Friday, 3 November 2017

A Life in Seasons (Real Ones!) and Apple Cider Caramels

Pin It

I was spurred to write this post by two things (the usual two): a big life change and a recipe I just had to share.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

We Cooked Seafood By the Seashore – Sicilian Mussels and Rolled Sardines in Sicily

Pin It

When we were planning our epic European summer trip, my boyfriend and I chose to stay mostly in apartments – we did this partly because it was cheaper than staying in hotels and more private than staying in hostels (which we did in Naples, and that was a weird flashback to my twenties), but only partly.  The other reason we chose apartment living was, as ever, food-related: we wanted to be able to cook, ideally making use of local ingredients we wouldn't have access to at home.

So, given that information, you might be surprised to learn that we didn't cook in our own place once for the entire trip – not in Berlin, or Bologna (where we did cook in someone else's home), or Rome, or any of the other cities where we had access to our own kitchen.  Oh, sure, we made coffee, and ate cheeses and meats which we bought at markets and grocery stores, and drank wine...but we didn't actually cook a meal.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

My Bologna Has a First Name – Learning to Make Pasta the Bolognese Way with Taste of Italy

Pin It
Holy crap – it’s been a YEAR since I posted here.  I am so ashamed.  To be fair, the past year has been the busiest of my life so far: I started teaching middle school, jumping right in at the deep end with no previous full-time experience, and I was (as you’d probably have guessed) completely consumed.  Any time I had to myself was spent grading, answering parent and student emails, lesson planning, or maybe, if I got really lucky, zoning out in front of a crappy TV show with a bottle of wine and my concerned boyfriend.  Needless to say, I didn’t cook much, let alone photograph it.  Which is too bad, really, since my apartment was super cute and photogenic, and living off Goldfish all year left me unhealthy and heavier than usual by June…  


Anyway, excuses aside, I come back now to share just a smidgen of the bounty from my much-needed summer vacation!  My boyfriend and I saved up a few thousand dollars, freed ourselves from our responsibilities, and set off for Europe the week after school let out – we went to Berlin for a week, then took trains through Austria and all down through Italy, ending in Sicily, and then we hopped over to France for a few weeks to help a friend with her new baby.  It was a pretty epic 7.5-week journey (all of which is documented on my Instagram feed), and while we didn’t cook often, what we did cook was as epic as the trip itself.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Cocktails or Cake – Why Not Both? Limoncello Birthday Cake with Campari Frosting

Pin It
Baking with KayMoWino in Napa

Remember when I made that adorable ha-cake for my friend's half birthday?  Well, luckily for me, despite generally preferring savory to sweet, K does love a good celebration cake, so when her full birthday rolled around this year she requested a cake that incorporated one of her favorite things: booze.  Specifically, Campari, which she fell in love with during a trip to Italy a couple years ago and which has been so well-loved as to have spawned its own hashtag.

Even better than suggesting (I won't go so far as to say demanding) a specific cake for her birthday, K suggested we bake it together, at my parents' house in the Napa Valley.  K is a food blogger too, although she focuses more on savory dishes and wine pairings, and while we've cooked together (we lived together for a while and we made some delicious dinners) we've never baked.  Plus, since she moved to Napa last year we get far too little bonding time, and this sounded like an excellent way to get some 'us' time (plus our assistant, but he's good at respecting our girl time).

Baking with KayMoWino in Napa

So without further ado, to the cake-baking!  Of course, we started with booze: Negronis (a classic Campari drink), natch, mixed by our handsome assistant (to whom also goes credit for all the photos herein and on Flickr).

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Another Win for Laziness: Chocolate Chip (Etc) Cookie Bars

Pin It
Chocolate chip cookie bars with Nutella

The first time, I made them because I needed something easy and transportable for a graduation party and I knew I wouldn't have time to wait for the butter in my freezer to soften, or to make multiple batches of drop cookies.  I googled 'melted butter cookie bars' and voila!  Bloggers to the rescue, as usual.

The recipe was super simple and I had all the ingredients, plus some pecans I thought would enhance the flavor of half the bars (we have a friend with a nut allergy so I wanted to leave half plain), and nobody was expecting cookies so the pressure was off.  I gave it a go and an hour later my companion and I were burning our fingers trying to 'test' the batch.

Once we were able to try a bite, we agreed: these things are good.  So good that I ate three that night, which is unusual for me – often when I bake something, no matter how tasty it is, I tire of it quickly and am obliged to convince someone else to eat the rest.  It's no coincidence that I favor tall boyfriends with hollow legs ;)

In this case, though, not only did I eat a bunch of the baked good in question but I also started thinking about making them again almost immediately upon leaving the party (I nearly brought home a couple bars but I stopped just short of embarrassing myself that much).  So when I was gifted two glass jars of Nutella from Italy and was antsy to use one as a wine glass, I knew exactly how to put the Nutella inside to good use.

Chocolate chip cookie bars with Nutella

The point is this: these bars are infinitely adaptable.  They were delicious with pecans, indulgent with Nutella, and likely would be even more toothsomely tasty with oats – that's my plan for next time!  In other words, make these.  As soon as humanly possible.

You're welcome.

Chocolate Chip (Etc) Cookie Bars
    Adapted for pecans/Nutella from Em's Bytes  
    (I doubled the recipe the first time and used an 8x13 pan – ain't nothin' wrong with twice the amount of this goodness)

Preheat oven to 350F/175C and grease an 8" pan, square or cake, whatever you have.

Mix together in a large bowl:
     1/2c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
     1/4c sugar
     1/2c brown sugar

Beat in: 
     1 egg
     1 tsp vanilla

Add and stir until combined:
     1 c flour
     1 tsp baking powder
     1/4 tsp salt

Stir in:
     1c semi-sweet chocolate chips

     1c chopped pecans (optional – you can also place them on top of the dough once it's in the pan, if you fancy the look or want to limit their reach) 

Spread into prepared pan, pausing to top with blobs of Nutella if desired, and bake 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. (Side note: mine never got as golden as I'd like, but I'm glad I pulled the first batch out when I did anyway, as they were getting close to dry.  I suggest using the cake tester method if in doubt, and remembering that gooey cookies are always better than dry.)

Friday, 17 April 2015

Lazy Bear: A Revelation for a Cranky Old SF Cynic

Pin It

I had the excellent luck last month to: A) meet a couple of awesome new friends at a shared table at brunch, B) become part of a dinner-going group with them and my friend A, with whom I went to Rome in December and who has brilliant connections and a serious take-charge attitude, leading to the four of us C) going to Lazy Bear for one of the most remarkable dining experiences I've ever had in my relatively charmed life.

I was extremely skeptical at first – Lazy Bear is a sort of private dinner club-turned restaurant that is super expensive and notoriously difficult to get tickets for, a combination that heightens my hype-dar immediately.  But I didn't want to be a party pooper and I had a little extra cash cushion so I agreed to go.  On the day of the dinner, a gorgeous sunny Saturday, I was loathe to get dressed up and go to what I was sure would be an overproduced and underdelivering San Francisco wankfest (pardon my French but I really was feeling very wary).  But almost from the minute I walked in the door, the first to arrive, my expectations were proven wrong.  


Friday, 27 March 2015

Monkeying Around with Birthday Cakes

Pin It

When my sister told me that her daughter, who turned three last week, had requested three cakes for her birthday party, I immediately volunteered to bake one of them.  I adore my niece and nephew and have had a blast getting to know them better since moving back from London, but I still see them rarely enough that any opportunity to impress them is worth jumping on.  It only got better when my sister told me the only other request my niece had made: that the party be 'a monkey party'.

I remembered a cake I'd seen on Smitten Kitchen, years back, a monkey face that looked surprisingly easy to put together.  A quick google confirmed my suspicions that this was something I could definitely handle, and I spent the rest of the day at work printing recipes, doubling and tripling ingredient lists, and blocking off the day before the party in my phone calendar.  I was going to go all out this time.