Today in Sonoma

Three tacos, grilled onions, cilantro, and a bit of salsa

National Taco Day

In honor of today’s commemoration of tacos, here are links to some of my favorite taco recipes, from Seasonal Pantry, which I have been writing for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat since 1997.

Tacos al Carbon: skirt steak, with variations, including for tacos lengua

For tacos, you must have corn tortillas, heated until soft & pliable and never crisp. Yes, I am a taco purist.

For tacos, you must have corn tortillas, heated until soft & pliable and never crisp. Yes, I am a taco purist.

Tacos Hongos: Mushrooms!

Fish Tacos with Avocado, Radishes, & Lime: The perfect taco to enjoy with Sauvignon Blanc

A Taco Template, with 8 filling suggestions

Tacos with Chorizo & Potato Filling

You’ll find more of my taco recipes here. 

Macarons at Sebastopol Farmers Markets

Dominique Cortara of Dominique’s Sweets is a regular vendor at two year-round farmers markets, the Santa Rosa Original Farmers Market (50 Market West Springs Rd.) on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Sebastopol Farms Market in the town plaza on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This Sunday, her selection includes the whimsically decorated watermelon macaron. Macarons, made with egg white and almond flour meringue, sugar, butter cream, and natural flavorings are naturally gluten free.

Macarons are frequently confused with macaroons, a type of small cookie, the most common of which is made with coconut and is also gluten free.

Watermelon Macaron

A Cool Day for Cooking

Fifteen pounds of conical cabbage had been sitting in my pantry for two weeks as I battled a virus during a heatwave, which seems to me like a double insult. It’s bad enough being sick when the sky is grey and misty but when temperatures hover close to 100 degrees, it’s hard to tell why you’re so miserable: Is it a fever or is it simply too hot? The chills that accompany most viruses are no help and there is very little comfort to be found, especially given that insomnia seemed to be one of this virus’s symptoms. Finally, as temperatures waned and a Black Moon rose on a clear night, the virus seem to pack up and move to another victim and I felt ready to tackle those two enormous cabbages.

First, I shredded all the cabbage, using a large cleaver to break it into manageable pieces and then using my food processor to slice it. My big stainless steel bowl held 11 pounds of it, another bowl held four. I added the appropriate amount of salt to both containers, pounded the cabbage a bit, and then spooned yogurt into a cheese cloth bag to drain. While the yogurt drained, I made a coffee-molasses marinade, poured it over pork spareribs, and put them in the frig. I’d already put a clay pot full of beans and a ham hock over low heat. You’ll find that recipe here. After the yogurt had drained, I put the resulting cheese–known as labneh and similar to cream cheese, but more tangy–into a glass jar. It is delicious on toast, bagels, and crackers.

This crock holds 11 pounds of cabbage, pounded with salt until it releases its liquid and collapses. Ceramic weights keep the cabbage submerged as it ferments.

This crock holds 11 pounds of cabbage, pounded with salt until it releases its liquid and collapses. Ceramic weights keep the cabbage submerged as it ferments.

When it came time to finish the sauerkraut, I used recipes from a column I wrote a few years ago, which you can read here. My large fermentation crock from Architectural Ceramic Design held the larger amount of cabbage, made using the salt-only technique. Because I didn’t have a half-gallon jar, I packing the remaining cabbage, now fermenting using the salt and whey–from the drained yogurt– technique, into a gallon jar.

I enjoy spending one day each weekend cooking, preparing things not just to enjoy at the moment but throughout the weekend and beyond, especially in the fall, when winter is imminent and so many foods are begging to be preserved.


Sunset at Sebastopol’s Handline

Handline, located in what was, not so long ago, Sebastopol’s Foster’s Freeze at 935 Gravenstein Avenue, has been hosting a series of lunches and dinners to be sure the staff has its sea legs for the restaurant’s opening on October 6. I stopped by on Friday evening and enjoyed Popotla Verde (halibut ceviche), El Coronado (rockfish tacos), and La Serena (tostadas of squid, avocado, and chipotle aioli). Stay tuned for more details about this new California Coastal roadhouse.

Melon Season!

Our fields are awash with melons, from tiny muskmelons not much bigger than your fist to enormous watermelons. And Leisen’s Bridgeway Farms is growing what may be the best variety of watermelon I’ve ever tasted, Sunshine, a yellow melon that Larry Fields grew until raccoons began taking most of them and a watermelon virus invaded his farm. I haven’t had Leisen’s yet but I’ll be getting one as soon as possible. You’ll find Leisen’s at the Santa Rosa Community Market at the Veteran’s Building at the corner of Maple and Brookwood in Santa Rosa on Saturday and at the West End Farmers Market in Depot Park in Railroad Square on Sunday.

You can read my column about melons in this week’s Press Democrat here. The column includes four recipes, Honeydew, Cucumber & Grape Salad with Absinthe, Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Salad with Black Pepper & Cheese, Watermelon Aqua Fresca, and Melon Bellini.

Bootleg Honeys Play The Barlow

The Barlow Street Fair, which kicked off on July 14 and continues through September 29, features The Bootleg Honeys tonight from 5 to 8 p.m. Rumor has it that the best seats in the house, so to speak, are at the MacPhail Tasting Lounge, but you need to arrive early to snag one. Parking can be an issue, too. My advise is to park downtown, walk (it’s so urban!) to The Barlow and then head back to your car when you’re ready either for dinner or to head home after dinner at The Barlow. You might want to stop by Mad Mod Shop, too, which has some of the most adorable retro girly clothing inspired by the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, at reasonable prices.

I’d see you there tonight but I’ll be at a Big Bottle fete at Atwood Ranch, a kickoff to Sonoma Wine Country Weekend.

Mad Mod Shop is a great source for adorable clothing and accessories at reasonable prices.

Mad Mod Shop is a great source for adorable clothing and accessories at reasonable prices.



Last Concert of This Year’s Peacetown Series

From 5 to 8 p.m., Ives Park on the edge of downtown Sebastopol rocks out to Tom Rigney & Flambeau, with Mr. Music and Friends joining in the final night’s fun.

You can check out Rigney’s brand of Cajun and Zydeco music here, should you need to be coaxed out of your house. Otherwise, just pack up a blanket or comfy low-back chair and head to Ives Park, walking, biking, or carpooling if you can.

In all honesty, I’m the one who needs to be coaxed out, as I have mountains of work but, with luck, I’ll see you there in a couple of hours.

Tuesday Night Dinner

The menu sounds like it could be time consuming but it wasn’t. We had Petrale Sole tacos with avocado sauce and lemon risotto cakes with fresh cherry tomato salsa. From start to finish, it was on the table in under 30 minutes. First I made the avocado sauce, cleaned the food processor, and put it away, all in less than 5 minutes. Next I made the salsa, again in less than 5 minutes. I shaped the leftover lemon risotto into balls, melted better in a frying pan, and warmed the tortillas in a second frying pan, all while my handy toaster oven was heating up. I cooked the cakes and set them, along with the hot tortillas, into the warmed toaster oven, melted butter in the bigger of the frying pans and sprinkled the fish with seasoned (just salt and pepper) flour that I keep in a large metal shaker. When the butter was melted and very hot, I added the three fish filets, cooked them for 2 minutes, turned them over, and cooked them for 2 minutes more; I added a big squeeze of lemon juice about a minute before they were done. At this point, barely 15 minutes had passed. Next, I put a risotto cake on each plate, spooned some tomato salsa over it, added the tortillas, set a fish filet on each one and topped it with avocado sauce, and that was it, dinner for three. Had we wanted dessert, which we didn’t, there was a ripe honeydew melon on the counter.

It took a tiny bit of thinking ahead, in that the night before I made more risotto than we needed for dinner and I bought enough fish for two meals, not one. But that was it. No stress, no last-minute trips to the store, no convenience foods, except for the tortillas. I draw the line at making my own tortillas.

It’s a lovely day for a picnic

Today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Marin French Cheese Co. hosts its second Annual Summer Picnic Party. If you’ve never visited this south county treasure, today offers a perfect opportunity to lounge on the grass, listen to music, and nibble your way through samples from more than a dozen cheesemakers and more. Admission is $15.00 at the door.

The cheese company, best known for its Schloss and its Breakfast Cheese, was founded in 1865 and is a treasure trove of history in Sonoma County. If you can’t attend the event, visit sometime soon. It is located on Pt. Reyes-Petaluma Rd. (just head out D St. in Petaluma; it’s about 7 or 8 miles from downtown) and is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Best Way to Fill Your Tank

At 8:30 on this foggy Saturday morning, driving on Highway 12 from Sebastopol to Santa Rosa is a cool breeze. It is also a great time to fill your gas tank, which I did at Roseland Gas Mart. While the gas flowed into the tank, I walked over to the tamale stand in the corner of the gas station, snagged five puerco y salsa verde tamales and five queso con rajas tamales and two little containers of salsa verde. Cost: $20, plus what I tossed into the tip jar.

Sebastopol Rd. itself was pretty deserted, too, except for small crowds at each of several tamale stands I passed as I drove west. Yes, it is a thing, tamales in the morning on Sebastopol Rd.

Gas at Roseland Gas Mart is currently, $2.29 a gallon. When I wrote a blog post about this in 2011, which you can read here, it was $3.99 a gallon, which was about the lowest price in Sonoma County. Prices have changed but the tamales are just as delicious as they always have been.

If you hate getting gas as much as I do or if you’re just craving some great tamales, check it out.

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