Showing posts from 2011

Duck Braised with Red Wine and Prunes

We wanted to celebrate with a Christmas feast with some of the husband's family; however, I also wanted something relatively easy and mostly in one pot.  So, last week the French, via the Zuni Cafe, came to the rescue.

This recipe looks like it takes a while (and technically it does because you have to let it braise for a few hours), but the prep work is minimal and the clean up easy.  The hardest part about the whole recipe may have been slicing the onion.

I have never been much of a duck consumer; however, this blog has pushed me to make duck threetimes in the past two years, and each time, I have been delighted by the results. Judy Rodgers, chef and co-owner of the Zuni and writer of the cookbook from which this recipe originates, suggests that one should use Muscovy duck legs.  Admittedly, I have no idea whatsoever which ducks sacrificed their legs to the cause, for all I did was approach the butcher and ask for four legs.  Either he was flirting with me or he has a good memo…

Butternut Squash Cappellacci with Brown Butter and Nutmeg

We are incredibly lucky.

We are going to Rome with the husband's parents, who have rented an apartment off of Campo de' Fiori. We're over the moon, and we have not really been able to wrap our minds around the fact that at this time next week we will be fully jet-lagged in Rome.  There will be much ambling along cobble-stoned streets, much gaping at ruins, and much consuming of gelato.  People, we're headed to Italy.

When I was young, I wanted to go to Italy desperately.  It came after watching the overdone and saccharine 1962 movie The Light in the Piazza, one boring Saturday afternoon.  While this movie sparked a love affair with vespas, fountains, and piazzas for my ten-year-old self, I do not necessarily recommend it.  When it came time to choose my foreign language of study, I was heartbroken and surprised that Italian was not offered in my small town school district.  Undeterred, I grabbed a clip board and marched up to the Spanish and French teachers to intervi…


It's here!  It's here!
I love Thanksgiving.  I love the food, the family, the friends, the togetherness of it all.  And I love that the very next day I can start putting up Christmas decorations.  I love the smell of leaves and crackling fires and pumpkin pies.  And the next day, I love the smell of hot apple cider and pine trees. 

Here is what I am most thankful for from this year:
1.  The family.  Every last one of them. From my parents to my siblings, from my nieces and nephews to my in-laws.  And for those who are not blood- or marriage-related but are family nonetheless.  

2.  The running.  The day after day of putting one foot in front of the other at quite possibly the slowest pace.
3.  The unexpected moments of beauty.  The surprises.

4.    The new friends as well as the old friends.  Their presence, unexpected and familiar, is a sweet reminder.  

5.    The many wonderful trips to the beaches (from Point Reyes to Monastery Beach (also known as Mortuary Beach), from Ocean …

Roast Pork with Apricots

Growing up, we would eat dinner at my paternal grandmother's house at least once a month.  My grandmother was, as most grandmothers are, a character.  Her name was Gertrude.  Legend has it that she wanted to be called Trudy, but people called her only Gert.  And she was most certainly a Gert, not a Trudy.  Further legend has it that she even changed her name from Ruby to Gertrude when she was young because her last name was Stone, and she didn't want to be know as Ruby Stone any longer.  Both legends may be apocryphal.  The truth may be that she was Gert Stone from the start, but I like the idea of this young woman wanting to reinvent herself.

When I knew her, Gert was in her 70s and 80s.  She wore the most beautiful shades of red lipstick and had fabulous ceramic chicken dishes loaded with butterscotch candies.  She would cook pedestrian pot roasts when we came to visit, and after dinner my brother and I would wash and dry the dishes in her little kitchen with these wonderfu…

Wicklow Pancake


Carrying on with my non-Thanksgiving-themed meals, I bring you the Wicklow Pancake.  Today’s entry is decidedly non-Irish, although this recipe for a not-quite-a-pancake, not-yet-an-omelet* comes from one of my favorite regional cookbooks, The Country Cooking of Ireland.  This cookbook is a real pleasure, and I have not one but two recipes from this book already filed on this blog.  However, the entry begins in Ireland and ends in Oakland, with a stop on Virginia Woolf's Bond Street in between. 

(Yes, the Brittney pun was intended, but has no bearing on the rest of the post.  I just couldn't resist.)
I turned 21 in Wicklow in the little border town of Bray.  Famous residents of this seaside vacation spot south of Dublin include James Joyce, Bono, and Oscar Wilde.  Count me in their company for a short while and merely by geography.  However, I will take the company any chance I can get.  When I first arrived in Ireland in the fall of 1995, I stayed with a family ne…

Moroccan Chicken with Dates and Couscous

Yesterday, I gave my final exams for the first term.  I am always amazed at how much gets packed into the first trimester.  An open house here, a stack of papers there, a set of student-parent conferences to follow, and I am just about wiped out.  Whew.  We're eyeballing Thanksgiving with a bit of glee, but in the mean time, I am making decidedly non-Thanksgiving fare.  Be prepared!

So we begin with this Moroccan Chicken with Dates.  Dates are really just an excuse to mainline sugar with dinner.  Those of you with sweet tooths (teeth?) know what I am talking about.

But before we get too far, let's indulge in some fun facts about the date:  Apparently there are 1500 varieties of dates--a dateganza, if you will--and the most popular American date, the Medjool date, came to California in 1927.  A singular Dr. Walter Swingle, an American horticulturalist for the Bureau of Plant Industry, took a little trip to the French-colonial-controlled Bou Denib oasis in Morocco to "sav…

Chicken Lasagna with Greens

This late summer, I unexpectedly received in the mail two cookbooks on the same day--one from my darling roommate from Steinbeck camp and one from a longtime friend from high school.  I was so filled with gratitude on that day because both of the women (who actually remind me of one another) are strong, wicked smart, and uproariously funny.  They are both the kinds of women I would hope to be.
Let me focus on the giver of this cookbook*--my friend from high school (the other cookbook shall be a focus for a later date).  Where I went to high school is not like your normal high school.  My high school was a 3-year, residential high school for students in the state of Illinois who were talented in math and science (ironically, almost all of my friends went into humanities or business, but that's for another day).  We came together, wide-eyed and nerdy as sophomores and left, perhaps, just as nerdy but surrounded by those who became, in some sense, the most dear to us in our lives.  N…