Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seven Snaps! 6/16/12 - 6/22/12

Hi, Dad! The first time in years that I've actually been with my dad on Father's Day. We read on the couch all day and had BLTs for dinner. Awesome.

And then we took Dad to our favorite pizza place in Oakland!

So very hot at the beginning of the week.

Solution: Strawberry-Yogurt Pops

Checking out Mugnaini's wood-fired ovens for the restaurant my dad is opening.

A walk on the beach. Dad said this was the first time he'd seen the Pacific Ocean in maybe 15 years!

And a pretty sunset to cap everything off.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Recipe: White Peach-Lavender Soda

What does one do when one receives a gift of perfect and oh-so-fragrant lavender from a friend's garden? If one is like me and has just finished writing a book of homebrewing projects and suddenly has free time to play with recipes not going into the book, one naturally thinks about making soda.

Lavender became a bit of a nemesis when writing True Brews. I learned the hard way that one scoop too many can take the lavender flavor from softly enchanting to soapy-tasting catastrophe in less time than it takes to say "Uh oh." I finally nailed the recipe, but it's left me with some rather hard feelings toward lavender.

But contemplating my bounty of lavender last week, I figured that a soda would be safe. Right? It's only a few cups. I can manage that. Maybe this could be a baby step in my Lavender Appreciation Recovery.

The white peaches and white nectarines are phenomenal right now. The farmers markets are flooded with them and I can't help but hold them to my nose and snag samples whenever I can. They are juicy and floral and just a teensy bit tart. I figured a few of these fruits would be the perfect companion to my lavender.

And they were. This soda... You guy, this soda... It's kind of awesome. Way better than I expected. It tastes sweet and peachy-keen and has just the barest breath of lavender to make things interesting. It's fresh and fizzy, especially on the hot afternoons we've been having the past week. Also, just FYI, it's extremely good with a shot of gin.

I didn't intend or expect that lovely pink color either. I envisioned something pale and luminous. Instead I got lazy and left the skins on the peaches, which proceeded to dye the juice this incredible shade of pink. I definitely recommend being lazy in this instance.

White Peach-Lavender Soda
Makes about 4 to 6 servings (enough to fill a recycled 1-liter soda bottle)

1 cup water, plus more to fill the bottle
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers (1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers)
1 pound very ripe white peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon champagne yeast or baker's yeast

Need: one clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle with screw-on cap

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan on the stovetop or in the microwave. Remove from heat and add the sugar and lavender flowers. Stir to dissolve to sugar. Let stand for 20 minutes to infuse the sugar water with lavender.

Wash and roughly chop the peaches. It is not necessary to peel them. Strain the lavender flowers and pour the infused sugar water over the fruit. Add the lemon juice and salt, and stir to combine. Let this stand for 10 minutes to macerate the fruit.

Working in batches, puree the peaches with the sugar-water in the food processor or blender. Strain the puree into a bowl, collecting as much juice as possible without forcing any solids through the strainer. You can also strain the juice through a flour sack towel or cheesecloth to yield a cleaner soda. You should end up with 1 1/2 to 2 cups concentrated fruit syrup.

At this point, you could stop, refrigerate the syrup, and add it to a glass of sparkling water to taste. To naturally carbonate the soda with yeast (you intrepid brewer you!), proceed onward.

Pour the juice into a clean 1-liter plastic soda bottle using a funnel (see note). Top off the bottle with water, leaving about an inch and a half of head room. Give it a taste and add more lemon juice or sugar if desired. The extra sugar will dissolve on its own.

Add the yeast. Screw on the cap and shake the bottle to dissolve and distribute the yeast. Let the bottle sit at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 12 to 48 hours. Exact fermentation time will depend on the temperature in the room. Check the bottle periodically; when it feels rock-solid with very little give, it's ready.

Refrigerate overnight or for up to 2 weeks. Open very slowly over a sink to release the pressure gradually and avoid bubble-ups.


• Feel free to substitute white nectarines, yellow peaches, or yellow nectarines for the fruit in this recipe. I'm also feeling tempted to try plums. The color and flavor will be slightly different, but most definitely still very tasty.

• For a stronger lavender flavor, infuse the sugar water for a longer period of time. Taste periodically and strain the sugar water when it tastes good to you. Since using more lavender can quickly make foods taste soapy, this is a safer way of amping up the flavor.

• I recommend using champagne yeast over baker's yeast whenever possible. It has a crisp and clean flavor that lets the fruit shine through, whereas baker's yeast tends to make sodas taste yeasty. Not a terrible thing, and fine in a soda-craving pinch, but get some champagne yeast if you can. It's sold at any homebrew supply store and online at places like Northern Brewer.

• The fruit mash left after straining makes a very good afternoon snack with yogurt.

• Sodas can also be bottled in glass or swing-top bottles, but it’s more difficult to tell when the sodas have fully carbonated. To do this safely, with every batch you bottle also fill one small plastic soda bottle to use as an indicator for when the sodas have finished carbonating. Refrigerate all of the bottles as soon as the plastic bottle is carbonated; never leave the glass bottles at room temperature once carbonated.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

True Brews: The Cover!

Aaaaand...KA-POW! Just like that, True Brews feels like something real. It's a good feeling, folks.

So...what do you think?!

From left to right: mocha stout, watermelon-mint soda, hard lemonade (or ginger ale? I can't remember which one we ended up using, honestly), IPA, blueberry-pomegranate wine

More on True Brews:

It's Officially Official: True Brews Is Going To Be A Book!
True Brews! Behind the Scene at the Photoshoot
Against the Grain

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seven Snaps! 6/9/12 - 6/15/12

White Peach-Lavender Soda! Hint: goes well with gin. (Recipe coming soon!)

A random mis-fire of my camera, but I ended up kinda digging the picture.

Our backyard

Roasted beets!

The cat claims her roost on the new sofa.

Amazing sidewalk shadows on the way back from getting coffee

My dad was in town this week for a baking class at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Behold, the bounty of his labor!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Weekend on Tomales Bay (Starring: Oysters!)

Apparently, when you are finishing a book, many things fall by the wayside. Like laundry. And making dinner (Burritos again!). And also your birthday. Mine was about two weeks before the book was due and other than a birthday scoop of ice cream, I didn't do much but nod a hello as the day passed by.

This is why my husband planned a secret getaway for the weekend after I turned in my manuscript, kind of a double celebration for both the book and my belated birthday. We left as soon as Scott got home from work on Friday, waited in traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge, dined at Lagunitas Brewery, but didn't get to our secret getaway spot until well after dark. We both collapsed into bed almost immediately and slept straight through to morning.

When we woke up, we were greeted with the view you see above. Scott had taken me to a little cottage called Anne's View on a bluff overlooking Tomales Bay. It also happens to be about a hopscotch court away from Hog Island Oysters, a place I'd been wanting to check out ever since moving to the Bay Area.

This was going to be a great weekend. Of that, I had zero doubt.

Should you ever finish writing a book or celebrate a birthday or do anything else of similar note, I highly recommend a weekend getaway of this caliber. We feasted the heck out of those oysters - two dozen EACH! Ka-POW! Scott fell in love with Hog Island's barbecued oysters in particular. By the third or fourth plate, we struck up a conversation with the grill guy and ended up getting a lesson in how to grill a mean batch of oysters. If you'd also like to know how to grill a mean batch of oysters, you can!

How to Grill Oysters: A Lesson from the Hog Island Oysters Pros on The Kitchn

After the oysterfest, we basically didn't move for the rest of the day. That's Scott up there lounging on the sofa at the house and reading through the guest book. I alternated between creative vocal interpretations of the book's many entries and watching the birds outside the window. Just before we closed the curtains and opened a bottle of wine, we got this visitor below.

A super special weekend with my super special someone. Thanks, Scott. You're the bestest.

Places of Note:

Anne's View On Tomales Bay, Marshall, CA
Hog Island Oysters, Marshall, CA
Lagunitas Brewery, Petaluma, CA

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Seven Snaps! 6/2/12 - 6/8/12

I have plans to replicate this jamaica agua fresca. Oh, yes, I do.
The place where I live.

My favorite husband.
Stop. Burger Time.

I'd invest in their start-ups now, if I were you.

Tiny loaves!

Beer-brined chicken barbecued with chili butter. JEALOUS?
We're busting out the grill over here, if it's not obvious. I have a tiny little gas camping grill, but it makes two of everything juuuust fine. And with just me and my favorite person in residence, that's all you need. Summer, check.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Seven Snaps! 5/26/12 - 6/1/12

Waiting for the train. (4th and King, San Francisco, Caltrain)

Dinner! From Cheryl Sternman Rule's cookbook Ripe

Paying homage to the robot at Instructables HQ

Seasoning my new wok. Next up: Noodle stir fry with peppers and long beans!

Keep walking until you hit the Bay.

There is significantly less strawberry-rhubarb crumble now than there was then.

Cat attack + Morning light