slowing down…

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For the first time in a long time, I have time… and lots of it. While I feel pressure to make most of it, I try to remind myself that the whole point of wanting time is to have time to relax and enjoy life more fully (and also to be infinitely more productive, but I’m trying to be less east coast now that I’m out west). As my age catches up to the old lady that I am, I am more and more convinced that eating well and sleeping well should not be luxuries. And, these blessings/necessities are time well spent.

Though I thought I had, I never truly caramelized onions. I’ve sautéed them until soft and clear, and I’ve burnt them. I never undertook the slow tedium caramelized onions require, until now. From start to finish, it took me 45-50 minutes to fully caramelize my two large onions – probably a bit longer than necessary because I took extra caution not to burn them. If any recipe calls for golden brown onions and indicates a cook time of less 30 minutes (depending on the amount of onions), they are lying liars. With the onions, I made french onion soup a la Julia Child via Deb Perelman.

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The recipe has few ingredients with basic steps. But, it demands your time, patience, and close eye. The outcome: deep rich flavors out of the simplest of  vegetables. If I were truly ambitious, I would have made my own beef broth. With pieces of crusty bread and bubbly gruyere cheese, my house smelled like a Panera Bread – which is a good thing.

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I used caramelized onions to make gruyere grilled cheese sandwiches with avocado. Sweet buttery onions, sharp gruyere cheese, and rich, creamy avocados with thick crusty bread came together like a dream.

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With more time, I’m trying to enjoy my new city and my new San Franciscan neighbors with more intention. Of course, this includes inviting people over to eat. I made brunch for 3 ladies one mid-week mid-morning. With all my various lettuces from my CSA, I made an easy, hearty frittata. I basically followed this Slate recipe, but adapted the ingredients quite a bit:

  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 pounds of kale or other dry leafy green, like collards
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 6 ounces of feta
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 4 ounces of pancetta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a bunch of fresh oregano and thyme (I don’t care for dill, which the original recipe calls for)
  • olive oil (to sauté the garlic and onions)

The instructions, including the cook time, are the same.

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I topped my frittata with arugula salad. I mix balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, honeycup mustard, and olive oil for the dressing. And, of course, a side of avocados, because California’s avocados are amazing.

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I also had a perfectly ripe farm fresh cantaloupe to share. I wrapped the sweet melon up in some salty prosciutto.

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For refreshments, a simple mimosa with fresh squeezed valencia oranges, sparkling rosé, and blueberries. I also attempted to make pancakes. I have yet to cook pancakes that are good. Most of the time, they are decent. I’ve tried making pretty much all the varieties: lemon ricotta, sour cream, yogurt, blueberry, and multi-grain. And all, including these multi-grain-yogurt ones, are just eh. As I am wont to do, I probably over-stir the batter.

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I love brunch (as I’ve written before)… at home and out. San Francisco has its fair share of yummy (albeit sometimes snobby) brunch joints. At Plow, unlike in my kitchen, they make spectacular lemon ricotta pancakes. With housemade pork sausage, crispy, oniony potatoes, and perfectly over easy eggs, my tummy was pleased. The watermelon, cantaloupe, avocado, mint, and jalapeño salad was a flavorful and fresh balance to the hearty breakfast. But, I couldn’t help but think, this brunch is not too far off from what I can make at home. Eggs, pork, melon, avocados, pancakes – all made appearances in my homemade brunch. Perhaps my inability to make pancakes is a blessing in disguise – I’ll always have an excuse to dine out for brunch.

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After filling my new friends’ tummies in my home, we went on a short excursion to Muir Woods. My first encounter with the ancient Redwoods was at Muir Woods, and they demand reverence, awe, and wonder. They require you to slow down. Human lifespans become immaterial. The spiritual directly connected to the natural… like the transcendance of a truly great meal.

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