Happy Birthday Marilyn

Here's all I want to say about it.

If you need an easy, fancy-looking cake.

Or a dessert to pair with mid-summer strawberries.

Or if you need TWO mixing bowls to wipe clean with a spoon, your fingers, or a fresh strawberry.

David Lebovitz has a damn good chocolate cake recipe for you.



I just returned from a brief trip east, undertaken in part to see long-neglected friends, spend time with my little sister, go on much-delayed adventures, and finish up that Master's degree I've been paying for, but primarily to make a beet-goat cheese pie that's been over a year in planning.

And by pie, it turned out we meant pizza pie. Which, of course, called for a pizza party.

My bosom friend Barbara and I made a lot of pizza doughs (Smitten Kitchen's recipe x16), bought way too much cheese and one very large can of tomatoes at Claudio's (which got smushed and mixed with garlic, olive oil, and basil), turned up the oven to 500°F, and invited over a bunch of folks with the instructions to bring either pizza toppings or beer.

And people brought such good things! Peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, prosciutto, homemade pepperoni... there was no overlap and an abundance of everything. And everyone got a chance to do a little baking (that's everyone's favorite part of a party, right? Not just me?) and sharing and eating.

For our contribution, we caramelized an onion, boiled and sliced a bunch of beets, crumbled some goat cheese, artistically (or perhaps the more accurate term would be drunkenly) layered it all on a pizza crust, and baked it for about 15 minutes.

It was so damn good.


Sweet, sweet, (and slightly alcoholic) slavery.

Tonight is the first night of Passover, the holiday where Jews forgo leavened foods for a week in memory of our ancestors' flight from slavery and the Pharaoh. Despite the prohibition of bread, it's actually quite a foodie holiday, with several different symbolic foods (and drink - it's a Jewish holiday after all) required at the table for the Seder.

One of these is charoset (pronounced with a guttural "h" sound, not a hard "ch") which symbolizes the brick mortar of slavery, from the Jews' time in Egypt making pyramids. Ironically, although it represents the hard labor the Hews were required to perform, the purpose of the charoset in the Passover meal is to sweeten the bitter taste of slavery, which is usually played by a dose of fresh horseradish. And during the week of matzo-eating, charoset is just about the only thing that makes that dry, brittle cracker taste any good at all. (Don't talk to me about matzo brie or matzo pizza or any of that nonsense. Sure, covering up all taste and texture of the matzo whatsoever makes it taste okay. But is it still the bread of affliction when it's been turned into french toast?)

The ancient, tedious, high-maintenance, carefully guarded family recipe for charoset (now with food processor) is as follows: Grind up a bunch of nuts (any kind, although we tend toward walnuts or hazelnuts or, as shown, a mixture). Then add a lot of chopped apples (same principle applies - whatever floats your boat) and grind some more. Then add wine.

If it seems too dry, more apple. If it seems too wet, more nuts. The key principle, again, is that it ought to resemble brick mortar.

Chag Sameach! (Sounds like "hog sammy ack")


Crunchy Granola People

This recipe for a savory, crunchy granola went around my little corner of the internet a while back. 

I'm not a big fan of granola's chewy, sweet, stickiness, but I like all of its components, and this recipe was billed for non-granola lovers.

And we've had all this oatmeal lying around ever since my dad passed away. 

And we were about to go to the Anza-Borrego Desert, so I cut some of the sugar, added hazelnuts for my hermanita and dried cranberries for my mum, and off we went. 

We had some interesting breakfast company.

And the granola was crisp, the indigo bushes were blooming, and both went well with the morning air.  

And we had a wonderful, beautiful time.

 But I'm still not a granola fan.



Thanks to my dear friend Robyn, I finally made a pie with lard.

 Or, partially lard. Also butter. And peaches.

We had company.

 And the pie crust turned out pretty good.

 Flakier. Prettier. But not tastier. So I'm sticking with butter-crust pies for now.

But a lard crust would do well for a meat-filled pie. And in case we haven't got time to run to the butcher, I know just what kind to make...