Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Having trouble getting back to normal. Lazy holiday. Watching movies, playing with dogs, making our favorite dinners.
Tonight -- roasted oysters with a homemade topping I call "Rockefeller butter." Spinach, butter, bacon and breadcrumb topped oysters drizzled with a little melted butter and quickly broiled. Savory, special, holidays.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas Every One

Two (of three) sleepy dogs, presents under the tree. Christmas at home.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Crock Pot Sliders

Somehow I must have known I wouldn't feel like cooking.
And then I got a cold (well an ear inflection really . . . but I digress).
I started this dinner yesterday in my trusty crock pot.
I dumped (there is no other word for it) in 2 peeled chopped apples, a small jar (about 7 ounces) of homemade apple jelly, 1 1/2 cups of ketchup, 1 bottle beer, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup molasses, 1/3 cup honey, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 jalapeño pepper (seeded and cut in half), about 1 TB chili powder, and 1/2 tsp ground celery seed. Now all of that may have been measured more or less, and in truth I had to taste it and make revisions as the cooking went on but I think that's where it ended up. All of that cooked on low in the crock pot for about 6 hours.
When the sauce was thickened (after a good whisking) I added in 4 chicken breasts (well okay 2 breasts or 4 half breasts if you want to be chicken technical) and let everything cook for about 4 hours more until the chicken was ready to fall apart.
I shredded the chicken, mixed it back down into the sauce and let it wait until we were ready for dinner . . . today.
When the time came I toasted James' favorite, King's Hawaiian Rolls -- prepared each bun with sliced red onion and homemade dill pickles (maybe a little mustard wouldn't be a bad addition) and spooned on the warmed up barbecued chicken.
Easy, tasty, and done.

Friday, December 2, 2016

James Called Me "Beautiful Spaghetti Genius"

This might be my new favorite dinner.
Somehow tonight I just didn't want to work too hard. I didn't want to wash too many dishes. I didn't want to stand at the stove.
But we were in the mood for spaghetti.
Now when I was young and impressionable I lived in Italy for a little while. That sunny year or two left me with the melodic, poetic Italian language and the vague feeling that no day is truly complete without strong coffee and pasta. I quickly adapted to a daily pasta "primo" (sometimes two) and never got the least bit bored.
Here in the states (a couple of decades later), dinners are one plate, spaghetti is the only course, and reasonable eating dictates that carbs are limited and vegetables take center stage. So, spaghetti isn't every day -- it's a special day.
I started out to make lemon chicken pasta -- kind of a scallopini on spaghetti -- but the panko bread crumbs called my name and I quickly butterflied the chicken breasts, coated them in seasoned, beaten egg, rolled them in panko and pan fried them in olive oil until crunchy golden brown. For the spaghetti I still wanted simple, but with hearty, assertive flavor. No fade into the background filler but a garlicky duet with the crispy chicken.
When the chicken was browned and tucked into a 200º oven to wait for the pasta, I cleaned out the skillet and poured in about 1/2 cup of olive oil and 8 chopped cloves of garlic and half a small lemon very thinly sliced. The garlic and lemon simmered on medium low heat for about a minute -- maybe 2 -- you don't want the garlic to brown just flavor the oil. Then I added in 1 tsp of red pepper flakes, 2 TB of capers, 8 chopped anchovy filets, a pinch of salt and a good quantity of black pepper and let the oil cook for just another 30 seconds or so.
When the pasta (17 oz package) was cooked and drained (with a bit of the pasta cooking water reserved) I returned the spaghetti to the pot along with the oil mixture, the juice of half a small lemon, about 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, a splash of pasta cooking water and a chunk (maybe 1 1/2 TB) of butter.
Everything got a good stir, until the butter melted and the noodles were fully coated with sauce.
This might be my new favorite sauce. Easily pulled together with pantry ingredients. Super fast -- the whole thing can be whipped up while the pasta water boils, and crazy delicious.
The only way it could have been better -- if I say so myself -- was if we'd had a tiny bit of parmesan in the house. Yes, so sad -- we are trying to cut down on cheese too. Sigh. I hate being an adult. But we love spaghetti.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Yesterday Thanksgiving crab feast. 
Today crab cakes with sweet corn.
Though the crab has changed I still make the recipe of my Maryland childhood. For every pound of crab I use 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, 1 lightly beaten egg, 1/2 tsp dry mustard or 1 TB dijon , 1/2 - 1 tsp old bay seasoning to taste, 1 TB Worcestershire sauce, a splash of hot sauce and about 1 cup of crushed saltine crackers. Today I added corn cut from yesterday's leftover ears. 
I mix together all the wet ingredients then fold in the crab (and corn) and the crackers. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes for the crackers to soak up some of the moisture and then form into  cakes -- about 8 per pound of meat.
Chill the patties for about an hour before pan frying in butter or oil for 4 minutes or so on a side.
Today I was in a hurry and didn't want to wait for the cakes to firm up in the fridge so I coated each one in panko bread crumbs to help them hold together in the pan.  That last bit was only moderately successful. James didn't seem to mind.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Our Traditional Thanksgiving

James doesn't really like turkey. He figures 50 (or so or more over the years) is all any person needs to eat and so we've decided to move onto our own favorites. Okay -- if we have guests we still pull out all the stops and make turkey with all the trimmings (and I love doing it) -- a spread that could make a pilgrim blush. But, when it's just the two of us, as it is this year, we have our own tradition.
November marks the start of Dungeness crab season in Northern California. Though I grew up on summers filled with Eastern blue crab, as a Californian now I think my heart belongs to the winter crab. 
Our homemade Thanksgiving tradition is roasted Dungeness crab, crusty bread, roasted red potatoes, and because James loves it (if we can find it) corn on the cob.
To make the crab marinade, in the food processor  I blend together toasted, crushed fennels seeds (2tsp), parsley (1 bunch), thyme (3-4 sprigs), garlic (2 cloves), red pepper flakes (1 tsp), and plenty of olive oil (2/3 cup). Tossed in the flavorful mixture our crab sits in the fridge for a couple hours waiting to be roasted for just 20 minutes at 400º. I half-bake the potatoes so I can just toss them on the baking tray with the crab to soak up a little extra flavor.
To be honest I miss the big day of cooking. So this year, instead of buying our favorite bread from MH Bread and Butter in San Anselmo I added a little fun project for me and whipped up a couple toasty baguettes. Lately I've been using a simple recipe based on one from Daniel Leader's Bread Alone, at least as reported by Farmgirl Fare. Pretty easy, pretty foolproof, and still impressive.
 For dessert, though it's kind of a joke for us, sweet potato pie. James used to call me sweet potato pie and I hang onto the pie tradition I guess as a nod to the old days -- oh, and because it's delicious. Yes I know, it's uber-pinteresty and too cute for words but I still love the mason jar pie. These little jars make a perfect single serving, store easily, and can be ready in a flash when James just needs a little pie.
Pie crust? I've been making the same one for years. It's flaky, rich, and it never fails. 2 cups flour, 12 TB butter, 3 TB lard, 1 TB sugar, 1/2 tsp salt pulsed together in the food processor until -- as they say -- it resembles coarse sand. Then I sprinkle in 3-3 1/2 TB ice water and pulse till the dough just starts to pull away from the sides of the container. The dough chills, wrapped in wax paper and plastic for at least an hour.
I blind bake the little crusts in my jars for 15 minutes at 375º and then add my filling -- 3 cups mashed roasted sweet potato (I pop them in the oven the night before then peel and mash when it's time for pie). 3 eggs, 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (the extra is awesome in morning coffee),  1 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, a splash of vanilla extract, a pinch of salt and 2 TB melted butter all mixed together, spooned into the waiting crusts and baked for about 25 minutes at 375º.
James may forget why I make them, but he loves that I make them.
Happy Thanksgiving 2016. Another traditional untraditional year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Friends In The Field

The perfect holiday weather.
Crisp and cool. Blue sky with a chill in the air.
The girls are happy and so am I.
Strolling through the pasture, relieved to be home, admiring the bright green grass I stopped to chat with these ladies also enjoying the fall weather.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Beautiful Apples

About three years ago I went to a grafting workshop at a nearby cider orchard and came home with what looked like two dead sticks wrapped in an elaborate bandaid.
After planting and tending and worrying, this year I have a healthy four foot tall tree with a collection of deep red Arkansas Black apples, a unique American variety that dates back to the late 19th century.
Arkansas blacks keep well and grow sweeter with storage but they really shine when added to pies and sauces for unique layered apple flavor.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Beans Of All Colors

We added two more beds to the vegetable garden this year. Even though I got a late start the plants grew wild and bushy (and drooping with fruit) while I was out of town this last time (James calls it "The Heart of Darkness"). So wild it's almost hard to find the edible bits, but with a little searching I have the garden I've always wanted. I can walk out to the beds, find enough beans for dinner and come in and cook them. So fresh so tender they don't need any enhancement. A little salt, a drizzle of olive oil and dinner is served.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Home Grown Pumpkins

A beautiful Speckled Hound pumpkin on the vine.
Sweet tasting thick flesh and a beautiful display, our nearly forgotten pumpkins have grown up and through summer squash, beans, tomatillos and beans (some are even hanging on the trellis). We have 5 fruits on our one little vine almost ready for soups, pie and maybe as a last minute coach for a last minute princess.
Fall looks better and seems closer every day.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

From The Yard

Gathered from around the yard a bedroom bouquet of lavender, oak leaf hydrangea, catmint, and a couple favorite roses, New Dawn, a lovely pink tinged yellow we found in the yard when we moved into this house, and beautiful bright white September Mourn, a 2005 introduction named to honor the 911 victims.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer Squash Harvest

Summer is finally in full swing. The garden is overflowing with bright green leaves and yellow flowers promising vegetables to soon come. The squash as always is first.
Tromboncino and yellow sunburst, both flavorful heirlooms, ready to be sautéed for dinner. I'll melt a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil in a pan. Toss in 1/2 an onion sliced. When the onion starts to soften I'll add in slices of fresh squash give them a couple turns around the skillet and cover the pan. With the heat on low the squash will steam in it's own delicious juices and caramelize just a bit on the bottom. 20 minutes later a delicious garden fresh side thats good warm or cold for dinner as a side or scrambled into eggs for breakfast. A summer favorite.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Cake For The Fair

The last fair of our local season ends today.
I brought my usual jellies and jams and ended up with a couple blue ribbons. I hoped this lemon meringue cake with tart lemon curd filling (made with home grown Meyer lemons), fluffy white cake and airy sweet meringue frosting would be a big winner but alas only 3rd in the layer cake competition.
There's always next year. Sigh.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The First of Their Kind

A couple years ago, thinking back onto a perfect vacation week James and I enjoyed on Orcas Island in Washington state I ordered a barefoot Orcas pear tree. A whim that this year has finally started to pay off with our first little crop of beautiful blushed yellow Orcas pears.
Discovered by a local horticulturist in his island yard, Orcas pears are one of the few summer pears that will ripen in just a couple days on the counter instead of weeks in cold storage. Prized for sweet buttery flesh Orcas pears are homegrown favorites for canning, drying, and eating fresh. For me the tree is a living memento, better than a postcard of happy, lazy summer days together.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Our House Favorite Made Even Better

Not just cake, James' birthday nearly always calls for his favorite -- spaghetti and clam sauce. Though I make this favorite throughout the year for a special birthday dinner I slip in a little smoky bacon.
While the spaghetti is cooking I sauté 3 slices of chopped bacon in about 1/4 cup of hot olive oil. Next I add 2 chopped garlic cloves and a pinch of chile flakes to the pan followed (after about a minute) by the juice of one lemon, a good sized handful of chopped parsley and about 3/4 cups of white wine. After the wine cooked down by about half I tossed in about 4 pounds of very small little neck clams.
Honestly I prefer manilla clams which are small and sweet and James and I both think are perfect for spaghetti but so hard to find these days.
With the pan tightly covered it takes about 7 minutes for all the clams to open.
Meanwhile the pasta is cooking and when it's ready and drained I add it and about 3 TB butter to the pan with the clams, give everything a good toss around, add in another small bunch of fresh parsley and bring dinner to the table.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Happy Birthday James

A birthday dinner for two calls for a special cake -- mini cake for the birthday boy.
I bought these 3" cake pans years ago and had nearly forgotten them until this afternoon when cake for one seemed like the obvious choice. No leftovers makes it easier to get back on the diet.

I went for a simple Vanilla White Cake.

Preheat the oven to 350º
Prepare five 3" mini cake pans with buttered parchment paper on the bottom, sides buttered, the entire pan lightly dusted with flour.
Cream 1 stick of room temperature butter with 1 cup of sugar.
Add 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks one by one (beating well after each addition)
Drizzle in 1/2 tsp of good quality vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of cake flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp salt all sifted together
Add 1/3 of the flour, beat until just mixed, add 1/3 of the milk (1/2 cup total) and repeat until the last of the milk is added and the batter is silky smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake springs back to your touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I trimmed the mini cakes and used two split in the center to make 3 nice even layers which I brushed with homemade jam and a fluffy sweet American buttercream.

In an electric mixer set to medium speed mix 1 stick of softened butter and 1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar until smooth. When danger of dusting your kitchen in powdered sugar has passes, turn the mixer up to high to beat in as much air as possible, drizzle in a touch of vanilla and 1 - 2 TB of whole milk and mix to desired fluffy consistency.

Classic birthday cake in miniature.

Many many happy returns Honey!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fruits of Summer

A new garden and a few grapes not yet eaten by the passing deer.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lazy Summer Day

Late July and five calves on the ground.
Lazy days eating grass and napping in the shade.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


Of all the years to miss the fair.
I was out of town for work and then just made it back for a day and a half of power weeding, cooking and general improvements before our houseguests rolled into town.
I was in such a rush getting dinner into the oven today I ran late and had to ask James to run down to the fair office to pick up my entries. I had no idea I'd won and it turns out this is my best Marin County Fair ever.
I missed seeing my own "pyramid" of prizes and getting my picture in the paper. I admit I was a little disheartened after the Sonoma-Marin fair this year. I usually do very well there and my jellies -- one of which I thought was the best I ever made -- were not a big hit with the judges. And yet -- that very same jelly, Gewürztraminer plum, took best in show in the Preserves competition at Marin county along with my Apple Bourbon jelly which took best in show in the Homegrown category.
I was giddy when James walked in the door.
I love the fair.
I'm never going to miss one again.

Monday, July 4, 2016

American As . . .

Apple, raisin, pecan pie with flaky lard and butter crust.

I pulled this beauty (unbaked) from the freezer just in time to bake up an all American dessert with visiting friends.

Warm pie for dessert. Who needs fireworks?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Black Bean Tacos

There is a little stand at the farmer's market near us that sells what James calls the "best popcorn in the world." Unpopped red, yellow, and blue kernels I take home and pop in olive oil with plenty of chrunchy Maldon salt for an afternoon snack. I can't figure out how it can be so delicious.
Tierra vegetables grows, not just popcorn but all manner of heirloom corn for flour and popping and even a bit for eating fresh. Last time while waiting to pay I noticed something new -- homemade tortillas fashioned from heirloom green corn meal. Not the usual pale yellow or even speckled white these are dark greenish brown -- not like any tortillas I've seen before . . . so of course I couldn't resist them.
I snapped up a bag and as I drove home decided on a dinner of canned black beans simmered with chili powder, garlic, cumin, olive oil and chicken broth topped with a cabbage, cilantro, onion and carrot salad simply dressed with lime juice and creamy avocado (with a little more lime and salt) served on top of pan toasted heirloom tortillas. Heirloom perfection.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mini-Pies and Cherries: A Freezer Full of Joy

Here's a trend I've been meaning to jump on for a while.
So long in fact it's probably already past. But guests coming to visit with their mini-pie sized daughter and our little cherry tree's first real fruit harvest seem like a perfect excuse for a freezer brimming with mini cherry pies.
I made my usual flaky pie crust with both butter and lard (2 cups flour, pinch of salt, 1/3 cup cold butter, 1/3 cup cold lard, 1/3 cup ice water). With a little cutting and a little pressing I fit my dough into 7 1/2 pint mason jars, saving half the dough for the lattice tops.
Next I mixed up my filling. I had just barely 2 cups of cherries. I combined those with 1/3 cup sugar, 1 TB cornstarch, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp of lemon juice, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of nutmeg. I gave the filling a good stir and let it sit while I rolled out my second crust and cut it into long thin strips for weaving.
I used the jar's lid to cut out circles of my lattice woven crust, placed each one on top of the now filled little jars (it took about 1/4 cup of filling for each jar), and snuggled the dough down to meet the crust on the side. Lids on top, bands screwed down, 7 pies in the freezer for futures guests -- expected or not.
While I was looking for ideas online I saw reference to a baker on Etsy who makes mini mason jar pies for weddings for $7 each (prices have come down quite a bit since that article) and I scoffed.
"Who would possible pay that," I thought.
Now that I have made just 7 of these cute little pies -- $7 each doesn't seem like near enough.
Make them for love, not for money.

Friday, June 24, 2016

An Unexpected Winner

I thought it would be the almond cake but I got ahead of myself. James' favorite almond cake took 2nd prize (in unfrosted cakes) and this simple sweet persimmon bread, with batter featuring my home grown persimmons and no less than 3/4 cup of Kentucky bourbon, took top honors.
I made a fresh loaf for the fair but I always have one tucked away in the freezer for guests to nibble on. It's just right toasted for breakfast or as a sweet afternoon snack.

The Blue Ribbon Persimmon Bread Recipe (adapted from James Beard)

Preheat oven to 350º

Sift together

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups sugar

make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add

2 cups persimmon purée
4 lightly beaten eggs
1 cup melted butter, cooled
3/4  cup bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

mix until almost combined and add in

2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted
2 cups dried cranberries (or raisins)

Stir lightly together and pour batter into two buttered and floured  9x5 loaf pans

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife interred in center comes out clean

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ready For The Fair

The most recent treat James said was "the best thing" I ever baked was this embarrassingly  simple almond cake.
"You should enter that in the fair," he said.
Well tomorrow I will, along with a collection of homemade jams and jellies and a dense, sweet persimmon bread made from our home grown fruit.
But, back to this cake. Adapted from a  recipe by former Chez Panisse baker David Liebowitz, it's one of the easiest recipes I know. It's what I make when I am not in the mood to do a lot but still want dessert for guests. It's super moist and a great make ahead cake. It keeps for days. In short, it's the ultimate casual dinner party finish.
First combine 3/4 cup of almond paste (not marzipan but almond paste) with 1 1/3 cups of sugar in a standing mixer. The sugar helps break the almond paste up in small bits. Add 10 TB of room temperature butter and beat until light and fluffy. Next drizzle in 6 lightly beaten eggs and a tsp of vanilla extract. Then stir in 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt (lightly whisk dry ingredients together before adding to the batter).
That's it. Simple.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9" cake pan and bake for 1 hour at 325º.
Depending on what I've made for dinner sometimes I serve this super moist cake with creamy full fat yogurt (we love St Benoit Creamery yogurt made in near-by Sonoma county) and a  drizzle of honey, other nights it's topped with fresh blueberry or plum compote.
It's always a winner.
Fingers crossed for the fair.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Cherries for Pie and Color

Well no, we don't have enough for pie just yet but the first semi-credible fruit set on our young cherry tree still seems worth announcing.
When I was very young my father grew cherries on a massive tree we shared with every bird in the neighborhood. I never knew what kind they were but I remember hoping they'd be sweet, enticed in spring by the vibrant red color and being reminded with one bite that some cherries are just for pie.  I remember my mother, though it was clearly not her thing, pitting and freezing bags of those cherries. I remember my dad trying to make cherry wine. I don't remember a single pie. I'm not sure where those cherries went or if there were near as many as I remember.
My sweet little tree is my own backyard homage to those dare I call them halcyon days. Looking for a small tree for a partially shady spot I came across the Morello Cherry, a self-fertile English tart variety (sometimes sweet enough to eat fresh when fully ripe) known since the 1500's. From her bare-root start I've watched and watered and this year I am rewarded with bright red hanging fruit shining like a beacon through the garden.
Just seeing them makes me happy.
I haven't tried one yet . . . this year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summer of Stir Fry

I think it's been years since my big beautiful carbon steel wok came down off the high shelf. When we moved here we found a sad little electric stove -- hardly high enough heat for a decent stir fry and no grates to hold the fully round bottom pan in place.
But look at me now with 18,000 BTU per burner quickly tossing together a dinner of tofu, carrots, onions, celery, mushrooms and peppers. That wok turned what looked like a pretty dismal selection of vegetables, minced garlic and ginger, and a couple pantry staples (soy sauce -- 2 TB, hoisin -- 2-3 tsp, sesame oil -- 2 tsp, brown sugar -- 1 1/2 tsp mixed together into a sauce)into way more than the sum of it's parts all in about 15 minutes. Super fast, tasty, too quick to heat up the kitchen and not a lot of prep to tackle -- its' the perfect summer dinner. Why didn't I think of this sooner?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Big Day In the Ever Expanding Hen House

Pretty lousy pictures of a pretty big day.
After eyeing each other through the wire divide for a couple of days our big girls have finally met the new little hens on the block face to face -- or beak to beak as the case may be.
The "big girls" are our traditional house favorite, Buff Orpingtons a lovely, calm, heavy breed developed in England. This particular pair spends most of the day thinking about how pretty they are, and they are not wrong.
The new girls will be some stiff competition in the egg laying department. There are four Cuckoo Marans, silver speckled black birds that lay dark brown speckled eggs (or at least our last Maran did but others describe them as plain brown eggs). They are tribute to our dear, departed Connie, our first Maran and all in all a wonderful, sweet, gentle girl. Close relatives, our four new Copper Marans will, hopefully as they are supposed to, lay dark brown "chocolate" eggs. The darkest eggs of any breed. Two of the new batch are a recently introduced English breed, Cream Legbars. Not particularly pretty and a little slighter than the rest of the flock with silly little feathery mohawks these girls will lay robin's egg blue eggs. I could not resist that idea despite the rare breed price tag that went along with these two.  Lastly rounding out the new group are two more creamy yellow Buff Orpingtons. James and I figure there should always be Orpingtons in the yard.
There was a little squawking and a couple of well placed pecks but otherwise everyone seemed more interested in a big dish of crumble than in each other.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Not Quite Vegan

You'd think after all these years as a dedicated carnivore after 6 weeks on a vegan diet I'd be dreaming of grilled t-bones and super smokey ribs. But no, day in and day out the thing I missed most -- except of course for cheese which has been my go to snack, lunch, treat for decades -- were anchovies.
A fish I don't even particularly like on it's own, I found myself craving the briny tang and edible umami of anchovies.
Tonight for a subtle break from our daily vegetable diet I cooked up a batch of braised broccoli. First I sautéed 2 minced garlic cloves and 10 anchovies in olive oil along with a tiny sprinkle (James has been staying away from chiles much to my dismay) of red pepper flakes. Then I added in a couple pounds of trimmed blanched broccoli (I used the pasta water to blanch the vegetables) and let it braise almost fully covered for about 15 minutes until soft -- way softer than Americans normally eat vegetables but comforting somehow. Then I piled in the drained 100% whole wheat (in deference to our diet) pasta and a splash of the pasta cooking water and stirred around over low heat to make a quick sauce.
A treat with my tiny fishy favorite flavor friends.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ho Yuen Kee Vancouver

Like LA and San Francisco to the South Vancouver is a West coast hot spot for Chinese food. LA may have more variety and regional cuisines but Vancouver holds it's own with neighborhood restaurants, dim sum palaces and Asian food courts.
Sitting alone in a brightly lit (way too brightly lit) room where I was the only white face I looked around and ordered what nearly everyone seemed to be having -- dungeness crab on sticky rice. Chinese comfort food at its best and a dish I rarely see -- if ever, in LA or San Francisco surprisingly.
Another delicious Vancouver visit.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lodge Bread: Culver City

Every food centric magazine or site in Los Angeles is talking about Lodge Bread these days. The tiny bakery is the brainchild and pet project of three chef friends -- Or Amsalam, Alan Craig, and Alexander Phaneuf. The three met cooking at a Los Angeles farm to table restaurant where by coincidence as their interest grew, more and more breads and tartines showed up on the menu.
Next step Phaneuf's backyard, where the three started baking for chef friends and local restaurants.
Last year a storefront. A tidy LA bread success story.
But the real story at Lodge Bread is the bread itself. Wild fermented, naturally leavened, whole grain loaves with a dark, thick, brown addictively crunchy crust. These are round, hearty, country loaves with complex almost sweet flavor from whole grains and the slightest sour tang from long fermentation. The bakery -- if you can call a small counter and a couple tables where patrons enjoy a menu of toasts that -- smells like warm bread tinged with tomatoes -- a pleasant vaguely acidic note, not unlike Ethiopian teff injera. Patrons devoted to flaky white baguettes or soft sandwich breads will be confused by Lodge's offerings. The mahogany brown loaves are unique. There are no others like them in the area and few in this country.
Oh, and did I mention they are delicious?

Monday, April 4, 2016

I Don't Know Where The Time Goes

I guess I've just had nothing to say -- or maybe nothing to cook.
We've been traveling far and wide and probably not taking the care and attention of each other or our dinners as we usually do or should.
2016 has been a madhouse, working between four continents and more timezones and then there's the diet.
I've been feeling at odds with my weight and James, who has always been thin, thought if we ate more thoughtfully we could just feel better. He started reading (actually re-reading) Dr. Joel Fuhrman's Eat To Live and one day, kind of off the cuff said . . . Let's try it.
There we were, overnight vegans.
Furhman's plan celebrates plant based nutrition: beans, fruits, nuts, vegetables (cooked and raw), limited grains. No sugar, no meats, no eggs, no dairy, no processed foods, minimal grains and oils.
Of course, we decided to start with the hard core, most restrictive plan.
Suddenly I didn't know how to cook anymore. All of the flavor crutches I've used for years (cheese, bacon, olive oil, butter) were taken away. I had to start thinking about every dish and every bite.
Lentils, tofu, beans, brown rice, buckwheat, raw cashews.
For the first couple weeks it was salads, soups and bean burgers. Not exactly photogenic.
Now I am starting to branch out. Tonight's dinner which looks remarkably like our pre-Fuhrman dinner of three months ago: Brown rice risotto.
If I'd had short grain rice I would have used it but basically I cooked regular risotto with brown instead of white rice. The cooking took longer and more stock but otherwise the process is exactly the same. Start with chopped onions and garlic sautéed, in this case, in barely a shimmer of olive oil (sprayed on), add in the raw rice and toss with the barely there oil, add in some wine and when that cooks away start added stock 1/2 - 3/4 cup at a time until the rice is tender. For extra flavor I soaked some dried porcini mushrooms and used the soaking liquid as part of the liquid and added the chopped reconstituted mushrooms midway through cooking the rice. I pan roasted some king oyster mushrooms to mix in and grilled portobellos to lay on top along with some crisped collard greens.
James said it was the best meal we've had since we started, and that seemed worth posting.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Buckwheat Risotto

Superfoods --  Generally nutritionally dense edibles (low calorie for food value), often high in anti=-oxidants declared good for our health and well being. Though magazines and advertisers relish the term it is not in common use by scientists or dietitians. In fact it is nothing more than a marketing term popular since 2004.
And still as each new year turns, I haul out the same old "superfood" ingredients -- spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, lentils to name a few, in another valiant effort to make us better than we are. Healthier, stronger, happier.
Tonight's offering . . . buckwheat. An undeniably healthful fruit seed related to rhubarb, tonight I stirred up a risotto of the non grain, grain. After toasting the buckwheat in the pan along with some onions and garlic I deglazed with white wine and then started adding broth by the 1/2 up until the buckwheat was tender, toothsome, and creamy just like risotto. I finished the dish with a pat of butter and a sprinkling of cheese. I hope buckwheat really is superfood enough to counteract those purely tasty but not all that pure additions.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

Trendy Tasty Rice Bowl

We start every year pledging to be healthier and stronger and somehow a couple months in we find ourselves back living in bacon city. I am the cook. I am probably to blame. I fall back on what I know and, I guess, take the easy way to flavorful foods.
I can't say this year will be different but I was encouraged by a slew of interesting, grain based and vaguely Japanese recipes in the January issue of every food magazine I read so I decided a little pantry update and lighter cooking might just be in order -- for now.
Clearly there are more healthful and interesting grains but tonight, not yet ready to brave the grocery store, I started with rice -- plain old white rice. I love it. Then I went searching through the fridge for what might add color and texture.
A little bit of leftover broccoli, a little past it's prime, was quickly boiled and dressed with a tiny drizzle of sesame oil. Butternut squash, sitting on the counter since I didn't serve them for Christmas dinner, was sweet and gingery. I quickly fried several slices of ginger in canola oil, added in the squash cut in 1 1/2" pieces,  1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tsp of sugar (okay not quite the healthful star here but it is very Japanese) and 1/2 cup of water. I brought the liquid to a boil, covered the pot, reduced the heat to medium low and let the squash cook for about 10 minutes until tender.
With rice in the rice cooker, squash and broccoli cooked and set aside to be served room temperature on hot rice, I got a little more ambitious.
Every rice bowl (and Japanese meal) needs something pickled and a sauce. I quickly combined 1 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 TB of sugar, a pinch of salt and ground chile and let celery sticks and carrot rounds soak in that brine for about 1/2 hour. Easy. I'd have used a little lemon zest if I'd had any. For the sauce I mixed 1 TB tahini, 1 TB honey and 1 TB soy sauce with 1 tsp sesame oil. Ready. All that was left was to put it all together -- almost.
When it came time for dinner I cooked a couple eggs seasoned with soy sauce and a touch of sake into a flat omelette that I rolled and cut into slices over one side of the rice. Facing that a bit of sautéed chicken -- leftover legs and wings I tucked in the freezer after a holiday season Hainanese chicken dinner.
I wasn't too sure what to expect when James sat down to dinner. But, he seemed pleased by the lighter style and lighter plate.
It's fun to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Not a bad way to cook in 2016.