Mar 30, 2009

fried oyster quest

today is my birthday. after wrestling with the garbage and recycling and driving the kids to school. i took a short nap. i was so tired. i've had a nasty cold the past week. i love an unexpected nap. now i am feeling happy and refreshed. anyway. so last night we went to our favorite local seafood shack for some new england clam chowder (for the kids) and some fried oysters (for me) and even some nice fried calamari (for r). yum. i love few things as much as i love oysters. the ones at this place are great. light, tender, juicy. they are made with a batter and crushed oyster crackers i think. i really love the oyster sandwiches that patricia unterman produces at her restaurant hayes street grill in san francisco and at the ferry terminal farmer's market there on saturdays. really special. will definitely indulge there this summer on our trip out. meanwhile i am still searching for the world's greatest fried oyster recipe. i am thinking cornmeal needs to be included. but i am open. if anyone out there knows how to make or where to eat the world's greatest fried oysters. do let me know. i am on a quest.

Mar 25, 2009

garden salad

one version
another version
last night's dinner

i love salad. it is a great, fresh tasting dish you can eat all year long. when i go to a restaurant for the first time. i always want to know, can they make a good salad? it is a real test of a dining establishment. for years, i was terrible at salad. i couldn't have loved salads more or had less success at making them. too much or too little dressing. slightly bitter dressing. or too tart. or too vinegary. too gloppy. wrong mix of lettuces and vegetables.  you get the picture.

one day a friend of mine invited me to lunch. this woman is an extremely stylish, gorgeous and talented person, and salad cook. a genius really. she could throw anything in salad and make it taste fantastic. and she often did, persimmons, leeks, beets, leftover pork chops. eggs. anything at all. i watched her make her salads with wide eyes. she is amazing. anyway. i grokked it. salad in elisabeth's california kitchen. my salad mentor. now when we have people over and they eat salad they always comment that the dressing is delicious. and a little while later they usually ask for seconds, but they've got to be quick. we all want seconds too.

our garden salad is our most common variety. it is always a little different and a lot the same. a salad is really a composition. with layers, colors and textures, give and take.

garden salad
first you need a good mix of lettuces
my favorites are mache, green or red oak leaf. peppery arugula. i'm not so fond of radicchio, but it looks pretty. a little frisee is can be nice for texture sometimes, a little spinach thrown in can be nice, but not too much.
then add some vegetables, for flavor and textural interest. i don't usually use cheese in my salads unless i am making a caesar or goat cheese salad. i usually prefer the cheese on the side on a little toast. but not always.

for flavor/texture influence
i always use some combination of these. whatever is on hand that i have time to wash and chop.
super thinly sliced carrots
japanese or european hothouse cucumbers
sliced leeks
cherry tomatoes, halved
red cabbage, finely shredded

ah now for the dressing. the thing that ties it all together. i like a tart/tangy/sweet/fresh tasting dressing. a dressing that brings the salad to life. a favorable balance of sour salty and sweet. i look to my favorite cuisines to borrow their ideas for dressing. in japan they don't have salads so much but they do have vinegared dishes, like sunomono, cucumbers with crab or shrimp or octopus. delicious. vietnamese and thai salads are amazing. green papaya, grilled shrimp, beef salads. the french and their wonderful vinaigrettes. mmm. i love them all. now my salad dressing doesn't follow the guidelines. they say you must be a miser with the vinegar and a spendthrift with the oil, for the perfect vinaigrette. i am neither of those things. and some insist on the mustard. but my dressings are free forming, renegades, that don't follow these rules. i would describe them as a little new world asian i guess, with a bit of california thrown in.

everyday salad dressing
i vary the dressing based on the ingredients on hand. sometimes lemon. sometimes dijon mustard. there are variations. but the fastest, easiest and most common around here has only 3 ingredients. salt and pepper on top of the whole thing is often nice, but not at all essential for us.

seasoned rice vinegar
pomegranate cherry juice
olive oil

i don't usually measure with salad dressings, unless i have company over, but i would guess the proportions are about 3 TBSP seasoned rice vinegar, 1 TBSP pomegranate cherry juice, 3-4 TBSP good organic extra virgin olive oil. the seasoned rice vinegar, originally made for sushi rice and available in most grocery stores these days, has an excellent salty sweet sour balance already. it is the secret ingredient and a great base to start with. the pomegranate cherry juice has a heavy, rich acidic sweet complexity and the olive oil is the top layer that enhances the other two and makes the whole thing float together. literally. sometimes i just do lemon juice and olive oil with salt and pepper, if the salad is kind of greek, like maybe has olives and or feta. and i add a bit of dijon mustard and some minced shallots if there is cheese involved or red cabbage, or heavier tastes. it's all delicious. and fresh tasting. for other asian salads i use soy sauce or fish sauce, garlic or shallots, lime or lemon juice, or maybe orange juice if there are oranges or grapefruits in it. every single salad i make is kind of an original and we never eat the same exact salad twice.

Mar 23, 2009

perfect saturday. lotta jansdotter studio

e and i spent a perfect saturday at the incomparable lotta jansdotter printing studio. we took a 4 hour surface printing workshop. it was too much fun. in every way. lotta's work is for sale all over the world. stationary, books, boxes, totes, bags, clothing. we learned so much and brought home some fun aprons, pillows, bags and stationery. we printed and stenciled and stippled and nibbled on delicious snacks all afternoon. lotta couldn't have been any kinder, more fun, more instructive or more encouraging than she was. a peek inside a talented, working artist studio was priceless. the other women in the class were so nice, talented and interesting. a really great day. thanks lotta et all. lotta has a new book coming out in may, simple sewing projects for baby, bibs, onsies, clothes, etc. check it out here. plus it was great to be back in brooklyn. a place i remember quite fondly. having lived there for a few years back in the 90s. great day out.

Mar 20, 2009

friday photo

unscheduled snowfall on a friday, the first day of spring. it's beautiful, sort of. happy spring equinox.

Mar 19, 2009


here's what else we have planned for today. we are going to start from seed this year (we have bought nursery plants in the past because we had no room for seeds). i am hoping this will be cheaper and better since we have far more choice in seeds. it is going to be a great science project for the kids this spring and summer (way less expensive than camp). we will plant in giant pots on our deck, as the deer, chipmunks, squirrels eat everything and i mean EVERYTHING around here. would you believe they come up the step on my covered front porch and dig in the tall iron urns for bulbs? yes they do. and of course you would. you know how hungry they are. even though the bulbs (muscari or grape hyacinths) aren't supposed to be among their many favorites . it will be an adventure. if we can fend them off, we may build a little fenced in garden one of these days when some spare money shows up (will that ever happen again?).

a homemade life

great plans for today. going to see the wonderful molly wizenberg of orangette at idlewild. her new book, a homemade life looks great. 

Mar 18, 2009

vegetable lineup

i worry about the quality of the food we eat. i buy organic food as often as possible. i wont buy milk or mozzerella cheese or root vegetables that arent organic and natural (no preservatives, gums, etc). i do this not because i think this food is perfect and so worth the money. i buy it because it is something i want to support. things done the right way. things done with less chemical interference.  

i am suspicious of chemicals. they have their place of course. but less on my table and in my children. i know we are bombarded with pharmaceuticals in our drinking water and every imaginable pollutant in our air and oceans. but less is more. less is what i want. 

i am serious about putting more green on the table at dinner. at least 7 vegetative items at dinner seems like a good place to start. the meal above had okra, green beans, roasted yukon gold mini potatoes, mache lettuce, carrots, leeks, frisee, radiccio, and some fruit types (with seeds) tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers. the vegetation is the star of the meal. what protein source we serve with it becomes less important. as it turns out we ate all natual air chilled chicken tenders with it. i feel a little guilty about this, but they taste awfully good, like fried chicken without the oil all over my kitchen. anyway i also hope that the farms that grow these organic foods care a little bit too about doing things the way they should be done. with a little more care. i am probably dreaming. but maybe not. anyway. i am trying to influence my family to eat more green in general. 

as luck would have it there was a fun article in the nytimes science section about food influence yesterday. it generally says each household has a food gatekeeper, an influencer. the individual that is doing the cooking matters as does what their food habits are. according to the article, i am definitely the gatekeeper around here. luckily i am vegetable crazed. and when i take the survey to find out what my cooking personality is, i come up as a healthy cook with a generous dose of innovation. phew. right where i want to be. who is the gatekeeper at your house? and what is your cooking personality? take the nytimes survey here.

Mar 17, 2009

a bit o green

on sunday we strolled about the new york botanical garden looking for green and signs of spring. we found many strange and wonderful things. crocuses were up. strangest was the furry fern tree. many green things like moss gardens and of course shrubbery. birds of paradise really looked like birds this time. great day out.

Mar 13, 2009

Mar 12, 2009


we've been in this house about two years and just this week i had lights installed over the kitchen and dining room tables. i was thinking this was a really long overdue project and how i should have done this ages ago. but then the kindly electrician told me lots of people wait 5 years and 2 was no time at all. of course, now that they are in and we love them (sick! said my kids). well it makes me think i really want some new raw linen curtains or rustic shades or something  (anything) besides the paper ready shades. 

and then i remember our last house. we lived in it for 9 years, gutted and remodeled the whole thing. we barely got around to window treatments at all. well this was partly because we lived on a tiburon slope facing the san francisco bay, golden gate bridge and sausalito, with views to die for, and who even wants window treatments then? and then this makes me remember the second law of thermodynamics you know where entropy (disorder) is part of the system, and no system can operate with 100% or even more than 80% efficiency and everything in an isolated system is moving toward greater entropy. and this means things fall apart. and then i thought, once i get the curtains i will want some nice seat cushions. and by then the cabinets will need repainted. and by then my kids will be grown and we'll move into some entirely different space. and then i thought, well i'll just be satisfied with my new lights for a week and then see what happens.... 

so yay lights. already dinners seem cozier and conversation is warmer, more thoughtful. all the better to enjoy a simple, natural, vegetable-y dinner every night. nourishing. connections. positive energy. lightness. 

Mar 11, 2009

roasted vegetable gratin and broccoflower pasta

i love roasted veg. this recipe is so easy. 30 minutes for the whole recipe start to finish. i served it with broccoflower pasta, which my family loves. really simple recipes. oh and yes a bit of garlic bread on the side.

roasted eggplant, zucchini, tomato gratin
1 medium eggplant, sliced into thin rounds
2 medium zucchin, sliced into thin rounds
8 smallish tomatoes, seeded and sliced 
1 clove garlic
olive oil
salt pepper

preheat oven to 450 degrees farenheit. rub garlic clove all over oval baking dish, really smash it as you go. put sliced eggplant and zucchini in a medium bowl. toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. now arrange veg in pan. i did waves this time. drizzle with a bit more olive oil and salt and pepper. pop the whole thing into the oven. roast for 25 minutes or so. (if you don't overpack your veg into the pan like i did it may be done in 20). ready to serve. now, if you like you can sprinkle with breadcrumbs or parmesan, or parmesan and breadcrumbs and put the whole thing back in the oven under the broiler for a few minutes until nicely browned. easy.

broccoflower pasta
1 head broccoflower, tough stems removed, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
1 medim onion, chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
olive oil
1 lb linguini, fettucini or penne

set large pan of water to boil for your pasta noodles and cook according to package directions. i usually use rustichella d'abruzzo spaghetti for this dish. i really like italian pastas. anwyay, set medium pan of water to boil for broccoflower. cook broccoflower in salted water until just tender. drain and reserve. saute chopped onion in a medium pan on medium high until tender (about 4 minutes). add broccoflower and stir around for a minute. add about 3 tablespoons heavy cream. allow to simmer for about 4 more minutes. add parmesan. simmer another 2 minutes. pour over drained pasta and mix around a bit in the pan before serving. this is a rich pasta, but something about the flavors and the way they join in the cooking is really special. broccoli or caulifower would also work quite well here. even savoy cabbage. this meal has a lot of parmesan cheese. really good supply of calcium.

Mar 10, 2009

pears and passion fruits

i am still craving lighter foods. i have been keeping a bowl of pears and passion fruits ripening on the counter lately. both require some sitting before they are ready to eat. these bartlett pears have been really delicious and extra juicy. tangelos and blood oranges and grapefruits have been good too. smoothies are in at our house these days as well: banana-guavajuice-pomegranatejuice-frozenpeach-frozenraspberry-plainyogurt smoothies that is. we've discovered smoothies are still frozen at lunch if brought to school in a thermos. more fun than chicken nuggets and french toast sticks from the cafeteria.

Mar 9, 2009

sweet maine shrimp

what a great weekend. perfect mix of friends, food, art exhibits, strolls through central park, and bike rides. we found a great deal on seasonal sweet maine shrimp, just in season now. less than $4/pound at whole foods market. so sweet. so easy. they cook in 30 seconds! any meal involving newspaper on the table and an entree that cooks in 30 seconds is special to me.

we made a bit of nuoc chum dipping sauce, but it wasn't even necessary. the shrimp are so delicious they need nothing at all. a bit of salt in the cooking liquid and some lemon or lime at the table would do just fine, better than fine even. served some cucumber carrot salad dressed with a bit of nuoc chum as well. and some fresh, still warm french bread. a couple tiny maison du chocolat chocolates for dessert. 

sweet maine shrimp
boil water in medium sized pot
place shrimp in rapidly boiling water
allow to come back to a boil
cook for 30 seconds more
drain, serve, enjoy.

Mar 6, 2009

friday photo

i do love a good shrubbery. these are from my indoor shrubbery collection. preserved boxwood. hoping to go to the actual outdoors this weekend, as opposed to trying to recreate it indoors. happy weekend to you.

Mar 5, 2009

inspiration anywhere you can find it

it hasn't been a great week. not the worst certainly. but i am feeling happy and optimistic today anyway. what turned my week around? first a lovely corn muffin. i am not much of a muffin eater. really they are like cake. and i don't like dessert for breakfast. i like to start my day with some seriousness, why, i cannot say but i do. but today was different. after taking r for his mri (wrist business), we enjoyed a brilliant sun-lit moment at the most charming little food (and catering and interior design and housewares) shop in town. their corn muffins are legendary, they taste far better than a corn muffin has a right to. something simple and unassuming created with this level of perfection is, curious first, and then, inspirational. 

then it began. optimisim crept in where silent resignation had been. i came home and admired our green family room chairs with fresh eyes. i don't think i even looked at them all winter. i bought these last summer when it was so leafy and green outside that it seemed the whole universe had transformed into a vibrant garden. remembering winter at the time, i strategized to bring color indoors, for those times of year when that dull gray is rampant. seems to be working. cheerful. happy. content (for a few minutes anyway). the little things. 

Mar 4, 2009

back to the studio

2009 has not been as fruitful for studio time as i would prefer. so many ideas. so many projects. so much i want to do. but there have been a few technical difficulties. empty easels. blank sketchbooks.

(you know how it is. someone in the family gets the flu, i somehow volunteer to run a program for the school, which results in meetings. emails. twitter. the furnace goes out. snow days and blizzards. kids on break from school. someone else gets the flu. grocery runs. loading and unloading the dishwasher. bills to pay. inaugurations. banking turmoil. world events. folding the laundry. there are always plenty of distractions aren't there?)

i've been waylaid every which way. but not anymore...