LUNCH BOX LIFT // Substituting Hummus for Mayo

| April 17, 2014

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As I mentioned at the start of March, I’m working in an office every day until after Comic-Con International 2014. To make sure I don’t buy an unhealthy lunch or an overpriced healthy one, I like to pack a healthy lunch I look forward to eating (and, thus, would be less tempted to ditch).

I also want to remember what I’ve made so that I can make it again. So, I thought I’d start posting some of my lunch ideas here, in a column I’m calling “Lunch Box Lift.”

Featured in this first installment are a chicken,* roasted red bell pepper,* and provolone cheese sandwich made on toasted Eureka! “Saaa-Wheat” bread;* a side salad of Trader Joe’s Power Greens,* halves of sugar plum tomatoes,* carrots,* and balsamic vinaigrette; and a half of a grapefruit.*

(*Organic.)

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What I like about this sandwich is the substitution of hummus for mayonnaise. Much like the Curry Mango Mayonnaise I shared last month, the hummus gives the sandwich enough of an interesting twist to make me excited to eat it.

As for the salad and grapefruit, they’re simple ways to add more vegetables and fresh fruit to my day, and they’re easy to prepare the night before. That way, I only need to spend time in the morning making the sandwich.

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I like to cook the organic chicken tenders and roast the red bell peppers myself on the weekend, but there’s no reason why I couldn’t save myself more time by buying a roasted chicken and jarred roasted bell peppers.

I’ll bet sliced cucumber would add some fresh crisp to the sandwich. It would also give the sandwich more color. Yeah, I think I’ll add some cucumber slices the next time I make it.

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RECIPE // Avocado Toast

| April 15, 2014

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I’ve come up with an easy recipe that puts my San Francisco toast knowledge to use and takes advantage of San Diego’s seasonal avocado bounty: Avocado Toast! It’s inspired by the Power Toast served at Young Hickory in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, but dialed up in texture and flavor.

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For my version, gather up an unsliced loaf of crusty (yet spongy) bread, a ripe avocado, and a teaspoon each of extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and ground black pepper. Since I like to use local ingredients when I can, I bought a loaf of lemon pugliese bread from my favorite San Diego bakery, Bread & Cie, and I bought the avocado from Ramona-based R&L Farms at their booth at the Hillcrest Farmers Market.

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Cut a slice of bread that’s between 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick. The great thing about the lemon pugliese from Bread & Cie is its light citrus fragrance and flavor which it gets from lemon zest that’s baked into the loaf.

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Next, lightly brush extra virgin olive oil on one face of the bread slice, making sure to brush oil all the way up to the edges.

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Set your toaster to a medium/medium-high setting, then toast! Everyone’s toaster is different, so aim for a setting that thoroughly toughens up both exposed sides. A little dark-brown char is okay, just as long as it isn’t black.

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As the bread toasts, cut the ripe avocado in half and use a large spoon to scoop out one intact half.

Once the toast is ready, scrape the inside of the empty avocado shell with the spoon and smear the scrapings onto the extra virgin olive oil side of the toast. Thinly slice the avocado meat on a plate, arrange the slices on top of the avocado schmear, and then sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper over the assemblage.

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In the end, you’ll have a slice of thick-cut toast that’s creamy and crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and darn tough to resist.

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The crunch of each bite was so loud in my head, I couldn’t hear my phone ring as I chewed. I also enjoyed the lemon in the bread, which added a layer of brightness to each bite. So, if you can’t find a crusty lemon-infused bread loaf in your neck of the woods, I recommend zesting a lemon and sprinkling the zest over the avocado slices with the salt and pepper. You won’t regret it!

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***
Avocado Toast
Makes 4 toasts // 5-8 minutes to prep and cook

Loaf of crusty yet spongy bread, unsliced
1 ripe avocado
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Zest of 1 medium-sized lemon (optional)

  1. Cut four 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick slices from the loaf.
  2. Lightly brush one face of each slice with extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Using a toaster, toast each slice at a medium to medium-high heat. Use a setting that will toughen up both exposed sides of each slice of bread without burning them.
  4. Cut the avocado in half. Scoop out the meat as one piece. Scrape the empty shells and smear the scrapings on the extra virgin olive oil face of each toast. Thinly slice the avocado meat and spread the slices on top of the scrapings on each toast.
  5. Sprinkle each toast with salt and pepper (and lemon zest if using), then serve.
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STYLE // Tote’ly Spoiled for Choice

| April 14, 2014

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After watching the indie flick “Take This Waltz” on Netflix a few weeks ago, I’m convinced that I need to start collecting tote bags. The film, which stars Michelle Williams as lost-in-life Margot, is set in Toronto’s Little Portugal neighborhood in summer. To play off the eclectic personality of Toronto’s downtown West End, the production’s costume designer dressed Williams in a style that’s a little bit vintage, a little bit demure, and all bits charming.

Lending to Margot’s look are the totes, which are her purse of choice throughout the film regardless of the outfit she’s wearing. No brand-name bags or thin-strapped, cross-body satchels. Just cream-colored cloth carriers featuring screen-printed designs from whatever book store the character may have bought them from.

I’ve since become obsessed. So, naturally, I thought I’d share a preliminary list of tote bags I’m interested in owning. Now, if I could just narrow it down.

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Row 1. From left to right: Minimal Mint Stripes by Allyson Johnson on Society6 // DG Aztec No. 1 by Dawn Gardner on Society6 // Three Stripes – Candy Corn by Her Art on Society 6 // Teal Paper Cranes by Nicole Martinez on Society6

Row 2. From left to right: French Poppa by Chris Piascik on Society6 // Flock of Birds by Budi Satria Kwan on Society6 // The sun, the ocean, the wave by Budi Satria Kwan on Society 6 // Harry Potter – Minimalist 02 by Misery on Society6

Row 3. ‘Fan’ design (red) and ‘Uno’ grey/yellow , both from Patternalism on Etsy.com

(The “Take This Waltz” photo still of Michelle Williams is from the film’s Facebook photo album. Each tote photo is from each linked webpage.)
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10 Things: Spring

| April 11, 2014

In-between lamenting over cold fronts and heat waves, there’s spring, my favorite season of the year. It’s the baby-bear version of seasons, when temperature and humidity are just right. Though the calendar starts on January 1, the year doesn’t feel new to me until we’ve set our clocks forward an hour and let the sunlight dominate our days. So I thought I’d dedicate this month’s 10 Things list to some of the reasons why I dig springtime.

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1. The vibrance and saturation of flowers in bloom.
2. Brighter mornings.
3. Sunsets getting pushed back later and later in the day.
4. The bees that have come to pollinate the Calamansi tree my parents gave my husband and I for our backyard.
5. The hummingbirds, wrens, sparrows, and other birds that take turns visiting the white bird of paradise flowers in our front yard.
6. Strawberries and avocados are in season in San Diego county.
7. Celebrating the birthdays of my Dad and my husband.
8. Celebrating mine and my husband’s wedding anniversary.
9. Letting go of my daily work-at-home-by-myself routine to work around people in an office every day.
10. I no longer mind a midday breeze.

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RECIPE // Strawberry Galette

| April 09, 2014

Strawberries are in season in San Diego! To celebrate, here’s a little recipe all about how to take a basket of these…

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And turn them into this…

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Also known as a strawberry galette, this tasty tart-like pastry is baked without the use of a tart pan, a technique that gives the galette a rustic, thrown-together-in-a-French-country-kitchen look. My recipe is mash-up of the sweet galette dough recipe from Fine Cooking and the strawberry prep and baking technique in Lauren Weisenthal’s strawberry galette recipe on Serious Eats.

To make the galette, collect a basket of ripe strawberries (organic and from a local farmer’s market in my case), granulated sugar (also organic), all-purpose flour (organic, too), an 8-tablespoon stick of unsalted butter (yup, organic!), 1/3 cup of ice-cold water, corn starch, kosher salt, and an egg (not pictured, darnit, and also organic).

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Begin by preparing the water and butter for the dough: Set a 1/3 cup of water in the fridge to chill. Also, cut the stick of butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place them in the fridge to chill.

Then, mix together 1-1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl. I recommend using a whisk instead of a spatula to make sure the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Once that’s done, cut the chilled butter cubes into the dry ingredients until they’re kind of mashed up into smaller lumps, fully covered in the dry mix, but still basically lumps. There are three ways to do this without warming up the butter too much: using a hand-held pastry blender, a food processor (too much clean-up in my opinion), or a stand mixer.

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I enjoy any reason to bust out my green KitchenAid stand mixer. So, of course, that’s what I used to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Using the flat beater attachment, I cut the butter into the dry mix at “stir” speed.

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Doing so gave me butter pieces pictured below on the left.

Next, take the ice water out of the fridge, add it all to the buttered dry mixture, and give the combination another stir, but only just until all of the powdery consistency is gone (as pictured below right). Don’t overmix the dough!

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From there, gather the dough with your hands, shape it into a rounded disk, wrap the disk in plastic wrap, and set it in the fridge to chill for at least one hour. Do you see streaks and lumps of butter in the dough? Good. They mean you’ve done everything right thus far.

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After an hour, line an unrimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Take the chilled dough out of the fridge, remove it from the plastic wrap, set it in the center of the parchment-lined sheet pan, and roll it out until it’s 1/8-inch thick. You’ll end up with a thinned out disk that’s about 12 to 13 inches in diameter. Then, chill the rolled out dough back in the fridge as you prep the strawberries.

Set an oven rack in the lower middle of the range and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In another mixing bowl, whisk together a 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Hull and quarter the basket of ripe strawberries (you should get between 2 to 2-1/2 cups of fruit), add them to the dry mixture, and then toss the berries to coat them in the dry mixture.

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Take the sheet pan with the dough out of the fridge and get ready to pile, pleat, and pinch: Pile the coated strawberries in the center of the dough, making sure to leave between 2 to 3 inches of dough uncovered on all sides. Fold the overhang up over the fruit into pleats, encasing the strawberries on all sides. Then, pinch the bottom of each pleat fold just slightly to help seal the strawberries and their juices inside the open pouch.

It’s okay to pile the strawberries high; they’ll eventually settle into the pouch as the galette bakes.

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Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush it onto the exposed outer parts of the dough (NOTE: You won’t use all of the egg wash.) It’s now ready to bake!

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There are two temperatures at which to bake the galette on the prepared rack (i.e., the rack you’ve set on the lower middle of the range):

  • First, bake the galette for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F, making sure to turn the sheet halfway at the 10-minute mark.
  • Then, at the 20-minute mark, turn the sheet back to its original position, reduce the heat of the oven to 350 degrees F, and let the galette bake for another 20 minutes or until the crust is a lovely just-golden color.

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As you can see, my galette had a little bit of spillage over the top, but nothing too extravagant (i.e., I was able to keep it all contained on the sheet pan).

Gently move the finished galette to a wire rack to cool. I find it easiest to slide the parchment paper and galette onto the wire rack rather than try to move just the galette.

The filling tastes like strawberry jam and the crust is flaky on the outside and chewy on the inside. I made this galette on a Sunday and brought it in to work the next day, leaving it in the kitchenette with a little card to explain what it was made of. The galette was gone about an hour later. I’m glad it was a hit!

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***
Strawberry Galette
Inspired by Fine Cooking’s Sweet Galette Dough and Lauren Weisenthal’s Strawberry Galette recipe on Serious Eats
Makes one 8-10 inch galette // 1.5 hours to prep, 40 minutes to bake

For the crust:
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled
1/3 cup ice water

For the filling:
1 quart of ripe strawberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp corn starch

For egg wash:
1 egg, scrambled

  1. Make the dough: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, and the salt. Cut the butter into the dry mixture, either using a hand-held pastry blender, a food processor, or a stand mixer. Add all of the ice water at once and combine just until the mixture is no longer powdery; if using a food processor or stand mixer, be careful not to overmix. Gather the dough by hand, shape it into a rounded disk (don’t worry if you still see streaks or lumps of butter), cover it in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
  2. Line an unrimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Set the chilled disk in the center of the pan and roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness (you’ll end up with a thin disk that’s about 12 to 13 inches in diameter). Set the rolled out dough back in the fridge.
  3. Set an oven rack in the lower middle of the range and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  4. Prepare the strawberry filling: In another mixing bowl, whisk together a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar and the corn starch. Hull and quarter the strawberries, yielding between 2 and 2-1/2 cups of fruit, and add them to the dry ingredients. Toss the berries to coat them in the dry mixture.
  5. Remove the dough from the fridge. Pile the strawberries in the center of the dough, making sure to leave between 2 to 3 inches of dough uncovered on all sides. Gently fold the dough overhang up over the fruit in pleats. Slightly pinch the bottom of each pleat to help seal in the strawberries and their juices. Brush egg wash onto the exposed outer parts of the dough.
  6. Bake the galette on the prepared lower middle rack for 20 minutes at 425 degrees F, turning it halfway at the 10-minute mark. Then, at the 20-minute mark, return the galette to its original position, lower the heat to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake the galette for another 20 minutes or until the crust is a just-golden color.
  7. Remove the galette from the oven. Slide the galette on the parchment paper onto a wire rack to cool before serving.
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