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.
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…)
As summer draws to a close and bids us goodbye with a last fiery embrace, we turn to the kitchen with a muted enthusiasm. Our last chance for grilling is passing us by! Did we take advantage of this summer? we ask ourselves with a bittersweet regret. Did we spend enough time relishing the warmth of sunshine, enjoying the childlike sense of freedom which has not quite faded? Now, in the final flare of warm weather after so many months of fog and fitful sun, we try to capture the summery spirit before fall wraps her chilly arms around us. This recipe, shared with us by a friend, is a wonderful way to take advantage of the Indian summer. Grilling tofu and fresh, plump zucchini in the backyard while a breeze rustles the leaves of the magnolia tree is the very essence of the season. The result, a fusion of flavors and cuisines, fits our palate perfectly and does justice to the variety of options available to us in this wonderful place we call home. Whatever can be said about its weather, the Bay Area provides a wealth of culinary options that dazzle and delight, no matter what the season. We took advantage of the fresh produce and local products to construct this mouth-watering sandwich, which embodies the soul of a California summer and celebrates its final encore. (more…)
In the simmering heat of New Orleans, one would think the last thing on my mind would be a hot, thick stew. One would be wrong. Wandering the sun-bleached graves of New Orleans’s past, bouncing past brass bands at every corner along Jackson Square, sipping boozy drinks that under any other circumstances would be considered crimes against humanity – it ignites a fever in you, a fever for spice and history and flavor and community. Gumbo is a kind of talisman in Louisiana. Born of a conflict of cultures, of poverty and slavery and the rough need of the oppressed, gumbo is the perfect comfort food. Everyone (and everyone’s mother) has his or her own version, so the flavor has the ability to transport you to a place of security and tender nostalgia. The meal requires attention and, traditionally, the contributions of several people, making it a manifestation of the kind of community that supports its members in both spiritual and material ways. When everyone brings something – spicy andouille, chicken, fatty slices of bacon – the result is rich in flavor and meaning. (more…)