Tag Archives: brunch

The Age of Arugula

It’s taken me a few weeks to realize this, but arugula has decisively replaced baby spinach as my green of choice. This shift in allegiance has benefits and drawbacks, as is only natural. Benefit: arugula is a springier green, frilly and tickly and with the sharp bite of pepper. Drawback: arugula does not have as much iron as spinach, and I need all the iron I can get.*

The takeover occurred slowly, as these things do; at breakfast yesterday, I noted with a start that it has been weeks — maybe a month? — since I’ve eaten another green.Still, I’m not concerned. I’ve got my jar of iron pills — dingy capsules that taste like dirt — and the full assortment of greens remains available, always. I actually love personal food trends (food gravitations) and what they might signify. I don’t believe, as some people do, that they hint at deficiencies that our bodies seek to correct; rather, I suspect they’re rooted in something murkier — a convergence of physical and psychological preferences, seasonal cues, social prompts, what have you. I’m not fully tempted to suss out the causes, not only because the causes might be unidentifiable, but because I’m content with this small, benign mystery.

I have a policy of heeding food gravitations. If arugula appeals to me, arugula it is! I know myself, and I know that I’ll eventually tire of the gravitation food.We’re still reaping the benefits of our V-day bounty: yesterday’s breakfast drew on a few leftover ingredients and a few freestanding ones. Clockwise from top: Josey’s wonder bread, buttered (and, post photo, slathered in Donna’s jam); bacon; and eggs with two cheeses and arugula.

The toast and bacon are self-explanatory. The eggs could stand for a tiny bit of elucidation, I think. Alex beat the eggs with salt, pepper, milk, and goat cheese and cooked them in the normal fashion — low & slow. When they were mostly set, he added some sheep’s milk cheese from Bi-Rite (name escapes me = ack! Where is my cheese journal when I need it?) and some washed arugula, letting the eggs cook until the cheese melted and the greens wilted.

I don’t have to tell you how this story ended. (Answer: with two clean plates.) Arugula and eggs are my new favorite pairing; the textural contrast between the two is pleasanter at breakfast than it would be later in the day, when my mouth has adjusted to the world’s input, and arugula’s peppery flavor is pretty damn hard to beat. Arugula: it’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

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*As I discovered several months ago, when my doc revealed that my iron levels are pretty low.

A Clean, Well-Lighted Sandwich

It is Sunday night; I’m bundled in my favorite loungewear hoodie, sipping some ice water, and hearing the fire engines roar past. This past week was long (too long), and the weekend felt painfully short after such a hectic spell.

Still, I feel rejuvenated & ready to start my week. I had some gorgeous meals this weekend: brunch at Chow with Courtney, where I had mimosas and fries and a gussied-up peasant sandwich of ham, roast tomato, gouda, aioli, and a fried egg on grilled sourdough; dinner at Nombe with Alex and Willow and Joe, where our table spilled over with food: miso and bacon-wrapped mochi and a delicately gridded grilled eggplant, which was drizzled with miso. A chocolate souffle that really wasn’t, but that was a solid dessert nonetheless. My cutest meal was at Jay’s Cheesesteak 2, the Western Addition cousin to the Mission shop. Friday, I had plans to meet Sabina but no time to run home for food, and I found myself wandering Divis in search of a bite. I considered (briefly) Bus Stop Pizza, but reasoned that any pizzeria named after a bus stop couldn’t provide more than novelty. The brand-x sub shop next door was empty but for a forlorn clerk wielding a baguette. In light of my unwillingness to venture more than a few blocks from the Page, Jay’s became my last chance.

But what a phenomenal chance! I desired only the most basic food; if I’d had my way, I probably would have conjured up a peanut butter sandwich on thick, seed-crusted bread. Jay’s offered a close second: a no-frills BLT served on toasted baguette. It’s tough to tell in the photo above, but the cook made the bacon precisely as I like it: half a step too close toward burned. Nestled in its wreath of shredded lettuce and mayonnaise, crowned by tomatoes, that bacon was crisp salty satisfaction. (Sometimes, all it takes is salt.)

I felt ultimately cozy in that dim-lit shop, alone except for the cook, the clerk, and another diner, reading the Guardian and pausing, now and then, to take a thoughtful bite of fry. I’m already excited to go back — not as the result of a pre-planned trip, mind you, but the next time I find myself in the neighborhood, in want of a fine, simple meal.

Brunchday

I thought of writing about brunch when I wrote about the Persimmon Pasta of Heaven, but that would have been a misstep: brunch deserves a post all its own.

As I mentioned, Alex & I picked up some charcuterie; I did not mention what we bought (namely, Jamon Iberico and Lomo, pictured above). For reasons of aesthetics and taste, I prefer the Jamon, its deep pink striped with creamy fat. The lomo, though, sliced to translucence, reminded me of stained glass; in the photograph it makes little Venn diagrams of meat. I’m getting dreamy here, but don’t fault me — wouldn’t you feel the same in the presence of such beautiful meats?

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We woke late on Saturday, having stayed up ’til the wee hours hanging out and snacking: on leftover pasta, bread cuttings, and cardamom ice cream (Three Twins) with cookies crumbled right into the carton. I’ve never done that — added cookies right into the ice cream — and it was novel in a way that much of my snacking isn’t.

All this is to say that, on Sunday, when we did wake up, we woke late. Launched into a cleaning frenzy, wiping all the surfaces and hiding the jars of bacon grease. (Note: how does one dispose of all that grease?) While I made the waffles, Alex made a strawberry-persimmon compote. His plan was to inject the waffles with said compote, which, though an admirable idea, didn’t pan out — the waffles were too thin.

Slender waffles aside, brunch was a roaring success. On the menu were the waffles (made using the Joy of Cooking recipe) + compote and fresh whipped cream; stacks of smoky bacon and the aforementioned charcuterie; truffle-topped goat cheese and triple-cream brie; banana-nut muffins, made by NDW himself, and pastries Nathan brought from the Marina farmers market; beautiful, late-season strawberries; and coffee and mimosas, of course. Brunch without mimosas is a semblance of its namesake. Brunching at home has many perks: you can sleep later; you can avoid the lines of Ritual-fueled hipsters; you can choose exactly what you want to eat in exactly what quantities. Most importantly, perhaps, you can linger over your meal for as long as you’d like without fear of being rushed. We sat down to brunch around noon, and when we pushed ourselves from the table it was well past two. Mildly sleepy and fully sated, I’d had the chance to really savor my meal and the time with my friends. I was ready for the day.

 

 

My day in foods.

It was an awesome day on the friendship and food fronts. Not a nutritionally awesome day, mind you, but tomorrow I plan to eat only kale, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and berries. Or something like that.

Hook and I had our Breakfast of Champions at La Boulange. H. stuck with his traditional Morning Bun and Coke, while I tried a product I’ve been eyeing for some time: the Goat Cheese and Cassis Pear Danish.

Danish and coffee at La Boulange: perfection.

My crappy iPhone photo does this pastry no justice. The cheese was rich and sweet; the poached pear was a pure, royal purple and tender to the tooth. I lingered over each bite of the Danish (to the chagrin of other patrons, who wanted to nab our table). Oh, La Boulange! I sing your praises so often, but justifiably so — you’ve never let me down.

Gail and I met for lunch in the Mission. We didn’t have a destination in mind and ended up at Andalu, where I got this:

Andalu's berry-topped waffles with polenta fries.

I half-considered getting the savory waffles (being that my breakfast was so sweet), but I stuck to my sugary guns and got Waffles with Sautéed Berries. Waffles are a breakfast food I love above most others but don’t eat very often. I don’t own a waffle iron and when I’m out to brunch I lean toward eggier choices. Today, in a rare stroke of spontaneity, I got these bad boys. Golden, buttery, and crisp, these waffles stood head and shoulders above any I’ve eaten in the past year (or two: make it two). The berries had hints of butter and lemon juice; the whipped cream was mousselike and sweet. And the Polenta Fries? They’re not something I’d have created in my own kitchen*, but they were satisfying in a very fair foody way. They didn’t have the crispness of ordinary fries and they seemed to have been spiked with cheddar, but I’m glad I tried them.

In the high, midday heat, Gail and I sipped our Shandies and reminisced about Knox, college life, and The Midwest in General. Indeed, the record temps and the amped-up comfort food perfectly complemented our conversation; for a moment, I could almost envision myself back in Western Illinois, where the polenta fries would have been replaced by their potato-based cousins. Where the waffle would have been dinner plate sized, dry, and served with a scoop of whipped butter. I’m reaching to say that I found hints of Midwesternism in my midday meal, but it’s a pleasant reach. Andalu should take pride in the nostalgia they generated.

Dinner was of the “let’s see what we have left in the pantry and fridge” variety. Hook and I haven’t been grocery shopping in a week** but wanted to cook something rather than eating out. We were a little too sunstricken to brave a trip to the store, so we scrounged in the pantry, with fairly impressive results:

The dinner we created from random fridge and freezer items.

Here we have Pasta with Edamame, Goat Cheese, and Black Pepper — a seemingly odd combination, but a satisfying one. When the goat cheese melted, it fully coated the pasta strands, and the edamame added some color (and protein). The pasta itself was like spaghetti, but hollow — a detail that made the dish all the more delicious to me. (Note: I’m of the school that the shape of the pasta influences the “taste” of the dish, in that it affects my perception of the dish and therefore the consequent taste. Hook had Farfalle, but on Friday I went and bought this pasta because I perceived that a long, thin noodle would “taste” better to me. And so it did.)

Perhaps more satisfying than the melted goat cheese was the act of using up bits and bobs from the cupboard, fridge, and freezer. To me, grocery shopping is not just a necessity, but a hobby. I’ll find any reason to traipse down to the grocery store to pick up one item that I need/five that I don’t. For me, then, creating a relatively healthy, fully enjoyable meal from what I have already is a double triumph: an act of skillful preparation and of fiscal responsibility.

And that, friends, was Saturday. The weekend is off to a good start; tomorrow will bring the Folsom Street Fair and (I hope) further dining adventures.

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*Primarily because I don’t often cook with polenta, though Cooking With Polenta is a definite goal for the coming year.

**At least, but I’d be embarrassed to admit how long it has actually been. OK, it has actually been a week and a half.