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Will Work for Baklava

Earlier this year I left my first job out of grad school. My profession initially appealed to me as a result of its many subspecialties, and I loved knowing I could change from working in pediatric genetics to adult cancer genetics any time I chose, providing there was a job opening, of course. Leaving my previous position was a long and grueling process, and although I love my new job, (did I mention I work normal hours and still get my clinic notes finished?) I have to be honest – I think about those people every day and miss them immensely. Most of them.

You know what else I’ll miss? That honkin’ box that arrived in our suite every Christmas from Harry and David. Sure, the box had great pears and chocolate-covered blueberries, but it also had one of the sweetest of all sweets. Baklava. Had I not shared an office in a tiny pediatric clinic, I swear I would have squirreled away the entire lot. And maybe some of those blueberries too.

toasted hazelnuts

I won’t lie. When I saw a recipe for baklava in a recent Food & Wine magazine, I immediately took a little stroll down memory lane and thought of that lovely box. I thought of all the ways I adored baklava and its’ crunchy, rich, chewy and almost-too-sweet-for-even-a-sweet-tooth-like-me self. I could almost taste it and couldn’t wait until December. Until I realized that part of leaving that job included leaving baklava. That made me very sad.

Then I got a bit frightened. And by his point I was sweating and shaking just thinking about the stuff. I looked like Jason Patric in Rush. I was also a little frantic just thinking about making this delicacy, but I knew at this point there was no turning back. I’d already crossed the line and geez Louise that’s a line you can’t back-cross. Not when baklava is right around the corner. And so I set up my baklava-making station and to work I went.

It’s not that I’m terrified of phyllo dough. I’d used it a few times. In fact, one of Chris’ favorite dishes is a Morroccan pie made with a phyllo crust. It’s just that my memory of baklava was held in such high esteem and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to satisfy that pedestaled taste.

But by golly. Need I say more? I mean, just look at it.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Baklava
Adapted from Food & Wine, July 2009; makes 24 pieces

Printable version

As if baklava weren’t good enough the classical way, this recipe has chocolate in it. Eeep!! And rather than the traditional (just ask my buddy J Simps) pistachio filling, this uses hazelnuts. I’m willing to bet you could substitute any nutty combo although I’ve thought long and hard and just can’t think of a better choice. But maybe hazelnuts aren’t your bag.

ps: baklava freezes like a dream. Just wrap it up and stow it away. I took some out over Labor Day weekend and it was good as new.

ingredients
1 lb hazelnuts
12 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 2/3 cups sugar
2 T cinnamon, divided
1 lb phyllo dough, thawed and ready to use
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups honey

instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread nuts on baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, until skins are blistered; let cool for a few. Transfer to kitchen towel and rub off the skins, then transfer to food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Note: the de-skinning might take a while, so sit down for it 😉

2. Add chocolate, 2/3 c of sugar, and 1 1/2 T cinnamon to processor and pulse until finely chopped and of equal consistency.

3. Unwrap phyllo and cover with sheet of plastic wrap. Generously butter a 9×13 metal baking pan. Butter and stack 8 sheets of phyllo. Note: it’s ok if some break during this. You’ll use most of the sheets but if some are just horrendously broken, discard it. You have to move fast with the phyllo and keep it covered when you aren’t using it. Trim the edges of the phyllo so they don’t stick together (just a tad). Ease stack into the pan (there will be overlap). Sprinkle about 2 cups of filling over phyllo. Butter and stack 2 more sheets; fold them in half cross-wise and place over filling (should fit perfectly into pan). Sprinkle another 2 cups of filling. Butter and stack 2 more and repeat with folding and filling. Butter and stack 3 sheets and fold crosswise over filling. Fold in overhang from bottom layer and brush generously with butter. Cut into 12 squares, then cut each in half to make 24 triangles.

4. Bake baklava 25 minutes, then lower temp to 300 F and bake for 50 more. Will be golden.

5. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring water, honey, sugar and 1/2 T cinnamon to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat for ~10 minutes. Immediately ladle hot syrup over hot baklava (right when it comes out of the oven) and let stand until completely cool, at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. It does not need to be refrigerated.

BARBEQUE: GOODER THAN SNUFF

BARBEQUE

Have ya’ll ever been to North Kakalaka? Let’s just say, if you haven’t, and if you ever do, a little preparation for the lingo might benefit you or else you may find yourself ‘running around like a chicken with its’ head cut off’. I am Southern, after all; it’s only fittin’ that I use my manners and translate a few for you :). So here we go.

Hug your neck: this is how we talk about showing affection. “Aunt Faye, that fried chicken looks so good it makes me wanna hug your neck!”

Bless his/her heart: this is what you say in the same sentence before you say something that’s not very nice. “Bless his heart, that boy has a face only a mother could love!”

BARBEQUE

Fixin’ to: what you say when you’re about to do something. “I’m fixing to warm up some of this tasty leftover barbeque.”

Gooder than snuff: when something is really, really great. “This vinegar-based barbeque sauce you made is gooder than snuff.”

Fit to be tied: angry. “When Ralph dropped that pe-can pie on the floor, Luna was fit to be tied.”

Down yonder: further down the road. “The best barbeque in Duplin County is down yonder on Hwy 13.”

BARBEQUE

Barbeque: this is not what you non-Southerners use as a verb, which is actually ‘grilling’. Barbeque is a noun, and there are many different barbeque varieties in the South. “The only barbeque I care to eat is from Eastern North Carolina.”

Full as a tick: basically, when you have eaten so much you’re about to explode. “I ate so much barbeque and red velvet cake that I was full as a tick.”

Clearly, this here list is not all-inclusive. Do you know some more? While you’re thinkin’ about it, consider trying your hand at one of my favorite Southern dishes, eastern NC bbq. And don’t you dare consider using another kind of sauce – vinegar-based is the only way to go. Don’t ruffle my feathers, now!

BARBEQUE

Eastern NC-Style Slow Roasted Pulled Pork
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2009; serves 16

if you’ve got barbeque joints in your backyard, you may not feel the need to make your own. but up here in the midwest, it’s a necessity. if you do use bone-in, allow extra time to let the pork tenderize even more. if you need less time, boneless works just as well. serve with Southern-style coleslaw – either on the side, on your samich, or both (like me).

printable version

ingredients
2 T dark brown sugar
1 T smoked paprika
1 T chili powder
1 t salt
2 t ground cumin
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t dry mustard
1/2 t ground chipotle chile pepper
1 (5-pound) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed
2 c water, divided
1 t liquid smoke
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c ketchup
vinegar-based Eastern NC bbq sauce (recipe below)

instructions
To prepare pork, combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl. Rub sugar mixture evenly over pork. Let pork stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 225°.

Place pork on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Pour 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Place rack in pan. Bake at 225° for 1 hour.

Combine 1/2 cup vinegar and ketchup in a medium bowl; brush pork with ketchup mixture (do not remove from oven). Bake an additional 3 hours, basting every hour with ketchup mixture.

Pour remaining 1 cup water in bottom of roasting pan. Cover pork and pan tightly with foil. Bake an additional 3 3/4 hours or until a thermometer registers 190°. Remove from oven; let stand, covered, 45 minutes.

Vinegar-Based Eastern NC bbq Sauce
chiknpastry recipe; makes 2 cups

printable version (sauce only)

ingredients
1.5 c apple cider vinegar
1 c water
1 T tomato paste
4 T dark brown sugar
1 T crushed red pepper flakes
2 t smoked paprika
1 t chile powder

instructions
combine all ingredients in small saucepan and bring to boil. reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. add more red pepper flake, if desired.

All That You Need To Know Regarding Apple Watch as a Travel Companion

It’s exciting to visit different countries and see new things. When you travel internationally, the real challenge is deciding the type of electronics to carry. Although the gadgets you take are primarily intended for your trip, anyone who frequently travels knows that while traveling across borders, one thing that should not be forgotten is an Apple Watch. As such, you can purchase one of the best Apple watch bands from cxsbands.com.

 

How to Use Apple Watch as a Travel Companion

 

Your travel is made better by the Apple Watch! You don’t have to worry about juggling suitcases and dealing with other mobile phones. On the go, you can send texts, as well as get flight notifications. You can also avoid missing crucial information as you travel by using this Apple Watch. It not only evaluate your health status as you travel through airports, but it also counts your steps and keeps track of your travels.

 

You may also profit from the Watch when you’re in regions that accept tap and pay. You can also utilize your Watch when paying for items in various countries, despite the fact that tap-to-pay is uncommon in the United States. Using the Watch to pay is as safe as using a credit card.

Apple Watch as a Travel Companion

Apps that can assist you while traveling.

 

You may not be able to access the internet while traveling internationally. Apps for traveling, such as Astronomy and Solar, are always useful.

 

Which bands should you have?

 

Although certain brands have features making them ideal for specific types of trips, an all-purpose band can never be wrong. You might choose to travel with several bands, but an all-purpose choice can handle everything you need.

 

Apple’s Woven Nylon complement every outfit, whether you’re going to a formal party or in a professional meeting. You may choose between neutral colors such as blue or black, or you may go for less conventional things, depending on your preference.

 

Another thing to think about before purchasing Apple Watch travel accessories is that they may go missing in the rush and bustle of traveling. It would sting more if you lost an expensive band on your journey. It’s better to bring a brand that isn’t too pricey When traveling. As a result, if it goes missing, you can simply replace it instead.

 

Best Cases While traveling with Apple Watch

 

You’ll want to keep your Apple watch safe While you’re on the road. Aside from looks, you must choose a case that will shield your Watch While being readily transportable.

 

If you want to carry many bands, a multipurpose travel bag like the Twelve South’s Timeporter would be ideal. It can store additional bands and has a tabletop charging option for When on the road charging is necessary.

Apple Watch as a Travel Companion

Don’t forget to charge your Watch.

 

The battery life of the Apple Watch is lengthy, but you’ll need to charge it at Some point, particularly if your journey lasts longer than 24 hours. The magnetic charging feature of the Apple Watch is a distinguishing characteristic. You can’t easily lend a charger or a cable.

 

Remember that you may not always be able to charge your Apple Watch While traveling, so have a backup plan in place. Taking an external battery with you is a wonderful backup plan. There are Some high-capacity batteries with built-in Apple Watch charging capabilities. The majority of these batteries have strap-on features that allow you to charge your Apple Watch While traveling.

 

You can also get something to clean the Watch.

 

Take with you screen wipes When traveling Internationally with your Apple Watch. Some areas are dustier or hotter than others, which means that your Apple Watch will get sweaty and filthy While you travel. You’ll need something to clean your Apple Watch since it will be uncomfortable if it’s sweaty or dirty. Wipes for the screen are usually the best option because they not only work well on your phone display but also clean your Apple Watch and band more effectively.

 

What if the Watch is damaged While traveling?

 

If your Apple Watch is damaged, you may be tempted to sell it to Apple. While this isn’t a terrible idea, selling it to a reseller would provide you with a better profit margin. Depending on the type of Apple Watch and how badly damaged it is, you may make considerably more money.

 

In conclusion, traveling with an Apple Watch creates fantastic moments. Get yourself a beautiful Apple Watch and enjoy traveling.

Men wear bomber jackets to travel

Men’s flight and bomber jackets are very crucial when it comes to travel. It has a lot of significance in the life of every man. This jacket keeps you warm during the cold weather but also looks good and stylish at the same time. Wearing this jacket will help you become more fashionable and comfortable at the same time. These are some reasons why men should buy a cool bomber jacket for their trip.

 

The mens flight and bomber jacket has been ordinary among men since long ago. They have been using these jackets for different purposes like travelling, working, etc. But now people are wearing these jackets on other occasions as well too. With the growing popularity of this jacket, the number of manufacturers producing them is increasing day by day. And today, most men are buying these jackets from online stores only because they get the best deals and discounts.

 

Before you travel to your destination, you must have the proper clothing because there could be changes in temperature or climatic conditions. In order not to get ill, you need clothes that keep you warm during extreme temperatures. So firstly, you need to get yourself an extra piece of cloth to cover your body. Then you need to match it up with the right accessories such as gloves, scarf, hat, etc. Nowadays many people prefer to wear a casual jacket rather than a traditional suit.

 

Travelling with the pilot jacket makes your trip much more manageable, comfortable and stylish. You do not need to worry about anything when travelling in cold weather or windy conditions. The best thing is that these jackets are not expensive. So you won’t be breaking your bank account while buying one. There are many online shops which provide great discounts on these jackets.

 

If you wish to purchase one, you should search for a reputed store before making any final decision. Most of these sites offer you an accessible shipping facility, so you do not even need to pay extra money for its delivery.

 

If you are looking for a bomber jacket online, you must first decide whether you want something casual or formal. The casual Bomber Jacket is mainly used for leisure activities. So it won’t look bad when worn for such purposes. A formal bomber jacket is perfect for work purposes. So people who plan to stay away from the office or college should consider purchasing this type of jacket. Once decided, you need to check what fabric is being utilized for making it. Soft cotton is generally preferred for casual jackets, and heavy woollen fabrics are usually selected for formal ones.

 

For those who have no idea what kind of material should be used for their jacket, it is recommended to contact your local tailor shop. Their professionals know what suits your personality and style. They can suggest the colour, pattern, cut, size and style that you need.

Men wear bomber jackets to travel

The different varieties of men’s flight bomber jackets

 

Men’s flight bomber jackets come manufactured in different varieties, designs, and styles. The most important thing is that they all look great and give you warmth as well. Some of them have hoods which make them more suitable for travelling. Apart from these things, many other features are included in each model.

 

You need to choose a proper one that satisfies your needs and taste. The following are some of the best varieties of bomber jackets:

 

  1. Men’s flight bomber jackets with hood. These jackets are perfect for travelling because they keep you warmer, while they look stylish and classy at the same time. You can pair them up with a suit or jeans and any dress for the right look.

 

  1. Bomber jackets without hoods. The reason behind its popularity is that it gives you more room to move around and enjoy yourself, even if you’re wearing a formal outfit. But they don’t look quite as cool as a jacket with a hood.

 

The cost of the men’s flight and bomber jacket

 

The men’s flight and bomber jackets have an estimated $154, and the price can vary depending on the size, material, style, brand, colour, etc. If you want to get a nice variety, then you can shop online through different websites. There are many sites available where you can find the product at discounted rates.

Men wear bomber jackets to travel

Factors to consider when buying the men’s flight and bomber jacket.

 

Price

 

Several factors decide whether or not to purchase a specific item; however, the price is always one of the main ones. That being said, it would be wise to consider what you plan to use it for before choosing a particular design or style.

 

Size and fittings

 

Size of the jacket matters since it would determine your comfort level while using it. As such, it should match perfectly with the body parts. Also, make sure that the fit is comfortable enough and nothing falls off during movements. If possible, try the items out on a friend first so they can tell you how it feels and looks and see if it fits appropriately.

 

Material and durability

 

Depending on the material, you will be able to know if the jacket is durable enough. For instance, leather is soft and supple but is also very expensive. On the contrary, polyester is affordable but does not provide the needed support. It depends entirely on what you expect from the jacket and what budget you can afford.

 

Conclusion

 

Buying the right men’s flight and bomber can bring joy to both your hands and heart. With proper research and information gathering, the chances are that you will be able to find just what you are looking for, which suits your taste. You have to bear in mind the factors to consider before buying this item because, after all, it is an investment that will last for an extended period. The jacket can also be used in all weather conditions, thus making it possible to wear it throughout your travel time.

Born on a Bayou

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

It isn’t too terribly often (or ever) that Chris gets so excited about something in the kitchen that he whips out his iPhone, snaps a quick photo, and Facebooks it. But when he does, I know it’s going to be an extra-special meal.

These are the meals that can’t go long without a mention here, for fear that I’m leaving you out of something really awesome. I’d feel really bad if I did, you see.

My somewhat long commute has led me to develop a cooking tradition, of sorts. Weeknights are now reserved for meals that take less than 1 hour to make, from start to finish. I used to tackle arduous meals on any day, be it Friday with a nice glass of wine at my side, or Tuesday with silence in the house, other than the sounds of my knife tapping the board, piles of vegetables slain and piled high as mountains, and an oven heating up to 350.

Things are different now. Driving 2 hours each day is enough to make you ten times more tired when you get home, no matter how stressful or boring your actual day in the office was. I have to fit in exercise too, (who am I kidding; this is once-a-week endeavor at best right now) writing here, and last but certainly not least, finishing the last season of Castle on Netflix.

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

This leaves the weekends for the hefty meals, the labors of love, the ones your gramma used to make every day like it was her job. Probably because it was her job, at least it was in my family. This is one of those meals: two hours from start to finish, and every minute is well worth it. And one more thing: the cost of groceries is, too.

This here, my friends, is a gigantic pot of goodness that will feed your whole block, or building, or the two of you for at least a week. And that’s the beauty – all that time is a bargain, when you sit right down and do the calculations. Check it out: 2 hours of work + 10 servings of the most amazing jambalaya on the west coast = 12 minutes per serving. If you roll like I do, and choose to use this dish for another dinner and a couple of lunches, you’ve also cut some kitchen time outta the work week too, which some would consider a bonus.

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

Now let me tell you about this slice of heaven before you. For starters, there is so much meat in this recipe that you won’t be able to take a bite without it, even if you tried. It is so spicy, in a good way, that you want to pack your bags, hop on a plane, and fly straight to New Orleans to eat everything Creole in sight because you just can’t get enough. It’s more than plenty to feed a crowd, if you want to share, but the leftovers heat perfectly, and I can attest to that wholeheartedly, as evidenced by the bowl I just emptied 4 nights later.

And probably (probably) most importantly – it will make you the most wonderful mammal in your house for at least a couple of hours afterwards. That is, until you start nagging about the dishes…

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2011; serves at least 10

time commitment: 2 hours, half of which is active

printable version

ingredients

12 oz applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 1/2 lbs linguiça (or other smoked, cooked sausage), halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick semi-circles
1 lb andouille sausages, quartered lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 lb smoked ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 lbs onions, chopped (4 to 5 cups)
2 large celery stalks, chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 T paprika
1 T chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 T chili powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 28-oz can fire-roasted diced tomaties
1 small can diced green chiles
2 1/2 c beef broth
3 c (19 to 20 ounces) Basmati rice, uncooked
8 green onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
salt and pepper
Chopped fresh Italian parsley

instructions

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350 F. Cook bacon in very large pot over medium-high heat until brown but not yet crisp, stirring often, 8 to 10 minutes. Add smoked sausage, andouille, and ham. Sauté until meats start to brown in spots, about 10 minutes. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Mix in chicken. Cook until outside of chicken turns white, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Mix in paprika, thyme, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. Cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes, chiles, and broth; stir to blend well. Add more cayenne, if desired. Mix in rice.

Bring jambalaya to boil. Cover pot. Place in oven and bake until rice is tender and liquids are absorbed, 45 minutes. Uncover pot. Mix chopped green onions into jambalaya and season with salt and pepper to taste; sprinkle jambalaya with chopped parsley and serve.

Waiting is Overrated

tomatoes

I have had a huge hankering for tomatoes lately. Huge. They’ve slowly been inching their way into our markets – every weekend I dash down the street (okay okay, I stroll; I couldn’t dash if I tried these days) to see if there’s a burgeoning table of wayward-shaped heirlooms in need of a handful of my cash-money. Instead, I see a corner of lonely tomatoes, the same corner that once housed a crate of greens, or maybe some stray box of strawberries.

Damnit, I want that big table of tomatoes already. I have a list of things I want to do with them, and I am growing impatient. Can you tell?

tomatoes

I want to make another panzanella salad, because I haven’t made one since I made this one two years ago! But this time, I want to load it with ‘maters. And sourdough bread, of course.

I want to can plenty of tomato sauce, and make barbeque sauce, and plenty of sriracha ketchup. I want to make buttermilk dressing and slather it all over sliced heirloom tomatoes. And myself. That’s not weird, is it?

tomatoes

I want to make my own harissa. Now let me be clear – the store-bought harissa is totally legit, but I’m sort of a fan of making condiments. Sort of.

I also wouldn’t mind some gazpacho right about now. That sounds like something I could definitely get behind. Or in front of. Or in my mouth. Whatevs.

tomatoes

I wanted to wait to stuff some ‘maters, like my old bosslady did a few months ago, but I really just couldn’t wait any longer. Plus, I’ve been cooking through Heidi Swanson’s new book like it’s goin’ outta style, and I decided that the Whole Foods tomatoes would just have to do because the earmark on the page was near ’bout worn off.

I also couldn’t help myself from throwing a slice of cheese on top, because when has mozzarella cheese and a tomato ever been a bad thing?

Sometimes waiting is so overrated, isn’t it?

tomatoes

Couscous Stuffed Tomatoes

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day, serves 4

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes (15 minutes active time)

this is a relatively versatile recipe. except! don’t use millet in your tomatoes, as i accidentally did the first time i tried this recipe. you could use a grain of similar texture, more than likely. quinoa maybe? a pesto filling would work well in place of harissa and any other spices/seasonings to put a different twist on it sound fabulous too. if you want a meat-filled tomato, check out this ‘winning recipe‘.

printable version

ingredients

4 large, ripe, red tomatoes
1/3 c plain yogurt
2 T store-bought harissa (tomato-based)
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped into thin strips (chiffonade)
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 c couscous, uncooked
4 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
olive oil, for drizzling

instructions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut the top 10% off of each tomato. Working over a large bowl (and using a grapefruit spoon if you have one, but if not a regular spoon works too), scoop the flesh out of each tomato, being careful not to puncture the sides. Let the pulp and juice fall into the bowl. Chop up any large pieces. Arrange shells of tomatoes in a small, glass baking dish.

In the same bowl, combine 1/2 c of the tomato pulp/juice (discard the rest, which shouldn’t be too much) with yogurt, harissa, basil (leave a little to garnish), shallots, and salt/pepper to taste. Add couscous and stir to combine. Stuff filling into each tomato shell, filling as much as possible.

Bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Add mozzarella strips to the top of each tomato and bake another 5-7 minutes, until melted and gooey. Remove from oven, drizzle with a little olive oil and pepper, and garnish with remaining basil.

Top of My List

burger

July absolutely has to be one of my very favorite months. I’m also a big fan of November (because of Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday). September and October aren’t too bad, either. And while I’m at it, I may as well throw in August, which means we are clearly at the very beginning of all of my favorite times of the year. Let the games begin.

For now though, I’m going to keep it together and just talk about July.

burger

When I think about July, a few things come to mind. First and foremost is Summer, and that’s probably because I’ve lived in Chicago for so long. It doesn’t always warm up in May and June there, although from what I’ve heard, this year has been a little toasty. Here in San Francisco, it seems to always be sunny in at least one part of the city, although it’s certainly not always warm, so to speak. That said, we haven’t grilled out nearly as much as we normally would, but I think the warm weather is right around the corner, and for that I’m thankful.

I also think about fruit – cherries, blueberries, watermelon, and all those berries with seeds that sorta get on my nerves. Peaches. Which reminds me – I need to bust out a cobbler or something, like yesterday. And some ice cream, but I’ve got an ice cream recipe in queue that I’m guessing is gonna knock my socks off (yes, I still sleep in socks, even in July).

burger

This year, July means biking through Golden Gate Park or back over to the bridge, and hopefully a road trip over to Tomales Bay for oysters, and maybe some more Stairway Walks (more on those later) and neighborhood hang-outs. Maybe even another baseball game? or is that being too optimistic? We are halfway through this month, I’m aware.

Clearly, many things have changed over this past year, location-wise most definitely, but some things haven’t; one of those is my adoration for this month, and really, all months, but I’m trying to be specific here. July truly is at the top of my list.

burger

And last but certainly not least, July = burger time. Check this out: we’ve had burgers in July for three years in a row, and that’s sayin’ somethin’. Last year, I waxed poetic about getting a meat grinder attachment, and this year I finally did it. Of course, it sat in storage for a while, and even though I’ve had the thing for months, I have used it now for the first time. But like I said last year, the meat grinder is some kinda awesome, and I finally proved it to myself that I needed to get one (ok, use one) a long time ago.

With said ground meat, I churned out a relatively quick and easy burger recipe, sans grill: griddled smash burgers. It’s not a bad idea, really. Heat up your griddle (or pan, if you’re not into pancakes enough to have a griddle specifically for flapjacks), ball up some ground meat, and smash ‘em onto the surface, letting the juices sizzle away, smoking up your house almost enough to flip the smoke alarm. Smoosh some onions into them, and finish them off with cheddar cheese and pickles; simple and quick is key here.

Put them on a plate with some baked ‘french fries’, and let the rays of the sun shine on ‘em like a pot o’ gold at the end of a rainbow. Two seconds later, eat them as quickly as possible – we’ve got a lot left to do now, and half of July’s already passed us by.

burger

Cheddar & Onion Smashed Burgers

Adapted from Food & Wine, June 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients

16 thin bread-and-butter pickle slices, patted dry
4 burger buns, toasted
1 1/4 lb ground beef chuck (30 percent fat)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small onions, sliced paper thin
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
ketchup, and other fixin’s that you choose

instructions

If you’re into this sorta thing, grind your own meat, which takes about 5 minutes if you have a good grinder.

Heat a griddle until very hot. If you don’t have a griddle, you can probably use a frying pan on high heat, but I used a griddle that is normally used for pancakes 😉 . Layer the pickle slices on the bottom buns.

Without overworking the meat, loosely form it into 4 balls and place them on the griddle. Cook the meatballs over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Using a sturdy large spatula, flatten each ball into a 5-inch round patty. Season the patties with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, until well seared. Press a handful of sliced onions onto each patty. Using the spatula, carefully flip each burger so the onions are on the bottom. Top with the cheese and cook for 2 minutes. Cover with a roasting pan and cook just until the cheese is melted, 1 minute more. Transfer the burgers with the onions to the buns. Top with the ketchup, any other fixin’s, buns and serve.

 

Otto-who? Otto-what?

Otto

Over a year ago, I had this crazy idea of going vegetarian. Okay, I’m not telling the truth here. I had the idea of going pescatarian, and only for a month – it was not to be a permanent change. It seemed doable, and this is coming from someone who tends to really like meat. I fought my way through it, even tossing away a lovely piece of pork that I mistakenly ordered, thinking it was a dish full of wheat berries and ramps (don’t ask how I screwed up there….). I didn’t order beef pho the first time I went to a place that served it, and at a tapas restaurant, I chewed on cheese and peppers, drank lots of wine, and tossed back mussels like it was my job.

All in all, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Would I ever give up meat completely? I seriously doubt it. For one, I couldn’t imagine a visit to the South without barbeque (not the fake stuff). And two, I love the smell of cheeseburgers on the grill. Also, bacon is pretty awesome.

Otto

But sometimes, I do manage to go a few days without eating meat, and I can honestly say that I usually don’t even notice it. I’d even go further to say that, sometimes, eating vegetarian is a lot healthier, as long as you watch the cheese and carbs.

It seems that every time I talk about vegetarian food, I feel the need to insure you people that I do not intend to eat this way full-time. I’m not sure why? Maybe because I know many of you enjoy the meaty posts, and I assure you they are here to stay.

Otto

But the other day, I discovered lentils. Don’t ask me why I’ve never cooked them before; I have no intelligent answer. A friend of mine let me borrow a cookbook of hers that is all-vegetarian, and while I didn’t expect this to be the case, I have a lot of the pages marked and as a result, wonder if I should just buy the dang thing myself.

Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty is that book. And of course, I’ve cooked a slew of things (no, I haven’t written about them all) from Heidi Swanson’s new book too, which also happens to be vegetarian. What I’ve realized is this: as long as flavor is brought to the dish, I don’t miss the meat. But the second you make something bland and boring, I may as well be eating tofu from the container. Or tempeh, which is still gross to me.

Otto

Ottolenghi seems to know what’s up on that front. His secret? He’s not vegetarian. Of course, some people seem to have a problem with that, but for me, it’s a match made in heaven. He knows that meat tastes good, and he knows that many vegetarian dishes lack flavor. The result? He makes his recipes scream with flavor, belting out ingredients like mustard seeds and curry powder, fenugreek and pomegranate molasses – and it works.

Also! he made me fall madly in love with lentils, an ingredient I’ve never really taken an interest in before. So yeah, maybe I just realized that I’m probably never giving this cookbook back to my friend (shhhhh!), and maybe as long as I locate vegetarian recipes that are actually locked and loaded with flavor I’ll be able to eat somewhat like a ‘flexitarian’, or whatever it’s called. But at the end of the day, I’m sticking to my beliefs – and that’s that meat is meant for me to eat, and I was meant to eat meat.

Otto

Spiced Red Lentils with Cucumber Yogurt

adapted from Plenty; serves 4 as a light dinner

time commitment: 1 hour, about half of which is active

printable version

notice the piece of naan tucked alongside this dish. I didn’t make it this time, but you can. Or you can just buy some 🙂 . also, one of these spices is possibly tricky to find: fenugreek. It’s nice, if you have it, but don’t sweat it if you don’t.

ingredients

1 c split red lentils
1 1/2 c water
half a regular bunch of cilantro
1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 1-2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green chile
1 1/2 t black mustard seeds
4 T sunflower oil
1 1/2 t g coriander
1 t g cumin
1/2 t g turmeric
1/4 t sweet paprika
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 t sugar
1/4 t fenugreek (if you can find it)
1 small container of Greek yogurt
1/2 of a cucumber, finely diced
1 1/2 T olive oil
3 T butter
1 1/2 T fresh lime juice
salt and pepper

instructions

wash the lentils under cold water and pour into a bowl with the water. let soak for 30 minutes. get the rest of your ingredients ready and chopped.

meanwhile, cut the cilantro bunch halfway between the top and bottom. give the leaf top a rough chop and set aside. add the bottom stalky part to a food processor along with the onion, ginger, garlic and chili. pulse a few times until ingredients are broken up, but not pasty.

grab a heavy pot (Dutch oven time!) and turn on medium heat. add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop, add the chopped mixture and the sunflower oil. cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. add the coriander through the paprika, and continue cooking/stirring for five minutes. the mixture may appear very dark, which is just fine.

add the lentils and their soaking water, tomatoes, sugar, and fenugreek, as well as a little salt. cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils are cooked. you’ll probably want to check on them occasionally, as mine were about 5 minutes overdone since I abandoned the kitchen for too long…

meanwhile, make the yogurt by whisking the yogurt, cucumber, and olive oil together. add salt and pepper to taste.

once the lentils are cooked, stir in the butter, lime juice, and most of the cilantro leaves. season with salt/pepper if needed. divide into 4 dishes, topping each with a large dollop of yogurt and cilantro leaves to garnish.

What Barbeque Isn’t

It has become widely apparent to me that there are some key differences between the East and the West. And now, I don’t mean the World here, I just mean the wee ol’ United States. The red, the white, and the blue. Happy Belated Birthday, by the way, America. The San Francisco fireworks in your honor were just plain lovely, after I stopped thinking about the regretful act of not wearing socks that night.

There were a plethora of other lovelies this past holiday weekend too: grillin’ out with friends on Saturday, starting to walk through a great new book on Sunday, and a baseball game finished off by said fireworks on Monday. Why can’t all weekends be that awesome (minus the sunburn)?!

Barbeque

But let’s get back to the matter at hand. Throughout the course of the past week, I have without a doubt deduced one clear, glaring difference between East and West, and this isn’t to say that there aren’t quite a few, but alas. I have what may be the most important discrepancy: the definition of “barbeque” (aka barbecue).

I’d like to direct your attention to the following article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbecue. Yes, Wikipedia, the source of all sources.

Barbeque

You can read through the whole article, if you wish. It’s actually rather interesting. But what I’d like to call your attention to is the following paragraph:

“The word barbecue is also used to refer to a social gathering where food is served, usually outdoors in the late afternoon or evening. In the southern USA, outdoor gatherings are not typically called “barbecues” unless barbecue itself will actually be on the menu, instead generally favoring the word “cookouts”. The device used for cooking at a barbecue is commonly referred to as a “barbecue”, “barbecue grill”, or “grill”. In North Carolina, however, “barbecue” is a noun primarily referring to the food and never used by native North Carolinians to describe the act of cooking or the device on which the meat is cooked.”

Here’s the issue: I found myself eating around a grill 4 separate times this past week from Thursday through Monday. Not once did I partake in, or make use of a, barbeque. Often times, I had to confusingly ask for clarification. Here’s one example.

Co-worker: “Are you coming to the barbeque at lunch today? It’s free.”

Me: “Free? Yes! Where is the pig being cooked?”

Co-worker: (insert strange look on face) “Huh?”

Me: “Oh, yeah, right. What you mean to say is there are some meat items that have been grilled, and that is free, right?”

Co-worker: “Yeah. A barbeque.”

Either way, the grilled meat was good. But it ain’t barbeque.

Barbeque

And neither is this chicken, although a grill was most certainly part of the festivities. It doesn’t make it less good, I promise. But there is right and there is wrong in this world, and to say barbeque for something that has a pig nowhere in sight is just plain wrong. Although, I should be clear here, and state my one exception: you can called chicken ‘barbequed chicken’ IF there is a barbeque sauce involved, but that’s still a stretch, and in that sense it really is only referring to the fact that it’s chicken, with barbeque sauce, and not necessarily grilled, either.

Agree? Agree to disagree? Tell me more. Maybe one day I’ll learn to turn the other cheek at this craziness; probably not. And since I am out West, and unlikely to find any truly original REAL barbeque, I’ll settle for grilled meats instead. Because, really, what’s not to love about a grill, anyway?

Barbeque

Grilled Chicken with Za’atar
adapted from Bon Appetit, July 2011; serves 4

time commitment: ~3 hours, plus overnight marinating (most is inactive time; everything can be made in advance, leaving only grilling chicken for the day of)

i’m including the original recipe amounts here, but this is easily adaptable to a crowd, as we practically quadrupled the recipe with no problems, scaling back on the marinade just a tad. the chicken is great by itself, or with either/both of the dipping sauces below. also, I don’t tend to remove seeds from peppers, as we like things spicy in our house, and we like to torture our guests. feel free to remove them if you’re feeling sheepish.

printable version

ingredients
marinade
2 heads of garlic, top third cut off
5 T olive oil, divided
1 1/2 t lemon zest
3 T fresh lemon juice
1 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 small serrano chile, minced
2 t dried marjoram

za’atar
1 T chopped fresh marjoram
1 T sumac
1 T ground cumin
1 T roasted sesame seeds
1 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper

1 whole chicken, cut into 6 pieces (breast, wing, thigh/leg)
salt/pepper
1 T olive oil

instructions
Preheat oven to 400 F. Put garlic on a large sheet of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil and wrap tightly with foil. Roast until tender and golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the remainder of the marinade and the za’atar. In a medium bowl, add 4 tablespoons oil, lemon zest and juice, rosemary, chile, and marjoram; whisk to blend. When garlic is cooled, squeeze roasted cloves out of skins and into the same bowl; mash into a paste with the back of a fork and whisk all ingredients together.

For the za’atar, combine marjoram through black pepper in a small bowl.

Place chicken pieces in a glass baking dish or large bowl. Sprinkle 2 1/2 tablespoons za’atar over chicken. Pour marinade over chicken; turn to coat. Cover; chill overnight.

Season chicken with salt and pepper; let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a gas grill to medium-high. Brush grill rack with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, until skin is crisp and browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of thigh without touching bone reads 160°, about 40 minutes, more or less for some pieces and depending on the size. Transfer chicken to a platter, sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoon za’atar, and let rest 10 minutes.

Serve by itself, or with cumin aioli and green harissa (recipes below).

 

Cumin Aioli
from Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 1 cup

printable version

ingredients

1 t cumin seeds
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 c grapeseed oil
1/4 c evoo
Kosher salt

instructions
Stir cumin in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant, 2 minutes; let cool. Coarsely grind in a spice mill. Whisk yolks, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in grapeseed oil drop by drop, then olive oil, whisking vigorously until emulsified. Whisk in cumin and 1/2 t water. Season with salt. Cover; chill.

 

Green Harissa

from Bon Appetit, July 2011; makes 1/2 cup

 

printable version

ingredients

1 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 c chopped spinach
1/4 c evoo
1 garlic clove, minced
1 serrano chile, minced
1/4 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground cumin
Kosher salt

instructions

Combine first 7 ingredients in a food processor and purée until smooth. Season harissa to taste with salt.

The House on Telegraph Hill

Moving to a new city has been a very wishy-washy event for the two of us. It’s especially hard to leave a city that you love so much, a city that you called home for so many years, that had so many memories. Not everyone gets to leave one awesome city and head to another one that’s just as exciting, just as inspiring, and just as beautiful, if not more. But we did, and three months later, we are slowly feeling at home, slowly finding our way around these parts, and slowly finding new friends, new traditions, and a new “normal”.

I gotta say – I am loving San Francisco – every single minute of it. The 60-degree weather that occurs 80% of the time, the foggy Saturdays when I’d prefer to see sun for miles, and the glorious Sundays when the city redeems itself, almost apologetically. I am head over heels every day of the week.

Telegraph Hill

The hardest part about it though, is that process of feeling “at home”, feeling like I live here and not just like I’m visiting for an extended amount of time. Feeling like a tourist in your own city is a little awkward, and at times I feel like screaming out to the people around me: “I live here damnit, I swear I do”, as I wear my short-sleeved shirt and sandals on a dreary morning, or a day like today when the sun was shining valiantly and I mistakenly wore long sleeves and a hoodie. One day I want to not get it all wrong; I want to be a local in my own city.

One day, that will happen. It just takes a while, and I have to realize that fact.

Telegraph Hill

Ironically, in an effort to better acclimate ourselves to the city, we’ve been doing a little bit of touring. Sure, we’re not wandering about in sneakers and fanny packs, but we may as well be, since we do wander about with cameras and tour books (and again, we are blatantly under or over-dressed). A co-worker told me about a book called Stairway Walks, which as it turns out, is a unique and slightly more “local” way to see San Francisco. Our plan is to slowly walk our way through the book, step by step, and in turn familiarize ourselves with all the neighborhoods and cultures around us.

Telegraph Hill

So far, it’s freaking awesome. And while I know this is primarily a food blog, I also want to show you the sights and adventures that we’re experiencing as we find our place in this new world, because I think that’s important too. I want you to fall in love like I have – I want you to appreciate this city like I do, and when I talk about home, I want you to know where I’m coming from, and how I got there.

These are pictures from the first two stairway walks. Most of the hilly parts are through Telegraph Hill, one of San Francisco’s 44 hills. If these two are like any of the rest of the walks, we are certainly in for a treat.

Telegraph Hill

It shouldn’t surprise you to know that a real hippie got out of that van (above), and when he opened the door I saw that the inside was carpeted, and lined with velvet tassels. Also, his hair was long, pulled into a ponytail, and grey. He was my hero, and after I saw him I couldn’t get Sugar Magnolia outta my head for at least a few minutes.

Telegraph Hill

San Francisco has hundreds of stairways built into the city; some of the hills are so steep that walking up them is almost impossible. My advice to you is, if you ever drive here, make sure you have an automatic. Some of the stairways are long and winding, artistic-like, and others are meant to simply get you from A to B.

Some lead you to places like Coit Tower (below), and if you’re feeling especially touristy, you can take an elevator to the top and look out onto the Bay. We decided to save that for when someone visits and insists on going. Plus, you can see plenty just from walking up and down the stairs.

Telegraph Hill

You’ll also find plenty of random artwork decorating the walkways, from mosaic-tiled tigers to frog princes to parking meters in the middle of a walkway.

Here’s the truth: there is never a dull moment in this city, that’s for sure. Every day that goes by, it starts to feel more and more like home, and every weekend I am reminded of how many adventures there are locally, as well as out and about. It’s a place I am getting used to – the good restaurants and produce help, of course, but there’s something else, too – something truly magical about being here.

Just like it was meant to be.

Telegraph Hill