I woke up this morning in desperate need of a vacation. Working will do that to you, even if it's only 4 days a week for 2 weeks running. Thank God we're going to Napa today!
44. The way his tooth sort of sticks to his lip when he's trying not to laugh.
43. The way he went to sleep last night wearing only one sock. He'd taken the other one off.
42. The way he listens so carefully to my opinions.
41. The way he drives automatic rental cars like his mission in life is to change gears as fast as possible.
40. How much time he spends writing out cards for other people on their birthdays, often buying two cards in case he makes a mistake, and typing up what he wants to write first.
39. His curly, curly hair.
38. The inexplicable phobia he has about getting his curly, curly hair cut.
37. The way he lets me towel off his back after a shower because otherwise, he'll just leave it wet when he gets dressed.
36. The way he will go and get tacos or a burger for me when I'm not feeling well.
35. The way he always offers me a foot rub when my tummy hurts.
34. How supportive he has been since day 1 of my writing.
33. The way he believes in me more than anyone else I can think of, passionately, fervently, insistently -- sometimes, to the point of irrationality.
32. The way he eats all of one thing on his plate before he moves on to another one.
31. The way he hugs me with my arms curled up in front of me, and just stands there while I soak it all in.
30. His schadenfreude.
29. His shadenfreude when his stocks tank.
28. The silly smile he gets on his face when he's made a joke he thinks is funny.
27. His puns. (For instance, we used to live above a man named Creighton who was a pain in the ass. He always called him Cretin.)
26. How much he loves music.
25. His perfect man legs.
24. The way he quickly latched onto wearing a crappy tee-shirt under a nice blazer when I told him it was cool.
23. The way he won't throw away any sweatshirt his mom has ever given him, no matter how old or how stained.
21. The way he has to buy 42 magazines every time we go to the airport.
20. The way he always runs off to the magazine stand in every grocery store, pharmacy, and gas station.
19. The way he can always locate the nearest wine store with his inner GPS.
18. The way he's been keeping up with the chores since I went to work, even though it's not second nature for him to remember to do them.
17. The way he always uses my olive wood mortar and pestle to smash garlic
16. The way he makes all our homemade salad dressings.
15. The way he pulls a pillow over his head while he sleeps.
14. The way he has valiantly, and with very little complaint, gotten up very day of the last year and a half and done what he had to do.
13. The way he has pushed himself in yoga, in running, in all things physical, even though they make him feel terrible, all so he can feel good again.
12. The fact that he thinks I was (am) the best account person he ever worked with in advertising. (Which isn't true, which is why I love him for thinking it.)
11. The way he has gone out of his way to teach himself how to make me feel good when I am down.
10. The way he can drink a glass of wine in 2 sips. It's sort of gross, but it's also sort of cute.
9. The joy he takes in choosing a bottle of 20 year old French Burgundy from his dad's wine selection.
8. The way he uncomplainingly accompanies me out to dinner wherever I have to go or want to go, regardless of what he wants to eat.
7. The way he loves Top Chef, American Idol, Project Runway, The Shield, The Wire, Battlestar Galactica, and Big Love as much as I do.
6. The way he buys more books than he could ever read, and can't seem to stop.
5. The way he never gives me even the slightest hint of a dirty look when I come home with new clothes, even if it's right after we've had "the budget discussion."
4. The way he knows to set the table with sel gris rather than table salt, especially when it's pizza night.
3. His nose.
2. His Grizzly Adams look when he hasn't shaved for four days. Which happens every five days.
1. How much he makes me laugh.
I hate gazpacho. Lucky for me, this was served in a recent cooking class and, to be polite, I tried some. It knocked me off my feet with its cool, slightly sweet and delicately floral flavors and its undeniable peppery kick. When you look at the list of ingredients, you'll doubt anything edible, much less delicious, could come from it -- but trust me. I could eat bowl after bowl, and it would be the perfect antidote to a hot summer day. (Anybody know where I can find one of those?)
6 slices white sandwich bread, crusts discarded, bread torn into pieces
1 cup blanched almonds, chopped
3/4 cup seedless green grapes
1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
2 1/2 cups cold water
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP sherry vinegar
pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 tomato, seeded and finely diced
2 TBSP minced celery
2 TBSP chopped cilantro
In a large bowl, combine everything from the bread through the vinegar. Working in batches, puree the mixture in a food processor, then strain through a fine sieve into a large bowl. You may need to work the mixture through the sieve with the back of a spoon. When you are finished, take what is left in the sieve and return it to the food processor. Puree again. Strain again, then discard the remaining solid matter. Season with salt and cayenne to taste. Refrigerate until it's time to serve or, if serving immediately, set into an ice bath to cool quickly. Garnish with tomato, celery, and cilantro.
I hit up Nua last night with the Mister. What can I say? It was superb. I wanted to walk back into that tiny kitchen and give chef Anna Bautista a big fat hug. It's the first new restaurant I've eaten at in ages -- perhaps all year, come to think of it -- where I don't have a single gripe about the food. The menu is chock full of appetizers as well as a half-dozen entrées, and we took it upon ourselves to assume you could order a series of small plates if you wanted to. Our waiter has clearly been hiding under a rock since 1986, because when we told him our plan to nosh tapas-style, he tried to put the kibosh on that, insisting that we "might not get enough starch with our meat." (He was serious. I was speechless.) Still, I forgave him for being so...weird?... because he steered me to the most smoking Spanish Crianza ever -- a pretty, pretty wine that I ordered not once, not twice, but four times in a row. I haven't done that since 2001*.
Onto the food. The food was coursed perfectly (which means the kitchen has heard of the small plates craze currently sweeping the country even if Waiter Man hasn't). We started with a gorgeous chicken liver mousse and country paté. The kumquat and fennel mostarda was the perfect thing to "stab through the fat," as Norman Van Aken would say, and if they'd been selling bottles of it I'd have some in my pantry right now. Next up? Crispy sardines on top of pickled shallots (maybe not pickled but somehow sweet yet not caramelized), green beans, cauliflower and currants. Divine. The prawns with paprika, garlic, sherry, and chilies were good, but it was the sauce soaked into hunks of bread that got me. If I could fill up my bathtub with that sauce, I'd go swimming in it. The housemade lamb merguez sausage was good, but it was the salad of cucumbers, mint and fennel that made it sing, and the velvety soft pillows of herbed gnocchi surrounded by tender baby artichokes, enoki mushrooms, and a few shavings of Pecorino Romano were springtime in a bowl.
But the favorite? The aria, the triumph, the piece de résistance? That honor goes to CAULIFLOWER.
Yes, people. Cauliflower.
The humble vegetable was chopped into teeny-weeny florets, roasted, and tossed with capers, pine nuts, and parsley. Our server gushed about it. When we were done licking the bowl clean, we thanked him for his suggestion. Then Mr. FM gobbled up a blueberry-fromage blanc tartlet. (I finally got in a bite edgewise.)
I really, really like this place. It was casual, friendly (they sat us an hour ahead of our reservation) and utterly delicious. I want to go back. Now. Now!!!
On Wednesday, Mr. Food Musings will turn 44. To celebrate, we're spending next weekend in Napa, swimming in the shadow of vineyards with the aroma of hot soil and lush grapes wafting through the air. People will come to our hotel room to massage our tired muscles, and we will eat meals that are simple yet satisfying.
But before we go, I thought it would be fun to turn myself into a maniac (or a monster, depending on your point of view) by cooking a birthday feast for Mr. FM and his mom, whose birthday is only one day away from his. The menu was inspired by the Spanish cooking class I took not too long ago:
* fried pimientos de padron sprinkled with sea salt *
* white gazpacho *
* chicken and sweet pepper empanadas *
* little gem lettuces with roasted beets, blue cheese, and toasted walnuts *
* spring peas with butter and salt *
* orange cornmeal almond cake with whipped cream and honeyed cherries *
Because I am smart, lazy, and bossy (and also because I worked 5 days this week -- whew, how do you people do it?) I asked Mr. FM to help with the dinner. We went to the market this morning where I piled my basket high with lemons and oranges, almonds and cherries, beets and a chicken with the head and feet dangling off either end. Then we came home, ate lunch, and proceeded to bake the cakes, make the gazpacho, roast the beets, and make the dough for the empanadas. I rewarded myself with a gingersnap and vanilla ice cream sandwich, and now I'm off to wash the flour off my aching arms.
Orange Cornmeal Almond Cake
Adapted (ever so slightly) from El Farol: Tapas and Spanish Cuisine by James Campbell Caruso
Makes 2 cakes
2 whole oranges, with peel on
1 cup flour
1 cup polenta or cornmeal
2 TBSP cornstarch
1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona almonds
1 1/2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream
1 jar Happy Girl Kitchen Co. cherries jubilee
Preheat oven to 325ºF.
Bring a stock pot full of water to a boil. Add the whole oranges and simmer 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, polenta, and cornstarch in a large bowl. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until smooth being careful not to turn it to nut butter. Add to the dry ingredients, mix well, and set aside.
Process the oranges in a food processor. In a standing mixer or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. With the mixer running, add the eggs one at a time. Add the orange puree and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and beat well until combined. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and divide the batter between them. Bake for 40 minutes. Serve with freshly whipped cream, cherries, and plenty of birthday candles.
I bought a chicken yesterday (both the feet and the head still on, thank you very much) and, on a whim, scooted over to White Crane Springs Ranch for some herbs. "I'd like something to stuff under the skin," I told Mr. Minocchi. He grabbed a small bouquet with large green leaves from a glass jar filled with water. "Sage?" I guessed. "Pineapple," he confirmed. It smelled, well, like pineapple-y sage. Sold!
By the time I got home, I'd had an idea. Why not make pineapple sage ice cream? I made a chicken salad sandwich for lunch and then set to work. Following a recipe for basil ice cream in The Perfect Scoop, I pulverized the soft sage leaves with sugar and cream, then warmed half the mixture on the stove. Meanwhile, I separated five egg yolks, and slowly whisked the warmed milk into them, being careful not to scramble them with too-sudden heat. Then I set everything back on the stove to thicken into custard. I waited, checking the consistency occasionally against the back of a wooden spoon and fiddling with the heat to keep it low. All of a sudden, a few minutes after I started to think I could take it off the heat soon, I noticed a bubble -- the mixture was starting to boil! Horrified, I snatched it off the stovetop. But it was too late. I had scrambled eggs.
Never did have any ice cream last night. Harumph.