Thursday, February 26, 2009

a bit of experimentation

how did the week go by so quickly?

it is difficult to believe that the last time i posted to the blog was on monday. i've been trying to make progress on a couple of projects this week. i've completed one and am working toward completing a solid draft of my presentation before the weekend. it looks like JS is going to be in town, and it would be great not to stress out about the status of my latest presentation series when i see him.

it hasn't been all work work work this week though. i am still attempting for some better balance between work and well, the rest of my life. the best friend came over for dinner on tuesday, which allowed me to experiment a bit. one of the dishes i made was a variation of the mark bittman olive and orange salad....which he in turn obtained from la zucca magica. for bittman's receipe go here. i didn't follow the receipe though...and used the core ingredients (navel oranges, thyme, olives, olive oil, and fennel seeds) as inspiration.

i decided to make my variation to include minneola tangelo, blood oranges, nicose olives, lemon thyme, kalamata olive oil, and roasted fennel seeds. why? partly because ...this was the citrus and type of olives that i had on hand...and i thought that the lemon thyme would be a decent complement.....and was curious how introducing a smoky flavor to the fennel would impact the salad. this is one of the reasons why i love cooking....to be inspired by something and make it your own based on what you already have in your kitchen. also, as the best friend is a pretty adventurous eater, i knew she would be up for trying it.

so i prepped a large tangerine and the blood oranges....so pretty aren't they?


then made the olive mixture by chopping up some pitted nicose olives and mixing it with some of the lemon thyme and olive oil....

and then plated it....and then added a light sprinkling of roasted fennel seeds....

as the best friend put it "this is not a salad for everyone"....which is extremely true. it is a mixture of tart, sweet, and savory. i enjoyed it...yet it is very different. the tartness from the citrus and the smoothness of the olives pairs nicely. the roasted fennel is a completely unexpected flavor. the best friend enjoyed the roasted fennel with the tangerine quite a bit. i thought that the roasted fennel adds an almost another level of savory or even a "meaty" component to the salad....in a good way.

the other experiment of the evening was new to me...but not necessary new to many other people. for the dinner on tuesday, i decided to finish the meal with a cheese plate. yet, an upgraded cheese plate....i wanted some nice accompaniments with a trio of runny soft goat and sheep milk cheeses i had picked out. i wanted to add some marconda almonds, cherry conserve, and dried figs soaked in sherry. the figs soaked in sherry was the "new to me" experiment.

earlier that afternoon, i cut up some dried figs....

and poured a bit of my newly purchased bottle of sherry.....



this ended up soaking for at least 4 hours....this is some heady stuff.

the fruit was ready after we finished the salad and our main course of fresh buckwheat pasta with puttanesca sauce. i don't have a picture of the final plated cheese plate from tuesday evening, but lets just say that it was a great way to end the meal. if you have a chance to soak dried fruit in sherry for a cheese plate, i would highly recommend it. in fact, i liked it so much on tuesday, that i tried it again and am eating it right now for dinner.

this time though, i soaked medjool dates and figs in the sherry and added a bit of minneola zest (i keep the peel for my hot chocolate in the morning and for improv moments like this).

as i had a feeling that i was going to blog tonight and didn't want to consume sherry or wine so early, i plated everything this afternoon....took some photos.....


and then put it back in the fridge to enjoy later. it is quite lovely for a meal within itself. it is quite nice when a bit of experimentation actually turns out ok.

Monday, February 23, 2009

do you miss him?


"do you miss him?"

asked the best friend while she was driving down to SB on friday night for the weekend. she, was, of course, referring to the ex-husband. memory is a funny thing....and emotions are even funnier.

hmmm funny.

i suppose that is one way of looking at this.

i was thinking about my response to the best friend all weekend...even while i was working, i could feel me processing this in the background. most of you dear hearts, know what part of my answer was...as i touched upon not missing him in an earlier posting. yet, i provided a bit more detail to the best friend on friday. the reason why i don't miss him now....is because i missed him for the last years we were together. for years, i missed the "him" that he used to be....and i stuck around (because we were married at that point...you better believe that he didn't pull this kind of shit before we were married) thinking that he'd get his self respect back...instead of spiraling more downward. also, i believed in "for better" and "for worse"...thinking that "for worse"...was something that we needed to work through and that it would get better. i remember thinking "it has to get better". little did i know that i was the only one that felt this way....and that his spiraling downward was a combination of many things.....primarily his lack of wanting to take responsibility for his own actions and his deteriorating sense of self worth.

the last year i was with him was the loneliest time in my entire life. it is rather amazing to feel the most lonely when you are with someone....when you are married to someone....who you see change into a kind of person that you no longer have respect for. this is not a good situation to be in....that is a lot of soundless crying during hot showers.

so you see, i missed and mourned him ....and the loss of what we had....even before the marriage ended.

funny how it worked out that way. see what i mean about "funny"?

yet something that made me particularly sad, was telling the best friend how weird it was that i didn't miss him....but i that i missed his mother. are you surprised dear reader? how often do you hear someone say that they miss their mother-in-law?

it was this that i was thinking about today, as i made my spicy and salty eggplant on toasted acme upstairs bread. i allowed myself some private time around lunch time in my kitchen today....to just nibble, gaze out of the window, and think about this woman who i will never see again. she's a writer. she has a strong personality and is very clever. she loves to garden, take photos, and has a temper to match her hair. if she and i met at work or though mutal friends (rather than her son), she is someone i would have been good friends with ...even though she HATES to cook and thinks zinfindel is pink.

as i cradled the hot reheated bowl of eggplant in a yellow towel,


i thought about that day that she cried when she told me how much she loved me and how she appreciated the way that i took care of her son. this isn't a woman that cried easily. this was a conversation we had before her son and i were engaged...and here was this woman surrounding and enveloping me with emotions. i was a bit out of my element that day.

i never told her son about that conversation.

but he was there when his mother gave me her favorite grandmother's pearls. this too, was before we were engaged. i realize now, how significant this moment was....it was her way of telling her son that she considered me family. it was those same pearls i left carefully nestled in a box on his desk when i left.

i wonder if he gave them back to his mother.

"a lot to chew on", i thought laughingly as i took bites of my spicy eggplant on toast.

the ex-english major with the bad puns makes an appearance at the oddest times. yet, it is a lot to chew on and think about. throughout this process, i've learned that the divorce wasn't just a severing of a relationship, expectations, and a life with one person....it was a severing of many relationships.

for a while there, i didn't allow myself the right to be sad or miss his mom, his step father (who was more of a father than his "real" father in my humble opinion), and one of his best friends. the chef....who took time out of his sous chef duties at a top restaurant to make me an individual souffle the first time we met; talked heatedly about video games, politics, books, and nina simone the second time; and completely won me over the third time when i met his then girlfriend and now wife. i remember thinking "wow, his girlfriend is this warm hearted, smart, and sassy gal. i like this guy."

yet, now..... i know nothing about what they are doing and how they are doing. it is odd, but understandable. these were "his people"....just like i have "my people".....and interestingly enough, we really didn't have any "our people". perhaps this says a lot about the marriage doesn't it? oh the signs! the signs! the blinking signs! well, hindsight is perfect isn't it? sigh.

at least it made the divorce less messy than it could have been....and i know now that these were things i needed to go through in order to grow and understand more about love, friendship, and commitment. i mean, if i hadn't gotten divorced, i wouldn't have moved back to berkeley, created a goal to be more "open", and would have prob never started this blog! qu'elle horror. this blog has given me the opportunity to combine so many passions as well as push me. it has provided me with this safe semi-anonymous place to be "me". perhaps this too...is one of the reasons why i needed to go through such a challenging time....to find out more about what i am really capable of...including pursuing my own passions.

i suppose we shall see.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

quick and efficient

i've had my head down trying to get a lot of things done this weekend both on a work level and a personal level. there is a work project i have due in early march as well as a series of presentations that i'm getting ready for...not to mention my trying to actually organize certain aspects of my place.

because of my focus on getting things done this weekend, i haven't done a lot of complicated cooking. for example, yesterday i made a large batch of rice, some simple braised dino kale, and cooked up some hot links. i was so focused on my projects that i didn't even want to stand next to the stove to fry them up.... so i just spit them, put them in a pie plate, and placed it in a hot oven. this was the first time i tried it....i thought, why not?

everything was done at the same time. talk about super efficient.

it was simple, tasting, comforting, and filling. the hot links would have definitely tasted better with some crispness on them from grilling or frying...yet they were still good. it was also a bit interesting to see how skinny they get when they are cooked this way....and how so much of the moisture and fat is leached out. i must say for, like, the 100th time....it is sooooo nice to have a stocked fridge again...as it allows me a lot more flexibility.

Friday, February 20, 2009

two luncheons...

i had an absolutely lovely lunch yesterday. i cooked some fresh wild mushroom ravioli (from phoenix pastificio) in a brown butter, sage, and garlic sauce...over a bed of blanched arugula. i also had a side salad of roasted yellow beets. yum yum.

naturally, i thought ahead so i made enough so that i could have it again for lunch today!! i am very much looking forward to lunch today as a result.

yet, as i know that many of you dear hearts like to see the "meal in progress".... here are some pics and details regarding the making of yesterday's (and today's upcoming) lunch....

i started out by putting two pots of water to boil. one for the arugula and the other for the pasta. while those pots were heating up, i focused on making the beet salad. i wanted to use these dancy tangerines for the vinaigrette....i had never tried them before and bought a few at my local market. notice their bumpy skins? they are pretty sweet with a hit of tartness.


aren't they pretty?


i also used some rice wine vinegar since the dancy tangerines were so sweet and a hint of cayenne for my vinaigrette.

i was lazy and didn't mix it in a bowl first and then pour it on top. i just added the ingredients straight on to the sliced and chilled roasted beets. then for a bit of color, i topped it with some freshly chopped parsley.


then, when the water was ready....i turned my attention to the pasta....


and the sauce (garlic, butter, olive oil, and sage).....




once the pasta had been simmering for a couple of minutes...


i gently placed the pillows into the butter, sage, and garlic sauce....

and dumped a bunch of argula into the remaining pot of hot water...


it all smelled so good. my mouth was watering. the plating went by very quickly. i first plated the arugula to create the bed for the pasta....



then placed the ravioli on top of the arugula ....


and ...of course...added some shaved parm....


ooooohhhh doesn't that look good? then, i added the beet salad.

lovely for the eyes and the taste buds! yum yum.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

toasted morning bun and lemon curd

unlike tuesday, i actually went outside yesterday and did a bit of much needed grocery shopping at my local market. it is amazing how much my mood actually perks up when i know that my fridge and kitchen is filled with many yummerific goodies including my "staples" like acme upstairs bread, semifreddi morning buns, cheese (i.e., st. andre brie, ricotta salata, parm, and a smelly soft goat cheese that i've never had before), pate, salsa, tortillas, white fillet anchovies, green onions, beets, arugula, dates, greens of all sorts, and citrus of all sorts. i feel like i am slowing becoming "me" again after that crazy travelness of january. i actually feel like i'm skipping to and around my kitchen to see what else i can make and munch on. i almost feeling like saying in a sing song voice "the foodie hunter is back!"

this feeling hit home as i sliced and toasted a semifreddi morning bun this after my slew of morning meetings...

the sweet and lovely smell just permeated through my place as it the flaky layers were becoming toasted.

once it was ready, i plated the semi-fragile slices


and carefully spread on some lemon curd. this was the same curd that i purchased at the pasta shop last week.




i gobbled this up quite quickly. yum yum. crunchy, sweet, and tart. just lovely.

now, i'm thinking ...."what i should have for lunch?"

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

a break in the rain...

well. it is raining and raining some more.

i'm feeling a bit blah today which may or may not have to do anything with the weather. there are a few things that i'm just going to be processing for a while. interesting what happens when i attempt more work/life balance. it means more time to obsess/process over things i probably shouldn't be obsessing/processing about. oh well. today was one of those days where i felt like the weather was a bit of a mood mirror. i haven't even left my place today...which is just odd. there was even a break or two in the rain that i could have darted out and done a few errands. what did i do instead? i took the opportunity to take some pics of the crispy dino kale.


basically, a couple of days ago, i took some dino kale that i bought from riverdog farm on saturday, washed it, put it on a baking sheet, sprinkled some kosher salt and cayenne pepper, and then and baked it at 300 degrees until it was the consistency of a crunchy "chip". these are pretty good and the crunch factor is surprisingly satisfying. i didn't get the idea on my own, i stole the idea from the blogger at "by the season". i didn't use oil for mine because, well.... i was just being lazy. yet, if the idea of kale chips intrigues you...you should probably follow the recipe that by the season lays out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

the booty call...

let me begin this posting by saying right away that i am not talking about myself. i have high (substantially high) doubts that i would actually write about a booty call that involved my person...but i have no such reservations when it comes to other folks in my building.

so the moment began while JB and i were talking the front of my building and saying goodnight. we had caught a movie, grabbed a drink and noshed on some jamon iberico at cesar's (see above pic), and then while we were finishing up our conversation, this very attractive young woman walks up the buzzer. this within itself isn't unusual....except it was past 11pm. the attractive young woman looked quite "fresh" despite the rain and the late hour. JB and i said our goodbyes and i went to open the front door. as i opened the door the lobby, my neighbor answered the buzzer/intercom with a "i ordered the pizza a while ago" and her response was a laugh and a promise: "i'll be right up."

i think it is pretty safe for me to say that if you arrive completely sober and smartly dressed at the home of someone between the hours between 11-2am...there is a very good chance that you are not there to drop by and say "hi, how's it going? was just in the neighborhood and thought i'd drop by."

right.

now this was a funny moment. i gave her a small smile of understanding as i let her in the building. i mean, why else are you going to visit a guy's appartment after 11pm? i am also willing to bet that the neighbor didn't have any idea that his little "ordering pizza" comment would have an audience.

as i observed her jaunting up the staircase, my only thought at the time was "oh honey, i just hope that you get yours too."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

breakfast greens, a fried egg, and toast...

i was able to make an absolutely yummy breakfast this morning. it consisted of braised yellow beet greens, a fried egg, and toasted acme upstairs bread.

it all started with my braising some organic yellow beet greens with a few slices of salami yesterday...so this morning, i wanted to have the leftover greens for breakfast. eggs and braised greens are always a good match, so while i was nuking the leftover braised greens and toasting a slice of acme upstairs bread.... i fried up an egg in some irish butter.....


this smelled yummy. everything was ready very quickly. once the greens were reheated....


i placed the egg gently on top of the greens....

and the just added the toast.

volia....a summer yummy breakfast. what a great way to start the weekend.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"proud of you....."

BF had a meeting in rockridge last night so we met up after his meeting and he took me to dinner at the always lovely A Cote. i arrived a bit early to rockridge though as i wanted to have a few minutes to browse and buy in the pasta shop....which is one of my favorite haunts in rockridge.

can you see why?




i think you can see why.




i love lemon curd and ended buying a jar.....


i had bought some of these for the best friend at the bittersweet cafe and decided to pick up some more...


so many goodies in one place.



i really like this place. in another life, when i made substantially less money and lived in rockridge, i remember coming in here and having to think a long time about what i had enough money/budget to buy. yet, i would typically come in here at once a week for some sort of treat.

later on that evening at A Cote, while BF and i were enjoying our absolutely lovely meal of kabocha squash gnocchi, coq au vin, marinated olives, and pomme frites....BF decided to bring up that former life. he decided to tell me that he was very proud of me....for really making a better life for myself. it was enough to almost make me cry over my yummy wine....not crying in a bad way....if that makes sense.

i think that i've firmly established that i have quite a bit of pride. i know it is one of the deadly sins...yet, i have to acknowledge that my pride and stubbornness are integral parts of me and are not likely to go away anytime. my life now is over 100% better than it was before. i am the most happy that i have been in years and years. i love my life. this was not always the case when i was married.

i think more than anyone, BF and DB were the ones that saw how affected i was by the demise of the marriage. they took me in and took care of me during those critical weeks where i didn't know where i was going to live and adjust to the fact that my life had irrevocably changed. forever. the experience of betrayal and lack of respect by someone that i had committed my life to was fairly devastating. in an odd way, it was also a relief. it meant that i didn't have to be committed to someone who obviously wasn't as committed [hindsight speaking here] as i was. friends and loved ones brought up the "D-word" to me many times during the last year of the marriage as everyone saw his spiralling self worth...yet, to me, at that time, divorce wasn't an option. from my perspective, at the time, when i am "in" ....i am "in" and i take things like vows of forever....very very seriously....even though this particular person didn't deserve it [again, hindsight speaking]. just stubborn that way. stubbornness can be quite the double-edged sword at times.

it was definitely my pride and stubbornness that got me through the demise of the marriage...and gave me the single minded goal of "everything in my life HAS to be better". BF, in particular, has had a bird's eye view of this entire process. "so you haven't heard anything about him or his life?" BF asked. "nope, and i don't expect to." we share no friends and i took the steps necessary to ensure that he can't contact me.

i suppose this is the saddest part of the whole thing isn't it?....to realize that i was so committed to someone that at the end of the day, i could walk away from and not miss. a bit of a weird paradox isn't it? especially since i know that there are people in my life where i know that i am not able to walk away from and would be willing to "figure something out" about maintaining contact.

when the ex asked me that fateful evening not to cut him out of my life completely because he wasn't certain if he could handle that...i said "i don't know."....which we all know, was really..."i-don't-want-to-make-this-more-difficult-than-it-already-is-so-i-am-going-to-say-i-don't-know-when-i-really-know-that-as-soon-as-the-divorce-is-over-you-are-so-not-going-to-be-in-my-life."

because, deep down, i know who i can walk away from...and who i can't. i bet that it is the same for you as well.