In case she hasn’t mentioned it, Simran is rather obsessed with fried chicken. It’s not unusual for me to get fried chicken-related text messages with her latest finds. These usually pop up on my phone while I’m diligently eating a plain jane salad or trying to get my family excited about eating unexciting leftovers. So on a recent trek to the East Bay we made a mandatory stop at Oakland’s Bakesale Betty to enjoy one of their famous fried chicken sandwiches. The fact that I had never been there was a bit of a shocker for Simran and I think she felt it was her duty as a friend to correct that problem ASAP.
It’s always nice to stumble upon a new tasty use for leftovers. After all there’s only so much fried rice a person can eat. I’m loving this Spanish tortilla, aka tortilla de patatas, because it’s easy to make, works with a lot of different odds and ends and is less egg-y than a quiche or a frittata (a plus in my book). The finely layered potatoes look way more impressive than they should which might even win you a few kudos from your friends. You can serve it warm or room temperature and enjoy it just about any time of day. Because it holds together so nicely, it’s a good one to slice into wedges for the lunchbox or to tote along to a picnic. Give this one a try next time you open your refrigerator and you see some potatoes and eggs staring back at you. It’s super easy, I promise!
- 6 eggs
- 1 pound of potatoes (about 3 large russets)
- 1 onion finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs finely minced (parsley, thyme, mint or a mixture of your favorites)
- Optional: 1/2 cup leftover meat or vegetables finely chopped (if needed, squeeze the chopped vegetables to remove excess liquid); We also like finely chopped ham or chorizo.
- salt and pepper
- Optional: 1 tablespoon of hot sauce
- Lightly oil a sheet pan and pop it into the oven and turn the heat up to 450 degrees. This way you can preheat your pan while you slice your potatoes.
- Peel and slice your potatoes into thin rounds, about 1/8″ to 1/4″ is nice. Once you’ve finished slicing, pat them dry and lay them in a single layer on your pre-heated baking sheet and season with salt and pepper and a little smoked paprika if you like. Cook them about 10 minutes or until they start to turn golden around the edges, then flip them to cook on the other side. After another 5-10 minutes, check them to see if they are tender. Once they pierce easily with a fork, take them out and let them cool. You can do this step ahead.
- Saute the minced onion until translucent, then move it to a large bowl to cool. When the onions are no longer hot, add the eggs, the herbs, salt pepper, smoked paprika and/or hot sauce to the bowl. Beat well. Add the cooled potatoes to the bowl and toss them very gently with your hands to coat them with egg.
- Lightly mist a saute pan with oil. Start layering the potatoes like shingles. Here and there add your chopped leftover meat or vegetables so that they are layered with the potatoes. Drizzle a small amount of the egg mixture after each couple of layers. Keep going until you’ve used up all your ingredients. Then pour more of the egg mixture over the top until it comes just to the top of your final layer of potatoes. You may not need all of the egg mixture.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, cook the tortilla on the stove top using medium heat until it is a deep, golden brown on the bottom. Slide the tortilla onto a plate. Give the pan another light mist of oil and then invert the pan over the plate and flip them together so that the tortilla falls back into the pan and you can brown the second side. Once the second side is also a deep golden brown, move the whole pan to the pre-heated oven. Check for done-ness after about 10 minutes and about every five minutes after that. Just insert a knife into the center of the tortilla and lightly press next to it to see if any liquid comes to the top. It’s done when no more liquid appears.
Let the tortilla cool slightly so it can set before you cut into it. Slice into wedges, sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve with hot sauce on the side. Leftovers of your leftovers? Not to worry…..slices of tortilla also make a great filling for a bocadillo — a Spanish-style sandwich on crusty bread. Yum!
This lowly, unadorned turkey sandwich just landed on my list of favorite food moments.
Last week we were in Tahoe enjoying the incredible scenery, playing at the lake, doing a little fishing, boating or nothing at all if we felt like it. We threw together some simple pasta one night, rallied to bake brownies out of the box – nibbled on this and that and had our fair share of turkey sandwiches. That was pretty much the extent of our culinary adventures. As uneventful as that sounds, my week of almost no cooking brought me back to basics and reminded me about what really matters when it comes to all these food adventures we’ve been writing about. Sometimes the most humble meals are the most extraordinary if you’re sharing them with people you love. Although it would be nice to see him grow into an adventurous eater and capable cook with a curiosity about where his food comes from, my greatest “foodie” wish for my son is just that he have as many happy memories around a dinner (or picnic) table as I do.
And now for the brownies….
Despite not thinking much about food all week (a rarity!), I still managed to learn something useful during this little hiatus…. something that resolves a long-standing annoyance I have with brownies — getting them out of the pan without tearing them to bits! I always imagine perfect little squares arranged artfully on a plate, and usually get jaggedy, sad looking things heaped in a pile. Luckily my family never rejects brownies for poor presentation.
As we were pulling our Duncan Hines beauties out of the oven, with hungry hoardes circling, my sister-in-law casually said “Can you grab a plastic knife? It works much better when they’re still warm.” Plastic knife! Such a low-tech and utterly simple trick. I have no idea why it works and no idea why I never heard this before, but I can back this one up 100%. “Like buttah!” Hurrah! No more clumpy looking brownies with the tops ripped off!
Clearly, Luca knows what’s good for him. We agree… Yamo, had us at “Burmese Lunch Counter”. Yamo isn’t what you’d call kid-friendly given the cramped quarters and the fact that the seating consists of only a few stools at a counter. But for a food adventure, there are no obstacles!
So, with Yamo on our minds and kids in the backseat, we headed out for a spontaneous Mission mini-adventure. The Gods were smiling on us – we had no coins for parking but we found a relatively inexpensive parking garage on 16th and Hoff (ingeniously called the “Hoff & 16th Garage”) which happened to be right in front KidPower Park! And voila, our plan presented itself: takeout from Yamo at the picnic tables nestled next to the park’s burbling fountain, shady trees and lavender bushes.
Yamo is quick and delicious. Also, ridiculously inexpensive – nothing costs more than $5.25!! Watching the ladies cook your meal as you stand in the narrow, dark alleyway of the restaurant is pretty intriguing. (Next time we are bringing our hubbies for a date and a notepad to “learn” to make some of the recipes). After much debate, we decided on Burmese chicken curry and beef noodles. (We pretty much wanted everything on the menu.)
The Mission is such a vibrant setting for an urban stroll and picnic. First off, the weather is sunnier and warmer than most other neighborhoods in San Francisco, and then there are the amazing murals. Our children love looking at them as much as we do. And KidPower Park turns out to be a hidden gem right in the heart of everything. At first glance, it’s a typical city playground but you soon discover there is something “magical” (a favorite word around here these days) about it. We love that it is enclosed on all sides (no runaways) and split into 3 different sections making it feel bigger than it actually is. Spectacular murals surround it and it felt like we were in wonderland. There is a little community garden in the back and a fountain that add to this little gem’s appeal.
You could easily while away the better part of a day within a 3 block radius of this park and while we were enjoying our impromptu picnic we couldn’t help thinking about all the other great things left to explore. From food, to quirky shops, to parks, the list is long so you can guarantee we’ll be back for many more Mission adventures!
At our recent de Young picnic, I made Giada de Laurentiis’ apple-mint punch which turned out to be super delicious. It’s summer in a cup: refreshing, not overly sweet, with a nice zippiness. The only problem was that I wished I had made more! I think doubling the recipe next time is most definitely in order and if you want to share with the kids, you can always substitute decaf tea. Here’s a link to her original recipe.
In honor of so much yumminess, I made this little drawing. You can find out where where is Mr. Mint Leaf going with that snazzy, yellow umbrella by clicking on the picture!
Inspired by the Getty Museum picnic that Giada de Laurentiis’ created for her Food Network show, we recently organized our own artsy picnic adventure with our little ones and a few friends. You’ve got to love the ease of the picnic playdate. Just pick the time and place, make it a potluck (and cross your fingers for good weather) and you’re good to go!
We decided the de Young Museum’s Osher sculpture garden would be the perfect spot for our picnic and selected two dishes from Giada’s menu (pasta with goat cheese and butternut squash, and apple-mint punch), along with some other tasty bites. [Stay tuned — we’ll be posting recipes later this week, along with our checklist for “primo picnicking.”]
Runaway kids are always a concern at picnics, so the sculpture garden turns out to be ideal because it’s enclosed except for one small entrance which is manned by a guard. And the lily pond just outside the museum entrance makes for a perfect rendezvous point since there’s plenty to entertain until everyone arrives. The kids loved running around the little paths and looking for turtles sunning on rocks in the pond. The two stone sphinxes offer a bit of fun climbing, too.
Next we meandered inside the museum and up to the de Young’s observation tower. A lot of people don’t know this part of the museum is open to the public at no charge (we love free!) — it’s a must-do for locals and visitors alike. The elevator lobby has some great hanging wire sculptures by local artist Ruth Asawa, lit so that they cast mesmerizing shadows. Great spot to talk to the kids about shadows, lighting and art. Have some fun by making your own shadows. 🙂 When you step out of the elevator, you get an amazing 360 degree panoramic view. You really feel like you’re hovering in the air above San Francisco with a spectacular view of our beautiful city. The day we visited, it was a crisp, sunny day but the view on a foggy day has it’s own appeal.
It didn’t take long before hunger, and the siren call of Giada’s pasta set-in and we headed back down and out to the sculpture garden (again free – yay!). There’s plenty of lawn to set out a blanket and kick a ball and it’s great place to soak in a little bit of art. If you can’t get it together (common problem) to make a picnic, the de Young cafe has a pretty appealing menu. There are also plenty of sandwich, dim sum and snack options in both the Inner Richmond (~8th & Clement) and Sunset (~9th and Irving) neighborhoods for a quick “grab and go” before heading into the park.
In between bites, our young picnickers got up close and personal with the outdoor sculptures, including the ceramic apples by Ulla and Gustav Kraitz and the giant safety pin by Claes Oldenberg. Ria and Luca spent a good part of the picnic sitting under a sculpture pretending it was a tent and that they were on an elaborate camping trip. Letting their imaginations run wild, the rocks around them became different animals and they sang silly, made up songs. Sitting there in the sun and listening to their chatter was a happy reminder to us, often harried, adults about taking a few minutes to soak up some of life’s simpler pleasures. Picnics have a way of doing that which is another reason we love them so much.
By the time the kids dove into the basket of strawberries one mom had brought, it was almost school time or nap time so our lovely museum picnic wound down to a close. Luckily, for those of you with more time and stamina than us, there are lots of nearby places to continue your adventure.
- Take a walk to the Conservatory of flowers (Enjoy the fantastic flower displays out front for free and do some log rolls down the sloping lawns. There is an entrance fee for the Conservatory.)
- Grab a little spot of post picnic tea and climb the rainbow bridge at the Japanese Tea Garden (entrance fee charged)
- Burn off some more energy at the “Blue Playground” just inside the park at 8th and Fulton (free)
- Run around in the music concourse between the de Young and the California Academy of Sciences (free)
- Take in the California Academy of Sciences (entrance fee charged without a membership)
- Wander though the gardens of the world at the nearby San Francisco Botanical Garden (free)
A few notes on parking, restrooms and coffee!
You can usually find parking along JFK Drive, although you should be prepared to walk a bit since the museum and aquarium draw big crowds. This picnic spot is extra kid-friendly because there are restrooms right inside the museum lobby. The museum’s café opens right into garden, so you can always pick up a little something extra if you need it (a coffee for mom or dad, perhaps?).