Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

I was born at 10:30 pm on January 29, 1983.

26 years ago.


It's been a wonderful day, thank you so much for all the salutations and good wishes. I feel so loved. From email to Facebook to phone, I had no idea so many people remembered. Thanks!

Thank you S. and C., who took me for a fabulous birthday lunch at Sushi Blossom.
I had the 'Sarah Roll'- they say they will name it for me because I made it up today. They were lovely to accommodate my request, and I wish I could show you a picture. I took one with my phone but I'm not able to upload it to my computer.
You must imagine a spicy tuna roll topped with salmon, and lemon slices. Yum!

I had one plan for my birthday dinner, but that changed as the day went on. It's my day so I went with what I felt like. I made the best miso soup we've had in a while.
The dashi broth had white miso, roasted corn, nori, and edamame dumplings.

Tonight we opened a fabulous wine: Domenico Winery's 2005 Zinfandel
(that's NH playing with his new iPhone in the background)

Domenico is one of our favorite winemakers. They never disappoint, and the winery is located a few miles away.

This Zin is a winner; I had a bit more than my share, and am little tipsy at the moment-
hey, it's my birthday!

Because of the day, we made a trip to Yumi Yogurt, my favorite. No picture; as usual I snarfed it down right quick.
They had great flavors tonight- tart raspberry- passion fruit and vanilla bean cheesecake. Delicious! Someday I'll take a picture to show you. Promise. To borrow from the housewives of NYC, this is the skinny girls indulgence- red wine, soup, and frozen yogurt.


NH's biggest birthday surprise is an event next weekend, February 7th. I thought I'd find out what it was tonight, but instead I received some directions with holes in them. I can guess if I want, but I have no clue. All I know is that I need an overnight bag-
I won't find out until we're leaving! It could be anywhere within two hours of our home- Half Moon Bay, Napa Valley, Bodega Bay, Monterey, Carmel, San Francisco.... any one of these would be wonderful, but the suspense is craazy!

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a wonderful weekend- time with my family on Saturday, my girlfriends on Sunday, and relaxation and a bit more indulgence. My hottest weekend-going-out jeans are barely hanging on to my hips these days, so I have a bunch of wiggle room in my diet.

Kindest, Sarah at Suite Apple Pie

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Weeknight Meal

Here's a meal I've thrown together a few nights recently. It's so comforting that I've been making sure I have leftovers for lunch.

Quinoa is a new discovery for me; I never had it growing up and can name two occasions where I had it in a restaurant. I bought a box of organic quinoa at Trader Joe's and it's nearly gone at this point. I love the nutty flavor and light crunch, also the little curliques they make when cooked. It looks like little quail :-) Just like spaghetti squash, I love treating this non-grain like a grain(Quinoa is more closely related to spinach than rice).

No recipe, just throw things in a pot:

In one pot, cook the quinoa as instructed.

In another pot, saute some onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil. Add thawed frozen black beans, corn, bell pepper, and peas and saute until heated. Add several shakes of cumin, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. Serve over the quinoa topped with some sharp cheddar cheese. Squeeze a bit of lemon on top if you have it.

15 minutes, start to finish.


For lunch the next day, I added halved cherry tomatoes which softened when I reheated to eat.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a Wonderful World

The future is looking brighter

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pavlova for a Quintet of Friends

Would you believe that this started as egg whites and some sugar?

If you are familiar with meringue you might believe me.
A little patience and some vigorous mixing, and this ~

becomes frothy like this ~

~ and finishes like this!


Pavlova is a meringue dessert named after Anna Pavlova, the ballerina who craved it while touring in Australia. It consists of a fluffy meringue base topped with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit.
I adore the crunchy exterior surrounding the creamy marshmallow center; my friend C loves it too, so when my girlfriends came for dinner I served it for dessert.

The chemistry is fascinating.
Pavlova is served with the whipped cream and fruit placed on top and sliced like a pie;
I kept the components separate so each of us could make our own proportions; if you want more or less whipped cream or fruit (I have no taste for the cream) you can add more or skip it. Presentation isn't quite as dramatic, but you still get the yummy sounds from your guests.

Even in California, berries in January come from South America. I only buy domestic fruits so I made a thick strawberry topping using frozen California strawberries (simmered on the stove with a bit of sugar and tablespoon of water until thickened).
Use whatever you have on hand, but juicy summer fruit is better suited than the pears and oranges that are in season now.

Meringue for Pavlova
4 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup baker's or granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbs raspberry vinegar, or red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fit a KitchenAid mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until foamy. Add the sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla and continue whipping until stiff and glossy, 8-10 minutes more. Be patient~
Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a baking pan and draw an 8 inch circle in the center with a pencil. Turn the paper pencil-side down and place on the baking pan. Using a spatula, spoon the egg whites into the center of the circle and smooth into a circular shape with a flat top.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake about 40 minutes more. The pavlova will crack and turn a light cafe au lait color. Turn off the oven and prop the door open; let the pavlova cool here at least 30 minutes.

To Finish:

1 cup whipping cream
2 tsp sugar
strawberries, blueberries, kiwi, or any other fruit you choose

In a large bowl, beat the whipping cream and sugar with an electric mixer until lightly stiff. Spoon over the pavlova, and top with the fruit. Serve immediately.

The meringue will keep for several days plain; store leftover pavlova with cream in the fridge for a day or so.


Sunday, January 11, 2009


You must make this bread.

No really, you must make this bread.

I had quite an adventure with this loaf today. We had decided to skip the usual Saturday date night out in favor of relaxing at home. We have brunch in the city with friends on Sunday, so I kept dinner a bit light.

I selected a new bread recipe from the Bread Machine Cookbook- this Buttermilk Whole Wheat bread is phenomenal!

I used the Pain de Mie pan Mom gave me as a gift more than a year ago. It's a rectangular pan with a tight-fitting lid that makes the bread into the perfect sandwich-slicing shape. This was my first time using it and I can't believe I waited this long because it makes a perfect loaf shape. It's traditionally used for pain de mie, but you can make almost any bread with it.

I made the dough in the bread machine before shaping it into the pan and letting it rise.

It's meant to rise in 45 minutes, but our house is so cold! It wasn't budging so I put the pan in our bedroom next to the heating fan.

35 minutes in the oven and look what we have!

You could certainly make this bread without the pain de mie pan, either in the bread machine or freeform in the oven.
I'm in love with this shape though!

It did not rise as much on the ends, but the flavor is spot-on.
The extra rise time only benefited the flavor.

I served the bread alongside a Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad-
romaine, green beans, one red potato, one small yam, hard-boiled egg, and smoked salmon dressed with walnut oil, white wine vinegar, and dijon mustard.


Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

taken from the Bread Machine Cookbook
for a 2 lb loaf

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 Tbs canola oil
2 1/2 Tbs maple syrup
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 Tbs plus 2 tsp gluten
2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine and set for the Dough cycle. When the cycle ends, take the dough out onto a greased work surface. Let rest for 10 minutes, then shape lightly to the relative width-length of the pain de mie pan. Grease the pan all over, including the lid. Place the dough in the pan and close the lid, leaving it open about an inch.

Place in a warm spot (if you have one) and let rise for 30-45 minutes (for me? it ended up being about 3 hours! didn't hurt it though, probably made it better). After the rise, shut the lid and let rest for 10 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for 10 minutes more. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing the bread from the pan. Place on a rack with a clean towel over it to cool completely before serving.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Shining Light

Any of you with a clear sky tonight? It's clear over San Mateo, and at dusk the moon was huge. Tonight, the moon's orbit is at its closest point to Earth.



Monday, January 5, 2009

Walnut-Olallie Rugelach Cookies

These cookies are almost prettier before they bake.

Rugelach are one of my most favorite cookies, without question. I love the many combinations of flavors, the delicious cream cheese dough, fruit and toasted nuts. Despite their visual wow factor, they are some of the easiest cookies I have attempted.

As I've said here before, rugelach are originally a Jewish pastry; the word means "creeping vine" in Hebrew, something to do with their sweet crescent shape. Traditionally they are kosher (without dairy) but this cream cheese dough has become just as common.

My last batch of rugelach appeared here more than a year ago. Today I used toasted walnuts and Mom's homemade Olallieberry jam for the filling. The jam has seeds, so I pushed it through a sieve before using. I recommend this step if you are using a jam containing seeds, like raspberry or blackberry.

The filling possibilities are endless- use any combination of fruit jam, nuts, chocolate, or spices.
I LOVE nuts in cookies but if you don't, leave them out. I don't get it, but to each his own.

I intended to add chocolate to today's batch, but forgot! No matter, this combination turned out wonderfully.
Since Walnut-Olallieberry is a mouthful, let's be cute and name these Walnut-Olallie. :-)


Food processor
rolling pin
fluted pastry cutter (a knife or non-fluted pastry cutter is fine, but the fluted cutter gives the cookie pretty edges)
pastry brushes
2 baking pans lined with parchment paper

Walnut Olallie Rugelach

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick very cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
4 oz (half a block) very cold cream cheese, cut into 12 pieces
1/4 cup olallieberry jam, strained of seeds
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped fine
1/4 cup baker's sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a food processor, combine the flour, cream cheese, and butter.
Pulse until the dough forms a ball.
Be patient, this takes a little while. Continue to pulse and the dough will slowly come together. Remove the dough and place on a floured work surface. Divide the dough in two and form into six inch disks. Wrap tightly and separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate while getting the fillings ready. (You can also make the dough a few hours in advance.)

Place the jam, nuts, and sugar with cinnamon in separate bowls. Have a pastry brush handy to spread the jam.

Place the first disk of dough on a floured work surface and roll until the dough is thin and about 10 inches in diameter. Spread the jam evenly to the edges, followed by a sprinkle of walnuts (a bit less than half of each). Finally, sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Using a pastry wheel or knife, cut the dough into twelve wedges.

Starting from the wide edge, roll the dough into a small crescent shape, tucking the end under the bottom. Place them on the prepared pan. Repeat the process with the second disk of dough. There should be extra cinnamon sugar and walnuts, for topping the cookies.

For the topping, beat the egg in a small bowl and brush each cookie with the egg. Sprinkle with the extra sugar and chopped walnuts. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden and caramelized.
Cool on racks before placing in an airtight container.

*These cookies are best the day they are baked, but their will keep for a few more days in the airtight container.


Oh, and try to resist eating them before they are baked. I know they are pretty, but probably won't taste as good. :-)


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Comfort in an Old Friend

How I have missed you!

I'm picky about this particular combo of bread and cheese; the only restaurant that makes the grade in my opinion is Gialina Pizzeria in the Glen Park neighborhood of San Francisco. I want something more than the fatty, carb satisfaction of delivery pizza.

I was looking forward to some pizza from the moment I opened my new bread machine on Christmas morning. I needed a non-work day to start, since it takes about 2 1/2 hours from machine to table. I used my favorite whole wheat semolina pizza dough, and since it was just NH and I, half a recipe was perfect.

I have a soft spot for the doughy pocket of a calzone, so I used one-third of the dough to make one for mine, and the other two-thirds made a traditional pizza for NH. Another perk of homemade!

I stretched out the dough the 'authentic' way for the first time: using my hands instead of a rolling pin.

I baked the calzone and pizza at 450 degrees for 12 minutes. NH's pizza made 6 pieces, 2 of which are left for tomorrow's lunch. I cut my calzone in half to eat, with a fork nearby to grab the insides that fell out.

He's plump and cute isn't he? He tasted even better, I left not a scrap behind!


Ingredients: TJ's Quattro Formaggi cheese blend (our favorite pizza cheese), crumbled feta cheese, tomato sauce, red pepper flakes for heat, and fresh basil. I haven't had fresh basil for since summer. I had to hold it under my nose and breath deeply for a few moments before slicing the leaves in a julienne.