Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Does Rachael Ray Annoy Herself?

Why do i still watch 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray? It's my mindless entertainment before I go to bed but she annoys me, so why do I do it? Last night I sat there pondering whether or not she annoys herself. She was making "ice cream sammies" and I kept wondering what adult, who is not being condescending to a young child, calls a sandwich a sammy?? And WHY? What is wrong with the word sandwich? It's treated me well all my life. And that's just the beginning of my frustration with Rachael and her bizarre lexicon.
Yum-O: she likes this so much she named her FOUNDATION after it. Seriously?!
EVOO: no explanation necessary
spoonula: is this the actually name for this tool? I thought it was a spatula. You know the plastic ones that are good for scraping the sides of a bowl.
Moppina: Another word I assume is made up. Why can't she say kitchen towel?

I'll add more grievances when they come. This blog is no where near over...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sometimes You Just Want What You Want

The other day I came home from work very tired and a little crabby. I was exhausted and hungry and I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to eat. Then it dawned on me. I wanted eggs. Eggs and toast. So I made a side dish of kale and mushrooms (which I added some wine to and I shouldn't have. It overpowered the natural taste of the food and it was too alcoholy for me. I didn't want a glass of wine and therefore I definitely didn't want to eat one either.)
But the greens were good and the eggs and whole wheat toast hit the spot of exactly what I wanted. I love fried eggs and I make a pretty good one even if they aren't always pretty.
I put on some sweats and sat in front of the tv while mopping up the oozy egg yolk. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

Friday, August 22, 2008

My Salads are Getting Stranger and Stranger

Lunchtime salad was an oddity this time!
It included:
red cabbage
slivered almonds

I think that was it. And you know what? It tasted really good! Amazing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Planet Organics Delivers Again

Another lvoely box was waiting for me at the office. This one full of fruits and veggies for the next week or so. I received:
romaine lettuce
snap peas

I made the most ridiculous salad with some of the ingredients for lunch today. That will be a surprise that comes next...
But I am making a pasta with cauliflower and some kale for dinner tonight. Should be good and healthy. Slowly but surely the meat is disappearing again!

Salad Salad Everywhere

I've been eating a lot of salad. There are a few reasons for this. First off, I like salad. That's the simple reason. But it is summer time in California and teh produce is SO good, I can't figure out why I wouldn't take advantage of that. So I had a bunch of chicken leftover from my roasted chicken from last week that needed to be eaten. I placed that in a bowl and added purple cabbage, spinach, mixed greens, red bell peppers, tomatoes, avocado, and a balsamic vinaigrette I made. It was delicious. I also made some garlic bread on the side. I had a leftover seeded baguette that was a bit stale and wanted to use it though. So I slathered on some butter and some minced garlic I found in John's fridge and stuck it under the broiler. It was really good!

To make a more complete meal I also steamed some zucchini and yellow squash. Yum Yum. When you have good produce I find that there is no need to add additional flavor. Just some salt and pepper made these sweet and tasty.
I need to get away from the "European" dining hours that we have been keeping (that was the comment that John's roommate made the other night). It just takes so long to get everything together after work. If i am going to squeeze in the gym and a shower and get dinner together etc, plus the 30 minute bus ride home from downtown we don't end up eating til after 9:30pm. Oh well, I am usually not too hungry by this time anyway, I couldn't even finish my salad and I put the rest of the squash in a tupperware to eat for lunch the next day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Opera In the Park

We had an amazing picnic at Stern Grove yesterday. The annual Opera in the Park is one of my favorite events and we were lucky enough to have a good spot (thanks for saving it Lys) and an even better picnic. We had four really lovely cheeses, the salami and prosciutto, I made more of my now ubiquitous orzo, and there were four salads from Whole Foods.

We drank mimosas and enjoyed the music and company. The music was a celebration of Leonard Bernstein's 90th birthday, so it was really fun to hear parts of Porgy and Bess, West Side Story, and Oklahoma amongst others. It was also nice because I think that music is probably more palatable for beginning opera attendees.
The only downside of the weekend was eating way too much. I have felt gross all day and it's been 24 hours since the gorgefest. Yuck. My pants feel tight, partially probably because of the amount of sodium I consumed and also because of the time of the month. But it is light eating for the next two weeks, as I am in a wedding 2 weekends from now.

Enjoying the San Francisco Opera Co.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Chicken Salad for Dinner

I roasted a chicken the other night (before I had my change of heart about the poor feathered creatures) and so I feel like we need to eat it. so I made a salad. Some steamed squash, yellow carrots, radishes, half and heirloom tomato, avocado, and the chicken with lettuce and spinach. It was actually pretty good. This was another late night meal which I simply sort of snacked on.

Still working on my close-ups.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Orzo in the Sun

I made another batch of orzo last night. John just LOVES it and asks for it all the time, and I like it too. It's yummy and easy, so there you are. I made it for dinner last night and then packed it up for lunch today too. This one was slightly different than the previous one I made. Instead of pine nuts i put in sliced almonds, and dried cherries replaced the cranberries. I switched feta for ricotta salata and added a chiffonade of spinach instead of basil. Now, I will say I think I preferred the original. The basil added a ton of flavor that the spinach is missing, and the cherries are slightly sweeter and more tart than the cranberries, overpowering the dish a bit more. There's also minced shallot and red onion for a little heat/complexity. I had all these ingredients on hand which is why I threw it together, but I also like to eat different things (although it looks like I constantly eat the same thing, I know).

I placed my salad on top of a bed of cabbage and carrots I had leftover from last night. We had orzo and a green salad and some delicious Basque cheese with our favorite seeded sourdough baguette. But I just wasn't hungry so I had about two bites of dinner before packing it up for lunch (this is VERY unusual by the way). But lunch was delicious. I ate sitting in MacArthur Park with some friends. I love getting out on a work day and getting 30 minutes of sunshine. Really improves my day, I'll say that. And yes, the above picture is my tupperware perched on top of legs. Trying to get a tan!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

PuPu Platter

Sometimes you are just hungry and want a simple snack. This happened on Sunday. After my whirlwind weekend of running up and down Northern California, up to Hopland, then off to Calistoga, a little traipsing around St. Helena and Rutherford, and then to my mom's house in Ross, John and I collapsed on her new couch in front of the Olympics. It was an absolutely beautiful day on Sunday. We watched the Olympics but I spent half of the time laying in the sun in my bikini. I know the sun is bad for me, but I have to say nothing feels better than sweating outside. I love it.

Anyway, we had brunch that day at Taylor's Refresher in St. Helena. I know it is odd to eat a cheeseburger at 10:45am, but we both didn't want to pass up the opportunity to sit at Taylor's when we could. Also we were coming from a wedding and some greasy food is what we both needed to hit the spot. The funniest part is that I work about 6 blocks from the Ferry Building in San Francisco where the other Taylor's is, but I rarely go. I think that diner food is best kept as treat and shouldn't become part of my daily lunchtime routine.

I ordered the Ahi Burger, a large piece of rare ahi with an asian slaw on top. Amazing as always. John got a bacon cheeseburger, of which I had a bite, and we shared both garlic and regular fries.

But late in the afternoon we got munchy, which is amazing considering how full I was for hours after my ahi burger, so I raided my mother's fridge for some snacks. I put together a little pupu platter that wouldn't ruin our appetites for dinner and was mildly healthy. Yeah, maybe a little high in fat, but there was not very much on the plate. Cold asparagus is one of my favorites, so I ate most of that!

I also have attempted to improve my photography skills this weekend. I am simply not a good photographer. Why, I have no idea. But I am not. I think it must be like cooking. I am a good cook. Somehow it always works out for me when I am in the kitchen. But photography, not so much. So here are some test shots that I took in an attempt to improve my ability to take close up shots, mostly of food, of course!

Off the Wagon- The Meat Wagon That Is

So, I ordered my first steak. I was at Izzy's Steakhouse with Kiki ( and we decided to share the BACON wrapped fillet mignon. And the creamed spinach and potatoes au gratin. HUH? The weirdest thing is I never ate this stuff when I DID eat meat. Granted I was 12 and it is totally normal for tastebuds to change, but part of my decision to go mostly meatless was that is was easy for me. I didn't struggle. I never craved a hamburger, I never couldn't help myself to the bacon. It just was simple. So I don't know what has changed. My mother asked me if I was pregnant, apparently that changes tastes, cravings etc (the answer is NO) so I do not have an explanation for it. But I am pondering going back to the veggie side.

This has been a fun few months, dabbling with the meats, taking a bite of a burger, but I think that this isn't a lifestyle that is going to remain permanent. I don't know how staunch I will be about meat in the future, but I really want to go back to a lifestyle where it is a rare treat, perhaps once or twice a year. This weekend i was going through some of my mom's old Gourmet magazines, and I read a long article about chicken production in the United States. The article was basically about the tactics that the American plants use when killing the chickens and that it could be less painful than it currently is. Now, mind you, this article was from July 2007, so things could possibly have changed in the last thirteen months, but for some reason I doubt it. Included was an interview with a Norwegian chicken farmer and how he spent a ton of money changing his facilities so the chickens died a more peaceful death. Naturally I sat there reading this and kept saying, I will never eat chicken again. Or any other meat.
Is this going to be true? That remains to be seen. But I would like to think so.

Salads Galore!

For some strange reason I decided to make 3 salads for dinner. Now, one might find this odd, perhaps because it is, but all three of the salads were quite different. I chose to make the three because I wanted to use up what I had on hand, tons of produce, chicken legs, etc. So i set to work, starting with a lovely Caprese. Nothing beyond the norm of lovely heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil from the plant I have, and some olive oil. I added salt and pepper and a touch of balsamic to my serving. I absolutely love mozzarella, I think I could live off caprese salad (with lots of olive oil and vinegar soaked bread) for the rest of my life.

In addition to the Caprese I made another chicken caesar salad. Similar to the week before. I raosted two chicken legs with rosemary over a bed of ripped up bread, and I made a twist on the dressing. I used creme fraiche and garlic and parmesan and lemon and oil, but added a tablespoon of dijon mustard and anchovy paste instead of minced anchovies. I thought it was better than before.

I also didn't add prosciutto or anything, I didn't find it necessary.

The third salad, our "regular" one, was mixed greens with radishes, avocado, yellow carrots, and beets. By the time I was ready to serve everything I realized I had made way too much, so I packed the green salad away for lunch the next day.

Dinner was really nice. I even set the table as opposed to my normal lazy coffee table eating self. Does that make sense?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Mexican Pasta Salad

This was one of my first attempts to make a Rachael Ray dish. Technically it's called Mac & Jack salad or something atrocious like that. I took her main recipe and made it my own. Hers called for the following:
1 pound macaroni elbows or cavatappi, corkscrew-shaped hollow pasta
1 cup frozen corn, defrosted
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
Black pepper
1 8-ounce brick pepper Jack cheese, diced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (eyeball it)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 cup store-bought tomatillo salsa (mild, green) or chipotle salsa (hot, smoky red)
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves or flat leaf parsley, chopped

I used half macaroni and half campanelle, because I had half a box left and wanted to finish it. I also added a can of pinto beans (more protein) and used canned corn. I had a leftover jar of tomatillo salsa to use up as well, which was the main impetus for this meal. I am trying to save money and use what I already have in my pantry as well as use cheaper ingredients. This means more pasta, beans and rice, etc.
It also means that I had this meal stretch for two dinners and two lunches for both myself and John. Not too shabby!
I honestly didn't like it much the night I originally made it, but the longer it sat the better it got! I was surprised.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Pasta Puttanesca- Not What I Thought It Would Be, But They Never Are

Puttanesca is a pasta sauce that I have been reading about for years. I like the folklore that comes with it. The idea of the Italian prostitutes cooking this incredible sauce that smells so good the men cannot help themselves but enter the whorehouse. Puttanesca comes from the word puttana which means, well, lady parts. And it is also the name for a prostitute or "lady of the night" as many cookbooks refer to it. I think that they say that because it is easier to use a euphamism then say you are cooking a sauce that was originated by whores. Just my two cents.

The ingredients have always enthrall me and I had never made it. So this past Saturday, my lazy Saturday where I sat around in my pajamas all day (seriously, it was kind of gross)I decided that it was time to finally try the stuff. I have plenty of pasta on hand, and I had a can of diced tomatoes, olives, basil, garlic, onions, etc etc.
I also had a ton of squash so I added that as well to make it even healthier. And the special ingredient that I actually needed to use up was anchovies. But this might be where I went astray. The recipe (Silver Palate) called for I believe 3 anchovies. Well, I had about 1/2 a tin worth of them, leftover from Proper Chicken Caesar Salad, and so I used about 6. Maybe more. This was not a good idea.

The sauce and pasta cooking away
I really don't actually feel like elaborating on this because I just didn't like it that much. I should have drained the tomatoes before adding them to the pan. And I should haev chilled out on the anchovies. My roomie liked it, but I just didn't. It's always disappointing when you make something and it turns out mediocre.

Oh well, there are more meals to have!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mitchell's Ice Cream and La Taqueria- San Francisco Classics

Following my large Perbacco dinner, I went to La Taqueria and Mitchell's in the Mission District of San Francisco. I planned a company outing and since we live in such an amazing food city, I thought it would be fun to get back to the roots of San Francisco. Go to some old establishments. La Taqueria on Mission and 25th St fit the bill! The food there is so good. I had a chicken burrito, moist pieces of chicken and juice in a burrito. La Taqueria is old school and they don't fill the burritos up with a lot of filler. They don't even offer rice! I don't have a photo because I was way too busy consuming.
Following up my burrito belly all the Foodbuzzers climbed back onto our awesome bus I rented and drove to Mitchell's. Now Mitchell's ( been around forever (technically 1953) and makes all their own ice cream. The ice cream of the month was canteloupe and the whole company got a variety of Mitchell's creamy creations.
Avocado ice cream!!!

Perbacco- Featured Publishers Dinner

I was very excited to try Perbacco last Thursday night. I have hear about it and I was also anxious to try a new restaurant, I feel like I have been frequenting the same ones over and over as opposed to venturing out to new establishments. The first thing I dove into was the bread sticks and herb dip/tapenade that they had one the table. Apparently the entire staff makes over a thousand of these crunchy snackers every day. At least that is what someone at my table said. I can imagine that it would take the entire staff to handroll all these sticks. But it is well worth it. They were not at all similar to the tough/brittle and tasteless breadsticks of my youth. The ones I particularly remember are from Perry's in Tiburon (now the Piatti space). We used to dip the sticks into the ramekin of saltless butter. I would always try to convince my parents to let me order a Roy Rodgers or a Shirley Temple as well, a rare treat for the ten year old me. Anyway, back to 2008.

After I had sufficiently demolished 4 too many breadsticks and the majority of the herb/olive oil mix in front of me (definitely eating more than my share!) we were served my new favorite dish. Raviolo all'uovo. This was incredible. A warm raviolo (ravioli is plural, since there was only one, it is a raviolo) stuffed with ricotta, spinach and a perfectly cooked egg. And I absolutely love a runny yolk. I should have taken a picture of it when I cut into it and the yolk drizzled out, but I was too busy consuming at that point. Oh, and it was topped with truffle oil. Mmmmm, hungry just thinking about it.

We were then served a roasted red and gold beet and arugula salad. It was served with a Castelmagno cheese, which is a semi hard cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy. It reminded me a bit of a ricotta salata, but it's been a few days, so maybe I am off on this. The salad was nice, nothing to rave about. But this could also be because I had just eaten one of the best appetizers ever, so anything would be a bit of a disappointment after that.

There were two options for the main course. A seafood risotto, which I did not choose, and a pan roasted chicken with mushroom jus and herb roasted gnocchi.

I had a bite of the risotto and I will admit, it looks a lot prettier than it tasted. I think if it had been executed properly perhaps my review might be different, but it was undercooked so it was a bit crunchy almost. Not the correct texture for risotto.

The chicken was lovely. It was moist and tender and the gnocchi was out of this world. I don't think that it was traditional gnocchi, more like soft pillows of flavor. Magnifique! I thought I wouldn't have any room for dessert, but somehow I managed to consume an entire piece of the peach raspberry crostata. It was well worth it. Besides feeling like I weighed 500 pounds for the rest of the evening and the next day, Perbacco was absolutely wonderful and I am looking forward to my return visit.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Late Night Cooking- Linguine Oh My!

I attended a wedding Monday and night and ate a variety of appetizers and crudite etc. Unfortunately John was at work this entire time (he's been putting in loooong days) so I picked him up from work at around 8:30pm and we headed home. He hadn't eaten and I wanted to make lunch for the next day, so I quickly went to work on some pasta and sauce. I had a jar of store-bought tomato sauce but I never think those are very good, and I like to up my veggie intake, so I doctored it up. BUT I didn't keep it event hat simple, I made TWO sauces. Yes two.

John wanted some meat (shocker) so I placed some ground beef in a pan and started cooking it. In the other pan I added some olive oil and a sliced up zucchini and yellow squash. I added some garlic (would have loved to add an onion but this man's kitchen is barren. Huh, it has to have SOME stuff in it? Nope, not even a cheese grater! I used a serrated knife to make parmesan cheese flakes). The squash got nice and soft, the beef browned, and then I added half the jar to each pan. I also added about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, for brightness. Stick half the linguine in each pan along with a little cooking water, and we had a pretty nice late dinner/lunch. Not bad for cooking on the fly!

I didn't take a picture of the veggie spaghetti, just ate it for lunch and forgot!

Cous Cous Again!

Now that I have started making couscous I think I might be an addict. It is DEFINITELY a new staple in my kitchen. I made almost the same couscous that I made the other week, this one was just a little more dressed up. I used whole wheat couscous from Trader Joes (I haven't used regular couscous yet, but I see no reason too. The whole wheat is delicious, unlike some other whole wheat versions of every day foods. For example I just can't do whole wheat pasta. I simply do not care for the texture. And I like my pasta al dente, but for some reason the whole wheat never seems to cook quite enough and then it gets slimy. Gross).

This time I added kalamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, and feta, like before, but added a shallot, 1/3 a small red onion, and a bunch of basil chiffonade. I also used the sun dried tomato oil as my olive oil. Some black pepper, salt, and red pepper flakes, and John and I had lunch two days in a row.

To serve it for lunch I did something slightly different. I placed the couscous in the bottom of a tupperware, and then added a bunch of spinach, a diced tomato, and a dollop of hummus on top. I sort of had two salads in one container! I ate the spinach and hummus etc first, but also mixed it all around, It was quite good. The fresh veggies brightened everything up. A perfect salad for a nice workday lunch in the park!