Wednesday, January 26, 2011

This Life That we Make or A Homemade Life

As I recently mentioned I joined an online book group and handily the book this month was by one of my favorite bloggers Molly Wizenberg, author of the endearing food blog Orangette.  I read her book, A Homemade Life, for the first time a few years ago and rereading it now has proven to me yet again that there can be great pleasure found in reading a book at different stages of your life.  In the time since I last read her book, I have not only moved across the country, but I also got married.  Somewhere in these events my way of relating to Molly in, A Homemade Life, has changed.  Though I  thoroughly enjoyed the book the first time around I found myself skimming certain sections that at the time I thought were kind of boring and now I know I was just not at the point in my life to relate properly to what I was reading. 

I found in both readings that Molly Wizenberg is a very open writer, making it very easy to relate not only to her life but also her stories and “characters”.  By giving you quick peeks into so many different parts of her life, from her family, her years living in France, meeting a man through the comment pages of her blog, Wizneberg grabs onto the readers attention.   I found, A Homemade Life, to be a perfect book to curl up with a cup of tea and read a day away, surfacing once in a while driven by her food descriptions to go scavenge in the fridge.  At the end of each chapter the reader is rewarded with some incredible sounding recipes, such as: Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears, Butternut Soup with Pear, Cider and Vanilla Bean, Caramelized Cauliflower with Salsa Verde and Custard filled Corn Bread.  If those recipes don’t make you want to pick up this book I don’t know what will.  I will say, now that I have read the book twice, that I think I am currently at the perfect stage in my life to get as much as possible from this book.  I am very curious to see if others felt the same way.

At first trying to decide which recipe to do for the blog was almost impossible and with each chapter I read my decision changed.  The descriptions and recipe choices featured in this book are all really tempting and I doubt you will get through the book without marking at least a few. Timing worked out on my side and I finished the book right before my New York House guests arrived.  As Rob was working on their first morning here breakfast was on me and I immediately thought of

Molly’s recipe for Dutch Baby Pancakes.  Not only did I have all the ingredients but it seemed the perfect breakfast for two people suffering from jet lag and awakening to their first California morning.  The only changes I made were to use 5 eggs, because mine were small, and to use a 12-inch cast iron skillet because that is the size that I have.  Though the recipe says it serves 2 the three of us had plenty with Sausage and berries along side. I am happy to report that both guest really enjoyed their breakfast and I think it was a pretty great way to kick of a vacation.

To read the other group member reviews and see which recipes they tried out go to the group site This Book Makes me Cook.

I also highly recommend checking out Molly’s blog Orangette where you can see even more of her recipes and read more about her life since, A Homemade Life was published.  According to her most recent blog

post she has another book in the works which I am really looking forward to. 


Here is the recipe straight from the book, if you would like to see it on her blog along with her writing to go with it you can click here.

Dutch Baby Pancakes With Lemon and Sugar              
From A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

For the pancakes
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup half-and-half
¼ teaspoon salt

For the Topping
freshly squeezed lemon juice
powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 425F
  • Put the butter in an 8-inch cast-iron skillet and place over low heat.
  • Alternatively, put the butter in a similarly sized cake pan or pie plate, and place in the preheated oven for a few minutes.  As the butter melts, use a pastry brush to coax it up the sides of the skillet.
  • Meanwhile, in a blender, mix together the eggs, flour, half-and-half, and salt until well blended.
  • Pour the egg mixture into the warmed skillet.  Slide into the oven, and bake for 18 to 25 minutes. 
  • The mixture will rise and puff around the edges, like a bowl-shaped soufflĂ©.  The Dutch Baby is ready when the center looks set and the edges are nicely risen and golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven.  Drizzle-or splash, really; abundance is good here- with lemon juice and sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.
Yield: 2 servings

Monday, January 24, 2011

Some Things to Look Forward to, and January at the Market.

One thing I really miss from Glens Falls, NY is the foodie book group I ran at my old job Red Fox Books.  I had the pleasure of being a part of this book group for over two years and I had a wonderful time reading, eating and chatting with some great people.  To take something so solitary as reading and make it a group undertaking is a great pleasure and one that I miss.  Not to mention the relationship you forge with people over good books and food.
As far as I have looked there is not a foodie book group in Sacramento, though there is a group for “regular” fiction that I hope to start attending in February.   I have found two different online foodie book groups for bloggers that I have decided to take part in.  Obviously being a part of three book groups is a bit extreme and not something I plan on doing every month, but I hope to always take part in at least one and maybe more depending on the books we are reading. 
The first, This Book Makes Me Cook, and the second, Cook the Books Club, have the same concept where groups of bloggers read the same book, blog about it and link to each others blogs.  Cook the Books club is a little different because each month there is a judge (sometimes the author of the book) that will pick a winner for that month.  If you are interested in joining or just want to know more about the groups please click on their names to go the sites.
So you now get to look forward to reading my book group interactions, including thoughts on the books I read and experiments with food from the books.  Feel free to read along if the fancy strikes you, I will try to keep you updated on the future titles. 

On a completely separate note, Rob and I made it to the Sunday farmers market in Sacramento and were yet again blown away.  It has been a while since we were able to make it to the market, so we did not have the highest of expectations for a market visit in mid January.  Ha, were we wrong!!  If you have been to a market in New York this time of year you know that the selection is pretty slim and often markets don’t even go through the whole winter. 
As we walked up to the market the smell of citrus hit us full on before we even saw the piles of oranges, mandarins, lemons and grapefruits.  Some other great surprises were bags of kiwis, baskets of intense smelling strawberries, and of course lots of greens and root vegetables.  I also say a vendor selling raw milk, which kind of freaked out my New York brain (where raw milk is illegal to sell).  I will have to look into the many things I can do with raw milk, the first thing that jumped into my head was to make cheese.  Any ideas or tips? 
This market definitely makes me so excited that I live here, and I always leave in a great mood with plans of meals and treats dancing in my head.  Farmers markets are one of my favorite things to visit and wherever I go I always try to seek one out.  I think it tells you so much about the place that you are visiting, and you get to see a view of real life that many tourists tend to miss.  In my travels the market in Montreal has stayed one of my favorites.  Where is your favorite farmers market? 
My favorite find this week which we did not buy but did get to try was Blood Orange juice, which blew my mind on a few different levels.  The Blood Oranges we got in New York are nothing like the ones that we have here and I am a bit resentful that I have been missing this flavor from my life all this time.  Oh, January in California you are my friend.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New York Dining Companions

(Pictures to come when the New York photographer recovers from jet lag)

You will have to excuse the gap in posting but Rob and I had our first New York house guests staying with us for the last two weeks so we have been pretty busy.  We had a lot of fun sharing Sacramento and San Francisco with my mother and sister in-law, and I think they had a good time getting to know our new home.  Though we had lots of support in our move it was still pretty hard for our parents to embrace the fact that we were moving all the way across the country, so the first visits are really important.  We need to show them that we are doing well and that we made a good choice.  The fact that New York has been getting slammed with snowstorms these last few weeks definitely helped our cause as well. 

We did a lot of sight seeing, much of which Rob and I never got around to when we first moved here like; touring the State Capitol, checking out Sutter's Fort and the State Indian Museum.  Along with the sightseeing we ate, A LOT.  Most of our time in Sacramento has been spent being very careful with the money that we spend so we have not gone out to eat very often.  Having guests gave us the excuse we needed to finally try out some of the restaurants that we have been ogling the last few months.  Restaurants say a lot about a city, the different ethnicities represented and the importance the residence put on food.

Some of our meals included:  Kangaroo, Yak and Wild Boar burgers at the Flaming Grill Cafe(Kangaroo was my favorite), an array of Tapas in midtown at Tapa the World, a lunch focused on fresh ingredients (the meat had never seen the inside of a freezer) at Gatsby's Diner, and a very laid back meal at the Delta Bar and Grill which sits on the beautiful old Delta King riverboat floating in the Sacramento River.  There were plenty of others but those were some of the highlights, and the ones that I think we sent them back to New York talking about.

There is nothing comparable to sharing a really good meal with people that you love, especially when it has been a while since you have been able to do it.  If you have been reading this blog you have noticed the recent holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas were sans extended family, and though we had a great time we definitely missed seeing everyone.  So, it was really nice these last two weeks to be able to sit around a table with family, chatting and trading stories as we shared food from each others plates.  It is something that makes moving away hard to do, because for a while you will be without those type of experiences. 

Also, having tried so many new restaurants I can now say for certain that we definitely made the right choice in Sacramento, because there is some awesome food!

If you read food writing I am sure you have read plenty of books on the restaurant industry.  Some of my favorites include:

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: the romantic, impractical, often eccentric, ultimately brilliant making of a food revolution by Thomas MsNamee
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bordain
Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter by Phoebe Damrosch
Spiced: a Pastry Chefs True Stories by Dalia Jurgensen

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I am Resolute

I have always had mixed feelings about the act of making New Years resolutions.  I mean, sure it is great to set goals for yourself and to always strive to make yourself and your life better, but starting each year with a list of “demands” for yourself seems a bit much.  Life tends to be pretty stressful all by itself, with deadlines and expectations and the like, so why in the world do we start off the year (often within the first hour or so) with this list weighing on our shoulders? 

Don’t get me wrong I have made many, and am always cheering on those that are trying to accomplish theirs, I just don’t think it is for me.  Rob asked me on Saturday what my resolutions were, and, after giving him my lengthily speech, I realized that he and I are kind of exempt from the tradition this year anyway.  The sheer act of starting out a New Year in California is a pretty good start, it seems to me that almost everything we do this year will be new, exciting and life changing.  So, as I see it, we don’t need any resolutions, our lives are changing all on their own!

 I am pretty excited about everything I see in my immediate future: the new library job, the foodie blogger book group that I joined (you will learn about this very soon) my soon to arrive New York visitors, and on and on.  So, this year I don’t feel any need to add additions onto my life they seem to be coming all on their own. 

Happy New Year everyone, I hope you are as excited about it as I am! 

Dare I ask what your resolutions are?