Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trash Talking

Here's the nasty little aspect of cooking - call it green waste or garbage, there's no escaping the seamy side of food prep. It reminds me of a song I learned from Mad magazine years ago, sung to the Marine hymn,

"Egg shells and coffee grounds, grease from the pan..." I can't remember the rest and, for once, Wikipedia has let me down, but you get the idea. 

We recently began composting our kitchen waste, not in our garden (that didn't work well here: the skunks loved our leftovers and made frequent, smelly visits - and Cora can't seem to resist trying to chase them) but in our green bin that the trash company takes away and makes into magical compost for our garden. Composting our yard waste with our kitchen waste entitles us to several buckets full of good new soil for the garden annually. Win-win.

Outside, we now have three big bins, brown for trash, green for green waste and garbage, and blue for recyclables. We have been amazed at how little actual trash we have, now that the recyclables and the garbage have been separated from the rest. We could often wait two weeks for trash pickup now, where before we desperately needed it weekly.

Are you composting?  At home, or does your trash company do it for you? Have you found the perfect composting bucket to keep in the kitchen? We like ours - the lid closes firmly, it's large enough to last for several meals, and the carrying handle at the back makes it easy to dump without dumping the contents all over oneself.  But, we are open to suggestion if you have the perfect answer.

Or, does all this trash talking just make you Mad?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Celebrating Jan

Not quite ready for Christmas yet?  Neither are we.

So, to celebrate cousin Jan's birthday, we decided to drive away from all that red and green at the malls into the countryside in Sonoma and Napa, where the vines are still decked in fall colors of bronze, yellow and orange.  

We had a lovely day for it, all blue skies and 70 degree temperatures, one of the great pleasures of late November in Northern California. The hills were brightly green after our recent rains, making the black and white cattle stand out in stark relief in their pastures.  Heads down, they were enjoying the fresh grass, too.

We stopped for lunch at a new-to-us Italian restaurant in Napa, Bistro Don Giovanni. The menu was strongly Italian, with a hamburger being the only concession to American food, but we had read that this hamburger was really something special, so My Beloved was eager to try that.  Jan had their fritto misto as her appetizer, of which we all had bites, and it was really delicious. The crisp, almost crunchy crust wasn't the least bit greasy and the calamari was tender and full of flavor. She decided on the burger, too, when she heard about its reputation.

We started with a glass of prosecco to toast our favorite cousin, always a favorite way to begin a celebratory lunch. It arrived just fizzing with bubbles, clearly freshly opened. If I have a pet peeve, it's when sparkling wine arrives with no sparkle, having lost its bubbles. This lovely, light wine was the opposite, lively and very slightly sweet.

Our waitress declared herself to be Italian, and backed it up with an accent that sang of Italy. She has lived in California for a long time but waxed lyrical when speaking about her homeland. All the wait staff were attentive and excellent - no clattering of dishes or reaching across us to pour water, and they neither rushed us nor made us wait. Good, unobtrusive but helpful service lends so much to a meal.

I started with a bowl of ribollita, a Tuscan specialty that combines beans, veggies and bread in a thick soup. It was delicious, but hardly an "appetizer" as I could have (and probably should have) stopped there.

But, I wanted to try the linguine with Dungeness crab while the crab is still in season, so I ordered that for my "Primi."  It was lovely, full of crab and fresh tomatoes, and surprisingly spicy with red pepper. The portion was so generous that I'm having the rest for lunch today.

After lunch, we strolled around the fountain outdoors and walked a bit down the dirt road next door, admiring the vines and the kitchen garden that serves the restaurant. We drove back home through the vineyards, enjoying the sunshine, relishing the fall colors, and trying to stay awake after a hearty meal. If you aren't quite ready for Christmas yet, you can stretch out the fall by taking a trip up to Napa. If you happen to stop at Bistro Don Giovanni, I hope you have a favorite cousin with you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gougères, Take Two

Remember those gougères I raved about back on November 13th?  Well, I made them again to take to Thanksgiving dinner. Since they are little puffs of flavor, I thought they'd be more welcome at the feast than heavy dinner rolls. When they came out of the oven, there were ooohs and aaahs from the assembled guests - they look quite dramatic and difficult which, of course, they are not.  Everyone took one to taste while they were still hot, tossing them from hand to hand to cool before breaking in to the herb-scented middle and taking a bite. Lots of compliments. Nicely rewarding for the cook, I must say.

Still, Thanksgiving being the feast that it is, we had so many dishes to try that there were actually some gougères left over, so the daughters, who had cooked all the rest of the meal, wrapped them up to send home with us.  When I discovered them yesterday, I did a happy dance right there in the kitchen, as I had been thinking that they'd make great substrates for turkey sandwiches.

And, they did. They were only about the size of silver dollars, but they made tasty little sandwiches with a small slice of turkey, a dab of cranberry sauce and a leaf of lettuce. The herbal flavor added to the pleasure of what is to my mind the very best part of Thanksgiving - the sandwiches the next day.  

While we were enjoying our sandwiches, I remarked that if I made the next batch a tad bigger, they'd make great slider buns, both lighter and more flavorful than regular slider buns. So, now I'm all fired up to try making them bigger. In the meantime, these smaller ones would be a great way to surround different nibbles for holiday parties - crab salad, rare roast beef, ham and cheese, the ideas are endless.  And we are hosting a holiday party this year, so I'm glad I know how to make some easy canapés, thanks to Take Two of the gougères.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Another Bacon Post

I realize that the timing of this post may be a little off. Right after Thanksgiving, with all it's feasting and excesses, and heading into the holidays, to be shown a picture of Brussels sprouts lends a jarring note to all that frivolity. But, just you wait!  These are not worthy, health-inducing sprouts; they are decadent and sinful.

The reason is, of course, bacon.  Not only were they garnished with bacon bits, but they were braised with just a soupçon of water and a nice dollop of bacon fat.  I'd had a little dish of bacon fat in the back of the fridge for quite some time (it keeps nearly forever), and decided to use some of it to add flavor to My Beloved's least favorite veg. By the time the water had evaporated, the bacon fat browned them ever so slightly for an even richer flavor. While once again it didn't serve to convince My Beloved to love Brussels sprouts, even he admitted they were my best preparation of those little green balls so far.

But, that's not the only discovery regarding bacon fat that I made while prepping this meal. See that slider at the back of the plate? I also learned that hamburgers cooked in bacon fat is the ONLY way to go. You see, we like rare or at least medium-rare hamburgers, so we only have a short cooking time. But, I also like them to be nicely caramelized on the outside for the best flavor, and that's hard to achieve when cooking with butter. The butter tends to burn on high heat leaving a burned taste, and if you cook it on lower heat, the meat doesn't caramelize. 

Enter the bacon fat, the hero of this story!  Bacon fat burns at a higher temperature than butter, so you can get a really good sear on the outside of your burger while still leaving the interior nicely pink. Plus, you get a nice, light bacon flavor along with your burger, always a bonus.

You'd think that, after 40 years of cooking, I would have figured this out earlier, but isn't that what is fun about cooking anyway?  I love learning new things just when I thought I was pretty proficient. 

Hope your Thanksgiving was fulsome and fun. And on to the holidays!

Monday, November 19, 2012

First Crab

This has been a week of treats. My Fairy Godson arrived for a nice, long visit and we had a lot of fun. We went for a hike in the Oakland hills, swam together in the Plunge, and saw a fun movie with him, Moonrise Kingdom, destined to become a cult classic. He also showed us the first several episodes of the new season of Downton Abbey on his computer during a rainy afternoon - like all the youth, he doesn't have to wait for it to be shown on TV - he knows how to download it from the interwebs. We poked through the shops in Mill Valley.  And we had our first Dungeness crab of the season.

When we spread out the newspapers for a crab feast, the menu is very simple: sour dough baguette with unsalted butter, green beans, cracked and cleaned crab - that's it. No need to fancy it up with sauces or napkins or even plates. We just pull a few paper towels off the roll, put the claw crackers and picks out, and we are good to go.

We had prosecco this time to add to the fun. We toasted My Beloved's health (the best treat of all this week was that My Beloved's recent diagnosis of early stage prostate cancer turned out not to need immediate treatment), clinked glasses, and dug in.  Within minutes, we were up to our elbows in crabby juice.  We eat the green beans with our fingers, too - the champagne flutes and the lighted candles were the only concession to civilization.  Dinner at Downton Abbey it is not.

As Thanksgiving approaches, let me take a minute to wish you a great Thanksgiving, good health, and your first crab of the season.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Dear Sweet Readers,

I offer this pretty picture today, along with an apology. 

I tried disabling the word verification to make it easier to post comments on Zoomie Station but the spammers moved in very quickly, so I'm going back to protect myself (and you) from those unscrupulous nogoodniks. Do they really think anyone reads or clicks on their nonsense??  Grrr!

Please keep commenting, even though you have to take an extra step to publish your words. I would miss you too much if you stopped.

Many thanks,


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ode To Balsamic

This week, I re-learned a lesson I've been taught many times before: Balsamic Vinegar Rules.

I had a couple of small pork tenderloins in the fridge - it's one of our favorite meats. It's lean but juicy and flavorful, as well as tender, quick-cooking and versatile. My Beloved was out working that day so I planned a really nice dinner on his return. I wanted to do something different (well, different for us) with them, and I hatched the idea of a sort of pseudo-teriyaki treatment that would be grilled outdoors to celebrate our nice, warm weather of late.

So, after lunch I got out soy sauce, powdered ginger (didn't have any fresh), sugar, black pepper, a lemon, and then thought, "Wait!  Balsamic vinegar would be great in this!"  And it was.

I mixed those ingredients together very much by the seat of my pants - no measuring, just dump and stir and sample until it tasted a little more pungent than I wanted the finished dish to taste, poured it all into a zippered baggie and put in the two tenderloins.

Right about then, I got a call that My Beloved would be taking a visiting sales manager out to dinner. I didn't want to cook it all just for myself, so I stuffed it back into the fridge and had a peanut butter sandwich for dinner.

The tenderloin wallowed in the marinade for another full day. In the meantime, my Fairy Godson called to say he was coming up from LA for a visit. Perfect timing!  What would have been too much for My Beloved and me to finish was just about the right amount for three. We stoked up the grill, laid corn on the cob and the tenderloins on the grates, turned them all about three times, and about 20 minutes later, we sat down to eat.

You can see from the photo that the tenderloins were juicy and slightly pink in the middle. One of the reasons I like cooking tenderloins is that the thin end gets a little more done than the thicker middle, so those who fear undercooked pork are relieved and those of us who are willing to risk it get what we like, too.  

The marinade reminded me of Hawaii, but it was less sweet and more tangy than true teriyaki.  The smoky crust complemented the tender middle. At the risk of hyperbole, I'd say the balsamic vinegar sang through the rest of the ingredients like a theme through a symphony. It reminded me once again that Balsamic Rocks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Reason To Give Thanks

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I'd nip in with some good advice for the holiday.  Thanksgiving, although it is by far and away my favorite holiday, can be stressful, what with families gathering (nobody pushes your buttons faster than family), distance travel (and isn't airline travel a joy these days?), the short turnaround, and cooking/eating/drinking far too much.

The ticket is to keep it simple. Well, as simple as possible, anyway. 

In that spirit of simplicity, let me just say "Gougères."  

Gougères are cheesy little puffs that can take the place of heavy dinner rolls on your Thanksgiving table. They have far more flavor than rolls and they are light, so they don't take up space in your tummy that might otherwise be filled with pie - let's face it, it's really all about the pie, am I right?

They can be made ahead and the dough frozen, then popped into the oven about 20 minutes before dinner is served. I used this recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle. The Chron may not be a world-class newspaper but it takes its food recipes seriously. I made these on a leisurely Saturday morning in less than an hour, baked a few as a test batch and froze the rest of the dough to be baked for Thanksgiving dinner.

My Beloved, Cora and I all tried them and we all approve. Mine didn't look like the picture in the paper, sadly - much flatter and spread out - but they tasted terrific. The slightly crisp outside and creamy middle of these two-inch treasures reminded me of popovers, only gentler, smaller and filled with herbs and pepper to complement the cheese. They are buttery enough not to need more butter, redolent with herbs and black pepper. In a word, killer.

You can also use them as appetizers at a cocktail or dinner party - heaven knows, no appetizers are needed on Thanksgiving. Imagine how impressed your guests will be when you whip out of the oven fresh, warm cheesy puffs - they're going to think you are serious competition for Martha Stewart or Ina Garten. 

2012 has been a tough year for me and My Beloved, filled with bad news of several kinds seemingly every time we turned around. Still, we are grateful for his beautiful daughters, their handsome spouses and our gorgeous grands. We are happy to have good relations with our families and our neighbors. We thank heaven each day for the goofy and lovable dog who came to live with us almost four years ago. We have dear friends whom we cherish and who return our aloha. We know how lucky we are to live where the weather is mainly friendly. We aren't wealthy but we have enough. 

In my view, gougères are just another reason to be thankful.

Fontina & Herb Gougères, from the San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, November 4, 2012

Makes about 4 dozen

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
1 cup grated Fontina cheese (you can use other cheese and herb combos, too)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
5 eggs

Bring the butter, milk and 1/2 cup water to boil in a medium saucepan. Turn heat down to medium; add the flour and a pinch of salt and pepper all at once. Stir vigorously to combine and continue to cook about 1 minute more, stirring constantly, until the dough has formed a ball and leaves a thin film on the bottom and sides of the pot. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. 

Transfer dough to a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Add the cheeses and oregano, and beat on low speed to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition just to incorporate, and scraping down the sides of the bowl, if necessary.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If you have a pastry bag, transfer the dough to a bag fitted with the large round tip; pipe the dough in rounds about 1-1/2 inches in diameter onto the baking sheet. If you don't have a pastry bag, use an ice cream scoop to form the rounds. (I used a plastic baggie with the tip of one corner cut off and it worked well).

If you are baking them right away, space them about 2 inches. If freezing for later, you can pipe them close together. Use a wet fingertip to push down and smooth out any peaks on the rounds. 

For freezing, place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 1 hour, until the balls are hard and easy to handle. Peel the gougères off the baking sheet and place in a zippered freezer bag to store up to 1 month.

To bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the gougères (straight from the freezer if you have frozen them) on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet, spaced about 2 inches apart. Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for another 15-18 minutes until golden, turning the tray about halfway through to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Note: If baking without freezing, be sure the gougères are at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet, and bake for a slightly shorter time.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Summer Re-Runs

Leading up to the election (and, by the way, HOORAY!), we slid back into summer. Hallowe'en had passed, rainy and cold and discouraging to the young goblins. I was cleaning gutters, putting away the deck chair cushions, and sweeping the fallen leaves out of the carport when November decided to grant me a couple more really warm, sunny days just before the dip back in to fall. After our cool, foggy summer, it seemed like a gift from the weather gods.

I gleefully donned my cutoffs and short sleeved tee shirts, put the cushions back out and settled in on the deck with a trashy novel to bask in the warmth. I never stop wearing flipflops but often, at this time of year, I add tabi socks. No need for tabi socks during those lovely days, however - heavenly bare toes!

Giddy with delight, I decided to extend the celebration with barbecues, corn on the cob and summer salads. We had teriyaki skirt steak and smoky mussels and corn from the grill for dinner. And, because Cousin Jan had brought us some wonderful, really ripe, late season tomatoes from her pal Jim Sartain's garden, I made BLTs and my favorite avocado-and-tomato sandwiches for lunch. Alongside our grilled steak, I assembled a version of a caprese salad, one that I will happily repeat once good tomatoes roll around again.

There is little so good in the world as caprese salad when the tomatoes are really ripe. Jim's are deeply red all the way through and absolutely gush with juice when sliced. They are so sweet that you really comprehend that tomatoes are, indeed, a fruit but with that little tang of an aftertaste that only good tomatoes retain.

The only change I made this time was to replace the usual basil with fresh oregano from my herb pots. I had trimmed back my somewhat woody oregano plant and it had rewarded me for the haircut by producing lots of tender green shoots. I snipped a few and stripped the leaves off the stems to sprinkle over the salad. It wasn't earth-shaking, but it was a nice change and I'd do it again. The fresh green leaves added color and flavor to the dish, but didn't cover up the real star, that perfect tomato.

My summer re-run was sweet, but short. Where did I put those tabi socks?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mussel Memories

When I was about ten years old, my Dad was out at sea and my older brother was at the Naval Academy, so the rest of the family went to spend the summer with my Mom's sister and her three kids in Madison, Connecticut, a beach town on Long Island sound. We rented a big old "cottage" on the shore and we all stayed there together, getting to know our cousins and enjoying the beach. I learned to water ski that summer, patiently taught by my aunt and older cousin. After a few spills, I still remember the thrill of the powerful boat pulling me up to skim over the water.

My mother took my little brother, who was about two at the time, down to play in the tide pools at the end of the beach, and there she discovered wild mussels growing on the rocks. She harvested them gleefully, cooking them up with wine and herbs. She offered tastes to any of us but her sister was allergic to seafood and all six of us kids turned up our noses. "All the more for me!," she crowed, and happily ate the whole pot.  It wasn't until many years later that I learned what a big mistake I had made.

Now that I have discovered that making mussels at home is easy, I have become obsessed with them. I think we have eaten them three times in the past month. This latest iteration is the best so far.

Before prep began, I started the barbecue. Ours is a Weber grill that uses charcoal, so it needs about 15 minutes to get up to speed. Then I sorted the mussels, discarding any that were open, pulling the "beards" off any that had escaped cleaning at the store, and setting aside the good ones.

Preparation started much like the mussels-and-fish dish that I told you about a few blog posts ago, but with a few key things added.  This time, I chopped onion, carrot, celery and fennel into a small dice. I added a knob of butter to a very wide pan with a heatproof handle. When the butter melted, I added about a teaspoon of dried tarragon to the butter and let them cook together briefly before the chopped veggies went in to soften over medium heat. Once the veggies were soft, I added about a cup of white wine (Pinot Grigio from Ferrari Carano, if it matters) and piled in the mussels.

I wanted to have corn with this dish, a sort of simplified "clam bake," so I husked the corn and broke it into two pieces, then set it aside. As the mussels went in, I added the corn to the pan to cook and smoke in the barbecue as well.

The pan was very heavy as I carried it out to the barbecue and set it over the fire. The handle just barely fit under the domed lid. I left it on for about 20 minutes and, when I returned and opened the lid, the mussels were all open and offering their succulent innards. Piled into wide bowls and bathed with the broth at the bottom of the pan, they were colorful and the scent wafting up was pure sea. Poured a glass of wine for each of us from the same bottle I cooked with, and sat down with lots of napkins to enjoy.

The corn got smoky from the barbecue, some of the sweetest we've had this year.  The mussels had just a hint of smoke, not as much as I had hoped, but still wonderful. Although everything was swoon-worthy and we enjoyed each bite, the very best part was saved for the last. 

The broth at the bottom of the bowls was thin and absolutely crammed with flavor. We could taste each ingredient in that liquid - the veggies, the tarragon (tarragon will definitely go into any future mussel dishes, perfect with the funk of the mussels), the wine, and the bivalves were all present and singing their songs, nicely balanced where none outshone the others. I I'd make this dish again just for the broth.  If you gave that broth to an ailing person, s/he would leap out of bed fully cured.

I'm a former ten year old, still kicking myself for refusing Mom's mussels.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

After The Zoo

It has been a while since I went to Tal-y-Tara for tea and a motor loaf, and quite a while since I reminded you of this little San Francisco pleasure.  My Beloved and I had just been to the Zoo for the "Boo at the Zoo" event and we emerged from that looking for lunch. Costume admiring and steam train riding works up an appetite.  We had thought we'd go somewhere along the Great Beach but the choices were all full on that glorious day, so we hatched a plan to drive over to  Tal-y-Tara.

We found that they now have a little garden out back for the warm and pretty days. And they still offered their signature "motor loaf." The motor loaf starts as a small loaf of what tastes like some kind of quick bread, ever so slightly sweet and dark brown, not firm like pumpernickel, rather soft and cake-y. 

The chef carves the middle out of the loaf and cleverly wraps six little sandwiches from the innards - egg and olive, chutney and cheese, ham and swiss, egg salad, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and turkey - and tucks them back inside the loaf.  These are truly "finger sandwiches," each about 2 inches square. Alongside, they serve fresh sliced fruit and clotted cream and marmalade, which you spread on the outside of the loaf for dessert once the sandwiches have been consumed. Don't go alone - you won't be able to finish it by yourself.

If you haven't been there for the motor loaf, you are truly missing a treat. Go when you have time to be leisurely because it takes a while to construct this delight, but if you have time, it's well worth the wait. We shared all six of the sandwiches to taste all the flavors, and we ordered a pot of Irish Breakfast tea from their extensive list of black, green and herbal teas. They also have the best scones in the entire world - and that is not an exaggeration.

You'd love this quirky little place: you are served at delightfully mismatched tables, some with sofas, others with garden chairs, all with chintz and charm. The walls are adorned with photographs of horses and posters for Polo in the Park. The shop also sells riding gear for the polo set, so you are seated among displays of tall, gleaming leather boots, halters and leads, hacking jackets, English saddles, and riding breeches. The restroom doubles as storage for riding helmets and jodhpur boots. The owners have long been horse people, sponsoring polo and running a therapeutic riding program for people with disabilities in Golden Gate Park, so what might otherwise come across as snobby is really just an outgrowth of their interests. 

I guess you can tell that I relish each visit to Tal-y-Tara. We drove home in sweet repletion, filled with contentment. That's a tall order for a simple little tea shop, but Tal-y-Tara always seems to impart this feeling in us.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Errand Day

The day after Hallowe'en, My Beloved and I had some errands to run. To the vet for flea meds for Cora. To the car dealership to diagnose a troublesome light on the dashboard of my car. To a local dentist's office to drop off our extra Hallowe'en candy - he was offering to ship it to the troops in Afghanistan. We had very few trick-or-treaters this year thanks to the untimely rain, so we had 'way too much candy on hand with which to tempt ourselves - the dentist's kind idea seemed like much the best solution.

After all that was accomplished and my forgotten purse was retrieved from the car dealership where I left it by mistake, we decided to chill out with lunch in Mill Valley.  My Beloved had heard that the venerable Balboa Café in San Francisco had opened a satellite bistro in Mill Valley, so we went in search of it.

We had a nice lunch (very, very rare burger for him, omelet of the day for me) with good, cheerful service in a restful and slightly elegant atmosphere. Really very nice. And, to go with my omelet, I ordered a side dish of kale slaw, just to try it out. I was quite pleased - the slaw was a combination of julienned dark green kale, purple cabbage, and fennel tossed in a lightly creamy dressing with a mildly sour kick at the end.  Garnished with walnuts, it was like a cross between salad and slaw, and a nice change from the usual pale slaws.

After lunch, we checked out the little bookstore in the center of town (really, more a cafe with a small selection of books on hand), then bought a chicken jerky treat for Cora in the pet store. Ambling back to the car hand in hand, we decided we should do more errand days together. Makes what might otherwise be a chore into an outing and Cora likes to ride along, especially when there is chicken jerky at the end.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Why Do We Live Here?

Originally, My Beloved moved here because it was close to his daughters - he wanted to make sure that they had no more than a 15 minute drive to visit him. Even though he and their mother were splitting up, he wanted to keep close and loving contact with his girls. When I came into his life, it was a natural for us to establish our household here where he had already settled and was happy.

It's not ideal - in a lifetime of moving, I have learned that no place is truly ideal. We have a huge refinery at our back door and traffic on the freeway is often heavy. We are a relatively affluent island in a large city of people struggling to realize the American Dream; it is sometimes sobering to live here. 

On the other hand, over the years, we have had lots of reasons to continue to live here. For one thing, it's cheaper than other places in the bay area. For another, it's a fun little community where neighbors know each other and business is conducted locally. In our tiny, three-block triangle, there are three churches, a playhouse, two antique stores (one Asian, one Western), two hairdressers, a day spa, a pharmacy, a yoga studio, a florist, two groceries, three art galleries, a library, a post office, a fire house, a community center, a huge natatorium, a dog park, thirteen restaurants and assorted other businesses.

The local playhouse sponsors a town-wide garage sale each Memorial Day weekend. We have a weekly farmer's market and monthly music concerts in the street during the summer. Hallowe'en is the old fashioned kind where kids can go trick-or-treating by themselves after a certain age. We have the Turkey Shoot at Thanksgiving (we parade a pet turkey around town, then have a shot of Wild Turkey whisky at a local bar) and a neighborhood Christmas party every year on Christmas day.  We even go caroling. It's not Currier and Ives, but it does have some traditional aspects that are somewhat unusual in California.

And, every now and then, we look out from our windows and see sights such as this, the north tower of the iconic bridge with the fog behind it tinted pink and lavender by the sun setting in a bright golden sky. A compelling reason to live here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Loving That Man Of Mine

You might not think that serving Brussels sprouts to My Beloved, who is lukewarm about them at best, is a loving gesture, but let me explain. You see, Brussels sprouts are good for him, filled with vitamins and fiber, and I want him to have all those benefits to keep him strong and virile. Plus, they taste good - well, at least, to me they do. Inexplicably, he doesn't see it my way, so I have made it my life's work to convince him - in a loving way, of course.

So, last week, I tried yet another way of fixing Brussels sprouts, trying to tempt his taste buds. This one was a big success.  First, I crisped thin strips of prosciutto in the smallest possible driz of olive oil, then set them aside. Into the same pan, I added a dollop of butter and about 15 cleaned and halved Brussels sprouts. Over medium heat, I let the cut sides of the sprouts just begin to brown, then added about 1/4 cup of chicken broth to the pan, covered it and let the little green half spheres braise on very gentle heat for about 20 minutes while we watched the first half of the final game of the World Serious. How about them Giants! Sweep!

When I returned to tend the pan, the sprouts had gone beyond the bright green range into the army green range, so I was worried. However, I drained out the tad of liquid left in the pan, piled them on our plates and sprinkled them with the crisp prosciutto.

I thought they were delicious, truly delicious!  The chicken broth seems to have gentled that bitter cabbage flavor that many object to and the fun texture and taste of the prosciutto added flavor and interest to the dish. I don't see how anyone could object and, in fact, he didn't - he just smiled a weak little smile and admitted, "Well, that's an improvement."

Clearly, not a home run this time, more like a base hit. I traded him half of my hamburger for the rest of his sprouts and we both ended the evening in a good mood.