On Puff Pastry…

The Smart & Final down the street from us has the BEST puff pastry.  Nine sheets for $20, which is really good because they are extra large sheets.  I’ve been known to make pizza’s out of them.  Unfortunately, they only have the pastry once every couple months, so if you are lucky enough to be there on the right day, and someone hasn’t gotten to it first, then you grab it… quickly.

IMG_1885So, there I was Saturday morning at 9:00 am, and there it was.  With a light from heaven shining upon it.  The only problem was that there was only one box left.  I felt guilty because Continue reading

Eating Local

IMG_1877Sunday was our second Breakfast Club get together, and what a morning! It was warm, slightly breezy, bright and sunny. The “club” meeting was held at Sue & Ashley’s home. They have a stunning traditional home with a brick façade and two rocking chairs on a generous porch. Their kitchen is the size of a small home with a custom wood island imported from Denmark. They have at least 3 refrigerators in there, but I can’t find them because they’re hidden by the ample white cabinetry. Who knows how many ovens they have… it must be several… (#Jealous) On this day those ovens were busy making Julia Child’s clafoutis with ripe spring berries from Ashley’s well-loved book filled with all kinds of sticky notes and tabs.

As Ashley wrapped up her clafoutis, we took a tour of Sue’s generous garden, and enjoyed the sunny morning. Squash, parsnips, celery, herbs, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, peas, and so much more. My contributions included an egg soufflé with swiss chard and zucchini she had picked and brought to the garden exchange just last week, so it made sense to pay a visit to the source. My other contribution was also locally sourced. I was feeling adventurous, so I decided this would be the perfect time to test out a new recipe with the most unusual offering from last week’s garden exchange… grape leaves. Little did we know we had so many vineyards and vintners in this neighborhood.

How to be Neighborly: Eat locally.

What does one make with grape leaves? Dolmas. Dolmas. And more Dolmas. Seriously, Google it. That’s all there is. OK, there is a tart looking thing, but Dolmas are the most popular, so that’s what I went with. I had no idea how many steps were involved. That said, I found the simplest recipe I could, and went with it. They turned out great. Even better, all the ingredients were grown (except the rice) within one block of my house. Now, that’s eating local.

Neighborly Dolmas

  • 25 fresh grape leaves, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 ½ c wild rice
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 c minced fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh oregano
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh chives

IMG_1870Put 2 tbsp oil in a pot with onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cook on medium-low heat until the onions are tender, but not brown. Add rice and cumin and cook for about 1 minute. Add 3 cups of broth, bring to a simmer then cover. Simmer on low for about 20 minutes until rice is cooked. Once the rice is cooked, remove from the heat and mix in mint, dill, oregano and chives.

To assemble the dolmas, begin by lining a large pan with about 3 grape leaves to prevent the dolmas from sticking. Next, roll the dolmas by laying the leaves vein side up, filling with 1 heaping tablespoon of rice, and rolling like a mini burrito, pulling the sides inward to keep the rice contained. Place in rows in the pan. To cook the dolmas, pour the remaining 1 cup broth over the dolmas along with 2 tablespoons oil, cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes until the broth is absorbed. Remove cover and let cool for about 1 hour.

Thanks to Toni for the grape leaves and Julie for the herbs!

Neighborly Garden Egg SouffléIMG_1874

This is a play on my Mom’s famous “Teacher Appreciation Eggs.” This is perfect for any brunch and serves TONS. I’ll give you the base, you add your favorite mix ins. This day, it was zucchini and chard from Sue’s gardens. Next time, it will be whatever is in season. Be creative. Stay fresh.

Soufflé Base

In a VERY LARGE bowl, combine:

  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 1 quart cottage cheese
  • 1 lb shredded cheese (Monterrey jack or cheddar work well)
  • 4 oz can mild diced green chiles, drained
  • 1 tbsp cilantro
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 c milk
  • 1 c bisquick
  • 2-3 drops of tobacco

Mix Ins (take your pick, or mix & mingle)

  • 1 zucchini & 2 c chard, chopped
  • 1 c ham & 2 c mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 c cooked pork sausage
  • Choose your own adventure

Put the mixture in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. The top should be brown and crusty.

Noche de Altares (Night of the Altars)

Santa Ana has a very rich Hispanic culture. Every November, a good portion of the downtown streets are shut down and families set up large altars to deceased family members for Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead is an important day in the Hispanic community. It is believed that the souls of the departed return during those nights to visit family and friends and enjoy the offerings at the altar. Offerings of marigolds, bread, textiles, traditional dishes, and candles are placed on the altars. Elaborately decorated frames surround pictures of loved family members and friends. People walk the streets to see the glowing altars, several dressed in day of the dead fare with sugar skull face paint and long lace dresses and elaborately decorated hats. It’s truly unique. For such a somber day, it’s very celebratory.

How to be Neighborly: Remember those who made a difference in the community.

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Reprint from OC Register, 2007

This was our first night of the altars, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty, the sense of community, and the pride each family took in constructing their altar. As Alex and I were walking through the altars, we saw a small altar set up in the corner of a restaurant our former teacher, mentor and friend had frequented. Mr. Ward…

Mr. Ward was the band director of our volunteer marching band, The Santa Ana Winds. It was the band where I met Alex. It was the group that tied me to Santa Ana, where I spent every Monday night windspracticing for 15 years. He believed in me and my creativity. He gave me the chance to be a leader. He even introduced me to this neighborhood. I was a docent at his home for the annual home tour in this very same neighborhood I would move to 20 years later. I can see his balcony from my living room window. This was the restaurant where I shared my first martini with him. And there he was on the altar, next to the owners’ other family and friends. Next to his photo was a martini.  His Martini.

I wasn’t expecting to see him, but I was so glad to see him remembered. He was there that night. I saluted him and thanked him for everything. You are missed, Mr. Ward.

Mr. Ward’s Martini

  • 3 oz Bombay White Gin
  • Splash dry Vermouth
  • Spanish Olives

Put gin in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Add a splash of vermouth.  Shake vigorously until ice cold.  Pour into martini glass. Top with olives.  SAWinds2000

Toast to a teacher that did something special for you.

Ad Hoc

When Alex and I get together with our best friends, we always offer to bring something.  A side dish. An appetizer. A salad.  Host’s choice. Without fail, they ask for 1 of two dishes:

  1. Summer Salad (more on this in another post), or;
  2. Grits

Grits?  Yes, grits.  These aren’t just any grits. They are life changing grits.  Overstated? Maybe… but I can’t live without them and apparently neither can our friends.

It all started at Ad Hoc in Napa Valley. Alex and I took an extended weekend after I completed a class I was teaching up in Northern California.  Ad Hoc is a family style restaurant created by legendary chef Thomas Keller.  It’s a pre-fix menu, and we happened to be there on skirt steak night.  We were served a beautiful fresh salad with endive and radicchio, which I’m sure came from the French Laundry garden just across the street.  Next came the steak and it was served with a side of grits.

Now, about grits.  My Mom used to try to serve me grits for breakfast.  I wanted nothing to do with them.  I thought for sure her single mom frugalness passed some kind of inappropriate line when she served me those. (Sorry, Mom.  Perhaps they may taste better now that my palette is more mature).  SO, legendary chef or not, I was skeptical.  But, I tried them, and this is where my life changed.  So simple.  So creamy.  So salty.  So. Amazingly. Good.

So, here’s my grits that you can share with your friends, family and neighbors as you choose.  Or you can eat them all yourself.

Sautéed Shrimp & Kale with Grits

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 onion sliced
  • 1/2 lb shrimp
  • 4 sundried tomatoes (Chef Mila’s Oven Roasted Tomatoes, if you have them)
  • 1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 c kale, chopped
  • 1/4 c white wine

Put the olive oil and onion in a frying pan, and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the shrimp, sundried tomatoes, paprika, salt and pepper, about 3 minutes.  Sauté until shrimp pink.  Add kale and sauté until wilted, but still bright green, about 2 minutes.  Add white wine and remove from heat.  Serve over grits. Serves 2.

Life Changing Grits

  • IMG_17222 c water, cold
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3/4 c quick cooking grits
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 c comté cheese (or gruyere, cheddar, or other melting cheese)
  • 1 scallion, chopped

Put the grits, salt and water in a sauce pan, and cook on medium high heat, stirring.  Once the grits start to bubble, add the cream.  Continue stirring until cream is combined and absorbed, about 2 minutes, then add the cheese. Sprinkle in 1/2 scallions.  Melt the cheese, and serve immediately.  Top with scallions.  Serves 2.

How does your garden grow?

Unlike a lot of Southern California, we are fortunate to have some larger lots in our neighborhood. They aren’t huge, but they are pretty good sizes for an urban community. Many of our neighbors use their land to grow all kinds of fruits and veggies. We even have a neighbor that hosts bee colonies which help pollinate all that our gardens produce. I have a small herb garden just outside my kitchen that is always filled with Mint, Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary and Basil, and we recently added a raised planter. They’re on the south facing side of the house and they do quite well with very little effort on my part. Alex may differ with me on that as he is the designated waterer. We also have a large avocado tree that produces small but creamy fruit. For anyone that gardens, you understand that a lot of what you produce goes to waste, because there are only so many (insert fruit or veg here) you can consume.

Enter Sue, gardener extraordinaire, and even better neighbor. She’s an avid gardener whose side yard produces some beautiful tomatoes and other gems that her partner Ashley whips up into divine cuisine. She had a brainstorm after meeting with several local home gardeners who all faced the same dilemma- an abundance of home grown goodies but a lack of diversity. So, she created the Garden Exchange.

How to be Neighborly: When life gives you (enter harvest here), trade them.

Depending on the season, home gardeners meet every 2-4 weeks at a designated host’s home and exchange their crop. You place your harvest on a table, and then you get to “shop” from the local “market.” BYOF (fruit). BYOV (veg). BYOS (snacks). BYOB (beverage). All free. Take as much as you brought. All honor system. Surprisingly there are always leftovers. The exchanges have offered products ranging from tomatoes, eggplant, kale, potatoes, rhubarb, lemongrass, peppers, persimmons, citrus, avocados, and herbs, to honey, eggs, baked goods, succulents, homemade beer and sangria. Since my garden has limited production, I usually bring something homemade to share. I’ve done pumpkin bread, mustard, rosemary cashews, and the persimmon bread using persimmons from the prior exchange.

Last night’s was hosted at my house, and we attached a theme to this one. The flowers are currently in full bloom, so we encouraged attendees to bring a floral arrangement from their clippings. Wow. Was it stunning. My BYOS was a contribution of simple carrot soup.

Fast & Easy Carrot SoupIMG_1820

  • 6 large carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • ½ onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 14 oz can tomatoes

Put all ingredients, except tomatoes, in a pot and just cover the veggies with water. Bring the water to a boil and allow carrots to cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Put the carrot mixture into a blender with the tomatoes and blend until smooth. Adjust salt to your taste.

How to Host Your Own Garden ExchangeIMG_1822

  1. Location, Location, Location. Pick a host home and evening (we found 7pm works well as people will be home from work by then)
  2. Publicize. Start with neighbors you know garden, or can see their trees, and email them or place a flyer on their doorstep, or use nextdoor.com if you have an active neighborhood. Let non-gardeners know non-organic contributions are welcome (baked goods, crafts, succulents, homemade beer, etc.). The more the merrier.
  3. Set up:
    1. You’ll need at least two 6 foot long tables for the produce
    2. Sign in guests. First come, first served. We “shop” in order of arrival.
  4. Provide Instructions
    1. Let people know they can take as much as they brought. If they brought a lot, take a lot. If they brought a little, take a little.
    2. Invite “shoppers” in order of arrival to take produce.
    3. We usually have lots left over after one round, so cycle through again until you run out.
    4. The host keeps the remaining goods.

The whole thing take about an hour, but people always stay to chat and munch on all the goodies people bring. Good luck! Have fun! Be neighborly!

Hipcooks

alex sum

Two of our friends were generous enough to put together a private cooking class at Hipcooks. These two are always supporting the local community. They live, eat, and thrive in DTSA. They have even been known to guerilla garden in the city. They wanted to introduce us to this new establishment, so they hosted a party. A group of neighbors headed downtown and were presented with chef hats and aprons before we began the class. Alex and I had actually brought our own aprons: me, my Wonder Woman, and he, his Darth Vader, naturally.

Hipcooks, which is perfectly described by it’s name, is an interactive cooking experience where there is no precise measuring, recipes, or rules. It’s cooking from the hip (that’s my kind of cooking). Tonight we were to make tapas of all kinds.

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We started off with Sangria, of course. Red wine, some liquor of your choosing, fruit, et voila… let the party begin. Next we made an arugula salad- tender baby greens, massaged with good olive oil, sprinkled with flaky sea salt and lemon juice. The tortilla was next, which is not the flat flour Mexican bread you are thinking of. This was an egg and potato mixture, first sautéed, and then baked in the oven until set. We concluded by making empanadas. This was a first for me. I never realized they could be so easy- particularly when I found out I could purchase frozen wrappers at the Argentinian grocery store & deli about 3 blocks from my house. #whatafind! (*)

How to be Neighborly: Support the local flavor.

At the end of the cooking, we all sat down at a long table for a community dinner to enjoy the food we had just made for each other. Gracias, D & D! Great friends. Great night. Great food. Great fun.

Here’s my cooking from the hip version of empanadas from my own kitchen (measurements are provided for support, not precision):

IMG_1698Cooking from the Hip Empanadas

Empanadas:

  • 2 sausage links (I get Argentinian chorizo from the above noted store, but any Italian pork sausage will work)
  • ¼ onion, diced
  • 8 mushrooms, diced
  • 8 sundried tomatoes (Chef Mila’s Oven Roasted Tomatoes, if you have them)
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp red wine
  • Empanada wrappers/dough (*)
  • Egg, mixed

IMG_1682Remove the sausage from the casing, and cook in a frying pan on medium high heat for about 3 minutes.  Add the onion, and cook until the onion is translucent but not brown. About 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook about 2 minutes until they start to show a little color.  Add the tomatoes, oregano, clove, salt, pepper cumin, and paprika and sauté for about 2 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, and immediately remove from the heat.  Stir until the wine is soaked into the meat.

Place one large spoon full of the meat into a empanada shell and pinch the edges together.  To form the edge, bring the corner of the dough up, and pinch, then fold inward, and press down to seal.  Continue this motion until it forms a twist all around the edge.

Place on a baking sheet, brush some egg on the top, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  Makes about 10-12 empanadas.

Garden Chimichuri Sauce:IMG_1701

  • 1 c fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • Pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a mini food processor and combine until mint is minced.

(*) Help! I don’t live near an Argentinian grocery store Empanada Dough:

Reprinted From Gourmet 2004- I’ve made this and it’s amazing dough.  Very buttery and flakey.  It’s actually very easy, and you probably have all the ingredients lying around somewhere.  It’s worth a try, even if you do live close to frozen wrappers.

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.

Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)

Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.

Form into balls, and then roll into 4 inch circles.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Trees

IMG_1611As I’ve previously mentioned, we have a giant pine tree in our front yard which is much older than our home.   We also have several mature trees in our backyard, which provide much needed shade during our very hot summers, but were very overgrown when we moved in. We also had one dead oak tree, which we thought “added character” to the backyard, but for which our neighbors teased us.   One day, I heard a tremendous POP, then CRACK, in the front yard, almost as loud as a gunshot. A little shaken, I went to the front door, opened it, and found a giant limb of that beautiful tree had fallen onto the yard. I glanced to the right, and saw a neighbor running toward my house screaming “are you ok?” She was shaken too. I’d never met her before, and to this day haven’t seen her again, but she was clearly very concerned about me at the time. I told her I was fine and went back to pondering how I was going to fix this.

IMG_0200Dave, who is married to Minion the French singer two doors up, came out about 5 minutes later to check in with me. “You know, these trees are very brittle. You have to keep them trimmed, or else…” and he glanced at the fallen limb as if to say… “You aren’t taking very good care of your trees.” So embarrassing. But I really wasn’t.  Then he handled me the card to his arborist (a.k.a. the “Tree Guy”).

So I called up the “Tree Guy,” who was in the Pacific Northwest consulting on northern tree issues. He informed me that little could be done until the Fall. He informed me that if you cut the tree now, the Bark Beetle will invade. Very bad. So we had our gardener haul away the limb and hoped that the remaining limbs held out until the fall when we could get them safely trimmed. Thankfully, they did.  As soon as fall set in, I called the “Tree Guy” back up, and he came out to give me a quote. He informed me of his illustrious career as an arborist, where he single handedly planted, raised, and pruned all of Disneyland’s trees (Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was illustrious). And then he gave me the quote… the size of my mortgage payment (and that was before removal of the dead tree out back). Um… NO.

So back I went to find another Tree Guy that could be equally as competent, but maybe not so illustrious or expensive.   I consulted our Neighborhood referrals in the newsletter, and came upon a Tree Guy named Pedro. Pedro came out, I showed him the front and back yard issues, and he gave me a much more manageable quote.  The next week, Pedro and his guys had the entire front and back yards covered in tree limbs, trimmings, and leaves 3 feet high. He had to bring another truck and another couple guys to get the job done. Mid trim, Alex brought the guys a beer, they were working so hard. When Pedro and team were done, the limbs on the giant pine bounced upward and swayed proudly. The back yard was well groomed, and the dead tree was now gone. The garden was fresh and clean, and ready for the holidays. Pedro even saved all the wood for our fire pit, and brought some more the next week from another job.

Lesson learned. Maintain your trees: They will provide shade when warm, and warmth when cool.

How to be Neighborly: Vote for Pedro. Tell neighbors about people that do good work, for a reasonable price.

Here’s how you can use some of that wood:

Camp Fire S’mores

  • Graham crackers
  • Nutella
  • Peanut butter
  • Marshmallow

Assemble the bottom layer of the s’more with graham cracker, 1 tsp peanut butter, 1 tsp nutella, and then marshmallow.  If you have a fire going, roast the marshmallow on the fire before placing on the nutella.  You can also broil this in the toaster oven for about 2 minutes or until the marshmallow is brown. Leave the top cracker off until the bottom is cooked.

Supper Club

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Suzee, our former social director for the neighborhood, and her husband, Jeff, began an outstanding tradition to host a supper club at a local restaurant.  This was our first time attending.  This one was held at Luna Kutsi in DTSA.  Kutsi is housed in one of DTSA’s most beautiful buildings, the Santora.  It’s a Spanish Colonial revival building built in 1928.  Originally, it housed a Daninger’s Tea Room, a restaurant famous for its celebrity clientele including Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Billie Burke, Charles Ruggles, Connie Haines, Lucille Ball, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Joan Davis, Rosalind Russell, Robert Young, William Holden and Alan Ladd.  Now, it hosts several restaurants, retail spaces, and artists.

IMG_1799Brunch was on the menu for the Supper Club, and it featured a beet salad, green or red chilaquiles, and a creamy Mexican version of a tiramisu.

Seated next to us were KC and Helen, the suppliers of margaritas for our annual Chili Cook-off (more on this later).  Turns out, KC and Helen have a chicken coop that KC built.  It’s the cutest white cottage looking coop with cross hatches on all the doors.  These chickens have good taste… they must watch HGTV.

IMG_1800I was curious about the maintenance, clean up, and egg production.  I think it’d be fun to have chickens assuming the caretaker (Alex, remember?) would be into that kind of thing.  He seemed interested, too.  Given we were hosting a garden exchange at our house the next week, I asked if they might bring some eggs (oh, yes, and if they EVER had any extra, I mentioned I’d be happy to take them off their hands).  Not more than 30 minutes after we got home, our door bell rang and it was Helen and KC with a dozen eggs of our own.  Green, tan, brown.  Just beautiful.

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How to be Neighborly: Put your eggs in your neighbor’s basket.

What does one do with a dozen fresh eggs?  Well, head to the “Well Stocked Pantry.” Pull some cream out of the fridge and create a fast, easy, cozy dinner.

Here’s how you can make your own Supper Club Eggs (even if you don’t have KC, Helen, and their chickens, for neighbors, this still works):

Cozy Eggs in Cream

  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced or grated
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 sprig rosemary, finely minced
  • Sea Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Toast

In an oven proof dish, like cast iron or a ramekin, put 1/4 c of cream, and 1/2 a clove of garlic grated, and put it under the broiler to heat up the cream, about 1-2 minutes.  Once the cream is hot, pull the ramekins out and carefully crack two eggs into the hot cream.  Sprinkle with cheese, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Put the ramekin back under the broiler for another 1-2 minutes.  Watch it closely, the top should turn brown but the yolks should stay runny.  Once cooked, sprinkle with more parmesan and serve with toast for dipping.

Makes 2 ramekins.

 

Meet the Maker

 

Alex and I volunteered to be our membership directors for our neighborhood association. That means that we prepare welcome bags for new neighbors moving into the neighborhood, and we put on three mixers a year for neighbors to get together and meet each other. The neighborhood association hosts the bar, and the neighbors bring the food- potluck style. We get some truly delicious food at these events.

Another director, Sandy, had some extra wine from another event and she offered that we could use the wine at our next mixer, I just had to coordinate with her husband, Ed, to pick it up. So, off Alex and I went to pick up the wine. Sandy and Ed live in an amazing French Chateaux like home. You enter through a manicured garden, pass a hidden courtyard, and then enter through beautiful wooden and glass doors. The entire back wall of their home literally unfolds and overlooks a peaceful pool and garden. Each bedroom has a theme based on their travels… the London room, Asian room, etc. It is the perfect home for entertaining. This is what my home wants to be when it grows up.

We were greeted by Ed who said he had the wine ready for us. But… if we had some time, would we like to meet one of our neighbors, a wine maker? Who could say no to that? So we joined Ed and Charles at the dining room table, surrounded by maps of wine regions of the world, and Charles told us the story of how he began to make his wine. They were tasting a Napa Chardonnay, bright with hints of vanilla. It was delicious. It was so surprising to learn that we had not one, but two, wine makers in our neighborhood (that we know about). Charles then brought a couple more bottles to the next mixer for everyone to try. A mini wine tasting in our own backyard. What a treat!

How to be Neighborly: The best wines are the ones we drink with friends.

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Image from conigliowines.com

 

Cheddar and Apple Tart

IMG_1381 (2)I made this for the mixer/impromptu wine tasting with some apples our neighbors Bev & Erwin had left for us on our front porch. Think of it like a sweet and savory pizza.  Yummy!

  • 1 sheet Puff Pastry, thawed
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 apple, sliced thin (if apples are small you may need 2 or more)
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Cook onions in olive oil in a sauté pan until golden and translucent, about 5 minutes. If you add a pinch of sugar then they will brown better and be a little sweeter. Roll out the puff pastry to make it about ¼ larger, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat. Spread caramelized onions on the pastry sheet, then sliced apples in neat rows on top of the onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Sprinkle apples with cheddar cheese so that you can still see the apples, but you get good coverage with the cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until puff pastry is golden brown and cheese is bubbling. Using a pizza cutter, cut into little squares.

social.net

I’m not a techie. I’m not a follower of facebook. I’ve just learned how to use Instagram.   Thankfully, wordpress made it excruciatingly easy to create this blog. I’ll admit I am addicted to Pinterest. I’d like to think I have an eye for beauty, and I use that to add to my stories. That’s probably why I like Pinterest so much. Apparently others enjoy my photos, because I’m getting a lot of feedback on the look and feel of my blog. I’m glad my followers are liking it.

IMG_1751This resulted in my chef friend Mila asking if I could give her some tips on photos, and how to use them to post on Instagram.  She wanted to get the word out about her products. I told her we’d experiment together. So, after our neighborhood pancake breakfast, we headed to her home (Remember my favorite one? The Craftsman Masterpiece) to practice our social skills, and photography. She paints cookbooks, so those were to be the star of our shoot. Here were my tips for her:

  • Natural light
  • Interesting/natural background
  • Interesting angle
  • Interesting props
  • Shoot until you find one you like

I also use small plates if photographing food. So, shoot, and shoot, and shoot we did.  Here’s the results of our experiments:

How to be Neighborly: Experiment. Socialize. Learn.

This was our masterpiece. I love it. Don’t you?  All those colors, and the patina on her table.

Book 1

As a token of thanks, she gave me 3 jars filled with her AMAZING homemade pesto, roasted tomatoes, and chocolate sauce. All that just for socializing? What a treat!  I may not paint, but given the right ingredients, I can create something beautiful.  Here’s what I did with her gifts of gratitude:

Oven Roasted Tomato and Pesto Toast

Spread the pesto on the toast, top with tomatoes and drizzle more pesto on top. Bon Appetit is right!IMG_1752