Chef Monica Pope writes about eating & cooking where your food lives

Is This Thing On? September 15, 2010

Filed under: Green Plum Cooking School — monicaspeak @ 6:38 am
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Green Plum Cooking School – Saturday, August 14th

Today, I’m making a gazpacho with beets.  I’m having trouble with my mic, though.  I’m not sure anyone can hear me.  I just keep talking.  I mention my mother’s gazpacho and the one I had in Spain years ago – lasting food impressions that are always my reference points when I make gazpacho.  My mother’s is a puree and much like a salad with a balance of acids and oil from the vegetables or fruits; in Spain, the gazpacho had more red bell peppers in it, was strained after it was pureed (which made it finer) and was garnished with lots of goodies like croutons, hard-boiled egg and tomato.  The beet gazpacho I’m making today brings aspects of these two gazpachos together.

I start by boiling the beets in water to which I have added sugar and vinegar.  The result is a beet-colored sweet and sour elixir that will flavor our gazpacho.  The garnishes are prepped:  concasséd tomatoes, cucumbers and red onion — all diced or minced.  I correct Megan’s (aka Miss Priss) knife skills and reiterate that I want it diced or minced.  But she says she can’t hear me.  I check my mic.  Sarah and Megan’s heads are down and they are determined to squeeze and chop and mince all of the ingredients.  I take some time to chit chat about things with the audience.  I mention my Twogs (my last two blogs that are full of tweets) which I did on my vacation because it’s not enough that I close t’afia and pay for my staff to go on vacation, I now have an obligation to you, dear readers, to disclose my every experience!

It's dicey, folks

For those who didn’t read my Twogs (Hello, is this thing on?), I recounted my experience listening to Alice Waters talk at Toby’s Feed Barn in Tomales Bay (she was supporting her new book, “The Green Kitchen”).  You may remember that I started my Green Plum Cooking Classes by working my way through Alice Waters’ “The Art of Simple Food” for the first year.  I wanted to see if it was really possible to cook something delicious and simple in one hour, using the ingredients I found at the market every week.  Well, it is possible.  So, now, in my second year of cooking every Saturday morning at the market, I am using my own recipes from my online cookbook, Eat Where Your Food Lives.

During Alice’s talk, she challenged the audience to YouTube their own experiences in their Green Kitchens (failed or otherwise).  I’m considering filming my classes.  Alice said that if she was going to do a TV show, she would just dig a hole, put a grate over it and start a fire and invite all of her talented friends to come and cook.  That’s where I’m at — only I want a wood-fired brick oven instead.

almost ready...

We bowl up the Beet Gazpacho.  Really, it should be very cold, but today we’re outside…in August…in Houston.   You could puree the ingredients with ice water to make it colder.  We could pass the gazpacho through the strainer again for a much finer texture but I go with my mom’s gazpacho texture because I’m running out of time.  I suggest to the audience to put it in the freezer with their vodka and realize that the two would make a great combo:  beet gazpacho martinis…which reminds me of another vacation story, but no one can hear me at this point anyway.

NOTE: The recipes used in my Green Plum Cooking School classes can be found in my online cookbook, “Eat Where Your Food Lives,” available for purchase at


“Twog” This…Part 2 August 30, 2010

This is where all the good cheese comes from...


Travel Blog, Part 2 – San Francisco/Bay Area – August 2010

More Tweets from my summer travels that I never Tweeted.

(…continued from Part 1)

*Ah, Chez Panisse….what can I say….lots of history here.  Very unassuming, copper, warm wood, an actual fire, everyone from kitchen to floor focused on welcoming you.

*We order most of the menu: start with bellwether ricotta salad with perfectly cooked romano beans and a carpaccio of  both halibut and wild salmon with lots of lemon zest; wolfe quail with heirloom beans; sf bay squid, grilled, with purslane and padrones, green olive gremolata of sorts tucked in there; side of anchovies with olive oil.

*I make a note to ask Hans to grow both purslane and padrones for me. Stacey had a good run on padrones last year.  I’ve been thinking a lot about what these 2 growers can grow for me (when I get back to H-town, Stacey tells me the story of the stolen padrones this summer…yet another devastation for Stacey – you remember the chicken incident?)

*for dessert: the fruit tart (nectarine) and the chocolate sundae (Lili just wanted the ice cream, but we want the caramel and toffee).

*Lili is still processing the experience at Chez Panisse.  She had the pizza and ate it all.  I keep reminding her that this is Alice Waters’ restaurant and she is the Mother of American cooking.  She asks if Alice was “the girl” who made her pizza

*The other day, I told Lili she was a perfect kid and she stomped off saying people aren’t perfect; I said she was a perfect kid meaning she wasn’t perfect but perfect the way a kid should be.

*At Chez Panisse, she tugs my arm down to get my ear and whispers that, when we get back, I should tell people in my class that “people aren’t perfect but food can be perfect.”  I think Alice will like this comment.

*We have plans to hear Alice speak at Toby’s Feed Barn on Saturday night; we’re all excited, but Lili is wary.  “Is this the girl who made my pizza?” she asks again.

*After Chez Panisse we drive to Oakland to check out Camino.  It was my favorite eating experience last time (created by two Alice Waters’ alums, but who isn’t out here?).  All the food on the menu comes out of a wood-fired brick oven or the fireplace.  It’s really simple food and also has the only sustainable bar in the country.

*The next day for dinner (back at the bay house), I sauté the mixed mushrooms from the Ferry Plaza and toss them with some tagliatelli, McEvoy olive oil, parsley and garlic.

*Tonight is our Alice Water’s experience in the barn.  The series is called Food For Thought and has had such speakers as Michael Pollan.  Big people thinking about food, then writing about food and now talking about both in a barn.

*Lili is fussing about going to a lecture and doesn’t care anymore that Alice is the girl who made her pizza…after all, that was days  ago! Then she sees the hay bales and says she wants to go up to the top.  (This is hilarious because on all the hikes she couldn’t stand the smell of freshly mown hay and now she wants to be in & on them.)

*So we head to the top bales. Lisa and I have our Green Kitchen books ready to sign.

*My friend Davia shows up first.  She is one half of the Kitchen Sisters (they have a show that airs on NPR).  The last time I saw her was in Austin when she was on her cookbook tour.

*The stage is set with two Japanese-California style outdoor chairs, a chest, beautiful flowers.  There are probably 200 people in the barn.  Toby’s Feed Barn hosts one of the top 10 farmer’s markets in the country on Saturday mornings (it also has yoga classes, a café and lots of hardware and feed).

View from the top of the hay bales...



“Twog” This…Part One August 21, 2010


Travel Blog, Part 1 – San Francisco/Bay Area – August 2010

I was supposed to Tweet during my vacation but, because I prefer to eat life instead of tweet life, I saved all my tweets and decided to blog them instead.  Call it “twogging.” That’s kind of like my other new favorite word:  “GLOCAL” ( going local ).

*We land in SFO and hit Ferry Plaza Seafood.  Had a Deluxe Seafood Platter — the best Fanny Bays and Little Skookums I’ve had…ever.  Also, boiled shrimp and mussels with salted caper butter and Acme bread.

seafood platter

* I also had a flight of white wines starting with a Muscatel, then a Reisling and a French something…who knows now

*That was all a preamble for our 1:30 lunch reservation at Slanted Door.

*We’re sussing out the ferry plaza stores for our provisions to bring to the bay house.  We check out Boulette’s Larder and get yelled out by one of the owners — that’s always fun.  We take some pictures and promise to only use them as our own personal porn

*We buy a mixed carton of wonderful mushrooms….all local

local mushrooms

more mushrooms



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