Sunday, August 22, 2010


My first blogiversary was last Saturday. I wrote the first three dedications for Dash, Bella, and my husband in the middle of the night. That was not sustainable. I was so tired last week that I kept mixing up my words. "Bella, why don't you put the plate on the scone so you can watch it." I actually said that.

I took a week off but I'm back with the next dedication. It goes out to the readers and the myriad ways they have supported this blog. I'm so grateful for the quiet readers. I know they're out there (at least sitemeter tells me so). I also love reading in the blog comments or on twitter that a reader has tried a recipe and I'm shocked by how quickly some facebook fans click the "like" button. I've gotten several personal emails about typos and recipe errors and I'm relieved because these details are so important to me. And I've even had people comment the old-fashioned way by coming up to me on the street and saying things like, "Do you write that blog about cooking with kids? You've inspired me to cook with my OWN kids." Holy shit, that's cool.

There's a whole lot of linking, commenting, referring, and shouting-out going on out there in the blogisphere. And this leads me to two of my readers: Penny and Rachel. They sell mighty cool vintage kitchen tools on their Etsy site called hausmittel. These two fabulous women went from being my acquaintances to my friends thanks to this blog. Penny kept commenting on posts and making my recipes. Then I learned what she and Rachel were up to over at  hausmittel. I thought that my kids cooking with their products would make for a cool post. They agreed. So I lugged a box of their stuff up to Healdsburg and decided to make Tart Dough Cookies and Homemade Ginger Ale.

It was like playing dress up but with kitchen stuff.  Rachel finds all these items (she won't tell me where) and Penny takes the photos and runs the site. They lent us a great collection of cookie cutters.
I piled fruit, nuts, and sugar into the hausmittel melamine bowls and measuring cups. I rolled out a disc of my tart dough and then stepped back.
Dash and Bella went crazy cutting and decorating. Dash wanted to keep the moon cookie cutter. I explained that he couldn't afford it.
Dash walked all the way across the lawn and into the kitchen with the tray of cookies. He had to concentrate so hard.
We baked them until they were lightly browned and the edges were crisp. Then we kept the flies away by covering the baked cookies with a cake dome. This was my favorite hausmittel item. I just might buy it if you don't.
It's too bad my bartender buddy, Michael Cecconi, was travelling in Spain and unreachable. We improvised the ginger ale recipe and it SUCKED!  Whatever you do, don't infuse simple syrup with ginger, add seltzer, and then stir in some raspberries. It tasted like medicine. Both kids pretended they liked it just to be nice to me but later admitted later that it was nasty. But I LOVED photographing Bella in action with the daisy pitcher and glasses from hausmittel.

You can't trust me when it comes to ginger ale recipes. Instead, here's a roundup of summer drink recipes from some of my favorite bloggers.

1. Homemade Ginger Ale Two Ways:  Crumpets and Cakes 
2. Watermelon Punch with Fresh Lime and Crushed Mint: Yummy Supper
3. Ginger Beer: InnBrooklyn

P.S.: Check out Haumittel's sister site if you're looking for adorable vintage clothes (modeled by the one and only Rachel):  the bees knees vintage.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


These blogiversary dedications are not in order of importance. Just thought I"d point that out as I go into the third one. This post goes out to the cute guy below holding hands with Dash. My husband.
From our first meal together (1990, NYC, 3am, pasta with 14 cloves of garlic) to drooling over bottarga on the island of Elba (back in the 90s when we took trips) to our wedding (the menu was more important than the ceremony), food has defined our relationship.

My husband is my all-around editor. He keeps the cutesy out of my writing, the blandness out of my food, and the awkward composition out of my photos. And he tries to edit my clothes but I tell him to go away. His current refrain about one of my favorite dresses is, "Are you trying to bring back the Eighties?" He's wrong. It's a kick-ass dress.

I love cooking for my husband after the kids are asleep but I do get a bit caught up in the meditative process.  It will be 10 pm and my husband will call out gently, "Dinner soon?" And I'll reply, "Why don't you watch a little more Ultimate Fighter. I still need to roast the chicken." Yes, Ultimate Fighter. We have a ridiculous amount in common. But Ultimate Fighter is where we part ways.

Last weekend I went down to Los Angeles by myself.  I came up with a recipe that reminds me so much of my husband. I cooked and photographed the dish in the middle of the day with beautiful natural light. There were no little hands grabbing things off the table. I got to focus on the tomato in front.
And then the tomato in back.
You might say I had too much time on my hands. But there was something very satisfying about photographing the deconstructed dish.
Here's my leisurely Los Angeles assembly. Tomatoes, corn, and then some poached eggs. 
Some parsley pesto, chopped parsley, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. A sprinkle of fleur de sel and a final drizzle of olive oil. I texted my husband a photo of this dish and he texted back hours later (after the kids were down): "YUM!" I smiled, tucked myself into bed, and then slept for 12 hours straight.

serves 2

6 thick slices of heirloom tomato
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 slices of white country bread
1 clove garlic
raw kernels cut off from 1 ear of corn
2 eggs, poached*
2 tablespoons pesto (any kind -- see below for a few ideas**)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley or chives
parmesan, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler
1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted
olive oil
chunky salt

Core and thickly slice the tomato. Coat both sides of each piece with the vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Heat up a grill pan until it's smoking. Sear tomato slices for a minute or so on each side. Remove from heat and set aside. 

Grill or toast the bread. Rub garlic clove all over each piece of bread. The garlic clove will disappear like an eraser.

Poach eggs until they reach desired doneness. Remove eggs from water and place on a clean dish towel for less than a minute.

Start stacking things up on the bread. First the tomato slices, then the raw corn, followed by the hot poached eggs (the eggs will steam the corn a bit). Top with pesto, chopped herbs, parmesan shavings, pine nuts, a drizzle of olive oil and crunchy salt.

*Tips for poached eggs (taught to me by my mother)
1. Bring water to a boil. Make sure it's at least 5 inches deep so the eggs don't stick to the bottom of the pan.
2. Turn flame all the way down. You don't want the water bubbling at all.
3. Add a pinch of salt and a few teaspoons of white, white wine, or champagne vinegar. Stir.
4. Crack an egg into a small bowl. Slowly slide the egg into the water. Repeat with next egg. And so on. Don't overcrowd the eggs. Two at a time works best in a small pot. Four at a time in a larger pot. (My mother cooks them one at a time and before sliding in the egg she spins the water around with a wooden spoon to make a whirlpool. Then she slides the egg into the middle of the whirlpool. Super cool trick. But don't try this if you already have another egg in the water.)
5. After a minute, use a slotted spoon to check on the egg. It's probably about halfway there. Once the white is completely set (touch it if you can't tell), remove and place on a clean dishtowel to catch the water.
6. Serve right away. Or you can reheat the poached egg by sliding it back into the water for 30 seconds or so.

**Dash and Bella pesto recipes (classic basil or sun dried tomato pesto would also work well):

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It could be argued that there would be no Dash and Bella blog without my Bella. But last month she read through the past ten posts and realized I had been cooking so much more with Dash. You could see that she was upset. So as of two weeks ago, she came back into the kitchen with a few changes. She has embraced vegetarianism AND Taylor Swift. Now we sing while we cook:

"But she wears short skirts, I wear t-shirts, she's cheer captain, and I'm on the bleachers. Dreaming about the day when you wake up and find that what you're looking for has been here all the time."

Dash is so sick of the song that it makes him cry. Tears gush down his face and he screams, "I hate Taylor Swift!"

Poor little Dash. He's also sick of Bella's Watermelon Salad with Ricotta Salata, Almonds, and Herbs. I am not.  I think it would be a super refreshing dish for those of you on the East Coast who are actually experiencing a summer. Have I mentioned the Berkeley fog?
 Bella busted out some phenomenal knife skills. I think she has been practicing behind my back.
 She got a little spacey while grating the cheese.  Taylor Swift does that to her.
But she snapped out of it when Dash tried to drink the salad dressing. She told him to BACK OFF.
Here's a version of Bella's salad that I made with lots of pickled onions, red and yellow watermelon, and extra herbs.

Here are a few other variations:
1. Use pine nuts instead of almonds.
2. Use feta or goat cheese instead of ricotta salata. Crumble the cheese over the top so it doesn't melt too much into the salad.
3. Add peeled and sliced peaches.
4. Add avocado and white beans.
5. Add garlic and mustard to the dressing.
6. Add peeled and sliced cucumber.
7. Replace lemon and herbs with cilantro, and chilies (like a salsa).

See variations above. I loved this salad with cucumber.
Very important: Don't make this salad ahead of time because you won't believe how much juice comes out of the watermelon. Serve right away. Use a slotted spoon if you're putting it on a plate with something else. Or, serve it in a bowl with all the juice. Dip buttered bread into the juice after you finish the salad.

1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced or diced
about 4 cups cubed, de-seeded watermelon
about 1/2 cup ricotta salata (feta is a good alternative)
1/2 cup chopped herbs (any combination of parsley, mint, or basil)
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted and lightly browned

Combine lemon juice, vinegar, and salt. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Taste. Make sure it's nice and tart because the watermelon require lots of tang. Place onions in the dressing, mix to coat well, and set aside for 10 minutes. Place watermelon in a large bowl. Using a fork, remove onions from the dressing and combine them with the watermelon. Gently mix. Slowly drizzle over some dressing and most of the herbs. Gently mix. Taste for seasoning. Add more dressing if needed. Use a fork to crumble the ricotta salata over the top. Sprinkle on the almonds. Add some more herbs. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 9, 2010


This Saturday, August 14th, is my first blogiversary. Yes, it's a word. So for the entire week I'm going to dedicate posts to the people who have helped this blog grow.

This first post goes out to Dash. He keeps me running, sweating, chopping, screaming, breathing, and most of all COOKING. A few weeks ago he was having an epic meltdown as I was trying to leave the house. I couldn't console him. He turned to me and said, "Mama, I just want to cook with you. I want you to stay home so we can cook together." I nodded okay. He smiled. I cried.

Here's Dash pretending that it's summer. We've been fogged in for almost two months now in Berkeley. "Mama, I love summer." Dude, a bowl of apricots does not equal summer.
Dash and I made herb salt together a few weeks ago. No recipe needed. Just shove some fresh herbs down into some salt and close the jar. You can chop the herbs up a bit if you want but it's not necessary. The oils in the fresh herbs make a potent herb salt within a few days. We had great success with fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme. Just don't use fresh basil or parsley because (unless dried) they will turn brown. Dash got so excited making herb salt that we kept doing it until we used up all the salt in the house.
First we made thyme salt.
And then rosemary salt. Look at Dash's nonchalant one-handed pour. He had to taste the salt because he tastes EVERYTHING.
Sprinkle the herb salt on chicken before baking or season potatoes before roasting. You get the idea. Check back tomorrow for a tribute to Bella.