Monday, August 20, 2012

Cheese Board Pizza celebrates Indian Independence

A lovely couple allowed me to photograph their pizza and even offered me a slice


Late Saturday morning while heading for the Cheese Board to buy some Parmesan cheese, I passed the line at the pizza annex next door and couldn't help but peek at the  chalkboard where "Today's Pizza" is described. When I saw that it was a completely wild and original concoction of  roasted curry potatoes, onions, Bulgarian feta, mozzarella, cilantro and chilis, I knew I had to join the queue and buy a slice, which actually translates to a generous slice and a half. Only then did I notice that there was a celebration going on. Indian music was playing, and flags and garlands festooned the shop. When I reached the poster at the entrance, I discovered that August 18th is three days after Indian Independence Day and this particular pizza was developed by the Cheese Board wizards to commemorate that momentous, historic event in 1947.  How very Berkeley, how very wonderful!  Luckily, having just come from the farmers' market, I had my camera in hand, so to occupy myself in the long line, I started snapping photos of happy diners spilling onto the sidewalk, enjoying hot Indian-style pizzas, and pizza-makers hard at work creating the days speciality. Everyone was very cooperative.

Bright Indian flags decorated  the Pizza shop

A pizza-maker sprinkles cilantro on hot pizzas in the open kitchen

A pizza sliced and ready to serve

I finally reached the front of the line and ordered my slice (and a half) of pizza to go. When I bit into the pungent, cheesy morsel,  the spices and chilies immediately transported me to a street scene in Mumbai or Delhi. I glanced up and saw a quote by Gandhi that the staff had posted for the occasion:  "A coward is incapable of exhibiting love. It is the prerogative of the brave." Then, leaving the celebration with pizza in hand,  I noticed a multi-generation Indian family enjoying the independence pizza and I knew we were all one.

Mother supplies napkins for her family, happily eating curried potato pizza

                                                          Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children, Johnathan Cape, 1981
25th Anniversary Edition of Midnight's Children

       For a compelling and thorough coverage of events surrounding India's independence from England, my friend Andrew, author of guest blog "Cobras in the Compost," reminded me of this wondrous novel by Salman Rushdie. The book recounts the turbulent history of these years through the eyes of the narrator Saleem Sinai who was born at midnight, August 15th, 1947 at the exact moment when India became an independent country. He and all the other children born within that fateful hour were imbued with special powers, which transport the book into the realm of magical realism. Though it is a long novel and full of complicated historical details, it is a work of genius and will reward the reader who perseveres. It was awarded the prestigious Booker Prize in 1981, the year it was published, and has been reprinted many times, in both cloth and paperback editions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Flowering Herbs

     "Few are those who cannot permit themselves at least a few pots or a window box of herbs; and in a garden, borders, hedges and clumps of herbs...they can be of great beauty."—Richard Olney

 Flowering chives from Green Gulch at Ferry Plaza Saturday Market

Oregano blooming in my wooden planter

Flowering Sage in Barbara Pleasant's garden—Growing Sage

Rosemary blossoms, buzzing with bees, in the Berkeley hills

Hyssop—cutting the stems releases its fragrance


                          "The tiny intense blue flowers scattered  
                          over a background of varied greens and
                          hard- boiled eggs are ravishing." —                  
                                                                Richard Olney

A butterfly enjoying thyme in full bloom

    "The hillside formed a tapestry of the blues and violets of flowering wild thyme, punctuated by bushes of wild rosemary, feathery shoots of wild fennel and the spring growth of oregano and winter savory—the poetry of Provence was in the air..."— Richard Olney
Richard Olney in Provence

Spanish lavender brightens my herb garden and delights the bees.
A friend's garden with a magnificent quantity of flowering basil.....and mint

     And finally— Basil. As in the passages above, I quote Richard Olney, from Simple French Food:
"It is addictive, and few who form the habit of using it can do without it! By all means use the flowers as well as the leaves and, rather than chopping, tear the latter into fragments; then they won't blacken."      
Featured Book:

Craig Claiborne, Cooking with Herbs and Spices, N.Y., 1963

     An oldie but goodie. This was perhaps my first cookbook. My mother gave a copy to me, another to my sister and kept one for herself. She loved growing and cooking with fresh herbs and she had an admirable collection of herb books and old herbals.
     Craig Claiborne, long-time food editor of the New York Times and author of many classic cookbooks, offers a tempting set of recipes for fifty-four herbs and spices, illustrated with lovely pen and ink drawings. My copy is spattered and worn, but still sports the original dust jacket. I make the pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving; no other filling comes close!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Earth Day for Green Bin

     On Earth Day 2012  my green bin got a new liner. Thanks to an article printed in the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday, April 20th, we initiated a new routine, and life got a little less messy. It all started when a reader wrote a letter to the newspaper stating "I am a lazy and inconsistent recycler and worry about my carbon footprint... Like most San Franciscans, I have the requisite green recycling bucket under my sink though am never quite sure how to line it. I know I can buy mass-produced biodegradable liner bags, but buying something simply to recycle it seems backward."  In response, The Chronicle offered an alternative in honor of Earth Day— a simple origami project using the newspaper itself, which is 100 percent compostable and printed with nontoxic ink. I set to work immediately, and with the help of my husband, who is brilliant at this type of activity, we made liners galore and quickly introduced them into my green bin. Happy Earth Day Forever!
Pretty in Pink - a new origami liner ready for the green bin

Below is a photograph of the April 20, 2012 article from The San Francisco Chronicle on creating an  Earth Day origami liner for a kitchen bin, and the link to view the instructions on the SFGate website.

S. F. Chronicle instructions:

Photo of S.F. Chronicle feature

                                               Full instructions in 7 easy steps

     1. Open up the paper, remove and recycle the inside pages. Make a right triangle by folding the bottom left corner to the top edge, flattening the fold. Cut off and recycle the extra piece. Position the triangle, so the fold is at the bottom  

    2. Separate the layers at the top of the triangle and bring one side down to the bottom edge. Make a
crease; then unfold. This crease will be your guideline.

    3.  Bring the bottom left-hand corner to the right edge at the crease. Flatten the fold.

    4.  Fold the right-hand corner to the left side. Flatten the fold.

    5.  Separate the layers of newspaper at the top. Fold one side down, pressing to flatten.

    6. Turn the container over and repeat.

    7. Open the completed container and adjust to fit your countertop bin. For a stronger liner, I always double the newspaper

   After having made them for some months now, I have become totally dependent on these innovative liners. They keep the green bin clean and relativity dry, they are easy to dispose of in the compost, are fun to make, and since each on is completely different, they are often aesthetically pleasing.

Green Bin models colorful new liners
Each one is a surprise 

         We make multiple containers each session and store them under the kitchen sink, just below the green bin. It's handy to have a fresh one ready for compost every time we need one.

Extra liners stashed under the kitchen sink

Used liner, full of kitchen scraps, dumped into our large curbside bin

Featured Book:

Trash Origami, Tuttle Publishing, 2010

Michael La Fosse and Richard Alexander have written the perfect book to accompany this green bin project. After you finish making liners, you can go on to create candy wrapper butterflies, old-calendar wreaths, bracelets, or snack-bag wallets. Possibilities are endless and also eco-friendly.

Origami cranes made of candy wrappers, love letters, restaurant menus and Kleenex

These cranes were made by children in 38 countries as a fundraising effort for victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011.