Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pasta with bacon and eggs (plus bacon and eggs)

Something's going to kill you eventually: I could probably eat pasta every day of the week. I know there are people out there who can resist the siren song of the noodle but I am not one of them. To be honest, I don't even try. I'd rather swim a few extra laps and enjoy a good bowl of pasta when the whim strikes me, which is often and irresistible.

I frequently fall back on old favorite recipes but recently I made this luxurious pasta carbonara, another hit from Firehouse Food.

I'll be the first to admit, carbonara is not healthy, unless you have an alternative doctor that has told you to get fatter, increase your cholesterol, and up your sodium intake. This is certainly not something I would eat too often. But you may as well make the most of your indulgences. Life is short, after all.

I've tried a lot of carbonara recipes in my day, some with as many as six eggs, some without cream, some with garlic. This one has three eggs, cream, mushrooms, and a whopping half-pound of bacon. They're not kidding around, and neither am I: this is good.

Rigatoni alla carbonara
From Firehouse Food

8 oz thick-cut pancetta or bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/4" strips (I used bacon)
1 T. olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I used crimini)
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 c. whipping cream
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 c. grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus extra for serving
1 lb rigatoni (I used penne)
2 T. chopped Italian parsley
1 t. freshly ground black pepper

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat until it is browned (but not crispy), about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon, using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels and set aside.

Discard all but 1 T. of the rendered fat in the skillet. Add the oil and heat the skillet briefly over medium heat; add the mushrooms and red pepper flakes and saute until the mushrooms are golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the cream and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the cream has thickened slightly, about 4 minutes. Keep warm.

In a bowl large enough to hold the pasta, beat the eggs and yolk with the cheese. Cook the penne in boiling salted water. Reserve 1/2 c. of the pasta water and drain the pasta in a colander.

Immediately add the hot pasta to the bowl with the egg mixture, tossing to combine. Stir in the warm mushroom mixture, bacon, parsley, and pepper. If the pasta seems dry or the sauce too thick, add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese at the table.


Speaking of eggs: I now like them.  I'm not sure what happened, but I now eat eggs in all different forms: poached, hard-boiled, baked on pizzas, and even fried on a sandwich. I order them in restaurants! I make them at home!

I've always eaten them sporadically when scrambled and that remains the way I am best at preparing them. I think I make good scrambled eggs. For one thing, they are never dry. My clever trick for this is "not overcooking them." Also, cooking them over low heat seems to result in creamier eggs that don't get watery. And adding a dash of milk, just a tablespoon or two, to the beaten eggs keeps them fluffy. An old friend told me that once and I remembered it. She ended up being a professional cook, so I guess she knew what she was talking about.

Here are some pretty eggs I made a few weeks ago, served with buttery toast and thick bacon. Not too shabby for a former egg-a-phobe.


Happy birthday to me: Today, my friends, I turn one year older. Wiser? Dubious. Happier? Yes!

While I don't love getting older, I have never been one to dwell on it. I have a lot of friends who, in their late thirties or early forties, talk about how old they are. I think this is ridiculous, and frankly, doing that actually makes you seem kind of old. Sure, you're aging. And, you don't get the past back, so hopefully you did some good stuff with those years. But getting older means you have had more experiences--hopefully, most of them good. And at its most basic level, it means you're still around, and that's kind of the point, right?

The way I see it is this: whatever age you are turning, it is the youngest you will be for the rest of your life. Say you are turning 50 and feeling a little blue about it. Well, when you are turning 60 or 70, you will probably find yourself longing for the days when you were a 50-year-old spring chicken. You'd better enjoy yourself now!

We celebrated my birthday this past Saturday exactly as I wanted. It was a beautiful sunny day and we kicked around the Mission for a bit, supporting Small Business Saturday by hitting some of our favorite stores (the huz wrote about our escapades here), then grabbing a cozy lunch at The Monks Kettle. Home for a little nap and Sophie time, plus a long walk to the top of Buena Vista Park. Then dinner at Cotogna (fresh papparadelle with braised oxtail, anyone?) I couldn't ask for anything more.

I also want to give a shout-out to my niece, Emily, with whom I share my birthday. She is turning 11 today, which is infinitely more exciting than turning 38. Happy birthday, little E! I love you!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chocolate snickerdoodles, and another houseguest

Strikeout: After Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip, snickerdoodles may have been the first kind of cookie I learned to make. They're so simple it's no wonder that little kids can master them. And who doesn't like a sweet mouthful of cinnamon and sugar?

When I recently saw a recipe in Food & Wine for chocolate snickerdoodles, I knew I had to make them. Because while I always liked the original recipe, they can be a little boring. Chocolate seemed like a fantastic idea.

I regret to say that this recipe was terrible and I vehemently recommend you do NOT make it. The baking time was way off and the cookies turned out hard as rocks and as bland as can be. I choked down two, the husband one, and the rest hit the compost bin.

Too bad, because they were pretty as a picture, as the husband might say.

But I can't eat pretty. Recipe: fail.


Sophie's BFF: A few weeks ago, Sophie's friend Ruby came to stay with us for a few days. The two pups are about a year apart in age and have developed a rapid little dog friendship. They wrestle and romp until they collapse, exhausted, for about five minutes. Then they're at it again.

Seeing them reminded me of the time we took care of Django, who was Ruby's older brother. He and Frances didn't play together--at that point, Frances was 14 and Django was probably 13--but they did seem to enjoy each other's quiet company, much like a contented old couple. Neither one of them could hear much by that point, which meant they could easily ignore anything we said. They did, however, seem to have a sliver of hearing reserved for the clinking of pots in the kitchen, which always brought them running for scraps. Our friends lost sweet Django a few months ago, and while their world and the animal kingdom still suffer his absence, there is always hope in the next generation.

There's also tug-of-war...

Gazing into each other's eyes...

Watching TV together...

And straight-up snoozing.

We had the best time with Ruby. She is, like her name, a little gem and welcome any time!


Be thankful, be generous: Given my rate of posting these days, I suspect this will be my last post before Thanksgiving. We're not hosting this year (going to Ruby's house!) but I will be doing some cooking: cauliflower gratin,  pumpkin chiffon pie, and, if I'm feeling froggy, stuffed mushrooms.

Although I would like to think I am the kind of person who spends each day being thankful for everything I have and never feeling fussy or greedy or envious,  I know in my heart that this is not true. So, around Thanksgiving, I do try to really appreciate what I have. This year, I am deeply thankful for: my husband, my dog, my family, my friends, my health, my work, and my home, not necessarily in that order. 

I wish you all a wonderful holiday! May it be filled with delicious food in outrageous proportions and spent with those you treasure. Also, I encourage you, if you have anything to spare, to give to your local food bank. If you're in the Bay Area, here are links to food banks in San Francisco (now merged with the Marin Food Bank), San Mateo/Santa Clara, and Alameda. I'm sure I don't need to tell you about the staggering need. And, as someone who fundraises professionally, I can tell you that whatever you're able to give, either in money, groceries, or volunteer time, will make a difference.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pizzetta 211 and my secret list

Oh, Pizzetta: We've got a few favorite weekend lunch spots in rotation these days, and at the top is Pizzetta, located in the outer Richmond (23rd & California). We usually show up for a late-ish lunch with Sophie and grab a table outside. I absolutely adore this place, from the cozy setting to the friendly service to the innovative and carefully executed pizzas.

We invariably begin with whatever the special starter is. Sometimes it's a simple beet salad, sometimes braised Romano beans with tomatoes, sometimes a fiery hot bowl of melting crescenza cheese, served with crostini. Then we get two pizzas. 

Now, before you judge, understand that these are small-medium pizzas, with a rather thin crust. We're decadent but we're not totally insane. (We are a little insane though, now that I'm thinking about our lunches there, which tend to involve several glasses of wine...each. Moving on.)

Last time we went, we got pepperoni (see above), which I usually don't like, but I do like at Pizzetta, and this one, with potatoes, pancetta, greens, and two sunny eggs. I'm overcoming my aversion to eggs. Will wonders never cease?

Their pizzas are perfectly-crusted (crispy and chewy), well-balanced, and imaginative. Just thinking about them now is making me hungry.

After we do a number on the pizzas, we get dessert. They have a fantastic upside down cake, as well as a delicious ginger cake with a pear compote. Last time, we got a berry galette. Now, I know this picture is horrible (hipstamatic can be finicky). But the reason why I am posting it is to show you one of the lovely things about their desserts, which is that every single one comes with, as the husband says, a "hamster-sized" dollop of heavenly whipped cream. True story:

And of course there's cappucino to be had.

Then a stand-off on who gets stuck driving home, followed by a lengthy nap. The end.


About those good ideas:  Awhile ago, a friend of mine gave me a little blank book to use for whatever I like. There were three nice things about this gift. The first is that it was for no occasion, she just showed up with it one day. The second is, it's pretty. And third, I'd been thinking that it would be useful to have a small notebook I could carry with me to jot down my brilliant ideas when I wasn't near my laptop.

The rather painful thing is, it turns out I don't have brilliant ideas. Instead, I have started using the book to jot down words or concepts that either come up in conversation, or in whatever book I'm reading, that I don't know or understand, as a reminder to look them up later. So, instead of being a record of my intellectual gems, it's a running list of my ignorance. I would share some of it with you, but I don't want to get ridiculed.

The older I get, the more I realize how little I know. Every day, I'm confronted with innumerable things on which I should but don't have a strong grasp: world events (some current, some past); economic principles; scientific concepts. I should really issue an apology to all the wonderful teachers I had growing up; it seems I've retained very little.

Why is this? Is my brain overloaded with dull but necessary things, like work and errands (two inescapable hallmarks of adulthood, no?) Can I no longer read, listen, and remember things? Is my mental agility actually getting worse, in spite of my compulsive crosswording?

I think my secret list should help, even if it's only in baby steps. But please tell me I'm not the only one who isn't keeping up.


And finally: I regret that this is not a more photogenic dish, but really and truly, this chicken curry is to die for. It's thickened with yogurt and ground cashews, easy to make, great with rice, and improves overnight. I've been making it for years but have somehow never posted about it. You can find the recipe here, and for once, I have no changes to it!