Monthly Archives: April 2013

Taco Tuesday – Shrimp Tacos (at home)

shrimp taco lighterOne of the best things about my relationship with The Bat is our shared love of cooking and food. However, living in a household in which both members thoroughly enjoying being in the kitchen can create a bit of tension when it comes to figuring out who will do the cooking, and when. Clearly it is an embarrassment of riches. Despite the challenge (and sometimes competition), we have found a way to strike a reasonable balance: I prepare a few big meals during the week, supplementing with large salads and leftovers to fill in the gaps, whereas The Bat is responsible for all weekend food preparation, when he has the time to do the necessary shopping and the freedom to play in the kitchen.DSC_0099After a recent mouthwatering shrimp stir-fry success (Stir-Fridays have also become a thing), The Bat decided that shrimp tacos would be the next weekend cooking adventure, complete with dinner guests as taste-testers and fancy, fruity cocktails.DSC_0094Despite some initial wariness from the chef (and mostly not to be outdone), I insisted on making hard taco shells from scratch – and a few chips to snack on throughout the night.  Making your own hard taco shells is extremely easy. Heat about 1 ½ inches of vegetable oil in a large, wide skillet until it bubbles and pops when flicked with a bit of water. Using a pair (or, if you have tiny hands, two) of kitchen tongs, lower your tortilla into the oil, folding into a taco shape as you go. Hold in this shape while the oil bursts and bubbled around you, until the shell is slightly hardened and can be flipped over for the other side to cook – continue to cook, a few minutes on each side, until golden. Drain the excess grease, upside down, on paper towels until ready for tasty, taco construction.DSC_0117Once the shells were done and I was finally out of the kitchen, The Bat went to work. Shrimp were de-tailed and a marinade was prepared from copious amounts of crushed garlic, minced jalapeno, olive oil, a pinch of chili powder, salt and cracked black pepper. Mixed together well in a Ziploc bag, the shellfish were allowed to marinate for (at least) 30 minutes at room temperature. Following this rest, they were cooked, quite quickly over medium-high heat, about (no more than) 2 minutes per side, until the garlic started to turn crispy brown and the shrimp were seared.DSC_0131We stuffed our tacos with several piping hot (and spicy) shrimp, cabbage, cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado and salsa and dug in. Served along side was a quick rice pilaf made with sautéed red onions, garlic and using diced tomatoes and their juice in place of water (next time I’ll use a few of those jalapenos and/or some salsa instead for some much needed spice). To drink, The Bat concocted a dangerously delicious tropical beverage to compliment the dinner by blending strawberries, pineapple, guava nectar, white rum and a bit of seltzer, all served over ice (somehow these were not recorded for posterity – boo).DSC_0114The tacos were a resounding success, with four of us demolishing all 2 lb. of shellfish in no time flat. I unabashedly declare that these were the best shrimp tacos I have ever had. In fact, in reviewing details for this post, we’ve both agreed that these need to happen again, sooner rather than later. This dinner was one of several informal housewarming get-togethers we have hosted over the past few weeks, and it has been such a joy to welcome friends and family into our home and to our table – even if I have to admit that The Bat is clearly in the lead to win the ‘best party food’ house award.

Advertisements

(Last) Weekly Photo Challenge – Change

A week (or two) ago, the theme of the Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post was “Change”. I read about it late on that Sunday night and was excited about the possibilities of my submission, which I began crafting as I drifted off to sleep that night. The next day, Boston happened. I allowed myself be catapulted into a 24-hour-news-hungry, astonished, angry, obsessive place for the entirety of the week. Then another work trip, followed by a brief, rejuvinating drive down the California coast and now here we are.

Putting together a post on the theme of change has continued to dominate my blog-oriented thoughts. Everything about my life has changed in the past six months and I am only now starting to feel settled, comfortable and truly happy with it all. Summing this up seemed like a fitting way to (yet again) re-establish my normal routine (blogging and otherwise).

So, what does change look like for me? The pictures speak for themselves; much more than 5700 miles separates my life(s) in Paris (then) and San Diego (now).

HomePlace Chappe(then)

The intersection of Rue Chappe and Rue des Trois Freres, just down from my apartment in the 18th arrondissement in Paris, France

sd home (now)

My own personal palm tree in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego, CA.

The View

sacre couer(then)

Basilica Sacre Coeur, in the summer, around sunset (featuring a spectacular view over the city)

channel islands(now)

The view of the Channel Islands speeding by while traveling south by train from the Central Coast of CA to San Diego.

Dinner

cheri bibi

(then)

Spring lamb and fava beans at Cheri Bibi.

RK sushi(now)

Playboy Roll at RK Sushi.

Touristing

tour eiffel(then)

The Eiffel Tower as seen from the Bir-Hakeim bridge.

big sur(now)

Big Sur coastline, as seen from the southbound lanes of CA Highway 1

CSA shareslate feb panier(then)

Late February 2012 in Paris: Russet potatoes, celery root, green leaf lettuce, brown lentils and apples.

late feb csa (now)

Late February 2013, in San Diego: Blood oranges, lemons, mandarins, green leaf lettuce, chard, kale, spring mix, carrots, caulflower, romanesco, bok choy and strawberries.

Family scarf family(then)

anna2 wesley (now)

I am lucky enough to have found a family of friends wherever I have landed thus far – and my ‘family’ in Paris was comprised of the best kinds of people. Yet, when I learned that my siblings were going to make me an aunt (multiple times over) in the last year, I knew it was time to come home, for good. The change I can see, on a weekly basis, as my niece and nephew grow brings an unspeakable joy to my heart. I can tell that they now recognize my voice, they always laugh at my silly faces and are just starting to learn how to put their pudgy arms around me for baby’s first hugs. There are so many reasons I am happy to be home, but being an active participant in my family, watching these children grown and change are the best reasons of all.

P.S. At the top of the list of “things that never change” is my predilection to let this blog be the first thing to drop when times get tough. I am very thankful for my new ‘interfriend’ Mere – whom I had the great pleasure of meeting in person last week – for her kind and inspiring words to jumpstart my posting again. It seems I am slowly creating a California family of friends, and I am so excited to discover what unfolds next.

Weekly Travel Theme – Benches

bench1

Where’s My Backpack has again come up with a travel theme – this week is  “Benches” – that is challenging and open to interpretation. While I recognize the romantic notion of stolen kisses, whispered promises and longed-for meetings that can be associated with any picturesque, solitary bench, it does not appear to be a common theme in my personal photography (at least according to my archives thus far, things may change now that the notion in in my head). I am much more apt to wile away an afternoon people watching at a cafe while sipping a latte than perching on a park bench.

market

I am, however, a fan of finding the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and have been known to create bench-like space whenever it is needed. I tend to do this quite often, plopping down curbside to munch on freshly prepared snacks at Farmer’s market or (my personal favorite) pulling up a piece of sidewalk just past Venice’s famous outdoor vegetable market in order to dive into that day’s treasure of succulent berries along the canals.

view 2

While perusing the Farmer’s market on our second day in Venice, we chose three baskets of vibrant, just-off-the-vine-fresh berries to take with us for the rest of the day’s adventures. However, once the clock struck noon, the heat of August was settling in and we daren’t take the chance of squishing our treasures as we strolled through the city. Instead, we sat down right where we were, alongside the canal, and dove in. The berries were sun-kissed and warm, bursting with juice that immediately stained our fingers (better than our bags). We marveled at the architecture of the mansions lining the canal, held our breath as a vaporetto, traveling at high speed, almost clipped a gondola full of tourists, and mostly soaked in the views and feelings of Venice.

traffic jam

We paid no attention to anyone glancing our way.  Rather, we happily created our own canal-side space – as comfortable and entertaining as any park bench – soaking in the sunshine, giggling and gobbling berries.

bench2

Moment of Silence

I had big plans for the blog today. Back on the wagon, so to speak, after some very productive science these past few days. I had photos to share and stories to tell. And then Boston happened. And I am speechless.       boston by night

Even the happiest of stories doesn’t feel right to share right now – that somehow focusing on anything else would be failing those in shock and pain that need our good thoughts, somehow reducing their sorrow to something on par with my ramblings.

freedom trail sam adams statue

So, instead I am choosing to use this space to publicly grieve with a city that was my home for 7 years; a place where I loved, lost and learned what life has to offer each of us. Boston and her people are resilient and they take great pride in their iron will and unflappable spirit. I have no doubt that they will rise from this tragedy stronger than ever.

Fenway

Although no longer my actual home, Boston will always hold a very special place in my heart. It is where my heart, my mind and my words are today.

Wine Steals Lounge, Point Loma

whites with pink

By this time each week (Thursday evening), I’m already daydreaming about the weekend – how I’m going to be concurrently cleaning the house, catching up with friends, troubleshooting experiments in the lab, cooking extensively for next week’s lunches and, of course relaxing and catching up on sleep. It is no surprise that I often feel less-than-satisfied with my weekends with to-do lists like this running circles in my mind. With another work trip on the immediate horizon (T-10 days) that requires some further preliminary data, this is not a weekend with which I can push off the science until Monday.

view If I had the chance to priority the relaxing and friends entries on my list and the weather was poised to cooperate, I would return to Wine Steals in Point Loma. Based in Point Loma’s Liberty Station complex of shops and restaurants, this is one of three Wine Steals wine bars in the greater San Diego area (in addition to others in Hillcrest and Cardiff-by-the-Sea). I have not yet visited the Cardiff location, but the outdoor seating, sun-dappled, dog-friendly patio and country club feel definitely give the Point Loma location the leg up on its Hillcrest cousin.

menuOur group of friends decided to take advantage of the early spring sunshine a few weeks ago and met there for a lazy, long Sunday lunch.  Although they have a complete menu, the interior is mostly a wine shop with just a few high bar tables for tasting or to enjoy a quick glass. If you want to savor your food and/or drink, I would highly suggest nabbing one of the wrought iron patio tables overlooking the Sail Ho Golf Club. Words to the wise – there is no table service, so ordering your food and beverages at the bar is necessary and be sure to bring a coat – once the sun drops out of the direct line of sight, it cools down quickly as it is quite close to the water.

three whitesThe extensive wine list is comprised of multiple whites and reds that are available by the glass. You can either order from these choices, or pick a bottle from the bins inside that the staff will be happy to open for you, then and there, for a $6 corkage fee. Additionally, although it is not listed on the menu, you can design your own wine tasting flights: three wines are chosen and served as half-pours in smaller glasses that fit beautifully in the wrought iron stands that are brought to the table. This was definitely my first choice option – how else could I be expected to familiarize myself with the menu?  Also, for those non-wine drinkers among us, the restaurant also carried a rather extensive selection of locally sourced craft beers,keeping the rest of our group (The Bat) very happy.

lost abbey To compliment our wine and get our picnic on, we ordered two appetizers to start – first, the combination cheese/charcuterie plate and second, a chips & dips platter including hummus, tzatziki and pita and baguette. The dips were well done; creamy, flavorful and clearly house made (or at least close to it), albeit very small servings. The combo cheese and meat plate came piled high with two hunks of four different types of cheeses (the blue was the unanimous winner), five types of cured meats (the pale thuringer was a stand out favorite), cornichons, cherry peppers, honey, mustard and a sun-dried tomato chutney.  While this would have been a formidable feast for two, the six of us around the table demolished both appetizers in no time, along with the initial round of wine flights. 

dipscheese meatTo compliment our switch from whites to red, we decided to order pizzas for the main course. Here our eyes quickly grew larger than our stomachs, which, while not entirely full, certainly did not need the three large pizzas we ended up ordering (it’s so hard to limit oneself when the list of tasty things is so long!). The pies came in two sizes and we all erred on the ‘take home food, rather than leave hungry’ side of things, ordering the larger of the two options, which are rather massive.

veggie Two of the pizzas were relatively standard – one veggie and one ‘almost everything’ (not pictured) – made with a standard crust and a light schmear of a pleasing, herby marinara sauce. The third pizza was a build-your-own concoction of thin cracker crust, garlic sauce, veggies and spicy shrimp, which ended up (surprisingly) as my favorite. There was no skimping on any of the toppings and everything tasted exceptionally fresh and hot out of the oven. It was quality, upscale wine bar food, done the California way.

shrimpWe sat and enjoyed the last of the sunlight before it dropped completely behind the man-made horizon of the surrounding buildings, bundled in sweatshirts and taking advantage of the productive, plentiful propane patio heat lamps. Eventually, one by one, we began to list what was on tap for the week ahead – our lazy Sunday afternoon was quickly transitioning into a forecast of Monday morning – and, on that note we quietly departed, trying to keep that inevitable forward march in check as much as possible.  

redsIt has been a few weeks and with daylight savings time and temperatures rising, I am feeling ready to venture back – perhaps this time on a Saturday afternoon – so the rest and relaxation can linger a bit longer. Unfortunately, science takes precedence this time around. Plus, I have noticed that our temperatures will be dropping for the weekend, so it is definitely a better idea to stick this outing in my proverbial back pocket for taking advantage of the early summer/late spring warmth and sunshine when it arrives. 

(Interesting side note – although I visited the Point Loma and Hillcrest locations within only a month of each other, at the time of patronage their wine lists were completely different. I interpret this to mean that they rotate their house offerings very frequently, as I am hard pressed to imagine that the stock each individual wine bar with a completely different selection than the others. This speaks highly to their turnover, as well as their curiosity about wine.)

Wine Steals Lounge

2970 Truxton Road

San Diego, CA 92106

619-221-1959

Weekly Travel Theme – Pale

pale 2This week brought with it another challenging Weekly Travel Theme from Ailsa over at Where’s My Backpack. “Pale” images are usually the opposite of what I am aiming at with my camera – I much more naturally gravitate to bright colors, dramatic contrast and loud visuals. Yet, there is a delicate power in the soft, quiet colors of cloudy skies and pale petals. I also think it takes more skill to compose and capture an arresting image from these, more subtle, subjects. A talent I am trying to develop, with a little bit of luck, and few favors from Mother Nature here and there. islandsFor my submission, I have chosen a few photos from the end of a whale watching trip we took in early February. What began as a bright, warm, sunny day had turned grey, blustry and cold by the time our boat was headed back to harbor. The cloud cover hid the sun, only allowing the palest pinks and oranges to radiate through. As the afternoon rain built, the color palette shifted from pastels to cooler shade of greys and blues. Without the sun shining down, or the blue sky to contrast, the increasingly choppy ocean also took on a dark pewter hue, such that the water, the Coronado islands in the distance and the sky above were all part of the same color continuum. pale 3The other ships out that day were primarily white, and blended into nature’s color scheme quite well, including this enormous schooner that traveled past us at quite a clip. Despite the advancing storm, the dolphins were also out in droves playing in the wake left behind by our boat, their black, grey and white speckled skin dipping in and out of the white caps, emphasizing how perfectly they were camouflaged for days like this.pale 4There was a calm to the latter half of that day that I believe was influenced by the shifting hues in the sky. After a long day at sea, the chilly breeze and quiet greys lulled as all close to sleep as we approached the dock. And, every once in a while, we would look back out to sea right as the sun peeked through the clouds for a moment, streaming down in pale, yellow shafts and dappling the water with a soft golden sparkle, which was even more magical than when it had been blazing overhead a few hours before. pale 1

 

Coffee & Tea Collective

DSC_0033

I have always been a fan of the coffee house. When I was in college a latte, a locally sourced, ginormous salad and a table in the corner of the café courtyard often got me through mid-terms and finals – the studying portion, at least. When I moved to Boston, and after that Paris, I was surprised to see that the lassiez-faire attitude of coffee houses (or even the focus on delicious coffee) had yet made it eastward. I missed the sense of belonging – the ability to sit, read, work and stay as long as necessary, even with only long-drained coffee in front of me.

DSC_0030

It was with great interest that I began to read about the ‘new’ local coffee movement – coffee houses throughout the US that were buying, roasting and brewing their own beans. The focus was far more on the basic brewed coffee itself – not the flavored syrups added in or the whipped cream decorations atop – that mattered. Coffee was moving beyond a means to a productive, caffeinated end. As an avid consumer, I was thrilled with the focus on making the brew tasty, not just strong (and bitter), which seemed to be the point with coffee culture up until this point. It was with excitement and anticipation that I dragged two colleagues to Coffee & Tea Collective in North Park to taste what all the fuss was about.

DSC_0023

This is definitely a new coffee culture, with the intense focus on the artisanal roasting and the carefully poured drip, (not your usual) filtered cup ‘o joe. I’d have to say, it was utterly worth it. I am, admittedly, just learning to use my descriptive words to classify and select wine (a bit behind, yes, I am), but the coffee that slid past my palate this afternoon deserved just as much attention (and adjectives), as any glass of Pinot Noir on a Friday night.

DSC_0025

Warm, fruity, pungent, strong – the house-roasted, hand-selected coffees at Coffee & Tea collective are worth searching out. Take a seat, enjoy a cup and peruse the eclectic art collection and the airy, high-ceilinged dining room. If you enjoy your cup, be sure to purchase some beans to take home with you – they are just as good when brewed on a lazy Sunday morning (trust me).  I may still be learning about the nuances into the new coffee culture, but I have no doubt that Coffee & Tea collective will be happy to teach me, every step of the way.

DSC_0034

Not to mention that I need to go back to pick up the (at least) three house-blended teas I want to try as well…

DSC_0035