Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Volcun Mountain with Southern California Photography and Hiking Meetup Group

This past Saturday, I joined my Meetup group on a local photo hike. I enjoy going out on my own photo walks, but it is also fun to join an organized group like Southern California Photography and Hiking. It's a great opportunity to meet new friends with common interests, get out and explore a bit of the back country, and throw in exercise along the way.

Many of this group's photo hikes are in San Diego County, and I tend to favor those for an occasional weekend day trip. It had been several months since my last photo hike, and I was excited about another Julian hike. It was perfect topless weather...for my car. Once off Interstate 8, the scenery shifts to oak and pines, rolling meadows, and bursts of wildflowers.

I pulled off at Lake Cuyamaca for a quick stop before cruising into the quaint town center just in time to meet the group at Julian Pie Company.

Resisting the urge to buy a bag of apple cider doughnut holes, we then headed a short distance from town to the Volcun Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Julian is home to many apple orchards to support its famous pies, wineries and B & Bs.

We paused for a quick group shot while still relatively cool and relaxed. Julian artist James Hubbell designed the gateway to the preserve.

We elected to take the Five Oaks Trail up the mountain, the scenic alternate route, to take advantage of more shady spots to rest. I didn't know this was considered a moderately strenuous hike, but hung in there when a few decided to bail and go back into town. Stopping to take frequent photos gave me a chance to catch my breath!

We spent a moderately strenuous but leisurely few hours making our way to the top, and then took the Summit Trail down the mountain in less than an hour.

The rewards back in town included a burger and beer on the shady patio at The Julian Grille and a boysenberry apple crumble pie to take home.

I'm disappointed I will miss the next hike on Santa Cruz Island, but just can't see driving to Los Angeles at 5 a.m. on July 5, the morning after Coronado's awesome July 4th celebrations!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Coronado Concert in the Park: Puglia, Italy

One of these days, I'll make it to Italy, and France, and Spain, and all the fabulous places that inspire our Concert in the Park themes! In the meantime, I will accept the joy in reading about regional cuisines and attempting to replicate some of the recipes in my kitchen.  I'm successful most of the time (although I get frustrated tracking down ingredients), but sometimes I crash and burn when it comes to baking. I'm not a very good baker.

The weekend started off well with my first idea...

Orecchiette alle cime di rapa is a traditional pasta dish from Puglia - ear-shaped pasta tossed with pork sausage, broccoli rabe, garlic, red pepper flakes, and grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. You had me at PASTA. Actually, I've made this dish before. However, when I saw my man Tyler's version, with littleneck clams tossed into the mix, I was all over it.

I thought it would be a little tricky executing this dish tableside, at the park, especially with the clams, so I decided to do a test run on Saturday evening. I made half recipe and savored every bite. However, BFF Holli was also thinking along the same lines, and planning on making her version of orecchiette alle cime di rapa for the park, so I switched gears and decided to concentrate on my dessert...that's when it got ugly...

Pasticciotto is a mini short crust pastry/pie filled with pastry cream. I didn't have the oval-shaped molds for these little pies, so I decided to try using my mini muffin pan to make 24 mini Pasticciotto...

I even tracked down a tub of LARD to make the perfect crust. But the dough was crumbly and falling apart as I tried to press it into the muffin tin.  I became increasingly frustrated and threw in the towel before the muffin tin made it to the oven. I managed to salvage enough dough and pastry cream to throw together a few mini tarts. Surprisingly, they came out quite nice with the incredibly flaky, lardy crust and rich vanilla bean pastry cream studded with Maraschino cherries. Watch this video if you want to learn the correct method, but try to ignore the music that sounds like it should go with a porn movie...

When all was said and done, this was one of those concerts that turned out just perfect (I never know who is going to show up and what dishes will make it to the picnic table). We had the right number of people, a nice balance of dishes, great weather, fun was just another beautiful, relaxing, summer evening at the park!

Saturday Night Test Run with Tyler's
Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe, Clams and Sweet Italian Sausage

Mary and Bryan Kicking off Concert with
The Star Spangled Banner 

Holli's orecchiette alle cime di rapa

Dusting with Parmigiano-Reggiano

Kelley, Holli and Michele

Nina & Alec plating their gorgeous platter of Stracciatella di burrata,
slow-roasted roma tomatoes with garlic and thyme, and fried eggplant
breaded in panko, garnished with basil 


Kelley's Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Carrots

Our other Kellee, who shared a lovely antipasti platter

When I decided to abandon my orecchiette alle cime di rapa with clams, and after my dessert kind of flopped, I threw together a last-minute Puglia SeaCake - one of my savory cheesecakes - with hot Italian sausage, clams, broccoli rabe, garlic, red pepper flakes, cream cheese, sour cream, and Parmesan cheese, served with toasted baguette slices. Another keeper!

Another SeaCake Flavor Combo - SeaCake Puglia!

In addition to her chickpea, tomato and carrot salad, Kelley also made this gorgeous Torta Caprese — Flourless Chocolate Almond Torte. She cracked me up when she said she was started sipping on some of the liqueur used in the torte, just before noon, as she was trying to get through all of the steps. That's when hubby Bryan wandered into the kitchen and asked what the heck she was doing?!!

Kelley was worried the torta would be too dry inside, but it was quite the opposite...very moist and decadent.

 Torta Caprese

Sonoma was proud to present her favorite orange cake from The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes. She used a gluten-free flour and it tasted incredibly yummy.

Sonoma's Orange Cake

Cute Girlie Girls

I made Kai pose with one of my Pasticciotto Tarts

Good food, wine, and friends!

We're off to another fabulous summer in Coronado! Stay tuned...