Tag Archives: date night

a farmer’s optimism: feta and herb meatballs with roasted red pepper and chard conchiglie (as seen my my iphone)

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“The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”           — Will Rodgers

It’s absolutely bucketing outside – the kind of rain that recalls the old ‘cats and dogs’ idiom; the sort that keeps you from attending a yoga class you’d virtuously scheduled into your day for fear of getting ‘soaked to the bone’ while racing from car to studio, and the type that commands warm socks and your favorite hoodie as the only acceptable attire.

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For those of you that do not live in Southern California, and for me, previously, at various (well, most) points in my life, this kind of rain is usually a bummer.  Maybe it’s just that you tend to remember these sort of negative things, but in my memories, heavy rain – or any bad weather, really – has an unfortunate tendency of picking up just as a plane carrying your best friend touches down for a weekend visit, or on the very weekend that you were planning a backyard fete.  You know what I mean – inclement weather always seems to happen right at the wrong time.

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But this time, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  We’re settled into our new house in Santa Barbara, the last of the scuffed-up and tape-heavy corrugated boxes have been broken down and hauled away, and we’re having our inaugural rainfall.  Not just any old rainfall though – a rainfall that has been hoped, prayed, and danced for by anyone and everyone in the state of drier-than-bone-dry-California (and my Mother, way across the country on Cape Cod, who has been anxiously watching the storm crawl across the doppler for the better part of a week!)

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Here in unusually hot and sunny California – and particularly in South – we’ve managed to get ourselves in a real predicament as far as the water supply is concerned….or complete lack thereof, I should say. Upon the first fat drops hitting the roof you could hear a collective squeal of joy, and when you live on an avocado farm – one that has become increasingly sunburnt and parched under this ultra-sunny Winter sky – a few days of much needed soaking feels like hitting the jackpot.

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Of course a few days of rain will do anything but solve the drought – it’s a huge help, that’s no question – but we are doing everything in our power to conserve, conserve, conserve around here.  That means a 5 gallon bucket in the shower to catch the first few chilly minutes (which in turn gets dumped on the roses), being aware of and reducing the flow when washing dishes and brushing teeth, setting dishwashers and washing machines to their express settings (read: faster and still totally adequate), and recalling the old hippie mantra, “If it’s yellow….”

Crunchy stuff, right?

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on thirty plus one: caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa

caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa header

My birthday falls exactly two weeks after New Year’s Day every single year, cementing the fact that the new year feels even more like a new beginning. Today (well, at 11:17pm tonight, to be precise) I lurch forward and firmly entrench myself completely in my thirties, jettisoning that fresh thirty-years-young title for the more vague “thirty-something”; an alias that, I suspect, I will firmly grasp ahold of till it is wrenched from my forty-year-old-fists at the very last moment of the eleventh hour.

caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa

But beside the fact that I get increasingly more giddy to be ID’d when ordering up a fancy libation at a swank cocktail bar, or that I find myself stocking my medicine cabinet with creams, serums, and masks that promise to deliver a wrinkle-free and youthful visage, getting older – especially lately – is a notion I am embracing with gusto.

caramel catfish and fresno chili quinoa - fish sauce and garlic

James and I have a birthday tradition where we surprise each other with dinner at a restaurant that is kept a secret right up till the moment we pull in the parking lot. This tradition started way back when we were still twenty-somethings in NYC (and early ones, at that!), and was made all the more fun by the fact that trying to guess where we’d be eating out of the thousands of choices that the city proffered was nearly impossible.  (Though, for the record, I was much better than He at guessing.)

caramel catfish and fresno chili quinoa - diced fresno

I’m not cooking tonight (which also means I get to dress up a lil’ fancy and skip out on dishes – hooray for the little things in life!), but if I was, I would make this here caramel catfish.

I know — I can practically see your confused expression through the screen right now, and I know you’re thinking ‘the stuff that goes on candy apples on top of….catfish?!’

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on ribs and granny carts: honey herb pork tenderloin

honey herb pork tenderloin

Some years ago, in New York City, I would become very frustrated when I would find a recipe that was perfectly suited for whatever occasion it was, and then a harsh reality would hit.  I’d realize that I didn’t have things like stand mixers for coconut cakes and fancy French mandolins for perfectly cut matchstick slaw, and, oh yeah, I didn’t have that backyard outfitted with a grill that those finger-lickin’ ribs necessitated either.

honey herb pork tenderloin - fresh herbs and garlic

Instead I had a rickety and rusty 1960’s four burner gas stove (of which, two worked reliably, one was dead, and one threatened a gas explosion each time you encouraged it to light), a janky communal collection of pots and pans bequeathed to us from various donors, and a fire escape ‘patio’ that threatened to buckle each time we crawled out the window to enjoy a glass of wine ‘al fresco.’

honey herb pork tenderloin - pureed flavors

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coming in hot: thai green curry cod cakes with avocado cucumber relish

thai green curry cod cakes with cucumber avocado relish

I’m in the camp that excessively dieting in January to adhere to the constraints of some self-imposed and totally unrealistic ‘resolution’ is a bunch of malarky.

thai green curry cod cakes - pacific cod

But really, who am I kidding – it’s only because I know that I’ll totally throw my own game by kamikaze-ing myself with a cheeseburger, a (craft!) beer, and some killer garlic-truffle fries….just for good measure.

thai green curry cod cakes - chopping peppers and onions

Having my sand in the toes here in much-more-SoCal has definitely got my wheels turning however, and I am hesitant to say it but…..as the rest of the country has been beaten tortured to an inch of their frostbitten life by the ‘polar vortex,’ I’ve been cruising around in a t-shirt and flip flops, taking nightly sunset runs on the beach, and have even managed to pick up just a hint of a tan.  The bathing suit….it is on the horizon my friends.

thai green curry cod cakes - green curry paste

[Ducks to avoid rotten tomatoes]

thai green curry cod cakes - avocado cuke relish!

As with San Francisco, the community here in Santa Barbara is super active; with the pleasant weather, everyone is biking, hiking, running, spinning, juicing, and perfecting their yoga poses.  There is a farmer’s market that runs 7 days a week – year round, rain or shine – and a fishmarket out on the pier that rotates in the catch of the day quite literally right from the (frigid!) waters of the navy blue Pacific.

thai green curry cod cakes - cod pulsed in processor

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from pauper to prince: boeuf bourguignon with buttermilk white sweet potato smash

boeuf bourguignon with buttermilk white sweet potato smash

In a departure from some decidedly puritan vegan brown rice bowls, It’s high time to defer to something a bit more hedonistic.

boeuf bourguignon - seasoned beef

It is November – the thick of it – after all, and with the covers of this months cooking mags plastered with the most perfectly burnished and shellacked turkey specimens one has ever laid eyes on, it’s only natural that my gears are wont to shift over and down from virtuous vegetables and principled brown rice to a massive crock of something rich, dark, and utterly savory.

boeuf bourguignon - crisped up edges

Totally outside of how this boeuf bourguignon tastes (I’ll get to that in just a minute), the way it instantly cozifies your house with an absolutely intoxicating scent is almost reason enough in itself to get ye to thine grocery market to procure the items necessary to get on your merry way to Bourguignon Nirvana. (I can assure you there is such a place.)

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