Monthly Archives: November 2007

Truffle season!

Pasta with truffles

It’s truffle season! If you are so fortunate to get your hands on a truffle, my hats off to you.

We had our hands on a couple of truffles. One of them went into the turkey stuffing for Thanksgiving this year. The other one? It’s going into risotto, into mashed potatoes, and in something as simple as pasta with browned butter (also topped with parmesan cheese and pine nuts–just to add to the richness).

One of the many wonderful things about Autumn.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Blue Bottle Coffee

Blue Bottle Coffee

I am a coffee lover who does not drink coffee.

At one point in my life, I drank over six cups of coffee a day (plus espresso!), with a particular penchant for Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend coffee. After Peet’s, I fell in love with Royal Coffee in the Oakland Rockridge neighborhood (it now has the unfortunate name of “Cole Coffee”–say it real fast, sounds like COLD coffee, doesn’t it?).

But after I quit drinking caffeine a few years ago, I couldn’t find a decent decaf coffee ANYWHERE. And I’m stuck with decaf, because caffeinated, regular coffee has the kind of effect on me now that I’ve always envisioned CRACK would have–bouncing off the walls, nonstop talking, speeding thoughts, insomnia.

Every now and then, I indulge in decaf coffee from Cole Coffee, but it’s just not anywhere near the same–the taste is lacking. I miss the coffee ritual, I miss the roasted smoky taste. I miss the hint of the sugar, the cream swirling in the black coffee, turning it into a mocha brown. Mrmmm. I miss coffee.

Last week, however, I visited a friend of mine, who offered me some decaf coffee. I said yes out of courtesy. She poured me a cup. The coffee was secondary, I thought. We started chatting, immersing ourselves in a deep conversation about philosophy, writing, reading, sickness and recovery. I sipped the coffee.

And stopped the conversation. “R–,” I asked, “What is this coffee?” It was the BEST coffee (decaf, or caffeinated) bar none, I had EVER tasted. It was AMAZING.

Blue Bottle!” she answered.

Ah, I replied. The mythical Blue Bottle Coffee. I had heard about it, smelt it in the Ferry Building once. I had no idea they made a decaf coffee so marvelous.

My friend remarked on how wonderful it was–and how, most importantly, she could buy it online. At which point, I hurriedly scribbled that fact into my notebook, went home, and bought some straight away. The day it arrived, on my doorstep, I was greeted with the heady roasted scent of coffee–freshly roasted. I carried the box into the kitchen, trailing a wonderful odor that I felt was so rich and heavy that I believed the molecules were dropping to the floor.

Blue Bottle Coffee ship orders out by the pound, once a week, from Oakland (so if you’re in the Bay Area, you’ll get the coffee the next day)…in whole bean form only (but if you’re a coffee snob, you won’t be surprised by that requirement).

Their other coffees, I can only imagine, must be even more amazing. But I? I’m giddy with my decaf noir from Blue Bottle.

Adapting Libby’s Pumpkin Pie

BEST pumpkin pie!

Every year, during pumpkin season, I make a pumpkin pie using the recipe on the back of a Libby’s can, using fresh pumpkin puree. I’m a believer in basic, fresh ingredients.

And yet, this year, after making my pumpkin puree, not from a sugar pie pumpkin but a pumpkin gift from Novella’s urban farm, I took a closer look at Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe, which uses ingredients that can be cooked up in any kitchen….except for the can of evaporated milk.

roasted pumpkin, about to be pureed

Given that I had such a fresh and wonderful bounty in my pumpkin puree, I wondered if there was anything I could do to eliminate the can of evaporated milk from the ingredient list. Hrm. I wondered if I could adapt the recipe, using fresh ingredients.

And so I did an experiment, and wondered how to substitute the evaporated milk (which, when I looked up its function, is supposed to add creamy texture and richness to foods). What I did was replace it with a cup of cream, and about a 1/2 cup of whole milk. I also, out of utter anxiety, added an egg to the recipe as well, because the pumpkin puree was more watery than other pumpkin purees I’ve made in the past…and thought the egg might do well to bind the mixture/custard later. (something to keep in mind if you find your pumpkin puree is “watery”).

BEST pumpkin pie

The result was incredible. My husband, a big fan of pumpkin pie, said it was the best pumpkin pie he’s ever had. Whether this is because of the pumpkin puree this year, or because of the fresh cream and milk, I’m not sure. I don’t run a fulltime test kitchen, though I’m curious myself.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Pumpkin Time: puree


It’s pumpkin time!

I love pumpkins. I am not a big Halloween fan, and I don’t like to carve faces into them–I like to EAT them. And when Novella offered me one of her wonderful pumpkins after a visit to her city farm, I nodded yes. I had never seen pumpkins like hers, adorned with what looked like beautiful callouses on them (when a squash has things like that, it looks downright tasty to me). I asked for one of the smaller ones because we’re only a two person household, and how could we eat so much pumpkin?

Oh dear.

This household of two, it seems, is chock full of pumpkin eaters. (And neither one of our names is Peter, either–“Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater!”)

After admiring the pumpkin for a couple of weeks, I put it in the oven to roast, cutting it in half, and putting it (cut sides down) in a 350F oven for about an hour.

Novella's pumpkin, pre-roasting

Out came a pumpkin that was a vibrant orange in the Autumn morning light. It was almost like crab or lobster–going into the boiling water a dark metallic green…and coming out altogether red and orange and edible. That’s what happened with this pumpkin. It went into the oven a pinky orange, and came out almost fluorescent, the kind of orange that road workers wear:

brilliant orange

After cooling the pumpkins, and scooping out the seeds (oh drats! I forgot to save some BEFORE roasting the pumpkin! There goes the hope of planting these pumpkins next year), and peeling off the skin…I pureed the pumpkin.

I took a little taste of the unadorned pumpkin puree, and an involuntary smile crept over my face. This was the BEST pumpkin I have ever tasted. Thoughts of pumpkin cookies and pumpkin pie immediately leapt through my mind. Ooooooh.

roasted pumpkin puree

If you’ve never made your own pumpkin puree, you really ought to try. If you don’t have a friend who gifts you with a wonderful pumpkin from her garden, you can use sugar pie pumpkins from the store. It’s relatively simple to do (split the pumpkin in half, put it cut sides down, roast in a 350F oven for about an hour, scoop out the seeds, peel off the skin, and puree in a food processor). Not only is it simple to do, but the result is so fabulous, you’ll cringe at the prospect of having to use canned pumpkin puree forevermore.

You’ll have to use it a lot quicker than canned pumpkin puree–but the puree does keep in the refrigerator for a few days, a week…and I’m not sure if it lasts longer than that, because I use up all that puree within a few days.