I recently dug and divided the salad burnet in my herb garden and a thought occurred to me — why didn’t more people use this ancient herb? With its clean, crisp cucumber flavor, salad burnet is surprising to those who try it for the first time, and appreciated the more it’s used in the kitchen.
Introduced to Elizabethan England in the 16th century as an ornamental herb, the leaves were floated as a garnish in goblets of wine. Eventually they found favor in European cuisine (where they’re often bundled together with other herbs at the markets these days), the name alone telling you what they’re most used for.
But salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) isn’t just for sprinkling on salads. It can be folded into cream cheese or compound butter to brighten little tea sandwiches, or infused into a bottle of vinegar to make a zesty salad dressing. It can turn into a fresh, tangy puree for topping steamed fish and swirling into light soups. And personally, my favorite is using it as a garnish for gin and tonics, iced teas, lemonades, and what I call “spa water” — cold, refreshing glasses of cucumber- and lemon-scented water.
I’ve been road tripping around Northern California all month (have you been following me on Instagram?) and as the weeks have passed, I’ve really been enjoying the change of seasons. The pine needles are dropping, the leaves are turning color, and the days are getting cooler. It’s something we don’t see much of in Southern California, especially with the Indian summers we usually have in September.
But up north, it’s undeniably fall. And one of the first telltale signs of fall is the arrival of sweet, juicy, tree-ripened apples by the bushel. These are the kinds of apples that may be full of worms or holes, or grow a little smaller or appear a little duller, but they’re above and beyond the year-round supermarket apple that looks perfect but tastes a bit like styrofoam.
Our friend in Sebastopol lives on several acres of fruit trees, and right outside his kitchen is a beautiful apple tree grafted with four different varieties of apples. I went fruit-picking on his property one afternoon and filled up my basket (a souvenir from the Sebastopol farmers’ market) with armfuls of apples and even some pears.
The apples have traveled with me from place to place, making the rounds from Sonoma to Marin to Placer Counties and now to Nevada County, where I’m spending my last week on the road. In every house we’ve stayed, I’ve whipped up some version of this puffed apple pancake for brunch (and sometimes with a pear or two thrown in for good measure).
The five little things that made my week…
1. Getting my sunset kayak on in Tomales Bay. I was hoping to paddle through the bioluminescence this time of year, but the glow was very faint, even on a moonless night. C’est la vie.
Last week was my first-ever visit to the National Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa, and stepping onto the Sonoma County Fairgrounds was like stepping into a Garden Betty dream. Imagine booth after booth of produce porn, tables lined with late summer bounties, vendors serving up local, sustainable, and organic food, and a pop-up farm filled with fluffy sheep, alpacas, goats, rabbits, turkeys, chickens, and other fowl.
If you like to geek out on garden stuff, run an urban homestead or a full-scale farm, strive toward a life of self-sufficiency, or simply appreciate good food that comes from the earth, coming to the Heirloom Expo is like coming home.
Sometimes it feels like I’m waiting alllll summer for my basil to grow into a bush, and suddenly at the end of the season, boom. My Thai basil explodes overnight and I find myself blending and freezing several pints of pesto to save for the winter months.
But fresh basil is a favorite of mine in the kitchen, topping bowls of arrabiata-sauced pasta and creamy tomato soup, cut into a chiffonade (I love that word) for stews or stacked whole on top of Caprese salads. But beyond those traditional uses for basil, I particularly like it in unconventional recipes, like my baked blueberry-basil donuts or this homemade Thai basil ice cream.
Every time I wrap up another phase of my cookbook, it always feels so, so close yet so, so far away. We’re still months (like, six months) from the official release, but since half that time is spent in printing, we’re much closer to the finish line than it seems.
This week, the blurbs are starting to come in from authors I’ve long admired (I’m still stunned they’ve agreed to review my book!), the final tweaks are being made on the book layout and design, and the front cover is set. in. stone. !!
May I announce my soon-to-release first book from Voyageur Press, The CSA Cookbook: Thinking Inside the Box.
Hi friends! I am pretty psyched to confirm this — I’ll be making my way up north to the National Heirloom Exposition in Santa Rosa this Thursday, September 11!
I’ve wanted to go to this expo for a few years now. It’s put on by the great people at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (where I get most of my seeds) and has grown to become quite an impressive event since their first in 2011 — the “world’s pure food fair,” as they call it.