To Family, Friends and Feasts

| November 27, 2014

In the spirit of keeping turkey day greetings short and sweet: I hope your day and evening has runneth over with good food, good conversation and a good food coma!

Happy-Thanksgiving-2014

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RECIPE // Green Beans with Tarragon, Mustard and Sunflower Seeds

| November 11, 2014

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Humdrum. That’s usually what I think of when I hear someone mention green beans as a Thanksgiving side dish. If they aren’t in the form of a casserole topped with french fried onions and tasting of cream of mushroom soup, they’re stripped of their natural fresh green color by steaming or boiling and served without much flavor.

Then there’s this dish, which I adapted from one provided by The Associated Press. Oh yes: AP doesn’t just cover world news, politics, the economy, technology, and sports. They cook, too, and they do it well. With its mix of tangy Dijon mustard, fresh lemon zest, black licorice-fragrant tarragon, and the nuttiness of toasted sunflower seeds, this green bean recipe will stand up as a highlight at the Thanksgiving table rather than skulk behind the turkey and stuffing.

To prep, gather up two tablespoons of unsalted butter, a pound of fresh green beans with their ends trimmed, kosher salt, fresh tarragon, Dijon mustard, the zest of a small lemon, and a 1/4 cup of toasted unsalted sunflower seeds.

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When it comes to the tarragon, note that you only want the leaves, not the stem. The technique for removing the leaves from the stems is the same technique for removing rosemary leaves: Simply hold the tip of the sprig with one hand and then pull the leaves downward against the direction of their growth on the stem with the other hand. You’re aiming for 1-1/2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon, so stripping the leaves off two to three sprigs should be enough.

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In a large deep skillet, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat until most of the foaminess is gone and the melted butter has an amber color when you swirl it around.

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Add the trimmed green beans, sprinkle them with 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and toss to coat the beans in the browned butter.

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Reduce the heat to medium low and cook the beans uncovered, stirring occasionally, until they’ve just begun to blister, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heated burner, then add the chopped tarragon, Dijon mustard, and lemon zest. I prefer to stir in each flavoring separately just to make sure I don’t end up with naked green beans and others burdened with flavor.

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Transfer the prepped beans to a serving dish, then sprinkle with half of the toasted sunflower seeds. Serve the rest of the toasted seeds in a small bowl so that guests can add more to their helping if they’d like.

This recipe serves 4 to 6 people, making it great for non-holiday dinners, too. But, if you’re serving it at the big November feast and you’re expecting 8 to dine, multiply everything by two; if you’re serving 10 to 12 people, multiply everything by three.

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***
Green Beans with Tarragon, Mustard and Sunflower Seeds
Recipe adapted from AP News
Serves 4 to 6 people // 15 minutes prep, 10-15 minutes to cook

2 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1-1/2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Zest of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup toasted unsalted sunflower seeds

  1. In a deep skillet, melt butter over medium heat until it smells toasty and has an amber color when swirled, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add green beans and salt and toss to coat in butter. Reduce heat to medium low and allow the beans to cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until green beens just begin to blister, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Stir in tarragon, lemon zest and mustard. Transfer to a serving dish, then sprinkle half of the sunflower seeds over the green beans. Serve the rest of the toasted seeds in a small bowl and encourage guests to sprinkle more over their helping. Best served warm to hot.
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10 Things: Thankful

| November 07, 2014

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I took this photo at Sunset Cliffs in the middle of May, during the week my husband and I hoped we might finally be pregnant.

Over the past six years, there were many days when we’d hold our breath and gingerly let our hearts hope, “Maybe it happened this time,” only to know a few days later that it didn’t. Slowly, I began to believe my body was broken. Dark thoughts followed, then tears. Sometimes, I was anchored in bed by the sadness of not experiencing what many other women were clearly equipped to go through.

Then, nine days after this photo, my doctor’s office called to tell me the best news of my life. Since then, I’ve savored every day, making sure not to take any moment for granted. A part of me still guards against the worst. But most of me is full of a quiet, sublime joy, one that’s made it easier to be grateful for many things in my life right now.

1. My pear shape. Are you kidding? I love my current figure, especially my profile, and the inner kicks, punches, elbows, jolts, writhes, and wiggles that come with it.

2. My husband. He has graciously made room in our bed for my four pillows. He tolerates (and monitors) my newfound snoring. He remembers to fill and pack a water bottle for me when we’ve got a long day of errands ahead of us. He’s attentive and patient without asking. I’m too lucky.

3. My family and friends. Their excitement for us runneth over.

4. Kind strangers. From one cashier at Michael’s who was concerned at the prospect of me carrying two light but bulky bushels of hay–part of our fall decor for our patio–to my car, to the owner of a Hillcrest boutique recognizing me and congratulating me on my wonderful new condition.

5. Advances in reproductive science. We wouldn’t have been able to conceive without them. We wouldn’t be 99% sure that our baby isn’t suffering from certain chromosomal aneuploidies or spinal bifida without the blood tests I’ve taken. We wouldn’t be positive that I don’t have gestational diabetes. Science may not have been able to explain why my husband and I couldn’t conceive on our own, but it’s been really helpful lately.

6. Hand-me-downs. Thanks to generous cousins who’ve saved their sons’ baby things, we’ve already got a bassinet, plenty of onesies in the 0-6 month sizes, a Boppy nursing pillow, and a baby swing.

7. My pregnancy discomforts. Slightly swollen ankles when I’ve been standing too long. The constant tingling of the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger of my right hand. Occasional upper back pain. Hip pain throughout the night. Forehead acne! They all mean that I’m still pregnant and that my pregnancy is healthy, so I don’t mind that I’m experiencing them.

8. Hapa Yoga. Classes like Prenatal Yoga and Yoga Basics have helped me realign, strengthen, stretch, and relax. I also appreciate how family-oriented the studio is and look forward to the time when I can take Mommy & Me Yoga, a class in which mamas can practice yoga with their newborns!

9. Our home. It’s no McMansion, but with four rooms, we have plenty of space. We live on a quiet street that’s beginning to bloom with more young families. And there’s a clean, safe park two blocks away for walks with my husband and eventual outings with my baby boy.

10. My appetite. I’ve heard that there are some women who never shake the forever hangover feeling that is pregnancy nausea. So, I’m especially happy that mine went away after my 12th week. I love to eat.

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Panama 66 and SDMA’s Exhibit “Gauguin to Warhol”

| November 05, 2014

The purveyors of Blind Lady Ale House and Tiger!Tiger! have come to Balboa Park. They claimed the café located in the San Diego Museum of Art’s May S. Marcy Sculpture Court and have called the outpost Panama 66. I hope they stay a while.

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How’d they land on “Panama 66″? By drawing on the history of its location: “Panama” refers to both the Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park in 1915 and the fact that the café is located in Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama. The “66″ is an homage to the year–1966–the San Diego Museum of Art opened the sculpture court.

As loyal fans of BLAH and Tiger!Tiger! have come to expect, Panama 66 has taps upon taps of expertly curated beer. It also has a well-stocked food menu, one in which qualifiers like “house wood-fired,” “house-made,” and “house smoked” appear as often as buskers do on Balboa Park’s main promenade. Simply place your order at the register at the entrance, take your number, and grab a seat at the bar or any one of the myriad of shaded tables.

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My husband and I finally visited the outdoor eatery for lunch a few weeks ago. I sunk my teeth into a hefty, hot Roast Beef sandwich made up of house wood-fired roast beef, broccoli rabe, and horseradish cream piled into a chewy house-made bun. My baby daddy chose the P66 Club, a cold sandwich consisting of house wood-fired turkey, thick cut bacon, tomato, butter lettuce, avocado, and harissa aioli in-between sliced country French bread.

When we originally placed our order, we wondered if we should have added something to share on the side, like a dish of fries or a Kale Salad. Then, these beasts came out and we were glad we didn’t give in to self doubt.

Sadly, neither of these sandwiches are on Panama 66’s current menu on account of the fact that the menu is subject to change. Often. But, a friend who currently works the grill station for P66 has talked up the new Roasted Butternut Squash sandwich as well as the Turkey & Brie sandwich. So, I’m not too sad about the lack of menu stability.

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After lunch, we walked off the calories by exploring the “Gauguin to Warhol” exhibit showing at the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA).

A collection of iconic 20th century works on loan from Buffalo’s renowned Albright-Knox Art Gallery, “Gauguin to Warhol” traces the path of Modern art from the late 19th century to the present. Pieces are grouped in movements, taking visitors through the School of Paris to Modernisn, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and eventually Pop.

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I was surprised at how drawn I was to Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” (below left) and “Village in the Forest” because I’ve never once paid attention to Cubism. The unseeing gaze of Modigliani’s “Servant Girl” (below right) made me feel sad, particularly because the subject’s eyes share the same color as the wall she stands in front of, implying to me that while she is there, her station brands her no more valuable than space in the room. Soutine’s “Carcass of Beef” made me think of the movie “Mona Lisa Smile.” I felt calmed by O’Keeffe’s “Green Patio Door,” which reminded of the desert on hot, quiet day. I laughed out loud at how well Balla captured the walking of a Dachshund in “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash,” from the swinging chain leash to the dog’s and owner’s scampering gaits.

Then I rounded a corner and was beheld by Pollock’s “Convergence.” There’s a bench set right in front of the wall-sized work to encourage staring. I didn’t sit down immediately, choosing instead to admire it from afar, then inch my way closer and closer. “Boy, you could tell a mile away whose this is,” said one sassy museum visitor as she approached it.

When I eventually turned away from the massive art piece to look for my husband, I realized that there were actually a couple of other pieces on the walls perpendicular to it. How could I have missed them? Go see for yourself and be ready to hear various SDMA patrons wonder aloud where Pollock found the room to create it.

Sure, you eventually come upon a Warhol and a Lichtenstein. But, honestly, I’d prefer to spend a few more days just staring at the Pollock.

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If you’d like to savor an evening at SDMA and Panama 66, then check out the upcoming Painting on Tap, a 21+ after museum-hours event set for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 13. Attendees get an exclusive tour of “Gauguin to Warhol” and get to create their own work of art inspired by Henri Rousseau’s “Flowers in a Vase,” on view in the exhibition. Panama 66 will be open throughout the event for those eager to also nibble and sip the night away, but the catch is that you have to purchase food and drink separately. Tickets to Painting on Tap are $60 for nonmembers.

(Photo of Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” from wikiart.org. Photo of Amedeo Modigliani’s “Servant Girl” from albrightknox.org.)

***
Panama 66 // 4150 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 // panama66.blogspot.com

San Diego Museum of Art // 1450 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 // sdmart.org // “Gauguin to Warhol” shows through January 27, 2015

Christine’s picks from “Gauguin to Warhol” // Fernand Léger’s “Smoke” and “Village in the Forest,” Giacomo Balla’s “Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash,” Jackson Pollock’s “Convergence,” John Beech’s “Large Elmer Painting”

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AROUND THE WEB // 5 Thanksgiving Tabletops

| November 03, 2014

Hosting Thanksgiving? Need some inspiration on how to set the eating scene? Then check out these five tabletops, each of which emphasize going small instead of tall so that guests can see each other without obstruction.

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I also like that the decor in each is basically a thoughtful scattering of ingredients that would’t take much time to line up down the length of the tabletop. Practical and unpretentious: who can’t dig that?

1. VEG (AND FRUIT) OUT. A bounty of fresh artichokes, bulbous heads of lettuce, oranges, and an assortment of apples are pulled together with brass candlesticks and branches to create an atmosphere of familiarity and comfort. // Photo by Farra Miron

2. CRISP AND CLEAN. For a calm, sweet setting, opt for creams and whites broken up with pops of yellow Crespedia bulbs, birch branches, and delicate white orchids. // Photo from Elizabeth Anne Designs

3. MOD MOTIF. One way to turn down the stress of hosting? Shoot for simple yet tasteful with a charcoal tablecloth, trios of gray pillar candles, white tea lights, and orange and red berry branches. // Photo from Apartment Therapy

4. OH SO LEAFY. And then there’s lush and bright, as in this tabletop featuring waxy magnolia leaves, persimmons, short vases filled with pops of fushia, and white pillar candles. // Photo from Apartment 34

5. GRAPES AND GOURDS. For a turn on the traditional tablescape, set out a spread of green and purple grape bunches, knobby gourds in yellow and orange, cream pillar candles, and sprigs of green and gold wheat. // Photo from Peter Loves Jane

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