Back to my blog

Back to my blog

I remember reading some “blogging rules” list way back when I started Life in a Skillet. The only one that stuck with me was “Never apologize for missing a post.” The reason was basically that we all have busy lives – things to do, places to go, people to see – and when it comes right down to it, no one will miss you if you miss a post. I may have taken that a bit too much to heart. I discovered that people DO notice. (Hi Mom!) Most recently my next-door neighbor stopped by and said she really loved reading Life in a Skillet, and why did I stop? Why, indeed.

For perfectly straight cucumbers every time

For perfectly straight cucumbers every time

We recently had a gentleman visitor from England, an erudite, entertaining, fellow who, although having travelled extensively in Africa and the Middle East during his first career, was on his first visit to California. We started him off right with a trip to our Satuday’s farmer’s market for a few tastes of the Monterey Bay: Tomales Bay kumamoto oysters from La Marea of the Sea, kraut juice shots from Farmhouse Culture, local Monterey Jack cheese from Schloch Family Farmstead, and fresh strawberries and cucumbers to take home for the evening’s cocktails. A breakfast of princes. He happened to mention, while in line to pay for the aforementioned cucumbers, that as a young man he worked for a grower outside London who shared the ancient Victorian invention for growing perfectly straight cucumbers: grow them in a glass tube. I thought he was pulling our legs, but it’s true. Industrial Age inventor George Stephenson, the man credited with building the first railway in the world to use steam locomotives and who invented the miner’s lamp, tired of trying to make a sandwich from wayward, curvy cukes and came up with – you got it – a glass tube keeping them on the straight and narrow. The cucumber straightener. They became quite popular; here is an advertisement Oh, those crazy Victorians. Click here for more cucumber...
Friday night pizza night

Friday night pizza night

I’ve gotten into the habit of saving pizza nights for guests, because once I cure the pizza oven, make the dough, make the sauce, mince the vegetables, and precook whatever chicken or sausage I may feel like, it just seems like a lot of work when there aren’t many people to enjoy it. But that’s just wrong. Why wait for guests or holidays to make a meal an occasion? I had the time and a hankering for pizza so went to the trouble for just LL and Kid Two and I on Friday night. Turns out it was not any more trouble than anything else I do. Kid Two practiced making the same face as the dog: Then we cooked our pizzas and watched Touch of Evil (Kid Two enjoys classic film noir) and I sat there thinking, as I often do, it just doesn’t get any better than this. The pizzas don’t get any better than this, either. LL’s favorite is salami, black olive, and mushrooms with tangy tomato sauce: I like prosciutto, fontina, and thinly sliced tomatos with arugula, but I don’t see the arugula here on this one! Look at this great thin crust, though:   I been thinking about the bacon and jalapeño pizza I used to love from Imo’s; it was my go-to pizza in high school. I made this one for Kid Two in honor of his starting high school. It has a base of homemade provel cheese sprinkled with sriracha, thinly sliced garden tomatoes in lieu of sauce, a sprinkling of crispy bacon, cooked fast, then topped with garden greens. It may be my new favorite. Here’s...

Peaches – nature’s candy in my hand or can or pie

“Peaches come from a can / They were put there by a man / in a factory downtown.” This is one of our family-inside-joke sort of songs, one of those ludicrous and vaguely hilarious things I found before a summer Big Sur road trip. It went on the Big Sur Road Trip playlist, along with Cows With Guns and Bongo Bong and a bunch of other songs that probably go a long way in explaining why we are the way we are, and we listened to it while driving from our Julia Pfeiffer Burns environmental campsite to a civilized dinner at the Big Sur Bakery and back. Enjoy “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States. embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube Direkt...
Foodie flip-flops: Chef Michelle Bernstein and Havaiana

Foodie flip-flops: Chef Michelle Bernstein and Havaiana

Oh my gosh, I almost missed seeing these. Chef Michelle Bernstein designed a limited-edition line of pins so we can custom-make foodie Havaianas. Whatever you have heard is true- Haviainas are the best flip-flop ever. I should know, since I spend the majority of my time wearing either these or Ugg boots. It’s part of living in Santa Cruz, you know – stilettos and sand just don’t seem to mesh. You probably only have another couple of days to order yourself a pair online – here’s the link. Here are the goofy/cute pins you have to choose from. Looks like the mustard is sole out, but you can still get a pickle and a glass of...
The mystery of the Humboldt squid

The mystery of the Humboldt squid

6:00 AM. They hadn’t yet beached when my neighbor took Daisy Duke out for her morning constitutional. He noticed something odd, though, what he reported to be an enormous forest of kelp drifting just outside the swells. He assumed it had probably been torn up from the previous week’s rain and was drifting in on the high tide. 8:00 AM. The tide was ebbing when my friend Jen showed up for her beach walk. There was no fresh kelp, only the drying mounds that had been deposited several days several days earlier. But she DID see – piled on top of those briny vines – squid. Fresh, fat, 2-3 foot long squid with the clear black pupils of VERY fresh fish. Some beachgoers tried to drag them back to sea to save their lives, but the squid insisted on wriggling out of the water and breathing their last. Freaky. 2:00 PM. I hadn’t heard any of the above yet. When I showed up with Koah for our own walk, I was shocked to stumble across the enormous calamari littering the sand for miles. Kid One happened to call me on his break from work, and I described the scene. Beach-raised Kid that he is, he ID’d them as Humboldt squid. Neither dogs nor seagulls knew what to make of them, the fish too fresh and new to nibble on (the gulls) or to roll in (the dogs). We walked along the high tide line from Rio Del Mar to New Brighton and estimated there had to be thousands. People passing by were mildly freaked out. Did I know kind of...
Valentine’s Day Photo Gallery

Valentine’s Day Photo Gallery

Thank you all for sending me such great photos of your sweethearts and sweet treats! Here are some of the people, pets, and food celebrating Valentine’s Day. Keep emailing me your photos until February 18, when I’ll choose a $50.oo gift card winner

30 Rock’s bald salad ruiner

30 Rock may be over, but the zingers will live on forever. Did Liz Lemon really call Top Chef judge, life saver, and all-around chef extraordinaire Tom Colicchio a bald salad ruiner? Click through to watch the final episode and see for yourself!

Anthony Bourdain’s Jimmy Sears is really John Tesar

In Top Chef Seattle Episode 9, Past Suppers, self-proclaimed Most Hated Chef In Dallas John Tesar talks about that he hired Anthony Bourdain in the 80’s and introduced him to Eric Ripert. Not only that, but he’s also the real-life Jimmy Sears from Anthony Bourdain’s fast-pace, groundbreaking book Kitchen Confidential. Courtesy of Bravo and Ecco / HarperCollins, here is an excerpt from the book so you’ll know exactly how Bourdain felt about Tesar. Read it and then go and buy the book. I met Steven at the Supper Club. It was 1993, my return to the “bigs.” I’d been working for Bigfoot at his West Village saloon, comfortable but in career limbo. I took a few weeks off to kick back in the Caribbean, and when I returned, I found a down-on-his-luck Jimmy Sears in Bigfoot’s kitchen. Bigfoot had been eating dinner at the Gotham recently and had experienced some kind of culinary epiphany. Suddenly, he wanted a real chef, and Sears, whose restaurant in the Hamptons had just gone under, was sleeping on floors around Manhattan, dodging creditors and ex-girlfriends, and in general going through a rough patch—prime time for a Bigfoot recruiting effort. Jimmy was a brilliant cook. He’d come up with Brendan Walsh at Arizona 206, and the food he turned out in his brief time working the Bigfoot mines was so good, I’d stay after my shift was over, sit at the bar and order dinner and pay for it. Seeing what Jimmy could do in the kitchen really inspired me; I’d been slinging hash for way too long, and tasting a real demi-glace again, eating new, exciting food, seeing...

These are the best chocolate covered almonds ever

Here’s a quick shout-out to the best chocolate almonds I’ve ever tasted: Gary & Kit’s Napa Valley Chocolate Almonds. These aren’t anything you will find in the supermarket – I discovered them in the in-room fridge at the super-luxe Post Ranch Inn – but they are well worth buying online. The almonds are roasted, the chocolate coating is powdery, not candy-like, and bittersweet, with a hint of salt. These are seriously the perfect blend of nutty and sweet. Buy them here online directly from the Clif Family Winery – three tins for $24.00. Nibble on one or two as a midday treat and share them as with your dinner guests along with a nice port and goat cheese. Just don’t let your kids eat them in one sitting. They will. By the way, Life in a Skillet has no association or connection to Clif Family Winery. This is just a fabulous treat you should know...

Iron Chef Morimoto is judging Miss Universe

In an interesting twist on food meets culture, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, the person who introduced me to cooking competitions via Iron Chef Japan, who never fails to amaze and inspire me with gorgeous bites like this when I catch him on Iron Chef America, is taking all that global cred and eye for beauty and turning it to . . . women. Check this out:

A pint of gratitude

“What is perfect in your life?” That’s not a question you hear very often, especially not when ordering at a restaurant. But that’s the question posed to me by the server at Santa Cruz’s Cafe Gratitude. How would you answer?

“Breaking Bad” – inspired “Bacon Bad” chocolate chip cookies

“Breaking Bad” – inspired “Bacon Bad” chocolate chip cookies

In Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 7, there’s a mid- show caper that begins with a character bringing a batch of chocolate chip cookies to the safety deposit box woman at the bank. They’ve got bacon bits, he tells her. Makes the taste pop. She replies that now she probably won’t share them with anyone, takes the package, and leaves him alone to his nefarious tasks. Bacon and chocolate chip cookies written into the script for Breaking Bad? Wishful thinking, or a sly nod to the plethora of odd bacon-laced foodieness out there these days? Didn’t matter. I was compelled. Had to Go There. And so I began. I stared at a basic Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe and wondered what I could to to really make it Bad – bacon bad. Bacon makes me think of breakfast and homey, rustic meals, so swapping honey out for granulated sugar seemed to be a natural. And using spelt flour instead of all-purpose would lend a bit of a toothy, rustic flavor. But how to make it really bad? I rummaged through the spices, contemplating cayenne, then landed something really worth trying . . . cardamom. It’s zingy, strong and highly aromatic, so I snuck in just a little to give it some kick. Very nice. A few thoughts: It worked out best to refrigerate the dough for an hour, since the honey makes a wetter dough than the granulated sugar. Baked cookies are less doughy, flatter, and more chewy than the traditional recipe The honey flavor in these cookies is more pronounced than I expected and the cardamom not...
Pool parties in Vegas: Cooking is campy with Holly Madison, Art Smith, and the Top Chef Masters

Pool parties in Vegas: Cooking is campy with Holly Madison, Art Smith, and the Top Chef Masters

“Whatever happens in Vegas is obviously going to end up on television.” -Chris Costentino, Episode 4, Top Chef Masters It’s an odd coincidence, don’t you think, that the same week Prince Harry got caught without his skivvies playing midnight pool in his hotel suite with a bevy of beauties, Chef Art Smith gained a bit of infamy of his own at Holly Madison’s Top Chef Masters pool party, where he stripped down to his Speedo while channeling Bo Derek in the most hilarious, over-the top episode of Top Chef Masters ever made? I haven’t laughed so hard at a Las Vegas spoof since Zach Galifianakis woke up and found a tiger in his hotel bathroom in The Hangover. So the premise of this solidly PG-13/Not Safe For Family Viewing Top Chef Masters Episode 5, Season 4, is Holly Madison throwing a birthday brunch/pool party for 150 of her closest friends, taking a break for her day job to do so:   She asked the Top Chefs to prepare comfort food since her friends might be hungover, requested that the food have no garlic or onion flavors so as to spare castmates any potential bad breath during that night’s performance, and specified the dishes be served in teeny-tiny bites, ostensibly to help maintain their beautiful, buff bodies. She even gamely tasted all the food herself, nibbling enough with her teeth to comment appropriately on the textures and flavors presented to her. And bodies there were – plenty of waxed pecs and brightly colored bikinis on display along with a few tasteful belly button rings, all to the giddy delight of many...
What’s your million-dollar a year dream job?

What’s your million-dollar a year dream job?

My sister-in-law once posed the question, during a family dinner: If you could get paid a million dollar a year salary to have any job you wanted, what would it be? We went around the table and answered that we’d be presidents and novelists, brain surgeons and astronauts, each one of us choosing a career we felt was important and worthy of that million dollar salary. She had an interesting take on the question, though, saying she would want to be the one at the beach passing out towels. I’d get paid a million dollars a year anyway, she pointed out. Why overexert yourself? An interesting point, I thought. I hadn’t thought of choosing a relatively mindless job, leaving your brain free for interesting after-work activities. But after seeing this sign at our local Whole Foods, I’ve found the perfect million-dollar dream job gig:   I can totally see myself cruising around the county, visiting chocolate makers, bread bakers, and sausage purveyors. Making the rounds of the farmer’s markets and fishmongers. Mildly exerting, quite important. So my new answer is: if I could earn a million dollar a year salary to do anything at all, I would absolutely become the Whole Foods Local Forager. But come to think of it, I’ve got that job already, I just don’t get paid for...