Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Recipe of the Week

Today is a very busy day as I prepare for Dinner Club tonight. I tested the recipe last night and it's really delicious! If you don't want to splurge for truffles you can use fresh herbs for the pasta.

Black Truffle Pappardelle
Shaved Black Truffles and Parmesan Beurre Fondue

From Boulevard: The Cookbook

Serves 8

Pasta Dough: Makes 2 pounds
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
2 large eggs
12 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons kosher salt

Black Truffle Pappardelle:
Past Dough
2 fresh black truffles, about 4 ounces (2 to 3 ounces for the pasta and the rest for grating over the dish)
6 tablespoons semolina or flour

Parmesan Beurre Fondue:
½ cup water
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into ½ -inch pieces
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for grating over the dish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pasta Dough:
Mound the flour in the center of a clean, dry cutting board. Make a well in the flour and put the egg, egg yolks, milk, oil, and salt in the well. Using a fork, stir the eggs until they’re lightly mixed with the other ingredients in the well. As you add the flour, reshape the well with your hands as needed so it remains intact. When most of the flour has been incorporated, mix in the remaining flour until a shaggy mass has formed. Scrape the cutting board clean, then lightly flour the board. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, or until smooth, a little elastic, and not sticky, adding more flour to prevent the dough from sticking if necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.

Black Truffle Pappardelle:
Divide the pasta dough in quarters. Cover the extra pieces with a clean kitchen towel or wrap in plastic to prevent it from drying out. With a pasta machine set on its widest roller setting, run the dough through once. Fold crosswise into thirds and run through once more. Continue feeding the sough through the rollers, decreasing the setting on each pass, until you get to the next to thinnest (number 2) setting. Lay the pasta on a cutting board and cut crosswise into 2 pieces. Thinly shave truffles onto a plate. Brush 1 piece of pasta lightly with water and place shaved truffles (1/2 to 3/4 ounces) evenly over all. Top with the other piece of pasta and press together. Reset the pasta machine roller to medium-wide setting (number 4), and feed the pasta back through again, making 2 passes per number until you get to the next to thinnest (number 2) setting. Roll up the pasta lengthwise (like a jellyroll) and cut crosswise into 1 ¼ to 1 ½ -inch wide strips. Toss with the semolina or flour, and place on a sheet pan. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. It’s important to note that you’ll probably need to shave only 2-3 ounces of the truffles for the pasta. The rest should be reserved for grating over the finished dish.

Parmesan Buerre Foundue:
Bring the water to a simmer in a skillet. Whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time, waiting until they’re incorporated before adding more. Whisk in the cheese and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, then return to the skillet to keep warm. Season to taste with salt and pepper (though you probably won’t need salt).

To Serve:
Bring an 8- to 10- quart pot or stockpot of salted (2 to 3 tablespoons) water to a boil. Have a large warm bowl near the stove. Add the pasta to the boiling water, stirring to prevent sticking, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the pasta is tender with a little “tooth” (al dente). Drain and transfer to a warm bowl. Add the beurre fondue and toss to coat the pappardelle well. Divide the pasta among 8 warm dinner plates or shallow soup bowls. Using a microplane grater, grate the remaining truffle in generous snowy mounds over all. Finish with another grating of cheese.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dinner Club

My favorite night of the month is the last Wednesday. That's when I get together for Dinner Club with 7 of my good friends who are all amazing cooks. We take turns hosting and tomorrow is my night. The host provides the main course and each of the other members are assigned the following courses: appetizer, soup, salad, bread, drinks, and dessert (one person gets a break each month.)

My last night hosting was in September. I had a French bistro theme with Steak Frites Maître d’ Hôtel (Flatiron Steak with Herb Butter and Fries)for the main course. I set up two tables with white table clothes to emulate the bistro atmosphere.

Tomorrow I'm making Black Truffle Pappardelle with a Parmesan Butter Sauce. I'll post pictures after the big event.

Wiener Schnitzel

I've had a few people ask me about this restaurant lately, so I thought I'd put it on my blog. Suppenküche is a great German restaurant in Hayes Valley. The decor is sparse with substantial communal wood tables. The bread is dark and hearty and the food is good old fashion meat and potatoes served German style. I've taken two friends there who have lived in Germany and they both thought the food was fairly authentic. My favorites are the Wiener Schnitzel, Sauerbraten, and Käsespätzle. Reservations are only accepted for groups of 6 or more.


Dolfin's Hot Masala is currently my favorite chocolate bar. It's a milk chocolate with cinnamon, cloves, and other warm flavors. You can purchase it at Fog City News and Bittersweet in SF or here online.

Monday, February 26, 2007

My Favorite Pizza

My favorite pizza in the Bay Area is The Cheese Board Pizza Collective in Berkeley. The crust is the perfect balance between a thin, crispy bottom and soft top. (Note: Sometimes the pizzas with tomato slices are a little less crisp than I normally like.) They offer one type of pizza everyday which you can purchase by the slice or whole pizza. Check the website for the daily pizza. The line is usually pretty long, but it moves fast. Michelle P. recently told me about Arizmendi Bakery in SF that has similar pizza and the same concept of one pizza type a day.

Soft Hands

I'm really picky about what I put on my hands. I hate it when lotion makes my hands feel greasy or sticky!! L'Occitane Creme Mains is my favorite hand cream. It's very moisturizing but it absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy film. It contains lavender too so it smells really good. It is on the expensive side, but a little dab will do you so it lasts a long time.

Williams-Sonoma's hand lotion gets an honorable mention. It's good to keep near the bathroom and kitchen sinks.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Recipe of the Week

I'm making this cake tomorrow for Jana's birthday dinner. It's one of my standby recipes. As a bonus, it is relatively healthy for a dessert.

Raspberry Swirl Angel Food Cake
Makes 1 ten-inch cake
Recipe from Martha Stewart

1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour(not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups sugar, preferably superfine, sifted
Pinch of salt
1/2 pint (6 ounces) fresh raspberries
1 3/4 cups egg whites(about 12 large eggs)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350° with rack in lower third. Cut parchment to fit bottom of round or heart-shaped 10-inch tube pan with legs or removable bottom. Fit paper into pan. Do not grease pan.

2. Sift flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt together. Sift again into a bowl. Using fork, mash 1/2 cup whole raspberries; strain through a fine sieve to yield about 1/4 cup mashed raspberries.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Beat in cream of tartar and vanilla. Increase speed to medium high; beat until whites are nearly stiff. Reduce speed to medium low; beat in the remaining 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat until peaks are almost stiff but not at all dry. Transfer egg whites to large bowl.

4. Sift flour mixture over egg whites; fold in gently with large rubber spatula. Gently transfer one-third of batter to tube pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons mashed berries over egg whites. Spoon another third of batter into the pan; repeat with remaining mashed berries. Top with remaining batter. Run a knife through mixture, touching bottom of pan, to eliminate any air pockets. Leave the top very textured with peaks in the meringue; do not smooth.

5. Bake until the top of the cake is lightly golden and the cake springs back when pressed lightly, 35 to 45 minutes. (If top darkens too quickly, tent with foil.)

6. Invert pan onto its legs or hang it over the neck of a bottle or funnel; let cake stand, in the pan, until completely cool, about 1 hour. Run a knife around edges of the cake to loosen the sides. Unmold cake. Serve with remaining whole raspberries.

Paper Piles Be Gone: Part One

I love process engineering. I'm always trying to think up easier more efficient ways to do things. This is a desk top system for items that currently need attention or tasks you are actively working on. You should also have a permanent file cabinet for long-term items. More on this later. I've been using this system for a few months now and it's working very well.

1) Purchase a desk top file folder box and some pretty file folders. Label the folders with the categories you need and file the papers into the appropriate folder.

My categories are:

*Outstanding Items (long-term things to do)
*Real Estate Research
*Financial Info (financial planning, financial reports, investment info, current tax info, etc.)
*Medical (insurance authorizations, prescriptions, Dr.'s business cards)
*Coupons & Gift Certificates
*Caldwell Family Reunion 2007
*Halloween Party 2007
*Performance & Exhibit Schedules
*Bills (bills that need to be paid)
*Today (things to take care of today)
*Career Planning

2) As you open your mail or bring paper into your house, put the item into the corresponding folder.

3) Once you've taken care of an item, move it to your permanent file or throw it away if you don't need it anymore.

4) Transfer one or two of the "Outstanding Items" into your "Today" folder each day to whittle down that pile of backlogged things to do.

5) Periodically clean out the items that are expired or you don't need anymore.

I use this folder holder from IKEA. It also has dividers for pens and pencils, and the perfect section for my notepaper and daily calendar. You can buy folders here, here, and here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lavender Laundry

I made a recent discovery at Trader Joe's. I don't know if it is a new product or just new to me. Near the laundry soap, you can find packets of lavender sachet bags to toss in the dryer. Each one lasts for 5-10 cycles. A packet of four cost $3.69. As if I didn't already love slipping into freshly laundered bed linens!

Vacation Cooking Classes

One of my favorite memories from our holiday in France was my day of cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I have vowed that I will add this activity to my future travel itineraries whenever possible, especially for places that are major food destinations such as France or Italy. The class I took at Le Cordon Bleu was part of the "Gourmet Sessions" program.

The first part of the day was spent in watching the chef demonstrate all the required techniques. After a delicious lunch which included the previously demonstrated dishes, we broke up into teams for hands on training. The picture above was taken of me enjoying the fruits of my labor after my souffle class.

Free Audio Tour Downloads For Paris

You can't beat Rick Steves for advice about site seeing in Europe. He makes freelance touring really easy, especially if it's your first time in any given region of Europe. We used his books for most of our trip to France and we had a really fabulous time. I was excited to see recently that you can download audio files to your i-Pod for some of his Paris museum and walking tours. This will help you somewhat avoid looking like a dorky tourist walking around with your guide book open. (Note: You can disguise your tour books by covering them in pretty paper.) Hopefully more downloads will be available soon!

p.s. We took the pictures above at The Orsay museum.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Cook's Thesaurus

Have you ever wondered what that strange looking piece of fruit at the supermarket is or how you are suppose to eat it? The Cook's Thesaurus is a great website to bookmark. It is an encyclopedia of every food item you've ever heard of and those you never have! It provides useful substitutions and equivalents, information on cuts of meat, pronunciations, suggestions on how to eat exoctic items, etc.

Hold the Alcohol

I don't drink alcohol, but I love food and fine dining. I'm always on the look out for interesting non-alcoholic options and I'm very appreciative of restaurants who recognize that not everyone drinks and provides options accordingly.

Navarro Vineyards in the the Anderson River Valley near Sacramento makes two really good options. They produce two grape juices, Pinot Noir (red) and Gewerztraminer (white). They are grape juices made out of the same grapes that fine wines are made from. These are not wines that have been de-natured and they are nothing like the grape juice concentrate we all grew up on.

You can order a case or half-case directly from Navarro Vineyards to keep on hand for special occasions throughout the year. Some restaurants, although not many, offer them. Bacara and French Laundry both do.

Cafe Jacqueline

For those of you who like the idea of a souffle but don't like the idea of making it yourself, there's Cafe Jacqueline. It's a charming little all-souffle restaurant in North Beach. I think it is the most romantic restaurant in the city. You should be prepared to relax and stay a while, because Jacqueline makes all the souffles herself. I recommend ordering a salad or soup and then be patient. It's worth it! I love the white corn, garlic, and ginger souffle. For dessert, the chocolate or raspberry if it's available. Also, make sure you take a trip to the restroom so you can walk by the kitchen and see Jacqueline with her huge bowl of eggs.

There are only ten tables in the restaurant so make sure you have a reservation. You can find Cafe Jacqueline at 1454 Grant Avenue in San Francisco (between Green & Union). The phone number for reservations is (415) 981-5565. The cost is about $100 for 2 people (alcohol not included).

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Recipe of the Week

Tyler and I had to stay in for Valentine's Day this year because of his recent surgery. I made a Blue Cheese Souffle, Cheese and Herb Flat bread, Salad with Orange Muscat Champagne Vinaigrette, and Warm Chocolate Cake with Blood Orange Caramel Sauce. Then we watched Sabrina (the Audrey Hepburn version) which coincidentally has it's own souffle scene.

I took a souffle class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris while there on vacation. Souffles are notorious for being difficult. They are actually not that hard to make. There are only a couple things to keep in mind. Most importantly, you have to serve it immediately out of the oven! My advice is to keep the rest of the meal simple with a green salad and simple vinaigrette, store bought flat bread, etc. You need to have whatever you are serving with the souffle ready to go on the table as soon as the souffle is finished baking. You can make the souffle a couple hours ahead and leave it to rest at room temperature unbaked in the souffle dish.

Secondly, make sure your egg whites are firm before you fold them in. Stiff egg whites go along way in giving your souffle enough integrity to hold up. Just don't over beat or the egg whites will become grainy, so to speak. Also, when you do your second fold, don't over fold. It's okay to have small pockets of whites. Don't leave it too lumpy, but you don't want the batter to be completely smooth. Think pancake batter.

Finally, don't open the oven door during baking. Use the oven light feature if you must peek. I haven't actually tested this for myself, so I don't know if it's a myth or not, but it does seem to be conventional wisdom so I thought it was worth mentioning. Good luck!!

Blue Cheese Souffle
Serves 4-8
From Barefoot in Paris

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup scalded milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped (I used Point Reyes Blue)
5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter the inside of an 8-cup souffle dish (7 1/2 inches in diameter X 3 1/4 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.

Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the blue cheese and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk one quarter for the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

Donna Hay

Donna Hay is the Martha Stewart / Barefoot Contessa of Australia. I've seen her magazine before, but never wanted to pay the $10/ per issue. I sat down at the book store recently to browse some magazines and I think I might change my mind. Her food is so clean and simple, yet elegant. I caved and bought the magazine, so now I will have to try some of the recipes and see if they are as good as they seem. I'll keep you posted. She has a few cookbooks out too.

Pocket Poetry

I've been taking an interest in poetry again lately. I haven't thought much about it since AP English until I recently read Autumn Day by Rilke. Tyler got me a few of these adorable little books for Valentine's Day. You can buy them by subject or author. They are hard bound and measure 6.5 X 4.5 inches.

The Archive

Tyler is in desperate need of new casual clothes, so we've been on a couple of shopping outings recently (pre-op). We found this boutique on Sutter. The price definitely matches the designer names, i.e. Costume National and Neil Barrett, but they were having a pretty good end of season sale. It's also a great place to get ideas. The salesmen, who are also the owners, are very helpful and honest about what looks good on a particular build and they will take care of alterations too.

RJ's Licorice

This is the best licorice I've ever tasted, mostly because the texture is perfect. It's not at all waxy. It's made in New Zealand. I found it at Bristol Farms in the candy section of the check-out maze. You can get it here too. If you love or even like black licorice at all you should try this.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Style City

I love the StyleCity travel guides. They are pretty new but adding cities all the time. The current list includes Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Istanbul, London, New York, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, and Sydney. I just got New York for my upcoming trip. The guide lists the sites, boutiques, restaurants, and hotels that are particularly notable for unique style. You can purchase them here.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Clean Sweep

I've been developing a new cleaning system lately that is working out pretty well. I don't function well in a messy environment and I hate that moment of panic when an unannounced guest shows up at your door. I love having friends over and I'm committed to not letting a messy apartment get in the way. Here are a couple a systems I have tried in the past:

1) Clean the entire apartment from top to bottom (including laundry) on Monday. Pros: There's nothing better than a sparkling clean apartment and climbing into freshly laundered bed linens to start your week off right. Cons: It's a lot to do in one day and I find myself frequently getting side tracked with other commitments that delay my cleaning until it gets out of control which is compounded by not being very tidy in the mean time because "I'll get to it tomorrow."

2) Clean a different room each day (i.e. living room on Monday, bedroom on Tuesday, kitchen on Wednesday, bathroom on Thursday, and laundry on Friday.) Pros: It breaks up the task into smaller more achievable projects. Cons: Same as #1 as far as getting side tracked. Apartment stays pretty clean, but never quite has that sparkling clean effect.

Overall system #2 works pretty well, but I found that I needed more flexibility if I didn't get around to cleaning for one or more days. Playing catch up is no fun and I usually find myself waiting until the next Monday to start over.

Here's my current solution that is working pretty well so far. To increase flexibility I've broken everything down into tasks that should be completed daily if possible, but still has the flexibility to take a day off and resume the schedule if necessary. I often take the weekend off. The daily tasks can usually be competed within 30 - 60 minutes with the exception of laundry which of course requires a few minutes of work every 45 minutes or so until completed.

Day 1 - Laundry (dry cleaning drop-off, etc.) and light vacuuming
Day 2 - Clean up any clutter in view (includes desk, nightstands, etc.)
Day 3 - Surface cleaning: dust, scrub counters and sinks, bathtub and toilet
Day 4 - Deep clean floors: Vacuum, Dust, Mop, etc.
Day 5 - Closets, drawers, cupboards, frig: Limit to 15 minutes or so per room
Day 6 - Special projects: This is the day to clean out a really cluttered closet or tackle a seasonal or periodic project.

Start over again with day 1 once you make it through the cycle. Note: There are a couple of things that I do everyday almost without exception: wash dishes, make my bed, take out trash and recycling as needed, and put things away after I use them.

The best thing about this system is that I don't feel pressure to keep up with a specific day of the week assignment. If I start day 1 on Monday and have a busy day on Tuesday, I can start up again with day 2 on Wednesday. As long as you try to complete the the daily tasks on a fairly regular basis, you will complete the the cleaning cycle every week give or take a day or two.

The bottom line: I still don't have that sparkly clean feeling all at once, but so far I feel it's a benefit worth giving up so that my apartment stays pretty clean all the time and there is never a day where I have to be humiliated if I have unannounced visitors. Since I started this system, I've had a couple friends mention that my apartment is always clean.

Vintage Image Writing Blocks

These notepads are great to keep around your desk for scratch paper. Ars Antigua makes stationary and and other related products using great vintage images. There website is horrible to navigate, but click on writing blocks under the browse category heading and then be patient through the tutorial. Afterward you can search the images by category. The mirror image stationary and journals are pretty cool too. I have the Eiffel Tower image.

Materpieces of French Jewelry

Tyler and I attended the Masterpieces of French Jewelry exhibit today at the Legion of Honor. The collection consists of 20th century French produced pieces that are mostly part of private American collections. It is a beautiful exhibit that is open from now until June 10th. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Terzo is the best new restaurant I've been to in a while. I went twice last week just because I couldn't believe how good it was. The food is so fresh and actually seems kind of healthy. The menu changes nightly. We tried a majority of the items on the menu both nights and loved every dish. They have the best warm chocolate cake I have ever had. The service was excellent too!