Farmers’ Markets and Public Art

Sunset through the Golden Gate Bridge

My body doesn’t like to travel, but I do. While my body is busy resisting any opportunity to adapt to new beds, new foods, and different schedules, the rest of me is busy embracing the experience. And so, on a recent trip to visit my son and daughter-in-law, I fit in as much as I could.

The Friday farmers’ market in San Francisco was small and located close to the center of civic life – the Civic Center. It was also close to the Asian Art Museum – where we looked at the terracotta soldiers and a broad variety of arts from the Middle East through Southeast Asia to China.

While other times we might have gone to the Ferry Market – which isn’t like Kerrytown, but is – on this trip we looked for food to travel with, not food to consume. I bought some award winning goat cheese and a pound (!) of almond brittle, coated with chocolate.

I took photos of public art and parklets while there – because these are things that I’m thinking about, even when I’m not home.

And then, we went to visit redwood and wine country.

My son found a house for rent – for the weekend – in Sonoma County. Built on land that was once clearcut but has now regrown, the house was built to be restful, although it was in the midst of many other vacation and summer houses. I walked up and down steep roads, took photos and read.

I learned that redwoods grow from seed – but also in clusters from the base of a tree. So when a tree is cut down, more trees can sprout from the base, forming a circle. Some of those circles were really large, which meant to me that the parent tree must have been huge. But other tree circles were just from the base of a new tree, grown from seed. All of this made me wish I had more time to learn more things.

We bought food and cooked for the weekend. With some flour, sugar, and other basic ingredients, we made buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk biscuits, pasta and sauces. My own special meal was Sunday breakfast – with a cherry topping made from fresh cherries, strawberry jam, sugar, butter and a little sparkling orange juice. You might not think this would work – but it did. (We also learned that, next time we rent a house, Vanilla has to be on the shopping list!)

And when we wanted a snack, we had almond brittle. Eating the brittle made me wonder about how Almond Brittle differs from Almond Croccante and Almond Toffee (English Toffee). The answer? The butter.

Almond Croccante is just three ingredients – sugar, water and almonds. (recipes follow)

Almost all the recipes for Almond Brittle include some butter – from a tablespoon to a ½ cup. The brittle can be coated with chocolate, but it isn’t required.

Almond Toffee needs a pound of unsalted, high quality butter to make it good. I may share that recipe later.

Travel broadens my mind and gives me a chance to slow down and think about ideas. And of course, I benefit just from breathing the same air as my family.

Almond Croccante

3 cups of white sugar
½ cup water
5 cups of almonds
Enough butter to coat a cookie sheet, and no more.

In a saucepan, add the sugar and cook on high heat. Continue to stir until the sugar begins to sweat and liquefy. Add a bit of water to help, if necessary. Continue to cook until the sugar turns into a deep rich brown color. 

Add the almonds and mix well. Cook for a few minutes, making sure the almonds are fully coated. Remove the almonds from the heat and quickly pour and spread the hot almond-sugar mixture onto a buttered 
cookie sheet to the desired thickness. 

Let cool for 30 minutes before breaking it into smaller pieces.

Almond Brittle
This recipe yields almost 2 lbs of hard-to-resist goodness. You can substitute any nut or seed. The brittle will keep at room temperature for a couple of weeks if stored in an airtight Ziplock bag or Tupperware box.

2 cups (14oz or 392g) sugar
1 stick (4 oz or 112g) butter, chopped up into small dice
3 cups (about 12 oz or 350g) slivered almonds

Toast the almonds in the oven until lightly browned – this creates maximum almond flavor. Carmelize the sugar – heating it in a sauce pan until it melts. This works best by adding the sugar gradually. Once the sugar is evenly melted and a rich, caramel color, add the butter, stirring until all the butter is fully incorporated into the sugar, and the mixture coats the sides of the pan. Then add the toasted nuts, stir to coat, and quickly spread the mixture on a flat surface – a buttered cookie sheet, silpat sheet, or buttered marble slab to cool.

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