Wednesday, May 29, 2013

North American Breakfast

The other morning, as My Beloved and I were lazing in bed and Cora had not yet begun lobbying to go out, we hatched the idea of having breakfast burritos. Now, I'm not much of a breakfast person, whereas My Beloved has to eat more or less immediately upon arising. But, he likes the way I cook, so sometimes he's willing to have a yogurt while he waits for my stomach to catch up with his. Such was the case this week.

When I got rolling, I decided to honor my country as well as our excellent North American neighbors at breakfast.  What could be more "American" than ham and eggs?  Except that the ham was Canadian bacon, regular bacon's healthier, leaner cousin. And I was serving it on a whole wheat tortilla laced with "Mexican" cheese, cilantro, and hot sauce. Roll that up and you've got an international feast.

Seriously, we owe so much to our neighbors - and not just culinarily. Oh, we hear about how Canada wants to send us their filthy tar sands oil and how Mexico wants to encourage our drug addiction, but most of the things about our neighbors are positive and should be celebrated. And, let's face it, they are only feeding us the stuff we want and are willing to pay high prices for. Sadly, that, too, is the American way.

Canada has always been a staunch ally, and has sent us such talents as Rich Little, Anne Murray, The Stampeders, Paul Anka, Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic and, of course, Chris Hadfield, to name just a very few. They are also showing us that socialized medicine can work, and that it's a good thing to be polite and law-abiding. According to, in 2009 there were 173 Canadian deaths by gun violence. In the same year in the US, 11,493 people were killed by guns.  We could take a few lessons from our gentler neighbors to the north.

Mexico has some of the most glamorous getaway places on earth and a rich art and food culture that we benefit from. Think Frida Kahlo and enchiladas.  Think Diego Rivera and tortilla soup. And, if we imagine that we can harvest our crops or run our restaurants without our "guest workers" from the south, we should think again.  And so very much more! It's time our worthless Congress got busy and figured out a way to welcome them, and never, ever to separate a family again.

Sheesh, pretty heavy stuff for breakfast!  International politics is enough to spoil one's appetite.  So, instead, let's thank our neighbors for their many contributions to our own culture. We are blessed by their diversity.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cheese Peeves

I'm generally pretty easy going, mainly a happy and optimistic person, but I do have pet peeves.  A couple of them revolve around cheese.  Here comes a rant - skip it if you like.

Peeve #1
I really, really dislike seeing someone cut the point off a wedge of cheese. Didn't anyone ever teach them to keep the point?  Cheese often comes in triangles rather than squares, because it is cut from a larger round of cheese. 

If you cut the point off without finishing the wedge of cheese, the next time it is served, it isn't a graceful triangle, it's an ugly, truncated block.

But, if you cut your serving of cheese down one side or the other, it keeps the point on the cheese so the next time it is served, it looks brand new. Yes, of course it's a small thing - one might even say a petty concern - but it just makes like a little nicer if you do it right. I'm just sayin'.

Peeve #2
If more than one cheese is served with a small knife for each kind, it's nice to use the same knife on the same cheese each time.  Cheeses have all different flavors and sometimes one guest will like one kind and another guest will not - if each has its own knife, end of problem. 

So messy when people just grab whatever knife and carve away, oblivious, smearing the Brie into the Manchego. End cheese and knife pollution - it doesn't improve anything!

Okay, that's it for today's beef. We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Fish Sticks

As children, we were not huge fans of fish for dinner. First, our mother wasn't that great a fish cook - she often cooked it to death. Second, we were coerced into eating it every Friday by threats of disapproval from the priests and nuns. Third, we were raised when frozen foods were in their heyday - miracles of modern science! - so it wasn't often the very best and freshest anyway.

Fish sticks were the exception. We got either TV dinners or fish sticks when our parents went out to a party. We adored TV dinners and fish sticks, little Philistines that we were. Not only were they all the unhealthy things we craved and Mom rarely allowed, they also meant that Mom and Dad were not there to monitor table manners. We could eat like slobs, watch too much TV, and finish off all the ice cream.  No wonder they were beloved!

I hadn't eaten fish sticks (unless you count the rare Filet-o-Fish sandwich at McDonalds) in probably 60 years. Once I was grown up, I had permission to eat like a slob and finish off all the ice cream any time I wanted, so fish sticks receded into my distant past until Cookiecrumb mentioned them and recommended that I try Kalyn Denny's version.

Tumbling Proustian memories of childish glee! The parental units were going out for the evening! 

I set about collecting the ingredients, somewhat simplified and degraded somewhat from Kalyn's excellent recipe, and got ready to create my own fish sticks.

I used halibut because it's caught wild and fresh right off our coast. I used white bread panko crumbs, since I couldn't find the whole wheat version at my market. I added some dried dill weed to the crumbs, salt, and pepper because I think dill with fish is delicious. I used two farm-fresh eggs with shocking orange yolks - and two was too many for just us two, so I made a little omelet with the rest and served that alongside.

Other than that, I followed Kalyn's recipe, slicing the fish into strips about 1" diameter, dredging the fish in scrambled egg before coating it liberally with the panko crumbs, setting the strips on a sheet pan covered for ease of cleanup with parchment paper, and sliding it into a 425 degree F oven for 15 minutes. 

The crisp coating only hinted at dill - next time, I'd add the dill to the egg and let it steep for a while - but it was a fun complement to the mild fish. These were not mealy, nor greasy like the fish sticks of my youth - the sweet, mild fish slid apart under our forks and the coating tickled our tongues. My Beloved, who probably never had fish sticks in his life before, was enthusiastic.  

I was swept back to my childhood. After dinner, he and I watched too much TV and finished off all the ice cream.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Double Dutch

Last week, cousin Jan and I ventured into the city to admire the current exhibition at the surprisingly uncrowded deYoung Museum, The Girl With A Pearl Earring, now in its final weeks. We strolled through the painting galleries, awash in color and light. The Dutch painters of that era were not only amazing artists and craftsmen, they also managed somehow to capture an amazing glow in their canvases, as if they painted with sunshine or moonshine or magic. We drifted from one to another, amazed and impressed. Reproductions of these works simply can't capture their depth, warmth, and beauty. Whether a sweet little painting of a captive finch, or impressive portraits of wealthy couples, or amazing pictures of imaginary churches, all were alight with color and light. And the Girl, herself - well, if the guards hadn't been so vigilant, she'd be hanging in my house right now. She is so beautiful, she literally brings tears to my eyes.

After filling our heads with images, we turned our attention to filling our bellies with lunch. The cafe at the deYoung does a good job. For blockbuster exhibits like this, they erect a huge, clear plastic tent over the outdoor patio to accommodate the overflow eaters, and often serve special plates with the theme of the exhibition.  Jan and I got to try Dutch dishes that day. Her salmon salad with white beans, chick peas and green beans was quite delicious (she gave me a bite) and my choice, "Stamppot" turned out to be a pink, curving sausage with bacon lardons, potato purée mixed with braised kale, and all that topped with radish sprouts, with a generous pool of spicy mustard alongside.  This Dutch version of bangers and mash was a lovely surprise. Even though I'm currently suffering from kale ennui, I have to admit I loved it in the potatoes, where it gave texture and character to what might otherwise have been a little boring.

Remembering the fries My Beloved and I had loved in Belgium, I ordered Patat Friet with lemon and garlic aioli, too, hoping they would be as good as those. They were excellent fries, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, and the aioli was lovely with them, maybe not quite up to Belgian standard but still quite delicious. My eyes turned out to be bigger than my stomach, so Jan helped me to finish them. 

On my way home after dropping Jan off at her car, I did some errands, got my car washed, and drove home with a head full of glorious images and a tummy full of lovely food, doubly pleased with our Dutch adventure.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Spring Hope

This year, I was determined not to try growing any vegetables. I rarely get any produce and it has been frustrating to try to nurture veggies in my little strip of garden, only to have them fail to produce or produce just a few. I was so over vegetable gardening!

I had opted for flowers this year and, in a fun morning with Cousin Jan, had selected beautiful flowers for pots on the deck and to plant in my garden strip. To complement my irises, calla lilies and Shasta daisies, which faithfully appear each spring, I had purchased such lovelies as cosmos and dahlias and foxgloves. I potted and planted and was gratified to see the bright colors each day.

Then, last week, as I was watering a little extra due to our very dry spring, I looked down to see what might have been a stray weed in the garden. I was all set to pluck it up when I recognized what I think is a baby tomato plant growing right next to the watering pipe. Last year I did have tomatoes in that spot, but I didn't cage them and the snails had a field day. I may have harvested one or two, but the gastropods got most of the yield.

And yet, here was this tiny green volunteer, giving life another shot. I am, frankly, awed.

So, I'm going out to purchase a cage for her this year, to get her fruit up out of the snails' reach. I saw some cool, colorful cages for sale at a garden store this year, a nice change from the plain metal ones. If she has the juice to try life in my usually unproductive garden, I'm going to give her a chance. As they always say, "Hope Springs Eternal."

Sunday, May 19, 2013


They say that confession is good for the soul.  In my case, "they" are the priests and nuns I encountered as a young person. Although I have gravitated away from the doctrines of the Catholic church - I call myself a "recovering Catholic" - still I must admit that between my parents' vigilance and the clergy's lessons, they managed to roughly civilize a half-wild child.

So, I no longer kneel down in a dark cubicle and listen for the slide of wood-on-wood as the priest opens the window and sits mysteriously behind the fabric screen to hear my youthful sins, but I do confess my transgressions from time to time.  This is one of those times.

My Beloved was out of town for ten full days on a combination business/pleasure/family trip. I would have gone with him, but I have committed to tutoring four second graders and I missed most of February due to a family illness, so I opted to stay home. Cora and I were holding down the fort.

When he goes away, I usually don't cook for myself. I eat all the things that I wouldn't normally indulge in - things that require little or no cooking and, often, things that are guilty pleasures.  Bologna sandwiches with iceberg lettuce eaten standing over the sink to save dishes. Bowls of cereal for dinner.  Serious ice cream. Cottage cheese and apple butter mixed with granola. (I know!)

Vegetables?  Well, there was that iceberg lettuce, right? 

Just as I dropped My Beloved at the airport, I arrived home to find that my sister had sent me a pretty good-sized can of peanut brittle from Plantation, the best peanut purveyors in the universe and makers of sublime peanut brittle - it's dense with nuts and only a little bit of sweet crunch to stick them together.  And, the day he left was the first day of our summer farmer's market here in town.  Rodriguez Strawberries were back with their fragrant, sweet, brilliant fruit. I bought three baskets. 

This week has been all about strawberries and peanut brittle. Oh, I may have made myself a chicken soft taco or two, but to be honest, I confess that I've mostly subsisted on peanut brittle and fresh strawberries. 

So, now you know my darkest secret. Am I forgiven? Probably not, as I didn't make a sincere act of contrition.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Steep Ravine

You haven't lived until you've eaten a s'more made with dark chocolate and a blue Peeps bunny melted to oozy caramelization over a charcoal fire.

Some statement, huh?

Last week, just before his 10-day trip back east, My Beloved and I drove out over newly-paved, winding roads to Steep Ravine to have lunch with our pal Jack, who was cabin camping there with an air mattress, a bottle of champagne, and a side of salmon for the grill. Jack does not travel lightly - he goes with most of the comforts (and luxuries) of home.

Jack and I started a fragrant wood fire in the iron stove on that windy, overcast day, then set about lighting his recalcitrant charcoal in the grill outdoors. Although it was supposed to be "match light" charcoal, it had apparently lost its pizzazz, as we tried newspapers, kindling, matches, threats, and prayers to get it started, all with no luck.  A charming second-grader from a nearby cabin, Liam, offered helpful suggestions but even his karma was not enough to light those coals. My Beloved was smart - he stayed in the cabin, admiring the view of the ocean and distant Stinson Beach, munching on chips and salsa, and drinking champagne.

We had all but given up on the charcoal when the camp host, John, a guy with smiling eyes, an impressive mustache, and muttonchop whiskers, noted our distress and offered to help. "Hold on a minute," he said, "I'll be right back!"  Good to his word, he arrived in short order toting what amounts to a homemade flame thrower, a small tank of compressed gas connected with a flexible hose to a metal rod the end of which was fashioned somewhat like a welder's torch. He fired that puppy up and applied the business end to Jack's uncooperative charcoal. Within about five minutes, we had live coals.

In addition to his fire-starting skills, John is an interesting guy, an artist as well as an inventor of flame-throwers. When asked about his art work, he said modestly, "Well, really, Mother Nature is the artist, I just shine things up a bit."

Once the fire was well and truly started, John packed up his equipment and went off to help some other hapless campers. Liam's mother and little brother arrived, asking to use our fire to grill their hot dogs and asparagus, as they had also had trouble lighting a fire. In return, after salmon and hot dogs, they invited us to share their s'mores.

They had brought toasting forks along, so there was no need to find a convenient twig in that windswept campground. We attacked the package of blue Peeps bunnies, heartlessly skewering them and roasting them over the dying embers.  Serious discussions ensued about the amount of caramelization required for the perfect s'more, as our bunnies blistered and sagged. Trapped between two Graham crackers and a slab of dark chocolate at the very last moment before they dripped into the fire, they were gooey, tooth-achingly sweet perfection. I'm pretty sure that blue dye will give us all cancer one day, but they were worth it.

Thus fortified for the drive home, we watched the little boys scampering over the rocks and rushing headlong to the cliff edge while their mother calmly watched. She was right to be unconcerned - although touchingly young, both boys were like little mountain goats and neither fell to his certain death before our eyes, as I half expected.

We hugged Jack goodbye - he had another night at Steep Ravine - and drove home, replete with salmon, champagne, and images of that lovely, wild place and the gentle giant who wields a mean torch.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

East Bay Find

Looking for lunch in the East Bay?  

Maybe you were in Berkeley protesting GMO foods?  Or you were in Albany at the CostCo store loading up on giant-sized jars of mayo?  Perchance you were in El Cerrito buying organic foods?  Perhaps you were in Richmond, having just stepped off the BART train from the city to visit the Rosie the Riveter Museum?

And you're hungry!

Well, do we ever have good news for youse!  Cousin Jan, My Beloved and I were looking for an early lunch so we stopped in at Assemble, the newest food haven in the old Ford plant in Richmond. We arrived a few minutes before they opened, so we took a quick tour of the Rosie Museum, which is just across a small plaza, vowing to return when we are less distracted by hunger. It is filled with interesting exhibits about the contributions of women during WWII, when the men were off fighting and women were surprising the guys, themselves, and the world with their ability to build ships in record time.'

In addition to showing women that "We Can Do It," the work they did spawned several other interesting developments that liberated women to work outside the home, such as employer-sponsored day care and health care.  The shipyards were owned by Henry J. Kaiser - ever wonder where Kaiser Permanente's name came from?  Make plans to visit the Rosies in the near future - it's a very interesting little museum.

But hunger was calling.There was another restaurant in the plant for a couple of years, but it folded and now Assemble has opened.  In keeping with the theme of the Ford plant, where cars were assembled before it was converted to making tanks during WWII, the interior is industrial chic, with huge pipes running here and there along the walls and ceilings. The furniture is all of wood, but comfortable and graceful. Clearly, the owners understand the vibe of the plant, too, as the tunes playing in the background are swing music from the war years. We really enjoyed hearing renditions of many old favorites as we perused the menu and made our choices.

The emphasis on the menu is fun, casual food.  We shared the above order of "Frito Pie," a concoction of Fritos topped with chili and chiles, cheddar cheese, jalapeño pepper slices, sour cream and green onions, all served on a plate lined with the shiny, opened Fritos bag underneath. It brought a smile, both when it arrived and as we worked our way through it.  It was listed as a starter, but would have made a generous meal for one. As it was, we had plenty as a starter for three!

My Beloved and Jan both had fish and chips - the fish was very lightly battered and crisp, and both said it was tasty. The French fries that accompanied it were killer, deeply crisp on the outside and tender, almost creamy on the inside. The few fries I stole from the others' plates almost made me regret my own choice, they were so good.

I chose the muffaletta sandwich because I had never before had one.  The huge wedge that arrived was so big I couldn't fit it in my mouth. I sliced it in half in order to get a bite of the layers of ham, salamis, and cheeses with a savory layer of olive tapenade to give it zing.  The accompanying scoop of potato salad was tangy with mustard, studded with colorful peppers, and topped with fresh chives. I enjoyed my first muffaletta very much.
We don't normally have dessert at lunchtime but Assemble had assembled (sorry, couldn't resist!) a warm strawberry-rhubarb crisp that was not to be denied. Topped with a scoop of cardamom ice cream, it disappeared in record time with three of us spooning up bites of gooey, sweet-tart fruit topped with crunchy granola-like crumble. 

We stumbled out of there, full to the brim, and already planning to return next time for dinner. Next time you are in the East Bay, give Assemble a try. Then, take a long walk on the path along the water to work off some of the meal, while you mentally thank all those Rosies, who helped us to win the war. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

¡Viva Pescado!

Ever since our doctor gently suggested that adding more fish to our diets would be beneficial, we've been looking for ways to get more of it onto our plates and into our bodies. Having been raised Catholic in the days when I was commanded from on high to eat fish on Fridays, whether I was in the mood for fish or not, and being the rebellious sort that I am, I have often ignored that dictum in favor of almost anything else.

Oh, I like fish well enough - and some of it, I actively love. I just don't like being told what to do. Luckily, our doctor has a much nicer way of suggesting improvements than the priests did - he doesn't command, he cajoles.

So, last Sunday as we were enjoying a stroll through the Kensington Farmer's Market, I not only stopped at the charcuterie stand, I also halted in front of the fresh fish display. On the fence between cod and petrale sole, I opted for the cod to save a few bucks. Later, we discovered why the sole is more expensive - the cod has lots of bones. It was wonderfully fresh, however - it had literally no scent when I opened the bag to slide it into a few tablespoons of simmering water.

I was eager to try an idea I had last week to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Guacamole on fish.  Sounds a little weird, doesn't it?  I don't know why it sounded so good in my head, but it did.  So, I diced an avocado, halved some tiny, colorful tomatoes, pressed a clove of garlic, chopped a couple of green onions, minced some cilantro, squeezed half each of a lemon and a lime, and splashed around some Cholula hot sauce and a pinch of salt. I didn't squash it all as I would have for guacamole, just mixed it all gently in a little bowl and spooned it over the poached cod.

I will admit to some trepidation with the first taste. But, we were delightfully surprised by the lemony, fresh topping. I usually don't care for tomato with fish, but the fresh, tangy little tomatoes added a lot to the dish. The buttery avocado calmed the hot sauce so we tasted just a little tingle at the end of each bite. My Beloved finished his portion and the part of mine that I couldn't finish, and allowed as how he'd be happy to have that again soon.

We enjoyed it on Cinco de Mayo, but you don't have to wait another whole year. Viva!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Pinched Potato Salad

Summer weather. We don't get a lot of what most people would call "summer weather" over here in our little corner of the Bay area. It rarely gets above 75 here, and even then just for a day or two. So, when we do get some really warm days, I'm all about potato salad.

Last week, it was 75 degrees by 9am, and nearing 80 by noon. I was so excited! I was planning a Salade Niçoise for dinner, the perfect summer weather meal, and I wanted a spoonful of potato salad on the side of the plate, so while it was still 75, I started cooking the spuds.

It only took a few minutes to cook these thumb-sized white, yellow and purple potatoes to tenderness - none was thicker than an inch to begin with. I drained them and left them to cool slightly while I made a killer vinaigrette of pressed garlic, thyme, chopped green onion, salt, pepper, Meyer lemon juice and olive oil.  Whisk, whisk in a bowl big enough to hold the salad and it's ready to add the potatoes.

As I cut each warm potato into bite-sized pieces, I gave it a little pinch. The pinch breaks the solidity of the spuds, forming crevices into which a little more of the vinaigrette will seep. More crevices = more flavor.

Toss, toss and it's ready for the fridge. Later in the day, when we were hungry and it had absorbed all that lemony goodness, it was plated with some cold poached salmon, cold asparagus, halved hardboiled eggs (did those while it was still cool, too), picholine olives, and cornichons, all on a bed of lettuce. 

Try pinching your potatoes next time you make a salad. It's okay - they don't yelp.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

One Pan Fish Dinner

Who actually likes doing dishes? No one. I can't imagine the person who, as a little child, looks at a sink full of dirty dishes and thinks, "This is what I want to do when I grow up - wash dishes!"  Let's face it, it may be glam to be a chef but to be a dishwasher is entry-level work in the restaurant kitchen. It's the same at home - dish duty is a pain.

When we were growing up, after a certain age, it was the siblings' duty to wash dishes. Mom usually prepared and cooked the meal but we were expected to set the table, clear the plates afterward, and wash and dry the dishes. Washing beat drying but neither were happy chores. We had frequent quarrels over whose turn it was. Unlike happy TV families, we did not share the job joyously - we just squabbled.

So, when I plan a meal, I'm always happy when I can cut down on dishes, particularly on pots and pans. I reached the zenith of one-pan cooking last week when I prepared this dish of halibut and three kinds of veggies all cooked in the same frying pan.

First, I chopped half an onion and some green onions to soften in a tasty combination of olive oil and butter (I find the half-and-half technique keeps the butter from burning, retains the buttery flavor that we love, and uses less butter, which our doctor likes) in a wide frying pan.  Spears of peeled carrot went in on top of the onions and acted as a prop for the fish on top of those.  With a tablespoon or so of water added, covered, and steamed for a few minutes, I could then slide a spatula under the halibut skin and remove it easily. As the fish neared perfection, perhaps 5 minutes from the end, I lined the asparagus up on top of the fish for a final steam with the lid on.

When the asparagus was brightly green and tender, I lifted them off to the plates, divided the fish into two servings, and topped the fillets with the carrots and the onions, now deliciously infused with the fish juices. The whole thing took less than 20 minutes to prepare, cook, and serve. And the dishes took less than five minutes to wash. Win-win.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spud Soup

Here's the deal: I thought I was making Vichyssoise, that elegant, cold leek-and-potato soup. Nothing is better for a summer lunch on a hot day - and we've been having nearly a week of unusually warm temperatures.  It's cool, it's velvety, and it's creamy. But, when I dragged out my ancient copy of Julia Child's opus to double check, I found that what I had made was really Potage Parmentier, not Vichyssoise.

The difference is that PP is made with water and is served hot, and V is made with chicken broth and is served cold.

Hmmm. Although a bit deflated, I decided to stir in the cream anyway and see how it tasted. I spun it up in a blender, stirred in some half-and-half, and sprinkled the top with some minced cilantro for a little Cinco de Mayo herbal twist.

It was fantastic!  We inhaled our portions and looked around for more!  As summer comes on, think about making this wowza soup for your lunch or dinner.  The ticket is to start early in the morning, when it's still cool in your kitchen, for chopping and simmering the ingredients, then let it cool, shove it in the fridge, and spin it later in your blender, adding the cream at the last minute.  Julia uses whipping cream in her recipe but we were happy with half-and-half, and I think you will be, too. It still went down like cool, white velvet and tasted deliciously of earth and alliums.

Cold Spud Soup

I'm calling my version Cold Spud Soup to distinguish it from the richer Vichyssoise or the warm Potage Parmentier. A rose by any other name....

1 lb (3-4 cups) peeled potatoes, sliced or diced
1 lb (3-4 cups) thinly sliced leeks (I used half leek and half red young onions)
8 cups water
1 Tablespoon salt (and you may want more at the table - we don't like much salt)

1-2 Tablespoons half and half cream per portion. 
Minced cilantro to gussy up the top (Cilantro tastes like soap to some people; if you hate cilantro, use parsley or chives for the garnish).

Add vegetables and salt to water in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partly covered, until veggies are tender, about 30-40 minutes.  Set aside and let it cool a bit before blending in a blender or using a stick blender. You want very smooth soup. Refrigerate for a couple of hours - you want it to be really cold when you serve it.

Or, once cooled, stick it in the fridge and blend it later.

Once smoothly blended, add cream and stir, pour into soup bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Friday, May 3, 2013


Just a little update on the new grill. It turned out a lovely bone-in pork loin roast with thyme the other day. I cooked it on my version of indirect heat - coals in one side of the firebox and the roast on the other on a sheet of doubled-up foil to protect the bottom. I didn't want to add water (and, hence, steam) to the cooking and this method has worked well for me in previous grills, so I left out the pan of water under the roast. I was happy to see that it works in the new one, too. The roast was richly browned on the outside but moist, and palest petal pink on the inside. Perfect.

I think the grill and I are finally becoming friends.

And, by the way, if you haven't discovered the affinity that thyme has for pork, you are missing a treat. When I read about that in Jacques Pepin's "Essential Pepin," I was skeptical but tried it on faith. I was rewarded.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day

When I was a girl, we used to celebrate May Day. The first one I remember was at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii where my Dad was stationed for two years. In Hawaii, May Day is Lei Day, a day of parades, dancing, and celebration with lots and lots of flowers. I was eight years old and in second grade at Pearl Harbor Elementary when our class prepared dances to celebrate Lei Day.  My group did a Chinese-inspired dance; I was thrilled with my yellow brocade "pajama" costume with the frog closures and Mandarin collar. I couldn't wait for my mother to see me dancing with my tiny, painted fan.

My younger brother's birthday is April 28th and, in those days, women who had just given birth were kept in the hospital for several days afterward to rest up and bond with the new baby in peace (no children allowed in), a luxury which has since been pushed aside for more pragmatic considerations.  Anyway, if he hadn't been such an enchanting baby, I could have been seriously pissed with him, because my mother missed my Lei Day dance and all the pleasure drained away for me when I scanned the audience from the stage but didn't see her face. Luckily for him, our little brother was fascinating and endearing to both me and my older sister, so I didn't hold a grudge. Much.

When we moved back to the Mainland, we also celebrated May Day in Virginia. There, people made tiny baskets of mixed flowers - not much bigger than a matchbox, really - and hung them in secret on their friends' front door knobs. When the recipient awoke in the morning and stepped out for the newspaper, there was a lovely, mysterious basket of posies to say, "Welcome to Spring!"

May Day celebrations still happen in those places but, so far, I haven't found them in California. I want to start the tradition here, too. So, here's the modern, digital version of a May basket for my blog readers. Welcome to Spring!  And thanks for reading.