Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Figs

Yesterday Dylan came home with a bag full of beautiful, extra large figs. His co-worker, Michael Brown, has a fig tree at his house and brought in a bag of the beauties for Dylan. These figs are at least twice as large as the kind you normally see at the farmer's market or supermarket. And they are extremely sweet and delicious! Last night with our eggplant/rotini bake (no pics unfortunately), we shared a plate of the figs. Yum!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Heirloom Tomato Extravaganza

The heirlooms have reached their peak - something we noticed last weekend at the farmers market. Our favorite tomato stand (Valdivia Farms) had a rainbow colored sea of deeply hued tomatoes proudly displayed on their tables. Just by looking, we could tell it was the peak time. Usually we save the tomato stand for last (because they are so delicate and I have an obsession with coddling delicate fruit post-purchase). We typically end up having limited cash funds leftover by the time we get to the heirlooms. They are also pretty expensive, so we look longingly at the different types, and then buy just one or two to take home and enjoy.

Last weekend, we made a pact that we would have an heirloom tomato extravaganza the next weekend to celebrate the peak of the season. What this would entail is us taking out extra money from the ATM, not caring about the cost, and then buying one of each variety (9 different types of heirlooms), taking them home and making a feast out of them, enjoying the taste and texture nuances of each variety. The ultimate summer activity to celebrate being alive and having all of our tastebuds in working order!

Here are the tomatoes just after we brought them home from the market:


And a beautiful cross-section view to show off their gem-like luster:


With fresh mozzarella, basil from our garden, a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic, and grinding of sea salt and tri-colored peppercorns:

Served with sliced ciabatta loaf from the bread stand, toasted and drizzled with oil:


Summertime on a plate! We've agreed to turn this into a tradition and do the same thing every August during the peak heirloom week.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Streak's New Trick

Streak has recently become partial to drinking chilled water out of glasses intended for humans. For some reason, she is fascinated with sticking her head in the glass and drinking to her heart's content, something I have not seen before in the 19+ years we've been together. After finding some humor in her constant checks of the coffee table to see if any glasses have been left unattended, we are starting to discourage her new habit. But, there's something funny about watching a furry head stretch deep into a glass to reach the water line, so we had to catch it on video once first:

video

Butternut Squash Risotto

Last night while Dylan mowed the lawn, I made Butternut Squash Risotto, a favorite dinner that we have periodically. The recipe is from Barefoot Contessa's Family Style cookbook and is actually pretty easy. I like it because once you get the hang of it, you don't need to measure the ingredients anymore, which simplifies the process. Last night I used yellow onion instead of shallots and bacon instead of pancetta. It's good both ways. Here is a look at some of the ingredients - white wine, Arborio rice, freshly grated Parmesan cheese:

And the butternut squash after it's roasted in the oven with salt, pepper and olive oil for 4o minutes:

The Dutch oven with the onions, bacon, butter and olive oil (mmmmm):


The almost finished product after adding the rice, wine, saffron, squash, and painstakingly slow ladles of broth:


Last step - Parmesan cheese is stirred in, and finally dinner is served:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First Mow

Tonight Dylan mowed the lawn for the first time. The yard got seeded a few weeks ago, and the grass finally grew in enough for it's first haircut. The only problem was that our used hand-mower bought off a guy on Craigslist came to us a little bit broken. The first half of the yard took a while until Dylan figured out a way to fix it with kitchen twine and scissors. I was inside cooking risotto (post coming soon) so avoided the frustrations of the mower, but did enjoy a few whiffs of that fresh-cut-grass smell after the job was done.


Here is Streak begging to go outside to help Dylan:

Flowers

Yesterday when I came into work, I found this pretty bouquet of flowers and card on my desk. Inside the card, my boss thanked me for all my work over the past year. I think this week is the one-year anniversary of when I started at the job. I brought the flowers home and the lilies opened up this morning. Very nice!


Monday, August 11, 2008

Croissants + Dinner : Salad & Sausage

Yesterday morning we woke up early and spent 6 hours baking croissants, which unfortunately did not turn out very well. Everything went according to plan until we popped them in the oven. For some reason the bottoms burned very quickly, while the tops remained uncooked (this might have something to do with our new oven). Also, the texture was off - the croissants turned out thick and doughy instead of light and flaky. We followed the recipe very carefully, so I'm not sure where things went wrong, but at least we had fun! Here is a picture of me folding the dough around 1 cup of butter before rolling it out again. No pics of the final product, unfortunately.

Because of the baking session, we missed the farmer's market. So in the afternoon we bought a bunch of great produce at the OB People's Market, a co-op just a few beach towns south of us. Last night we made a big salad with all the stuff we got - lettuce, cherry tomatoes, carrots, red onion, avocado, and basil from our garden. I made a mustard / red wine vinaigrette to toss it with.


Meanwhile Dylan grilled some mixed herb sausages from our new local butcher shop, Home Grown Meats. These were little mini-links with lots of herbs inside, made from grass-fed beef. When they were done, we sliced them lengthwise and put them on buns that had been toasted and brushed with olive oil and garlic, to make sandwiches.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Miso Breakfast

This morning we took a walk along the beach early, then came home to our leftover miso soup for breakfast. It was good (maybe even better) on Day 2! We had the soup with a mug of green tea and honey. Nice way to start the Friday! Streak came into the kitchen with her nose tilted upwards sniffing very carefully. I guess that's what happens when you make a dashi stock out of fish flakes and seaweed. Neko wa dai ski desu ne (Dylan thinks that this means "the cat really likes it").

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Dinner : Miso Soup and Roasted Acorn Squash

Tonight Dana made a really amazing vegetarian dinner, Miso Soup and Roasted Acorn Squash.

The first step was our visit to our local asian market, Ranch 99, where we picked up the Miso ingredients along with some Pocky - here are a few of the ingredients before:


And after:


When we opened the bonito (fish flakes), we realized that Streak would just love them, so she got a little treat:


The miso turned out great - stronger tasting than what you get in a restaurant but in a good way. The squash was baked with a mixture of butter, brown sugar, salt and a little maple syrup in the center:


We have some soup leftover so we're going to have it for breakfast tomorrow - Tanoshi desu ne!

New Hobby : Out with the cube, in with the needles

I don't think I've mentioned this on the blog, but just before we went to New Zealand I bought a Rubik's Cube for passing time on the long plane ride. After New Zealand, I kept playing around with it on my daily bus commute, reading up on the internet about ways to solve it. After a while I got to the point that using the "beginner's method" I could solve it pretty consistently in about three minutes. With a some more practice (and a greased cube), I got a little faster:



Recently I have started to get bored of it and to look for other things to pass the time on my commute. Reading is a great option, but you need a back-up if you're not in a reading mood (or if you've finished all the books you have at the moment - which happens quite a bit when you have an hour and a half to read every day!).

Anyways, I decided I would try knitting. Dana has a book about it, so we went to the arts and crafts store and I picked up some yard and 10 inch needles (Thanks MH for the recommendations) and Dana picked up some supplies for water-colors (hopefully there will be another post about that shortly).

Today on the bus I got to try it out - here is the result:


As you can see, I am getting the hang of the 'knit', but trying to 'purl' a few times really confused me. I think there are some YouTube videos that might help with that. I'll keep you all posted.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We have Fruit!

Something very exciting happened last night on our back deck. Readers of our blog may recall when we first brought home our passionfruit vine and more recently, the first flower that appeared. Since then, thanks to Dylan's amazing self-watering container, the vine has almost doubled in size, is happily climbing her trellis, and has exploded with tons of beautiful flowers:
Last night while Dylan was watering the gardens and plants on the deck, he called for me to come outside and see something very exciting. Our little vine has started producing her first fruit! The fruits are growing out of where the flowers used to be. If the progress continues, we should have lots of fruit coming our way in the next few months!

Some Dinners

On Sunday afternoon, we made a trip out to Whole Foods to do our shopping for the week. Because our flight got in at 12:30pm, we had just missed the farmer's market which had us both feeling a bit glum. Upon close inspection of the Whole Foods produce department, I realized that there were quite a few veggies (and fruits) that I had been really missing over the past few months because they are out of season at the LJ farmer's market - squash, sweet potato, red cabbage, broccolini, cauliflower, mango - to name a few. It is actually really nice to be eating these things this week.

Sunday night we were a bit lazy from the lack of sleep during our trip, so opted for a black bean soup from the refrigerated section (made by Whole Foods, not by us), supplemented with red cabbage and toast brushed with garlic and olive oil, topped with a nice quality melted parmesan cheese. You can't see from this picture, but I added a dollop of sour cream to my soup, something that strangely, I had been craving! Dylan isn't a big fan of sour cream, but seemed happy to see me eagerly swirling it into my soup with a spoon.

The next night (last night), we picked up some salmon from The Fishery, our local fish shop now that we live in PB. Sometimes we'll still make the trip up north to El Pescador, especially if we want chowder, or perfectly ripe avocados. We marinated the salmon in a soy/mustard/ginger mixture and served it with broccolini and a sweet potato.
Tonight I'm going to try to make miso soup. I have the yellow miso paste and tofu, but still need to pick up scallions and the ingredients for a dashi stock, the key to a perfect miso soup.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Nathaniel-Lou's Wedding

We just got back from Nate and Anne's wedding in Monterey. Nate is one of my old college roommates (actually one of a group of nine). This weekend was the first time since graduation that we had all gotten back together, so everyone was ready for a crazy-fun time. We got into Monterey on Friday but didn't see everyone until the ceremony, which was at the Naval Postgraduate School.



The ceremony was nice - short with some funny parts. Here is Nate and his mother making their entrance:



And Anne and her father:



So romantic:



After the ceremony everyone got to catch up. Here's Travis and Karen:



Dan and Jamima:



Grantland and Shirley surprised us by being there:



Here's a shot of all of us holding Anne up on the dance floor:


From left to right, we have Dylan (me), Travis, Scott, Nate, Kevin, Hugh, Andy, Andres, and Dan.

Good times.

Streak was a little irritated with us when we got home, but she mellowed out quickly:

Comic-Con and Dylan's Tofu

Last weekend we went to our third comic-con (a big San Diego comics convention that happens each July) with our friend Dave. We normally attend on the Saturday, and were a bit disappointed by the lack of costumed and rowdy folks that were present on Sunday. Highlights included me adding some Superman, Superboy and Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane comics to my growing 1950's and 1960's era collection, a panel we attended on "how to make your own flip-book" and getting my picture taken with a Storm Trooper.


After the convention, Dylan made a very delicious tofu dish for dinner. Usually we stir fry our tofu over the stove, but this recipe called for marinating the tofu and then broiling it. Dylan served it on a bed of swiss chard with sliced avocado on the side. Let's hear it for a vegan dinner!