Duboce Park With Jessica, Sarah, Ellis, and Sidney
"Living in San Francisco as adults in the food industry we see kids so seldom sometimes it seems like there’s a law against reproducing here. We both grew up with many siblings, so the idea of kids as a concept is there in our memories, but fuzzy. Which is why we were so excited to host our friend Jessica Battilana, her wife Sarah and their two boys Ellis (6) and Sidney (4) for a Little Blue lunch at their neighborhood oasis, Duboce Park. It seemed so perfect: after all, what do little boys like more than trucks? If my fuzzy memories serve me correctly, not much, maybe trains.
The plan? A perfect Spring picnic for six in the back of the truck. We would chat and prep while the boys climbed all over their newfound playground. What could go wrong? Jessica writes about food, our favorite subject. She has collaborated on a number of cookbook projects, and is in the process of publishing her own book, Repertoire, about recipes that every cook should have in her toolbelt. She also writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle on that same topic. Her prose is soulful and compact and the recipes work; they convey home and make you hungry. Sarah, Jessica’s wife, #1 recipe taster, and technical manager at Genentech also cooks and will have the best ever chocolate chip cookie recipe available in Repertoire.
Christian was inspired by the season (ok I know we’re a little late, but try it next year!) to make a rhubarb salad. Most of the time we think of rhubarb as a vegetable for use in cooked dessert applications, but its delicate flavor and bright acidity are also great for savory dishes. In order to combat the stalky vegetable fibrous nature it’s necessary to slice it very thinly, so we used a mandoline. We added celery, lemon juice and mandarin segments as well as some mild California olive oil and Kosher salt. The sweetness from the mandarins perfectly balanced the sourness of the rhubarb and the salt and oil brought everything together.
Jessica showed her salad game with a classic egg salad. It had all of your favorite ingredients: hard-boiled eggs, Hellman's Mayo, minced shallot, cornichons, celery and herbs: tarragon, parsley and chives. We all agreed that tarragon is an unsung hero among herbs and marveled at Jessica's knife skills on a tiny cutting board on her lap in the back of a truck. Jessica used the word matrix in relation to this egg salad mixture. If you cook with her enough you’ll notice it’s one her favorite words, and now ours. A matrix is about building a flavor or textural "base" in a recipe which is then built upon with the addition of later elements. A great word to describe a tasty egg salad mixture.
She also shredded some good old fashioned iceberg lettuce to give the egg salad some texture. We smashed it all together and served it on thick slices of Tartine bread. Next to the refreshing rhubarb salad it was the perfect marriage of creaminess and crunch
Ellis and Sid', were more interested driving our parked truck. They do have plenty of experience with driving hot wheels but a real live truck? Unbeatable. I’m sure if we would have given them the keys, we’d have a spontaneous party truck or a couple insurance claims for our neighboring motorcars. After lunch was over the kids still had some considerable energy to work out, so we pulled the tried and true trick that John’s parents used to use on him: “I’ll time you running around the park!...two minutes. That was pretty good, but I bet you can beat it!” Without too much nostalgia for a time when things were a little simpler, when life gets complicated sometimes you just need to run it out. Trucks are still cool.