Monthly Archives: September 2009

Wordless Wednesday…

….. because words don’t do Bi Rite ice cream sundaes justice.

Whine-Not Monday

I am declaring Monday as Whine-Not Monday.

Monday is usually a rather icky day for many people. Back to work, the weekend fun is over, the post lunch nap is no longer an option, there is no food in the fridge, so Whine-Not and have a good glass of wine as the sun sets?

Tonight, during the purple hour, my pal A___ came over for a brief, convivial visit, so I quickly cleared the kitchen table of the usual accumulation of clutter and popped open a taste of New Mexico, Serenade by Casa Rondeña.

The sunset over Ocean Beach behind us had turned the fog bank hovering over Nob Hill a shimmering pink and the highrise apartment windows winked in an orange hue. A crow flew under my window, and the cat snored away, stretched thin on my new quilt, his nose whistling, which was drowned out a bit by the gentle hissing of the radiator.

We clinked our classes together and admired the scene, savoring the light fruity wine, mostly Riesling with a little Gewurztraminer for sparkle, and nibbled on salty Marcona almonds left over from last weekend’s baking experiment.

A gentle and most pleasant end to a Monday. Whine-Not indeed!

Cheers, my friends! I hope you join me next week.

Happiness is…..

….. Attending my first food blogging convention, BlogHer Food ’09.

I met hundreds of amazing people, learned so much from the speakers and attendees, and ate mounds ooey gooey Scharfenberger. I was hugged by Rocco Dispirito (if only his frozen entree line was as tasty as he looks) and got fed chocolate by Elizabeth Faulkner, twice! It was inspiring, ennervating, humbling… It was great fun to meet so many talented people and make new friends.

And then there were the gift bags…. It is like Christmas morning!!

And now, I must cook something nourishing….

Wordless Wednesday… NRFC

#WordlessWednesday

(A field trip to visit USS Hornet, CV12, now a floating museum at NAS.  The Grey Ghost.)

New Message

(View of San Francisco off the stern)

New Message

(A VC8, getting a little pampering)

New Message

(On board in the forecastle, port side below the hangar deck. Only just slightly spooky.)

New Message

(Wilson, the Hornet Mascot! Lovingly tended by the docents. A portion of the teak flight deck, grass seed deposited by birds and taken root, and re-potted with love. A symbol of the new life of the Hornet.)

Gouda = Good, and so is Jug Wine

This Saturday was the 35th Annual Jug Wine Festival put on by my friends Liz and Ray, old chums from the Bank days. Every year we gather at a local beach to drink cheap wine, nosh on great snacks and catch up on life with friends. Throughout the years our ranks have swelled and shrunk, we have added and subtracted friends and family members, friends have been lost and found, and we have matured, or miraculously stayed the same. This party is representative of a steady theme of life, tied together with the ribbon that binds us of love, good company and good wine. Or better wine, as our palates improved! In good times, or in bad, in fog, gale force winds, the occasional sunny day and even drizzle, like the post office, we gather.

The rules are simple: bring a bottle of jug wine, the ideal bottle is under $5 but this is by no means a requirement, same with it being in a jug and with a screwtop, and something to share food-wise.

This year I had found a rather curvy bottle of rosé from Provence from my local shop (on sale!). For my food offering, when visiting my parents recently I stopped off at Phillips Farms stand, which coincidently is the Michael David winery tasting room. There, in addition to rather lovely wines and wonderful local produce, I snagged a jar of their amazing fig jam. It is a bit different from the ubiquitous Greek jam found at good cheese shops everywhere. This jam is from our local California Mission figs, hardly sweetened, as they are so candylike themselves. One of my favorite appies is the s St. Andre cheese with a generous dollop of fig jam. However in a beach environment this concoction was not ideal, too much wind and too many yellowjackets. I conceived the idea of combining the two in puff pastry but knew St. Andre would not be suitable for baking as it was much too soft and creamy at room temperature and wouldn’t hold up to the rigors of baking.

Last week I paid a visit to the experts at Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building. I explained my vision for the appetizer and tasted easily half a dozen selections before settling upon a goat Gouda. But I wasn’t finished tinkering with the dish. I wanted something to add to the flavors, something to elevate the flavors and play off the buttery puff paste, the tang of the Gouda and the sweet figs. I smelled every herb in the market and pondered a pinch of marjoram or perhaps oregano, then sniffed around the spice department and finally ended up in the cheese section at Whole Paycheck. They suggested Marcona almonds, and they were brilliant in the turnovers.


I gave them a rough chop and tried my best not to snack on too many.

Then I sliced the whacking great chunk of goat Gouda:

The puff paste, thawed in the fridge overnight, was given a quick roll out on a cutting sheet and kept cold on a baking tray:

After cutting the pastry with a sharp knife, I added to each square a chunk of cheese, a spoonful of jam and a sprinkling of almonds.

I dabbed the edges of the pastry with water, then folded them over and sealed them shut by crimping with a fork. Then, they were laid on parchment paper and popped into the oven at 375 for 25 minutes. So simple! The trickiest part was that The Roost is quite overheated in general so I had to keep chilling the trays of pastries as I was working with them to cool off. Puff paste can be quite uncooperative if too warm. But 5 minutes in the fridge firms up the pastry nicely and you can proceed from there. (I am not going to write this up recipe-style because it is just too easy of an assembly job. Just stay cool!)

At the beach my pals had already arrived and so I set up my tray of turnovers. A bunch of local red flame grapes set off the plate quite nicely and their juicy pop was a pleasant palate cleanser after the buttery cheesey sweet and tangy tarts.

The table was spread with delectable goodies, each were so delicious, and they were devoured in due haste: three bean and artichoke heart salad from Chris, Gail’s Best Food-winning mushroom empanadas with dilled cream and blueberry tartlettes, garlic, honey and mint spread from Ellen, leek asparagus quiche (and another quiche that I didn’t try, sadly) from Casey and Paul, someone brought chicken wings, hiding from the yellowjackets in a paper sack, and wine, lots of wine. Chris won Best White for the Elephant Chardonnay, mea culpa for my not remembering who brought the best red, Michael won for Best Rose with the Martha Stewart Rosé with the condescending label, “rosé is French for pink”. Really, Martha? As much as we rather loathe her now, the rosé was pretty decent. Darn her…

The tradition is to sign the guestbook upon arrival. The guestbooks and photos from past years are on display, it’s always fun to look back to years ago and think, did I really gild myself to that extreme? Why did I ever cut my hair and who is *that* guy??

Casey and Paul brought an intriguing liquid offering: raspberry Sparkletini with gummi bears. On its own the Sparkletini already tasted like gummi bears but popping one in the glass was irresistible.

We toasted Tom Synder! It was surprisingly delicious and we decided that in a large ice-filled glass with a chunk of lime and a glug of vodka the raspberry Sparkletini would make a killer cocktail! Look out friends, a Sparkletini is coming your way soon!

A while later, we noticed that someone had dug what looked like a grave in front of our picnic tables. We always knew jug wine would kill someone, someday*.

(*thanks to Ray for that quote)

Ana brought what was awarded later as the worst wine of the day: TJ Swann’s apple wine. Apparently it retails for an extravagant $1.75 but Ana found it at a garage sale in Washington State for a whopping $0.25. Let me tell you, it was overvalued.

My friends were gently teasing me about tweeting some of these pictures, but then Michael let me in on his secret:

How clever to hide the iPhone in a book, it was just the perfect size!

The aforementioned awards were given out, paperless as we have gone “green” this year per Liz. I won for best socks!! (My Socks of Pride in honor of my sis, in rainbow Kuryeon wool, 4×2 rib)

Finally the sun came out, for all of two minutes!

We were fascinated by the plight of one young man across the way from us. He arrived 30 minutes after Liz and Ray, and on his own, unloaded a brand-new barbecue (complete with price tag), several coolers, tanks of propane, a guitar and a bike and several other curious pieces of luggage. He sat alone, occasionally making a no doubt plaintif phone call, forelorn and unloved for at least six hours. At one point, he lay curled up in fetal position in the sand, closely observed by a small child from a nearby table, dressed in red from head to toe. It was like a live-action Fellini movie. Who was he? Who had he invited? Why didn’t anyone come? Why did he stay, without taking a restroom break even? How long was he going to wait? The park closes at sunset! And what was he going to barbeque? It was fascinating, in a sad way, like watching an accident on the freeway from the safe comfort of your own car. We made up fantastic scenarious, each more heartrendering and, dare I admit, more humorous than kindness should allow. In the end, as we were leaving, we chose not to insert ourselves into his solitude and to preserve the mystery of this poor guy. Maybe we should have brought him a glass of TJ Swann or a Sparkletini?

The wind was coming up, the shadows were growing long (had the sun remained long enough to display them) and it was time to toast Liz and Ray for hosting yet another wonderful day, for the 35th time. Cheers, my friends! Until next year!!!

(for more pictures, visit the fabulous photographer Ana Martin’s FB album here)

Happiness is…

…a lovely breakfast with the doggies…

Whole wheat English muffin, chevre, rosemary ham, poachies, heirloom tomatoes, and espresso!

Served up with a strong dose of Poiriot!

Wordless Wednesday

Optical rose

(Okay, I’m a little late with this.  Wednesday night I was drinking rose and saw this fun visual.)

Sweetness While I Slept…

Last night I was having yet another highly hilarious night chatting with my friends on Twitter, and one of those lovely people mentioned dulce de leche.  If you don’t already know, dulce de leche is a Mexican cream caramel made with sweetened condensed milk.  This unctuous stuff is usually folded into ice cream, used as a filling in crepes and cookies or used in tarts and pies.  Some of my recipe swap friends mentioned ages ago that she had made cajete, a dulce de leche variant made with goats milk and I had purchased several cans of it for that express purpose, and then lost them in the vast wasteland of my capacious pantry.  I have been meaning to try it because I truly adore all things caramel, the Three Twins and Mitchell’s make terrific ice creams, and of course I have an idea of making a caramel apple pie, sort of like a fast and dirty tarte tatin.  Another dear person on Twitter suggested making shortbread cookies filled with the dulce and topped with dark chocolate and sea salt.  Zing!!  I just happen to have everything on hand to make these.  Imagine that…

Traditionally dulce de leche is made on the stove, boiled for several hours stirring frequently.  However, a radical and highly amusing method has been touted where one courageously boils the sweetened condensed milk right in the can.  The only caveat being to this method is that one must maintain a minimum of an inch of water above the can otherwise one risks the can exploding.  Exploding!!!!

Last night when this was mentioned on Twitter my ears perked up immediately and I queried whether I could make dulce de leche in the crockpot, rather than on the stove top.  It was already after 9:00 pm last night and I really didn’t feel like “working” in the kitchen at that hour.  Not that has stopped me in the past! (Snork!).  Thanks to Ashley, she found a recipe for me for dulce de leche in the crockpot!  Love the power of Twitter!  The recipe is here.

I jumped to the pantry, began pulling out things right and left, exclaiming, “Oh, I didn’t know I had that“, and finally I found the canned goat’s milk.  The crockpot was still on the counter from its last use of chicken stock (cleaned of course), so I filled it with hot water, set it to low, and retired for the evening, where the can would quietly simmer for 8 hours or so.

But then I returned to the kitchen to take a better look at the can.  It was canned evaporated goats milk, not sweetened condensed goats milk.  The trick with the long cooking process is to caramelize the sugars in the milk and, obviously, evaporated milk is not sweetened.  Back to Twitter I went and posed the question, do you think this will work?   And, of course, the general consensus was no.  But I was willing to give it a go regardless, then thought better of it, and rummaged through the pantry once more.  Happily, like a genie, my pantry yielded a can of sweetened condensed milk!  So out came the goat milk!  In went the sweetened milk!  And back I went to bed!

This morning I retrieved the can, not being awakened in the middle of the night with any untoward explosions of hot caramel from the kitchen, thank gawd!  The can was a tiny bit distended, but was just fine, and after a long cooling process, I finally got the nerve up to open it.

Here is what I saw:
Oh, It's perfect! Dulce de leche from the crock pot.

Ooooo.  It was perfect.  I had to try it immediately, and sunk a spoon into the rich, creamy depths.  Oh. My. I think I have found the 10th level of heaven!  It took a great deal of will power and courage of my convictions to put it away in the fridge.  Tomorrow, if I don’t have to take a field trip for the book I am helping write, I will make up a batch of cookies.

Or maybe I will just eat it with ice cream.

Or eat it a spoon while I inventory what is in my pantry, because who knows what other things lurk in there. (hee hee)

We shall see!  But now that I know just how easy dulce de leche is to make I think I will have to place this on the highly dangerous lists of amazing foods, like pig candy.

Wordless Wednesday….

…. views from the country….

My (Not So) Secret

I have a secret. But it is not a secret! It is a collection of the most amazing jars of artisan sea salt, richly flavored with exotic seasonings.

My “secret” comes from Secret Stash Salts in the Seattle area. Not only are their products delicious, but they are just the nicest people and it has been my pleasure to “chat” with them on Twitter and email. When I placed my order earlier this year I just had the hardest time choosing between their various amazing salts. Eventually, after much hand wringing, soul searching and stomach rumbling I selected three:

- Rosemary and lavender salt
- Smoked chipotle
- Coconut garam masala

Besides the obvious uses on roast chicken, steak, and vegetables, I was challenged by Janna to let them know what creative ways I could use their product. The Secret Stash website has some amazing recipes already, and I was stymied to think of an original dish.

The other night, however, I had a lone tomato in the pantry along with two last slices of sourdough batard and I was hungry! I toasted the bread a little, spread on butter, sliced tomatoes and then just stared at it. It needed “something”. My eye fell on the jars of salts and voilà! I generously sprinkled the juicy dripping tomatoes with the coconut garam masala salt and tucked in. It was heavenly.

The sweetness of the tomatoes was echoed by the inherent sweetness of the coconut. The sour chewiness of the bread and the blandness of the butter were piqued by the subtle spicing of the garam masala. To put it mildly, this tomato sandwich rocked!

Today, after a fun belated birthday lunch with Gel at the Ferry Building, I picked up a vibrant glowing orange heirloom tomato and a red and orange striped Roma-shaped tomato, fresh herb salad and an Acme whole wheat boule for dinner.

After a brief courtship with a dollop of champagne vinegar, a drizzle of green fruity olive oil, miniscule specks of garlic and a hearty grind of black pepper, the tomatoes were tossed with the herb salad. This glistening mound of summer lounged in a bowl while I browned thick slices of the moist heavy bread in a dark skillet shimmering with butter and a drop of olive oil until they were deeply golden and crisp on the outside. On my best plate I piled juicy spoonfuls of the tomatoes and herbs over the bread. Then, drying my fingers, I copiously topped one of the tartines with the coconut garam masala salt. I sprinkled the other with the rosemary lavender salt for a taste comparison. I poured myself a lean and tangy glass of Pinot Grigio and sank into a chair, moaning softly as I bit into a tartine, juice dribbling down my arm and chin. I just love summer.

Tomato Herb Tartine*

Serves two good friends or two aquaintences in separate rooms

2 slices artisan bread
2 T butter
3 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
Maldon sea salt
2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 c herb salad (you may substitute arugula, mâché or roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley with basil, dill or herbs of your choice)
1 T champagne vinegar
Fresh black pepper
1/8 t Secret Stash Salt Coconut Garam Masala salt – or – rosemary lavender salt
5 paper napkins

In a medium bowl toss together tomatoes, vinegar, 2 T of olive oil, garlic, pepper and toss well. Let sit while you prepare the toasts.

In a large heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until foamy and add the remaining 1 T olive oil, then swirl pan. Add the bread slices and sauté until very golden brown. Turn and repeat on other side. Remove to a plate and sprinkle bread with Maldon salt.

Add herb salad to tomato mixture, toss gently, and spoon generously on toasts. Sprinkle with Secret Stash Salt, cut into 3 pieces (if desired) and eat slowly with lots of napkins.

To my taste the coconut garam masala was fantastic, although the rosemary lavender was delicious too. I think you should try them both too and see which you prefer.

* Question: is it fair to really call this a recipe??

Order your salts here: http://www.secretsalts.com/

My next purchase will be their newest addition: Summer Truffle Salt!

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Update: the leftover tomatoes made an excellent breakfast with a poached egg on top.