Thursday, October 31, 2013

happy halloween

Happy Halloween! This year I'm celebrating by making a pumpkin-based dinner and watching the Nightmare Before Christmas at Daniel's house. Crossing my fingers we see some trick-or-treaters!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

martha stewart's pumpkin bread

Monday afternoon, I came home from the library, put the kettle on for tea, started up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on my computer, and begin pulling down ingredients for Martha Stewart's pumpkin bread. There wasn't really any need for me to be baking pumpkin bread- after a fairly gluttonous weekend, I probably should have been making some sort of vegetable consomme- but it just sounded like the perfect way to spend a gray, windy afternoon.

I made a few changes from Ms. Stewart's recipe, using cloves instead of allspice and adding a bit of chocolate, mostly because I had some leftover from making banana bread earlier this month. All in all, I think it turned out quite well- moist and not too sweet. The chocolate turned out to be a welcome addition, adding another dimension to the loaf. A very nice way to start Halloween week.

Pumpkin Chocolate Bread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/8 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cups buttermilk
2 oz chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F and coat a 1lb loaf pan with butter (or in my case, cake-release). Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt together. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree and the two sugars with a hand blender for about 2 minutes. Add in the eggs and oil, mixing for another 2 minutes. Add in half the flour, mixing until just incorporated, then the buttermilk, then the remainder of the flour. Fold in the chopped chocolate and pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, for about 55-60 minutes. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then remove from pan and allow to cool completely.

Monday, October 28, 2013

exploits in auburn

On Saturday, Daniel and I made the drive out to Auburn to visit some friends who recently moved out there from San Francisco. Our plans were simple: see their new place and carve pumpkins for Halloween. Also, pick up some apples and bake Teddie's Apple Cake. 

I have long cherished the dream of going apple picking but since we were a bit tight on timing, we ended up stopping at Machado Orchard to buy some already-picked apples. Pink Ladies, to be precise.

After picking up apples and pumpkins, we headed back to our friends' place to relax on their deck looking out through a canopy of oaks while drinking pumpkin beer. Joanna made a lovely stew with dumplings for dinner and afterwards, we carved our Halloween gourds. I carved a crescent moon and stars; Daniel made a tiny fisherman catching a huge fish. Joanna carved a dog's paw and Morgan carved a crab. We put the jack-'o-lanterns on the deck and turned off all the lights. 

Afterwards, Joanna and I (but mostly Joanna) made Jess's version of Teddie's Apple Cake. I peeled and cored some of the apples we'd bought at Machado's and Joanna whizzed oil and sugar together in her brand new stand mixer. Morgan cracked a bunch of fresh walnuts. We baked it all up and before 11am the next morning, managed to take down the entire cake. 

That there was the last piece. I liked it after dinner with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but I liked it even more the next day for breakfast with a cup of coffee.

It was a lovely, relaxing trip and neither Daniel nor I wanted to leave. We consoled ourselves by stopping at Ikeda's for hamburgers and pie on our way home.* It was such a good weekend.

*We are definitely going to need to fast for maybe the next month or so.

Monday, October 21, 2013

it flew by

This weekend simply flew by. I spent the first half of it driving a golf cart around the Stanford campus (don't ask) and the second half playing with dogs and babies and eating quite a lot. Now it's Monday and I'm playing some serious catch up. Hope your week is off to a good start.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


I was up early today (after sleeping something like 16 hours yesterday- apparently I've reached the age where it takes me two full days to recover from a night of dancing and drinking champagne) and off to run errands well before 9am. It's a beautiful fall day here in Palo Alto and I was inspired to buy a pretty, autumn-colored orchid for my apartment when I stopped at the grocery store. I love October.

Monday, October 14, 2013

mo and jo get married

On Saturday, Daniel and I drove out to Pleasant Hill for our friends' wedding. It was beautiful. Congratulations again Morgan and Joanna!


Friday, October 11, 2013

nigel slater's chocolate muscovado banana cake

Last weekend, Daniel and I drove to Oakland to meet up with our friends Morgan and Joanna for dinner at Camino. It so happens that Morgan and Joanna are getting married this Saturday and Joanna confided to me that she had recently had a dream in which she carried a loaf of banana bread down the aisle instead of a bouquet.


So last night I decided to make the bride-to-be some banana bread. Or rather, some chocolate muscovado banana cake, baked in a loaf tin.

Congratulations, Morgan and Joanna!

Chocolate Muscovado Banana Cake
250 grams all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
125 grams softened butter
235 grams muscovado sugar
4 very ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
100 grams dark chocolate

Heat the oven to 350F and line a standard 1lb. loaf pan with parchment paper or spray with a non-stick cooking spray. Sift the flour and baking powder together. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, beating the eggs in one at a time until fully incorporated. Mash up the bananas with a fork in a small bowl, leaving them slightly lumpy. Add the vanilla to the bananas. Chop the chocolate reasonably finely and fold it into the butter along with the bananas. Carefully mix in the flour and baking powder. Put the batter into the loaf pan and bake for one hour, rotating the pan after 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to sit on a rack for 15 minutes before removing the cake from the pan and allowing to cool completely.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

marcella hazan's chicken cacciatora

I can't remember a time when I didn't know Marcella Hazan's name. Growing up, my father referenced her cookbooks frequently and Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking was one of the first cookbooks I ever owned- a gift from my mother. When I heard she had passed away last week, I pulled Essentials down from my shelf and started flipping through it. It's a wonderful book- direct and no-nonsense. In following the recipes, simple, high quality ingredients are transformed into nuanced, delicious meals in a way that feels borderline magical- see Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce.

On Friday, I was up at Daniel's house and was looking to make something for dinner that would be both a satisfying end-of-the-week meal and relatively simple to throw together since I wanted to spend some time sitting out on the deck with a cocktail. I settled on Marcella Hazan's chicken cacciatora. Ms. Hazan offers two versions of chicken cacciatora- one that involves coating the chicken pieces in flour before browning and includes carrots and celery, and another that is even simpler, with no other vegetables except for onions and tomatoes. I didn't have any carrots on hand, so I went with the simpler version. The recipe comes together like a dream- basically, you just fling the ingredients into a pot and let them bubble away. In under an hour, I had a pot of delicately cooked chicken in rich tomato sauce. The onions and garlic sort of melted into the tomatoes- it was fantastic. We served it up with slices of toasty bread and a big arugula salad, raising a glass to Marcella Hazan. Daniel ate three pieces of chicken and used bread to wipe his plate clean while making appreciative noises about the sauce. This one's a winner. 

Chicken Cacciatora, New Version
3 lb chicken cut into pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup onion sliced very thin
2 cloves of garlic, sliced very thin
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups fresh, ripe tomatoes skinned raw with a peeler

Wash the chicken in cold water and pat dry. Place a saute pan with a lid or dutch oven large enough to accommodate the chicken pieces without touching over medium heat and add the oil and onions. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until translucent then add the garlic and chicken pieces, skin side down. Cook until skin is golden brown then flip to the other side and repeat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add wine and let simmer until half has evaporated then add the tomatoes, turning down the heat to allow a low simmer. Remove the chicken breasts and set aside, leaving only the dark meat in the pan. Put on the lid, leaving it slightly askew and cook for 40 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally and adding a few tablespoons of water if the liquid in the pan gets low. After 40 minutes, add the chicken breasts back to the pan and cook for another 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

just because

I have a bunch of dahlias in a vase on the table in my entryway, courtesy of Daniel. They're quite pretty and have added some color to what was otherwise a rather gray, plodding Tuesday.

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