Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mon Petit Chou(croute)

And here's the result!

Homemade sauerkraut from my little pot!  It was easy enough to make - I consulted a couple of books, Michael Pollan's "Cooked" and "D.Y.I. Delicious" by Vanessa Barrington, for the basic techniques of fermentation, then ad libbed a bit on both recipes.

I shredded the cabbage and added thin slices of carrot and cauliflower to the brine as Mr. Pollan suggested, and aged the sauerkraut for about two weeks, as Ms. Barrington recommended. You can age it for far longer (in fact, I learned that this dish began as a way to preserve veggies through the winter and even for years, 'way back when), and it gets stronger and stronger as time goes on. Because I am impatient, I used the shorter recommendation.

When I dumped it out into a bowl, the cabbage was still crisp and the carrots still bright. Everything looked good and the taste was very salty and tangy from the fermentation process - it had worked!

I chose Julia Child's recipe for Choucroute Garnie to prepare our dinner, since she introduces the recipe by saying if you don't love the distinct sour and salt of most sauerkraut (and we don't), you will like the French version. The French rinse most of the brine out of the choucroute before cooking it, so it is quite mild. It is rich with white wine and chicken broth, enhanced with browned garlic sausages from Marin Sun Farms, and spiced with juniper berries, bay leaf, caraway seeds, and peppercorns. It simmered and bubbled for about six hours in the oven with the browned sausages added in the last hour. Julia was correct - both My Beloved and I enjoyed it very much.

After that long braising, the cabbage was soft and silky but the carrot slices stayed fairly firm while the cauliflower simply dissolved into the stew. All the melded flavors were distinct but subtle, with none dominating. The cabbage hinted at sour and gave a soupçon of salt, but was overall very mild - only the sausages sang with flavor and a little spicy heat.

This is fine winter fare, hearty enough to fill the belly and warm enough to make wooly socks unnecessary. Served with boiled potatoes, it made a very full meal. It was colorful, aromatic, and mildly tangy. I'd make this again and again - it wasn't difficult, just a little time consuming - and my sauerkraut pot yielded enough for two or three meals. If there is sauerkraut left over, I'm headed to the store for the makings of a Reuben sandwich next.

I'm a little in love with mon petite chou(croute) pot!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Pot And The Process

Ever since I read Michael Pollan's book, "Cooked," last summer, I have been interested to try fermentation. The sauerkraut recipe assured me that everything I needed by way of microbes was already on the cabbage leaves - all I had to do was give it a nice home to work in.

And that proved to be a bit of a challenge. All I needed was a wide-mouthed crock or glass container that would allow gas to escape the lid - seems easy, no? 

My local cooking store certainly did have a crock designed for making sauerkraut, but it was so expensive that it would have taken me years and years of sauerkraut making for that to be sensible. It was huge, too - we'd have sauerkraut for an army! And I wasn't even sure I'd like it, so spending over $100 on a crock seemed like an expensive gamble. I shelved the book and the idea.

Then, just before Christmas, cousin Jan took us to a craft show in Santa Rosa. There were all manner of artisans who had made a dazzling variety of gift items from bowls turned from gorgeous woods to warm and wooly knitted or crocheted items to pottery. And there in the pottery and glass room (which was spectacular - I could have spent a fortune in that one room!) was this little pot. I didn't initially think of the sauerkraut project, I was just stunned by its beauty and by the skill of the potter. Then, I was delighted by the price tag. Finally, the light bulb went on over my head and I thought "Sauerkraut!"

It has the perfect lid, well fitted to keep the bad stuff out, but loose enough to allow the gas to escape. The glaze is food-safe. And with its soft, blue-green glaze and graceful contours, it would look beautiful on my counter as the sauerkraut fermented away inside.

I brought it home and dithered for a few weeks about whether or not to start the process right away. Then, finally, one day the cabbage and the conviction converged and I made my maiden pot. I consulted "Cooked" and "DIY Delicious" before getting down my electric slicer and going to work thinly slicing the cabbage, carrots, and cauliflower.  

I concocted a brine, spiced and herbed it, then added the veggies, weighed it all down under the salty juice with some clean rocks, and waited with bated breath for the result. Every couple of days, I'd lift the lid and peek at my witches' brew, wondering if all was well. I noticed bubbles along the edges, and took that to be a good sign. The scent was mildly cruciferous but not sulfurous, so I hoped all was proceeding along nicely.

After two weeks or so, I decided it was ready.  Drum roll, please!

To be continued...

Friday, December 27, 2013


My Beloved is one of the most even-tempered guys on earth - he is consistently sunny and optimistic in nature. Well, maybe not in traffic, but then who is? There is only one exception to his good nature that I know of; when he is ill, which he very rarely is, his whole outlook changes and instead of the cheerful optimist I married, I have a whiny, self-pitying, crabby kid on my hands.

This Christmas didn't turn out for any of us the way we had hoped. 

Younger daughter and her huz cut out on the spur of the moment for Palm Springs to have a little down time together. They found they didn't have to go to work this week, so they decided suddenly to head for the warmth of the desert. It's hard to blame them when they haven't had a vacation alone since their honeymoon 18 months ago, but admittedly we were disappointed. 

Older daughter Sarah probably expected to have her Dad and her sister with her for her first living-in-California Christmas, but My Beloved came down with flu on Christmas Eve day, and he decided not to pass it along to the rest of the family, so we stayed home. We were supposed to eat crab with them on Christmas Eve, so I drove over and picked up our allotment of crabs, and he and I ate them by candlelight at home.

There was so much crab in the package that we were both full with half a crab to go, so I picked it out of the shells and bagged the rest for an omelet the next day. Come lunchtime, after a trip to the Kaiser pharmacy for flu meds for My Beloved, I whipped up an omelet with a little green onion and fresh thyme. While it was a big hit and he loved it, I don't think it has cured his flu or his attitude. 

I'll be glad when he feels better and stops being crabby.

Crab Omelet, serves two

This general "recipe"  - it's really more of a technique than a recipe - can be used with any fillings you choose - you're just luckier if you have crab on hand.

1/4 cup Dungeness crab, picked out of its shell (and be careful! I cut my thumb on the shell)
4 eggs
1-2 Tbs water
About 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 scallion, sliced
1 Tbs butter

In a shallow pan or omelet pan over medium heat, melt the butter until it bubbles but don't let it brown. Add the thyme and scallion, and cook until you begin to smell the fragrance of herbs and onion. Whisk the eggs and water together until well blended. Pour into the pan and let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes, just to set the bottom.

Add the crab, distributing the pieces across the top of the eggs. As the eggs cook, gently lift the sides of the eggs and tilt the pan to allow the egg on top to run under. Keep doing this until most of the loose egg is cooked - there may be a little left uncooked on top. If you like a loose omelet, now is the time to fold it onto the plate. If you like it all cooked, put a lid on the pan for a minute or two to firm up the rest of the egg.

To serve, put the plate under the omelet pan about halfway across. Tilt and jiggle to pan to loosen the omelet and, as soon as it touches the plate and "grabs" on a bit, keep pulling until half the omelet is on the plate, then fold it over onto itself. 

It is imperative to say, with élan, "Voilà!" as you serve it.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

We Wish You A Merry Christmas...

and a Happy New Year!

You readers!  You give me gifts every day of the year with your comments, the serious ones and the funny ones. Thank you so much for your input when the spirit moves you. I know from my stats that many more of you read than comment, and that's fine, too. I just like knowing you are out there, spread over the wide world, enjoying my words and images enough to come back.

Zoomie (Pam)
My Beloved (Buzz)
our dear Cora.

And the best gift of all this year - Cora got a clean bill of health from her vet this week!

May you have a great holiday season and may 2014 be your best year yet, but not your best year ever!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cookie Magic

I'm not an avid cookie baker. While I like cookies as much as the next gal, I find making them is somewhat tedious, sheet after sheet after sheet. I really only do it around Christmas time, when a mixed plate of cookies makes a nice little holiday gift for our friendly neighbors, and our smiling, sweet mail carrier who gives Cora a pat when he sees her, and the UPS man who has to back his gigantic truck down our narrow alley nearly every week and never complains. 

Come Christmas season, I go on a cookie baking binge, making four or five different kinds in a day - and swearing never to look at a cookie sheet again until next Christmas!

This year, I stumbled upon an intriguing recipe for peanut butter cookies with chunks of chocolate in them. Certainly, that's not unusual - the part that I found surprising was that they contain neither flour nor butter.  I thought my grandchildren's mother might really like a cookie like that, as she is very careful about limiting their sweets and offering healthy alternatives. What's not to like about a cookie that is mainly made up of natural peanut butter and honey?

They only have six ingredients and the method didn't seem complicated, so I went to the store for "hippie peanut butter" and got out my KitchenAid mixer.

I had to stir the separated oil back into the peanut butter (the hippie kind separates in the jar), and I must admit that the amount of the oil was somewhat unappetizing. Once stirred, it poured like thick syrup.  Hmm?

I had to nuke my jar of honey as it had crystallized - we don't use a lot of honey - but, warmed, it poured easily, too. 

With those two, the eggs and the vanilla in the bowl, the only dry ingredient was the baking soda. 

This is where the magic comes in: I can't tell you how what are almost entirely liquid ingredients somehow transform into cookie dough. I turned on the mixer and stepped away to rinse the measuring cups and - lo! and behold! - when I came back, it was thick cookie dough. Abracadabra!

Rolling the cookie dough into balls was another leap of faith - I nearly gave up at that point, as the peanut oil literally leaks out of the cookies as you roll the dough between your hands to make balls. I used a small sorbet scoop to get approximately 2" rounds, dropped those onto a cookie sheet (no need to grease the sheets, that's for sure! Eek!), then picked up each drop and rolled it into a ball. By this time, I had grave doubts and oily hands.

Still, once I had invested time and chocolate, I was determined to see it through. Into the oven for the required time and, once again, magic!  The extra oil evaporated in the oven, the chocolate melted perfectly, the bottoms browned, and the cookies stayed chewy, as advertised. If I hadn't wiped the excess oil off my hands twice, I wouldn't have believed it.

And they were good. Warm from the oven, they tasted mainly of the chocolate but, as they cooled, the peanut butter and honey asserted themselves. The texture is chewy with lightly crisp bottoms. Will they replace buttery cookies in my pantheon of Best Cookies Ever? Well, maybe not, but they are certainly cookie magic.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies by Monique Volz of Ambitious Kitchen blog

Recipe: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes approx. 20 cookies 

You'll need:
1 1/2 cups all-natural creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs at room temperature
½ tsp. baking soda
3.5 oz. of your favorite chocolate bar, coarsely chopped

What to do: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix peanut butter, honey, vanilla, eggs and baking soda until smooth and well combined. Gently fold in chopped chocolate.

Roll cookies into 2-inch dough balls and place onto cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Then BARELY flatten the top of each cookie with your hand. The dough will be sticky, so if you find this method difficult, simply use a cookie scoop to drop the cookie dough onto the prepared baking sheet. The cookies may not be as round in shape and perhaps a bit thicker, but that’s okay—they will still be delicious!

Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes and remove when edges barely begin to turn a golden brown. The cookies may look a little underdone, but they will continue to cook once you remove them from the oven. Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough. 

*The only thing I'd add to this is that I used chocolate chips (didn't have a chocolate bar on hand) and they worked fine. Also, mine must have been slightly smaller, as I got 30 instead of 20.

Friday, December 20, 2013


My Beloved adores mushrooms. He can't get enough mushrooms on his burgers, in his omelets, or in any dish at all. He didn't pass that gene along to his older daughter, Sarah, who enjoys the flavor of mushrooms but can't abide their texture. He's happy, though, as all through her childhood she would pick the mushrooms out of any dish she was served and pass them along to him. It is the little things that cement the Dad-Daughter bond.

I happen to like mushrooms so he gets fewer treats from me in that department. 

The other day, we had waffles to celebrate that we are going to enlarge our holdings of grandchildren in 2014, and we had left over waffles, since we are trying to eat a reasonable portion rather than our previous usual sizes, which were truly unreasonable. I couldn't figure out in my early morning fog how to halve the recipe for waffles, which uses only one egg, so I made the full batch and ended up with extras.

I did some internet research as to what to do with extra waffles, but chicken and waffles was the only toothsome idea I saw and I had no chicken on hand. As I scrolled around the recipes, however, my mother's favorite lunch came to mind. I can recall many occasions when I would find her in the kitchen cooking up mushrooms to put over a piece of toast. She never had a blazing appetite, but she would look quietly pleased when she sat down to her lunch.

And why not sub the toast for waffles?  

So, I baked up the extra batter and placed the waffles in the slots of our toaster to keep them crisp on both sides while I quickly made up the mushroom-and- herbed sauce combo to top them with. 

My Beloved, needless to say, was happy as a clam with his mound of mushrooms. I would have been happier if the waffles had stayed crisp, but I enjoyed the dish, too. I'd probably make it with sourdough toast next time, just for the texture contrasts. Mom was right.

I can't call it meaty, as there was no animal in it except the chicken broth, but they honestly tasted as rich and hearty as if there was meat in the dish. Crimini mushrooms are rich with funky, mushroomy flavor. The quick sauce was made in the same pan where I browned the mushrooms, too, so it was fragrant with woodsy flavor as well. 

I'd say it was meat-ish. And quite delicious.

Meatish Mushrooms

About 1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, chunked
2 Tbs butter, divided
1 tsp thyme
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped
1 Tbs flour
2 Tbs white wine
1 cup chicken broth (or veggie broth)
3 Tbs milk (or half and half for a creamier consistency)

1 or 2 crisp waffles per plate

In 1Tbs butter, sauté mushrooms until well browned but still firm. Add thyme and heat until fragrant. Add chopped shallot and continue cooking until softened. Remove shallot/mushroom mixture to a plate.

In the same pan, melt the rest of the butter, and add the flour, stirring until the flour is smooth, then cook for a few minutes to remove the flat taste from the flour. Add the wine to the pan, stirring until well incorporated with the butter/flour mixture (no lumps), then add the chicken broth a little at a time, stirring through each addition. When all the chicken broth is in the sauce, add the milk or cream and stir to incorporate, but don't boil it, just keep it at a simmer.

Add the mushrooms back in and any liquid that has accumulated on the plate. Simmer just long enough to warm the mushrooms through.

Place waffles on the plate, top with mushroom mixture, and serve.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stocking Stuffer

Many of the blogs I follow are giving Christmas gift ideas. I'm enjoying reading about what other people would give for Christmas and some of them really seem like super ideas. So, in the spirit of the season, I'd like to make a suggestion, too.

Last Christmas, cousin Jan gave me the pair of Kuhn Rikon kitchen snips on the right, the red ones. I think they are the single most useful gift I have ever gotten, with the possible exception of my beloved iPad.

I have used them all year and LOVED them. They have a nifty little clip to close them neatly for storage, and yet they spring open to action with a gentle squeeze of the handles, as the clip is spring loaded. So great when your hands are full and you reach for them in a hurry! If they weren't inanimate tools, I'd swear they are eager to please.

They are quite sharp and the handle is comfortable. There are even holes in the handles should you choose to hang them on a hook rather than stash them in a drawer. I keep mine in a crock on top of the counter where they are easily to hand for a million small jobs.

I like them so much that I actually bought myself a second pair from amazon.com, the only place I could find them. So, now I have both red and green, so festive for the holiday season!

Monday, December 16, 2013

We Are Celebrating!

We haven't had much in the way of sinful breakfasts lately - we really are trying to trim down a tad. But on the morning after My Beloved's younger daughter announces that she will be having her first baby in 2014, we felt we just had to celebrate such momentous news.

Although we knew that Katie and Andre were contemplating parenthood, we didn't realize they were actively working on it, so this news came as a delightful surprise. I don't cry easily but tears welled in my eyes at the news, and My Beloved was stunned speechless. 

We already have two grands, and they truly are grand, but another brand new member of the family is always a thrill.  My Beloved's daughter is feeling well and she and her husband are excited about the prospect, so all is right in our world.  For our previous two grands, we celebrated with champagne but I can recommend waffles with real maple syrup, clementines, bacon, and creamy coffee, too.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Coming Out From Under The Rock

You know how it is when you go out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, order your favorite plate, and find that you can't possibly finish it all?  I have a solution!  Eat everything but the rice and beans - that will be a fine meal, for sure. Then, surprise the waiter by asking to take to rice and beans home in a doggy bag. 

Her/his eyes will widen in surprise and s/he may even shake her/his head in wonder at your frugal wackiness. Never mind, you'll be glad you did.

The next day, warm a tortilla and your leftovers and make a soft taco or two out of your rice and beans, plus whatever other colorful goodies you like in your tacos. Avocado slices, tomato slices, green onion, white onion, hot sauce, lettuce, cilantro - whatever!  Then roll up that bad boy and have a second feast for free!

Now, you're probably thinking, "Sheesh, I've been doing this for years! What rock has she been living under all this time?" 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Best L'il Onion Rings, Too

Good news for barbecue lovers!  The Best Lil Porkhouse now has two locations! They opened in the old Max's building in Corte Madera, and kept their wonderful, tiny spot in San Rafael, as well. I wasn't in a mood to cook, having had a session in the dentist's chair earlier in the day (all is well and minimal discomfort, but I always like to treat myself when I've been a good girl at the dentist), so I proposed a trip across the bridge to the new Porkhouse and he readily assented.

He ordered the brisket sandwich, and it was giant!  Lots of thick, tender slices between a nice bun, a little dry on its own but perfect when slathered with one of their several choices of sauces. With a dish of decadent mac 'n' cheese on the side (unctuous cheese and crispy bits, too. Oh, heaven!), it was a hearty meal. No stepping on the scales after that meal - we'll wait a few days!

I was tempted by the trio of sliders, one pork, one brisket, and one chicken. Killer. Absolutely killer. I loved all three flavors, although the brisket again needed the addition of a sauce. My onion rings side came with a horseradish dipping sauce, so I poured that onto the brisket and it was perfect. 

Oh, and speaking of onion rings?  A must-have!  My Beloved frequently orders onion rings, so I frequently taste his, usually to disappointment. The "modern" way of preparing them is with a thick batter similar to fish and chips, heavy with oil once it comes out of the fryer. But these were a revelation of rings!  Crisp, yes!  Greasy, no!  The coating crunched between the teeth with a satisfying snap, revealing the soft onion inside - lots of sweet onion flavor, which is sadly lacking from the greasy ones. I'd go back for the onion rings alone.

The waiter was young and friendly - a nice kid. The atmosphere is very casual (they have rolls of paper towels on each table as much-needed napkins) and they play blessedly quiet music so conversation is easy and relaxed. The portions are gigantic and delicious. While we'd love to return weekly, there is no way our waistlines or our hearts would survive frequent trips there. But, as an occasional treat, I couldn't ask for better. My fingers still smelled deliciously of smoke for hours afterward.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Soup Weather

One of the attractions of life in the San Francisco bay area is the evenness of the weather. We are buffered for the most part from extremes of heat and cold by the close proximity of the ocean. The farther away from the ocean you go, the higher and lower the temperatures range. Because we live right by the bay, we rarely get above 75 degrees F in the day, and only rarely below 40 degrees F at night, even in what passes for winter here.  Oh, we have the occasional scorcher and, like this week, the occasional cold snap, but for the most part the weather is ridiculously even.

Last week, was a different story. We had a real cold snap and the overspray from the watering system in our garden actually froze on the deck!  I was quite surprised - in fact, I went over to feel it for myself, just to make sure it was truly frost. It was sufficiently unusual for both My Beloved and I, independently, to decide to record it on camera. 

We may actually don a coat at times like this, and even gloves. Imagine that! This is soup weather. 

So, having finished the last bowl of turkey soup from Thanksgiving last week, when I got out of the dentist's chair, I went to Comforts in San Anselmo for a bowl of their wonton soup. It's very filling with fresh bok choy, thinny-thin noodles, slices of mushroom, and wonderfully tasty turkey-ginger-shrimp wontons immersed in a flavorful broth. Colorful and fragrant, a big bowl of this will warm you right down to your toes.

I imagine that those of you who are reading this in places where there is real winter are shaking your heads at this California wuss. I used to be tough like you when I lived in western New York state, but nearly 20 years here have made me soft. 

I'm not sorry.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Blue Sky, Yellow Umbrellas

Oh, people, frabjous day!  It's Brussels sprout season again! One of the very best parts about fall is the advent of these little round, green guys. If you are a sprout lover, you know what I mean. If not, avert your eyes and read on.

My Beloved and I are doing over our kitchen. Well, actually, we aren't doing it - an architect and a builder will - but we are the pocket book for this project. For fifteen years, we have gotten along with just two electric burners - one of which works when it feels like it - a Jennair grill, and an oven in which only one of the elements is functional. The dishwasher is also a relic, since we must actually wash the dishes ourselves before putting them in the dishwasher and, once we start it, all conversation in that room and the adjoining living room is drowned out. Only the refrigerator is newer than our house, which was built in 1979.

Not only is the kitchen less than efficient, it's also ugly, with baby poop yellow and brown ceramic counter tops with dark brown grout (is that grout or gunk?), dark Jacobean-stained cabinets, and a plaid vinyl floor. I'm sure it was state of the art in 1979 but, these days, only young hipsters admire our "cool vintage kitchen."

So, we are in the process of designing and moving the new kitchen a bit to allow a little more room in the dining area and to upgrade the kitchen. Imagine!  I will even have four burners that work!  Gas burners! Huzzah!

Last week, we drove in to the city to meet with our architect to hammer out some details of the design and to clarify some points. He normally comes to the house for our meetings but we always enjoy a trip to the city and, after the work part was done, we decided to try a new-to-us restaurant, Mission Rock Resort down by the ball park. When we are in that neighborhood, we normally go to The Ramp, which we love for its laid-back vibe, but we thought it was a little chilly for outdoor dining, so we went where they have indoor seating as well.

Turns out, we could have eaten at the Ramp, as the November sunshine was just warm enough to enjoy sitting outdoors. The dining area at Mission Rock is upstairs, so we had a sweeping bay view from our waterside table. And, there on the menu was a side dish of roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon bits and white raisins! My Beloved is not a fan of sprouts, so I only eat them when he's away on business or when I see them on a restaurant menu. My heart leaped! 

The long, rectangular plate arrived with a flourish, holding a heaping portion of my little faves. The addition of bacon bits and white raisins was interesting and fun. I might not make this at home, but I'd definitely order it when we go to Mission Rock again. Even My Beloved gave them a try and admitted that, while they are still sprouts and he'd never choose them, they were as good as any he had ever tried. To us sprout lovers, each bite was quite delicious and the dish was a meal in itself, savory, sweet, and salty all at once.

We sat in the sunshine talking over the changes to the kitchen floor plan and marveling at the warm late November day. Anticipation of our new kitchen is exciting, even though we know the construction phase will be a royal pain in the neck. Still, when the sky is blue and the umbrellas are bright yellow, it's easy just to dream about the beautiful kitchen we are creating.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stress Relief

Lately, I've been on a kind of vegetable kick. If we eat out, I find myself ordering two or three "sides" rather than a meat entrée, and I'm enjoying all the different ways the chefs find to enhance their veggie offerings.

A case in point, these green beans that I ordered at The Left Bank in Larkspur. We had driven over to Marin to take Cora to the vet,  both a little worried about her symptoms. She is always good at the vet, taking his kindly offered treats gently and allowing him to commit his indignities without protest. Since she's a big, black dog with an impressive set of teeth, he always seems happy that  she's so easy to handle. 

Somewhat reassured, we all bundled back into the car and drove to Larkspur where they have a nice, long path for walking dogs or riding bikes. We all enjoyed 20 minutes of stress relief before seeking lunch. The Left Bank allows dogs on their outdoor patio and they even bring a little paper bowl of water, which Cora greatly appreciated after her nervous panting in the vet's office and our walk. 

With Cora happily settled next to my chair, we checked out the menu. I had to resist the temptations of a lamb sandwich and steak frîtes, but it was easy when I saw the list of side dishes. Specifically, these green beans with shallots. The French either grow a smaller variety of green bean or they pick them before the pods swell - these were tiny - perhaps three inches long - and very slender. Cooking them along with the shallot in some butter was simple genius; these two vegetables love each other.

This was so simple, I could easily make it at home. I tend just to steam vegetables and offer them plain. My New Year's resolution will be to dress up my veggies a little more to give them this kind of easy but happy synchrony.

As I was munching my way through the beans and My Beloved was enjoying his lamb sandwich, one of the waiters arrived at the table with a dog biscuit for Cora. We sat in the sun on a bright November day just before Thanksgiving, thinking how very fortunate we are and how grateful we were to be out of the vet's office and enjoying the sunshine.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Museum Day

Art museums have come a long way. During my lifetime, they have gone from rather deadly places with paintings hung on off-white walls with little description of the work beyond the name of the artist and the medium, to lively venues with artfully displayed works, recorded acoustiguides, and raisons that give interesting context for the art on view. I have loved art museums ever since I was a young woman, but I really love them now.

Of course, if one is feeling crabby, one can fault them for following every single exhibit with a themed gift shop to boost the sales and profits from the show. I hate to tell them, but those reproductions are never going to represent the real thing in any meaningful way - I prefer just to savor my memories of my favorite pieces.

But, by and large, they do a swell job and, happily, museums from far away are often willing to lend their treasures, so I get to see many, many more works than I could ever afford to see by traveling to their home countries. 

A good case in point is the show currently up at the Legion, a show of Anders Zorn's work. I treated myself to a museum day last week when My Beloved was away on business and I knew I wouldn't be cooking dinner. Anders Zorn, a completely new artist to me, was a preeminent Swedish painter of the Gilded Age, and his control of watercolor and his mastery of portrait work were simply amazing. He could do it all, including marvelous landscapes. It's a gem of a show. (And, across the hall is a wonderful little show of Matisse works from SFMOMA, which is currently closed for renovation).

So, having slowly savored my way through the Zorn, I was a little foot-weary and ready for some lunch. I debated leaving the museum for a nearby coffee shop but, as it was raining cats and dogs, I decided to stay in. I was glad I had, as the menu reflected the Zorn show, offering four or five items of Swedish specialties. 

This is another museum trend that I highly applaud - tying the menu in the cafeteria to the exhibits being shown. What a fun way to give living, breathing context to a show from a country I will likely never visit!  I chose the Swedish meatballs because, believe it or not, I have never had those outside of the cafeteria line at school, not a good place to sample any food whatsoever.

My serving came with several tender, flavorful meatballs atop some garlic mashed potatoes and garnished with lingonberry jam and braised purple cabbage, along with a plate of dark rye bread and butter. The cabbage had a sweet-sour taste supplied at least in part by a whole, pitted apricot cooked in the sauce. The dish was savory, sour and sweet all in the same bowl. Perfect for a rainy day.

Refreshed and refilled, I was ready to enjoy the Matisse show across the hall. As I drove home through the rain, my head was full of wonderful images and my stomach was full of tasty chow. What more could I ask of a museum day?