Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ginger Cookies with Lemon Curd

Zazie in Cole Valley is a great place to have breakfast.  The food is delicious and you can order small portions too which means you aren't so stuffed and it's more affordable.  I enjoyed the gingerbread pancake with lemon curd so thought I would try and make a cookie recipe inspired by that dish.  So here it is.  The cookies have a bit of a spicy kick to them and are a good treat just on their own too.

Ginger Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tb ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
pinch of cayenne
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 325.  In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cayenne and salt.  In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar, and then beat in the egg.  Add molasses.  Add dry ingredients and crystallized ginger and mix until just combined.
Roll dough into golf ball size balls and place on parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake for 20 minutes and then place on rack to cool.  The recipe makes about 24 cookies.

Lemon Curd

1/2 cup lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
6 Tb butter, cut in bits

Whisk juice, zest, sugar and eggs in a 2 quart saucepan.  Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking often, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of the whisk, around 20 minutes.  Transfer curd to a bowl, cover with plastic and chill at least an hour.  The curd can be kept in the fridge up to one week.  When you are ready for a snack, spread some curd between two cookies and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

big bay windows

An architectural feature you will notice over and over again here are the big bay windows.  They let in lots of natural light, particularly to row houses which don't have side windows or side yards.  A good place to curl up and read a book, or a cat to laze away the afternoon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Last Waltz

Richard, Levon, Rick, Garth, Robbie

The Band played their first gig as The Band in 1969 at the Winterland in San Francisco and that is where they (or at least Robbie) chose to play their final concert and have it filmed as The Last Waltz by Martin Scorsese.  On November 25, 1976 the audience of 5000 were treated to a Thanksgiving dinner before the show.  And what a show.

I saw The Last Waltz when I was 13 in the mid '80s at a university theatre with my dad.  We got there early and there were only two old women in line ahead of us.   They assumed because of the title that it was a film about classical music.  My dad told them it was The Band's concert but they had no idea.  He went on to mention some of the other performers in the film:  Neil Young?  Ronnie Hawkins?  Joni Mitchell? were met with blank stares.  Dylan. You know Bob Dylan?  Nope.  He glanced at me like hey they sure are in for something.

I'm glad my first experience of this film was on the big screen surrounded by a passionate audience.  There are so many classic performances.  And the interviews:  Garth telling how he had to convince his parents he was actually giving music lessons so they would accept he was in the band, Richard describing how they couldn't afford food so had to go into the grocery store and come out with baloney stuffed in their coats, a bittersweet moment with Rick musing how he'll just have to keep busy now.

Here's the trailer to give you a taste.  And like it reminds you at the beginning of the film, Play it Loud.

Just an interesting note:  Last month, 34 years after The Last Waltz, The Levon Helm Band was one of the headliners at the Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Water 'n Trees

Want to go on a San Francisco stroll where you will basically encounter water and trees?  You can walk for a long stretch along Ocean Beach skirting the waves of the chilly Pacific.  If you go in the morning you might see some people walking their dogs, someone fishing, a surfer.  Cross over the Great Highway, then you can meander along a trail in Golden Gate Park which until 1870 was just wind-blasted sand dunes and is now a bucolic park covering over a thousand acres.  While there you can go to a museum, have a Japanese tea, go to a concert, or just simply wander among the trees.  At Stanyan Street you can continue for about another mile along a path in the Panhandle, a strip of grass and trees hemmed by Victorian houses where in the 60s the Diggers used to feed the hungry hordes that descended on Haight Ashbury.  You will probably see some joggers, maybe someone strumming a guitar or crawling out of their makeshift tent to greet the day.  All in the middle of the city.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dave Smallen

I really like this album by Dave Smallen from across the bay in Oakland. It is raw with a touch of fragility. Has lots of heart. You can listen to the title track "Everything Changes and Nothing Changes" below.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fresh Tomatoes for Supper

You could probably go to a different farmer's market every day of the week in San Francisco. The Bay Area is well known for its local food scene and using fresh seasonal ingredients. The locavore food movement or trying to stick to a 100 mile diet is everywhere now but probably got its start or at least some of its momentum back in the '70s at restaurants such as Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Cooks here are really blessed to have a bountiful choice of fruits and vegetables available year round.

In the spring I went to the Wednesday afternoon Haight Ashbury farmer's market and bought a carton of fresh strawberries and ate them all right there on the spot. That was my first taste of the season and it would be another month or so before I could enjoy local ones here. Also got some really tasty lemon and pear marmalade from the Blue Chair fruit company stand. Sampled some spiced almonds, star thistle was pure food bliss beneath the towering trees of Golden Gate Park.

Right now the farmer's markets are at their peak here with so much available all at once for just a short time. If you pick up some tomatoes at the local market or have some growing in your backyard, this is a quick and easy meal you can tailor to your taste. It's particularly good with a variety of heirloom tomatoes but any fresh tomatoes will do. I usually make a few variations of this during the tomato season. Just dice up some tomatoes and put them in a big bowl with some fresh chopped basil. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar on top with some salt and pepper and gently toss. It's delicious just like that or you can add whatever else you like: olives, fresh herbs, toasted nuts, chopped anchovies, blanched chopped green beans, whatever you like. Let it sit about a half hour and then make a chunky pasta like farfalle or fusilli. Drain and toss with the tomatoes in the bowl, top with some parmesan or feta, and there's your summer supper.

(Note: I think I originally got this recipe or something close to it in a Mollie Katzen cookbook. She is from the East Coast but moved to San Francisco to go to school around 1970 and while there worked at the Shandygaff vegetarian restaurant. While visiting back east she helped open the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY which is still in its original location today and is a great place to stop for a meal if you are driving around upstate New York.)