Sunday, August 30, 2009


A few weeks ago, one of the blogs I regularly read mentioned a craving for Concord grape ice cream and was asking if any readers had a recipe. I suggested she try granita, and since then have had a craving of my own. At the farmer's market yesterday, I picked up some Concord and Muscat grapes, and this morning I made granita. I'm debating whether I should finish writing this before or after I go and help myself to another serving. It's sweet and refreshing, one of the best flavors I've made yet.
Making granita is more of a method than a recipe. The key is to use liquid that is a little stronger and sweeter than you would want juice for drinking.

I smashed the grapes with a muddler, then pushed them through a sieve with a wooden spoon. I kept the pulp and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then smashed it through the sieve again. A few more tablespoons of juice came out, so it seems worth the wait. I had about a pound (or 2 cups) of each variety.

To the juice, I added 1/4 cup of simple syrup and then poured each one into a glass baking dish and placed then in the freezer. An hour later, I used a fork to stir in the crystals that formed around the edge, and then placed the dishes back in the freezer for the rest of the day.

To serve, use a fork to scrape the granita and a spoon to scoop it in to the serving dish.

new shoes

Thursday, August 27, 2009

easy peasy

There must be a harder way to make macaroons. But why look for it when this insanely simple recipe is also insanely good? I whipped up a batch for my friend's birthday late last night. Recipe comes from Ina Garten.

Preheat oven to 325F
1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 bag (14 0z) sweetened coconut
2 egg whites at room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

In a large bowl, combine the coconut, condensed milk, vanilla and salt.
In the bowl of your mixer whip the egg whites until medium stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
Using 2 spoons, scoop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper (this is a must!) leavning a small amount of space in between. Bake for 25-30 minutes (usually 25 is right for me).
Makes 25-30

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

lady of the night

It's barely fair to post a recipe like this one, it's that simple. In Italian, the word "puttana" means whore, and Pasta Puttanesca gets it's name either from the aroma (of anchovies which I leave out) or from the fact that this sauce is easy and cheap. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Heat a large skillet with a bit of olive oil. Throw in a clove of garlic, chopped and cook for 30 seconds. Add 1/4 cup-ish of roughly chopped kalamata olives and a hefty tablespoon's worth of capers, either drained or rinsed depending on which variety you have. Stir it all together and add a large can of diced tomatoes. Bring it to a boil and then turn down to an active simmer. By now your pasta water might be boiling, so add a generous amount of salt and 1/2 a box of spaghetti or linguine. Cook al dente and throw the pasta into the skillet. Add a handful of roughly chopped flat leaf parsley and serve. This should serve 2 adults plus leftovers, or 4 adults for a first course.

indoor day

If you've ever potty trained a toddler, I expect you will have sympathy for me today x2. Day 1, actually quite encouraging, with many successes for both the girls, and only a few mishaps. As it turns out, those girls pee often, especially when pumped full of lemonade. The major down-side in my opinion is having to stick around the house for a few days so the girls can be pants-less. TMI? Sorry, it's easy to get carried away. My point is, we spent a lot of time home today and worked on some excellent art projects. Grace, being the scoundrel that she is, painted her mouth pink. She also got into my lipstick this morning, but I didn't get a shot of that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

oh, we relaxed!

As I looked through the images from our weekend getaway, I realized almost all we did was eat. Yes, it was a luxurious gluttonous trip. We were served a sit down breakfast each morning along with all of the other guests. A warm bread pudding drizzled with maple syrup on Saturday and a chile egg puff with salsa on Sunday. Plus amazing coffee (this means a lot coming from me) and seasonal fruit salad.

Friday night was our casual night out. Pizza and root beer on the patio at Adorno's.

Typical northern California beach. Cold, foggy, rough waves and serene.

Part of the gift included a picnic basket packed for us to eat at the beach for lunch on Saturday. Anything involving 3 cheeses, cornichon and fresh bread is alright be me. The fritatta and lentil salad were also delicious.

Pear tart and chocolate macaroon were the perfect finish.

Out to dinner Saturday night.

Bitter orange and prosecco cocktail. Doesn't Cristina look dashing?

Eat burrata. You will love it.

We all know that anything fried is going to be good. But have you ever had fried basil leaves? The summer squash dipped in aioli weren't bad either.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I've been busy.

For a few jars of pickled green beans.

The classic refridgerator pickles.

Spices for ketchup

Ugly flowers for a wedding.

I started a new tandem quilt for the re-opening of Rose and Radish.

I joined a new Flickr group. Each month we'll be assigned to remake a photograph which will specifically work on a skill. This month is about working with jars and reflections.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

a proper vacation

I get time off over the summer. Not quite like a teacher does, but I am lucky enough to have a few weeks plus some long weekends without the kids. Mostly I spend the time on ciuccio and catching up on errands and housework, so while it is so nice to sleep in and I'm lucky, really I am, I don't always come back to work feeling like I really got away. This year marks the fifth year I've been taking care of the girls, and their parents got me a really extravagant gift. My wife and I got a weekend in a Bed and Breakfast up near Guerneville which includes a picnic basket full of delicious foods and a dinner in a gourmet vegetarian restaurant. My plans include finishing that book I started in the beginning of July, napping at least once and finding boredom. I am really looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

in my belly

I haven't done a lot of cooking this week. Last night I took Cristina out for her birthday. We ate at Spork, which we'd been to once before. Delicious both times. It was a warm night, rare in San Francisco, and we walked down there-about a 15 minute walk. Somewhere near 20th Street were a few large trees in bloom sending off a fantastic fragrance. We ordered a salad to share and two glasses of prosecco. Umm, breaded and fried goat cheese is possibly the most fantastic food. And when you add figs and some sort of sweet sauce drizzled over the whole thing you get a starter that you never want to have end. My stuffed zucchini with farro and mushrooms was shockingly good, and Cristina's inside-out burger was apparently perfection.

The girls and I snacked on frozen blueberries this afternoon. It was a favorite of mine as a kid, but I only ever ate it at one friend's house. Her parents always bought loads of blueberries and we would pour a little milk over them in a bowl. The frozen berries made the milk icy and it was a great summer snack.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Monday, August 10, 2009

canning 101

I promised directions for canning tomatoes, but it took me while to get here. Sorry if you have a whole case of them waiting on me, they're probably good and rotten by now. Rule #1, don't bite off more than you can chew. I think about 20 pounds of tomatoes is perfect for a day of canning. It takes a few hours, yields enough jars to feel worthwhile, but doesn't feel so overwhelming that you lose hope.

My sister and I share canning supplies, and that enormous pot is a life saver for tomatoes and other things you might put in pint or quart jars. They aren't expensive, but they do take up space.
Fill your canning pot and put it on to boil. Fill another pot with 4 or 5 inches of water and put it on to boil.
Get out every large bowl you own. You'll also need a pairing knife and a compost bucket.

Pop off any stems that are left on your tomatoes. When your small pot boils, toss in as many tomatoes as will be submerged in water. They should be in the pan for about 1 minute, then put in a bowl filled with ice water. Shocking will make it easy to peel off the skin. If you have a friend to help, one of you should start to peel while the other manages the shocking.

When your tomatoes are peeled, cut them in half crosswise and use your finger to scoop out the seeds and juice. I do this over a sieve so I can keep all the juice for treats such as gazpacho and bloody marys. I toss the tomato halves into the cuisinart and pulse so I can use them easily for sauce. You can also can them as halves if you prefer.

By now your canning pot is likely boiling. Gently place in your jars. A case should give you 8-10 pints. Boil the jars for 10 minutes to sterilize. Pull out carefully and place on a clean towel. Scoop a small amount of the boiling water into a small pot and put in the jar lids, but not the rings.
Carefully fill the jars and put on the lids. Screw on the rings, but don't over-tighten.
Place to filled jars in the boiling water and process for 25 minutes. They'll seal as they cool, and you'll likely hear a pop.

It's messy work. If you need more specifics, like how much space to leave at the top and how long to process what, go here for help. I also think the Ball Blue book is very helpful.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

photography class

Remember that photo shoot I was bragging about? Here are a few shots.

Friday, August 7, 2009

back home

I'm having some computer issues. Well that's not completely true, I'm having some image issues. I spent the last 3 days in my hometown taking pictures on a really nice camera with instruction from a photography teacher. I took some really great shots. But shooting in RAW turned out to be a royal pain in the ass. We had to download software for my sister's computer to be able to process them, and then when we got back home, Karen took the time to convert them all to jpegs so that I could transfer them onto a CD only to return to my house, write a blog, open the CD to upload the images and find the CD blank.

So what you're seeing isn't the good stuff. I took a few pictures on my little point and shoot while the other ladies were on the fancy cameras. But what a view, eh?

This was taken from the side of the road that we drove on everyday to get to high school. We lived 17 windy miles away from town.

Many more to come.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

once again, tomatoes

The first time I decided to preserve food was a complete fiasco. Honestly I don't know why I have been addicted to it ever since. My roommate and I decided that jars of homemade apple butter would be a great gift for all of our friends and family for Christmas. We tried a few recipes in small batches and took aspects of a few to make our "ultimate" recipe. Then we multiplied the recipe by 9, which by our calculations would yield about 35 jars. It was ambitious, we knew. But we had access to her parent's very large kitchen, canning tools and we had even convinced Cristina to help. Fifty pounds of apples and 16 hours of stirring later, we had 90 jars of apple butter to deal with. It took two days of stirring to cook it all down. At one point, we had 4 large pots on the stove, plus another one bubbling away on a camp stove. Abby got a nasty burn on her chest from apple splatter, and by the end of the weekend we never wanted to talk about apple butter again. At least it turned out delicious.
So, what did we learn? Apparently not much because the following year, I got a desperate call from Abby while I was on vacation. She was up to her elbows in orange slices for marmalade and needed 20 more pounds of sugar, stat.
And a year after that, Cristina and I thought it would be splendid to make peach jam for each of our guests as a wedding favor. We're celebrating our two year anniversary soon, and we are finally down to 2 jars.

On the plus side, I have canned tomatoes for three years in a row. I basically live for tomato season, and having a few precious jars to open in the middle of the winter is a sacred tradition. My sister and I have become quite the jam makers. Our pickles need some fine tuning, but the pickled green beans were awesome.

It turns out that doing smaller batches more frequently is more fun. So last weekend I bought 1 case of dry-farmed Early Girls from Dirty Girl Farms and made some tomato sauce. About 2 of the 22 pounds were very small, not worth peeling, and those I turned into fresh salsa.

Details for canning tomatoes coming tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


This is the fourth year in a row that I've taken Alli to the Dahlia Garden. Many people don't know about it because it's kind of hidden, right next to the Conservatory, in Golden Gate Park. The dahlia is my favorite flower, and my excitement for it seems to have rubbed off on Alli. She likes to ask all of the names, and we try to guess why each name was chosen for the corresponding flower.

Dahlias are native to Mexico, but they grow really well in the bay area. When I worked at Rose and Radish, we would occasionally get members from The Dahlia Society in the shop, they'd spout off names and ask questions. Were they ever a crazy crowd, even nuttier than Orchid ladies.