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.

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...
Paleo dinner of beef and vegetable rolls

Paleo dinner of beef and vegetable rolls

My brother and several of my CrossFit friends are doing the 30-day Paleo Challenge that kicks off this weekend. More power to them; I don’t want to work that hard eliminating food groups from meal planning. But I realized that, with many gluten-free friends joining us for dinner, many of the meals I prepare for them are actually paleo as well, albeit by accident. Here’s one of my all-time favorite dinner party entrees. You can mix up the veggies and prepare it all well in advance. This is a very simple dish of thinly sliced beef sirloin wrapped around a medley of crunchy vegetables and aromatic herbs that was inspired by the shabu shabu meals LL has eaten in Japan and of which he is fond. It’s taken a few tries to get it right. The first time I ended up with 1/4″ thick slices of ribeye, tasty but unwieldy for this kind of dish. I didn’t realize that real shabu shabu, the kind you find at a Japanese butcher, is sliced almost prosciutto-thin. I’ve learned to ask the butcher use top sirloin and have him slice thinly just like raw roast beef. More marbled cuts of beef tend to fall apart. I lay the slices on a cutting board and sprinkle with garlic and onion powders. Then I layer baby greens – this is a blend of spinach, arugula, and green leaf lettuce – blanched asparagus, shredded carrots, and bean sprouts.   Gently roll each piece of meat around the veggies. I made a big pile for a party: Brush with olive oil and oven roast at 425 degrees F for about...
Pork egg roll with apple, carrot, and jicama

Pork egg roll with apple, carrot, and jicama

My first homegrown monster Mutsu apples inspired this recipe. Make your slaw in advance; you will have leftovers by design that are wonderful tossed with cashews on a lettuce or tortilla wrap with avocado. The first time I made these these egg rolls with fresh fried calamari rings (the recipe is at the bottom of the post) and miso soup. We are having them again tonight with steamed tilapia and miso soup again. (What can I say, we like miso soup!) First, the slaw recipe. Here’s a tip I just learned: peel fresh ginger by gently scraping off the peel with a spoon. Works like a charm. And for this recipe, make sure your ginger is very finely grated or you’ll get odd gingery chunks. Apple, carrot, and jicama slaw   Save Print This is a crunchy, sweet, and tart slaw that's delicious served with pork loin as an entree or as a sandwich or wrap filling. Author: Life in a Skillet Recipe type: Salad Ingredients 1 cup jicama, peeled and julienned 1 cup tart apple, julienned, and tossed with 2 tbsp lemon juice to keep from browning 1 cup carrot, julienned 1 tbsp grated ginger ¼ cup minced red onion 1 tablespoon sesame oil 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tsp ground black lemon pepper. Instructions In a large bowl, stir together the jicama, apple, carrot, onion, and ginger. Drizzle with olive and sesame oils. Toss well. Add pepper and toss again. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. Wordpress Recipe Plugin by EasyRecipe 3.2.2089   Now make it into an egg roll: Pork loin egg rolls with apple, carrot,...
Fast, hearty, and delicious chicken, leek, and artichoke penne

Fast, hearty, and delicious chicken, leek, and artichoke penne

Oh. My. Gosh. This improvised dinner that was absolutely, fabulously divine, with a hint of earthiness from the mushrooms, flavor from the leeks, and brightness from the artichoke hearts all coming together to coat the penne with love and delicioiusness. It’s easy to make, with a simple broth of just artichoke water, butter, and olive oil thickened with a bit of flour. Read on!

Taco soup your way, either fast or slow

Taco soup your way, either fast or slow

Two recipes for taco soup, a dish I had neither made nor tasted, popped up in my inbox recently. The first one is a slow-cooker recipe from Janice Gullett, a Life in the Skillet reader who found me while planning a trip to Loreto, Mexico. The second one, courtesy of one of my lovely sisters-in-law, is a super-fast, super-efficient, 30 minute to the table version. A note: both call for taco seasoning – which is what makes them taco soup. Janice’s for any supermarket brand packet and Rita’s for the taco seasoning from Penzey’s. I always make my own; it’s actually really easy to make with regular pantry ingredients; click here for my recipe. They are both delicious. The slow-cooker version I’ve put here first has quite a bit of spice from the adobo chilies, and the chicken is exceptionally tender. Don’t try and take the shortcut to add the adobos in the beginning or it will be too spicy. I used dark beer and parsley instead of cilantro and served with flour tortillas. Double up on the beans on either recipe to make a vegetarian version. Slow cooker chicken taco soup   Save Print Prep time 15 mins Cook time 7 hours Total time 7 hours 15 mins   This is a spicy slow-cooker meal in a pot. Author: Janice Gullett Recipe type: Entree Cuisine: Mexican Ingredients • 1 onion, chopped 1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained (or use frozen) 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or...
Fiction for foodies: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Fiction for foodies: Baking Cakes in Kigali

Every now and then I read a book that just perfectly illustrates how food as a theme unites all the people of the world. Baking Cakes in Kigali is one of those books. It’s most likely not a novel you’ve heard of; at least I hadn’t, although author Gaile Parkin made Oprah’s poll of favorite contemporary women writers the year after it was published. My newest sister-in-law – the one on our family who ALWAYS  knows what’s going on – gave me this copy on one of my trips back to St. Louis. Once I dove into the story. I was completely enthralled – read it straight through the day and into the night. The protagonist is Angel Tungaraza, a married mother raising her four grandchildren while running a cake-baking business. I love her character; she’s wise, insightful, and empathetic, the type of person to whom others confide their problems. With flour, sugar, eggs, and food coloring, she sets the wheels in motion to solve any tricky situation or problem that arises with a light heart and a perfectly decorated cake. This isn’t magical realism, though. Here’s the deal – the best part of the novel is the contrast of Angel’s baking business against the setting, her middle-class household in post-genocide Rwanda. The only thing I knew about the country was locked in my memories of horrific reports that I honestly tried to block, and Parkin, who lived in Rwanda for a time, created a sweet story of people who live normal lives – working, schooling, traveling, and marrying – against a devastated past. Cake and joy are the ties...
Curried celery root soup

Curried celery root soup

A fabulous warming winter root vegetable soup recipe with celeriac and curry – my delicious and divine interpretation of a Nepenthe soup. Easily adaptable to a vegetarian diet and completely gluten-free. Enjoy! Click through for recipe and photos.

From French Chef to Fat Chef in fifty years

Fifty years ago Julia Child celebrated butter and cream, teaching us how to craft soufflés and beef Wellington on The French Chef. When her show was originally on the air, the average weight of an adult woman then was 140 pounds. In 1997 the International Federation of Competitive Eating was founded, and a few years later Man v. Food showed us how you can make a living by traveling and allowing yourself to be filmed stuffing as much food into your body in one sitting literally as humanly possible. Now the Food Network takes Fat Chefs and teaches them how to not eat quite so much and how to work off the calories. Today the average weight of an adult woman today is 164 pounds. There is, I think, connection here. Frank Bruni has been writing some thoughtful essays recently about how we are most likely genetically programmed toward weight gain, pointing out that the way in which we’ve become experts at processing food crops has led to the creation of a tremendous array of irresistibly salty, sweet, tasty, calorie-dense, and cheap things to grab and munch on at will. (Read the piece – he’s got some excellent points – then read the comments, which are also quite insightful.) This is Michael Pollan’s big point in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, showing how we take the million of acres of corn we grow and not just feeding it to the animals we eat, but reformulating it into almost a dozen more components of processed foods: For modified or unmodified starch, for crystalling fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and...
Tasty yuzu stir-fry recipe

Tasty yuzu stir-fry recipe

The tube of yuzu paste a friend brought me back from Japan a few months ago had been mocking me from the refrigerator door for several months. It was something I’d never encountered before; it has in intriguing sweetly sour, citrus and chili flavor that seemed would be perfect in something. I just didn’t know what, and because of the small tube size, I didn’t want any to go to waste in failed experiments. But this weekend I needed a fast and simple dinner improvised a stir-fry that goes down as The Best Stir Fry Recipe Ever. All I used was is cooked rice, a bit of olive oil, a shallot, ham, frozen peas – and the yuzu paste, literally the only seasoning. It was perfect – just enough heat to get your attention, and just enough citrus to add a pop. I actually made this twice because everyone liked it so much. To be honest, the only reason I used ham and peas is because that’s what was on hand. Ham steak leftover from Friday night pizza night, and I frozen peas as part of my basic stock – not because I think they are particularly delicious, but because they make good ice packs for cold therapy. Fortunately this was an unused bag. And equally fortunately, it turns out I can easily buy more through Amazon.com. It’s called yuzu kosho, or yuzu and peppers, and the ingredients are yuzu, green chili peppers, and salt. Mmmm. Turns out yuzu paste aficionados have some illustrious company – Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto integrates the ingredient into recipes at his eponymous New York City restaurant....
Pasta con broccoli recipe

Pasta con broccoli recipe

Nights are getting longer and colder, and that means dinners are getting a little heartier and warmer. . . time for Pasta House Company-style pasta con broccoli with their house salad. Make it at your house with these recipes.