Cleverness and Kindness

17 08 2015

“Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.”
What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO + Founder. Princeton 2010 Commencement Speech.

I think this is a tough lesson for many millennials. Particularly here in the Bay Area, there are many gifted and very smart individuals. And yet the choices of these gifted individuals do not seem to have a net positive affect on the rest of society. There is still a huge divide between the poor and wealthy here. The poor continue to get muscled out of the Bay Area. Advancements for the poor (such as raising minimum wages and laws to protect low wage workers or after school academic programs at inner city schools) seem to be challenged and and de-funded every step of the way. You would think that with all the gifts and brains and technology in this area, we would have been able to solve some pretty fundamental social problems. I do love Jeff’s speech though. He poses the question to the graduating class of 2010 – “How will you use these gifts? And will you take pride in your gifts or pride in your choices?”

ColdBrew3

Homemade Cold Brewed Coffee
Source: I love Kitchen Treaty’s blog entry
This is quite the trendy beverage right now, and I can see why. It’s delicious. The method reduces any kind of acrid/sour taste in the coffee, and it’s just so darn easy. However, I don’t think it warrants the ridiculous price tag that you’ll find in some parts of San Francisco, as it’s so easy to replicate at home. The following instructions create a concentrate that you can dispense and dilute as you see fit. For our household, a double-batch satisfies us for a week, and we drink coffee every weekday morning. Just remember to cover and refrigerate the concentrate until use.

Ingredients + Tools
1 c whole beans, freshly grounded [I used Peet’s Espresso Forte]
4 c filtered water
1-2 paper coffee filters
Funnel or strainer/sieve

Directions
In a large container, mix together the ground coffee beans and 4 cups of filtered water. Cover and allow to steep for at least 12 hours. Place a paper coffee filter in a funnel or strainer/sieve and place that over another clean container. Pour the coffee/water mixture through the filter, and watch the liquid stream through. I like to use a ladle or the back of a spoon to press out more liquid from the beans. Toss the coffee beans and paper filter. Keep the liquid gold.

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To consume, in a cup with some ice, add concentrate and cold water. I like to do a 1:1 ratio of concentrate to water, though for David, who likes it stronger, prefers a blend closer to 1.5:1, favoring the coffee concentrate. You can also add milk/cream and your sweetener of choice to your individual cup. Being Vietnamese, I obviously prefer condensed milk, but a bit of half and half or whole milk works too.

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I find cold brewed to be so convenient and satisfying. Every time you need a coffee fix, there’s a ready and steady dose of it in your fridge. All you need to do is dispense, dilute with water, and add your sugar/dairy (if you’d like), and enjoy. Ahh, soo refreshing.

I have also found that I can make a “affaux-gato” using the concentrate… here you see 2 scoops of Talenti gelato and 3 tbs of concentrate. If you blend this, you’ll have something that resembles a Frappacino from Starbucks. In either straight or blended form, it’s a delicious dessert and perfect for the hot temperatures we’ve been experiencing here in the Bay.
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After all this caffeine, I am suuper wired. There is a LOT of caffeine here, and it’s all so tasty! I’m sure I will pay the price for this later tonight, when I find myself tossing and turning in bed instead of getting some shut eye. So worth it though.

Thanks for stopping by!
Anh

PS. Over the weekend, the NYT published a rather scathing article about the work culture at Amazon. While I have never worked at Amazon, it appears this article directly contradicts the commencement speech above. I don’t know Jeff personally and I realize that actions speak louder than words, but I would hope that a man who could give so compelling of a story/speech would not condone the types of behavior of the unkind bosses described in that NYT article.





Personality and Weddings

15 08 2015

We finally received our wedding photos, and they just bring me right back to a (nearly) perfect day. I say nearly perfect because I wish I had more time on that day to individually sit down and catch up with each and every single one of our friends and family who made the trip to visit us. It was such a happy day, but it went by way too quickly. What a blur – but thank goodness for photos to help us relive it. I promised a few months back that I would share some of the details and how we infused our own personality into the wedding – so here goes.

It’s your vision.
Often times, brides and grooms have to do a lot of stakeholder management – meaning, they have to put up with everyone and (especially) their moms’ 2 cents of input. Stakeholder management is no fun, especially when the feedback (though well-intentioned) is unsolicited, unproductive or does not improve your vision. The vision belongs to the bride and groom only. So, figure out what that vision is and keep your eyes on the prize. No one should detract you from that vision of what your day should be.

Enjoying the taco bar

Our sweetheart table
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Do you.
The easiest way to incorporate your personality is to showcase things you like and things that represent you. Do YOU. David and I like to eat. Like a lot. Our waistlines and double chins show it. We also pride ourselves in being a really good host/hostess (our house parties are renowned). And so it was vital that our food be good and plentiful. Between the ceremony and dinner, we hired a taco truck to serve delicious tacos on fluffy homemade tortillas. At the reception, we served a bunch of appetizers and finger foods before dinner. Dinner was a traditional Vietnamese 8-course meal featuring our favorite seafood – Chilean sea bass, lobster, abalone, shrimp, etc. Dessert included our wedding cake (raspberry, lychee, rose – inspired by Pierre Hermé’s classic Ispahan) and a dreamy dessert bar with macarons, burnt almond cake from my favorite bakery, and a number of other treats. We made sure the menu reflected us – we didn’t go out of our comfort zone or try something different.  We did what we know and are good at. And we personally think, we pulled off a super fun and very personalized reception.

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Tend towards being detail-oriented and thoughtful.
The little details will help your guests feel especially welcomed, and that they were more than just an after thought. I realize that your wedding is for YOU, but the best part about the wedding is getting to hang out with your closest friends and family. You want to celebrate that. Because we had a large guest size (over 400ppl!), we needed to make it easy for folks to mingle, socialize, not feel alienated, and felt like they mattered. To that objective, we sprinkled lots of activities throughout the reception to keep everyone entertained. We had lots of games – raffle prizes, board games, a scavenger hunt, a photobooth, homemade coloring books for the kids, a video game booth, a giant Jenga set, a big puzzle. This encouraged folks to move about, talk to each other, and not feel bored or trapped. Of course, nothing was forced or mandated, and folks could choose in what way they wanted to participate.

Our raffle prizes. 07Details_AnDa_093

In addition to games, we intentionally decorated the venue with little details that our guests would find thoughtful. For example, we had check-in tables where ‘receptionists’ would look up guest names and escort them to their tables. To designate a side, we used our own parents’ wedding photos to delineate Bride vs. Groom. The guests felt welcomed while ooh-ing over our parents 70’s/80’s styled wedding photos. We had a slideshow that purposely included at least one image of each of our guests. Again, this showed that we thought about each of them while preparing for the big day.

Photos of our parents

You don’t have to go overboard with the details. A lot of the games we had at the wedding were homemade with nothing more than our brains, Microsoft Word, some cardstock and a printer. Our scavenger hunt involved our guests taking photos of various things and people at the wedding, and posting the images to social media using our hashtag (#davidandanh2015). The best photos won prizes. And the guests who completed the entire hunt also won prizes. We came up with games, designed the game card, printed out the rules, cut the sheets – lots of details. We also had to figure out how to showcase these guest photos at the wedding – nothing an online social media aggregator couldn’t fix. We were thoughtful and resourceful in how we approached these details, and didn’t end up breaking the bank or over working ourselves.

I had such a great time at our wedding. And seeing that our guests are still talking about our wedding more than 6 months later, I am going to assume they had a good time too :) I wish I could do it all over again. All the pretty details. All 400 of my closest friends and family. All the delicious food. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Thanks for reading!
AnhD

PS. To see more pictures, you can check out our Flickr page here and here.





Camping 101

13 08 2015

I am now officially married to a big Eagle scout. This means that we are always prepared for our camping trips, and our methods have been optimized to ensure we are comfortable yet still efficient. I’d like to share a few planning tips that I’ve picked up from my very own Eagle scout husband. Please note these tips are for car camping, and that different rules apply to backpacking.

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Our Tips + Tricks

1. Have 1 or 2 designated plastic bins loaded with your camping essentials (see below). This is to ensure that everything is organized and packed in one place, and you aren’t scrambling to find things last minute. These bins will also help you pack the car and eventually the bear box, once you arrive at the camp site. Replenish these bins as needed before each trip – but otherwise, give yourself a pat on the back for your foresight.

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2. Always plan your menus ahead of time and do as much food prep ahead of time as possible. You do NOT want to spend your time cooking at camp, so I find that making the food ahead of time, and doing some smart planning helps make this more efficient. Pack out smaller portions of snacks in ziplocs for hikes. I like to pre-marinate various meats and freeze them in ziploc bags – these become bricks of ice that not only keep the cooler cool, but will also defrost in time to grill for dinner. I also like packing frozen stews (see below!)/chilis – all you do is reheat! Simple as that. If possible, pre-wash and chop veggies ahead of time, and stick them into ziploc baggies. Keep breakfasts simple, with just instant ramen or bacon/eggs/toast. Lunch for us is usually something packable/portable yet filling for the long hikes, such as a meaty Vietnamese sandwich, some fruit, and granola. Dessert consists of (obviously) smores, instant cookie dough pizookies, and cut fruit. Nothing too fancy, but definitely satisfying and very tasty. Whatever you plan on eating, make sure the ingredients are versatile and work across multiple meals – this helps you reduce what you have to buy and pack.

3. There is a sweet spot when it comes to packing. Pack too much and you risk hauling that heavy stuff home with you and wasting a ton of gas. Pack too little and you’ll find yourself uncomfortable or having to stop in a nearby town or general store for provisions. I tend to err on the side of slightly over packing (especially with food and clothing), as I’d rather be warm and full, than hungry and cold.

4. Read the park rules, respect the park rules and keep your space in tact, if not better than when you arrived. My husband is giving me an ironic look right now, as I don’t usually like authority or following rules… but this one is important. The rules are in place for your safety and the safety of the habitat and the animals that live there. So please, follow the rules. Additionally, so many times we find that folks trash their camp sites, and it’s such a shame. Camping is a cheapish activity, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value or that it’s ok to trash. We can all work to stop the tragedy of the commons.

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Packing List
These are the things we normally have in our bin. Yes, some of these are ‘luxuries’ and not absolutely necessary, but we find that the amenities make for a more comfortable trip – which makes all the difference in the world after a long day’s hike. We’ve also included links to items we absolutely love and cannot live without, in case you are interested in purchasing.

Personal Items
Tent
Sleeping bag + pillows
Sleeping pad
Folding camp chairs
Bright and small flashlight + lantern (to light work area and also to be hung inside tent)
Good quality hiking boots or shoes
Comfortable shoes or sandals for around the campsite
Personal toiletries + hand sanitizer + toilet paper
Ear plugs
Spare batteries
Daypack or backpack and larger duffel or suitcase
Water canteen or durable water bottle
Light weight, fast drying and versatile clothing
Poncho or other lightweight rain gear (or use a plastic garbage bag)
Warm underwear or thermals
Swimming gear – trunks, swimsuit, etc.
Personal towel
Utility pocket knife
First aid kit
Spare carabiners + rope
Entertainment – deck of cards, board game, book, etc.

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Kitchen Items
1-2 coolers + ice
Versatile personal bowl for eating (we each use a large plastic pho bowl)
Eating utensils – chopsticks, forks, spoons, knife (use pocket knife)
Mugs (for coffee + other non-water beverages – ahem, bourbon)
Cooking utensils – tongs, spatula, ladle
Chef’s knife with sheath
Plastic cutting mats
1 medium pot with lid & 1 frying pan
Small tabletop gas stove + extra butane
Matches or lighter
Large garbage bags to keep packs dry in case it rains and to help with clean up
Dish soap + sponge
Container to store water, acts as tub for dishes, face washing, teeth brushing, etc.
Simple spice kit (salt, pepper, fish sauce, Sriracha, soy sauce, sugar, etc.)
Roll of paper towels
A few aluminum trays + foil wrap
Long thick skewers – good for skewering meats and as marshmallow sticks

Food
All the raw ingredients to support your menu
High energy snacks – nuts, granolas, dried fruit, etc.
Packable fruit – bananas + oranges are great in preventing cramps + constipation, and aid in hydration
Booze – helps you stay warm at night; also acts as a nice sleep aid

Wine Braised Boar Stew
Adapted from: Epicurious
Stews are great for camping trips – they are quick to heat, go down easy, and are hearty/meaty enough to satisfy even the hungriest camper. We still have about 30+ pounds of boar meat left, so I put it to use on our latest camping trip to Yosemite. This stew is aromatic and complex – filled with unexpected warm spices that really enhance the boar flavor. Don’t be alarmed by the anchovies – it adds great umami without being fishy. I’ve also made a few tweaks to the original recipe, chief among them is adding some veggies and a bit of cocoa, which I think pairs really nicely (in a subtle way) with the warm spices and red wine. And of course, you don’t need to go camping to make this – so enjoy!

Ingredients
3 lbs bone-in wild boar shoulder meat (cut down for stew; you could easily use lamb or beef here too)
1 large onion, diced (I used red, but normal yellow is fine)
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 sprig of fresh basil
1 cup red wine (I used a Zin I had been drinking)
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 tin of anchovies
2 carrots, diced
1 turnip, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, to taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking

Directions
In a large dutch oven pot or other heavy-bottom pot on high heat, sear the boar meat chunks. Do this in batches as needed to avoid crowding the pot, as you’ll end up steaming/boiling the meat as opposed to getting a good sear. Once all seared, place all boar meat back into pot, and add a bit of olive oil and onions, sauting until the onions are soft. Then add the garlic, but be careful not to burn. Add the tomatoes and all their juices, along with the bay leaves, sprigs of rosemary and basil. Add the wine. Bring to a boil and stir in the cocoa powder. Add the remaining spices.

Boar Stew 1

Once at a rolling boil, turn down the heat and allow the pot to simmer with the pot lid on the entire time. Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom to prevent any burning/sticking. Add a half cup of water periodically and as needed throughout the cooking process to keep an inch or so of liquid in the pot. Cook for at least 2 hours, but longer will be required for a tender/fall-off-the-bone texture. The stew will thicken over time. This is an optional step but once the meat is tender, remove all the meat from the pot and strain the remaining liquid. Return all the meat and the strained liquid to the pot and add the carrots and turnips, then bring to a boil. This makes for a ‘cleaner’ and a bit more sophisticated stew, without all the gunk (delicious bits of tomato and anchovy). If you don’t mind the “gunk”, skip the straining, and just add the carrots and turnips straight to the pot then bring to a boil, cooking until fork tender. I add the veggies at this stage to prevent the veggies from becoming soggy, limp, lifeless things – we want to retain the texture and sweetness of the carrots and turnip. Taste test the stew and adjust seasoning as needed. Fish out the cinnamon stick, bay leaves and stems of the rosemary and basil. Serve with a crusty loaf of French or Italian bread.

Boar Stew 2

What’s really lovely is that during the cooking process, that meat absorbs all the cooking liquids and slowly breaks down and darkens in color. The end result is this silky broth that enrobes the tender pieces of meat. The flavors have had a few hours to meld in the broth, which would benefit from some bread or perhaps a side of thick mashed potatoes.

Boar Stew 3

I don’t have any photos of us eating the stew, as we packed all this up into tupperware that was then frozen and brought to camp. Just trust me when I say, that this is amazing.

Hope you enjoyed this entry and see you next time!
AnhD

PS. Images were taken by me in Yosemite, Big Basin, and Sequoia National, respectively.





Scalloped Potatoes

17 07 2015

Now this is a dish I do not plan on making more than twice a year. The fat content alone is enough to fill you for at least 6 months. But it’s beautiful and I would eat it more often if my waist and poor heart would allow for it. How could we possibly say no to a bubbly, cheesy, starchy, salty dish like this? It’s stunning. And as it bakes, it just calls to you.

DSC_4110_editedScalloped Potatoes
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook
A note about America’s Test Kitchen – I love it. I think everyone should own a copy. It’s insightful, thoughtful, easy to follow, and all the recipes have been methodically tested. I highly recommend the book and especially this recipe, which has a brilliant method for dealing with undercooked potatoes. The potatoes have essentially been par-cooked in the cream/milk mixture almost 75%, before being baked, which ensures that the final product is evenly cooked, despite all those thick potato-y layers. So smart, right? The flavors are also fantastic – not at all bland, and enriched with fresh herbs and the addition of a couple bay leaves. You need this in your life now. But not too much, not more than twice a year.

Ingredients
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and sliced to 1/8″ thickness (I used a mandolin)
2 c heavy cream
2 c whole milk
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp table salt (saltier than sea salt)
1 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a heavy bottomed pot (Dutch oven would work great here), melt the butter on medium-high heat, then add the onions and sautée until softened and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the potatoes, cream, milk, herbs, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and bring the head down to allow just a light simmer and cook until the potatoes are almost tender. The potatoes should resist very little when poked with a pairing knife. This should take about 15-20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and discard the fresh herbs. Transfer the potato mixture to a gratin or deep pie dish. I used my Emile Henry pie dish with a bit of leftover, which I placed into individual serving size ramekins. Top with the shredded cheddar cheese. Place pie dish onto a baking tray (to catch any cheese or cream that may ooze over the sides), and cook until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes. This dish retains heat very well, so cool for at least 5-10 minutes before serving. This also allows for the juices to thicken and re-absorb into the potatoes, preventing a soppy mess. Serve and enjoy.

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DSC_4133_editedI inverted the individual ramekin to serve with our rack of wild boar.

I’ve had scalloped potatoes before, but this blows everything I’ve ever had, completely out of the water. It’s been a few days, and we’ve gobbled up the rest of the leftovers, microwaving it just until the cheese melts. It is truly a thing of beauty. Thank you America’s Test Kitchen for another winner.

AnhD





Cinghiale

17 07 2015

Once upon a time when I first started watching Eric Ripert’s Avec Eric, I fell in love with this romantic notion of boar hunting in Chianti. What comes to mind… dignified middle aged men dressed in Barbour gear and heavy hoots, carrying dusty rifles that have seen decades of hunts. In reality – I’m not exactly in Italy, but since many parts of California share a similar Mediterranean climate as parts of Italy, so hunting in California will have to do. Also, hunting is pretty gruesome and dirty and not all that romantic. Some say it’s barbaric or inhumane, but I think that it brings us so much closer to our food. By doing it yourself, you have THAT much more respect for the food because you know where it came from, what it ate, how it died, how it was dressed then butchered. You saw its eyes as the life drained out of it. If anything, now when we kill a boar (or any other animal) and turn it into our next meal, we say a silent prayer of gratitude for its life and our sustenance. I recently read Novella Carpenter’s Farm City, and a lot of her experiences in slaughtering her turkeys, bunnies, pigs, etc. really resonated with me. It’s a great read and one that I highly recommend.

A few weeks back, David went hunting and shot a 150 pound sow. She was field dressed then sent to a country butcher (shout out to Freedom Meatlocker). Two weeks later, I am brimming with anticipation and now have 60lbs of boar in my freezer. In the past, I’ve made wild boar pasta and ragu, but my first dish from this hunt was inspired again by Eric Ripert’s cianghiale dolce-forte, or a “strongly sweet” boar stew. I used a similar flavor profile for the frenched rack of boar that we had. I paired it with apples simmered in a boozy caramel similar to ChefDruck, au gratin potatoes (post coming soon), and homemade bread.

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Roasted Rack of Wild Boar and Apples
Boar is a bit tricky and I’m only beginning to learn how to prep it correctly. Boar is obviously gamier than pork but also leaner. This means that the sweet spot in terms of doneness is narrow… going quickly from just cooked and tender to overcooked and chewy. This recipe is a pretty classic pairing – pig and apples. The rack is submerged in a bath of red wine and warm spices overnight to (1) remove some of the gaminess; (2) flavor the meat; (3) the acidic wine helps tenderize the meat. It is then removed, cooked on a hot grill or under the broiler and finished in the oven. The boozy apple glaze is brushed on top for sweetness and shine, and can be served as a side dish.

Ingredients
Marinade:
1 rack of boar
2 c dry red wine (I used a Paso zinfandel)
1/2 c brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
handful of black peppercorns
sea salt and black pepper

Whiskey Apple Glaze:
2 Fuji apples, chopped (my favorite, but Granny Smith would have been better I think)
1/2 c brown sugar
3 tbs butter
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup of whiskey (I used Sazerac Rye, which is on the sweeter side and lends itself well to a sweeter application)
splash of heavy cream
salt

Directions
Combine the boar, red wine and the other marinade ingredients in a ziploc bag or covered tray, and let sit overnight in the fridge. Remove the boar from the marinade and season the boar with salt and pepper. Set aside and allow to come to almost room temperature before cooking.

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In a sauce pan, melt the butter and sugar with the chopped apples on medium heat. Add the cinnamon. Once hot and bubbly, carefully add the whiskey and allow the alcohol to cook off. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan in case any of the sugar has crystallized and whisk as needed to dissolve the sugar. Add a splash of heavy cream and allow to simmer and reduce. Add a pinch of salt. Set aside, but keep warm.

Fire up the grill or preheat the broiler (if you plan to bake) and sear the rack. We are looking for a quick char to add a bit of smoke and lock in some flavor. Brush on a thick layer of the whiskey apple glaze, and either pop into a 375*F oven (if you were broiling in the oven anyway), or finish the meat on the grill. Finish cooking the boar until cooked through. Pork temperature reading should read about 145-150*F. I like to periodically brush additional apple glaze, but that is optional.

Before serving, allow the rack to rest for 10 minutes to redistribute the juices before slicing the individual ribs. Serve with a helping of the apples and scalloped potatoes.

Because of the initial red wine marinade with the cinnamon and nutmeg, this dish has some pretty complicated flavors. The boar itself has been reduced to a bright, light protein with citrus and fruit notes that paired really well with the sweetly spiced apples. I can see this being a great early autumn dish, warm spices and fruit, good for those cooler nights, cozied up with a nice bottle of red. Enjoy.

DSC_4125_editedI still have about 50 pounds of boar to figure out. Luckily, I bought a sausage maker attachment for my Kitchenaid standmixer, and hope to learn the finer arts of sausage making with some of the more questionable cuts of meat. We also have a huge amount of ham, which will likely see their way into our smoker. Can’t wait to share more.

Thanks for stopping by,
AnhD

PS. Haven’t forgotten those scalloped potatoes. This recipe is the best I’ve ever had/made, and I’ll be sharing that in my next post. Stay tuned!





Early Summer

1 07 2015

Just a few photos of these early summer days…

Watermelon DrinkHomemade Watermelon Agua Fresca

TomatoesBackyard tomatoes ready for the roast

DahliasMy dahlias are doing so well!

Dahlias2So pretty! Dahlias (and peonies and anemones and phal orchids and ranunculus) are my fav!

ChickensThese girls are eating my lettuce plants, down to the bare stalk

To more summer days,
AnhD





Elitism and Food

19 06 2015

I have CSA boxes delivered to me, but also have the option of my weekly farmer’s market. I raise my own chickens. I compost. I have half a dozen fruit trees, which will be ripe for harvest later this summer. I have been growing and eating my own herbs, tomatoes, and lettuce.  I like to preserve my own lemons and make my own lemon curd. I homemake the granola I eat each morning for breakfast. I am a new owner of a Vitamix and enjoy fresh fruit and veggie smoothies. I am unabashedly proud/blessed/happy to live in a place where most of my food is grown in-state and within a ~300 mile radius of where I am. Thus by default, I shop local. And I acknowledge that it is an absolute blessing and privilege that not everyone enjoys. But to call the slow food movement elitist? It makes me pause. Our desire to return to a pre-industrialization, pre-processed, pre-packaged way of life – is that elitist? A desire to cook and prepare food the way our grandmothers did – is that elitist? I’m not sure. I acknowledge that cooking this way is not cheaper – a box of instant mac and cheese costs pennies, whereas homemade mac and cheese complete with roux, a variety of cheeses, and whole grain pasta – is easily 5 times the cost. A jug of Tropicana orange juice is way cheaper (and less time consuming), though not as delicious, than manually juicing 2 dozen California-grown navel oranges. But this is the way our grandmothers did it. This is how we are suppose to treat the bounty of the earth – this is how we respect the food. Thomas Keller (perhaps also guilty of being called an elitist) writes in the French Laundry Cookbook (probably the epitome of food elitism) that we must cook slowly and deliberately, “to fully engage ourselves in cooking, to regain the connection to food that we’ve lost in our craving for quick fixes, shortcuts and processed ingredients.” And yet I understand something – that I have the resources to do it the slow way. To do it the more expensive way. To do it the less convenient way. It is definitely an indulgence and requires conscientious decision making to make it a priority. But it is a personal choice, and not one that makes me scoff at Nabisco cookies or Kraft products (trust me – I have both brands in my pantry). So is it food elitism? I remain ambivalent, but this article from the New Republic did make me pause.

EggSammy4

Less Than $4 Toast
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the insanely priced $4 toast here in SF (served at The Mill). It’s been the butt of late night talk shows and Internet memes, and just adds fuel to the elitist fire above. It is actually delicious. But I would much rather take that $4 and turn it into a savory sandwich – and this is it. A sandwich so easy, it doesn’t need a recipe. The best part – it’s all sourced right here.

Ingredients
pesto [Mine is homemade]
2 eggs, fried in olive oil to desired doneness
1 ripe Hass avocado
ripe heirloom tomato, sliced
sliced cheese (optional, but Gruyere would be amazing)
bread [I prefer a good Vietnamese baguette, but use what you like]
fleur de sel
fresh cracked pepper

Directions
Toast bread. Smother it with pesto. Add 2 slices of tomatoes. Lay on the avocado. Top with 2 eggs. Liberally sprinkle with cracked pepper and fleur de sel. Maybe add the slice of cheese. Close up the sandwich. Consume.

EggSammy3

Eggsammy1Definitely enjoying all the flavors and textures in this sandwich. Sure, it’s pretty basic. But when your food is THIS fresh, why bother messing with it. The egg is fried in olive oil (almost like this), with a really crispy white and extra creamy yolk. The pesto still has some bite from the garlic, and is oh-so fragrant, having been picked just minutes before. The avocado adds creaminess, and the perfect foil to the sweet and tangy tomato that’s buried in all the green. I probably could have added some arugula to the mix too. Yum. If this is elitism, maybe I don’t mind being called elitist, after all.

EggSammy2

David is off on a boar-hunting excursion, and I am left to figure out what to do in the event he does successfully bring home a 200+ pound sow. I’m thinking bolognese, stews and ragouts, beautiful BBQ ribs, braised shanks, chopped liver, and of course sausage. In the meantime, I’m shopping for a standalone freezer to hold all the meat that will come back from our butcher. Can’t wait to share more details!

AnhD








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