A blog is born!

And unlike a baby, it had to be named before it could be born. Also unlike a baby, the blog has no gender. But it was still difficult to choose a name.

Why Creative Fog?

  • because fog  creates a mysterious, writer-ly atmosphere. It seems like anything can  happen in the fog — it’s secretive, ephemeral, and fleeting. Much like the creative muse.
  • because fog is iconic to San Francisco, where I live — it existed  long before the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, or even the city itself.

fog gg bridge [pd]       OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

  • because fog, as Carl Sandburg wrote, “comes on little cat feet…” — that’s how ideas creep up on me, out of a creative fog.
  • because fog refreshes what is stale and tired, including my imagination.
  • because “fog” rhymes with “blog.”

                                                                 cat paw prints

P is for Pause…

Alas, I must take a time out in this alphabet game, because I am facing a deadline on finishing my novel (Camp Nano ends April 30th!)

campnano2

Researching and writing these food-related posts has been fascinating and mouth-watering and WAY too much fun! ;-D  Once I cross the Camp Nano finish line…

campnano2013

…I’ll return my food posts and complete the alphabet == starting with my favorite food – P is for PASTA !  Yum, can’t wait!

poster 2

O is for Olives

Olives! 

olives

Olives have a long and ancient history.Legend has it that Athena and Poseidon were bickering over who owned Athens. [You can probably guess how this story ends, given the name of the city ;-)] Poseidon,the god of the sea, stuck his trident into the Acropolis and a salt water spring gushed forth. Cool! and a hard act to follow…

olive tree athena

…Next up? Athena, goddess of wisdom and war, who planted the first olive tree on the Acropolis, next to the well.

olive tree acropolis

The rest of the gods voted [Zeus was the Simon Cowell of the times] and judged that Athena won possession of the city, because her gift was the most useful.

And they were right! The ancient Mediterranean fruit and its oil have been valuable to civilizations for millennia, providing food, light, cosmetics, and health benefits. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, all considered the olive sacred.

Olive oil was used for cooking and lighting,  anointed athletes, royalty, and priests, and was burned as the eternal flame for the original Olympic games.

olympic flame

Olive wreaths were awarded to crown the victors in competitions, and olive branches were offered as symbols of peace.

wreath picasso peace

Originally a Mediterranean tree, the Spanish explorers brought the olive to the new world, and olive cultivation now flourishes around the world wherever the climate is similar to the Mediterranean.

olives growing olives greece [198x238]

The technique hasn’t varied much — knock the olives off the branches, let them dry in the sun.

olive harvest old [274x112] olive harvest now [208x112]

And then eat!

Fried olives are a tasty treat, and fun for parties — there are a lot of recipes out there — this one uses green olives stuffed with provolone cheese, so after frying there are 3 levels of texture and flavor in one bite: the crunch of the exterior, the meaty olive interior, and then the melty cheese core. Yum.😉

olives fried [196x143]

Baked olives are an old Italian tradition, and simple to prepare — here’s one version (from Williams-Sonoma):

baked olives wm-sonoma [196x180]

  • Combine in a bowl 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 rosemary sprigs, the zest of 1 orange, cut into long thin strips, and 1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes.
  • Toss with about 3 cups of assorted black and green olives.
  • Transfer to a small baking dish and bake at 400 until the olives are warmed through, about 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Orzo with feta and olives is a simple and satisfying dish:

olives orzo feta [194x126]

  • Prepare 1 pound orzo according to package directions.
  • Whisk together 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, and the juice of half a lemon (or use lemon-infused olive oil)
  • Combine with the pasta, stirring to coat well.
  • Toss with a cup of black olives (pitted) and a cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • Add freshly ground black pepper to taste, and serve.

You can also adapt this recipe using rice, and  serve it at room temperature as a salad or antipasti.

There are many varieties of olives available in the deli section of most supermarkets today,

olives2

but when I was a kid there were only two kinds, and both came in jars or cans – green with pimentos, and black, pitted. My favorite was always the black olives.

Garlic Olives were a popular hors d’ouevre in my family when we were growing up, and it still is, even with all the other olive options now available. It’s a very simple and inexpensive recipe:

garlic olives [206x169]

  • Use large black pitted olives, the kind that come in a can. Drain the brine.
  • Put olives in a shallow glass or ceramic bowl or container — add olive oil to just barely cover.
  • Add lots of garlic cloves. Nowadays I also often add some sprigs of rosemary, and/or chile pepper flakes.
  • Cover and let it marinate for a couple of hours (minimum) at room temperature, or longer, in the refrigerator.
  • Serve at room temperature.

In the unlikely event there are any leftover, they will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

As kids, we thought these were the height of sophistication, even though we certainly were not — we’d stick our fingers in the olive holes and then nibble the olives off each finger. Definitely not sophisticated etiquette, but it was fun.

Of course, the olive adds the final, all-important touch to that classic cocktail of true sophistication: the martini. Cheers!

martini

N is for Nduja

N is for wha-hat?

Nduja” is a spicy spreadable salami from Calabria.  It’s pronounced “en-DOO-ya” – which sounds sort of like its Cajun cousin, andouille.

nduja boccaloneI prefer not to know too many details about what goes into  sausages, but basically, nduja is made of pork [details here, if you must know] with roasted chile peppers. Like hard salami, nduja is cured in a casing, but the texture remains soft and spread-able at room temperature.

It’s fiery flavor adds kick when stirred into pasta sauces, vegetables, or beans; it’s also great just spread on grilled bread, panini, and pizzas.

The only place I know of where it’s available is Boccalone, at the Ferry Building or by mail order. Boccalone takes its salumi seriously (see, e.g., their Salumi Manifesto, discussing a

…renaissance of American Salumi.

This movement will be led – first and foremost —

by individual salumi lovers who recognize the character

of fine salumi and value its place in their lives.

ferry building  boccalone

Boccalone, as a proud purveyor of Tasty Salted Pig Parts, is eloquent about its salumis. The descriptions  read like a wine list:

 Nduja’s flavor profile reflects Southern Italy’s African/Moorish heritage.

A blend of chilis balances a smoky spiciness with an element of bitter orange, warm spice,

and the palate-clearing tanginess lent by a vigorous fermentation.

 Nduja is not cheap. But it is a real treat😉

Recipes?  Nothing fancy. As antipasto, just spread on crusty Italian bread; grill or toast the bread lightly for bruschetta. Accompany with olives, tomatoes, and some pecorino, and wash down with a robust red wine.

nduja bread [260x163] nduja penne [235x164]

Nduja goes all melty when you add some heat. Depending on how spicy you like your food, use about 2 teaspoons nduja per serving; adjust to taste.

Stir it into minestrone soup to add a little kick. Or add to a tomato-based sauce, or just heat in a pan, with a little olive oil and garlic and then toss with pasta and sprinkle with parsley and grated Parma.

M is for Macaroni & Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is, for me, the ultimate comfort food.

mac cheese close up

I’ve been loving the  upscale-homestyle cooking trend of the past several years, where every other restaurant chef has a version of macaroni and cheese on the menu. They’re all delicious, some very creative, but really, I can do without truffle oil and exotic cheeses.

I’m happy with just the basics – elbow macaroni (or, okay, cavatappi ;-p) mixed with a sauce of good cheddar cheese, topped with crunchy bread crumbs, and baked until bubbling.

Everyone has a favorite recipe;  I’m always tinkering with mine to make sure there’s enough “sauciness” and it doesn’t dry out while baking, but also not too soupy.

This is a pretty good “base” recipe – I add a pinch of dry mustard to the sauce, and a little more paprika to the toasted bread crumbs.

basic mac cheese fannie farmer mac And this is the classic from Fannie Farmer – this also works well, although I never use cream — just add more milk and cheese.

It takes some time to get it just right. And the results are worth the time.

But sometimes I just don’t have the time…or the energy….or the ingredients….

In that sort of emergency situation,  I confess:  I will resort to Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese.

KraftI was introduced to Kraft in college, where it turned out to be a delicious way of soaking up all the beer and cocktails from a night of partying (ah, the resilience of youth!)

But even though those days of yore and cocktails are long past…still, whenever I’m feeling maybe a little sick, or really tired, and I want something satisfying to eat but I don’t want to cook – well, it’s just so dang easy to whip up a pot!

Of course, it’s nothing like REAL macaroni and cheese, and it’s frightening to contemplate what makes that cheese powder glow such a neon orange. But it’s incredibly tasty (thanks to the scientists at the Kraft labs ;-p)

broccoli      broccoli mac

And hey, if I add a handful of broccoli florets, it’s practically healthy!😀

How about you? Do you have a favorite macaroni & cheese recipe?

L is for Lobster Roll

It’s been warming up around here, which makes me think of summer, which makes me think of

mv lobster rolls

Growing up back East, I spent part of some summers on Martha’s Vineyard and in Ogunquit, Maine.

barnacle billys  barnacle billys view [323x237]

But I confess I never learned how to dismantle a lobster, despite all the helpful instructions on place mats

lobster placemat[much like these official instructions  courtesy of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.]

Of course, this was in the days before YouTube – now there are plenty of tutorials on-line. This one is fun, b/c it’s very realistic.…a man…his lobster...and a dog whining in the b.g., hoping for a lobster tidbit….(fat chance)

The most important direction is the easiest “….dip it in the melted butter…then eat.”  — but I could never get to that point without someone’s help.

Embarrassing but true. Heck, even my grandma could deal with a lobster…when she ordered one at a restaurant, all her conversation stopped for about 15 minutes, and by the end of that time, she looked very content and the lobster looked like it had been staked out on an anthill.

Maybe that’s why I loved lobster rolls – all the succulent, tender goodness without having to wrestle with nutcrackers and picks and flying bits of shell.

lobster roll woodhouse [398x298]

The lobster roll was first created in 1929, at a Connecticut restaurant called Perry’s. The traditional Connecticut lobster roll is lobster meat (knuckle, claw, and tail) coated in melted butter, served warm on a hot dog bun.

Slight variations throughout New England may include some chopped celery or scallions, tossed with mayonnaise, and served cold, on a toasted buttered split-top roll.

Usual sides are chips and/or fries.

The best lobster rolls are also the simplest – lobster meat, bound together with just a touch of mayo, a squirt of lemon, a little salt and pepper to taste, mounded on a split roll, lightly toasted, lightly buttered.

That’s it. Well, maybe a bit of chopped celery. But no hot pepper, no mustard, dill, chives, herbes de Provence…not even any garlic (and I love garlic).

Just let the luxurious, delicate flavor of the fresh lobster meat shine through to your palate ;-D

An entire continent now separates me from the genuine New England treat, but luckily in San Francisco there are several places that serve a pretty dang fine bug roll, considerin’ they-ah From Away,  ay-yup!

The Woodhouse Fish Co. on Fillmore (a long purple octopus tentacle stretches from the top window) tosses the lobster meat with a very light touch of mayo, and serves with a side of slaw and skinny fries.

woodhouse ext [182x127]lobster roll2  woodhouse [246x175]

Sam’s Chowder House down in Half Moon Bay plays by the Connecticut rules, and the lobster meat is warm, buttery, and simple.
Slaw and chips on the side. Sam’s lobster roll was selected as one of the Top 5 sandwiches in the US.  It requires a car and about a half-hour drive from San Francisco to get there, but it’s also got the spectacular ocean views to provide a properly nautical atmosphere for your seafood eating experience ;-D

sams sign sams deck [160x160] sams lobster roll [197x215]

Manoman I am hungry now. Too bad they don’t deliver.