Monday, June 30, 2014

Bass, Bacon, Lambsquarter, Figs, and Manzanita Cider: One Good Lunch

"I caught you this delicious bass!"- Napoleon Dynamite

I took my girl to class and had a couple of hours to myself. On a whim I decided to hit the water on my kayak and look for lures that might be snagged in the trees along the stream while I fished. I found three lures and four bobbers in a half hour!

The stream was beautiful in the evening sun.

I tied up one of the jigs I had found, cast my line out, and in a few minutes I had a heck of a fight and landed my first bass ever!

The next day I had some business in a neighboring town and on my way back I took the scenic foragers route.
I gathered some fennel, bay leaf, and was delighted to find that one bush of manzanita (Arctostaphylos) was in fruit.
I gathered up some of the green fruit with red blush in preparation to brew an ancient California indigenous recipe- manzanita cider.

Manzanita cider is really more of a tea or agua fresca than a juice, but I really liked it! If you want to give it a try, I recommend  Seaweed, Salmon , and Manzanita Cider...a California Native American cookbook. These are simple recipes for those who are intimately connected with California's wild side. This book has local culinary roots from indigenous cultures who have foraged, survived, and thrived here in the far west for millennia.

Then I gathered up some lambsquarter and sautéed up the pot herbs with bacon and onion.


Next I took a little walk to the local fig tree and picked a hand full of those same honey-sweet  figs.

Finally, it was time to cook the bass. Using the fennel and bay leaf to impart a nice local flavor to the fish I set the fillet in the skillet to sizzle.

When I say that this was one of the best lunches I have had all year, I mean it! The whole time I kept saying out loud between bites "Oh man that's tasty!"

Well, I hear the high desert calling me...I suppose I should answer.

Keep the old ways alive!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Forage for Figs: The Sweetness of Summer


“Once I was in Italy visiting my Aunt when I was a kid. We were driving along the coast and I asked ‘What are those things hanging from the trees?’ She replied with a question ‘Have you really never seen a fig before?’ I replied that I had not and she promptly pulled the car over, grabbed one of the fruits from the tree (almost double the size of my fist) and made me give it a try. I liked it so much that I ran over to the grove and stuffed all of my pockets with fruit!”-Nick

The heat wave over the last week ripened up our figs in a hurry. I had been watching a particular group of figs on public land since discovering their bounty rotting on the ground just a few weeks too late after moving to the area. There was no way I was going to let these figs drop this year!

My friends Nick, Kate, and Houston were all ready for a day to unwind after the quarter and the promise of a sweet bounty of figs was enticing enough that not one of them resisted an afternoon of foraging with their crazy ol’ buddy…me!

We headed out early armed with the fruit picker (thank you Ron!) and migrated from patch to patch. The first stop proved to be full of fruit, but all were dry and nasty… so it was not really fruitful! The next stop was a tree I had been watching closely and it had some real gems! These were a variety of fig that are dark in color and sweet as honey.


The next stop was for the big green figs. These are not as sweet, eaten while green with a little yellow to their skin, but every bit as delicious. There was a lot of laughing that day, and other that one of our crew falling from the canopy and sustaining a concussion (and further illustrating that the theory of gravity resists falsification), we had a really good time. All in all it was an excellent beginning to a harvest that will continue for weeks.

I dried some of the figs alongside some of the last apricots for trail snacks. Then I used my Mom’s go-to recipe: grilled figs with balsamic vinegar and blue cheese. These we paired with crustini, green onion cream cheese, olives, pear, and some landlocked smoked salmon that my buddy Sam caught, smoked, and generously gave to us the last time he was in town. It was a heck of a spread and so tasty I really can’t describe.

Before beginning my investigation of figs, I had believed that there were only a few easily distinguishable types. It turns out there are so many varieties of figs that I can honestly say that I have no idea what kind of figs these are! So to me they will be referred to as "Dark Honey" and the "Green Goblin." 

Well, I have a couple hours to kill while my girl is in class…I’m going fishing!

Keep the old ways alive! 



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Apple Jelly and Apricot Jam

“We’re jammin’, jammin’, jammin’, jammin’, We’ll jam until this jam is through. Yeah, we’re jammin’, jammin’, jammin’, jammin’, and I hope you like jammin’ too.”- Bob Marley and the Wailers

This post is dedicated to my brother’s girlfriend Karen who inspired me to get into making jelly and jam.

Well I was all set to make a final batch of hard cider from the last of the golden delicious apple juice from last year. Unfortunately I had a ton of schoolwork to take care of and a gallon and a half of the juice went bad before I could add the yeast and get the grog fermenting. In a desperate attempt to save the last of the juice I cooked down the remaining half gallon with cinnamon, sugar, and pectin to make an apple jelly. It came our a bit more like apple honey, but tasted like apple pie! Mary suggested drizzling it over waffles…that sounds pretty good to me!
My girl harvesting the Golden Delicious fruit 

Ron and Abalone helping 

 Abalone waiting to catch another apple as it is shaken loose of the canopy

 Cider cooking down

Apple Honey

The next day I noticed that the apricot tree down the block was finally ripe and dropping fruit. That evening I came by and saw a few of the neighbors harvesting. When I stopped to inquire, they said that the neighbor who owned the tree was out of town, and they just couldn’t watch the fruit fall and rot. They said that whatever they ended up doing with the fruit, half of it would be preserved for the neighbor when they returned.
Fruit lost to the insects 

More still in the tree

Later in the evening I returned with my dog and a bag, and brought home a nice little batch of fruit.

I got a pot simmering a few minutes ago. Added the fruit, sugar, and eventually some pectin. The concoction cooked as I sat by smiling and enjoying the aromas of a good harvest.

The Jam was sweet with just the right amount of tart.

I just dropped off half of the apricot jam to the neighbor who just got back to town.
On the way back I spied a fig tree on public land dropping fruit, and I think the wild mustard seeds are ready to reap as well, so away I go.

Keep the old ways alive!



Friday, June 13, 2014

Fried Halibut, Loquat Salsa, and a Whole lot of Freediving Fun

"Dude, I found three lures!"- Alex
"Dude, I found an anchor!"-me

We got out for an afternoon freediving in the local lake. Alex and I just wanted to get in the water, hang out, and see if there were any fish worth casting a lure to.

Turns out there certainly were! We saw nice sized bass all over the place.

Eventually we just started diving for fun, laughing a lot, and generally enjoying the day. It started with Alex asking me to film him do an "underwater backstroke." It made me laugh so hard...I mean, who does that? Alex is always good for  laugh!

I sat on the bottom trying to blow bubble rings like my buddy Kirby does. Got a few nice ones when the camera was off, but some in the footage aren't too bad either.

Next, Alex swam out away from shore and after calmly breathing up at the surface he dove deep to 30 ft for his first time! He was really happy with that. Now having broken that milestone, he will be spearfishing deeper reefs the next time we get out into the ocean.

We tried a bit of hook an line fishing, but had no luck. I blame our bad bass fishing skill on our lack of visors and wrap-around sunglasses (some bass fishermen dress worse than golfers)!

Dinner was comprised of fried California halibut fillet with a foraged loquat salsa, side of fried plantains, black beans, sour cream and tortillas topped with our homemade sea salt and my brother's girlfriend Karen's homemade hot sauce.
That was one heck of a feast!

After dinner we headed out for another dive and Alex cleaned up the bottom of the lake as he retrieved fishing lure after lure. I contributed a few fishing rigs as well and eventually found an anchor.

It was a heck of a nice day and a great way to unwind. Just wait till I tell you about our recent fun fruit harvesting and jam making!
Keep the old ways alive!