Tag Archives: bacon

Bursting with Bacon

Oh man, the bourbon maple is so intense.  The herb-pine syrup is heady.

Last month I had the pleasure of being invited to purchase a share of a Mangalitsa pig. The Mangalitsa is one of those wonderful heirloom breeds where the fat is not bred out of the animal like our modern day pork, in fact this breed of pig has a prodigious fat layer and is one of the most prized breed of pork in the world.

acorns

This particular pig was finished on acorns, which means for the last few weeks of its blissfully unaware life he was fed mounds and mounds of acorns. To us humans acorns are unconscionably bitter but pigs eat them up like potato chips.    Besides the no doubt gustatory delight of crunching them up in their forceful jowls it has an ancillary benefit of infusing the meat and fat with a delightful nuttiness reminiscent of hazelnuts. An acorn finished pig is a marvelous thing and I bought lots of it.

My modest meat budget was consumed by this purchase but the enormous 10 pound side of pork belly, a sizable pork loin, a tub of creamy, pure lard and a substantial pork neck was enough to pack my freezer and will provide me with porky enjoyment for quite some time.

My plan was to cure the pork belly in two ways, one with maple, bourbon and brown sugar and the other with a more traditional fresh and dried herb and spice blend.

To approximate the effect of smoked bacon, for which I completely lack the facilities to achieve, I used crushed black pepper that had been smoked over defunct bourbon barrels and a simple syrup infused from local pine trees from Mount Tamalpais.

I never really realized how easy it is to cure bacon.   The most difficult part was cutting the massive 10 pound pork belly into two pieces  because the skin is so very tough. 10 pounds of pork belly is quite large.

10# Mangalitsa pork belly I cut them in half, look at that glorious fat!

Pork belly, cut in half and trimmed

I had two ziplock bags, one for the sweet cure and one for the savory cure.  I  chucked in the ingredients into each bag and shook them around to mix.

The cure

On a clean cutting mat I arranged the pork belly, skin side down, poured over the cure mix and patted it around a bit before sliding the belly into the same bag.

The traditional cure

With both pieces of pork belly rubbed in their cure and sealed in their bags, I massaged them a bit and put them into the fridge.  See you in a week!

See you in a week!

That was not hard at all, nor was it hard to pick up the bag during the following week and give it a little massage, flip it over once in a while and just admire it.

To make the slabs even I had to do a little bit of trimming.  The skin side of these pieces had the nipples of the pig!  Well, we all know that pigs are animals and are mammals and that mammals have nipples but nonetheless it was a tiny bit of a surprise.  However, I am at the top of the food chain and have butchered my own animals for food, in my distant past, so it just made my eyebrows rise a moment then I continued on with my trimming.  I used these pieces, which weighed about a pound and a haf, into red cooked pork belly last Sunday.

The trimmings, includes the nipples!

A week later it was time to cook the cured raw bacon.

In lieu of smoking, I used the aforementioned flavorings in the cure to provide a smokey flavor and set about baking the slabs in the oven on low heat until the meat reached 150 F.   This was last Sunday during my cooking explosion and it wasn’t much work to add baking the bacon to my list of cooking projects that day.

I removed the raw bacon slabs from their curing bags and gave them a good rinse.  They certainly didn’t look like much but their aroma was fantastic.  The peppercorns discolored the skin, which I found interesting.  I used my nonstick cooling rack for cakes set inside a half-sheet jelly roll pan.

Cured and rinsed raw bacon

 

(Note the peppercorn stains on the skin, interesting!)

Cured and rinsed and ready to bake!  I poured in a good slug of bourbon into the bottom the the baking sheet before sliding it into the oven.  I was hoping this would add extra aroma to the finished bacon.

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After baking, not a lot of fat was in the bottom of the pan as you can see, and the slabs looked just as they should, very bacon-like.  I slid a meat thermometer into the sides of the slabs at various points to check the desired temperature of 150 F.

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Check out the thick layer of fat!  I could really smell the difference between the two slabs with their very different cures, but overall there was a rich nuance of nutty fat that I have never detected with ordinary bacon.  This is the delectable Mangalitsa acorn enhanced fat.  Wow.

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(these look like small pieces but my carving knife is 14″ long!)

I cut the bacon slab in half and then sliced off the skin to reveal the pearly, nutty fat. The meaty underside was particularly gorgeous too.

The same process was repeated on the other slab of bacon.  I wrapped two of the half-slabs in plastic wrap then secured them airtight in a ziplock bag for the freezer.  The other two half slabs went into the fridge for immediate use.

It was immediate too, I sliced off two slices of the herb and spice cured bacon with the pine syrup, and one slice of the bourbon maple pepper bacon and fried them up.  Just these three small slices gave off a lot of fat, which I saved for making my steak dinner later that night.

You can almost hear the sizzle.

Morning snack before brunch, Mangalitsa bacon

My own bacon, fried up and gorgeous.   The pine syrup and herbs really shone and matched well with the rich fat.  The bourbon flavor was very strong in the bourbon maple slice and it tasted too salty to me, but I have never minded a strong bourbon flavor nor salty bacon and it certainly didn’t deter me from enjoying this wonderful treat.

My recipes were inspired by a lecture I attended by Michael Ruhlman for BlogHer Food a few years ago.  When I talked to him after the lecture and mentioned my hesitation over making bacon without a smoker in my very urban apartment (aka no ventilation in the kitchen other than a window on the far end of the dining nook), he assured me that baking it off is just as wonderful as smoking and never to fear the bacon.   His book on charcuterie is fantastic and one day I will indulge myself.

Making your own bacon is much less expensive than buying it already cured and prepared, and you get to customize the flavors just the way you like it.  Even if you can’t find the luxurious Mangalitsa bacon, any fresh pork belly from your butcher or Asian market will make fantastic bacon.   It was so easy too, the hardest part of the entire process was being in my apartment as it slowly cooked in the oven. The aroma of the bacon was incredible, and if you are a restaurant in San Francisco, it can cause your neighbors to try to shut you down.

Better Bacon

5# fresh pork belly, skin on
large ziplock bag

Basic cure:
1/4 cup Kosher salt (Diamond salt)
2 tsp pink curing salt or sodium nitrite (not Pink Himalayan salt)  (I got mine here)
1/4 cup sugar (brown, maple, honey, agave)

Additions - These can be anything you fancy, but here are some good basic recommendations:
4 T ground or crushed black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
5 cloves of garlic, smashed flat
5-10 sprigs of fresh thyme, or any herb you like
1/4 cup booze

My savory herb and spice cure:
1/4 cup Kosher salt
2 tsp. pink curing salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup June Taylor pine syrup
4 T bourbon barrel smoked course ground pepper
4 dried California bay leaves
10 sprigs of thyme, spanked between my palms
5 cloves of garlic – smashed flat and skins removed
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

My bourbon, maple, pepper cure:
1/4 cup Kosher salt
2 tsp. pink curing salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 T brown sugar
4 T whole peppercorns, crushed coarsley with a mortar and pestle
1/4 cup bourbon

Mix together the bacon cure in the ziplock bag and shake or squish well to mix. Put the pork belly on a cutting board and pour over the raw pork belly, massage in and place the belly back in the bag (with any of the cure that might remain on the cutting board. Remove all the air from the bag, seal and store in the fridge for at least 7 days. Every few days massage the pork belly a bit and return to the fridge.

On the day to cook the meat (oven method), turn on the oven to 150-200 F. Put a rack on a baking sheet large enough to hold the raw bacon. Rinse the bacon well, pat try with paper towels and place on the rack.  Pour a good slosh of bourbon into the bottom of the pan.  Place in the cold oven and set the timer for 3 hours.  Add more bourbon to the baking sheet every hour or so, if desired.

Check the temperature after 3 hours to see if the meat has reached 150 F.  If not, give it another 15-20 minutes or until it reaches 150 F.   Allow to cool, trim off the skin and chill until ready to eat.

When ready to eat your bacon, slice of a thin or thick slice, add to a cold skillet with a dash of water and fry until as crispy as you like.  If your bacon tastes too salty for you, add more water and cook for a few minutes, then pour off the water and fry until crisp.

Another advantage to having slab bacon is to make your own lardon.  A lardon is a pinkie-sized rectangle of bacon that is delicious in a warm salad or in soups or just eaten out of hand.  Cut the bacon 1/2″ thick then again into large even matchsticks, add water, and then drain and fry on all sides.  Delectable.

Makes 5 pounds of bacon
(printer friendly recipe)

A note about the pink curing salt, or sodium nitrite.  It is a naturally occurring salt found in many vegetables and is also used for curing meats and is approved by the FDA.  The salt inhibits the growth of certain nasty bacteria such as botulism and listeria and it is highly recommended when making charcuterie and bacon.  But because bacon is cooked again after its curing and baking, aka in your skillet, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.  You will find that your bacon tastes more like ribs or roast pork than bacon and will not be pink but will be grey or brown.  That’s perfectly fine bacon, however, it is really easy to buy a bag of pink salt and you will have it forever.  I bought a pound bag for around $6.00 and used 4 teaspoons for this batch of bacon so I have plenty left!   If I ever wanted to make other cured meats such as salami or guacinale or any cured meat that is not cooked or smoked, the it is really crucial for the success of the recipe and one’s health to use the small amount of sodium nitrite.   It does not cause cancer, like many incorrectly people assume; sodium nitrate or saltpeter is toxic but it is a very different thing altogether.  

Happy baconing!

Stuffed Full of Squash

I was not going to share this article with you because of what happened but then thought that perhaps I should.  Most food blogs only show you the most perfect,  “delicious and amazing” recipes coming out of xxx’s kitchen, complete with the perfect food porn photography and drool-inducing descriptions.

Life isn’t always that way though, I think a real person has successes and failures in the kitchen but we the audience never seem to ever hear about the flops or failures or the “meh” of it all.  So, in the spirit of keeping it real, here is my recent flop.  Well, sort of flop.

I have had a pumpkin from my CSA box from the Fall and it  became part of my Christmas decorations.

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I have decided that I would roast it stuffed full of tasty things, inspired by my friend Laura’s recipe from Hey What’s For Dinner Mom?.

Laura’s recipe is meatless and uses quinoa but I had some fancy pants sausages and was out of quinoa, so I checked in with my friends at the recipe swap. The recipe they suggested is by Dorie Greenspan and uses bread which is perfect because I have some artisan sourdough slab about to go stale so I adapted both recipes into my dinner.

Mis en place

Stuffed Pumpkin

1 sugar pie pumpkin, seeded
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1/2 loaf Della Trattoria Meyer lemon and rosemary bread, torn into smallish chunks
2 chicken and spinach sausages
2 Tbl pork fat
1 large leek
1/4 pound mushrooms
A bunch of dino kale
1/4 c white wine
1/3 c heavy cream (I used sour cream thinned with milk)
4 slices leftover bacon
1/2 grated Peccorino Romano
Sage leaves
1/3 bunch of parsley
6 cloves of Garlic, smashed
Salt and pepper

I cut out the stem end of the pumpkin using a sharp knife like you would to make a jack o’lantern, and then cut off the strings on the cap with the chef’s knife and set the lid aside.

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Now for evisceration.  I scooped out seeds and pulp with an ice cream scoop but you can use a sturdy metal spoon.  Save those seeds if you like roasted pumpkin seeds. I was not in the mood so into the compost bin they went.  Usually this step is gooey and messy, but my pumpkin wasn’t all that gooey inside.  I should have paid more attention to this fact, but onwards I went.

I put the hollowed pumpkin on a baking sheet lined with foil and seasoned the cavity with salt and pepper and olive oil.  I poured in the oil and then threw in the salt and pepper and smeared it all around with my hands; they are Nature’s best spatula!

Olive oil, salt & pepper the inside well

Then I started assembling the stuffing ingredients. I used my Wovo salad bowl but any large bowl will do; toss in the leftover bacon and the sausages chopped into small pieces.

Leftover chopped bacon

It is hard to believe I had leftover bacon but it happens!

Aidell's chicken spinach & feta sausage, chopped

I chopped up the parsley rather roughly and added that to the bowl too along with the smashed garlic cloves and the grated cheese and a few dried porcini.

Picnik collage

On the stove heat I heated up a large frying pan and melted the pork fat (or use olive oil or bacon fat or butter, it’s up to you).  The leek was halved lengthwise, then into cut into slices about an 1/8″ thick, put in a colander and washed them well.  I like washing the leeks after they are cut because it’s easier to get the mud out if they are dirty. Lately our leeks have been really dirty. Heh.

Picnik collage

With just some of the water shaken off, I tipped the leeks into the hot frying pan and added a few pinches of salt. A swift stir with the spatula then I grabbed a clean cutting mat and sliced up the mushrooms and add them to the leeks.  Lastly, I grabbed the sheaf of kale leaves and chopped off the stems into smallish pieces and added them to the frying pan.

They all cooked together until everything was very tender.  Meanwhile, I had a glass of wine and then attacked the kale leaves. Whack-whack-whack I went with my largest chef knife to chop them roughly.  Once the other veggies were tender, I added the kale and put on the lid for a minute or two until the kale has wilted a bit.  Wine in hand I tossed and sauted the kale and vegetables until the kale was completely tender.  I let the mixture cool a little bit.  So far everything looked and tasted great, good levels of salt, the veggies were all fork-ready.  My stomach growled.

Picnik collage
(L-R: kale stems, leeks, mushrooms sauteing; a rough chop; the kale will fill the pan up but it cooks down to nothing)

Meanwhile it was time for the heart of the stuffing, the bread. I purchased this loaf of bread on a Saturday it was now Tuesday so it was just this side of being stale, perfect for a stuffing.

You could just chop it but I like the rough texture of hand-torn bread so I sliced the bread, then took a seat and over the bowl I ripped up the bread into small pieces, about 1/2″.

Della Trattoria bread ready to be shredded

The stuffing was almost done, I just needed the cream and wine and a few herbs, salt and pepper. A quick toss with my hands I was ready to stuff my pumpkin. Since this stuffing does not have egg or raw meat I was able to taste a few pieces to make sure the seasoning was right on. I wanted it to be a little heavy on the salt to offset the pumpkin which is essentially bland and would be mixed into the filling.

The stuffing for my pumpkin. Yum.

I really packed it in and it all just barely fit!

Stuffed and ready for the oven #2

Don’t forget to put its hat on!

Don't forget to put its hat on!

Isn’t that beautiful?!  Into the oven it went, at 350 for 90 minutes. I checked it then and the pumpkin was still not fork-tender so I let it go for another 30 minutes. At last a fork just slid easily through the side of the pumpkin and it smelled so aromatic with the herbs and garlic I could barely contain myself.

Ready to serve!

I pulled out the stuffing first, and sneaked a bite. Hmmm. It was delicious but not all moist and steamy like I expected.

Finished stuffing

I scooped out the pumpkin and despite it being fork tender the flesh was rigid and oddly firm. I scraped all of it out into a bowl and tasted it – it was fine but dry and more starchy and did not have the squashy pumpkin texture it should have.  Hmmm, when did I get that pumpkin again?  I realized I couldn’t remember.

Pumpkin and stuffing

Huhmmm. I sat a bit and thought and thought. And then I remembered. This pumpkin was not from November, it was from October or perhaps earlier and in my overheated apartment it probably had completely dried out and converted its sugars into starches. Whoops!

I tried steaming the flesh a bit in a steamer on the stove but realized that it really needed to be used in a soup or something. This explained why the stuffing seemed so dry. The pumpkin, which normally would have exuded lots of juices while cooking, was essentially dessicated and therefore the stuffing had the consistency of being baked in a dish and did not get hydrated from its squashy container. If I had intended to bake the stuffing in a casserole I would have added a lot more liquid and covered it while baking to emulate the interior of poultry or other moist cavity.

Craptastic.

My dinner was completely salvageable though. I added about a cup of leftover chicken broth I had and another good slosh of wine to the stuffing and put it in a small casserole dish and covered it foil to bake for 30 minutes. Taking it out of the oven, I peeked under the foil and stood back as a cloud of steam erupted. I realized this was the stuffing I had expected. The mushrooms and garlic were soft and tender, the bread had that pleasant squish of being amalgamated with wine and cream and broth and the generous flecks of greens and chunks of bacon and sausage were like firm nuggets within each bite. It was delicious despite the absence of the pumpkin!

I saved the pumpkin for my next batch of soup. Lesson learned. I hope you try stuffing a pumpkin or other squash but please do make sure it is not Paleolithic in age!!

My 2011 “Did It’” List

My friend Luna Raven recently posted her 2011 “Did It” List, inspired by one of her friends and I love all the things she got done this year.  Thus inspired I thought I should join the club and write about my accomplishments too.

I went to Mushroom Camp and  learned to mordant yarn and fabric and then dye it using foraged mushrooms.
Green shimmery stems!The red gilled dernacybe makes a gorgeous pinkAmazing spectrum of hues from mushroom dyesRed-Gilles Dermocybes with alum mordant make this coppery hue

I found my first candy cap mushroom in the redwood forests up in Sonoma.
My first mushroom foray, a candycap!

I attended the Fancy Food Show and scored twelve pounds of amazing blue cheese. (no picture, we ate it all!)

I discovered some amazing ramen places, including my current favorite, pork and corn butter ramen at Ramen Club.
*Ridiculous* dinner w @equan55 - butter ramen

I treated myself to some incredible yarn at Stitches West and have actually knitted up a few garments.
Zontee spotting!!The results of our card knitting class! Lorna Miserphoto.JPGChacha shawl

I gathered up all my courage and borrowed lots of courage from friends and had surgery to repair my shoulder from a tragic high fiving injury when we won the World Series in 2011.Two months later I did not listen to my doctors orders and returned to work a month early, which is why one should not make important decisions while taking pain medication!  Major life lesson learned!  (Is that technically an accomplishment?)
The *right* shoulder
(note to the surgeon)

I am still in physical therapy due to yet another accident while riding MUNI.  My  accomplishment there is patience and learning to follow directions and care for myself, and, even though it’s embarrassing, sit in the disabled seats on the bus.

I got to visit with my dearest childhood friend three times! ((Lovi!!))
Me & my BFFGurlzphoto.JPG

My friends and I made ten different kinds of macaroni and cheese on my birthday at a huge blowout party, and we almost ate them all!
Mac'n cheese blowout - in progressMy dear friends...

I celebrated one year at my new job and I am still loving every day. It was great to have health insurance, medical leave and understanding coworkers while I heal. I am so lucky!
Deflating the monkeyphoto.JPGphoto.JPGphoto.JPG

I went to San Diego on the most hilarious girls road trip to BlogHer – the Road Trip of Happiness!
Here it is, on a 20" plate, fried chicken BennieEeek! It's *so* big! @whats4dinnermomGetting reading for #KUYH Party @rubydw is thirsty!Tasering @domesticvalerie while waiting for brekkies is just rude @lunaraven13

I relearned how to embroider after taking a great class from Princess Animal and finished my first sampler.
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I knitted my 26th pair of socks and learned how to darn them.
Skew socks in Alchemy's Juniper sock- Summertime BluesLast view, fun heel stripes, love this pattern!Finished my Twisted socks from @knittydotcomForgotten arts: darning socks (done!)

I created a new diet of bacon, chocolate, beef, wine and cocktails, bread and cheese because of weird food allergy/sensitivities – I’m doing just fine on it, it’s not privation that’s for sure!
Vegan chocolate cake ~ Wacky cake ~ with bourbon ganache. Thanks mOmIt's business time...Mmm lardons - thanks @nueskes @inyaku !

I launched a new blog – The Inadvertent Redhead – as an outlet for my non-food related talents, and I love it! And yes, I’m still a redhead!
Irish coffee #2 at the Buena Vistaaaahhhhphoto.PNG

Because of my blog and social media I was invited to a multitude of wonderful parties and events and I feel so privileged to have these opportunities and to know so many wonderful writers, cooks, chefs, photographers, stylists and artistan food producers from many genres.
Chef Corey Lee of BenuSour Flour

Despite all the challenges and sadnesses of this year it has been a really good one and I am looking forward to many fun things in 2012.

I am most especially looking forward to another year with my wonderful family.
Ken and Barbie

Here’s to health and happiness ahead!
Cheers my friends!

Ramen Rocks

Ever since Top Ramen hit the shelves it has been my favorite snack, but it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco that I discovered the deliciousness that is true ramen. I consumed many a vast bowl of ramen in J-town since then, and still do have a packet or ten in the pantry. If I can’t decide what I want for lunch or dinner I turn to ramen. My favorite food movie of all time remains Tampopo. It’s no wonder that I turn again and again to a deep bowl filled with golden noodles, miso or soy based broth, a billion topping options and dashes of togarashi.

Earlier this year I decided to embark on a quest to eat the best ramen in the City and nearby environs. Since my shoulder injury cooking for myself hasn’t been happening but I learned I can still eat ramen, even using chopsticks in my left hand. Yay, ambidexterity!

Thus begins my journey of bliss in a bowl, a journey of many spoons, chopsticks and soup splatters across my clothes, a journey into the center of satisfaction.

First off, I frequent Hapa Ramen at lunchtime at the Ferry Building Thursday food carts. I go there almost every week since they started. The City has been abuzz about this stall since its opening last year and brave long lines and uncertain weather to eat this ramen. My favorite is the Big Daddy Ramen which once consumed causes me to positively slosh back to the office where I long to sling a hammock in the server room and nap the afternoon away.

The Big Daddy features a rich porky broth loaded with seasonal vegetables, pork belly, nuggets of crispy karaage – Japanese fried chicken – seaweed, nori and a slow cooked soft egg. Here, look and it’s better in person.

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Their own kimchee and pickled veggie garnish is so popular they have now wised up and are charging for it. I am not a kimchee sort of gal but theirs is brilliant as a topping or nibble post-ramen. They also make little fried tidbits on occasion such as this pork-shrimp-radish cake.

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The rich broth at Hapa is the thing and I would like to bob in their propane-heated giant pots like they were hot tubs and bring a spoon. Mmm, long pig (just kidding). These folks are *dedicated*, they’re more like acolytes than cooks. I also follow Ritchie on Twitter, he’s just generally amazing.

Onwards on my quest, I headed south in the dead of winter like a magpie after tinsel or in my case I was after yarn at Stitches West, which I visit every year with my pal E__.

It was a cruddy rainy day and we had to park what seemed miles away from the convention center. We did not bring umbrellas. After gorging our totebags with yarn we slogged the long trip back to the car and shivered in our sodden clothes for the long drive back home. E__ suggested stopping for ramen, and we were rejuvenated instantly at the prospect.

Sadly though, our hopes were dashed when Ramen Dojo in San Mateo was inexplicably closed. Disaster!

Fortunately the miracle of the iPhone saved us and we saw on the map that there was another place 5 minutes away in Burlingame.

Behold the unexpected joy of Ramen Club. Apparently this place has almost a cult status and we lucked into it. Luck or destiny?? My pal Jeters told me that she dines there frequently.

We sat at the counter, warmed our hands around mugs of steaming tea and ordered the seasonal special.

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How could we say no to bacon ramen? And corn. And butter? It had to be wrong but sure enough each huge bowl was topped with pats of salted butter. I learned later this is common in the Sapporo region.

The chef stir-fried the vegetables first in a huge wok, then added the miso broth, divided it between our two bowls and topped them with all the good stuff including extra roasted pork and eggs. ZOMG. This was best ever.

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I am still thinking of those noodles, hand pulled no less, the bacon, the pork, and the sweet corn, all coated with butter.

Recently E__ sang at a concert in Palo Alto. Her chorale group is incredible – Masterworks Chorale, you must hear them soon and often – lately I couldn’t swing the ticket cost but instead I was allowed to usher the event, bad wing and all.

After the concert, souls filled with beautiful music but achingly empty in our bellies we headed once again to San Mateo see if Ramen Dojo was open. Huzzah, it was, and it was a good night for ramen judging by the masses of people milling outside the tiny restaurant storefront.

This place seats 24 only and there were *so* many people ahead of us. We persevered, catching a whiff of their famous spicy garlic pork broth that poofed out the front door when it opened briefly to disgorge happy diners or receive hungry new patrons.

It was freezing cold outside, our exhalations enveloping us like SF fog. We stamped our feet and our order size kept increasing each minute we waited. After seventy minutes we were still determined. And ravenous. They ran out of slow cooked eggs but we didn’t care. Finally it was our turn!

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As we were seated we heard the hostess say they were almost out of noodles. Thankfully there was emough for us. We ordered spicy garlic ramen with extra everything: pork, roasted seaweed, corn, quail eggs, it already comes with bamboo, whole roasted garlic cloves and red peppers. We ordered karaage and octopus filled wheat balls too.

Everything arrived quickly. The spicy garlic pork broth was incredible. If the line wasn’t so long I would get on the train and head down there several times a week after work. We got there at 6:3 pm and they’re only open 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm so I think it’s safe to conclude you need to be there as close to their opening to ensure a bowl is yours.

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20110402-114100.jpg(karaage wings!!)

20110402-114158.jpg(octopus balls with the traditional garnishes)

We ate it all. I mean that. For the first time in my life I ate an entire bowl of ramen. Behold, the bottom of the bowl. I may never see it again.

20110402-114521.jpg(ta da!)

I don’t remember the drive home. My feet were hot and so was the tip of my nose. I could have repelled a horde of vampires with my garlicy countenance. It was divine.

And this is just the beginning. I have many more places on my list to visit and would love to know your favorites.

The Details:

Hapa Ramen

Ramen Club

Ramen Dojo
805 South B Street, San Mateo, CA 94401

A Very Thankful Thanksgiving

My ancestor came to this land 390 years ago. Half the colony died that first winter. Can you imagine how sad that must have been, after that long journey with all of the hardships, to finally arrive only to lose so many. The first Thanksgiving, so it is said, was celebrated after surviving a year with a harvest. Our family in this century like to celebrate our being together after much time apart and cook a killer meal. Most of the fun is being together in the kitchen with gentle jostling and teasing, collaborating and handing off tasks seamlessly, and many tastings. A common refrain is, “Are you sure that has enough salt, let me try that again!”

As a special treat this year I purchased a Happy Thanksgiving produce box from Happy Girl Farms, my first experience with them, and hauled all the produce up on the train in a duffle roller bag, also filled with wine. Of course one wheel on the bag broke as I was leaving my apartment and I had to drag that beast around like a mobster hauling a dead body, woof, what a long trip!

It was quite the adventure in what one would consider a relatively simple task of picking up the produce box. I was given an address saying there would be prominent signage near a gate in a fence of a lovely home in Castro Heights. I took a taxi after work; it was 5:30 pm and already inky dark outside. In a dimly lit street, the taxi driver said that he thought a long dark fence was the right one. Thankfully I had a tiny flashlight on my house keys and turned it on and headed towards the fence. On the fence near eye level was a quarter-sized sticker that said Happy Girl Farms, visible only after illuminating it with my tiny light. I saw a door in the fence and pushed it open, saw below me a foot-plus drop down to a dirt slope, and three boxes lying on the dirt. I carefully stepped down and promptly slid on the mud (it had rained heavily that day) and slid to a tall shrub straight below me. I grabbed at it, wrenching my shoulder injured previously from the tragic high-fiving incident at the World Series celebrations. I badly scratched and punctured my hand from the 1″ spines from the shrub which turned out to be a bougainvillea bush! But I prevented myself running into it by a fraction of an inch with my face or falling in the mud. Swearing loudly, I retrieved my keys and baby flashlight from the ground and looked around for the clipboard as instructed in the email but didn’t see anything. There was one large produce box, opened to the elements, so I peeked inside and saw some of the veggies listed on my receipt. I heaved the box off the dirt and transversed the slippery hill up to the gate and sidewalk in the pitch black dark. I managed to lift the box up to the sidewalk level. As I hauled myself out some pedestrians walked by almost knocking me back inside the gate down the slope but one man grabbed my arm to steady me. Whew. Thoroughly shaken, muddy and bleeding, I stood there for a moment, and the cab driver came over and said, “Are you okay??” He helped me into the cab and loaded the muddy box in the back, and drove me home. I called Dirty Girl and got voicemail, then rang up my mommy and whined about the things I do for fresh produce! The cab driver handed me a paper towel to staunch the bleeding and wipe up some of the mud; either it was a kindness on his part or a defensive measure to keep his hack clean. Once home, cleaned up and disinfected, ice pack on my shoulder and a glass of wine consumed (for medicinal purposes), I received a call back from a rep at Happy Girl Farms. The guy informed me that I actually came on the wrong night, despite their email confirmation that clearly said the pick up day was Tuesday. He said something about their having computer problems and asked me to check the box. I did and found that many items listed on their receipt were not in the box. He again mentioned it wasn’t my box, and so I offered to forward him their email to me. He said I could keep the box (how generous!!) and I felt rather exasperated at this point and retorted, “Look, I’m leaving tomorrow at 5 am. If you want to come by tonight and pick up this box and give me *my* box, I would be really happy with that.” After hemming and hawing a bit he said he’d refund me a portion of the price and next time they would put some flashlights in that yard. I think I will pass on using this pick up place on the premise of preserving my health from a broken ankle or bougainvillea-related flesh shredding, and spare the homeowner any litigious opportunities. Ah, the adventures of supporting local farms.

On a positive note, all of the product was fantastic. We have apples, pears, garlic and onions, carrots and parsnips, bunches of herbs, a variety of potatoes, celery and some squash. Once safely at the parents, we stashed it all in the garage and got ready for our Thanksgiving Eve dinner.

We talked about the Big Day menu while feasting on our usual Dungeness crab, sourdough bread schlepped from the city, mOm’s Louis dressing and iceberg lettuce wedges, augmented by crisp-tender asparagus spears. Truly though, any excuse to eat crab is a welcome one. Or Louis sauce. That sauce rocks!

Thanksgiving morning dawned with the fiery blaze of the liquid amber tree and frost everywhere, a brisk 32 degrees.

Just WOW. What a tree!

After lots of coffee and toasted Acme sourdough bread and butter, we hopped to work in the kitchen and I posted the menu and to-dos for each menu item on the fridge.

Our Menu:
o Dry brined turkey roasted with bacon and sage
o Granny’s “Aunt Emma’s” dressing
o Giblet gravy
o Mashed potatoes
o Potato butter buns
o Roasted whole onions
o Carrot and parsnip coins in a beef-butter reduction
o Green salad with roasted quince, pomegranate, pecans and goat cheese, with a quince syrup white wine vinaigrette
o Pumpkin chiffon pie

Mom started with the pie crust. I loved mOm’s comment, “If this pie pan could talk… It is older than you and has seen many pies.”

I started the brown sauce, part two of the three-part gravy process, and prepped the veggies and fruits for the dressing. My sis made the dressing while Mom made the filling for the pumpkin pie elbow-to-elbow with me as I prepared the dough for the potato buns. I love these buns, we all love these buns, in fact, I plan to make more tomorrow. Can you see why?

Everything was going so smoothly, we had time to take a break, take a nap and knit (just me). Around 3:30 pm we put in the turkey, and three and a half hours later the turkey was done!

Mmmm, bacon..

I decorated da boid with strips of bacon and fresh sage leaves. The little onions roasted happily under the roasting rack. Everyone was liberally slathered with butter.

My sis gently tossed and arranged the salad, I dolloped spoonfuls of butter and sour cream onto the mashed potatoes, and mom made the gravy. There was liberal sampling going on. Bliss.

This gravy is so good, you could eat it like soup.

The carrots and parsnips were perfectly done, not mushy but toothsome, cooked with beef stock and butter and reduced to a syrupy glaze.

The potatoes were creamy and showered with parsley and a lake of butter. Mmmm, butter….

The table looked so festive. My sis put a cinammon-spiced cranberry sauce in her pretty Spode turkey dish, with the spoon in a compromising position. Squawk!!!

I tried carving the turkey this year, and overfilled a platter to the point of ridiculousness with the juicy meat. And bacon.

Every single dish was outstanding. I poured an ’09 Serenade from Casa Rondeña in New Mexico (a Gewürztraminer/Reisling blend) and an ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap (a lovely gift from the winery, thank you!!). We filled out plates to match our hearts filled with love, and were too full for pie! Desultory conversation followed and then bed, with blissful turkey dreams.

Today was the culmination of a year-long dream, pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast (and a few leftover buns slathered with butter) and the leftover turkey sandwich. And a nap. We traded stories all afternoon, about family history, and country and city living oddities. It is so delightful to relax with my family and get to know them better, year after year.

What a great holiday we had, and tonight we get to do it all over again, the only work involved will be gentle reheating!

I’m off to go hang up the outdoor Christmas lights now with my sis, with my stepdad’s supervision, another post-turkey day tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pop Tart Prowl

Sometimes an event comes along that you just can’t say no to, I mean, how can you turn down a pop tart?

Eating pop tarts has been a pleasure reserved for my adult life only. Growing up my mUm never allowed such things in the house, not that I felt deprived mind you, considering her baked goods and my own creations were far superior to a dubious box of fat, sugar and preservatives from the store.

Last year while languishing on my dearest friend L’s couch in front of a crackling fire in the wilds of Santa Fe (and I mean it when I say wild. The coyotes were circling the house that night and the Great Horned Owls were crunching away on the gravel on the roof, it was mind-blowing.) my dear pal asked me if I wanted a pop tart. It was 10:00 pm, we were watching silly movies and had consumed ridiculous portions of posole not all that long ago. Naturally I said yes and a few minutes later she delivered into my grasping hands a serviette with a steaming hot toasted apple cinnamon pop tart. It was flaky, with a well seasoned fresh tasting apple filling with plenty of cinnamon. We promptly had one more each and some tea and then just as promptly zonked out on our respective perches like a pair of tired toddlers.

Later, I was delighted to learn that the pastries came from Natures Path and that they were organic and pretty clean otherwise. My guilt felt assuaged somewhat but in my heart of hearts I missed my Mom’s jam turnovers, my childhood pop tart equivalent. I have never attempted them because of my dread fear of rolled dough but this is something I plan to rectify soon.

So fast-forward to the present day and to my meeting the tres charmant Rachel Saunders and her incredibly lush book on jam. Rachel created the Blue Chair Fruit in the East Bay and has been making and selling her incredible jams at various farmer’s markets in the Bay Area and online. I lucked into a copy of her newly released book and it is well littered with post its and slips of notes of the recipes I plan to try and photos I just cannot stop gazing upon. Her book has taken up permanent residence on my lap and I cannot wait to tell you more about it (soon!).

A local eatery in Berkeley announced they were having a pop tart party using Rachel’s jams and that she would be there in person to sign her incredible book so naturally I inked that invitation into my calendar and was delighted when my pal Luna of Luna’s Kitchen Magic said she could join me. Who better than my sister-friend, a trained pastry chef, to accompany me on a quest for pop tarts.

This Saturday, a bus trip, a BART train, another bus and a long walk later, we arrived at Summer Kitchen Bake Shop‘s door. It was most definitely worth the effort to get there to see the darling Rachel again, and to eat pop tarts! We received a warm greeting but Rachel had a line of eager fans waiting to chat and over her shoulder I spied trays of pop tarts so we sidled by and headed to the cashier.

We ordered one of each of Summer Kitchen’s pop tart creations to munch along with a cup of Blue Bottle coffee for me and an omlette sandwich for the both of us.

The eatery is adorable, high ceilinged and a long counter in front of the grill with a few tables in front on a charming stretch of College Street. We snagged a few stools at the counter and began watching the show, our sides warmed by the pizza oven that anchored the end of the space. It was really challenging to perch like vultures and watch the grill cook make plate after plate of gorgeous sandwiches knowing we couldn’t order everything.

But first we gazed upon the gorgeous pop tarts. Look. Drool. Don’t you wish you were there?

The sweet pop tart had slices of the first of fall’s new crop of Fuji apples topped with Blue Chair Fruit strawberry jam, drizzled with royal icing and dashes of sugar sprinkles. The savory pop tart was filled with Blue Chair’s spiced tomato-bourbon conserve and goat cheese, and topped with shreds of Parmesan. Holy cow! They were simply fantastic. Flaky, thin, buttery pastry, still warm from the oven, pleasantly plump with the fillings and so tender. My toes were wriggling with delight as I nibbled slowly, trying to make them last, washed down by the mother’s-milk of Bella Donovan blend from Blue Bottle. I was beginning to regret only ordering two to share.

Meanwhile, our deft grill cook had crisped thick slabs of my personal local favorite bacon from Golden Gate Meats, slivered an avocado and turned out a perfectly blonde curling shell of a four egg omlette awash with fresh herbs and butter into a soft torpedo roll. Why have I never thought of an omlette sandwich before? It was ridiculous, as Luna is fond of saying.

Nirvana.

I was distracted by the sight of the pastry chef making more pop tarts. Scrutinizing her technique and taking notes we watched her roll out sheets of pastry, top with the juicy apples and dollops of ruby red jam. How I coveted that huge bottle of jam! Behold, the birth of a pop tart.

While they were baking the grill cook made tiny sliders of beef patties topped with blue cheese, piled them into a torpedo roll slathered with tarragon aioli and heaped with mounds of steaming mahogany caramelized onions, slices of pink heirloom tomatoes and handfuls of wild arugula. I am smitten.

Sadly, most of pictures did not come out. The cook was grinning at me shyly as I tried to capture the action, occasionally pausing to let me snap a shot. Now more than ever I wish I had a camera!

Then, to my right, the pastry chef pulled out a huge tray of naked chocolate cupcakes and scooped huge spatulas full of cream cheese frosting into her KitchenAid to fluff up before piping it into graceful spirals on the cakes. Our seatmate, a precocious 5 year old, scored a spoonful of frosting, lagniappe from the chef, lucky thing. The chef scattered chocolate pearls on top of the cupcakes and popped them onto pretty cake stands. If only I could have eaten more!

Then the grill chef began making crispy chicken sandwiches and grinned when I piped up that bacon and avocado would go well with that sandwich, and more of that custard yellow aioli. I realized I wasn’t the only one watching the action. Intently peering through the counter and offering play-by-play was a young man, perhaps 10 years old. Young Jerry is a foodie in the making, he was commenting on the aioli and I explained what that was. He smacked his lips. We watched another burger torpedo being prepared. He hadn’t tried that one, he explained, and sidled over one stool closer to me. I remarked that I hoped the grill chef would make a chicken sandwich again, and then he did! Amazed, Jerry asked how did I know the cook was going to do that? “Magic”, I said, and grinned, then Jerry asked me if I played cards, like Pokemon… His dad laughed and asked Jerry to return to his seat and they finished their pop tarts. Little Romeo!!

Luna and I watched as another batch of fruit pop tarts got their slathering of icing and sprinkles and sadly bid the cooks adieu.

We were delighted to meet in person Charlene Reis, the owner of Summer Kitchen, with whom we had been chatting incessantly on Twitter, and made plans to have a craft night soon. Rachel introduced me to her charming husband and helped me select jars of her jams to take home. I was thrilled to score the last jar of the spiced tomato-bourbon conserve and we agreed bourbon was a magical ingredient, like vanilla, but better. I exclaimed over my last purchase of Rachel’s blood orange marmalade and told her how that jar, which I bought at her book signing at Omnivore, disappeared in two days with the help of an Acme herb slab, Manchego cheese and some prosciutto, quite possibly the best sandwich I have ever invented. Another jar of Rachel’s three fruit marmalade got stowed away in my bag and Luna and I made our farewells.

We strolled down the street and stopped into a sweet shop, several card shops and then to our next stop, Ici.

Ici is an ice cream shop that has an impressive pedigree, its owner worked at Chez Panisse no less, and they usually have a line several store fronts long. Somehow we chanced to be there at just the right time with no line and popped in for a scoop. I chose the lemon ice cream with pinenut praline and an ocean of hot fudge. The combination of creamy lemon and rich fudgy chocolate is truly magical. Luna hit one out of the park with her choice of pear huckleberry sorbet with burnt caramel sauce (picture here). We plopped on a bench in front, another minor miracle, and thoroughly enjoyed our little treat.

As we were leaving I noticed their decorations of crocheted ice cream cones and vowed to knit some soon.

We planned next to visit Amanda’s on Shattuck and decided to work off our breakfast by walking there.

Just like Calvin Trillin we decided to have a snack before lunch and stopped into Crixa’sCakes for tea and pastries.

Fall has arrived in Berkeley and I was regretting my sandals but was grateful for my new leaf-green velour fleece jacket. We sat outside at an iron table as leaves scuttled by on the cobblestones, sipping our steaming Moroccan mint tea and stunning Hungarian pastries. The Hungarian version of pirogue was very good, how can you go wrong with buttery pastry filled with potato, cheese and dill?

We fought a fork-dual over the last bite. Divine! But then we split a pastry amusingly called Fatima’s thighs. More of the buttery, flaky pastry was curled around a rich filling of walnuts, julienned apples, currants and scented with orange flower water, then heaped with powdered sugar. I dusted off my pants which were liberally dotted with sugar and was transported to a memory of eating beignets with a dear beau in steamy sticky New Orleans. We used to laugh that I should never wear black around powdered sugar, something that would have come in handy at Crixa’s!

Another reason to visit Crixa is a street sign pole outside that has been yarnbombed, it is just so adorable.

Awash in tea and feeling all buttery we continued our stroll through Berkeley, marveling at the odd fall clouds in the sky, a building decorated with sculptures of sea life, pots of tomato plants tucked away into doorways, and the unusual people who populate the area. It is so pleasant to stroll with a friend, to be able to walk without rushing. Luna slipped a small sack into my bag, a Springerlie cookie from Crixa, what a treat! We exchanged thoughts about soul mates, shared stories of our siblings and tales about ravens and crows as Brother Crow cawed above our heads.

Our next stop was Stonemountain & Daughter Fabric shop, a place awash with the cutest, kitchy fabric. An entire row of bolts was devoted to food designs and we danced down the aisle singing the Coconut Song, imagining an apron made with a coconut pattern and lime fabric for pockets. I could not resist a few yards of an adorable mushroom fabric. We are taking a sewing class there in a few weeks, and I will make myself an apron to cheer up my kitchen during our drab SF winter. Suddenly we imagined ourselves buying most of the store’s stock and sewing up creation after creation!

The imaginary budget depleted we headed out to Amanda‘s for their house-made spicy ginger aid and a crunchy garden salad. I was tempted by their array of spiced nuts, burgers, sweet potato fries and sodas but couldn’t manage another bite. Luna crunched her salad and shared her ginger ale, which was exceptional.

To my surprise it was nearing 4:00 pm! We visited the pretty library for a small break and then meandered to Trader Joe’s for dinner fixings. I treated myself to a rib eye and ingredients for a pizza dinner another night. How does pizza made of naan with smoked Gouda, Asian pear and prosciutto sound? I thought I needed to make a pot of caramelized onions next week too, and buy bags of sweet onions.

Lugging our goodies to BART, we luck out and the next train was in two minutes, and I was home in a half an hour. I quickly stowed my groceries before sinking gratefully down into a chair to slip on thick wooly socks and settle on the settee for a nap. Five hours later I woke up! Completely missing dinner means I can indulge in steak and eggs for Sunday breakfast!

It was great to explore a new area and have home-made pop tarts and all the other treats that day. I plan to borrow a friend’s kitchen soon to make jam from Rachel’s adorable book, and to make pop tarts perhaps on my next Girl’s Night In. Stay tuned!

…………………………..

Resources:

Blue Chair Fruit
Jam, jam classes and the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook here:

http://bluechairfruit.com/

Also at the Temescal and Grand Lake Farmers’ Markets

Summer Kitchen Bake Shop
2944 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705-2204
Open Daily 9am-9pm
(510) 981-0538

Ici
2948 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705
Open Daily
(510) 665-6054

Crixa Cakes
2748 Adeline Street, Berkeley, CA 94703-1205
Open Tue-Sat 9am-6:30pm
(510) 548-0421

Stonemountain & Daughter Fashion & Quilting Fabric
2518 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94704-2722
Hours: 11am – 5:30pm
(510) 845-6106

Amanda’s Restaurant (Feel Good Fresh Food)
2122 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704
Hours: 11am – 9pm
(510) 548-2122
http://www.Amandas.com

Happiness Is…..

….a sunny Sunday afternoon….

On a whim I propose a visit to the farmer’s market to a friend with brunch afterward of huevos rancheros. This simple excursion turned into a full day of beautiful sights and flavors.

I hopped on the N to check out the farmer’s market in the Inner Sunset in the tiny parking lot across Arizmendi Bakery and next to my favorite shoe store. The first thing I noticed was the Valet Barking, where you can park your doggie while you shop. The gal running it was doing a snappy business and everyone was playing together nicely, which is a testament to her dog-whispering abilities.

I strolled slowly through the tiny market, sampling peaches at every opportunity, and treated myself to a basket each of red and golden raspberries. Waiting for my friend to arrive I purchased a large cup of Earl Grey tea and several croissant, some with chocolate and some with frangipani inside, and plopped down on a curb opposite from the dogs and had myself a very relaxing nosh.

Surprisingly the golden raspberries were stronger and more defined in flavor than the standard ones, they were richer and had more of an acidic edge, they were also enormous and exceedingly fragile. I made a raspberry hat for my pinky.

It was the first time I ever ate an entire basket of berries by myself. The sun was warming my shoulders, the tea was perfect on my throat and the croissant was buttery with just enough almond succulence inside. Suddenly, I felt so at peace and just fine with everything within myself. I have been feeling like a worn out dishrag of emotions lately but at this moment, this moment was fine and pleasant and all mine although I was surrounded by the frenetic hum of the City.

A__ arrived and pulled up a pew, and joined me in breakfast for a moment, then we headed out to shop. My quest was for tomatoes, and herbage to make Green Goddess dressing to accompany a chicken roasted with quince. Instead, the quest for the best peach began and we settled on the last six O’Henry peaches in the market. Perfectly ripe and almost honey like they were the best peach I have ever had. For another dollar the farmer threw in some plums that were just about ready to turn themselves into jam on the spot.

After A___ snagged the last six eggs at one stall we lingered at Pamela’s Soaps with her amusing husband Dirk. Pamela’s lemongrass shae butter soap had to come home with me and Dirk put a lanyard through it, instant soap on a rope! While A__ chatted with Pamela and made her selections, I decided upon a bar of shaving soap, infused with lime oil, shae butter, lavender and some spice, Pamela said it is creamy and soothing, perfect for summer sleek bare legs at work, with my long stems I could use some pampering! Her hand-poured flower shaped pots of lip gloss also appealed and I picked one up as a gift for my sis. Pamela’s flowers from the garden were stunning, a perfect capture of summer. Even the bees agreed.

I was fascinated by a book they had on display, an old Organic Chemistry book that they labeled as boring, but it was really clever and not at all dry. Dirk offered to give it to me, which was very kind, and maybe next time I visit the market I will take him up on his offer.

After loading up on soapy goodness, we visited a jam vendor and tasted his heavenly Blenheim apricot preserves and two different plum jams. Not being much for plums really, they remind me of that horrible motorboat accident when I was a kid when I broke my nose, but after tasting his Mariposa plum jam I bought a jar. It was fresh and bright tasting and I had visions of a tart with the plum jam as a base and the fresh peaches and plums baked on top. Suddenly we were motivated to return to the beach house!

A few stalls down I found cilantro, green onions, bell and jalapeños for salsa and winter savory for the roast chicken. I also found a huge amount of beefsteak tomatoes at a reasonable price, the first inexpensive tomatoes of the year. I planned to slow roast them and freeze some for later. A___ found a huge bouquet of chard destined for her wok, and chives and parsley for salad. Then, a fruit vendor was trying to close up and offered us huge honeydew and other melons for a dollar each! Our bags were full but one monster fit into my backpack, barely, it was already full of my work clothes, bacon, tortillas, quince and knitting. I cradled one in my arms as a counterweight and we tottered through the last few stalls. The last booth had beautiful eggs and zucchini, and next time we will shop here for these beauties.

Finally we made it to the car, after a brief (well, not so brief) visit to the shoe store. Let’s get some shoes! Let’s party!

But on the way, we made a remarkable discovery! It doesn’t look like much, an ordinary storm drain gate, right?

Upon closer examination we saw that there was a plant growing inside. And, can you tell what it is?

For Pete’s sake it’s a tomato plant! Imagine that, the unstoppable power of Mother Nature reigning forth by producing a healthy volunteer tomato shrub in the most unlikely of places.

Once at the beach house, after an enthusiastic greeting by doggies, I set to frying bacon and making my huevos rancheros. I heated up a can of drained (organic) black beans with garlic and onion granules and some spices, and a few spoonfuls of bacon fat, mashed a little. The bacon was crisped perfectly under A___’s ministrations and the tortillas were fried in the bacon fat (and carefully blotted, I might add). Given that we both have tennis elbow for varying reasons, I employed the Cuisinart for a quick salsa of heirloom tomatoes, garlic, red onion, yellow bell pepper, Anaheim chile and jalapeño, cilantro, limes and cumin – so quick to prepare and to die for. The eggs from the market were quickly fried up and I assembled our “brunch”. A__ plunked down a bottle of bubbly and we feasted (at 3:00 pm!!).

(naughty but nice)

Look at that beautiful bacon, a birthday treat from my dear friend and reigning Bacon Queen S___. This was maplewood smoked bacon, so thick and well seasoned with the tang of woodsmoke and a touch of maple.

Always on the job, A___ went back to work while I relaxed in the back yard with the dogs post-shower, the sunshine and breeze from the ocean drying my hair, while I knitted a bit on my new shawl.

As the sun started dipping below the eaves of the neighbor’s house A__ returned and did some gardening, then we took a break from these pleasantries to polish off the rest of the champagne (out of the bottle so as not to risk the Waterford flutes on the patio with swishing dog tails like rapiers). Every Sunday afternoon should be like this.

I repaired upstairs to play with the chicken and preheat the oven. A__ brought me a handful of lemon thyme from the herb bed and I minced that up with the winter savory to sprinkle over the chicken. First, I made a base of red onion, left over from the salsa preparations, and peeled, cored and sliced quince layered in a vintage Copco gratin dish A__ found at a yard sale. I juiced a few lemons for the salad dressing and stuffed the chicken with the hulls and the tops of the green onions.

The Cuisinart was pressed into service again to mince the herbs and greens for the Green Goddess salad dressing, made creamy with Russian sour cream and good old mayo. I love this salad dressing, it was even delicious with prawn cervice dunked into it.

A big thank you to Kalyn and Sean for tweeting about the Green Goddess, a local historical recipe. By the way, it is excellent on fish, mixed in for chicken salad and even on onion rings.

Speaking of salad, we grabbed the lantern and harvested baby lettuces from a gopher-proof bed and after giving the beauties a refreshing bath I arranged them in a bowl for the table. The chicken was done, perfect as usual, and I carved her up roughly. We set down to feast with our fingers, dunking lettuces into the dressing as well as the chicken and an occasional prawn or three.

We had a deep philosophical discussion about the pursuit of happiness and where we are going in our lives now that birthdays are upon us. After the sadness I’ve been feeling, plus that long stretch of uncertainty being unemployed I have been doing a lot of cleaning house, mentally, with the kind support and encouragement of my dear friends and my family. Where would I be without them? We talked about gratitude as well and keeping positive. Sadly we had forgotten all about making a dessert but didn’t miss it. A__ made me a cup of verbena, mint and rose tisane and we retired to our various rooms, leaving the dogs snoring on the couch and chair. As I drifted off to sleep in the moonlight with the sound of the surf through the window, I reflected on how grateful and lucky I am to be alive and to have such a nice little life.

Happiness is…..being with friends and appreciating all the little moments.

Breakfast Confessions

I have a few confessions when it comes to breakfast on the weekends.

  • I always like to eat breakfast in my pajamas…. (and no cameras are allowed for that!)
  • I like to listen to reggae in the morning.  This album was recommended by a cab driver; Damian Marley, Halfway Tree.

I always listen to reggae at breakfast.

  • My favorite way to make coffee is in the Moka pot. It makes one and a half cups, which is just perfect for me.

My favorite way to make coffee is in the Moka pot.

  • If I don’t want coffee I will make myself a pot of tea using my breakfast set.  Yorkshire tips is my favorite in the morning, hot and sweet.

Being home on a Monday is fantastic

  • I like eating breakfast alone, because I can have five pieces of bacon and no one will judge me. Or, try to steal a piece. Yup, that is all for me.

A bit of heaven

  • I like to eat with an audience.

I like to eat with an audience.
(“Everyone in here is staring at me….”

  • I hate jars on my table. These pretty vintage pressed glass jam pots make me very happy. I think the jam tastes better too.

I hate jars on my table; these make me happy to use.

  • Breakfast is always better with a little Hatch green chile. Except maybe pancakes. But then again, I haven’t tried that yet, hmmm.

Breakfast is always better with a little Hatch green chile.

  • Coffee tastes better in a hand-thrown cup and saucer. This pair is from an amazing potter in Sedona, Mary Margaret. I have been collecting her pieces for 15 years.  Not only does it taste better but it stays warm longer, which is a huge plus in foggy San Francisco!

Coffee tastes better from a hand-thrown cup and saucer.

  • I like agave or honey in my coffee.
  • I like protein for breakfast, it always makes me feel better. Poachies are my favorite, but I like the yolk cooked until it is almost jelled through. But I must have a piece of toast under my egg.

Beauty shot

  • For scrambled eggs, I always spoon the eggs on top of the toast and take a bite.  This seems to perplex my family and friends and I have no idea how this started.  I suppose Emily Post would not approve, hence why I like to eat breakfast alone!
  • I always save a piece or half a piece of toast to eat with jam. It’s my breakfast dessert!

I like to save a piece of toast for a spoonful of jam.

  • Local eggs always taste better.

2 green eggs! 2
(especially the green ones)

  • It is a cook’s privilege to lick clean the jam spoon. Mmmm, homemade blueberry from Sue B!

It is a cook's privilege to lick clean the jam spoon.

  • After 11 years he is still hopeful for a handout. Or to be pet. I am never sure.

After 11 years he is still hopeful for a handout.

  • I hate sitting at table with dirty dishes in front of me, even if there is bacon left.  The bonus to this is that my breakfast dishes are always done immediately.

I have sitting at table with dirty dishes in front of me, even if there

  • The post-breakfast nap is the best….  See you later!

What are your breakfast confessions?

Wordless Wednesday

(Happiest place on earth. When we win, that is)

Bacon wrapped hot dog with chipotle aioli. Do you blame me?)

Wordless Wednesday

(you *know* you want some!)