Sunday, March 2, 2014
Back in November, I successfully defended my dissertation. All of the summer and the autumn months leading up to November 5 (aka: D-Day) were wrapped up in this cocoon of thesis-ing. Then, as soon as I passed the defense, it felt as though the whole world exploded back into my life. The weekend immediately after D-Day, I was on a plane to Boston for a conference. Then came a month of bouncing back and forth between Los Angeles and the Bay Area for more work. Then another work trip to Minnesota, right before the Polar Vortex hit. Then, then! I started teaching at Berkeley! As a faculty member! Okay, okay, albeit this is just a visiting teaching position for the semester.... but still! For someone who grew up in one of the most underprivileged public school districts in California, getting to actually teach at a University of California campus is kind of like the highest honor. You know, public school pride. :)
In other exciting news, the day after my dissertation defense, I got a super exciting call to shoot for San Francisco's 7x7 magazine--you know, the magazine that basically has its finger on the pulse of what's cool in SF. For their recent February issue, I got to shoot Bar Tartine's famous smoked potatoes dish. AND OMG, you guys, you HAVE to try making this at home. And if not the potatoes, than at the very, very least, the black garlic vinaigrette that goes with these potatoes. Basically, as Chef Nick Balla explained to me, when developing the dish, they tried to pack as much umami flavor as humanly possible into one bite. The result is one of the most intensely flavorful things I've ever eaten. I seriously wolfed down two plates of this stuff as soon as we finished shooting, and then asked if they'd ever consider making the dish into potato chip form so that I could continue pigging out on it at home. At Thanksgiving, I made the black garlic vinaigrette and poured it over a side dish of toasted Israeli couscous, toasted walnuts, shiitake mushrooms, and dried apricot slices. So. Good.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Life has been extraordinarily hectic as of late. I feel like (actually, I know) I spend more time on airplanes, in the car, or in the office these days than at home or in the kitchen or behind the camera. But I'm busy with things I love, so I don't mind that most of the time, I feel like I've been treading water nonstop in an attempt to keep from drowning in the deep end of the pool. As long as my nose stays above the water, I'm good. And it helps that I like the water. (I'm a water Zodiac sign, after all. :))
Then, there are these rare, glistening moments of calm in between. Extraordinarily rare, but they're like such a gulp of fresh air when they happen, as if someone has temporarily thrown me a flotation ring to hang onto. Like this one rainy Sunday a few weeks ago, when I was at a friend's house for lunch. You know what happens when you get three friends together who have a love a desserts? Impromptu dessert bar. For lunch. Cause that's just how we roll.
I brought a passionfruit and adzuki red bean Chinese New Year's Cake (gluten-free, pictured above, recipe below), and some poached, vanilla-scented, late season quince that were cooked to just a touch of pink. My friend, Rob (of dessert tour fame), showed up with a bagful of goodies from Tartine Bakery: banana creme pie, lemon-poppyseed almond cake (my personal favorite), chocolate hazelnut tart, and meringues. And my friend who was hosting the lunch busted out these beautifully wrapped gold-bar nuggets of hazelnut chocolates that she was recently sent from Switzerland (because, you know, it pays to have foodie friends in foreign places). Yes, I know, it's excessive to have a dessert bar so extravagant for a lunch that consisted of only four people total, but hey, you know what they say: work hard,
Recipe for the passionfruit & red bean cake follows. It's my modern spin on my mom's old family recipe for baked New Year's Cake that is one of my favorite things she makes. It's satisfyingly mochi-chewy, and the pop of passionfruit brightens the whole cake like bursting, exotic streak of sunshine. (Oh goodness, excuse the cliches, I don't get much sleep these days!)
Read on for recipe....