Thursday, February 28, 2008

Chocolate Pie

Tomorrow is Bucky's birthday, so we'll all be celebrating (and raising a glass to his namesake) with a backyard bbq and (for those lucky enough to get tix ahead of time) the Extra Action Marching Band at Cafe du Nord. I've never seen the EAMB, but hanging out with dozens of skimpily dressed brass players blasting away in that little speakeasy space sounds ridiculously fun. I've been tapped to bring a chocolate pie in lieu of the fancy whiskey I'd love to bring but can't afford (now that B.'s ruined me for all but the finest 15-year Islay malts). Since I've got the big new Bubby's Pie Cookbook--written by the founders of NYC's Bubby's and the pastry socialists responsible for the annual Brooklyn Pie Social), I'll be hitting those pages to find me a tasty, tasty recipe for some kind of choco pudding in a crust. Pictures to follow, if I can ever find the little computer cord for my digital camera.

Tonight, it's opening night at Cutting Ball's spankin'-new production of Beckett's Endgame at the Traveling Jewish Theater, 470 Florida at Mariposa. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Poetry Afternoon

It's warm! It's sunny! It's a day for tipping the last bits of ice and strawberries out of your cup of agua fresca--and, if you're strolling in my part of the Mission, to put on your tank top and tiny denim miniskirt and stiletto sandals, and that's just to go to the bank.

And, of course, to roll out the springtime poetry.


Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn't expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring--

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world.

--Louise Gluck, "The Wild Iris"

Friday, February 22, 2008

No Snow, pie!

It's a little damp today, yes indeed. A hat might be well-advised; perhaps some boots, or at least not your favorite suede platforms. This morning, I'm drinking coffee in my crossword-puzzle pajamas and making pie crust for Meyer lemon meringue pies, part of What Is To Be Done with the big box o' lemons that's been filling my kitchen for the past week. And while the kitchen fills with the scent of sweet California citrus, am I feeling just a tiny, tiny bit grateful not to be here"?

Yep. California is a beauteous place, especially when it's snowing in NYC.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Will Bake for...

Doesn't every office deserve a resident baker? Especially one devoted to rev-'em-up, his-n-her pleasure in every size, shape, and glittery color. It was Jackie's one-year anniversary at the Oakland warehouse/headquarters of Babeland, and rather than hire a stripper, she called me, PQ, baker for hire. I tied on my fabulous Parisian pin-up birthday apron (thanks, susie!), filled my bag with Meyer lemons and brown sugar, and nipped across the bay. Up on the 3rd floor, past the Pam Grier and Jenna Jameson posters, was a little kitchenette, with a coffee machine, a fridge full of soy milk, and a real full-size gas oven. Say no more, say no more...on that rainy Tuesday morning, it was HQ of Babeland Bakery.

Grating, juicing, making crust and mixing up cake, ransacking the cupboards for usable baking lunchtime, there were two pie plates full of vegan carrot cake and a sheet pan of buttery-tangy Meyer lemon bars, thickly drifted with powdered sugar. The Babeland babes (and dudes) wandered in, drawn to the scent of hot butter and sugar, nutmeg and lemons, and stood there in a daze, clutching their coffee cups in stunned amazement. After all, there are visuals, and then there's stuff you can actually put in your mouth.

Truly, this is what your workplace needs--me, baking for you. Warm, fresh-from-the-oven, made-from-scratch treats beat Safeway cupcakes any day when it comes to promoting worker productivity and encouraging general smiley well-being. Book the PQ now! Wide selection of vintage aprons available...

Meyer Lemon Bars

There's a kick-ass sounding recipe for lemon bars in the Tartine cookbook, involving (as all their recipes do) vast amounts of butter and egg yolks. I'm sticking to my old tried-and-true simple one, though, because it always works and makes everyone happy, without much effort at all. Remember to allow time to cool--these are sort of disgusting hot out of the oven, but fantastic chilled. Let them cool to room temp, then cover and chill for several hours, if you can bear to wait that long.

1 cup flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 stick (8 TB/4 oz) butter, softened
a couple teaspoons of water

2 eggs
6 TB Meyer lemon juice (approx. 2 juicy lemons)
zest of those 2 lemons*
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
Powdered sugar for decorating

Preheat oven to 350F. Sift flour and powdered sugar together. Cut in/mash softened butter into flour mixture, to get a crumbly texture that's halfway between cookie dough and pie crust before you add liquid. Add just enough water to make it stick together. Press into a 9 x 9 baking pan (8 x 8 is ok too--whatever square brownie-making type pan you have is fine). Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

While crust is baking, stir or sift together the sugar and baking powder. Beat in eggs, lemon juice, and zest. When crust is ready, pour filling over hot crust and return to the oven. Bake until set but not browned, about 15 minutes. It's OK if it still seems slightly gooey in the center--it's better to underbake a little than to overbake. Let cool on a rack, then cover and refrigerate. Sift a good snowy drift of powdered sugar over the pan, cut into bars, and serve.

*Yet another shout-out for the amazingness of the microplane grater in this instance. I had to go down to Cole Hardware and buy another one of these, my original one being (like everything else) in storage in Brooklyn. Fast, easy, no-waste grating every time, with no shredded knuckles--if I could do infomercials for one piece of cooking equipment, this would be it. It's especially useful with Meyer lemons, which, besides being soft and tender, also have that very smooth, hard-to-grab peel. Available in cookware stores and fancied-up hardware stores everywhere, it's a tool that will make you at least as grateful when you use it as anything Babeland has to offer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

my heart is telling me...

Spring in San Francisco always sneaks up on me. I know that come February, the rains will taper off, shy mauve blossoms will star the plum trees, the bees will start pummeling the fuzzy clusters of acacia, and the boys in their speedos will be lying out on Dolores Beach. But still, just a couple of weeks after January's icy nonstop rains, it's suddenly a new season.

This weekend was just ravishing, everyone out with bare ankles, stumbling around still winter-pale and grinning stupidly at the warm sun. Ti Couz had their umbrellas up for the noontime crowds eating crepes, drinking cider and pretending that 16th St was the Latin Quarter, except that we're much luckier, because Paris in February is wind-whipped and gray, the castles of pink macaroons at Laduree the only cheerful thing in the whole bitter frozen town.

It was a day for--what else?--a mint chip cone at the Bi-Rite Ice Creamery (yes, I'm filling up my buy-10-get-one-free punchcard, thank you very much), indie movies at the Roxie (what's playing at the Roxie? I'll tell you what's playing at the Roxie....the SF Indie Film Fest, that's what) and then, on Sunday, a hike up to the top of green, green Bernal Hill to survey the territories. And then an N-Judah out to the beach, where the happy hordes were swarming the Java Beach cafe (because god forbid you're ever less than a block from a latte and an oat cake, even at the far western fall-off of the continental U.S.) and it was just a easy stroll across the sandy pavement of the Great Highway onto the wide strand of Ocean Beach, where the waves were breaking in great tumults of creamy foam and dogs were racing madly everywhere.

This being my life, I got a call from Molly halfway down the beach. She was shooting some photos to promote the Sundance, her favorite country-western dancing bar, and did I want to come down to be in the shoot? Well, sure! This being Molly, she had about 7 complete extra outfits, including cowboy boots and hat, in her car, so I bought some cheap lipstick and mascara on the way and we trucked down from Cafe Flore to Troy Dean's basement photo studio for a hour of dancing and posing. I fully expect to be handed a club flyer with my grinning mug on it one of these days...

Down in the overgrown Bernal background of Wild Side West to celebrate our Cindy-and-Naomi moment, an impromptu old-time music jam was going on under the trees and every little nook was full of neighbors sprawling over beers and bloody marys and plastic packs of mini-cupcakes, celebrating the first beautiful weekend of spring. And then Molly ran off to dance and I ran home to madly chop the bounty of my Mariquita Farm mystery box, a huge haul of greens, parsnips, true baby carrots, squash, turnips, fennel, parsnips, beets, parsnips, leeks, and parsnips. Dinner with Papa Sueno and the Red Meat Ranger followed--roasted squash, green noodles with leeks, garlic, greens and parmesan, with pears, toasted walnuts and dark chocolate for dessert. And, of course, we had to talk about fruit.

All in all, a very good day.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ain't We Got Fun?

Well, Saturday's weather outside was frightful--I kept singing that line from "Lady is a Tramp" that goes "Hates California, it's cold and it's damp..."-- but the citrus faithful (aka Papa Sueno and the now-veggie/flexetarian (hey, she's a Gemini, and the world still contains bacon) Red Meat Ranger and their fabulous child-toting friends, Rox n' Nance, and the fabulous Molly McK), all showed up, along with a bunch of other almond-cake-curious locals, even as the rain drizzled down and my little fingers froze as I sliced and sliced through the cara-caras, the blood oranges, the ruby grapefruits and the page mandarins. Gorgeous, gleaming fruit from Torey Farms, Olsen Organics, and Hamada Fruits, and raw almonds and orange/vanilla/honey-coated crunchy candied almonds from Alfieri Farms. What was really fun was going back to the farmers afterwards with samples, to show what their wonderful food had become. Quite a treat all around, especially since there was lots of cake and citrus compote left over to share with the hard-working CUESA volunteers. They'll be doing a cooking demo every Saturday from now til Dec., so do drop by.

It was almost worth losing my voice over, not that near-complete croakiness kept me from a grilled-veggie burrito at Azteca that afternoon or the fluffy pancakes at my new favorite breakfast place, Rudy's No-fail cafe in Emeryville, with Kas and Kirsten. Much fun, and then I had to go home for tea and complete silence. No Superbowl screaming (well, as if), no hanging out at K'vetch with the RM Ranger and Shar the Cupcake Queen.

But today, a sunny day! And here's a challenge to all you folks out there: the PQ needs gainful employment. I can cook for you, teach you to make pie (among other things), write for your website/newspaper/magazine/blog, edit articles/books/whatever, even feed your cat or weed your garden. Anyone that gets me a job lead that pays off gets 2 jars of just-made orange marmalade (or the future jam of your choice) or a freshly made homemade pie (your choice!) from the PQ kitchen. Let the networking begin!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Sunny D-Lite

Look outside, it's sunny! Thanks to 11 days of rain, Bernal Hill looks like Ireland. Keep your fingers crossed that this brief interval between storms stretches out through Saturday morning, so you won't have to stand under a deluge to get your bite of Orange-Almond Cake with Citrus Compote.

Yes, the PQ will be doing a cooking demonstration, complete with samples, at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market at the foot of Market St tomorrow morning at 11am. Look for the demo kitchen out in front of the Ferry Plaza, on the north side of the arcade, near Taylor's Refresher (if you're standing in front the building, look to your left). It's part of the market's Citrus Festival, so I'll be using as much fabulous Cali citrus as possible. Kumquats! Blood oranges! Navels! Pomelos! Come by, heckle, eat cake, maybe even buy a copy of Fun Food, my kids' cookbook, afterwards. More info on the CUESA site.

See you there!