November 26, 2012

He TOLD me I'd need two...

...and thus an afternoon of Thanksgiving will result in a month of creatively repurposed turkey breast.

Allow me to explain.

Your heroine headed in to Whole Foods in search of a turkey breast to serve six adults. Six adults. No mention of anyone under the age of ten.

I explained to the nice young man behind the counter that I was going with a turkey breast because I didn't want ton of leftovers. Because these six adults would be indulging in wine and appetizers while the bird parts roasted. Because there would be no fewer than six side dishes served with the turkey -- to satisfy everyone's individual love/hate relationship with vegetables.

The nice man assured me I'd need two turkey breasts to satisfy my crowd. That one breast would comfortably serve four adults.

I took the nice man's advice.

I now have seven pounds of sliced turkey breast and four quarts of turkey stock occupying real estate in my refrigerator.

The good news:  Kevin's Parmesan & Sage Roasted Turkey Breast turned out quite tasty. I avoided Josie Smith-Malave's turkey sashimi without turning it into sawdust. The parmesan, sage, and garlic gave the turkey a nice fall flavor, and my guests were impressed that we incorporated cheese into every single dish on the dining room table. The bird breasts are moist and flavorful, but versatile enough to provide the protein in a variety of different dinners for one.

Saturday we made grimnace for snacking through a Master Chef marathon. Tonight I paid homage to my father with my riff on his Hot Turkey Salad. In the days and weeks that come, my leftover turkey breast will take a bit of a world tour. There will be turkey panini. Turkey quesadillas. Turkey Pho. Turkey reubens.

By mid-December you can bet I'll be thankful for steak or seafood or salad.

And next year we'll be a single breast family.

August 15, 2012

Glancing back, walking forward....

Over the last several weeks, I've used my facebook space to spotlight some very special people in my life -- men and women who've fought their own courageous battles with cancer. In the next couple of weeks, I will introduce you to a couple more.

But tonight I'm going to share a bit more of MY story throughout my social network. Apologies if you're seeing this in multiple spaces, but it's important to me that i get the message out -- to as many people as possible.

About a year ago, I took a phone call that would change my life. In a heartbeat, I went from "something doesn't look right" to "it's cancer." As I absorbed a veritable encyclopedia of information about margins and hormone suppression and radiation-safe personal hygiene, I clung to my commitment to the Komen Breast Cancer Three Day in an attempt to stay sane.

I actually wore one of my old victory shirts to a pre-surgery appointment. My oncologist's response: "your 2012 shirt will say 'Survivor'". It was one of those moments where everything became REAL -- both the gravity of what lay ahead and the core belief that I WOULD survive. That image carried me through many of the scariest moments of the journey. And spurs me on when I get to 10 or 12 miles and my calves are screaming to stop.

So in addition to the brave men and women in whose honor and memory I am walking, this year's journey is also about me. It's about taking back some control after six months without much. It's about celebrating my return to health. It's about proving that "60 Miles. Yeah. I can do that".

Please, take the time to follow this link, read a little more about what I'm doing and why, and support me if you can.

March 06, 2012

Oy. and likewise, vey...

Rugelach Collage

The first of this month's delicacies from the fine folks Baking with Julia is rugelach, a contemporary American take on a classic central European Jewish pastry. From the Yiddish "rugel" (royal), the traditional recipe typically uses sour cream. Contributing baker Lauren Groveman replaced the sour cream with cream cheese in the soft dough that envelops cinnamon-scented dried fruits and nuts.

Twelve OUNCES of cream cheese.

And THREE sticks of butter.

What?!?! Eat!!!! There's a treadmill and a TRX setup waiting for you at the gym...

But I digress.

John and I tag-teamed on this one, and we cut no corners. We made some luscious apricot lekvar, worthy of licking off someone you love. Well I toasted almonds. John actually assembled the lekvar.

We made and chilled and rolled and filled the dough. We chopped a ton of nuts and dried fruit. My food processor worked overtime, and I've NEVER been so grateful that Gina talked me into buying FOUR silpats all those years ago.

Thirty two hours after we started, we had some unattractive but tasty pastry-cookies. The recipe is fussy and time consuming, and I'm fairly confident I've crossed this one off the bucket list and probably won't be making rugelach again. The pastry dough, probably. The lekvar, absolutely. But if I have a craving for rugelach I'll swing by the Jewish bakery.

If you find yourself looking for something to do one weekend and you're interested in trying your hand at homemade rugelach, this week's hosts Margaret of The Urban Hiker and Jessica at My Baking Heart have taken the time to transcribe the recipe. And you can see how hundreds of other bakers fared with this week's challenge on the blog roll. And stay tuned... in two weeks we'll try Irish Soda Bread.

February 21, 2012

Two-Fer Tuesday


The ladies and gentlemen who spent the better part of three years baking their way through Dorie Greenspan's Baking - From My Home to Yours have a new project for 2012.Over three hundred home bakers from around the world are lining up their measuring spoons and mixing bowls and baking their way through Baking with Julia. According to the brains behind the operation, four of the bakers are men. Fifty three of us are Californians.

That's right, us. Welcome to Tuesdays with Dorie, redux: Baking with Julia. Please fasten your seat belts, and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. If the first two recipes are any indication, it promises to be a wild, sugar soaked, butter laden ride.

Uh huh. I said two recipes. I wasn't willing to pull my dad's signed copy of the book out from under plastic, so I killed some time procuring a working copy. The rest of the group started two weeks ago, with the White Loaves on page 81. Our foundress Laurie and her faithful sidekick Jules hosted the inaugural run, and if you're looking for the recipe, you can either buy the book or head to their blogs for it. And let me just say the book is worth the purchase price for this recipe alone.

I'm no stranger to bread baking. I've baked some pretty tasty loaves over the years. So the fact that I've uttered the words "the best white bread. ever" no less than a dozen times in the last 48 hours is non-trivial. The recipe makes two loaves. They slice easily, toast beautifully, and won't make it to the weekend.

The recipe behind curtain number two features chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. The Chocolate Truffle Tartlets on page 382 showcase bittersweet chocolate as the headliner, with white and milk chocolate chips in supporting roles, and a cameo appearance by dutch processed cocoa in the crumbly pastry crust. Our hosts Steph, Spike, Jaime and Jessica have the recipe for you. Don't let the term tartlet fool you. These are for sharing. Three or four ways. They taste like candy. And they freeze beautifully.

And as our heroine Julia would say, bon appetit!

February 08, 2012

Eleven Herbs & Spices...

Corn meal?

Accent Flavor Enhancer (tm)?

Malted Milk powder?

Odd (and not inexpensive – a 2 ounce vial of Accent costs nearly seven bucks)… but after nearly fifteen years on a mission to find a copycat recipe of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s original recipe chicken livers, anything goes.

So we raided my spice drawer for the basics, headed to the marts of trade for the esoterics, and armed with a pound of chicken livers (for John) and chicken tenders (for me), we embarked on an epicurean expedition in search of finger lickin’ good.

We've been here before. And judging by my Google Analytics numbers, there are a lot of you out there in the same boat.

Well this time we've done it. Mission, accomplished. This is it folks. The Colonel would be proud of what came out of an inch of frying oil.

Now we just owe the guy who sent us this link a bucket of original recipe and a dozen of my Dorie-inspired cream biscuits. A small price to pay for a bit of fast food Americana.

Finger Lickin' Chicken Tenders

February 01, 2012

A Three Day, Three County Culinary Tour

Lavonna's visiting from Minnesota for the weekend. So we pack the trunk with provisions and wind our way to Windsor. Through Walnut Creek.

First stop: Sasa, Walnut Creek's hopping Izakaya-inspired hot spot. The food is edgy but interesting, and the crowd's typically younger, hipper, and more happening than we are. But the staff is warm and welcoming, and from the "fish fries" and lotus chips to the sisig and pork belly specials, we adore chef de cuisine Sam Castro's take on local and seasonal with a pan Asian flair.

Satiated, we hit the road for Windsor. About 5 miles southeast of Healdsburg in Sonoma County, the Worldmark Resort in Windsor would be our home base for a weekend of food and wine adventures.

Saturday we had a scrumptious breakfast (and some dessert) at Della Fattoria in Petaluma, where the gorgeous caffe lattes and the sausage scramble piadina hit the spot. We didn't leave empty handed -- a hefty loaf of meyer lemon rosemary bread was the first of the day's additions to the trunk.

From Della Fattoria, we went on a bit of a cheese tour, with stops at the Spring Hill Cheese Company in downtown Petaluma and the Matos Cheese Factory farm in Santa Rosa. With bread and dairy procured, we spent the afternoon chasing the fruit of the vine, with visits to Raymond Burr Vineyard, Quivira, and Francis Ford Coppola. We ended the evening with a splendid dinner at Coppola's Rustic, featuring a menu full of Francis' homestyle favorites.

Sunday we made a road trip to Hopland, and after a brief encounter with California Highway Patrol (where I acknowledged my expired tags and learned that a licence plate on the front of the vehicle is now a requirement) we enjoyed a variety of wines and chocolates at Brutocao Cellars. Our last stop on the Sonoma County tour was Guy Fieri's Johnny Garlic's (which is now apparently opening an outpost in San Jose).

January 25, 2012

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Japanese soba noodles.

Gulf coast shrimp.


Chinese mustard.

A splash of fish sauce.

Pepper sauce we brought back from Mexico.

On Burns Night.

How's THAT for an all-American melting pot to celebrate the year of the dragon?

January 12, 2012

A Well-Stocked Pantry

"You HAVE all that?!? In your kitchen???"

A friend of ours has been staying with me during the week, as he prepares to move himself and his family back to the bay area after over a decade in the Midwest.

It's been a great experience for me, giving me someone *else's* needs to focus on during a month of radiation. And another mouth to feed at dinner gives me the impetus to focus on fixing real food -- there was a LOT less cold cereal and packaged ramen in my diet last fall.

Now that the holidays are behind us,  we're back focused on healthy food. Last night I pulled a couple of chicken breasts out of the freezer, my copy of Eating Well Serves Two off of the book shelf, and the rest of the ingredients for the Tarragon Chicken on page 122 out of the refrigerator and the pantry. Twenty minutes later, dinner was on the table.

Because yes Terry. I have all of that in my kitchen.

January 07, 2012

An early epiphany

Epiphany. Or Theophany. From the ancient Greek, meaning "vision of god." A Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of Jesus Christ to the biblical Magi as the son of God. Typically celebrated on or around January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas.

While in Tudor England the twelfth night or epiphany marked the end of a winter festival that began with Halloween, the event was a little lower key in my household growing up. My mother proclaimed this the day that the decorations returned to boxes in the back corner of the basement, and my father somewhat gratefully relinquished his post as the fourth wise man, leaning over the nativity each evening to test the light bulb illuminating the northern star for potential fire-producing heat.

As this holiday season draws to a close, my "epiphany" (or revelation) comes a little early and is far more secular than sacred. Oddly appropriate at this point in my spiritual life. But I digress...

January first was a celebration of the wonderful world of Chinese food for John and me. Scintillating conversation with friends over a bite-sized brunch of dim sum provided a sensational transition into 2012. And we chose to have dinner at a new and promising new Chinese restaurant within walking distance from home: Yiping. We're gradually working our way through the menu at Yiping, which focuses on authentic (less-Americanized) Chinese cuisine using fresh, local ingredients. And on Sunday January 1, my epiphany came in the form of Ma Po Tofu.

A popular dish in the Sichuan province of China, I was introduced to this tofu-based dish by a former coworker while working in Fremont, and fell in immediate if confused love. While I've had versions of the dish that incorporated ground pork or beef, Yiping's rendition is vegetarian -- and fiery hot.

My first surprise was that this was John's first exposure to ma po tofu. He was equally surprised when it arrived at the table. Looking at the clearly chili-based sauce, he exclaimed "YOU ordered THAT!?!" Because while I'm far from a "mayonnaise mouth," I tend to be far less tolerant of spicy dishes than he is. I suspect he had concerns that I'd be unable to tolerate the heat and he'd be eating a primarily plant based dinner...

I've never understood my inconsistent response to spicy food -- why some dishes blow my head off, but others work, and work really well. The closest I've come to articulating this is the feeling that in order to enjoy the spiciest foods, they need to provide more than just heat -- a smoke, a sweetness, something to set it off.

But as I moved my chopsticks back and forth between the tofu and Yiping's equally unctuous fried rice, light dawned over marble head. An epiphany. Because while I got all of the mind numbing, nasal cleaning, tear-inducing side effects of the tofu dish, nothing in that experience numbed the sweetness of the snap peas or the nutty rice. Yes, it burned, but it didn't burn my palate. It didn't destroy my ability to taste -- and enjoy -- the other food on the table.

And while I can't honestly claim to have seen God in that moment, my universe did become a little clearer. An excellent way to launch a new calendar year.