Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Kitchen Sink" Cookies

A few months ago, I found that I had a lot of small amounts of various cookie-making goodies cluttering the cupboard. Some were leftover from a Christmas-time experiment with variations on Seven Layer or "Magic" Bars, which are just about my favorite thing ever - though devastating to the waistline.

Long story short, I whipped up a batch of my favorite oatmeal cookie dough and tossed it all in - coconut, butterscotch chips, dark chocolate chips, dried cherries, slivered almonds, toffee chips and white chocolate chips. The cookies were delicious and garnered tons of compliments. Now, I just make them with whatever I happen to have on hand. This time it was pecans, dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries. I also like them with toffee chips, dark chocolate and slivered almonds.

I usually double this recipe and freeze some of the dough to bake later. The recipe makes about 30 cookies of the size pictured. The original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of dough per cookie, and makes only sixteen 4 inch cookies.

"Kitchen Sink" Cookies
adapted from Cook's Illustrated's
recipe for Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
1 1/4 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup of chopped dried cherries, apricots, cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans or other nuts, such as walnuts or toasted slivered almonds
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or other type, such as white chocolate, butterscotch or peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup toffee chips
( Note - if you do not use the coconut or toffee, increase the dried fruit and nuts to 1 cup each)

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar, preferably dark
1 large egg
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions, heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly grease
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, oats and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Mix add-in ingredients (chocolate chips, nuts, etc.) in another bowl
  4. In a standing mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat butter and sugar at medium speed until no lumps remain - about 1 minute.
  5. Scrape down the sides of bowl and add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated.
  6. Scrape down bowl, and with mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture gradually, until just combined.
  7. Add mixture of nuts, chips and fruit and mix until just combined.
  8. Give the dough a final stir with a spatula or wooden spoon to make sure no flour pockets remain.
  9. Form dough into balls about 1 1/2 inches around.
  10. Place 9 balls on each cookie sheet, and flatten to 3/4 inches thick
  11. Bake for about 12 minutes at 350. The cookies should be light brown and set on the edges - but still damp in the middle when they come out. Rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back if they are browning unevenly.
  12. Cool on cookie sheets for at least five minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack with a metal spatula and cool to room temperature (if you can wait that long!)


Bread & Cie v. Con Pane

On Tuesday, my friends Sara and Susan and their babies and I met for a picnic lunch near the Cove in La Jolla. Susan picked up sandwiches and macaroons from Bread and Cie and I baked some cookies and brought chips (the cookie recipe is coming). Sara brought fresh fruit and beverages. My sandwich was Bread and Cie's tuna, which I like to order on jalapeno cheese bread.

I love their tuna, there is no mayo involved - instead it's mixed with lemon and tapenade and a little olive oil. It's topped with arugula, sliced egg and fresh tomato. The effect is something like a Nicoise salad on bread. They also make a good muffuletta, and they have some panini sandwiches that are available in house.

Fiona is skeptical of the camera

Bailey prefers her bunny's ear

A couple of weeks ago, I finally made it over to Con Pane, on Rosecrans in Point Loma. I had eaten one of their sandwiches before, but I hadn't been to the bakery. The first time I tried to go, it was Wednesday and they were closed. When I went back a few days later, the place was packed. The tables were full and very few people had food - so I knew I was in for a long wait. When I got to the front of the line, I ordered two cookies, a baguette, one of their focaccia breads and a half of a roast beef sandwich. I was starving, coming straight from a yoga class, so I picked at the cookies while I waited. The sandwich took thirty minutes, but was delicious nonetheless. The bread was soft and chewy with a crisp crust, and the roast beef, goat cheese, red onion and tomato were a really good combination. I have also had their Turkey Cobb sandwich, and it was also good - but it comes with "roasted tomatoes" as opposed to fresh. I personally prefer the juiciness of a fresh tomato, but I am sure they would substitute if asked.

The take-home goods were also excellent. Overall, I think their bread matches up to Bread & Cie, and the sandwiches might even be better - though I do like that tuna. If you go to the cafe though, be prepared for a long wait - or better yet, call ahead. I like the idea of calling ahead and ordering takeout for a picnic. For more info, check out this blog entry from Food Chronicles.

Bread and Cie's location is more convenient, and their service is a little faster, but it can be a bit lazy. On a recent visit, two of the items they gave me were incorrect. Bread and Cie has a wider selection of pastries and desserts, and though I think they are too big (about 4-6 inches across) they are very good . I particularly like their lemon bread, scones and the fig and anise bread.

Bread & Cie
350 University Ave.,
San Diego, CA 92103
open 7AM to 7PM M-F
7AM to 6 PM Sa-Sun
Take credit cards (they didn't used to)

Con Pane Rustic Breads and Cafe
1110 Rosecrans (corner of Canon)
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 224-4344
Closed Wednesdays
open 7AM to 6PM M, Tu, Th, F
Sat 8AM to 6PM
Sun 8AM to 4PM
No credit cards, but they do take checks.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Doughnut Muffins and Other Delights

On Sunday we hosted brunch at our house for a few close friends. On the menu were: orange juice - freshly squeezed by Jimmy (aka my husband James), champagne, fresh fruit salad, "Doughnut Muffins," Niman Ranch Bacon, and Huevos Rancheros. I left the bacon off the chalkboard, but James thoughtfully added it.

The muffin recipe came from Orangette, Molly's excellent and entertaining Seattle-based blog. The only variation I made was to use granulated sugar with a little cinnamon to coat the muffins instead of powdered, because I like the crunch it gives. I have seen these called "Morning Muffins" in the Bay Area, so that is what I put on my menu. Molly recommends making them same day. They are quick and easy to bake, but the brushing with butter and rolling process is a little time consuming, not to mention messy. I baked them and sugared them the night before. By morning the exteriors had softened a bit, so I just reheated them in a 300 degree oven for about 10 minutes. It worked perfectly - they crisped up nicely. Make sure you don't use paper liners with these, because you want that crispy "muffin top" crust all the way around.

The recipe for the eggs came from an excellent cookbook put out by the local Junior League. The book is called California Sol Food, and has won a number of awards. It is available in many local bookstores, but if you would like to buy a copy I would encourage you to buy it directly from the League, as more of profits go to the organization. You can order it here. The current mission of the San Diego Chapter of the Junior League is to improve health and nutrition education for kids in San Diego County, so the cookbook is a fitting tie-in.

The table all set for guests

You can never have too much bacon!

Fresh squeezed juice and Champers

The egg dish, pictured above, can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning. I did make a few changes to the recipe, so I will post it here as adapted.

Huevos Rancheros a la Junior League
adapted from California Sol Food
1 large onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped (I used orange, but the recipe calls for green)
3 garlic cloves, crushed (I like the frozen garlic in the little pods from Trader Joes for cooking)
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp powdered chipotle chile
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 dried New Mexico chile, trimmed, halved and seeded
(or substitute 2 Tbsp of good quality fresh chile powder for the four ingredients above)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sugar
fresh ground pepper
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes in juice
2 cups of chopped fresh tomatoes (I used yellow and red cherry tomatoes and chopped them in the chopper attachment to my hand blender)
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
1/2 cup water

2 dozen eggs
8 oz of shredded Mexican Blend cheese, or a combination of cheddar and jack cheese
chopped fresh cilantro

For the Sauce:
In a large saute pan, cook the onion, pepper, garlic and salt in the olive oil until soft, stirring frequently. Add the flour and dry seasonings and stir to coat. Add the sugar, tomatoes, tomato paste and water, and the chile pepper, if using. Simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove chile pepper and discard.

For the Eggs:
If you are baking right away, preheat oven to 350.
Place the first dozen eggs in a large bowl and whisk until blended. Lightly scramble the eggs in a large skillet over medium/high heat, just until they hold together. Spoon the cooked eggs into a lightly greased 9x13 inch glass or porcelain baking pan. Sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Repeat with the second dozen eggs, and spoon them on top of the cheese. Pour the sauce over the eggs (you might not need all of it)and cover with cheese. At this point, the whole pan can be covered with foil and refrigerated overnight to be baked the following morning.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes if putting directly into the oven, or add an additional 15 minutes if cooking from cold. Sprinkle with fresh chopped cilantro, and serve with warm corn tortillas.

Cheers and special thanks again to guest photographer Brian!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fried Food...I mean Fair Food!

"Hi honey, I'm here - where are you?" I said into my cell phone as I walked through the parking lot toward the fairgrounds.

"I'm in the paddock area drinking a beer," my husband replied. "I couldn't believe it - the first thing I saw when I walked in was the pony rides - and you KNOW how I feel about the pony rides."

My husband and I both have huge amounts of guilt about the way animals are treated by us humans. One of the most depressing things either of us ever saw was a pony ride apparatus - where the ponies are hooked up to a giant metal carousel - set up in a parking lot near our house. The ponies just looked so outrageously sad, and the whole thing was just so inhumane and depressing I could hardly stand it. While I am no saint (or vegan) I don't believe in torturing an animal like that for no good reason, or any reason at all come to think of it.

"I'm coming honey," I said.

But first, I was hungry, and not just a little bit. Enough that I decided to stop off on my way to the beer garden and pick up a snack. I stopped by the Hot Dog on a Stick stand but the line seemed to be moving slowly. While I was standing there, a woman walked up to her friend with a huge basket of thick, fresh potato chips. They looked fantastic. I set off in search of the potato chip stand and found it just around the corner. I picked up a big basket of chips ($5.00), sprinkled them with some seasoning salt and filled little paper cups with ketchup and hot sauce. So armed, I headed for the paddock area.
The chips were a hit with my husband and the rest of the table we shared, and we still had leftovers. After inhaling as many as I could without suffering an overdose of grease, and after downing half a beer, I felt much better.

While I like fried food (who doesn't??) and the chips were good, I needed a real meal. The past few times I have visited the fair, I've relied on the giant barbecue stand, which sits squarely in the middle of the fair, to satisfy my craving for something indulgent yet somewhat wholesome. I ordered the barbecued chicken with sides of coleslaw and beans. I like ribs, but there's nothing like chicken when it's falling off the bone tender with a crispy skin. Ribs can also make you feel a little icky with all the fat and grease, and I had already consumed enough of that. The chicken was especially good (or maybe I was especially hungry) while the beans and coleslaw were fine - the coleslaw was not very sweet - or maybe it just seemed that way in comparison with the sweet beans and barbecue sauce. If you truly want to look like a glutton, the same stand sells large beef ribs and barbecued turkey legs, a la Henry the VIII.

They have a real smoker/grill set up with a wood-stoked fire. Fair warning, they don't take plastic. I had to run back to get some cash from James to pay. At this point, I had been at the fair for a total of about one hour, and I had already spent thirty dollars. Go figure.

The paddock area was pleasant and uncrowded - they had live music, and you can sit on the grass and drink a beer. They had local beers as well as the regular assortment of brews. Stone seemed to be featured, with Arrogant Bastard and their other ales.

After lolling around on the grass for an hour or so (we are an industrious lot!) we figured we better get busy checking out the rest of the attractions. We got the serious sales pitch from the hot tub salesman (the one with the waterfall, built in stereo and pop up t.v. was looking pretty good!) and wandered through the shop stalls selling airbrushed t-shirts and license plate frames down to the Farrells that sits at the West end of the building. I had seen this a couple of months ago when I went to the Restoration Hardware warehouse sale at the fairgrounds, back in May.

The temporary set-up didn't disappoint, with its' dazzling display of chewy, sour, sweet and crunchy candies. They even had BB Bats and Kits, which I haven't seen since I was a kid. I was still full of barbecue and potato chips so I passed on the ice cream and candy, but my husband got a strawberry cone. I never order strawberry ice cream, and I always forget how good it is.

After James won me a stuffed Curious George (which I bestowed on my friend Sara's daughter Bailey) we proceeded to my favorite part of the fair, the art displays and handicrafts. The displays of painting and drawing, wood working, jewelry, photography and other arts are always inspiring. We even thought we might try to buy something, but unfortunately, the one thing I really wanted - a cool Japanese wood block - was marked not for sale. We had fun looking at the current year books for our respective high schools (Santana for him, University City for me) and by that time we were ready to call it a day.

On the way out, we walked by the stand selling the deep fried Twinkies, Oreos, Snickers and such. The new addition this year was deep-fried avocado. I had considered taste-testing these delicacies for your benefit, readers, but I am sorry to report that I just couldn't do it. I did however, conduct an informal survey of several people who claimed to have sampled the assortment, and the consensus seems to be go for the Snickers. I can also vouch for the cinnamon roll, and another friend of mine swears by the funnel cakes - so there you have it, for the next time you're inclined to indulge at the Fair!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And This Little Piggie Had Sausage....Ossabaw dinner at the Linkery

On Monday night, we were among the fortunate who participated in the Ossabaw Pork Chef's Dinner at the Linkery in North Park. The "gimmick" behind the dinner was that the Linkery had purchased a whole Ossabaw hog and had prepared an entire meal based on the meat, each course featuring a different cut. The Ossabaw is a pasture-raised heritage breed of pork renowned for superior flavor and a high concentration of Omega 3 fatty acids in its meat. You can read more about it on the Linkery's website.

The meal began with a Fig and Ossabaw Pork Pate, which was served with a Hopf Helle Weisse Bavarian Wheat Beer - essentially a Hefeweizen. The Pate was chunky and rustic, with a couple of pieces of fig in the middle, and was served on a bed of arugula. We asked for some bread to go with it and it arrived shortly. We gobbled that down - both because it was delicious and because we were starving - and waited for the next course. It was a house-made Ossabaw pork sausage, served with house made mustard. This was one of my favorite courses of the evening - juicy and savory, it was everything a house-made pork sausage should be. The mustard also had a nice sweet bite to it. This course was served with AleSmith's Wee Heavy Scottish Ale, which I find delicious in small doses.

The next course was a pastry puff topped with pulled pork, resting on a bed of arugula with red onion and viniagrette. This was paired with a Vixen Sparkling Shiraz from Australia, which I really liked - my husband thought it was a bit too sweet. This is the second time in the last couple of months that I have had a sparkling red wine, and I think it's rather nice for a change - kind of like a sparkling sangria.

The next course was truly unique and delicious - it was a slice of pork loin - essentially a miniature thin cut boneless pork chop - that had been brined in vanilla and tamarind with some sliced jalapeno. It was served with some yummy chile-infused roasted tomatoes and fried yucca sticks - which were sort of like chewy sweet crispy french fries. This was served with a Malbec - a peppery earthy red wine that had a bit of a bite to it. Because of the spice, I personally would have paired this dish with something a bit lighter and sweeter, maybe a dry rose or riesling, but the Malbec was interesting. You seldom see it offered by itself, it's usually blended into Cabernets or other meritage wines.

After that came the piece de resistance - toffee ice cream with a caramel sauce made with bacon - served with a choice of port or madeira and a grilled fig on the side. I was unable to eat my fig - I was too overwhelmed by the sweetness of the caramel and the ice cream - but I did down the Madeira. It was about this time that I realized I was a little tipsy from all of the beverage pairings! I woke up with a bit of a headache the next morning - no doubt from the dark beer and the red wines - but it was worth it.

Side Note: I have decided that taking flash pictures in a restaurant is almost as rude as using a cell phone, and I am simply not going to do it. (I am starting to understand why Pim of Chez Pim goes out for lunch so often!) With apologies to you, my dear readers - we will all have to make do with the pictures I can manage to take in the dark - or just before dark, as you see here.

Cheers and Happy Solstice!!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Mmmmm....Red Pearl Kitchen...

I sooo should be doing work right now, instead of writing this, but I just can't help myself. The food we had at Red Pearl Kitchen the other night was too good! I had heard a few people say they liked it, but I have to admit I was a little skeptical. I was expecting something like what you get at P.F. Chang's - a restaurant whose appeal I just don't understand. Red Pearl Kitchen serves "Southeast Asian" cuisine, mostly Chinese with a little Thai and Japanese thrown in. The menu is divided into sections, with the top half sections of Dim Sum, Salads and Grill suitable for starters, and the entree portions in the Hot Pot, Noodles and Wok Fired sections. They also have vegetable sides, such as sauteed long beans and grilled asparagus, and my favorite - the dessert section called "Happy Endings."

We were a table of seven, coming off of happy hour down the street at the Bitter End. We were seated right away, despite not having a reservation on a Friday night. The restaurant was busy and fairly noisy, but not overwhelming. We started out with some cocktails and appetizers - the salt and pepper calamari, tuna tartare, and flash-roasted edamame. The calamari was among the best I have tasted. It was greaseless and perfectly crisp, and was served with a delicious curry dipping sauce. The tuna was pleasantly sweet and spicy, though the mixture had a tad too much mayonnaise for my taste. It was spooned onto a crisp slice of fried eggplant, which sounds strange but was delicious. The flash-roasted edamame were sweet and smoky, seasoned with citrus zest and spices that made sucking them out of the pods that much more fun. I had their specialty cocktail, the Jade Mistress - made with peppery vodka and basil. It was sweet and spicy at the same time. I almost never get through a whole martini before it loses its chill, but I had no trouble at all with this one. Another in our party ordered the ginger lemonade and it was good too - but had lot of mint, which made it taste a bit like a mojito.

For our mains, we followed our server's recommendations and ordered the Shiao-Hsing Garlic Cashew Chicken, which seemed to be the house dish, the Black Noodles with Drunken Beef (pictured below), Black Pepper Caramel Shrimp, and Shaking Kobe Beef - with some sauteed long beans and grilled asparagus. Everything was delicious - nothing was greasy or overly sticky-sweet, and the flavors were unusual enough to be novel but not strange. The shrimp were so popular we had to order two servings.

For dessert we had a dish called the Passion Fruit Andagi - essentially donut holes with coconut gelato and a passion fruit custard sauce. It was really very good. (Considering how many restaurants have fryers, it's surprising donuts don't turn up more often on dessert menus. Even the French Laundry does them!) We also had the chocolate souffle with mandarin gelato, which was fine, but went overlooked in favor of the donuts.

The prices are very reasonable - none of the entree portions were over $15.00, and that was for the shrimp. The wine prices were on the high end of fair - we ordered a bottle of Albarino. All in all, we enjoyed a cocktail and wine-soaked feast for seven, at a cost of only $45.00 a head - including tax and tip. There are very few restaurants in San Diego were a group of people can be that well-fed for so little money.

When we go back (and I am sure we will) there are some interesting-sounding dishes I want to try, such as the Udon with Pork Belly, Fried egg and Smoky Miso, the Red Curry with Short Ribs and Pumpkin, and the Strawberry Cinnamon Ribs. Mmmm.... ribs...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Twenty Things to Do (Now That Summer is Here)

  1. Open the windows
  2. Turn on the ceiling fans
  3. Turn off the oven
  4. Wear shorts, tank tops and flip flops around the house
  5. Read a book
  6. Make iced tea and coffee
  7. Go to the Fair
  8. Wait for heirloom tomatoes to come in
  9. Grill everything
  10. Make popsicles and frozen yogurt
  11. Go swimming at the Cove
  12. Make lemonade with lemons from the tree in our yard
  13. Make cocktails with said lemonade and fresh basil
  14. Sit outside at restaurants
  15. Eat plums out of hand with juice running down arm
  16. Go for walks at the beach
  17. Watch fireworks
  18. Go to baseball games
  19. Go out for breakfast
  20. Eat lots of barbeque

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bounty in a Box - Warm Salad of Sauteed Greens with Roasted Beets, Sliced Pork Loin and Goat Cheese Crouton

On Wednesday, I picked up our first CSA shipment from Be Wise Organic Farm. I was expecting my lonely little box to be sitting out there in the driveway, but I was surprised to see that pages upon pages of people are ordering this service. The drop off for the East County is in La Mesa, just past SDSU, convenient to the freeway. Several people were there boxing up their produce to take home. I just picked up the box and figure on taking it back next time - but I can see why it would be easier in some ways not to have to worry about the box. I will probably bring my own bags next time.

We ordered a "large share" which contained:

  1. A bag of salad greens
  2. A bag of oranges
  3. A two-pint box of perfect-looking strawberries
  4. 5 beets
  5. 3 turnips
  6. a bunch of celery
  7. a large fistful of carrots
  8. a bunch of bok choy
  9. a bunch of red chard
  10. 3 bananas
  11. 2 cucumbers

I don't know if they grew the bananas, but I am assuming so since they were in the box. Who knew we could grow bananas in San Diego?? Last night, in order to take advantage of some of this lovely produce, I decided to cook a dish I had never made before. Armed with a recipe from Nancy Silverton's Sandwich cookbook (which will be cropping up here more often in the future!) I devised a warm main-dish salad of sauteed greens topped with roasted beets and sliced pork loin, served with goat cheese croutons. It was delicious - I was especially impressed with the beets, since I have never made them before. It serves two generously as a main dish, but would make a great appetizer without the pork. Here is the recipe:

Warm Salad of Sauteed Greens with Roasted Beets, Sliced Pork Loin and Goat Cheese Crouton
Serves 2-3 as a main course (with beets left over) or 4 as an appetizer.

For the beets:
3 medium sized beets, scrubbed with ends trimmed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper
dried or fresh thyme (1/2 teaspoon of dried, 1 tablespoon of fresh)

For the marinade:
2 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallot
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 350
  2. Mix the marinade ingredients together and set aside.
  3. Rub the beets with the oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper and thyme.
  4. Place the beets in a tightly covered glass or ceramic baking dish (I used a pyrex refrigerator dish) and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes
  5. Remove the beets from the oven and allow to cool until you can handle them, then rub them with a paper towel to remove the skins.
  6. Halve each beet and slice into wedges about half an inch thick. Toss with the marinade and set aside.

For the chard:
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of chopped shallot
2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
1 bunch of red chard, stems and ribs removed and cut diagonally into 1" pieces, leaves torn into 3-4 pieces
splash of balsamic vinegar

  1. Heat a large pot of water (about six cups) and 2 tablespoons of salt to boiling.
  2. Dunk the chard stems and ribs into the water for about 2 minutes.
  3. Remove from the boiling water with a mesh strainer and add the leaves. Stir until just wilted (about 1 minute) and remove.
  4. Run leaves and stems under cold water and squeeze the excess water out of the leaves.
  5. Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.
  6. Add the shallot and the halved garlic cloves and saute until the shallots are soft and the garlic is fragrant.
  7. Remove the garlic cloves.
  8. Add the chard stems and saute in the oil until tender
  9. Add the leaves and saute for one minute.
  10. Sprinkle the pan with balsamic vinegar and a grind or two of pepper, give a little stir, then cover.
  11. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to serve
For the pork:
Two pork loin chops, grilled or broiled and thinly sliced

For the goat cheese crouton:
2 ounces of goat cheese at room temperature, removed from packaging and rolled in cracked pepper
Two toasted slices slices of crusty sourdough or french bread, preferably warm

To serve, distribute the greens among two large soup bowls. Top with five or six pieces of the beets and lay the sliced pork over the top. Spread the warm toasted bread with a generous schmear of softenend peppered goat cheese and serve on the side. This could also be topped with a couple of toasted walnut halves, or drizzled with a bit of walnut oil, as described in the sandwich recipe - but I didn't have either. It would also be especially pretty if made with golden beets. Enjoy and have a good weekend!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Coffeecake Wishes and French Toast Dreams

This morning, I had a dream that my husband brought me breakfast in bed. I could see it perfectly, a beautiful plate of french toast studded with raspberries, swimming in lemon zest-flecked maple syrup. Then I woke up. Those of you who know my husband are probably laughing right now, because that is about as likely as...well, let's just say it's not very likely. As soon as I got up, I knew I had to have that french toast though, so I made it myself. For some reason, although I love french toast, I'm not very good at making it. I think I need to let the bread soak longer. I hate it when it comes out with those little dry patches in it. Overall it was pretty good though. It certainly looked good!

I dunked two slices of brioche in a mixture of eggs (three eggs for two slices) a little lemon juice, a teaspoon of sugar and half and half. A drop of lemon oil might have been good too, but you have to be careful because it can start to taste a little pledge-y (adding a citrus oil has the same effect of zest.) I opted for no lemon oil here, but I think one drop might have been good. A little vanilla extract would also probably work.

I shaved a few pieces of zest off a lemon, and dropped them in the syrup before popping it in the microwave to heat. This was a good thing, but don't make the mistake I did and try to eat the pieces of zest, even after soaking in the syrup. I had some perfect raspberries, which I sprinkled on the top, and voila! This whole thing can also be made with orange instead of lemon - I just wanted to try something different.

This past weekend, I indulged another craving and baked a coffeecake. This is one of my favorite recipes, because it is quick and easy enough to throw together the same morning you want to eat it, and it is actually relatively light. (Unlike most recipes, this one allows you to melt the butter, instead of beating it or cutting it in.) I think it tastes best warm, so I recommend eating it straight out of the oven. The berries give it sort of a jammy flavor, and the streusel is spiced with cinnamon and ginger. The best part might actually be how spectacular it makes the house smell while it is baking.

Blackberry Streusel Coffee Cake
1 ½ cups of flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/4 cup oil
zest of one orange, finely chopped (optional)
½ cup buttermilk or nonfat plain yogurt thinned with a little milk
1 cup of fresh, ripe blackberries

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 375
2. Line the bottom of an 8 inch cake pan or springform pan with parchment paper and grease the sides
3. Melt the 5 Tablespoons of butter and set aside
4. Mix together flour, sugar and baking powder
5. Mix 2 Tablespoons of the melted butter and the remaining Streusel ingredients until crumbly and set aside
6. In a medium sized bowl - whisk together eggs, oil, remaining melted butter, zest and buttermilk or yogurt. Gently stir in flour mixture.
7. Pour half of the batter into the pan, and add sprinkle with half of the streusel. Add the rest of the batter, spreading to the sides. Top with the remaining streusel and scatter the berries over the top.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for ten minutes, then turn out onto a plate or rack to cool completely.

Serves 8.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Night Out in North Park

Yet another gorgeous weekend in San Diego has come to an end! This past Saturday night we headed out with some friends to check out Ray at Night, the "art walk" style gallery event that occurs on the second Saturday of every month on Ray Street in North Park. One block of the street is blocked off South of University and people mill around looking at the artwork, drinking wine and soaking up the atmosphere. We parked in the brand new multi-story garage that has just opened on 30th (very convenient and only three bucks!) The event feels like a "happening" and it's fun to take it all in.

After moseying through the galleries, we went over to see Jay at the Linkery for dinner, just a few blocks away. We hadn't been there in a while, and they have added a few items to the menu. Everything sounded delicious - we chose the Choucroute, the Picnic Plate, the Ahi and Culotte Steak. My husband was in heaven with his picnic plate of cheese and sausages and I really liked the Choucroute. It was a bowl with saurkraut seasoned with bacon, a sausage link, and a toasted roll. We also shared a starter plate of house-made hummus and artichoke dip, served with just-fried tortilla chips, croutons and garlicky olives. The guys shared a bottle of a yummy dark beer called "Wee Heavy" - a Scotch style Ale from AleSmith. We also shared a bottle of Origin Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma, and L.A. Cetto Petite Syrah from Baja - both of which were excellent - and a bargain at around $22.00 a bottle (the Origin was on a half price special). The sausages have always been good here (go figure!) and last night was no exception. The one I ordered with my choucroute was seasoned with cayenne and gouda. My husband had the Weisswurst, which was unusually spicy but very good. Jay was a gracious host, recommending and serving our wines, and filling us in on the latest goings on at the restaurant. They are currently hosting all of the World Cup games, and are planning an interesting sounding chef's dinner on June 19 featuring different cuts of pork.

After dinner, we headed back up toward University to Heaven Sent Desserts. I wanted to give it another try before writing about it. On the last visit, a friend and I ordered three items to get a wide sample (we had plans for the leftovers!) - the Grapefruit Poppyseed Cake, the Kahlua Brownie, and the Sarah Bernhardts (two to an order). I loved the Sarah Bernhardt (an almond macaroon cookie topped with a chocolate ganache and dipped in chocolate) but the Kahlua Brownie was as dry as particleboard, and the grapefruit cake had too little tart grapefruit flavor and a slippery greasy frosting. This time, having read Naomi Wise's review, I opted for the Green Teaser - a chocolate cake with Green Tea frosting served with black sesame ice cream (which is what I was really after).

Props to Guest Photographer Brian
The chocolate cake was moist, but the frosting had that same texture and no clear green tea flavor. The ice cream was pretty good - it had an unusual flavor and was probably the best thing on the plate - it didn't really go with chocolate though. My husband ordered the Sunset, described as a butter cake with apricot and raspberry fillings. It sounded great, but it was dry and strangely tasteless. Another in our party had the key lime pie, which was fine but a little too sweet. On both visits the service was friendly. It's always fun to try something new, and I do think they are a great addition to the neighborhood - but one out of six isn't a very good average. As it's not terribly convenient, I probably won't go back regularly. They do have awfully cool coffee cups though!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Latest Obsessions

  1. Baking Cakes (I must be demented, because I am terrible at this!)
  2. Sandwiches, preferably filled with exotic and/or unusual ingredients. Bonus points if those ingredients melt.
  3. Suzanne Goins' food and the Lucques cookbook
  4. "Artisan" cocktails made with fresh juices and mint or other herbs. Mmmmmm.
  5. Trying out some of the Asian restaurants in Kearny Mesa - which remained a mystery to me until I discovered Kirk's blog mmm-yoso!!! and some of the interesting recommendations on Chowhound.
  6. Checking out all of the other terrifically amusing food blogs on the internet. I have a ton of links to add when I get around to it!
  7. Trying to figure out how to convince my husband to take me to Italy for our next vacation. (He doesn't like to fly.)
  8. Fantasizing about moving to far-flung Northern California (Arcata and environs), to raise goats and make cheese. I also fantasize that I will have a catering business there. I should probably win the lottery first, since none of that will likely make me any money.
  9. Exotic cocktail snacks, like chaat, truffled popcorn, fried chickpeas, etc.
  10. Pink wines that are not white zinfandel. I had some Vin Gris de Pinot Noir from Robert Sinskey a couple of years ago, and I can't get it out of my mind.
  11. Getting my hands on some Rombauer Joy
  12. Photography, especially taking pictures of my friends' babies.
  13. The new dining scene in North Park/South Park. (I would have loved to buy a house in that neighborhood, but my husband was not willing to spend $600K for a house that had only one bathroom.)
  14. Domino magazine - I love looking at home decor or "shelter" magazines. I really need to get out and comb the local antique and second hand stores for interesting objects for the house.
  15. Composting and Recycling.
  16. Big Love - now that it's over for the season I guess this doesn't really count, but I love that show. Ditto Top Chef on Bravo.
  17. Parisian Macaroons - I had some fantastic ones at Bay Bread in San Francisco (especially the caramel and lemon) and have not found any in San Diego to match them, though the ones made by Opera Patisserie are a swell substitute.
  18. Artisan cheese shops, like Venissimo, Taste and Aniata Cheese Company
  19. Making ice cream and frozen yogurt
  20. Humanely raised, organic and grass fed meats. Why aren't they more widely available??
  21. Attempting to make my own fresh ricotta cheese and creme fraiche. I haven't tried this yet, but when I do I will definitely write about it.
  22. Trolling on ITunes - linking from artist to artist and song to song to find new music I never knew I liked.
  23. Going to a hot springs (like Glen Ivy or similar). I've never been.
  24. Honey Moon Viognier (at Trader Joes.) At $4.99 per bottle, it's beyond our usual budget for the daily bottle of wine, but I am addicted.
  25. Learning to throw pots and work with clay. I have always wanted to do this and my desire has been renewed since I walked by Plum Pottery on the way to Vagabond the other night. I should take a class.