Saturday, September 29, 2012

Homemade Bagels

I'm on the tail end of a cold, one mild enough that I woke up each morning this week thinking I was almost better, but by about 4 p.m. my body was a phlegmy aching whingy pile of lead. As a result we're taking it easy this weekend, which today meant sleeping in late and then doing small projects around the house. Our #1 priority was making bagels, something that's been on my to do list since I found this recipe. They took a bit of time but were not at all difficult to make, and the results, my friends, were glorious.

Here are my lovely little dough balls, ready to be molded into their true shape.
I don't know why I thought that actually making the dough into bagels was going to be difficult, but it wasn't - you just work your finger into the middle of each dough ball while your boyfriend stands next to you giggling.
Each bagel got boiled for a few minutes - we boiled them longer to get a chewier bagel.
We weren't about to do an egg wash (I knew better than to try to get egg near Mike's bagels) so I just dunked a few of the bagels into a sesame seed-garlic salt mixture while they were still wet. The rest we left plain so as to "get to know the true essence of the bagel" (quoth Mike). Here they are just before going into the oven.
Holy hell, they came out of the oven looking like Real Bagels. There may have been clapping in Casa Brecki at this point.
Check out these beauties. (And I'm finally getting the hang of the aperture settings on my camera!)
"This is the best bagel I've ever had," says Mike.
Kids, listen to Mike and make these bagels. Or just come over and ask me to make them while they're still novel. I promise I'll oblige.

Friday, September 28, 2012


There are ships buried under San Francisco! Lots and lots of ships. Apparently during the Gold Rush crews would sail their ships into the bay and then abandon them to head off and try their luck in the Sierras. The ships would just sit there, eventually getting silted in and, over time, buried. The ships had great names like Edwin and Elmira, and Brilliant and Noble.
Speaking of ships, a few weekends ago we got together a group for a sunset sail. I brought sailor and pirate hats for everyone and we took off on the Bay Lady. And a regal vessel she was. She had booze aboard, too - bonus.

We even got to steer!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Epic brunch

This past weekend we hosted a brunch party in honor of a visiting friend. Per usual the company was fantastic, and Beth and I really went overboard on the food this go round.
Laying out the table - note the gorgeous lemon braid
With the boozy french toast  )photo courtesy of Vanessa)
The menu included:
  • my mom's sausage breakfast casserole
  • asparagus and mushroom frittata
  • boozy french toast
  • cinnamon puffs
  • turkey sausage & bacon
  • smoked salmon on toast with creme fraiche and capers
  • watermelon feta salad
  • a braided lemon bread
  • cheddar leek muffins
  • bourbon banana bread
  • strawberries with sweet creme fraiche
  • fancy coffee
  • cold mint tea
  • a jug 'o mimosas with blackberries
The glorious spread

I made cascarones as a surprise. When prepping all the egg dishes I carefully broke the top of each eggshell and drained the egg, then rinsed and dried the shell. On Friday night I filled each shell with fruity pebbles and then glued tissue paper over the hole. Except for one - that one was filled with gold glitter. On Saturday a few friends hid the eggs around the garden and then everyone else searched for them. The game is to collect the eggs then smash them over people's heads. It doesn't hurt, and it's ridiculously satisfying. I haven't giggled like that in a long time. The one who gets hit with the golden cascaron got a trophy (bought at a friend's yardsale, it read "Good For You") and a bottle of whiskey.

Kristen got Beth with the golden cascaron
And it made her hair all kinds of glittery
Beth accepting her trophy 
The party turned into a long lazy afternoon

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The voltage of life

This is a letter from the poet Ted Hughes to his adult son, the son he had with Sylvia Plath. It's really lovely, particularly if you push through the lack of paragraphing to the end. He talks a lot about everyone's inner children, in what seems to me a non-hippie dippy or cheesy way.
Nicholas, don't you know about people this first and most crucial fact: every single one is, and is painfully every moment aware of it, still a child...It's something people don't discuss, because it's something most people are aware of only as a general crisis of sense of inadequacy, or helpless dependence, or pointless loneliness, or a sense of not having a strong enough ego to meet and master inner storms that come from an unexpected angle. But not many people realise that it is, in fact, the suffering of the child inside them. Everybody tries to protect this vulnerable two three four five six seven eight year old inside, and to acquire skills and aptitudes for dealing with the situations that threaten to overwhelm it. So everybody develops a whole armour of secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world, and the crush of circumstances. And when we meet people this is what we usually meet...But when you develop a strong divining sense for the child behind that armour, and you make your dealings and negotiations only with that child..they too sense when that is what you are appealing to, and they respond with an impulse of real life, you get a little flash of the essential person, which is the child. 
I'm a very social person, but also one whose feelings get hurt easily. When that happens I try (I'm no saint, I don't always succeed, and of course there are reasons that I was able to be wounded so easily) to think about what it was that made that person snap, or criticize, or ignore. I try to get a sense of the essential part of them that was somehow hurt, but that didn't intend to do hurt. Usually it's also a part of them I like, the part that in better times I'm trying to make laugh. So this rang true to me.

It's also worth following the link through to the full letter to see a photo of Plath looking very happy. That's not how I generally picture her.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Walk & talk

When you have watched the entirety of a television show's run, do you ever feel like you've lost some friends when it's over? That sounds pathetic, I realize, but I really miss the dudes from The West Wing, aka my favorite TV show ever. I have watched all seven seasons through three times. That is a lot of life to have dedicated to a show. BUT IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.

And now! Now, the cast has reunited for a campaign video, shilling for a judge in Michigan. The video is maybe a little cheesy, but all the same jokes are still there, and Josh Lyon refers to himself as a" handsome Louis C.K."

Friday, September 21, 2012

July, July

I didn't move to California in July. I moved to California in October, after having left my parents' house in my little Cabrio (now deemed the California Raisin by Leslie) the September after my college graduation, right about when Katrina hit New Orleans. I drove cross county along with increasing gas prices, oblivious to everything that was going on in the world outside of the road and my next motel (no groundfloor rooms please and thank you, I'm a lady travelling alone). I remember a spectacular sunset in my rearview window in West Virginia, how much I felt at home once I crossed into Wyoming, hubcaps nailed to stumps in the Oregon high desert. I sold books in small and big towns, visiting college friends and drinking beer in out of the way places with my father, along for the ride.

I drove across the Golden Gate Bridge on October 8, 2005. I spent the next few months driving between San Francisco and Humboldt County, where I stayed with my friend Katie on the farm where she was working. I would listen to the radio in civilization, but somewhere near Mount Shasta the radio would cut out and I would switch to the CDs in my car. Specifically the Decemberists, specifically Castaways and Cutouts, specifically July, July.

As I said, I didn't move to California in July. But my birthday is in July, and this song had the whole Humboldt world in it to me. There is a road that meets the road that goes to my house...I didn't have a house, I had a house where I stayed, one full of spiderwebs and summer squash and a cat who nipped my nose in the night and giant green buds strung up across the room with crystals that picked up the moonlight and glinted (it was Humboldt, after all). I had to get used to hot days with cold nights, to eucalyptus and madrone trees, to early morning farmer's markets, to bartering for chanterelles, to no rain in summer and people who made eye contact on the street. As the song said, it never seemed so strange.

This is the story of the road that goes to my house...
And the chickens, how they rattle chicken chains.

Such a satisfying line for me, patting my steering wheel on the California highway, alien landscape all around, no matter how much actual sensical meaning it had.

And we'll remember this when we are old and ancient, though the specifics might be vague....

The specifics aren't vague, actually; they're as much a part of my life now as was my dinner tonight. It's the generalities that escape me now. What was I thinking in that life, where I provided slightly incompetent help on a friend's farm? Where I didn't know what I was doing next? Where I had minimal money and minimal expenses? Where I didn't know that very very soon I would meet Mike, and make a real true life in San Francisco?

It never seemed so strange. And I'm so glad.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Everything is incredible

Grab ten minutes today and watch this video about a man who is building a helicopter. Worth it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tomato time

In the past few weeks I have brought many dozens of pounds of tomatoes into my home. They have been boiled, baked, roasted, sliced, squeezed, scarfed and buttered (yes, buttered). If you're in the same position, here's what I've been doing with the abundance.

Fresh tomato sauce. A friend and I went in on 50 pounds of San Marzanos and Early Girls. I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe to make a wonderful basic fresh sauce that I mostly freeze, then spice up (with hot pepper, basil etc) when I reheat it.
Oven drying. I've been getting the Food52 emails for over a year, but it's only with this recipe that I really took to it, and now I look forward to it each week. This method of oven drying was an easy way to get lovely flavorful tomatoes that will keep for a week or so. We did the roasting while making the sauce (and, of course, drinking red wine), and felt very efficient for it.

Brown butter tomatoes. Another Food52 recipe (if you can call it that), this is going to change your life. It turns tomatoes into dessert. Amazing, rich, brown butter dessert.

Caprese. In addition to the San Marzanos and Early Girls, I also ordered a flat of Purple Cherokees from Mariquita Farm. They're so large and gorgeous and perfectly oddly shaped that I couldn't bring myself to cook them. Instead I sliced them up, layered them with mozzarella and basil, sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and garlic salt, then drizzled on balsamic and olive oil. They were devoured by our Labor Day BBQ masses.

Baked cherry tomatoes with feta. A friend has been bringing over bags of cherry tomatoes from his coworker's garden. They're mostly sungolds, which are my favorite to eat raw, but they're super ripe and get soft quickly. For Labor Day I used this Smitten Kitchen recipe to bake them with olives, parsley, garlic and feta, and I don't know if I've ever made a dish that disappeared so quickly. The feta gets gooey but doesn't melt, the tomatoes are sweet and garlicky (I used more garlic than suggested), and there's not much better that you can smear on a cracker or a baguette. A note on the recipe: she mentions using halloumi, but while I LOVE halloumi (grill it with peaches and drizzle with honey, it's divine), I liked that the feta got crumbly when baked in the oven and would stick with that.

Panzanella. Another way to adoringly prep the Purple Cherokees (or whatever beauties you have on hand). I sliced the tomatoes into wedges, squeezed their juice into a bowl, then mixed the juice with olive oil and vinegar. I tossed that with bite size chunks of a day old baguette and let it sit for a bit, then mixed in the tomato wedges, chopped basil and parsley, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Next time I would marinate the tomatoes too, along with chopped garlic if I wasn't going to be getting too close to anyone for a while. I ate a giant bowl of this for dinner last night and felt very, very happy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Summer summation

For the rest of the country, summer is now over. For those of us in foggy San Francisco, it's just starting. The days may be getting shorter but the sun will be more frequent, and with any luck we'll have a few of the rare warm nights where the whole city seems to be outside celebrating.

I feel like I slurped this summer up like the dozens and dozens of oysters it provided me. We spent time on the water, floating and paddling and swimming and even rope swinging. We saw friends constantly, made new ones, reconnected with old ones. We nurtured a garden that stalled during the August fog but that I hope to revive now. I attended amazing events solely because they offered free booze, and was never sorry. I threw a party on a beer bus, in a rental house, on a beach, in our backyard. In short, we ate, we drank, we made merry.

And what comes next? So much! A baseball game, big sunset sail with friends, a backyard brunch party, and lots and lots of football. I'm going to Germany for work, per usual, but meeting up with farflung friends at Oktoberfest first. I'm introducing my parents to our amazing Austin community. I'm organizing a group backpacking trip.

I'm going to throw parties. Lots of parties. And I've got a many-tabbed spreadsheet - yes, a spreadsheet - to track them all. Bring it.

Wellesley Russian River reunion

Hog Island oyster shucking

Russian River kayaking

O's river birthday

Sarah's whiskey birthday party

Kirby Cove dinner party

Squid at Sunday Streets

49ers preseason opener

Blithe Spirit at CalShakes

Pool day at the Coppola Winery

Vertigo rooftop screening

Rope swinging at Bass Lake

Party hat making with Oh Happy Day

Kristin's sunny birthday party

Fort Point, under the Golden Gate Bridge

Labor Day BBQ