Saturday, November 7, 2009

Titas Pupuseria

I LOVE visiting my sister and the boys in Southern Cal. Last visit we spent two days on the beach, a day at the water park, a day in the pool and my sister MADE me a stunning bracelet with Jade and Ruby beads. I’m so lucky.
Sometimes we fly but this time we drove. Robert and I have driven on I- 5 many times, we like being in the car together, listening to audio books and playing “guess the produce“ in both the fields and big-rigs.
When it comes to food the 5 is a fast food lover’s dream, something we don’t relate to. But there is one spot I’ve always wanted to stop at: “Taste of India” at Buttonwillow exit # 257. Every time we pass by we are either not hungry anymore or not hungry yet but this time I insisted we stop on the way back and we did.
It was closed.
So we turned back and went to the taco truck we saw when we exited. It was awesome.
The tongue taco was perfectly cooked and seasoned, so was the Pastor.
Robert’s meat and cheese Pupusa was much better then my squash and cheese, but if you are vegetarian out there on I-5, the Calabasa Pupusa is your best bet by far. The pupusas came with the traditional “slaw”, all other toppings were self serve in a refrigerated well behind a sliding plastic guard on the truck. The tomatillo salsa and fried whole young JalapeƱos were outstanding.

We live and work in east Oakland, we KNOW our taco trucks, and I’m pretty sure that if you took Titas Pupuseria and planted it on International Blvd. it would still kick ass.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Robert’s B. Day

I’m so behind on my blogging it’s hard to know where to start.
So I figure might as well work backwards.
Last thing to happen was Robert’s
As usual we had a party; as usual a few pigs had to be sacrificed.
We started with three wild boar legs.
One became Pozole and was juicy, tender and hearty. The other was roasted wrapped in bacon which, I’m sorry to say was just so. The best by far was the one who became sausage.
We went with two options- the Italian and the Vietnamese. With fennel, red chili flake, parsley and garlic. With ginger, Jalopeno, lemongrass, cilantro, garlic and fish sauce.
I’m not sure which was better, if you were here you can vote.

Guess nothing is perfect, not even Birthday cake forgotten in the freezer…
BUT the friendships and love we share is probably as close as it gets.
Thank you all for being our trib.

P.S please send me some photos, PLEASE!!!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer at San Quentin

My Friend Jill is AWESOME! She is one of those people who actually act according to their good intentions. She has done rides, hikes, walks and marathons (yes, all in plural) to raise funds for different charitable causes. When we catered Jill’s 50th birthday all her friends came ready with a check book knowing her favorite gift is a donation to a cause she supports.

Currently she volunteers at San Quentin State Prison as a part of their rehabilitation programs. She is helping to facilitate a fundraiser that we think is great. However, the best thing about this event is that it wasn’t Jill’s idea. One of the inmates at San Quentin watched a commercial for the Avon walk on T.V and was so touched he approached Jill and asked if she could help him put it together.
Now, I’m a cheese ball, we know that. But this is so extraordinary, so surprising and touching; I though this story would make Everyone’s Friday even better.

Here are Jill’s words and details:

“Friends, I write to ask you to support the S.F. Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in a very special way. I will be walking the 2 day, 39 miles with a group of very special men who happen to be incarcerated at San Quentin Prison. We will not, of course, be walking through the streets of S.F. We will walk behind the prison walls on July 11 and 12, at the same time the Avon Walk occurs over the Golden Gate Bridge. The men want to add their voice to the call for awareness, treatment, education, and cure of breast cancer in our society. I am honored to have been asked to help them make this event happen, with the help of other volunteers and the prison's administration. Please show your support for both the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer AND the compassionate act of the men of San Quentin by donating at

and spreading the word among your various networks. Our goal is to raise $10,000 but I'm hoping that together we can exceed that goal. On behalf of the men and myself, I extend my deep gratitude to you for your support. Jill

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Difference between Zion and Yosemite

According to Julian my almost 9 year old nephew, is that Zion has it on the cliffs while Yosemite takes it on the waterfalls.
Our trip to Zion national park was awesome. We started with Uvaggio’s Rose, , by far my favorite Lodi winery. We continued with the crisp and delightful Y3 Sauvignon Blanc by Jax Vineyards .Qupe’s Syrah was disappointing.
We swung back with the always wonderful Navarro Pinot Noir which we shared over Friday night dinner and Challah shaped by the kids and baked in our friends’ RV.

My favorite part of the trip was our hike to Angel’s Landing. My sister and I set out early in the morning (well…7:30am is early for some people), took the park shuttle and without much expectation beyond a few hours of just us out having fun, started the trail that would later turn into the best, most thrilling hike we have ever done.

A couple little culinary related notes: My sister got these amazing Jonagold apples at Costco. They were perfectly balanced between sweet and sour, were big, crisp and insanely juicy. Another Costco super find was Mrs. May’s dry roasted snacks we had the Cran-Blueberry crunch and could not get enough of it.
Between her shopping skills and her willingness to get up at 7 to hike with me, my sister takes the cake, or most likely PB and Jelly bars: I adopted this recipe years ago and it’s always a hit. I love it with apricot jam, with my home made Meyer lemon marmalade, or with raspberry jam.

Next month it’s Yosemite and King’s canyon. Can’t wait.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What does the goy do for passover?

Well, he makes matzo (or matzoh, matzah, matze, matza, matsah, come on, make up your mind by now).

This project started with the wife's emailed list of job duties for the ladies who would be in attendance at the passover feast, and me, the only gentile of the bunch. Specifically, she wrote this:

"Robert- you need to brush up on your Matzo skills and get a wok ready so we can bake outside. You're also going to need to help me get all the stuff in the car..."

Robert's reply is "I will refer back to my youth as a christian preachers son, raised in rural central Oregon on meat, potatoes, guns and Jesus, and will try to remember what that taught me about making Matzo."

Mica wanted me to cook the crackers in a manner that I have in the past on camping trips by flopping the dough on an inverted wok with a fire underneath. I opted for a cast-iron flattop on a blazing hot weber bbq. For the dough, I used a mixture of all purpose unbleached white and whole wheat flours, a bit of olive oil, water to make a nice stretchable cracker dough (I always go for wetter doughs), and salt to taste. As we were at the sis-in-laws, cooking tools were a bit limited, so the dough was mixed by hand. Sorry for the lack of exact measurements, this was a first for me, and I was just making it up as I went.

Now, for photos
1st, the mis en place with Julian.

2nd, preliminary shaping of dough.

3rd, rolling the dough super thin.

4th, docking the dough, this one has zatar on it.

5th, almost done, this is with onions, you can see a few that fell off.

6th, a bit of the finished product.

It turned out great, everyone was happy, no one got hurt, and I will not be making gefilte fish next year.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Black Forest Cake

So, it was my friend Rich’s birthday (yes, he is 39 again), and that means cake time. Last year for his birthday I made him a carrot cake with cream cheese icing. Though he was very happy and grateful, he told me his favorite cake is Black Forest. This year, after having my memory refreshed by his girlfriend and my very good friend Janet, I made him a Black Forest cake. After eating it, Rich told Janet the cake was awesome, but his favorite cake is Black Forest. I’m not sure how our food memory works; I think it has to do more with feelings than with taste buds. That cake on your 6th birthday, whether store bought, out of a box or made from scratch will always be your favorite. For example, my mom’s favorite part of just about any dish is the burnt stuff at the edges. I’m not sure what Rich’s favorite cake is, but here is his Black Forest birthday cake from 2009.

Easy, always turns out perfect, chocolate cake
3oz bittersweet chocolate
1½ cup hot coffee
2½ cup AP flour
1½ cup cacao powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
3 cups sugar
1½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
1½ cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Line two 9” round pans with parchment, oil and flour the sides. Though you only need one of these cakes it’s really hard to cut the recipe in half. They do freeze well…
Melt the chocolate with the hot coffee and set to cool at room temp. Sift together flour, cacao, baking powder and baking soda. With electric mixer whip eggs, sugar salt and vanilla. When light and fluffy add the oil gradually. Add the buttermilk to the melted chocolate and coffee. Add the flour mix to the whipped eggs, alternating with the liquids. When alternating the addition of dry and wet ingredients always start and end with the dry ingredients. Mix the batter well to make sure there are no lumps.
Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for about 45 minutes. Rotate in the middle of baking for an even bake. Cake will be ready when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry. Bake the cake at least a day before you assemble.
Before assembling the cake, if your cake has a dome cut it off so the top layer is even, then cut it into three layers. To do so, you need to use a long serrated knife. Cut the cake about ¾” from the top as even as you can. Remove the top slice and repeat. It’s best if you can put each slice on a round cardboard but a plate would do.

Cherry filling
1 quart jar pitted sour cherries in syrup
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup cold water

In a sauce pan bring the cherries with the syrup to a boil. You might want to add some sugar or lemon juice to the cherry filling, depending on your taste. When cherries come to a boil, combine the cold water and starch in a small bowl; make sure there are no lumps. Add to the boiling cherries and stir well. Bring back to a boil, remove from flame. Chill. The filling has to be refrigerator cold before you assemble.

1 cup water
8oz sugar
2 Tablespoon Kirsch
Juice of ½ lemon

Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute take off the flame and chill. When cold, add Kirsch and lemon.

Whipped cream
4 cups cold manufacturing cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Whip together to medium firm (not sloppy soft, but not butter).
Whip the cream just before you are ready to assemble the cake.

Chocolate shavings
8 oz bittersweet chocolate

Melt the chocolate over steam or in microwave. Spread a very thin layer onto a stainless steel or marble surface. When the chocolate is set, scrape it off the surface with a bench scraper or the edge of a metal spatula to create shavings. Collect the shavings in a wide pan.


Put the first slice of cake down on a board or plate. Brush it heavily with the syrup. Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain #6 tip with part of the whipped cream. Pipe a circle of cream on the outer perimeter of the cake, pipe a second and a third going closer and closer to the center on the cake about ½” apart. Pipe a round of cream in the center. Using a spoon fill the gaps between the circles of cream with the cherry filling. Top the cream and cherry layer with a layer of cake. Repeat the whole process. Top with the third layer and brush with syrup.
Use the rest of the cream to ice the sides and top of the cake leaving a little aside for decorating.
Working above the wide pan with the shavings, hold the cake with one hand and attach the chocolate shavings to the outside of the cake with the other. Keep turning the cake and pressing the shavings into it until the sides are all covered, keep reusing the shavings as they fall back into the pan.
Use the left over cherries and cream to decorate as you please.

The cake is best made at least 4 hours before serving and must be stored in the refrigerator. Good Luck!