Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fig Pistachio Tart

Life right now is boxes. Cardboard boxes upon cardboard boxes, and tons of filler paper. My new job had me professionally moved, which (I've never done before and) involved three guys showing up at my front door one day, basically packing my entire life into who knows how many cardboard boxes and driving off with it in their truck. Then, the next day, they delivered and piled the boxes up to the ceiling, and here I am, nearly a week later, still opening boxes and attempting to figure out why DVDs and brown sugar ended up in the same box, and where in the heck is my salt?

In the midst of excavating myself out of seemingly endless Everests of cardboard and paper, there was a ring of my doorbell at 9am on Sunday morning.... which totally caught me by surprise, since I ... sort of don't really know anyone here yet? I open the door in my crappy these-are-the-clothes-I've-managed-to-unpack-and-I-also-haven't-brushed-my-hair-for-two-days-because-one-doesn't-have-to-look-good-for-cardboard-boxes state, and there I find a old lady with a fantastic blue and yellow caftan flowing in the breeze looking at me.

"I'm your neighbor! The previous tenants wrote to me to tell me I was getting a new neighbor. --So, here.", and she holds up at me the most gigantic bag of plump, overly juicy, bright neon green and dark, dark bluish-purple figs that I've ever seen.

It turns out that my new neighbor is this fascinating woman who not only has friends with over-flowing fig fruit trees, but also used to be a gourmet cook in SF who has cooked with the likes of James Beard before. Like, whaaaaa? Cooked with James Beard?! She then proceeds to walk into my house and look at my piano, and then she turns to my vibraphone--which everyone always annoying and very mistakingly calls a "xylophone"--and comments, "Oh! A vibraphone!" Then, she goes on to talk about her love of Chinese antiques and cookware and how she used to have a 300-strong cookbook collection....  You guuuyyys, I can't believe this is my new neighbor. She had me at figs.

Of course, the natural reaction when presented with an enormous bag of plump, nearly-overripe figs is to bake with them.... amiright? At that point, I had managed to unearth a few tart pans and my food processor, and some nuts and flour, and one of my pepper grinders, so a fig pistachio tart with a black pepper crust, it was! The insides of the figs were so beautifully ripe that they sort of made the tart taste as though it was laced with caramel. The pistachio lends the tart a savory tinge, as does the spicy kick of cracked black pepper in the crust. For a glaze, I used some ginger jam I had in the fridge, which helped to brighten up the whole affair--the more traditional, apricot jam would work as well. If desired, serve with a heaping scoop of whipped cream.

A few hours after my neighbor's first visit, I did what good neighbors are supposed to do. I returned a few figs to her--in tart form, of course.

Read on for recipe....

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Scenes from Oxford, UK

Sometimes photos get downloaded onto my computer and then just sit there, lying in wait as I forget about them and move on to the next memory card, and the next. And that's okay. Sometimes, it's nice to process memories long after they've been experienced. But then again, I've always enjoyed nostalgia-wallowing.

A little more than a year ago, I made one of my biennial trips to the UK, and Emma of Poires Au Chocolat (one of my favorite blogs!) invited me to visit for a few days in Oxford. Even through my bleary, jet-lagged eyes, Oxford was so incredibly beautiful, and Emma was such a wonderful host, making sure that I had the proper Oxford experience, complete with

campus tours, anthropological museums,
lawns that I had to keep reminding my crass Californian-self I couldn't walk on,
rowing races, swans interrupting rowing races,
Ben's Cookies,
tea in the oldest Oxford building, hot chocolate in a new hipstery bike shop,
bookstores for days, pubs with picturesque names,
homemade toad-in-the-hole, homemade scones (pronounced with a vowel that sounds like "aw" and not "oh") and marmalade, proper Devonshire cream, a beautiful garden to drink more tea in,
and all the wisteria and lilacs that I could sigh at to my heart's content.

You guys, I wish everything everywhere were covered with blooming wisteria forever and ever and ever.

I've never been to Cambridge before, but from what I've seen of Oxford, Cambridge has its work cut out for it in the rivalry.

(On the same trip, I went here.)
(and to Manchester. More on that soon.)

Friday, August 1, 2014


Packing for moving really makes a person realize how much stuff one has.... especially if one of the rooms of the house involves a food photography prop library. Food photographers/stylists/bloggers are a special breed of person, aren't we? Almost everyone who came to give moving estimates would exclaim, "You have so many dishes!" (and books, but let's credit that one to my academic side). At current count, I've got 25 cake stands, and I haven't even gotten to my actual kitchen yet. But wooden spoons? One can never have too many wooden spoons. And they're light to move, too. So there.