A lesser pizzatastrophe

July 3rd, 2004 § One comment § permalink

Armed with a different batch of yeast, I succeeded in tonight’s attempt at caramelized onion pizza. It still turned out badly, though. The recipe for the dough called for far too much water, making the dough rather difficult to shape. Also, the topping had too many competing flavors. A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen may be a damned fine cookbook in most respects, but I wouldn’t recommend its pizza recipes.

Tomorrow I’m attempting to recreate an orzo and feta salad whose recipe I lost long ago. The result will accompany me to a Fourth of July barbecue. I’ll post a recipe if it turns out well (the salad, not the barbecue).

Defeated by a single-celled fungus

July 2nd, 2004 § Two comments § permalink

Dinner plan: Caramelized onion pizza with blue cheese and walnuts. Dinner reality: Yeast that doesn’t work, dough that won’t rise, and pita with hummus as a rather poor replacement. Damn you, Red Star! Damn you and your crummy yeast!


June 13th, 2004 § One comment § permalink

Ah, Berkeley. Amazing food; good friends; fantastic weather. It’s nice to be home.

Last night, I made my own contribution on the amazing food front by making a warm cannellini bean salad with mustard and tarragon dressing, served over greens, with goat cheese and kalamata olive crostini on the side. So easy, yet so delicious. I lucked into a bottle of white wine, spicy and unexpectedly floral, that complemented the salad perfectly. For dessert, we had fresh olallieberries with whipped cream.

The olallieberries came from the farmers’ market, which is bursting with the abundance of late spring. Frog Hollow had the season’s first truly brilliant peaches this week, to say nothing of their apricots. Apparently it’s a banner year for stone fruit. I am more than happy to reap the benefits.

Indulging my inner foodie

May 1st, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

After far too many nights of eating pasta for dinner, I decided it was time to do some proper cooking tonight. The farmers’ market has had lovely fava beans for weeks, so I decided to make a sauté of fresh fava beans, onions, and fennel. It was amazingly good. That’s mostly to the credit of the recipe–it was dead easy to make.

I made some orzo to go on the side, so I guess I still wound up eating pasta for dinner. I tossed the orzo (about a cup when it was dry) with a tablespoon of lemon juice, half a red bell pepper diced fine, and salt and pepper. Not very exciting, but the fava sauté is complex enough that a simple side dish was appropriate. (A little feta with the orzo might have been nice, though.) Also, it’s an aesthetically pleasing combination: bright green fava beans on one side of the plate, jumbled with pancetta and strips of fennel in a small pool of sauce, and creamy orzo on the other, studded with little red cubes. Garnish with a sprig of dill and you’re golden.

Pho oey

May 1st, 2004 § Comments off § permalink

What is it about the Bay Area and overhyped Vietnamese restaurants? Example one: Tu Lan in San Francisco. People claim it’s the best Vietnamese restaurant in the city. It’s certainly cheap, and the food is more or less okay, but it’s hardly spectacular. Example two: Vi’s in Oakland’s Chinatown. A friend of mine had raved about it, and it’s listed in Zagat’s. I went there with some friends last night, though, and had an utterly forgettable meal (although, again, it was cheap).

People, the Bay Area has much better Vietnamese food than this. Spend a couple more bucks and go to Le Régal in downtown Berkeley or Battambang in downtown Oakland. (Battambang is actually Cambodian, which is sort of a cross between the best parts of Thai and Vietnamese food. The service is spotty, but the food is worth it.)

I’ve got bags of amchoor powder, I’ve got sumac, who could ask for anything more?

December 16th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

My last final for the semester was on Friday, and I turned in my last assignment on Saturday. I am officially done with my first semester of graduate school. Hooray!

I kept myself entertained during finals week by writing a top ten list of horrible, horrible pickup lines for first-year city planning students. Here’s an example: “Why don’t you come up to my studio and we’ll overlay our natural resources.” Trust me, if you were in my graduate program, you would find this hilarious.

Today, reveling in the glorious gift of free time, I biked to the Halal market on San Pablo to pick up some Indian and Turkish spices. The proprietor was using a band saw to slice a huge slab of lamb for an Indian woman and her Iranian friend. After he wrapped up their meat and pointed them towards the 20-pound sacks of basmati rice, he looked at me, the white guy from the suburbs, and grinned. “You see all kinds of people in this place,” he said. “I love it. I love it.” So do I.

The voice of experience

October 18th, 2003 § Three comments § permalink

If you ever decide to roast chestnuts in your oven, make sure you cut a slit in each one first so the steam can escape. Otherwise, instead of eating delicious roasted chestnuts, you’ll find yourself doubled over with laughter in the next room, listening to the muffled cannon sounds of chestnuts bursting all over your oven’s walls.

Plum cake

October 5th, 2003 § Two comments § permalink

If decent plums are still available where you live, you owe it to yourself to make a delicious plum cake right this minute. It’s utterly foolproof and ever so pretty.

Go on, start baking! Shoo!

At your service

August 28th, 2003 § Three comments § permalink

Christie made an interesting suggestion after I posted a rather long excerpt from a book about city planning: “Each time you post an edifying passage such as this, you must also post a new drink recipe.” Well, I can’t promise that I’ll always be able to do that. As luck would have it, though, my brother invented a new drink last Saturday. It’s called an orange truffle, and here’s how you make it: Mix half a shot of Godiva chocolate liqueur with half a shot of triple sec. Sip or shoot, depending on your preference. I should warn you that this drink is ungodly sweet, although everyone who tried it enjoyed it.

At last, the mojito recipe

July 30th, 2003 § 24 comments § permalink

After several mojito-making experiments that failed miserably—the Mojito Julius, mochajitos, mo-Fritos, and so on—I finally mixed some mojitos on Saturday night that were good enough to justify posting the recipe. The instructions are ridiculously detailed, so that you can benefit from all the mistakes I made.

(Incidentally, when I got on this mojito kick, I had no idea that it was the “it” drink of this summer. My housemate and I both liked them already, so we figured, hey, let’s make some mojitos. Does that put us ahead of the trend or smack in the middle of it?)

Anyhow. You will need:

  • Highball glasses (the tall, skinny ones)
  • Whole mint leaves
  • Superfine sugar
  • Club soda
  • Limes, cut in half
  • White rum
  • Ice cubes

To make a mojito, put a small handful of the mint leaves in a glass. The leaves should fill between a quarter and a third of the glass; more than that, and the drink becomes difficult to mix. Add a teaspoon of superfine sugar and a few splashes of club soda. Use a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to muddle the mint leaves until they smell minty and the sugar has dissolved. (“Muddling” is just squishing the leaves against the bottom of the glass. Be careful not to muddle them so hard that the leaves tear, or you will wind up with bits of mint that float to the top of the glass and get in your mouth when you take a drink.)

Squeeze both halves of a lime into the glass, then add one of the lime halves. Add three one-ounce shots of rum. Add a few ice cubes—about four or five if you’re using the ones from those little freezer trays—then add club soda, not quite enough to fill the glass. Stir very gently a few times, pulling the mint leaves away from the side of the glass so that the sugar isn’t trapped at the bottom. Share and enjoy.

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