Thursday, September 23, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
At Last, The Chili
Labels: chili peppers
Monday, September 20, 2010
Mix 'n' Match
Labels: Old Port Lobster Shack
Sunday, September 19, 2010
It's That Time Again
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The Red One
Friday, September 17, 2010
The Designer's Dinner
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Antiques and Novelties
While Mark and Tim were visiting, they packed a lot into a short time. A walk across the Golden Gate bridge, complete with fog; Tim's birthday dinner with us at home; Movie Night outdoors with our neighbors; clubbing with friends in Berkeley; and brunch and antiquing with us on Sunday. Well, they are young - I used to be able to do all that, too, in my salad days.
Labels: L'Appart Resto
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Labels: Swiss chard
Monday, September 13, 2010
Labels: apple butter
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
There is no recipe - you just keep piling on layers of stuff until you have a plateful of color. Torn lettuce buried in diagonal carrot slices, tomato wedges, slivers of cucumber, broccoli florets, raw corn off the cob and leftover beef, in this case, Black Dragon tri-tip.
Drizzle, drizzle, drizzle and you have a hot-day dinner that can't be bettered.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Mac 'n Cheese
My Beloved, pal Sari and I were at the Fremont Diner in Sonoma for brunch recently, all three of us ravenous. We had driven up through the brown-gold velvet hills of northern Marin County and into the stubbornly agricultural Sonoma County, thanking heaven along the way for the Sonoman's reluctance to widen their roads and invite the hoards that inevitably follow in such gorgeous places. The scenery was lovely, bucolic and peaceful as we wound along the two-lane roads. We arrived at the Fremont Diner to find a long line out the door and every table filled.
It was a cheerful crowd, however, passing menus up and down the line so we'd all be ready to order as soon as we stepped up to the window. There were a few "me first" folks who sent one of their party to snag a table before ordering (a breach of good manners in this casual place), but most people were philosophical and all were rewarded by an open table once they had made their orders.
We love the food at the Fremont Diner but it's obvious that their popularity has outpaced their ability to serve in a timely manner. We waited fully 45 minutes after placing our orders for Sari's brisket hash, My Beloved's chicken and waffles and my Mac 'n Cheese to arrive. We could see into the tiny kitchen from our table so we knew they were making a Herculean effort on a busy Sunday morning. We did have our drinks as we waited and when we are together we have no trouble finding lots to chat about, but it seemed like a very long time to three hollow folks.
Which is why, even though I had my camera at the ready, I completely forgot to photograph my Mac 'n Cheese when it arrived bubbling under its glorious, golden-brown buttery crumb topping that matched almost exactly the color of the surrounding hills. When the food arrived, we just dove in with silent intensity. It was only as the level of macaroni was well down in my black iron pan that I remembered that I'm a blogger and that photos enhance my stories.
It was worth the wait. The crisp topping was a delightful counterpoint to the creamy casserole, there was plenty of tasty cheese and the little pan was fully 6 inches across, such a hearty portion that My Beloved had to help me finish it. He reports that his chicken and waffles were perfectly cooked and a happy balance between juicy chicken and crispy coating, with a substantial flour waffle served hot with butter and genuine maple syrup. Sari's brisket hash with a bright-yolked egg on top was downright unctuous and sparked with pepper. We all went away deeply satisfied with our brunch and ready to explore Glen Ellen before heading home along those lovely, quiet roads.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
It must be fully 50 years since I have seen a bindlestiff, as we called them, but the memory came rushing back. When I was in Brownie Scouts, we made them whenever we went on hikes. Ours were made with garden stakes and bandannas, just like these. Inside the bandanna was always a "hobo packet" of meat cubes and veggies wrapped in aluminum foil to be cooked in the embers of the campfire. This worthy food always preceded the s'mores, which were less healthy but more delicious.
That got me thinking about hobo packets and how I hadn't made one in a long time. So, I decided to fashion two from parchment paper for our dinner that evening. I sliced a shallot very thinly and laid it on the paper, topped it with halibut, sliced zucchini and carrots and fresh oregano from the garden. Laid two halves of a corn ear alongside, dabbed a modicum of butter on the corn and veggies and wrapped the whole thing tightly in the paper, doubling and folding the top and sides to contain the juices. Popped them into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. We knew they were done when the scent wafted out of the oven to tantalize.
The packets were served closed on the plates, so we could each open ours and inhale that first delicious wisp of steam that carries all the married scents of the contents. This is cooking magic - everything was perfectly cooked and juicy, all at the same time and without effort. The last shreds of the shallot at the very bottom, limp and slightly caramelized, were a little reward for eating all your veggies and fish.
I'm planning a picnic now, complete with bindlestiffs for me and My Beloved.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I wasn't feeling much like cooking one day last week, a rare occurrence for me, so he stepped in and made dinner. We had a Black Dragon tri-tip in the fridge, so he barbecued that, sautéed in butter with garlic chips some of our trusty Swiss chard and sliced a nice ripe tomato topped with some leftover burrata. He even added a handful of colorful cherry tomatoes to the plate to pretty it up.
The man is a wiz.
Labels: My Beloved
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
But, no! Here it is again, a little battered by the winds of time and the trampling of the puppy next door, still offering lovely green leaves for us to cut and enjoy.
I was so impressed that I trimmed the sad leaves and left it to grow unmolested. I even put stakes next to it to discourage the puppy. We still get a meal or two a month from this wonderful volunteer, long may it wave!
What's your favorite way to serve Swiss chard? I need some good recipes to honor this noble plant.
Labels: Swiss chard
Monday, September 6, 2010
So far, here's the single potato, in size halfway between a hen's and a quail's egg, that my four potato plants have produced. I dug it up after a trip to Luther Burbank's garden in Santa Rosa where I noted that their potato plants are no larger than mine but were producing spuds below the ground.
I was greatly heartened, since I have spent the whole summer first rejoicing when my little potato sets sprouted, then whining when they never got very big.
So, I dug one of my four plants up and, lo and behold, it had made a reasonable-size potato! Maybe not a prizewinner at the county fair but, hey, I'm not really a farmer, either. If the other three plants are as productive as this one, My Beloved and I may actually have enough spuds for a meal.
One meal. Oh, well.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Here's what you do - you make fast food.
Assuming that you have all these ingredients in the house, which I did by happenstance, you first sauté some mushrooms and garlic in a wide pan, add some stale sourdough bread cut into cubes until they crisp nicely, sprinkle in some fresh thyme leaves straight from the garden (they make little snapping noises as they heat), drop in some cubes of lamb to brown quickly in the same pan, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon to lighten it a bit, add a handful or two of cherry tomatoes at the end just to heat them through, and serve the whole thing topped with romaine lettuce that has been tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.
Sort of bread salad with lamb. It was good but both My Beloved and I agreed that it could have been improved with a handful of goat cheese crumbles or a dressing more like Caesar. It needed a little tang. In any case, it was filling and it was fast, so I could get back to finding out what was happening to Solander and Blomkvist.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Homemade or store bought? Normally, I'd always say that homemade is the best, since I know what goes into the food when I make it myself and I can adjust flavorings to my own particular liking. However, when it's really good, storebought can be great, too.
A case in point. The first jar is applesauce that cousin Jan and I made together. We picked the apples off her very fruitful tree, peeled them on the comical hand-cranked peeler I got from Sally's kitchen that made us both laugh, cut around the livestock that had taken roost in a few of her unsprayed apples, cooked the apples down with apple juice to enhance the flavor, added very little sugar, crushed the softening apples with a potato masher to achieve the desired chunky texture, and bottled the resulting applesauce ourselves. Whew! At the end of the afternoon, we were tired but proud of our 15 glistening jars.
The second photo is of the jar My Beloved and I bought at the Happy Apple Kitchen as we were leaving. Darker and sweeter, it was still quite good. They must use a different variety of apples to get that rich color as the label states that there's nothing in there but apples, water and sugar. This jar required no peeling, cutting, cooking or bottling on our part and it complements our pork chops very well.
So, what's it to be? Storebought or Homemade?
P.S. I vote for homemade, as it was so much fun. Thanks, Jan!
Friday, September 3, 2010
Sweet West Oakland Sammy
Along with my side of cheesy grits, I ordered an egg sandwich at the Brown Sugar Kitchen this week. Scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and bacon on a soft wheat roll with a side of home fries. The home fries were quite peppery, a really nice change from the usual. The sandwich, as you can see, was gargantuan. Next time, we'll surely split it.
This is so far above an Egg McMuffin that you can hardly believe they exist in the same universe. The eggs were softly, carefully scrambled. The bacon was crisp and rich. The cheese was melted and runny even though the eggs weren't overcooked (how do they do that?). The wheat roll was very lightly toasted on the grill and gave way gracefully to the bite.
My Beloved and I were swapping bites all through our respective meals and enjoying it all. I could only eat half of my sandwich and had to forgo the sticky bun we wanted to try - this is a place with generous portions! We will be back to the Brown Sugar Kitchen again, no doubt. Maybe West Oakland really is sweet; the food at BSK certainly is!
Labels: Brown Sugar Kitchen
Thursday, September 2, 2010
To Wenirs, With Love
In North Carolina, however, you can get real grits - grits with body and flavor, grits mixed with cheese or topped with rapidly-melting butter, a side dish that actually adds something to the plate. I hadn't found grits like that here in NOCA until My Beloved and I went for breakfast at the Brown Sugar Kitchen in Sweet West Oakland.
West Oakland might not strike most people as "sweet." On our way there from Summit Medical Center, we drove through some pretty dilapidated and mean residential neighborhoods to find the Brown Sugar Kitchen in a solidly industrial area. When we arrived around 9:30am, there were a few seats; by the time we left, there was a line out the door. On a Tuesday, no less. Apparently, the food is worth the lack of ambiance in the 'hood.
Once inside, the tenor was actually pretty nice. Cheerful music, the clatter of dishes from the open kitchen and the buzz of conversation in the room combined to heighten our anticipation. We don't usually like noisy restaurants but at the Brown Sugar Kitchen, it's a cheerful vibe. The tables are small and close together but it feels cosy rather than crowded. In the sugar bowl on the table, only packets of brown sugar and on the long counter with seats all filled were pretty sophisticated small fresh flower arrangements, nice touches that signaled this was going to be a good meal.
There on the menu were grits with cheddar cheese; of course, I had to order it. When it arrived, I was pleased to note that the cheese is not dyed orange - it's the color of milk. You'd think that was a given, but so many places use the orange stuff. Cheese was sprinkled on top but it was also in the main body of the grits, as it was cheesy all the way through. A little drift of fresh herbs on top was a nice touch, too. The grits themselves were the creamy kind with very little in the way of texture. I have a preference for the hearty grind that gives a little chewing exercise but these were tasty enough to make up for it.
My Beloved ordered the Brown Sugar Kitchen's signature dish, waffles and fried chicken with apple cider syrup. We both swooned over the waffle, which is made with cornmeal and is as light and crisp as a new dollar bill. Buttered with their cinnamon butter, it was crazy-good. The chicken was fried exactly right - very juicy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and the syrup was quite good, too, but we agreed - either waffles or fried chicken next time, not both, and syrup on chicken is just wrong.
My friend Wenirs hates my posts about grits - she'd rather eat a bug than a bowl of grits. So, I just had to give her a little razzmatazz with my latest post about them. Hi, Wenirs! When you next come for a visit, I'll take you to the Brown Sugar Kitchen, but you can stick to the waffles, which you will love. I promise, no grits.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Man does not live by bread alone, even me. Hope you enjoy these photos of Luther Burbank's garden as much as I enjoyed touring it.
The yellow rose was wonderfully lemon-scented. The streaky rose was delightfully named - George Burns. The poppy was actually the deepest, richest indigo color in the inside that you can possibly imagine - sad that it doesn't show so well in the photo.