed. It is what our culture has grown into. And this is negative, in many ways. But it is also fantastic. Fantastic because of the feedback loop trend that has been capturing many of the largest and busiest metropolitan areas in the US – urban homesteading. I know, I know. This isn’t new. Let’s throw back to our friends the pioneers, the Little House on the Prairie peeps that we read about in 3rd grade. We all know that growing your own food, hunting and gathering is the basis of survival. But maybe it takes all of this advanced technology, Facebook, severe carpal tunnel from typing and falling asleep to the whirring sounds and blue light of our laptops to actually get us outside. I hope we all make more time to mess around and experiment in our gardens, on our fire escapes or on those random peninsula’s that run through town – and get our kids out there, too. For example, the landscaped peninsula that is going in on Ronada and Ramona streets in my town sounds like a perfect piece to add to that intersection. How about a community garden or something of the like in that space? After all, didn’t that neighborhood have the best float ever last year at the 4th of July parade? (I believe kids were dressed up as garden gnomes. Awesome).

My husband and I have been trying to drown out some of those ever so attractive conveniences and do things the long way. “Does she have kids?” You ask? No, I don’t. Yet. I hear your chuckles. My sisters have three kids each, and my brother has two. I see how busy they are, and I hear about what it takes to get your kids through school successfully, make them into responsible, upstanding and good, hardworking people. And don’t forget finding out how to set them apart from the crowd, help them get into a good college, stay healthy, excel at their sport, serve the community, keep up with friends, keep up with trends and be happy. We are trying to instill in ourselves a way of dealing with all of these responsibilities in a certain way so that when we do have kids we can plan on laying some of that responsibility on the garden itself, forming unique experiences and lessons to be learned from the radishes, beets, cucumber plants…and chickens. I see some parents doing this around town, and I love what I see.

Speaking of children, ours are our plants right now. And we have many “kids” growing up in our household: kale, Dino and curly, Swiss chard, watermelon radishes, purple and white spring onions (lots of onions), carrots, tomatoes, beets, Serrano chiles, sweet and purple basil, and flowers to attract the bees. We plan on chickens, and are designing the coop now (it would be too easy to run to Williams-Sonoma’s new Agrarian line for that Taj Mahal of chicken coops. But that would be too easy, wouldn’t it? Besides, building it is half the fun, and challenge…and it’s cheaper (sorry, Williams-Sonoma). But it’s fascinating how this shows where the market is trending. And we are fascinated at how fast our plants are growing! The radishes are going crazy, some of the flowers have given up (pansies sure don’t like heat!), and new alyssum flowers have been potted to attract the bees. And when asked if we will be keeping bees…? Our answer is probably never. It is incredible to watch and learn from their intricate systems of production, but could you see us chasing a swarm around Piedmont? Yikes.

And…………..we’re planted. We were like kids in a candy store. We were inspecting the soil looking for sprouts way too many times per day. These were planted on Friday, May 4. Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Growing…May 7th.

Growing…huge(ish)! In just over a week. May 14th

Drip irrigation for the tomatoes. Lesson: the “rust” that can appear on the leaves of the tomatoes is due to water hitting the leaves (some weird fungus). You won’t want to water the tomato plant leaves, but penetrate the roots instead. We have planted Early Girl, Cherokee Purple, Rose de Berne, Gold Medal tomatoes and one tomatillo plant. Don’t think we won’t be coming to your house with a couple pounds of tomatoes this summer!

Give me a beet! Nature does provide the most intense colors.

It is hard to juggle everything (sometimes anything) in our lives. Maybe think about giving yourself some time, getting a head start, asking some friends (with some tools), and working really hard to dedicate a couple of weekends to getting a planter box or a chicken coop built, a vertical or even a spiral herb garden or fire escape plot going. Perhaps making it a habit to integrate gardening and farming into your family routine would be beneficial to your family dynamic; kids will flip out from the satisfaction they feel after growing, harvesting and eating the food from their garden (get them young!). Teenagers might scoff at first, but if you let them know it’s there and make it a chore (in short bursts of time), they might come back around later, and college kids will start coming home telling you how cool their urban homesteading and permaculture classes are. I can’t wait until I hear a neighbor say, “Sorry, kids. Before you go hangout at Mulberry’s or text your friends down the street to meet up, you owe me 1/2 hour in the garden. The kale needs to be harvested, blueberries need to be picked, the chickens need more feed or the compost needs to be turned.” Once the whining fades away, it might be worth it. Embrace your green space and tune in next time for further stories of our challenges, successes and lessons learned.

Yours, Mine, Ours…THE Local Butcher Shop

The husband and I call ourselves “meat minimalists.” That is why, when I walked into The Local Butcher Shop, I was so pumped when I was issued the perfect remark by Aaron, one of the co-owners of this gastro-gem. When I told him I was a nutritionist (always looking for local and small food businesses to point clients and friends towards), he replied with something along the lines of wanting people to eat good quality meat, just not as often. This was a cow moo and chicken cluck to my ears, ladies and germs. I had seen The Local Butcher Shop when in the neighborhood a few weeks before, and was sold by the name. I love it when a business knows their clientele and the neighborhood so well and are confident in the concept of selling potential customers less on a gimmick or clever marketing and more on quality. This place has a small, neighborly business attitude and modest, hard-working-folk aesthetic…which will keep me coming back again and again. And that’s not even the best part about it. The meat is.

The interior of the store is simple, very clean and, of course, drew me in with the use of green colors in shades of fresh cut grass, white and black. I am a sucker for color and ambiance…even in my local food shops, and this was no exception. Plus, when you are dealing with cutting up meat all day long, the space better be clean. They say that classically trained chef’s are judged and regarded not only by their food prep and culinary creativity, but also by the clean kitchen and workspace that they keep. From reading about the backgrounds of those that grace us with their helpful hints and recommendations at The Local Butcher Shop, I know these guys and gals are pros, taking time away from late nights in the restaurant to smelling the roses (or clean, fresh cut grass) and serving up some of the best quality meat in the Bay Area, which arrives fresh from within 150 miles of Berkeley…and they use the whole animal. Again…music to my ears.

So much to choose from…

Might have to try their pate’s someday…could any of them possibly be better than Laura Knoff’s recipe (one of my nutrition teacher’s at Bauman)!?

You learn something new everyday! Great addition to the space at The Local Butcher Shop.

Now, I am very intimidated by meat…cooking it, that is. But when I asked for lamb (which they were getting later that afternoon) and was told I should try goat (I planned on making a little roast that night for dinner), I was pumped. As you might recall, I posted a few weeks back about my obsession with goat butter, needless to say goat cheese, so I was game to give goat meat a try. I asked about prepping in my cast iron pot with veggies and herbs, and was told to give it about an hour, after searing the outside of the roast. I got about 1 1/2 pounds of goat, and it worked out perfectly for dinner that night and leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day. My once a month meat craving was perfectly satisfied and happy with this purchase. Here is the “recipe” for roast goat, after being given tips by the butcher. Make it as you read it, and feel free to fudge a few things:

Chop 5 small carrots, 1 purple onion, 1-2 leeks, some oregano, thyme, a bay leaf (cut in half), and prep the roast by rubbing it liberally with pink salt, fresh ground pepper and olive oil. Best part? I cut up about 5 garlic cloves, put half of them in the pot, and then cut little slits into the roast and stuffed the rest of the garlic halves in. I heart garlic, though.  ; ) Dump everything in your pot (I have a larger, signature oval “french oven” Le Creuset…gotta have at least one from their set. This is kind of a fun color) and nestle the roast in the middle of the veggies. The roast can be seared on the stove top or not…I forgot to sear it, but it still turned out great. Searing helps to bring out the natural juices and flavor to prep it before major heating happens, I think.

Let the goating begin

Let the goating begin

Prepared, seasoned and ready for the heat.

Add 1 1/2 cup chicken stock and 1/2 cup red wine to your pot, and cook at 375 degrees in the oven for about an hour (depending on how you like it cooked. I would check on it after an hour).

The whole house smelled so deeelish. Goat is super flavorful. I am sorry for the cute little guy/gal who made it to our table, but we paid very close attention to thanking him/her for gracing our palates with such amazing meat (with chard and brown rice on the side)

Ah, yes. I KNEW you would ask about the pricing at this oh so worth it spot. Here is where I get on my short but sturdy soapbox and say it is pricey…but (and that’s a big rump roast of a butt. Sorry, had to) keep in mind you aren’t paying .$99 cents for, say, a 1 1/2 pound of goat like you would for a Burger King purchase (especially when you are getting the added benefits of the pink slime in that burger. Mmmm hmmm). Michael Pollan once said, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” When your body craves something (something that is ultimately good for you, like greens or an apple or beets) that usually means that your body needs the vitamins, minerals, macro-and micro-nutrients that that particular food has to offer. I crave meat because I can tell my body needs a bit of a vitamin B12 and iron boost once a month or so. When you crave processed foods, like salty or sweet cookies, crackers, cake, etc. that usually is just a sign of an addiction, even if it is just a short lived one. For real! It’s all about balance.

So go to the The Local Butcher Shop. Talk to the butchers about their biz, buy an amazing cut of meat, some liver for your homemade pate, bones for your bone broth, stock for a soup or one of their ridonkulous looking chocolate chip cookies (90-10 rule, my friends. 90-10), and thank me later. My ONLY complaint about this joint would be that they are farther away from me than I would like…but I suppose it keeps any cravings I might have to eat meat when I don’t REALLY need it at bay. EMBRACE YOUR INNER MEAT MINIMALIST!