I recently moved into a new house, and I just want to share some of the things that have been inspiring me. The first thing that caught my attention with this house is all of the amazing natural light. It's incredible how much natural light can invigorate a space. Not only do we have amazing windows, but many of them are placed at corners, which really emphasize the connection I feel with whatever is going on outside. This little reading corner has become my favorite place in the house. I just love sitting and enjoying the sun, a good book, and the beautiful roses right outside the window.
I've also been making more of an effort to eat better. Eat good, feel good - right? Well it sure helps when you love the place you're cooking and eating in. This dinner is comprised of arugula, couscous, sautéed veggies, prosciutto, apricots, goat cheese, and sunflower seeds. For dessert, my roommate showed me how easy it is to make a fruit crumble with fresh raspberries from our garden. Just sprinkle with a mixture of flower, sugar, butter, and oats. Deliciousssss.
The word "ratatouille" evokes many thoughts and images in our household.
For my three-year old son, it's an image of a talking rat, fuzzy and adorable. After watching the movie "Ratatouille" for the 38th time, he finally realized that "Ratatouille" was not the name of the main character, but the name of a dish that is made in the movie. It will probably be another 38 viewings until he is tired of watching it.
For David, ratatouille is "a pain in the butt". Traditionally, every vegetable is cooked separately, then tossed together at the end; the process is time-consuming and well, a pain in the butt. In his mind, it's also difficult to spell, difficult to pronounce, all around pain-in-the-butt.
For me, it's the quintessential French bistro dish that takes me back to my brief time in Paris. It's the comfort food of a culture I adore. So when I found this recipe that adds lots of other ingredients but abbreviates the cooking process, I jumped at the chance of recreating a little bit of France in our kitchen.
We had just made some eggplant curry (a favorite in our household, let me know if you want the recipe) and had some Asian vegetables left in our fridge. I'm kind of a purist when it comes to recipes and like to do exactly what they say, at least for the first go-around, but since this particular recipe was already a tangent from the traditional ratatouille, I figured it would be acceptable if the vegetables weren't exactly right.
The result was amazing - a great use of many vegetables, the smell of a Paris bistro permeating the house, and the taste of fall, hearty and warming.
via Dana Treat
Adapted from Dana Treat
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small winter squash, peeled and seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used unpeeled delicata squash)
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used snake beans)
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used Chinese eggplant)
1 medium potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place a large and preferably oven proof pot over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom and then add the onions and a large pinch of salt. Sauté for 5 minutes, then stir in the garlic, chile, and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the winter squash and continue frying for another 5 minutes.
Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside in a bowl. Add a bit more oil and then add the green beans, zucchini, and eggplant to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Return the contents of the bowl to the pot. Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, and another large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir well and allow to cook for 5 minutes. Pour in enough water to half cover the vegetables. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently, lowering heat as necessary, for 30 minutes. Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. If your pot is oven-proof, remove the cover and place the pot in the oven. If not, transfer the vegetables and their liquid to a large deep roasting pan. Either way, bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft and most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the parsley and serve.
If there’s one thing that Hiromi and I both like other than architecture, it’s food. Since her recent Food Matters post, food has come up particularly often in our conversations. (For the record, I wish that I could partake in their pizza-making, kiln-cooking parties!) So what are we eating? In my house, there are a handful of meals in my family’s weeknight cooking repertoire that hit the sweet spot for all of us. They’re quick to prep and cook, feature seasonal ingredients, are honestly enjoyed by both grown-ups and kids, and are (sort of) healthy. This pasta recipe from the Chronicle definitely feels like it was custom-made for us. **
(I am not a food photographer!)
I clipped it from the paper a few years ago, and it easily made its way into our springtime rotation. This year, by the end of February we found ourselves actively waiting for our CSA box to have the right combination of ingredients so that we could start eating it again. Really, with asparagus, sugar snap peas, sautéed onions, lemons, fresh ricotta, toasted nuts, and brown butter, what’s not to like?
**Note: if you try this, it’s definitely worth seeking out good, fresh ricotta. Calabro is the best that we’ve found. Also, we’ve never actually made it with hazelnuts; we just use whatever nuts (usually walnuts) we have on hand.
I don't mean to, but lately everything I read or see seems to be about food. Nothing wrong with that, I've been obsessed with food and always have an appetite no matter what time of day. And lately my all-consuming hobby of cooking and eating and everything food-related has taken on a tangential interest in how we grow, process, and package our food. I vaguely recall this interest gaining traction when, four years ago, Lynn and I were pregnant at the same time. We would talk about toxins passed on to our babies, and later we had long discussions about BPA in plastic baby bottles (among other things).
These days I've been reading Food Matters by Mark Bittman. I put it on my Amazon wish list after trying repeatedly to check it out of the library, only to return it two weeks later with hardly any progress. I can only find time to read before bed, and beside my bed I always have more books than I can possibly read in a year. As with food, my eyes are bigger than my "stomach" (time, or time management skills). My sister finally bought if for me last Christmas.
This book has kept me up too late some nights, both from reading and thinking. I wouldn't do it justice to summarize it here; if you are interested in learning about where your food comes from, and what you can do to change how food is made, what effects it has on your body and your surroundings, I would encourage you to read it. It follows a long chain of eye-opening documentaries and books that I've encountered, the list of which includes Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, the movies Supersize Me and Food Inc.
Some friends and we made pizzas in David's kiln last weekend and it was enjoyable on so many levels: preparing the dough a day in advance, washing and prepping, carmelizing the onions, cooking down the tomato sauce, combining ingredients that others have brought, throwing the pizza into the kiln, watching it come out with blackened edges and melted cheese, cutting, serving, eating, talking, drinking... And part of the joy was in trusting the authenticity and purity of each ingredient and each process as the pizza went from pieces to pie. It was satisfying on many levels.
Lynn and I recently met and refined our company mission statement to read:
We work with you to create a home that is the perfect fit for you.
This means that we prioritize our clients' values and the collaborative spirit over some kind of personal design agenda.
I realized the other day that we all do this in different ways. For my son Nico's birthday, this meant making a robot cake with instant cake mix and all the colorful candies from the store. I could have made a healthier, more tasteful cake but really, who is this cake really for? My three year old whose current love is sweets and robots.
Because his happiness is our happiness. I love that giving is a form of pure joy.
Last week Lynn and I had our company retreat in Portland, OR, where I live. As Lynn put it, it was 30 hours of "eat, work, eat, work, eat", which just about sums it up.
We started at 11:30am on a Wednesday, when Lynn arrived at PDX airport. We had lunch at Olympic Provisions, the new restaurant in the building where our office is located. Lynn and I are good friends as well as partners in the business, so we got caught up on our lives over lunch. Everything on the menu is divine, but my current favorite has been to order a small appetizer with a side vegetable dish. If you ever go there, be sure to stop by our office to say hello and get a free measuring tape.
Then we met with Alyssa Gasca to set our goals for the retreat. The term 'business consultant' doesn't do justice to her effective coaching style and vibrant personality; in the course of two hours, she helped me and Lynn focus on our personal and professional goals, document our progress, and set deadlines for next steps. So in my mind she's a miracle worker, a guru that gave us clarity that we couldn't have achieved on our own.
I won't bore you with the details of the rest of our retreat; so far I've only described the first three hours so you know there's 27 more to go. I'll summarize the schedule I laid out for us:
afternoon: check into the Ace Hotel (where, incidentally, we stayed in the room that is pictured on their postcard), work in our room with some red wine and Ruffles chips (mmm). The room was small, but very well-executed, with lots of low-budget items incorporated in an unusual way. Lynn particularly liked the exiting diagram for the room, which was a building plan on a piece of cloth with red stitching showing the exiting path.
dinner: Clyde Common (located in the Ace Hotel); discuss work over olive oil poached octupus and lamb with butternut squash bread pudding. The tables were small and we quickly ran out of room for our paperwork, but we kept talking anyway.
evening: get coffee at Stumptown (also located in the Ace Hotel), open bag of Lindt truffles, work in the hotel mezzanine. The Ace has all these nooks and crannies where you can nestle in a dark corner and have intimate conversations. We talked about financial projections and work load, but I bet everyone else thought we were talking about something much more mysterious.
late evening: sleep (for Lynn, who has a baby as well as a 2 1/2 year old, it was one of the highlights of the retreat; I stayed up too late reading trashy magazines. So we both got to do what we usually don't have time for.)
breakfast: Kenny and Zuke's (located next to the Ace Hotel); discuss work over pastrami and eggs. There was soft, winter morning light coming through their big windows. It was quiet and peaceful. And I learned that they only do poached eggs on the weekend.
morning: work in our room while watching everyone else walk to work. It somehow felt luxurious to be observing the city from 20 feet above the sidewalk.
noon: meet with photographer Kristin Beadle to take head shots. By this point our voices were cracked from all the talking, so it was a nice break to sit silently for a while.
lunch: Bunk Sandwiches; discuss work over pulled pork sandwich.
afternoon: work in the office, drive Lynn to airport.
We had a great time. And we made some great progress. We are both looking forward to the year ahead.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium regularly updates their Seafood Watch, which is a guide to sustainable seafood consumption. I used to get several copies of the handy little pocket guide from my husband David, who was part of a team that designed a recent remodel and addition to the aquarium. After the project ended and he stopped having regular access to the newest pocket guides, I started downloading a pdf of it from their website, which wasn't as small or as colorful (well, I guess it would be if I had the patience to print it out in color and cut along the dotted line), but still did the trick. But now they've come up with an iPhone app. It's colorful, up-to-date, and best of all, you can SEARCH. I love it. You will love it. Spread the word.
Urchins seen on recent beach visit, probably not edible.