R is for Rice


So, the story goes like this. I used to live in Valencia, Spain. And when you live in the land that invented paella, you get used to people talking about rice. They will tell you LOTS of things about paella: how they make paella, where to eat paella ("Oh, not that place, it's far too touristy! Ja ja ja!"), when to eat paella (and of course, por DIOS, when NOT to eat paella: dinner, in case you were wondering, you may NOT eat paella for dinner), how during the 50's people started putting pigeon in their paella... wait, not pigeon, rabbit... pigeon was another story. Oh, and they WILL yell at you if you put olives in your paella, so don't try that either. I remember one time there was a paella competition at the school I used to teach at and the winning team was disqualified because they had snuck in a water bottle full of chicken broth. NOT allowed, people! In a word, they are passionate about their paella. And with good reason, I suppose, since it is delicious, healthy, and very beautiful to look at.*

When I'm feeling a little Spain-sick, I tend to need to get a fix of something Spanish. People get a little nervy when I try to kiss both of their cheeks, so I generally tend towards an Almodóvar movie, maybe a little David Bisbal, or I might whip up a tortilla española. (Side note: I found an episode of Cuéntame Cómo Pasó on TV at my sister's house and almost peed my pants.) But this time I decided to celebrate the Spain in me by making a paella... And, even though this might be giving away the Valencian rice farm, I have included a step-by-step recipe (Spanish style). Number 11 is the most important step, so ignore at your own risk.

1 Paella-Ingredients 2 Olivas 3 Queso 4 Paella-1

1. Stir

2. Stir

3. Stir

4. Open

5 Paella-2

5. Stir

6. Stir

7. Oooh, so pretty!

8. Stir

6 Paella-3

9. Stir

10. Sprinkle, let settle.

11. DO NOT STIR!  Are you trying to make risotto? You can go to Italy for that mushy crap! (j/k my Italian friends!)

12. DO NOT STIR! NO TOUCHING! For to look only!

7 Final-Paella

So yes, the moral of the story is "DON'T TOUCH THE RICE." I remember fondly/traumatically when a friend's mamá was talking me through the recipe. As some may know, I love to stir food while it's cooking. I don't know why, I just do. The poor woman essentially had to hit my hand to keep me from stirring that damn rice.

Making paella is a lesson in self-control! Also, if you DO stir the rice, you won't get that yummy burnt socarrat at the bottom, which is enough of a punishment. 8 Paella-Texture-shot 9 Paella-Texture-shot-2 10 Side-Paella 11 Wine-and-CheeseHey you! DON'T TOUCH THE RICE!

*If, in this paragraph, it sounds like I'm making fun of Spanish people... 1) I'm partly joking with a few people who know who they are, and 2) Yes, yes I am. But I love them and their paella tunnel vision.

I is for Ice Cream

Number of bowls of ice cream eaten in my life: more than 1,000Number of years worked as a professional ice cream scooper: 4 Number of countries in which bowls of ice cream were eaten: more than 4, less than 20. Number of times made ice cream myself: 0

These statistics are skewed! It was time to change that big fat ZERO. I have happily admired, eaten and served ice cream for years without ever trying to make it myself. That's crazy. I don't know if any of you have ever tried to make ice cream, but I can now put myself among the elite. And I have two words to describe the experience: WOW, and YUM.

At home in Ann Arbor with my folks, we spent a lot of time this weekend watching Wimbledon and making things. I had found this recipe in the July Real Simple magazine, and was really excited to make my favorite ice cream flavor: Mint chip.

The ingredients are "real simple:"

2 bunches fresh mint

1 cup whole milk

1 cup sugar

2 cups heavy cream

6 large egg yolks

4 ounces semisweet chocolate

The mint leaves I found were definitely spearmint, and they reminded me of the tea we drank in Morocco, the kind that isn't really tea, it's just mint leaves and sugar.  The recipe called for two "bunches” and since who knows what THAT means, what I included could very well have been 4 bunches, or even 8! It was MINTY.

First step: The MINT.


What a beautiful bowl of mint!

Not quite as attractive after it takes a sauna with whole milk and heavy cream...

Second step: The CUSTARD.


It was at this point that I realized: Green ice cream can be naturally green in color! This was 100% natural green color.

This part was highly labor intensive. Thankfully, I had two sous chefs.

Third step: CHURN, baby CHURN.

Oh, this is the fun part... The Kitchenaid mixer doesn't have a lid so you can watch the show.


Fourth step: The CHOCOLATE. And a little nod to San Francisco!


Fifth step: The EATING.


Even Mabel enjoyed the mint... Mint-Ice-Cream-with-Mabel

Ooh my. If I had to give this ice cream a name, it would be Moroccan Mint Chip. You're transported to Marrakech with each bite. Exotic, calming, delicious.

And it will always remind me of tennis.

G is for Granola


I’ll just start by saying that the adjective “granola” was a mystery to me. I had heard the words “crunchy” and “hippy” before, mostly to describe the Haight street dwellers (as well as Californians in general) but had never myself understood using granola to describe people. If you look up the definition of “granola” in the Urban Dictionary, you get the following humorously long-winded response:

“An adjective used to describe people who are environmentally aware (flower child, tree-hugger), open-minded, left-winged, socially aware and active, queer or queer-positive, anti-oppressive/discriminatory (racial, sexual, gender, class, age, etc.) with an organic and natural emphasis on living, who will usually refrain from consuming or using anything containing animals and animal by-products (for health and/or environmental reasons), as well as limit consumption of what he or she does consume, as granola people are usually concerned about wasting resources. Usually buy only fair-trade goods and refrain from buying from large corporations, as most exploit the environment as well as their workers, which goes against granola core values. This definition is sometimes confused with hippy.”

Oh my God, they just described most people I know. With the exception of the “animal and animal by-product” part, and since they also added the qualifier “usually,” (thanks for that, by the way, nobody’s perfect,) they also just described me!

I am [usually] granola!

Yes! And what better way to celebrate one’s granola-ness than a Granola Gathering in Golden Gate Park on Pride weekend in San Francisco. Boom.

You’ve heard of a wine “tasting” or a coffee “cupping.” Well, what we had was a granola “bowling.” Four bowls, four recipes*, four gals who like to gab.

*You’ll find links to all four recipes below, with comments describing each one, followed by some glorious photos.

1. Smitten Kitchen: Big Cluster Maple Granola (From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman)

I have been making this recipe for months, and I cannot get enough. Her magic touch of an egg white creates chunky clusters if you let it cool completely. It's simple, yet the coconut and maple add a little pizzaz. The girls described it as a great “everyday” granola.

2. Iowa Girl Eats: Maple Almond Granola

Holy crap. This granola was hands down our favorite. The only thing I changed about this recipe was that I added a whipped egg white right before baking it, a là Deb Perelman. It worked like a charm. The girls decided this one “tasted like a bakery.” I think it was the vanilla and almond extract that gave it that flair. It tasted like heaven.

3. Emily Levenson: Peanut Butter + Honey Granola

I HAD to try a PB granola. And this one did not disappoint. I substituted flax seeds for the chia seeds, and the PB flavor was subtle and not overwhelming. Wendy said something like, “I don’t usually like peanut butter flavors, but this is delicious.”

4. Allrecipes: Ultimate Irresistible Granola

Molly brought this batch, and it was outright finger-lickin’ good. A chewier variation, it had all the elements of a classic, everyday granola: crunch, salt, and a little sweet. We all agreed we could eat this granola every day (and probably will.)

1Part1Granola 2GranolaMakingCollage 3Part2Granola 5GranolaCloseup 6Part3Granola 7Part3ParkPhoto 8Part4Granola

And so they don't kill me for ONLY including pictures of them eating:


So pretty. Oh! Don't forget the doggie bags! 10DoggieBagHey you! Do you have a favorite granola recipe? I'd love to try it!

Also: Check out the 2010 "G" post here. One of my favorites from the OG Alphabet Summer.