Category Archives: California

Genius Cookies

Finn in box

Move day came and went, it’s been a loooong time since I posted anything. Since early September, when we finally moved home, there’s been few moments of calm. Finn and Tom helped us pack up the rental apartment by putting themselves in the boxes. 😉

Hiding in closet

And then for the past two months they’ve spent a whole lot of time hiding in our closets to avoid all the construction guys who were still in the middle of rebuilding our place.

Finally, things were ready downstairs. For 6 weeks I cooked like this – on a shelf in a closet. Takes some getting used to:

Move in day arrived in early October.

And about a week later, most of our life was finally rebuilt.

It feels…really, so good. So relaxing. Feels like time to make my absolute favorite cookies. 🙂

These cookies are really amazing. It’s an Alice Medrich recipe, and I think since we’ve moved back in, I’ve alredy baked them four times. What’s really great about them…well, two things. 1) They are really flexible. You can use a whole variety of cheeses, as long as you pick something fairly sharp and distinguished in flavor. Going for a nutty profile is best, as it matches will with the chopped nuts in the cookie. Which you can ALSO adjust as you like – it calls for 135 g of walnuts, but I have used walnuts, cashews and pecans all successfully, as well as a mix of them. 2) They are both sweet and savory – so they work on cheese plate both before a meal and after one, or they are simply amazing with a cup of tea. Since I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth, I love them. They offer the perfect hint of sweetness, like any good shortbread (which they are), without overpowering you.

The only thing to note is that they *are* a little finnicky to cut from the log of dough that you make and chill before baking. They are pretty crumbly. I choose not to coat the edges of the log with nuts, instead putting all of them in the dough. And I think this is why I have a bit of trouble with them sometimes – butter/nut/flour ratio is wrong. Still, I manage to get them together and cut, very very carefully.

When they come out, you sprinkle them with a little powdered sugar and dab some preserves in the middle. I used my favorite tomato marmelade that I first had when we went to Copenhagen. (Which I now make myself.).

Next week we’re headed home for a week of California, family, Thanksgiving and mild celebration about the mid-term election results.

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Posted by on November 10, 2018 in California, Cooking at home, Holiday Foods


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Chop Salad – Japanese/California Style

It’s past 9 pm and I am still awake! No, this is progress, even if you don’t think so. We got back from a 10-day trip to California on Monday night and I promptly fell into jet-lag hell. Today is the first day close to normal – three days later. This is good.

Oh, and the trip was full of all the California goodness I crave when I am away. Wild turkeys waddling down the street, completely oblivious to cars that might spatchcock them a good 8 months too early….

Amazing views, which I just took for granted in the past over the bay – showcasing in one breathtaking sweep the bay bridge, the golden gate bridge, Lawrence Hall of Sciences, Alcatraz Island, and the Berkeley campus. …

The botanical gardens, where we wandered, carefree, for two hours, enjoying the sun, the climate, the super secret highly-controversial conversations with the local physicists, who delivered information in person, out of the hearing of the NSA and other prying USA governmental agencies. We hope. Just saying.

The redwood forests. Ah.

Trying out new fruits – who ever heard of a SUMO orange? Tastes like a mandarin, only…bigger.

Getting new recipes for gin cocktails from friends. Still have to make this, reads like a future addiction.

And hanging with the nephews and the sisters and the parents and aunts and cousins, etc. who make us do dangerous things on two-wheeled vehicles inside the house.

We survived. And now we are back.

Making Japanese chopped salad.

This is a little bit like… a sushi salad. But takes the classic chop salad as its inspiration.

Lots of chopped veggies, cut very small, plenty of protein in there, some fat as well, mixed with a super yummy dressing.

In this case, this dressing. Simple easy fast.

And this mix of veggies and protein:

salmon – raw, cabbage, avocado, romaine lettuce, soy beans, re hydrated wakame seaweed, hard boiled eggs, green onion, cucumber

And I added in a bit of yuzu mayo – collected in Oakland during the trip.

And a few sprinkles of bonito flakes.

some crispy bacon…would probably not be bad in this.

Dressing adds a brilliant orange glow. But MOM! No chilies! NOT SPICY. (I almost killed my mother with a not so unsimilar salad while at home.)

Actually, if you ask me, I would put in some chili oil.

Nice light salad, low carb, full of protein and energy. Lots of antioxidants.

Can you tell I am starting to think about running a marathon again?




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Taste of home


I managed to pack 11 meyer lemons into my suitcase a few days back – plucked from my mother’s tree. If I could figure out how to grow them here in Germany, I would in a heartbeat. I miss them a lot. Their aroma is like no other citrus and can only be rivaled (for me) by the keffir lime, perhaps. I could make these things into lemon sorbet, I can grate their skins into fresh ravioli, I could juice them into lemon tarts…they are a million times better than normal lemons. I have yet to find a supplier here. (WHY?!)

But the best way to stretch these out over time…when trips to California are few and far in between…is to salt them and pack them into a jar. Why? Because they make exquisite tagines. So 3 of the 11 were given away to a friend who also loves to cook with great and scarce ingredients, 5 of them went into that jar in the photo, and a measly 3 lie in my refrigerator waiting for a fate to come.


These take 5 minutes and a month to make. 5 minutes to cut them into quarters – leaving the lemon intact on just a single side, sprinkle their flesh with salt, pack them into a jar with a  bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, a bunch of cloves and coriander seeds and a handful of fresh thyme, and then cover them with more lemon juice (no meyers, but that’s ok), and another handful of salt. And a month to marinate and pickle to a finish, each day a careful shake and a push to make sure the lemons are always submerged under the juices.

In a month we’ll have a tagine, perhaps a chicken one or lamb, and I will have a taste of California and the smell of my mother’s tree in my head. And a month after that I will travel again to California and gather more lemons.


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Love Letter to Morton & Bassett

In case you didn’t know, Morton & Bassett is a company that sells spices.  Here’s their homepage:

Morton & Bassett homepage

Morton & Bassett homepage

It’s a shame that it’s not scratch and sniff…because even if the scents don’t evoke strong images and memories for you (like they do for me), you would still be mesmerized by the perfumes.

My mom sent me two jars of their bay leaves for Valentine’s Day. She sent other lovely things as well (chocolate, beautiful vases, a card, a cute little puzzle), but it was those bay leaves that I was waiting for. I was down to my last two leaves – I must have forgotten to buy some when I was home in November last year. (No idea how that could have happened!).  I opened one of the jars and stuck it under the noses of my friends at work, where I’d received the package. They were awed or at least they pretended to be.

I even gave *one* leaf to a colleague of mine who loves to cook as well. Apparently he cooked a lasagna with it last night and it was (as expected) very delicious. I had two girlfriends over for dinner last night and I put it in the dal I made. Ahhh…so lovely.

This morning, just now, my colleague just contacted me. We think it is time Morton & Basset started to distribute here in Europe.

So I wrote them a letter. It’s something between a love letter and a pushy aggressive needy begging communication. I hope they take it the right way. 🙂


Meanwhile…I will hoard my little treasure.


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Spatchcock: before roasting

Spatchcock: before roasting

Just a quick blog entry here that will serve as a historical reminder. After cutting out the backbone with a combination of garden shears and a very sharp knife, dislocating the hip (hip? leg?) joints and crushing the breastbone, we spread the turkey out on a bed of dressing/stuffing and put it in the over at around 4 pm. Then I nervously prayed that what Mark Bittman wrote was true – that the bird would cook in about an hour – or in this case, with a turkey that was double the size of the one in his recipe – two.

Thankfully, you can observe the after photo as well:

Spatchcock: after roasting

Spatchcock: after roasting

It worked, and quite well.

Oven set at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, then I turned it down to 400 and covered the breast and wings with foil so they wouldn’t blacken and burn. Roasted for another 55 minutes or so. Tested with a meat thermometer (supposed to have reached 155 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh), and it was done.

I think no one suffered too substantially because the bird was more…um…laid back looking…;-)

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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in California, vacation


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Holiday meals: normal or novel?

Max and Sam: ousted by a kitten

Max and Sam: ousted by a kitten

These two, they look a little pissed off, don’t they? I mean, it’s a bit chilly out there even if it is California. But better a bit of a chill than to deal with the hell that is inside of the house. Hell by the name of “Ali.” My parents bought a kitten a few months back, to replace the cat that I bought for them when they moved out to California as a present. (Some might argue over this last sentence and claim that I dumped my kitten on them when I figured out that I wouldn’t be able to care for her in my last year of university, but this is simply not true. NOT.) Alex, the former kitten, died a few months ago at a ripe old age of…very old. Ali, the newbie in the house, has no respect for her elders. She jumps on them, chases them around the house, hisses at them when necessary, hogs the warm spots on the bed. The good traditional and normal life is no more.

To hell with normal, though. We all have to adapt and learn all our lives. Just because it was done one way for the last 30 years doesn’t mean that it won’t be good another way. And this was the discussion this morning on a number of occasions as we come to the last 24 hours before the *big* meal. What is on the menu and how is it going to be cooked? It’s easy enough to say “turkey,” but HOW will the turkey be cooked? There were discussions about barbequeing, deep frying, turduckens (no, never), and finally spatchcocking. We’ll come back to that awesome word in a moment. There were discussions around bread – serve rolls or no rolls (I voted “no,” who needs the carbs? I lost in the name of “tradition.”) There were discussions around adding tomato soup to the food line up – my fault because I mentioned how good my friend Limor’s tomato soup was that we ate last night and I think my mother was intrigued – “just a little cup,” (I won that one, not that I am keeping score), there were discussions about nuts or no nuts in the salad, the flavor of the dressing – “sweet and sour” or “bitter, sparkling, sour”, how much persimmon to put in the salad, whether or not to make a pumpkin pie a pumpkin cake or a pumpkin flan – we landed at something between a pie and a flan. There will be more debates tomorrow all along the way. All part of the tradition too.

To be or not to be: A Spatchcocked Turkey

To be or not to be: A Spatchcocked Turkey

So back to spatchcocking. Very simple idea. You cut out the backbone of the bird – you can “spatchcock” a chicken, a turkey, a duck, any bird – and roast or bake it flat. The idea here is that everything roasts evenly and everything roasts faster. Rather than spending some four hours in the oven roasting (especially if you have stuffed the bird), it’s an hour. At least according to Mark Bittman. Additionally, you don’t have the problem of ending up with dry white meat. It is all lovely and juicy. The problem with this is two fold. 1) when you take it out of the oven and serve it, it doesn’t *look* traditional. It isn’t shaped like a bird. It’s flat. Dis-assembled looking in a very non-romantic way. And 2) you can’t stuff the bird that way. You need to cook the stuffing/dressing separately. Which is a whole different flavor, both for the dressing and for the bird. Ah, my mother just interrupts me now as I write this post to lament the fact again that we are going to spatchcock this damn bird. “I will have nightmares about this, Julie.” Just came out of her mouth.

Nevertheless, we will try it. This morning I told my nephews, who had slept over last night, about the puppy at my friends’ home – a “shih tzsu” is the name of the breed. Say that fast. If you are an 8 year old or a 5 year old, that is a particularly fun word to say. Just like spatchcock. I need to come up with a list of these kinds of words and introduce them to my nephews tomorrow. My sister is going to freaking kill me though.

The never boring view

The never boring view

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Posted by on November 22, 2012 in California, Cooking at home, vacation


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