Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Posts Tagged ‘organic’

My dinner party menu for tomorrow

Posted by shannonclark on December 24, 2007

And yes, I know tomorrow is a holiday for many (i.e. Christmas) which we did celebrate growing up (my father is Catholic) however my mom is Jewish and I am an atheist. So Dec 25th is no longer a religious holiday, and only somewhat of a cultural holiday for me.

But, it is a good excuse for a party – and in my circle of friends I have many friends who are also not celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday (or even in many cases as a cultural one). Of course there is a tradition of Jews eating out at Chinese restaurants around Christmas but as an alternative to that, I’m having a non-holiday themed dinner party.

Here is the menu, I’ll try to take some photos tomorrow (and today as I’m preparing).


Fresh sourdough and Pumpkin Quark. Quark is a German dish, a dairy product but something like yogurt – very tasty. I’ll also have some cheeses and have asked others to bring additional appetizers

Main courses

Roast, free-range, boneless leg of lamb. Rubbed with mint, garlic, sea salt, fresh pepper and other spices. Served with homemade mint sauce (organic apple vinegar, fresh mint, sugar & salt to taste).

Roast, Duroc pork loin. Rubbed with a dry rub of spices (cloves, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and more). Duroc is a type of pig prized for the quality of the meat. Very juicy, full of flavor and not at all your typical supermarket, too lean pork.

Panko crusted white fish (a very thin, fatty local white fish) with light spices quickly fried. Served over wilted beet greens & salad mix with a slightly sweet & spicy dressing)

Pear, goat cheese and arugala raviolis served with fresh ripe pears and a gorgonzola cream sauce. Pasta is fresh made and purchased from the Farmers Market on Saturday.

Side Dishes

Oven roasted carrots and golden beets w/sea salt

Roasted Brussels sprouts w/rice vinegar dressing

brown rice w/dried cranberries and zante currants. The brown rice is a local rice I purchased at the Farmers Market and is amazingly flavorful


With the meal I will serve two red wines, a local CA Syrah and a Pinot Noir. Both are from small vineyards with production of <450 cases of each wine. One is a 2001 and the other a 2004.

For the non-drinkers I have a couple of bottles of non-alcoholic sparkling juices, cranberry-blueberry juice, and ice tea

With dessert I have a local eggnog from Mitchells Ice Cream and will make Blue Bottle coffee.


simple custard pies – homemade pie crusts, farmer’s eggs, organic whole milk, sugar

homemade apple pie – apples of three varieties (all organic), spices, homemade pie crusts

Both ala mode if people want

almond “sandies” cookies (if I have time and get the recipe right)

and for those who want it, a selection of phenomenal hot chocolates – spicy or a Oaxacan variety.

And some people may also bring other desserts.

So that’s the planned menu, as I continue cooking, cleaning and prepping this evening the menu may change yet again. Almost everything is not from a specific recipe (other than the desserts), nearly every ingredient I’m going to be using is organic, mostly local to CA, and minimally processed. I expect up to 12 (small chance of close to 15 people) tomorrow with a variety of food restrictions from vegetarian to pescatarian (eats fish) to eats nearly everything.

Of my recent dinners, this will end up being the most expensive – in no small part due to the wine and meats. But assuming we have 12 people it will still be less than $25/person (including drinks) and that includes purchases of staples which I will have for many future meals as well (I bought a gallon of rice vinegar for example). The meats I’m using are all extremely high quality and purchased from my local neighborhood butcher – who pretty much only sells organic, free range meat products (and most are also local). Most of the rest of the ingredients were purchased at my local produce market, or at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, with a few additional purchases at Rainbow Co-op a vegetarian co-op grocery story which has extremely high quality foods (but is usually hard for me to shop at since I don’t have a car).

All told, this is how I celebrate holidays – feeding friends, eating great, local, food, prepared simply but with a lot of care and attention. We may watch some films, listen to music, and play games as well, but mostly the celebration for me is in the cooking, in the preparing of a feast for my friends old & new. In 2008 I anticipate having a dinner at my place at least once a month, probably more than once in many months.

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Cooking simple dishes

Posted by shannonclark on December 10, 2007

For lunch today I had a salad which I prepared at home. Everything in the salad I purchased at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market this past Saturday, all directly from the farmers and everything was local and organic. I started with a base of mixed greens, then added some baby potatoes which I boiled until tender (checked with a fork) and then cut in half. I then sliced a few small purple onions – not the type which are bulb shaped but a variety that is closer to what people call “green onions”. To top off the salad I had a piece of duck confit which I had purchased from a local charcuterie at the market. I finished the duck confit by heating it until crisp in a cast iron pan on my stove top, I then shredded it and gave the shredded pieces a few minutes to crisp up even further.

For the dressing I took an old small jar (which had once held artichoke hearts) and added balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and some dried basil. I then close the top and shook the dressing until it stayed on the sides of the jar (I typically use about 1 part olive oil for every 1 part vinegar and add olive oil as needed to get the right texture).

And I finished by tossing the salad so that every piece of lettuce and potatoes was dressed.

Very simple, but also very satisfying, quick to make and extremely tasty. If I had had something else to go with it, also more than enough for two people. All for a total cost of about $10 or less.

Last night I was at a friend’s dinner party down the Peninsula, the party was a BBQ so there was plenty of meat dishes but as I looked over what was on the menu I noticed we didn’t have many vegetables at all (okay, no vegetables at all actually). So I asked if I could make something with ingredients he had around his kitchen – and he said “sure”.

So I made a couple of quick dishes.

First, a very, very simple dish of mashed potatoes. He had a couple of pounds of baby red potatoes, I simply put them into two large pots on the stove in water so all the potatoes were covered and let them cook on a medium temperature until tender.  As the potatoes cooked I diced up a medium yellow onion into fine cubes and sauteed the onions in extra virgin olive oil. I added some pre-chopped garlic to the onions near the very end and I only lightly turned the onions, just enough to avoid burning.

When the potatoes were finished I mostly drained them and dumped them into a large glass bowl. Some of the water they had boiled with stayed which was fine. I then added a half of a stick of butter, salt and fresh pepper. I let the butter melt a bit and started smashing the potatoes. I then added the onions and garlic and finished mashing.

Since he did not have a large fork or a potato masher I used two table knives to slice the potatoes (skins and all) going at various angles to end up with well mashed potatoes, this is where having cooked the potatoes correctly and fully really paid off.

As I was mashing the potatoes I had a second dish cooking as well, while I was waiting for the other parts to finish I had thinly sliced a couple of zucchinis. I sliced them into very thin (a couple of mm) circles and then sauteed them in the same pan as I had sauteed the onions, adding just a bit more olive oil back to them. I also lightly salted them and ground a little bit of fresh black pepper on them.

I sauteed them until they were mostly tender and the thinest pieces were almost translucent. I served this dish in a simple, shallow white bowl.

Neither dish lasted very long at all at the party – they were both long eaten before any of the BBQ meats were ready.

So I also made a simple dressing to go with some salad greens someone had brought. For the dressing I found a large old jar w/lid. Added balsamic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, fresh pepper, some dried basil and a couple of spoonfuls of brown mustard. Again, I closed the lid and shook until the dressing stuck to the sides. The up and down shaking emulsifies the oil and vinegar – more simply and quickly than any other technique I had seen or tried.

So that was my simple cooking for the past few days – nothing very complicated – but also apparently from the compliments I got appreciated.

My philosophy of cooking is to start with the best ingredients I can get and to then do about the bare minimum needed to them to bring out their flavors. I try to use fresh, local, seasonal ingredients as much as possible (for which I love living in California) and at least when cooking at home I also care a great deal about the freshness and quality of the spices, olive oils, vinegars and the like which I use while cooking. Most of my spices are from The Spice House in Chicago which is, by far, my favorite place to buy spices – and one of the things I most miss from my old neighborhood in Chicago (I lived just a block away from their Chicago store and could run down the street to get just about any spice I might ever need).

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