Tag Archives: Mission Life

Weekend Treat: Rosemary Lavender Shortbread

Saturday was the coziest, happiest day. Alex made us brunch — scrambled eggs with gouda, Josey’s toast, and fresh blackberries — and afterward, properly fueled, I hit a thrift store that I’d never before visited but had always been curious about. So many finds! I picked up a rad, polka-dotted dress (totally 90s), an off-white capelet (totally 60s), and Supertramp’s Breakfast in America. I’m most stoked about the capelet, I think — I’m gonna have the warmest shoulders on the block.

Later, I continued my Massive Recipe Organization Project, which is one phase away from completion(!) When I needed a break, I headed kitchenward.

Last week, Brett Bara posted a recipe for Savory Rosemary Shortbread on her blog, and I experienced instant fascination. Only five ingredients, four of which I have in my cupboard? A guaranteed crowd-pleaser that can be made with the smallest bit of effort? Sign me the hell up, baby!

This was my inaugural foray into shortbread baking; consequently, I followed the recipe exactly, except for my substitution of lavender salt for regular. (The substitution seemed, to my palate, only natural, and the final product substantiates this impulse.) On the whole, I’m pleased with the end result, though next time I may add just the tiniest smidge more butter — or maybe I won’t. I much prefer the sandy texture of homemade shortbread to the chemical crispness of OTC varieties — the softness hints at the dessert’s sources, which themselves are soft and sandy.

Shortbread represents my favorite type of baking project: one that is straightforward, relies on only a few ingredients, and yields a result that tastes far more complex than its components. Bonus: I hear that shortbread freezes well — a good thing, because it’s very rich. As many pieces as I’ll likely nibble today, it’s good to have a backup stash in case of dessert emergency.

If you have a free hour today or tomorrow, do yourself a favor and make this shortbread. Come teatime/snacktime/desserttime, you will thank yourselves (and maybe me, for the encouragement).

Weekend of Delights

Man: I just wrapped up one of the best weekends in recent memory. Spent most of this morning on a recipe-organization project (which is still underway, if you were wondering), then met up with Alex for an afternoon of record shopping & other adventures. Oh, were there adventures! I got a Barbadian folk guitar album & a few others, and then it was well beyond lunchtime and Alex and I felt as though we both might pass away, so we hit Zeitgeist for refreshments. Bloody Marys, because they are the spiciest — cough & sputter spicy — and because they have the saltiest olives. Burgers with homefries because I recently discovered that I like mayonnaise (WHAT?), and because a burger sounded good. I’ll tell ya, Zeitgeist does homefries right. I don’t know their secret (though I suspect it’s rooted in oil), but their fries are golden-orange-and-crunchy on the outside, pillowy within — a rare find.

Lest you think I subsisted entirely on candy and mayo this weekend, think again! The above photo depicts the veggies — Brussels sprouts, broccoli florets, and fennel — that I roasted with chickpeas and golden raisins and served over quinoa.

The dish was partially inspired by a recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit; my take includes a few random ingredients — ones that make for small, indisputable improvements. It was also inspired by my desire to cook from my pantry, if only partially. The resulting dinner was relatively light and diverse of texture — an 8 of 10, in Garkypoints.

Quinoa with Fennel, Brussels Sprouts, and Golden Raisins (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • Six ounces Brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved (or quartered, if you have unusually large sprouts)
  • One fennel bulb, sliced into rounds
  • Approximately one cup broccoli florets, found near the back of the fridge
  • One cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • Scant 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt, fresh black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes
  • One cup (uncooked) quinoa
  • One tablespoon lime juice
  • Crumbled goat cheese (for serving)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 400. While the oven heats, prepare your veggies for roasting. Place sprouts, fennel, broccoli, and chickpeas in a bowl; toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Spread on a baking sheet, creating an even layer.
  2. To the layer of veggies, add your golden raisins. Bake the veggie/raisin combo for about 35 minutes, flipping once.
  3. As the vegetables roast, prepare your quinoa. Fill a saucepan with 2 cups water and your quinoa; bring to a boil; and reduce to a simmer, cooking until the grain has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat and transfer quinoa to a large bowl.
  4. Once the veggies have cooked, allow them to cool for a moment before transferring them to the quinoa bowl. Blend ingredients well, adding lime juice as you stir.
  5. Serve quinoa salad topped with crumbled goat cheese.

I’m especially fond of the flavor combination produced by the fennel and golden raisins (which aren’t as intensely sweet as their cousins). Perhaps I should add to my list of resolutions a plan to eat more fennel…

I Am Getting Comfortable with This Holiday Mayhem

FML! Oh! I mean, Merrrrrrrrrrrrry Christmas! To be clear, I am pro-Xmas. I am not in favor of all this holiday stresssssss. As of now, I have only half of my cards written, two-thirds of my gifts wrapped, and absolutely nothing packed for my trip to Minnesota. Heh heh heh: it’s gonna be a lonnnnnnng night.

Today, evidently, is a day for extra consonants.

Though I’ve spent most of it running around like a cat on meth, this week hasn’t been without its bright spots. One of these was Alex’s and my dinner at Pakwan, which I’d always meant to try but never had. Finally, my chance arrived.

[Image source: Yelp]

If you haven’t been to Pakwan, be aware that it’s far from glamorous. In fact, it’s dumpy: in possession of a linoleum floor, pressboard tables, and the sort of chairs found in church basements. The fluorescent lighting will accentuate your midwinter pallor, and you may be badgered out of your seat by hungry would-be diners. Don’t let these superficial drawbacks deter you; to do so would be a Great Personal Disservice.

Alex and I were famished and also couldn’t decide what to order, so we got a big ol’ heap of food: chicken tikka masala, garlic naan, achar gosht, bengan bhartha, rice. Pakwan is BYOB, and you can bet that we brought it: oh yes, we did.

That right there is the chicken tikka masala, which was, in a word, delightful. The chicken was tender (and gristle-free! = bonus) and the sauce was RICH, just as I like. I will say that I’d have preferred more chicken for the amount of sauce; I will also say that I have no problem sopping up sauce with naan — things worked out OK.

This blurry pic sort of looks like the terrain of an unnamed planet, but the subject is actually garlic naan — surprise! Flavorwise, the naan killed it. I tend to order non-garlic naans because lots of places overdo it with the garlic and I end up reeking for days.* To my surprise/pleasure, this naan was juuuuuuuuust right: a little garlicky, but not so much that a few brushings & flossings couldn’t eradicate ma garlic breath.

Texturally, the naan was so-so — it was a bit crispy in parts: a bit too crispy, if you ask me, and I hope you’re asking me. It wasn’t burnt-burnt, but the edges were a little crunch. Just sayin.

Our best dish, hands down, was the achar gosht. The lamb was the tenderest — we barely poked it and it fell apart.The sauce had a delayed-onset heat that, after about three seconds, hit the back of my mouth. Yesssssss.

One other thing: Pakwan is ueber-reasonably priced. Our dinner came to $30 ($40 with the beers we brought), and we had leffffffffftovers. (Those Fs represent the magnitude of leftoverage.) Nothing inspires holiday cheer like a well-made, inexpensive meal. Hallelujah!

In other news, I’m heading to the Great Midwest tomorrow — posts might be fewer/farther between, depending on My Internet Situation. (And really, the Internet Situation is anyone’s guess.) On that note, Happy (early) Xmas!

***

*I don’t mind garlic breath so much, and I rarely use the possibility of the condition as an excuse to avoid garlic (I mean, WHY would I avoid garlic?), but I dislike eating extreme quantities of garlic, esp. raw.

Sleepy Saturday

Despite its plain exterior and muted palette, this sandwich made my life. Last night, after much revelry at The Uptown (CONGRATS to Candice for finishing her nursing program(!)), I dreamed many dreams of all the foods I would ideally consume: a tall stack of gingerbread pancakes with a moon-yellow butter pat; pizza Margherita; the fullest goblet of orange juice. And so on, and so on.

We went to St. Francis for lunch, easing into a booth during the afternoon lull. I’ve been to St. F’s only a few times, but it looms larger in my memory than it perhaps should, decoying itself as a restaurant critical to my San Francisco identity establishment. Who can say: maybe it is? On my previous two trips, I ordered a bacontastic scrambler with a side of biscuits, which I recommend with the most sincerity. God, are those biscuits divine.

Alex and I ordered nearly identical meals: variations on turkey clubs with sides of fries and sugary coffee. I love the white descent of the cream into the coffee, the way it blooms and instantaneously lightens the liquid. I’m sad to say that the fries were pretty average, flavorwise, and soggier than they should have been. The sandwich, however, was killer: sourdough toasted to the perfect shade of golden, crispy-crispy bacon, and fresh iceberg ribboned into confetti. Turkey club, keep on doing what you’re doing.

I have a new haircut, and I’m ready to take on the challenge of using liquid eyeliner. At this moment, Alex is making soup from the chicken we roasted earlier this week. I’m curled in my bed, bundled in a hoodie; the lights are turned low. Things — all things — are good. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Brunch that Will Change Your Life: Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs

No melodrama here: today’s brunch changed my outlook on the meal. That’s saying a lot, given that brunch is already my favorite eating occasion. The seeded toast (heavily buttered), Prather Ranch maple bacon, and steamed purple kale were understandably delightful, but Alex’s Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs have srsly improved my quality of life.

Based on Bittman’s recipe for Fried Eggs with Breadcrumbs, Alex’s dish is easier to prepare for a crowd. Classy enough for guests but simple enough to be made on a whim, these eggs are going to become your favorite brunch (or lunch, or dinner) staple.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe.

Alex’s Porcini Manchego Eggs with Breadcrumbs (Serves 5-6)

Ingredients

  • One loaf of high-quality, stale bread.
  • Seasonings of your choice — flavored salts, Italian seasonings, and fresh-ground pepper are all solid options.
  • Large pat of butter (2-3 tbsp.) and a generous pour of olive oil
  • One package dried porcini mushrooms, soaked
  • Three cloves garlic, minced
  • 10-12 eggs, beaten with milk and reserved liquid from the mushrooms
  • 2/3 cup finely shredded Manchego cheese

Method

  1. To prepare your breadcrumbs, smash a loaf of stale bread with a rolling pin until you have smallish pieces. To finish off the crumbs, place the bread chunks in a food processor, pulsing until the crumbs are fine.
  2. Transfer breadcrumbs to a large bowl and add your seasonings. We used salt, mixed Italian herbs, and pepper.
  3. In a large skillet, heat your butter and olive oil. Once the butter is mostly melted, add the crumbs to the skillet and coat evenly. Transfer crumbs to the large bowl.
  4. Set the crumbs aside for a minute and prepare your mushrooms: soak the porcinis in hot water until they’ve plumped up. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid, and chop finely. Sautee mushrooms with finely chopped garlic, and set aside.
  5. Now, for the eggs. Break your eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat them with milk and some of the reserved porcini liquid. Bittman recommends two teaspoons of milk per egg, but we substituted mushroom juice for some of the milk. Add salt and pepper as you beat the eggs.
  6. In another large skillet (possibly one in which bacon has been cooked), begin to scramble your eggs. Add the chopped porcinis, garlic, and Manchego.
  7. Serve the eggs topped with breadcrumbs and additional cheese, as desired. If brunch is being served family style, get your paws on the eggs before anyone to ensure that your portion is adequate. Resist the temptation to eat leftover breadcrumbs with a spoon.

Freestyling

Sunday evening, Alex and I had a cooking date. Upon our arrival at Bi-Rite, we had only the most loosely formulated plan about what, exactly, we’d cook. A. suggested farro with chickpeas, mint, olive oil, and lemon juice, to be served alongside Moroccan-spiced chicken, which sounded totally enjoyable to me.

When I’m hungry, I have difficulty navigating even the shittiest Safeway without accumulating impulse items as I go; by extension, empty-stomach browsing at Bi-Rite is the purest torture because everything smells so good and is so delicately arranged. I managed not to get too many non-necessary items, though I did, at the last minute, snag a packet of Brazilian Honey Cakes (Kika’s Treats). Alex was more on task, gathering lemons and currants, garlic bulbs and canned garbanzos, and a bunch of rainbow chard the size of my torso.

As we placed our order for chicken thighs, the butcher asked what we were making.

“Moroccan-spiced chicken,” Alex said. “With farro.”

“How are you preparing it?” the butcher furthered.

We met this question with silence; the plan, to this point, had been to bake the chicken and make a farro-chickpea-salad-sidedish-thing, but the butcher had a better idea: sear the chicken in a heavy pot, deglaze the pan with broth, cook the farro in said broth, and reintroduce the chicken as the farro cooked. Bittman corroborates this preparation method, and we were sold on this impromptu one-pot meal.

It’s difficult for me to recount the preparation process because that process was helter-skelter. I spent an ungodly amount of time trying to clean the thighs and, finding that the fat was just too dispersed to effectively be removed, started chopping mint. (I used a different cutting board and knife, OBVS.) Alex created a spice blend (feat. cumin, salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and saffron, among other things), then seared the chicken, and then steeped currants in a glass of hot water to rinse them of sand. We were everywhere all at once, taking pauses only to sip wine, flip the record, or snack on Marcona almonds. Madness!

I apologize, then, that this “recipe” is so vague, but to replicate this meal, trust your gut and your seasoning preferences. You won’t be let down.

Freestyle Moroccan Chicken & Farro Stew (serves…many)

Ingredients

  • One pound chicken thighs, cleaned and rinsed, bones removed
  • One bag of farro (see? The imprecision starts here. We got a smallish bag of farro and used the whole thing, but depending on how much grain you want, you could use half a bag or a quarter of a bag…)
  • Special Spice Blend: cumin, salt, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, saffron, cardamom, some very finely chopped mint, + whatever else you find complementary
  • Fresh mint, finely chopped
  • Approximately 1/2 cup thin-sliced almonds (toasted, if you like)
  • Approximately 1.25 loosely packed cups of shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • Approximately 2/3 cup currants, cleaned and drained
  • One yellow onion, roughly chopped and caramelized
  • Olive oil (doi)
  • Chicken or vegetable broth (again, the necessary amount depends on your preferences — it’s all about YOU!)
  • Fresh lemon juice (approximately 1.5 lemons’ worth)

Method

  1. First, prepare your spice blend. Taste your blend as you go, making sure it’s balanced and to your liking. Once you’ve created a satisfactory mixture, transfer spices to a pie pan or shallow bowl and coat your chicken thighs with the spices.
  2. Pour olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed pot; heat oil; sear chicken thighs. Once thighs are seared, remove them from pot and set aside.
  3. Now, start your farro. Add stock to the pot in which you’ve just cooked your chicken. Scrape the caramelized fat from the pot’s bottom, integrating it into the liquid. Add the farro, making sure that the grains are fully covered with liquid. Let the farro simmer for a while before adding back your chicken thighs.
  4. After some time — ten minutes? (hard to say) — add your other ingredients. Sprinkle in a goodly amount of mint and stir it in. Add your mushrooms, your almonds, your currants, your garbanzo beans, and your pre-caramelized onions. Squeeze in lemon juice. Again, let the stew simmer.
  5. Taste as you go! This applies to most (all?) recipes, but is especially critical here. Early in the cooking process, Alex and I thought this dish was going to be BLAND CITY; had we not tasted as we worked, we maybe would have overspiced it and gotten cranky. (I’ll speak for myself only: I would have gotten cranky.) The point is this: taste, taste, taste, and add more of what’s lacking.
  6. The stew is done when the farro hits its target texture. What is the target texture? Well, how do you like your farro? If you like it crunchy — or you just can’t wait to eat — your stew will have a substantially shorter cooking time. Serve with additional lemon juice and salt (if needed).

And that’s it. Looking back, this was a fairly simple dinner; it didn’t seem so at the time because we were inventing the recipe as we went, but it seems to me now that this dish would be easily replicable (on a weeknight, even! Or rather, on a weeknight during which you’re OK with busting out your mortar & pestle). I know the picture I’ve included doesn’t speak to the stew’s glory,* but don’t allow my photographic laziness prevent you from trying this dish: no! Farro ain’t pretty — and, for that matter, neither are chicken thighs — but it’s nutritious and sustaining. That, and it makes for rad leftovers: triple win.

***

*Though I’m fond of this picture and its vague architectural qualities.

First Meals + International Bacon Day at OtG

It’s amazing what 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep will do for you: I feel ALIVE!

Yesterday, I shared with y’all my last meal in the Sunset; now, you’ll have the pleasure of reading about my first meal in the Mission.* Hint: it involves bacon.

After spending hours unpacking, then wandering to the grocery store, then taking a lovely, furtive nap, I biked with Alex to Off the Grid (McCoppin) to get breakfast for dinner. BfD is a recurring theme in my kitchen; omelets, with their heft and savory ingredients, are equally well suited to morning and evening meals, and toast is perfect at any old time of day.You know me: I totally researched menu options ahead of time so I wouldn’t make an ill-informed BACON decision. Bacon Bacon’s Bacon Bouquet — in effect, a fistful of bacon tied up like its floral namesake — was cute, but I didn’t want cute for dinner. ArKi’s fried chicken looked/smelled/tasted delicious, but I wasn’t in a fried chicken mood. (Note: I did try a patch of batter from Alex’s chicken: total deep-fried goodness. Couldn’t have handled more than a bite.)

True to form, I chose the Brunch Box’s B.E.A.T: a fried egg with heirloom tomato rounds, bacon, macerated shallots, garlic aioli, and avocado. The bacon/fried egg sandwich wins any mealtime showdown; bonus points are awarded for creative add-ons (in this case, the shallots, which added a necessary sharpness of flavor). The B.E.A.T was pretty damn tasty, though I’d have subbed the arugula for the avocado. Nevermind that avocado isn’t my fave veggie — arugula would have added beneficial pepperiness. But that’s just my preference. Cholula was available and I declined to use it, so I can’t kvetch about a lack of sandwich spice.

Related: the Brunch Box ladies know how to perfectly fry an egg. Solid whites, just-barely-runny yolk, no brown spots. You done good, BBs.

Unrelated: Biking. I’m so stoked to bike everywhere: you have no idea.

***

*No, that ginormo cinnamon roll I had for “lunch” doesn’t count as a meal.