Archive for August, 2007

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Approaching Unacceptable

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

I don’t think I’ve consumed as much maple syrup as I have ever since we moved to the Homeland of Security. Ironic, really, that as soon as we leave Canada, I feel the need for that sticky taste more than I ever have in the past. Maybe it’s because I had hardly explored the possibilities of maple syrup. Beyond pancakes, who has a need for that crusty Canadian bottle in the fridge? Lately though, I’ve been adding it to my morning cream of wheat instead of sugar (delicious), adding a little splash to morning tea (interesting, perhaps it won’t be repeated), and slipping some into plain yogurt, mimicking the maple-flavoured yogurt we once bought from the Berkeley Bowl. I think I’ll take the experimentation further and start adding it to cocktails; perchance it goes with dark rum..? We shall see.

Otherwise, our lack of cooking and/or any kind of culinary creativity lately borders on unacceptable. Not to mention that fact that we sorely neglected our beloved blog. There is no excuse, but as an explanation, I can offer: in the last two weeks, we were accepted as legal aliens in America, signed a lease and moved into a new apartment across the bay, into the depths of the fog, and poor Marc drove all our belongings from Canada to California. Lately, we have been doing nothing but working, unpacking and washing the mould off of everything we own. At least we are beginning to feel at home now; Sammy is happy that his day bed is in our office so that he can keep an eye on us all day long. We are here to respond to his every whim.


Also hovering on the edge of unacceptable is the volume of objects that we have unpacked that are meant to reside in the new kitchen. How, why!, do we have five corkscrews? Who could ever find a need for so much tupperware? How did we end up with 6 boxes of glassware? Vaguely, I remember packing this stuff up 16 months ago in Calgary. At the time, it must have seemed logical to have wrapped up two fondue sets, even though we never have fondue, and to keep three sets of steak knives, six ladles, two tea sets and ten mixing bowls, but frankly, I am now a little disgusted with the amount of our material possessions. I guess this comes with any move, one is meant to filter, sort and purge- now that Marc and I have moved more than four times in the past two years, I would’ve thought we’d now be pared down to a minimum. Au contraire.

cimg7017.jpgBut before the stuff moved in, before we were wading through boxes and boxes of dishes and pots and pans, I made a lasagne. I’m reading Best Food Writing of 2006 right now and there was one piece in the collection that prompted a yearning for pasta. Laura Taxel wrote a short piece about the time she was in the grocery store and, after answering a stranger’s question about tomato paste, ended up providing a whole lesson on how to make homemade spaghetti and meatballs. She talked about the kind of tomatoes to use in the sauce, how to start with a mirepoix and add ingredients, spices, herbs and then the meatballs. It tasted marvelous in my imagination but because I didn’t have the energy to do meatballs and because I knew neither of us would have the energy to cook at all in the middle of all the unpacking and cleaning, I made a huge, tasty, cheesy lasagne. The process was yet another adventure: I had to find a grocery store in our neighbourhood (there is a Safeway on Market street), find the beautiful, organic produce that I have come to expect of California grocers (impossible in a Safeway), drag it all home and find parking (impossible in San Francisco) and then build a lasagne in a kitchen nearly devoid of cooking utensils (I used folded paper towels on baking sheet in lieu of a cutting board). The circumstances under which I cooked approached unacceptable but the lasagne has kept us happily fed for two weeks.


P.S. I uploaded more photos of our place here.

Pizzeria Domestica

Monday, August 13th, 2007

cimg6986.jpgAfter the failure of the ciabatta recipe I wasn’t psychologically prepared for another failure of loaves, so I tried out the pizza dough recipe instead with toppings from a phyllo pizza recipe we made in our first year of this blog. It was the best pizza crust we’ve ever made, much better than Oprah’s chef’s recipe. Though my gluten development still needs work, it did stretch over my fists without tearing. I wasn’t daring enough to actually toss it into the air. Perhaps next time.

The thin crust baked perfectly on our sheet pan without need for the pizza stone we’ve been eyeing for weeks. The slices were crispy enough to hold without collapsing, yet were still chewy just under the golden brown surface. Perhaps this was due to the cookbook’s directions to cook the pizza at the highest temperature possible for only 5 to 7 minutes.

Now I just need to find some exceptional mozzarella and a recipe for great pizza sauce.


Thursday, August 9th, 2007

cimg7001-320.jpgIf you look carefully, you’ll notice one item on this list is not crossed off; we finally found a food that the magical land of Berkeley could not provide.  Of all things, goat.  I even called around to butchers and halal meat markets, and the artisan butcher at the market;  the best response I got was to “try again around Easter”.    And I’m not sure, but I think that’s because the Muslim holiday of Id-al-Adha, at which much goat feasting occurs, might fall in early April(??).   I could be wrong, maybe that’s just when baby goats are at their most tender.  (Meat is Murder.  Tasty, tasty murder.)

The reason I went to the trouble to find a goat’s shoulder  is because of the annual article in Food & Wine magazine on the Best New Chefs of the year, in America.   The youngest of the 2007 crop is Johnny Monis who makes this Pappardelle with Milk-Roasted Baby Goat Ragù at Komi in Washington, DC, and the description made it irresistible.  cimg6951-320.jpgNevermind that it is the middle of summer and hot as an oven inside our west-facing kitchen in the evenings, I could just imagine the delicate, slightly gamey,  savoury taste of this slow-cooked, oven-braised meat over pasta.  It had to be done.

Upon giving up on the goat, I settled on veal (because something young and innocent had to die in order for me to eat).   But there was a pleasant surprise in store for me at the gourmet grocery because when I went to pick out a can of tomatoes, I was amazed to find Rao’s canned tomatoes.   I hadn’t thought about that place for years but for awhile, I had kind of had an odd fixation on that particular restaurant in New York.  I’ve never been there, never even seen it, but I’ve read enough about its legendary status to be more than a little curious.   I read somewhere that reservations are nearly impossible for mere mortals (i.e. me) to obtain and quite hard to get even for immortals (i.e. celebreties).  What made the place even more curious is that, if one has enough money and clout, one can own a table at the restaurant, which will be made available immediately upon request.  Imagine!  Owning a reserved table at a restaurant!   Anyway, the idea of an eatery taking things to such an outrageous level stuck with me so when I saw their tomatoes on the shelf here in California, I knew that if I bought them, I could eat like an immortal.

I did indeed braise the meat in milk, as per the recipe, and I let the ragù rest overnight so as to allow the flavours to properly meld, but did not go so far as to hand-make pasta without a pasta machine.  I am dedicated to cooking, but not crazy;  we picked up dried, organic papparadelle.

cimg6935-320.jpgDid I mention that I made bread to go with it?  My first ever attempt at bread making:  pain à l’ancienne, a crispy, chewy baguette which, by the way, turn into rock solid pieces of fossilized bread if you leave them out overnight wrapped in  towel.   But I digress.  The resulting meal that we enjoyed the following day was marvelously decadent and the only thing that could possibly have made it better was if it was cold outside.

Leftover Frittata

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

cimg6959.jpgI was left to figure something out for supper after having forgotten to go to the grocery store. I failed to find a use for the jar of kimchi or the fennel, but managed to put everything else together into a fine frittata. Thyme, Chili powder and salsa were added to the beatten eggs. The potatoes were well boiled, having learned a lesson for the last time I tried to make a frittata.

We had finally purchased a heirloom cast iron frying pan at Sur La Table a few days ago after repeatedly eying it over the past two months. It did an excellent job of frying the red onion, leeks and green beans in a generous amount of butter. After heating up the potatoes in the pan, I stirred in the eggs until almost scrambled, sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top and then put the pan in the oven for 15 minutes to finish. There wasn’t actually any basil in the frittate, but it made a good garnish visually when placed on the plate with some sour cream and salsa.

Although thyme with Mexican and Spanish ingredients wasn’t a perfect compliment, I did manage to clean out the fridge.