While we were in France, eating and drinking with gusto, Stephanie started to pine for the lighter fare she hoped I’d make when we returned home…to Fresno! Of course the home we returned to has no kitchen—only a refrigerator (because renovations), so for the last four weeks (and likely three still to come), I’ve been making a sort of insalata caprese alla California for dinner almost every other night.
It starts with a handful of arugula (enough to mostly fill a small disposable paper bowl while our things are still in storage). Sure baby kale could work, but arugula is smaller and more flavorful, in theory (somewhere along the way, I feel like its peppery bite has been breed out; note to self: grow my own). Then I halve enough heirloom cherry tomatoes so there’s nice coverage in the bed of greens. I cut 10 small balls of fresh mozzarella (aka ciliegine) into eighths and divide them between the two bowls. The tomatoes and mozzarella get a healthy grind of sea salt before I halve and distribute 10 pitted Kalamata olives. Each salad gets half of a sliced avocado, sprinkled with a little more salt, and a generous broadcast of pine nuts. I garnish with several coarsely chopped basil leaves, and then the whole affair is drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s basically all of our favorite things together in one bowl. And with so much in flux right now, it’s comforting to end our hot and occasionally hectic days with something so reliably satisfying.
Stephanie took this photo of me—well, more the burger I made for her—after we hiked 9 miles on the Dipsea Trail on July 4th. We’d intended to make it all the way to Stinson Beach for “halfway hamburgers” at The Parkside Cafe, but we turned around mid-way and headed back early—so I made them at home instead. But first I studied the advice in The Food Lab to up my burger-game. It worked.
Stephanie’s mom Chris has a childlike fascination with carrot cake. It’s a taste she associates with the United States, something she tried for the first time over 35 years ago while recovering at a hospital. Now, whenever she visits, carrot cake is on the itinerary. She’s not picky—a humble square from the grocery store will do. But this year, since she arrived from France on her birthday, I made her carrot cake cupcakes from scratch.
I cook with whatever I have on hand, so when I make an omelet, I fill it with whatever I have on hand. Sometimes my omelets are just “ok”. And sometimes I have bacon, green onions, sauteed mushrooms, and fresh goat cheese. Sometimes I have fresh thyme that I whisk in with the eggs. I will continue to fill my omelets with whatever I have on hand, as long as I have bacon, green onions, sauteed mushrooms, and fresh goat cheese.
Tonight, after a long absence, I returned to the Cheese School of San Francisco for a class about Portuguese Cheese and Wine. I enjoy subjects like these, focused and unfamiliar to me. I’ve tasted many different cheeses over the years, but I can’t say that any have been from Portugal.