Red Leaf and Basil Salad with Emerald Beaut and Moyer Plums and a Fig-Balsamic Vinaigrette

As I have all these Emerald Beaut plums to enjoy, I thought I’d better get on to finding other ways to enjoy them besides out of hand as a snack.

So, as a result, here is a green salad with them, some Moyer plums, which are a purple-skinned and dark amber-fleshed prune-type (the elongated kind) and some ingredients from my little herb garden around the patio.

My basil went in late this year – early June, I think – but no matter, it’s August now and it’s lush and beautiful. I planted seven kinds, which is more than I can possibly use in the kitchen, but the joy is not just in eating it, but also in sweeping my hands across it and raising a delicious cloud of scent, or bringing a bouquet to a friend to enjoy, or just looking out the kitchen window at it.

This summer I planted Genovese, ruffled, purple, cinnamon, lemon, lime, and mini-basil. Though I’d grown some of these before, the lemon, lime and cinnamon were all first-timers for me this year. I’ll pass on the lemon next spring – it smells, in an unfortunate way, like lemon furniture polish – but the lime and cinnamon are definite keepers. I didn’t plant any Thai basil this year – I couldn’t find any seed as late as I got started – and I’ll definitely trade out the purple one I grew this year for that. The Thai had a far better flavor.

Anyhow, my thinking on this dish was that the sweet plums would like the herbacious anise notes of the multiple basils’ flavor, especially the cinnamon one, and would work well when married with a sweet dressing. I took cuttings from my Genovese, ruffled, purple and cinnamon basils for this salad.

My original inspiration, actually, was this Plum Caprese salad (and I have enough plums that I still might make that) but decided to take it in a green salad direction to use the lettuce I had at hand from our CSA box.

For the dressing, I threw caution (or at least the Proposition 65 warnings) to the wind and made a vinaigrette with some 10-year-old balsamic vinegar, sweetened with Black Mission figs (from Marchini Sisters at the farmers’ market) and with a touch of cinnamon and anise to match up with the basil. If I had had a shallot or two in the house, I might have added a sauteed shallot or two, but not having any, I made an allium-less dressing for once. I did garnish the salad with some garlic chive blossoms from the garden, though. They’re tiny and cute, but they’re like that little cartoon character that knocks the big guy flat – they pack a garlicky punch.

While I was working on this, I used one of my favorite dressing-making tips I learned more than a decade ago from my friend Ana, a CIA grad who is a dressing master (mistress?): when you’re tasting dressing as you’re making it, don’t taste it on a spoon – because you won’t be eating it from a spoon, will you? Dip a lettuce leaf (or whatever green or other item you’ll be using it on) and taste it that way. That’ll tell you what your end result will actually be like, and you won’t have one of those "but it tasted great in the kitchen" moments at the table.

And when all was said and done and it was plated, Chimp gave it all an enthusiastic review. On the Chimp Scale for Dressings, he said the fig balsamic ranks even with his longtime favorite Whole Foods Red Pepper Ranch. I thought that was high praise. I usually choose the dressing flavor, as I’m the one making it, and my favorites are garlic-herb-oil mixtures, but I should probably, to be fair, set aside my love for those once in a while and indulge his preference for a sweeter dressing more often.

Continue reading “Red Leaf and Basil Salad with Emerald Beaut and Moyer Plums and a Fig-Balsamic Vinaigrette”

If I’d Known Y’all Were Comin I’d ‘A Baked a Pie…

Foodblogs …or at least have put out fresh towels!  My goodness, well, sit down and I’ll get out some cheese and fruit and we’ll have a snack and chat.

Joan Obra was kind enough to mention me and Nicole Hamaker of Pinch My Salt in her article in yesterday’s Fresno Bee.  She had asked me some questions about the blog and online sources for local food info recently, but I had no idea she was putting us on the front of the Life section.

You can find the Corn, Tomato & Black Bean Salad with a Lime-Chipotle Dressing recipe she featured here.

Some Bites About Rights

If you’re visiting me via a link from the forums of Susan Maria’s Bariatric Eating website, a special welcome!

Reader Kir was kind enough to point out to me in a comment to the site on Sunday, February 25, that Susan Maria had used one of my recipes and its photo without acknowledgement in her recipe section. The one used was probably my first big “hit” – Asparagus & Edamame Salad with Green Garlic. The ingredients list had been changed somewhat – she’d replaced the green garlic with one clove of garlic, omitted the fennel and reduced the mustard, and changed the way some of the measurements were expressed, but the instructions remained almost exactly the same. You’ll have to take my word on that, as I was tired and didn’t think to save a copy of the page for later.

I dropped Susan a note via a link on her website, letting her know that I don’t permit use of my content without acknowledgement, nor on sites that sell products, nor do I allow my photos to be used for recipes that are not as I originally wrote them.

Susan wrote back, and though she didn’t apologize, acknowledged that she shouldn’t have used the photo and said that she would remove it. She also stated that she was using the recipe as inspiration, and that she had adjusted the quantities to make them suitable for her audience. She also wrote a response to Kir on her site’s <a href= Kir also noted that on the Bariatric Eating site’s forum, the tone of which I’ll let you judge for yourself.

When I checked the page shortly after receiving her email, she had removed the photo and had rewritten the instructions for the recipe so that they no longer substantially resembled mine. Looking around the recipe section, I did notice a lot of different recipes with varying photography, both in style and level of professionalism. It made me think I might not be the only one who had had content borrowed.

The Washington Post, my hometown paper, did a story recently with the title Can a Recipe Be Stolen? and I had been following the scandalous story about the lifting of recipes from Alinea. That was one of several issues mentioned in this article by Pete Wells in Food & Wine.

Handling intellectual property issues is actually one of the things I do in my work – one of the glories of a small organization is that I get to talk with the IP lawyers on a regular basis. I’ve learned a lot from working with them, and from my own reading, and actually, this is something I’ve been reading a bit about recently. (Though, as the acroynym succinctly puts it, IANAL.)

So, for the record, here’s some information on copyright as it pertains to food blogs in the U.S.

Your ingredients list itself isn’t copyrightable.

Check this page from the U.S. Copyright Office, which puts it straightforwardly:

Mere listings of ingredients as in recipes, formulas, compounds or prescriptions are not subject to copyright protection.

But your instructions and the whole are, if certain conditions are met.

Here’s the next sentence and the following paragraph from that page:

However, where a recipe or formula is accompanied by substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions, or when there is a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook, there may be a basis for copyright protection.

Protection under the copyright law (title 17 of the United States Code, section 102) extends only to “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form (a copy). “Original” means merely that the author produced the work by his own intellectual effort, as distinguished from copying an existing work. Copyright protection may extend to a description, explanation, or illustration, assuming that the requirements of the copyright law are met.

Another thing about copyright that a lot of folks don’t know:

You don’t have to put the © mark on your work for it to be protected under copyright.

Check out this paragraph about how to secure a copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office:

The way in which copyright protection is secured is frequently misunderstood. No publication or registration or other action in the Copyright Office is required to secure copyright. (See following note.) There are, however, certain definite advantages to registration. See “Copyright Registration.”

Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.

This is important to know, because part of what it means is:

Just because you don’t see a © present does not mean the work is not copyrighted.

And the hits just keep on coming from the good ol’ U.S. CO:

The use of a copyright notice is no longer required under U.S. law, although it is often beneficial.

So what Susan did in re-writing the instructions and taking down my picture was the right action to comply with the letter of the law.

The other place I’ve been following this discussion, however, is on food blogs, where the conversation goes beyond copyright into ethics. Makiko at Just Hungry put up a post on the topic, inspired by the Washington Post story above – here’s her followup, where she responds to comments left to the original post.

It was an interesting conversation, and Makiko put up her own thoughts about how to deal with using others’ recipes, which I agree with, and are actually the unwritten code that the vast majority of food bloggers seem to abide by:

Mention the source, and link back to it.
If the site already has the recipe posted, don’t re-post it, unless you make major changes to the original.
Never, ever hot-link to the photo(s) used in the original, or just copy the image and put it up on your own site. Take your own pictures!

That, food bloggers seem to agree, is the right way to handle using someone else’s recipe.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that the Asparagus & Edamame Salad with Green Garlic had been probably my biggest hit. Alanna Kellogg, who writes the wonderful Veggie Venture, was the first person to pick up on that recipe. She suggested I submit it to an asparagus roundup, which I did, and that was what gave me my first big round of visitors.

And guess what? Alanna later did her own version of the recipe, adapting it to her own taste, taking a picture of it, and giving me credit for the inspiration – which delivered me another nice round of traffic. That’s just the way it’s done.

Food blogging is something like sharing recipes at a coffee klatch. Each of us is here to create individually. We’re all cooks, and writers, and photographers, and our skill levels at all of those things vary. Some of us are paid to do one or more of those things as it relates to food, some are amateurs. As a group, we’re here to encourage, inspire, and teach each other. It’s a way for all cooks to get feedback and new perspectives – a way for novices to join a community of experts, and for experts to have an opportunity to help others by sharing their expertise.

That’s why I food blog. Because of my love of food, and my love of creation, and my love of what community can do in conjunction with food and creation. Good food is better when it’s shared.

And credit – well – credit is better when it’s given where due.

The Spice is Right #2 – Sweet or Savory: Tomato-Fennel-Anise Soup

I loved the black jellybeans and the white spice drops as a kid. And Good n’ Plenty.

When we moved to Michigan, I discovered licorice flavored herb-menthol Lakerol (good luck with the navigation on that, unless you speak Swedish) in the green box. There are a case of them in my pantry, bought from the Svensk Butik in nearby Kingsburg.

It’s always dicey when people ask you if you have gum or mints.

“No, but I have Lakerol.”

“What are those?”

“Licorice-herb drops. They’re strong, though.”

“Okay.” (Beat) Ptoowie. “Yuck.”

How can they spit out my precious Lakerol? Why are anise and licorice flavors so often reviled? I don’t understand it.

When Barbara announced this second challenge, I thought about it for a long time, considering the sesame cookies my mother made, wondering if I could develop a tolerance for caraway if enough sugar was involved, or whether there was anything unexpected that could be done with fenugreek.

In the end, I came to this soup mostly because I feel anise flavors are often unfairly maligned, and like a personal ambassador for them. I’ve heard plenty of people over the years say they hate licorice, and the flavor seems to be disliked in sweet foods by many and avoided in savory foods by even more, perhaps.

The problem, I think, is partly that those who dislike anise flavors see them as all alike. Fennel is that plant that tastes like licorice, and licorice flavors are only for candy.

Except it doesn’t, and they’re not. Anise flavors come in a great range of diversity and intensity. The family includes everything from subtle, herbaceous French tarragon and bracing fresh fennel to the green bite of fennel seeds, the warm scent of ground aniseed and the spicy-hot complexity of star anise.

I love the anise- and cinnamon-flavored tomato sauces I’ve learned to make in Indian cooking, so I thought I’d take that anise-tomato pairing and carry it a little further, by using multiple anise-flavored foods.

This was a one-off, this soup, invented one afternoon and not refined to perfection – if I make it again (which I expect I will) I’ll probably up the tomato content and add a couple carrots to deepen the flavor. If I was presenting this at a dinner party, I might strain it. It would also be wonderful with cream added, but I wanted to keep this vegan. Hot soup is tolerable in Fresno in May, but hot cream soup starts to push it a bit.

(I’ve also noted my farmers’ market sources here – this breaks the Eat Local Challenge a bit, but I had planned to do it ahead of time.)

Continue reading “The Spice is Right #2 – Sweet or Savory: Tomato-Fennel-Anise Soup”

Not Orange-Almond Asparagus

I stayed up about an hour too late on Sunday night, worrying about the next few weeks of work, which are going to be very busy, and I’m still paying for it in fatigue. It probably didn’t help that I dug up an eight-foot by two-foot planting bed that day as well, trying, very late, to get some annual herbs in. It doesn’t matter too much if my basil goes in now; it’ll grow until November here.

I got started on the Eat Local Challenge this weekend; unfortunately, I managed to frustrate myself right off the bat even though I had asparagus from the Sacramento Delta, about 150 miles from here, and I was just trying to come up with some local seasoning to put on top of it.

You will notice that the picture above is not of asparagus.

The idea of the Eat Local Challenge is not for it to feel like a trial or a hardship, but my diet is already limited by dint of being a vegetarian, and right off I was starting to feel resentful. I want to eat local, but I also want to cook something worth eating, something that looks beautiful and is worth saying something about. I want to be creative, and the smaller the palette gets, the harder it can be.

I thought of almonds, which are one of Fresno County’s major crops, but almonds all by themselves on top of asparagus sounded pretty everyday – not very exciting, certainly not worth blogging about. But I had bought some phenomenal oranges at the farmer’s market on Saturday.

“How about a citrus-soy dressing?” Chimp suggested.

“That would be good, but my soy sauce isn’t local. We do have some cream, though – I could try a citrus cream sauce.”

I mixed up a little bit in a ramekin.

“How is it?” Chimp asked.

“Not going to work. It tastes like dessert. Here.” I reached into the cabinet for the bottle of vanilla and splashed a little into the cream and orange mixture.

“Yep,” Chimp said, tasting it. “Creamsicle.”

“Yes. Very good, but not on asparagus.”

“Did we just solve Belnap’s Incompatible Food Triad?” he asked.

“Let’s see – asparagus and cream work, it seems like asparagus and orange should work, orange and cream work. Asparagus, cream and orange? That could be a solution. It doesn’t work at first glance, but there might be a way to make it go.”

What about the flavors of almonds and oranges together? I thought. A little reduced orange juice, a little orange zest, maybe some finely chopped almonds – maybe it would all add up to a crumbly, delicious topping. And with orange zest and the buff-colored almonds, it would have to photograph well.

It was an utter failure.

While I chopped the almonds in the food processor, I put the orange juice on to reduce. When I tossed the orange juice in with the almonds and began to stir to combine the mixture, I realized that I had chopped the almonds too finely for it to work. The whole thing turned into orange-almond paste in a matter of moments; not crumbly, not able to be tossed over asparagus, not going to work, I thought. Paste. There are very few foods that you want to eat that come in the form of paste.

What do I do with this? I thought. Well, it’s effectively a very rough marzipan – why not throw in some powdered sugar and see where we end up? And it wasn’t half bad. So I added a little vanilla and orange zest, then made small balls, rolled those in more zest and chopped almonds, and tucked in an almond apiece. Okay, they’re sweetmeats, I thought. Fine. But what about this damn asparagus?

Chimp liked the new direction. “Can I eat these?”

“Let me take a picture first.”

He’s in favor of these experiments. He has generously expressed his willingness to eat failed chocolate yogurt popsicles until I come up with a working chocolate yogurt popsicle recipe. He’s selfless, that husband of mine.

The almond sweetmeats had a wholesome mild sweetness like that of oat-nut haystack cookies. I described the failure and small outgrowth of unintended success to my mother-in-law, and she said, “What you ended up with sounds almost medieval.” I had to agree. It isn’t baked as a marzipan would be, but the almonds and orange flavor, which would have been orange flower water or rosewater at the time, certainly lined up.

In the future I would use blanched almonds if I were to do something like this again. The skins are good for you, but they are bitter and distract from the texture too.

And the asparagus – I gave up. We just roasted it, as usual.

Continue reading “Not Orange-Almond Asparagus”

Baby Turnips and Greens in a Moghul-Style Sauce

The finished dish here may photograph about a two, but it tastes a ten.

This is an entry for The Spice is Right #1, the theme of which is “Ancient Spices.” Finally, a blog event that makes sense for me to participate in – no wine or eggs or such required!

To get ideas together for this challenge, I thought I might take a flip through Dalby’s Dangerous Tastes, which sits on my food bookshelves in the living room (the cookbooks have their own bookcase in the kitchen). However, that never happened. It was a chance encounter with some baby turnips in the produce section at Whole Foods on a Sunday afternoon that set this entry in motion.

I had come to the store without much of a list, which can be great fun when the seasons are changing as they are right now. I found green garlic available, and picking that up, I thought I’d get some radishes for a highly springtime-y radish/fennel/asaparagus/green garlic/dill salad. While picking out my radishes, I looked down and saw the smallest, sweetest, greenest-leaved new turnips.

Mr. Man-of-Few-Words Produce Guy was standing next to me, stacking bags of the ubiquitous whittled carrots.

“These turnips look wonderful.”

“Yep. Picked on Thursday.”

“T&D Willey?”

“Yep. Madera.” (About 20 miles away from where we were standing.)

I selected three small bunches. “Well, they’re getting cooked tonight.”

He grunted. I took this as a sign of approval.

As noted in the title, this is a Moghul-style dish. Dishes named for the Moghul period (from the early 16th century to late 19th century – perhaps not truly ancient in the term of India’s civilization, but well before my time) are those that are supposed to have been concocted for and particular favorites of the Moghul rulers. The dishes are generally richly sauced with the inclusion of yogurt in the sauce’s preparation, light on vegetables (the Moghuls were big on meat) and warmly spiced. Though the spices used are undoubtedly ancient, it’s that recipe and cooking method date of provenance I’m using to tie this back to the “Ancient” part of the challenge, rather than focusing on a single ancient spice. The original inspiration for this recipe was a lamb-and-turnip dish I came across in an Indian cookbook and resolved to put to my own herbivorous purposes. It had no greens in it. If you’re buying turnips with tops, you have to use them – they’re delicious.

Continue reading “Baby Turnips and Greens in a Moghul-Style Sauce”