Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Christmas lima beans marinated in olive oil, herbs, truffle salt and garlic

I love a recipe that is simple, but takes a few days to complete. There's something so gratifying in checking in on the process every couple hours. Gourmet beans in oil with truffle salt have become my new favorite thing to eat after making them for the italian dinner party a few weeks ago. According to the internet, this is "Greek-style."  I hadn't tried it with dried beans until today.

A couple weeks ago, I picked up a pound bag of dried christmas beans at farmer's market for $1. Christmas lima beans are a type of lima bean, also known as "chestnut beans" or "pope's beans." If you don't have them in your local market, you can order them online from Rancho Gordo. They're gorgeous. 
Step 1 is soaking the christmas beans in a covered pan overnight. Add enough water to cover the beans two inches deep. The beans will almost triple in size and turn a shocking mauve color through the soaking. This gives you a sense of the size.
Rinse off the soaked beans and top them with a fresh pot of water, again two inches above the beans. Put a quartered onion, a couple cloves of garlic, a carrot, a bay leaf, a couple sprigs of oregano and a handful of kale stems. I discovered using kale stems as a trick for adding a hearty pepper flavor to soup stock a year ago. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and reduce to simmer for an hour and a half.
When the beans are cooked (they should still be firm with a distinctive chestnut-y texture) drain them and pull out the veggies. Rinse the beans and put them back in the pan. Top with a generous amount of olive oil, fresh garlic, chopped fresh basil and oregano, truffle salt, lemon zest and a dash of white wine vinegar. Yum. The dark color and rich garlic smell at this stage reminds me of escargot.
Pour the beans into glass jars. If needed add more olive oil with a dash of vinegar to make sure they're fully submerged.

Serve the garlic beans on their own as an antipasto with a side of crusty bread for the extra olive oil dressing.  Or, use them in a salad, the way you would use marinated artichokes.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

5 Step Dinner Party: Pescadero BBQ for 15 Guests

A highlight of my birthday weekend in Pescadero was making dinner for our 15 guests using local ingredients and a blazing hot campfire! Nothing tastes better than what you've cooked with friends over a wood fire under the Milky Way.


  • Grilled Harley Farm goat cheese
  • Artichoke garlic bread from Arcangeli Grocery 
  • Chile verde pork loin
  • Zucchini and bell peppers
  • Campfire black beans
  • Homemade s'mores
  • Lemon coconut bundt cake

Step 1: Shop
Dinner plans came together at the last minute. We bought the fresh artichoke bread, marinated pork loin, veggies, beans from the adorably tiny Arcangeli Grocery store in Pescadero after lunch. Picked up goat cheese at Harley Farm on the way home.

Step 2: Appetizers
Both of the goat cheeses - the Van Goat with basil and sunflower seeds and the Dill Chevre - cooked on the firepit for 20 minutes until smokey and melty. We served the hot cheeses with cubes of artichoke bread for the appetizer.  Two giant loaves of artichoke bread disappeared almost instantly
Step 3: Dinner
A pot of black beans with salsa went on the fire first. The marinated pork loin and veggies were cut into thin strips - carne asada style - for easier grilling. The marinade on the pork caramelized in the fire and the result was deliciously crispy, juicy strips of meat.
Step 4: Dessert, Part I
Our talented friend Rebecca went above and beyond with a spread of homemade marshmallows in three flavors: vanilla, mint and chocolate. Plus, vanilla and chocolate shortbread (stamped with my initials, because of course) and salted caramel sauce. Smore's have never been so sophisticated!

Step 5: Dessert, Part II
Margaret made a delicious lemon bunt cake with coconut frosting for my official birthday cake. Her secret is adding a box of pudding mix and an extra egg to the cake recipe to make it super moist.
After dinner, I was surprised by an impromptu jazz performance around the fire. Greg played trumpet, Sean on guitar and Pierre with an improvised drum kit made from water jugs, beer bottles and wood logs.  They played jazz standards and Rob and I danced to "Isn't it Romantic" by the fire. Such an elegant camping affair!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Celebrating my Birthday with a Camping Party at Costanoa Lodge, Pescadero

I'm the luckiest duck there is to have had such a wonderful birthday party this year! To celebrate my (gulp) 35th - Rob and I invited 12 friends down to Pescadero for a weekend of elegant camping at Costanoa Lodge. Beach hikes, mountain biking, adorable kids, gourmet s'mores, goats, cake for breakfast, midnight saunas, impromptu jazz concerts and freak rainstorms...this weekend had it all.
We checked in to our tent cabins at Costanoa on Friday night, watched the World Series in a tent/bar and waited for our friends to arrive by the car-full throughout the evening.  A heavy half-hour of rain woke us up briefly  in the night - but was exciting since this drought has been on for so long. Coffee and pastries with the gang while everyone got a start on the day. I passed out printed bandanas for everyone - modeled above by the almost-a-year-old Emerson.
Seth and Amy's girls took to this version of camping quite well! The cabins come equipped with comfortable beds topped with cozy electric blankets.
After breakfast, time to walk to the beach:
This storm made it much warmer than usual along the coast above Santa Cruz. We played badminton, built sandcastles, tide-pooled and walked the empty beach for a couple hours.
Everyone walked back to the campsites and got ready for lunch in "town."
The historic town of Pescadero is just a couple blocks wide and equally full of local farmers as well as foodies from nearby cities. Brussels sprouts were the catch of the day. (Note: I managed to pack several different pairs of shoes, three wool coats and a badminton set...but forgot all my toiletries and make-up - oh well!)
We ate wood-fired pizza and deep fried brussel sprouts at the Pescadero Country Store for lunch.
Made a stop at the general store next door for dinner supplies and dipped in to the local antique store before walking over to Harley Goat Farm on the other side of town.
This adorable little goat ranch makes all kind of delicious cheeses to sell, alongside lotions, honey and chocolates.
Picked up a few cheeses for dinner and explored their event space upstairs in the barn.
Poor little Emerson missed his morning nap in all the excitement and decided to check out for a while.
Back to camp!
Rob, Greg and I went for a 4 mile mountain bike ride in the hills behind Costanoa once we returned - with a gorgeous view of the coast as a reward at the top. I just had time to clean up in one of the open-air showers before a sudden downpour of rain interrupted the dinner preparations. It has been SO long since it rained here...we were pretty excited!
The rain only came down for about 20 minutes - the sun was never too far away.
But even a short rainstorm is cause for excitement in California.
It was the first rain that Emerson experienced!
After the rain, we walked down to watch the sunset on the lawn of the resort.
Dinner, dessert and the after-party merit a separate post - it was incredible - so stay tuned for that tomorrow.
A lovely late night including star-gazing at the milky way and a trip to one of the many saunas on the grounds. In the morning, we had coffee, pie, cake, bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast and walked around the lodge grounds a bit more.
Quick stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse on the way back to the city. This area of the California coast is so, so pretty and wild. Just right for a couple days of escape from daily city-life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What to Wear: An Affair to Remember

I was re-watching An Affair to Remember over the weekend - as one does - and feeling so inspired by all those rich 1950's reds and oranges from Deborah Kerr's wardrobe.  Perfect for fall, whether you're a temporarily-crippled redhead or not. Is it possible to find a few modern pieces that hit the same style?

1. Chiffon Top - A pretty two-tone orange chiffon top is a modern interpretation of the beautiful cream and burnt orange dress that Deborah Kerr wears the first night she meets Cary Grant on the ship. It also looks a bit like candy corn...which I can't stop seeing now.

2. Brown Dress - Nothing comes close to how pretty her brown wool wrap dress is in the movie - worn in the scene when she first gets home from the crossing. This brown DVF dress is a poor approximation. Also, this $1,200 tailored brown Talbot Runhof dress and this $1,400 Lucas Nascimento wool dress.

3. Coat - A dreamy burnt orange wool coat for only $90 from Asos. To stay warm on the deck of your steamer ship.

4. Blouse - An ivory chiffon blouse with metallic dots instead of orange details is a contemporary version of the gorgeous dress for visiting Villefranche-sur-Mer.

5. Robe - A light slate blue robe from Etsy is the right thing for scheming elaborate, complicated and overly-uncommunicative ways to leave your lovers.

6. Blazer - A classic red wool blazer from J. Crew will never go out of style.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Picking out the Right Pair of Fall Sneakers

After wearing a (very cute) pair of metallic leather loafers to the NASA open house on Saturday morning and proceeding to cancel plans due to achy feet all Saturday night...I made a resolution to buy and wear actual sneakers this fall. Pinterest is full of "cool girls" wearing sneakers with leather leggings, rolled up jeans or trim suits outside of fashion hard could it be?
Pretty hard, it seems. I spent an hour pinning sneakers of all varieties. Ideally, I'd like something in a darker color so they won't immediately get wrecked when I'm resetting my pedal while biking. Wedge sneakers seem a little too trendy for this soon-to-be 35-year-old.  I'm a little unhealthily obsessed with these Nike Sneakerboots. Came really close to buying these French gold high-tops before chickening out. Classic Converse are cute with so many things, but I don't find them comfortable. These Alexander McQueen Pumas are the current leader...maybe...?

Take a look at all the sneaker options on Pinterest. Do you have a favorite?

Monday, October 20, 2014

What to Wear: Touring NASA Ames

It's October in the Bay Area. All the fun outdoor events are scheduled for these few warm, sunny weekends. Fleet Week, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the Treasure Island Music Festival and, for the first time in 17 years, an open house event at the NASA Ames Research Center.
I wore white Levi's skinny jeans, a J. Crew camel sweater with zipper details, a light plaid blazer, J. Crew metallic suede loafers (which were not comfortable enough for all the walking), a silver belt and a Coach cross-body bag.
Rob and I woke up before dawn to take BART to meet Trent and Ev in Burlingame. We arrived right before the gates opened and still faced a massive traffic jam. Worth it!
We got to see all kinds of planes, helicopters, robots, wind tunnels, etc while walking around the research campus and talking to scientists. There was even a Mars rover:
My arms are sore from carrying around Ev - who alternated being very into the planes and very bored by the whole thing.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Accessory: Headphones

My sister gave me an early birthday present yesterday: a pair of bright blue Beats headphones to wear on Caltrain. All the cool commuters look ready to DJ on the train to work. Now, the challenge is to find cute outfits to wear with my new accessory...