Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Call my crazy but I love the routine that is the school year.  My son went back to school this morning and even he was excited and ready to be back.  I am infinitely more productive at work, and at home, when summer disappears.  Of course fall in SF means Indian summer is just beginning so I'll need to keep myself focused once the sun starts shining.  A few new recipes always help me do that-what about you?

Admittedly, there is one thing I don't love about the school year-making lunches.  I try to shake it up as best I can to keep myself, and my son, from getting tired of any one thing.  He has a great appetite and will taste anything so he's always open to new ideas.  In today's NY Times Melissa Clark writes about taking old favorites and giving them a small twist.  She also solves the problem some of us have when you have to make lunch for your kids and for yourself.  I like a kick, my son won't have it.  I like onions, he'll say no way.  Some of her ideas are Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Mango Chutney, Hard Cooked Egg with Basil Butter Sandwich (add anchovies to kick up your version),  and Turkey Apple Sandwiches with Maple Mayonnaise (the sriracha in the mayo is your choice).  I find kids are so damn hungry at lunch that it really is the perfect time to give them something new to eat. 

This recipe for Chipotle-Orange Pulled Pork caught my eye in the LA Times food section today because it is a huge favorite of mine.  The summer we lived down in Venice Beach I made this a few times for friends and it was absolutely amazing.  Cooking a pork shoulder is not difficult, but be patient because you want to cook it slow and low for that perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture.  That cooking is mostly unattended so it wont tether you to the stove...there is a lot you can get done in the five hours this takes to cook!  Clean a closet, weed the yard, catch up on old episodes of Mad Men, or make a pie.  I feel a dinner part coming on.

I was at a friend's house last wknd and the zucchini from her garden were gigantic.  Once they get too big they're better off used as a centerpiece than a meal but, if you catch them while they're still "normal" sized, the recipe possibilities are really endless.  I love this recipe for Curried Zucchini and Chickpea Soup from today's Washington Post.  Healthy and packed full of flavor, it comes together very fast with ingredients you likely have in your pantry right now.  With the addition of both potatoes and chickpeas, this soup is hearty so toss together a simple green salad and you've got all you need for a fabulous dinner.  Heck, if you're kids are good eaters, I'd even throw this one in the thermos for lunch the next day.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Aunt Bobbie

My great-aunt passed away on Tuesday night.  She lived a long and inspirational life, bringing joy to everyone around her.  She was my grandmother's sister and the last of the three siblings to pass.

About four years ago our family gathered to celebrate her 80th birthday.  It was a wonderful time as she was well and healthy and couldn't have been happier, surrounded by kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, and cousins.  It was on that trip that I realized that Bobbie wasn't just inspirational in a matriarchal way, she was a culinary inspiration to the family.

This being my mom's side of the family, most of us were born with some kind of cooking gene embedded deeply.  But Bobbie was the baker.  My mom used to tell me that when she'd go babysit her cousins she'd immediately raid Bobbie's freezer because it was always full to the brim with cookies (of course she eventually got caught when her uncle reminded her one night to not leave the freezer door open).

Bobbie baked for everything.  When she got older she'd send cookies to events she couldn't attend, and she'd even send me recipes handwritten on recipe cards if she found a new one she liked.  She never stuck to any one recipe, always trying a new version of this one or a change to that one (my mom is the same way).

Her granddaughter K went on to culinary school and is working in a restaurant now.  Her other granddaughter, A, bakes stunningly beautiful cakes that rival any professional bakery.  My cousin S and her husband opened their own fab Indian restaurant this year in San Mateo.  My other cousin, I, started a restaurant in SF and is now a food/wine writer in New York,  And I dabble in cooking here and there too. 

While the rest of the family might not cook as a profession, everyone gathers around homemade food and everything that comes from our kitchens is made with love.  Aunty Bobbie's legacy will live on through this kind of deliciousness and we'll all hear her in our ears every time we try another new cookie recipe.

In her honor, here are a few of my favorites:

Star Wars Cookies (ok, not my fave but Bobbie would have been proud)

Anything from this book, which is my all time favorite
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