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Tuesday, April 29, 2003

A vigil, and a wake

Going in both the blogs in the same format. Normally I try to keep the food blog foodie and the other blog freer of the kitchen details but I don't feel like separating this.

After working a lot of long hours at the office, I had big plans for cooking and cleaning consolidation over the weekend. I had done my marketing on Friday night, and my usual Saturday morning bread run (and picking up some unsalted butter since I spaced on it and wanted to try some baking).

I got some good cleaning time in on Saturday afternoon, was more or less at it from 11 am to 4 pm with an hour long "make lunch, eat lunch, and relax" break. (Hummus and Middle Eastern chopped salad again. The remainders have been a useful quick lunch/dinner since. Must send Ranee a thank you note for the recipe.)

In the late afternoon I girded my loins and braved the Fourth Street shopping hoo-hah. I had the notion that a piece of candied lemon would be just da bomb on the lemon truffles I was making, and the Pasta Shop has first-rate yummy candied fruit that would be just the ticket.

I also wanted to try to test drive pressure cooker lids at Sur La Table. So off I went. I obtained my groceries (at non-extortionate rates, amazing for PS), saw some interesting things but no pressure cookers at Surly Table, escaped from Crazy Touristland and then backtracked to The Art Store to get some boxes for organizing. As I was walking past the 24 hour vet hospital I thought of Poor Fred's diabetic almost-shock incident.

When I got home I checked my messages (and I'm glad I did). There was one from Elaine sounding very stressed. Ginger (her sole remaining cat, of the five she used to have) got attacked by something in the back yard and they were at the emergency vet at 10th and University. I called to confirm location and was there in ten minutes to provide moral support.

After discussing Ginger's case with the vet, and paying her a short visit, we went back to Elaine's, found the trompled catnip patch and fur leavings at the scene of the crime (confirming Elaine's suspicion about the attacker) and she nattered at me while the tea was in progress. I was starting to feel a bit peckish and suggested making dinner (I had chicken or steak waiting to be cooked). Elaine and I both thought the chicken was a good idea so I went back home to start it off (one of these days I am going to learn how to cut the back out of a chicken correctly) and she joined me later. This also gave me some time to clear out the decluttering clutter in the living room (one of my work zones) and notice HOW MUCH CLEANER the rooms were looking. This was a good feeling since a couple of weeks ago Iwas in "I'm doing a lot of work and not seeing results" mode.

I can't say how happy I was to be able to feed my best friend a nice dinner of roast chicken, rice pilaf (it was from a box but that stuff is pretty tasty), and spring-appropriate roast asparagus when she was worried about her cat lying in the hospital. It was low-key, we did not have to hassle with restaurant crowds and parking at 7 pm on a Saturday, and roast chicken soothes the soul. She told me later that she toodled right off to dreamland shortly after she went home (and checked on the cat's condition) when she has been staying awake till 1-2 am and later. I personally ate the remainders of the pilaf with the pan drippings and zoned out pretty quickly myself :-).

On Sunday morning I was up early because I needed to go into the office and do some system work. I had hoped to be out by 9.30 am, but one of the things I did turned out horribly wrong and I spent till 2.30 pm there, mostly on the phone with Microsoft trying to back out my changes. Which finally happened.

I had gotten an early morning email saying that things did not sound wonderful and Elaine was ready to Make A Decision. When I finally got home, hungry and frustrated, the Bad News was on my answering machine. Ginger's condition had deteriorated overnight, she had gone into a coma, Elaine had made the decision, and there had been a kitty funeral in my absence. Ayse and Noel were available and did the digging and distracting. When I caught up with her via cellphone I was told "Meet us at Kirin [her fave upscale Chinese restaurant] at four". We had a nice early dinner together, then retired back to the casita for truffles, and I viewed The Site. Sloped back home around 7 pm and retired pretty early because I was just wiped (and it had started raining. Fairly heavily. Again). No usenet, no blogging, no truffle scooping, although I did cook the steak and finish up the last of the household tidying since the cleaners were coming Monday. Food and friends in memory of a demanding but basically affectionate cat who was on her way out but deserved (IMO) a better end than being attacked by a CATNIP CRAZED MONSTER when she was innocently sunning herself in the backyard. I must say I was still a bit in shock since Ginger's prospects had been much better when I'd seen her just the evening before.

Poor Ginger.

Elaine wondered out loud if ginger would grow in our climate and I told her that I thought both the culinary ginger (Zingiber officinalis) and the Hawaiian flowering gingers (Hedychium) will grow. (Web research confirms this, although I haven't dragged out the Sunset Western Garden Book yet). Personally I think that "kahili ginger" would be spectacular, especially since it's yellow and red, like Miss Thing herself. And there are artichokes nearby, the contrasts would be nice.

This really is the end of an era; I didn't know Biggie (the first of the five) but have watched the other ones go. I just hope I'm as strong when it comes time for Maya.

Anyway. Love (friends and our furry pals), cooking, cleaning, and even some gardening (those cats all loved being out in Elaine's wonderful garden [which - MoreObFood -has asparagus and cute baby lettuces and artichokes and a lemon tree and strawberries and other wonderful things] all in the same post.

Goodbye, Ginger, you will be missed.


Saturday, April 26, 2003


Well, I managed to scorch the chocolate, in the microwave, yet. And yes, I checked it part way through. Managed to get about half of it out and use some more to make up the eight ounces.

But, oh, my, the lemon oil smells divine. It perfumed half the room when I opened up the tiny bottle.

And I have apparently worked through my unsalted butter supply in the freezer with my baking binge. Funny. I bought salted butter last night on special. Will get some (at a higher price) at the other store this morning.

Will see how much energy I have for production cooking today since my period started and I do have a lot of necessary cleaning to do before Wednesday (before Monday when the cleaners come, actually) and it's an energy conservation thing. My plans to make more cookies might be abandoned ... but at least I have the ginger and the chocolate ones in the freezer. Had been thinking ... surprise ... LEMON cookies ;-).

Although in one of my weird weekend morning energy bursts, I started pulling out all the spice jars in the kitchen. Realized that this is what I should NOT be doing right now and put them all back, slightly rearranged. Did find my Penzey's Sunny Paris, though ... when I conveniently have a fresh chicken in the fridge waiting to be cooked ;-).

Friday, April 25, 2003

It's Friday, finally

So after I crowed about Just Doing It, I had a day when I didn't cook (or otherwise prepare) anything I ate. Three hours sleep will do that to a person. Still. Want. Coffee.

I went to the Berkeley Bowl tonight ... supplies were getting low. Got staples and most of what I needed for entertaining a couple of people to lunch on Weds (it's my "comp day" - scare quotes because my employer doesn't do that officially). No parking lot weirdness and I saw something new - this happens at the Bowl a lot - fresh garbanzo beans in the shell. They come two to a small shell, like peanuts. If they're still there next time I might get some and try hummus with them.

Brain is thinking more along normal directions today. Will be attempting lemon truffles thanks to inspiration from "Luscious Lemon Desserts" - believe me, most people think I kill for chocolate because of the truffles, but really I kill for lemon, custard, and raspberries/blackberries. (all three together is divine, especially if there's butter cake with it.) Happily I have eight ounces of chocolate left over from the last round of dipping - put an empty bowl on the scale, zeroed it, put the bowl with chocolate on, and voila. That makes recipe conversion easy.

Chopped salad ... more hummus ... roast chicken ... black bean sauce for the lunch ... asparagus enchiladas ... something for breakfasts ... should be a Power Cooking and Power Cleaning weekend.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Not much cooking

Been at the office late. I am starting to Just Do It though - was wimping out on making an asparagus mushroom sauce for the dinner the night I was planning to be stuck at the office, decided to boil the noodles in the morning anyway, and put some tapenade in it. Then thought "I have goat cheese". Then thought "red bell pepper". And parsley too. It wasn't bad for about five minutes of effort.

Reading some food blogs (my, this is a circular world sometimes) and was enchanted by an entry on Bread, Coffee, Chocolate, Yoga about nuns who support their convent by making chocolates (and who now have a web site so they can do that Internet thing and find more customers). Here's an article and here's the site. I loved the bit about how the computer "leaves more time and energy for the spiritual tasks: prayer and making chocolate". Heh.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Someone else did the cooking yesterday

and it was a wonderful Easter dinner - Dad's marinated butterflied barbequed leg of lamb, asparagus, and scalloped potatoes. I made the truffles for dessert. Lots of good wine too.

I got lamb and potato leftovers AND some peanut butter cup cookies - a good trade for the truffles :-)

Today: last of the chicken for lunch, with roast asparagus, and Middle Eastern food (chopped salad, hummus, lamb in a pita) for dinner.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

One of the advantages to being a grownup

Last night's dinner - guacamole and chips. With a mystery novel. Read and eaten in bed. I managed to not slop guac on the book (for once).

The avocadoes had gotten really ripe all at once. Might have to go shopping at the Berkeley Bowl after all since 49-cent avocadoes (the size which you're lucky to get in the 4 for $4 bag at other markets) are tough to resist. Once I get some more tahini though (can pick it up at Raley's on my way outta Tomatoland) I will try to eat up what I have. The tahini is so I can make more hummus if I want.

Got corn tortillas and Jack to make some asparagus enchiladas. Not tonight since I will probably clean again but some time next week.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Hot Cross Buns

for Easter Saturday breakfast. And two more for tomorrow. Thanks to the Cheese Board!

This is not going to be much of a cooking or even eating day. I did dip some truffles this morning for Easter lunch and will probably get some more tahini this afternoon so I can make more hummus (using my immersion blender worked great with the canned beans). Actually my "fast day" supper was so pretty that I ended up taking a picture - I made the hummus and put it in a bowl on the plate, arranged the chopped salad on two sides (like at 12 and 6 o'clock), put a dolma on each side of that, and then the two halved pita in the spots that were left. Poetic! I didn't even eat the dolma, I was so full.

Today is going to be a cleaning day so definitely "eat what's in the fridge". Happily I have lots of good things - steak, bread for sandwiches (goat cheese or steak), spinach-potato soup (which was from Martha Stewart Living and kind of boring till I salted it more and put a shot of Trader Joe's Garlic Oil [think this is off label Boyajian] in it), and the middle eastern chopped salad (aka "middle eastern salsa cruda") and hummus.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Loaves and Cheeses

Last night was Maundy Thursday and I went into work and left a little early so I could hop on BART and get to Grace in time. Journey proceeded smoothly as a cable car was waiting for me at Embarcadero for the trip up California Street.

Actually this year I was organized enough to bring something for the Agape supper and arrived early enough to deliver it. (Fruit and nuts - brought raisins, dried cherries, tangelos, apples, and toasted walnuts.) Once I had distributed my dried fruit among the tables and dropped off the other items, I ended up going back into the kitchen and making myself useful as plates of bread, cheese, and fruit were assembled. It really was quite amazing to see how shortages turned into abundance with the arrival of new items, up to the 6 pm published start time. We were running out of fruit and someone came in with bowls of melon chunks and a big bunch of grapes. And then someone brought in a half flat of strawberries, which I rinsed off and distributed around the table (all the fruit plates were out). The purple grapes and the red strawberries made the mostly-apple-orange-and-banana plates look colorful and abundant. O taste and see! The cheese shortage (six tables with no cheese plates) was solved when a large block of cheddar and jack arrived. This involved a lot of last minute scurrying around from the kitchen helpers (and a LOT of handwashing) but it was fun and I felt that I had definitely done something Helpful and Productive.

Although the cathedral kitchen knives did not seem to be up to snuff (I did not personally use them but I heard from those who were). Next year I'll bring my knives in a roll and get cutting.

The parish pour was Charles Shaw, known affectionately locally as "Two Buck Chuck" since Trader Joe's sells it for the whopping sum of $2/bottle ($3 outside California but we aren't). It was better than I remember it so I will have to get some the next time I am at TJ's. For house wine it ain't bad, for even twice the price. This occasioned a bit of "wine gossip" at the table. Someone said that the rumor was that Shaw was selling so cheap since he was going through a divorce and either 1) needed cash fast (TJ pays cash) or 2) wanted to liquidate his assets. One of the priests at the table said one of her seminary friends is at the church in St. Helena and everyone knows there to go for the unmarked bottles brought to any parish functions. One person is an attorney and said that one of the Mondavis was a frequent client of the divorce side of the house. One person mentioned box wine and I had to say that my brother the oenophile thought it quite passable for backpacking trips. The conversation made a light meal very pleasant.

I got home about 9.30 pm and cooked up the steak in my fridge (the better to avoid the question of do I eat it on Good Friday) and had a couple of slices on a piece of toast to round out the meal. Will probably have more on Saturday and next week.

"Yesterday was Maundy Thursday" means "Today is Good Friday". My plan at the moment is to make the hummus and "middle eastern salsa cruda" a la Ranee the Saudi Chef and hope the dolma and pita I purchased are still good so that I can have a meal in solidarity with my middle eastern brothers and sisters on this significant day. (It's Passover as well.) I'm also hoping for hot cross buns at the Cheese Board tomorrow morning. If not, I can get them at Fatapple's bakery.

Now, off to the kitchen to whirl beans into hummus...