Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Enemy Kale

I've been trying, one by one, things I hated as a child. I haven't yet summoned the nerve to try rutabaga but last week I did purchase kale again.

When I was young, my mother fixed kale every once in a while, probably in the fall when it is at its best. Hers was a curly kind, strong and darkly green; we kids were reasonably bratty whenever she served it. She was one of those mothers who insist that one clean one's plate before dessert - we choked it down but not without making faces and mutterings under the breath. Once I was married and out of her house, I vowed never to subject myself to kale again. Just goes to show you - never say never.

This kale was of the lacinato variety, still darkly green but with pointed, flattish leaves on stiff white ribs as one might expect from the name. I decided to cook it much as we do Swiss chard, coarsely chopped and butter-steamed with garlic chips, and to serve it along side chicken roasted with potatoes and shallots. It took longer to relax than chard does - rather like my mother, kale is made of sterner stuff. When it finally slumped to the bottom of the pan, we sat down to a surprisingly nutty, chewy green, not at all the leathery, curly mouthful of my memory. I liked the combination of spartan, slightly bitter green with the richness of the roast chicken and shallots.

I'm sending a mental apology once again to Mom up there in heaven. It takes a little getting used to, but kale is not the enemy.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bay Day

Last weekend, on just about the prettiest day of the year, when the air was warm and the winds were light, My Beloved was invited for a day of sailing on a nifty little boat called Elska, one of his birthday treats from his younger daughter and her main squeeze who owns the boat.

My Beloved grew up in a family of sailors. His parents met while crewing on a friend's boat and all three of their children were introduced to sailing at a very early age. In his teens, My Beloved with his Dad and brother sailed competitively and were very successful. His brother is a passionate sailor still and his sister and her husband have been mainstays of the sailing program in their town. Only MB wasn't bitten by the bug, but he does enjoy the occasional day out on the water with the wind in his hair and the sun on his shoulders.

I got to tag along, my first sail on the bay in the thirteen years I have lived here. I have crossed the bay on ferries and even enjoyed it from the deck of the USS Potomac, but this was my first trip on a sailboat.

Katie packed a lovely lunch of salami and cornichon sandwiches on buttered baguettes and blanched green beans with olive oil and lemon zest, as well as cheese and nibbles of olives, cherry tomatoes and Persian cucumber spears. Well supplied, we put-putted down the Oakland estuary past Jack London Square and enormous cranes loading and unloading giant freighters, and out into the bay.

The captain killed the engine, raised the sails and away we went, wafted on gentle breezes. When asked where in the bay he'd like to go, My Beloved chose to inspect the progress on the new Bay bridge being built with huge cost and long delays to replace twenty years later the rickety section that fell down in the Loma Prieta earthquake. We sailed under the new span, awed by the size of the engineering feat that it represents and thrilled by the sweep of the part already completed. Eventually, it will look like this. They seem poised to begin the suspension part of the span.

We sailed on around Treasure Island, enjoying music floating out over the water from a concert being held on the island. Rounding the north end of the island, we spotted porpoises and seals in the water and enjoyed watching pelicans and terns plunging headfirst into the water to catch fish for lunch. The wind through the Golden Gate picked up and we heeled over, wetting the rail and relishing the increased speed. We sailed back under the bridge on the west side, marveling again at the sheer size of these links to San Francisco.

On the way back, the wind died completely and we bobbed on a glassy bay where just a short distance away we could see the water dancing with wind-whipped waves. I think we experienced just about every kind and direction of wind that day.

Thanks to our Captain and his lovely Elska for a day on the water, and to Katie for a delicious lunch. We will remember with pleasure our bay day.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pear-Ginger-Orange Blooper

Okay, so this is the recipe I started out to bake. Pear Ginger Upside Down Cake. Doesn't that sound delicious?

Cranky had gifted us with a big bag of pears and oranges from his very prolific trees so I was eager to make something pearish and I just happened to see this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs. How's that for great timing?

When I brought out all the ingredients, however, I realized I didn't have molasses. My choice was the run out to the store or to improvise. Not being a huge fan of molasses, anyway, I decided to try substituting real maple syrple, of which I am extremely fond and of which I had plenty. I could just imagine that maple would add a nice note to the pear and ginger flavors in the cake.

Then, I was looking at the oranges that came with the pears and recalling that Cookiecrumb told me that the zest was the best part of their oranges, so I decided to add an orange worth of zest to the topping for the cake. Another improvement!

Later, right after I had loaded all the (fairly stiff - I shoulda known) batter into the cake pan on top of the pears and topping, I realized that I had left out entirely a key ingredient, the buttermilk. Well, um, that is, I didn't have any buttermilk, either, so I was going to substitute kefir that I had on hand but now had forgotten... *sigh* Some days are like that.

Anyway, I could do nothing but slide it into the oven anyway and hope for the best. I did that and checked it frequently as it rose beautifully and turned a lovely golden brown. When the cake tester came out clean, I cooled it a bit, released it from the springform pan and let it cool completely on a rack.

It was simply delicious. One of the best mistakes I've ever made. The pears were firm and sweet; the topping was sweet but not excessively so. There was a nice hint of ginger without being overwhelming and it complemented beautifully both the orange and the pear flavors. Next time, I will remember to add the kefir, as the crumb was tight and slightly dry, more like pound cake than cake-cake, but I will keep the maple syrup and the orange zest in the recipe for sure. I may add zest to the batter, as well.

It was so good that I had to cut it up and give it away to the neighbors to keep us from eating the whole thing. I credit my baking guardian angel with keeping my mistakes from turning this cake into a true blooper.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Whole wheat toast topped with a whisper (as instructed) of Vegemite underneath egg salad.

The egg was perfectly cooked for once - I followed Molly's instructions - and the Vegemite added a layer of unexpected flavor to my honey wheatberry toast. I can recommend this lunch. Very tasty!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

They Come From The Land Down Under

Just a week ago, we were lunching with DancingMorganMouse and Mr. Brown in San Francisco on a sunny day. They had come from Australia via New York City and very kindly asked if there was anything from Oz they could cart clear 'round the world and halfway back for me.

I said yes. I have heard for most of my life a catchy little song about the "Man From Down Under" who eats Vegemite sandwiches and I've always wondered what Vegemite is. I have heard that it's the Australian equivalent of peanut butter and I was curious. True to her promise, Morgan brought me a tube of Vegemite and, as if satisfying a lifelong curiosity wasn't sufficient, she also brought a lovely bag of Murray River pink salt as well.

I've been sprinkling the salt on everything from roasting chickens (yes it made a huge and delicious difference) to cantaloupe to my nightly dinner and it is really special. Thank you, Ms. Mouse!

I have to admit that it took me a few days to get up the courage to try the Vegemite. When I opened the tube, out squeezed an evil-looking dark brown substance (okay, goo!) reminiscent of axle grease. Hmmm. Took a tiny dab on my finger and hesitatingly touched it to my tongue. Salty, rich, mysterious. Unlike anything I've tasted before. Morgan and Mr. Brown suggested that I spread it on toast - just a whisper, not a smear- so I did and it really is interesting. It tastes just as I've described - salty, rich and mysterious. I'm thinking I'll try using it on meats, too, perhaps smearing a bit on chicken before barbecuing or on a beef roast before it goes into the oven. The dark color might add interest also to foods cooked in a crock pot. In any case, you can see that I've already got a month's worth of ideas from that first little taste.

Each time I sprinkle or squeeze, I'll be thinking of our new friends from Down Under and wondering if they are sprinkling and squeezing down there, too.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Summer Sunday

Weekends in the late summer in California are busy! We have more social engagements than we know what to do with because everyone saves them for when the fog dissipates and it's sunny and warm all day. This past weekend was like that - not one, not two, not three but four events to attend. Isn't that marvelous?

One of these delights was brunch with our pal Sari. We had decided to drive over the bridge to Marin County to the little town of San Anselmo where the ratio of restaurants to intriguing little shops is roughly one to one. Sadly, our favorite restaurant, the one with the outdoor deck that hangs over the sparkling creek, had closed just days before and was sadly shuttered.

We were hungry (what else is new?) so we chose instead to start with brunch at Comforts Cafe. Sari had heard that they got a good review on Yelp and I had eaten there once before by myself. We asked for an outdoor table since it was one of those really lovely days and settled in to catch up and await nourishment.

Is this where I admit sheepishly that I ordered an espresso milk shake to accompany my pecan-nectarine pancakes? First making a slighting comment about starting breakfast with dessert,
My Beloved consented to have a taste of my milkshake; I noticed he was very quiet while sucking down a healthy swig of my shake and his eyes rolled a little in pleasure despite his editorializing. Milkshakes are like that - they make believers of us all.

The pecan-nectarine pancakes arrived a few minutes later and they were amazing. On a continuum from crêpes to kneeling pads, these big, thick beauties were 'way on the kneeling pad end. Nearly half an inch thick, one made a meal and there were three on the plate. The thin nectarine slices decorated each side of the hotcakes in a pinwheel of sweet, caramelized fruit punctuated by crunchy bits of pecan. They were served with a huge dollop of unsalted butter and a cute little pitcher of real, warmed maple syrple. It may have been the milkshake's fault that I could only finish one. I took the other two home for subsequent breakfasts.

After brunch, we strolled along the main street, poking our noses into the shops and distributing our personal stimulus packages until we ended up at Heart Gallery, a delightful little gallery-cum-plant store where we dithered pleasantly over the purchase of a couple of plants and decorative pots for Sari's new home and a potted fountain for our new deck. The gallery also features paintings and sculptures, including delightful little paintings by the Marin artist and friend Barbara Giles.

On these busy summer weekends, it's important to keep one's strength up for the social whirl with pecan-nectarine pancakes, shopping and, of course, espresso shakes.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Birthday Pie?

Over the weekend, My Beloved, Cora and I attended a great 40th birthday party for a young friend of ours. In a rented house in Stinson Beach, complete with hot tub and sweeping ocean view, the hostess spread out all kinds of goodies to eat from a family-traditional macaroni salad to enormous steaks to fruit wrapped in prosciutto. Drinks were served in cups emblazoned with a photograph of the birthday boy at age 8 or so and tagged with the line, "He's not a kid anymore!" And, when dinner was over, out came the birthday pies, complete with 40 black candles.

Birthday pies?

Yes, delicious ones transported by the hostess's Mom all the way from
Mission Pie in San Francisco's Mission district. And what a great idea they were! Who needs cake and ice cream when they can have freshly baked pies? I had a taste of both the peach with a traditional closed crust and the mixed berry with a crumble crust and, although both were really, really good and the peach was wonderfully fresh and peachy, the mixed berry won the day in my opinion. Although Mission Pie is a for-profit business, they also help at-risk youth by employing them to make and sell the offerings of the bakery and to learn the rudiments of running a business.

It feels good on lots of levels to eat delicious pies, surrounded by celebrating friends and knowing that the purchase helped some troubled kids, as well. What a great 40th birthday wish!


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Grilled Greek lamb kabobs and corn on the cob. Steamed chard with garlic chips. All lovingly cooked and presented by My Beloved and all I had to do was whine a little bit about how tired I was after a day of laundry, vacuuming and dog walking without even an afternoon nap.

The kabobs were really delicious, steeped in yogurt and lemon juice at the store before he purchased them. The corn was fresh, firm and slicked with butter - and the grilling gives it an almost nutty flavor. This is his patented Swiss chard preparation, the one he used to introduce me to this wonderful veg many years ago. All he did was melt some butter, gently sauté the garlic in it, then add the chard with the water from washing just clinging to the leaves, put on the lid and wait about five minutes - it is always delicious. And revivifying. I may summon enough energy now to carry our dessert down the hall and settle in in front of the television, right next to the sweet guy who spoiled me so nicely today.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Aunt Salad

I'm not a huge salad fan but when I do make one, I like them to have lots of variety and texture. When I was in my teens, my California-raised Aunt Sally served us a salad one evening that remains fixed in my memory even today.

Unlike the salads served in our home, which consisted mainly of lettuce and tomato with the occasional half an avocado shared among six diners, this salad was filled with raw crunchy broccoli, green and purple onions, cherry tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, several kinds of lettuce, raw cauliflower, marinated artichoke hearts and big, big chunks of rich, buttery avocado all bound together into one glorious whole by a nice lemon vinaigrette. I make this kind of bumpy, generous salad whenever I'm presented with a salad bar and, just occasionally, at home.

This particular salad was also graced a sprinkle of grated cheese and a lovely slab of perfectly grilled and lightly soy seasoned salmon that I bought, ready made, at Andronico's last time I did my shopping. It had been a hot, hot day and only a salad would do for dinner so I pulled out the crisper drawer and got to chopping. It was a cornucopia of fresh California produce, topped with the bounty of the sea at our doorstep. Cool, crisp, satisfyingly chewy-crunchy, it brought Aunt Sally's memorable salad to mind.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 20, 2009

'But Cheeks

Cookiecrumb set it all up - lovely lunch on the prettiest day of the year in San Francisco (I think she ordered the weather, too) at the Hog Island Oyster bar in the Ferry Building to meet DancingMorganMouse and Mr. Brown after all these years of reading Morgan's comments and stories about her life in Oz on her blog - only to fall ill herself and miss all the fun! Sometimes, life is unfair.

My Beloved and I did have fun with Mouse and Mr. Brown - they are interesting, lively, funny and open to the San Francisco experience. How could we not enjoy people like that? Mouse is quite pretty, too, and Mr. Brown has lovely blue eyes, a bonus in my view.

The food was good, too. The Hog Island folks serve a grilled cheese sandwich that is my new gold standard, despite having no salami in it. The cheese is as thick as a Swiss shepherd's lunch, but melty all the way through. I don't know how they do that without burning the bread, but they do. Wonderful!

The clam chowder captured the essence of clams so tiny that I almost mourned how short their little lives were until I took my first bite and sip, when all regrets flew away. The broth was light and thin,
not like the library paste served in many places, and packed with flavor of anise, herbs and ocean.

My Beloved and Mr. Brown's halibut cheeks with spinach and forbidden rice was the hit of the day. The halibut was deliciously mild and meaty and the dramatic black rice was wonderfully lemony-nutty-crunchy; I'd love to know how they made that rice!

We sat in the shade with the bay at our side, being entertained alternately by the new friends from Down Under and the very lively young waiter whose service with both food and wine was a marvelous performance, exchanging ideas and wishing that Cookiecrumb and Cranky could have joined us. We strolled the Ferry Building with coffee from Blue Bottle, admiring the goods and chuckling over the prices, then exchanged hugs at the end of the afternoon and promises to get together in Sydney next time.

Sometimes, life is really, really unfair.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Red Meat

When My Beloved comes home from work in a crabby mood, thankfully a very rare event, I realize that he needs a little TLC.

With him, that translates to red meat. He had called from the road to say he'd be late and gave me a litany of the ills of the day, so I nipped out to the store and brought home a huge, bone-in rib eye steak. I'd been curious, anyway, about whether or not the bone actually improves the flavor as the experts claim, and the bone-in ones were slightly cheaper, so I could get three kinds of value from this purchase.

Firing up the grill, I threw the steak onto the medium-hot grate and seared it briefly; he likes his beef still to have a blood pressure. Let it rest for a few minutes before serving it alongside a nice big artichoke with melted butter.

Do I need to say that his mood improved as soon as he saw his plate and continued to mellow as the meal went on?

But, did the bone really enhance the flavor? Maybe it's my imagination but I really think it did. Ribeye steak is a lovely cut anyway, but having the bone in made it taste even richer, meatier, somehow. Besides, he loves to gnaw on bones - what's not to like? He enjoyed the TLC and I did, too.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Salami Sammy

I really shouldn't be as excited as I am about this sandwich - after all, it's just grilled cheese on white bread. Ho-hum, should be a snore. I made myself the plain cheese version but My Beloved opted to try a slice or two of salami in his. The addition of a spicy salami made all the difference between plain old comfort food (note: I adore plain old comfort food!) and something a little bit special.

The Swiss cheese gentled the bite of the salami and the salami sparked the mellow cheese - truly a match made in heaven. In the past, I haven't been a big consumer of salami; isn't it great how things can change overnight? Or over a single bite?


Thursday, September 17, 2009


The last peach from our tree and a store-bought pear, sliced and wrapped with an interesting ham I found last time I went shopping. This ham was rubbed with rosemary, then thinly sliced, almost as thinly as the prosciutto I usually wrap around fruit in this kind of appetizer.

Simple, easy and we enjoyed the rosemary addition to an old favorite.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Summer Yummer Veggies

What is better to nestle into the curve of a grilled Italian sausage than some summer veggies such as dark green zucchini, colorful yellow, orange and red bell pepper and purple onion chunks quickly sautéed in a squiggle of olive oil and topped with some chopped oregano?


Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Late Summer in NOCA

It's just a celebration picture, no special touches at all today. All I did was slice 'em and serve 'em. Any gilding of the lily would have been blasphemous. We ate the entire platter full in a single sitting.

As Jon Stewart said to the then still-President Bush, "Man, I'm going to miss you so much!"


Monday, September 14, 2009

Salt and Pepper Soup

Here in northern California, we usually don't see rain from late March to late October. Brides can confidently plan garden weddings and barbecues are safe from washouts. I forget the actual count, but the San Francisco Giants can count on two hands the total number of rained out home games since they moved here from New York in the 1950s. So, why am I talking about hot soup in what should rightly be our sunniest, hottest month? Well, go figure - we've had rain for the past two days.

Low pressure weather systems tend to mellow me out. I get sleepy and want to snuggle back under the covers in the morning. My afternoon naps lengthen. Energy being low, I also look for easy dinners. Rooting around in the lowest drawer of my freezer, I discovered some butternut squash soup that I squirreled away back when the rains stopped sometime in March.

It seemed a little dull all by itself, although it was layered with the flavor of leeks and corned beef stock, so I decided to add a couple of ears of fresh corn to it and, in a moment of inspired creativity, the rest of a package of spicy salami that had languished in the fridge since the pizza party last weekend. I cut the corn from the cob and made little triangles out of the salami circles and dropped both into the soup for the last five minutes of heating, ladled it into bowls and rang the dinner bell.

The corn added sweetness and a light crunch, the salami contributed both salt and peppery liveliness, plus just a little richness from the fat in the meat. My Beloved finished his bowl in a single inhale, then looked to see if there was more in the pot. There was. Almost enough to make us NOCAs look forward the rains.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The saga of the pizza dough continues. I made what turned out to be a huge batch of pizza dough over the weekend to accommodate a party of possibly 10 ravenous amusement park revelers after a day at Children's Fairyland in Oakland.

Unfortunately, the recipe (which was from a chef who would have impressed the heck out of you had I been at liberty to share his name and his recipe) was in grams and somehow my online conversion counter screwed up. We ended up with an enormous bowl of thick, bubbly soup and had to resort to calling Extreme Pizza for a bailout of their raw dough. Long story short, everyone enjoyed their pizzas - happy ending.

Back to the soup - I kept adding flour to the mix, cup after cup, and letting it rise again until finally it was gatherable (is that a word?). That took two more days and four more flour additions. It made enough pizza dough to feed the entire army of Liechtenstein. Then rolled it out and topped it with simple ingredients, really more interested in the taste of the dough after all this effort than in the toppings.

It was pizza, no more and no less. It was good, maybe even very good, but stellar? Nope. I was expecting sourdough flavor after so much time rising and bubbling in the San Francisco bay air, but it was just good ol' pizza dough, nothin' fancy. I divided it into reasonable size portions and froze the rest - frankly, I'm a little tired of pizza right now - to top on some distant day.

Anyone need a little pizza dough to round out your week's menus? I have no idea how well it freezes - stay tuned for the final episode of the pizzacapade.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

For The Love of Pepper

My Beloved adores pepper. While others may love salt and grow lyrical in their descriptions of Maldon, Fleur de Sel, etc., he gets really enthusiastic about pepper. He puts it on everything from cantaloupe to big, rare steaks - and when I say "puts it on," I really mean "loads it on!"

His Boston daughter introduced him to a battery-driven pepper mill that not only grinds the pepper but also lights the plate with a flashlight cleverly worked into the bottom of the mill so he can be sure he has 'way too much on his food; he keeps wearing out the batteries. This is a serious pepper hound.

So, when I saw this little palm-sized, spring loaded pepper mill in the SF MOMA museum store last weekend when we were there to see the Georgia O'Keefe/Ansel Adams show, I just had to buy it and hide it in my purse, awaiting the first restaurant meal where there was only a (miserable) pepper shaker on the table. I didn't have long to wait - why is it that restaurants, even fine dining restaurants, only offer shakers, rarely grinders? Anyway, when I saw My Beloved unscrewing the cap of the shaker, it was time to reveal my surprise!

You should have seen the look on his face! Am I a good wife, or what?


Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Over the weekend, we made pizza from scratch. We tried to make a friend's secret dough recipe but the measurements must have been off as we had bubbly, off-white dough soup. Hmmm. Hoping to rescue it for another day I added some flour, put it aside, and resorted to calling Extreme Pizza down in town - they bailed us out by letting us purchase some of their raw dough.

Jim from Boston had quite a flair with pizza dough - the rest of us just rolled it out with a rolling pin and called that good enough.

I had had a blast choosing ingredients from the market the day before so we had all kinds of stuff to choose from - everything from smoked duck breast to pepperoni, plus lots of pre-cooked veggies, different goat, cow and smoked cheeses and a choice of red sauce or creme fraîche. Everyone topped his/her own pizza and shared portions of the masterpieces, so we all got to taste several different kinds.

In addition to pizza, we had a wine I'd like to recommend to you all - 2008 Lee Family Farm Rosé. Beautifully raspberry-pink in color and very soft, it is both a lovely sipping wine and a nice accompaniment to foods. It's from Morgan - we tasted it when we were down in Carmel Valley and loved it; I have ordered a case.

We grilled our pizzas on the barbecue, something I highly recommend. It's super fast (
In fact, it's so fast that we have found that pre-cooking all veggies insures a happy outcome) and it adds flavor but, even more important, it adds a little drama and fun to the process while everyone gets a kick out of watching their crust bubble and balloon.

While our granddaughter frolicked on the deck, we enjoyed one of the loveliest evenings of the year while trying to catch pictures of UFOs.


Monday, September 7, 2009

The Big Easy

Not New Orleans, honeychild, but a nice big package of ribs in barbecue sauce from Niman Ranch. Looking for something I could cook on the grill and not start the oven during our recent unlamented heatwave, I stumbled upon these pre-cooked and pre-sauced pork ribs. All I did was light the charcoal and flip them once. They were done to a turn in 10 minutes flat - even beat the veggies to the table!

They were good. Seriously, stickily, finger-licking, red mustache-making, three paper napkin using, bless my soul good!

If I were the nitpicking kind, I might suggest that you baste them with a little of their sauce from the package mixed with a tiny bit of apple cider vinegar to just slightly temper the sweetness (that's what I'll do next time) but I'm not the nitpicking kind. We tucked right in to these big beauties and enjoyed every bite. One rack of these meaty darlings was plenty for the two of us and you could easily stretch them further if you served them with more sides than we did - maybe some cornbread or hush puppies?

Anyway, they were big in flavor and dead easy.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Italian Job

When I made the Tortilla Soup last week, I thought nothing could ever be better than that. It was literally one of the best meals I have ever made. My Beloved and I were sorely tempted to abandon all the table manners our mothers had worked so hard to instill when we were children and to drink it straight from the bowl - it was that good!

Luckily, there was a little left over. The chicken was all gone but the broth with some of the veggies was tucked carefully away in the fridge to re-emerge the other night for a second go-around.

This time, I browned some mild Italian sausage in small "meatballs" until it was all caramelized and a little crispy on the outside. Warmed the soup, poached some sliced fresh green beans and additional fresh corn in the broth, then added the sausage bits at the last minute.

Now I have two contenders: Mexican or Italian? It's a tough decision when both are the Best Soup I've Made, Ever!

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Don't you just love the way light comes through a lettuce leaf?

Never mind that, I came to talk today about the purple potato salad I made last weekend when it was so blazingly and uncharacteristically steamy around here that we were all wilting. Our heat waves are usually fleeting but they can be a bear when they are in full swing. Because it's so rarely really hot where we live, we don't have AC, something we kvetch about on those few hot days.

However, it was great weather for spud salad and I happened to have scored some purple potatoes last time I was at the store on a quest for something I've never tried before.

I wish I could tell you that the purple ones made all the difference to the taste of the salad, but they were a lot like red spuds in flavor and texture. That's not a bad thing; there is nothing much better on this green Earth than a potato in any form - it just wasn't new.

Anyway, I did a riff on Molly Wizenberg's Dad's potato salad, mixing mayo, ranch dressing, dill and yogurt together for the dressing and adding finely minced (also in the purple family) shallot as well as chopped hard-cooked egg. The standout flavor was the shallot - almost hot and spicy, so I may have used a little too much - but My Beloved inhaled his portion and, if he hadn't been such a gentleman, he might have smacked his lips. I did smack mine.

The flavor was out of this world and the visual play of purple salad with green lettuce leaf was really lovely, especially with the sun striking light through the lettuce.

Labels: , ,

Friday, September 4, 2009

If You Love Pulled Pork...

- and who doesn't? - you might want to give this stuff a try. In my quest to try things I've never had before, it finally dawned on me that I could try - well, duh! - some convenience foods, too. Having been taught mostly to cook from scratch, it rarely occurs to me to look for already-prepared foods. I happened upon this package at my local supermarket. I'm one of those people who will almost always order the pulled pork sandwich if it's on a restaurant menu, so this was a natural for me.

I liked it. It was mildly spicy (and I'm a spice wimp, so you can trust me on this one) and sweetly smoky with nice big chunks of tender pork. The barbecue sauce hadn't been ruined with too much sugar nor that hideous fake smoke flavor that dominates so many commercial sauces. I might have liked a little tang to follow but that's nitpicking. It was seriously good pulled pork and I'd buy it again any time I need a quick and delicious lunch or dinner. If you love pulled pork like I do, get thee to thy local store and pig out!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Very, Very Good Idea

I'm excited. I was feeling sorry for myself for having several times a year to weed our garden, which is on a steep hillside and productive mostly of tons of weeds - all but the top layer is too shady for most veggies and flowers. I was also feeling sorry for our builder-friend who had several jobs cancel on him this summer due to the economic downturn and customers' fearful reaction to it. In a state of high altruism and bone laziness, I hatched the idea of covering up all but the top layer of said garden with a deck that would add wind-sheltered outdoor space to our house.

Builder-friend got right to work and produced the loveliest little deck imaginable, solid enough to hold up an elephant and neatly designed to match the rest of the house. Once the deck weathers to gray and the trellis is painted to match the carport, it will look as if it has always been there.

This has nothing to do with food except that we will enjoy many meals out on this deck in the future. I'm excited.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Very Best Soup Ever

My Blue Leg chicken is still giving us great meals. It started as a roast chicken with crispy skin and wonderfully moist and tasty meat. Then it was chicken salad, followed by chicken sandwiches. Finally, it was chicken broth that made the basis for the best soup I've ever made.

This is a riff on Tyler Florence's Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup. I used my homegrown Paul Robeson tomatoes (they are incredibly rich and sweet) and added two ears of fresh corn that the recipe didn't call for; at this time of year I add corn to as many dishes as possible - it's just too delicious to miss! The chicken stock was made from the bones of our Sunday chicken with onion, celery and carrot added to the water as the broth bubbled into chickeny heaven. Because we are spice wimps, I used only one jalapeño chili and was careful to remove the hottest rib. The resulting soup was warm but not volcanic.

I'm not kidding when I say this is the best soup I have ever made, hands down, bar none, end of the dance. The color, the rich scent, the flavors were perfectly balanced and the addition of creamy avocado and salty, crispy tortilla strips added varied texture with the corn and cilantro. I can die happy - I have achieved Sopa Nirvana.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad

Born at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1912, he would have been 97 today if he hadn't gone to the Cocktail Party in the Sky eleven years back. I hope he's having a big cake up there with candles and ice cream, as he always loved dessert, even though it meant extra tennis sets to work it off the next day.

I remember his delight on a rare occasion when my mother presented apple turnovers for dessert - he was truly thrilled to find one on his plate and ate it with great relish. The next night, he asked, "I don't suppose there are any more of those apple things left?" and Mom said, "Sure!" returning from the kitchen to plunk an unadorned fresh apple in front of him. Crestfallen is the only word to describe his face.

We all inherited his love for coffee ice cream. When he finished his, he'd scrape the bottom of his bowl until Mom protested that he was going to scrape off the monogram if he wasn't careful. He discovered Häagen-Dasz as soon as it was invented and never looked back.

His lifelong friend, whom we called "Uncle Sam" Silber, introduced him to Seven Layer Cake from Silber's Bakery and ever after it was his favorite dessert. He'd ask for Seven Layer Cake for any birthday when we lived within driving distance of Baltimore and, if we were lucky, Uncle Sam would bring the cake himself. The ensuing sea stories from two lifelong friends were always fun to hear.

Both Dad and Uncle Sam have gone to heaven now. I'm sure they are up there enjoying Seven Layer Cake in honor of Dad's birthday, topped with a big scoop of coffee ice cream. Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you still.

Labels: , ,