Friday, August 31, 2007

Tacky '60s Curry

Last weekend, My Beloved and I were invited to a Tacky Tiki '60s Party where several of the Bay area's wonderful food bloggers were gathered to enjoy each other's offerings. If you'd like to see some great photos of the "tacky" foods, visit Becks & Posh by clicking on the link under "If you've got time..." at the right of this page.

So, in keeping with that tacky theme, I made curry this week from a recipe I had when I was a new bride (the first time around) in the early '70s.

Yes, it's made with canned soup.
Sneer not, it really is good, although it's not even remotely authentic. Topped with condiments, oh, yeah, man, it's groovy!

Tacky '60s Curry

This is a good meal for a work night when you don't have a lot of time. The thing that takes the longest is boiling the egg and frying the bacon but, if you thought to do those on the weekend, it's a snap to put together.

1 cup rice (I like basmati or jasmine)
2 cups water
salt, if your blood pressure is low - we leave it out.

Boil the water, dump in the rice, stir once, put on a lid and reduce the heat to very low. In about 20 minutes, it's ready. Don't bother to lift the lid or stir.


1 can of cream of chicken soup or cream of mushroom soup
1 chopped medium onion
1/2 can milk
1 TBS butter
Curry powder to taste
1 chicken breast cut in bite-size pieces (or a like amount of any meat, really - lamb is particularly good and shrimp even better! Great way to use up leftover leg of lamb)

Once you have the rice going, saute' the onion in the butter until soft. Add the soup and milk and stir over medium low heat until smooth. Add curry powder to taste - this is the only tricky part - different curry powders have different strength and heat - start with a TBS and add more, tasting as you go along. I usually judge by the rich color when it has enough curry powder. If you like it spicy, add more. When the sauce is hot and bubbling away, add the meat and cook just until heated through. Serve over the rice and pass the condiments.

CONDIMENT SUGGESTIONS: crumbled bacon, peanuts, chopped egg, scallions, chopped onion (red or mild white), Major Grey chutney, shredded coconut (I hate that but my Mom always served it) raisins - I've even heard of peole using cocoa nibs or fresh coffee grounds. Whatever you like, really, as long as it adds texture and different sweet/salt/savory layers to the curry sauce.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Seven Boy Curry

Curry is a favorite meal at our house, not only for the savoriness of the sauce but also the fun of sprinkling one's own favorite condiments on top.

My Dad used to call this Seven Boy Curry - apparently in India when he visited, there actually was a little boy to serve each of the condiments. We are much less formal at our house - we just use a lazy susan to pass the goodies!

To top a recent curry feast, we added (clockwise from the top) fresh bacon, hardboiled egg, peanuts, scallion, raisins and red onion, with Major Grey style chutney in the center. There is something wonderful about having all the colors, textures and flavors mixed together in a single savory, salty, sweet, crunchy, velvety bite, like the instruments in a band all playing the same tune but each in its own way.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cookiecrumb + JYah = Pear Croustade

When Cookiecrumb and Cranky were overcome with pears, they gave us a bunch from which we enjoyed the Froot 'n' Shoot, but also this Pear Croustade made from a recipe we got from cousin J-Yah.

The crust is so buttery that it literally melts in the mouth and the filling had a wonderful, rich pear flavor but I'm thinking just a little more seasoning would have made it even better. The recipe uses allspice and I added the correct amount but I think I'll add more next time and perhaps a bit more lemon juice than the recipe called for.

With a little more addition, we'll have a dessert that's even more than the sum of its parts!

Later: some folks have asked for this recipe so here it is - it's a little sketchy so beware - but this is just the way it was given to me:

Pear Croustade


1 cup flour
1-1/2 TBS sugar
1/8 tsp salt
6 TBS chilled butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1-1/2 TBS ice water (or you may need a little more)
1 egg yolk


2 firm but ripe pears, peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 1/2" wedges (if small, use 3-4 pears)
3 TBS sugar
1 TBS flour
1TBS fresh lemon juice
1/3 tsp ground allspice
1 large egg white, beaten to blend
1 TBS whipping cream (I omitted this)


2 TBS flour
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS chilled butter, cut into 1/2" pieces

CRUST: Mix flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Add butter until coarse crumbs. Transfer to bowl. Mix egg yolk and 1/2 TBS ice water in small bowl. Using fork, blend to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into a disc. Wrap and chill until firm, about one hour. Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Roll out dough on floured parchment paper to 10-inch round. Transfer dough on paper to baking sheet.

FILLING: Toss pears, sugar, flour, lemon juice and allspice in a large bowl. Overlap pear slices atop dough, leaving 2" border. Fold dough border over fruit, pleating loosely and pinching to seal any cracks (Zoomie Note: in my picture, I misunderstood this instruction and piled all the fruit in the center and folded the crust completely over the top - I think it was supposed to look more like an open tart. It was still delish, however!) Brush dough with egg white. Drizzle cream over filling

Bake tart until crust is golden and filling bubbles, about 40 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to rack; cool slightly, about 15 minutes. Slide metal spatula under crust to free from parchment. Using large tart pan bottom as an aid, transfer tart to platter. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Zoomie Note: They didn't tell me what to do with the topping part - that's a mystery! Anyone want to guess?).


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Froot 'n Shoot

Recently, my mad friend Cookiecrumb gave me and My Beloved a big bag of pears. In a household of three, one of whom is a confirmed carnivore (the ISC), this many pears presents a challenge. Especially when my own peach tree is starting to bear fruit, as well. But, in this house, we rise to a challenge!

We loved the nectarines and prosciutto we concocted a few weeks ago so we decided to try the same combo with pears and peaches.

The pears were the clear winners, their sweetness complementing perfectly the saltiness of the ham. The peaches might have been better had they been riper - I was a little impatient and picked the first two before they were truly golden. At this stage, they'd be better in a cobbler or a crisp or lightly sugared and served over waffles. But they all made a nice hors d'oeuvre - we think the combination of froot n' shoot is pretty darn tasty!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Berry Bounty

Recently, we had our cousins JYah and S over for a Belgian waffle brunch. JYah, you'll recall, was the angel who tracked down the authentic Belgian recipe and brought back the necessary pearl sugar in her suitcase so we figured the least we could do was make the waffles for her.

Anyway, because these waffles are so sweet and rich that they are not improved by the addition of butter and maple syrup (even the real stuff), instead we had Fatted Calf bacon and summer berries to round out the meal.

Did I mention that one of the reasons I love California is for the length of its berry season? In Western New York, where I lived for 20+ years, strawberry season is two weeks in the middle of June. Yes, they are delicious, but the season is so tragically short!

At the Berkeley Farmer's Market we have had ripe strawberries of one variety or another since mid-April. Now that summer is truly under way, the sweetest blackberries and tiny, tart raspberries are showing up, too. These came from Swanton Berry Farm. The blackberries were so ripe that they actually squirted when pierced with a fork and the raspberries were sweet and tart at the same time. The strawberries were small and so ripe that they tops pulled easily out.

So, we feasted thanks to Fatted Calf, Swanton Berry Farm and, of course, JYah!

Italian Cheese Hound

Our buddy. She may look like a yellow Labrador Retriever but she's really an Italian Cheese Hound. She lives next door but is a frequent visitor at our house ever since she was a tiny puppy. She is the only dog the ISC really likes although she tolerates canine intrusions, having been raised with dogs. The ISC runs out to greet this dog with her tail in the air, emitting little meows of pleasure.

We're kinda like that, too - we all love her. She's a great watch dog, she's a gentle soul with those she knows and loves, and she is very well behaved.

We often leave the front door open so she comes right in to get a pat and a rub under her collar, which makes her almost swoon with pleasure. When she comes looking for a treat of mozzarella sticks, who could resist those big brown eyes and velvety ears? Not us. We are suckers for our buddy, the Italian Cheese Hound.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Duck Liver Mousse Pate' Encore

The Fatted Calf duck liver mousse pate' was, as I have written previously, an incredibly rich experience. It was so good that My Beloved and I overdid it a bit and ended up in what can only be described as a gluttonous stupor.

So, with the little bit we had left over, we decided to add a little vegetable matter, not only to cut the richness of the pate' but also to add flavors.

This was our solution. Little dollops of pate' on cucumber rounds with minced red onion on the top. Pop one in and you get creamy, crunchy, savory, fresh, rich and tangy all at once. We cried "Encore! Encore!" until they were all gone.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Slightly Cracked


Looking forward to a quick dinner of poached eggs, I pulled the carton out of the fridge expecting it to be heavy but it was so unexpectedly light that I fumbled the whole thing, watching in dismay as it fell.

Why does that always seems to happen in slow motion with plenty of time to think, "Oh, NO!" on the way down?

Out bounced this big brown egg, one of the last ones I had, and landed on my not-very-clean kitchen floor.


But, upon closer inspection, I saw that, miraculously, it was only slightly cracked so I got my poached dinner after all. Minor miracle of the day - I must be living right!

Friday, August 24, 2007


I've been thinking this week about being more energy efficient and noticing little things that bug me. The water cooler/heater at work that is plugged in 24/7 to make a few cold bottles of water and hot cups of tea per day. The shredder - same deal, it's rarely turned off even though it's shredding about 2 minutes a day.

As I've written before, I'm hanging out my wash to save using the dryer. I've been going around turning off lights in unused spaces and feeling pretty smug. In fact, I'm in serious danger of becoming a pain in the patootie.

But, the part of my energy savings that gives me the most pleasure is my friend BART. For five years, I commuted by car to the wonderful little school, The San Francisco Art Institute. The work was great and the students were terrific but the commute by automobile was awful, staring for nearly two hours a day at the bumper ahead of me. Thank heavens for NPR or I'd have been a basket case by the end of the five years I worked there.

Imagine my delight when my new job returned me to the loving arms of BART! Now, my hour commute is spent reading, relaxing and, occasionally, napping. My fellow riders are a pleasure, too - we recognize and greet each other, exchanging stories about ailing relatives or grumbling companionably about the weather or our work. My commute is now a pleasure and I feel pretty good to be using only one tank of gas every two months or so. If you're near a BART line and haven't tried it, you're missing a chance to reduce your carbon footprint while decreasing your blood pressure.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Peaches Are Coming!

When My Beloved and I got married eight years ago, my colleagues from Western New York sent us a gift certificate for something from a garden store to mark the start of our growing love. Isn't that sweet? We chose a peach tree (because MB is a peach!).

Unlike life with MB, life with the peach tree has not been untroubled.

It has suffered from Peach Leaf Curl; it's not planted in a very sunny place; because our lot is very sloped water and nutrients run away; and it has never borne much fruit. Every year, we have harvested about a dozen small peaches that were sweet when I left them on the tree long enough (I tend to get impatient with fruit) but were always diminutive and few.

Well, welcome to 2007!

Eight years seems to be the charm. This year, the tree is simply groaning with baseball sized fruit, some of the branches literally weighed down to the ground with ripening fuzzies. The peaches are simply beautiful, bright golden yellow with a rich blush of pink. You can see from the picture that they are still just slightly green so I figure it will be another week or so until I can clamber down the hillside to harvest our first bumper crop of peaches from our Wedding Tree.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cheese Pairing

Here's a snapshot of my childhood. My mother, in an attempt to give us healthy snacks, invented the combination of cottage cheese and apple butter. Or maybe it was just what she had in the fridge that day when I was whining about being hungry. In any case, it has been with me for as long as I can remember and it's a little weird but delicious.

Any cottage cheese will do and any apple butter but I'm partial to non-fat cottage cheese and this brand of apple butter that I found at a farmer's market and have been ordering from them by mail ever since. The label looks a little ratty but it's not Four K Farms' fault - I smeared it when I was wiping a dribble off the jar. I call up Mrs. Four K (sorry, don't know her real name) from time to time and order six more jars.

I'd characterize this as comfort food. I usually only eat it now when My Beloved is out of town - no cooking and it's non-fussy. Thanks, Mom!

Monday, August 20, 2007

He Bit a Bit of Better Bacon

On the advice of our new friend Rev. Dr. Biggles from Meathenge, I visited the Berzerkeley Farmer's Market last week with meat in mind. Biggles opined that bacon from Fatted Calf couldn't be bettered. Biggles is a guy who knows his meat, so I took him at his word and snagged two packages.

My Beloved and I cooked up the bacon this morning to complement the Belgian waffles and fruit we made for brunch with cousins J-Yah and S.

No wonder it's a hit with Biggles! This is without exception the meatiest bacon I've ever eaten. Mountain man bacon. Muscular bacon. Lightly smoky and mildly salty, it's almost like fried ham.

If you like crispy, crunchy bacon, you probably won't go for this brand since its meatiness makes it almost impossible to crisp without burning. But if you like lean bacon with a nice balance of salt and smoke, you're gonna love this stuff. There are a few pieces left from breakfast that I'm sure will make a memorable BLT one of these days.

Biggles is a boy who knows his bacon.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Duck Liver Mousse Pate' a la Fatted Calf

What has a multi-hued fish to do with duck liver mousse? The platter looks like this pate' tastes, richly and maybe even a bit aggressively colorful.

My newfound blogger friend, Dr. (or is it Rev?) Biggles sent me to the Berkeley Farmer's Market to buy some of this from the Fatted Calf. Dutiful as I always am, I did so, brought it home and was wowed, even as I unwrapped it, by the enticing scent.

If you think pate' is a mincing, effete food, this pate' will change your mind. This stuff is bold, robust and manly with a distinctly salty and liver-y flavor. The texture is a smooth as a baby's butt and literally melts in your mouth. My beloved and I ate almost the entire square at a single sitting and then had to wait three hours before becoming even remotely hungry for dinner.

Talking it over after the food coma lifted, we thought we might like it even better served on cucumber rounds with a little chopped hardboiled egg and minced red onion on top but even plain on a cracker this is the Fauve palette of pates, an explosion of color.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Chicken in a Purple Bed

I decided to roast my latest chicken on a bed of purple shallots and red potatoes and, after I took this picture, I succumbed to Molly at Orangette's idea of adding a little balsamic vinegar drizzled over the shallots, the potatoes and the bird.

In the oven, the shallots slumped into soft, savory pillows, the potatoes browned and sizzled in the pan juices, and the chicken was wonderful with the hint of mellow vinegar complementing the usual Herbes de Provence that I almost always use.

Almost a religious experience. If Heaven has clouds, they are softly purple and browned on the bottom.

Summer Confetti

Doesn't this just make you want to have a party and celebrate summer?

When I'm at the market I never can resist this colorful sweet summer confetti. Not only are they shiny and bright but the flavors range from sweet to sweeter at this time of year.

But, I haven't found much of a way to cook them, mostly because they are gone as snacks before I can get my cookbooks out. Tea has a wonderful caprese salad posted right now but it doesn't require any cooking.

Does anyone have a favorite recipe for these little sparklers that you'd care to share?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Striped Vegetables

When My Beloved and I bought our 1979 era house in 1997, it came with original '70s equipment, such as a blender motor set into the counter top, a non-functional intercom system in a house small enough to talk easily from room to room, an equally useless and complicated security system, mottled brown tile counters with dark grout, kitchen floor of big plaid linoleum and Jacobean stained cabinets.

It also came with a JennAir grill, which we figured would be about as useful as the intercom system.


We grill everything and anything with the possible exception of ice cream and eggs. Meats, fish, veggies, breads - you name it, we've grilled it and enjoyed the results immensely. It's not as tasty as barbecuing but we can do it no matter the weather. My favorite so far was grilled pineapple and Spam skewers that we made for the Evil Empress's 40th birthday party - she's Hawaiian at heart and loves Spam.

Grilled corn becomes more mellow and richer as it browns and bland summer veggies like zucchini and patty pan squash improve with a basting of whatever vinaigrette I have on hand and a short session on the grill. MB loves grilled peppers, too, with blistery black places.

If you don't have a grill like this, you can get a similar striped effect with a grill pan. I can recommend striped veggies. So tasty when grilled in our cool, vintage kitchen!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

San Frenchisco

The French have lots of good ideas, including seasonal eating, lovely wines, croissants, not supporting Bush's invasion of Iraq, fraises des bois, omelets, Paris, baguettes, open air markets, not supporting Bush's invasion of Iraq, the Paris Metro system, carousels, champagne, and, of course, pate'. You may have gathered that, for all their quirky Frencher-than-thou attitude, I adore the French.

Every time I have lived in or visited France, I have met wonderful people, eaten marvelous meals, seen incredible sights, and enjoyed the heck out of the experience. Other people come home complaining of French rudeness; I come home with stories of maps given to me by kind strangers, offers to carry my luggage by respectful young women, delicious bottles of wine pressed upon My Beloved and me from an adjoining table, and delighted waiters who love us because we're from San Francisco. I heart the French.

I also love their pates. So, I was delighted to find this brand of pate which one might think, from the names of the two makers, Marcel & Henri, were as French as Charles de Gaulle. But, wait, the package says it's made in South San Francisco!

The website doesn't mention Marcel in the history section but, bless his little Gallic heart, Henri came to the United States from his native France in the '60s to bring us French charcuterie and he settled in San Francisco. So, we have the best of both worlds, locally produced French style pates.

A champagne toast to San Frenchisco!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Egghead Salad

The San Francisco Main Library, in addition to books, videos, magazines, newspapers and a dynamite little bookshop that sells used and new books at terrific prices, has a pretty decent cafe in the lower level, down by the art gallery where there are changing exhibitions to while away the occasional lunch hour.

They have some hot entrees but because they make delicious fresh sandwiches, always garnished with their signature bright orange carrot slices, I usually opt for finger food.

This is their egg salad sandwich with fresh lettuce and slices of ripe tomato on soft whole wheat bread. It's a belly buster, really too much to finish in one sitting. You have to stretch your mouth w-i-d-e to get a bite and, even so, some of the egg salad always plops out the other side - it's best to lean well over your plate!

Good, fresh food and excellent reading light - what more could an egghead ask for?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Posole Party

One of the very best things about life in California is the Mexican food. I am frequently grateful that Alta California retains some of the flavors we learned from those in Baja California and points south.

A case in point is the posole I tried at a recent gathering of some Bay area bloggers. My Beloved and I were pleased and flattered to be invited to join the likes of Dagny, Rev. Biggles, Cookiecrumb and Cranky at Cazuelas Mexican Grill to slurp my very first bowl of posole.

This is hearty fare, as broad shouldered as MB and an interesting blend of long-simmered ingredients and fresh flavors. Note that my spoon didn't sink into this soup - it's as "beefy" as the guys in the gym across the hall from Cazuelas in the 24 Hour Fitness, another reason why some readers may want to check out this restaurant. Oh, my!

I enjoyed the deep, rich porkiness given by the carnitas in the soup and the hearty starchiness of the hominy (although I might even have enjoyed sweet corn in the soup even more), as well as the offerings of fresh shredded cabbage, sliced radishes and chopped onion to be added to taste.

Not to mention the colorful eye candy of a rich, dark rust colored soup served in a school bus yellow bowl. I can't vouch for the other offerings at Cazuelas but the posole was deeply satisfying on several levels.

I think I'll go back next Cinco de Mayo to say thanks again to Mexico for their delicious cuisine!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Salsa Dancing

Years ago, when swordfish came in large, manly steaks obviously cut from some giant of the sea who had lived a full life, I used to enjoy this salsa on grilled swordfish in the summer. The crisp, crunchy, minty, sweet-and-tangy salsa was the perfect complement to the fish.

Then, sadly, the smaller and smaller steaks and news stories about the serious decline in swordfish populations put swordfish on my (very short) list of things I can't ethically eat.

So, my favorite salsa recipe went into the recipe file there to languish until I found that planking halibut is a great way to cook that rather bland fish and, Hallelujah!, that it tastes great with a little of my summer salsa over it to make the favors dance.

I don't usually give recipes since most of what I cook doesn't require one, but here's my favorite in case you want to try it - it's from, "Mint-Cucumber Salsa."

3/4 cup diced seeded peeled cucumber
6 Tbs. chopped red onion
3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
1Tbs. white wine vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar

Combine cucumber, onion, mint, vinegar, 1-1/2 tsps oil and sugar in a medium bowl; toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper (Can be made two hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Each time I make this, I do a little dance of pleasure.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dining Table

When I was growing up, my family was one of those who had dinner together each night around a formal dining table. One of us kids would set the table with Mom's heirloom silver and china while she cooked. Dad would carve and none of us would begin until all had been served.

No pizza on the couch in front of the television for us, even when there was something special on, and the family rule was that we didn't answer the telephone during dinner. Dinner was to be our uninterrupted family time, the sharing of our days' events and catching up with each other.

Of course, as youngsters we hated that. We'd complain loudly and futilely that we were missing special programs or calls from our latest heartthrobs.

It was only later in life when I began to understand and appreciate how wonderful it is to share food and stories with loved ones at the end of a busy day or to enjoy the company of friends around your table. And how much grace it gives to life when you have a beautiful table on which to enjoy the meal.

So, when our friends G and I were giving away this lovely table, My Beloved and I leaped at the chance to add this lovely piece to our lives. We will prepare and enjoy many a meal at this beautiful table and will think gratefully of them every time. And whenever they come to visit, they will be the guests of honor at a formal meal where I use my heirloom china and silver to signal how special they are. I may even refuse to answer the phone during dinner.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Turkish Delight

Not referring to the pate' here, nor to the crackers but, in this case, to the plate. When My Beloved and I were visiting Arizona a few years ago, we went to the charming little mining town of Bisbee where my worldly and sophisticated sister-in-law Ann was born and has sworn never to return.

From her description, we expected a town populated entirely with rednecks and rubes with gun racks in the back of their pickup trucks and bumper stickers declaring that "The West Wasn't Won With a Registered Gun."

To be sure, we did see a few of those guys and, being peaceful liberal California tree huggers, we avoided confrontations. But, mostly, we enjoyed the town, the food and the people very much. Our only disappointment was the dearth of what we went to Bisbee to find, Mex
ican pottery.

Bisbee is just a few miles from the Mexican border in far Southern Arizona. One might even call it Northern Mexico. We drove there eagerly anticipating a purchase of several colorful pieces of authentic hand-painted Mexican table ware. We looked all over town and found cowboy attire, chi-chi little dress shops, delicious ice cream and even a Panama hat for MB, but no pottery.

Until finally we stopped in a little shop off the main drag, where we discovered a treasure trove of pottery - from Turkey! The proprietor loves to travel and has made a fun little business out of visiting places, buying stuff, and then selling it, of all places, in Bisbee, AZ! The day we arrived, she was newly returned from Istanbul with a suitcase full of their hand-painted wares. It's hard to be disappointed not to find local pottery, when the global economy has presented us with lovely Turkish delights.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tube Steak

W.C. Fields and I share a couple of things, a healthy distrust of small children and a love of tube steak. When I go to the ballpark, for example, I go as much for the hot dogs as for the baseball.

Lunch in the Tenderloin (or am I in the Civic Center now?), as I have remarked before, is not usually a gourmet meal. On the other hand, if you get past the airline-style security guards in the California Supreme Court building on McAllister Street, there is a nice, usually quiet cafeteria on the second floor with good reading light and the clever name, Justice Served.

They offer, in addition to a pretty nice fresh salad bar and daily specials, a juicy hot dog complete with grilled bun and lavish (as you can see) condiments. They split the sausage and grill it like my Dad used to, pressing down firmly to make sure all sides have been seared.

With an icy Coke on the side it makes a satisfying lunch, and pretty fast, my Fair Little Chickadee.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


When Belgian waiters bring your dinner, they place it with a smile and with a drawn out version of the French "voila!" that sounds more like, "Vwaaaaaaaah-la!" with the emphasis on the "la!" It means "Eureka!" and "Enjoy!" in the same word.

Ever since My Beloved and I spent two weeks in Belgium a couple of years ago, we have tried without success to replicate the wonderful warm waffles they sell on every street corner there.

We concocted every recipe we could find on, polled our friends for their favorites, experimented on our own, and always fell short of the yeasty, vanilla-scented, crispy-on-the-outside-but-creamy- on-the-inside waffles we missed from Brussels.

Until a couple of months ago when cousin J-Yah, who lived in Belgium for many years before settling in Petaluma and who loaned us her lovely Belgian house while we were there, brought one more recipe back from a recent trip, along with the pearl sugar that is an important ingredient to the waffles.

This morning, we figured out why Belgian waffles are so good. First, they actually require yeast and rising, rather than just baking powder. Second, they are so incredibly rich with butter (nine tablespoons for about six waffles!) that they actually sizzle on the waffle iron rather than bubble - no sticking fears! Third, the pearl sugar stays crispy in the batter so when you bite into the rich, creamy waffle, it crunches lightly between the teeth.

Vwaaaaa-la! Vive la Belgique!

P.S. Barbara from
Winos and Foodies asked for the recipe for these waffles, so here it is:

Belgian LIEGE Waffle Recipe:

Batter # 1:

1 1/4 oz fresh cake yeast or 2 1/2 pkg. active dry yeast (Note from Zoomie: I used only 1 pkg dry yeast by mistake but it seemed to work just fine);
1/4 cup warm water 100 degrees F;
1 cup all purpose flour (I used unbleached);
1 Tbs granulated sugar;
1 large egg, beaten;
1/3 cup milk, warmed to 100 degrees F;

Batter #2:
9 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature;
6 Tbs all purpose flour;
1 tsp vanilla extract;
1/4 tsp baking powder;
1 tsp ground cinnamon, optional (Note from Zoomie: I didn't include it);
pinch of salt;
1 Tbs. granulated sugar;
1/2 cup pearl sugar or 3/4 cup crushed sugar cubes (size of sunflower seeds, approx) Pearl sugar can be purchased from Maid of Scandinavia, 3244 Raleigh Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55415-2299. 800.328.6722.:

To prepare Batter #1, dissolve yeast in warm water with 1 Tbs flour and sugar. Let stand 5 minutes until foamy. Sift flour, make a well in the center and add yeast mixture, egg and milk; mix well. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until double or triple in volume.

To make Batter #2, mix butter, flour, salt, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon, etc. into paste. Add to Batter #1.

Bake in a medium hot waffle iron for 3-4 minutes. Serve warm.

(Note from Zoomie after making them once: My Beloved and I usually like extra butter and maple syrup on waffles but these would truly be better with fresh fruit or a light sprinkling of confectioner's sugar - they are already 'way sweet and rich!)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

UN Plaza Farmer's Market

One of the pleasures of working in the Tenderloin is Wednesday's Farmer's Market in the United Nations Plaza. With the backdrop of San Francisco's splendidly restored City Hall, you can stroll through and find just about any possible kind of fruit or vegetable from violet eggplants to brilliant red chiles and tomatoes. The colors alone are worth the visit.

There are often musicians playing in the BART station below so you hear the music floating up - one week, it will be the plaintive voice of the diminutive Mexican guitarist in his ten gallon hat; another week, the tuneless scraping of the homeless guy who "plays" a violin without music or, apparently, talent but with a concentrated verve and a secret inner smile that never fades. I have enjoyed everything from classical cornet to gospel hymns to the banjo player who, when I dropped a little money in his open case, changed seamlessly from his original tune to "You are my sunshine" to send me up the escalator with a smile on my face.

The fresh fish, tamale and rotisserie chicken booths always have a long line but the longest of all is one that I have to admit to carefully avoiding - the live chicken truck. Listening to the worried mutterings of the hens inside hurts my heart, even though I know that what comes from the Roli Roti truck was like that just hours before. The shining eyes of the iced fish don't affect me in the same way - I guess I'm just a wimp for warm-blooded animals.

So, on Wednesdays when I emerge from the BART station into the lively bustle of the market, I buy a cup of coffee from the ladies in the coffee booth on the Market Street side and walk away from the chicken truck toward the spectacle of the City Hall, admiring the colorful beauty of the fresh produce and flowers.

Strange Bedfellows

Okay, who woulda guessed that these two tastes would be great together?

My Beloved and I had picked up some of those little shaved carrots at Trader Joe's the other day (no, not as good as the true baby carrots from the farmer's market but they do make a healthy snack) and I managed to get a little of the Dijon mustard from our ham and cheese sandwiches onto the next carrot I crunched while constructing lunch.

A taste sensation! The sweet of the carrot with the pungent savory of the mustard was really interesting.

I've often wondered how established pairings first get tried - I think my mustardy carrots is a good illustration of what happens. Serendipity. I still wonder who found the courage to try the very first oyster but that, too, was probably a happy accident.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Roasting with Relish

One of our favorite Sunday dinners is roast chicken. We love the anticipation the smell evokes as the chicken cooks, the ease of preparation, the delicious result, and the fact that we only have to cook once to eat twice. Roast chicken is heavenly and lovely fresh range chickens make the very best ones.

And so easy! Even My Beloved, who isn't exactly and adventurous chef, has enjoyed making his own version of roast chicken. We like to make it for company; if we prep the chicken ahead of time by basting it in olive oil, sprinkling it with fresh lemon juice (the rest of the lemon goes into the cavity for extra flavor) and dusting it with a generous shaking of Herbes de Provence, it can be roasting while we relax with a glass of wine, some nibbles and conversation with friends. If I'm feeding a big eater, like our friend Jack, I will also put some redskin potatoes and/or shallots around the chicken in the pan and drizzle them with a little olive oil. Just after the friends arrive, we slide the chicken into a 350 degree oven, baste it once or twice during the hour, and pull it out, ready to eat. It's not only delicious, it also makes an impressive presentation when MB wields his carving knife.

But, what we recently discovered is that roast chicken is even better when served with this Cranberry relish. We can't find it locally, even though we do find other products by this maker, so we order it online, six at a time. It has whole cranberries and a touch of orange - great with roast chicken!

So, next time you roast and enjoy a chicken, do it with relish!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Le Fat Bastard and The Lady in Red

On our recent trip to Seattle to attend Molly's wedding, we visited on our first night in that fair city a little Italian bistro called "That's Amore!" They actually have warm evenings in Seattle, where in summer you can sit outside until late without those gas heaters that sear one side of the body while leaving the other side cold and actually not freeze to death. Imagine!

Our dinner was delightful and I'd recommend the place if you're in that town, but the highlight really was these two wines. The white is a chardonnay from France and is called Fat Bastard - of course, we had to order that - irresistible! It was a soft and fresh-tasting. I'm not an expert at wine descriptors - don't have enough palate nor enough snobbery - but it was delicious and My Beloved savored all but the few sips I cadged from his glass.

Mine was the Cabernet Sauvignon Lady in Red, a Washington State wine that was nicely mellow. I don't like grape juice but I do like red wine that is fruit forward and smooth - this one filled the bill.

So, next time you're in Seattle, (or perhaps you can find them here in San Francisco, although you'd need to seek out a heater for the evening), I can recommend dining with the Fat Bastard and the Lady in Red. Amusing little dinner companions for a warm summer evening.

Breakfast Bread

I have a great boss. That's not just kissing up, it's true - she doesn't have time to read my blog so I wouldn't get any brownie points by saying so here.

A week or so ago, she treated our whole office to breakfast at Boulette's Larder in the Ferry Building. It's a fun place for a casual breakfast where they take their teas and coffees seriously and sell spices and ingredients that are hard to find anywhere else. We ate in the kitchen family style, since the morning was chilly and foggy and the outdoor tables didn't seem appealing. We enjoyed watching the chefs prepare our breakfasts while we sipped our coffee, chocolate and tea or our charcoaled water (too esoteric to explain, just go there and try it - it was flavorless and quite refreshing). They have an impressive array of copper cooking pots hanging above the stations, some of whose uses we could only guess. For example, one was big enough to bathe a good sized child in - maybe major soup?

Breakfast arrived and while all the others were moaning in pleasure over their early morning omelets, I was slurping down the housemade yogurt with rose petal jam swirled in and topped with really ripe, sweet strawberries. It was all good, but what we fought over was the toast.

While we were there, I saw the delivery arrive from Acme Bakery so I suspect that's the source for this wonderful raisin nut bread that they toasted for us. I had to add the baby pomegranates from the centerpiece to the plate because the toast disappeared so quickly that the lone crust left didn't make much of a picture - and right after the picture was taken that, too, disappeared!

We wage slaves went to work happy that day!

Friday, August 3, 2007

I Heart CA

Artichoke heart, that is.

When I was growing up, artichokes were always a huge treat in our family and we pretended to guard our plates jealously for fear that acquisitive siblings would sneak a couple of our leaves off onto their plates or cop a dunk in our butter dish.

Back then, artichokes were affordable on our family budget only when they got down to four for a dollar. Needless to say, they were a rare treat.

My Dad would always grumble that they were too much work for too little food, but we noticed that he never gave up before he reached the wonderful reward of the heart. We'd try to wheedle a piece of his hard-won heart from him and felt truly loved when he would share a bite.

This is one of a gazillion reasons why I like California - the artichokes are plentiful in the right season and every time I enjoy one, I am reminded of the playful family banter as we dipped into the lemon butter and shared a little literal and figurative heart.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Em's Place Breakfast

Okay, this is truly a guilty pleasure.

There's a little restaurant in San Francisco on McAllister Street between Hyde and Leavenworth, not too far from Market Street (where they offer an entirely different kind of guilty pleasure) that makes the best breakfast sandwich in the known universe.

The eggs are fresh, the bacon crisp and generous, the melty American cheese gooping out with each bite, and the muffin freshly toasted. And served with a huge smile and a kind word from the lively Chinese couple who owns the restaurant and have put their son through college by the sweat of their collective brows.

People my age should never eat food this rich, but I do sometimes and it's always a great treat. Em's Place. $2.25 and the price hasn't changed in five years.

Get yours before there's a price increase and be sure to leave a tip in case the son decides to go to grad school!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Greenie Beanies

No, it's not about the lamb brochettes (although they were delish and I didn't even have to fix them myself, just threw 'em on the grill!) and it's not about the caprese salad (although it was bright and the fresh mozzarella came from the store steeped in herby olive oil, a nice refinement I hadn't seen before) - it's about the delicious greenie beanies MB found in our little local market, the tiny, thin ones, no more than 3 inches long and slender. Haricots verts, as I learned to say in my schoolgirl French.

Why aren't they available in all markets and only sometimes? Are these just picked before they get big or are they a whole different bean? Anybody out there know the answer? I'd offer you some but we ate 'em all! My mother would have been proud.