...being the observations and navigational extracts
from the ongoing expeditions of San Francisco Piano Pop trio
True Margrit

Friday, June 07, 2013

Spice Traitors

Since sooner than later, when there's too much carbon in the atmosphere (and/or heavy metals or other unannounced lethal compounds) that will endanger human breathing, we're going to have to live in bunkers underground (that, or on the moon) like mushrooms (and eating mushrooms for breakfast lunch & dinner, since that's what grows down there), it's wise to savor the plenty of our fecund planet while we can. That is, enjoy the brilliant food currently filling our famers markets, grocery stores, fridges, our restaurants, our bellies, y'all. Gather ye treats. There could come a day, when we don't know where that next fresh meal is coming from. But right now, if you have the cashflow & the desire, any ingredient can be whisked to your doorstep. When you spread that dark lime marmalade from Fortnum and Mason on your toast, or crumble a strand of Iranian red saffron into your rice, or bite into that Madagascar vanilla bean infused baby turnip from Sonoma, or nibble French white truffle flecked aged goat cheese on your Scottish oatcake, or cut a slice of Iberico ham onto your small plate, know that we are living like the luckiest hungry kings. Centuries of ships sailed the high seas for black pepper. Empires were built on cinnamon. The Dutch East India Company, an operation that procured rare spices for European kitchen and appetites, grew into a mega-corporation more powerful than IBM, legally entitled to wage war, try and convict criminals, and to form colonies. And reaching farther and farther back, squinting through the sandstorms of antiquity, one can glimpse trade routes braving desert, mountain passes, and sea, marking up the maps of the ancients.

Meanwhile, throughout the history of life on this planet, there's always been something delicious  growing in, or close to, your backyard--or near your yurt. If buying/ eating local food has taken on trappings of fadism, delve deeper,  past the luster of the current hipness, and you'll find alarming facts on factory farms and food conglomerate practices. Alas. For we the shoppers/ eaters, communities are sprouting all kinds of fantastic food procuring alternatives options: farmers' markets, CSA boxes, not to mention  restaurants that only source locally.
And. Remember, getting a CSA box is a great way to test your ironchef/ chopped skills; can you cook a meal with a 5 pound watermelon,  spring onions, a quarter cup of walnuts,  three kinds of kale,  a bunch of sage, and a bag of beets? Hells yeah.

Now that I live in the Eastbay, I like, no LOVE, to hunt and gather at Berkeley Bowl. So many vegetables, so little time. New foods I've bought there and prepared and eaten include but are not limited to: parsley root, celery root, cherimoya, buddha's ear... etc. And, oh,  all those boxes of berries and oh the stone fruit this time of year, and the fresh English peas ( grown in California), and green garlic, chives, leeks, shallots, scallions, not to mention fresh pasta in sheets...and  lest we forget, fruit and cheese samples most days, cuz a little snack whilst shopping is nice.

Now, I used to go to Rainbow Grocery in SF. But Rainbow's not exactly local anymore--although I'm thinking I need to make a special trip for their colossal, commodious, world-bazaar-worthy, bulky, bulk spice section --hmm, would that make me a spice traitor to the Eastbay? Maybe I'm  gonna be hitching up the camels (that is my bike) and heading west. I will follow the ancient BART route to the fabled motherland of fancy-food-- also known as The Mission. I do need some cinnamon.

But back to the my invocation and erudition of Berkeley Bowl's wondrousness,  here's a superquick tasty gravlax treat/ appetizer that emerged from ingredients I grabbed there with no particular plan. I readily admit a couple of these items probably won't be available at regular Safeways or Krogers. You can be crafty, you have your options. I haven't made gravlax myself but it sure looks fun and comprised of simple constituents. As far as Krogers-friendly alternatives to a fried quail egg, how about a quail-egg-sized dollop of creamy dilly egg-salad? Slice of hard-boiled egg?  Or a chunk of avocado? I know you will think of something even better,  if you put your stomach to it.

Gravlachs for the People (for two)

Two wee slices of Scottish gravlax  (if you have more peeps coming to eat get more slices, dude). P.S It put me back less than two bucks, so don't whine about fancy schmancy. And of course, if you grab a hunk of nice salmon and make your own, you'll have economy and bragging rights.
Quail eggs  (ok ok--I know, but  also not as fancy or pricey as you'd think--you can get a dozen of these adorable little egglets for $1.19 at Berkeley Bowl--not to go on and on about BB...
Greek Yogurt --a little dab I use 2%--I like me some fat but not too much
olive oil for frying the eggs
Shallot just a sliver--or fresh dill.. or?
Lemon zest sliver

Fry the egglet. Arrange the ingredients to your own visual satisfaction.

Serve/ devour.

FYI--this plate is teeny. The quail egg yolk is about the circumference of a quarter.