May 29 2009

The Housing Search Continues

We were outbid on the home in Martinez. So Sam took today off work and spent all day looking at houses. We found two that look really good, so hopefully we’ll have another offer in by the end of the weekend.

May 27 2009

What’s for Dinner


I’m so glad summer is here! In our box today we got a pint of strawberries, a bag of apricots, four spring onions, a bag of lettuce, a bunch of carrots, a bunch of radishes, a bundle of fresh rosemary, and two little paper bags—one filled with beautiful heirloom tomatoes, the other with yellow gypsy peppers.

I wanted to work with those tomatoes and peppers immediately, so I made panzanella—Italian bread salad with tomatoes and other veggies. Here’s the recipe, adapted from The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market Cookbook.

Press two or three cloves of garlic through a garlic press and into a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, and mix it all up with a fork. Set aside.

Cut a loaf of country bread (we used whole wheat and it was delicious) into inch-wide slices. Toast or grill the bread slices, and when they are cool enough to handle, tear them into bite-size pieces and put them in a large salad bowl. Alternately, if you have slightly stale bread or really good croutons, you can use that instead.

While the bread is toasting, cut your tomatoes—two or three pounds of lovely, lovely tomatoes—into bite-size chunks and put them in the same bowl with the bread.

Add whatever you have to hand. A cucumber is good. If you have sweet peppers you can chop them up and throw them in. Anchovies or capers are good (six to eight anchovy fillets, minced, and/or 1/3 cup capers). As Wikipedia says: “Sometimes thought of as a ‘leftover salad,’ additional panzanella ingredients vary widely, and include lettuce, white wine, capers, anchovies, celery, carrots, red wine, red onion, cucumber, tuna, parsley, boiled eggs, mint, bell peppers, lemon juice, and garlic.” So, you know, you can put in any or all of that. I used the peppers, cucumber, and anchovies.

Whisk 1/2 cup of olive oil into the vinegar and garlic mixture until you have a vinaigrette. Pour half of your vinaigrette over the tomatoes, bread, and other ingredients; give them a good toss, then pour the rest of the vinaigrette in and toss again.

Pick out a tomato and a chunk of bread and taste them. If the panzanella needs more salt and/or pepper, add that now. Take a bunch of basil (a couple dozen leaves) and scatter them over the panzanella. Give it one more toss and it’s ready to eat. (If you make the panzanella ahead of time, the bread will soak up the dressing, and you may need to add a bit more olive oil before serving.)

Ours looked like this, and it tasted like summer through and through:


For dessert we’re having a fruit salad of strawberries, blueberries (on sale this week at Whole Foods), and apricot slices. On a long lovely evening like this we can only be grateful for our good fortune.

May 26 2009

Latest News

Robin’s added a new word to his vocabulary, and mastered a new skill.

The word: “Poopy.”

The skill: Nose-picking.

Isn’t it interesting how fingers and nostrils remain exactly the right size for each other through all stages of development?

May 22 2009

What’s for Dinner

Would you believe that we actually forgot to pick up our veggie box (from the front doorstep) on Wednesday? Our neighbor Tony, who lives one floor down, brought it up to us. And it was an exciting veggie week too: we got chard, lettuce, dandelion greens, a pint of strawberries, a bag of apricots, six baby artichokes, two spring onions and two stalks of green garlic.

Last night I made two strawberry tea breads—one for us and one for Tony—and a springtime green pasta using the green garlic, baby artichokes, some peas, fava beans and mint (the recipe is from The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market Cookbook). I took a picture but the artichokes ended up looking sort of dark and slimy in the picture, so I’m not posting it. It was actually very good.

Oh and I should note, mostly for my own reference, that last week’s dinners were a smash success. The beef enchiladas were really, really terrific: that recipe was from the Cook’s Country Cookbook, which has quickly become my very favorite cookbook. It’s just solid, familiar recipes for American home-cooking: perfect for the kind of cooking I do every night. Of course the enchiladas did involve two cups of cheese, so I don’t think I can justify a weekly Enchilada Night, but I do think I’ll slide it into the rotation monthly or so.

After our veggie meal the next night, I made pepper steak (beef strips stir-fried with bell peppers and onions, served over brown rice)—again from the Cook’s Country Cookbook—I’ve made this several times before and it’s very quick and easy. I know Sam likes it, but I think the last time I made it was before he agreed to ramp up his feedback levels, because I honestly had no idea how much he likes it. He likes it as much as the enchiladas! And this is a dish that I have zero health qualms about (we buy grass-fed beef, which is a lean meat and a good source of vitamins). I also made a fish stew (using rockfish fillets and a handful of mussels) and a pot roast, both of which were well received.

For tonight I’m planning a dandelion salad with bacon and a red chard risotto. Tomorrow it’s Robin’s day to hang with Daddy while my gaming group meets, so they’ll be on their own for dinner (generally they pick up burritos from down the street). Sunday I’ll roast a chicken and make a simple green salad; Monday I want to try Mario Batali’s 2-Minute Calamari. Yes, I haven’t given up on squid, even though my last attempt at dealing with it was a flop (Mark Bittman’s Squid in Red Wine Sauce was quickly christened “squidghetti,” and the copious leftovers sat in our fridge untouched until I finally threw them out.)

Robin is a voracious consumer of fresh fruit, and has already devoured half the apricots: I’m sure they’ll all be gone by tomorrow. Not knowing we’d be getting so much fresh fruit in our box, I bought raspberries when Whole Foods put them on sale. I bought some fancy local yogurt too. We felt very high-falutin’ eating our raspberries and sheep’s milk yogurt from Sonoma. Here’s Robin stuffing his face like a proper gentleman:

yogurt face

May 13 2009

Oh Wow

Robin just totally busted out with a perfect “uh-oh!” when I dropped a strawberry on the floor. I was pretty stunned but recovered quickly enough to give him an enthusiastic “That’s right! Uh-oh! Smart boy!”

Now he is running around the house calling “uh-oh! uh-oh! uh-oh!”

It seems like the floodgates have opened on this “language” thing.

May 13 2009

What’s for Dinner

Notes from last week’s dinners: you guys, that bulgur salad with kale, salami, and olives is good. We had it twice! The catfish was good too, but between it and the chili we had a lot of leftovers, and I didn’t get around to making everything I’d planned.

In this week’s box: a bag of baby lettuces, a big bag of snap peas, 2 spring onions, a head of green garlic, a pint of strawberries (ROBIN WILL BE PLEASED), a bunch of skinny new carrots, a big bunch of pencil asparagus, and a bunch of dandelion greens.

Since I didn’t make the beef enchiladas last night, I’m making them up tonight: they’re in the oven and smelling delicious. I also put the lettuce and snap peas into a simple green salad. We’ll have the strawberries for dessert, or breakfast tomorrow: strawberries don’t keep.

Tomorrow I’ll make dandelion salad with bacon and green garlic, and a hot dish of braised carrots and asparagus (using a recipe included in the box; I’ll reprint it if it’s particularly good).

Oh look, the enchiladas are done. I’ll have to finish the menu planning later!

May 13 2009

Sailor Suit

Robin in his sailor suit

Robin wore his sailor suit for Mother’s Day, and garnered many compliments. We had a nice brunch and then went to see the “Treasures of Bhutan” exhibit at the Asian Art Museum…we stopped at that playground on the way so Robin could stretch his legs.

The latest news on the toddler front is that Robin has taken to grabbing our toes while shrieking “tikka tikka tikka!” (tickle tickle tickle!) I think he’s decided that what goes around comes around, Mommy!

On the housing front, we’ve put in another offer. The house we’re going for now is actually in Martinez, which is north of Oakland: it’s a really nice town. Technically I guess it’s a city, but it very much has the same feel as the college towns I grew up in. It has a Main Street lined with mom-and-pop stores. It has bungalow neighborhoods filled with trees. It has a creek that runs through the middle of town. It seems like a really nice place to raise kids; the sort of place you wouldn’t mind turning them out of doors with an admonition to be back by supper.

Martinez is mostly known in the Bay Area for the beaver controversy that gripped the city two years ago. Basically, a pair of beavers made a dam in the creek downtown, creating a potential flood hazard. The city government wanted to trap and remove the beavers—or just shoot them—but the people of Martinez were having none of it. After a series of protests and “an emotional city council meeting,” the city of Martinez decided instead to install an expensive water flow device around the beavers’ dam.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Martinez was also the home of famous naturalist John Muir. It also claims to be the birthplace of the martini.

These facts, taken together, tell me all I need to know about the people of Martinez. They are a soft-hearted and thoroughly impractical folk who love nature and gin. I feel we’d fit in well.

May 8 2009


When I’m at the computer and Robin wants my attention, he’ll climb into my lap, place his hand at the side of my face, and turn my head away from the screen and towards himself. When he wants a cuddle, he’ll grab my hand and draw it firmly around himself.

I just think that’s really great, how at this stage he knows his own desires perfectly, and he expresses them in the most direct manner possible. He is so wholly without artifice.

May 7 2009

Musical Boy

In addition to dancing, Robin has discovered that he likes to sing. By which I mean, he’ll sort of tunelessly vocalize whenever music he recognizes comes on. He gets upset when I try to sing along though. Which maybe ties into another of his little tics: Nanita saw this one. He gets very angry whenever two people sing at the same time, or even when Sam and I accidentally say the same thing in chorus. Seriously, he’ll start screaming loudly. I can only guess that it causes some kind of sensory-processing error in his little brain?

But in related news, his favorite book is “Where the Wild Things Are.” Now if you remember your Sendak, you’ll know that there are three wordless pages that come after the line “And now, cried Max, let the wild rumpus start!” When Sam and I read the book we do “rumpus music” as we turn those pages. My rumpus music goes like this: Arooooo boom boom boom! Aroooooo boom boom! Well, Robin has started singing along during the rumpus. He gets pretty close too: “Oooooo boo boo! Ooooo boo!” This doesn’t seem to bother him. So it’s hard to tell what to triggers the auditory overload.

I’m guessing that a quarter of what he says now is meaningful content. Unfortunately we can only understand about five percent. Language, at least for Robin, hasn’t really been a process of acquiring words one by one. It’s more that he babbles steadily, and that this initially amorphous babble is gradually taking on the cadences and contours of actual speech. Which makes sense, because after all he’s not just picking up words. He’s learning tones, contexts, the rhythm of conversation. It’s not so much that he’s building vocabulary up through discrete steps, but that he’s sculpting his stream of vocalizations into speech and song. It’s getting clearer every day.

May 6 2009

What’s for Dinner

This week’s box held snap peas, two different kinds of lettuce, a bulb of green garlic, four spring onions, a bunch of wee little carrots, a bunch of pencil asparagus, a box of strawberries (yay again!), and another bag of walnuts, which I am perfectly happy to add to the collection in the pantry.

They had catfish at the fish counter today, so tonight I’m going to do that panko-crusted catfish with garlic chard, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Tomorrow we’ll have roasted asparagus and the rest of the veggies (except the onions) in a big salad.

I’ll put the onions in a big pot of red bean chili Friday night and make some cornbread to go with it. Saturday we may or may not be visiting houses so I need dinner to be quick and easy: some kind of pasta would be good. The Cook’s Illustrated recipe for orrechiette with broccoli rabe and sausage is a favorite.

Sunday is Mother’s Day so I’m not cooking! But Monday I’ll make beef enchiladas. At some point during the week I also want to try out this recipe for bulgur salad with kale, salami and olives; I’ll probably make it for Robin’s and my lunches.

And I think we’ll keep Tuesday as Leftovers Appreciation Night.