Monday, August 31, 2009


By which I mean Bring Your Own Bunny.

I really shouldn't even bother to say more. Just watch the clip.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

End-of-Summer Feast

Before I left L.A., I wanted to have one last meal. A meal that combined all the people I love in the city and all the food exploding out of the farmers' markets right now. An end-of-summer feast, if you will.

So my mom and I menu-planned like crazy and went shopping at three different markets. Here's some of what we came back with:

Let's see... there are raspberries, three small chickens, hearty bread, three types of tomatoes, basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, lemons, champagne vinegar, arugula, zucchini, and yellow summer squash. Did I forget anything?

Ah, yes, the lavender. When we couldn't find any culinary lavender at Gelson's or the farmers' market, we just gave in and bought a whole pot at Trader Joe's. Whatever works.

Our first dish was grilled summer squash drizzled with basil oil and oak-smoked sea salt. It was a pain to cut these in even narrow strips. (One reason I just splurged and got myself a mandoline for my kitchen in Seattle.)

Dish number two was a cold tomato salad. We started with three types of cherry tomatoes, all slightly different sizes.

We cut each tomato in half...

...and mixed with a whole bunch of good stuff. Sweet raw corn, softened shallots, basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper, if I remember correctly.

Our main dish was Zuni roast chicken with its accompanying bread salad. Zuni Cafe is a restaurant in San Francisco whose chicken is renowned around the city. The recipe was published in the Zuni Cafe Cookbook in 2002, and now you can find it easily online with some quick googling. I especially like this version from Smitten Kitchen.

Start with a big hunk of day-old hearty non-sourdough bread, cut into chunks, and cut off most of the crust.

Brush on all sides with olive oil and broil briefly, a few minutes per side, until golden and the edges blacken a bit.

Then cut off the burnt parts, tear in pieces, and add all sorts of yummy stuff. I'll let you read the recipe and do it yourself.

There are three things that make the Zuni chicken recipe different from others: a 24-hour dry salt rub, a small chicken, and a high heat. I won't go into the details (the recipe itself is about three pages long), but suffice to say that these chickens are delicious. Possibly not delicious enough to merit all the extra steps compared to a normal roast chicken, but I'm not sure. I think if I did it a couple times I would get pretty good at it and it wouldn't take more time than normal.

Doesn't that sage leaf look delicious?

We had ten people for dinner, including our family, so we had to sit at the formal dining room. We used placemats instead of a table cloth to keep the feeling more casual.

And here, a finished plate! (This was Rob's late plate; he didn't make it on time for dinner.) Clockwise, we have grilled summer squash, tomato corn salad, bread salad, and roast chicken. A pretty damn good dinner, if I do say so myself.

Next up... two homemade seasonal sorbets for dessert! (Did you notice we haven't used the lavender yet?)

Summer Camp and Tye-Die Cupcakes

Alright, so now that I'm back, I have a bit of catching up to do!

I worked all summer at my home-away-from-home, the summer camp at which all of my siblings and I grew up. It was almost eight weeks of craziness and happiness and frustration and joy, but it didn't leave me too much time to feel like writing.

Although I have worked many different jobs at camp, this summer I tackled a new one: I was the kitchen manager! It was a lot of fun to use my love of kitchens, cooking, and camp all rolled into one. Didn't have much in common with the year I was the kitchen manager at Synergy, my college cooperative, but it was fulfilling in its own way.

One reason was because we finally renovated our dining hall! We spent three crazy weeks feeding 300 people in a giant tent before we got to move into this beauty. It's the same size as the old dining hall, but a whole wall of doors and a skylight really open up the space and make it feel much bigger. A huge wraparound deck provides a lot of outside space, and a double-sided fireplace is going to be really cool for winter camp. Here it is set up for Shabbat dinner at the beginning of July, our first meal ever in the new dining hall:

See those gorgeous umarked floors? The perfectly lined up tables? Yeah, it doesn't entirely look like that any more. But it's close. And I still think it's beautiful.

Another thing I did as kitchen manager was help staff use the kitchen for whatever hair-brained crazy ideas they had. This usually happened on Friday night, when my friend Daniel would want to cook something for an all-staff program at 11pm. A few friends would join in, and pretty soon there'd be ten people wearing nice white clothes cooking and getting my kitchen all messy. These evenings usually had themes, and the food would follow. We made fish and chips, scones with clotted cream, and mushy peas for the Brits. We made flatbread, chickpea stew, beet salad, cabbage slaw, and baklava for a Moroccan-inspired feast.

I was pretty excited about the beets, they were just dug up from our camp garden!

We even made a ginormous pot of amazing chicken stew that took so long to cook that we never ended up serving it to staff that night. Instead, it went in the kitchen window as an alternative for Saturday's lunch and I ate it for about six meals straight that weekend. It was so damn good.

One week was 60's themed, so I decided to make tie-dye cupcakes. Which meant that I got to use my greatest love... the Hobart mixer.

Hobart mixers and I started our love affair in the fall of 2005 when I moved into Synergy. We got pretty serious in 06-07 when I was the kitchen manager, but we've had a falling out since. Thank goodness this huge beautiful mixer rekindled a summer romance. I don't know what I'm going to do without it in my life any more. Just shh, don't tell my Kitchen Aid it's inferior, okay?

The basic concept of tie-dye cupcakes is you make a light colored cake batter, split it into smaller bowls, and dye the bowls each a different color. Here are Daniel and Kara showing how it's done:

Now you just spoon a bit of each color into your cupcake papers, one by one. I think this tray started with green, then yellow, then blue. It's still missing its red.

We baked a whole lot of cupcakes. Eight dozen, to be precise. Because hey, there are a lot of staff.

The tops of the cupcakes looked pretty weird when baked. Sort of Jackson-Pollack-with-a-golden-crust, very unnatural.

But the insides were fun! Layers of different colors with a bit of tie-dye mixing thrown in. They actually came out pretty well.

Of course another reason I loved being in L.A. this summer was spending so much time with family and friends. These lovely people made me so very happy. Summer just wouldn't have been the same without them.

Now, as much as I hate to admit it, summer is coming to an end. Especially up here in Seattle, it's becoming cloudier, cooler, and more blustery. I want to hold down pages of my calendar and shout, "It's still August, damn it! It's still summer!" But that's not working very well. So here we go, headlong into fall....

Greyhounds to the Rescue!

Recently my sister and brother-in-law lost their beloved rescued Greyhound, Allie. She was a black-and-white valentine, a sweetheart of a dog. Her death left a big hole in the lives of my sis and b-i-l.

Like many other Greyhounds, Allie was bred by the dog-racing industry to make money. These dogs often have pitifully short lives; they might race three or four years, maximum. Then, when the industry thinks they are too slow, or too old, or simply not crowd-pleasers any more, they are put down. Just like that.

The lucky ones, like Allie, are scooped up by wonderful people dedicated to saving this lovely breed. Because they've only known life at the race tracks, ex-racing Greyhounds have to be taught a lot. They must learn how to walk on a leash through a neighborhood, how to react to a doorbell, how to negotiate a thorny rose bush. They've never seen a vacuum, a mirror, or a squeaky toy. They take a lot of rehabilitation to become house pets. But when they are ready, they are the most wonderful--and quite possibly the most grateful--dogs on the planet.

And now, to help fill up that empty space in my sister's house with love and laughter, come two new Greyhounds! Please meet Bogart, a four-year-old boy:

Look at that long schnozzola! (I have pugs, so a nose of any length on a dog always seems amazing to me.) And look at that lean, long physique, honed from years at the racetrack:

Joining Bogie in his "forever home" is little sister, Roxie. She's three and a half years old:

Roxie has the most adorable coat. It's almost like she's wearing polka dots:

Awww! They're a matched set: salt and pepper, boy and girl, Frick and Frack:

Happy New Home, Bogart and Roxie! I do believe that you have rescued us!

Friday, August 28, 2009

A New Year, A New (Old) Dorm

Yesterday Kid #2 and I moved her into her college dorm room. It's a lovely old dorm with many Old-World touches, like leaded glass windows and pillared walkways. But it has just been newly (and beautifully) renovated to include things like indestructible ceramic-tile floors and gorgeous granite countertops in the bathrooms. We dragged her clothes and room paraphernalia over the campus, working in searing heat and horrible air quality (brush fires are raging in Southern California). It took the two of us from breakfast to almost midnight to get her settled in.

There were trips to IKEA, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. There was a side trip to pick up her mattress and mini-sofa from off-campus storage, culminating in a slow-and-careful nighttime drive through the sleepy town with a mattress balanced precariously on top of my car. There was the encounter with a houseful of stoned students (the less said about that, the better, but in retrospect, it was hilarious). And there was the Battle Royal between a build-it-yourself bed frame on one side, and my daughter and me, armed with one geriatric, battery-powered screwdriver and one Barbie-pink "manual" screwdriver.

The bedframe almost won.

But in the end, we proved victorious, and as I pulled away from the curb, I left behind an exhausted but happy young lady who has a very cozy nest in which to pursue her Junior year.

Here's an idea of how she feathered that nest. First, there is the Bed Frame from Hell:It looks very pretty when it's all put together! There's a floor lamp to cast a softer glow than the overhead light affords. Hers looks very much like this one:

Because she likes to work on her laptop while sitting on her bed or her mini-sofa, she is kicking her college-issue desk out to curb. In its place she's invented a "deconstructed desk," consisting of a lap pad to hold her computer comfortably on her legs, and a file cabinet that will double as a side table:
Her bed is covered in a patchwork quilt similar in feel to this one, but with a darker palette of dark blues, sage greens, and soft reds:

All that's left for her to do now is to pin up some photos and posters on the wall that's pre-hung with a huge, fabric-covered corkboard. Opposite that wall, she's going to hunt for a large and lightweight wall hanging similar to this one:

But without the dogs. For a dog fix, she'll need to come home! All part of my master plan....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Still Knitting Away...

...on my short scarves that are using up leftover bits of beautiful, boutique-y yarns. Most of them so far are embellished with a vintage button, to help them stay snug around the neck. No two are alike! This one, finished just now, reminds me of the forests we saw in Canada:

and that's the last time I'll mention the Nation to the North for a while, so I don't bore you.

Thanks for being patient with me while I got it out of my system.

Anybody interested in a scarf?

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Whole Tuna and Gluten-Free Wedding Cake

I have major blogger guilt. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but this time it's even worse. It's been weeks since I wrote something here, but I've been cooking and composing blogs in my head the whole time. So now of course I feel totally overwhelmed by the amount of mental backlog I have. Instead of looking back, I'm just going to start in at the present with two really big slightly silly things.

Thing 1: I bought a whole tuna. Really, feel free to laugh at me. I could say it was "only" a 12 pound fish, but even that sounds huge. But it was local albacore, pole-and-line caught, and on sale for only $3 per pound! Holy cow, that's amazing. There's definitely something to be said for buying a ton of the freshest, most sustainable fish you can find and then freezing it until it's needed.

The fish counter guys cut it up in front of me into eight nicely wrapped packages, and I've frozen six. Part of one got grilled for a tuna burger, while the other part got pan-seared, topped with chopped orange cherry tomatoes and a generous squirt of fresh lime, and eaten for dinner. (I'll put up a picture just as soon as I can find my camera cord--where the heck has it gone?)

The last tuna package is in the fridge, probably waiting to be combined with CSA green beans, tomatoes, and lettuce and turned into the world's best nicoise salad ever. I'm very excited to play with so much fish. I'm not even too worried about mercury, because my best friend Samia (Miss I-wrote-my-senior-thesis-on-mercury-contamination) assured me that such a small tuna wouldn't have bioaccumulated enough to be particularly dangerous.

Thing 2: I'm baking a gluten-free wedding cake. Again, feel free to laugh. The bride is a friend of Torian's whom I've never met, but we've decided over email on a smallish two-tier carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Her cake stand is 12 inches across, so the layers will probably be eight-inch and six-inch rounds, each made up of two layers of cake. I've never baked gluten-free before, so this is a bit of a fun challenge for me.

I made a first attempt yesterday, halving this recipe with a few modifications for a more basic flavor. Considering it was my first gluten-free cake ever, I thought the first carrot cake turned out pretty well. A bit too moist and gooey, but I think that could be solved with a combination of more baking time, drying the shredded carrot, fewer egg yolks, and/or more gluten-free flour mixture. I'll try again in a day or two, see if I can't get the texture to improve. It's a decent base, at least. The fun part will be dolling it up with different flavors and such. Here are the three I'm currently thinking:

Flavor 1: Fresh. Crystallized ginger and lemon zest in the cake, some sort of ginger/lemon cream cheese frosting.
Flavor 2: Tropical. Coconut flakes in the cake, pineapple curd between layers? (I don't want to add crushed pineapple to the already gooey cake), coconut (and rum?) cream cheese frosting.
Flavor 3: Warm. Up the cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves, raisins and nuts in the cake, real vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.

One question is what do I put between the same-sized layers--the same cream cheese frosting as the outside? Or some sort of fruit curd or jam? I'm worried the cake is going to be too gooey and not have enough structure with a filling, but then I also don't want it to go on sugar overload with so much frosting. Ideas?

What I wish I had for breakfast...

Oh my gosh, This looks amazing. And yet, incredibly, incredibly simple.

I found this image (and the recipe to go along with it) on a website called What's Cooking, via the always amazing Food Gawker). I am so excited. First, I love avocados. Lovelovelove them. I'm sure there are plenty of savory dishes that avocados would not improve, but I am hard-pressed to think of any now. Second, my hat goes off to such impressive food photography, which can make such an easy breakfast look that mouthwatering. Third, I am so happy that this is something I could make for myself in my tiny, ill-equipped dorm kitchen at college. Toast? Check. Coffee? Check. Cut tomatoes? Check. Hard-boiled eggs? Check. Yummy-looking avocado spread? Check. Oh man, I can't wait to make this for myself soon...

Dog Days of Summer

I don't often give my dogs store-bought treats. Their idea of a reward is a piece of carrot, or the end bit of a banana, or a plain Cheerio.

Recently, though, the weather was very, very hot. Typical August-in-the-city weather. We're all dragging around, panting from the heat, with our tongues hanging out. So I broke my policy on No Silly Dog Treats and gave them a frozen doggy treat so they could cool off a little.

First I cracked open the box, and Won Ton snapped to "A-ten-SHUN!":

Then I put the first treat down for his brother, Mu Shu. This is the cresftallen look Won Ton gave me. "You gonna give him a goodie and not ME?":

Of course he got one, too! And he was off to the races, licking that frozen blob for all it was worth:

Check out the tongue action on that boy:

There is a look of fierce determination on this doggy's face. "I'm gonna finish this thing down to the last morsel even if it gives me brain freeze!":

Om, nom, nom. An under-the-belly shot:

And a moment to reflect on the adorable whirlpools that decorate WT's elbows:

Back to business! Won Ton licked his treat so hard, the bowl skittered all over the porch. Finally he pushed it up against a patio table leg, and there the bowl stayed:

Good stuff! NOW what do you have for me to eat?

Pace yourself, Won Ton. It's a long time 'til dinner.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back at School

I'm back at college now, helping out with Freshman Orientation and such. The first-years show up tomorrow, I'm so excited! Being back means some bad things (dorm food, communal bathrooms, stress) and some great things (friends, interesting classes, a brand new room to decorate). My friends and I are hoping to cook a bit more for ourselves this year, so keep an eye out for any look-what-we-made-in-our-tiny-dorm-kitchen! posts. As of now, I'm in temporary housing until the construction on my dorm is completed, but I can't complain too much, as I'm just happy to be here!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rocky Mountain Blues

Everywhere I travel, I'm drawn to taking photos of All Things Blue. Here are my latest entries, from the Canadian Rockies:

Bachelor's Button, on the grounds of Emerald Lake Lodge.

Mountains and glacier, taken from the Iceline Trail, above Takakaw Falls.

Sky and stream, above Bow Lake.

Oops! A sort of double exposure of Bow Lake. But look at that water!

Cutie pie in polka dots, Moraine Lake parking lot.

Lake Louise, looking toward the Plain of Six Glaciers.

Metal box for anglers to drop off a description of any fish caught in Chester Lake.

Steely sky and mountains, across the meadow from Mt. Engadine Lodge.

Delphiniums on the grounds of the Ministry of the Interior, Banff.

Closeup of delphiniums and bumblebee.

Beflowered bicycle and coffee shop door, Banff.

Oh, Canada! Thank you for all the blues--and every other color. We loved it.


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