Tuesday, March 31, 2009


The Figs will be heading out very early in the morning for Mammoth. Spring skiing, here we come!

Have a good weekend. Back on Monday.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My food processor and I spend
a little quality time together

After all, I do not like to go on a ski trip without little jars of stuff. It's part of the Girl Scout in me: I like to be prepared. And if there is one thing I hate to do on a ski trip it is shop. It interferes with the ski-eat-sleep plan. So I have been scurrying around planning menus, gathering up supplies, and grinding up things. 

Here's what we've got:

Pesto Genoese: You know, the regular kind with basil, toasted pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. We'll have this one night with pasta and sauteed shrimp.

Romesco Sauce: We made this here. It's great on a roast beef sandwich. 

Cilantro Pesto: Since we're going away, I'm working on cleaning out the fridge, and something had to be done with the cilantro. It's combined here with toasted almonds, shallot, garlic, white wine vinegar, olive oil, and a few shots of green Tabasco. It's great for perking up a turkey sandwich. 

Citrus Tapanade: This will be great on a sandwich or to dip bread or crackers in. Recipe below.


1 cup Kalamata olives, rinsed and pitted
2 1/2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (I used a Mandarin)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 anchovy fillet
zest of all of the three citruses

Zest orange, lemon, and lime and then juice. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. 

I've had so much fun organizing big ski trips (much to the exasperation of Husband, who asks "Do you have to make everything a house party???"), but I'm looking forward a trip with just my two favorite people on earth: Husband and Sophie. We have a free condo. (thanks for arranging, Mom and Dad!) in Mammoth, where we were going to meet my parents until my dad broke his leg skiing with us in Utah earlier this year. And our friend Eric, with whom I would like to enter into a polygamous marriage for just ski season each year, cannot get away from work. So it will be just the Fig chickens taking roost. We'll ski Kirkwood on the way down and then three days at Mammoth. We'll ski like demons, hit some wild hot springs, cook, read, eat, and sit around smiling at each other. Because that's what we like to do.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

There's an explanation for everything

Did you know I am a film maker? And that's why I am using the medium of film to explain to you what happened to me this morning.

Thank you Gwendo for the inspiration. I needed something to distract me from our school auction, mountains of laundry, getting ready for our spring break Mammoth trip, and taxes.

You too can make a film. And I hereby throw down the gauntlet.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Let's roast duck

But let's discuss first, just to get a few things out of the way.

Duck is expensive.

More than chicken. But think how much a dinner for four of roasted duck would be at a nice restaurant.

Duck is weird!!

What always strikes me first when I unwrap a duck is that they are sort of . . . rectangle. It is not round like a chicken. It has a big old chest, with a thick layer of fat beneath.

And little bitty legs. This makes sense: Duck are made for swimming in cold water, not running around the barnyard.

But most of duck is DELICIOUS!! It is NOT greasy if you prepare it correctly. And preparing it correctly is NOT tricky, just time consuming. Got a chilly day when you want to stay inside? Looking for a good reason to have the oven on for over three hours? DUCK!

My method of roasting duck is cribbed from several recipes I have collected over the years.

I start by marinating it for at least three hours and up to overnight in a combination of equal parts dry sherry and soy sauce.

I can truss a chicken in my sleep, but as I have indicated, this is not a chicken. Many ducks into my roasting adventures have brought me to this method. I tie the legs together and pull the tail (ducks have quite a lot of tail) up through the legs.

Next, I take a sharp knife and make little slits in which I stuff the tips of the wings. Finally, I make several little slits in the breast skin so the fat can drain out while roasting.

Speaking of draining out, it's really important to place the duck on a roasting rack that holds it above the bottom of the pan. Otherwise you will end up with a big greasy mess that will fulfill every fear you have ever had about roast duck.

The key to good duck is in the roasting. I roast duck at a low temperature (325 degrees) for three hours and crank up the oven  to 450 degrees for twenty minutes to put a final crisp on the skin. 

Another part of my roast duck is this delicious sauce, which I've tweaked from a recipe I cut out of a magazine years ago. It can be made the night before, refrigerated, and heated up before serving. This time I had a particularly shitty bottle of cheap Trader Joe's port (I'm hardly a Port snob, but honestly, this was nearly undrinkable), so instead of pouring it down the sink, I used it to make a large batch of this sauce, which I will freeze in portions. It is delicious over beef and totally rocks pork.


1/2 cup dried cherries
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup Port
1 spring fresh thyme
1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cup into 1/2" pieces

Bring cherries, broths, Port, and thyme to a boil in a sauce pan over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup.

Add cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Add butter one piece at a time, whisking. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Marinate duck in equal parts dry sherry and soy sauce.

Rinse duck well. Tie feet and pull tail up and through. With a sharp knife, make small slits in the side skin to tuck the wing tips into. Make several small slits in the breast skin. Pull neck skin down underneath body and place bird breast-side up on a roasting rack over a pan. 

Roast at 325 degrees for three hours. Turn up oven to 450 degrees for 20 minutes to crisp up skin.  Remove and let rest half an  hour before carving.

This is one of Husband's favorite meals (right up there with fresh Dungeness crab) and is so what he requested for his birthday dinner this past weekend. We also had roasted asparagus spears wrapped in proscuitto,  goat brie with crackers, fresh baby radishes, asparagus risotto, roasted beet salad, and tossed green salad.

And since my Meyer lemon tree is in full production, I book-ended the meal with a lemon drop martini made from my homemade limoncello and a lemon souffle with vanilla creme anglaise sauce. Recipes and links (you know who you are) coming up later this week.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The husband? He fiddy-two

That's right. He had a BIRTHDAY this week. And received a few gifts.

Last year I got him a heated ski boot bag, which was pretty hard to beat, especially since there's room for my gloves in it.

This year I got him a Kalamata olive tree. It's fairly small, and it will be a while before we are harvesting and curing olives, but in the meantime, it's beautiful silvery little tree.

We're not sure where it's going (it has to compete with two figs, a persimmon, a lime, and a Meyer lemon). For now it will live in a wine barrel planter.

He also received three ranunculi (that's the plural of ranunculus, right?). Pretty, no?

Sophie horrified him and totally cracked me up by giving him a card with ten dollars in it. Serves him right for going on about how he loves cards with money. She felt very grown up.

But I think Mother Nature bested the both of us.

First buds on our brown turkey fig tree. I guess spring's not all bad.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guess what I'm doing on Friday?

It would be an understatement to say I'm a little stressed out. I am truly about to lose my ever-loving mind. The weather has warmed up and my magnolia tree is in full bloom, which brings to my attention several horrific observations:
  • Ski season is almost over. Boo!!
  • I need to schedule every goddamned week of my summer in signing up Sophie for all her summer camps.
  • Taxes are upon us (I have done nothing about this).
  • Our school auction—which, against my better judgment, I am chairing for the THIRD (f word deleted from here) time in a row—is a month away. 
And I'm busy at work. There you have it: a mental health perfect storm. 

Thank goodness my excellent girlfriends have planned a girls' night out. Here is a top-10 list of reasons anyone would participate in the activity we have planned, thoughtfully forwarded by our genius organizer:
10. Nothing sounds better than a strike.

9. Do you really want to drop $30.00 for tickets, another $30.00 for snacks, and still take the chance that you family won't like the movie?

8. Raining . . . no problem! Snowing . . . no problem! Heat wave . . . no problem!

7. Where else can you get socks from a vending machine?

6. Parties! (Have you ever tried throwing a 5-year-old's party at home??)

5. Snack bar nachos.

4. Aren't you a little old to hang out at the mall?

3. Play, eat, drink . . . play, eat, drink. What other sport lets you do that?

2. Where else can Dorothy's Flower Shop beat big Earl's Auto Supply? 


And indeed, it is. I will happily don those groovy little shoes, although I will most certainly bring my own socks and will pass on the nachos.

But this lists omits one of the best reasons, according to my grad. school roommate, who we'll just call Minnesota Sue. In the southern California beach town where I grew up, bowling is largely limited to children's parties and fraternity gatherings involving very large amounts of alcohol. Not that there is anything wrong with bowling, but for most adults it is generally just not done. Minnesota Sue was astonished at this, as was I that she had bowled in a league and knew people who owned their own bowling balls. But her answer to why people in Minnesota bowled made perfect sense:  You can't golf in the winter.

So why is a group of women who live in a temperate climate and do not golf anyway going bowling? Because we can. And besides, bowling is funny. There are few things that put in seizures of laughter more than televised professional bowling. Really: It's better than those cable shopping shows where people try to outdo each other on how many words you can possibly say about one shitty piece of jewelry. 

Professional bowlers are so SERIOUS. 

And they have such STYLE.

And did you know they even have their own language? My girlfriend J. will have to look here to understand what I'm saying when I ask her "Are you sandbagging with that sour apple, you kegler? Watch this Greek church that I'm going to nail with a Brooklyn! God, can't we just forget this all and have a few brewskies in the pit?"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Nine years ago last Saturday

someone was born. And so there was a three-day ski trip that included lots of good friends, skiing with a coach, a cake, a load of cupcakes, a big pasta party, and a few presents.

But nine years ago there was this.

And later this.

Those are her first shoes.

Here she is reading up on a very important topic.

Getting outfitted for one of our favorite activities.

Looking like a penguin on some of her first skis.

Celebrating a birthday bowl of oatmeal.

Blowing out some candles at her birthday tea party.

Smiling like the Mona Lisa at a friend's wedding.

Sandwiched between two good friends.

In the suit that has given her the name The Pink Rocket.

Smiling at Christmas.

In San Francisco Opera's production of Macbeth.

And blowing out nine candles.

Happy birthday, baby. Words cannot express how much joy you have brought into my life. Out of all the crazy things I have done, having you was the best.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I am currently on tour

Have you ever been on one of those charity kitchen tours? Where you go from house to house marveling at the kitchens of people who clearly spent more outfitting them than you did on the entire purchase of your house? Are we supposed to be inspired? I usually snort and observe that "We could do that too if we SOLD THE CAR." And I always wonder if anyone really cooks in them. 

If you'd like to see some real kitchens—including mine—and hear how real people who absolutely do cook outfit and organize, come on over to what I think is the best food blog in the world, userealbutter.

Reading the comments has been fun. This is my favorite:
I love an uncluttered kitchen for myself, but find myself drawn to the coziness of Cindy’s.
Did she just call my kitchen cluttered??! OK, fine. It is, but there's a lot going on in it!!

Stay tuned for more kitchens coming up! 

Monday, March 9, 2009

What's cooking: Tomatillo pork

I know things have been a little quiet here at Figs in terms of food. i am well aware that stealing from bees is not exactly making dessert. But there's a good reason: Company is coming, and I've been busy pulling things together.

On Thursday, my kitchen will be featured on jen's use real butter KITCHEN TOUR. I must really love her to be willing to reveal the chaos that is the Fig kitchen, especially following the presentation of her immaculate and orderly kitchen. It looks like adults live there; a sense of calm comes over me as I scroll through the pictures. Mine sort of looks like a preschool. Not calm. Oh well, that's the point, right? Different people, different lives, different kitchens—we all make good stuff. What will that woman think of next?

So I should MAKE something, right? I have been cooking, just not posting anything. Enough with that. Here's a recipe I made up to deal with a vexing little problem: What to do with a pork tenderloin. They're so convenient: no trimming, quick cooking, nicely shrink wrapped to go in the freezer. And sort of boring. And small. Husband often eats almost all of one, then gazes wistfully at the rest, and asks "Is that my lunch?" You could make two, but they're sort of expensive. So the challenge was to give it some zing and stretch is out. See, the recession can be fun!!

I also tried to keep this recipe simple. I love Cook's Illustrated but am constantly exasperated by their instructions to put this in the pan, cook it, remove it, put that in the pan, . . . In this recipe you keep piling things in a single pan.

I paired the pork with one of my favorite items from the produce market, the tomatillo. Although it's related to the tomato, you can get good tomatillos now, long before the first tomatoes appear.

The fennel is optional. We've had it at our produce market lately, so I've been putting it in everything, but it especially complements pork.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pork tenderloin, rinsed, patted dry, and cut into one-inch cubes
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
half a bulb fennel, diced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound (or more) tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, and chopped
1 cup chick stock (or more as needed)
several spoonfuls sour cream or plain yogurt
Jalapeno Tabasco sauce, to taste
salt, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add pork and cook until the cubes have a good brown crust. Add onion, celery, and fennel and saute until tender. Add garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Add tomatillos and saute until tender. Add chicken stock, bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until pork is tender and flavors will blended. This can sit on the back of the stove for quite a while.

Remove from heat and stir in sour cream or yogurt. Season with Tabasco and salt to taste.
I served this with brown rice, cooked in chicken stock, and pinto beans, topping it with diced radishes and cilantro. A green salad completed the meal.

I've also made this with leftover carnitas, since a pork shoulder is much more meat than we can eat for even several meals. This makes great leftovers and freezes well.

Don't forget to come marvel laugh at my kitchen on Thursday! See you over at jen's.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Look what we had for dessert

Fresh honeycomb.

Husband hired someone to remove a hive before his company began construction on a house. Fortunately they didn't get it quite all. And fortunately Husband is an experienced beekeeper.

He's made Sophie the offer that when she is ready to get rid of her plastic playhouse in our front yard, we can use that space for bees. Could my chickens not be far behind??

Mother daughter dresses: Enough already

I love checking my site meter to see what Google searches land people over here at Figs, but this one has got to stop: "mother daughter dresses." Because that is not what we're about here. But Google these terms (which people have been doing with alarming regularity lately, undoubtedly owing to the upcoming Easter), and there on the first page is . . . me. Jeez. It's my fault though. Last spring, aware I was experiencing a moment of questionable judgment, I turned to my blog community for advice concerning this matter. They straightened me out: Ok to buy matching dresses but not to wear them at the same time. Ever. Fine. I mean, thank you

But I don't think people Googling these terms are looking for this kind of advice. They're probably looking for something like this:

Do you love that they throw in clothes for the doll? It's bad enough for an adult to be dressed like a child but a doll?? That's just wrong.

Or how about this?

[Removed following request of Nikki Knits. If you want to see the dress, go to their site.]


In which case I cannot refrain from offering some advice myself:

STOP RIGHT THERE. I mean it. STOP. You are an adult; your child is a child. Either your child is going to look like an adult or (most likely) you are going to look like a giant child. Not good either way. When our family dressed up for Easter Sunday, my mom wore . . . can't exactly remember, but surely something befitting an adult. I wore a dress that matched my sister's (fine given that we were both children), and we often had white gloves and little straw purses. The gloves caused a lot of problems opening doors and eating chocolate rabbits smuggled in the purses, but we looked good. So if you're shopping for Easter clothes (we'll be home in our jammies worshipping at the Church of the Pancake), go wild: Hats, gloves, purses are all good. But please leave the matching to the children.

I know that's probably not what you wanted to hear, but it's for your own good. 

If you land here because you Google "Mormon cake," you're probably not going to find what you're looking for either.

Next post: Back to food. Promise.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What would you do?

First of all, I promise this is the first and will be the last time I blog about gas. Really. Well, probably.

But I must confess, for reasons I do not understand, I think it is the funniest subject ever. Really. I can hardly think about it without cracking up. In fact, I absolutely cannot. So you can imagine how hilarious it is for me to live with a man who wakes himself up in the middle of the night with loud gas. ("Loud gas"—the very words make me laugh so hard I can barely type. I think there is something wrong with me.) He wakes up with a start "What's that?!" as if perhaps our home is being invaded.

Once on an early date, we were walking into a movie theatre. The trailers had begun, and the theatre was dark. About a quarter way down the center aisle, Husband accidentally lets rip one that sounded like thunder. Did he think no one would notice because it was DARK? Could I not, he wondered, pretend not to notice? Absolutely not. I collapsed to the ground in laughter and had to practically crawl out of the theatre until I could get control of myself. Who looked more stupid there? But seriously, I could not help myself.

This is by way of explaining why I am still laughing over the story he brought home the other night: He is sitting in his cubicle at work. He feels pressure. He lets it go carefully in the name of noise control. He thinks he's in the clear until a coworker walks into his cubicle RIGHT INTO THE CLOUD OF GAS. What would you have done? Husband just sat there smiling. The coworker draws up short and announces "Uh—I'll be back in about five minutes." As in when the air has cleared. We know what I would have done.

Of course I've been telling this story to everyone. One of my girl friends handles the situation like this: She farts in her office, someone shows up at the door, she stands up and says "I've got to check the fax machine. Walk with me."

Me? This is never an issue, as I am known as an entirely gasless person. Really.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Eating seasonally:
Vegetables from the moon

What could be more exciting than a vegetable that comes on its own little tree? Brussel sprout stalks look to me like something Gumby might have found on his visit to the moon. (Remember that episode??)

When Sophie was little these stalks played an important part in my campaign to convince her that vegetables are fun (!) and exciting (!). 

It worked. And I agree with her that the fact Brussel sprouts look like doll cabbages is a plus. 

I think roasting is the best way to cook them. I cut them in half and place them on a large piece of foil, then drizzle them with balsamic vinaigrette and some pine nuts.

I place another equal sized piece of foil on top and crimp the edges. The package goes on a rimmed baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 35–40 minutes.

I'm back in my kitchen after another weekend in the Sierras. We had a great day at Squaw on Saturday where I hacked my way down The Nose off Headway over into North Bowl for the first time. Snaps to me for doing it on my carving skis, and thanks to my friend Eric for serving as my guide and not pushing me but being ready to go when I gave the word. This victory was tempered slightly by the massive tumble I took down Headwall Face on the next run. I caught an edge, over turned, and fell down backwards. Down, down, down, while turning from my back to my front and then running like a cartoon character to get my feet pointed down and finally coming to a stop. Someone who witnessed this from the lift declared my wreck "spectacular." Thank goodness I had a committee to collect and bring me my gear and help me reassemble. I decided I had had enough of it for the day (something about your adrenal glands emptying out, I think), but I'll be back. 

In the meantime, I'm eating  my winter veggies. Beets, anyone?