Tag Archives: salad

hello, august: heirloom tomato BLT salad with goat cheese and dijon vinaigrette

heirloom tomato BLT salad with goat cheese and dijon vinaigrette

There are few things in life that delight me more than fresh tomatoes ripened on the vine; that earthy and slightly spicy scent that rubs off on your fingers when you carefully twist one apart from it’s branch is, to me anyway, quite possibly one of the most intoxicating perfumes that exists in nature.

heirloom tomato BLT salad - fresh heirlooms

But tomatoes require patience, a virtue that I, categorically speaking, have not exactly been renowned to posses. For try as you may, you simply cannot force a tomato; I am a firm believer that there is nothing in this world less enticing than a watery, mealy, pale round of ‘tomato’ sliding sadly out the side of a sandwich in the middle of Winter. What’s the point?

heirloom tomato BLT salad - thick cut bacon

Sure, you can eek by with some hothouse-grown grape tomatoes in your salads for most of the year, and, in their own right, they will do perfectly fine. But if you forgo the sad and sallow ethylene-ripened specimens and hold out for the Real McCoys, that patience is handsomely rewarded.

heirloom tomato BLT salad - fresh arugula

And come August, they’re ready — and here we suddenly are.

heirloom tomato BLT salad - the makings of a great dressing

heirloom tomato BLT salad - perfect vinaigrette

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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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from one-million to one: zucchini & sweet pea quinoa with fresh herbs & fresno chili

zucchini & sweet pea quinoa with fresh herbs and fresno chili

You know those days when you wake up and swear off pizza, that second (third) glass of wine, and ALL THE RHUBARB CRISP ICE CREAM for ever and ever and always till the end of time?

a half cup of quinoa

Our first month here in San Francisco has gone by in a blur of indulgence, with four (separate!) sets of house guests, lingering meals kicked off with cocktails and wound down with unnecessary multiples of decadent dessert, lots (and lots, and lots) of coffee, and too many celebratory (and introductory!) glass clinks to count.

the zucchini is chopped!

And I am counting myself lucky. When you move somewhere new, you’ve just got to make it a habit to saying yes to it all – yes to a Sunday night dinner party with new friends (even if you’re dead-exhausted), yes to racing around the city for pedicures and lunch dates (even if you really need to get some work done), and yes to last minute concert invites (you’ve got the idea). The first few months in a new place are crucial for establishing a strong network of friends, and if you give in to those urges to slap on a tattered pair of sweatpants and cozy up on the couch too often, those invites to do cool things at cool places with even cooler people start to wane, and eventually dry up.

super sweet spring peas, halved diagonally

Though I truly feel like I’ve been going one.million.miles.per.hour, it’s the best kind of million there can be; and even though my pants have become…slightly less roomy…shall we say – we’ve packed more worthwhile events and made more new friends in our few short weeks as “Bay-Area” residents to totally justify the dark colored luggage I’m carrying under my eyeballs and pesky spare few pounds that always seem to settle in just where I want them the least. (Don’t get too comfortable, my Dearies.)

chopped fresno adds color and just a bit of kick

This week we bid adieu to some of our dear friends on Tuesday morning, after a long (glorious, four day!) weekend spent wine tasting in Sonoma, brunching at our favorite local French bistro, hiking out on the Land’s End trail, dining at Range, beer tasting at Southern Pacific, and hosting a dinner party for six — and we were exhausted. Totally worth it, but totally beat.

fresh herbs lined up and ready to be stirred in

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a healthy alternative: chickpea “tabbouleh” (gluten-free & vegan!)

chickpea 'tabbouleh' (gluten-free & vegan!)

I happen to still currently live in the “Gluten Free Capital” of the world (seriously….which also happens to be located smack in the center of the “Napa Valley of (glutinous) Beer” – go figure!), and though I certainly haven’t jumped on the wheat-free bandwagon and shunned all things bready, wheaty, and piled high on a blistered pizza crust (nothankyouverymuch), it has definitely influenced how I look at how much wheat I eat mindlessly on a daily and weekly basis (I do spend my days in a bakery, for Pete’s sake).

chickpea 'tabbouleh' whole chickpeas

chickpea 'tabbouleh' chickpeas chopped

I’m not about to go all glu-tard (haywire) on you and announce that I’m shunning my favorite carb, but I do like that this frame of mind has made me search for different meals and side dishes that aren’t sandwiched between two pieces of bread.

Everything in moderation, right?

chickpea 'tabbouleh' ingredients assembled

I love tabbouleh (an incredibly good plum iteration last seen here), but while making fresh hummus a few weeks ago I was struck by how similar in size and texture to bulgur the chickpeas appeared when I had coarsely chopped them in my processor. A quick google search confirmed that I was not the first to think of this, and I mentally cataloged the idea as a great make-ahead-take-along lunch.

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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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my favorite: arugula salad with figs, fresh peaches, prosciutto, parmesan, and truffle oil

A few years ago, when I was in my early twenties, I was invited to a business dinner at Il Mulino. This was back before the economy started its slide on into hell in a hand basket, and before Il Mulino had become an empire of sorts, with outposts in Las Vegas, Aspen, Miami, and…..{shudder}….Atlantic City.

Way back then (cough), Il Mulino was still a singular quaint and crowded little Italian restaurant tucked up into a tiny little space in the village, on West 3rd Street. It was the kind of miniscule space where you would gnash elbows with strangers when you would back out your chair, and the sort that had grape vines painted on the walls, mustachioed older-male waiters clad in double-breasted suits, and dusty magnum bottles of expensive Barolos lining the walls.

Not exactly a decorators dream, admittedly, but Il Mulino was charming in that respect, and over the years that it had been open for business (since 1981) it had become a favorite haunt of a (very) well heeled crowd of celebrities, high profile businessmen, and those who were simply willing to pony up for a fantastic plate of pasta.

It was there, young and decidedly not well-heeled, crowded around a round table in the back of house, that I had my first taste of real truffles. Shaved thinly over a twirled and twisted mound of cream soaked pasta and tucked up into pillows of ravioli, the knobby little fungi that I had read so much about were finally placed within my forks reach, and the scent that wafted up from them was intoxicating – almost obscenely so.

I tried my best to wait patiently as the waiter presented me with a sample of each of the pastas spooned upon my plate, and just as the last platter was gently laid upon the table, I dug in with gusto.  Though the scent alone partially gave away the treat that I was in for, I was completely unprepared for their incredibly unique flavor, and I was floored.  I’m not even going to pretend that I can accurately describe what a truffle tastes like in words, except for saying that they are at once earthy, but complicated; heady, and utterly rich.

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a palpable change: almond crusted tilapia with a sweet summer salad

The sprinklers in our yard go off every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (at 3 am, to be exact), and since that really means that they actually go off every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday night after we’re fast asleep and the calendar has hopscotched one day ahead, for a few hotter-n-hell weeks here this Summer, I was convinced they were broken.

I cursed at and futzed around with the impossible to decipher 1990’s era control, concerned with the hay-like state of our yard and the crunch of the bone dry grass beneath my feet. After a bit of deep thinking, I realized that the grass would not be wet on Tuesday mornings, but rather early on Wednesday mornings when the sprinklers would have just a few hours prior finished spurting and sputtering and doing their thing.

(Apparently I’m not the most cerebral when it comes to lawn work, but give a city-gal a break for a moment, would ya?)

The next Wednesday, I rushed out to make sure all was right in sprinkler world, and again – bone dry crunchy and cracklin’ grass.  This in turn spurred a frantic call to our landlord (I’m killing the yard!), which caused a $100 visit from the overpriced lawn man (my grass is brown! our sprinklers are dead!), and many many sad and guilty glances out over the now tan-ish span of lawn that I was sure I had been accidentally thirsting to death.

After thirty seconds of tinkering and approximately the same amount of pondering, the lawn man informed me that, indeed, the sprinklers were working just fine; the nights were just so darn hot that by day break and dog walk the dirt had already sucked up all the water and the blades were back to their previously parched state.

A lesson learned during my first Summer in hot, dry, Colorado I suppose.

(But hey, at least my hair isn’t frizzy! It’s all about the small victories, people.)

{but wait! there’s more…}