Wednesday, February 29, 2012


It's a good year for lemons:
our trees droop under the weight of the fruit.
And blood oranges:
They are not especially sweet; we are beyond the edge of orange-dom.  But they are better than the regular oranges which are so sour they are unpalatable, even as juice.

Our friend Jane gave is this juicer on one of her treasured visits (Note to Jane - it's time to come back! we miss you)
She is the queen of gift giving, she always nails it (more about that in a later blog) and we have been toasting her with blood orange juice in the morning. 
Delicious, beautiful, healthy...

And as our neighbor Maddy pointed out, they also make great martinis. Ice, vodka, and a splash of Canton Ginger Liqueur for sweetness. Wonderful with chicken. And I have a new favorite chicken. If you've been paying attention you know I loved the fried chicken from last month's Bon Appetit. I'd link it for you but Safari has decided to hide the URL - any suggestions gratefully accepted.

It had a spice rub, and since oven baked chicken is a staple here (think cobb salad, chicken salad, chicken enchiladas) I tried a spice rub on the oven baked version.  I've made it twice in three days. So here's the recipe with thanks to Bon Appetit for the inspiration.

Oven Baked Chicken

Preheat the oven to 350 fahrenheit.

For the rub:
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 boneless skin-on chicken breasts - organic and free range if you can.

3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons olive oil (or 1 tablespoon olive oil and one tablespoon butter)

Mix all the rub ingredients in a small bowl - sprinkle over chicken. There will be a generous coating of spices - don't be shy.

Mix the flour with the cornstarch in a small bowl, and sprinkle over spice-coated chicken. Press it in with your fingers to make sure as much as possible sticks.

Pour about a tablespoon of real olive oil (read Extra Virginity for the real scoop) in an oven-proof pan. Put the chicken pieces in skin-side down and rub them in the oil to coat the skin. Use the second tablespoon if you need it - I did. Turn the chicken skin-side up and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer  reads 160. (thank you Ann- using the thermometer has saved many a chicken from overcooking) 

Mine didn't get brown enough this time so I ran them under the broiler - 
and burned them in spots. Thankfully my husband didn't mind. And they made a great Cobb Salad. So now I have a new favorite week-day chicken recipe - to go with the fabulous fried chicken I blogged about in Fear if Frying. Again, until I figure out the link thing again (don't you hate upgrades?) you'll have to go to and search the blog. 

As Julia would have said, "Bon Appetit!"And she was right.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Rousing Round of Croquet

If you've never played croquet at Meadowood you're in for a treat. Our second time in two weeks.
An hour with the pro so you learn to be ruthless,
and an hour on your own.  They cheated, we lost fair and square.
The croquet pitch may look level, but it's not - we are standing on the moral high ground.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Fear of Frying

When a recipe calls for frying in oil - and using a thermometer  - I usually turn the page. Same with caramelizing sugar. But I have a note on my spice cupboard that says "Do one thing you're afraid of every day" and so in spite of my fear of frying I made the Fried Chicken from the current issue of Bon Appetit - you know, the recipe that's on the cover? Go buy a copy. Now.
It's Valentine's Day and fried chicken is Wally's favorite. If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know I made the Ad Hoc fried chicken for his birthday (a long time ago) and it took three of us all afternoon - after two days of prep.

So this one is simpler, and more bullet-proof. How? Well, I forgot to rub the spices on last night, so I did it this morning. Didn't seem to matter. Plenty spicy.

I also forgot to photograph almost everything until I was halfway done. In fairness it's hard to fry and photograph at the same time.

This recipe is less messy, only one dip in the buttermilk and one in the flour.  I used tongs to dip and flour the chicken instead of my hands - it worked fine.
And I used a rack to drain the chicken after it was cooked. Skin side up so the oil can get out. 

And even tho I read the recipe several times I screwed up the temperature - I fried the first batch at 350. You're supposed to put the chicken in to the oil at 350 and fry at 325. There was a big warning about the coating burning while the chicken stayed raw. Didn't happen.

And the verdict? We liked the 350 chicken better. It was crispier - the 325 was juicier and you could taste the spices better, so I'll probably fry at 325 next time...but oh that crispy crust.

And of course I forgot to photograph the finished chicken until it was almost gone.
I will make this again, and soon. For a picnic, for a summer party in the garden. For a dinner by the fire when it's raining. For a birthday, for a friend. I have not lost my fear of frying but some things are worth being scared.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

it's raining, it's pouring

We used to drive mommy and daddy crazy chanting that song over and over from the back seat of the car. Even now the words bring vivid pictures of the Santa Cruz mountains in the rain, and the musty cardboard smell of my dad's old green Chevrolet.

It is, finally, raining.  And while it is freezing in Europe (great photos at NYTimes) it is green here.
And blooming. Spring is early this year. Daphne pours citrusy sweetness on the air. A branch by my bedside soothes me when I wake at night. It's an all's-well-with-the-world smell. I remember when the plants were so tiny snipping a twig to bring in the house seemed an affront. Now there are three massive bushes, enough to cut and to share.

Hellebores hang masses of bells - from green-tinged white:
 to shocking pink:
to almost black. 
Remember when all black gardens were the rage? Me neither.

This daphne relative, Edgeworthia chrysanthea, looks (and sounds) like something from Fred Flintstone's garden.
Bright Icelandic poppies, planted in September, nod over blue violas. Planting in September really does make a difference; a neighbor (no, not you) has tiny green tufts with sparse flowers from recently planted poppies. 
Summer snowflakes (yes I know they're confused - do you want to tell them?) are blooming on short stems this year.
Clumps of daffodils brighten the slope under the ancient oak, its branches sweeping down to meet them. 
And all this just after the last iris just quit. 
Victoria Falls bloomed at Thanksgiving, at Christmas, and was still blooming two weeks into the New Year. A swirling wind finally wrenched off the last stalk, and I am iris-less for a few months. Last year they bloomed with the Ice Follies daffodils. This year the Ice Follies are starting to bloom now, and the sensible iris have decided to wait for warmer, more settled weather.

Me too.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A loss of faith

It's not how I wanted to start - or end - my ski week. And I'm trying to get past the anger.
Who leaves the person they've just smashed into from behind and knocked out unconscious and convulsing on the ski slope? But it happened, and it happened to me.  I woke up twenty feet to the left (not downhill) from where I'd been stopped, strapped to a board, my helmet skis and gloves off. I'm not sure who was more surprised, the ski patrol that I was awake or me that I'd been passed out for fifteen minutes.

All will be well. Crashing headaches but no permanent physical damage. But my faith in the human race has been bent beyond repair.

Oh, and I need a new helmet; mine is caved in. If you ski with a helmet, good for you. If you don't, get one. It could save your life. It just saved mine.