Friday, July 10, 2020

Sautéed Wild Leeks + A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii #FoodieReads


This week, I breezed through Freckled: A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii by TW Neal.* I had ordered it last month when we were lamenting the cancellation of our family vacation to Hawaii amid the coronavirus pandemic. I was reading anything and everything that was set in Hawaii; and the boys and I were re-watching the reboot of Hawaii Five-O as well. We're into Season Five and enjoying seeing the sights we missed last month.

Freckled was definitely not a feel-good read about some of our favorite islands. In fact, it is one of the only books that has made me literally cringe while reading it, but still kept me reading it. Also, I was completely unfamiliar with the author, but her writing is incredibly evocative. I will definitely read more of her work...maybe just not more about her painfully abusive childhood.

On the Page
photo from amazon.com

This book is raw in its honesty and so, so disturbing. It's jarring to see such unbridled dysfunction through the eyes of a child. The books covers her life from five years old through high school. Her parents are young, selfish, and addicted to drugs and alcohol; they are part of the surfing culture on Kauai's north shore and more concerned with catching the perfect waves than raising their kids. In fact, I can't figure out why they even bothered to have kids. They were, on a good day, simply irresponsible and, on other days, downright abusive. They ignored incidents of sexual molestation, physical bullying, and rampant racism. I have no idea how Toby forgave her parents.

But, as I mentioned, this is well-written. One way in which I almost respected Sue, Toby's mom, was her fervent desire for her kids to each healthy foods. Toby recalls getting a special treat of shave ice. "I’m so excited. Shave ice is really special because it’s full of sugar, and sugar is badforyou" (pg. 20).

Toby grew up on whole foods, not too far off from what I usually feed my family actually. "Breakfast is oatmeal cooked on the stove with the squishy goodness of raisins popping on my tongue and local honey drizzled over it. Mom has found a co-op in California, and with the money Pop has from his trust fund, she has big boxes of food shipped each month to Hanalei, the closest town. Lentils, garbanzos, alfalfa, mung beans, dried figs, dates, apricots, oats, and flour so brown it looks speckled, fill the jars on the built-in shelf in the kitchen area, along with honey in a can and peanut butter separating into golden oil and sludgy goodness" (pg. 36).

Unlike Sue, I am not a good gardener. But Jake spends a lot of time working the garden with D. Toby writes, "The hundreds of barrows of cow manure Bon and I have hauled help her grow some of the biggest vegetables anyone in Hanalei has ever seen—her Chinese cabbages are the size of basketballs" (pg. 203).
        
And, probably, like my kids when I'm not around, Toby and her siblings revel in the junk food that relatives give them. "...bananas, coconut, and papayas we ate so much of from the Estate’s trees are nonexistent, as are the abundant Swiss chard, won bok, lettuce, and Chinese pea pods from Mom’s huge garden. Instead, there’s a plethora of junk food in the house that we binge on without restraint. Cookies, ice cream, gallon jugs of whole milk, whole boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese, and packages of hot dogs and frozen French fries are all inhaled. We lie around eating and watching reruns of I Dream of Jeannie and Gilligan’s Island as we revel in having television for the first time" (pg. 263).

Toby seems quite normal and well-adjusted for the things that she endured. She campaigned to leave Kauai, live with relative, and attend her senior year of high school in California. She registered herself, worked hard, and landed a scholarship to attend college. And - flash forward three decades - she has a healthy, happy marriage with children of her own. It's quite a remarkable story. But what a wild childhood!
               
On the Plate

There were passages about her foraging for wild mushrooms to earn money to buy a pony. And it reminded me of wild greens that I like to eat, such as dandelions and ramps which are also called wild leeks.

Are you a ramp-fanatic? I eagerly await the week or two - yes, the season is very, very short - when you walk the markets and spot these pungent lovelies. Their aroma is somewhere between garlic and leeks; in fact, they are also called wild leeks. But they are actually a perennial wild onion. And their appearance is fleeting. Enjoy them while you can because they'll be gone before you know it.

Funny story...they are so elusive that the cashier at the market earlier this Spring didn't know what they were. I had grabbed them from the bins next to the fava beans, but they didn't have a code or price. 

"What are these?" she asked. Ramps, I informed her. She looked all through her code book. She even sent someone to get the code from the produce department.

"There is no code," he reported back. Yeah, I didn't see one either, but I just wanted to grab some since you don't carry them for very long.

In a complete surprise turn of events, she said, "Well, I guess I'll just give them to you...since we don't have a price in our system." Oh! Thanks. If I had known that was going to transpire, I would have grabbed a whole lot more of them. But I controlled myself and just nodded gratefully.

You can eat them raw, but I don't like raw onions very much. So I cook ramps. I sautéed these gems and served them over roasted rockfish for an easy seasonal dinner.


Ingredients
  • 2 bunches ramps (wild leeks)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • freshly ground salt

Procedure
To clean the ramps...fill a bowl with cold water, then place ramps in the water. Swirl them around to remove as much dirt as possible. Remove them from the bowl and give them another rinse under cool running water to remove any remaining dirt. Drain ramps on a dry paper towel, then blot out as much water as possible. Trim off the bottom of the ramps and peel away any part of the stems that might be slimy.

Heat butter in the olive oil in a large, flat-bottom pan until the butter is melted, frothy, and beginning to turn brown. Add the ramps to the browned butter and cook until the ramps are lightly charred and wilted. 

You can serve them as is for a nice Spring sidedish. Or you can use them to top your favorite meat or fish. 

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more, but it helps support my culinary adventures in a small way. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Click to see what everyone else read in July 2020: here.

Maidens from Moldova + Summer Suppers #WinePW #Sponsored

 This is a sponsored post written by me in conjunction with the July #WinePW Moldova event.
Wine samples were provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.

Jeff of Food Wine Click! read his invitation here. The Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers headed, virtually of course, to Moldova...and Jeff even arranges for several of us to receive samples from Wines of Moldova.* I received three bottles for the event and am showcasing two of them. More on that soon.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join us for a live Twitter chat on Saturday, July 11th at 8am Pacific time. Follow hashtag #WinePW and be sure to add that to any of your tweets so we can see it. All of these posts will be live between Friday, July 10th and early Saturday, July 11th. Cheers!


Can you find Moldova on a map? My boys could. Thankfully. But we did cook some Moldovan food back in 2013 during our cooking around the world adventure.


Back then, I made a Moldavan Beetroot Salad which wasn't a hit, then, but I suspect R's palate has developed since then! Also, back then, we discovered Sarmale, Moldovan Cabbage Rolls. I'm including the link to that original post because my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf was pretty adorable and helpful. But my updated recipe is shared below with a current wine pairing.

In case you are unfamiliar, landlocked Moldova lies between Romania and Ukraine and consists of hilly grasslands flanked by the Prut and Dniester Rivers. Mostly pastoral lands, Moldova was part of Romania before World War II, and a majority of Moldovans still speak Romanian. Soviets annexed Moldova in 1940, and Russians and Ukrainians settled in the industrial region east of the Dniester (known as Transdniestria). After Moldova gained independence in 1991, Transdniestria seceded, making Tiraspol its capital.

Maidens from Moldova

You might be wondering about the title of my post - Maidens from Moldova. Feteasca means 'maiden' in Romanian, the state language of Moldova, and the name of three distinct, indigenous grape varietals: Feteasca Regala (royal maiden), Feteasca Neagra (black maiden), and Feteasca Alba (white maiden).


I received two of the maidens to sample. First was a 'white maiden', Castel Mimi Feteasca Alba. You can read more about Castel Mimi from our host, A Moldova Phoenix Story - Castel Mimi; Jeff attended a press trip to Moldova that included Castel Mimi in 2019. What a treat. I'm jealous!


This Feteasca Alba, true to its name, pours a pale - almost white - wine with flecks of green and gold. Fresh garden aromas lean towards citrus and herbs with notes of lemon zest and rosemary. But on the palate the wine is decidedly softer than its scent. I detected more summer stone fruit with a subtle acidity. 


With this wine, I opted for a less than traditional pairing. I started with a summer salad dotted with golden kiwis and fresh citrus. And followed it up with poached fish on a bed of lentils, topped with softened onions.


My 'black maiden', Feteasca Neagra, was actually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Feteasca Neagra grapes from Fautor Winery.


The bottle told us that the Fautor Winery sits at one of the highest points in southern Moldova, in the Valul-lui-Traian wine region. The topographical map on the label was pretty cool, especially for my map-loving crew.



In the glass, it poured a deep shade of red pomegranate. Aromas of black cherry and a hint of mint were detectable. And on the palate I got cherry with intense flavors of coffee and black pepper as well. This was a rich wine with nicely structured tannins.

Sarmale for a Summer Supper
Moldovan Cabbage Rolls

Since I did a non-traditional pairing with the Feteasca Alba, I decided to revisit our Moldovan cabbage rolls. Besides, I can never resist using vegetables from D's garden and these cabbage leaves were ripe and ready! Okay, they aren't the traditional green cabbages, but they are homegrown and were perfect for this summer supper.

Ingredients serves 6
  • 3/4 lb ground lamb (you can also make it with all ground beef).
  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon paprika (I used 1 teaspoon hot paprika and 2 teaspoons sweet paprika)
  • 2 cups cooked rice (traditionally, you use raw rice, but I had cooked rice and it cut down on the final cooking time)
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced and 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1 large head of cabbage, leaves separated and blanched for 1 to 2 minutes
  • 2 cups tomato sauce, divided
  • 1 cup water or a mixture of water and red wine

Procedure

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large, flat-bottom pan. Add the diced onions and cook until softened.

In a medium mixing bowl, place the ground meats, egg, salt, pepper, paprika, and rice; mix until well-combined. I use my hands, but you can use a wooden spoon.

Stir together 1 cup of the tomato sauce and water or water and wine.  And add it to the onion mixture. Add a glug of olive oil and begin to warm the sauce.


After you blanch and drain your cabbage leaves, place a leaf flat on a cutting board or other clean workspace. Spoon 2 Tablespoons of the filling onto the leaf, near the top. Fold the sides of the leaf in and roll as rightly as you can until you get to the stem. Place the rolls, stem side down, into the tomato sauce. Make as many as you can to fill the pot.


Scatter the sliced onions over the rolls, then spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the rolls. Pour in enough water so that the rolls are about two-thirds of the way submerged. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot.


Let the rolls braise for at least 90 minutes. Check on the liquid levels about half-way through cooking so that the rolls don't burn.


Serve hot. I also served Moldovan stuffed peppers along with a salad. The recipe for the peppers will be posting later. Well, that's a wrap for the #WinePW Moldova event. Many thanks to Jeff for organizing and for Wine of Moldova for sending samples. I don't know if I would have been able to track down Moldovan wines otherwise. But, after this, I will definitely keep an eye out for wine from Moldova, especially any of these maiden grapes. They were delicious. Cheers.

Wine of Moldova on the web, on Facebook, on Instagram

*Disclosure: I received sample wines for recipe development, pairing, and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Food to Soothe the Soul #EattheWorld


It's hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Here we are in July for another installment of our #EattheWorld project, being spearheaded by Evelyne of CulturEatz. Here's her challenge.


Typically, Evelyne announces a country from which we are supposed to pick a recipe. But this month, she extended this challenge: "For July we will not visit a country’s cuisine, but rather a type of cuisine found in the US, one whose people are once again fighting for basic respectful treatment. Maybe we can all find a form of comfort in Soul Food this month!"

Yes! I was in immediately. There is so much racial tension and strife in the country right now. It's exhausting to have these conversations day in and day out, around our dinner table, but it's also necessary. Jake and I want our boys to be informed, be sensitive, be cautious, and be proactive.

I don't typically get political on my blog, but in this case I will: Since 45 - that's as close as I will come to naming him - took office, I feel that racism and bigotry have become normalized. In as many weeks we have had two racially fueled incidents in local restaurants here on California's central coast. Racists and bigots feel empowered to be wide out in the open. Why not? The leader of the free world is. Ugh. And it's tragic; I feel we've gone backwards at least fifty years in race relations.

So that brings us to the theme of this month's #EattheWorld: soul food. Here's the line-up...


Sautéed Greens

The reason I chose this recipe is two fold: first, it's a riff on Southern collard greens; and second, my son grew these. His garden has been a soothing influence as we're entering our eighteenth week of being sheltered in place. He finds gardening to be calming. And I love to eat from the garden. It's a win for both of us!

  • 2 pounds greens, washed and chopped or torn (traditional would be collard greens, I used a mixture of chard and kale from our garden)
  • 1/4 cup diced bacon
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic dark brown sugar, plus more to taste
  • pinch of red pepper chile flakes
  • 3 cups stock or broth (I used homemade chicken stock)
  • splash of vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)


In a large lidded pot or Dutch oven, heat oil and stir in diced bacon. Cook until the fat is rendered and the meat is beginning to turn brown. Stir in the onions and garlic. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Fold in the greens and toss in the bacon grease until glossy. Add in the salt, pepper, and brown sugar, and red pepper chile flakes. 

Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 90 minutes until the greens are tender. Season with a splash of vinegar and serve immediately.

Sweet 'n' Smoky Oven-Roasted Ribs

  • 1 rack of pork baby back ribs
  • Also needed: foil, baking sheet, barbecue sauce

Sweet 'n' Smoky Spice Rub
  • 1 cup organic dark brown sugar 
  • 3 Tablespoons pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

The night before, or first thing in the morning, prepare the rub. Combine all ingredients, and mix thoroughly until well blended. Coat the ribs. Remove the ribs from their packaging.  Rinse and pat them dry. With your hands, pat the rub onto both sides of the ribs, going heavier on the meaty side. Refrigerate for as many hours as you can; I ended up leaving them for 8 hours.

Right before you want to cook them, preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven heats, take the ribs out of the refrigerator to warm up.

To roast, wrap the ribs in aluminum foil and place them - meat side up - on a sheet pan and put them in the preheated oven.  Set the timer for 3 hours.

Reduce the heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook for another 2 to 3 hours. The longer you cook them, the more tender they will be. 

Gently unwrap the ribs and paint them with a thin coat of barbecue sauce. Return them to the oven - raise the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit - for 10 minutes or so. The sauce will begin to char.

Remove the ribs from the oven, place them on a cutting board, and chop them into individual servings (the meat should almost be falling off the bone at this point, so this will be easy).  Serve with more barbecue sauce and loads of napkins because eating ribs is a messy endeavor. Enjoy!


I did also make smothered chicken and hot water cornbread. Those recipes will be coming to the blog soon.

But, for now, that's a wrap for the #EattheWorld soul food adventure. Stay tuned for next month's pick. Evelyne will let us know in a couple of days where we're heading.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Summery Grilled Haloumi Salad #ImprovCookingChallenge


Welcome to the July 2020 Improv Cooking Challenge. This group is headed up by Nichole of Cookaholic Wife. And I haven't been very consistent, but I love the idea of the group, so I will try to be better in the coming months.


The idea behind Improv Cooking Challenge: we are assigned two ingredients and are challenged to create a recipe with those two things. This month's items: watermelon and olive oil. Here's what the crew is sharing with those ingredients...


Summery Grilled Haloumi Salad

There's nothing more summery than a salad of sun-kissed watermelon and vine-ripened tomatoes. When you add haloumi to the top, it's dinner!

Haloumi originated in Cyprus, during the Medieval period, and gained popularity throughout the Middle East. Since Cypriots like eating haloumi with watermelon in the summer months, I decided to do the same...with some fresh tomatoes from the farmers' market.

Ingredients
  • heirloom tomatoes
  • seedless watermelon
  • haloumi cheese
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fresh thyme
  • Also needed: grill or grill pan


Procedure
Slice tomatoes and watermelon and place on serving platter. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and fresh thyme leaves.

Heat the grill pan over medium heat and grease with oil. Lay slices of haloumi on the grill and cook until nice char marks appear, approximately a minute or so. Flip over and grill on the other side.


To serve, place a slice of grilled haloumi on top of the salad. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.

That's it for our watermelon and olive oil exploration. The #ImprovCookingChallenge bloggers will be back in August with cherry and lime recipes for your perusal. Stay tuned...

Bo Ssäm for a Fathers' Day Delivery + an Al Fresco Dinner


Here we are looking at our eighteenth week of being sheltered in place...and I am working on a paella delivery for my parents' forty-eighth wedding anniversary. Then I realized that I neglected to post about the Fathers' Day delivery I did a couple of weeks ago. Tardy...tardy!!


As we head into our fourteenth week of being sheltered in place, I sadly realized that we have missed most of our family celebrations with my parents this year. We had to skip our annual Easter luncheon early into the shelter-in-place order; then we missed celebrating Jake's birthday, my birthday, Mothers' Day, R's gradation, R's birthday, and - now - Fathers' Day. I hope that we'll be opened back up in time for D's birthday...in December! Oye. I really hope so.


But, I do understand the need for caution and self-isolation. It's just lonely.


And despite not being able to set our table for eight and have my parents over for a Fathers' Day dinner on Sunday, we packed it all up and drove the half-mile to deliver the meal to my dad.


He was happy to see us, even at a six foot distance and without hugs.


And after we did the delivery, we came home and set the table on our patio for the same feast...for Jake. What a strange time this is!


For a recent #WinePW event where the group focused on wines from New York's Finger Lakes region, Nicole of Somm's Table shared her Bo Ssäm and Comparative Reisling Party. What?! I was immediately intrigued and decided that was what I was making for Fathers' Day. I started with Chef David Chang's recipe, then adapted it slightly. I didn't have any Reisling, like Nicole did, but I paired with a Sauvignon Blanc from France that worked well. Cheers.

Note that the meat needs to be prepped and refrigerated overnight. Then it needs to roast for a little more than six hours. So, plan accordingly!


Ingredients serves 8 to 10 people plus leftovers
Bo Ssäm
  • one 8 to 10 pound bone-in pork butt
  • 1 cup organic granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plus coarse salt
  • 7 Tablespoons organic dark brown sugar
  • Also needed: a roasting pan with a rack

To Serve
  • steamed rice (I used Jade rice which has a slightly greenish tint)
  • organic lettuce to make cups (I used romaine)
  • ssäm sauce (recipe below)
  • pickled veggies (I used pickled radishes similar to this recipe, pickled carrots similar to this recipe, and smashed cucumber pickles similar to this recipe)
  • kimchi (I used a Napa cabbage kimchi similar to this recipe)

Ssäm Sauce makes 1 cup
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons ssämjang (fermented bean and chile paste), adjust to your palate
  • 1 Tablespoon kochujang (chile paste)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup oil (I used canola oil)



Procedure

Ssäm Sauce 
Combine all the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Stir until well-combined. Ssäm sauce will keep in the fridge for at least a week; I just mixed this up the day before.

Bo Ssäm
Place the pork butt in a medium mixing bowl. Add in the granulated sugar and salt. Massage the mixture into the meat, turning to coat the roast completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

About eight hours before you want to serve, remove the rubbed roast from the refrigerator. Let it sit at room temperature while you preheat the oven.

Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the pork from the mixing bowl and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. Put the pan in the oven and roast for six hours. Baste with the rendered fat and pan juices every hour or so. The pork should be soft and offer almost no resistance to a fork.

At the end of the six hours, remove the pan from the oven and raise the heat to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. As the oven heats to the higher temperature, spoon the brown sugar over the top and smooth it into a nice layer.


Place the roast back in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. The brown sugar will be melted into a crisp, sweet crust. Let the pork rest for 10 minutes before slicing.


Serve the bo ssäm hot, surrounded with the accompaniments including the rice, kimchi, and pickles. Traditionally this is served with raw oysters, but I'm fifty-fifty on whether I have a reaction to eating them, so I generally avoid.


Diners serve themselves with the tender pork chunks and all the sides.


And the crust is to die for! Seriously.


We can't wait to make this again. Thanks for the inspiration, Nicole. This was a huge hit around my table...and my parents' table.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Honey Bus, Big Sur Honey, and Honey Baked Brie #FoodieReads


I recently saw an invitation to a virtual book club hosted by one of my favorite local organizations Big Sur Land Trust. You can read the invitation: on their website. And you still have plenty of time to join in; the meeting is on July 23rd and I devoured this book - The Honey Bus by Meredith May* - in just two sittings. So, if you are inclined, get your hands on a copy. I can't wait to hear what the other readers thought...and, virtually, meet the author.

Back in 2013, I had a piece published in Edible Monterey Bay entitled "Bee Yourself: Honey, Anarchy, and Saving the World, One Hive at a Time." You can read it in their archives or on my blog. And it was also my first cover!


"Bee Yourself" was one of the first feature pieces I wrote, versus smaller sidebars, and it required copious amounts of research, numerous visits with beekeepers, and - my family's favorite part - a bunch of honey tastings. Furthermore it cemented my love of all things bees and all things honey! So I was excited to have the chance to read a memoir about a girl saved by bees. I didn't really know what else to expect.

The Honey Bus

This is May's memoir about growing up in the 1970s in Carmel Valley after her parents divorce. I generally avoid memoirs that involve emotional upheaval and trauma during childhood. But I relished the redemptive relationship May has with her grandfather, Franklin Peace, who takes her to his honey bus in Big Sur and initiates her into the art of keeping bees.

May’s mother never recovered from the split from her husband. Instead she relocates with her children to California, moves in with her parents, and allows them to raise her children while she spirals downward into a quagmire of depression and dysfunction. 

May admits, "I felt stuck. Granny, Mom and Dad were locked in a war that was bigger and stronger than me. My family was the opposite of a beehive. Instead of working for one another, all they did was conspire to make each other miserable" (pg. 181).

With an inaccessible mother and a granny who treats Meredith and Matthew as nuisances, it's the grandfather who steals May's heart...and my own. He dons a bolo tie and shows up for May's father-daughter night at Tularcitos Elementary School, regaling her classmates beekeeping tales. He teaches her about the hive life; he loves her and nurtures her. His lessons are positive, empowering, and offer her stability that she desperately craves.

"I could have never guessed that a beehive is a female place, a castle with a queen but no king. All the worker bees inside are female; around sixty thousand daughters that look after their mother by feeding her, bringing her water droplets and keeping her warm at night. The colony would wither and die without a queen laying eggs. Yet without her daughters taking care of her, the queen would either starve or freeze to death. Their need for one another was what kept them strong" (pg. 75).

"He reminded us that bees live for a purpose far grander than themselves, each of their small contributions combining to create collective strength. Rather than withdrawing from the daunting task of living, as our mother had done, honeybees make themselves essential through their generosity. By giving more than they took, bees ensured their survival and reached what might be considered a state of grace" (pg. 273).


"Bees had enough brainpower to envision a better life, and then go out and get it. Even if it involved the risk of living out in the open, defenseless, until they decided together where to relocate. Bees had guts" (pg. 279).

May seems to have embraced this tenet wholeheartedly "...beautiful things don’t come to those who simply wish for them. You have to work hard and take risks to be rewarded" (pg. 172).

And, to further, bee conservation, she writes, "There’s a growing consensus that we each have to do our own small act, whether it’s seeding the roadsides with flowering plants, starting backyard hives of our own, or breaking up the food desert by planting flowering borders around mono-crops. It’s the principle of the hive—if each of us does our small part, it could add up to a bigger whole" (pg. 329).

These are all fabulous life lessons. I love that May pays it forward by giving kids bee experiences in a community garden in San Francisco.

Of course it was also a treat to be familiar with so many of the locations May mentions. My friends' kids went to Tulacitos and, now, Carmel High School. The Wagon Wheel Coffee Shop is one of our favorites for breakfast...well, before the world shut-down, anyway. And though May's memory is cringe-worthy, I clearly pictured the entire scene of May fleeing from her mother at the bowling alley right there at Monterey Lanes.

Big Sur Honey

"Grandpa was inspired to build a portable honey house after reading a story in his beekeeping magazine about beekeepers who installed honey spinners on the flatbeds of their Ford Model A trucks, so they could drive up to their apiaries and harvest right on the spot. But Grandpa thought that was silly because if you harvest outdoors, the bees will find the honey and go into a robbing frenzy over it. With a bus, he could drive to his bee yards and extract honey in a closed environment, without getting stung" (pg. 160).

Though Peace's Honey Bus is long gone, there are plenty of local hives and I was able to get my hands on some sage honey from Big Sur! When May is talking to her grandfather about pollen, he tells her "'Pollen. From flowers. The color tells you which flower they came from. Tan is from the almond tree. Gray is the blackberries. Orange is poppy. Yellow is mustard, most likely'" (pg. 73). This sage honey did have a light greyish-green cast to it. It's not quite the color of a sage leaf, but the aroma is distinctive and detectable!

Honeyed Baked Brie

I decided to make an appetizer that had the honey front and center. This is one of my favorite appetizers to showcase a local honey.

Ingredients
  • one 6- to 8-ounce brie, slightly chilled (I used a goat milk brie)
  • 1/3 cup chopped cashews
  • 1/3 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 2 Tablespoons honey plus more for serving
  • crackers or baguette slices for serving
  • also needed: parchment paper and a rimmed baking sheet

Procedure
In a small bowl, mix the cashews, apricots, and 2 Tablespoons honey together. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a sharp knife, slice the brie in half. Place one half of the brie, cut-side up, on a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed board. Spoon half of the cashew mixture onto the brief and cover it with the other half, cut-side down. Press down firmly and spoon the remaining cashew mixture on top of the brie.

Bake until the cheese is oozy and runny, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. A word of warning: this dish looks a little messy, but the taste trumps any lack of beauty.


Serve immediately with a side of honey.  And let diners drizzle more honey on their own bites, if desired.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more, but it helps support my culinary adventures in a small way. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Click to see what everyone else read in July 2020: here.

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