Tag Archives: appetizer

a perfect balance: summer quinoa salad – chinese eggplant, sweet corn, red onion, & toasted almond

summer quinoa salad with chinese eggplant, sweet corn, red onion, and toasted almonds

Clearly I’m jumping the gun here a bit on “Summer,” but I’ve got a racer-back tan-line seared between my shoulders and the imprint of (my favorite) teeny-tiny wedge sandals emblazoned on the tops of my bare feet, so I can’t be that far off in my seasonal labeling, right?

chinese eggplant from the farmers market

They keep telling me that “it’s never like this;” they being those more seasoned San Franciscans than I, and this being the exceptionally perfect seventy-five-and-no-cloud-in-the-sky weather we’ve been having straight up on the reg.  I know I keep saying it, but there’s been some killer days here; the kind that make me actually excited for the in-betweens when the fog rolls in, and for that perfect time of evening when the eerie echo of the foghorn picks up at dusk.

fresh summer corn right off the cob

We had barely even fifteen minutes indoors this past weekend, with Saturday enjoyed posted up at picnic tables and grilling oysters with friends at Tomales Bay, and Sunday spent having our first taste of Bay to Breakers, an annual road race that seems to be much less about the race and much more about who can wear the most ridiculous costume.  (And…ahem…about lots of random naked people.  Being naked in public is a big thing here, folks.)

chinese eggplant ready to roast

Though sweet corn and eggplant are two things I associate more with July and August, I found both at the farmer’s market last week, and therefore – Summer, shes’a close.

taking the bite out of some red onion

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and it just hit the spot: sweet potato and pea cakes with fresh mint and basil

sweet potato and pea cakes with fresh mint and basil

A few weeks ago, in San Francisco, I was wandering around Pacific Heights after finishing an awesome breakfast and popped in to a charming news shop in search of a thank-you card for a friend who graciously let us take over her (adorably decorated) studio apartment for the weekend.

sweet potato and pea cakes quartered potato

Aside from inexpensive street flowers and dirt cheap mani/pedi’s, one thing that cities just seem to nail are news shops. Of course anywhere you can dash into a Walgreens for your monthly fix, and there usually is something palatable to be had in the check out line at the grocery store — but for those hard to find gems and international glossies, a good news shop is essential.

sweet potato and pea cakes green peas

After finding the perfect card (a letter-pressed specimen with a Frenchie and the words “Merci Beaucoup!” emblazoned on the front), I found myself plunking down an extra $10 for an issue of Donna Hay magazine. It’s undoubtedly an exorbitant price to pay for a magazine, but if you’ve ever seen a Donna Hay magazine, then you’ll know why I felt totally justified. (James on the other hand might not agree.)

sweet potato and pea cakes shredded potato

With her fresh aesthetic and simple yet impossibly elegant recipes, Hay is Australia’s answer to Martha Stewart, or Ina Garten – but younger, hipper, and trading out upstate New York and the Hamptons for the Outback (or something like that). The weighty issue beckoned to me with an incredibly gorgeous cover photo of spring pea and mint risotto, and was packed with light and Spring-y recipes that sounded perfect for weaning myself off of a steady diet of Winter fare and a triumphant football season full of buffalo wings (and sandwiches!).

sweet potato and pea cakes fresh herbs!

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easing into it: wild mushroom and tatsoi bowl with poached egg and parmesan

wild mushroom and tatsoi bowl with a poached egg eatandrelish

There is something about this whole business of embracing the first day of a new year with a calculated aggressiveness that just doesn’t sit well with me. Not that I’m against doing everything you can to set yourself up for a happy and healthy new year – that, I am totally behind.

wild mushroom and tatsoi bowl mushrooms

But my beef is more with the commonly agreed upon notion that you can stuff yourself silly in the dwindling moments of what will soon to be “last year” (who’s fate is supposedly already sealed) with the expectation that the moment the clock strikes twelve and those last drops of champagne wash down the last morsels of caviar blini, you’ve got to hit that proverbial New Year’s ground running.

wild mushroom and tatsoi bowl whole tatsoi

With the glittery ball down and your glittery dress off, come January one, there will be no more excess. No more holiday hams, no more Christmas puddings. Your lily’s been gilded (and gilded then again), and now it’s time to shape up and snap out of it; time to get thyself to the closest gym, and punish thyself for those last couple of months of exuberance. There are resolutions (which are predictably impossible to adhere to), jam-packed spin classes, and spartan salads on the agenda – a stark difference to what the yuletide docket held a mere seven days before.

wild mushroom and tatsoi bowl tatsoi

While all of that is good and well, I’d rather electric slide into the New Year than punish myself by cannon-balling into the chilly depths of the deep end.  I’m feeling more than ready to pull back a bit (and, let’s face it, skinny jeans just look nicer on someone who looks and feels what their jeans are advertising), but I’ve got no plans to look at it as punishment or repentance. Bring on some whole grain salads, some interesting and fresh vegetarian dinners, and some great make-ahead lunches that I can count on keeping my paws off of any cinnamon-pecan schnecken that happen to weasel their way under my nose (the travesties that occur when one works at a bakery!).

wild mushroom and tatsoi bowl in skillet

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right where i want to be: plum tabbouleh (fresh herbs, chiles, green onions)

“If you are always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you are in?” 

I caught myself on Monday doing the very thing which this year I vowed not to.  I had just finished checking a few much needed “to-dos” off my list, and turned the page in my planner only to see another looming inventory of yet unfinished projects and errands scrawled over the first few days of next month.

How can I already be behind in things I need to do in a month (and season!) that hasn’t even started yet?!

I sighed and squeezed my eyes shut, envisioning another ‘better’ place and time.  I thought forward to this Friday, when I’d be on a plane on the way to fun wedding weekend in the mountains, and then to October, when I’d be savoring the nostalgic flavors of the Fall season, and then finally to this Winter, where by day I’d be hitting the slopes, and by night cozied up to a fire.

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lost in the shuffle: vegetarian (and vegan!) summer rolls with watercress, carrot, tofu, cucumber, and fresno chili with an almond butter hoisin dipping sauce

Somewhere in the scuffle that has been a very busy Summer, my one-year Colorado anniversary totally eluded me.

Not that it’s a big deal, really – more so that I caught myself earlier this week telling a new friend that I “just” moved to Colorado, when in all reality a full three-hundred-and-sixty-five-days does not exactly warrant the word ‘just.’

Granted I have been known to invent causes for celebration (proclamations of “It’s the five year anniversary of our first date!!” and “Exactly four-and-a-half-years ago we moved into our first apartment together!!” have most definitely traversed my lips in hopes of getting a celebratory dinner or glass of bubbly), but somehow this sorta-kinda milestone just got shuffled in between weddings, work, weekends with house guests, and one very busy late-Summer.

The craziest thing is actually not realizing that I’ve been in Boulder for a full twelve months, but that I haven’t been back to New York City yet – not once. It’s not at all been intentional; though I felt like I was always on running at a frenetic pace when living in that city that really never does sleep, in this past year I feel like the number of weekends that we have had totally free and uncommitted have been few and far between, and always sandwiched in between commitments that made scheduling them seem unbearable.

All of those bustling (but seriously fun) weekends compounded by busy work schedules has literally caused these past few months to pass by in a blur, and though I’d venture to guess that most of you feel like time is constantly flying by, for me, this year spent out in Colorado more so than any other has felt that it’s gone by in the literal blink of an eye.

I can’t wait to get a visit back to New York on the books, and with things loosening up a bit around here in September and October I’m looking forward to doing exactly that. I’m heading to San Francisco tomorrow, and though it couldn’t be geographically any farther from New York, I am really looking forward to a weekend dose of good old city life. I’m excited for the people, the neighborhoods, the food, and the general weirdness that comes with being in a place that crams so many people into so little space.

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a weekend project, sweet + simple: decadent and creamy homemade ricotta cheese

I realize that by prodding you to spend your precious weekend hours tinkering around in your kitchen to make something that you could very easily purchase at the market, I risk you clicking on that little red “X” up on the corner of your screen and never looking back.

Why the heck would you want to make cheese?  The one thing that maybe you thought had been permanently relegated to being acceptably store bought – one of the few items you might serve at a party that had been safely out of the dreaded reaches of the question, “Oh these are sooooo good — did you make them yourself?

(Because who hasn’t sheepishly nodded towards the bakery brownie container after being met with this terrible question before?)

The thing is that you just can’t buy something as delicious as ricotta that you make in your kitchen with your own two hands — it just doesn’t exist (or at least not where I’ve been shopping).

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the apex of the season: mushroom and sweet pea skillet

It dawned on me as I chatted away with an old friend that there are exactly six weeks left until Labor Day weekend.

Yes. Six as in seis, as in five plus just one, as in just where in the heck did this Summer run off to?

I am of the staunch opinion that Summer ends on Labor Day.  Though many astrologers or almanac authors or smarty-two-shoes science-y types may try and tell me otherwise, I consider any day that I’d receive horrified looks for rocking white skinny jeans from my oh-so-proper Southern friends to most definitely not fall within the confines of ‘Summertime.’

We’ve been roasted and toasted and nearly burnt to a crisp, yet somehow it just doesn’t seem possible that Summer has already almost lapped us.  There are still popsicles to be eaten, hammocks to be rested in, rivers to be floated on, and said white jeans to be worn! How are we supposed to do all of this in just six measly weeks?!

It’s easy to overlook how nice something really is, when you’ve been spoiled enough to enjoy it in abundance.  Where catching a sight of some dark polished nails, a cozy knit scarf, or some holiday treats on Pinterest sends twangs and pangs of longing down deep into the depths of my gut, I must do my best to shelve those thoughts and remember that we’ve got just six weeks.

But because I can never manage to be quite content when it comes to the state of weather affairs, last night I stood in a kitchen easily thirty degrees warmer than outside and mopped my brow with my chef whites as I tended to a lamb sausage sizzling and sputtering on the grill.  I winged and whined that I just could not wait for Fall; I couldn’t wait to zip up my boots and toss on a cardigan, and walk outside to feel a crisp apple-cider scented breeze instead of being met by – god forbid – more sunshine, more cloudless skies, and more tank top and flip flop nights.

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