Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saturday Demo at the Ferry Building!

Well, I've been shamelessly remiss in hyping the brand-new fabulous Astrology Cookbook. The book party at Red Hill 2 weeks ago was awesome, if I say so myself. I cooked like a madwoman in the 2 hours between getting home from work and wriggling into my red crushed-velvet Susie-Bright-mojo dress. Having been at too many cheese-cubes-and-hummus parties, I dived through aisles of Good Life Grocery and came home with lamb, lamb, cilantro, bacon, and bacon, emerging smokily from the kitchen to load up S.'s shiny red car with tubs of pig candy, loads of lamb meatballs with yogurt dipping sauce, piles of fresh strawberries, brownies from the shop, and a slightly squashed heap of lemon madeleines.

We had to use the story-hour kiddie chairs as a makeshift bar for the Arkansas wine and fizzy juice, since Red Hill isn't really set up for cocktail parties, which is what the event turned into. First, though, I had to do a dramatic reading from the book, no mean feat for a cookbook author. But hey, I'm game, and by the end I was writhing on the floor and crawling up Roxxie's legs to demonstrate just how naughty Scorpios can be. Cookbook signings don't usually include a floor show, but they should, and they will, if I have anything to do with it.

I don't know if this Saturday's event will be quite so racy, but I'm going to do my best. Come down to the Ferry Building at 10:15am on Saturday, April 4th, and find me at the outdoor kitchen (out front, to the left of the main entrance) demonstrating some fabulous Aries recipes and taking on hecklers from the audience.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Have a Nice Day!

There's a really fabulous Clive James poem out there that begins,

The book of my enemy has been remaindered,
And I am pleased.

The rest of the poem is great, too, but like the title of Snakes on a Plane, those first two lines tell you everything you need to know. Schadenfraude is not nice, I know, but don't we all indulge in it, and isn't it satisfying in an evil and unnecessary way to see some really hubristic, over-hyped tome sitting around with the $4.95 sticker on it at Dog-Eared Books.

Except, of course, when it's YOUR book. And not even stickered, but in the free box. Or, to be completely honest, not even IN the free box, but simply dumped on the Saturday-morning steps of the still-shuttered Red Hill Books with the Lance Armstrong biography and the tattered movie tie-in edition of Lord of the Rings, just ASPIRING, hoping for a home in the free box.

Yes, that was me yesterday morning, admiring my name up on the poster advertising last week's Astrology Cookbook party, when I looked down and saw my name, again, this time on my own previous book, which had been dumped like an old pair of shoes on the steps.

The pages were studded with post-its; whoever had owned the book had liked the recipes for hot honey lemonade and avocado-honey hair mud enough to make it easy to find the right pages. But clearly, not enough to provide continued indoor bookshelf space.

I called E. to tell him, since he'd been privy to the labor it took to birth that particular book, and of course he laughed with me. "Did you pick it up?" he asked, and the answer was damn skippy I picked it up! It's mine!

And then, still talking, I got on a BART train downtown only to see a dude sprawled on the front seat, pants around his ankles, pissing grandly into the carpet in a show-stopping arc, a fountain the likes of which I'd really never seen before, even when changing the diapers of my infant nephew. I wish I could erase this image from my brain, but I fear it's going to be there for a long, long time. Even four years of riding the NYC subway hadn't really prepared me for this.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Hamantaschen Time

Whoa! Things are sneaking up on me this week. Like daylight savings time, which I didn't realize was happening today, since my phone aka watch automatically re-set itself. I was a little surprised that I'd slept til 8:30am this morning, but figured it was just a reaction to working a long 10+ hour day again. And suddenly it's plum-blossom and Girl Scout cookie time, and very soon, Purim, arriving on Tuesday! Which means, of course, that hamantaschen must be made. But where to get the correct, gorgeously wrapped gummy sheets of apricot paste, made, I believe, in Syria? Back in Brooklyn, they sold for cheap at Sahadi's, my friendly local Lebanese grocery store. Here, I'm sure Haig's out in the avenues has them, but it would be great to find someplace closer to home. There's a Middle Eastern grocery store on Mission near 26th St that I've been meaning to check out; now may be the time!

Why apricot paste? What you want for your hamantaschen filling is what's called lekvar: a thick, dense paste of sweetened dried apricots, which can then be pureed with golden raisins and mixed with orange and lemon juices for balance and complexity. Apricot jam WILL NOT do; it's too runny. You want the concentration of dried apricots, so the filling won't run out or burn during baking. You could, of course, soak, cook, and puree your own dried apricots, but the sheets sold in middle eastern grocery stores--imagine a 1-inch thick brick of apricot fruit leather--work like a charm. (Like canned pie filling, canned apricot lekvar is, unfortunately, usually filled with corn syrup and other junk). I've posted numerous hamantaschen recipes here, but here is the best one, adapted from the fabulous Jewish Holiday Baking book by Canadian baking Jew Marcy Goldman. Prune filling is also surprisingly good; poppyseed, another trad filling, sounds good but requires a special grinder to pulverize the seeds correctly.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

sitting in your house, and spanish chickpeas

Alas, my Rockridge idyll has ended abruptly, a week early. My good pal Leslie and her roomie had both departed for other timezones, and I got to housesit Leslie's adorable cottage, complete with comfy bed and backyard lemon tree. It was lovely to have real privacy and get out of the tiny, chilly environs back in Bernal. And, of course, it was easy enticement to get the East Bay-dwelling S. over for dinner with no bridge in between. I was looking forward to another week of warmth and tea in the kitchen and good books to read from Leslie's library.

Until Leslie's roommate got sick in Manila and decided to come back early, putting an end to the need for my housesitting duties. Bummer! So I'm back in Bernal, counting down the days til my hoped-for next East Bay housesit, also in Rockridge, for Shar's sister-in-law. Not I'm around much, what with working million-hour days right now, but still...privacy is bliss, especially when you're around the public all day.

So, you need your plants watered or your cat cuddled, let me know! No smoke, no drugs, no loudness, and I might even leave you homemade muffins in the freezer.

I did have fun cooking on the beautiful Wedgewood stove in Leslie's kitchen, including this last-minute, made-up-on-the-way-home-from-BART rainy-day dish.

Sort of Spanish Chickpea Stew

a couple strips of bacon or a few slices of chorizo
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
a good splash of red wine
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained
1 28-oz large can diced tomatoes
2 tsp smoked paprika (pimenton)
1/2 tsp thyme or rosemary
salt and pepper, and hot sauce if you like it
1 cup frozen peas, optional

Dice the bacon or chorizo and cook until fat renders. Add onion slices and olive oil, and fry until onion is beginning to brown. Add garlic, carrots, and celery. Saute for another couple minutes, stirring frequently. Add wine,chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices, plus salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, turn heat to low, and cook until flavors are blended, 15 minutes or so. Add a handful of frozen peas at the end for color. Serve with wine and good bread.