Friday, March 28, 2014

Cookbook challenge update

Remember, I don't know, a year and a half ago when I decided to cook my way through Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris? I naively thought that this would be a fairly easy, straightforward endeavor that would take a couple months, tops.

Well, here we are, 18 months later, and I'm still not done. My interest/enthusiasm/dedication to the project has gone through waves -- there'll be times when I'll whip out three recipes in a week, and then I won't make another one for a month. BUT. There is a light at the end of the tunnel! I've recently tallied my remaining recipes, and I am getting closer...so close...which has really motivated me to get 'er done, as they say. As of today, I have four appetizers, seven lunches, six soups/salads, eleven dinners, eight vegetables/sides, and six desserts to go. With coconut madeleines on the menu for tonight, that number will be down to five desserts tomorrow. I have a few recipes reserved for Easter dinner in a few weeks, too. My game plan is to finish up the chapters I'm furthest on -- appetizers and then desserts, and then tackle the rest in as efficient way as possible.

I'm really excited about finishing this project (I already have my next challenge in mind, but we'll get to that later). I've learned a lot so far, and the biggest take-away has been a rush of confidence in my kitchen skills. This is going to sound immensely immodest, but so many things I make just turn out right, the first time, which is always incredibly validating -- a good thing, too, since I saved some of the hardest recipes for last. I'll need that confidence to carry me through the rest of the project!

My hope is to post an update relating to this every time I finish a chapter, so be on the lookout for that.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I forget what I've told you about Thanksgiving plans for this year, so let me recap quickly. Basically, my parents aren't coming to town and I'm not going out of town, so I ended up inviting some friends/co-workers over for the occasion. We ended up with nine guests -- myself included -- which is the largest meal I've ever made for anyone! If I do say so myself, the whole event was a smashing success.

The menu was fairly basic, but delicious. I started with a cheeseboard appetizer made of local cheeses along with some persimmons, local honey, olives, and crackers. The main course was, of course, turkey, which I brined. This was my first brining experience, and both my brother and I agreed that it may have been the best turkey I've ever cooked. I also invested (a whooping $12) in an instant read thermometer, which may have been the best thing I purchased in months. I was able to set an alarm so that as soon as the turkey reached the right temp, I could pull it out of the oven, virtually eliminating the chance of over cooking. Sides included gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing, two kinds of cranberry sauce, classic green bean casserole, glazed carrots, rolls, herbed butter, and sweet potatoes -- all the basics, really. I asked guests to bring dessert, which was great because then I didn't have to cook it! We ended up with pumpkin pie, chocolate cheesecake, and a classic Indian dessert that unfortunately I forget the name of (oops). What made menu planning especially interesting is that one of my guests is a vegetarian. I thought it would be more of a challenge then it ended up being, actually. I made the everything with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock (except for the turkey and gravy, which I made with homemade turkey stock) and it turned out perfectly!
A vat of dressing!

A locally-sourced cheeseboard.
The meal was served with a variety of red and white wines, plus mulled wine with dessert. Have I mentioned that I'm a member of the Chateau Montelena Cellarmaster wine club? Anywho, I am, and their zin was the star wine of the day, in my opinion. Side bar: if you haven't seen the movie Bottle Shock, see it! I have vague future plans for some kind of Bottle Shock viewing party involving Chateau Montelena wines, but nothing concrete yet.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Buzz buzz, plus some

So, this may seem totally random, but I took a beekeeping class last Saturday -- and it was awesome! It all started a couple of months ago when I went on a Groupon spree and bought a few different classes to try out (pottery, sewing, etc.). After purchasing one of the classes, a recommendation came up for this beekeeping class. It wasn't very expensive and I figured, why not? In one of the silly life coincidences, I'd just watched Queen of the Sun and The Vanishing of the Bees, which had piqued my interest. Furthermore, my mom had visited shortly prior to that and talked about some grants she'd heard about for new beekeepers, so beekeeping was kind of just on my radar at that point. And then, voila! This class shows up. Almost like fate, one might say.

The class was organized by Round Rock Honey, who work with beekeepers all over to put together these classes. This particular class was held in Redwood City by Golden Harvest Bees, run by Janet and Richard Baxter. They run the apiary in their backyard suburban home, and Richard also has hives throughout the Bay Area. They sell honey, beeswax candles, and soap that Janet makes (if you're in the area, check them out -- they're both super-nice and their products are great -- and no, they didn't pay me to say that).

Friday, September 27, 2013

And now, Bottega in pretty pictures

My dear friend Danielle, whom you may recall from the origins of this very blog, flew all the way from Vermont to visit me last week. We had such an epic adventure, I don't even know where to begin. We started with touristy San Francisco stuff, and finished with an absolutely amazing weekend in Napa. I'm sure I'll be back with all the details and play-by-play, but for now, here are some pretty pictures of dinner at Bottega. Enjoy!


Pasta Fritta -- basically a deconstructed salad of figs wrapped in prosciutto (the undisputed king of meats), Parmesan puffs, and wine foam.
Ricotta gnocchi
Duck! And roasted grapes...
A finale of olive oil cake with macerated raspberries and fig gelato.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Chipotle ad

Check this out -- incredibly poignant and haunting, especially considering the source...


Thoughts? And to think, this is barely an exaggeration of reality.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dinner at Bouchon (in pretty pictures)

Early last month, my dad came for a visit to the Bay Area -- and hence commenced several days of cooking, eating, and sight-seeing. We had a great time, which culminated in a day trip to Napa (dad had never been before and since has been known to say, "That may have been the best day of my life." I could ramble on for a bit about the trip, but instead, I'll just share these pictures from dinner at Bouchon (one of Chef Thomas Keller's Napa restaurants). Enjoy!





Tuesday, July 16, 2013

As promised

Long overdue after my cryptic comment about tilapia -- check it out:

Tilapaponics

Read the blog, it is pretty self-explanatory.

I know, I know. Like I needed another project. I can't even handle the ones I've already self-imposed upon myself. But oh well -- this has been a really interesting and educational endeavor, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes!

Speaking of projects -- two more recipes down! Zucchini gratin and plum cake tatine. I've just ordered some special baking dishes from Amazon so that I can proceed with some of the other recipes. So, progress!