A quick summer dinner assembled under pressure

Eliza RidgewayTown Crier
Once you’ve mastered a basic understanding of how beans cook at pressure, adjust your flavors to the season and the whim of the day. As tomatoes sweeten with the summer, use fresh instead of canned both in the bean pot and chopped as a raw finish.

During summer months when grilling reigns supreme, vegetarian options and side dishes play second fiddle. But the surging popularity of the Instant Pot, an electric pressure cooker, provides a behind-the-scenes resource for assembling meat-free complements to the grill.

Cooked from scratch, beans gain a rich, aromatic cooking sauce in addition to their fundamental charms of protein, fiber, economy and versatility. And the rich, soupy “pot liquor” of frijoles de olla can be assembled spectacularly quickly under pressure.

Grilling your veggies is easy

Courtesy of Rita Held
Any mix of summer squash, tossed with oil, salt and pepper, can cook as quickly as meat on your grill when chopped small enough. Scoop them into an already-hot grill basket for easy transfers and cleanup. Add eggplant, mushroom, onion and garlic – as many as your ambition allows.

Summer is a tasty time to eat your veggies, and it’s so easy to grill them alongside your steak, chicken or fish. What I really like about grilling veggies is the extent to which it’s an “ad lib” kind of cooking. You can prepare 4-5 cups of cut-up veggies or just 2 cups. Use more or less olive oil or vinegar. Try different herbs. The more often you grill vegetables, the more you’ll learn how long to grill them to suit your taste and how big or small to cut them. 

There are three basic ways to grill vegetables:  1) Use a metal grill basket or flat grill pan for cut-up veggies.  2) Grill directly on the grates using large pieces of vegetables – zucchini, for instance, cut in half length-wise.  3) Skewer cut vegetables on wood or metal skewers. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water before adding the veggies.

A feast for our fathers

Courtesy of Christine Moore
Thanking fathers this Sunday starts with reflection on the finer points of parenting but can conclude with an evening in the backyard, glass of wine in hand and paella steaming on the grill.

Dad’s big day is coming and it’s got me thinking about climbing. My kids climb on their dad a lot.

When they’ve given up on walking or need to see over a crowd, it’s on his shoulders they climb. They climb on his back to start a wrestling match or play horse. For big bear hugs, they climb into his lap and into his arms. If they hear an odd creak in the night, they climb into the knowledge that he’s protecting our entire house. They climb because he is the biggest, strongest, bravest person they know.

Cider from a kiwi? Yes!

Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Claudia Derp, left, and Tracy Smith co-founded a ciderhouse unique in the Bay Area, with 26 taps devoted to local craft ciders, including a kiwi-derived brew.

Cider Junction opened in Willow Glen in October 2017 and was an immediate hit with both the neighborhood and cider lovers from throughout the Bay Area.

The taproom features 32 taps – 26 devoted to craft ciders and six to craft beers – along with a couple dozen ciders in bottles or cans. The tap list features only independent craft cider producers, and more than half of the ciders hail from California.

Make the most of Mother's Day with outings and cups of cheer

Photos by Christine Moore/ Special to the Town Crier
The Pink Dog Cocktail, above, imitates the grapefruit-based Salty Dog but adds Aperol for extra bitterness and color. Butterflies along the Zinfandel Trail near Picchetti Winery, below, offer a brief natural idyll before a wine-tasting picnic at the historical winery.

The U.K. celebrated its version of Mother’s Day in March. In England and Ireland, the day, called Mothering Sunday, honors not just moms, but all maternal figures. I like this idea very much. It extends the definition of a mom in beautiful ways.

The wider practice of the day encourages us to honor the moms in our lives who have passed away. They may not be with us, but we can humbly appreciate the way their love shaped us and remember that we carry them with us daily. A single dad playing the role of both parents should be celebrated for his maternal side. And the women who lean on one another for uniquely female comfort and strength can gather in gratitude for the motherly forces in their lives.

Artichokes, cherries headline at market

Photos by Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Spade & Plow’s artichokes, above, and Gazpachos’ seasoned fruit cups, below, are new this year at Los Altos’ Farmers’ Market.

The iconic fruits of summer haven’t arrived yet in Los Altos, but a few key players ripened in time to headline opening day at the Downtown Los Altos Farmers’ Market last week. The market runs 4-8 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 27 on State Street.

“This year it’s been cold. We were nervous we weren’t going to have cherries, but they will be there,” market manager Kayla Harden said of the last-minute forecasting that goes into market preparation days before its debut. “The stone fruit won’t be there until the second week of May. But there will be blueberries.”

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