29 April 2009

Big Basin Getwaway: Part II, The Food

As promised, here's the foof-y, foodie part of our 'glamping' weekend in Big Basin. What is it about cooking over an open fire and eating under the sun and moon that makes everything taste so good? The menu was planned around good, simple, healthy food, and easy prep and clean up. And everything except the salmon preparation was already an 'indoor standard.' All recipes serve four people.

Lanterns and romantic candlelight

I found these very 60's-pool-party battery-operated "Japanese" lanterns in Longs' seasonal aisle and we packed a box of canning jars because they're great for tea candles and for hot and cold drinks. And I brought my iPod and speakers and so did Donna and Dan.

Camp kitchen set up for lunch; frico (just before they completely disappeared...)

Friday Lunch

Italian Turkey Sausage and Peppers
Almost slice through four sausages lengthwise and roughly slice one onion and one green pepper and saute all in olive oil heated in a hot skillet over medium flame until the sausages are browned and the vegetables are caramelized. Salt and pepper vegetables and warm whole-wheat buns and plate.

Red Cabbage and Pear Cole Slaw:
I recently made this for dinner when my dear friend Dena visited from 'Gene, OR, and she featured the recipe on her great food blog, Dena's Recipe Exchange. You should definitely click through her great posts. My blog hits your screen because she did so much to encourage me and physically make it possible.

Crabcakes cooking away in the cast-iron skillet and plated with aioli and lemon

Friday Dinner


This couldn't be easier: heat a cast-iron skillet until hot with a little olive oil over medium-high flame and distribute a handful of parmesan or asiago cheese across the pan. Flip so it's golden brown on both sides and remove to a plate to crisp and cool for a moment and then break into pieces and pass around. Repeat.

Dice one celery rib, two scallion bulbs, one shallot, and one small carrot and mix with two cans crabmeat, one teaspoon mustard, two tablespoons mayonnaise, two tablespoons whole-wheat breadcrumbs or panko, one egg, and salt and pepper. Form into four cakes and bread with additional crumbs, chill, and brown in hot oil in a hot pan over medium flame and plate with aioli and lemon wedges.

Mince one clove garlic and mix with the juice from one-half lemon, one tablespoon olive oil, and two tablespoons mayonnaise.

Salmon glazed and skewered, and cooking away in the firepit

Glazed Salmon
Mix one tablespoon olive oil, one tablespoon balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon mustard, one teaspoon agave syrup, one teaspoon minced fresh dill, one minced scallion bulb, and salt and pepper and coat four salmon fillets. Skewer or place on grill until lightly charred and done to taste and plate with lemon wedges

I had been thinking about cedar-planking the salmon, but I decided that skewering them and cooking them vertically in the firepit would be a lot easier and just as fun. Donna completely thought the fillets would fall in the ashes, but balls of foil stabilized the skewers and the fillets, and it was great fun to do, and they came out perfectly cooked.

Secondo piatto: salmon plated with couscous and braised endive and radicchio; pears braising in prosecco in the cast-iron skillet

Braised Radicchio and Endive
Trim the stems of six small heads of endive and/or radicchio di treviso and slice lengthwise in half and place cut-face down in a hot pan with hot olive oil over a medium-low flame. Salt and pepper and drizzle several tablespoons of stock, wine, or water and let brown. Turn and brown, and plate.

Whole -Wheat Couscous with Shallots and Dried Berries
Mix one- and-a-half cup of whole-wheat couscous in a large covered serving dish with a small handful of dried blueberries, currants, cranberries, raisins, and/or other dried fruit. Add one-and-three-quarters boiling water , stir, and cover for five minutes. Add one minced shallot, salt and pepper, and one tablespoon olive oil and fluff with a fork and serve.

Wild Arugula with Citrus-Caper Vinaigrette
Add two tablespoons olive oil, two tablespoons balsamic vinegar, juice from one-half lemon or orange, one teaspoon mustard, one-half teaspoon capers, one small shallot minced, and a drizzle of agave syrup to a jar and shake until emulsified.

Pears Braised in Prosecco
Slice three pears in quarters and core (with skin on) and place cut sides down in a hot pan with melted butter over a medium-low flame. Sprinkle half teaspooons of lemon zest and grated ginger, drizzle a teaspoon of agave syrup and several tablespoons of prosecco and brown. Turn and brown, and plate with drizzled cream or yoghurt.

Second batch of pain perdu with sunnyside-up eggs cooking in the cast-iron skillet, and plated with homemade sausage, breakfast sweet potatoes, and orange and grapefruit

Saturday Breakfast

Homemade Turkey-Sage Sausage
Mix one-half pound ground turkey with one cup whole-wheat bread crumbs, one-half cup milk, two tablespoons olive oil, one teaspoon fresh or dried sage, a dash of red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Form into three by half-inch round patties and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Brown four sausage patties in a hot skillet with hot olive oil over a medium flame until cooked through.

Breakfast Sweet Potatoes
Slice two sweet potatoes into large cubes or thick slices (with skin on) and microwave for four minutes until they are fluffy and the flesh is sealed. Add to a hot skillet with hot olive oil over medium-high flame with one half sliced onion, two sliced scallion bulbs, one minced garlic clove, one tablespoon sliced sun-dried tomato and salt and pepper. Cook until potatoes are browned and vegetables caramelized and plate.

Brioche Pain Perdu
Slice eight half-inch thick brioche slices and cut slices diagonally to fit better in pan. Mix together two eggs, one cup milk, one teaspoon whole-wheat flour (for crispier pain perdu) a dash each of cinnamon, vanilla extract, and liqueur, and zest of one orange. Submerge slices briefly and brown in hot pan with hot olive oil over a medium flame, and plate with 10x sugar shaken through a sieve and accompanied by warmed maple syrup.

I always used to love to prepare a macedonia by supreming oranges and grapefruits; but since the fiber and pectin in citrus is really good for us, we always cut citrus into wedges now.

Chicken Tikka Masala and vegetable kabobs, and strawberry shortcake

Saturday Lunch

Donna and Dan made incredible Dagwood/Homer sandwiches for our strenuous hike (see my last post for the video replay) and for a special treat Donna had packed dried mango and Dan had found these great petite pickle packs (say that five time fast).

Saturday Dinner

Donna and Dan greeted us with Mango Screwdrivers and yummy cheese and crackers, and served incredibly tender and delicious Tikka Masala Chicken Kabobs (click on the small image on the right (think of it as an Indian Miniature...) to see Donna's full-size recipe) with vegetable skewers and Mango-Almond Rice, though she did try to kill me with all the cilantro in the marinade (Donna: "I can't believe you don't carry an EPI pen!"). As a special treat, dessert started off with my friend Kathy Wiley's Poco Dolce chocolate toffee crisps, followed by Dan's Strawberry Shortcake with whipped cream topped with chocolate shavings.

Sunday Breakfast

Donna and Dan made a great breakfast of blueberry pancakes and Aidell's Chicken-Apple sausages. The pancakes were incredibly light and fluffy; Donna swears by the Krusteaz batter mix, but I was insisting she must've meant Krusty's.

Thanks to Donna for many of the food photos from when I was cooking, and my apologies that I was too busy making food disappear when Donna and Dan were cooking to remember to take many pix.

General Camp-Cooking modus operandi

Donna and Dan do some of their prep in camp. I (surprise, surprise) like to prep all the dishes and have all the components bagged, labeled, and layered in the cooler, i.e. the crabcakes were formed in baggies with lemon wedges in a snackbag and aioli in a plastic container, salmon was sliced in a big baggie with the marinade ready in a snackbag and same for brioche and batter, pears were sliced and bagged with all the ingredients except the prosecco.

Everything except the salmon and the couscous was cooked in my trusty cast-iron skillet, which is especially easy to clean on a camping trip by boiling a little water in it and scouring out. If the menu's planned right, you can cook multiple courses without cleaning (i.e. frico > crabcakes > endive and radicchio > pears). Couscous' easy everywhere, and the pears were braised in prosecco because we had prosecco open for the meal...

Donna and Dan plate stuff; in our camp, salad for dinner and citrus for breakfast were served in baggies. I know, glasses not plastic cups, but baggies not bowls? Chacun a son gout...

We used recycled-paper plates and soy or potato compostable flatware, and foil is useful so many ways on a camping trip including keeping things clean and warm.

28 April 2009

Big Basin Getwaway: Part I

Make sure to click through and scroll down for a special added feature at the end of this post!  

Last weekend we took Friday off and made a little getaway down to Big Basin State Park. We completely recommend it: it felt like a real break even though it's only 65 miles south of San Francisco and about a 1 1/2 hour drive.

Big Basin: Route 9 signage, map, and what I call the "dirty RV sign" (you need to work backwards to the 'dirty dog' and then Black Dog Cafe t-shirts...)

We've gone before and loved it: there are great little tent cabins with woodstoves inside and firepits and picnic tables out front.  And the redwoods and nature are pretty incredible.  One of David's patients calls anything that's not backpack camping "glamping," but I really enjoy not having to worry about packing and pitching a tent, and getting to concentrate on being there, enjoying nature, having fun, and, of course, good campfire cooking (stay tuned for future food post!).  The tent cabins are $65 per night, so pricier than tent camping, but we find it a really happy medium as far as cost, comfort, and ease.  You do have to reserve way ahead for weekends, and remember to bring quarters for hot showers!

Big Basin: the tent cabin site with cabin, table, and firepit

The time before we'd been in the fall for David's birthday, and we'd said we wanted to come back in the spring when the waterfalls in the area were really running.  And we'd been talking about it for awhile with Donna and Dan, so this time we rented neighboring tent cabins with a path between, and split the cooking of meals with them.

Big Basin: Looking up through the redwoods and a burnt-out tree

We had a great time, took some good hikes, had some roaring fires, big laughs, and great meals. And it really felt like we were away and really had time to relax, breathe deeply, and sleep heavily.  Once you get off 280 the drive there and back is also incredibly beautiful and winding.

Big Basin: Looking up close at fallen trees, trunk rings, and spider webs

So here's the added value feature I hope you'll enjoy: I always buy myself a(n early) birthday present, and this year it was one of those Flip video cameras whose reviews, ratings, and price I've been following (very reasonable at Amazon at the time); I tried it out on this trip, and have been trying out iMovie, so...ta-da..here's my first 'flick' (please excuse the shaky hand and cut-off foreheads...it is a first effort!):

Big Basin: The Movie

Please comment and let me know what you think...I do want to try more multi-media and highlight more of my photography on my posts.  And remember you can always click on images in my posts to see a larger version.

Stay tuned for: Big Basin Getaway: Part II, the FOOD...

23 April 2009

Reminding Me of Another Inspirational City Hall event: Del Martin's Memorial Service

Being in City Hall Monday evening for the Goldman Prize reception reminded me about another event held at City Hall that I still think about (I realize that some of my posts are going to be about past events that I would have blogged about had I been blogging): Del Martin's memorial service last October. 

Del Martin's City Hall Memorial Service: banners of Del and Phyl, Glide choir with City honor guard at top of stairs, the halls and balconies filled with people celebrating Del's life.

My dear friend, Dena, especially since she sadly moved to 'Gene, OR, always reminds me about important events in the SF LGBT community when they cross her screen at work, and I'm glad she didn't let me forget about this celebration of Del's life.

Three main themes that day especially moved me: thinking again about Del and her achievements, the nature and feel of the ceremony itself, and the words spoken by Del's daughter toward its close.

Cover of the Program for Del Martin's Civic Celebration

Del and Phyl Lyon became a couple and starting working on queer issues in 1950 (!) and they stayed focused on both of those things together until Del died in August of last year.  Del was truly a steward and icon of the queer movement; Del and Phyl started the Daughters of Bilitis, The Ladder, the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club and so much more.  And I know I wasn't alone when I cried both times Del and Phyl got married in City Hall.  But that day it really hit home again how brave both of them had been to start this work when they did.

Program text and photos

Sitting in the Rotunda that afternoon as the service started, it struck me that we don't only live in 'the bubble," we are a separate country, and I felt very proud that it felt like a 'state funeral' that led off with an honor guard of uniformed police, fire, emergency, and parks staff carrying the U.S., California, San Francisco, and gay pride flags; our mayor spoke, as did our gay assemblymember, and our congressperson sent word from DC; all of the heads of city departments, our city supervisors, and so many SF queer, civic, progressive, and religious leaders from different generations filled the Rotunda that day.  To hear and see the arc of modern queer history and gay rights in that space, from official police intimidation to our police chief sitting in the front row, was extremely powerful.  And I know we were all keenly aware of us gathering together four months after our highest state court granted marriage equality and one month before that right was being put to a popular vote (more blogging on this too, I'm sure).

And I was truly inspired by something Del's and Phyl's daughter Kendra said to close her words:

"...Mom was not an extraordinary person, but rather a person who accomplished extraordinary things. This is important because each of us is needed to continue her work - - our work. It would be a shame if you left today, thinking that Mom was somehow bigger or bolder than you could ever be. In my view, what was extraordinary about what Mom did, and what Mom and Phyllis did together, is that they had clarity of purpose, set seemingly impossible goals and then just never quit...

Two other notes: Holly Near sang a beautiful song, "All That There Is;" I haven't been able to find a clip, recording, or lyrics anywhere, but will share it if I do--please let me know if anyone else has any info.  And Jim Hormel cited this John Wesley quote when he spoke, and it really made it so clear to me what we all do need to do to move queer rights forward:

"Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can." 

21 April 2009

Goldman Environmental Prize

Yesterday, on a rare balmy evening in San Francisco, David and I attended the 20th Goldman Environmental Prize Awards at our beautiful, but unfortunately-named War Memorial Opera House. And I was finally propelled (and freed?) to post my first blog entry because this event --and the awardees' stories--never fails to inspire me and move me to tears, and this year was no exception. I flash back often to something one of last year's awardees said from the stage, "We are in grave environmental danger and have so much hard work to do, but we have to remember that Martin Luther King changed the world not by scaring us, but by making us see how that changed world could look..."

War Memorial Opera House: Stage and Chandelier

This year's awards were especially glam: Christiane Amanpour emceed, Al Gore gave the keynote, Robert Redford spoke in person in addition to his regular narration of the video on the awardees, and Tracy Chapman performed. Christiane didn't look up much from the prompter, but she was still her amazingly crisply-spoken and telegenic self. Part-time SFer Al started off in his Professor Gore persona, shvitzing like mad in the heat, and he did an odd shout-out to his biz partner in the audience, but he finally hit his "Inconvenient Truth" stride. Redford was disarmingly unrehearsed and craggily handsome (David: "He's so short in person!"); I knew his very smart and generous ex-wife Lola in New York. And it was a treat to hear local resident Tracy's live versions of "Talking 'Bout a Revolution" and "Big Yellow Taxi" since she performs so rarely; she joked that it had been hard to find upbeat environmental songs. I understand there's a big debate on whether she's sapphic, but when I see her on Valencia in The Mish, I certainly think so...

Goldman Prize Awards Program: Christiane Amanpour, Al Gore, Robert Redford, and Tracy Chapman

But I digress, because the point of the awards and this post is the awardees and their amazing stories. Each year, the Goldman Prize gives an award to one grassroots environmentalist in each of six areas of the world: Africa, Asia, Europe, Island Nations, and North and South America. This year's awards highlighted work in Gabon to stop mining in newly-created national parks, in Bangladesh to halt the dumping of toxic freighters, in Russia to focus attention on chemical waste, in Bali to build safe water and trash/recycle/re-use infrastructure, in West Virginia to stop mountain-top removal coal mining, and in Suriname to prevent deforestation of tribal common lands. I always am inspired and amazed because these are truly grassroots efforts of individuals with few resources or connections who build movements and take on major issues, often facing hostile governments or well-funded corporations who put their lives at risk through intimidation, violence, and imprisonment--the awardee from Gabon alluded to how grateful he was to be allowed to leave the country to accept the award. And I don't think it is a coincidence that they are overwhelmingly upbeat, modest, and that many of them are women. As I watch and hear their stories and hear them speak in person I realize again what each of us is capable of--large and small.

Several notes: most of the awardees used the phrase "our territory" in their speeches, and I found myself wondering and hoping that they didn't intend to use those specific words with their specific connotations in English, but something more like "our home," or "where we live" since English was the primary language of only one awardee. I wish the organizers had used a lectern that could be lifted and lowered, rather than take out a mini lectern for the one awardee in a wheelchair. I sometimes wonder about the awards' hagiographic tone toward the Goldmans, but then they have done incredible things and put vast resources toward awareness around grassroots environmental efforts ($150,000 award x 6 awardees x 20 years = $18m). And I can never figure out where the award attendees are from: overwhelmingly well-off, well-dressed, older, straight, white people who I don't recognize.

The reception at City Hall that followed was again a generous and warm event overflowing with well-crafted, beautiful, and delish food and drink, and following the green theme it was a completely S.O.L.E. food gala that filled the North and South Light Courts, the Rotunda and stairs, and the balconies above. I love being in and attending events at our City Hall--it's a beautiful building that has been well-restored. And while it has some sad memories for San Franciscans, it is also has all the good memories of brave politicians and seminal legislation, gay weddings and gay pride, and other protests, movements, and memorials. I can never resist climbing the stairs and walking the halls, and I dragged David by the offices of the Gav and our Supes.

City Hall: Staircase and Main Hall

We also got to take a closer look at the cool/wild/slightly scary Patrick Dougherty willow sculptures woven into the London plane (Platanus × acerifolia) trees in Civic Center Plaza.

Patrick Dougherty artwork: toward City Hall and toward the Federal Building
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