Miri Leigh Fri, 27 Jan 2012 05:48:28 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.1 Happy news and a teary good-bye, for a while. /2012/01/happy-news-and-teary-good-bye-for-a-while/ /2012/01/happy-news-and-teary-good-bye-for-a-while/#comments Tue, 10 Jan 2012 14:10:46 +0000 miri /?p=2726 Continue reading ]]> Dearest readers, this post is bittersweet.  I’ve decided to sign off from my blog for a while.  The main reason is without a doubt the happiest of all possible reasons:  As you know, I met someone wonderful about a year ago and, just before we left for a two-week trip to Asia over the holidays, he proposed.  Yes, it’s true, I’m happily and blissfully engaged.  With a wedding in my near future (September!) I know I need to focus on all that planning a wedding entails.

Also, interestingly, I’ve found that as I’ve settled into this new life with my husband-to-be, I’m entertaining and cooking more than ever, but compelled (less than ever) to photograph what I’m making, Tweet my updates, check in on Facebook, or write posts.  All of that social media activity tends to break the flow of what’s really happening, and it has become harder and harder for me to do as I’ve felt more rooted and connected to the real world around me.  (As I write this, I notice that my last Tweet was over a month ago – yikes.)  Someone suggested that I hire a PR assistant to tweet and post for me, but then, what’s the point of that?  It seems so inauthentic and deceitful to my readers, for that matter.  Do other bloggers really do that?  I hope not.

As much as I know I’ll miss my friends in the blogging community, I feel more enriched and more grounded in a broader sense than ever before.  I feel present and happy and appreciative of this special time.

My television pilots and instructional videos continue to float around in the entertainment world, and I hope with all my heart that one of the networks will pick me up someday soon.  Everyone seems to want “big concept” shows like Top Chef and Cake Wars these days, which isn’t really me.  I hope that eventually the trend will shift back to a style of programming that is geared toward an audience that actually wants to learn how to cook.  If it does, and there’s room for me in the lineup, I’ll be ready!

For now, I leave you with a virtual potluck of some favorite recipes that have appeared on this blog over the past three years.  Click on the picture, and you’ll be taken to the recipe in the archives.  I hope this is enough to keep you cooking and happy until I return.

I sign off with the deepest gratitude for the many talented bloggers, producers, photographers and stylists who have inspired me and supported me from the beginning.  We’re not done yet!  I’ll be back as soon as I’m ready, and we’ll dive back in.

-Miri

open-faced apple pie

brandied cherries

Cherry Tomatoes1

apricot almond tart

chocolate souffle

lentil burger


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Happy Holidays, and Away We Go! /2011/12/happy-holidays-and-away-we-go/ /2011/12/happy-holidays-and-away-we-go/#comments Thu, 22 Dec 2011 23:56:33 +0000 miri /?p=2708 Continue reading ]]>

Holiday greetings! Thanksgiving was a total blast. We rented an 8 foot table, moved the couch and ottoman, and put that big ol’ table right down the middle of our living room. Ten people gathered round it for a feast of turkey, sage and sausage stuffing, cornbread, whipped sweet potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, cranberry sauce and green beans. My dad (pictured with me) and I  did most of the cooking and baking (that’s me rolling out the biscuits), which is more like performing an elaborate piece of choreography in our tiny shoebox of a kitchen. But we had a fabulous, fabulous time. Moe’s mother and sister came, along with my parents, our good friends G&K, and our other good friends B&S, along with their one-year-old daughter.

But what was most special about this year’s Thanksgiving was not what we ate, but what we ate it on.   Our table was adorned with some very special pieces of china and silver, all from my grandmother.  Her china is white and ivory with a band of gold around the perimeter, delicately etched with a lacy floral pattern.  It dates to the 1930s, when my great grandmother bought a 20-piece set at Marshall Fields in Chicago.  (My mother now has the other half of the set.)  The sterling set consists of goblets, serving pieces, and a butter dish.  My grandmother had a stroke nearly ten years ago and, sadly, can’t entertain like she used to.  But it made her happy this year that all of her most cherished pieces were being put to good use.

And Hanukkah is here already! We celebrated and lit the menorah last night with cousins from out of town and I whipped up a dinner to make my Jewish grandma proud: whole roasted chicken, matzah stuffing, and crispy potato latkes with sour cream and apple sauce. For dessert, we devoured a platter of homemade baklava given to me as a holiday gift by a dear friend. We had a wonderful time talking and laughing over wine and delicious, traditional food. This, to me, is what the holidays are all about.

And for Christmas and New Year’s? We are off to Vietnam and Thailand for a two-week tropical trip of beaches, sand and some of the world’s freshest seafood. Not terribly traditional, I’ll give you that, but I think we’ll have a great time. We’ll be on Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam, for the first leg of our journey, then Railay Beach, Thailand through the first week of January.

Photos of food, beaches and paradise to follow shortly.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

-Miri

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Thanksgiving Weekend Cinnamon Rolls /2011/11/thanksgiving-weekend-cinnamon-rolls/ /2011/11/thanksgiving-weekend-cinnamon-rolls/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2011 22:18:03 +0000 miri /?p=2704 Continue reading ]]> What do cinnamon rolls have to do with Thanksgiving?  Not much, apparently.  But if you’re hosting a post-feast brunch this weekend, what could be better to serve than cinnamon rolls?

That’s what we’re doing on Sunday.  My parents, Moe’s mom and sister, and a few other assorted friends and relatives are gathering at our place for cinnamon rolls, coffee and fruit salad before we say goodbye.  So I threw together this little video on how to make cinnamon rolls at home.  It couldn’t be easier — a simple yeast dough slathered in butter and sugar, rolled up, sliced and baked to cinnamon-y deliciousness.

After turkey with all the fixings and pumpkin pie… why not?

PS — Moe did the camera work this time, for the first time. Didn’t he do a mighty fine job?

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The Top Ten Things I Learned in Cheese School /2011/10/the-top-ten-things-i-learned-in-cheese-school/ /2011/10/the-top-ten-things-i-learned-in-cheese-school/#comments Thu, 27 Oct 2011 23:48:39 +0000 miri /?p=2695 Continue reading ]]> As a follow-up to my post last week about my jaunt to the San Francisco Cheese School, I present to you my notes. Since you probably can’t read what I scribbled (and dribbled) all over my actual notes, I’ve summarized my key findings below. Happy cheese eating!

1. Fresh bright cheeses go with fresh bright wines. For example, a sauvignon blanc would go well with an herbed goats milk cheese like Fleur Verte.

2. At the other end of the spectrum… a “bigger” wine like cabernet sauvignon goes well with more complex cheeses that are aged and nutty in flavor, such as a stilton.

3. “Raw milk cheese” simply means that the milk was not pasteurized before the cheese making process began, which in turn means that the cheese making process began within two hours of when the milk was collected from the animal.

4. The hardness of the cheese is correlated with how long the cheese is aged. Hard cheeses like parmigiano-reggiano are aged 18-24 months. A semi-soft cheese such as ossau araty (Basque sheep’s milk cheese) is aged 30-60 days. Semi-soft cheeses must be made with pasteurized milk in the US because raw milk contains live microflora that (according to the USDA) can cause illness.

5. In a soft, aged cheese like Tomme Crayeuse, the center of the round is less aged than the outer portion. So it will have a different texture and flavor… it’s softer and more tart.

6. There is no lactose in cheese aged over 60 days. Goat, sheep and water buffalo cheeses are the easiest to digest for people who have lactose or dairy intolerance.

7. Butterfat content has to do with the creaminess of the cheese. Swiss has 45% bf, double crème cheese (brie) are about 65% bf, and triple crème cheeses (like Brillat-Savarin) are 75% bf. To put all of this into perspective… butter is at least 85% butterfat.

8. How long before guests arrive should you take your cheeses out of the fridge? Hard cheese can sit out for up to an hour, semi-hard cheeses can sit out for about 20 minutes. Soft and fresh cheeses should come out of the fridge just as guests are arriving.

9. Some of my favorite pairings… aged balsamic on parmigiano-reggiano… Tomme Crayeuse with dried figs and port… Colston Bassett Stilton with honey and port… Epoisses with Riesling.

10. Honey is incredible on all cheeses. You can’t go wrong.

Cheese School Notes

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A little bit of (ridiculously fun) cheese education /2011/10/fun-cheese-education/ /2011/10/fun-cheese-education/#comments Fri, 21 Oct 2011 22:44:14 +0000 miri /?p=2672 Continue reading ]]> San Francisco Cheese School

Have you ever started to assemble a cheese platter for a party and then realized that you have no idea what you’re doing?  I have.  Beyond the very basic and boring rule of “one hard cheese, one semi-hard cheese, and one soft cheese,” I’ve never felt the least bit confident about how to pick a good cheese or how to pick three (or more) cheeses that go well together.  And pairing cheese with wine and other foods?  Forget it.  Totally out of my league.

And haven’t you always been curious about what else, besides cheese, might go on a cheese platter?  Grapes?  Crackers?  Snore.  I’ve been desperate to find someone who could help me come up with something a little more exciting.

Let me tell you who can.  Juliana Uruburu, director of cheese at the Bay Area’s famous Market Hall and instructor of “Perfect Cheese Pairings” at the San Francisco Cheese School.

I attended Juliana’s two-hour class this week and was blown away by 1) how fun it was and 2) how little I know about cheese. (I was also blown away by how tipsy one can get on nothing but cheese and wine for dinner, but let’s save that for the end.)

The Cheese School holds small classes in a lovely wood-floored, open-windowed loft space on Powell Street not far from Fisherman’s Wharf.  You sit at a long dining room-style table that’s set with the prettiest china and sparkling wine glasses and tiny, adorable cheese utensils.  The instructor imparts to you all of her infinite wisdom (in a very informal lecture) about cheese and food and wine while you dine on the very cheese and food and wine she’s talking about.  You ask questions and you take notes and she stops to explain things and then you ask more questions and you take more notes.  And then you drink some wine and you forget that you already asked a particular question but she answers anyway and everyone laughs together and has more wine.

Tell me… what wouldn’t be fun about all that?

As for number 2, as much as you’re having fun, you will definitely come away from the experience feeling like you need more classes.  I felt far more comfortable about how to assemble a cheese platter after this particular class, and there were certain logical tips I knew I could file away in my mental recipe box for easy retrieval. (“Bright, fruity wines go with bright, lively cheeses,” and “Honey is amazing on ANY cheese!”)  But I know that we hardly scratched the surface of all there is to know about cheese.  You know those numbers and letters stamped into the rind of your parmigiano regiano?  There’s a whole handbook on how to decode those numbers!  They tell you not only where the cheese wheel came from but what family produced it and at what time of year.  And forget pairing cheese with wine.  There are classes on pairing cheese with beer, pairing cheese with port, and even pairing cheese with sake.  Sake!  Who would ever think of serving cheese with sake?  Apparently, it can be done.

Next week, for those of you who don’t live close enough to attend a class in person, I’ll post the Top Ten things I Learned in Cheese School and a copy of my horribly scribbled but somewhat funny (and partially wine-stained) class notes.  For the rest of you, I encourage you to sign up for a class pronto, before you find yourself staring dumbfoundedly at another boring cheese platter. You absolutely must go on empty stomach and indulge in nothing but cheese and wine for dinner.  You deserve it.  Just be sure to cab it home.

Photo credit: San Francisco Cheese School

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At season’s end. /2011/09/at-seasons-end/ /2011/09/at-seasons-end/#comments Thu, 29 Sep 2011 10:20:22 +0000 miri /?p=2663 Continue reading ]]> Lake Tahoe

The summer season at Lake Tahoe lasted 13 weekends this year, and we managed to soak up an impressive 11 of them.  We’d sneak out of work a little early on Friday and shoot up the mountain ahead of the evening crush.  We stayed in cheap motels, a few decent condos and occasionally at a swanky cabin owned by one of my coworkers.  But it never much mattered where we were staying because our days were spent on that breathtaking, sparkling expanse of blue water.  Every morning, we’d pack our boat with a picnic and a little wine, smear ourselves with sunscreen and set out for a long relaxing day of sunshine and total, decadent inactivity.

At the beginning of the summer, we’d often get out there and I’d wonder, in a moment of panic, what in the world will we do all day?  I’m so used to juggling tasks and busying myself with work and errands that the idea of sitting on a boat with only a book and a stack of magazines to distract me seemed a little daunting.

But it’s amazing how quickly you slow down when you have nowhere to go and nothing to do.  By the end of the season, I was so accustomed to the whole routine of nothingness that the day would sometimes seem to pass in the blink of an eye.  As the season wore on, the sun would start to sink toward the west shore just a little earlier each evening.  And we knew it all had to come to an end.

Indeed, the weather turns quickly at 6,500 feet elevation.  Last weekend, with a tear in our eyes, we pulled the boat out of the water and towed it down the hill for winter storage Reno.

We’ll always have pictures to remember the summer by, and surely next summer will be here before we know it.  In the meantime, I’ll have more time for baking and cooking now that we’re spending more time at home.

Just this week I made almond butter cookies one evening while Moe watched football in the living room.  Shorter days… football… cookies in the oven.  A new season begins.

almond butter cookies

Chewy Almond Butter Cookies

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy almond butter
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 375.  Grease two cookie sheets.

Cream the butter, almond butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until fully incorporated.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl.  Add to the butter mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

Drop batter by the tablespoonful and flatten slightly with the back of a fork.  Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of turbinado sugar and bake 7-9 minutes for soft, chewy cookies, 9-11 minutes for denser cookies.

Serve warm.  Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to four days.

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Next TV Appearance: September 16! /2011/09/next-tv-appearance-september-16/ /2011/09/next-tv-appearance-september-16/#comments Tue, 13 Sep 2011 00:43:49 +0000 miri /?p=2653 Continue reading ]]> I’m very excited to report that my next appearance on NBC’s Arizona Midday will be this Friday, September 16! I hope all of you in the Arizona market will tune in and watch as I whip up a storm with my co-host Chef Chuck and Arizona Midday host Destry Jetton.

As promised, here are clips from my most recent appearance in August.  I hope you enjoy them, and please share your feedback!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqynBc90bVU

www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM0lHn-kO1U

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See me on NBC’s Arizona Midday! /2011/09/see-me-on-nbcs-arizona-midday/ /2011/09/see-me-on-nbcs-arizona-midday/#comments Thu, 01 Sep 2011 13:55:05 +0000 miri /?p=2648 Continue reading ]]> Arizona Midday Set

I have had the exciting privilege of appearing on NBC’s “Arizona Midday” with my friend Chef Chuck of Chef Chuck’s Cucina.  Hosted by Destry Jetton (and, yes, she is as drop-dead gorgeous in person as she is on screen!), Arizona Midday features a cooking segment nearly every week.  In our last appearance, we made Spaghetti a la Carbonara and some really amazing, simple stuffed artichokes.  I’ll be on again on September 16th, so I hope you’ll tune in if you’re local.

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Lemon Chiffon Tart with Fresh Blueberries /2011/08/lemon-chiffon-tart-with-fresh-blueberries/ /2011/08/lemon-chiffon-tart-with-fresh-blueberries/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2011 18:52:29 +0000 miri /?p=2638 Continue reading ]]>

A few weeks ago we had company for dinner and, in my usual way, I spent most of the day making dessert and about 20 minutes making dinner.  To be honest, I can’t even remember what we had for dinner, now that I think of it.  But the dessert, a lemon chiffon tart, left an impression.  I just love a sweet, pretty ending to a meal, don’t you?  This tart is the perfect dessert with dinner on a warm evening; the filling is light and lemony (a lemon curd lightened by whipped cream) and the topping features fresh, ripe blueberries in all their summertime glory.  No glaze, no sugar.  Just the sweetest berries the season has to offer.

And the best part?  You could use any type of berry, really … blackberries, raspberries and strawberries would all be equally delicious.  Choose whatever’s fresh and ripe at the market.

Make the tart dough:

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and salt until well-blended. Add the egg and mix on low speed until fully incorporated. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour all at once and mix on low speed just until fully incorporated.

On a lightly floured smooth surface, divide the dough into two equal parts and shape each into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours to let the dough rest, or overnight. (Alternatively, you can make the dough well in advance and freeze for up to three weeks. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.)

Prepare the tart shell:

Roll one of the chilled disks to 1/8 inch thick, or until it is about 11.5 inches in diameter, lifting and turning the dough a quarter turn after every few rolls to prevent sticking. (Reserve the second disk for a future use.) Trim any uneven edges and carefully lift and transfer the dough to a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, patching any holes or tears with scraps of dough. Trim the edges again until they are level with the top of the pan and smooth between your forefinger and thumb. Place the prepared pastry shell in the freezer for 15 minutes until it is firm.

Preheat the oven to 325. Remove the tart shell from the freezer and, using a pastry brush, brush the pastry with an egg wash (one egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water). Prick the bottom of the shell with the tines of a fork and place in the preheated oven. Bake 12-14 minutes, or until the shell is golden brown. Let cool completely.

Make the lemon cream:

1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp lemon juice
3 whole large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cool but not cold
1 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold

Topping:

1 pint fresh blueberries

Bring two inches of water to simmer in a medium saucepan. Whisk together the lemon juice, whole eggs, egg yolk, sugar and salt in a stainless steel bowl that will fit snugly atop the saucepan over (but not touching) the simmering water. Whisk the egg mixture continuously over the simmering water until thickened and registers 180F on a thermometer (about 10-12 minutes). (Do not stop whisking, as the eggs will curdle.)

Allow to cool slightly (140F) and whisk in the butter in four batches, whisking thoroughly after each addition. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Whisk the heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Whisk 1/4 cup of the whipped cream into the prepared lemon cream, then gently fold the lemon cream mixture into the whipped cream.

Quickly pour the cream mixture into the prepared tart shells and smooth with an offset spatula. Decorate the top with fresh blueberries or other whole berries, washed and dried completely.

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So this is where I cook now. /2011/08/so-this-is-where-i-cook-now/ /2011/08/so-this-is-where-i-cook-now/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2011 16:59:38 +0000 miri /?p=2602 Continue reading ]]> 1930s kitchen

A few months ago I posted an entry about my big move to San Francisco and now I’m all settled into our cozy city apartment.  Moe’s bachelor pad has been all girled up with curtains and decorative pillows and other pretty little things.  It’s been… transformed.

And what about apartment cooking, you ask?  It’s not that bad.  Our building dates to the mid-1930s, and while the kitchen is small and mostly original, it’s pretty functional.  I find that I make less of a mess because there really isn’t much counter space to make a mess of in the first place.  And I do dishes as I go since there’s no dishwasher, which means the post-meal cleanup is less of a chore.  (On that note, you’ll have to pardon the mountain of dishes drying in the rack pictured above; we’d just had brunch.  But the light coming in from the window was so pretty, I just had to snap a shot.  And I didn’t want to tidy it all up before I photographed it and so you would think that my kitchen always happens to look picture-perfect… because it doesn’t.)

Last weekend we stayed at a friend’s swanky Tahoe home and I found myself feeling somewhat lost and overwhelmed in the spacious modern kitchen, what with its endless planes of cool, slick granite and shiny stainless appliances.  I found I really missed my little kitchen, so full of character and history.  I love the old wooden window over the faucet and the single-basin ceramic sink, and the glass-paned door that leads to our patio herb garden.  It’s a kitchen that has interesting stories to tell, no doubt.  I’ve often wondered who else has cooked here and what they were like.  Who was this apartment’s first tenant, back in 1936, and was she wowed by the modernity of the place?  Who lived here when the milkman still delivered milk through the milk door, and when the ice box actually had ice in it? (It has now been converted to a cabinet.)

Who else has stood at that sink, their hands in warm soapy water, and paused for a moment to feel the cool, damp air blow in from the Bay?

If only a kitchen could talk.

tiny fridge

We definitely only buy what we need, because the fridge is about the size of a large upright cooler. It's hard to tell from the photo but believe me, you've never seen one smaller except perhaps on an RV.

My cookbooks now live, quite happily, in the built-in in the dining room.

The most prized feature of any city apartment -- a deck! Complete with herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, and flowers.

Flowers picked from planter boxes on the deck - nasturtium, lavender, and violets.

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