Saturday, November 20, 2010

European Flair in the Hood

One of my favorite things about my new neighborhood is that I am a block away from a bustling street of shops, art galleries and cafes lending me a mini-city experience amidst the grandeur beauty of my desert environment. A fan of walking rather than driving, and of the daily coffee stop in the morning, my life has improved ten fold due to location alone. 

Even better, I've found a blissful, ritual morning place in Il Sogno, which means The Dream in Italian and oh, what a a dream it is. Located on El Paseo, the long rectangular space is dark, intimate and very European in flavor. Unlike the work-a-day rat race atmosphere of the in and out places like Starbucks, Il Sogno's whole ambiance is conducive to the long morning whittled away over a cappuccino frothing over with a thick, whipped head and bites of sinful pastries that line the shelves brimming with color and flavorful concoctions. Heart shaped chocolate souffle lava cakes and pumpkin pecan brulees come in small personalized sizes. Lemon bars cut in dainty strips to dip into tea and fresh pastel colored candies on plates tempt the eye. Buttery fresh croissants laden with rich chocolate, grilled egg and bacon paninis, and miniature quiches of mushroom and swiss cheeses arrive warm and inviting. The service is leisurely as is the conversation and I could easily see this becoming my regular lazy Sunday morning place, when there is nothing else on the agenda and one of everything to savor. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A New Culinary Courtship

I recently moved into a new place to live, one in which I had been hankering for a while over. The location is directly behind a thriving street which is home to lots of choices in yummy food including the addition of specialty food shops, regular grocery stores, and all over the place price-wise restaurants. I decided immediately to avoid the big shopping trip to stock my fridge and shelves because I want to live more like the Europeans - shopping daily for that day's meals, picking things that are fresh and cooking them instantly, and even building up the spices, flavors and herbs in my kitchen to represent what I eat most rather than what most others have. It's been a fun adventure.

When at home, I've stopped thinking of meals in terms of three distinct timed-out things, instead opting to graze amongst a bounty of things I love to eat for both pleasure and purpose. Squares of dark chocolate, nuts, dates, organic sharp cheddar cheese, tortillas, and jalapenos have become my staples.

Today's lunch consisted of one of my favorite quickie home meals.

Sauteed Swiss Chard and Endive Boats

Two huge leaves of red swiss chard
2 cloves garlic
One tablespoon olive oil
One small endive
Gorgonzola Crumbles

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil. Chop the cloves of garlic into tiny chunks and saute till almost browned. Tear the chard leaves into large pieces and saute in the oil/garlic for about ten minutes till wilted but crispy.

Wash and clean the endive and separate the leaves. Place on a plate in a row like tiny canoes. Sprinkle gorgonzola and walnuts into the boats and drizzle with honey.