- WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: DECEMBER 4, 2013
- THE WEEK IN PICTURES, THANKSGIVING 2013
- GRASS-FED BEEF: THE LEFTOVERS
- FROM GRASS-FED BEEF TO AN ASIAN-INSPIRED STEAK
- THE WEEK IN PICTURES
- WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: 11/20/13
- WEEKNIGHT DINNER: PASTA WITH ROASTED PUMPKIN
- THE DAY IN PICTURES: Sunday, 11/17/13
- MAN IN THE MOON FRENCH TOAST
- CALIFORNIA LUNCHING
- Breads & Pizzas
- DID YOU KNOW…..?
- DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
- Hors d'oeuvres
- Ice Creams & Sorbets
- INFORMATION FRIDAY
- Meatless Monday
- Pantry Dinners
- Pies & Tarts
- Quick Breads
- RECIPE TESTING
- Side Dishes
- Solitary Cook
- SUNDAY SUPPER
- TELL ME A STORY
- THE BEGINNING: INTO THE DEEP END
- THE DAY IN PICTURES
- The Freezer is Your Friend
- THE WEEK IN PICTURES
- WEEKNIGHT DINNER
- WORDLESS WEDNESDAY
While, yes, the abundance of the week was consumed with shopping for, preparing for, and celebrating Thanksgiving (and its leftovers), we first had to get through yet another surgery for Basil, on the right above. He has a dreadful, and I mean dreadful as in horrible, chronic dental inflammation which has resulted in having to have all but four of his teeth pulled over the course of two long surgeries. Imagine putting yourself in his, well, shoes. The latest surgery took place early this week at the hands of his wonderfully kind veterinarian, Dr. Dianna. It took him longer to recover this time than last, and Fern curled up with him day and night, leaving him only to eat breakfast and dinner. A former stray, it would take a hell of a lot for Fern to miss a meal. But afterwards she was right back with Basil. By Thanksgiving Day, he was more his self, joining her at the feed trough.
My one desire was to spend as much of Thanksgiving Day outside as possible. Neither the son nor the daughter was able to be here, so it was me and the dogs. We know where the cats were. There was an article in the paper a few days ago about increasing numbers of Canada geese who winter over here. Enough bodies of water now remain unfrozen, and enough fields have gleanings left behind to support those who choose to stay. We came across this flock harvesting Thanksgiving dinner quite literally as a massive flock was forming overhead to ribbon-up and vee off to warmer climes. The field-bound flock turned their heads as one to follow the calling – which I could just begin to hear – of the those heading out. I am forever in love with the song of geese as they fly. Are they calling out to remind everyone to stay together? To encourage those who are lagging? To remind the left-behinds that it’s really time to get a move on? To say goodbye?
Our favorite hiking spot along the river has miles and miles of trails, and all dogs run off-leash. There were lots of them, and everyone bore smiles and “Happy Thanksgiving!” wishes.
Early on, we passed several trees that had already been decorated for the next holiday. The area borders a large Audubon sanctuary; I suspect the birdhouse in the upper right is one of theirs. For all I know, so are the tree decorations. I know a fellow who works there, and he has a keen sense of humor.
Speaking of which, the birdlife was magnificent. I found myself among a flock of hairy woodpeckers – they have a beautiful, almost whistling song – and was able to snap a shot of this little beauty in the very top of a tree which appeared utterly barren to me. He clearly saw something I did not. We passed several trees full of finches, and others of chickadees. This small raptor swooped right over our heads to land in a tree just ahead of us. He may have found the songbirds as interesting as I did, though for completely different reasons.
I apologize for the poor angle, and for the fact that because of it, I really can’t identify him. If anyone can, please let me know. His coloring is indistinct enough that I’m guessing he may be relatively young.
I finally captured some crows! My God, they’re a chatty bunch. I heard them long before rounding a bend, there they were in droves among the bare trees on the far side of the river.
While I was finally able to photograph some crows, Poppy and Esme were rooted to the spot of someone who left behind a clearly fascinating story.
Shortly thereafter, they tore on ahead and plunged straight down an embankment, right into some very icy waters. Note Esmé’s ears standing straight up like a pair of exclamation points. Can’t you just imagine her hollering, “Holy s*** that’s cold!!”
As we steadily advance upon the shortest day of the year, a great big nest, and a smaller one too, await spring’s return with patient optimism.
As I mentioned in a previous post about the many wonderful qualities of grass-fed beef, among them is that it is less “marbled” than feedlot beef, its fat being laid down around the muscle rather than throughout it. And one of the great benefits of that is that left over, in other words, not warm though not necessarily cold, it is equally as good. Not being shot through with fat, the meat’s texture doesn’t have that coat-the-tongue, solid fat mouthfeel that comes with chilled or even room temperature feedlot beef. It may honestly be a bit better leftover, as its naturally intricate flavors have had some time to concentrate.
Since I had taken the original steak in an Asian direction, it was only natural that its leftovers should follow a similar route. I had the better part of a head of Napa cabbage taking up space in the refrigerator, along with about half of last night’s steak, and both formed the basis for an evening’s simple salad.
ASIAN SLAW WITH GRASS-FED STEAK
Serves 2, or 1 with enough for lunch tomorrow
You’ll remove the steak to room temperature while the salad matures in its dressing, giving you time for a glass of wine before sitting down to a most flavorful dinner.
1/4 head of Napa cabbage, sliced into 1/4″ thick ribbons
2 handfuls of baby kale
Any leftover bok choy sliced 1/4″ thick
Any leftover mushrooms, roughly chopped
3 scallions, sliced 1/4″ thick
4 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons mirin*
2 teaspoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sambal Olek or Sriracha (or more, to taste)
Leftover steak sliced as thin as you can get it
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
* Mirin is sweet, and it’s going to balance beautifully with the saltiness of the fish sauce and the mineral notes in the beef.
1. Remove the leftover steak from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature.
2. Slice the Napa cabbage. Set the slices in a large mixing bowl and fill it with cold water.
Use your hands to agitate the cabbage well, then lift the ribbons out into a colander. Don’t pour everything into the colander, or you’ll simply redistribute the dirt you just finished washing away.
Shake the colander vigorously several times to drain the cabbage. Rinse the mixing bowl and dry it.
3. Transfer the cabbage to the bowl. Add the baby kale, bok choy and mushrooms (if any), and scallions and toss everything together with salad tongs.
4. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and Sambal Olek. Also whisk in any of the leftover collected pan sauce. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to blend. Let salad sit for 20 minutes.
5. To serve, toss the salad once more, and distribute the salad between bowls. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, about a tablespoon to each bowl. Arrange slices of steak over the top of each. Serve with one or two lime wedges. Season with a good-quality lemon pepper, preferably one with a built-in grinder.
This is a salad to savor slowly, leisurely. It is immensely satisfying, while at the same time letting you sneak up on the pending holiday excesses quietly.
One afternoon while I was at work, I received a FedEx box from the kind folks at Marx Foods. It wasn’t exactly a surprise, though it was a thrill. They’d posted a call for cooks interesting in trying out their grass-fed steaks. In exchange for the steaks, selected bloggers would write a post about their results. In short, they accepted my proposal and sent me the steaks for free. And you all get to read about the results.
I’ve been a convert to grass-fed beef for a few years now. I have friends who raise just such a product. As well, I belong to a group which promotes sustainable land-use practices throughout the state, whatever the crop, from lentils to cows. Which is how I met my grass-fed friends.
Over the past five years or so, I’d become sort of an 80% vegetarian. That may or may not be part of your lexicon. Briefly, it means that I’d become wary of where meat comes from and how it gets to my house. In other words, if I didn’t know where and how it was raised, and perhaps more important, where it was processed, it didn’t appear on my plate.
Producers of grass-fed beef raise their cattle on land. Because that is where grasses grow. Not in feedlots. On land, lots of land. Under starry skies. Above. The animals can roam. They can develop muscle that feedlot animals can only dream of. That’s a good thing.
Because of a diet which consists solely of native grasses, beef raised on it is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. My friends explain, as well, that their animals are rotated through a series of pastures, which prevents them from being over-grazed and simultaneously boosts soil nutrition. Their attention to their land is as assiduous as that to their stock; for that reason, they point out that grass-fed producers will never have the massive herds that can be seen standing around in crowded feedlots.
It is a fact that feedlot-riased beef is highly “marbled.” Lots of fat is distributed among the meat, or muscle. Because they don’t move much. Because they can’t. That contributes to its tenderness factor. Which means that anyone can pretty much cook the living daylights out of it, and it’s going to be pretty tender regardless.
Grass-fed beef isn’t quite as forgiving. Like it or not, you have to pay attention to your dinner.
And that’s a good thing.
The bok choy over which the steaks are served was inspired by Matthew at Marx Foods. I added some ginger slices to the orange peel, along with some dried matsutake mushrooms and their soaking liquid because I had a feeling that the fruit-tinged flavors would marry well with mineral notes in the beef.
2 gras-fed rb-eye or New York steaks
Toasted sesame oil
1 ounce dried matsutake mushrooms
6 ounces hot water
2 heads baby bok choy
2 pieces of orange zest
2 slices ginger, 1/4 ” thick
Freshly ground pepper
1. I received some matsutake mushrooms from Marx Foods a while back for a soup challenge. I didn’t use them at the time, but held onto them thinking something interesting would come along where they would pair nicely. And sure enough, it did. To rehydrate them, place them in a bowl and pour the hot (not boiling) water over them. Set a plate over the bowl to retain the heat. Set them aside while you prepare the steaks.
2. Remove steaks from their packaging and set on a plate or cutting board. Rub each side with about a teaspoon of sea or kosher salt. Drape a piece of plastic over them and allow them to sit at room temperature for an hour. This permits the salt to dissolve and be absorbed into the cells of the meat where it will retain water as the steaks cook, thereby helping to ensure a very tender, juicy steak.
3. Preheat an oven to 225º. Warm a skillet over medium heat. Add enough sesame oil to film the bottom. When the oil is hot (watch it, it will shimmer, or form ribbons), add the steaks. The steaks should sizzle, not hiss wildly when they hit the pan. If the latter, the pan is too hot. Sear them to a good brown on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Transfer the skillet to the oven to let the steaks finish cooking. For a good, tender medium-rare, remove them from the oven when an instant-read thermometer registers 108º, after about 5 minutes for New York steaks. Please be aware that thinner steaks will reach that temperature sooner than thicker ones (they’ll need less searing time as well), so let the thermometer be your guide rather than time. When they emerge from the oven, transfer them to a plate. Drape them with plastic and also with a couple of kitchen towels. Let them rest (shhhhhhh) for about 8 minutes.
4. While the steaks are resting, quietly prepare the bok choy. Use the same skillet in which you seared the steaks. Return it to medium heat. Trim the ends from the heads of baby bok choy and rinse the leaves well. Leave them whole.
When the skillet is hot, add the mushrooms and their soaking water (pour in all but the last little bit, which may contain some sandy sediment). Use a flat-edged spatula to scrape loose any delicious browned bits as the pan deglazes. Add the orange peel and slices of ginger.
Let the mushroom liquid cook until about half of it has evaporated, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bok choy and set a lid on the skillet. Steam the bok choy for about 3 minutes, until the leaves are wilted and the stems somewhat tender, yet still with some crunch. Season it to taste with sea or kosher salt and some grinds of pepper.
5. To serve, use tongs to lift the bok choy from the skillet and divide it among plates. Remove the orange peel and ginger and discard them. Carve the steaks into 1/4″ thick slices and fan them over the bok choy. Use a spoon to dip out the pan sauce and mushrooms and drizzle them over the steaks.
Taste it. Tender? Oh, my, yes! And the color – incomparable is the only word that comes to mind. But best of all is the flavor. You just know that this came from an animal that saw the sun, breathed fresh air, and consumed the native grasses for which it was evolved. Once you’ve tasted grass-fed beef, you’ll never, ever go back to the grocery store variety.
This could bring a vegetarian to the table.
P.S. Read about the exquisite leftovers here!
A week ago today, virtually to the minute, this was our sky. What a difference a week makes. A fast, cold storm blew in on Wednesday. It began to snow that afternoon.
I fell asleep that night to the sound of plunging mercury. When I went to the back door to let the dogs out in the morning, the thermometer read 1 degree. They were out and back very, very quickly.
Even the sun was chilled, no doubt by the moon invading its space. By the time I left for work, the temperature was all the way up to 2 degrees.
When we lived in Northern California, one of the things I loved about fresh snow was the animal tracks we would find when we went out to bring in firewood. Raccoons, of course; skunks and the big swish their tails would leave; deer, naturally; and a few times I found the small, high-stepping tracks of a fox, attracted perhaps by abundant cat smells. We always made sure all were present and accounted for before sunset.
Lately, when I leave early in the morning, I’ve been seeing the tracks of one single, solitary mouse and its short, whip of a tail. Just one. I suspect it flirts with the idea of getting to spillings from the bunnies’ cage in the garage. But there are all those dog and cat smells to get past. Not to mention the dogs and cats.
Thanksgiving is nearly here, with Christmas hot on its tail. For better or worse, that is one of the principal meanings of Thanksgiving in my business. We host our first Christmas party the Saturday immediately following.
During big party seasons, we’re constantly short of various equipment, one of which is typically bread baskets. This year I decided to take matters into my own hands and make some.
Some big ones. Some honking big ones. That, my friends is a giant loaf of sourdough bread. Giant.
Nine pounds. A personal best. I’ll give it a few days to dry out (it took nearly two and a half hours to bake until it was done in the center), then cut a circle out of the top and hollow it out. Given a couple of more drying days, I’ll pass it along to the kind gentlemen on our maintenance crew who patiently shellac all sorts of breads I bring them. I think I owe them a batch of cookies.
In the meantime, may your Thanksgiving be abundantly joyful.
Late one afternoon I needed to roast a small pumpkin to use in a batch of bread I’ll be making tomorrow. The recipe suggests using a sugar pie pumpkin, an heirloom variety with deeply orange flesh and a naturally sweet flavor. I was amazingly lucky to find not only that very pumpkin, but organic ones to boot. For one dollar and ninety-eight cents each. Each! This never happens to me. The very moment I go looking for one thing in particular, it instantly ceases to exist within a 50-mile radius and I’m left pacing through grocery stores wearing a frown and mumbling to myself, having to think harder than I expected.
So I got two. I only need about 9 ounces of pumpkin for the bread, but the little darlings were so pretty, and their size so manageable – about 10 inches around – that I just knew it would be a treasure to have some in the freezer.
In the meantime, dinner needed to be prepared, and since it was already late in the day, I started thinking how I could translate roasted pumpkin into one. The simpler the better.
1 small pumpkin (or any winter squash)
8 ounces vegetable stock
2 ounces California Olive Ranch extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces goat cheese
Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Greens of 2 scallions for garnish, sliced 1/4″ thick
People ask me often if I miss California. There is certainly much about it that I miss. Proximity to my family, to the ocean, cheap avocados, abundant good produce in general, all come to mind. And good olive oil.
One of my favorites is from the California Olive Ranch. Located not far from where I used to live, they produce a bouquet of beautiful oils. When I first moved, I always knew that Christmas would bring a few bottles to rest beneath my tree. And wonder of wonders, one day I discovered their Extra Virgin Olive Oil For Everyday Meals in not one, but two local stores! Standing on busy street corners, waving a sign and bellowing into a megaphone would be a little over the top, even for me, but I do sing its praises to everyone I know so that it will continue to be available locally. It is fruity, with a fresh, “green” aroma, very affordable, and I recommend it highly. Obviously.
1. Preheat your oven to 400º. To roast a pumpkin, split it in half from top to bottom and scoop out the seeds. Lay the halves with the cut sides down on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Roast the pumpkin for 45 minutes to an hour, until it can be very easily pierced with a sharp knife. Remove from the oven, turn the cut sides up, and allow the pumpkin to cool until you can handle it comfortably.
2. Use a large spoon to scoop the pulp from the shells. If you wish, you can purée it in a blender or food processor, but it isn’t necessary. I didn’t. I set aside the amount I needed for the bread, and divided the remainder among some zip lock bags that I could lay flat in the freezer. And I kept about 1 cup-and-a-half for dinner.
3. Begin heating a pot of salted water (it should taste like the ocean). The sauce comes together literally in a matter of minutes, so begin cooking your favorite pasta at the same time you start the sauce.
4. In a saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer. Add the squash and stir to blend. Stir in the olive oil. Its fruitiness is going to pair beautifully with the sweetness of the pumpkin. Crumble in the goat cheese with your fingers, and stir the sauce as it melts. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
5. Cook the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions indicate. Set the pot right next to your pan of sauce, and use tongs to lift the pasta out of the water and drop it directly into the sauce. Use the tongs to shift the pasta around in the sauce, coating it generously. Simmer it for a couple of minutes.
6. Divide the pasta between bowls and garnish with the chopped scallions. The sauce is so sensuously silken that it doesn’t need additional cheese.
* When you go to their website, you’ll see that California Olive Ranch produces five different blends. The descriptions and suggested food pairings are very accurate. The Limited Reserve is only available by, well, reservation, for which orders can be placed now. Be sure to take a look at the Press page for some very interesting reading. In about a month, I’ll be receiving a package from my sister that will contain a bottle or two of their varieties I can’t find here. It’s so kind of her, and one of my favorite things about Christmas.
Five-minute breakfast: leftover multigrain rice warmed in the microwave with leftover black beans, add a gently poached an egg and a spoonful of salsa. And NPR. And coffee.
A long walk with two happy dogs. Actually, a short walk makes them pretty happy, too. Even a walk to the truck. As long as the word “walk” is involved, they’re right there. But yesterday was a long one at work, and I got home too late to walk them at all. As dogs will – at least mine – they invented their own good day. They dragged the quilt that I use (used to use*) to cover the bunnies’ cage in the garage on cold nights out into the backyard and scattered enough stuffing around that it looks like we had our own private snowstorm. So they needed a long walk today. So did I. From the photo, you wouldn’t know that I was bracing myself into a howling wind which dropped the temperature of the afternoon’s sun exponentially. But a walk was going to be had, damn it.
At one point a great, talkative flock of crows flew right over us. I tried to get a photo of them. You wouldn’t think it would be difficult to get a picture of a whole lot of large black birds against a great big sky, but evidently it is. This is but one of many I took of a sky full of nothing but itself as the flock laughed its way into the distance.
In the course of failing to capture the crows, I tucked our yellow tennis ball under my left arm. After I gave up on the crows and walked on, I suddenly realized I’d dropped the ball. Literally. Poppy could chase a tennis ball – preferably a squeaky one – all the livelong day, so this was a Big Deal. Poppy chases the ball. Esmé chases Poppy chasing the ball. Sort of a canine ballet.
I immediately retraced my steps, making it look as though it were all in the plan, since I hadn’t the nerve to tell Poppy the ball was missing. You’d think a yellow tennis ball against the parking lot we’d traversed would stand out. But this particular ball has been around the block many times and was doing an excellent job of camouflaging itself. But we found it!
Don’t tell Poppy I used this photo. I caught her in between expressions. She’s kind of a clown, though, so it actually captures her sweet, happy spirit quite well. And she was very happy to see her ball. The chase was back on.
On our way back home, we passed beneath a tree still laden with apples. On each trip home, I stuff two or three into my pockets for the bunnies. Whose quilt* has vanished. Just inside the fence over which this tree reaches was hung a long, tall wind chime booming out bass notes to a wind which had mercifully begun to gentle.
*Note to self: do something about it this week.
Once home and the dogs’ water dish refilled, I needed to roast a pumpkin. This week I’ll be writing a post as part of a blog tour for a brand new baking book that I have the privilege and profound pleasure to test. This little beauty is a sugar pie pumpkin, and as we, so to speak, speak, my warmly-scented kitchen is a heavenly place to be after a long walk in a stiff wind with two ecstatic dogs.
What’s for dinner? I have no idea, but if you’re thinking that pumpkin might be involved, we’re thinking down the same path.
Sundays don’t get much better.
Afternoon was rapidly turning to evening as the dogs and I returned from our end-of-the-day walk. Along the way, I’d noticed that the man in the moon looked kind of concerned. His mouth formed a small “o”, his eyes appeared perplexed beneath raised eyebrows, and his head tilted questioningly to the left. He is probably as dismayed as I am that my suitcase still hasn’t unpacked itself. Between the time it takes to get ready to be gone from work, then time spent catching up with having been gone, it’s almost not worth going away. Almost. I can still feel that warm sand on my feet.
A while ago I said I wasn’t going to presume to teach you how make French toast
Clearly, I lied. Flip-flopping bread in some beaten eggs and frying it is all very well and good. But turning it into a simple, quiet sensation – and a sweetly savory one at that – is a bit of another thing. And while this may seem like a lot of hoo-ha to prepare, it takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.
As you read along, it will probably come to you that this is not a dinner for children. Yes, you could cook it in butter rather than olive oil. You could leave the salt out of the eggs and add a bit of sugar and maybe cinnamon, some vanilla extract. But by then you’d be walking down the path of the proverb that warns, “For want of a nail the shoe was lost,” and ends with the whole blessed kingdom circling the drain. Small events, huge consequences. And pretty soon you’ve forgotten that all you wanted was your own French toast. Don’t, as we used to say and thank heaven don’t any more, go there.
So. First, use good bread.
I know, I know, lots of people think it’s a great way to use up stale bread, and it could be, if only the bread were allowed to sit in the eggs long enough to actually soak them up and turn soft again. Most of us aren’t that patient. Sometimes a sow’s ear is just a sow’s ear. So use good bread. Ciabatta is my favorite.
Its open structure and inherent tenderness make it perfect for French toast. If you don’t have access to good ciabatta, the next best thing (I’m not making this up) is what grocery stores want you to believe is French bread. You know, the soft, fat thing as big around as your thigh that’s about as far from a baguette as it’s possible to get.
I know, I’m surprised, too; I never, ever, thought I’d find myself recommending it for anything. But it’s perfect here. Slice either ciabatta or “French” bread close to an inch thick.
Don’t add milk. Just don’t.
The only reason to add milk is if you haven’t the patience for your bread (and I know you still want to use stale stuff) to soak up the eggs, so you add milk in order to soften the bread faster. I’ve seen it written that adding milk, half-and-half, or cream (as if they’re interchangeable; really?) results in custardy French toast. Well, perhaps, if you use stale bread and fry the shit out of it really fast. But if you use good bread, any added dairy content will only make the result soggy. So. Use good bread. And don’t add milk. Please.
2 eggs for each person
Yes. Each person. The ciabatta is going to absorb every last drop. Whisk them together, along with about a quarter teaspoon of sea or kosher salt. The salt encourages the egg whites to relax and combine thoroughly with the yolks. Keep whisking until the salt dissolves. It will. When you can’t feel its grittiness in the bottom of the bowl as you whisk, it’s gone.
How to soak the bread?
My mother always used a dinner plate, so for a long time I did, too. I came across a method recently that suggested using a pie tin, which is basically a dinner plate with deeper, more sloping sides and a much smaller area into which to crowd the eggs and bread.
The perfect vessel is a cake pan or a soufflé dish. Both have a large, perfectly flat bottom and perpendicular sides which permit eggs and bread to coexist all on the same level. Pour the beaten eggs into it and add the slices of bread.
Let them sit until almost all the eggs have been absorbed, about 7 minutes. Then gently turn them over (use a spatula because they’re going to be very soft and tender, and tearing them would be sort of awful). Let them finish soaking up the remaining eggs, about 3 minutes more.
Butter and I are still having a time-out. So fry your French toast in some olive oil. The extra-good, extra-virgin stuff. And let the olive oil warm along with the pan.
Start with medium heat
No hotter than that so you don’t fry the shit out of it really fast. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself turning the heat lower once you add the bread. This French toast needs to cook very slowly. It is so saturated with eggs that if you fry it quickly and remove it once it looks browned on both sides, it will be soggy and wet in the center whether you add milk or not. The distance between soggy and custardy is measured in time. It’s fine to turn it once it has browned on one side, but let it get there slowly, with just the slightest sizzle. Cook it for about 6 minutes on the first side and about 4 on the second. Your patience will be rewarded with French toast that has a crisp shell encasing a warm, tender center that is the very definition of “custardy.” You’ve never seen anything like this. Trust me.
And olive oil. And honey. Break off about a 2-ounce chunk of goat cheese. Go ahead, lick your fingers. It’s your kitchen. Mix this together while your bread is absorbing the eggs.
Set the goat cheese in a shallow bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a gentle glug of honey – about a teaspoon. Use a fork to mash and blend them together. The mixture doesn’t have to be perfect. And try not to eat it all before it gets to your French toast.
Herbs and lemon zest
Fresh herbs. Rosemary, thyme, basil, whatever you have. Chop up about a half teaspoon and stir it into the goat cheese mixture along with some lemon zest – pass a lemon over a Microplane two or three times. Today I mixed a new sourdough bread blend with fresh rosemary and lemon zest, so their combined scents were fresh on my palate.
Serve it forth
Spread it over the slices of French toast after they come out of the skillet. Let it all sit for a minute or so. The goat cheese will soften sooooooo seductively, and the rosemary-lemon aroma will weaken your knees.
Breakfast for dinner has been elevated to a whole new realm. And brought a smile to the man in the moon.
Thank heaven I traveled a day earlier than I’d originally intended. The daughter and her roommate picked me up at the terminal which 24 hours later would be shut down after a horrible shooting. But I knew none of that then.
After a lunch of beautiful bagel sandwiches, they took me to the beach nearest their apartment, as I so wanted to commune with the ocean. Just a couple of days before, I’d been crunching through snow. Within a few steps of shedding shoes, I paused for a deeply appreciative moment, feet buried in warm sand, and just breathed in the ocean air.
Something in the fish family was obviously making a run along the coast, as birds were in a feeding frenzy. A local gentleman strolling past said it was probably anchovies. I’ve been known to swoon over anchovies myself, though I’ve never had to chase them down on the, so to speak, hoof.
“A curious bird is the pelican…..” Watching them dive is astonishing. They’ll glide along over the surface of the ocean, then suddenly fold their wings back about half way, lean forward while fixing an eye on a target only they can see, and plunge beak-first into the water, bobbing to the surface to tilt their heads to the sky and gulp the bounty caught in their pouches. Then take to the air and do it all over again.
Grebes go about chasing down lunch a bit differently. Lacking a pelican’s wingspan, they dive from the surface, swimming underwater with their strong, short wings as they chase down their prey. Interestingly, they seemed to take being in close proximity to dive-bombing pelicans as just another day at the beach. Okay, please admit that made you smile.
The marbled godwit, on the other hand, sticks to the shoreline. As waves sweep in, it will actually run farther ashore until they sweep back out, leaving lunch behind. It pokes that lovely, long beak deep into wet sand searching for aquatic insects, small mollusks, crustaceans and snails. Where the water birds congregate in clans, the godwit is a solitary soul.
As the afternoon drew late, it was time to move on and wend our way up the coast to meet up with my sister, who was driving down from her home farther north. As if the day couldn’t get any better.