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Artwork © Lian Quan Zhen


i got a new attitude - September 24, 2004

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2003-05-16 - 2:14 p.m.

All the weather reports say Saturday will be beautiful here. If I were going on a picnic, here’s what I’d serve. All of the primary ingredients are seasonal (in my area), relatively inexpensive, and dead sexy when eaten with the right person.

Bodega Bay wild salmon
These are deep orangey-red, fatty fish that taste nothing like the farm-raised Atlantic buggers. My local man is selling them for $6.99/pound for roasts or $8.99/pound for filets. If you’re feeling thrifty, here’s an idea: buy skeletons (leftover from the filets) that are often for sale (or are being given away). Take them home, rinse them, and poach for just a minute until the flesh is opaque. (For instructions on a poaching liquid, email me.) Flake the meat and make some dynamite salmon patties with the addition of salsa fresca (well-drained; a tablespoon or two to each cup of salmon), s&p and an egg. Mix well, form into patties, grill. Serve on salad greens, preferably something with good crunch. A dressing possibility is full-fat yogurt mixed with lots of minced cilantro, a little lime juice and s&p; adjust the consistency until you’re happy with it. There you have it: cheap, healthy, sustainable protein.

Most of what I’m seeing now is grown in the San Joaquin Valley. We’re past the time for delicate, pencil-thin stalks; it’s already too hot here for those to have full flavor. Instead, buy the thick, less expensive bunches. Take them home, trim off any dead ends, and take a second to peel the stalks with a veggie peeler about two inches up the end. Toss them with olive oil and s&p; throw on a medium grill until they droop when held between tongs. Heap onto a platter, zest a cleaned lemon on top, and squeeze the lemon juice across the still-warm veggies. Best eaten with fingers on a picnic with someone who will lick your fingers.

Grilled ciabatta
Nothing easier. (Though here’s one place your choice of olive oil does make a difference.) Slice an inch or so thick, brush with olive oil and grill. When they’re crispety crackely to your liking, take off and rub lightly with a peeled garlic clove. Swoon.

Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to find berries that aren’t sized for Shaq, like those grown around Watsonville. Buy them if you have to, but I’ve found that the smaller, funkier berries, while more perishable, have better flavor and are less expensive because fewer people know about them. These are also great picnic fare: wash, hull and halve them, then toss with a little warmed honey, a tiny dash of cinnamon, and a tablespoon or so of your favorite liquor. (I’ve been using Cuervo Añejo). They’ll taste incredible after a half-hour’s marination, but reach maximum satisfaction when fed to somebody you love.

If you're a drinker, a dry rose or dry Riesling would be an easy choice for this meal - up until the strawberries, that is. Otherwise, go for the Pellegrino.

Eat up, y'all.

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