11.30.2009

Matilda's Christmas List

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the Season of Giving is upon us! According to tradition, I will wait on my Christmas shopping until divine inspiration hits- probably around the 23rd, and probably about the same time panic hits.

Matilda is really on top of things- she's already prepared her Christmas list. My little kitty-girl has clearly inherited my expensive taste and love of good design:



Custom Aquarium by Tap Plastics.


I love it too (look at those gold legs!), but I haven't got the heart to tell her that she's on the naughty list this year for all of her pouting and crying (and for sticking her wicked paws into the fish tank!)



11.25.2009

Adam's Bachelor Thanksgiving, Part Three: Bruschetta and the Whole Spread

I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine a while back (a brother from another mother).  He had just picked up a generous bucket of chicken wings (at 1:30 in the morning) and was explaining to me that, in his opinion, his "people's" obsession with chicken was not an unfounded stereotype at all, but God's honest truth and a scientific fact.


He then turned the tables on me, asking if I was Anglo-Saxon.  I responded that to my knowledge, I didn't have a single drop of Anglo-Saxon blood in my veins.  He then asked, "well, are you European?"  I confirmed that I was indeed of European descent.  He responded, "then I know what your favorite food is......... you guys LOVE CHEESE."  I replied with a fit of approving laughter, and then I almost hit a deer with StB's car.


The lesson to take away from this story: I do indeed LOVE CHEESE.  With that in mind, I have a recipe that will satisfy both your sweet tooth and your, uh... "cheese tooth" (FYI, if you actually have a tooth that in any way resembles cheese, you should consult a dental professional).


To make Gjetost-Raspberry Bruschetta with Dates Batonette, you'll need:


1/4 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Cream
1/2 Cup Ski Queen Gjetost Cheese (found in the specialty cheese section of any decent grocery store)
2-3 Tablespoons Raspberry Preserves
4-6 Dates (by the way, this recipe is so good it will get you all the dates you could ever want)


Making the Cheese Spread



Decking out the Bruschetta



PS: I just tried my leftover cheese spread on some vanilla ice cream............ PROMISED LAND.


So, now my Thanksgiving Feast is complete!


Check it out:



And in the Spirit of Thanksgiving, Thank You!



We're looking for a little feedback on this "Remote Cooking" project.  Did you enjoy the peek into our Berkeley kitchen?  Elizabeth has created a survey, check it out over thatta way ----->


Also (as always) leave us a comment or shoot us an email if you have any questions (or requests!)



11.24.2009

Adam's Bachelor Thanksgiving, Part Two: Smoked Ham & Honey Carrot Confit

Now that we've got the starch out of the way, it's time to move on to the main course.

Let's start with the Honey Carrot Confit. You will need:

3-5 Large Peeled Carrots
1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Honey
Salt to taste

Assembling the Ingredients

Carrots are not just for health nuts, hippies, and rabbits. When cooked and seasoned properly, these root vegetables can be sweet or savory, hot or cold, crunchy or pleasantly smooth. My goal in this dish is to pair the sweetness of the carrots and honey with the saltiness of my smoked ham hock. As an added bonus, this dish is chock full of chemical oddities. Carrots contain carotenes (seems obvious now, doesn't it) which are poly-unsaturated hydrocarbons that play a role in photosynthesis and help give carrots their distinctive color. Carotenes belong to a larger class of biochemicals called terpenes, which are the building blocks of saps, pitches, steroids, and oils. Here in Berkeley, Dr. Jay Keasling (my mentor's mentor) has successfully engineered E. coli and yeast to convert terpenes into the anti-malarial drug Artemisinin, and he is now attempting to produce marketable biofuels using these biosynthetic pathways. Carotene thus sits at a juncture between photosynthesis (conversion of light energy to chemical energy), biofuels synthesis (conversion of chemical energy to mechanical or thermal energy), and advanced pharmacognosy (development of useful drugs from biological sources).

Honey is no slouch either when it come to interesting chemistry. Honey is actually a solution of various sugars (mostly fructose and sucrose, with about 20% water). When honey is cooked, the water evaporates and the sugars caramelize, leaving behind a crunchy texture and an exotic variety of chemical compounds such as diacetyl (2,3-butanedione) and acetoin (3-hydroxybutanone), along with many others. I have handled these compounds in their pure form in the laboratory, and can testify to their oily consistency and rich, buttery odor. Caramelized sugar is often described as creamy, savory, and sweet, all at the same time. This complexity is due to this diverse chemical combination.

But enough with Kitchen Chemistry 101. The bottom line is this: carrots and honey are simple ingredients that when properly prepared can impart a host of exciting flavors and textures. As I mention in my video, a vegetable or fruit confit is a dish that is cooked and sweetened to a gelatinous consistency. I like to leave a little bit of crunch in my carrots, but I will call this dish a confit nevertheless. For a more proper carrot confit, consider baking your carrots low and slow in the oven before you sauté them. I prefer to execute this cook-job quickly, first with a pot of boiling water, then several minutes in the sauté pan.

Some Sweet Sauté Action

Now for the Honey-Glazed Smoked Ham Hock with Rosemary and Caramelized Onion. Gather up the following:

1 Smoked Ham Hock
2 Tablespoons Chopped Rosemary
2 Cloves Chopped Garlic
1 Cup Light or Amber Ale
1/4 Cup Bacon Fat
1/4 Cup Honey and/or Brown Sugar
1 Small Onion, Sliced
Salt & Pepper to taste

Seasoning the Ham (Also, "A Reason to Buy Adam an External Microphone")

For a single man (at least for a skinny one like me), a whole turkey is out of the question. A stuffed chicken would have been a good option, but I have a day job... I've got things to do. One of the purposes of this blog is to demonstrate how to hide your inexperience and how to cheat in the kitchen. So, I decided to do just that. I bought a smoked ham hock at Andronico's, not knowing exactly what it was or what to do with it. According to reliable sources, the hock is the shin or forearm of the pig, which is pretty lean on meat and fat on fat. Gristle and fat don't bother me a bit, I have the fat-burning capability of a manic seventeen-year-old breakdancer on ecstasy.

Doing a Hack Job on the Ham Hock

I chose to prepare a quick honey glaze for the ham hock and pan roast it in a very hot oven, rendering some of the fat, but leaving some to chew while I toughed out my lonesome Thanksgiving feast. Like my boil and sauté carrot confit, this is a down and dirty method. If I was entertaining guests who were really serious about their food and I had all day, I would have baked the ham hock at a lower temperature for a couple hours. But I am the judge, jury, and executioner on this project. The honey glaze was sweet and delicious, likewise the onions, and the chunks of fat on the ham hock slowed me down just enough for me to consider what I am really thankful for.

Tomorrow we'll wrap things up with my Bruschetta... see you then.


11.23.2009

Blog-Met-Blog

Hi Friends,

Hope you're all eating up Adam's Thanksgiving Solo-Show (it's lunchtime, I'm staring at those potatoes, my stomach is rumbling, and my left-over pizza is not looking as good).

While Adam was slaving away at the hot stove (my angel in the kitchen), I was off partay-partaying... meeting local bloggers at Blog-Meet-Blog!

I will admit, I got the nervous jitters walking in the door- but it certainly didn't last long. It was such an amazing treat to interact with so many creative minds, to share ideas without pressing "post," and to GET to know all of the people that I PRETEND to know online!

Also a great opportunity to talk about some changes for StB in 2010...

I was so busy gabbing that I forgot to do my bloggerly duty and take pictures (oops). If you'd like to see the beautiful people that made it to BoConcept for Blog-Meet-Blog, peruse the album here (I'm the girl in the chartreuse conversation piece), check out pictures by Anna Marie at Last Days of Light, or watch this video from visualnoisetype!



For a truly lovely write-up about the event, flit on over to The Jaunty Magpie (and you better just read her whole blog while you're there, it's enchanting!)

Thanks so much to all the sponsors, and to Kam of needle + thread and Rebecca of The Clothes Horse for hosting!

Here's a little love for some of the Seattle bloggers that I met...

Cassandra of Coco + Kelley (enviably fabulous and totally engaging, this girl)
Zaara of KittenChops (an artist whose merchandise illustrations I have been ogling forever)
Courtney of CopyStrands (a fellow word nerd & Zag fan!)
Carrie of Girl and Coconut (who's going to be an incredible Bay Area guide)
Maggie of Magchunk (so fun to meet her, finally!)
Laura Marchbanks (talented photographer and quite possibly the sweetest girl in the room)

Can't wait to see you all again- soon!


Adam's Bachelor Thanksgiving, Part One: Potatoes

Thanksgiving has a slightly different meaning for everyone. Whether it be food, drink, family, religion, national pride, or football, Thankgsiving is a true holiday and a time for celebration. I was lucky enough to grow up with a big family, and with my extended family nearby. My memories of this holiday are mostly of them: my sisters taking far too long to primp for church in the morning, my Father maxing out on the religious potential of the holiday (the Philokalia always appears right when I'm about to start on the stuffing), my Mother turning around just in time to catch me sneaking a bite of crispy skin straight off the turkey, "The Princess Bride" entertaining us kids while we waited for dinner at my cousin's house, my Aunt Laura playing board games with us long after dessert was over, and my Grandmother's pies which were (and still are) worth skipping dinner for.

Family is such a dynamic thing. Missing out on time spent with my the people I love is something that I feel acutely. I want to see how my littlest sister is faring in high school. I want to hear all about my brother's escapades as a college freshman (and pretend that I was wilder and crazier in my day). I want to unload my own problems and adventures on my parents and see in their faces that I'm not the first to experience such things. I want to sit quietly with my grandparents, appreciate the stories I have probably heard dozens of times before, and mark the passing of one more precious year with them. I want my older relatives to mark how far I've come from the little boy who always got his nice clothes dirty playing wiffle ball with the cousins. I want to sit across from my girlfriend, nurture the traditions of our own little family, share a bottle of wine, and wait for the day (decades from now) when we can look back and say, "I remember when..."

But these are strange times! I sit here in my Berkeley apartment, a thousand miles from "home," desperate for a way to make Turkey Day special. I have a feeling I'm not the only one who's feeling a bit isolated this holiday season. At this point, I say thank God for the Internet, and thank God for food (both of which I am learning to use to their fullest potential). I am starting to earn a reputation in my family (and StB's as well) for my culinary skills, and I think withholding guidance from my loved ones at this time of year would be immoral and flat-out un-American. So, I have decided to prepare "remote Thanksgiving" and prevent this sumptuous feast over the internets, so that my table can become your table, and hopefully a good time can be had by all (especially if this thing goes viral).

Preparation of a "One Man Thanksgiving" is both challenging and liberating. On the one hand, it's a traditional day and the food should reflect that- and this will certainly be comforting on a lonely holiday. On the other hand, there's really only one person to please (ME). As us Basques say, "that throws a grenado right in the Paella." The solution is a lot like Thanksgiving itself- a little of everything. For you, dear audience, and for myself, I will prepare some traditional dishes, some borrowed recipes, and some things that I'm making up on the spot.

The menu for my solitary feast is as follows:

Twice-Baked Potato with Bacon, Parsley & Parmesan
Honey & Rosemary Glazed Smoked Ham Hock with Honey-Carrot Confit & Caramelized Onions
Bruschetta with Warm Gjetost-Raspberry Spread & Dates Batonette
Plenty of Light San Francisco Ale

Let's start with that Twice-Baked Potato...

In my family, potatoes are so ubiquitous as to become invisible. Every holiday meal features a heaping dish of the fluffy mashed kind. My cousin's family is Irish and StB is half Idahoan, so a lack of potatoes could result in severe withdrawal symptoms. To most people, a potato is a potato. The only question is how long you cook it, and whether or not you leave the skin on. With my twice-baked potato recipe, I'd like to shift the paradigm. In this case the questions are, "how many ingredients can we pack into one spud?" and "how can we make this humble tuber look and taste like its own flavorful garden of Eden?"

To follow along, gather up the following ingredients and press play!

Two or Three Russet Potatoes
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Cream
1/2 Cup Parsley, Chopped
Crispy Strips of Bacon (as many as you please)
1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan
Salt & Pepper to taste

The Potato Gets Baked

The Potato Gets Baked... Again

Check back tomorrow, and we'll talk Turkey. Errr... rather, Ham & Carrots...


11.20.2009

Blog-Meet-Blog

Happy Friday, all!

I'm so excited to kick off the weekend with a fantastic event tonight...


I can't wait to get something sparkly on, sip a cocktail, and meet the people behind my favorite Seattle blogs!


11.19.2009

Giving Credit Where it's Due

I love the blogosphere- it's a constant stream of inspiration. I can't even count how many times another blog has shone a light on a fantastic source or opened my eyes to a new idea. Bloggers, thankyou-thankyou-thankyou. I can only hope I'm able to return the favor on occasion!

Inspiration and admiration are nothing new, but here's a first for me: for the first time, I actually bought an item that another blogger featured!

Making it Lovely is one of my favorite reads. Not only do I get my fix of rosy-colored decor (that would definitely not fly in a house shared with Adam), I also get my adorable baby fix (thanks to Nicole's little Eleanor!). Nicole recently featured West Elm's Nailhead Linen Window Panels:

Shown in Flax

I read her post, made an excited utterance, and put my money down.

Our new apartment was in desperate need of window treatments! The windows themselves are horribly prison-like. Small rectangular cut-outs with no trim. Eek. We're also in need of a little more privacy, as we're on the first floor in a bustling neighborhood (and Adam has discovered that some of our neighbors enjoy planting themselves directly outside of our living room window to smoke and yammer on the phone).

I'll be using four of these panels in our living room- two for the windows, and two flanking the open closet that I've converted into an office nook (basically, they'll be concealing my cluttery desk and trying to shield us from our neighbor's messy social life [oh, no-she-di'n't!]).

Paired with these, I think they should be smashing.



Thanks so much for the tip, Nicole! SO excited to see how they look in your living room (and mine, once I move in February!).

11.16.2009

Easy as Pie

Adam and I have been cooking up some ideas about how to share his talents with y'all while he's living in the Gourmet Ghetto. Of course, all of our ideas rely on an internet connection at home (because it might be a little weird to present a turkey-prep how-to video on borrowed wi-fi at Peets, no?).

While we're waiting for him to get online, I thought I'd present one of the few edibles that I can make BETTER than Adam can (that's right, Wargacki, I'm tossing down the gauntlet).

Apple Pie

Making pie is one of my greatest pleasures in life. Unlike Adam, I don't cook well under pressure. I favor recipes that allow me to take it slow- chop, stir, taste, season, taste again. I also love to cook by intuition, adding whatever strikes my fancy. I have made dozens of variations on my apple pie (orange spice, huckleberry, sour apple, and rum-soaked to name a few), and I can never decide which is my favorite. Of course, the key to getting creative successfully is to start with a basic, no-fail recipe and elaborate from there.

For a perfect apple pie, you'll need the following:

  • 4 or 5 apples. Always have one more apple than you think you'll need. You will likely take a bite or two while you're cooking. I like to select 3 or 4 sweet red apples (not red delicious, which I find pretty tasteless) and 1 or 2 tart green apples. All of the apples should still be pretty crisp and fresh- we're not making applesauce here.
  • 2 refrigerated rolled pie crusts. Yes. Store bought. In the interest of time and not pulling our hair out here, let's save pie crusts for another day. Nobody will mind (and if they do, you may confiscate their slice).
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Brown Sugar
  • White Cooking Wine
  • Lemon Juice or Orange Juice
  • Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Allspice, or whatever else you like
  • An Adorable Pie Pan (probably 9" or 9.5")
  • Cookie Cutters of your choice
First off, toss your measuring cups. Measuring will just take the fun out of this very easy project. Then, proceed as follows.
  1. Get your pie crusts out of the fridge and let them warm to room temperature.
  2. Set out a large bowl and add a few squirts of citrus juice. Peel an apple and chop it into roughly 3/4" chunks. Toss each chopped apple into the citrus juice immediately to prevent it from browning.
  3. When all of your apples are ready, add a couple pinches of salt and enough cinnamon to turn them all speckly and spicy. Add the other spices to taste.
  4. Pour in about 3/4 a cup of white wine. Give the apples a good stir and let them soak up the wine a bit. While they're marinating, you should probably soak up a cup of wine as well.
  5. Drop in at least 1/2 a cup of brown sugar. Stir as you're adding it- it should dissolve a bit in the wine, creating a nice syrup.
  6. Add flour- just a little at a time until the apples are coated in sugary goo. You cannot mess this up. If you add too much and it gets too stiff, add a little more wine. If it's so thin that it doesn't stick to the apple chunks, keep stirring in flour.
  7. Taste an apple or two. It should be delicious at this point. If it isn't, up the quantity of the flavor that it's missing, or dilute with more wine and flour.
  8. Preheat your oven to 400º.
  9. Set your apples aside and unroll one pie crust. Set it into your pie pan, making sure that the edges don't drape too far over the sides. I like to pinch the edges into a ruffly pattern. Don't get too picky. This is a pie, not a freakin' wedding cake.
  10. Pour in your apple mixture, and pack it in as much as possible. Don't overfill or it will drip out as it's cooking. If you have leftover filling, don't fret- save it for your oatmeal the next morning (trust me, do it).
  11. Unroll your second pie crust onto a cutting board and have at it with your cookie cutters. Get creative. Get squirrelly, if need be. I dusted my squirrels in cinnamon to make them stand out amongst the trees.
  12. Arrange your shapes on top of the pie, leaving a few gaps. Taste a scrap of pie crust- if it's bland, you may want to brush on a little butter.
  13. Place your pie in the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, the edges of the crust should be getting pretty golden- remove your pie and cover the edges with strips of tin foil so they don't get burnt.
  14. Put the pie back in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until everything is looking nicely browned and you cannot resist the lovely aroma any longer.
  15. Let the pie cool on a rack briefly and arm yourself, because you'll have to guard it against nibbling family members.
  16. Slice and enjoy.
Make sure that you get a piece!

Really, that's it! Recent studies in my household have shown that everyone loves apple pie. 100% of parents polled said that this pie was "damn tasty," with 100% of dads going back for a second slice. Baking this delicious pie will increase your culinary renown by up to 68%, while making you 73% more likely to get roped into desert duty for Thanksgiving. It's a fact, people, I am the Queen of Apple Pie. Eat that, Cook Adam.

Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmmm.


11.12.2009

A Little More Bunny Love

While I've been online shopping for basics for the new place, I've found it hard to keep my focus. I go to Anthropologie for a shower curtain, and the next thing I know I'm dreamily clicking through sumptuous sheet sets and furniture that wouldn't even fit in the door. I'm also loving that the animal decor trend is continuing- you know I go ga-ga over this stuff! However, since we're making a move to a rather expensive locale, my budget has constricted (and so has the size of my apartment).

No matter how cute they are, I am not allowed to buy these rabbity things.

Not even if they remind me of Christmas as a kid...

Not even the cheeky little guys would be so perfect peeking out among my children's book collection- just right for a nursery someday.
Painted Cast Iron Bunny Bookends at Venucci

And not even if I've wanted them for a reallllly lonnnnng tiiiiime, and they're finally back in stock.
White Bunnies, also from Venucci.


I will resist. I will resist. I will resist...


11.11.2009

Instead of Airing Dirty Laundry

As mentioned in the comments on this post, our new Berkeley apartment does not come equipped with a washer and dryer. We were given the option of purchasing machines and having them installed in the kitchen/dining room, but I stuck up my nose and took the aesthetic high road.

Turns out that road is pretty long, because the nearest coin-op facility is a nine-block hike.

Aha.

Well, if I'm going to be trudging across town carrying 20 pounds of dirty clothes, I am going to do it with as much style as the situation allows. Actually, if I got one of these, I'd be looking pretty damn cute.

The White Devil Bag from India Rose- "Neapolitan" is my pick!
(Ann, thank you ever-so-much for this source.)

Please? I promise if I get one I will never be tempted by the full-service laundromat down the street that delivers and only costs a small fortune per load...