Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Ultimate Compliment

This morning, My Beloved paid me what I consider to be the ultimate compliment a man can give a woman. When I offered to cook bacon for his breakfast, he just snuggled a little closer and purred in my ear, "You're better than bacon."

Now, you must understand that, in our estimation, nothing is better than bacon! Needless to say, he's been in my good books all day.

A bonus of our trip to the Marin farmer's market last week was a new bacon to try. Range Brothers' leaping pig logo and the local nature of the enterprise were irresistible.

This is a meaty bacon, slightly sweet from the turbinado sugar and the maple syrup, one of those bacons that are somewhat difficult to crisp because of the high meat content. It's lovely, however, and makes getting out of bed for breakfast almost enough reward for leaving the warmth of the cocoon and the sweet compliments.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Neutrinos, Gluons and Lemon Quark

While Los Angelina Jeanne and I were strolling around the Marin farmer's market last Sunday, we happened by the Spring Hill cheese stand. We treated ourselves to some samples (when I'm on a fixed income, I plan to eat lunch twice a week purely off the samples at the market!) of Old World Portuguese, White Cheddar and, huh? Lemon Quark?

Gotta have it, if only for the quarky name!

The Spring Hill website recommends using this ricotta-like sweet and lemony cheese on pizza or potatoes but I thought it was a natural to pair with fresh fruit. I sliced the melon we also bought at the market, added the few strawberries which had not turned to mush, and the super-sweet blackberries we found at a third stand, stuck the pot of lemon quark in the middle and called it dessert.

The taste is out of this world! Or should I say in of this world? Anyway, a whole universe of flavor in a small package!

Friday, September 28, 2007

When Good Fruit Goes Bad

This is the down side to eating delicious, ripe, organic fruit - it just doesn't keep that well. Pal Jeanne and I picked up these beautiful strawberries at the Sunday Marin farmer's market (yes, she is a convert!) and by Monday morning, because I didn't refrigerate them, most of them collapsed overnight into mush. Mushy mush. Oozing mushy mush. Mush.

Lucky that Jeanne thought to put them on a paper towel after washing, or my cool vintage counters would have been running in strawberry goo.

I did manage to salvage a few... but the moral of the story is, enjoy 'em soonest unless you like fuzzy mush.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blackberry Ramble

Is there anything sweeter than a colander full of blackberries? Believe it or not, these beauties are first cousins to the bitterly sour blackberries we've been battling in the "lower forty." Ours look just like this but they don't even remotely taste like them! These burst on the tongue with a rich, sweet berry flavor - if this isn't heaven, you can see it from here!

These came from the seasonal checkerboard of shining chestnuts, vibrant miniature peppers, bumpy blackberries, dusty purple grapes and bright cherry tomatoes at the Marin farmer's market that was as much a feast for the eyes as these wonderful berries are for the taste buds.

I didn't do darn thing with them except rinse and serve; anything more would have been overkill.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The Marin Farmer's market is a bright kaleidescope of colorful goods, whether they be fruits, veggies, cheeses, meats, baked goods or art and crafts - even the music and the atmosphere are colorful and fun.

Among all the festive stalls, however, there is occasionally one that really catches the eye. This time, it was this one, where clearly the young woman running the stand understood the concept of effective display.

The Roli Roti roast chicken truck uses the scent to draw in customers, the musicians lure people over with sound, but this young lady used pure visual magic - and she was doing a brisk business when I stopped to buy some of those shiny brown chestnuts and the gorgeous plump blackberries - but we were careful not to disrupt the aesthetics.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jive Turkey

Here's the "jive turkey" that let us down by being frozen solid when I went to roast it.

Once it thawed and was impaled on the rotisserie spit of my 40 year old Farberware
Open Hearth Grill, it became a much nicer bird, perfectly cooked and really delicious, filled with cornbread stuffing and loaded with juice.

It began as a Diestel heirloom turkey living outdoors up in the Sonora Gold Country and enjoying the good turkey life. As fancypants a bird as I have ever purchased, it came cradled in its own cardboard box.

I had a package of Pepperidge Farm cornbread crumbs so decided to try my first ever cornbread stuffing. All I did was saute' onion, celery and shallots, then add the stuffing and some parsley and herbes de Provence to the pan with a little chicken broth to moisten it, then loaded it all into the turkey. With some fresh Swiss chard from the Marin market on the side and a dollop of New England Cranberry Relish from Stonewall Kitchen, it was a lovely meal.

With only two of us in the house now that pal Jeanne has headed back to LA, you'd think we'd be awash in turkey but, in fact, this jive turkey is going fast! Sandwiches for lunch and dinner are making inroads in one of the nicest little turkeys it has ever been my pleasure to vilify.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Castellita Wins Again

Because I'm a morning person who eats lunch late, when 1:30 rolls around, I'm good and hungry from a productive morning's work as a wage slave at one of California's finest educational institutions.
Then, the race to lunch begins.

Snatching up my purse, I hurtle down the staircase, waving to the security guard as I race out the door. Leaping over the prostrate body of our resident sweetly snoring drunk and veering around the outstretched cup of a panhandler, I trot down the sidewalk, dodging young families with strollers and courting pigeons (is it just me or are they always courting?) who explode skyward as I pass. Swerving around law students bent over with crushing backpacks, I fetch up at the corner light. I tap my foot impatiently, willing the white walking indicator to appear as my empty stomach rumbles insistently. At last! the light changes and I dart up the block and veer into my favorite neighborhood Mexican restaurant, Castellito B on McAllister Street.

They always have a solution to my hunger problem; this time their Quesadilla de Harina. The smiling young chef takes my order and flips a flour tortilla onto the grill, spreading the quesa with a fluid and generous hand. While the cheese melts, he prepares a plate, adds some chips, and shoots my order down to the cashier with a big grin and a "Gracias, amiga!" for me. In the race to yummy lunch, Castellito wins again!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Souffle' of a Book

Being a confirmed food lover, I can't resist buying anything I see from Peter Mayle. He is a British guy living in France and, like me, he's in love with food and with les francais. His first book, A Year in Provence, was so popular that it brought hoards of tourists to Provence before they all discovered Tuscany by reading Under the Tuscan Sun, whereupon they all upped stakes and moved south.

I read this offering on my commute this week, a frothy, fun book, wonderfully written with that dry British humor (they seem to either favor the dry kind or broad and rather coarse slapstick) that always makes me laugh. It's an easy read and filled with all kinds of esoteric stuff about France, its food (including some pretty far out edibles!) and its people.

Treat yourself to this one - tres amusant!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Plan T

These tomatoes don't qualify as local. They are organic and home grown, but our friend Jeanne brought them up with her from La-La Land yesterday when she came for a visit.

I've been reading in other people's blogs and newspaper articles about the glut in garden produce at this time of year and feeling partly lucky and partly deprived of this annual surfeit of abundance. My Beloved and I are not really gardeners, we just accept the peaches and occasional lemon that our trees produce all by themselves. When Jeanne arrived bearing a half grocery bag full of Romas and Celebrities, we joined the Glut Club.

Jeanne is an adventurous friend so she was open to the idea of trying to roast about half of the harvest. Inspired by Cookiecrumb, we read a recipe on Orangette, halved some of each kind of tomato, brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt before sliding the pans into a 200 degree oven and departing to do some errands.

The errands included a stop at a new store we've never visited before, El Cerrito Natural Grocery, and what a treat that was! If you've never visited, I can recommend it. Very cool store with all kind of organic and natural products, They sold us a Diestel free-range turkey, impressive packaged in its very own fitted cardboard box, and we hurried home to prepare the corn bread stuffing.

Discovering that I had run out of onions and celery, I send MB and Jeanne down to the local store, only to discover as I opened the turkey box, that the bird I was planning to serve for dinner in a couple of hours was frozen solid! Never thought to ask if it was fresh! So, what to make for dinner? Time to move to Plan T.

By this time, five and a half hours later, the oven had yielded two sheets full of lovely, slumpy, concentrated tomatoes. I shanghaied one of the onions they brought from the market and scoured the fridge and the cupboards for additional ingredients. I found a few mushrooms, some fresh carrots, two big shallots, some ripe olives, a can of artichoke hearts and the Cody's Crush wine that Jeanne brought with her. I sauteed the onions and mushrooms, then added the rest along with some Italian herb seasoning and a small can of tomato sauce, but the piece de resistance was those luscious, rich roasted tomatoes. Jeanne and I squeezed the flesh out of the skins and into the pot with the rest of the ingredients, simmered it for a long time, and voila! a feast to ladle over some vermicelli and to top with fresh parmesan cheese!

We'll return to Plan A tomorrow and roast that turkey but I have to admit, we didn't miss it today!

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Hero's Specialty

If you wonder what has made My Beloved such a hero in my eyes, here's one good example; he cooks for me when I come home beat to my knees from work. Isn't that wonderful?

His specialty is Linguine with Baby Clams. The recipe is simplicity itself but when I come through the door and see the package of pasta and the can of baby clams, I know I'm in for some spoiling. I can do my email, put my feet up with a good book, or just flake out on the bed for a little nap - my dinner is in good hands.

He crushes a big clove of garlic and softens it in a little olive oil, then adds the entire contents of a can (about 10 oz.) of baby clams into the pot. After boiling the linguine in a separate pot of salted water, he drains it, spoons the clams over it, and pours a little of the clam juice over the pasta. Topped with freshly grated parmesano reggiano, it's simple, filling and tastes of the ocean and the dairy. Served in our colorful pasta bowls, it's even satisfying to the eye as well.

If a guy wants to treat his hard working sweetie, this is an easy recipe for heroism.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Good Neighbors

On our tiny street, just one car wide and eight houses long, we have some wonderful neighbors - every age and stage from small children to a lovely silver-haired lady who has lived here since the 1930s when she and her late husband built the first house on the block.

In the years we have lived here, we have seen the children grow from youngsters having their pony birthday parties into bright young things headed for college. The silver haired lady had cancer surgery some years ago and scared us all, but she's fine now. Some of my fondest memories include Hallowe'ens admiring the kids' outlandish costumes and, one summer evening as I drove in after a hard day's work, being chased by five middle schoolers joyously waving and shouting "Welcome home! Welcome home!"

This is the last peach on our tree. Rosy and plump outside and no doubt sweet and juicy inside, it is only a day away from picking itself and releasing the hardworking tree to a well-deserved rest. I left this one on the tree as a gift to our neighbor, P, who hauled all our berry canes, ivy vines and tree stumps to the dump for us in his handy trailer. Sad that this remarkable Season of the Peach is ending, but it seemed a fitting gift for an extraordinary display of neighborliness.

Planned Overs

My mother always called them "planned overs". She was a child of the Great Depression, the wife of a lowly junior Naval officer, and the mother of four children all blessed with hearty appetites, so nothing was wasted.

When my older sister outgrew her clothes, I wore them next. When butter was unwrapped, the paper was saved to grease a pan. Food in excess at one meal always made an appearance at a subsequent repast. Other mothers called them leftovers but, classy dame that she was, mine insisted they were "planned overs," and that they tasted better the second day.

In the case of my dinner of Dill Lemon Rice and the greenie beanies I sauteed for dinner the following night, she was right - they may not look pretty but they are even better the next day. My Beloved was out of town on an overnight business trip and I was too tired and too hungry after work to bother cooking so I went foraging in the fridge and found the rice and beans combo that I nuked in the microwave and ate straight from the pot.

I didn't plan it, exactly, but these definitely qualified as "planned overs."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Peach of a Dessert

See that yellow dot on the left lip of the bowl? Peach juice. We have been eating juicy, fresh peaches for dessert for weeks. Our peach tree, which has spent nearly 10 quiet years producing a very few small and pretty tart peaches, has all of a sudden decided that this is its year!

The branches were so full with ripening fruit that they were literally weighed to the ground, the fruit itself was much larger than we have grown used to and sweet! Clearly, a banner peach year in our neck of the woods.

Having been picked the same day (some were so ripe that they picked themselves and I'd find them nestled among the ivy leaves at the base of the tree) and never refrigerated, the peach perfume hits you from across the room. Because they are so ripe, they peel easily and because they are "freestone" peaches, the pit pops out without a struggle.
I'd love them for the rich yellow and red colors alone, but the taste and the scent are irresistible, too.

So. nearly every evening, as I'm cooking dinner, I peel and slice some of these lovely peaches for dessert. When the juice runs over my fingers and drops onto the lip of the bowl, it's testament to how lovely our late summer dessert will be.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Next Day Chowder

My first husband's mother, Mom T, was a traditional homemaker, rarely seen today. A tiny sprite of a woman with rich brown hair that never grayed, she majored in Home Economics at Oregon State, never lived away from home (except during her college years), never worked outside the home and relished her central role in her husband's, children's and grandchildren's lives. She cooked all meals except on the truly rare occasions when Dad T would make some wacky dish that he adored like tripe or scrapple; then she would retreat in disgust from her bright yellow kitchen.

Losing her in the divorce was one of the saddest aspects of that trying time. We vowed to stay in touch but, inevitably, her loyalty to her son won out; we slowed, then stopped corresponding and I heard about her death only well after she was gone.

One of my favorite of her standard meals was sweet corn chowder but, being a woman of her generation, she believed in canned corn, something I have never warmed to. So, I decided to adapt her corn chowder recipe to my own tastes. Sweet, peppery, herby, smoky and a little salty - that describes Mom T as well as the soup. This is hearty fare for a fall day, really a little too rich for a balmy September Sunday in Northern California but I had all the ingredients on hand, so what the heck.

Here's to you, Mom T, wherever you are!

Next Day Chowder (I'm calling my version "Next Day Chowder" because it really is much, much better the second day. Ideally, you'd make it one day and serve it the next. The bacon comes into its own, the corn flavor is more pronounced, and the thyme really hums the next day)

6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled (I used Niman Ranch uncured but I think the Fatted Calf would have been even better in this dish)
1-2 Tbs. bacon fat rendered from crisping the bacon
l large onion, diced
1-1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 2-3 fresh ears' worth)
1-1/2 cups diced redskin potato (I leave the skin on, she'd have peeled it off)
2 tsp dry thyme, rubbed between your fingers as it goes in (or more if you use fresh leaves)
2 cups whole milk (or milk and half/half, or half/half and cream - depends on how rich you want your chowder to be)
salt (don't overdo the salt as the bacon adds more salty flavor)
fresh ground pepper
fresh scallions for garnish, chopped

Cook bacon until crisp, crumble and set aside. Put 1-2 Tbs of the bacon fat in a large pot and add the onion and thyme, stirring to coat with bacon drippings. Cover and cook until onions are lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the diced potato and about 1/2 cup of water. Cook over medium heat until potato is tender (about 5 minutes). Add corn, milk, salt, pepper and heat through. Don't boil. Serve hot, garnished with the scallions. If you keep it until the next day, cover and refrigerate after it cools.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Enemy

I've been kvetching for a few weeks about all the weed whacking My Beloved and I have been doing to clear our bottom hill of the excess biomass with which Mother Nature has seen fit to bless us over the roughly 10 years that we have neglected the Lower Forty, as we are calling it. Well, this is the nastiest part of the job - the wild blackberries.

The ivy was merely stubborn, the dead stumps fell under the saw's attack, and the saplings gave way to our giant loppers wielded by MB in a glorious show of manliness, but the blackberries were a worthy opponent.

I cleared the last of these nasties out today and emerged victorious but bathed in sweat, huffing and puffing from having dragged my victims up the hill to the lawn waste recycling bin, and criss-crossed with bloody scratches from the thorns. I may have conquered, but they didn't yield easily.

Bruce Willis would be proud of us both, me the victor and they, the valiant vanquished. Of course, they'll be back for the sequel next year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

It's Official!

I read a lot. I love to read. I read all kinds of books - a whole bunch of potboilers but a nice mix of "serious" reading, too. I read on the BART train on my morning and evening commutes and, mostly, I read during my lunch break, too. I have always prized my library card and I'm delighted now to live close to cousins J-Yah and Sher with whom I trade books I liked for ones they enjoyed.

So, I guess you could say I've always been a bookworm, but now it's official. I'm the latest Bookworm on the wonderful Perfect Pantry blog, recommending this week a fun series of mysteries featuring M. Pamplemousse, a bumbling French detective who happens also to write reviews for a famous restaurant guide, aided by his faithful Bloodhound, Pommes Frites.

Hope you will enjoy a few of these lighthearted and amusingly written mysteries as your pots boil over!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Gadget Hound

In cooking stores, I have to forcibly restrain myself from buying gadgets. I'm a confessed gadget addict who would buy every one of those intriguing garlic peelers and avocado scooper/slicers if I only had room to store them all.

I have gadgets to thin slice the thin sliced bread, to pluck the hulls out of strawberries, to make decorative butter curls and to slice neatly hard boiled eggs. I'm easy at Christmas and birthday times - just buy me the latest kitchen gadget and I'll oooh and aaah over it like it was a diamond necklace.

Well, actually, that's not true - but close!

So, when I went to make Lemon Dill Rice today from Chris's recipe, I delved into my gadget drawer looking for a grater for the lemon peel, thinking I didn't have a fine enough grater, but look what I found - a true "Aha!" moment! Brand new, still wrapped, never been tested! (I have been known to buy kitchen gadgets I don't even need yet!) I confess to a little shiver of delight.

I peeled this little beauty out of the package and went to work on my lemon - it was terrific, grating the lemon peel so finely that it fell almost like powder into the rest of the ingredients. So, I'm in love with my new Cuisipro Mini Microplane Grater. Next time I'm in a cooking store, I may not work quite so hard at resisting the wonderful gadgets!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Local Rancher Gone National

After dinner in the Rockridge area of Oakland, My Beloved, our friend Zim and I found ourselves, last Friday night, window shopping along College Avenue with no specific destination in mind.

Luckily, the Market Hall Pasta Shop was still open, so we strolled in. In addition to fresh pasta, specialty oils, cookies, olives and all kinds of edibles, they also have a deli counter at which they sell meats such as salamis and, oh baby!, Niman Ranch nitrate free bacon.
Being prone to preservative headaches, I appreciate the lack of that kind of curing; I snagged some!

In preparation for our morning of bush whacking on the lower forty, I fried the bacon for our breakfast. This is not as meaty as the bacon from the Fatted Calf stall at the Berkeley Farmer's Market but it's lovely, smoky and slightly sweet, a fitting prelude to hard manual labor with tools.

Sadly, Niman Ranch was a local producer of bacon but they have since started getting their pork products from Iowa (the beef is still raised in Marin county). I have nothing against Iowa and, in fact, if you are reading this in Iowa, lucky you, as it is "local" to you - but here in the Bay area, it no longer qualifies as eating locally.

Still, it's good bacon and it gives staying power for nasty weekend chores.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Golden Planked Scallops

As you may recall, we're big fans of planking fish. We have planked salmon and halibut with great results but, according to My Beloved, sea scallops are the home run of planking.

I can't face scallops, myself, having overindulged as a child and somehow developed a mild allergy to what was my favorite seafood back then, but MB is very fond of them. Happily, they turn to gold right alongside my piece of salmon without mixing flavors so we can both enjoy our planked seafood.

All you do is place the scallops on the thicker end of a untreated cedar shingle and put the shingle directly on the grate of your barbecue, cover and let it cook for about 15 minutes. Lift the cover, note that the thin end of the shingle has begun to burn and smoke, press the scallops with your finger to test for desired doneness, and voila! Sea Scallop Heaven!

With some summer greenie beanies alongside and a slice or two of ripe tomato, dinner is golden!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Yellow Thai Curry

One of the nicest places within easy walking distance of my work in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco is Lalita Thai, a cut above most of the other neighborhood restaurants. They have a hand painted mural, a koi pond inside with sizable graceful koi in it, actual atmosphere (although they have recently added a mercifully silent flat screen television to their dining room), and really quite delicious food.

My favorite of their dishes is yellow Thai curry. It's not on their new menu but they often will make it for you if you ask. Since I eat there fairly frequently, they are kind enough to humor my taste for this savory curry and a big glass of diet cola with lots of ice.

I can hear you now - "Sheesh, she's trying to sell us on another one of her weird combinations!"

Trust me! The sweet, cold, fizzy cola and the warm, savory curry complement each other. They serve the curry with jasmine rice, too, my favorite, and that adds another note to the play of flavors.

It's nicely presented, too, in a white square bowl on an asymmetrical white plate with the rice adding a third white note. Lalita is a little more expensive than my other usual haunts, but every now and then it's nice to remind myself that even life in the gritty Tenderloin does have its elegances.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Thank You Soup

When you work as a career counselor, you enjoy the occasional thank you note or email from a grateful client who aced the interview or got the job - it makes your day and, sometimes, your whole week.

Consider, then, how long the pleasure lasts when your client brings not a simple thank you note, but a whole container of homemade French onion soup!

All I added was the toasted Acme sourdough slices, the grated Gruyere cheese and five minutes under the broiler before My Beloved and I dined on this lovely soup.

Our gratitude has lasted long beyond the soup - my heart is still warmed by the gesture a full week later, and counting!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Summer of Love Anniversary Sandwich

"When the moon is in the seventh house
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets

And love will steer the stars..."

Well, so far, the prediction from that Fifth Dimension song of my youth hasn't come true, but some minor stars are definitely aligned in my kitchen today.

The stars to which I am referring are a really ripe Brandywine tomato, an equally ready Haas avocado and some wheatberry bread - the stars of my lunch.

My friend Betsy made this summer sandwich for me more than 30 years ago, back when we were listening to the "Age of Aquarius" the first time around and actually believed in the prediction. The sandwich is only good in the summer when the tomatoes are truly ripe, so it's a seasonal treat. All you do is toast the bread (or you can use a whole wheat English muffin), spread with a little mayo, top with ripe tomato and avocado slices, a generous grinding of fresh black pepper and a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the whole thing.

I had the avocado in the fridge, the tomato on my counter and the bread in the freezer so, today, when I found a single big, yellow lemon clinging to my struggling lemon tree, I knew the stars were perfectly aligned for my favorite summer sandwich.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Loving a Cannibal

My Beloved is my hero. We spent last weekend doing much-neglected yard work, lopping sapling trees and uprooting blackberry brambles in the lower lot where we never go. We filled three, count 'em, three trailers full of dead branches, prickly berry canes and excess biomass to clear it away from the foundation of the house. Ugh. And the berries weren't even edible!

So, while MB and our neighbor P were taking the third load to the dump, I quickly showered and headed down to our local market for a piece of very lean sirloin steak to chop for his hero's lunch.

No, we didn't cook it.

His cannibal nature comes out at times like this and he likes nothing more than freshly ground raw beef.
If you have a food processor and haven't tried making your own burger yet, you are in for a treat. It takes just a few seconds and the wonderfully fresh taste is so worth the effort!

For his "cannibal sandwich" I use very lean beef but, if you like your hamburger cooked, as I do, leaving just a little fat on the meat will make a tastier hamburger. Either way, it makes a great reward for heroic service in the weed wars!

Crunchy Little Salad

A few days ago, I wrote about finding these three tiny cauliflowers, white, green and lavender, and asked readers for some suggestions of how to use them. I got some interesting ideas that I will try with subsequent cauliflowers, but none seemed just right for showcasing the color of these fresh heads.

My friend the Evil Empress suggested a nutty salad that sounded good, wasn't quite what I wanted, so I improvised - a riff on her idea.

I broke the cauliflower up into bite-sized pieces, added cherry tomatoes, golden raisins, carrot slices, mild red onion and marcona almonds, mixed them all together and drizzled them with a little balsamic vinaigrette.

The crunch was surpassed only by the deliciousness of the yummy ingredients.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Easy Cheesy

After a strenuous day in the garden, a chore that neither of us loves, My Beloved and I are looking for something quick and hearty to eat, with minimum fuss. This recipe for Cheese Frosted Cauliflower is one I've had for years and always enjoy, especially when I'm not inspired to make cheese sauce from scratch. The whole thing uses only one paring knife, one oven pan and one pot, plus a little bowl - easy cleanup. A wedge of this makes either a nice side dish or a bigger wedge is great for a light lunch or dinner.

Here's what to do:

Cut away the extra leaves from a head of cauliflower and core out the stem a bit so it all cooks at the same speed. Steam the cauliflower in a covered pot, about 10 minutes (depends on the size of the head). While the cauliflower is steaming, mix about 1 TBS of mayo with a like amount of mustard (I vary the kind of mustard depending on my mood - sometimes ballpark mustard strikes my fancy, other times nothing will do but fancy pants Dijon) until blended. You can vary the amounts of those two ingredients depending on how mustardy you like it. Slice some cheddar cheese - you can grate it if you want but I usually just slice the cheese into 1/8" thick slices, using my coring knife again.

I line a small oven pan with foil when I'm feeling exceptionally lazy and don't want to clean the pan. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees F (or you can nuke this in the microwave if you use a non-metal pan and don't line it with foil). In any case, once the duty knife pierces the cauliflower easily, remove it from the steamer, place it in the pan, slather it with your mustard mixture and top it fanwise with the cheese. Slide it into the oven just until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

Nutty, savory and rich - easy and cheesy and quick!

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Study in Reds

Sliding my planked salmon alongside slices of ripe locally grown heirloom Brandywine tomato and the cluster of little sweet summer cherry tomatoes, I was struck by the beautiful play of reds on my plate, balanced by the green of the beans.

Sometimes, eating a meal plays second fiddle to simply admiring it.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Organization Woman

We took "Labor Day" 'waaaay too literally around our house, but I'm pleased with the result.

This is our pantry closet, very deep as you can see (sometimes, fog forms in the back of it), which used to be such a jumble of stuff that I could never find anything in it. We duplicated several items because we didn't know we had them in the welter of ancient and ossified foodstuffs lurking in there.
Who knew we had five different vinegars, seven distinct kinds of sugar, six different brands of tea, and five boxes of angel hair pasta, not to mention the troll who was camped out behind the cereal boxes? An archaeologist would have had a field day.

Last Sunday morning, early, we braved the Container Store in Marin to find some rolley-out shelves and some stackable shelves for the sides. My Beloved got to use our power drill to install them and I got to organize it all - we are happy laborers today!

The triumph of The Organization Woman! Okay, I've showed you my pantry - now show me yours!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Okay, so I don't know how you feel about dining on the thymus glands of calves but my previous experience with sweetbreads was not positive. I won't go into the details but, believe me, if I hadn't needed to take a bite of My Beloved's dinner at the Baker Street Bistro in order to describe it to you, I wouldn't have.

And, I'd have made an important life mistake!

Prepared by rolling the sweetbreads in a little seasoned flour and sauteeing them to delightful crispiness outside and tender, mild moistness inside, these sweetbreads were a far cry from the ones that turned me off to this menu choice early in my life. Served over fresh spinach with tiny onions and a bacon reduction with chunks of the bacon left in, this was a memorable and delicious dish. I may have even experienced entree envy despite the excellence of my own dinner. As the youth of today are wont to exclaim when they really, really like something, "Sweeeeeeeet!"

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What Am I Gonna DO With You??

When I was a bratty little kid and Dad was out at sea and Mom was at her wit's end with my brattiness and ready to scream, she'd glare at me and say, "What am I going to do with you?" Luckily, whatever ideas she had at those times were not fatal.

Recently, when My Beloved and I were treating ourselves to the very upscale grocery shopping experience to be had at the Woodlands Market in Kentfield, I saw these three diminutive cauliflowers (that's a cherry tomato to give you an idea of the size) and thought, "Oh, you little dickenses! What am I going to do with you?"

There was never a doubt that they were coming home with me but what to do that will retain those bright colors and showcase their fist-sized perfection? I'd welcome any input from the Peanut Gallery, as long as it comes in the next day or so.... any ideas?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Baker Street Bistro, Formidable!

Blurry but beautiful, this is my latest dinner from the Baker Street Bistro where My Beloved and I celebrated the Friday evening of the Labor Day weekend with a dinner out. Sorry about the picture quality but I was trying to be discreet as I photographed my way through the meal.

Perfectly cooked hanger steack (sic) with shallot/wine sauce (and I suspect a little balsamic vinegar), a generous mound of crispy frites, some watercress as lip service to my mother's stricture to eat greens with every meal, and very nice waiters who take teasing about menu misspellings with good grace. Add a nice glass of red wine recommended by the very knowledgeable headwaiter, some lovely photos of Paris
on the back wall, (including one of the interior of the marvelous Belle Epoque restaurant, Le Train Bleu, where MB and I dined in style on our trip to Paris last year), friendly diners at neighboring tables, a chance to parlez un peu de francais with the very attentive but not smothering wait staff, and you have more or less defined my perfect restaurant experience.

This was our second visit to the Baker Street Bistro, a tiny 10-table place near the Presidio in San Francisco, and we enjoyed it just as much this time as last. We'll be returning on a regular basis and we'll hope to chat with you at your neighboring table.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Laborer's Lunch

After the heavy labor of bush whacking on our steep lower lot, (My Beloved looks very manly when wielding tools!), MB and I were really, really hungry. We did stop for a restorative shower before lunch but then it was time to eat NOW!

A quick search in the fridge showed that we were woefully low on fresh provisions but, luckily, we had stockpiled some cans of albacore tuna so I figured we were all set.

We had a little red onion to mince into the mix but, oops! no celery - what's tuna salad without celery? So, I reached for the only other green thing in the fridge, a head of broccoli. Years ago, back in Western New York, my pal Darcey taught me that chopped raw broccoli tastes great in tuna salad. So, I chopped it up and mixed all together and laid the mixture gently on wheatberry toast under a blanket of Spring Hill white cheddar. Under the broiler and you have a feast fit for a king, or a least a ravenous, bushwhacking lumberjack and his lumberjill. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Home, Home on the Range

I'm a big fan of home fries in just about any form; being half Irish, my love of potatoes is genetic. Anyway, I decided to make home fries recently as a treat for My Beloved. I've been on a shallot kick lately and I wanted them to be a little different, so I decided to add shallots to the mix.

To me, shallots taste somewhere between onion and garlic. Adding them to just about anything improves the flavor. So, I slowly sauteed redskin potatoes this time with coarsely chopped shallots, a little salt, a generous grinding of fresh black pepper and some fresh chopped parsley (not sure why the green didn't show up in the picture!). MB made short work of them underneath a couple of easy overs.

Deliciously easy at home on your range!