Thursday, December 29, 2011

zoe francois & jeff hertzberg's basic french boule

When I was visiting my parents last week, my mother and I got into a conversation about bread. More specifically, about the lack of good bread available to my mother in La Jolla. It sounds kind of like a dubious problem to have- like, how important can bread really be?

But if you love bread, you know the the chasm that separates good bread from bad. Good bread is deeply satisfying; bad bread is just depressing.

I can get pretty good bread in San Francisco. I say "pretty good" because even though there are great bakeries here (Acme, Tartine, etc.) none of them are within close walking distance of my apartment, and as a result, I rarely visit them. Acme bread is now sold widely in grocery stores, but you aren't getting it fresh out of the oven the way you do at bakeries in Paris. There are few things more enjoyable than walking into a bakery, buying a baguette hot from the oven, and then immediately tearing off the end to eat. I miss that about Paris all the time. With that thought in mind, I decided that it was time to take action.

Armed with Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois's Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I set out to make a basic French boule. After fretting over the whether or not the dough was rising enough and worrying about  the general wetness of the dough (too wet? too dry??), I eventually stuck the damn thing in the oven and crossed my fingers. And...


Pretty, no? It was a bit dense (I'll use a bit more water next time, since I used bread flour, which is higher in protein than the all-purpose flour the recipe recommended) but over all, not bad. Not bad at all. I can't wait to continue experimenting. The recipe is great in that it has you make enough dough for four loaves (or two, because I halved it) and then store the dough for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Bread on demand! It almost feels like Paris.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

days of celebration

I've been away a while, mainly due to my aforementioned computer issues. But thanks to my dad, I am now the owner of a breathtakingly sleek new computer, upon which I am typing at this very moment. A Christmas wish come true! I'm back! 

Computer aside, it was a lovely Christmas. The weather was positively hot and I got to spend all kinds of time with my family, wrapping presents, decorating the tree, reading aloud from P.G. Woodhouse's "Jeeves and the Yuletide Spirit", etc. 

{nutcracker collection}

{Christmas morning}

{Christmas dinner: duck confit with beets & beet greens}

I got back to San Francisco on the 26th and then Daniel and I had our own Christmas on the 27th (I may have left some Christmas shopping until after Christmas...) I have to say our tree looked very pretty and it was nice to have our own little celebration in the apartment.

{Christmas #2}

So many days of celebration.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

excuses, excuses.

I'm afraid I've been very bad this Christmas season when it comes to posting here. Apart from being insanely busy, my trusty old laptop has been slowly grinding to a halt, making it very difficult for me to upload photos- and really, what fun is a blog without photos?

Excuses, excuses.

Over the weekend, I attended a Hanukkhah party, two Christmas parties, and a matinee showing of the Nutcracker (glorious, just glorious). It was all both delightful and tiring (all those cocktails! all that food!) and I find myself looking forward very much to a few days back in La Jolla with my family.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season to the fullest. I hope to be back soon, and more often, with pictures of Christmas revelry to share. Happy holidays, y'all!

Friday, December 16, 2011

one year ago

One year ago today, I moved from Paris to San Francisco. I've been thinking about Paris a lot recently, mostly because it's Christmas time and Paris is so lovely at Christmas. I'm not sure I can think of another city that really compares. I miss it all the time, but I'm also very happy to be back in California. It's been a wonderful year and I'm grateful for every minute of it.

Image: Oh Happy Day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

have a piece of cheese

Have you ever seen the movie Gigi? There's a scene in the movie where Maurice Chevalier offers up a cheese plate to his friend who is outraged over some ridiculous personal issue. My family has appropriated this phrase and now uses it whenever one of us is Stressed Out. Right now, the Stressed Out Family Member is me and my father is the one proffering figurative cheeses.

But tonight, I took him literally. When I got home from work feeling jittery and irritable, I pulled out some Delice d'Argental and made myself a little cheese plate. 

It wasn't half bad.

Friday, December 9, 2011

party season

Christmas party season is upon us. In preparation, I'm getting a (much needed) haircut after work tonight and hunting for a festive party dress this weekend. I'm hoping we can make a little trip down to Union Square at some point on either Saturday or Sunday morning before throngs of shoppers descend on the downtown area. We shall see.

In the meanwhile, here are some links for your amusement:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

o christmas tree

We had friends over for lamb stew and Christmas cookie decorating this evening. We got our Christmas tree on Tuesday (something of an ordeal) and I've been making batches of cookie dough for almost a week. I made the stew last night after dinner. All in all, it made for a very easy evening of entertaining.


{camel tree ornament from Christmas 2009)

{raspberry beer}

{zebra cookies}

{figgy pudding cookies}

My favorite cookies were the figgy pudding cookies I found on Food52. The brandy sugar frosting was seriously amazing. We listened to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack on repeat and drank cider with apple brandy. This time of year truly is miraculous.

Monday, December 5, 2011

out of the city

Had a nice quiet weekend out of the city. The weather was beautiful and we spent Saturday morning walking around Yountville with Will. If you want to make friends, take a Weimaraner on a walk. Five people must have come up to us at different points to gush over the dog.


{French Laundry winter garden}

{Washington Street}

{Oakville Grocery}

{Poinsettias in Yountville}

Downtown Yountville was decorated for Christmas and really quite lovely. Always a treat to spend some time up there.

Friday, December 2, 2011

december is here

This evening after work, Daniel and I are driving up to Napa to housesit for his parents while they're out of town. I love housesitting! It's like a free vacation. Plus, his parents have a dog and although I don't trust him in the kitchen (this dog once ate a bag of raw, unpeeled carrots that were left in a plastic bag on the kitchen counter) I like taking him for walks very much. Their house also has a wood burning stove in the living room, which makes for exceptionally cozy reading and tea drinking. Aside from that, we have a reservation at Ad Hoc and tentative plans to go wine tasting. And we're definitely getting a Christmas tree. December is here, and it's glorious.

Anyway, here few links to begin the weekend. Hope everyone has some lovely plans!

Monday, November 28, 2011

around the holidays

Back from a wonderful Thanksgiving trip to San Diego. So much food! So much wine! I've been terrible about posting in here lately, but somehow, at this busy time of year, I've mostly left my camera sitting in the corner while I was busy enjoying myself. These things tend to happen around the holidays. Anyway, I'm back in San Francisco now and just starting to get warmed up to celebrate the next big holiday. I don't think it'll take too much effort- our neighbors across the street just put up their Christmas tree and I can see the lights from our window while I sit on the couch looking at cookie recipes in Martha Stewart's Baking cookbook. 

It's pretty nice. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

thanksgiving, napa-style

On Saturday, we had an early Thanksgiving in Napa with Daniel's parents and some friends. Because of all the eating that was planned, we took a late afternoon walk in the vineyards.

And then there was dinner.

It was a wonderful evening of food and wine.

Tomorrow we leave for San Diego first thing in the morning to spend a few days with my family. If I'm not back here before Thursday, I hope everyone has a marvelous Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2011

a pre-thanksgiving weekend

Thanksgiving! It's here, it's here!

Well...not quite. But it might as well be because I'm going to not one but two Thanksgiving dinners this weekend. I'm especially happy about this since I missed Thanksgivings 2009 and 2010 because I was in Paris. I celebrated the holiday with other American expats, but it wasn't quite the same- how could it be? So this year, I'm particularly looking forward to the festivities.

Tonight, I'm having dinner with neighbors who live just down the street and then tomorrow Daniel and I are driving up to Napa to have dinner with his family, since he's coming down to San Diego to spend Thanksgiving with my family. I'll be making this for both dinners  this weekend and I'm crossing my fingers that it turns out well. The holiday season is upon us- isn't that wonderful?

photo by Amanda Jane Jones

Thursday, November 17, 2011

le croissant du jour

All of life is a foreign country.

                                                                                          -Jack Kerouac

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

for myself alone

Tonight was one of those nights where I cooked for myself alone. 

{kabocha squash}

{sliced, with olive oil, pepper, salt and fresh thyme}

{kabocha squash salad}

Normally I don't make salads for dinner. Daniel wrinkles his nose and looks at me as though I've served him rabbit food when I try, so I've mostly given it up- but not when I'm cooking for myself. When I was growing up, I thought the word salad was synonymous with lettuce. Now that I'm older and a little wiser (when it comes to salads, at least) I've realized how versatile salads can be. Not just greens, but all sorts of delicious treats that, if the salad is made right, play off one another to create a highly satisfying dish. It's a beautiful thing.

Kabocha squash salad with dandelion greens, pancetta, hazelnuts and pecorino romano, adapted from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques

1/2 cup hazelnuts
6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 lbs kabocha squash
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2/3 lbs pancetta
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
8oz dandelion greens
1/4 cups sliced shallots
1/4 lb pecorino

Preheat oven to 375 and toast hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they smell nutty. 
While nuts are toasting, cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place squash, cut side down on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to remove the peel. Slice the squash into 3/4 inch wedges.
When hazelnuts are done, remove from oven and turn the heat to 425 
Toss the squash wedges with 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, some pepper, and thyme. Place the squash flat on a baking sheet (I lined 2 baking sheets with tin foil and sprayed the foil with Pam) and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until tender.
Meanwhile, cut pancetta into 2/3 inch slices. In a small bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. 
Place cleaned dandelion greens in a large bowl. Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 1 minute. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until it is brown but still tender. Lower heat to medium, add the shallots and stir to combine. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vinaigrette to warm. Add the squash and the contents of the pan to the dandelion greens. Gently toss and taste for seasoning. 
Arrange the salad on a plate and use a vegetable peeler to shave some pecorino over the salad. Add hazelnuts.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

good to the grain

I love cookbooks. I also love checking out cookbooks from the library. Today, for instance, I went for an afternoon stroll and picked up Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain- I'd requested it at the Western Addition Library a few weeks ago and it had finally arrived.  I'm not much of a baker, but that's why the library offers me a perfect solution. I'd heard such glowing reviews of this book that I wanted to get a peek at it myself. It's a baking book with a bunch of recipes using whole-grain flours like barley and amaranth. Intriguing, no? Well, if you can consider muffin ingredients intriguing.

Sweet Potato Muffins from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

3/4 lbs sweet potatoes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/2 stick cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
6 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment and roast the sweet potatoes for 1-1 1/2 hours until they're tender when pierced with a fork. Set aside to cool, then peel and leave whole.
Lower the oven to 350. Rub muffin tins with butter
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter. In a small owl, whisk together the buttermilk and yogurt.
Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer. Attach the paddle and mix on high speed until the butter and sugars are light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Ass the egg and half of the sweet potatoes and mix on medium speed for about 1 minute, until thoroughly combined.
On low speed add the dry ingredients and mix until partly combined. Add the buttermilk mixture and mix until combined. Add the chopped dates, separating them over the surface of the batter so they don't clump together. Add the remaining sweet potatoes and mix until barely combined; there should be pockets of sweet potatoes in the batter.
Scoop the batter into 10 muffin tins using a spoon. The batter should be slightly mounded above the edge.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes,rotating the pans halfway through. The muffins are ready when their bottoms  are dark golden in color. Take the tins out of the oven, twist each muffin out, and place it on its side in the cup to cool. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

thursday, and a poem

I've been feeling a little melancholy this week, a little off-center. Sometimes this happens as the days get shorter and colder. Time seems to be dragging but at the same time it's disappearing too quickly. Not much to offer here today, so instead I thought I'd share a poem by April Bernard, who has a way with pensive, lovely words.
That's What I Said
It pricks the arms like poison,
knowing that some things, once chosen,
are yours and that meanwhile the night comes
much too soon this time of year.
There are things you will not be allowed to say.
You think them anyway, until they become you.
The two boys in shirt sleeves are in the street
again, skateboards balking
where the sidewalk buckles in geologic fault.
They seem mirthless, as they yell and fall
and the cold mist tries to veil them from passing cars.

Yesterday’s storm slammed the leaves to the ground.
Hiss, hiss, the tires go, against the scraps
of piano music, not Chopin today, from upstairs.
Someone tried to understand you once
and he’s dead, though not from trying.
Clunk, clunk, goes the landlady’s daughter,
trying out her new boots on the back stairs.

Things have narrowed to a point
and no gorgeous diction can get you out of it.
There’s just the flats of your feet,
willing each new step out of empty pockets
where change, keys, pens once rattled.
You threw them into the bushes on the next block
and then came home with the grey linings hanging
from your jacket like socks.
You forgot to check the mail
and when you opened the door
you brought the night in with you.
                                        - April Bernard

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Sometimes, like on Wednesday nights, it's nice to be a homebody. 


This evening, I watched X-Men: First Class in my pajamas and then made granola, and I loved it. It's already been a long week and my eyes are feeling heavy and ready for sleep. My apartment is warm and smells like cinnamon. It's not at all a bad way to end a Wednesday.

My granola recipe

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
pinch fleur de sel (to be sprinkled over mixture before baking)

1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/3 cup chopped raisins

Heat oven to 375 degrees and line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl EXCEPT the dried fruit. Spread the mixture over the baking sheet and toast in oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The granola should turn golden brown, but watch carefully towards the 30 minute mark so as not to burn it. Remove the granola from the oven and leave to cool for 30 minutes, stirring again, and then add in the dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container in the freezer to keep the granola crisp for up to 1 month.

Monday, November 7, 2011

earthquake kits

This weekend was spent doing a lot of responsible, grown up activities. We went to the garden center to buy herbs. We reorganized our kitchen shelves. We went to the Container Store. We made earthquake kits.

{my earthquake kit}

Living in San Francisco, I've experienced my fair share of minor earthquakes but I never got around to putting together an emergency earthquake kit before. I think it's probably because as soon as I start to think about the idea of a terrible earthquake, I completely freak myself out and then quickly try to put it out of my mind. But after talking about it with Daniel last week, we decided that it was wantonly irresponsible to be so unprepared, so on Sunday we set about assembling our kits- ones for our cars and then one for the apartment.

This is what I put in the kit I'll be keeping in the trunk of my car:
  • Swiss army knife
  • flashlight
  • batteries
  • first aid kit
  • energy bars (3)
  • energy gel
  • toilet paper
  • waterproof matches
  • socks
  • water bottle
  • thermal blanket
  • parachute cord
  • heat packs
  • fire starters
  • iodine tablets
  • liquid soap
  • 2 gallons of water
  • 1 trash bag
We looked around in REI and saw that they had a couple of different emergency kits that you could buy, but they were really expensive and we weren't sure that all the things they included were necessary. Instead, I got a little plastic box with a handle at the Container Store and filled it with the aforementioned items. Everything packed up very neatly into the smallish box (except the big jug of water) and I do feel a bit more at peace knowing that I have these things organized and stored together in one place. I've heard it's a good idea to have some cash as well as copies of important documents and we also have a hand held crank radio, but all of those things we would probably add to the house kit rather than leave in our cars. Still, I'd be curious if anyone had any other suggestions for essentials to include in our kits? 

Friday, November 4, 2011

cozy friday

I've been rather lax about posting in here this week. Among other things, my parents have been in town for the past few days, so I've been busy spending time with them. As for this weekend, the forecast is predicting rain, so I'm predicting a lot of tea and warm clothes.

Here are a few links to start off the weekend. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

our halloween

It's sort of anticlimactic, having Halloween fall on a Monday. I feel as though I already thoroughly celebrated the holiday over the weekend and have nothing left to give now that actual Halloween is here. On Saturday, we celebrated a friend's birthday in full costume (our little group included a banana, a ghostbuster, David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, a luchador, Fielding Melish of Woody Allen's Bananas, Frida Kahlo, and Angela Chase from My So Called Life. Colorful, to say the least.) On Sunday, we discovered that our jack-o'-lanterns had sprouted thick coats of fuzzy black mold all over their wizened interiors, so in a fit of disgust we threw them out after only two days. Sort of sad, but I had no desire to watch my apartment fill with evil mold spores. In the evening, we watched Rosemary's Baby because I was too impatient to wait until Monday. Danny despised it, but I quite liked it- mainly because of Mia Farrow's hair and wardrobe.

So no big Halloween plans, but I'm quite alright with that. I hope everyone else is equally pleased with their plans- or lack thereof.

Friday, October 28, 2011

have a spooky weekend

Pumpkin carving last night was so much fun...almost like a flashback to childhood, except with wine. Can you guess which one of the pumpkins above is mine?

In other news, here are a few vaguely Halloween themed links to start off the weekend...

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Unsurprisingly, things have been very busy for yours truly ever since I got back from vacation. It's not a bad thing, I just haven't done much worth mentioning, blog-wise. I made some very average eggplant curry for dinner, and some better than average granola I've been eating for breakfast. I worked on pas de bourree in dance class. And I watched Frankenweenie on TV the other night to try to jump-start the Halloween spirit.

Tonight, we're carving pumpkins with friends (bonus: they have a black cat). It's going to be awesome. I've always favored pumpkin faces with big sharp teeth and mean squinty eyes, but it's been a few years since I did any pumpkin carving (last year, I was on a plane from Milan to Paris on Halloween...the year before, a flight from Paris to San Francisco. Rough life, I know.)

Looking forward to a more Halloweenish experience this year.

Photo via daniella marie

Monday, October 24, 2011

sunday suppers

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to ordering Suzanne Goin's cookbook Sunday Suppers at Lucques which I've been coveting for...well, a long time. I love that it's organized by season and then arranged into menus.

Last night we had our friends Dave and Lindsay over for dinner. We had:

Onion, mushroom and goat cheese on puff pastry
Arugula with champagne shallot vinaigrette, pomegranate, and shaved parmesan
Cumin rubbed cornish game hen
Roasted butternut squash with sage hazelnut pesto
Hazelnut brown butter cake with sauteed pears and vanilla ice cream

The cake was a recipe from Sunday Suppers and it was lovely- maybe even my favorite part of the meal. Lightly sweet and richly flavored with toasted hazelnuts, it was just my kind of dessert.

hazelnut-brown butter cake with sauteed pears from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin

5oz (1 heaping cup) blanched hazelnuts 
1/2 lb unsalted butter, plus butter for cake pan
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 extra large egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F
Toast hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 12-15 minutes, until golden and fragrant

Brush the bottom of a 10-inch cake pan* with melted butter and line with parchment paper

Place the remaining butter in a saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the saucepan, the add the bean. Cook the butter and vanilla over medium heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the butter browns. Set aside to cool and remove vanilla bean.

Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners' sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add flower and pulse to combine

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed until the mixture forms stiff peaks (4-5 minutes). Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites a third at a time.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 1 hour**
Cool on rack for 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

*I used a 9-inch pan and it was fine.
**My cake only needed 40 minutes in the oven.

storm king

Have you heard of Storm King?

I hadn't until recently, but while I was in New York, I decided I had to make the trip out to see it. Luckily, my aunt Roseanne said she'd be interested in going as well, so on Thursday we drove out to Cornwall, NY.

Friends, it was breathtaking. Having seen it in the fall, I can't imagine going at any other time of year. The colors of the leaves, the dramatic clouds, the sharp blue of the October sky- it was incredible. The sculptures are are fantastic, but the most impressive thing- to my mind- was how they worked with the landscape. Just stunning. 
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