An Older Oakland

November 11, 2009

I just ran across a local blog about Oakland neighborhoods.  Here’s the excerpt that caught my attention:

“Reading through the old real estate ads is like peering through a window into an alternate universe. In 1917, key selling points of homes in Oakland included proximity to train lines and whether or not there was a chicken house in back. Scout troops ran bicycle safety classes at the schools on weekends. People swam in Lake Merritt. Not bad!”

Bicycles and chicken houses!

If you’d like to read this very well researched post about the history of Oakland neighborhoods, visit:

And here are some interesting pictures of an Older Oakland (Esp. Lake Merritt):

Nuns row on Lake Merritt.  195

A map of the Esturary and railroad crossing.  I am guessing it is circa 1850, before the lake was closed in.

The railroad, crossing Lake Merritt, from Brooklyn, over the estuary, through down town and to the Port of Oakland

Alameda County US Coastal Survey, 1859.  Notice, the northern estuary with the railroad crossing, instead of a closed off Lake Merritt like today.

Alameda Coastal Survey, 1859. Notice how there an estuary, instead of an inclosed Lake Merritt.

Notice the estuary before Lake Merritt was enclosed and expanded. CA Coasta Survey, 1859

One of my favorite depictions of the Oaks of Oakland. We now live in an apartment building where that horse and buggy is passing.


Persimmon Majic

November 10, 2009


Hachiya Persimmon

Three weeks ago a the farmers market, my husband bought a persimmon from little Asian lady who usually sells raisins. She told him that the fuyu are for eating when they are still crisp (they are non-astringent), but the Hachiya persimmon should be ripened for 3 weeks before its eaten. Three weeks?! What kind of fruit lasts 3 weeks without getting infested with flies!? The Hachiya persimmon, that’s what.

The next week, we went by her booth again. “But, how will we know its ready?”  We asked again.  “Soft like cotton.”  Said the wise farmer.  Soft like cotton…I imagine fuzz, which looks like a rotten peach to me.   After week two in the window sill, it did start to attract fruit flies. We banished it to a paper bag and put it in the back of the pantry. Last night, we pulled it out, the bag was wet, we dumped it in a bowl. The skin slipped right off, and left in the bowl was persimmon jam.

persimmon puree

Persimmon Puree

The center was identifiable and a bit stringy, but the fruit had just mushed into itself. I expected it to taste fermented, but it was not. It was sweet and cinnamony, like it had been stewed with pumpkin spice. I took the hand blender to it to blend up the center and put it in a jar. This morning, I ate it on toast. Fabulous! Nature’s no-cook  jelly!

I realize that by even writing this, I am revealing, that I am not Asian.  We have since learned that this is common knowledge in Asian culture.  Thank you, East Bay.


Fuyu Persimmon

Fuyu Persimmon:
I like to dice this persimmon when it’s still firm, toss with fresh mint, olive oil, a dash of sweet balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  Raisins and walnuts add good texture, too.  It’s great as a chutney.


Juevona's Egg


Ok, perhaps it wasn’t MY chicken, but one of our 12 chickens at Funk Town Farm has taking to playing Easter Bunny once a day in her straw lined plastic crate.  How excited I was to see this little guy sitting, lonely and forgotten, in the coop.  I felt a bit like a theif, but our chickens don’t have a rooster or the motivation to make baby chicks, so I tucked it in my pocket slipped out the coop while the girls pecked at the pumpkin and watermelon seeds I had brought them.


Butternut Squash Souffle

Then I went home and decided to do something uniquely eggy with my egg.  I would make farm fresh mayonnaise!  I’ve tried once before, but it didn’t thicken like one would hope, so I blamed it on the stale grocery store eggs.  This time, I found a recipe which called for 3 eggs.  I waited two more days, and cracked my three eggs into a bowl, separated the yolk, and stuck the hand blending (like the recipe said) in the tall container it came with.  Then, ever so carefully, I added canola oil.  I blended and blended till the wand nearly over headed.  Another, beautiful egg soup.  This recipe specifically said not to add anything to the mixture until it was thick, so my soup was neither salty or sweet.  I happened to be roasting butter nut squash, so I added the baked squash to the cup, blended to baby food, added brown sugar and cinnamon and poured the mayo-made-souffle into the 3 white ramekins.  I baked them around 350 degrees until the tops were brown.  Maybe mayo next week.

On a side note, the souffle was great, we ate one that night, and then a few nights later we cooked the other two (which had been in the fridge) with a dollop of caro syrup and a few raisins on top.  Think candied yams.

I attempted a second time, by hand, with only two egg yolks, and adding the salt and spice (I used rosemary) first, according to a different recipe.  I beat and beat and beat the yolk and added the oil one drop at a time and I still got soup.  Not lumpy soup (I had to have some pride) but soup.  This time, we blended it back in with the white and made an omelet.

Finally, I talked to a colleague who casually mentioned that he beats one egg till it the yolk thickens, then adds a drop of lemon juice and starts adding oil one drop at a time.

What, the yolk thickens by itself?! I had no idea!  lightbulb.


A Dollop of Homemade Mayonnaise

Another farm egg was cracked, separated, and the yolk was beaten and beaten past the point of the last attempt, switching arms to keep the right one from falling off.  Yup, it thickened.  I added more oil slowly, and more lemon juice, and a little salt, and eventually, I made a lovely white creamy mayonnaise.  Worthy of steak frites!

As this is raw egg, I prefer to do just the one yolk and whip about enough for a few sandwiches.  It shouldn’t be kept for more than a few days.

Here are a few mayo resources that I found useful.  Just remember, thick yolk, slow on the oil.

ABOUT.COM – 1 egg.  This is most similar to what I did.

The hand blender method (this didn’t work for me, but I can’t argue with the video!):

East Bay Burger

November 5, 2009

The Bison is back!Bison Burger

This Saturday, we peddled down to the farmers market at Lake Merritt in a hurry.  The list of Halloween to-do’s had grown longer than the morning, but we were determined to make the shopping spree that keeps us out of the grocery store during the week.

We had our standard list:

2 green vegetables, a colorful vegetable, starch (usually potatoes), fruit for breakfast, fruit for the lunch box, a bag of mushrooms, bread, and stop by Prather Ranch to see what meat we might plurge for.

At the Prather booth, we almost didn’t ask.  We have asked for 10 months, ever since our neighbor told us that Prather has ground bison.  But we’re tired of hearing no, or next week, or we don’t know.  I had already picked out a chicken (Prather sells whole chickens, one of which I am roasting right now) when my husband said, “I assume you still don’t have any bison.”

“yes, we do.”

I laughed.  That’s not funny. 

“no, really, we do!”

Um….ok…then we’ll take…some….please!

Ok, a warning, bison is expensive and quite frankly, we’ve never really had it, cooked it, or bought it for that matter.  It just seemed like a good idea, and the more elusive the more we want it.  So, we peddled back to the house with 1lb of ground bison (they have many other cuts of bison for the adventurous red meat eater).

We were very curious about the taste of bison, so we prepared hamburger patties with no real seasoning, no egg to hold it together, just a spritz of EVOO and salt and pepper and put them on our little back porch grill.

Within 20 minutes, we had this very East Bay Burger:

Lettuce – Funk Town Farm
Heirloom Tomato – Funk Town Farm
Cheese – San Joaquin Gold, Rockridge Pasta Shop
Onions – the last of the giant one from our friends CSA box
Red Bell Pepper – Grand Lake Farmers Market
Bison – Prather Ranch, Grande Lake Farmers Market
Bread – French Batard, Grand Lake Farmers Market

A pleasant surprise.
royal_trumpet_mushroomOn a whim, we bought some King Trumpet mushrooms at the mushroom stand.  Normally we just get crimini or button or white, but the bison made us spontaneous.  We sliced them in half long ways, sprayed them with olive oil, and sprinked them with salt and pepper. 

Wow!  These mushrooms and not nutty, or fishy, or chewy, they are down right meaty.  They taste as much like chicken as aligator does.  A GREAT side dish.

A Sweeter Side
Sweet Potato Fries – Grand Lake Farmers Market, a darlin’ Tennessee rose sellin’ peaches in November also has the sweetest little sweet potatoes I’ve had this year. 

To make sweet potato fries, we cut one small potato in small, thin slices.  Layed them on a baking pan (cookie sheet) and sprayed them with olive oil (we put local olive oil in a pump spritzer) then sprinkled them with salt, pepper and cumin.  They baked in about the time it took to cook a burger.  Just scoop them off the hot tray with a spatula once they look crispy enough for you.