Monday, September 15, 2014

Shakespeare at the park and date shakes

 which means even more time outside with long walks across the city with a stop at Loving Cup this time to fill my jar up with coconut rice pudding. I was thrilled to see the Flying Disc Ranch  date farmers at the farmers market after being away for two months while the new season of dates came in. Their dates are amazing and they ship. Walking around the date farm being seeing the cholla blossoms at Joshua Tree followed with the best BBQ dinner and live music at Pioneer Town made for such an amazing day. I'm planning on a date shake for breakfast this week.

miny sutro

Sutro Tower is tall enough to peak through the top of the fog high above the city


this gem of a friend was visiting from Portland and brought all the love and magic 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Italian almond cookies

I think I'll have one (or two) with my coffee this week. As I mentioned in the previous pavlova post I had (still have) an abundance of egg whites in the freezer. I had just enough almond flour on hand to make one batch of these tasty cookies and then 5 egg whites left for the pavlova. North Beach is known for loads of Italian restaurants and of course we have a few sweet shops with cannoli, tiramisu, and my current craving is the almond cookies with a crisp outside and dense chewy center. They're often dotted with whole pine nuts or rolled in powdered sugar. As I always do I used less sugar and more real flavor. Going off the same list of recipes to use up extra egg whites from David Lebovitz I went with this recipe for Italian Almond Cookies with a few tweaks. I still want to try Nigella Lawson's ricarelli recipe, but I have a feeling I'll make a few more batches of these in the weeks to come. I'm excited to put all the meyer lemon marmalade to use too. 

  • Italian Almond Cookies makes about 30 cookies 
  • 3 cups blanched almond flour (see note at the bottom)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons lemon marmalade (can use orange marmalade or apricot jam and lower the sugar by 1/4cup)
  • a few drops of pure almond extract (* I added 8)
1. In a large bowl, mix together the almond powder and sugar. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they start to mound and form soft, peaks. They should not be stiff, but the consistency of softly whipped cream.
2. Fold the beaten whites into the almond mixture (they’ll lose volume, which is fine), then fold in the lemon or orange marmalade and add the drops of almond extract. Mix the dough until it comes together in the smooth ball. You may need to get into it with your clean hands to help knead it together.
3. Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC.) Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
4. Pinch off pieces of dough about 1 1/4-inch (4cm) in diameter and roll each into a ball. I used a mini ice cream scoop. Roll them into round balls and put them on a baking sheet, evenly spaced apart. 
5. Bake the cookies for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven, turning them around so the cookies bake evenly, until the cookies light golden brown. Let cool before serving.
Storage: Once cool, the cookies can be stored in a container at room temperature for up to one week. I would not recommend freezing them as it will change their toothsome texture.
- Almond powder also goes by the name almond meal, almond powder, or almond flour. It’s simply ground up almonds. If in doubt, check the ingredients; the only one should be almonds. If you can’t find it, you can pulverize the equivalent amount of sliced, blanched almond (by weight) in a food processor with the sugar called for in the recipe. 

"P" is for Pavlova!

With eight extra egg whites in the freezer and a friends birthday celebration near I thought I could surely find a festive way to make magic happen. I googled egg white recipes and found a few lists, but this one from David Lebovitz the most useful. I lived in New Zealand for a while back when I worked with metal in many forms including a damascus bladesmithing apprenticeship in NZ. I heard about Pavlovas while there and it became this iconic Australian food like vegemite. Wanting to try making my own before buying them I added a few extra years of waiting before trying them. Here I was with extra egg whites and the perfect occasion to make them. This recipe was pretty simple to follow, but I managed to put orange extract in the spoon instead of vanilla extract and while I noticed before adding it into the mix the scent was so bright and nice that I poured the oil back into the bottle without wiping the residual oil out of the spoon so a little went into the pavlova. I love warmer spices like cardamom and cinnamon so I'm already eager to make another batch soon with these spices and maybe warmed fruit. These are delicious and the texture is so fun with a brittle exterior and chewy marshmallow consistency inside. I spooned the mixture and it worked well enough, but I think piping the mixture could yield a shape with more of a bowl shape at the center to hold fruit. I'm still for the more organic shape.

A link to the recipe source I used is above. Here it is typed out. Just top them with fresh berries,  whipped cream, lemon curd, or maybe a cup of spiced hot chocolate.
Makes 8-10 small pavlova
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (*Optional. I (accidentally) added a drop of orange oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar OR distilled white vinegar but only one 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
  • Pinch salt


1 Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the vanilla and vinegar (if using) into a small cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.
2 In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar (if using) and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks/trails start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
3 Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar (if you didn't use cream of tartar.) Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.
4 Pipe or spoon the meringue into 8-10 large round mounds that are 3 inches wide (*same size as the inside diameter of a large canning lid) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. ***They will spread out a bit so leave a little room for this so you can probably fit 9 comfortably on one large baking sheet. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked. 
5 Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white -- not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.
6 Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature, or individually wrapped, for up to a week if your house is not humid.

San Francisco Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival

I knew it was gonna be an especially lucky day (yesterday) when I was greeted by the little lady bug above that flew over to me for a bit. I walked over to the Moon Festival festivities just in time to meander a bit and then catch the small parade come through, complete with dancing dragons and dogs, and yes I touched them for luck as they raced by. Chinatown is always bustling, but the festivals bring all of the locals out and quickly outnumber the tourists. Children play with paper lanterns hanging from a short string and adults buy orchids, lucky bamboo, and or course moon cakes (below) and maybe a warm egg custard tart. Moon cakes are essential (NY Times cover them), even though their pricey by Chinatown standards $4-8 which helps understand their prized value. You can order one with an egg inside... I opted for one without and this bakery had quite the selection with more traditional red bean paste or lotus seed filled, but I picked went for the coconut. Soft dough is worked around a ball of filling and then the beautiful decoration is pressed on top. They're about the size of the palm of my hand and the coconut cake is similar to a dense fruit cake with shredded coconut and dried pineapple (?) dotting the cake. These are tasty and decadent so a little slice goes a long way and best shared over tea. Happy Moon Festival from San Francisco. 

the sun came back and it's here to stay for a bit

The sun is shining bright making the colors of SF pop and my lillies open and doubled as a back porch sunset when the fog rolled in early. Our summer is usually on the cool and foggy side with our warmer months starting closer to fall when the rest of the country is starting to bundle up and eat pumpkin in everything we're heading to the beach.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

hot dog on a Hawaiian roll for breakfast

well, I tried to really revel in the extra long weekend, but I'll admit that I was compelled to get a little work done while still celebrating Labor Day. Thanks to a BBQ I had this grilled dog already in a roll waiting for me after the morning coffee wore off. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

seasons and the market are changing

painting inspiration

I've been drawn to food paintings and natural light so it's no wonder I was compelled to stop into this local store that has an abundance of both. This was enough to inspire me to bring my paint supplies out.

Friday, August 29, 2014

support your local shops

Fourbarrel Coffee just celebrated their 6th birthday this week with free coffee drinks for everyone all day. The coffee cups are made by the incredibly talented East Bay duo Atelier Dion. I recently discovered a new fancy treat at the neighborhood specialty store, Little Vine. They're opening a wine bar on Russian Hill soon. It's so nice to see local small businesses do well and support each other.