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.

Posted in Baking & Cake Decorating, Essays, Travel | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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!

Posted in Videos | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in Baking & Cake Decorating, Entertaining, Home & Garden, Recipes, Travel, Videos | 9 Comments

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.

Posted in Baking & Cake Decorating, Recipes | 9 Comments

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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Posted in Essays, Home & Garden | 5 Comments