Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chicken kebabs with nectarine salsa

Since I'm generally an optimist (unless it comes to politics, although, occasionally I am surprised by good things happening), I would argue that there are lots of upsides of getting older.

For one thing, when I was younger, I never liked other people being the boss of me. While I was a fairly obedient child, I always itched to be an adult and not have to live by someone else's rules. Being an adult-- especially one who is self-employed--gives you a fair amount of freedom that you just don't enjoy as a kid.

Also, as trite as it is, in your teens and 20s you're still evolving into who you are. Yes, it's an ongoing process (I do live in San Francisco--of course I believe that life is a journey!) but in my case, my 20s were a little too drifty. My 30s have been a much more confident and happy decade in every sense. I believe my 40s will be even better, full of more professional success, time with those I love, and world travel.

However, I'm not gonna lie to you: aging pretty much sucks from a physical standpoint. The metabolism slows. I have to work harder just to stay the same size. Tiny lines appear and don't leave. I buy things with "anti-aging" in the name. I've yet to get a grey hair, but I'm sure it won't be long. And, since I hope to live a long and happy life, occasionally I have to forego my decadent nature in favor of moderation. You can't stop time but you can try and slow the clock with some good habits.

Enter chicken kebabs with nectarine salsa, courtesy of Cooking Light. I pretty much followed the recipe, which you can find here, with minor exceptions--I don't go for bottled garlic, and I used a mix of white and dark meat. But I have to say, as skeptical as I was  (I'm hard-wired to scoff at healthy recipes), this was really delicious. The marinade would also be good on shrimp or pork (here I go, tweaking the recipe away from healthy) and the salsa would be fantastic with either of those things, or on grilled fish. And since the kebabs are broiled not grilled, they were hassle-free.

The dish was also colorful beyond belief and fun to eat (skewers always seem like a party), almost making me forget about eating healthy and hurtling toward death.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Hungry Dog, east coast style

A week or so ago, I voyaged to the exotic and mystical land of New Jersey to visit my sister and her family.

In spite of everything I'd heard about it, it turned out to be a very lush and beautiful place, full of  flowers...

And cotton-tailed bunnies...

And some pretty excellent food, most of which, I must admit, was found in New York, not New Jersey (with the exception of a delightful ice cream joint called The Bent Spoon, which itself is worth a trip to Princeton.)

In one spectacular day that possibly shortened my life, my sister and I ate at both Eataly, Mario Batali's city block-sized Italian food emporium, and David Chang's Momofuku Ssam Bar.

Eataly boasts four restaurants; we chose La Piazza, a wine bar, for a late morning "snack." We started with crisp glasses of rose...

and a gigantic salumi e formaggi plate.

I  forget all the meats, although there was prosciutto (two kinds, I think), speck, ham, salami, and mortadella (little cubes hidden under the salami).

The cheeses were divine and included, from left to right, a sweet and mild ricotta, parmigiano reggiano, something I can't remember, taleggio, and a creamy gorgonzola. Alongside were candied orange peel, honey with almonds, and a delicious fig marmellata.

We also shared smoked bluefish with asparagus and chives.

After finishing this hefty snack, we walked about 100 blocks or so (perhaps I exaggerate--I like to imagine I walked off that salumi plate), chatting and shopping. It was sweltering, so when we stumbled across this sunny yellow truck, it only made sense to get a cone.

I got mint chip, my sister got ginger. No photos, though--who can balance an ice cream cone in 97 degree heat as well as a camera? Not me.

After more walking and shopping, we found ourselves at Momofuku Ssam Bar. It was earlyish, probably around 6, and though we expected a wait, we were able to nab a spot at the bar right away.  Over ice-cold cocktails, we decided on our menu, which somehow ended up being rather large in spite of both of us claiming not to be that hungry on account of our ice cream cones.

There was the famous Momofuku pickle plate, which included kimchee, sunchokes, rhubarb (!), beets, mushrooms, tomatillos, carrots, cucumbers, celery, and a few other things I can't recall.

And there were the pork belly buns, quite likely one of the best things I have eaten in my life.

There was also some very thinly sliced raw geoduck in a pale green gazpacho; spicy pork sausage with rice cakes and Chinese broccoli (an outstanding dish, I highly recommend it if you find yourself there);  and poached chicken with sticky rice, morels, and spinach, shaped into a galantine with a creamy sauce I could have eaten--and did, let's admit it--by the spoonful. By the time these dishes showed up, I'd abandoned the camera. You'll have to use your imagination.

I really loved this place; I wish there was one in San Francisco so I could be a regular.

In addition to eating out, during my short stay my sister and brother-in-law made all kinds of delicious and summery things for us to enjoy at home, including a warm pasta salad with tomatoes and olives, grilled sausages, garlicky pesto, and strawberry scones for breakfast.

Food, of course, wasn't the only great thing about the trip. I got to hang out with my nieces, a major treat. Mischievous Pug and I got a few hours to ourselves to sit on the couch and gossip...

And I enjoyed watching Scrappy take down a sizeable piece of pizza.

I miss you all so much, I can't wait to return!

Hungry Dog

Monday, June 13, 2011

Crumbly strawberry-rhubarb crumble

I made this a few weeks ago, but between work, Sophie, and a trip to the East Coast (where I had the opportunity to eat here and here in one gluttonous day--no one can say I don't seize the moment!), I had trouble getting it into a post. But it was too good to be forgotten. So, although it's belated, and rhubarb may have vanished from the grocery store, let me tell you about this strawberry-rhubarb crumble. If you can't make it now, you can make it next year. And you can certainly steal the secret to the crumbly topping and use it on any kind of fruit.

I myself nabbed the entire recipe from smitten kitchen who borrowed the idea from the divine Nigella Lawson. What's the great concept? Leavening in the topping. As in: baking powder.

Yeah, I was skeptical too, but believe me when I say, this is worth trying. It results in big crumble-y crumbs--no little pesky tidbits masquerading as topping. It's perfect and delicious. 

Oh, and there might have been some Madagascar vanilla ice cream involved...

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble
From smitten kitchen
Yields 6 to 8 servings.

For the topping:
1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (or turbinado sugar aka Sugar in the Raw)
Zest of one lemon
1/4 pound (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 quart strawberries plus a few extras, hulled, quartered
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Prepare topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.

2. Prepare filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate.

3. Remove topping from refrigerator and cover fruit thickly and evenly with topping. Place pie plate on a (foil-lined, if you really want to think ahead) baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbling beneath, about 40 to 50 minutes.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Winter weather, summer food

It's been cool and rainy here, kind of a drag. While the rest of the country is lighting BBQ's and donning sundresses, we're biding our time in raincoats until summer arrives...which means straight-up fog and wind for three months. Oh, joy.

Sometimes you just have to live in a bit of denial. Like last night, I opted for a summery dinner, in spite of the grey skies and the fact that we were both walking around in sweaters. Scallops over a quick saute of zucchini, corn, and tomatoes, a combination of vegetables that to me says nothing but summertime.

I've accepted the fact that I will never cook scallops to look good--check out the photo--one is like the cool suntanned friend next to the three pale duds trying desperately to get some color. Oh well. I have to say they tasted fabulous. I cooked them in a cast iron skillet over high heat, three minutes a side. That's just right for our taste, which runs toward the slightly rare. Plus, overcooked scallops are just a waste of money, and these little things were not cheap.

I love how scallops, more than some other foods (though not as much as oysters), smell just like the sea. Sophie, who has shown remarkable restraint in the kitchen, turned into a bit of a hound dog, her nose going wild, as soon as I pulled them out of the fridge. I am positive had I looked away they would have slid quickly--raw, one after the other, absolutely whole--down her gullet. Good thing I was on to her. I'm not new to this labrador thing, you know, and what they will do for food. We're kindred spirits in this regard.

In any case, it was a badly-needed glimmer of summer--no substitute for actual sunshine and warmth, of course, but I'll take what I can get.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adventures with Sophie

Since losing our beloved Frances a few months back, the house just hasn't felt right. Although we eventually were able to enjoy some of our newfound freedom (that we would have traded in a heartbeat to have our girl back), and of course were able to take a guilt-free trip to Europe, we were both anxious to bring a new pup into our lives.

Enter: Sophie.

The husband encountered her out on a walk with her foster mom on Stanford's campus last week. She was wearing a cheery little vest that said, "Adopt me!" So, we did.

We know a little about her. The basics, of course: yellow lab, two years old. From Idaho. Has had a litter of puppies. She is remarkably well-trained, so must have had a caring owner at some point. She's absolutely gorgeous, with a cream-colored coat and "toasted" face and tip of her tail.

The rest we have learned in the few days we have had her: she is incredibly affectionate and friendly; good with people (including children), other dogs, and cats. She does not bark at the doorbell or howl at sirens (yet). She makes happy clucking noises when you get her leash or put out her kibble. When you pull on socks, she associates it with going for a walk, and she nibbles your big toe, gently, for about two seconds.

We have been having the best time with her, which partly explains my lack of posts for the last week. And I suspect she'll be making more than than a few appearances in this blog; while we're actually feeding her dog food (in contrast with Frannie's daily hamburger and weekend roast chicken), I anticipate some food adventures with her.

So, everyone: meet Sophie, our new hungry dog.