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