Tuesday, March 27, 2012

California Cookin'

Ode to the woman who showed me from the beginning...
Teaching me that cooking brings the family together, it can be learned and tampered with, played with, and empowering. I'm not talking about super woman, relax. I'm talking about my mom.
mother's day 2010
Healthful cooking is something living in California agrees with. It is nearly impossibly not to a find farmer's market around the corner  unless you're a block head and really don't care. The fresh produce and seasonal fruits, are something we take pride in. Cooking with these ingredients becomes natural and essential. Avocado? yes please. Kale? most certainly. Tomatoes? I thought you would never ask!
California Cuisine truly is a special one.
I had the luxury, yes I say luxury, of living at home in Santa Barbara after college for a year. I love my family and all that comes with them...delicious family meals and exposure to great wines ("just a sip" my dad would tease). I used to watch from afar in awe as my mom would graciously run the kitchen with such ownership. I would sit at the bar stool sipping my wine reading through the books she would be effortlessly cooking recipes from. Glance here, glance there. Her dishes came out fresh, clean, and a creation of mixed cultures. Doing her Californian take on Italian, French, and Mediterranean cooking. Eventually I learned my course and adapted my role as her sous chef. Because everyone knows, you need a sous chef who knows whats up, nobody likes a person in their kitchen who has no clue what's going on. I began to adapt and realized how her delectable dishes taught me the joy of eating health-ful food. I felt vibrant, replenished, energized, and satisfied after her dinners. I began to appreciate the vegetables, the natural herbs from the garden, and fresh fish picked up from the market, creating the whole balanced meal but with such vitality. These dishes really came to life when they were set at our table: "Cheers, Buon Appetito".

Clearly this time spent at home bit me with the chef bug since I have been addicted ever since. It was a real eye-opening experience into the true-life of home cooking. No, she is not a professional or tv chef, but she's my mom, so it's always good.

So I will leave you with some parting motherly advice:
  • Be sure to set your mis-en-place together before you begin cooking. Read through the recipe and be sure to know what lies ahead and ingredients are in place
  • Learn one recipe, do it over and over, until you can play with and its yours, own it! 
  • A little wine goes a long way..or a lot of wine ;)
  • Fresh, fresh, fresh! 
  • Cook with confidence
  • Recipes can be a lot easier than they look, but shh!

summer fiesta 2010: chicken tomatilla fajitas
  • OH, and when in doubt, throw it out! Okay that was mine, but seriously bad milk is no bueno 

homemade pizza night winter 2010

                                                                            Thanks again mom. Cheers, buon appetito!

Resourceful and Delicious

There's nothing worse than coming home, opening the cabinets, and realizing they are completely EMPTY..or so it feels...

Last night, this is what I was faced with. Since my boyfriend and I are young adults in our early 20's living in San Francisco (one of the most expensive cities), it is not ALWAYS enjoyable to break the bank for a nice meal, no matter how good it is.

So last night I spent minutes, seemingly hours, browsing through cookbooks and online recipes trying to figure out what to make with our Trader Joe's Jalepeno Chicken Sausage. Now I know he could have easily ate "sausage on a plate", but I refused to allow it. Thus I presented myself with a typical challenge of a young broke woman: Unleash my inner chef goddess and use my resources to somehow come up with a healthy, delicious, and presentable dinner. Basically, turn the mundane into... hell yeah!

After a glass of wine and rummaging through the depths of our hollow cabinets, I came up with the following:

TJ Jalepeno Sausage (MT*)
Polenta ground
Shredded Mozzarella
Chicken Broth 
garlic <3
romain lettuce

So I made my own version of the polenta tossing in whenever and whatever I pleased. Some basil, some butter, cheese here, cheese there.  Throw in some pepper flakes and garlic...everything is better with garlic right?
Chopped up a salad with the leftovers that we had from the night before. And of course my homemade dressing with staples I ALWAYS have on hand (balsamic vinegar, evoo, red wine vinegar, dash of maple syrup, the real kind. (More on my dressings later..)
and Wah LA!

And I have to say, it turned out quite delicious! Now I know you might roll your eyes and say wow, my 3rd grade daughter could have done this. But could she..? I was quite impressed with our effort, no recipes, no stores. Maybe it wasn't my most professional work, but it left me with a smile on my face and no receipt to have to show for it.


With Thine Mussels I Shall Love You Forever..

It wasn't Valentine's Day, it wasn't our anniversary, it wasn't my birthday, or any other special occasion. It was a typical, average Wednesday when my boyfriend came home and said "Let's Go Out To Eat" Oooooh!?!

I get so excited when this happens (well, depending on who, what, when, and WHERE) and this time, he said three words: "baker street bistro" Gasp.

Now I honestly can't rave about this place enough. It is a quaint french bistro around the corner from our apartment. Walking into this small, French run and owned bistro, you feel as if you have been immediately transplanted into the heart of France. I have a serious love for Europe and its food, so this place takes my breath and way and calls to me "Sit...why don't you stay awhile.."

It was a quiet, rainy Wednesday evening and we sat by the window in a cozy corner table. Immediately asking for the wine list, we ordered a DELICIOUS Voignier (attention: pronounced vee-yoh-N'YAY). Given that my boyfriend lived in France for a year playing hockey, we have had the luxury of  spending time in REAL french bistros when I visited him, and i'm telling you this one hits the nail on the head. So what if the woman who helps run the place didn't come to us for awhile, isn't that how the Europeans do it? Why rush this? I was enjoying it, he was enjoying it. I had nowhere to go.

It is times like these, when I can't help but feel my heart pulse and engage in all that is around me. His arm around me, her accent, the taste of the wine, isn't this what it feels like to live? I would sure say so! The "joie de vivre "

In case you ever get the chance to visit, here is what we ordered:
  • Assiette Charcutiere  (Pate de campagne, dry saucisson, smoked duck breast, garlic sausage, cornichons & onions)
  • Moules Provencale (Mussels, white wine, shallots, parsley, tomato & pesto) with French Fries
  • Saumon Roti, Beurre Blanc a l"orange Puree de Carottes aux Gingembre & Epinards (Roasted salmon, orange white wine butter sauce, mashed carrots & ginger, sauteed spinach)

Bon Appetit!


Finally, the time has come and I'm starting my blog. A few days ago my boyfriend who I live with, and often cook for/with (my "sous chef") asked me why I don't start my own blog about food and cooking. 

I pondered the question for a while wondering if "blogging" was something for me. I can't hide the fact that I love eating food, making food, reading about food, dreaming about food. Now, it is time to write about food. This blog is about me, my love for family, traveling, wine, language, and all the senses that inspire and create the divine and genius craft of "food"

As most food lovers can agree, it is MORE than just the food. It is the creativity, the thought, the art, the love, and the passion. The pleasure when a dish turns out right (for my own pride's sake), but more importantly other people's enjoyment as they bite into the meal I have prepared for them. 

So how this goes, I shall see...but my hope is to write and discover more around me and more within me through the process.

A special thanks to...
-The Food Network: Anne the rockstar, Giada with her animated gestures and color obsessions, and of course, Ina & her Hampton friends
-The whole country of Italy **mange! mange! mange!**
-Other bloggers like Aggie's Kitchen and Closet Cooking
-But most importantly my mother...who always put damn good food on the table. Thanks ma! 

Time to cook, play, and eat. 

yummy ; )