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Posts tagged ‘walnuts’

soba noodles with garlicky greens and toasted walnuts (san francisco part 1)

Friday

5:20 p.m.

We pull up to the MacArthur BART station in Oakland just as the sun begins to set. My parents and I have driven up to visit my sister in Berkeley for the weekend, but this first evening I’m headed into the city to stay with my best friend Anastasia in her Bernal Heights apartment. The station is under a freeway overpass and crowded with commuters; drums echo angrily from an invisible street performer. My parents eye the scene warily and my mother leans over to zip up my coat—I remind them pointedly that I lived in New York for four years but still feel like a scolded teenager.

Half an hour later I step off the train onto 24th street in the Mission district. There are murals and a McDonalds, the air alive with machismo and more drums (this time upended plastic buckets). I cross the street to avoid lingering hesitantly on the corner and feel the primal thrill of a city after months on the farm and quiet Shepard Mesa.

Stas shares an apartment with an artist in her fifties, and immediately I love it: colorful canvases lounge against walls, books cascade over chairs and shelves, glass jars of beans and grains line the kitchen counters. I examine a beautiful Picasso sketch that hangs over a cluttered shelf. Es maravilloso, Stas whispers, reverting to the fluent Spanish she retained from our high school years.

I start chopping cabbage while she prepares a dinner of sautéed greens, walnuts, and soba noodles, along with a salad seasoned with rice vinegar and sesame seeds. At 8:30 her housemate Annice picks us up for a nearby concert, and we drive down dark, industrial streets that would be hard-pressed to look less inhabited. Suddenly, there it is—a glowing slice of a building with scruffy-haired hipsters and a woman holding a french horn huddled round an outdoor fire pit. A mosaic of art covers the walls inside and soon after we arrive a thin, older man picks up a guitar and starts to sing. His plaintive voice moves between song and spoken word and we sit mermaid-style on the carpet, listening as girls (and boys) in a variety of leggings and artfully sagging boots traipse over us back and forth to the bathroom.

Saturday

11:00 a.m.

After a long walk and a longer wait we are seated at Plow, a popular brunch joint in Potrero Hill frequented by an embracing pair of muscled Abercrombie models and three separate tables of women in yoga attire indulging in their post-workout gorge. I nibble a bit of everyone’s meal before turning to my own, dipping bites of almond and lemon-ricotta pancakes into runny egg yolk. The pancakes are so tasty I end the meal with only slight menu-envy for the smoky sauce and cilantro kick of Stas’ breakfast choice.

It is both torture and a blessing in disguise that we arrive at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market unable to stomach another bite. The day is bright and breezy with a definite nip in the air—apart from that, it could be the middle of summer. People walk by with bags of oranges and plates of chilaquiles, and grannies of the traditional and tattooed variety root through baskets of radishes and boxes of loose greens. Inside the Ferry Building a barrage of wonderful smells warns you of approaching products before you see them: coffee from Blue Bottle, cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, bread from Acme Bakery. We buy South African Pinotage from one vendor and I stand in line for apple cider sorbet made bitingly spicy with cloves.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good museum or a nice hike. But if you’re starting to suspect that 90% of my travel plans revolve around food, well… stay tuned.

 

Soba Noodles with Garlic, Walnuts and Sauteed greens

My best friend Stas is a musician, soon-to-be yoga teacher and creator of such delights as chocolate beet cake and avocado pudding–in other words, she is California incarnate. She is also an admirable enemy of food waste: I once watched her eat a bottom-of-the-backpack banana bruised beyond recognition (a tale my entire family enjoys telling with gusto). My version of the lovely dinner she made for us is so simple that I’ve eaten it with relish every day for lunch this week.

1 package buckwheat soba noodles

two cloves garlic, sliced

several handfuls dark greens–kale (Toscano and Red Russian work well), rapini, chard or spinach

liberal splash rice vinegar

walnuts

sunflower seeds

red pepper flakes

olive oil and salt

Salt a pot of water and set it on the stove to boil. Heat oil in a saucepan and add sliced garlic, stirring for a minute or so until fragrant but not brown. Roughly chop greens and add to the pan with the rice vinegar, cooking until slightly wilted but still green and robust.

Drop a serving or two of soba noodles into the boiling water. Cook until chewy (overcooking results in a gluey mass), drain, and rinse immediately under cold water. Toast walnuts in a small pan until warm and crunchy (add sunflower seeds as well if you desire). Serve noodles in a bowl with greens spooned on top, and garnish with nuts, red pepper flakes, and a splash of olive oil and additional rice vinegar to taste.

carrot zucchini cake with walnuts

Sitting here by the pool with the afternoon sun on my legs and a cascade of trumpet flowers draping off the pergola above my head, I have but one recurring thought: life is good on Love Apple Farms. Alright, I may not have been thinking that yesterday when I lugged an enormous bucket of biodynamic worm tea back and forth for several hours to hand fertilize 15 beds of produce. But as hard as the eight-hour workdays can be, there are a disproportionately large number of beautiful moments here on the farm compared to anywhere else I’ve lived.

I suppose my “beautiful moments” philosophy needs a bit of an explanation. At the risk of sounding like a complete hippie (a charge easy to make considering I now wear tie-dyed Love Apple shirts every other day), I have a thing for beautiful moments that started around the time that I began keeping journals. It began as a New Year’s resolution—think of a memorable moment from the day before falling asleep, and at the end of every month record the 10 best moments in a list. Unfortunately I’ve long since abandoned the practice of listing them, but I still think of moments before bed sometimes and wonder if there’s any way I could ever truly capture them in writing.

And here, every day an ordinary moment will strike me as strange or lovely or funny. Like sitting by the redwood trees at dusk, passing around the airsoft rifle and shooting soda cans off a pile of bricks. Stealing the single strawberry from the garden pots, warm and a little tart because I couldn’t wait for it to ripen. Smelling the aroma of simmering malted barley in a beer making class, or eating a crispy fried farm egg on toast with avocado. Lying on the roof of the garden classroom on a Monday night and watching the stars.

For me it’s always been the small things, small moments that add up to something like contentment. Which is why when, the other night, I found myself suddenly craving carrot cake at 5:30 in the afternoon, I just went into the kitchen and made it. No one else was around. I probably should have been making dinner, something savory and practical. But I felt like carrot cake—more than that, I felt like making carrot cake alone in the afternoon, humming to myself in my own little beautiful moment.

Carrot Zucchini Cake with Walnuts

2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp baking soda

cinnamon

nutmeg

cloves

salt

4 eggs

1 cup oil

2 cups grated carrot

1 cup grated zucchini

1 cup walnut halves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and baking soda. Add in the spices to taste (I like a few good shakes of each) and finish with a pinch of salt. Add the eggs and combine, then pour in the oil and mix well. Lastly put in the grated carrot, zucchini, and walnuts and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

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