Tag: san francisco

The cool grey summer of San Francisco

As summer begins in earnest elsewhere in the country, the fog and wind arrives in San Francisco. Leaving the playground in the evening, Lilias and I battle our way through the blustery streets home to our warm apartment. The market is now filled with glowing red tomatoes and blushing stone fruit, warming the grey Sunday mornings. June and July in this city means eating summer while it feels like winter outside.

Here is a salad perfect with a glass of white wine that will make you feel like it is summer, even if the weather tells you otherwise.

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The Taste of Summer in a Salad

Three sweet, ripe peaches
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
Six slices of prosciutto
Rocket
A handful of basil
Juice of a lemon
Olive oil
Salt

This really is as simple as slicing the peaches, tearing the mozzarella and lying them with the prosciutto over the leaves. Finish with a simple lemon, olive oil and salt dressing and you have yourself a meal! This would be lovely with fish or chicken, but we just had some fresh bread and butter and a glass of wine.

 

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Crunchy Market Salad

The weather has been crazy and spring like here in San Francisco. Just a few days ago it was stifling hot, still 28 degrees outside at ten o’clock in the evening. It felt wrong to waste it, so after a few glasses of wine with dinner, Ollie and I thought it would be a great idea to wake Lilias and go for a walk in the park. She thought it was the best game ever, crawling through the grass in the dark with the lights of the city surrounding us. A few days later though and the clouds and rain had rolled in putting us right back in winter. Thank goodness for the market full of green things to keep us feeling fresh.

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Here is the crunchy salad we ate after the market on Sunday. Making the most of all the good green things, especially for my sister in law who has come to stay and managed to land herself with the flu.

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Crunchy Market Salad
Feeds four 

1 cup of cooked quinoa
1 fennel bulb
1 green apple
1 avocado
A handful of sugar snap peas
A handful of snow peas
A handful of lettuce leaves
A couple of basil leaves
A handful of pinenuts
Goats cheese or feta to top
Juice of a lemon
Olive oil
1 tsp whole grain mustard
Sea salt

While you cook your quinoa, slice the fennel, apple, avocado, sugar snap peas and snow peas. Place these in a bowl with a dressing made of lemon, olive oil, salt and mustard – the lemon will stop the vegetables discolouring. Once the quinoa is cooked, leave it to cool and then mix it in with the vegetables, adding the torn lettuce and basil. Top with a sprinkling of pinenuts and some goats cheese. Enjoy!

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Saturday Morning in the Dogpatch

On Saturday morning we got in the car and headed across town to the Dogpatch, an area we haven’t explored yet. We had read about the opening of The Minnesota Street Project a couple of weeks ago,  and were keen to have a look. A old warehouse is now a gallery and studio space offering ‘affordable and economically sustainable spaces for art galleries, artists and related nonprofits.’ Check out their website to read more, or if you are in San Francisco, head on over. It is a beautiful space.

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I would also recommend going for lunch at Piccino afterwards, it was absolutely delicious and they have highchairs that screw onto the bar. Three happy Hewitts indeed.

Now a recipe, or more just an idea. We eat this meal a bit, especially in the warmer months. It is so easy and quick to put together, but packed with flavour and fun to eat.

Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Hummus and Salad
Serves two

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Mix together some ground/minced (depending on what country you live in) lamb with salt, pepper and about a tablespoon of garam masala. Roll into balls, about half the size of a golf ball. Fry in some oil on a hot heat, moving around every couple of minutes.

Chop one tomato, three radishes, half a peeled cucumber, 1/4 small red onion and some fresh parsley and mix in a bowl with some olive oil, salt and red wine vinegar.

Once the meatballs are cooked through- this shouldn’t take very long- place on a dish that has a thin covering of hummus and sprinkle some roasted pine nuts over the top.

I like to serve this with some greek yoghurt made better with lemon juice, olive oil, sea salt and fresh mint, plus some grilled pita bread, hot sauce and a cold beer.

Perfect for the balmy weather San Francisco has been having lately. Long may it continue!

 

Corners of our new home

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We are so happy in our amazing new space, it is so light and airy. I have already done so much cooking and baking in our big kitchen. But most importantly, did I mention I have a pantry???

Spring time and new beginnings.

It is funny how quickly your expectations can change. Living in a one bedroom apartment with a baby is completely normal in this crazy expensive city. I was talking to a mother just yesterday who lives in a two bedroom with three children. All of a sudden, having a child in its own room seems like an unnecessary luxury. Having a spare room for friends to come and stay? Madness.

Currently we live in a one bedroom apartment. Looking south through the big windows, you get beautiful views over the hills of San Francisco and the Sutro tower comes and goes as the infamous mist rolls in and out. We moved to this apartment as a couple coming to work in this city and soon became a family of three with a baby who sleeps in a converted cupboard where the vacuum cleaner and suitcases used to live.

Nearly a year old, Lilias is well and truly on the move. She crawls at a scarily fast pace and climbs anything she can find. All of a sudden, a cupboard doesn’t seem quite big enough for her bedroom. The fact that it is off the living room is not great for having people over in the evenings. The nine flights of stairs are starting to feel steeper and steeper as she gets heavier, and I won’t get started on not having a laundry.

So we are on the move! We love the neighborhood so much we are just hopping over the other side of the park, a huge move of four blocks, but it is big! It has TWO bedrooms. And a kitchen with room for a table to eat at. And it is only up one flight of stairs. And I am beyond excited. We move next Sunday, so who knows? Maybe my next blog post will be from my brand new kitchen, sitting at my table looking out towards the park.

It feels like just the right time for a move and a new adventure. Springtime in the San Francisco.

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The Best of the Season

Yesterday I went to buy food for dinner and my neatly written shopping list stayed in my bag. I just couldn’t walk past the bright and sweet smelling citrus. Grapefruit, pomelos, mandarins, satsumas, clementines, limes, lemons, and oranges lay bathing in the late afternoon sun. While Lilias enjoyed the free apple pie samples they were giving out, I quickly came up with a new idea for dinner. We would have a citrus salad and it would be fresh and zingy, both sweet and bitter. Maybe a piece of fish on top, in which case fennel would work well. And we would need something green with that, baby spinach? No, some sprouting broccolini would be perfect. And surely there is some coriander in a jar on the window sill…

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Citrus Salad with Pan Fried Fish
Serves two

1 ruby red grapefruit
2 mandarins
Half a big bulb of fennel, or one small one, plus the fronds
A handful of coriander leaves
1 spring onion
A bunch of sprouting broccolini
A good glug of olive oil
Salt
2 pieces of firm white fish (I used ling cod)
Butter for frying

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Blanch the sprouting broccolini and put aside to cool. Carefully peel the grapefruit and mandarins and finely slice them, the grapefruit cut in half and the mandarins as perfect circles. Finely slice the spring onion and the fennel bulb, leaving the feathery fronds to garnish the fish at the end. Put it all in a bowl with the olive oil (it will make a difference if you use good stuff for this recipe), a good pinch of salt and the coriander leaves. Toss to combine.

Fry your fish in some butter, and while it is cooking, arrange the salad on two plates. When the fish is just cooked through, add it to the top of the salad and garnish with the fennel fronds.

It is the perfect meal for a hot evening (thanks San Francisco for this mid winter heat wave) or to cheer up a dark and cold day. Especially with a cold beer or a crisp glass of wine.

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Menu Planning and Spaghetti Fridays

I am not a planner. Life can take me where it wants, and that is just fine. I feel this way about cooking as well, never having been one to plan what I am going to cook at the beginning of the week and do one big shop in preparation. Part of my day with Lilias is going to the deli/market/grocery store a few blocks from us and choosing something to take home and make for dinner.

But lately I have been in a rut. A very deep one that has made me not look forward to either the shopping or the cooking. I don’t know whether it is because we used to eat out quite a bit at exciting and inspiring cafes and restaurants and I got ideas from them? Or that now I have a nine month old to think about cooking for as well as us? But I felt like I was making the same stuff over and over. And not enjoying it.

So I decided to do the unthinkable. Menu planning. Sitting down in the weekend with cookbooks and planning what we are going to eat for the week. And I have to say, it has been working a treat! It means I actually cook to a recipe from cook books I may not have looked at for a while, I can look at the week as a whole and make sure we are eating a variety of foods, there is no waste of food that looked good at the market and then was never actually used, and it means I am trying a whole lot of new recipes in the kitchen. I don’t know how long I will keep it up, but for the moment it is getting me out of the rut.

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I still cook seasonally by only picking recipes that use ingredients that I know I can find at the market at the moment. And if something looks really good when I am out, I will pick it up and find a way to incorporate it into that night’s meal. It has been making things a whole lot easier and given me more time for adventures further afield with my little Lilias. We have been loving going for long winter walks on the beach- there is something so beautiful about a grey cold day and a stormy looking ocean. Makes me not mind the cold wind in my face and leaves both of us feeling fresh and new and ready for a big dinner.

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I may be cooking all different styles of food from all different cook books, but it is nice to come back to your favourites. So on Fridays? Not going out for an after work drink and getting home at 3am, nope, those days are over… for now. Instead? Spaghetti alla puttanesca. Red wine. Bliss.

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Serves four (or two very hungry people)

A very generous pour of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 dried peperoncino/ generous pinch of chilli flakes
5 anchovy fillets
400g red, ripe tomatoes or 1 tin tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g pitted black olives
1 large tbsp capers
roughly chopped parsley
spaghetti

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Firstly, pour yourself a glass of wine and put your pasta water on.

Put the olive oil, minced garlic, chopped anchovies and chilli into a frying pan over a very gentle flame to let the garlic soften and anchovies melt down into the oil.

Peel, deseed and roughly chop the tomatoes if you are using fresh ones, otherwise open the can and add them to the pan. Raise the heat a little so the pan reaches a bubbling simmer and then finally add the capers, tomato puree and the olives.

By now, the water should have come to the boil. Salt generously and add the spaghetti.

Allow the sauce to bubble away and reduce a little and then add the parsley and finally the cooked pasta.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. Buon appetito and have a good weekend x

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Living Small

We were recently featured on the amazing blog Living Small, where a fellow New Zealander interviews and photographs those who are making small apartments work for their families. In a difficult renting market such as San Francisco, these stories make up every day conversations at the playground, cafe or bar and it is fascinating to hear how many people you can fit in a small space (family of four in a studio apartment anyone?). Yes, it is difficult not having a laundry and having to carry a baby and stroller and groceries up nine flights of stairs. But I also think it is wonderful for our daughter to have this beautiful city as her back garden. You never know who you may walk past on the street or what may be going on in the park; there is always something to see or do.

Speaking of which, we have tickets to go and see Yotam Ottolenghi in a couple of weeks. I am so excited- he really has changed the way I cook and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say. So after flicking through his cookbooks, I mixed a few ideas together and made this- an Ottolenghi inspired salad for your weekend.

Kumera and Eggplant Salad

Serves two with enough for lunches the next day, or four for dinner with a nice piece of meat.

1/2 cup of quinoa
1/2 cup wild rice
2 large Kumera (sweet potatoes)
1 large eggplant
1 large handful of baby spinach
1 small handful of fresh coriander
Feta
Pistachio nuts
Sunflower seeds
1Tbsp pomegranate molasses
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
Salt

Cut your kumera into wedges and your eggplant into cubes. Put these in to roast with some olive oil and salt for about 45 mins at 180/350 or until they are beautiful and golden, a bit crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Now cook your quinoa and wild rice and leave aside to cool. Finally, roughly chop the spinach and coriander.

The great thing about most of Ottolenghi’s salads is that you can eat them at room temperature. This means that you can make them when you have a minute and then come back to them when it is time to eat- ideal for entertaining or if you manage to get your baby to have a sleep during the day!

So, when you are ready, combing the quinoa, rice, vegetables and herbs in a big bowl with the dressing of pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, salt and olive oil. Crumble some feta and sprinkle some shelled pistachio nuts and sunflower seeds on top for a bit of crunch. Voila! You have a delicious and satisfying dinner all ready to go.

A Celebration

I had always been a bit negative about American style baby showers, but Sunday proved me wrong. My friend Kelly organised the most beautiful day for me with every little detail thought out- the room decorated, fresh spring flowers everywhere, waffles and fresh berries, champagne, lemon and lavender cocktails, games and fun. There was even a surprise arrival of two friends who now live in Los Angeles! As I looked around the room at all these amazing people I did not know even existed this time last year, it made me realise how I am not having a baby in a foreign city without friends or family, but in a beautiful sunny city Ollie and I happily call home, surrounded by amazing and caring friends. So thank you to everyone who helped make this day so special.


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How Things Turn Out

I made the switch from working in museums and taught English at a girl’s school in Auckland for the last two years. It was the most rewarding, energising, and exhausting thing I have ever done. My students challenged me, frustrated me and amazed me every day. When I left, the tears, kind words and hugs were overwhelming and I knew I had found the career that I would continue for the rest of my life. I think about my students all the time and wonder how they are going, what they are reading and whether they are continuing to grow into the incredible young women I know they are.

I believe in education to expand student’s minds, they should ask questions and say when they don’t agree with something. I don’t think they should be consumed by rules and rote learning. So when I was offered a job at a school here, I thought long and hard, about the school itself and my very bizarre interview in which I was asked nothing about my teaching practice, and decided no. It was not for me.  I didn’t want to settle for a school which did not allow me to teach the way I teach and put the emphasis on the wrong things.

You never know where life will lead next. For me, it is to beautifully designed skin care. I will be working at Aesop. Not what I initially planned for living and working in this country, but I think it is going to be exciting. Their products are amazing, the design, beautiful and the other people that work for the company seem so lovely and friendly.

I start tomorrow so decided to treat myself and splash out for a hair cut so I’m looking good for my first day at work. I now have hair of varying lengths, a short and crooked fringe and a significantly lighter wallet. I am deeply unimpressed by my first American haircut. And Ollie is in China this week for work so I couldn’t even come home to rant at him about it.

But when I got home there was a beautiful book waiting for me, a delivery from a special friend far away. And so I sat down to write a blog post on things never quite being how you expect them to be. And how that isn’t such a bad thing.