Jun 29, 2009

point reyes

it is not every day in san francisco in the month of june that you get a perfect day like yesterday. no fog. absolutely no fog. the coast was clear from south bay to north bay. we seized the day and headed for our favorite beach in these parts, about an hour north of the golden gate bridge. limantour beach in point reyes. some people will tell you they love the infamous stinson beach, a hippie surfer hangout that is always crowded and always buzzing with human activity and drama and pageantry, including great white shark attacks on teenagers every few years. which is all fine and good. well, all except for the shark attacks,of course.

i am a different sort of beach lover. the deserted, windswept craggy coast kind. limantour is the remote/gorgeous/majestic type, my cup of tea. shallows, warmer water, gentler pacific surf but pleasingly crashing waves. lots of dunes. a few cliffs. that there is fabulous food nearby in the town of point reyes station, (always a requirement with me, isn't it?) all the better. the original cow girl creamery (cheese makers, seriously have you tried red hawk or mount tam? nothing short of incredible. we are crazy for red hawk around here, available by mail order). whenever we serve red hawk to guests, they also go mad for it and ask a lot of questions about how to get some for themselves. 

it was an altogether great day. yes, we did go on an ambitious, yet beautiful, hike that took way longer than we thought and so we got to join the sunburn club. our day was not perfect, just fabulous. today the fog is back and it is a good thing. it feels wonderfully cool and refreshing on our bits of sunburn.  

Jun 27, 2009

where we are seduced by san francisco's charms

the weather is brilliant, the scenery gorgeous, the food incredible. as per usual in san francisco. have already consumed amazing fresh pea shoots with garlic, all manner of delicious dumplings like shrimp and chive, scallop and ginger, cabbage and pork, as well as roast duck and long beans, sesame balls and  custard tarts at dim sum, terrific wood fired pizza in larkspur, perused the very best of the san francisco ferry terminal farmer's market, sampled recchiuti chocolates, ciao bella gelato, peets coffee. we have played in gentle streams among the redwoods, crossed the golden gate bridge 4 times, been moved by great art at sf moma's gallery in fort mason, sampled a bit of greens restaurant take away, frolicked in the sun, stared at the boats in the bay, read books, sketched, played catch, shopped in mill valley, corte madera and san francisco, hung out in bookstores, kicked back. taken on and off our sweaters 100 times, all carefree and easily enjoyed. all just as delicious as we remembered. you are very charming san francisco, we've missed you since we moved back east. 

Jun 25, 2009

and so we're off

to our home away from home, san francisco/marin county/napa. we'll be visiting dear friends and family, enjoying that fresh pacific ocean air roaring through the golden gate, eating really fresh food from chefs like thomas keller and patricia unterman, we'll visit some cheesemakers, chocoaltiers and feast on incredible dim sum. we'll wander, swim and stroll. we'll visit some sea lions and take lots of pictures along the way. cu soon. xo, g

citifield tacos: el verano taqueria

these danny meyer tacos at citifield were the best thing i've ever eaten. i swear.

on father's day we took to the ball fields to watch our beloved mets. the new york metropolitans. now, for those of you who do not follow baseball, i will tell you that both the yankees and the mets built new stadiums that opened this year. but our beloved mets had the genius, the inspiration to put danny meyer in charge of the food. honestly, i never followed baseball until my youngest became entranced by it. he is a championship winning all star little leaguer who memorizes all the stats going far back into the storied history of the game.

but r and i have always been huge fans of danny meyer. a magical restauranteur who had us with his very first restaurant so many years ago, the union square cafe, still one of the best restaurant experiences in nyc. then he took over the gramercy tavern, opened the modern for MOMA's remodel debut, and then there is the shake shack. well his citifield tacos are the best thing i've ever eaten. there. i've said it again. it is hard to say which is better, the chicken mole poblano or the beef. they are both the best thing i've ever eaten. the tortillas are homemade and fresh and thick and soft with just the right chewiness. the meat is perfect and succulent. the onions are very sweet and crunchy, the cilantro tastes like it was just picked this morning. well you get the picture. perfection. oh yah and the shake shack was great too. great burger, great shake. i really am a huge fan. 

Jun 24, 2009

in case you were wondering

how my little seedlings are doing: i would say they are doing well all things considered. all this rain has made my little deck garden grow like i live in seattle. that is what they are calling nyc these days, the new seattle. lots. and lots. of rain. me and my tiny garden aren't complaining though. i am one of those people who adores rain cancellations. i tend to sign up for too many things anyway.

tomatoes, peas and radishes. those cherry tomatoes up top need more thinning. i just thinned them out a week ago. they've gone crazy again. peas are loving it. radishes are a week from harvest. they really are ready in just 3-4 weeks from seed to salad. the impatient gardener's best friend.

Jun 23, 2009

red beans and rice

this is a great southern dish. traditional louisiana creole cuisine. still served in restaurants and homes all over the southern u.s. sometimes called red beans and dirty rice. popular with everyone in my house save one (there is always that one).

red beans and rice
serves 4
10-12 slices bacon
3 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
4 cloves minced garlic
3 cans red beans with liquid (can use fresh here and soak and boil as per package instructions)
1 TBSP dijon mustard
4 TBSP red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
a few drops Tabasco or other favorite hot sauce
chopped parsley

2 cups rice, cooked with 3 cups water, in zojirushi neuro fuzzy  rice cooker (something i hope to never have to live without), your brand of rice and manner of cookery may vary from this of course. i usually use white rice, but in the interest of healthier grains, this time i used a wonderful himalayan red rice, thinking red beans and red rice maybe would be nicer than dirty rice? not traditional but delicious.

fry the bacon over medium high heat in a large saute pan. remove bacon and drain on paper towels. set aside. wipe out most of the bacon grease with paper towels, leave a bit for flavor to saute the onions and celery. add a little olive oil to the pan and saute the onions, celery and garlic for a few minutes. add the beans with their liquid, the mustard, hot sauce and vinegar. bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes or so uncovered. meanwhile cook rice. check the beans for flavor. add salt and pepper. to get a creamier consistency smash beans against the side of the pot with the back of your spoon (a large wooden one works well for this) as you stir. continue stirring and smashing until they are half smashed. continue to simmer, adding water if they get dry or stiffen up.

serve with crumbled bacon slices and fresh parsley on top. tabasco sauce as a condiment in case they like it spicy. great with a salad on the side. easy dinner or weekend lunch. americana. 

Jun 20, 2009

maybe some good lighthearted summer fun

julie and julia

friday photos (on saturday)

whew. what a week. middle school finals. little league semifinals. elementary school graduation, middle school graduation. little league all star game. torrential downpours that would not stop. but neither would we. we were running around like crazy mad people in 100 directions. we ate simple meals. like red beans and rice (recipe on monday). we survived. we celebrated. 

official start of summer this weekend. ahhh. summertime, when the living is easy. grilled fruit and fresh ice cream. wonderful famer's market produce and scrumptious meals  from the fewest possible ingredients. high quality new england sea food readily available and local. really looking forward to another delicious summer.

Jun 16, 2009

vietnamese steak salad

been wanting steak lately. it's corn season. (when it's warm outside i only want to eat vietnamese/cambodian food for some reason). in vietnam and cambodia, they are expert at salads and grilled meats, warm weather foods. the table salads and dipping sauces make vietnamese and cambodian dishes an incredible sensation of salty sour sweet hot and fresh and crunchy. liberal use of cilantro, shallots, fish sauce, brown sugar, garlic and lime in this cuisine. some of my favorites. 

anyway if you put all this into my menu generating computer (brain) you will come up with vietnamese steak salad. my family goes crazy for this. in fact they just eat and murmer "this is so good this is so good" over and over again. (they are easily pleased).

important note: in this recipe marinate the meat AFTER it is grilled or seared

vietnamese steak salad
serves 4
12 oz mixed salad greens, Tat Soi is my favorite, similar in appearance to baby spinach, yet sweeter and more tender. butter lettuce, baby romaine, green leaf, mixed blends, lots will work here, you need something a little sturdier than mache and something not quite so crunchy as full grown romaine, even baby spinach can be a bit tough, i use it in the mix sometimes, but not as the main green. 

1 generous cup tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, sliced 
1 cup cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried, stems removed

wash and dry greens. lay out on a large platter.
arrange cucumbers, tomatoes, onions on top of greens
top with cilantro leaves
set aside while you prepare the steak

next, mix the dressing in a measuring cup
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 TBSP minced cilantro stems 
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
2 TBSP brown sugar

next get out the steak
16 to 20oz of filet mignon (could use flank steak here or rib eye, or a few other cuts that are tender enough when sliced thinly across the grain after cooking)

cut the filet into pieces, generously sized hunks, at least 2 inches wide and 2 inches long. salt and pepper. heat a copper or other saute pan or grill. sear meat on all sides until nicely browned. center can be left quite rare or medium rare, as the lime juice in the dressing marinade will "cook" it further. as soon as meat is browned, remove from heat and allow it to rest briefly. slice into thin slices on a cutting board and then place it in a bowl. 

pour the dressing/marinade over the meat. allow to rest for 3 to 4 minutes in the marinade/dressing. while last minute table preparations are done. remove from dressing, arrange on top of salad greens. drizzle the remaining dressing over the greens. 

serve at once. maybe with some fresh sweet corn and mini brown jasmine rice, or something else lovely. enjoy the sounds of your tablemates enjoying the salad.

Jun 15, 2009

japanese green tea, new harvest

i am a tea fanatic. i love to drink tea. shop for tea. learn about tea. read about tea. visit places where tea is served. study the history of tea,  the economics and politics of tea. the whole 360 degree view of tea. healthful, warm, comforting, energizing, relaxing, tea.

ito en is my favorite tea purveyor in new york. they have a little shop on the upper east side. their specialty is japanese green tea, but they import the finest teas from all over the world. really the most amazing black teas as well. you can read about their first flush spring tea here. but anyway, when ito en sent me an email promoting their new spring green teas from japan, first, flush, hand-rolled, i was highly susceptible to their message. it has been a tough spring in so many ways. and unable to decide which of the two varieties to purchase and have shipped, naturally i bought both. it was not a mistake. they are incredible. so bright, so fresh, so delicious. each cup tastes very special, almost, but of course not quite exactly, like a tea ceremony in my house.  the package design is pretty gorgeous as well. these will make great tea canisters or pencil cups, etc.  long after the spring tea is gone.

Jun 12, 2009

vintage slate recycled reused blackboard

just in time. my vintage school blackboard slate arrived this morning. inhabited a schoolhouse over 100 years ago, where hard lessons were learned i'm sure. i love chalkboards, especially vintage slate ones. it is quite a presence in our family room. in our last house we had magnetic chalkboard front panels on the subzero, we could write and draw and doodle as much as we pleased. we've been missing it in our lives. i know you can just paint your wall with chalkboard paint, and this was a bit of a splurge and those scary delivery guys nearly killed my rug and wood floor this morning with their drill as they uncrated the thing, and dang it's heavy, but i go through it all for true love, me and my chalkboard. (apologies to cy twombly). happy weekend everybody in the whole world.

Food, Inc., the movie

Food, Inc. Movie - Hungry For Change?
out this weekend (showing at film forum in nyc). Food Inc. hopes to do for america's food attitudes what al gore did for the environment and climate change with An Inconvenient Truth. it will be interesting to see what happens next as the dialog continues. the film is controversial and even a bit scary, apparently. read the new york times review here. i think its great that more folks are thoughtfully considering what to eat and how they spend their food dollars, and how to provide food for our masses sustainably now and long into the future. the more people learning about food, joining the discussion, the better. 

Jun 11, 2009

fisherman soup

restorative, easy, delicious, brightly-flavored. fisherman soup. simple and rustic. a great soup all year long, but especially during the growing season when zucchini, leek and parsley are local and fresh. of course my version has more veg than fish, but that is me. plus des vegetables sums up my food philosophy in three words.

kids and fish. now my kids eat fish, they love salmon terriyaki for example, but are not so crazy about many other fish dishes. but they do love this soup. why? (as if childhood taste buds could ever be predicted or easily explained) i think because it reminds them of the mexican chicken soup with it's light tomato-y broth. with children in general, it is all about the familiar.  in any case the official word around here is, kid-approved. it is much much simpler to prepare than a cioppino or bouillabaisse, and can easily be made on a weeknight if you have 45 minutes or so for preparation, a little chopping and a little stirring, a little seasoning, that is all. and the vegetables are sliced nice and thin, so cook week-night quick.

1 large onion, cut in thin slices and then lightly chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 TBSP olive oil
2 and a half quarts chicken or fish stock or water (i use the ubiquitous chicken stock)
28 oz crushed or diced canned tomatoes (fresh would work beautifully but should be peeled and seeded first)
3 carrots, chopped
4 potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced and cut into half moon shapes
1 lb to 2 lb same or assorted fresh fish cut into 1 - 2 inch cubes (monk fish, or sea bass, or halibut, or almost any thick fish will work well)
(i used only 1 lb fish this time, sea bass, kids prefer it with less)
1 lb mussels cleaned and scrubbed (optional, i didn't use them this time, kids again)
bunch of parsley stems tied with string for the broth
3 leeks, sliced
3 zucchini sliced, then sliced in half into half moon shapes
salt and pepper
2 lemons, i sliced to serve as garnish on the table, the other juiced and added to the soup during final tasting/seasoning
1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish

place the onions and celery in a stockpot on high with a bit of olive oil, saute for 2 minutes. add stock, parsley stems tied tightly in a string, and tomatoes and bring to boil. add in the potatoes, carrots. simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. add in the zucchini, leeks and the cubes of fish. simmer 5- 7  minutes more until fish is cooked through. if using, put the cleaned and scrubbed mussels (having discarded any that are cracked or do not shut immediately when tapped) in a skillet over high heat until opened. discard any that do not open. season the soup with salt and pepper. add in the juice from 1 lemon. taste and adjust seasoning. to serve, place the mussels in the bowls, pour the soup over the mussels to fill the bowls. add garnishes of chopped parsley a light sprinkling of sea salt and pepper. place a bowl of lemon wedges and a bowl of chopped parsley on the table as garanishes. of course, if not using the mussels, skip that step and transfer the soup to bowls, then garnish. enjoy with a large loaf of fresh bread and butter, olive oil or marinated goat cheese. love the simplicity of it. 

Jun 8, 2009

simple breakfast

i don't always eat much breakfast. often it is a piece of fruit and a cup or two of tea. today, i had the best thing i've ever eaten. something i perfected in college when i had only a toaster oven. an english muffin, toasted, lovingly slathered with butter and dripping with raw local honey sitting next to the perfect cup of strong, piping hot, british black tea with a spot of milk. followed by a ripe juicy organic nectarine. it doesn't get better than this. seriously, best thing i've ever eaten.

sometimes what we eat tastes better or seems better due to the atmosphere or environment in which it is eaten. the perfect bistro dinner on a first trip to paris, a special celebration dinner with family, a gorgeous night out with dear friends on the perfect summer evening. and so it was this morning. gorgeous and sunny. birds chirping. bunnies nibbling on clover outside. lovely quiet and still house. and as it stands, i am due to have a bit of surgery tomorrow at 7 am (nothing serious, trivial matter really, a polypectomy if you will, takes all of 15 minutes). importantly i don't get to eat breakfast tomorrow. not even a drop of water or tea after midnight due to anesthesia safety. bother. anyway, as you can well imagine, this mornings' breakfast tasted incredibly, breathtakingly, delicious. 

recent work part 2

Jun 5, 2009

recent work

i wanted to share with you some snapshots of my recent paintings. all oil, all 2009. some linen, some canvas. some large, some small. thinking about an online art gallery lately. do let me know what you think. more to come. and a have really great weekend. summer is almost here. xo, g

Jun 3, 2009

i love my algue

i bought my algue this winter. i love it so. what is algue? plastic french algae. plural algues

brilliant. and they make me very happy. you know, sometimes you don't want to be boxed in with a framed object on the wall, you want to float more freely. 

not an impulse purchaser, i thought about it for 2 and a half years before i bought it. i wasn't sure if i really wanted plastic algae on my walls (i had some leftover after hanging it in my sort of dark desk nook, so i hung a small garland over our bed), but as it turns out i really do want plastic algae on my (only too white) walls, enthusiastically, indubitably.

check it out here. comes in loads of colors and transparent. you can make a room divider or cover a whole wall with it. you can buy it here. designed by the brilliant Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec in  2004.  

Jun 2, 2009

sometimes tuna salad

sometimes. sometimes it's nice to keep things simple. and sometimes it can be good to give a closer look to something that no one really thinks much about at all. and so here we are with a bit of tuna salad. here in the u.s., a tuna salad sandwich is a mundane delicatessen item, and generally speaking, includes way way way way way too much mayonnaise.

but it doesn't have to be this way. imagine a world where tuna salad has veg and olive oil and lemon, like say the mediterranean region. this tuna salad is like that. the taste is like warm sunshine on the beach, bright, fresh, vibrant, zingy. 

r and i love this desperately, so much so that we occasionally  bemoan the day we had these children, tuna refusniks both of them. they refuse and re-refuse to eat it as they protest and hate it in direct proportion to the amount that we love it. ah well we can't really complain too much as we did sign up to be their parents. and as i keep reminding myself, they aren't returnable anyway, and they really do have many other fine qualities.

tuna salad
first off, find yourself a jar of really high quality tuna, maybe italian, sustainably harvested, maybe tuna that seems way too expensive. the recipe will still work beautifully with any old run-of-the mill canned tuna, but i try and remember my cooking school teacher's mantra, "you can't rise above your ingredients."

1 jar really great tuna, sustainably harvested, flaked (packed in water or olive oil)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh tomato (cherry work fine, as do roma)
1/3 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 TBSP chopped flat leaf parsley
juice of 1 lemon
4 TBSP organic extra virgin olive oil
1 TBSP organic mayonnaise (optional, makes it stick together a bit more for ease of eating)
a fresh baguette or thickly sliced italian bread, lightly toasted just before serving
salt and pepper to taste

mix tuna with veg, until evenly mixed. add in the lemon juice. drizzle on the olive oil. add salt and pepper. see if you need the mayo or not. toast the bread. assemble sandwiches. squash sandwiches down rather dramatically so they hold together nicely 2 minutes before before serving. 

what about over-fishing and mercury? yes, these are both quite legitimate concerns in this world, unfortunately. i have given up tuna in sushi restaurants as a result. apparently the types of fish caught for canning are still abundant but are not always caught using the best methods. wild-caught is the best choice at this time. there is now australian farmed tuna, and other types coming on the market as well. check the monterey bay aquariums' seafood watch site for the latest information here.

Jun 1, 2009

stone fruit galettes

well, the galettes turned out well. the weather became completely charming, 70s and sunny. a happy ending. 

of course the galettes, (which i made partly because i already had the pizza stone and french rolling pin out and partly because i had too many apricots on the counter top and partly because it rained torrentially at the end of last week) were eaten as quickly as they were made. here is my recipe as promised. i have adapted it from two extraordinary american female practitioners in the culinary arts, madame julia child and ms. alice waters, who have two very different recipes, i have combined them to become what i hope is the best of both, although in truth, this recipe owes far more to julia. and of course, being me, the amounts and the ingredients have been altered from the originals. (just can't leave a recipe alone, apologies to both).

what to fill your galette with? my favorites are the stone fruits, apricot, pluot, and plum, berries can be quite nice, especially raspberry and blackberry. or the trusty standbys: pear and apple. this simple, easy and sturdy dough can go in a tart pan or as a rustic free form tart with folded over edges.

galette dough 
adapted from julia childs baking with julia 
and alice waters chez panisse fruit
makes enough for 2 galettes
3 TBSP buttermilk (or sour cream)
1/3 cup ice water (more or less)
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 TBSP cold unsalted butter (cut into 10 slices) 

place the flour cornmeal sugar and salt in the food processor fitted with the plastic dough blade. pulse briefly. add in the butter pieces. pulse until lightly combined and the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas.

mix the ice water and buttermilk (or sour cream) together in a small cup or bowl.  turn the processor back on and while it is running add the ice water/dairy mixture  through the feed tube and keep the machine running just until the dough comes together in large moist hunks.

divide the dough in half. form each half into an attractively shaped disk. wrap in waxed paper and chill for an hour or more. when you are ready, bring out the dough and let it rest on the counter for 20 minutes or so before you roll it out. important also to rap the disk firmly all along its surface several times with the rolling pin before you roll it out. this crucial step, for some reason unbeknownst to me, softens it, smooths it, and makes the dough behave beautifully as you roll it out (i can only speculate that this is perhaps because you have shown the frequently stubborn dough you won't take no for an answer). 

filling and baking fruit galettes
preheat oven to 400 degrees

 if you are making a free-form galette, you can use a pizza or baking stone here with great results. simply roll the tart out on some parchment, fill and slide onto the stone. if using a tart pan (i like ceramic best) use the same 400 degree oven with no stone.

roll the dough out to a circle about 11 inches wide. i roll it out directly on parchment paper and then transfer it on the paper to the baking stone. if i am using a tart pan, i fold it into quarters and transfer it that way. sculpting and repairing any cracks in the tart pan. you'll need about 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit for each galette. i lay the fruit in roughly concentric circles starting at the outside and working my way in, if apples or pears, they should overlap as the fruit shrinks quite a bit during baking. sprinkle about 2 TBSP of sugar on the fruit and crust before it goes into the oven. the biggest challenge is to prevent the juice from the fruit running out all over the baking sheet or baking stone. please make sure the dough has no cracks in it. once you've got that all sorted out, bake for 35 minutes approximately. (wide variation here depending on oven, as little as 25 to as much as 50 minutes could be required), fruit should bubble beautifully and crust should be lightly browned. if you know your oven, you can probably gauge the correct amount of time. mine requires 30 minutes.

this maybe seems like a lot of trouble, but it really isn't. the dough comes together in about 10 minutes. then you get to put it away and bring it out when you are ready. the rolling and filling takes maybe 15 minutes. and the eating, well, very little time at all. r and the kids love a large scoop of french vanilla ice cream with theirs. sweetens things up a bit.