Early fall in the Bay Area is often regarded as the most beautiful time of the year, our Indian Summer. Unlike the often cold and foggy months of summer, September and October generally bring sunny days, warm enough for outdoor adventures and dining al fresco. It’s also the time of year when everything in my grocery store is available in pumpkin spice and my Instagram feed is full of friends eagerly anticipating fall festivities. This juxtaposition leaves me torn between holding onto the fleeting feeling of summer and embracing the coziness of fall. On a recent patch of colder days, the fall bug finally got me. I set to making one of my fall favorites, caramels. Bourbon, sea salt caramels.
Ahhh, Mozzarella. Oozing out of a freshly baked eggplant parmesan, a lasagna, or melted on a pizza, Mozzarella makes everything better. This versatile, mild cheese originated in southern Italy and has become one of the most beloved cheeses in America (string cheese, anyone?). What differentiates Mozzarella from cheeses is it’s high moisture content and pulled layers that make up the texture we all crave.
Nothing beats the pleasure of baking a cake for a child’s birthday. The recipient is invariably excited and, of course, easily impressed. Having become inured to teenage contempt and adult-onset apathy, watching someone eat your creations with the gusto and abandon of a 4-year-old is a rare and refreshing delight. When the opportunity to bake a birthday cake for an adorable little cousin fell into our laps, we couldn’t wait to get started. (more…)
After a long and hot summer that lasted well into November, we in the Bay Area are finally enjoying some cooler fall weather. The holidays sneak up on us quicker each year, it seems, and a trip to Costco recently confirmed that it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. But before I tune into the all-Christmas-all-the-time radio station, I’m going to slow down to savor my favorite holiday of all, Thanksgiving.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a group of ladies in possession of a free Sunday afternoon, must be in want of a tea party.
Truer words have rarely been spoken. When a group of friends plans a Jane Austen book club meeting, a tea party presents itself as the obvious choice. We got into the spirit by whipping up a double batch of sugary poppy seed muffins and a platter of cheese scones. Friends joined us later, bringing along cucumber sandwiches and smoked salmon bites, mini jam tartelets, all manner of cakes, and an array of cheeses. With a spread too generous to be considered dainty, we settled in for movie time. While six hours of Pride and Prejudice might not be everyone’s cup of tea, we had more than enough brilliant sunshine, delicate tea sandwiches, and snarky banter to keep us pleasantly occupied. (more…)
There is nothing I love more in Persian cuisine than the rice. Don’t get me wrong, the kabobs, stews and plates of fresh herbs with feta are divine, but there’s something about the rice that always screams comfort food. My favorite preparation is when the rice is cooked at the bottom of the pot until a crispy bottom, Tah-deeg (which literally means “bottom of the pot”), is formed. It’s the part of the dish that could ruin friendships as each person fights for that last, crunchy bite. I recently learned the art of making Persian rice from an expert, my friend Negin’s mom. (more…)
I would suggest experiencing muffuletta for the first time the way I did: exhausted and sitting at your departure gate in Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. I have to admit I was not entirely sure what to expect from the experience. This legendary sandwich had been suggested with enthusiasm by nearly everyone who heard about our planned trip to the South, but I wasn’t wholly convinced. It’s all… soggy-looking, I thought. My Californian sensibilities took exception to the lack of vegetables. Last on our list before our return flight, I wasn’t even particularly perturbed by the thought of missing out in the event that we ran out of time. Luckily – and for emphasis, I’ll add a few stars – **luckily** my experienced travel partner knew what she was doing. (more…)
A while back, I had the good fortune of being invited to a friend’s house to sample the delicious Mexican-American cuisine of Chica’s Chef Maria Esquivel. At the time, Maria was working hard on building her business and establishing her menu, no easy task in the competitive, foodie-crazed-scene that is the Bay Area today. The menu she prepared for this group of friends included tortas, chicharrónes, and fried plantains. I had sampled many a torta before, and good ones too, but they failed to adequately prepare me for the creativity and combinations of flavors that Maria would be serving that evening. (more…)
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll warn you that I have always been an enthusiastic celebrant of this holiday. I look forward to the day every year and find a way to enjoy it, come Hell or high water. From crafting a painfully-sappy but wholly sincere card for my SO to getting a present from my best friend, the outrageous expectations of romance, goodwill, and chocolate imposed by this holiday have for me, somehow and with a great deal of luck, been consistently met. Regardless of whether the prospect of another February 14th fills you with joy or dread (or leaves you deeply unmoved), it certainly provides an adequate reason to bake something fun (NB: literally anything can be an adequate reason to bake). Even if you’re a curmudgeon who curses the day as a lurid festival of commercial manipulation and forced sentiment, you can’t possibly deny that pretzels are a delightful treat and any excuse to make them is a worthy one. If you’ve got a honey, prepare a batch of these charming, heart-shaped goodies for them. If you don’t, make some pretzels for yourself! (more…)
We held a fabulous dinner party a few weeks ago to celebrate all things pork-related and to usher in that delightful season of conviviality and festivity we call “The Holidays.” We gathered together to toast good friends, communal consumption, and the sizzle of bacon on hot cast iron. In early preparation for the annual Thanksgiving parade of gluttony, we pulled out all the stops. For those of you with an aversion to pig products or meat in general, we advise you to proceed with caution (although the sumptuous bounty we presented did manage to seduce two traditionally-vegetarian dining companions). (more…)