Soft Pretzels

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A week ago we were invited to our friends’ home for Sunday brunch.

When we are together the conversation always seems to come back to food in one way or another.

On one occasion my husband and I had shared with them our love of pretzels, especially warm soft pretzels.

Growing up in  Pennsylvania Dutch Country, pretzels quickly become a staple of one’s diet.  Good pretzels, we are talking about here… whether hard or soft, Bavarian or beer, in the form of rods, sticks, or nuggets, you cannot roam around this area very long without realizing you are in pretzel country.

Here is a little of what Wikipedia has to say about the subject…

In the late 18th century, southern German and Swiss German immigrants introduced the pretzel to North America. The immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, and in time, many handmade pretzel bakeries populated the central Pennsylvania countryside, and the pretzel’s popularity spread.[30]

In the 20th century, soft pretzels became popular in other regions of the United States. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York became renowned for their soft pretzels.[31][32] The key to success was the introduction of the new mass production methods of the industrialized age, which increased the availability and quantity, and the opening up of multiple points of distribution at schools, convenience and grocery stores, and entertainment venues such as movie theaters, arenas, concert halls, and sport stadiums. Prior to that, street vendors used to sell pretzels on street corners in wooden glass-enclosed cases.[33]

In particular, the S-shaped soft pretzel, often served with brown mustard, became iconic in Philadelphia and was established as a part of Philadelphia’s cuisine for snacking at school, work, or home, and considered by most to be a quick meal. The average Philadelphian today consumes about twelve times as many pretzels as the national average.[34]

Pennsylvania today is the center of American pretzel production for both the hard crispy and the soft bread types of pretzels.[31]Southeastern Pennsylvania, with its large population of German background, is considered the birthplace of the American pretzel industry, and many pretzel bakers are still located in the area. Pennsylvania produces 80% of the nation’s pretzels.[35]

The annual United States pretzel industry is worth over $550 million.[36] The average American consumes about 1.5 pounds (0.7 kg) of pretzels per year.[37]

To this day my husband and I have vivid memories of running out of elementary school when the dismissal bell rang and getting in line to buy a hot soft pretzel from the “pretzel man’s wagon”.

So when we moved to San Luis Obispo we were disheartened to see the dearth of good pretzels here on the central coast.

Here most stores seem to carry one, maybe two brands, where in the past  we had been accustomed to practically a full aisle of pretzels.

Hot, handmade soft pretzels are still available in much of the area where we grew up…some baking and selling from their home kitchens.

So when our invitation to brunch included an opportunity for me to help the hostess make soft pretzels from scratch as a precursor to brunch I was excited. 

This was also the recipe that won her a first prize ribbon in the Mid-County Fair here on the central coast a year or so ago!

It was a lot of fun…she had the dough ready to go when we arrived, so I helped her divide the dough into balls for each pretzel…

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Then we shaped  them, (and we definitely gave them a home made look)…

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We dropped them into the boiling water…

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and baked them (some sprinkled with salt and some with onion bits)…

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It didn’t take long once they were out of the oven to smother them in some good brown mustard and eat them along with a glass of local champagne. 

Now that is a delicious combo I’m pretty certain the Pennsylvania Dutch have not tried !  But they should!

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Here’s the recipe…

Homemade Soft Pretzels (Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007)

Ingredients

1 and 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 package active dry yeast

22 ounces all-purpose flour, approx 4 and 1/2 cups

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

vegetable oil, for pan

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

pretzel salt

Directions

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. 

Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.

Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4-5 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil.

Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50- 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. 

Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper, and lightly brush with the vegetable oil.  Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-qt  saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.

Roll out each piece of dough into a 24 inch rope. 

Make a u-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the u in order to form the shape of a pretzel.

Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds.

Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.

Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12-14 minutes.

Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Grilled Salmon Dinner

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For the past couple weeks my brother, sister-in-law and niece who live in New York have been visiting the west coast. 

They began their vacation in LA where they were able to connect with various extended  family members including my older son and his girlfriend among others. 

After successfully accomplishing this no small feat which entailed covering a lot of ground around greater Los Angeles, they headed up the coast to spend several days in Big Sur, before heading back down the coast to visit us in San Luis Obispo for six days.

Along their way from LA they stopped by for a quick tour of our new home and a short walk to one of our favorite places for lunch here.

We last saw them a year and a half ago when we went back east for a cousin’s wedding, and in all this time we have been talking about our new house and this new hometown of San Luis Obispo, sometimes ad nauseum, I’m sure.

So all that talk turned into a reality as they stepped over the threshold to see our beautiful new home.  It was such a good feeling to have them here!

After they pulled away to continue on to Big Sur (where they would meet up with our younger son and his girlfriend for an afternoon) we were thrilled to have my now  23 year old niece stay with us for a few days. 

For many years when she was younger she would spend a week with us in the summer in Maryland.  So having her here now was just icing on the cake.

I planned a relaxing dinner at home the evening they returned from Big Sur. 

While we enjoyed many fantastic meals out at local restaurants,  I was eager to serve a few home cooked meals as well.  Here is the menu…

For starters we  had  some appetizers on the deck… a Caprese platter with some beautiful local heirloom tomatoes…

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and a platter of melon and prosciutto de Parma…

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 My husband grilled fresh wild sockeye salmon fillets. 

The salmon was simply prepared with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, freshly cracked pepper, a bit of chopped fresh dill, and a squeeze of lemon juice. 

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As long as the grill was hot we grilled an assortment of summer squash with peppers…

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and a platter of assorted new potatoes, all tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper…

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And some homemade tzatziki on the side for dipping with any or all of the above.

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A green salad with a Blood Orange Vinaigrette completed the meal.

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Except of course for that Sour Cherry Pie I had promised my brother.

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We had a fun packed week, and still found time to relax, and just hang out. 

We showed them around our neighborhood and walked  our very walkable downtown.

We impressed them with our Mediterranean micro-climate.

We went to the vineyards, the beaches, and the farmer’s market.

We went hiking (got a little lost, but found our way),  and enjoyed delicious meals at many of the marvelous farm to table restaurants that surround us.

We love our home, and we love our new hometown, but being able to share it all with our family is what really makes it feel like home. 

We will be looking forward to our other family members and friends  coming to visit us as time goes by, and repeat visits from all.

Through the entire process of our move I continued to tell myself that although change is hard at times change is good, and I do believe that.

 But with my brother’s visit this past week i am reminded that some things never change, and that is a very good thing.

 

Ina’s Shrimp Salad

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Last week my cousin came to visit for a few days from Sunnyvale, California.  She has lived on the west coast for the last 35 plus years. 

Growing up we lived about a half hour away from each other in small towns in Pennsylvania.  Our mothers were sisters and enjoyed a very close relationship.

Through most of our youth our families shared many holidays together. Thanksgiving at their home, Passover, and the Jewish New Year at ours, and much time spent together at the home of our grandparents  who lived near us.

Many Sundays my sister, brothers, parents and I would all pile into our car and with our grandparents in theirs, we would make the trip caravan style to my cousin’s house for a backyard barbeque and  an afternoon of baseball.

Those are wonderful memories to have.  While my mom and her sister and their cousins all seemed to settle down where they were raised many of our generation flew a bit further from the nest. 

That  kind of extended family we grew up with no longer exists. College, career paths, marriage and children have led many of us to put down roots far from the home where we were raised.

The close relationship our parents had with their siblings and their own parents  we witnessed growing up has impacted our lives today. 

It is the reason to this day that we all try to stay connected regardless of the distances. 

Be it through  weddings, bar-mitzvahs, family reunions, or simply by driving 3 or 4 hours to visit  a cousin who has recently moved to her coast we continue to maintain the strong connection to family the foundation of which was laid down for us so many years ago.

We planned a busy few days for my cousin.  She arrived in time for lunch, and with the temperature in the 80’s I thought a summer salad was called for.  I chose a Shrimp Salad, cold roasted golden beets with a citrus vinaigrette, a summer fruit plate, and a crusty baguette for the menu.  For dessert a fresh peach tart .

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Here is the recipe for the wonderful shrimp salad…

Ina’s Shrimp Salad ( from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten)

Note:  This recipe serves 12 but it is easily adapted for serving less.
Ingredients
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3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 lemon cut into quarters
4 pounds large shrimp in the shell (16 to 20 shrimp per pound)  *
2 cups good mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 cup minced red onion (1 onion)
3 cups minced celery (6 stalks)
*you can also buy frozen large shrimp  already shelled and deveined with the tail on. Defrost in the bag  overnight in the fridge and proceed with the directions  below.  Remove the tail after cooking.
When cooking shrimp use plenty of salt, and do not overcook!

Directions

Bring 5 quarts of water, 3 tablespoons salt, and the lemon to a boil in a large saucepan. Add half the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium. Cook uncovered for only 3 minutes or until the shrimp are barely cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl of cold water. Bring the water back to a boil and repeat with the remaining shrimp. Let cool; then peel, and devein the shrimp.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, wine or vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, and dill. Combine with the peeled shrimp. Add the red onion and celery and check the seasonings.  Serve or cover and refrigerate for several hours.

A Dinner with Mozart

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Last week we were fortunate to attend what has become an annual event in San Luis Obispo, The Festival Mozaic.  What began as 3 concerts over a weekend 44 years ago has grown to encompass 22 events over a 10 day span during the month of July.

An array of very talented musicians have come to the Central Coast to participate in this unique and special musical event, performing in various venues throughout the area.

Read More

French Pear Tart

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This French Pear Tart which I served at my recent brunch is simply an adaptation of Ina Garten,The Barefoot Contessa’s French Apple Tart which I have made numerous times.

I had bought a large bag of Forelle Pears when I spotted them at Costco on a recent visit.  I first tasted them several years ago, and was hooked. 

Forelle pears are not as well known as your Bartlett, Bosc, or Anjou, but they are more beautiful, every bit as delicious, and when ripe, they are as sweet as they come and yet still crunchy and juicy at the same time.

Their small size makes them perfect for snacking, adding to a salad, or serving with an assortment of cheeses.

They are actually perfect for a tart because their firmness keeps them from getting too mushy when baked.

I had enough left after snacking on them all week to use them in place of the apples in Ina’s recipe for the French Apple Tart.

This is the dessert to try whether using apples or pears, because even the most baking phobic among us will find success.

By using store bought puff pastry which you will find in the freezer section of most good grocery stores, and a few other simple ingredients you can create  this fantastic tart that your guests will think you purchased at a French bakery.

French Pear Tart (adapted from Ina Garten’s French Apple Tart, Back to Basics)

-one sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted according to manufacturer’s directions 
(I prefer Dufour’s, which can be found in better grocery stores, but Pepperidge Farm or Trader Joe’s will also do)
Note: Dufour’s is larger so you can roll it out to a 10” by 14 “rectangle.  If using the others they are usually packaged 2 smaller ones to a package so you will just use one and roll it out to a 10 and1/2” by 10 and 1/2” square.

8 -10 Forelle pears
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, small diced
1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam
2 tablespoons water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 by 14-inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges if necessary. Place the dough on the prepared sheet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the pears.

Peel the pears and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baler.
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Slice the pears crosswise in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place overlapping slices of pears diagonally down the middle of the tart and continue making diagonal rows on both sides of the first row until the pastry is covered with pear slices. (I tend not to use the end slices in order to make the arrangement beautiful.) Sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter.

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Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the pears start to brown.

Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don’t worry! The juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine!
When the tart’s done, heat the apricot jelly or jam together with the  water and brush the pears and the pastry completely with the jelly mixture.
Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.
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And pat yourself on the back!

Sunday Brunch

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We have been fortunate to have made so many new friends in the short time we have been calling San Luis Obispo “home”.  

A couple we had met shortly after arriving here last July ( it is really hard to believe we will soon be here one year) joined us for brunch this past Sunday.

We had met them  at a social gathering and she and I immediately realized we shared a passion for all things food related…cooking, baking (her specialty), finding great restaurants, blogging, etc.  She even hosted a food related radio show for many years here in SLO.

Sunday Brunch is one of my favorite ways to entertain because it is undeniably more relaxing for the guests as well as the host.

Many dishes and baked goods are easily prepared ahead, and lend themselves to being served buffet style, eliminating any last minute stoveside cooking frenzy.

The house was filled with sunlight,  a gentle breeze entered through the open windows and doors leading to the deck where my flowers were providing a colorful display.   (All that garden work does pay off)!

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The best part is everyone is content to just linger at the table with more coffee and cake telling stories since the whole day lies ahead.  A beautiful start to the week!

Here are the cast of characters for my Sunday Brunch

Mimosas!

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Chilled Gazpacho  (a beautiful bouquet of roses from our guest’s garden)

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Bagels

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and Lox

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Roasted Honey Smoked Salmon…(Costco!)

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Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Onions, and Olives

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And something sweet…The Best Coffee Cake. Ever.

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French Pear Tart

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Nancy Silverton’s Bran Muffins

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Grilled Herb-Marinated Pork Loin

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Here is the recipe for the Grilled Herb-Marinated Pork Loin which I mentioned in my previous post.  I had a request from a faithful fan for it, so here we go…

It is a recipe from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, but she does it with pork tenderloin, which I have done in the past and blogged, back in 2013, if I’m not mistaken. ( Check the archives, and you should find it).

However, this time I was making a 3 pound pork loin instead of several 1 pound tenderloins.  The tenderloins will cook faster, but be careful not to overcook them.  (The photo above is a previous one of the tenderloins…didn’t get a shot of the pork loin on the grill this time)

With the pork loin you can get a better char without worrying about overcooking it and finish it off on indirect heat. 

Whether you are preparing the tenderloins or the larger pork loin the key to this dish is the marinade. 

It is loaded with fresh herbs… thyme, rosemary, marjoram, (your choice), lots of garlic, fresh lemon zest and juice, kosher salt and pepper.

Marinating it overnight is preferable if possible.

Grilled Herb-Marinated Pork Loin   (adapted from Grilled Herb-Marinated Pork Tenderloin (Ina Garten, Back to Basics)

zest of 1 grated lemon

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (4-6 lemons)

1/2 cup olive oil (plus more to brush the grill)

2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves or more)

1 and 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper

 0ne 3 pound pork loin (tied with kitchen twine in several places to keep it compact)

Directions

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard and 2 teaspoons of the salt in a 1 gallon resealable plastic bag.  Add the pork and turn to coat with the marinade. 

Squeeze the air out of the bag.  Marinate in the refrigerator on a plate overnight, or at least 3 hours.

When ready to cook, preheat the grill to high.  Be sure to brush the grill with some oil to prevent the pork from sticking. 

Remove the pork loin from the marinade and discard the marinade but leave herbs clinging to the meat.

Sprinkle the pork generously with salt and pepper before placing on the hot grill.

Sear the pork turning to brown all sides with a nice char.  This could take about 20 minutes.

Then reduce the heat to about 350 degrees, and cook on indirect heat until the thickest part of the loin reaches about 140 degrees, another 20 minutes or so.

Transfer the pork to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Let rest for at  10-15 minutes so juices can reabsorb.

Carve in 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. The thickest part will be pink; this is just fine!  The thinnest parts will be more well done. 

Season with salt and pepper if needed.  Serve warm or at room temperature with the juices that collect on the platter.

Note:  I like to serve the pork with sauteed apples. 

I simply peel and thickly slice some good tasting apples such as Braeburn or Gala, in a little butter on medium high heat.  Sprinkle some sugar on them, and turn occasionally until they begin to caramelize.  Squeeze a little lemon juice on them and serve with the pork.

For the carrots…peel them leaving them whole, and cut the stems.  Toss with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper.

Roast in a preheated oven at 425 degrees, turning after about 15 minutes to prevent sticking.  Roast another 10 -15 minutes til tender, but not over cooked. 

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Sour Cherry Pie

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If you have been following my blog you will remember that before our home was completed we had lived in a hotel for one month, then a lovely rental with a small kitchen (finally I could cook again), where we stayed for 6 weeks.

Due to a previous booking at that time, and our home still not ready, we found ourselves looking for yet another rental. 

Every cloud has a silver lining and ours came in the form of an amazing studio apartment above a garage that I found in the rental listings I had been scouring for availability.

I immediately emailed the owner who immediately called me back.  He responded to our plight of needing a place to live for an indeterminate amount of time by saying he would love to help us out, and we should come by and take a look at the apartment.

It was a really great space with a state of the art kitchen you would rarely find in a studio above a garage! 

The owner generously offered to allow us to stay there for as long as we needed to which freed us from the burden of possibly having to find a 3rd rental at some point. 

So he agreed to not accept any other renters until we let him know our actual moving date!  I know I mentioned it before, but the nicest people  really do live here in San Luis Obispo!

He and his two children came for dinner last night.

After showing them our home we sat down to a dinner of Caesar salad,  grilled pork loin with herbs and garlic, sauteed apples, roasted carrots with onions and twice baked potatoes.

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His son who will be going into sixth grade, and his daughter, who will be going into fifth, were a pleasure to have at our table. 

Their social skills, and sophisticated palates surprised both my husband and me.  They can dine with us any day.  I would be happy to cook for them!

Dessert was this Sour Cherry Pie. 

The cover of the June issue of Bon Appetit magazine featured a fresh sour cherry pie. 

I had hoped to try that recipe, but was unable to find fresh sour cherries.  I know there is a small window for finding them and I had apparently just missed it.

But the photo of the pastry crust was calling my name. I decided to make that crust and fill it with a delicious tart cherry filling I’ve made before that  uses canned sour cherries. 

These canned tart cherries sometimes known as “pie cherries” are  not to be mistaken for that awful bright red artificial goopy pie filling you see on the grocery shelves!

The consensus at dessert last night was they make a really delicious cherry pie with just the right amount of tartness!  And the buttery crust was the perfect vehicle for them. And a scoop of good vanilla ice cream will put it over the top.   Here’s how to make it…

Sour Cherry Pie

Crust (Sour Cherry Pie,Bon Appetit, June 2014)

1/3 cup almond flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 and1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 large egg yolks

Crust

Pulse almond flour, granulated sugar, salt and 2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour in a food processor.  Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Whisk egg yolks and 1/4 cup ice water in a small bowl and drizzle over the flour mixture.  Pulse, drizzling in more ice water as needed, until dough just comes together(a few dry spots are okay).

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Gently knead dough on a lightly floured surface until no dry spots remain, about 1 minute.

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Divide dough in half, and pat each piece into a disk; wrap in plastic.  Chill at least 2 hours.  (Dough can be made 3 days ahead.  Keep chilled).

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Filling and Assembly

Filling (adapted from a source unknown)

Note: the following is for 1 and 1/2 x the original recipe because I like lots of cherries

1 and 1/2 cups sugar

4 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

generous pinch of kosher salt

3 - 14.5 ounce cans pitted tart red cherries in water, and 1/4 juice reserved

1 and 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

In a large bowl combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt and stir til well blended.  Add the drained cherries, reserved juice and lemon juice and stir til thoroughly combined.  Set aside at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Let dough sit at room temperature to soften slightly, about 5 minutes.

Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12 inch round.  Transfer to a parchment- lined baking sheet and chill.  Repeat with remaining disk of dough.

Carefully transfer 1 crust to a 9 inch pie dish.  Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish.  Trim edges to even out crust if needed.  Scrape in cherry filling.

Using a 3/4” diameter pastry tip or cookie cutter, punch out holes in remaining crust, covering an area just smaller than the diameter of the pie dish. 

Place over filling.  Fold edge of top crust underneath edge of bottom crust and press together to seal.  Crimp as desired.  (Alternatively, assemble pie, then cut X’s or slits into crust.)

Brush crust with egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Chill pie until crust is firm, 20-30 minutes.

Place pie on a parchment-or foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake until crust is golden, about 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake, tenting with foil if crust is browning too quickly, until juices are bubbling and crust is golden brown, 50-60 minutes longer.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hours before slicing.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream…

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Do Ahead:  Pie can be baked 1 day ahead.  Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

Ruth Reichl’s Spaghetti Carbonara ( or in this case Linguini Carbonara

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This is a quick dinner for those nights when you don’t know what to make, you are hungry, and you don’t want to fuss.

 My husband had a meeting to attend a couple of evenings ago so I was dining solo.

Since he has been watching his carbs lately, and I have been hungry for pasta, but not wanting to sabotage his efforts, this was my moment.

So I decided Ruth Reichl’s recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara met all my requirements for my dinner.

It is super quick to make.  I had all the ingredients on hand except for the spaghetti, but linguini filled in nicely,  and cleanup time is minimal.   

And Ruth Reichl would never steer you wrong.  Here is her recipe in her own words…

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 3

Contrary to the recipe so often used in restaurants, real carbonara contains no cream. The real thing also uses guanciale, cured pork jowl, but to be honest, I like bacon better. I think of this as bacon and eggs with pasta instead of toast. It’s the perfect last minute dinner, and I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t like it.

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pound thickly sliced good quality bacon (I prefer Nueske’s)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 large eggs
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for the table

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. When it is boiling, throw the spaghetti in. Most dried spaghetti takes 9 to 10 minutes to cook,and you can make the sauce in that time.

Cut the bacon crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch wide. Put them in a skillet and cook for 2 minutes, until fat begins to render. Add the whole cloves of garlic and cook another 5 minutes, until the edges of the bacon just begin to get crisp. Do not overcook; if they get too crisp they won’t meld with the pasta. Meanwhile, break the eggs into the bowl you will serve the pasta in, and beat them with a fork. Add some grindings of pepper.

Remove the garlic from the bacon pan. If it looks like too much to you, discard some, but you’re going to toss the bacon with most of its fat into the pasta. When it is cooked, drain the pasta and immediately throw it into the beaten eggs. Mix thoroughly. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs and turn them into a sauce. Add the bacon with its fat, toss again, add cheese and serve.

A few notes:  I used thickly sliced applewood smoked bacon, and my favorite Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Memorial Day Weekend with Friends Grillin’ and Chillin’ (New York Strip Steaks and Salad)

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Friends of ours from LA spent Memorial Day Weekend with us.  I have known her since we were kids living in St. Louis.  She and I have mutual cousins in common…their dad was her mom’s brother while their mom was my dad’s sister…got that?????

No matter…the important thing is that through the years of my sister and I  visiting our cousins while she and her sister were visiting their cousins we became close friends.

She and I were the same age and our sisters were  the same age setting the stage for a friendly foursome.

When my family moved from St. Louis to Pennsylvania my sister and I continued to visit them each summer by train for several weeks throughout much of our teenage years.

Fast forward many years of not seeing each other, and miraculously we find ourselves now living in the central coast of California while she and her husband have been living for years in Los Angeles…we reconnected when my older son moved to LA to begin his career 17 years ago, getting together whenever we visited.

What we didn’t know then is that we would actually be living here one day with just a 3 hour drive between us! 

Well, maybe not 3 hours on a holiday weekend, but we won’t get into that! Hopefully, the grilled Tuscan  brick chicken and glazed fudge cake awaiting them made up for that!!!

We crammed a lot into 3 days, not the least of which evolved around what else, but eating!

We were so busy that I kept forgetting to snap photos so the best I could rustle up is the photo above of  these luscious New York Strip steaks my husband grilled one evening for dinner, and the salad that accompanied  them.

The 1 and 1/2 inch steaks were perfectly seared on the outside, yet rosy pink in the middle.

He tried  a new technique  which had to do with getting the gas grill super hot, and initially turning them very often, about 1 and 1/2 minutes per side with the grill closed until they formed that nice crust you can see in the photo above.

Then with the grill lid open he continued cooking and  and turning them until the internal temp reached about 120 degrees.  Covered lightly with foil and let to rest for about 15 minutes they reached an internal temp of about 135 to 140 degrees.  Perfection!

On Saturday  morning we stopped by the Central Coast Succulent and Cactus Society’s annual show which was being held in a large community center in downtown San Luis Obispo.

There we saw an amazing display of countless award winning plants…

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From there we headed north to the Paso Robles Artsfest. 

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Here’s some info on the event…

The Paso Robles Festival of the Arts has changed its name and is effectively “upping its game” for 2014 with a list of new features designed with art lovers and county visitors in mind. Now dubbed “Paso Artsfest,” the largest free art event in San Luis Obispo County has a week’s worth of activities planned for artists, visitors and county residents in addition to the much-beloved main event that takes place the Saturday of every Memorial Day weekend in the Paso Robles downtown City Park. “With all of the fantastic press Paso Robles has been getting lately, this is the perfect time for our art festival to reach out to potential visitors who appreciate wine, food, art and beautiful scenery,” states Barbara Partridge, Paso Artsfest chairwoman. “We know that people are coming here on vacation for Memorial Day weekend, we are offering them the opportunity to make the arts part of their experience in a much bigger way than ever before.

 The day features an Outdoor Fine Art Show & Sale, a Wet Painting Sale & Auction, hands-on interactive art experiences all over the park, exciting musical guests, dance performances and a full day’s worth of entertaining and artistic surprises. This event is free to the public.

When it was time for lunch we ate at a lovely Parisian bistro that had been recommended to me that was across the street called Bistro Laurent.

where we dined on “Croque Monsieur and Frites” on the charming patio.

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That evening we dined again at what is quickly becoming one of our favorite Italian restarurants in downtown SLO,  Buona Tavola, specializing in Northern Italian cuisine.

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Each meal begins with their complementary olive tapenade and delicious homemade bread!  You can even buy it there or at the local farmer’s markets.

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or their house-made salami and sausages are also available…

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On Sunday my girlfriend and I walked off some of that wonderful bread and gelato from the night before and went walking on some of the spectacular trails that surround San Luis Obispo, while my husband took her husband in search of a running trail,  and later a couple of slices of pizza, and a ballgame on tv.

Here are some great photos and info I found online for the trails we walked..Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

The city of Cambria is located on Highway One at the north end of San Luis Obispo County, and has earned the nickname “Gateway to the Big Sur Coast.” Like that stunning area to the north, Cambria has its own beautiful waterfront. Explore sandy beaches and rocky tide pools on a 2.85-mile round trip hike down Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, crossing a pristine beach that is preserved by Hearst San Simeon State Park. There is only 40 feet of elevation change over the level and easy trail, so you are free to set out in flip-flops or tennis shoes. Explore tide pools or walk across the sand on Moonstone Beach to add variety to this beautiful oceanfront stroll.

You can start the boardwalk from free parking areas at either end (or in the middle). To discover the ocean views, start from the south end of the trail, just off Highway One near the beginning of Moonstone Beach Drive. Hike northwest beneath pines along Santa Rosa Creek. After 0.2 miles, you will spot a pool of water at the mouth of the creek, separated from the ocean by a line of sand. The wooden boardwalk progresses alongside the estuary where you can spot ducks and snowy egrets.

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk
Seals at the tide pools

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

Moonstone Beach Boardwalk

While hiking Moonstone Beach Boardwalk, you will pass several side access trail, but the main route is obvious. There are benches along the way where you can linger to admire the scenery. The boardwalk runs parallel to Moonstone Beach Drive, which is lined on the inland side by restaurants and hotels.

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Harmony Headlands State Park is located 2.6 miles south of Harmony, along the west side of Highway One in the beautiful coastal area of Central California.  This area has a Mediterranean climate consisting of warm dry summers and cool wet winters.  Its proximity to the ocean also results in thick coastal fogs which help to moderate the temperatures.  The constant winds and salt spray result in vegetation tolerant of these conditions. The flat coastal terraces, valleys and steep coastal bluffs are predominately home to grasslands and coastal scrub containing plants such as a San Luis Obispo morning glory, California buttercup, yarrow and lupine.  In the spring, flowering grasses can be seen in profusion.
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This area contains diverse and unique habitats supporting rare, endangered and sensitive plant and animal species.  Along the rocky outcrops, lichen, ferns and Indian paintbrush are scattered throughout the grasslands.  In the fresh water habitats of wetlands, riparian corridors and ponds, willows, rushes and cattails can be seen.  Along the intertidal areas, sea mammals can be seen and heard.  Overhead seabirds and shorebirds soar.  Making their way through their grassland homes, California ground squirrels, brush rabbits, skunks, coyote, mule deer and raccoons are among the residents.


This area also provides a home for the endangered California red-legged frog and the southwestern pond turtle.  Many sensitive species also reside here including brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants and white-tailed kites.

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Harmony Headlands State Park features a two-mile long Headlands Trail that departs from the parking lot and provides breathtaking ocean views west to the marine terrace grasslands.  Nature lovers, hikers, photographers, artists and bird watchers will all find this walk a rewarding and memorable experience.

Note:  We actually didn’t make it to the ocean this time. We were close when we met up with a couple of hikers who were on their way back, and told us to be careful of the snake that had crossed their path.  With that news, we looked at each other, and  both agreed it was getting late and we will finish the trail next time!  Yikes!!!

After breakfast the next morning at Louisa’s, a great diner type place walking distance from our home, our friends packed up and headed back to LA, but not before picking up a tri-tip sandwch to go for the trip back!

After all, one can’t visit San Luis Obispo, and not have tri-tip!