ZeMarvelous Miraculous Magic of Dr. Seuss

Scrambled Eggs & Blueberry Bumplings!

Like a lot of humans, zebras begin to discover the pleasures of reading and cooking when we’re very young.

And even before we have close encounters with books and words and kitchens and ingredients, we’ve explored deep within that special place where both reading and cooking come from.

It’s a magical world called Imagination.

Cat-in-the-Hat Witch Pumpkin

One human who knew everything there is to know about magic and imagination was the legendary Dr. Seuss.

Reading any book is pure magic – and reading a Dr. Seuss book is marvelous, miraculous Mega-Magic.

Just think of this: Dr. Seuss used his imagination to write stories, creating wondrous, whimsical worlds where absolutely anything can happen – and actually does.

When you read a Dr. Seuss book, your eyes look at letters on a page and your brain changes all those squiggly lines into words and sentences and ideas.

Dr. Seuss On the Loose with Zebras
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ZePerfect Mardi Gras Celebration

ZeBot New Orleans Mardi Gras

If there’s one thing zebras love, it’s a celebration!

And when it’s Mardi Gras, which is all about local traditions, food, family and friends–well, that makes us so happy that our stripes start to turn colors.

Purple, green and gold, to be exact.
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ZeBig Chill: A Zebra Investigates Freeze-Dried Fruit

ZeBot & ZeBig Chill Snowman in Snow with White Frame

One thing zebras know is that when we don’t know something we want to know, it’s time to start asking lots of questions.

Case in point: the other day, I overheard some scientific humans discussing “freeze-drying” as a good way to preserve fresh fruit. Supposedly, when you freeze-dry fruit, it will keep its great taste and color for years and years!

Frosty Life Around the Fruit Bowl

How do we transform our favorite fresh fruits into freeze-dried fruits?

Well, I’m a huge fan of fruit, so that sounded totally cool to me (pun totally intended)! But how the heck would a zebra go about freeze-drying?

My zebra buddies and I decided to get some frosty advice from our coolest friends: the SnowDudes and the Penguin Brothers. They said they were pretty sure they’d seen a polar bear freezing-drying his own food, so how hard could it be?

Apples, Polar Bear Style

I get the feeling this guy does not read cookbooks — or science books!

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ZePossibilities of Pumpkins

ZeBot's Pumpkin Patch Buddies

I just made ZeGreatest discovery! You know those orange spheres that are piling up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores? They’re pumpkins! Okay, you probably already knew this, but pumpkins are totally new to me. (Give me a break: I’m a zebra!)

I always figure the best way to find out about something you never knew existed is to do a little detective work. My favorite farmers, food historians and librarians were happy to help out. I even asked a couple of dogs, since if they like something, you KNOW it’s going to be cool.

My buddies Spot and Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

My buddies Spot and Rover give pumpkins a BIG paws up!

I found out that pumpkins are members of the squash-and-gourd family (it’s always fun to have family, don’t you think?). Some people think pumpkins are vegetables, but they’re actually fruits. You can tell because fruits almost always have seeds on the inside (although berries like to be different and have them on the outside). If you’ve ever scooped the squishy guts out of a pumpkin, you know they have LOTS of seeds.

You might think from their bright orange color that pumpkins give you tons of energy — and you’d be right. They’re loaded with natural sweetness and awesome nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Crunchy roasted pumpkin seeds are packed with good-for-you stuff like protein, B vitamins, iron and vitamin E.

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George Washington, ZeFarmer: Exploring ZeCulinary Gardens of Mount Vernon

ZeBot Poses at Mount Vernon

What do kids, zebras and George Washington have in common?

Lots of things!

Vision. Imagination. Ingenuity.

The joyful desire to explore new ideas and discover innovative ways to do things. The belief that anything is possible—and that you can have fun making it happen.

If you’re an American kid, you already know that George Washington was the very first president of the United States.

But did you know he was also called America’s “foremost farmer”?

ZeBot Visionary Farmer

It makes sense, because both being president and a farmer have a lot to do with planting, growing and harvesting—whether you’re talking about seeds or ideas.

George Washington was as innovative and visionary at farming and horticulture as he was at helping to create a country. When he wasn’t busy being president, his primary occupation was being a farmer.

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Chuck Williams Teaches a Zebra ZeWay to Cook!

Chuck & ZeBot-framed“The way to be a good cook? Just cook!” –Chuck Williams

When my friend Chuck Williams told me that being a good cook is something that happens by just cooking, I nodded my head so hard my stripes got all squiggly.

If anyone knows about cooking, it’s Chuck. He’s 100 years old—and cooking is something he’s done ever since he was a kid. Today, Chuck is the author of lots of cookbooks and the founder of a very cool kitchenware store called Williams-Sonoma.

Chuck first started learning to cook back in the early 1900s, when he spent lots of time in the kitchen with his grandmother. In those days, people didn’t have microwave ovens or electric mixers or even many real cookbooks. So how did kids learn to cook?

“I learned to cook by watching my grandmother and listening carefully to everything she said,” Chuck told me .

“I helped her in the kitchen every day. I watched and I listened and I asked questions. One of my favorite things was making pies with her. After she finished trimming the crust, she would give me the scraps and let me try to make my own pie.”

Chuck at Age 12 -ZeBlog

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ZeHunger Challenge

ZeBot Hunger Challenge 2015

Zebras love challenges (including learning to cook and write without the benefit of opposable thumbs). And we’re always hungry for new things—new foods, new friends, new ideas.

So when I heard about the Hunger Challenge, I knew I wanted to give it a try—but in a ZeZillion years, I could never have imagined how powerfully it would help me learn about the world around me.

The Hunger Challenge is a five-day journey initiated by the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, whose executive director Paul Ash describes it as a special way to “become an advocate for the hungry.”

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Healthy Snacks for ZeBest of Friends

Miles & ZeBotOne of the most wonderful things about great food is that it’s so much fun to share with friends.

I’ve noticed that a love for cooking and eating together seems to be true across lots of different species, including zebras, dogs and humans.

One of my best friends is a super cool dog named Miles (which perfectly describes how far he can run—especially when he’s chasing a coyote).

Miles and I have lots in common, but a love for fun food is one of ZeStrongest.

Miles Having A Ball

In fact, Miles loves food so much that he occasionally tries to eat me (I realize I’m a bedraggled little zebra who looks a bit like a dog toy—but food, really?).

Miles & Shredded Doggy

Miles and I figured this issue could cause problems in our friendship, so we decided that real friends know how to compromise.

So here’s our compromise: I agree to help Miles whip up yummy, healthy snacks—and he agrees not to eat me.

Zebra-Canine Detente

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ZeMystery of ZeShoe Pastry

ZeBot and the Shoe Pastries

When my friend Holly told me she was writing a book about Shoe Pastry, I was totally intrigued.

“What kind of shoes would make the best pastry?” I wondered. “And wouldn’t putting shoes in your mouth instead of wearing them on your feet (or in my case, hooves) make you kind of—well, sick?”

How the heck am I going to mix these ingredients?

How the heck am I going to mix these ingredients?

Since I am a zebra who is supposed to know at least a little about human food by now, I didn’t want to ask those questions right away. After all, Holly Herrick is a famous cookbook author.

Instead, I had a great idea!I have another friend named Holly, who happens to be a super-smart Golden Retriever—and spends a lot of time in the kitchen.

I asked her about Shoe Pastry. Holly the Golden Retriever said she’d never tried it, but she’d eaten lots of shoes (including some pretty expensive ones) and they were very tasty.

Meet Holly -- a Golden Retriever with great taste in shoes!

Meet Holly — a Golden Retriever with great taste in shoes!

Still, I wasn’t sure—it just didn’t seem like you could (or even should) turn a shoe into a pastry.

So I had an even better idea: I asked Holly the Famous Cookbook Author if I could interview her about shoe pastry. That way, it would make sense to ask lots of questions (even really silly ones)—so that’s what I did!

Fortunately, right before I interviewed Holly, my friend ZoeBot (who’s super-brainy) suggested we try looking up “choux pastry” (which is French and sounds just like “shoe pastry”).

Shoe Pastry = Choux Pastry (And guess what: they do kind of look like cabbages, but they DON'T taste like them!)

Shoe Pastry = Choux Pastry
(Even though these pastries kind of look like cabbages, they DON’T taste like them!)

Guess what? She was right! It turns out that choux pastry gets its name from the French word for cabbage (choux), which is what the pastry sort of looks like when it’s baked.

Unlike most pastries, choux pastry is made using its own special technique. You start by mixing flour, butter and boiling water, then beating in eggs until you get a sticky, paste-like dough.

When you bake it, the oven’s heat turns the water into steam that puffs the dough into hollow golden pastries that taste AMAZING!

Want to see how it’s done (with hooves)? Watch this video!

Well, now that I knew a little more about the whole mysterious matter, I was ready to interview Holly Herrick, whose brilliant new book is called  “The French Cook: Cream Puffs & Eclairs.”

I'm not really in Holly's super-cool book -- but a zebra can always dream!

I’m not really in Holly’s super-cool book — but a zebra can always dream!

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ZeAmazing Magical Spice Detectives & ZeScience of Taste

ZeGreat Spice Detectives!Do you believe in magic?

That’s what some of my favorite kids and I asking were asking each other the first time we blended our own spices.

When we sprinkled our spices on hot, buttery baked sweet potatoes, the only way we could describe what happened inside our mouths was MAGIC!

But I’m kind of getting ahead of my own stripes by starting in ZeMiddle of my story.

ZeBot Spices for Whole Spice

It all began when I asked my friends Ronit and Shuli Madmone: “What are spices? And why do humans like them so much?”

I thought, considering that they’re experts who own a really cool company called Whole Spice and I’m a just a simple zebra who’s only beginning to explore the world of food, they would have given me a super-simple answer.

But they looked at each other and laughed, “If you really want to understand spices, ZeBot, come to our house.”

It turned out that my questions were the first steps on a journey that would take me into deliciously exciting new worlds.

For a taste of our adventure, please check out the video (below) — then read on!


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Cooking Up ZeComfort in Elle’s Kitchen

ZeBot & Zebras wGrilled Cheese + Tomato Soup

The kitchen is the heart of your home – and home is where your heart is.

My friend Elle taught me this: just the way you can create a home inside your heart for everyone and everything, you can create a kitchen anywhere you want it to be.

In today’s super-fast-paced world, the endless barrage of technology can sometimes make folks feel a little crazy.

But Elle cooked up a special way for technology to bring us together.

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DIY Kids in ZeKitchen

3 Zebras + 2 Kids

When I first started thinking about cooking, I wondered if a zebra would really be able do it. I mean, having four hooves with no opposable thumbs definitely has its challenges, so I was feeling a tiny bit discouraged.

But then a wise kid named Max told me this, “Just because you’re not cooking now doesn’t mean you CAN’T – it only means you don’t know how yet. After you learn, you can do it yourself. As in: DIY, zebra dude!”

Max Slices Fruit

I realized he was absolutely right! If you want to do something, you just need to learn how to do it – and then you need to actually do it.

At our IACP Kids-in-the-Kitchen event at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, that’s exactly what we did!
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A Sweet Striped Surprise for ZeMom & ZeDad

ZeBot & Buddies Mise En Place for Shortbread

In the human world, there are special days to celebrate moms, dads and all the amazing things they do.  Zebras have pretty much the same custom — but because we have so much energy, we try to do something special for our parents every day.

My latest surprise for ZeMom & ZeDad was creating a special hoofmade treat just for them. Because ZeMom is the sweetest zebra ever, I wanted to make her something sweet – preferably with stripes. She’s very big on healthy foods, so that was also a factor. As for ZeDad, well, he’s one of those guys who LOVES any kind of desserts, especially decadent ones with stripes.

The question was: could I make something that was striped, decadent and still reasonably healthy?

I also wanted to be able to use lots and lots of imagination, as I think that is one of the best ingredients ever invented.

Chef Nora can teach anyone to bake--even zebras!

Chef Nora can teach anyone to bake–even zebras!

To get some expert advice, my favorite zebra kitchen pals and I went to visit our pastry chef friend, Nora Tong. If anyone knows how to make the ultimate desserts, she does!

Chef Nora was nice enough to invite me and my buddies to come a class that she was teaching to professional bakers and super-great home bakers from the Bakers Dozen. She was sharing her secrets for making perfect tarts, but she said that we could use our imagination to transform the recipe into almost anything else we wanted—including something striped!

I was wondering whether zebras could make a perfect pastry when it seems we’re all hooves. Chef Nora said, “Of course, you can, ZeBot—anyone can make wonderful pastries. The trick is to use the right recipe, then learn how to make it just the right way.”

Well, in this case, the right recipe had to be super-easy, striped and totally zebraproof. Chef Nora had the perfect one: she said we could turn her super-buttery shortbread tart crust into super-buttery striped shortbread cookies. Those could be the decadent part of our surprise. For the healthy part, she advised us to use even MORE imagination.

Mise en place is a great start that guarantees a happy ending!

Mise en place is a great start that guarantees a happy ending!

But first, we had to learn how to make the shortbread. Chef Nora said the first thing that both zebras and professional bakers need to do is to get out all our ingredients and baking tools, then re-read our recipe to make sure everything is clear.

This is called “mise en place,” which is French for “to put in place.” Why was Chef Nora using a French term? Because LOTS of the world’s great chefs are from France, so other chefs and bakers do this out of tradition.

Mise en place is a great way to make sure that you don’t end up in the middle of preparing your recipe, only to realize that you’re missing an ingredient, forgot a tool or don’t undertand all the steps.

Shortbread dough looks all crumbly before you press it into your baking pan.

Shortbread dough looks all crumbly before you press it into your baking pan.

Next, we learned how to mix a shortbread dough. It’s just the way you’d think you would do it: put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them up! We used a KitchenAid stand mixer, but you could also use a hand mixer, a big spoon—or even your clean hands (or hooves).

If you want to make chocolate dough, you need to melt chocolate first. Chef Nora showed ZoeBot how to do it on a burner, but she said you can also melt chocolate carefully in the microwave.

By the way, if you’re a kid or a zebra, you ALWAYS need an adult’s help with this–or anything else that involves heat. If you want, you can substitute cocoa powder (which is very healthy and super-chocolaty tasting). This is one of our favorite zebra tricks—you’ll find it in our recipe.

Yum: melted chocolate!

Yum: melted chocolate!

After everything is mixed, you need to know what to do with the dough. Chef Nora said you just take it out of the bowl and gently press it into your baking pan. The dough will look kind of crumbly in the bowl, but it sticks together when you press it into the pan. If you want to make sure your dough doesn’t puff up during baking, you poke it all over with a fork to make little holes. This is called “docking.”

See the little holes in one  tart crust? That's called "docking" and it's the same for cookies.

See the little holes in one tart dough? That’s called “docking”- and you use the same technique for cookie dough.

Then you bake your dough until it turns into a tart crust or cookies or whatever you’re making. If it’s a batch cookies, you cut them into little squares (just like in the photo below), then top them with whatever yummy thing you like best.

That sounded super-easy to us. Now we had to think of something ZeMom-healthy to go with our ZeDad-decadent cookies.

This is what shortbread cookies look like after they're baked.

This is what shortbread cookies look like after they’re baked.

And THIS is what they look like with yummy toppings!

And THIS is what they look like with yummy toppings! Chef Nora topped hers with a mocha cream and fresh berries.

When we got back home, we looked in our refrigerator to see what was in there. We wanted something sweet and creamy and healthy and somehow striped. My cousin ZoeBot had the brilliant idea of mixing up cottage cheese and yogurt and honey and vanilla.We put it in the food processor to make it creamy.

What did we do for stripes?

We love the way super-creamy treats feel in our mouths, so we used a food processor.

We love the way super-creamy treats feel in our mouths, so we used a food processor.

Well, we added cocoa to part of our sweet, creamy stuff. Then we made black and white stripes by layering it all in beautiful tall glasses. ZoeBot reads a lot, so she knew that the striped, creamy, layered desserts are called “parfaits.” Guess what language that is? Yep: French!

And guess what it means? Besides being a dessert, it means “perfect”! And that’s how we knew we’d found the perfect dessert for our parents. They’ve done more than anyone else in the whole universe to make our lives perfect—and also sweet, imaginative, healthy and striped.

This is what being a zebra is all about—and we wish the same for you.

Happy Mother’s and Father’s Day (every day) to parents and kids and zebras (everywhere)!

Hurray for striped cookies and parfaits!

Hurray for striped cookies and parfaits!

 

RECIPE: ZeBot’s Striped Parfait with Shortbread cookies:

A note from ZeBot: Because it’s hoofmade, my dessert shows how much I love my mom and dad. And it really describes them: striped & parfait (French for “perfect”!).

ZeDad’s Super Buttery Shortbread Cookies (adapted from an amazing recipe by Chef Nora Tong)

 What you need:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup melted butter, cooled to room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

What you do:

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Mix the flour and sugar in a KitchenAid stand mixer that’s fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and vanilla, then mix until everything is combined. (If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can also use a hand-held mixer or a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients).

With clean hands (or hooves), press the dough onto a cookie sheet. It’s okay if the dough seems a little crumbly – just smoosh it all together.

Put the cookie sheet into a pre-heated oven, then bake until the shortbread is a deep golden-brown (this should take about 12-15 minutes).

Let the shortbread cool a bit, then ask an adult to help you cut it into whatever shapes you like – you can use either a pizza cutter or a knife to do this.

Note: If you want zebra stripes on your shortbread, ask an adult to help you melt some semisweet or milk chocolate chips (on the stovetop or in the microwave). Then use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate onto your shortbread shapes.

Makes about a dozen small cookies to go with your striped parfaits.

ZeMom’s Super Healthy Zebra-Striped Parfaits

What You Need:

2 cups low-fat cottage cheese

1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt

2 tsp. vanilla

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp. cocoa

Strawberries for decoration

What You Do:

Put the cottage cheese, yogurt, vanilla and honey into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Make sure the top of the bowl is on tightly, then push “start” and watch everything spin around until it’s completely mixed and velvety smooth.

Using a big spoon, carefully move half of the creamy mixture into a small mixing bowl (this will be the vanilla part for white stripes). Don’t worry about measuring – it doesn’t have to be EXACTLY half.

Add the cocoa to the fluffy, mixed-up stuff that’s still in the food processor, put the lid on and mix everything up until it’s dark and chocolaty.

To create your parfaits, use a small spoon to make creamy layers of white and chocolate in clear dessert glasses. You can start with either chocolate or vanilla – and make the layers as thick or thin as you want.

Decorate the parfaits with sliced strawberries and some of the shortbread cookies. Make it look really cool!

Makes four small, two medium or one GIANT parfait.

Make a sweet treat for your parents today!

Make a sweet treat for your parents today!

ZeAdventures of a Great Truffle Dog (& his Zebra Apprentice)

ZeBot the Truffle Zebra

There’s something a forest that brings out the adventurer in dogs and zebras alike – and when you add truffles to the scene, the ultimate companion for woodland discoveries is my canine pal, Rico.

What’s a truffle, you ask? Good question! Truffles are a kind of ‘underground mushroom’ that grow on the roots of certain kinds of trees. To a great cook, a truffle is one of the most amazing foods around – and Rico will explain why.

Like many of the world’s great truffle dogs, Rico is a Lagotto Romagnolo – a rare Italian breed that originated with the ancient Etruscans. Rico was born into a distinguished family of truffle hunters in the Sicilian village of Mazara del Vallo, arriving in America as a puppy with a keen nose for exploration. 

This is a painting of one of Rico's ancestors by the famous Italian artist, Guercino.

This is a painting of one of Rico’s ancestors by the famous Italian artist, Guercino.

Like many Sicilians, Rico has an amazing talent for storytelling. He agreed to grant this exclusive zebra interview if he could recount the truffle tales in his own words – read on for our question and answer session!

Rico, do you think a zebra could ever learn to hunt truffles?

 ZeBot, as long as you have a good nose and love treats anything is possible!  You’re on the right track to becoming a truffle-finding zebra.  The best thing is to start  with fresh truffles, like in your picture.

The secret to finding truffles? A great nose!

The secret to finding truffles? A great nose!

How did you first learn to hunt truffles, Rico?

When I was a tiny puppy in Sicily, the only toy I had was a tartufo (that’s Italian for ‘truffle’) sewn into a cloth bag called a borsa.

Mario, my first tartufaio (truffle hunter), started my training by throwing the borsa for me to retrieve – and giving me a treat when I brought it back to him.

When that got really easy, Mario started hiding the borsa so I’d have to search for it with my nose. Next, I learned the secret of being a champion truffle dog: you have to really dig truffles – literally.

Now, when I wanted a treat, I had to sniff out the borsa wherever Mario had buried it. He didn’t make it easy, but it turns out I’ve got a great nose and tireless paws.

These days, I’m a truffle hunting pro who travels all over the world – if there’s a truffle (or even truffle spores) anywhere around, you can count on me to bring you the treasure!

Here's Rico as a puppy in Sicily, learning to hunt truffles from his mom, Gaia.

Here’s Rico as a puppy in Sicily, learning to hunt truffles from his mom, Gaia.

 Can you tell us a little about your work as a truffle dog?

When I was about three months old, I started truffle hunting with my mamma, Gaia – she’s the dog who taught me everything I know. She said the first rule is make il tartufaio look good. Truffle dogs always have to put on a good show, even if there are no truffles.

First, we scent the air for the general vicinity of the truffles, then we sniff out the ground scent to determine their precise location. Next, we scratch the earth to show il tartufaio that we’ve found the exact spot – then we dig until we find the truffle. It’s tempting to eat it like truffle-hunting pigs often do, but we truffle dogs prefer gourmet canine treats.

As you can see, Rico really DIGS truffles!

As you can see, Rico really DIGS truffles!

 Do truffles only grow wild – or can they also be cultivated?

There are indigenous truffles growing wild all around the globe. On the west coast of North America, we have several flavorful varieties that grow all the way from California through parts of British Columbia.  However, to increase the traditional culinary truffle supply, increase their freshness, reduce transportation costs from Europe and help develop green businesses, there are groups throughout the world who plant truffle-infused trees in truffle orchards.

My buddies Robert Chang, MBA and Charles Lafevre, Ph.D. help people who want to start their own truffle orchards — they’d help a zebra, too, if you decide to grow truffles!

Rico & his Sicilian-American tartufaio, Bill, search for wild treasures at the Oregon Truffle Festival

How do growers cultivate truffles?

There are a lot of well-kept secrets to the truffle-orchard trade, but the simplest version imitates nature. Mycologists take a collection of their desired ripe truffles, then make a slurry by placing the truffles and some secret ingredients in a high-tech blender. The slurry is infused on the roots of nascent host trees – usually oak or hazelnut trees. Cultivating a truffle orchard is an extremely complex process, but I’m keeping my paws crossed for all the would-be growers.

Before Rico goes truffle hunting, he gets a good whiff of a fresh truffle!

Before Rico goes truffle hunting, he gets a good whiff of a fresh truffle!

Exactly what is it about truffles that makes them so irresistible?

You might be surprised to learn that the allure of the truffle is not its taste, but its aroma. Truffles actually have a limited flavor, but what they do to food is pure magic. The bouquet is difficult to express in words – people have described truffles as smelling like everything from fresh earth to old socks (which may be why we dogs are so good at finding them).

Even though it’s challenging to find the right descriptors, there’s one thing everyone agrees on: truffles are a rare luxury, like vintage champagne or caviar. In fact, next to saffron, they’re the most expensive food in the world.

What’s the simplest way to use truffles in the kitchen?

The secret is learning to make the most of truffles’ irresistible (and powerful) aroma. This lets you enjoy all sorts of wonderful homemade truffle products without necessarily using the truffle itself – and it’s what many tartufaios do to enjoy these magical tubers without having to give up the profits of selling them.

Rico loves ravioli with scrambled eggs & fresh truffles!

Rico loves ravioli with fresh truffles!

 

Could you tell us how to make truffle-infused foods?

It’s easy – you can ‘truffle’ all kinds of foods (and if you forget to keep your truffles in an airtight container, everything in your refrigerator will taste like truffles). My favorite foods for truffling are eggs, cheese and butter.

Start by cleaning fresh truffles with a mushroom brush under running water, then dry them with a cloth or paper towel. Next, loosely wrap the clean truffles in a paper towel to absorb any extra moisture.

Now make a nest of paper towels in a glass or plastic container with an airtight lid. Gently arrange the freshest organic eggs you can find in the nest, along with fresh butter and/or your favorite soft cheeses. Place the loosely wrapped truffle in the container, be sure the lid is tightly secured – and refrigerate.

Depending upon the size of the container and how generous you are with truffles, you’ll be enjoying truffled eggs, butter and cheese within 24 hours.

One of my all-time favorite truffle dishes is truffle-and-wild mushroom ravioli topped with truffle butter, scrambled truffled eggs and fresh truffles!

Check out the truffles Rico found, right in his own neighborhood!

Check out the truffles Rico found, right in his own neighborhood!

Where are your favorite places to find truffles?

Well, my motto in life and cooking is ‘hanno sempre una zampa avanti,’ which means ‘always have one paw forward.’ So my favorite way to find truffles is simply to go for a walk.

These days, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my Sicilian-American tartufaio, Bill Collins. Within 30 yards of our urban home, there’s a tree where I can sniff out truffles the size of a quarter all the way from late fall through mid-spring!

Rico always finds great truffles at the Napa Truffle Festival!

Rico always finds great truffles at the Napa Truffle Festival!

Since I understand that not everyone is an expert at sniffing out local wild truffles, here are some other places to find them:

If you want to be a forager, you can look up indigenous truffles in your area in one of my favorite guidebooks – or join your local mycological society.

For a culinary truffle experience, go to a festival.  My favorite ones on the west coast are the Oregon Truffle Festival and the Napa Truffle Festival. I also love visiting the truffle orchard at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee, where I forage with local plant pathologist, Dr. Tom Michaels.

10 Rico & Friends

What do you like to do when you’re not hunting truffles?

Well, like most dogs, I love to chase tennis balls and play frisbee – but I also help Bill with his other important work. When he’s not being a tartufaio, Bill is a psychologist who works with military veterans returning from overseas – and I’m a certified therapy dog. It’s my job to sit with them, listen to their stories and share my puppyhood teddy bear whenever they need it.

I’m also assisting with studies at the Walter Reed National Medical Center, where researchers are pioneering programs that will find jobs for returning military personnel by teaming them with dogs who do everything from bomb sniffing and search-and-rescue to truffle hunting.

To help promote eco-friendly truffle practices, another favorite pastime is supporting my friends at Northwest Truffle Dogs. If you’d like to learn more about sustainable truffle harvesting (and learning to train your own truffle dog), please check out their program, Hound Found.

Happy truffle-hunting – and buon appetito!

11 Truffle Dog License Plate

In the mood for more doggy fun? Meet my magical canine buddy  Kero (and watch her in action) in The Kero Chronicles!

ZeAmazing DIY Cracker Caper

ZeBot @ CUESA

Have you ever noticed that food tastes better than ever when you make it yourself? I learned this from some really savvy 5th graders the other day, when I was invited to a supercool DIY class with CUESA’s Foodwise Kids at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market in San Francisco.

Our kitchen mission: learn to make our own fresh-baked crackers with seasonal market toppings. I was kind of worried about attempting all this with four clumsy hooves, but the kids told me that if they could DIY, then I could DIZ (which means: “Do It, Zebra!).

Sound like fun? If you can’t wait for a taste, you can watch our movie starring the super-chefs at Longfellow Elementary School right NOW!

And now, back to ZeBlog!
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Hail to ZeKale Chips!

No-Fail KaleIf you know anything about zebras, you’ve probably figured out that we love to graze, especially on green stuff. The other day, my cousin ZoeBot and I were trying to figure out if there was a green snack we’d never tasted AND that was possible for zebras to make without totally messing up the kitchen.

Zoe was a little nervous, since she just got here from Planet DooF, where we have no food at all (unless you count Gloop, which I certainly do not).

“I feel like I’m all hooves, ZeBot – I don’t want to try and fail,” she kept saying to me. “But I’m so hungry I think I could eat a whole hay bale – my appetite’s as big as a whale. I really have a taste for something yummy and fresh. You know: definitely not stale.”

Since Zoe obviously had a taste for rhymes, I yelled out the only thing I could think of: “KALE! Let’s make something with kale!”

We weren't sure what we'd make yet -- but we knew we'd need a little salt.

We weren’t sure what we’d make yet — but we knew we’d need a little salt.

What the heck is kale, you ask? Good question! In fact, it’s what Zoe asked, too! Kale is a kind of cabbage with really cool-looking curly green leaves. If you like technical stuff, you can call kale by its scientific name: Brassica oleracea. Or you can just call it “kale” (which is what zebras usually do).

Humans say kale originated in the Mediterranean part of Europe some time before the Middle Ages. Its strong leaves resisted frost damage, so kale was especially great for winter when most vegetables wouldn’t grow. And guess what? It’s also great for summer!

Zebras love snacks with a little zip – so we thought pepper would be good, too!

Zebras love snacks with a little zip – so we thought pepper would be good, too!

Kale is a real nutritional powerhouse! It’s naturally packed with Vitamins A, C and K (makes sense: it’s KALE, right?). These great-tasting leaves are also a good source of beta-carotene, lutein, calcium, potassium, fiber – and lots of other good-for-you stuff.

If you cook kale with a little olive oil, the nutrients are more bioavailable (that means they’re easier for your body to absorb). Olive oil also makes the kale taste better than ever.

We're SuperZebras, so used olive oil to get every last superpower from our kale!

We’re SuperZebras, so used olive oil to get every last superpower from our kale!

Zoe and I love superfoods, and we’re also crazy about healthy chips: so we decided to make kale chips. They tasted AMAZING: light and crispy with just the right amount of savory salty, peppery flavor.

We’re putting them in our Zebra Snack Hall of Fame and making them every chance we get – we hope you will, too. Hail to the Kale Chips!

Just a little while in the oven worked a delicious magic. Presto: kale chips!

Just a little while in the oven worked a delicious magic. Presto: kale chips!

Recipe:  SuperZebras’ Favorite Kale Chips

Ingredients:

A big bunch of kale or a bag of pre-washed & cut-up kale

Extra-virgin olive oil – about 2 tablespoons (you’re just going to drizzle it on)

Salt (just a sprinkling)

Fresh-ground black pepper (only if you like it)

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (if you’re a kid, make sure you have an adult around to help with hot stuff!)

2. If your kale isn’t pre-washed, now’s the time to wash it. Rinse the leaves really well, then drain them in a colander (those are kitchen tools that kind of look like bowls with holes – and that rhymes!).

3. Zebras love stems, but if you don’t, just tear the leaves off the stems. You can save the stems to make vegetable broth, put them in your compost bin or feed them to your favorite zebra (hint, hint!).

4. Put the kale leaves on a baking sheet. You can spray the sheet with a little cooking oil spray, line it with baking parchment  or use a silicone baking mat called a silpat (that’s what ZoeBot and I did).

5. Drizzle a bit of olive oil onto the leaves and toss them around with your hooves or hands, so that they all have a very thin coating. Make sure that they’re all in one layer and not stuck on top each other.

6. Sprinkle the kale leaves with salt (if you want, you can also add a little ground black pepper).

7. Ask an adult to put the kale leaves in the oven. If you’re old enough, you can do this yourself. How do you know if you’re old enough? Ask your parent or another adult in charge of you!

8. Bake the kale leaves for about 12-15 minutes or until they’re crispy. You need to watch them really carefully as you get to the end of baking so they don’t burn.

9. Put your kale chips in a bowl, yell “Hail to the Kale Chips,” and eat them. If you’re at all like a zebra, you’ll eat the whole batch!

As you can see, kale chips are super-simple to make – and a blast to eat! You can find lots more great recipes online (most of them are pretty much like the ones we made).

Photos and Text: Intergalactic © 2013 Laura Martin Bacon

 

ZeGreat Abalone Adventure

ZeBot AbaloneIf you’re a kid, you’ve probably heard of baloney (I mean, even zebras know about that stuff). But have you ever heard of abalone?

I never did—until I got to visit a super-cool Bay Area aquafarm with some buddies from the San Francisco Professional Food Society.

This is the sign on the docks that pointed us toward our adventure.

This is the sign on the docks that pointed us toward our adventure.

Our adventure starts down on the docks at Half Moon Bay’s historic Pillar Point Harbor, where Google Executive Chef Olivia Wu and California Abalone Company owner Doug Hayes team up to explain the ABCs of abalone (you say it “a-baloney”) – from farm to table.

Meet my friends Olivia & Doug!

Meet my friends Olivia & Doug!

Olivia says Doug’s abalone farm is “sustainable aquaculture at its best. This is as fresh and local as you can get – and a true labor of love.”

“What I’m doing is so labor-intensive that you might question whether it’s worth it,” Doug admits. “But this is probably the only way people will be able to enjoy abalone in the future.”

Why does he say that? Well, wild abalone (a kind of shellfish known as mollusks) have become very rare –the Monterey Bay Aquarium calls them a “recovering population”.

Doug cares a LOT about sustainably farmed abalone – and so do I!

Doug cares a LOT about sustainably farmed abalone – and so do I!

That’s why Doug decided to start an aquafarm where he could raise abalone sustainably, so that the wild population can keep on recovering.

At the farm in Pillar Point Harbor, only the best is good enough for Doug’s abalone. Every Saturday, he drives down to Monterey to harvest a ton of kelp in the three tasty varieties that make up the mollusks’ favorite menu, then hauls the fresh seaweed out to the farm to feed his gang of shellfish.

The smallest abalone are about as big as a nickel – and will take up to 14 years to reach the largest size that Doug sells off his boat (the “medium” ones are about nine years old).

Introducing: the abalone! Aren't they cool looking?

Introducing: the abalone! Aren’t they cool looking?

When you’re buying something as rare and valuable as abalone, you want to make sure to prepare it properly – so Doug and Olivia provide all the details.

“In the Asian cooking tradition, abalone is sliced very thinly, stir-fried, poached or steamed,” Olivia tells us.

“You want to keep it really simple so you don’t overpower the abalone’s delicate flavor,” Doug adds.

I figure that, when it comes to cooking, simple is always good. I’m still working on the basics, so easy recipes are the ones I go for.

Ahoy, sailor! Did you know zebras were such nautical naturals?

Ahoy, sailor! Did you know zebras were such nautical naturals?

After we’ve have been clued in on the how-tos, Jim Anderson of the Half Moon Bay Fishermen’s Association makes a surprise announcement: he’s arranged for a vintage 1920s fishing trawler to take us out to the underwater farm for a close-up look.

The aquafarm is just inside the harbor breakwater, where water conditions are perfect for abalone.

We cruise by the 3000 square foot platform that marks the top of the farm – and use our imaginations to envision the cages deep underneath the water. Each cage is as big as a car – and home to hundreds of happy abalone.

You can just see the top of the abalone farm here — the car-sized cages are underwater.

You can just see the top of the abalone farm here — the car-sized cages are underwater.

Another cool thing we learn about while we’re on the boat: besides being good to eat (and good for you because they’re high in protein and low in fat), abalone have beautiful shells.

On the way back to the dock, our new friend Tom (who also owns an abalone company) shows us some of the amazing examples of magical, multicolored shells – check them out in the photos below.

Abalone shells are some of nature’s amazing works of art!

Abalone shells are some of nature’s amazing works of art!

When we get back from our voyage, we head over to the nearby Maverick’s Event Center for more briny seaside fun.

Gaston Alfaro, Executive Chef at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, shares his secrets for prepping, cooking and serving abalone meuniere. Chef Gaston dips the abalone in a little flour and egg, then fries it quickly in butter.

I learned lots of great kitchen tricks from my buddy Chef Gaston.

I learned lots of great kitchen tricks from my buddy Chef Gaston.

I’m trying to learn everything I can about human food, so I’m anxious to sample a tender, golden piece of Chef Gaston’s abalone.

What does abalone taste like? Well, not at all like baloney, but it’s really good. To me, the shellfish tastes very light and delicate, with a rich, buttery goodness that blends beautifully with faraway flavors of the sea.

Chef Gaston's Abalone Meuniere

Here’s Chef Gaston’s abalone meuniere — doesn’t it look yummy?

So does this make you hungry for your own home-cooked abalone?

If you find yourself near Half Moon Bay, just stop by Doug’s boat at slip F-22 in Pillar Point Harbor – he’s there most weekends from 11 am-4 pm (depending on the weather and his mood). If you see him, be sure to say hi from ZeBot!

Stay tuned for more exciting zebra culinary adventures!

Stay tuned for more exciting zebra culinary adventures!

© 2013 Laura Martin Bacon