Friday, September 2, 2011

The One Block Party with Team Found Fruit

It's been quite a summer! We've been going strong since April when we were announced finalists in the contest. We have since grown, foraged, raised, and produced a multitude of vegetables, fruits, and food projects. All 10 teams from California, Washington, and Colorado are geared for their block parties. We look forward to hearing about everyone's feast.

The contest deadline was extended until October but we were too far along to change our course. We had carefully planted to a schedule and it was time to harvest. Our gardens were bursting at the seams. We would be feasting in less than a week. We had tried to make sure more than one garden at a time grew our ingredients in case something went wrong. This was the right strategy. It would take more than one garden to make the stuffed peppers, plus our beets weren't quite ready so it was a good thing Todd and Kate were also growing them. We had a total of four gardens on our team. That made the harvest plentiful.

Our goal was to provide enough food for our team, a few of our friends, and the press. Margo True, the author of The One Block Feast and photographers from Sunset joined our feast as well as a reporter and photographer from The SF Chronicle, who were doing a story on and foraging. That brought the tally up to about 18 people!

To follow Sunset Magazine's One Block Party contest with Team Found Fruit throughout the summer click on my blog here.

Photo Todd Voyageur Photo Kim Digiacomo

Photos Jamie Vasta

Our gardens were full of everything we needed to make our dishes. Greens, lettuce, arugula, peppers, corn, squash, cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, chives, basil, mint, lemongrass, chamomile, nasturtiums, blueberries, raspberries, and more.

Photos Todd Voyageur

Photo Jamie Vasta

Kim, Jamie, and I foraged for blackberries in Sausal Creek and huckleberries in Joaquin Miller Park. We used the for the blackberries for the hard cider and galette, and made a mixed berry compote with the blackberries and huckleberries, and blueberries, strawberries, and rasberries from the garden.

With our feast on Sunday August 21st we decided to meet the Friday night before to swap ingredients we'd need to prepare our dishes. It was amazing how much food we had produced! It was really fun to see it all laid out on the table. Nearly every dish we were making required ingredients from more than one household- it was a real team effort.

Photo Michele Senitzer Photo Todd Voyageur

We sampled each others' pickled products. Collectively we had made zucchini pickles, pickled quail eggs, onions, beets, kimchee, nopales, kraut, and more. We ate deviled eggs from Kitty's ducks, and sampled an Kitty's goat cheese. We swapped homemade sea salt, ginger wine and apple cider vinegar, sourdough starter, locally sourced whole wheat flour, cheeses, and honey.

Photo Todd Voyageur

Next came the prepping. We had all the ingredients checked off our list and it was time to get started. We cooked and assembled and baked and prepared so many dishes! We tried to do as much as possible in our own kitchens Saturday and Sunday morning so as not to overwhelm Todd and Kate's kitchen where the feast would be held.

Photo Kate Voyageur

Photo Michele Senitzer

Photos Todd Voyageur

Sunday was a whirlwind. Everybody's kitchen was exploding. We were all working hard and fast to get the dishes ready. Our plan was to meet at 1pm with whatever we were able to cook and prepare ahead of time and then take care of the rest onsite. We'd have cocktail hour from 4-5pm and dinner at 5pm.

Photos Lara Taylor

It was a bit hectic with everyone trying to maneuver and put their dishes together. I was happy my job was outside minding the grill. Then the monkey faced eel came up in conversation and to my horror I realized I had left it at home in the freezer! I had to run home quickly and then we thawed it by putting it in water. Phew! At least I remembered the smelt. We used fig leaves from Todd and Kate's tree to wrap the eel in and then steamed it with ginger wine and lemongrass. It was a sight to see and very delicious.

Photos Todd Voyageur

Kitty had raised two chickens and four rabbits which made our feast amazing. The chicken was BBQ'ed with a honey and prickly pear glaze. It looked great but was really tough. It was brined overnight with sea salt but I was surprised at how different it was even from free range chicken I buy at the store. The rabbits were the hit of the party, though. Two rabbits were fire-roasted stuffed with wild plums and squash and the other two braised with a wild mushroom risotto with rice sourced from a farm near Chico.

Photo Todd Voyageur

It truly was a feast. It's amazing how much food there was! From the nasturtium pesto zucchini noodles to the corn-and-eggplant-stuffed peppers to the feta-stuffed squash blossoms the meal was a hit. Even the escargot was delicious.

Photo Lori Eanes Photo Kate Merrill

There was no shortage of desserts either. The blackberry nectarine galette was amazing and I even loved the goat ice cream- served with rose-infused berry compote. We also served goat yogurt with honeycomb.

Photo Lori Eanes

We ate drank and were merry. Our bar was well-stocked, with Todd's IPA, Kim's blackberry hard cider and apricot wine, Kim and Michele's blackberry-elderberry wine, two different limoncellos (one by Kim and one by Kitty), arancello by Kim and kahlua by Michele. Our non-alcoholic drink was an herbal tisane made from chamomile, mint, and lemongrass.

We were also lucky enough to receive some incredible beverage donations from friends in Alameda. John Theil contributed some of his locally produced wine, and St. George distillery gave us some of their brand new line of gin for our saurkraut martinis and grapefruit cocktails. They describe their gin, Terroir, as "our liquid love song to Mt. Tam," infused with Douglas fir, coastal sage, and California bay laurel. It tasted like a walk in the woods and found a place in our forager hearts.

Photo Lori Eanes

We made Margo the judge of our limoncello taste-test. Both Kitty and Kim had made batches of limoncello, aged different lengths of time. Both were delicious, although very different from each other.

Photos Lori Eanes

We even had some four legged friends join in on the fun. Having goat kids running around the yard was precious and we all got in some snuggle time.

Photo Todd Voyageur

We partied until dark and felt truly satisfied with our accomplishments. I have a much deeper appreciation now for the ingredients that go into dishes that are easy to take for granted. Taking part in this contest has given our summer an edge and we have all learned a lot. I think we are looking forward to having our gardens back, though I intend to continue some making some of the recipes I have learned from The One Block Party.

To follow Sunset Magazine's One Block Party contest with Team Found Fruit throughout the summer click on my blog here.


Kim's recipe for hard blackberry cider in less than 30 days

Here is a somewhat unconventional way to make a hard cider in less than 30 days. To start, I foraged blackberries from a trail that runs along Sausal Creek above Dimond Park in Oakland. Then I mixed them with some dried elderberries I foraged last summer from a local farm and some some water and then simmered them in some water for about 20 minutes to kill wild yeasts and extract the flavors and juice. At the end I added sugar and simmered for another 5 minutes. then I poured the whole mixture through a pulp bag into a fermenting bucket. I tied the pulp bag at the top and threw that into the mix as well. To that, I added water, tannin, citric acid and champagne yeast purchased from Oak Barrel Winecraft in Berkeley. I used a hydrometer to test the sugar level in the mix and made sure it was around 11%. Then I fermented it for one week until the sugar was 3%. Then I bottled it in repurposed soda bottles. I left it sit on the counter a few days to build up carbonation. Then I transferred the mix to glass soda bottles and put it in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation and carbonation. Warning - this method can cause bottles to explode so it's best to use plastic soda bottles or champagne bottles that can hold up to pressure. Once you place them in the fridge, the carbonation slows down significantly but to be safe, store them on a bottom shelf. Then I aged the cider in the fridge for 2 weeks. It is still somewhat sweet and very bubbly.

Kate's All of the Beet Napoleons

6 large beets, tops trimmed 8 oz. goat cheese log, chilled Greens from beets, roughly chopped, large ribs removed 1 Tbsp. olive oil Arugula flowers Sea salt
Wrap beets in aluminum foil and place on grill or in oven heated to 400 degrees. Roast for 30-50 minutes, depending on size of beets (pierce with tip of knife to test for doneness). Slide beets out of their skins and cut into 1⁄4 in. slices. Heat olive oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Add beet greens and a pinch of sea salt and sauté until wilted, 3-5 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Cut goat cheese into 1⁄4 in. slices. Assemble in layers by placing down a beet slice, a spoonful of sautéed greens, and a slice of goat cheese on top. Garnish with an arugula flower. Repeat with all beet slices. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Kate's Stuffed Charred Peppers

6 bell peppers, halved, ribs and seeds removed 2 Japanese eggplant, diced 4 medium tomatoes, diced 1-2 bunches hearty greens (kale, collards, mustard, etc), roughly chopped, large ribs removed Kernels from 2 ears of corn
1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for serving 6 oz. feta cheese Sea salt and pepper
Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and corn and sauté for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute; add greens and cook until wilted, 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon sautéed vegetables into the pepper halves. Crumble feta over each stuffed pepper. Place peppers on grill heated to 350-400 degrees. Cover and roast for 8-10 minutes, rotating occasionally to evenly char the outside of each pepper. Remove from heat, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

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