Olive Tree For You

Do you need/want an olive tree? McEvoy Ranch (the makers of my most frequently used olive oil, and much-loved shower gel and lotion) are closing their tree nursery. Thus, they are having a sale on their trees. 

I love the sight of olive trees with their silvery leaves and gnarly bark, and I don't mind much when they drop hard little black pebbles on the sidewalk. Oh, and the little starry blossoms are just lovely.

I don't know much about making oil from those pebbles, but I gather it's not as easy as processing fruit into jams or veggies into pickles. Sure would be fun to be part of a harvest though. Or take a workshop to learn more. 

Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake

In the end, I didn't feel like making pie, so I turned to Dorie Greenspan and her friend Marie-Hélène's Apple Cake.

No, no, that's not my photo - it's from her cookbook "Around My French Table" and its listing on, where you can find the recipe if you just scroll down.

I doubled up the recipe because all these apples need dealing with, I added some lemon and orange zest to the apple bits, and I left out the rum because I didn't have any.

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

Assembly, originally uploaded by elkit.

It's Rouladenfest at my house today! "Roulade" is really just the French word for "roll", and that's exactly what they are: beef rolls. In today's parlance, you might call them wraps. Beef wraps.

This is a traditional German dish, and I am lucky enough to live near a German butcher store. (If you live in the South Bay or Peninsula, I recommend them highly: Dittmer's in Mountain View.)

So I don't have to worry about the cut or quality of the meat - I just waltz into Dittmer's and tell them how many rouladen I want. (I usually go for 2 per person, because my friends all tend to be good little eaters, like myself. And if you have leftovers - score! These taste even better the next day.)

Go home, set up like in the picture, and start prepping:

- unroll the slices of beef
- salt and pepper them
- spread mustard on them (I used Dijon; pick whatever you like that will go well with beef
- add a slice of bacon on top
- then sliced onion
- then sliced pickles

As you add stuff on top, keep in mind how you will roll them back up. I rolled them from the bottom to the top, so I placed the filling lower, and left room at the top. I also made sure not to overstuff them - they'll fall apart or jettison bits out the sides if you do that. 

Anyway, now you roll the beef back up, and secure each roulade with a toothpick, so it'll look like this

Heat your favorite oil or butter in a heavy saucepan (I like my Dutch oven for this task), and brown the rouladen from all sides. Put the lid on and cook on medium heat for about two hours. 

I serve these with dumplings (bread dumplings and/or potato dumplings), red cabbage and/or sauerkraut, and gravy. (I can buy all of these at Dittmer's, but isn't it great that also has all of these? I do love my interwebs!)

Closest Thing to Heaven

At The French Laundry, originally uploaded by elkit.

My best friend Holly and I took Friday off and drove up to Yountville in Napa Valley, for a lunch at the famed French Laundry, considered by many to be the finest restaurant in the country. I tried very hard not to expect the best meal of my life - just a good meal well worth the experience. And I figured that if anything would turn out less than wonderful, at least I would be able to say I'd been there, and now I knew what it was like.

But you know what? It really WAS the best meal I have ever had, and I have a hard time trying to tell you what the best thing was, or which course I liked best.

It was the most expensive meal I have ever had (it's a ten-course prix fixe meal, and costs $240 per person), but it was honestly worth every penny. The service was impeccable. Classy and not snooty at all. Everybody made us feel welcome, and the staff took such excellent care of us that I wanted to marry at least three of the gentlemen on the spot. We showed up at 11am, were led gently and professionally without a rush through all the courses, and left full (but not overstuffed) and happy around 2:30.

The dish in this picture is well worth mentioning: Santa Barbara sea urchin with black truffle "pain perdu", tokyo turnips, granny smith apple (those pale green pearls), mizuna, and sauce périgourdine. I keep thinking of how this tasted. I've never had fresh sea urchin before, which was one of the reasons I picked this course over the other fish option, the bass. The orange bits are the urchin, and oh wow, it was like a mouthful of ocean become flesh. It was wondrously delicious, and this alone was worth the drive.

What a meal!


I'm still swooning. [Oh, and here's more pornographic pictures and details for all you foodies.]

Shakin' It, Baby, Shake It, Shakin' It Shakin' It Shake

Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie, originally uploaded by elkit.

I tried out the Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie recipe after my friend Mahesh was kind enough to bring me Meyer lemons. Yes, I have a lemon tree, but Meyers are so very different from the "regular" varieties. I like how this came out - sweet and sour and bitter all at once.

Bitter from the lemon rind and pith (you use the whole lemon, sliced as thin as you can get it), sour from the lemon, and sweet from the sugar and eggs you add to make a kind of custard.

if you like puckery flavors like sour candies and candied ginger, you'll like this. If you like your sweets just sweet, without a bite, this is not for you. But not to worry, the next lemon pound cake is coming up soon. ;-)