Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Photo Opportunity Missed: Goat Mower

This afternoon I went for a little hike in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills near Temescal Recreation Area.  I saw a very pretty dog and then was shocked to see a bunch of goats - and then even more goats!  I had a chat with Martin, Bolivian goat herder hired by the city to clean up the grass on steep hillsides with his crew of 300 goats and goat herding dog Willie.  The goats were all very small goats - and some had big curly horns - but they were all very hungry goats!

He said that they will spend the night - he moves around an electrified mesh gate (he uses a car battery) to keep the goats from wandering out of the target area.

Martin also had a mouth full of the most amazing bling that I have seen up close!  He recommended that I visit his hometown of Oruro, Bolivia (see the wiki entry) and the Parque Nacional Sajama which has a biiiiiiiiiig mountain that is well worth visiting.  From Flickr:

Parque Nacional Sajama - Bolívia

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gracias Madre & Cha-Ya

In the space of one day - I took two people for their first visits to two different restaurants!  I met Captain Marty, a pilot of private aircraft, via Twitter.  He publishes reviews of vegan restaurants he encounters in his travels in his blog, Marty's NYC Veggie Review.

We met up for lunch at Gracias Madre and talked our way through a delicious meal.  He had been at Millennium the night before and had noted that the recent death of sous chef Jason Dunbar had, indeed, cast a shadow over the quality of his experience though he had not heard the news.

Our lunch at Gracias Madre was in a mostly empty (!) restaurant and our service was impeccable - all the servers were friendly and chatted with us.  We shared scrumptious small plates:

- empanada del dia:  on a small puddle of delicious mole, crispy and filled with sweet, caramelized plantain
- sweet potato quesadillas: perfect tortillas - just enough crispy/soft and filled with sweet mashed sweet potatoes
- gorditas: potato & masa Mexican version of a latke, served crispy on the outside and topped with shredded lettuce, green salsa, avocado and cashew creme
- guacamole & corn tortillas

We were pretty well stuffed on good food and very large horchatas (I think we each had 2!), then headed across the street to Duc Lo vietnamese market where Marty stocked up on all sorts of things he can't find in NYC (imagine!) such as Thai basil, curry leaves, key limes and other delicacies.  Marty has all the pictures so hopefully he'll get his blog posting up now that mine is up!

Later, I took a friend visiting from Florida to Cha-Ya where we had all manner of yumminess - he loves Japanese food and was totally stoked to try all the dishes.  He picked out some rolls in addition to my recommended avocado urumaki, agadeshi tofu and we shared a nice bottle of sake.  He was stuffed and glowing with pleasure as we strolled out of Cha-Ya -- I guarantee both friends will be back to visit those restaurants again!

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Lemon Cakes

As a special treat for a wine tasting trip with Matt, Aaron, Selina, Z-man, Richie - I made up two cakes - done with lemon instead of orange as specified:

Olive Oil Rosemary Semolina cake

Fran Costigan's Orange Almond Olive Oil Cake

The first cake required that the batter proof - it wanted yeast and I found myself up late late at night before I was supposed to be getting in the limo with my friends!  It had a drier, bouncier crumb - downright springy.

The second cake just came out perfectly the first time - it was very moist and dense.  Subsequent attempts to make it find it to be  - terribly fickle - and it just collapeses into a globby heap (not sure if it is because I tried using key lime juice instead of orange or lemon and if there is a difference).

And, of course - I made chocolate peanut butter cups, for which Matthew nearly murdered Aaron (who also enjoyed them).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Spice Blends: Baharat, Herbes de Provence and more

Today was spice blend refresh day in my kitchen.  From Matt's first experiments with tagines, I have been intrigued by baharat - there are apparently two predominant types of this spice blend: Turkish vs Northern African/Tunisian. The difference is that Turkish baharat recipes are all over the internet and feature cumin and a lot of other spices while Tunisian is basically black pepper, rose petals & cinnamon.  I found a great article on Chow with recipes for both:

Here's a link to the Turkish version I made: whole black peppercorn, whole coriander seed, cassia or cinnamon bark, whole cloves, cumin seed, cardamom seeds, whole nutmeg, ground paprika.

I also put together my favorite version of Herbes de Provence - I love lavender in this blend, though it is not typically something that appears on Southern French cooking - great history on the herb blend on Wiki.

Last but not least, I made up my favorite Za'atar blend - usually sumac, thyme, sesame seeds and salt, but you might include oregano and marjoram.  Wiki offers a great history of za'atar and there are tons of recipes out there - figure out what you like best and enjoy!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Garden 2011

Sadly no pictures - just news that I picked up plants from Kassenhoff (at the Farmer's Market) and Annie's in Richmond and put some plants:
  • 12 Tomatoes (in addition to the volunteers)
  • 4 peppers
  • 2 squash
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 giant ground cherry (to keep the smaller ground cherries company)
Seems early enough - let's see how it goes this year!