Though still a bit frazzled having arrived just over a week ago, I’m back in California for an extended visit (sissy getting married!) and finding myself assuredly falling back into old habits. The commute to work first veers towards grabbing a convenient cup of coffee for the drive; gym clothes, work shoes, and all other essentials now reside in my (borrowed) car; and I thoroughly enjoy being able to order things such as soy lattes or buckwheat organic spinach crepes at the farmers’ market.
Memorial Day weekend brought about a mini reunion – old friends, new friends, crisscrossing circles, kiddies, babies, and adults alike. Best of all, Sandra and Lolo made the drive up to Norcal to partake in the weekend festivities.
We first drew ambitious plans of cooking up a storm at a friend’s backyard BBQ. However, as the weekend and time quickly passed us by, Sandra and I settled to raid the Campbell Farmers’ Market for the freshest of veggies and the sweetest of fruits in order to toss together a few simple but tasty salads for our party contribution.
I defaulted to creating a super-sized version of kohlrabi slaw, but substituted sesame seed oil and a touch of olive oil for the fish sauce to accommodate the vegans, and added just a splash of rice wine vinegar (3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar). Of course, some extra found goodies were also added: chopped green onion, cilantro, rainbow carrots, cucumber, and pickled ginger/beets (found at a kraut stand that additionally offered kimchi and pickled jalapenos). The ginger/beets painted my originally color diversified salad with a uniform shade of magenta, but nonetheless added great crunch with just a hint of “sauer.”
Sandra and Lolo endeavored together on a beautiful chopped veggie salad and an additional fruit salad. The chopped salad, lightly tossed in a lemon and olive oil, with a pinch of salt and pepper included a variety of mixed greens, cherry heirloom tomatoes, oven roasted baby beets, half a pound worth of shaved parmesan, and a Sandra-requirement… two jumbo Haas avocados. We desperately searched the market for perfectly ripened avocados, and next a Trader Joe’s, but finally sped into trusty Whole Foods as the last resort. Not the first time a Whole Foods has saved the day!
The fruit salad nicely balanced out our array. The farmers market yielded wonderfully sweet and seasonal fruits that filled two big bowls with strawberries, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, and juicy white and yellow peaches (plus a squeeze of lime juice to macerate everything).
Yes, we know – it’s been a while since Sandra and I have made a squeak in the blog-o-sphere. But hopefully the days of being MIA are behind us as the fantastic weekend together brought about a few new ideas and delicious inspirations… stay tuned!
This little lovely buttercream and vanilla cake made for an early Valentine’s a few days ago. KJ and I spotted the cute dessert from Horno Helvetico during our weekend jaunt into the big city and simply couldn’t resist. With hubby arriving home shortly thereafter, the three of us enjoyed a sweet Sunday afternoon of coffee and cake while, just like the rest of our sleepy village, taking cozy shelter from the wintery world outside.
To Sandra & Lolo, family and friends, fellow bloggers and readers alike – Happy V-day!!
The whispers of mushroom soup were calling to me. Indeed, a hot bowl of soup sounded good as a starter. I was envisioning a thick puréed soup. Since I’m not a fan of potato laden soups, the heartiness from the mushrooms and onion were going to give me the satisfaction without the addition of any other filler.
Mushrooms are great to have on hand. Each month, mushrooms always seem to make their way into my grocery cart. I usually pick up three to four different types varying from shiitake, maitake, bunashimeji, enoki, king oyster or oyster – mostly the commonplace Asian varieties rather than the familiarly cultivated brown or white. I stow them away in the fridge in deli meat drawer to be used for quick and easy dishes. I think they are a fantastic substitute for meat.
In the pantry, I also keep dried porcini and shiitake in air tight containers to be used on a whim. I so love these little fungi in soups – they are packed full with flavor! I’m all about flavor and enticing the palate.
For this recipe, I decided to keep it simple – crimini, porcini, and onion.
3/4 pounds crimini cleaned and sliced
1 oz. dried porcini, reconstituted
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil + 2 tablespoons if needed
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon pepper paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons sherry
10 whole peppercorns
Salt and pepper to taste
Dollop creme fraiche, optional
Soak porcini mushrooms in just enough hot water to cover, about 15 minutes until soft. Reserve liquid and add to soup. Strain liquid through a coffee filter in case of sediment on the bottom of bowl.
Clean and slice mushrooms and chop onions. Set aside.
In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil until hot on medium-high heat. Add crimini and porcini mushrooms and allow moisture to evaporate and brown, about 5-7 minutes. Add sherry, stir to allow for sherry to evaporate, then season lightly with salt and add garlic powder. Add onions and additional oil to pan if needed and continue to cook until they become light and translucent, about 5-7 more minutes. Take off heat and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, add broth, water, mushroom liquid, bay leaf, peppercorns, pepper paste, tomato paste, and mushroom and onion mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
Discard peppercorns and bay leaf. With an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
What an honor to have received the Versatile Blogger Award! This is something very truly special – many thanks to Christopher at The Delgrosso Food Blog for his nomination and kind words.
In keeping with the spirit of the award, the rules are as follows:
- Thank the person who nominated me and link back to them in my post.
- Share 7 things about myself
- Pass the award on to 15 more bloggers that I enjoy
- Contact the bloggers I have chosen to let them know that they have been selected!
So here goes!
- I didn’t acquire a passion for food until later in life. My best friend can attest that once I invited her over for lunch (granted, we were 12 years old) and I was convinced that it took eight minutes to cook a hot dog in the microwave.
- I have been living in Spain for the past three years, but only recently – within the past month or so – has the light bulb finally switched “on” for the language.
- My favorite food is braised chicken feet.
- My favorite snack is dried tofu.
- Since meeting my husband, I have traveled to two new continents, and camped in the Namibian desert.
- The last book I read was Sweet Life in Paris, by David Lebovitz – loved every word of it!
- I am a science nerd by day; food lover, wine drinker, and writer by night.
- I’ve always loved food, I’ve been told if I saw your mouth moving, I would come up and ask ”what are you eating…?”
- It’s a secret, but lately, I’ve been on a potato chip binge, and I just can’t stop! My favorite chips are Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips – Luau BBQ.
- I love opening up our home and sharing a nice meal with friends and family.
- My current read is Steve Jobs’ biography.
- I love plopping on the couch and watching romantic comedies – even if they’re bad.
- Vacations usually revolve around meals and food. I calculate the total number of meals and plan where to have each one. Lots of work, but well worth it!
- I live in jeans, tees, and flip flops whenever possible!
Our nominations (In no particular order):
- Pranee’s Thai Kitchen - Lovely Thai recipes and superb mouthwatering photos
- Cooking in Sens - Experiences of an American living abroad and the beautiful recipes that follow
- Vogue Vegetarian - Creative, healthy and great vegan recipes
- Allison Eats - Great recipes and lovely photos to boot!
- Chica Andaluza - Super recipes and fantastic writings from a chica living abroad in Spain
- The Plum Palate - Stunning photos and recipes based on local foods to the Pacific Northwest
- Masala Art - A great blog from a “butcher, baker, and curry- maker” spending time in Bombay and Kerala
- The Urban Baker - Creative and delicious baked goodies wonderfully presented
- The Frugal Feeding - A clever site on how to eat well on a frugal budget
- The Daily Connoisseur - A wonderful blog about living and breathing French chicness!
- Savory Simple - Deliciously fantastic recipes and photos, illustrating a journey from amateur foodie to professional chef
- La Tartine Gourmande - A beautiful blog about food styling, photography, and lots of food.
- The Lonely Project Wife - A great blog that has a little bit of everything that you’ll find interesting to read
- traveldestinationbucketlist - Incredible journeys, super photos, and the inspiration to make your own adventure “bucket list”
- The Pleasure Monger - Wonderful baked treats, insightful writings, and oh, the photos!
Thanks & Enjoy!
The first day of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere arrived September 23, 2011 (Sept-Dec). And as sadly indiscernible as it is in So Cal, temperatures are beginning to drop ever so slightly – we dash out of bed just a bit quicker and scurry into the bathroom just a bit sooner; a thin layer of dew covers the car in the morning; and days seem to grow shorter.
During this transitional phase between seasons, I allow my weekly farmers market excursions to dictate my shopping list – buying locally best guarantees: freshness, peak flavor, and most importantly support to our local farmers.
Chicories (endive, escarole, radicchio)
Celeriac (celery root)
Root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips)
Winter squashes (acorn, butternut, pumpkin, spaghetti)
Cooking with seasonal ingredients allows me to enhance my repertoire of recipes and provides a challenge to use various cooking techniques, keeping menus fun and exciting. And with a little imagination, I often surprise myself!
With that being said, I think I will try making a roasted garlic and onion aioli and serving that with roasted artichokes or a nice lightly toasted rare roast beef sandwich dressed with baby arugula, and a big fat slice of vine-ripened tomato.
I’m getting hungry now.
What’s on your shopping and idea list for Fall?
Birthday wishes to my mom…
Shortly before her last birthday, mom abruptly
decided it was her time to leave and be with dad.
And today, they are happily enjoying cake together…
Today is a bitter-sweet day. Not what I imagined my first official post to be. Birthday day wishes going out to my dear dad, who would have turned a ripe old age of 89 (life is about finding humor in the best and worst of situations). His soft-spoken voice and kind spirit brings many fond memories I hold close to my heart. This is my second year without him and I miss dearly - Pain and suffering no more. Happy birthday dad, with love, always…
Sandra and I first met back in 2007, through a gathering of mutual friends for Fourth of July weekend. The following year, the same group, plus and minus a few, decided on a trip to Napa Valley – three couples; four days of wineries; and three evenings of cooking, grilling and imbibing. At the time, I was residing in the SF Bay Area, while Sandra kept her roots in LA. We soon realized, however, that with each forthcoming get together, whether it be NoCal or SoCal, the two of us seemed to always lean towards a food-centric trip: conversations meandered towards recipes and best cooking practices, preferred shopping venues were farmer and outdoor markets, and detailed home cooked meals were always required. Of course, our men didn’t mind.
This past month, we reunited our same gang for an international trip to Provence. It was an easy and obvious choice – especially with Sandra’s boyfriend being French and that I had relocated to Spain. One balmy Provence evening, after too much food and too much wine, we kicked around the idea of starting a blog to not only keep record, but to stay in touch with each other, and to share the trip’s highlights with friends and family.
So, here we begin….