Saturday, August 17, 2013

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

20 Great Holiday Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List

It's a funny thing: when you don't blog for months and months, blogger up and changes the whole blogging format and layout on you. I'm not even 100% sure this is my blog at this point! Who knows!

I'm suddenly in the holiday spirit. This could be due to the weather (cold, windy, rainy and grey) or it could be due to the fact that finally, after years and years of going without, we have an actual working fireplace in our house. One that burns wood. Environmentally sound? No. Cozy and seasonal? Yes. I'll take it. In any case, bring on the holiday cheer. It's all apple cider spiked with bourbon, hot chocolate and roasted turkey around here.

Every blog on the planet has posted a holiday gift guide, so I thought, why not join in? I've seen quite a few things in the past couple of weeks that I thought would make great gifts for loved ones, and lord knows we could all use some help in the ideas department, so here's my list:


1. Instagram Frames - $30+ - Hey! Wouldn't it be great if you could frame your best instagram photos? Wouldn't be even better if you could just sync your instagram feed, select which photos to frame, chose the frame and have someone ship it straight to you in about a week for a really great price? The geniuses at Hatchcraft have this all figured out. A really great personal gift, and the process couldn't be easier





2. Gold Porcelain Clouds - $36-$66 - I've got a thing for interesting objects. I place them around the house to add some quirky dimension here and there. I love these gold porcelain clouds, they would add a whimsical touch in any room. They look great hung on a wall, placed on a table top, or used as a paperweight. 




3. Fouta's (Turkish Bath Towels) - $20 each - We recently switched from terry cloth towels to Foutas in our house, and we love them. They're light, and beautifully woven, and they're incredibly absorbant. They just feel luxurious, and they look so much nicer than regular towels in the bathroom. They come in all colors and patterns. These ones from ABC Carpet & Home are lovely.


4. DODO Case for an iPad - $60+ at JCrew - We all have a tech geek in our life that we love, but I find that they can sometimes be difficult to shop for. They often buy themselves everything they want. This case is a great find. They're protective, functional and attractive. They even have a hole in the case for the camera, so you don't have to take your iPad out of the case to take a picture. JCrew currently has a large selection of these on sale in quite a few colors. 





5. Beautiful Cloth Napkins - $32 for set of 4 - I saw a picture of these napkins that are sold on Etsy on Apartment Therapy recently and fell in love. Such a gorgeous pattern. You can find cloth napkins in every color on Etsy. They'd be an instant upgrade to any dining room table.




6. Elderflower Cordial - $15 at Terrain - Have you ever had St. Germain? It's a liquor made of elderflower blossoms, sometimes used in cocktails, often cocktails with gin. It's divine. For a non-alcoholic version, there's Elderflower cordial, which is terrific when you add just a little bit to sparking water. So good, and such a beautiful bottle. It's a great addition to a home bar set.

http://www.shopterrain.com/product/elderflower-cordial





7. Herringbone Necklace from Bario-Neal - $108 - How gorgeous is this Herringbone necklace? It made my jaw practically drop when I saw it. Don't you think it would make a spectacular gift for some lovely lady in your life? Hint, hint.

http://bario-neal.com/bn/collections/boutique-jewelry/io-collection/herringbone-necklace.html



8. Star Wars Poster - $40 on Etsy - We all have a Star Wars lover in our life. In fact, I've got about 8 of them just in my family alone. This Star Wars inspired alphabet poster is so clever. I think it would look great in my college nephew's new house.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/107621409/alphabet-star-wars-inspired-poster?ref=sr_gallery_6&ga_search_query=star+wars&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=US&ga_original_query=2&ga_page=4&ga_search_type=all





9. Custom Print - $21 from Society6 - Have you heard of Society6? It's a website that sells the creations of artists from around the world. I bought my iPhone case from them, and they have a ton of beautiful prints, cases, t-shirts, etc. This is a beautiful print by Cassia Beck. I love how colorful and fun it is. It would look great on the wall!

http://society6.com/product/Mountain-range-2B5_Print





10. Viking Ship Mobile - $52 from Acorn, a Brooklyn Toy Shop - I adore this Viking Ship Mobile from Acorn Toys. It would look so cute in a nursery, or simply hanging in your room. Acorn has a large selection of beautiful mobiles.

http://acorntoyshop.com/productDetail.php?productId=364&productItemId=652&ageGroupId=6




11. Gold Giraffe - $35 from Dwell Studios - Once again, I'm a sucker for shiny but tasteful knick-knacks around the house, and I love this elegant gold giraffe from Dwell. It would make a great bookend, and it would look beautiful on the mantle.

http://www.dwellstudio.com/modern-decor-and-accessories/decorative-accessories/giraffe-gold.html





12. Pop Art Movie Poster - $30 on Etsy - Who wouldn't love a framed copy of their favorite movie poster re-imagined in such an eye-catching way? I love the Ferris Buller poster. The Goonies and Back to the Future are just two more of many that I can see hanging on the wall.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/106201400/movie-poster-modern-pop-artwork-fine-art?ref=exp_listing




13. Ceramic Glow-bowls from Diana Fayt - $95 for a set of 7 on Etsy - I've had my eye on these for years, and if they don't show up under my tree, I just may pull the trigger on my own. I love beautiful ceramic pieces, and these would make an incredible statement.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/58190350/glowbowls-strand-of-7?ref=sr_gallery_1&ga_search_query=glowbowls&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_ship_to=ZZ&ga_min=0&ga_max=0&ga_search_type=all



14. Beer Making Kit - $40+ at Brooklyn Brew Shop - Perhaps you, like me, have an aspiring Brew Master in your life. You might want to check out the kits at Brooklyn Brew shop. For a full self-starting kit, you can easily spend over $200, but to just get someone started, or add to their collection, check out these starter kits. I've got my eye on the Coffee & Donut Stout...

http://brooklynbrewshop.com/beer-making-kits/coffee-and-donut-stout




15. Goodly Whale Bottle Opener - $24 at BHLDN - You'll need something to crack open that freshly brewed bottle of beer. Why not use this adorable whale bottle opener from BHLDN? It's so cute, you'll want to display it even when it's not in use.

http://www.bhldn.com/shop-decor-view-all-decor/goodly-whale-bottle-opener

16. Bud Vase from Heath Ceramics - $25 at Heath - There's nothing that Heath creates that I don't love. I never get tired of their beautiful and functional pieces. I can't get enough of these bud vases, and I think they make a great gift. Currently housing two on my mantel...I love this soft red color.

http://www.heathceramics.com/cook-dine/bud-vase.html






17. Polaroid Z340 Instant Camera - Starts at $249 - Looking to splurge? I can't think of a better gift than this Polaroid instant camera. Nothing beats the instant nature of the polaroid. Truly the gift that just keeps giving.

http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/polaroid-z340/

18. Coral Herringbone Throw - $250 from Serena and Lily - If you're still feeling flush, check out this gorgeous throw from Serena and Lily. I can't seem to get enough of the herringbone pattern these days, and this throw looks as cozy as it is beautiful.

http://www.serenaandlily.com/Decor/Decor-Blankets-Throws-Herringbone-Throws-Coral





19. St. Helena Global Salt Trio - $25 from Terrain - I love this trio of fancy salts: Black, Pink and Grey.  They come in these lovely weck jars, which can be repurposed once the salts have been used up. A great gift for the chef in your life.

http://www.shopterrain.com/gifts-for-the-chef/st-helena-global-salt-trio/productOptionIDs/bd0459cc-8958-45c4-b120-330bd8a8856a




20. Handmade BBQ Sauce Pack - Homemade, Idea from DesignMom Blog - Check out this great DIY from DesignMom Blog: make your own BBQ pack! This was originally a Father's Day gift idea, but it would make a great holiday gift as well. Just set aside an afternoon to whip up the rub and sauce, and pack it together with a basting brush and maybe a few other things in some cute packaging. Such a great idea.

http://www.designmom.com/2012/06/the-perfect-gift-handmade-bbq-sauce-pack-for-fathers-day/


Whew! You're probably out of money now, but at least you've got some great gifts for everyone on your list!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Green Goddess



A summer salad and an announcement: first, the announcement. After nearly six years in the same wonderful apartment building in Berkeley, I'm moving to a lovely little bungalow in a, new to me, neighborhood in Oakland.

The Boyfriend is coming with. After a year of living together, we've settled quite nicely, and have been feeling the need to expand. That need is coupled with what is foremost on our mind: getting a dog.

Last weekend we visited several rental properties, and on our last appointment, we found it. An adorable craftsman with a gigantic backyard, a fireplace, newly updated kitchen, dishwasher, washer and dryer, a grill, a deck, and (get this) a dog house in the backyard. We feel like we've hit the jackpot.

And even though I said there was NO WAY we could move in August, as it's a busy month for us, we are indeed moving in in August. Because when you find the perfect place, you take it.

And so, we're off! Movers are hired, purging and cleaning has been tackled, and a pull-out couch/guest bed situation has been decided upon. A good thing, considering we'll have a visitor the weekend after we move in. I expect this will be happening a lot more, now that the air mattress is being put in storage. Did I mention our new place is a two bedroom?!

In between planning for a domestic upgrade, I found some time to hop over to the farmer's market for the first time in awhile. I had a Green Goddess salad dressing recipe from Melissa Clark in mind. Perfect for a hot summer day. In addition to firm zucchinis, plump avocados, and bright green herbs, I got my hands on some peaches and nectarines, fresh squash blossoms, and about 2 pounds of Padron Peppers, which Whit and I can't seem to get enough of lately. I'll grill them up and we'll pop them into our mouths one by one as we tune into the newest episode of Breaking Bad. Accompanied by fried squash blossoms, and this bright and tangy salad. Summer's best!

I've mentioned before how much I adore Melissa Clark's cookbook, "Cook This Now!" It's the best cookbook I've ever owned. I want to make absolutely ever recipe in it. I've gotten through probably 20 of them so far, and they've all been keepers. Her roast chicken makes an appearance in our house at least once every two weeks. This salad is a keeper as well.


Shaved Zucchini and Avocado Salad with Green Goddess Dressing
adapted slightly from Melissa Clark's "Cook This Now"

For the dressing:
1/2 cup packed plus 2 tbsp basil leaves
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup packed parsley leaves
1/4 cup packed cilantro
3 tbsp olive oil
2 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced
1 anchovy fillet
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
Freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp kosher salt, additional to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste 

1 medium zucchini
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
2 tbsp roasted pine nuts
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Combine dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, thinly slice the zucchini into rounds. You could also try using a vegetable peeler lengthwise for long, paper thin strips. Combine zucchini with avocado, tomatoes and pine nuts in a bowl. Pour dressing in and lightly coat the salad. You'll have some dressing left over. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heath Ceramics Spring Line




Saturday was a beautiful morning in the Bay Area, so we took the ferry from Oakland over to the San Francisco Ferry Building (a 15 minute trip for $6.50,cheaper than parking and a much better view) and hit up the numerous cheese stands, stocked up on produce and noshed on freshly made Italian Doughnuts.

I couldn't resist perusing the Heath storefront in the Ferry Building. Their seasonal collection for summer is out, and the color is pretty much perfect. All of these have landed on my "want" list.



Monday, March 12, 2012

Kauai Trip - Recommendations of Where to Stay, Eat and Play

I promised a post on my Kauai recommendations, and I'm delivering on that promise. My guide on a trip to the Garden Island. It's something I wish that I would have found before we left: an outline of the not-to-be-missed spots with a lot of unique local flavor.

We had the famous Blue Book to guide us on our way, and I'd done quite a bit of research before we left, but no one blog post or book fit exactly the way we like to travel, which was something of a disappointment considering how many books I referenced. I was reading an article today in which Anthony Bourdain gave his top 5 travel tips, and number one was "eat where the locals eat." Any local I could find in Kauai that was willing to give their 2 cents, I asked for recommendations. Yelp was also a big help here.

The truth about Kauai is, you're not there for the food. Hawaii is not exactly known for it's cuisine (unless spam with rice and seaweed is your kind of comfort food) and you're probably not going to have the best meal of your life there. But there is good food to be had, it just takes a willingness to break away from the tourist spots.

So here's my Kauai quick list on where to stay, the best hikes we did, and of course, where to eat:

North Shore Lodging -
We stayed at the Sea Lodge in Princeville. A 1 bedroom condo right on the bluff overlooking a reef and several palm trees. It was a great bargain, and out of three places that we stayed on the trip, our favorite. Totally private, well-stocked, and in a great location from which to explore the North Shore, which is in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the island.

North Shore Hike -
Don't miss the Kalalau Trail. Fair warning, you don't want to hike this trail in bad weather. When it rains, the trail becomes a creek with a drop off on one side of hundreds and hundreds of feet. You need to be careful and have good hiking shoes on for this. A walking stick is highly recommended.

You can do the first 2 miles of this trail to Hanakapiai Beach. Another 2 miles from the beach, inland, will bring you to a waterfall. Keep in mind that if you go all the way to the falls, it's an 8 mile hike round trip. You'll want to bring plenty of water, and give yourself enough time to hike, as it's relatively slow going. The trail is very rocky, and incredibly slippery if wet, and you don't have the right shoes. The views, however, are incomparable. Be prepared to stop every few feet to gawk at the Napali Coast.

North Shore Eats:

Red Hot Mama's - This is a shack on the side of the road. She tells you what she has for the day, you order that (paying extra for the hot sauce) and then you buy beer at the general store next door. You then pay the lady and take your food to the beach for an impromptu picnic. What could be better than eating a freshly made burrito made with local ingredients on the beach in Kauai with your beer of choice? Nothing, my friend. Nothing is better than that.

Maybe she only has pork that day, maybe she only has beef. Who knows! Who Cares?! You do not come to a place like this for options!!! You eat what you are told and you will like it!!!

My suggestion is that you stop here before you go to Tunnels or Ke'e Beach for your picnic.

Bar Acuda - This was our favorite meal in Kauai. Come to find out later that it's owned by a former San Francisco chef and restauranteur. Go figure. I like the Slow Club, I like Bar Acuda. Basically, this was the only fine dining restaurant we ate at in Kauai that could hold it's own on the mainland. You can't miss it, and if you're staying on the North Shore, you'll probably go back more than once for dinner. That's cool, you won't miss much else in terms of food.

Fair enough pricing comparatively (much less expensive than the St. Regis). And a much better wine list than anywhere else on the Island. I highly recommend the garlic shrimp.

Bubba Burgers - The In N Out of Kauai. We tried both these and the famous Duane's Ono Char burgers. Honestly (and this is based on a basic cheeseburger) I liked both, but Bubba might have a slight edge taste and fries wise. Just get it the way they tell you. Don't try to add lettuce or tomato, they don't do that. American cheese, dude. Let's be authentic about this.

I think this place is better than a lot of people seem to be giving it credit for. Honestly, I didn't expect to find a good cheeseburger in Hanalei, so I was impressed.

The St. Regis Bar - You're going to pay $20+ for that glass of wine, but I guess you should think of it as paying for the atmosphere and the service, both of which can't be beat. So enjoy those with your very expensive glass of wine and consider two of these starts atmospheric points. Really, the beach and view here can't be beat. We were here nightly during our North Shore stay.

Tahiti Nui and Iti Wine Bar - This was a fun place to start our vacation. We just sat on the porch at night with a couple of drinks (skip the Mai Tai's and go with a beer or a basic cocktail) and enjoyed being on the North Shore in Hanalei. The live music was actually pretty good that night, and Iti Wine Bar right next door was pretty good. It was a great place to spend an evening relaxing.

Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza - Best spot we found for a low-key breakfast. Great pastries, even better pizza and salads. Fresh coconut too. We went back twice after the first time. The cinnamon roll wasn't quite as good as Java Kai, but it was the best pizza we had on the island.

Java Kai - Crazy good cinnamon rolls, good coffee and fresh fruit. We had egg and bagel sandwiches that weren't anything special, but they hit the spot for a day of exploring. The cinnamon rolls are worth bragging about.

East Shore Lodging -
For our 2 days on the East Shore, we stayed at The Dilly Dally House. A Bed & Breakfast inland, outside of Kapaa. Some friends came here on their honeymoon and highly recommended it to us.

Our hosts were great, very laid back (as most on the island are) and were happy to provide us with everything we needed/wanted and more. You basically won't need anything but your clothes when you come here, they provide everything else you could think of.

The grounds and pool are lovely, and the house itself is great. We stayed in the Suite, which came with a wonderful king size bed, sitting room with futon couch, a tv fully stocked with cable (including HBO) and there are tons of DVD's that you can borrow.

Both days we stayed, the breakfasts were great, and the hosts were more than willing to offer up suggestions on things to do and see. Much appreciated.

To top it all off, it was more affordable than any of the hotels near by, or in Poipu. We got so much more for our money, and such a unique experience. I'd definitely go back.

East Shore Activities -
Don't miss kayaking up the Wailua River. We also did a hike from the midway point of our kayak trip, to a waterfall called Secret Falls. The amount of other people there belied the name, it's certainly not secret, but it is incredibly beautiful.

East Shore Eats -

Duane's Ono Char Burger - I didn't expect to have good cheeseburgers in Kauai, but I did. Both Duane's and Bubba's were good. Bubba's might have been a little better, but we're splitting hairs at this point. They were both good.

To be fair, I didn't have the suggested pineapple teriyaki burger, which apparently is their specialty. I had a basic cheeseburger. As stated: very good.

I'd recommend taking the food to go as the atmosphere leaves a bit to be desired. Why sit next to the highway when some of the best beaches in the world are so close? If you do sit there, be prepared to shield your food from the deranged roosters that you've by now become very familiar with.

Monico's Taqueria - I was surprised that this place didn't get an ONO in the famous Blue Book. It was pretty decent, and fairly priced. Much better than Scotty's BBQ, and it seems the locals agree. It was packed with local folks.

Was it great Mexican food? No, but it was better than I expected it to be, and much better than a lot of the highly recommended restaurants we tried, without the insane price tag.

Get yourself a Negro Modelo and order up some tacos. They'll keep you stocked with chips and salsa. Really good service.

South Shore Lodging -

So here's where I think we went wrong: we stayed at the Sheraton, which I wouldn't go back to. My problem with the South Shore is that it felt, by far, like the most touristy part of Kauai. We were missing the North Shore as soon as we got here. That said, the South Shore does have the best weather. So if you're set on staying South, I'd recommend looking for a good deal, and spending as much time out of your room as possible.

Same was true for food. The one place we tried here that we liked was a tiny little deli in Koloa, The Koloa Deli, that had great bagels and Italian sandwiches that we took with us on a hike near Waimea Canyon.

West Side Hike -

Kokee State Park - Keep driving to the very end of the road. There, you get to the Puu O Kila Lookout, and you can hop on the Phiea trail, which connects to the Aleka'i Swamp Trail. The views from here are probably the most incredible you will ever see. Totally jaw dropping, and not to be missed. This hike was one of the highlights of our trip.

That being said: do not attempt this trail if it's been raining or is raining, or else you'll be in for it. One cannot say enough about the mud: it is all encompassing. You will not escape it, and it will ruin anything it touches! The red Kauai dirt/mud on this trail has the consistency of clay, and it's like walking on oil when it's wet. That, combined with steep, boulder covered passages, makes for a very challenging trail. But, you can go as far as you like. The views stay with you from beginning to end. Just be prepared before you attempt. We found this to be true with all the hikes we attempted in Kauai ;) That said, we did have a lot of rain while we were there. But I hear that's true throughout most of the year.

Other notable mentions: Waimea Canyon Lookout on the West Shore, Spouting Horn on the South Shore, Maha'ulepu Beach on the South Shore, Waiula and Opeaka'a Falls on the East Shore.

Favorite Beaches: Ke'e Beach, Tunnels Beach, Hanalei Bay, the beach at the St. Regis, Rock Quarry Beach, Hideaways Beach, all on the North Shore

Maha'ulepu Beach on the East Shore was a favorite, as well as a great hike.

So those were the highlights for us. If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments. I'm happy to make other recommendations if I can!



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Had to Share - Oven "Grilled" Steak



Ahem. Excuse me while I brush the cobwebs away in here.

The thing is, I had to share a new recipe discovery with you. So good and easy that it brought me back to blogging here.

The past year and a half brought so many new changes to my life, a relationship, a new job, a move, living with someone for the first time, and most recently, an amazing trip to Kauai, where we did our best to explore every inch of the island for 9 wonderful days. The weather didn't always cooperate, but we did our best to enjoy and experience everything Kauai had to offer.



I think that I'll do a post soon with Kauai recommendations. Like everyone else, we used the infamous "Blue Book." But I was a bit disappointed by it's food suggestions, which were a bit more mainstream than I like. Stay tuned for that one, it's coming, I promise.

I'll admit, blogging hasn't been on the forefront of my mind, despite the fact that I'm doing a lot of cooking lately. Ahi and Mahi Mahi with mango salsa in our little condo in Princeville, Garam Masala Roast Chicken with Chickpeas and Carrots, Thai Chili Coconut Beef Short Ribs, Roasted Red Pepper Soup and Shrimp Scampi with Fennel and Pernod, just to name a few.

Along with a recipe, I have a recommendation: if you don't already have your hands on Melissa Clark's new cookbook, Cook This Now, please do yourself a favor and order a copy today. I've never treasured a cookbook so much. I'm working my way through this book, and I've yet to try something that I don't immediately want to make again. It's that good.

Now: onto the promised recipe.

I apologize for the lack of photos, I can't stand taking pictures of food without natural light, and all of my cooking happens at night after work these days. But please believe me when I tell you, this resulted in the finest steak I've ever cooked.

Which is saying a lot, because I've always had a difficult time with steak that isn't grilled outside with charcoal. I mean, clearly, that is the way to do it. But we currently own neither outdoor space, nor grill. Valentine's Day was upon us, and for a relaxing, romantic night in, I knew I wanted to cook a steak. How best to do so in the oven, and still get that delicious crust and perfect medium-rare steak?

Mark Bittman has the answer, and it goes like this...

Oven "Grilled" Steak
Mark Bittman - NY Times

Ingredients -

1 1/2 to 2 lbs strip or rib-eye steaks (2 large steaks)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Equipment

A pizza stone for the oven (not necessary, but helpful)

Put the pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and fit another rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to maximum, 500 degrees or more for at least 20 minutes. Put a cast-iron or other ovenproof heavy skillet large enough to hold the steaks over high heat on the stove top to heat. Wait 2 or 3 minutes, until pan is beginning to smoke.

Add the steaks and let them sit on top of the stove as long as you can before the smoke becomes too much. For me, this was about 2 minutes (and yes, my smoke alarm then went off, but that's the trend in our small apartment. All the better for the steak!) Immediately transfer the pan to the preheated oven. Roast the steaks for about 4 minutes, or until nicely browned on the bottom, then turn and cook on the other side for another 3-4 minutes, until done.

Remove, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let meat rest about 5 minutes, then serve.



Thursday, October 13, 2011

This and That - Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken and Adapted Zuni Salad


The travel portion of the year is basically over for me until Thanksgiving, and after a trip to Louisville, Kentucky to see my Boyfriend's family, we're settling into a fairly domesticated routine. I had never been to Louisville before. I got the grand tour, complete with apple picking at a local orchard, and a visit to Churchill Downs. I came back feeling like fall was in the air, inspired to make some of my favorite warm and comforting dishes.

That started with homemade pizza, hummus, and a beef stew. The weekend includes plans for homemade tomato sauce and a new recipe for lasagna. Last night, it was Thomas Keller's roast chicken, with a modified Zuni Bread Salad.

Roast chicken is really the perfect dinner. It requires minimal prep, you can toss in whatever you want, shove it in the oven for an hour or so, and you're done. It tastes like hours and hours of work went into it. Those are really the best kinds of dinners, aren't they?

Thomas Keller never steers you wrong. And his recipe for simple roast chicken doesn't disappoint. I washed the chicken, and put it in the fridge uncovered in the morning. Took it out at 6pm that evening, seasoned it generously with salt and pepper and a little oil, massaged the inside with 3 crushed garlic cloves and a couple sprigs of time, topped the breasts with a bit of butter, and stuck in in the oven on top of some potatoes, onions and carrots in a skillet at 475 for 25 minutes. When that step was done, I lowered the heat to 400 for 45 minutes, and took it out when the meat thermometer read 160.

I let the bird rest for 20 minutes, and re-heated the vegetables in the skillet over the stove. I tossed in some fresh arugula and croutons with the vegetables and served that on the side with the carved chicken.

It couldn't have been better, or easier.

How's that for a recipe? Easy enough, eh?


Monday, September 26, 2011

In Praise of Quinoa - Chickpea & Quinoa Salad

My friend Denise called me out for neglecting this little blog. She's right, I have no excuse! I'm a rather pathetic blogger as of late. And the truth is, I've been returning again and again to old familiar standbys. Fresh tomato sauce over whole wheat pasta, salads with lemony dressings and lots of cucumber, simple roasted vegetables, and lots of help from the Trader Joe's frozen foods aisle.

It's true that things have been fairly busy lately with work. I've added pilates a couple times a week to the schedule, and with the days getting shorter, I feel worn out at the end of it all, and I haven't been inspired to tackle a new dish.

I think I'll start to feel that inspiration again with the turn of the season. More dinners eaten at the dining room table, with candles and music instead of the latest episode of Breaking Bad on the TV (though it will still be watched, so good!) And, a more concentrated effort to eat healthier. Smaller portions and more vegetables and grains. I'm trying to be much better about this, more conscious of what goes into my body, and less mindless eating of the things I don't need, or really even want. I'm sure we could all be better about this, but I think I'm going to need a bit of support and camaraderie in this effort. Any of you have any tips and tricks for healthy eating and meal planning? Maybe if you wouldn't mind sharing some of your favorite healthy recipes, it would inspire me to give them a try. I'd love some suggestions!

We've made a couple of changes so far: we've switched completely to whole-wheat pasta. I thought I'd never get used it it, but after a month, I crave it, and I've hardly missed white flour pasta. Sourdough bread is now a once in awhile treat, and whole-wheat has come to stay. Trying to cut out as much white flour and sugar as possible. I'm still looking for that perfect pizza dough recipe using whole wheat flour. That's tricky, it seems.

So here's a quick salad I threw together yesterday in the midst of an afternoon of errands. Healthy and quick, I just cooked the quinoa and tossed all the ingredients together. It had enough fiber and protein to keep me sated from noon until 6pm. Not bad!

Apologies for the lack of pictures. This was gobbled up before I got a chance.

Chickpea & Quinoa Salad

Serves 8

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1½ cups cooked chickpeas or canned
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • Baby Spinach (you can chop a couple cups and use it fresh, or use an entire bag by wilting it in a saucepan with a bit of olive oil over low heat)

Dressing

  • 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • the juice and zest of 2 lemons
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp honey

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa through the mint, toss together. In a smaller bowl, combine all the ingredients for the dressing, and whisk together with a fork. Pour over the salad, and toss, coating the salad. Taste for seasoning, serve while still warm.

Add the dressing to the salad and stir well.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lists - Black Cod with Miso


Hair of the Dog - Portland

Once again, it's been over a month since my last post. My apologies. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that this coming month will be much better, but in exchange for the irregularity of postings, I have lists. Curated lists for such exotic locales as Portland, OR. Headlsburg/Sebastapol Wine Country and Anderson Valley, CA.

I also have an amazing recipe for Black Cod.




So consider this my apology post. And I'll keep the lists coming to make up for my silence here.

First off, Portland.

Let's cover beer and wine, shall we? P-town has booth, in abundance.



Deschutes Brewery - Portland

If you're in Portland, I highly recommend the following in the beer category:

Hair of the Dog Brewery and Tasting Room - Our favorite of the trip. What a great place. Like hanging out in a very hip and modern garage. The beer was serious, meant to be sipped and drunk slowly, and while I didn't get to try the food, it smelled like it would be more than worth the trip back. I'd make this the first stop, next time around. They seem to be known for their dark beers, one of which is brewed with cherries in old whiskey barrels. We don't have breweries like this in CA. I'll have to come back.

Hopworks Urban Brewery - your basic neighborhood brewery and lunch spot...only with much higher quality beer.

Deschutes - numerous Portlandites might disagree with me on this one, but I like this place. A bit commercial, yes, but they make some of my favorite beers (Green Lakes, anyone?) and the location (heart of the Pearl district) is a good place to people watch.

Portland is a food town. We made our way to some great spots and I could go on and on, but my favorite of the bunch was a food cart: Pyro Pizza. Parked in a parking lot full of other carts; Poutine, Crepes, Waffles and more. The pizza was wood fired and delicious, and cost-wise, a bargain as well. I had the margherita, and the boy had some white sauce with truffle oil concoction. Stellar.

For cocktails, I like Rontoms. Especially since I discovered their excellent patio in the back. It's got a mid-century modern vibe. Always a winner with me.

For wine, out in the Willamette Valley, the following 3 are places I can't wait to get back to (and yes, it's all about the Pinots):

Lemelson Vineyards
Brick House Vineyards
Bethel Heights Vineyard

From Portland, on down to Healdsburg, CA. and surrounding areas. Here are my top 8 wineries in that area:

1. Preston Vineyards & Winery (I'm a sucker for the Barbera, the Madame Preston and the jug wine (only on Sundays))
2. Porter Creek Vineyards ( the old vine Zin is a standout)
3. Unti (all amazing)
4. Radio Coteau (some of the best CA pinots I've ever had)
5. Scherrer (I'm currently head over heels for their rose)
6. Taft Street Winery (started in Berkeley of all places)
7. Wind Gap Winery (it's all about the syrah)
8. Inman (great pinot)

I've mentioned several of these before. You can't go wrong with this list. I feel pretty good about sending you on your merry way with these.

So now you're set to take a trip. Be it a weekend road trip, or a mark your list for a west coast visit kind of trip.

Next post, I promise to cover the Anderson Valley in CA.

Onto the Black Cod.

I take no credit for this one, this is all Mark Bittman. One of his all-time favorite Minimalist recipes: Black Cod with Miso. Black Cod is an incredibly rich and buttery fish. The miso brings it to an unexpected and deceptively elegant place. The lucky person you serve it to would never guess how little actual work is involved. Just let the fish, the miso and the broiler do all the heavy lifting. The only hard part is choosing the wine to go with. I chose the Scherrer Rose.



Black Cod Broiled with Miso

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup miso, preferably dark (I used red miso, which comes as a paste. I found it at Whole Foods.)
1/2 cup mirin, sake or white wine (I used 1/2 mirin and 1/2 white wine)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds black cod fillets (skin may be on or off).

Heat broiler; set rack 3 to 4 inches from heat source. Combine first three ingredients in a small saucepan and, over low heat, bring almost to a boil, stirring occasionally just until blended; mixture will be fairly thin. Turn off heat.

Put fillets in an ovenproof baking dish or skillet, preferably nonstick, and spoon half the sauce on top. Broil until sauce bubbles and begins to brown, then spoon remaining amount over fish. Continue to broil, adjusting heat or rack position if sauce or fish is browning too quickly, until fish is just cooked through. Serve immediately.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Best Vegetable - Brown Butter Rhubarb Bars





Things are getting exciting at the Farmer's Market. English peas, pea shoots, bright green asparagus and purple potatoes, Meyer lemons, and best of all, rhubarb.

Rhubarb is by far my favorite vegetable. It might not be a surprise to you, but it's a cousin to celery (only rhubarb is so much better than celery.)

I'm constantly searching for new recipes to use it in. Last year, I topped a piece of salmon with it. It was a nice and unexpected sweet tart contrast to the rich and buttery fish.

What follows is one of those recipes that I've been waiting a long time to make. We visited Big Sur in November of last year, and had a fantastic breakfast at the Big Sur Bakery. I poured through a copy of their cookbook over our breakfast pizza and freshly baked bread, and stopped once I turned the page to this recipe. I promptly bought the cookbook, and I've been waiting for rhubarb season in order to try these Rhubarb Brown Butter Bars. Sometimes, every single thing about a certain recipe speaks to you, and you know that there's no way the recipe can miss.

I'm happy to report that that is indeed the case with this recipe.

I adapted it slightly, substituting lemons for blood oranges. If you're not a fan of rhubarb, you could substitute raspberries, strawberries, even plums or cherries. It's totally adaptable. I made two batches of the rhubarb jam, and strained the syrup off of the first batch, to reserve for rhubarb cocktails (priorities.)


Brown Butter Rhubarb Bars
adapted from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

For the Jam

1 cup sugar
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
4 rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 vanilla bean

For the Crust

1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups flour


For the Brown Butter Filling

3 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
zest of 2 lemons
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp flour
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp butter

Begin by making the rhubarb jam. Combine the sugar, pulp of the vanilla bean and pod and lemon juice and zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the rhubarb, and cook over medium until the rhubarb begins to falls apart and the mixture is syrupy, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375 and start the crust.
Put a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat and add the butter to brown it, whisking often, until the milk solids separate from the butter and it starts to smell rich and nutty. About 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl and stick in the freezer for half an hour, until solid.

Mix the powdered sugar and flour together in a medium bowl. Once the butter is solid, cut it into small cubes and mix it into the flour-sugar mixture using your hands. Combine until the mixture comes together into a crumbly dough. don't over mix. Press the dough into the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 pan. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove to cool, but leave the oven on at 375.

While the crust is cooling, make the filling. Whisk together the eggs, lemon zest, flour, and sugar and set aside. Spit and scrape the pulp and pod of the vanilla bean into a small saucepan. Add the butter and brown in the same manner as with the crust, then pour it into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Remove the vanilla pod.

Pour half of the brown butter filling over the crust. Drop spoonfuls of jam over the filling and gently spread it evenly (reserving about 1/4 of the jam). Pour the remaining brown butter filling over the jam. Using a spoon, drop small dollops of the remaining jam randomly over the top of the bars, then bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the filling puffs into a golden-brown color.

Let the pan cool completely on a wire rack, then cut into squares to serve.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recovery - Chana Masala




I'm currently in recovery from a meal.

It's not what you might think. Certainly nothing bad or upsetting. This is the good kind of recovery. The kind that comes from delicious food, wonderful company and a bit (just a bit) of over-indulgence.

Guilty as charged.

As a belated birthday gift, Leah and Brian gave me the gift every food-obsessed person dreams of. The gift of Thomas Kellar. A trip to his restaurant Ad Hoc in Napa. The Ad Hoc of fried chicken fame. It's a family style restaurant that specializes in comfort food. I've wanted to go for years.

We decided to make a weekend of it, squeezing in a lovely hotel and a fantastic day of wine tasting prior to dinner. I planned ahead, and did my best to keep my stomach empty (except for wine of course) on the day of the dinner. A small breakfast, some tahbouli for lunch, and that was it. I wanted to have plenty of room.

In retrospect, I should have skipped all food prior on the day of. What came to the dinner table was a salad of French Laundry garden greens with green garlic dressing, radishes and torn croutons, fresh bread, Seared Pork Belly with Tomato Marmalade and a perfectly Poached Egg, Pork Rack with figs, potatoes and jus, a cheese course of Nicasio Valley cheese with Red Pepper jelly, and Panna Cotta with macerated Strawberries and Shortbread Twill.

Oh, did I mention the wine pairing for each course?

As I said. I'm in recovery.

We left the table having consumed nearly an entire pig. Stuffed. We practically rolled back to the hotel. My stomach hasn't quite recovered.

It was an amazing meal.

As part of my recovery efforts, I'm trying to stick to a couple weeks of mainly vegetarian cooking. Whole grains, vegetables and fruits. In that vein, I decided to break out what's been a recent favorite in my kitchen. Chana Masala. Something I attempted a few weeks ago, and was amazed to discover, is incredibly easy to make. It helps that it's both healthy, and extremely flavorful.

It was the first dish I cooked in my new apartment. And now it feels like home. I serve it over rice with some cucumber mint Raita on the side. Maybe some Naan if I feel like it. It's served as a great reminder that I need to incorporate more spices into my cooking. Be a little more adventurous, and not just stick with garlic and lemon (like I most often do). Just a hint of spice can really transform a dish and seem to heighten your skills as a cook. You'll be amazed at how quickly it comes together, and how delicious it tastes.


Chana Masala
adapted from Orangette

olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp garam masala
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 28-ounce can diced or whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
1 tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish
A pinch of cayenne, or to taste
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6-8 tbs plain yogurt, optional
lemon wedges, optional

Coat the bottom of a saute pan or dutch oven with olive oil. Heat to medium. Add the onions and sautee slowly until they start to carmelize. Stir occassionally, but leave them alone from time to time to really set. This will take 25-30 minutes, maybe more. You're looking for a dark caramel color. The onions should even be charred in some spots. This is what will develop the flavor, so have patience and courage to let them do their thing in the pan!

Once the onions are caramelized, reduce the heat to low and add the garlic. If the pan is a bit dry, add a bit more olive oil. Sautee for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the spices (cumin through cardamom seeds) and fry in the pan, stirring constantly for another 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup of water to deglaze the pan and loosen any of the browning and flavor from the bottom. Sautee until the water has evaporated. Add the juice from the tomatoes, and then the tomatoes themselves. If the tomatoes are whole, crush with a fork in the pan. Add salt.

Increase the heat to medium, and let the pot come to a boil. Once it begins to boil, reduce heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne to taste. Simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally until it starts to reduce and thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning to your preference. Add the chickpeas, stirring well and cook for low for another 5 minutes. Add 2 tbsp of water and cook another 5 minutes. Repeat once more, making sure the water is absorbed. This helps to concentrate the flavor and make the chickpeas more tender. Taste again for seasoning.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the cilantro and yogurt. Serve over rice with Raita and lemon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Something New - Flat Iron Steak with Red Wine Sauce

Oh, hi there.

It's been awhile. The truth is, I've been cheating on food with furniture. I recently moved into a new apartment, and I'm enjoying laying out my space, decorating, and scouring flea markets looking for those "can't do without them" pieces for my place. It's the first time since college that I've really had some room to spread out. It's quite the upgrade from my previous very tiny studio. I'm loving it. Here's a picture, a work in progress, but it feels like home:


My kitchen feels ridiculously spacious. And I'm thrilled to say that I've actually been cooking a lot, finally! My first week in the new place, I attacked a Chana Masala recipe with absolute gusto. The results were pretty fantastic (recipe forthcoming) but the most amazing thing was to be able to move about in the kitchen space! So different than the 4x5 space I was working with before! I took my time when putting things away in the new place, thinking about where I would stand to chop, where things should be placed to make for economical movement, and ease in preparation when it comes to food. It's made a huge difference in my cooking. Everything just seems so much easier now!

And I finally have a dining room table. My boyfriend and I sat down to breakfast there this weekend, and we remarked that it seemed like it had been such a long time since we'd actually sat down to eat at a dining table in the place we lived. Until now, neither he nor I had had a table, so it's a welcome, adult-like change.

I've now hosted a total of 3 dinner parties in my first month here. Very impressive, if I do say so myself. Tomorrow night will be the 4th, for the Sedar dinner. Something I'm looking forward to celebrating with friends. It feels right to be hosting it at my place, to share stories, partaking in a ritual in this new space, eating, drinking and celebrating together. I feel like there's a lot to be thankful for.

Until last weekend, It had been a long time since I'd been able to hit up my farmer's market. I've had a lot going on on the weekends, but it felt so good to be able to have the time to cook, the time to walk up and down the stands in the sunshine, to have my pick of the best of Spring's arrival.

I picked up a gorgeous flat iron steak from Prather Ranch, and I paired it with an adapted version of a red wine sauce that I'd made once before. Paired with kale and rice, it definitely hit the spot. It's not often that I make a pan sauce to go with a steak, but every time I do, I wonder why I don't do it more. It's such a great pairing, and so easy to do. A no fuss and delicious dinner.




Flat Iron Steak with Red Wine Sauce
adapted from Giada De Laurentis

2 small to medium sized flat iron steaks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine

Bring the steaks to room temperature. Heat oven to 350. Next, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. Sear on medium high for 2 minutes. Lower heat to medium, flip and sear another 4-5 minutes on the other side. Put the steaks into the pre-heated oven for 2-4 minutes more. Test for desired doneness. When done, remove from the oven, tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt. Add the garlic and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in the wine. Simmer until the sauce reduces by half, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, and whisk into the sauce to combine. Season the sauce, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Serve spooned over steaks, with rice or potatoes on the side.