Saturday, November 30, 2013


Thankful to have spent a lovely few days at home with my family for the holiday. It's always a treat to spend time in La Jolla, taking walks along the cliffs and enjoying the glorious weather. I have so much to be grateful for and taking some time to appreciate that is always worthwhile. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

deb perelman's cranberry-orange breakfast buns

We celebrated an early Thanksgiving in Napa with Daniel's family on Saturday. It was a lovely evening of champagne and delicious food (you can never have too many Thanksgiving dinners, in my opinion) and because a group of us were planning to sleep over at the house, I decided that I'd make sticky buns for breakfast the morning after. A few weeks back, I saw a recipe for cranberry-orange breakfast buns on Smitten Kitchen and had been waiting for an appropriate occasion to make them because they looked so beautiful and seasonally appropriate. This was that occasion.

I approached the recipe with a modicum of trepidation- sticky buns always seemed a bit finicky, with all of the kneading and the rises and the rolling, etc. But really, the dough came together amazingly easily. I didn't have a stand mixer at my disposal so I just attacked it with a wooden spoon and then kneaded it by hand for a few minutes. There was something really satisfying about kneading a ball of plump, orange-scented dough. I let it rise on the counter for a little over two hours and then rolled it out and spread the brown sugar cranberry filling over it.

I rolled the whole thing up, sliced it into twelve pieces, put the slices into a buttered pan, and put the pan into the refrigerator to slow-rise overnight. When I pulled the pan out in the morning to bake the buns, a pool of cranberry juice had formed at the bottom; when the buns baked, the juice burbled up and sort of caramelized around the bottom of the buns. It was glorious.

They came out of the oven beautifully puffed up and golden, with the cranberry swirl showing through. The icing was a simple powdered sugar and orange juice mixture that I poured over the buns just before serving.

The breakfast buns were gorgeous- but to be totally and completely honest, I enjoyed making them more than I enjoyed eating them. They were very sweet and I found the cranberry to be a bit...much. But I think that I may have been the only one who felt that way. Everyone else finished their buns and Daniel and his father each had two - so I'm considering them a success.

They were so much fun to make and I liked the base dough a lot, so I'm already thinking about ways to tweak the recipe- maybe apple cinnamon, another option suggested by Ms. Perelman. If you're curious, the recipe can be found here

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Yesterday, our family dog Nigel died. He lived to a ripe old age and I'm grateful he was at home, with my parents; still, I admit I cried when I heard the news. We'll all miss him and his outsized presence very much.

Friday, November 22, 2013

holiday break

Hello Friday! I'm officially on vacation- this morning I headed into San Francisco to meet my mother for an early breakfast at The Mill (the toast above was their country bread with peanut butter, honey, and sea salt) followed by a visit to the de Young to see the Hockney exhibit (I have to admit- we both hated it) and a bit of shopping before meeting up with my dad for lunch at Campton Place. Then I went and got a haircut before heading up to Napa for dinner. Basically the nicest day ever and a fantastic start to the holiday break. Back soon with some pictures from our early Thanksgiving in Napa!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

it's-almost-vacation lunch

Yesterday we had the first rain of the season. This is good- it's been desperately dry up in these parts- and to be honest, I kind of enjoy gray, rainy days where it's perfectly acceptable to stay inside in an oversize sweater and house slippers. This is how you know I'm a born and bred Californian- rain is a novelty.

Anyway, I love that it feels like fall and that we are so close to Thanksgiving. One of the real perks, in my opinion, of being back in school is that we get such a lovely long break at Thanksgiving- in my case, ten glorious days. Daniel and I are headed up to Napa on Saturday for an early celebration with his family (I've been tasked with making a soup and brussel sprouts) and then I'm flying to San Diego on Sunday to spend the rest of the week with my family, minus my brother, who is currently galavanting around Europe. Good times. 

In the meanwhile, I have a bunch of errands and last-minute schoolwork and packing to take care of, so nothing terribly exciting to report. Instead, I offer you a picture of my humble lunch. Because I'm heading out of town for ten days, I've resisted buying groceries and have spent the past few days trying to cobble together meals from the depths of my cupboards. Lunch was made up of bits of cheese leftover from my trip to Pt. Reyes over the weekend, supplemented with nuts, olives and a few crackers. Not bad at all. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

hog island oyster co.

I've written about Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall before but I couldn't resist putting up a few pictures from the weekend. On Sunday, I drove out to Point Reyes with Kinzie, one of my closest friends from college, and two of her friends from high school. It was the perfect little day trip- we stopped at Bovine Bakery for breakfast and then drove out to do a hike along Skyline Ridge off of Limantour Road. The weather was clear and a little chilly- perfect for hiking- and when we were done, we piled back into the car and drove out to Marshall.

It's really just one of my favorite places ever. You bring a picnic (in our case, this meant lots of cheese, cured meats, a good baguette, some fruit and cookies, and of course, champagne) and buy oysters there. I've never been able to score one of the tables where you can shuck your own oysters (they book out months in advance) but I'm perfectly happy to sit back, relax, and let an experienced professional shuck oysters for me. We had a mix of raw oysters and oysters barbecued with chipotle bourbon butter- it was all terrific.

After a leisurely lunch, we basked in the sun for a while and watched the sailboats on Tomales Bay. A perfectly lovely November day. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

lemon ricotta toasts

This is not a recipe, really- it's just ingredients on toast. But I thought I'd share anyway because it makes such a nice breakfast: a split baguette, toasted, with some ricotta, a drizzle of honey and a dusting of lemon zest. I also add a pinch of flaky sea salt.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

barbara kafka's marinated eggplant

Several years ago, I visited London. I was staying with the family of a close friend in their lovely apartment near Green Park and one day found myself at a small bookshop in the neighborhood. Perusing the discount bin, I found a cookbook devoted entirely to microwaved foodstuffs. It was oddly riveting, with its terrible photos from the 1970s and recipes including microwaved bacon; ultimately I ended up purchasing it as a sort of gag gift for my friend's parents.

So I suppose you could say I'm a bit skeptical of microwave cooking- I didn't even have a microwave until I moved into the dorms and now that I do, I mostly just use it to reheat tea. But then I saw Barbara Kafka's recipe for microwaved eggplant in a soy sauce/ginger/rice vinegar marinade. I love eggplant but almost never cook it because it can be such a pain- you seemingly either have to drown it in olive oil and cook it to death or be satisfied with a spongy texture that squeaks terribly against your teeth when you bite into it. This seemed like a good alternative.

I marinated the eggplant for 45 minutes then covered it in plastic wrap and shoved it in the microwave. 10 minutes later, I pulled it out and had a look. The eggplant didn't cook terribly evenly- some pieces had softened but others remained resolutely raw. The sauce had formed an unappealing puddle at the bottom of the pan. I tasted one of the more cooked pieces and while it wasn't bad, strictly speaking, it wasn't anything special either. Perhaps the eggplants I used were too large? I don't know, but I admit I was disappointed- this recipe pretty much confirmed my dislike of microwaved food and left me with a pan of sodden vegetables.

Oh well.

Anyway, I'm headed up to San Francisco tomorrow and then on to Point Reyes over the weekend so hopefully I'll have something more satisfactory to share here soon. Happy Thursday.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

heidi swanson's chickpea stew

This may be the only soup I ever want to eat again. 

I know I said I have a hard time getting excited about soups but it seems that things may be changing. After my luck with the caldo verde last week, I decided to try my hand at making Heidi Swanson's chickpea stew. As is probably obvious given the fact that this is the second recipe from Heidi Swanson this week, I am a big fan of 101cookbooks; it's one of my favorite places to turn to for cooking inspiration because Ms. Swanson has a real gift for flavor combinations. Anyway, it was the perfect lazy recipe- everything came together in under fifteen minutes and at the end I was presented with a lush, creamy soup, elegantly flavored with saffron and sweet paprika. Friends, this soup is a revelation. 

I don't know what it is about saffron but it just makes everything unbelievably delicious. I wouldn't make this soup without it. I did, however, substitute chicken stock for vegetable- I just don't like store-bought vegetable stock that much. I think this came out just beautifully with the substitution, so I amended the recipe thusly. Also, I didn't have sweet paprika and was debating whether I could get away with using the smoked paprika I had on hand. At the end of the day, I ended up buying some sweet paprika when I was at the grocery store because I'm a total sucker when it comes to buying spices. I'm glad I did; the smoked paprika would have overwhelmed the delicate flavors at play. 

Chickpea stew, serves 4-6
few pinches of fine sea salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cups cooked chickpeas
4 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp saffron threads
3 large egg yolks, beaten
1 cup full-fat plain yogurt (I used St. Benoit's)
sweet paprika
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Heat a medium sized, heavy-bottomed pot over medium high flame. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil and cook the onions with a few pinches of salt for a few minutes until softened. Stir in the chickpeas, then add the chicken broth and garlic. Bring to simmer then remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the saffron and egg yolks together, then whisk in the yogurt. Slowly add a cup of the hot broth to the yogurt mixture, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk the yogurt mixture back into the pot of soup. Return the pot to medium heat and cook, stirring continuously for another 5-7 minutes, never allowing broth to simmer.

Serve sprinkled with paprika and chopped cilantro.

Monday, November 11, 2013

heidi swanson's sparkling ginger cookies

For no discernible reason, I was determined to bake cookies today. Not just any cookies, but a version of Heidi Swanson's sparkling ginger chip cookies. Really, this was totally irresponsible of me. Finals are approaching; I have research to do; it's probably unhealthy to spend so much time/money at Whole Foods; I don't really need my dorm room stacked high with piles of cookies.

And yet.

I saw these cookies and thought they seemed perfect for fall. Lots of ginger (both ground and fresh) with some chocolate thrown in for good measure. Also, I reasoned that I could fob them off on some classmates I have coming over to my place later this week to work on a group project.

I made a few changes to the recipe, including using spelt flour instead of whole-wheat pastry flour and chocolate chips instead of chopped chocolate. For some reason chopped chocolate in cookies kind of bums me out- I like pockets of chocolate in my cookies rather than just traces. Everything came together smoothly, though the dough was extremely tacky and I ended up slipping in a couple of extra tablespoons of spelt flour before folding the chocolate in. I also let the dough sit in the refrigerator for 20 or so minutes before getting ready to bake it- chilling the dough made it a lot easier to roll into balls and drag through the turbinado sugar.

And I have to report that they are terrific- chocolate-y with a kick from the ginger and some crunch from the turbinado sugar. An lovely mid-afternoon treat with a cup of tea. 

Sparkling ginger chip cookies, adapted from Heidi Swanson
2 cups plus 2 tbsp spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses
2/3 cup cane sugar
1 1/2 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 egg
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips (I used Guittard)

Preheat oven to 350F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. 

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ground ginger and salt. Set aside. Heat the butter in a small saucepan until just melted, remove from heat, then stir in the cane sugar, molasses, and fresh ginger. Whisk in the egg and then pour the mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Put the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Take 1/2 tbsp scoops of the dough, roll into balls and then lightly roll through the turbinado sugar to coat. Bake for 7-10 minutes.

Makes 48 small cookies.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

sunday rolled around

This weekend, I deliberately made no plans whatsoever. I was feeling the need to catch up on some work (I have a research paper due in the near-ish future and wanted to get the ghastly thing started - I'll spare you further details). Also, Daniel came down with a cold and was looking fairly woebegone. Still, I managed to fit in a few nice things. A walk through Corte Madera, taking in the fall colors (see above). A trip to the Anders Zorn exhibit at the Legion of Honor. A beer at the pleasantly quirky Chomp N' Swig in the Inner Richmond. Also, a seriously fantastic new soup I'll post about sometime later this week. It's the first weekend I've had in ages that left me feeling genuinely rested by the time Sunday evening rolled around.

Friday, November 8, 2013

friday links

I've always loved looking at Rorschach inkblots - I just think they're beautiful. As Google informs me, today marks Hermann Rorschach's birthday, so i thought it'd be nice to share one of the inkblots as well as a couple of things I have on my mind as we head into the weekend.

Another soup recipe I'm looking forward to trying
Still deciding how I feel about Breathless, Karley Sciortino's new column for Vogue
I LOVE Ferragamo's Walking Stories
I've heard this Hockney exhibit is terrific (but I'm waiting to go with my mom when she's in town)
Thinking a pretty pine-colored blouse would be nice for the holidays
These wooden spoons are lovely

Thursday, November 7, 2013

portuguese caldo verde with cauliflower

Soup is a funny thing. I mean, I love a good soup but it's hard for me to get really excited about making it. I'm not sure why this is true, but it is. But every once in a while, a soup recipe will catch my eye, which is what happened yesterday when I was browsing Food52 instead of working on my Legal Ethics research paper. This soup won "Best Recipe for Autumn Soup" and when I looked through the ingredients, I was instantly drawn in by the fact that a) it called for smoked paprika and b) it didn't use any dairy or potatoes. Instead, the creaminess of the soup is created by cauliflower, which is roasted with spices and then whizzed up with chicken stock to create a supremely rich and flavorful base. 

It really is incredibly easy to put together, assuming you have an immersion blender. I would not want to have to pour a vat of boiling chicken broth and cauliflower florets into a Cuisinart or standing blender. Once the cauliflower and broth are blended, all that's left is to add sliced linguisa sausage, a bunch of chard, and a squeeze of lemon to the mix and let it simmer for a bit. Then serve it up with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of smoked paprika. We ate it with torn off pieces of an Acme baguette, useful for sopping. It was extremely hearty without being heavy- Daniel wanted more sausage in the mix but I thought the amount in the recipe was perfect. I wish I'd chopped the chard into smaller pieces, since I ended up with something of a chard nest in my soup bowl that was difficult to eat, but other than that, I was very pleased. Even more so eating it for lunch today- I love that soups always seem to improve on with time. This is a soup worth getting excited about.

Portuguese Caldo Verde, recipe adapted from Food52
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for roasting
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound linguisa sausage, sliced
1 bunch swiss chard, de-ribbed and chopped into pieces the size of a spinach leaf
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced

Preheat oven to 450F. Toss cauliflower florets with cumin, smoked paprika, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a roasting pan and roast for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove from oven and deglaze roasting pan with chicken stock. Set aside.

In a dutch oven or soup pot, saute the onion in olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent. Add garlic and pepper flakes and saute for 30 seconds before adding the cauliflower and remainder of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Remove soup from heat and puree with an immersion blender.

Return soup to low heat, adding the sausage and cooking for 10 minutes. Then add the chard and chopped parsley and cook another 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and cilantro. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of smoked paprika. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

breakfast oatmeal with dates and coconut

I struggle to post here during the week. Mostly because I spend Monday-Thursday at school, going to class and doing homework so that I can enjoy my three-day weekends to the fullest. But this morning before heading off to Taxation, I took a picture of my breakfast. I go through phases where I'll eat the exact same breakfast every single day for months- then suddenly I'll switch. Of late, I've been breakfasting on Greek yogurt with some sliced fruit and granola but now that it's November, I'm contemplating switching over to something warmer. The bowl pictured above contained Coach's Oats, some chopped dates, a sprinkling of unsweetened flaked coconut and a drizzle of honey. It was delicious, pleasingly warm (but not heavy with cream or brown sugar) for a cool fall morning. On that thrilling note, I'm back to the books. Happy Wednesday.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

merrill stubbs' pasta al forno with pumpkin and pancetta

In my last post, I mentioned this pasta. After making it, I thought it merited its own post. I've never really made baked pastas before. I think this is because I have taste memories of a few particularly dry, chewy examples. But I saw this recipe on Food52 a few weeks ago and it stuck with me. When I found myself with some extra pumpkin puree after making pumpkin bread earlier in the week, I decided the time had come.

I bought cream, pancetta, pipe rigate, and approximately $20 worth of cheese at Whole Foods then went over to Daniel's place to start cooking. I pressed him into the role of Cheese Grater and he grumbled heavily when he got to the Pecorino Romano, which was a bit old and hard as a rock. I made a few changes to the recipe, using pumpkin puree, substituting sage for thyme and leaving out the tablespoon of ricotta since I didn't want to buy an entire tub for just a spoonful. Everything came together quickly and the dish emerged from the oven burbling and pleasantly crisped on top.

The flavors- squash, gorgonzola, sage, pancetta- were all clear in the dish and the noodles were perfectly cooked. It was seriously rich and I found myself thinking it would have been good with some sort of bitter green. I imagine anyone who loves pumpkin or butternut squash and blue cheese would go crazy for this. I'd also like to try it out with other ingredients- mustard greens and sausage, maybe. Try a version without the gorgonzola, substituting in a little more fontina, maybe add some rosemary. A myriad of possibilities.

Pasta al Forno with Pumpkin and Pancetta, adapted from this recipe
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup cubed delicata squash
1/4 lb diced pancetta
1/2 lb pipe rigate
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup shredded fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup grated fontina
1/8 cup crumbled gorgonzola
2 teaspoons chopped sage leaves

Heat oven to 400 degrees; roast the peeled and cubed delicata squash with a bit of olive oil for 20 minutes or until browned and easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn the oven to 500.

Boil the pasta for 4 minutes, drain, and run under cool water for a few seconds.

Crisp the pancetta in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove and drain on paper towels, discarding the excess fat.

Stir the cream into the pumpkin puree. Stir in the cheese, the sage, the pancetta, and the delicata squash. Fold the mixture into the pasta and then spread everything evenly in a baking dish. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until the top is browned.
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