Thursday, September 30, 2010

Monkey Cake, No Joke

When you have a friend who has devoted an entire wall of his living room to photos and postcards of monkeys and apes of every variety—not to mention a hanging display of more stuffed chimps and gorillas than you could possibly count—it only makes sense that you should make him a birthday cake like this:

I personally have a thing for lions myself, but my dear friend Jorge truly loves all creatures in the simian family. In fact, he is the only person I know who, in all honesty, has claimed a serious need to “finally organize my monkeys this year.” No joke. His monkey wall is truly beyond the scope of what my camera lens could capture without switching it to a panorama setting. However, this photo does give you a slight indication of what’s going on.

I mean, really. With a wall like this, how could I NOT make him a banana cake with chocolate frosting, complete with cutout little ears and a sweet monkey face? Come on.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Quick Tomato Sauce With Lemon—Who Knew?

Boy oh boy, I have something fun to share with you today. How would you feel about a bright kicky tomato sauce that dances on your palate, tastes like sunshine when combined with a tangle of noodles, and only takes about five minutes to make? Yes, I just knew you’d like to know more about it.

This is the time of year when I regularly crave simple bowls of pasta adorned with tomato sauce and fresh basil leaves. I find that a good bowl of pasta pomodoro is a natural way to transition from ripe tomato season to heartier cooler weather fare. I’m not ready to give up the classic summery tomato-and-basil combo just yet, but I don’t mind turning on the stove now the way I did a few weeks ago.

 My long-time favorite pomodoro sauce is based on a recipe from Mario Batali.  It starts with a base of chopped onion and garlic cooked down in olive oil along with shredded carrot and thyme leaves, and it’s a sauce that benefits from a long lazy simmer once the tomatoes are added. I love the concentrated tomato sweetness of this sauce, especially when you use real Italian San Marzano tomatoes, and it’s certainly going to remain a staple in my repertoire for a long time.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kitchen Fiddler Turns Two

Kitchen Fiddler is two years old today! 

Whether you are a relatively new reader or if you’ve been here with me since the beginning, I want to say a special THANK YOU to all of you for your enthusiasm and support in joining this online extension of my kitchen. I’ve taken great delight in sharing these favorite recipes and photos with you over the past two years, which is the next best thing to having an extended dinner party together. While we don’t always get to enjoy a meal together face to face, I am glad for a way to connect with you in your own kitchens. It gives me great joy to know that some of these favorite recipes of mine have now become your favorites too, the kind of dish that puts a smile on your face each time you recreate it for yourself and your friends.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Asian Cabbage Slaw To Start A New Season

I’ve been out of school for more than a decade but every September still feels like a slap in the face, for vacation has ended and it's time to get down to business. My Augusts tend to be rather indulgent anyway since it’s Birthday Month, and while I’m all for celebrating for extended periods of time, even I can admit that this most recent birthday month was a tad excessive. If nearly every meal in August included some form of cake, pastry, or ice cream, is it any wonder that my clothes are now too tight?? Just call me Murder She Wrote, but it’s not too difficult to figure that one out.

After the rude awakening of unsuccessfully trying to squeeze into my clothes this September, I knew I had to buckle down and make some changes. I wasn’t going to do anything drastic like permanently eliminate sugar or never eat a smidge of dairy ever again, for I don’t respond favorably under the threat of “YOU CAN NEVER DO THAT AGAIN FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE!” especially when my relationship with chocolate or cheese might be put at risk. But I knew I needed to cut down on those things and make a daily commitment to eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Two weeks into this vegetable-friendly eating plan, I must say that it’s been relatively easy to stick to, especially with this Asian Cabbage Slaw in my repertoire.

Monday, September 6, 2010

San Francisco Inspiration

When your job comes to an end, the best way to ease the transition is by taking a trip to a favorite place. My beloved show “South Pacific” closed on August 22nd after a 2-½ year run, and there were many tears mingling with all of the hugs and glasses of bubbly during that bittersweet final week. However, I think the prevailing sentiment amongst the company and orchestra was one of intense gratitude for having been part of this truly extraordinary production, and a few days later my sadness began to lift when I boarded a plane for San Francisco. After a summer of working hard and sweating it out in the concrete jungle of NYC, I treated myself to a week of balmy Northern California sunshine and crisp fresh air, not to mention a good dose of culinary inspiration.

I stayed at the Harbor Court Hotel, a lovely boutique Kimpton Hotel located right on the Embarcadero just a block away from the Ferry Building Marketplace, home to one of the greatest food halls and farmer’s markets I’ve ever encountered. Arriving just in time for lunch at the Thursday farmer’s market, I was properly welcomed to SF by one of the greatest sandwiches ever to cross my lips: a thinly-pounded pork chop crisped to perfection, nestled in a tender brioche roll along with slices of luscious heirloom tomatoes and a chopped fresh herb salad, slathered with spicy mayo to tie it all together. Talk about street food at its finest!

As though I didn’t already have a big enough grin on my face, I followed this soul-satisfying sandwich with an equally mind-blowing cupcake from a neighboring food stand. This outstanding little creation was studded with cocoa nibs, filled with fresh huckleberry jam and topped with a violet-infused icing. Welcome to San Francisco indeed!