Sunday, August 23, 2009

Recipes, pie revelations, and vintage tableware

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I haven't written here for a few weeks, but never fear, I've been busy. I've been cooking and baking like crazy, both to feed the various people in my life (kids, husband, mother, friends, coworkers) and to keep myself entertained.

Many of the recipes I've already posted on my LA Cooking Examiner page: peach blackberry cobbler; fresh pasta with teardrop tomatoes, fried zucchini and walnut pesto from the lovely Ado restaurant in Venice; cheese biscuits with yogurt; tomato bread pudding with chives and nutty Comte cheese; and savory tomato cobbler with herbs, cheese and the extremely exotic fennel pollen I got as a sample from Golden Gourmet Pollen. My mother was here visiting, and the tomato cobbler she loved. I also made her favorite chocolates, 72 percent bark studded with chopped Marcona almonds and dried cherries. She loves coming to southern California.

I also did a few round-up articles: I gathered the best zucchini recipes and tomato recipes from Examiner.com's food writers, and I wrote a short piece on how to throw together a spontaneous dinner party when a dozen people unexpectedly turn up at your house for dinner and you haven't been to the market. This happens to me all the time, although I recognize that I may be unusual in this department. Still, you never know.

And this morning I made pie. As you know (or maybe not), I'm a failure when it comes to rolled-out dough. It's too wet, it's too dry, it sticks, it's too floury - I can't get it right. So I was bowled over this week by a press-in tart crust I found in Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte (one of my favorites in the culinary memoir genre, and if you don't have it, I would suggest you click the link above and buy it right this very second. Seriously).

This crust goes with her mother's peach tart, but in addition to the original recipe, I've now used it for blueberry-almond pie, banana coconut pie, and a savory tart of beet greens and cheese. It's an absolutely snap: You mix flour, salt and sugar (I left this out for the savory variation) in the baking pan or pie plate with a fork. You whisk together oil and a little milk. You mix into the flour. It becomes dough. You press said dough into the pan. You fill and bake. And the dough is tender, short, flaky and tasty. It's a revelation. See the banana coconut pie, for example:

You'd never know that crust required no rolling, would you? It looks perfect. A touch rustic around the edge, but that's the way I like it. I'm sticking with it.

So - lots of cooking and baking. And, until yesterday, a very limited selection of dishes on which to photograph all this lovely food. I'd been feeling itchy for some new tableware for a while, kept thinking I'd make an Ikea run one of these weekends for a few fab plates and bowls with hip designs. But Michael and I really prefer buying vintage. Except for our everyday white dishes, all our tableware, I believe, is older stuff we've found in antique stores or on eBay. Including our set of Rosenthal bone china, which we bought ourselves as a pre-wedding present.

The kids are visiting their grandma and cousins in New York, so Michael and I spent our grownup weekend in Pomona, sifting through antique stores for photogenic dishes. He was a champion, as always: patient, calm, only reminding me once that when we got all this stuff home we'd need to find a place to put it. His tolerance of, and even enthusiasm for, days like this: only one of the many reasons I love him so.

Here's an aerial snapshot of the loot:

The take includes the set of Santa Anita pottery in the lower left, pink and brown with a swirl pattern; the green glass cocktail tray that matches my existing set of Fire King Charm green dishes; a host of light blue glass serving pieces with square bottoms; a green ribbed salad bowl with six small matching bowls; and a full service for eight of Nikko china with an interesting bamboo-like rim, not extremely old but very stylish. When you entertain as frequently as we do, extra dishes are a must.

Now I just have to find a place to put it all.

6 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Erika...am just discovering your blog and love it! I don't have much space to keep vintage serveware, so am loving taking a peek at yours! Love the Santa Anita pottery pieces and the green piece next to those. Jealous!

Erika said...

Elizabeth - I'm so delighted you found your way here! It's been a little schizophrenic, trying to keep up the food writing both here and on my LA Cooking Examiner page, but I think I'm getting the balance down.

The antique store where I bought the Santa Anita pottery had more. I almost drove back yesterday to buy the rest. I might still....

Rita Anne Smith said...

Hi Erika - do you ever visit the Ventura County Fair? We have found several nice pieces there - great bargaining to be had, especially at the end of the day.

Erika said...

Hi Rita! No, I've never been to the Ventura county fair, but I'll definitely put it on my list. Although I'm going to have to get rid of some stuff to make room for the loot above - it's still sitting on the coffee table in the living room because I can't figure out where to put it. If I do even more shopping, that's even more throwing away too....

Heath said...

Do tell more, Erika!?! I am local to you and in search of some good finds. Was it all in one store or a bunch? Do you mind sharing?

Erika said...

Heath, I don't mind sharing at all.

Old town Pomona has one string of antique shops over two blocks or so. They're all on 2nd street I believe. Google "antiques pomona CA" and you'll find a bunch of them. Most are the kind of multi-dealer shops where each corner belongs to a different seller. There were lots and lots and lots and LOTS of dishes, plates, glassware, ceramics.

If you happen to be going and find the rest of the pink Santa Anita dinnerware - it was on the bottom shelf on the left side of one of those malls - and you don't want it for yourself, let me know. I really want the rest of it but Pomona is a good hour away. Maybe we can work out a delivery fee. :)

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