May 30, 2008

In sleep you sang to me... dreams you came
that voice which calls to me and speaks my name...

and do I dream again, for now I find
the Phantom of the Opera is there, inside my mind...

In response to the challenge laid down by Ivonne (Cream Puffs in Venice), Lis (La Mia Cucina), Fran (Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie) and Shea (Whiskful), some of you emerged from your kitchens with operatic masterpieces. Divas. Prima Donnas. Leading ladies (and a couple of men). galore.

My experience was a bit different. I went through the same motions. The joconde. The simple syrup, flavored with lavender and honey. A French buttercream laced with calvados. A lavender-infused white chocolate glaze. But what emerged from *my* kitchen at the end of the ordeal was less patisserie and more... rural... rustic. Okay... ugly. More likely to dwell in the depths beneath the opera house than to star on its stage.

But like Larousse's tragic hero, my little cakes are far more than they appear on the surface. There's depth. There's character. There's flavor. My gawd, there's flavor.

A year ago I never would have tried such an elaborate endeavor. And I certainly wouldn't have posted *pictures* of less-than-stellar results. But part of the daring baker code is that participation helps us all learn and grow.

May's Daring Baker Challenge -- a little Light Opera -- is brought to us in honor and celebration of Barbara at Winos & Foodies, whose brave and graceful battle against cancer is an inspiration to all of us. My contribution reminds us to look for the light in even the darkest of days -- it's there.

Want to try this masterpiece on your own? Ivonne has the recipe posted here.
Check out almost a thousand other opera and operetta at the Daring Baker Blog Roll.
And the new Daring Baker Forum.

From the archives...
In 2006 I combed the intranets for recipes to add to my to-try list.
In 2007 I turned a sheet of leftover puff pastry into a satisfying dinner.

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May 28, 2008

The fat lady's napping

She's had a rough couple of weeks. But here are some images of the dress rehearsal to keep you amused until the final curtain...

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May 23, 2008

Serving Crazy with Curry...

Devi's decided life's no longer worth living. Her sister Shobha is bored in her arranged marriage and considering an affair. Each of her parents and her brother-in-law harbor their own set of secrets. The Veturi family puts the "fun" in dysfunctional.

Who are these people and what does this have to do with food? There IS a connection...

Meena over at Hooked on Heat claims she was born with a pen in one hand and a book in the other. In my case, I'd modify that to a pen in one hand, a fork in the other, and a book open across my lap. So when she announced a Cook's Book Club where food-focused bibliophiles are encouraged to read a monthly book selection and prepare a meal inspired by its plot or its characters, I knew this was going to be the event for me. The first book club selection: Serving Crazy with Curry.

After her intrusive but well-meaning mother foils her attempt at suicide, Devi goes mute, moves in with her parents and channels her emotions into some wildly creative and elaborate meals as she winds her way through healing toward happiness. A Blueberry Curry. Cajun Prawn Biriyani. Not exactly her grandmother's Indian cuisine.

In Devi's honor, I stared with a published recipe for Tandoori Tilapia with Hearts of Palm Salad. Substituted rock cod for the tilapia because it's seasonally appropriate and on sale this week. Used goat cheese yogurt because that's what I had on hand. And unleashed my creativity in the salad, adding avocado and arugula tossed in a couple tablespoons of the marinade mixture. The end result was a little Indian, a little American... and quite tasty. I think Devi would be proud...

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May 22, 2008

A shoe-in for a reservation...

Saw this over at Eater SF and it amused me... perhaps because picture-less reviews of our experiences at several local eateries are coming soon to a blog near you. I like to think I'm an exception to their critique of food blog reviewers... my pictures probably suck but I'm a fair judge of what works and what doesn't... and willing to admit that my experience is just that... *my* experience, which may not be indicative of reality.

From the archives...
In 2006 I indulged in some food blog silliness.

May 20, 2008

TWD: An exercise in economic stimulus?

Or just an excuse to wander around Sur la Table like the proverbial kid in a candy store?

One of the best parts of the baking groups I belong to is the occasional opportunity to supplement my supply of kitchen equipment. A crepe pan. Six four-inch heart-shaped springforms. A jellyroll pan. And now, thanks to Tara over at Smells Like Home, a Madeleine tin joins my kitchen collection.

Hey... I consider it doing my part to stimulate the economy...

I'd never made Madeleines before and assumed since they were French they had to be ingredient rich, fussy and time consuming to make. I was somewhat surprised when I consulted the recipe and realized that they're none of the above. Ten minutes to mix a handful of ingredients together, a couple of hours in the refrigerator and another ten minutes in the oven and presto: French pastry. I can DO this! (with a step stool, my five year old nephew can do this).

I stayed pretty true to the published recipe for Dorie's Traditional Madeleines, substituting orange for lemon zest rather than running to the grocery store for a single ingredient. Like many of my fellow Doristas, I got a little overzealous in filling my Madeleine forms so the end results are more rustic than patisserie… but I'm proud of them. We're having a heat wave out here in Northern California, so I'm serving them with Ben & Jerry's (Fair Trade) Coffee Ice Cream. Yum!

Curious how other Doristas fared with this one? Check out the blogroll. Got a new Madeleine pan and want to try them out for yourself? Tara's posted the recipe.

From the archives...
In 2006 we enjoyed local food with an Italian flair.

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May 16, 2008

Love is in the air...

Pasta enrobed morels. Another batch lightly battered and fried. Caramelized pineapple & blue cheese tartlettes. Roasted grapes. Her mom's simple but sensational taco dip. A yummy sounding salmon puff. Fifteen minutes browsing her blog for ideas and it was pretty clear to me that my partner for May's Taste & Create event was a young woman after my own heart *and* adventurous taste buds.

The hardest part of being paired with Kelly of Sounding my Barbaric Gulp was going to be settling on a single recipe... I want to try almost every link I followed. After much deliberation I selected a celebration of love that's easily adapted to a one person meal. I changed her Lobster Stuffed Avocado into a scrumptious crab and avocado salad.

I started with a half of a buttery smooth Haas avocado. Scooped out a bit of the center as the recipe instructed, carefully removed the peel and and pared off a bit of the bottom to create a stable and edible bowl. Chopped up the avocado 'scraps' with the other half and tossed them in a bit of meyer lemon juice to prevent browning. I browned a bit of Boccalone Guanciale in place of the bacon; wiped out the pan and toasted my pine nuts in the last bits of tasty salted pig part essence. Whisked together the garlic, lemon juice, mustard and olive oil, tossed it with the avocado, guanciale, pine nuts and other residents of the ingredient list, piled the salad high in the avocado cup, poured a glass of Viognier and grabbed a fork.

Oh. My. Gawd. Yum. With Belgian chocolate dipped strawberries and whipped cream for dessert this is going on a menu a deux in the *very* near future. Use caution people... this salad will hijack your tastebuds and steal your heart.

Thank you Kelly. I'm glad we've met. I'm sure I'll be making more from your menu. And if you ever find yourself in Northern California, you have a standing invitation to join me in the kitchen.

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May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy (somewhat belated) Mother's Day! Stay tuned for John's dad's recipe for Belgian Waffles... and some fun stories related to it.

May 10, 2008

One (more) local summer

Lemonade stands. Swim lessons. Backyard barbecue. Catching fireflies. Warm evenings out on the porch with grandpa listening to Harry Caray's seventh inning ode to America's game. These are the sense memories from the summers of my youth. Memories flavored with the sweet tang of my grandmother's bread and butter pickles atop a barbecued brat, the tart taste of my great-aunt's strawberry rhubarb pie smothered in sweet cream from Harry's dairy cow, a creamy potato salad studded with bright yolked hard boiled eggs from Julie's chickens. Several decades before I heard the word locavore I savored favorite summer flavors from local purveyors.

Fast forward to 2008. I'm not half the gardener my grandmothers were, but I'm fortunate to live in a land of year-round farmer's markets and CSA deliveries so a farm fresh local meal is never far away. For the last couple of summers I've been inspired by One Local Summer, and I was rather disappointed to learn that Liz had closed up shop; her Pocket Farm blog and the event I enjoyed so much were a part of the past. So I was delighted when Nicole over at Farm to Philly chose to take up the torch and host One Local Summer 2008. Beginning June 1, she's asking participants to make one meal per week using locally sourced ingredients, and she'll post a weekly roundup of the results.

In anticipation of good things to come I compiled this morning's pre-workout breakfast from a handful of local ingredients: 1/2 cup (give or take) of Redwood Hill Farm Plain Goat Yogurt, a handful of Capay Organic strawberries, a teaspoon of honey and a sprinkling of blueberries, the last of the bounty from last weekend's field trip to the farmer's market. Sweet, tangy, simple, nutrition-packed and satisfying. Move aside Mary Lou... *this* is a breakfast of champions!

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May 08, 2008

TWD: Two great tastes...

Okay so perhaps I'm showing my age, but Dorie's taken one of my favorite kid candies and turned it into a grown up treat. And then Elizabeth at Ugg Smell Food chose it as this week's TWD assignment. A creamy, dreamy, chocolate and peanut buttery Peanut Butter Torte.

I could have subtitled this post "How to Torment your Personal Trainer." Because I didn't want the cream, cream cheese, peanut butter and chocolate in this one taking up permanent residence on my waistline, I chose to make it in "mini" heart shaped torte-letts. "Mini" torte-letts that would easily serve 3 people each. And I wasted NO time shuttling them out of my refrigerator and onto the dessert menus of friends and family everywhere.

The morning after I made them, John had a standing appointment with our trainer Lisette. Lisette is our personal antidote to all of the caloric wonderment you see on this blog; she is in our lives so that our mutual love of food doesn't turn us into middle aged diabetic heart attack candidates in the making. She provides both the trade-off to a weekend of indulgence and the voice of conscience that keeps us from sliding into OVERindulgence. And she apparently has a weakness for peanut butter. A weakness John chose to taking her a torte all her own.

Like a lot of my friends and acquaintances at the other end of Generation X, Lisette's favorite form of communication is the cryptic text message. So I came out of my Wednesday morning staff meeting with my cell phone alerting me of a new message:

OMG! U R Fired! So good!

I guess she liked it. And I'll probably pay for that on Friday...

A peanut butter & chocolate care package to the first reader who identifies the actors in my classic commercial. No fair Googling it!

From the archives...
In 2006 I found a food blogging meme and shared some linky love.

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May 06, 2008

Dorie's going to be a few days late...

Sorry to disappoint you folks, but there's just not any room on my counter (or on my thighs) for another dessert just yet. So my homage to peanut butter and chocolate will wait until the weekend, when I can share it with friends. Until then, go check out the hundreds of others available at Tuesdays with Dorie. Or try it yourself... Elizabeth's posted the recipe at Ugg Smell Food.

From the archives...
In 2006 I followed the yellow brick road to Barbara's first annual Taste of Yellow.

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May 02, 2008

I picked the *right* month... ditch the ATM card in favor of cash.

I shop at the Danville Lunardi's not Los Gatos, the culprits only tapped a single register's ATM, and the store and its owners have been wonderful with the affected customers, but it's good to know no one's wandering around Southern California partying with access to MY checking account...

From the archives...
In 2006 I went through the first of what's now four blog remodels. If you like my new look, go check out Shauna's other amazing work.