Friday, November 30, 2007

Hunter's Delight

The intense reduction alone was enough to make this combination of pork medallions and buttermilk quail breast with wild apple chutney a smashing success, but the Huntsman's chef went the whole hog and added that drizzle of creme fraiche and a sweet potato and leek pancake to send me off into food coma. I just gotta get more exercise!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Motor City Crab and Corn Chowder

Having made corn chowder and crab chowder myself recently, I was interested to see how the Huntsman would combine those two in this menu offering.

It was to die for.

Thicker and heartier than my own homemade chowder, still this lovely soup didn't have that nasty raw flour taste and gelatinous texture of a shortcut that so many chefs use to thicken their soups.

The chowder base had tiny bibbits of tomato to add richness and texture and finished with just a little heat (Tabasco, maybe?), making it zesty without hiding either the sweet corn or the rich, subtle crab flavors. The generous blob of white in the center of the bowl is all crabmeat from those lovely East Coast blue crabs that are one of the true delights of the eastern part of our country.

I should have stopped there as the soup and the mushroom appetizer were a meal in and of themselves but, what the heck, it was Thanksgiving weekend so come back tomorrow to read about the main course!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mushroom Magic

The friends we visited in Michigan over Thanksgiving are always comparing their neck of the woods unfavorably with California. They will cite the weather, the lack of sophistication and the poor quality of the food as reasons why no sane person would live there, this despite the fact that they have lived there happily for all of their lives. My Beloved and I always accepted their estimation of their location until this past weekend, when all those stereotypes were blown out of the water.

Yes, the weather was cold - 17 degrees F definitely feels chilly after our balmier Bay Area temperatures. But the snow we experienced was lovely, outlining the bare tree branches and carpeting the world with scintillation. We enjoyed the novelty of seeing our breaths all day long and I admired MB in puffy down jackets that made him look buffed and studly. I look like the Michelin Man in such garb, but he can pull it off.

The lack of sophistication was challenged beautifully by the wonderful "Best of Friends" exhibit we enjoyed at the Henry Ford Museum, where the elegantly simple models of Fuller's designs and the pure zen of Noguchi's work knocked our socks off.

And then there was the Huntsman.

Out in the Michigan boonies and down a dirt road lies a wonderful club for hunters. The clubhouse is made of huge golden post-and-beam construction and native stone, not so much rustic as simply and beautifully natural. The menu includes some offerings of wild game but isn't so fanatical as to offer only those choices. The tables are set with reproduction china with wildlife themes that echo the purpose of the club - in short, it's a wondrously cohesive place where the management understands its uniqueness and plays to its strengths.

My first course was Michigan Morels and Oregon Golden Chanterelles, cooked simply in butter and presented with a little hand rolled angel hair pasta to soak up the earthy sauce instead of the more common toast points. The dish was lightly sprinkled with good Parmesan cheese, as was the rim of the bowl in which it was served. With freshly ground pepper, it was savory, foresty heaven.

MB and I have decided that our friends are downplaying the charms of Motown to keep it safe from invading Californian marauders.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Airport Food

The pleasures of airline travel these days are nonexistant. Flying resembles a cattle drive more than a romantic getaway. Sadly, I can recall when traveling by air was actually a treat, when the airlines were grateful for your business and showed it by having the stewardesses (yes, they were always women in those days) cook your filet mignon to order - and that was in the euphemistically named "cabin class," too. You didn't have to triple the fare to get first class service.

Well, those days are long gone. No more macadamia nuts on flights to Hawaii, not even peanuts; the ubiquitous and inexpensive pretzel prevails. Now, you're sold for $5.00 a "snack box" filled with plastic knives, forks and cheese. Ugh.

So, imagine our delight, on our trip to the Motor City for Thanksgiving, to find that Perry's, a venerable San Francisco institution, has opened up a satellite location in the airport! My Beloved and I, being the kind of travelers who would rather arrive well in advance and read our books in the waiting area until the flight is called rather than make a mad dash through the airport and leap aboard the aircraft as the door is closing, were thrilled to be seated in a real restaurant and be served a delicious breakfast using real ingredients as we waited for our flight to be called. Now, if we could just move that kind of food and service onto the aircraft itself...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Beanie Weenie

So, what does one do for fun in Detroit on Thanksgiving weekend? The malls are a crush, as they are in California on "Black Friday," the day when all the stores make so much money from Christmas shoppers that their accounts actually go into the black, places to be avoided at all costs. The weather was a crisp 19 degrees F with a light covering of snow (I'm not complaining - it was actually a bonus! So beautiful!) so we headed indoors to the Henry Ford Museum.

The museum is an amazing, amusing and interesting eclectic collection of (mostly) Americana and history that we enjoyed. Henry Ford was best buddies with people like Thomas Alva Edison, the Wright Brothers and George Eastman, so he managed to put together some really interesting displays!

If you happen to be in the Detroit area reading this, we can all heartily recommend a lovely little temporary show that is currently on exhibit there, "Best of Friends: Buckminster Fuller and Isamu Noguchi," which chronicles the long friendship these two brilliant men shared and the ways in which each influenced the other's work. It's only there until January 15th, so get moving!

From the sublime to the ridiculous, we also enjoyed having our picture taken with the Wienermobile, which is on exhibit in the museum, too. It may not have the subtle sophistication of a Buckminster Fuller architectural design or an Isamu Noguchi sculpture, but it pointed the way to lunch in the Oscar Mayer hot dog concession where we were able to order from a menu that included, irresistibly for me, a Beanie Weenie.

This marvelous culinary invention combined a gooshy hot dog bun, a rather delicious tube steak, a generous slathering of baked beans and a healthy drizzle of melted American cheese, a true guilty pleasure. Was I to make this combo at home, I would improve on the original by using B&M Baked Beans (the best) and real cheddar cheese sauce but, when your feet are tired from enjoying a large museum and you've got your best friends in the world with you, a Beanie Weenie definitely hits the spot.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Flyaway Chicken Salad

I was so excited - My Beloved and I were flying to Michigan for the Thanksgiving holiday to surprise my dear friend Wenirs and her husband, arriving with her son with whom we were in cahoots and being picked up by her daughter, who was in on the surprise. Months of planning and skullduggery had at last come to fruition!

But, what to do with all those foods left in the fridge that were bound to spoil while we were away for five days?

I threw them all together for this Flyaway Salad of apples, chicken, lettuce, celery, thyme, some pine nuts that were threatening to go rancid, and a few anise seeds from my rapidly drying volunteer plant in the garden. It was delicious and so satisfying not to return home to a bunch of mystery leftovers of uncertain wholesomeness!

Friday, November 23, 2007


Snow has gone to heaven. What started with a delicate sneeze ended two weeks later, despite all the best vet in the world could do, with putting her to sleep.

She came to me 10+ years ago, already grown and named, and already a royal pain in the ass, as the best cats are. Dogs have owners; cats have staff.

As self-absorbed as Garfield, she demanded food, attention and luxurious surroundings in equal measure, and was a past master at getting them. My Beloved and I liked to say that she had two college-educated people working full time to keep her in comfort.

She was the blonde joke of the cat world, too, not the sharpest knife in the drawer. One evening, as MB and I were enjoying a romantic dinner with votive candles lighted on the table in the deepening twilight, she jumped up on the far side of the table and proceeded to walk straight across the candles, lighting her luxuriant ruff on fire. As I sat in frozen horror in my chair, MB had the presence of mind quickly to pat out the flames, whereupon she jumped down with a disgusted look at being so manhandled, leaving behind two flabbergasted staff members and the rank smell of singed fur.

This was a cat with rights. If you happened to nudge her as she lay unseen under the dining room table, she calmly nipped your ankle to remind you of your place in the universe, that of the cat food delivery person who is not entitled to move the cat.

She had a delicate stomach and frequent hairballs. She woke me
with insistent pats to my head in the predawn dark when she wanted breakfast. She was pushy and obnoxious and dumb as a box of rocks.

So, how did she worm her way into my heart and, now that she's gone, leave this big empty space?

I have indelible memories of her chin lifted in pleasure to my rubbing fingers, of her tail straight up in the air as she runs out to welcome the neighbor's dog who has been her friend since the puppy arrived 10 years ago, of her strolling nonchalantly 40 feet above the ground
along the joists when our deck was being rebuilt, of her elongated shape stretched out in a sunbeam watching me for any kitchenward movement through slitted yellow eyes.

I will always define blissful contentment with this image: The bedroom is chilly because we have all the windows open to the fresh night air and the sound of bay waves lapping gently on the shore. I am under the covers snugly sandwiched between MB's big, warm, gently snoring body on one side and Snow's loudly purring warmth on the other. When I go to heaven, I hope it's just like that.

Goodbye, Fluffcat. You'll be missed.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Free Rice

My friend the Evil Empress sent me a link to this word game; playing the game donates grains of rice to hungry people in the world (the reason they don't just donate the rice is that the site has very small ads at the bottom which pay for the site. I'm happy to contribute to this kind of capitalism if it will buy food for those in need).

What could be better for a bunch of food writers to play - a game involving vocabulary improvement and food?

Follow this link, friends, play the game and, if you think it's a good idea, bookmark it to return often and help others to eat, maybe not as well as we food bloggers do, and at least not to go to bed hungry.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Dutch Courage

I've always been somewhat cowardly when it came to making classic sauces - even Julia Child couldn't seem to simplify them enough for me. My friend Wendy and I have laughed as we spoiled many a batch of Bearnaise sauce and, although I adore Hollandaise, I just couldn't seem to get it right.

Enter my mother's recipe for Blender Hollandaise. Yes, it's craven. No, it's not classic. Yes, it is delicious.

I actually prefer this sauce to the traditional Hollandaise as the lemon flavor is brighter in this recipe. And, it takes about 30 seconds to make, and never fails. Try it the next time you make Eggs Benedict, or fresh asparagus or broccoli, or that chicken-breast-with-ham-and-broccoli dish that every hostess from my era relied upon for dinner parties.

Some people worry about the raw egg; all I can say is that if you use uncracked, fresh eggs and serve it right away, you should have no trouble. If you are making it ahead, be sure to refrigerate it and warm it in a warm water bath before serving, stirring as it warms.

2 egg yolks
1 Tbs hot water
1 stick butter, melted (1/4 lb) (you can also use softened butter sliced into pats, but make sure it's really soft)
1 Tbs fresh squeeze lemon juice
white pepper to taste
nutmeg to taste (I omit)

Rinse the blender container with hot water and set in place on the motor (note: this does not work with a food processor). Add egg yolks, hot water, lemon juice and seasonings, put the lid in place, and whirl at high speed for 3 seconds. Remove the top just enough to add the butter (it's splashy), pouring very slowly with the blender running. As soon as the butter (not the milky residue) is added, it is ready to serve.

I also have a wonderful quick Bearnaise sauce to share one of these days. They give me courage when making sauces.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cours Maintenon Soup

As a sophomore in high school, I attended a girls' boarding school in Cannes, France called Cours Maintenon. It was run by an impressive and intimidating headmistress named Madame Blay (pronounced like the tyrannical captain of HMS Bounty) whose steely authority we flouted at every opportunity and whose punishments we often deserved. I learned geometry in French with the difficult bits being translated by another American girl who had already taken geometry and was fluent in French - to this day I pronounce hypotenuse with an accent nicoise, not that I have occasion to pronounce it often.

The food at Cours Maintenon was plain but delicious and abundant - even French girls of roughly teen age are well fed. We had fresh bread and divinely creamy butter and jam with tea for breakfast, what an American would call dinner at lunchtime preceded by phys ed and followed by an hour's nap, and a lighter dinner. I have never eaten so much in my life and I actually lost weight - what is it about the air of France that even Americans can take part in the French Paradox when they live there?

Anyway, one of my favorite dishes was Potage Parmentier (Po-taj Par-mon-tee-ay), a wonderfully simple leek and potato soup that filled up all those adolescent tummies and was cheap and easy to prepare.
Literally, the hardest part of this recipe is making sure you have all the sand rinsed out of the leeks.

I learned a great tip for doing that from my hero, Jacques Pepin; after removing the tough, dark green leaves, slit the leek from halfway up the root end to the tip with a sharp knife, cutting it nearly in half. Repeat the slit to cut the leek nearly in quarters, then run it under freely running water - all the sand will rinse out.

All you do then is pare and slice a pound of potatoes, chop up the white and light green parts of a pound of washed leeks, add 8 cups of water and a tablespoon of salt and simmer the whole thing for about 40-50 minutes, then blend in a blender. The French would probably use a food mill so as not to make the soup quite so smooth but I don't have one so tant pis (too bad!) !

Stir in a little cream before serving, if you like a richer soup, and sprinkle the top with chopped chives, green onion or parsley and a grating of pepper, and voila! you have lunch or a great starter soup for your next dinner party.

Whenever I sip this soup, I am 15 years old again, living on the French Riviera and plotting how to sneak out of school at night to meet Andre.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Party of Cupcakes

A group of geese is a gaggle and a bunch of whales is a pod, but what do you call a selection of the most divine cupcakes to pass your lips and jollify your tongue?

I call it a party of cupcakes.

These little beauties are from Love at First Bite in Berkeley, a delightful shop that offers such a fun and unusual selection that we had trouble choosing which dozen to take to the shindig at Stinson.

We arrived at the shop at 9am, ready to make our selection, only to discover that they don't open until 10am on Saturdays. Anguish! We pressed our noses against the glass doors, silently pleading with the bakers we could see at the back of the store busily icing a fresh batch. After a few minutes of our pathetic puppy dog stares, the store owner, a truly kind soul, took pity on us and invited us in to choose our party.

We had to have two of the pale green ones with green tea flavored icing, one for each color of piped flower on top. The shaggy coconut cupcake was irresistible, too. And one can't leave out the peanut butter decorated with a triangle of peanut butter cup, nor the Bunny Love with its mixture of carrot, pineapple and spices topped with a pecan bit. A mocha lover like me wanted both sorts, the smooth one and the craggy one rolled in cookie crumbs. Ya gotta have one of their signature Red Velvet, truly a rich red inside and topped with a red candy, and how could we resist the vanilla and chocolate ones decorated with colorful bibbits? We reluctantly left behind the pumpkin, the true carrot cake and several others for the next desperate customers to press their noses to the glass, an hour early but anxious to take a party to the party.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Breakfast at the Beach

We were anxious, after the dreadful oil spill despoiling San Francisco Bay and adjacent Pacific shorelines, that the gorgeous Stinson Beach would be a victim of the spill. We were invited out to Stinson to join cousins Sher and Jyah for a day with their wacky, delightful friends and a small herd of dogs in all sizes - we went with some little trepidation.

We decided on the twisty, wiggly drive through a pea soup fog out to the coast, to have breakfast at the Parkside, our favorite Stinson haunt, reasoning that their business might have suffered since the beach is closed. Sure enough, we essentially had the place to ourselves, a rarity on a Saturday morning in this bustling and popular family restaurant.

Pictured is my generous breakfast of French toast and bacon, both cooked to perfection. The French toast was richly eggy and moist, steeped in egg rather than quickly dipped and dry like so many restaurants serve it, and their real maple syrup is well worth the extra dollar they charge. The bacon was applewood smoked and crisped just the way I like it with no hint of burning but still crisp as a cracker. Not pictured is the sweet, delicious fresh squeezed OJ - breakfasts at the Parkside are always hearty. We usually walk them off with a long stroll down the lovely beach but it was closed today for cleanup and to give relief to the oiled seabirds.

There will be months or years of fault finding in the wake of the terrible spill - hindsight is always 20-20. How much better it would have been for the birds, the sea life, the beach, the businesses and the people if we had had a prompt response to the accident and a way to round up all that black goo before it marked one of the loveliest beaches in California and impacted everyone in such serious ways.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Single Diner Dinner

Occasionally, when his sales managers are in town, My Beloved has dinner out with them and I'm on my own to scrounge supper out of the fridge. I don't much like to cook when it's just me.

On a recent occasion, I considered and rejected poached eggs on toast, repurposed (love that word!) pork loin and plannedover turkey breast sandwich. All were fine, sure, why not, okay - but none were truly tempting.

Rummaging through the crisper drawer, I struck metaphorical gold - three celery sticks - the goldy-green ones that are near the center of the head.

Eureka! Slather a little super chunky peanut butter down the centers and you have a snacky dinner worth waxing literary about!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lemony Snood

Geez, another yellow post! I seem to be on a yellow kick. Is it because my friend the sun is appearing later and leaving earlier each day now? Each year, we watch it travel from behind the Golden Gate Bridge (in late December) to disappear out of sight beyond the right shoulder of Mount Tam (in late June) and I miss it so much this time of year, when it makes only a brief daily appearance.

If you're a regular reader of Zoomie Station, you have probably figured out that I'm a lemon freak. My motto is, "When in doubt, add lemon." I add lemon to salads, salad dressings, chicken, seafood, desserts - you name it, I love lemon on it. I even ordered lemon cake (with raspberry sauce and buttercream icing) for our wedding.

So, when I discovered in one of those fancypants cooking stores these little elasticized muslin hairnets to keep the lemon pips out of whatever I'm cooking, I bought a bag of them and brought them home.

This is a gadget I can recommend. Not only does it take up virtually no room in the gadget drawer (bet you have one, too - hope it's not as jumbled as mine!), they really work and they can be rinsed and reused several times before the elastic relaxes or the fabric tears, most satisfactory lemony snoods.

And, if you hold the lemon so clothed up to the light and squint just right, you can imagine that it's the returning sun. Can't you, huh, please?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Falling for Pork

What do you do with yet another early fall dinner of boneless loin pork chops to jazz them up? We usually open a cup of applesauce to accompany our pork but, somehow, this time it just didn't seem exciting enough. In that frame of mind, I remembered that I still have a few of the Golden Delicious apples from Cookiecrumb and Cranky so I improvised on the apple theme.

I peeled, cored and chopped one of the apples and sauteed it in a little butter along with an onion of similar size, also chopped. The resulting "salsa" was flavorish but not memorable, so I dove into the fridge for the last licks of a jar of Stonewall Kitchens New England Cranberry Relish and stirred about 2 teaspoons of that gorgeous stuff into the gmish in the pan. The prominent orange peel taste combined with the sweet-tart cranberry goodness really made the difference. Yummy stuff to spoon over our plain grilled pork slices to make us fall for pig all over again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Love, Italian Style

Wasn't there a corny TV show called "Love, American Style" back in the '70s? I have a dim memory of such. Anyway, here's my riff on that title, my new saute pan from Italy. Is this cool, or what? I'm loving the very graphic enameled decoration - get a little smile each time I use it.

MB and I have several small saute pans like this - we seem to need multiples of this size - so I didn't even feel a twinge of guilt at snagging this one even though I knew it was as much for the decoration as for the cooking.

Andronico's. Berkeley (thank you, Dagny). They had several styles. About 10 bucks, not much to pay for a guaranteed smile and a taste of Euro style.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hallowe'en Carrots

I seem to be unable to resist vegetables in novelty colors. These weird characters in ghostly white, pumpkin orange and ghoulish black are carrots. The label assured me that they are organic so one assumes the blackish purple one was not dyed. As I sliced it (with my newly sharpened wonderful knife!), however, the purple pigment transferred itself to my fingers and my cutting board, so I'm not completely convinced.

Butter steamed, they were milder in carrot flavor than the plain orange ones would have been. Kinda meh. I don't think I'd buy them again, except possibly at Hallowe'en next year for a themed dinner to be eaten in snatches between distributing corn sweetener in various forms to young children dressed in outlandish costumes.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Rare Love

My Beloved and I began our love affair when I was 18 and he was 21 over a rare roast beef sandwich.

I was staying with his family for Christmas since my Navy parents had been suddenly ordered to Japan - there was a little conflict going on back then called the Vietnam War - and the family exchequer didn't stretch to flying the Freshman halfway around the world for Christmas.

MB's mother more or less guilted him into taking me along to the local pub with him and his pals. He ordered himself a Seven and Seven and me a sloe gin fizz, the cool drinks in those days, and we shared a roast beef sandwich. Now, this was in New York state, where they know how to make a real roast beef sandwich. It was piled high with good, rare, shaved roast beef, and embellished with a little lettuce and mayo. We munched and laughed and flirted, and the icy knot of loneliness I had harbored since learning that I would be spending my first Christmas away from my family began to ease.

My whole heart melted in the next few weeks as I figured out that this sweet, funny, honorable man was someone very special in my life. Forty plus years later, we still like our roast beef sandwiches rare and we still melt into gooey puddles at the memory of that first one.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Bandaids Are a Bonus

I finally took the Reverend Dr. Biggles' advice and had my motley collection of bought and inherited knives professionally sharpened. In an earlier, less enlightened post, I had blogged about my satisfaction with having sharp knives in my kitchen, thanks to my handy dandy electric sharpener - and was laughed to scorn by the aforementioned Biggles for being satisfied with that pathetic level of lethality in my cutlery.

My good friend, Barbara Giles, an artist of incredible creativity, beauty and determination, has recently taken up the skill of knife sharpening. Artists in our culture can rarely make a living from their work, no matter how gorgeous and ingenious it is, so she learned from an experienced craftsman and now has her own business. I took her six of my knives to be sharpened and she gave me some loaners to use in the meantime. Even the loaners were a revelation, sharp and sure. I picked up my own knives today and the difference, before and after, is amazing.

Dammit, Biggles was right.

Biggles, I bow to your superior knowledge. Barbara, thank you from the bottom of my cook's heart.

Go let Barbara help you, too. Six knives for the bargain price of $25 (currently - get 'em while she's still an unknown!). She is in Novato. She is a goddess. And your knives come back with her signature bandaid attached.

Scramble Moon

See what I mean? Lamb, leftover from my dinner, broccoli, mozzarella cheese. The man is a lunatic for scrambles!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

His Scrambles

My Beloved loves variety, so he adores scrambles.

He starts his scrambles with whatever he finds in the crisper drawer of the fridge, typically these three ingredients - mushrooms, green onions and broccoli. He sautes them together with a little Pam (butter flavored spray to keep things from sticking) since he had heart trouble a few years ago, then pours in Egg Beaters and adds whatever cheese he finds in the fridge.

MB maintains that there is no food that doesn't go well in eggs. I've seen him add leftover salmon, lamb, barbouille - you name it, he has added it to his scrambles and they must all be good as they all disappear with alacrity down his Little Red Lane. I haven't witnessed fruits being added but, otherwise, anything left over in the fridge is fair game. The variety factor is high with this guy and scrambles seem to satisfy that factor admirably.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Yellow Breakfast

From the palest pale of the fancypants Challenge Euro butter on the Thomas' English muffins to the intense orange-gold of the Odwalla tangerine juice, to the sunny bright eggs thanks to the Marin Sun Farms and the bright color of the McEvoy Meyer Lemon marmalade, we hardly needed the sun to start our day off on the bright side! Not to mention my favorite placemats, old as the hills but still cheery.

I thought you'd like to see how incredibly yellow the scrambled eggs from the Marin Sun Farms chickens were. They also tasted richer than other eggs - My Beloved wanted to know what kind of cheese I had added to the eggs this time. No cheese, just lovely "real" eggs laid by chickens who enjoy their admittedly short and productive lives out at Marin Sun Farms.

I think we are spoiled for other eggs now - that's the trouble with eating well.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Shock of the Yellow

I know, I know, another blurry photograph, but it's not about the clarity, it's about the astonishing color!

We bought this egg from the Marin Sun Farms store on the road between Olema and Point Reyes Station a week or so ago when we drove out on a lovely sunny Saturday to poke through the waning farmer's market and the little shops in town. When I cracked it open this morning, the deep yellow of the yolk was literally shocking - I have never seen one so yellow!

Wish I could report on the superior taste but all I needed was a bit of the white to color up the crust I was making for my pear and apple croustade, so we'll have to wait to hear about that, but isn't the color alone delicious?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

It's Back!

One of the small joys of fall for us is the return of Odwalla tangerine juice to the store coolers. My Beloved discovered this stuff about five years ago and we have eagerly awaited fall ever since. We love this sweeter citrus juice but the season is short, as in all good things!

This particular batch includes orange and tangelo juice, according to the label, so it was mildly tangy, fresh and lively.

I'm a great believer in getting as much of one's nutrition as possible from good, fresh foods. We need to keep our Vitamin C levels high as the cold and flu bugs we have read about this year are nasty - and you know the body doesn't store C so continuous infusions are necessary. Go get yourself some of this yummy medicine and toast the return of fall!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Gnarly Cousin

Back in my early dating days, one of my favorite places to suggest to my swains for dinner was the Pearl City Tavern in Pearl City, Hawaii. Back then, they had a wonderful Monkey Bar with live, tiny monkeys cavorting, frolicking and loving behind a pane of glass for the amusement of the patrons. A drink or two at the Monkey Bar was de rigueur on these outings. Afterwards, when we'd sit down for dinner, I always ordered the King crab legs with melted lemon butter.

On our last foray to Andronico's, My Beloved and I were proselytized by the most charming young fishmonger it has ever been our pleasure to do business with - he was promoting these ugly characters.

This young man must have some Irish blood as he truly has the gift of the gab. He offered us, with a broad and confident smile, a sample of the King crab legs he was touting, warning us that we would never be able to say no once we had tasted them. Knowing what a treat MB was in for, I handed him the sample.

Note that this picture was taken at home.

These are the lankiest, ugliest, hulkingest crab legs we have ever eaten, fully 18 inches from tip to toe and about 1.5 inches thick, Dungeness on steroids. MB wielded our kitchen shears to cut the rather leathery shells and out slid the sweetest, juiciest, most succulent crab imaginable - and the pieces were enormous. We could have made crab salad for four from just these two legs. They look like a homely, huge cousin to our local Dungeness crabs but these come from Alaska. Dunked in melted butter, they were nearly a meal in themselves.

All of a sudden, I'm planning a trip to Alaska.

Monday, November 5, 2007

My Sister Taught Me to Core Apples

I was making a pear and apple croustade to use the beautiful little Golden Delicious apples Cookiecrumb and Cranky brought, my lone leftover Macintosh and two blushing Comice pears that needed eating. As I was paring and coring the apples, I remembered that my sister taught me this trick.

I had been coring apples by cutting the apple in quarters and then carefully excising the core for years when I visited my sister's house and noticed her preparing apples for a Waldorf salad. She just sliced the four sides off, a procedure that look much less time, concentration and finesse than my method, leaving the distinctive square core behind. The best thing about being the younger sister is that you can learn from the older one - I have cored apples her way ever since.

My sister is in my thoughts a great deal today; last week we discovered that she needs a rather tricky surgery.

The neurosurgeons are confident, but she's not their sister - my brothers and I are worried.
The surgery is today. Think positive thoughts. Send positive energy to North Carolina, please.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Apple Ani-se

A while ago, I posted about a Pear Croustade that my cousin J-Yah taught me to make - and it was delicious, even though I had trouble interpreting the recipe. So, when Cookiecrumb and Cranky brought me some lovely Golden Delicious apples, I decided to try the croustade again, this time with half and half apples and pears.

I did a little online research that showed me that, in fact, it's pretty common to combine the two in pies and tarts, so I was reassured that I wasn't straying too far from accepted dogma.

I did add about two teaspoons of fresh lemon zest to the recipe, rebel that I am.

Toward the end of the preparation, all of a sudden I remembered the anise seeds growing unnoticed in my own garden that CC had introduced me to, and I wondered what a twist they might add to the dish. I ran outside and clipped off a couple of the dry umbels, rubbed them lightly between my fingers to separate the seeds from the twigs, and sprinkled the anise seeds on top of the finished galette.

Truly inspirational taste - the little hint of anise with the lemon peel and the mellow fruits, My Beloved and I each had seconds and I'm already thinking it will be wonderful with my breakfast coffee!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Fellow Citizens

My hairdresser and I are pretty good friends, even though we have never met outside of the salon in all the years of our relationship. We are about the same age and we like many of the same things. We enjoy our monthly hour together when we catch up on each others' lives.

She helped me to conquer my fears when I moved to California 11 years ago, newly divorced, middle-aged and responsible for myself for the first time in my life. I helped to support her through a serious illness several years ago (she's fine, now!). We've shared stories, admired pictures of each other's grandchildren, taught each other snippets of languages, she helping me with Spanish, I giving her a few words of Japanese with which to greet her son's wife's family.

She is an American now. Having just passed her test for citizenship with 100% correct answers, she is one of us. An immigrant from Chile many years ago, she and her husband, both Chileans, met here and married, and produced two gorgeous sons whom they raised to be marvelous men and devoted husbands and fathers. They have both worked hard to achieve the American dream, and have lived as a strong example of all the best virtues of our society.

The decision to become American citizens, even though they have lived here for most of their lives, was not a easy one - one does not give up one's native land easily - but they decided to throw in their lot with us and we are a richer, better, brighter, more cultured and more delightful country for having added these two wonderful citizens.

It happened at a good time for me, too. Just when I was despairing of the direction our country is currently taking and watching the ridiculous media circus that choosing a new administration has become, I am reminded that things can't be all bad when America can still attract these terrific people.

Welcome to America, M and H. We are graced by having you as our fellow citizens.

On a Mission

On a mission recently to clean out all the little odds and ends in the fridge, I made this cool salad for dinner on one of those truly rare, delightfully hot days in Northern California. I had a shepherd's pie in the fridge all set to warm and eat, but just couldn't face it in the 85 degree heat.

So, instead, I rounded up all this stuff that had been lurking in the fridge and put it to work for dinner. The only ingredients I bought on purpose were the Mission figs with goat cheese wrapped in prosciutto; Tea had made my mouth water with that description earlier in the week so I knew I had to try those!

The rest was just the contents of the fridge, arranged to look as if I had planned it. I picked the bones of our Sunday roast chicken, mixed it with some celery that was crying out to be eaten, added some herbs and a little mayo thinned with lemonade (I didn't have a lemon - worked fine!), plopped on a couple of marbles fresh mozzarella, sliced up the last of the homegrown tomatoes that Patty brought me from her garden and added slices of a ripe avocado that was taking up space on the counter, cut up a few florets of raw broccoli and arranged it all on lettuce that was starting to look a little the worse for wear.

Mission accomplished - no more little dabs of stuff in the fridge and late summer dinner to boot!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ode to Alliums

Having been a botanist in an earlier life, I love knowing the taxonomy of plants, and the allium family is a favorite. So, when I delved into the crisper drawer in the fridge, looking for something different to flavor my Sunday night chicken, I found three members of that genus and decided to add them all.


I put the chicken in the roasting pan and added chunks of onion, cloves of garlic and whole shallots all the way around, dropping in some small red potatoes and drizzling the whole thing with olive oil and a generous shake of good old Mrs. Dash (My Beloved adores this woman). Into the oven for an hour at 350 degrees and it came out glistening and redolent of those savory alliums, which I spooned over the chicken pieces.
I would cheerfully eat rocks if they were flavored with members of the allium family; luckily, I didn't have to as the chicken was rockin' on its own!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Feline Dentistry

She's logging a lot of laptime these days - poor Fluffcat had oral surgery this week. It hasn't affected her appetite at all - she just chews the cat cookies on the other side of her mouth - but it seems to have increased her need for a warm lap. If either My Beloved or I sit down for even a minute, she is beside the chair or the bed, patting the side of our thighs, asking to be hoisted up onto our laps. I guess it's not all bad - gives me a good excuse to goof off.