Sunday, February 27, 2011

hello san francisco

Oh guys. This has been a long time in the making. A. Long. Time. Apologies. Anyway, I thought I'd take a page from Lisa Leonard and do a "hello Monday" post...except this one is a great big HUGE hello to my new home, San Francisco. (And hello to iPhonotos; they made this post possible.)

Hello view from my living room

Hello new school

Hello happy California golden poppies in the Castro

Hello funny Valentine's Day cookies

Hello cupcake

Hello Blue Bottle

Hello Bittersweet (and goodbye dpie)

Hello Giant Steps (so many kinds)

Hello Wednesday (my new favorite day) for the Farmers' Market and for this...

Hello Wednesday Belgian waffles with powdered sugar

Hello San Francisco public library

Hello Bay Bridge

Hello Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, one of the most beautiful views in the world

Hello and goodbye promise of snow

Okay, I can't hold this back. This is an email that my school sent out to everyone last left me howling! (To be fair, Lone Mountain is an enormous and very slippery hill. Nevertheless, we Californians are weather pansies. I openly admit this!)

The weather reports for Thursday night through Saturday morning include a very real possibility of snow and near freezing temperatures, particularly after sunset and through the night. Please use extreme caution when navigating around campus, driving or walking, as areas may be slick and/or icy. Wear warmer and layered clothing and shoes with non-slipping treads. The Spanish Steps and the ramps and sidewalks to and from and around Lone Mountain will be most likely to have ice and be slippery, but, again, caution should be exercised throughout the campus and the city.
It will be fun to be part of snow-weather history in San Francisco - but be safe too!

Facilities Management

Priceless. Hello, San Francisco, hello!

Lisa asks this question every week, so I will too: What are you saying hello to today?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

pumpkins, part one

Oh hey there, friends. Meet the worst blogger ever. (One posting in October? What kind of "schedule" does that follow, exactly?) This post is not exactly complete (hence the whole "part one" thing up top), but I thought I'd try to throw something up here before you forgot about me completely.

By the way, I really like you! Anyway, onto pumpkins.

Jena came to California last week! It was pretty much amazing. True to Stephanie fashion, I neglected to pull out my camera for the vast majority of the week, and thus I only have 2 photos even worth sharing with you. (I know, I know.) But the quick rundown of what we did: giggled and smiled and hugged. Saw dolphins at Baker Beach! (Also, unsuccessfully tried to avoid awkward naked guy at Baker Beach.) Looked for parking. Pondered about Sufjan's life after his thought-provoking concert at the Paramount. Went to our first (and second...) drive-in movie. Ate stuff, a lot of stuff. And drank coffee. Of course.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every person needs a good dose of hipster every now and then. We got a healthy helping with our breakfast our very first morning. (above: Blue Bottle Gibraltar, pumpkin buttermilk donut.)

If you're ever in the Temescal neighborhood of northern Oakland, you must must stop by Pizzaiolo for an espresso drink and a donut (Monday-Saturday, 8am-12pm). The pumpkin one was pretty TDF (and this is coming from someone who used to hate pumpkin).

Also...I baked some pumpkin bread. I don't actually have any of the bread to show you (whoops), but I did work really hard to lick all the batter off of the beater and spatula and bowl. See?

Since you dear people are so patient with me, I'll share the recipe with you. (Saw that one coming, did you?!) I also picked up a sugar pumpkin today at Trader Joe's, and I think it's high time I taught y'all how to make your own fresh pumpkin puree. (It's so fun!!) Next time, friends.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread
(adapted from Epicurious)

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil (or other neutral-tasting oil)
3 eggs, preferably room temperature
14.5-16 ounces pumpkin, either canned (aka one small can/half of a big can) or fresh
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chocolate chips (milk, semisweet, or otherwise)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two loaf pans (I sprayed mine with that amazing flour spray stuff. Makes my life easier.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together both sugars and oil to blend. (Note: will look like crumbly, greasy sugar.) Mix in eggs and pumpkin until smooth. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. (Note: the spice blend is something that I've tinkered with a lot. If you prefer a different proportion of spices, definitely adjust as desired. However, I've found that 3 1/2 teaspoons of spice is probably the minimum amount you'd want to use for two loaves of bread.) Stir flour mixture into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. Mix in chocolate chips.

Pour equal amounts of batter into loaf pans. Smooth out the top with a spatula and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out pretty clean, 60-70 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then tip the bread out onto the rack and let it finish cooling. (If you're not quite ready for two pumpkin bread loaves to enter your life simultaneously, one can be easily frozen by first wrapping it in plastic wrap, then foil (the double wrapping protects against freezer burn)).

Monday, October 18, 2010

awkward popsicles

I started writing this entry last week. It was full of glee because it was warm and wonderful here where I live, and I thought maybe fall had missed the memo. However, yesterday was 50 degrees and raining, so apparently we've just skipped fall altogether and headed straight for winter. No more exulting in the dregs of summer. (I know; it's mid-October, and I should try to maintain realistic expectations.) But for those of you for whom the sun still shines bright and warm, some non-recipes to help you soak in my favorite season.

Watermelon popsicles! Just stick a bunch of chopped up watermelon in a blender and whir it all together. Pour into cutesy star-shaped molds (or dixie cups with wooden popsicle sticks also work). Arrange them in your freezer shelf.

A few hours have a popsicle! How magical.

The title of this post is "awkward popsicles" because I realized during this photo session that I am physically incapable of capturing this popsicle in non-awkward form. See? Awkward.

Awkward again.

Moving away from the awkward's another standby that I adopted over the summer into my regular rotation: panzanella! Officially known as Italian bread salad, unofficially known as throw-stuff-into-it-until-it-looks-good salad. The above is the only real requirement: bread, cubed up (stale is best!), and pan-fried in olive oil until golden and crisp.

Basil from the garden. I learned this awesome tip from The Kitchn: chop up fresh herbs with scissors in a tall glass! Life changing. I'm not kidding.

Heirloom tomatoes, dressed lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper, the aforementioned basil. Also love using lemon cucumber in here.

Top with bread and enjoy your sweet slice of summer while it lasts.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ain't no party like a tea party

So...this happened a while ago. I hosted a tea party! Cue the harp music, pinkies crooked just so, and overly genteel manners. [top to bottom: lots of cookies, fruit, lemon olive oil cake, Dorie's cafe volcano cookies]

Cue the dainty pieces of fudge.

And the cookies! It wouldn't be a tea part without cookies. This party presented a special challenge: one of the guests, due to some dietary restrictions, sticks to a non-bad fats diet. I had to toss some traditional favorites out the window (scones and devonshire cream) because butter is fairly irreplacable, but in came some other fun things, like that lemon olive oil cake and these peanut butter cookies. Oh, the cookies. You can stud them with chocolate chips or do the traditional criss-cross with a fork after rolling them in sugar. The best part of it all is that these are so easy to make, it's downright embarrassing. You need this recipe in your back pocket/up your sleeve/wherever on your person you keep your recipes...I promise.

Also, you're welcome.

The Easiest Peanut Butter Cookies known to mankind

1 cup peanut butter (general convention states that you should only use highly artificial peanut butter for baking (i.e. Skippy, Jif, etc), but I used natural and it turned out wonderfully)
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350.

Stir ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Shape into balls. Roll in more sugar and do that criss-crossy thing with a fork or throw some chocolate chips in the dough. We love it all.

Place on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake 8-10 minutes, definitely depending on how big you made the cookies in the first place. They should be just starting to brown on the bottom. If they start browning on top, they'll turn out crunchy and not chewy (and everyone knows that peanut butter cookies should be chewy, not crunchy. Am I right?!)

And cue the doggie in her perfectly pink party dress! Go big or go home, people.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

this vichyssoise of verbiage

I have been composing this entry in my mind for a long, long time. The words aren't pairing up right, and the mental wastebasket is full of mentally crumpled up pieces of paper containing only silly opening lines.

I'll stop beating around the bush. Someone dear to me left me for grad school (sadly, this is a very common theme for me this year). In a somewhat recent email conversation, she mentioned that we are more like sisters than friends because a) she can make me angry over nothing at the drop of a hat and b) we have almost nothing in common but continue to love each other fiercely. As I think more on this, I wonder what ties us together, and it comes to me: food. Of course.

I don't think I really knew how to love food before Donna. The girl loves food. Living together opened my eyes to all sorts of new ways to orient my life around what soon became our favorite shared activity. We would text each other during class, discussing what to eat for lunch (burritos? pad see ew?).We loved beef: Donna was the steak grilling queen, and my signature dishes were shepherd's pie and mapo dofu. Oh wait, there was also the pasta carbonara I explicitly warned her not to eat because I got immediately sick afterwards. (She ignored me (and was fine).) We would drive way out of our way for the fastest pho service in the world. And once, 10 minutes before it closed for lunch, I saw on the Cheeseboard website that their pizza of the day was my absolute favorite, and we booked it over there, not quite in time, but managing to finagle our way in with our winsome smiles anyway. She would make me coffee and leave me post-it notes telling me to drink it. We drank Coke in bottles at a rock on campus and shared insanely deep conversations, documented here and here and here. I would beg her to do well on her tests so we could get free garlic fries from Smart A's. She would beg me to just try Indian food--I finally broke down senior year.

We've grown since then, naturally. She's upgraded to classier Indian spots, and I am way less picky, hallelujah. But vestiges of the old still remain: I still think the sun rises and sets on a fantastic bowl of freshly fried tortilla chips, and I'd like to think that if Carvel suddenly opened again near us, we'd be first in line on Wednesday for our buy one get one free sundaes, giddy as kids and refusing to share. We are the same, and yet we are not. I cherish the food person you've helped me become, and all the shared food memories I carry around with me could fill a book. I know I'm a little bit late, but happy first week of the rest of your life.

Eggy in a Basket

One morning Donna announced that she wanted to make me "eggy in a basket, like on V for Vendetta". I swiftly integrated it into my own breakfast routine...may have changed a few minor things, but the spirit of it is most definitely still there.

First, butter a slice of bread. Liberally. In the movie Evey is so excited that she is eating butter--she hadn't eaten it since she was a kid. Thus, thumb your nose at your local totalitarian state and butter that bread, one side only. You'll also need to cut a circle out of it. You can do it before you butter or after; it doesn't really matter, but I like doing it after.

Heat a frying pan on medium or so. When it's hot, melt some more butter on it. Yeah, this is necessary. The other side of the bread needs butter love too! When the butter melts, fry the bread just briefly, non-buttered side down, and then crack in an egg. If the bread circle doesn't also fit in the pan, just do it afterwards.

You'll have to flip it at some point, so do that. Cook it for as done as you like your egg. Then, remove to plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper...

and dig in. Use that cute bread circle to mop up the unctuous yolk. Your breakfasts will never be the same. (And yes, D, I know that you don't actually like runny yolks)

What's your favorite breakfast? Mine varies based on the season and my particular mood, but coffee is a given. Eggy in a basket probably shows up about once a week. (And for some breakfast inspiration, check out simply breakfast!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

i got shot down in southern california tasty things. Southern California is a really, really delicious place. So delicious that I will have to move there and spend years trying out all the stuff that didn't get checked off my to-eat list (although I don't see that happening...) So delicious that I would cry every time I thought about putting on jeans, which are the least accommodating clothing ever. Bring on the dresses. Let's eat some cake.

Last year, in the depths of homesickness for our college towns, us roomies would compare notes. Jena and I would extol the glories of CheeseboardNaan N Curry, and Fenton'sAubrey would regale us with tales of Extraordinary Desserts. Last week, Aubs and I unexpectedly found ourselves in San Diego (at the same time!) and I got my first taste.

Let me tell you, this fine establishment presents a compelling reason to live in San Diego. The beaches, perfect weather, and fish tacos...all good, but this place was BOMB. In the center middle you have tres leches cake...upper left hand is the tortamisu. Between the rose petals and edible gold leaf, I felt thoroughly spoiled and like I was dancing on cloud twenty-five (possibly the effects of way too much sugar).

We went on a food tour! Way, way fun. Here are macarons from The Little Next Door that we ate in the empty courtyard of its big sister restaurant, The Little Door.

Dulce de leche! New goal: learn how to make macarons, feet and all.

The last stop on our tour was at a Japanese place. This sushi is wrapped in soy paper?

It was just less than a year ago that I was raving about xiao long baos in Shanghai. When I found out that there was a Din Tai Fung branch in Arcadia...

Oh hi. Hello cute dumplings full of hot delish soup stuffed with delicate pork surrounded by a soft melty skin. There's a reason that you've inspired a cult following (me irrevocably included)!

(When I look at these photos, I magically forget how much I hate driving there!)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

risotto with roasted vegetables

Hello friends of Stephers,
I am Cinr/Cinders/CC/Cindy/... I guess I go by anything.

In college, Steph and I shared an affinity for Italian, and in summer 2005 I had the great fortune of spending the summer in the most wonderful place, Florence, Italy.

As a poor college student living on loans and a part-time job, I had little money to go out to eat. To go to Italy and not have tons of money to spend on delicious food, this is a food crime. However, one food I did get plenty of, compliments of the hotel we were staying at, was risotto.

Before summer 2005, I had not the slightest idea what risotto was and the first time they served it I was in shock. Excuse me, this is Italy, shouldn't you be serving me pasta everyday? Rice? Has Italy recently been taken over by Asians because this just does not make sense to me.

Remember, I was young and ignorant at the time so don't judge me too harshly.

It has now been five years since that splendid summer of risotto and I haven't had much of it since then. As I was flipping through my cookbooks deciding on what to contribute to this blog, I saw page after page of risotto recipes and nostalgia took over.

The recipe used comes from a Perfect Italian cookbook by Parragon Publishing
Serves 4
5 cups simmering chicken stock - I substituted for 4 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup of water
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter - we only used 2 tbsp
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 3/8 cups (10 oz.) risotto rice
8 oz of roasted vegetables - we went with red and green bell peppers and added a little bit of garlic
3/4 cup (3 oz.) grated Parmesan cheese - after going to the TJ's to buy this ingredient this morning I forgot to use it *sigh*
salt and pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs - basil from my new kitchen plant

Start off by heating the stock/broth in a pot. Once it has boiled, bring it down and continue to have it simmer. You'll be adding this gradually to the risotto in a bit.

Heat the oil and 2 tbsp. butter in a "deep pan" over medium heat. When the butter is melted add the onions. Once the onions have acquired a nice golden color (if they are brown, you cooked them for too long), reduce the heat and add the rice. Mix to coat the rice in oil and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes, or until the grains are translucent.

At this point you will gradually add the stock/broth you have had simmering on the stove top. I used a ladle to add while my wonderful friend and neighbor, Melly, stirred the rice. This is a long process (15-17 minutes) of adding the stock and then stirring, and as the broth is absorbed by the rice you add more. I recommend having a friend there share in the experience because it will help the time pass faster, but make sure you are paying attention not to overcook the rice or to drown it in broth.

We didn't use all the broth, so don't feel like you have too. There was 1/3-1/2 cup left over when we finished. Once you have finished adding the broth, add the vegetables.

Make sure there is still some broth left because after you add the vegetables you'll cook it for another 5 minutes. We cooked it for 6 minutes, just waiting for the broth to absorb enough to make the risotto creamy and not drowning.

At this point you can add 1 tbsp. butter, mix well, and then sprinkle in the Parmesan until it melts. We didn't partake in this final step mostly because I forgot, tehehe, but despite that the risotto turned out delicious.

Looks good AND tastes good.

Well, it's been nice visiting, I hope we do this again sometime.