A t-shirt speaks a thousand words

A t-shirt speaks a thousand words

Change comes slowly, as I realized when I wandered into the gift shop at the Missouri History Museum after checking out the Little Black Dress exhibit. I came face with the demolished relics of my past … as souvenir t-shirts. Seriously. Talk about taking a walk with the Ghost of Christmas Past. My specter took me on a food episode.

Foolproof pizza dough recipe

Foolproof pizza dough recipe

Honestly, there’s no such thing as “foolproof” pizza dough. As in any sort of baking, the temperature and humidity affect the texture and stickiness of the dough as well as the time to rise. But I’ve made this several hundred times over the past couple of years, so this tried-and-true method is as close as it comes to perfect homemade pizza dough every time.

Because an “amuse bouche” should actually be amusing

Because an “amuse bouche” should actually be amusing

There are some things – images, tastes, sounds – that separate the forest and the trees, the dancer and the dance, the beautiful and the sublime. You stumble across them in the most unlikely moments, making every encounter with magnificence that much more magnificent.

Here is one of those things – the most “amusing” amuse bouche ever.

Balsamic zucchini “chips” with garlic and almonds

Balsamic zucchini “chips” with garlic and almonds

The zucchini harvest has begun! I’m not yet regretting the 5 plants I popped in the ground planning for a summer of squash blossom quesadillas and my dream of edible flower pizza, but the season is young. No doubt in a couple of months I’ll find a monstrous zucchini or two hidden under the scarlet runner beans as in years past and have to do something drastic again.

LL thought we should try something memorable and different with our first harvested zucchini of the season and suggested we try thinly slicing and pan frying them in a little hot oil. One thing led to another – I added minced garlic and sliced green onions to the sizzling zucchini, and then, inspired by my new Almonds book, added a small handful of those nuts, roughly chopped.

Watermelon salad for a summer BBQ

Watermelon salad for a summer BBQ

We are not a particularly Handy Family, so I was surprised when LL suggested we spend Memorial Day weekend sanding and revarnishing the kitchen cabinets. They definitely needed to be slathered with love after all these years of heavy use (18 years, really, since we built the kitchen? Wow!) And we had the time – when you live next to the beach, you tend to stay away from it on days the crowds appear. Like Memorial Day. So we enlisted the help of a Handy Friend, dug around in the shed to find the palm and detail sanders left over from a different round of remodeling, stocked up on sandpaper, and away we went.

The Amazing Texas-Toast-Bacon-and-Egg-Sandwich

The Amazing Texas-Toast-Bacon-and-Egg-Sandwich

Kid Two still loves Texas toast but along the way has acquired a taste for paninis with egg and baby greens with a bit of cheese. It was only a matter of time before he decided to try and combine the buttery crunchiness of Texas toast with savory eggy-ness of his panini. Like all good things, it’s a bit of work, but totally worth it. You have to start by making Texas toast. When that’s finished, layer thin slices of cheese and a handful of baby greens on one side. Top with crumbled, cooked bacon and a cooked scrambled egg. Top with the second piece of toast and there you go – a tasty handful of the ultimate bacon and egg meal: It’s pretty good on a paper plate with strawberries, too:...
Good eats at Palo Alto’s Reposado

Good eats at Palo Alto’s Reposado

Kid One recently started his First Real Job at a Palo Alto Tech Company, and this was the occasion of meeting him for lunch for the first time. I wanted to choose a place in advance; downtown Palo Alto is chock-full of restaurants and did not want to waste his hour walking around and deciding. Through the magic of Google Maps, I walked around online the night before. Resposado called out to me because we all like Mexican food and I can’t resist queso fundido. I figured it would be fine, maybe even pretty good. I wasn’t counting on it being fabulous.

Ahi Tartare Just Like Michael Mina

Ahi Tartare Just Like Michael Mina

One weekend LL and I spent the weekend in San Francisco to see Kiki and Herb at the A.C.T., but the show seemed sad and we were happy so we snuck out and walked down to the St. Francis where we went to sit at the bar at the Compass Rose but it was the new Michael Mina (which is the old Michael Mina now) and we were wowed by his tuna tartare.

It was one of those astonishing dishes, prepared table side – in our case, bar side – with gorgeous pink rich ahi and crisp sweet diced pears and salty pine nuts with the zing of garlic and the heat of jalapeño held together with quail eggs. It was a dish we had to recreate.

Mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa

Mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa

Our friend The Big Boss from work, a man who could, and did, eat two dozen prawns, half a dozen drumsticks, and an additional two pounds of roasted meat at one sitting, has gone practically vegan. I created these mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa for him, a winner of an umami-laden dish that feels hearty and satisfying without any of those pesky high carbs, gluten, or dairy products. My only warning is they take a bit of time. You can make the stuffing in advance; it will keep for several days refrigerated. Ingredients: 36 medium-sized mushrooms, washed with stems removed 1/2 cup quinoa 1/2 teaspoon olive oil 1 cup water 1 red pepper generous splash full-bodied red wine (about 3/4 cup) 1 tbsp nutritional yeast plus extra to sprinkle on top 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper spray olive oil Instructions: First, get your quinoa cooking. (Follow these directions from The Kitchn if you’re worried about doing it wrong) Whatever you do, don’t overcook it; there’s nothing worse than soggy quinoa. Ok, there are lots of worse things – I’m thinking about the brussels sprouts creme brûlée from LL’s ill-fated 50th birthday party – but for the purposes of this recipe, you want your grain more al dente than mushy. Let cool. Then roast your red pepper. I cut it in half, take out the seeds and membrane, and put it right on top of the gas burner on my cooktop just like I roast poblano peppers. Let the pepper cool, then scrape off any black charred spots. Now simmer your wine burn off the alcohol, or at...
Great Goan Meals

Great Goan Meals

If you were building a list of great places in the world for food, then Goa would have to make it into your top 10. Situated on the west coast of India, and famed for its palm-lined beaches, Goa has been a crossroads for many different cultures dating back for millennia. The Sumerians, Dravidians and Portuguese have all come to Goa over the centuries, with the result that its cuisine is an eclectic mixture of Asian and European influences. One of the things that Goa is most famed for is its seafood, which is both tasty and economical. As with most Goan dishes, seafood is usually served hotly spiced, making it a perfect combination of delicate flesh and fiery extravagance. The fish curry is particularly delicious, made with the local pomfret, which is similar in texture to haddock or turbot. The curry is traditionally hot and sour, with the heat mellowed by the addition of copious coconut. As well as fish, these curries are often made with the local shrimp, which are large and juicy. Another common way of preparing fish in Goa is frying it – the fish is first coated in a deep layer of hot spices and then cooked in sizzling oil. Pork is also a staple Goan food, and gained popularity during the time the Portuguese ruled from the 1600s until as recently as 1961. Perhaps the best-known pork dish from Goa is vindaloo, the name of which actually comes from the Portuguese “carne de vinha d’alhos,” which means meat with wine and garlic. In Goa, the wine was replaced with palm vinegar, and additional...
Au gratin potatoes with spinach and gruyere

Au gratin potatoes with spinach and gruyere

  Behold, my au gratin potatoes and spinach with gruyere. It tastes even better than it looks, I promise. It was an improvisation; I had intended to serve Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend with steamed tilapia and artichokes for dinner, but LL texted on my way into the store asking for steak fries or hash browns instead. I wasn’t feeling it. But he loves potatoes au gratin. So instead, I bought a bag of Yukon gold potatoes, a bag of frozen spinach, and an 8-oz hunk of gruyere cheese. Back home, I buttered the vintage Blue Cornflower Corningware baking dish my mom gave me ages ago, so old it’s practically new again, and heated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. My Kitchen Aid’s slicer/grater attachment made short work of the prep . . . I can’t believe I spent all these years slicing and grating by hand. It was simple to assemble. I layered frozen spinach, sliced potato, shredded gruyere, frozen spinach, sliced potato, shredded gruyere, poured about 1/2 cup of milk around the edges, and finished with grated parmesan cheese, baked it covered for 30 minutes, uncovered it, and let it brown for 10 minutes more. There was enough spinach to really get the flavor and make the dish feel morel like a meal. It was rich, so our portions were small and there were leftovers. I used mini springform pans for the second meal of this au gratin, placing a slice of ham steak on the bottom, the au gratin above, and finished by cracking two eggs on top. I baked this in a 350 degree oven for 15...
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...
Homemade provel cheese

Homemade provel cheese

  True story: St. Louis-born in a decidedly un-foodie time, I did not know that provel and provolone were two different cheeses until after I had moved to California and was married with a baby. Really. I had a sudden taste for one of those delicious house salads we used to get from Talayna’s back when there was only one enormous and dirty location in DeBaliviere, before it got all prettied up and moved. The salad was an enormous mound of iceberg lettuce with a few Greek olives, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and delicious gooey tubes of provel cheese, all tossed together with the house dressing, a garlicky creamy Italian that my BFF assured me her mother said was very close to Marie’s. I can’t find a picture of it, but here’s a similar salad from Leo’s Pizza in Kansas City that will give you the idea: I made the salad that night with provolone and was disappointed. Where was that soft, gooey cheese I craved? I confessed to LL being confused that the provolone in California was so – different from my midwestern cheese. “But we called it provel,” I reasoned. “Maybe there’s some difference.” And that’s when I learned they’re two completely different cheeses. “Provel is like Velveeta,” he informed me. It’s processed. It’s not even cheese. I’ve never seen it around here.” To this day, I have no idea how my native California-husband knew about provel 22 years ago when just 2 years ago even Anthony Bourdain hadn’t. He just knows things, it’s his superpower. So I moved on and found other cheeses, and for all these years provel was just...
Crispy prosciutto and melon salad

Crispy prosciutto and melon salad

This is an elegant twist on the quintessential Italian prosciutto e melone – crispy prosciutto tossed with melon chunks and garden mint and then drizzled with a lovely rich olive oil. The recipe came from an old Sunset Magazine my mother-in-law brought over one day; I can’t find it right now for proper attribution, but here is the link on Sunset’s recipe page. It’s very simple. Cook 2 slices of prosciutto on your skillet on medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and let cool. In the meantime, cut a half of a cantaloupe into bite-sized pieces, or use a melon baller to scoop them out. Crumple the cooled prosciutto over the melon. Chop 6-8 mint leaves and add to the salad. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons high-quality olive oil, toss gently, and serve. I’ve been serving this all the time this summer, with poached eggs for weekend brunch, as a side dish with spaghetti and artichokes, or by itself for a solitary lunch in the...