Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Being post-college puts you in that weird place of being between families. You identify less as a child in the in which family you were raised, though not quite an adult responsible for your own family. Instead, birthdays and some holidays get celebrated with and the crazy community "family" of friends that you may get to choose more than biological family, though there still seems to be a quirky Uncle Paul in the corner, a loud Aunt Sally who drinks too much, poor cousin Ben who will always be the butt of all the jokes, and more than enough food and revelry to go around.

For our Friends-giving, I judiciously chose a harvest salad as my contribution because 1) it's freaking delicious, 2) it balances the creamed corn, mashed potatoes, biscuits, stuffing, and sweet potatoes that were other offerings, and 3) I don't feel as guilty eating leftovers because this isn't my only Thanksgiving feast this year. It's like pre-gaming family Thanksgiving with more Thanksgiving. That, just like the real thing, leads to an overload and ensuing Thanksgiving hangover if you're not too careful. Not that I'm one to argue with that. I just like to keep it at one hangover per weekend, thankyouverymuch.

My contributions:

Harvest Salad
1/2 cup of Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of spiced pecans (I used TJ's Sweet and Spicy pecans, then chopped them up a little smaller)
1 Asian pear, sliced (I also cut each slice into thirds to make them more bite-size)
a half-pound of fresh baby spinach

For the vinaigrette:
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
a pinch of sugar
a couple grinds of fresh black pepper

Combine all the dry components of the salad, emulsify the vinaigrette, and toss the salad in dressing. The dressed salad actually kept surprisingly well-- the picture below shows it on day three.

Classic Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 (12-ounce) bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
Zest of one orange, plus a squeeze or two of the juice

Combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add cranberries and orange zest and return to a boil. Boil gently* for about 12 minutes. Add a squeeze or two of orange juice (I squeezed one slice). Cover and cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate until it is ready to be served.

*I didn't, and ended up with burned sugar in the drip pan under the burner, which turned to black stickiness, which turned to char, which turned to a smoking emergency. This was also on a Saturday night before heading out in attempts to be ahead of the game, which slightly backfired.

I didn't take any photos of the actual preparation process (see above, re: shitshow scramble to get everything together), but buying two too many pears, two too many oranges, and having leftovers of everything you brought to dinner combined with the fact that you're not even going to be home for the next five days, and you get creative. Maybe I should've just called this blog "creating under pressure." Regardless, orange slices and black tea go excellently with that old chocolate zucchini bread (which froze very well, actually) for breakfast, a hunk of sourdough bread paired with the remainders of the salad made for a delicious lunch, and dessert was half an Asian pear, sliced and browned in 1/2 Tbsp. of butter (just enough to soften and sweeten it) with warmed-up cranberry sauce for dessert. Let's not discuss dinner, which was a disaster of an omelet that turned into burned scrambled eggs. Well, I'm trying.

The pears and cranberry sauce were delicious, though if I could have, I would've reduced the sugar in the sauce by 1/4 cup, reduced the water just a touch, and served with yogurt. It was a little too sugary, but hey, it's all I had to work with.

And one final Fall color picture...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Weekend in review

Fall colors, Farmer's Market, hazy hangover memories, and fresh pumpkin pie. Not pictured: black rain clouds, Big Game victory celebrations, dancing, and a 20-person "Friends-giving" by candlelight. Of all weekends, this is one for the books.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Found: the perfect holiday dress

I'm trying (clearly, not hard enough) to curtail impulse buys, but sometimes the perfect dress just comes along and I can't help myself. This dress from Anthropologie is perfect for my cousin's winter wedding, and I'm psyched about it. I think I'm going to plan a holiday party or two aka more opportunities to wear it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad

I'm on an Alice Waters kick. It's true. Because if the woman can invent an amazing salad that tastes like the best of summer and fall out of TWO ingredients (plus two extras) for a total of $6 and it's easy to make ahead for the entire week of lunches well, then you've got a winner. I bought her cookbook specifically because of this salad, used it for only that, and then shelved it and forgot about it for over a year until last week, when my fall craving came on strong. So the salad is back with a vengeance. I've eaten it--in all its various incarnations-- every day since I bought the makings nine days ago. Maybe now I can branch out to the other 386 pages of recipes...

Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad
Adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food

3 ripe fuyu persimmons
1/2 pomegranate
a few large handfuls of frisée (curly endive) or spring mix *optional
a small handful of spiced pecans (I used Trader Joe's Sweet and Spicy Pecans)

For the vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (don't skimp on the pepper... it adds the best spicy kick to the sweet persimmon and tart pomegranate)

1. Cut the tops off, peel, and cut up the persimmons.
2. Seed the pomegranate. I do this by cutting the pomegranate in half, then scoring each half down the middle of the skin. Submerge the halves in a bowl of water and break apart to avoid the juice from staining everything. The pith will float, the seeds will sink. Skim off the pith and pour the water off the seeds. You can use this same bowl to dress/assemble your salad.
3. Dress salad with vinaigrette and serve.

As a fruit salad, cut the persimmon into slices and top with pomegranates and freshly cracked pepper.
As a lunch or side salad, cube the persimmon, mix with pomegranate seeds, and serve with frisée, spiced pecans, and a piece of warm, crusty bread.

To make it in a batch for a week of lunches, I use 4 persimmons and a whole pomegranate, dress the fruit, and store it in an airtight bowl in the fridge. In the morning, spoon some of the fruit over a container of spring mix, top with pecans, and you're good to go.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Weekend in Review.

November 13. Reuniting with my oldest friend visiting on a business trip... amazing how it only takes minutes before a resurgence of our same old goofiness. Not pictured: pizza, salad, and gelato in North Beach, noses in books at City Lights bookstore, and the weekend bookended by two coffee and pastry dates with another friend visiting for a wedding. Reunions abound :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Searching for flavor

In my first class of Freshman year of college-- a class called Classical Cultures, where we studied Plato, Aristotle, and the like-- my professor, a Jesuit, read the eighteen of us bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Honors students the opening passage from the introduction of Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food:

"... I was searching for flavor, not philosophy, but what I found was that the people who were growing the tastiest food were organic farmers in my own backyard."

Now really, this whole thing seems absurd. A priest, in a suit, reading us a passage from a cookbook I'd never heard of. In a Philosophy & Classics course. Except that priest became one of my two closest mentors, that class became my inseparable, devoted group of friends, and that cookbook became both a love and a wealth of knowledge. Not unlike the other two, I suppose.

Two years later, I was halfway through an intensive Physics sequence of summer school, and my friend suggested we go eat our way through the City. We started at Mama's Cafe with a Norwegian omelet and French Toast, wandered over to Tartine for coffee and lemon tart, and ended up in Berkeley at a restaurant Jennifer had said she'd heard of. I had no idea where we were going, let alone where we were, so we arrived at 8pm on a Sunday-- her in jeans and a top, me in black leggings, flip flops, and a J. Crew sweatshirt. She asked if they had space for two, and they asked if we had a reservation. We said no. Within five minutes, we were in the upstairs dining area-- a treehouse, cabin-y sort of place-- cozied up between a wood-paneled wall and a young married couple dressed to the nines. I ordered the lamb-- the most melty, delicious lamb of my life-- and had a glass of red wine. So thank you, Chez Panisse, for not being too snobbish or inaccessible for a couple of curious college students. For being the most unassuming, perfect end to a day full of incredible eating. And for being one of the more memorable meals of my life-- if not only for the deliciousness but also for the laughable fact that I ate at Chez Panisse sans reservations in refined sweats.

Norwegian omelet from Mama's Cafe

Lemon Curd Tart and Espresso from Tartine

I had no idea this was the restaurant, the food culture, or the lifestyle I had been less-formally introduced to during my first timid weeks in the Bay Area, nor did I ever realize that I'd be making my home in this same wonderful region. Little did I know that the idea of searching for flavor, not philosophy pervades throughout my life: friends, careers, classes-- and obviously, eating. Things taste better, moments feel more perfect when they're unplanned, impromptu, organic. The standing dates I have with my housemates for dinner on Mondays and with ten friends for pub trivia on Wednesdays? Those are some of my favorite parts of each week. But the impromptu weekday breakfast with a friend visiting from out-of-town, the spontaneous texts, the weekends where the four of us decided to shove two couches together, binge on a box of leftover Halloween candy, and watch Modern Family for hours on end? Sometimes, they're even better. Moments like that create philosophies I hold. And here's the funny thing about being almost-23 and single: I'm putting myself into categories of things I like and hoping it's somehow original. All of a sudden, I'm very aware of who I am. Not just how I look, or how I'm perceived, but the kind of person I'm becoming.  I can't really philosophize maturity, nor can I search for philosophy. I'm just looking for it in the details... searching for flavors, for enjoyable moments, for spontaneity and wow-I-can't-believe-we-pulled-that-off kind of hysterical moments. The fun stuff.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Best weekend ever.

Weekend Roundup from November 5. Hard to beat a weekend that starts like this: