Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quick Reminder

Definitely in my top 5 quotes ever:


from this guy

Friday, August 20, 2010

Advantage of a Cloudy Summer

The weather, as you may have heard or experienced first hand, has not been business as usual for Southern California. There have been many a Facebook post about the gloomy cooler cloudy weather we've had at the beach--and mind you it's mid-AUGUST--June gloom is WAAAAAY supposed to be over--and out in the Valley and Pasadena the brutal temperatures haven't been that at all. It's been downright temperate and gorgeous. I will say it's finally starting to warm up and be sunny at the beach--I'm looking forward to September being hot and saturated in sunlight. But no surprise our fruit trees have been on altered seasons. Figs, which usually peak in July and early August, are coming in to their prime now. This is good for me as I would have had no time to make fig jam til about a week ago.

I raided a friend's tree at her insistence--she's out of town doing Pinter in Pittsburgh and knows how much I love those purple seeded beauties. I took her up on it and on a sunny Glendale afternoon I got completely filthy reaching up to the highest branches on a wobbly iron patio chair. Wish I had a pic of that: me doing an arabesque reaching for the uppermost jewels sitting there so perfectly ripe on those top branches. I must have looked ridiculous. Probably dangerous to do alone too, but I'll go (literally) out on a limb for good food. And there are more on the tree that should be ripe soon! I think I get to make fig jam in September too. Fall is going to be good.....

I tried a new recipe--one she gave me in fact. I figure if I use a lady's figs the least I can do is make her favorite recipe. And this is a good one. More for a cheese board than your morning toast, and the color is typical fig-gorgeous. That is if you use the purple ones or mostly purple ones....otherwise the color could be kind of weird....

Fig and Shallot Jam
1 c water
2 quarts whole figs
4 large shallots
3 1/2 c sugar
1/2 light corn syrup (I KNOW. Just give in)
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 t celery seed
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic

1. Halve figs, shallots, garlic cloves. Combine in bowl of food processor with the water. Pulse til good and mashed up: no huge chunks sticking out at you.
2. Put in large pot along with all the rest of the ingredients and bring to full boil.
3. Reduce heat, stir often, and boil til desired consistency, skimming off the foam when you need to. (To check for consistency, have a plate ready in the freezer. Place a teaspoon of jam on the plate, return to freezer for a couple minutes and check thickness after that. The thicker you want, the longer you cook)
4. Pour into hot sterilized jars. Cover and seal with hot sterile lids. Let set til lids pop.
*For complete instructions on how to sterilize go here
*If you don't have a food processor, dice figs, shallots, garlic small. Add water to figs, then add shallots and garlic, then follow the recipe from Step 2



Christmas gifts have begun.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Very Pretty Things

Let me introduce you to Misa's jewelry

These are just a few of my favorite things.

I was given these hoops by my ever-wonderful sister-in-law who always gives the perfect gifts
and I have worn them at least three times a week for the last three (?) years.

Misa grew up in Hawaii and Micronesia, uses nature as an inspiration for her designs, and uses wax casting (carving designs into wax then casting to solidify metal) to make these beauties.

I have my eye on this which also, as many of her pieces do, comes in silver. I seem to be in a gold mood today.
From what I hear she is a lovely person as well, so we can feel extra-good about giving our money to her.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Convert

I know. It seems every post is food or food-related these days. I could show you pictures of me taking an occasional walk on the beach, or learning lines, or hanging out with Sky whenever possible---as that's pretty much what I do when I'm not onstage or doing basic life stuff. That and spending some time in the kitchen. Girl's gotta eat after all and there are only so many trips one can take to the Whole Foods salad bar.

And I know I haven't done a baby update in a while. Not much to report on that front, except that I'm doing what I've been doing (with the occasional timeout for a chocolate chip cookie--Life has to be about that sometimes--keep reading). I have days when I'm so certain it's happening, and other days that I'm scared and sad that it's not. I think that's the journey of healing anything: faith comes and goes and we ride the wave. It helps that I have amazing friends, family and a spectacular husband who believes every single day.

So that time out I mentioned: here are the best chocolate chip cookies you might ever eat.
I am not a chocolate chip cookie person. Give me toffee or almond or scrap the whole idea and just hand me a plate of macarons. I found these via Kristina who got it from Molly. Kristina, myself, and our mother-in-law made a bunch for Kristina and Brock's cocktail party the night before their wedding. Oh, wedding planning! That was fun.

And I have also since learned that MANY people have blogged this recipe. It seems to be the going fave as the quintessential CCC recipe. But in case you haven't been culling food blogs as of late, allow me to introduce you.

These take a little planning because the dough needs to be refrigerated for at least 24 hours. I think they'd be fine without, and in fact once I left some dough out while I baked some others so it was room temp when I used it--the cookies were good, but burned kinda easily. FYI. I actually like that the make and bake are two different stages----I can make the dough, clean up the kitchen, and then baking them is relatively little mess, which makes enjoying them straight out of the oven hanging out in the kitchen that much more fun. These are a little cakey, a little chewy, a little SALTY, and perfectly-barely-crispy on the bottom.

Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours. It also can, of course, be frozen: thaw it in the fridge and keep it there for 24 hours when you're ready to use.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. (My testy oven had them done in about 15, so check regularly if your oven is temperamental too). Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm standing up, or lying on the floor savoring every morsel, feed them to someone you love, or take them to a party and prepare to make new friends.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods. I've also in a pinch used bittersweet chips and they were fine.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Not Just for Kiddies Anymore

Sometimes strange things that want to seem like coincidences happen. But the fact that they seem like coincidences---which there's really no such thing as right?--make me wonder if there's deeper meaning. Am I supposed to change my relationship to Pop Rocks? I guess so. Twice in as many weeks I've had encounters with this candy that I neglected as a kid since they weren't made of chocolate or caramel. These meetings have had me changing my nonchalant tune about the little cracklers.

First of all---you know what they are right? Candy that when you bite them crunches then starts kinda crackling and making popping noises in your mouth that is good fun to feel. I hadn't since I was about 6.

So then Food Network Magazine comes out with this

photo from Food Network site
It was for their 4th of July spread, but I came across it late and if you change the napkins there's no reason this has to be holiday-specific. It's a Firecracker Cocktail made with rimming the glass with crushed pop rocks. Hellooooooo that is way too fun. All you do is pound the poprocks til they're more the texture of coarse salt, then dip the rim of the glass in a little water before dipping in the crushed rocks. Fill with anything: this is cranberry and seltzer or something but you could do mint juleps with green pop rocks, something citrusy with orange and yellow, a cool Negroni spritzer with red.......I'm thirsty all of a sudden and it's 10am. Then sit around with your friends and watch everyone's faces as the pop rocks do their thing!

Pop Rock encounter #2 is courtesy of my mom. As a belated birthday dinner she took me to The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel. K this meal deserves a post of its own and it would have one if I had some freaking better pictures of what we ate. I'm going back, I've decided, armed with proper photographic technology because you must see what spherified mozzarella is about. But until then let me tell you it was one of the most extraordinary sequence of mouthfuls I have ever partaken of. Not a day goes by that I don't think about that dinner.

We didn't order dessert because, lo, we were practicing moderation and both of us felt perfect without it. But our adorable waiter asked if he could bring us a few of his favorite bonbons as a gift from him. Guess how hard we had to think about that? A little plate came out with a white chocolate/red pepper piece, a lemon-ginger truffle (which tastes like Lemon Ginger tea), another one I can't remember, and dark chocolate-covered pop rocks. Yes, pop rocks again.

There they are in a little paper cone which I was able to photograph since I actually brought them home in this beautiful little box
which makes me want to bring lots of things home from the SLS.....

I'm thinking we could do this at home. Melt some best-quality dark chocolate, dip some pop rocks--maybe put the pop rocks in a strainer as they get dipped so one could lift the strainer out of the chocolate and not have lost the pop rocks......
Let cool.
Delicately place in mouth, savor dark chocolate flavor and scintillating crunch of pop rock, and let the bursting begin.

Everything at The Bazaar is about upping the sensory experience of food---this simple twist on a pop rock does that----it starts as one thing (luxurious chocolate) and becomes something completely different that is sensory in and of itself and also has you pay more attention to what you're eating. Which is a lovely thing to be reminded of as we move at lightning speed through life.

If I were eating more sugar these days I would have made these for you; since I am not I say Try It and let me know of your successes. Or the next time I have a dinner party I will and then report back.

Who knew these little buggers had so many good tricks up their sleeves?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Easy Summer Dinner

Food-wise it's a blessing that this time that I'm so busy happens to be summer, since most of my favorite things to eat in summer barely need anything done to them to be delicious. Last night Sky and I had a night off together (gasp!) and I wanted to make something beautiful and something scrumptious but honestly didn't want to spend hours in the kitchen. Enter heirloom tomatoes, burricotta, quinoa, fresh herbs and some other market finds.....

First: Heirloom tomato salad with Burricotta, Cucumber, Avocado and Market Greens

Slice cucumbers thinly, arrange on a plate with a few greens, slice any variety of heirloom tomatoes ( I used brandywines from a friend's garden and yellow cherry tomatoes from the farmers' market) , a few slices of avocado (the Reeds are in season and they're my favorite. This would be just as good without the avo but I had a little leftover in the fridge that needed eating), and a sensuous mound of burrata or burricotta cheese. (Burricotta is burrata and ricotta's love child). Pour your best olive oil on top and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.

Next: Red Quinoa salad with Peas, Radish, Feta Cheese and Basil

Cook 1 c red quinoa in 2 c water and a little salt
Cook 1c or so organic frozen peas according to package directions
slice a couple of radishes very thin or use a mandoline
cube some feta cheese
tear some basil leaves into small pieces
juice a lemon for dressing

Allow quinoa to cool, then toss with sliced radishes, cooked peas, feta, and basil leaves
Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper
You're done
I also roasted some heirloom summer squash in a blend of cumin, turmeric, curry powder and salt (went VERY light on the seasoning as the blend is flavor-intense---just sprinkled a little over the squash): sliced it and roasted on a baking sheet with olive oil til nice and brown. Didn't get a picture of that but it was yum.

And that was it. Tonight I'm celebrating my birthday with my mom at a restaurant I've wanted to try for a year at least: I'll report back.

Honestly, in summer I think it's about heading to the market, seeing what's fresh and colorful, and throwing it together in whatever combos strike your fancy. It's hard to go wrong.