Dinners at Anna's

Happy times spent cooking and sharing life at the Beach House

Morel Magic May 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — heatherinsf @ 6:42 pm

Imagine you are in a forest, the silence only broken by the keen of a blue jay and the distant thrum of the majestic waterfalls just out of sight. The air is fresh and cold and heavy with pine. Each step is cushioned by a thick layer of duff. Your neck is stiff and your back is sore from walking hunched over but you don’t feel it. Your eyes are peeled for every variation in texture and color, constantly scanning and hunting for the elusive morel patch.

Ah, the life of mushroom hunter. Wiley, deceptive, vague and secretive, mushroom hunters are a strange breed. When they do find a great mushroom spot it is a wondrous thing and yet they are privately exultant.

Anna and her dear beau had the opportunity to go mushroom hunting in an undisclosed forest location and found a whopping six pounds of morel in a day and a half. Where? They’ll never tell and nor will I but we are pleased to share a few beautiful pictures you.

Morels are fascinating mushrooms. They look like honeycombed, dark monsters and so alien but when you search for them in the wild they transform into the perfect camouflaged black hole non-entity that our eye passes over then the stealthy morel chuckles it’s tinny laugh at tricking us once again.

We we had them dead to rights on the counter where there was no escape.

(a little preview of dinner)

The deep earthy fragrance of the morel are like the aftershave of the forest. I kept leaning over the large basket and inhaling. these are the black morel, or Morchella elata.


My eyes popped when I saw the big daddy lurking in the basket….


And a little closer….


Meanwhile, wedged in the corner between the sink and the counter where the morel basket was perched was the cat, Red, hoping he could get a whiff of the mushrooms and a good chuck under the chin. Cats always seem to be in the most inconvenient spot when it’s within two hours of dinnertime, don’t they?

(vulching for a bite of something, and not happy he is not being indulged)

Anna started to prepare the mushrooms for dinner.

She had a six-cup bowl of water in the sink with about 1 1/2 tsp of sea salt dissolved into the water. The morel were sliced in half lengthwise and the ends were trimmed a bit. If any insects or bugs were inside the hollow mushroom then they were soaked briefly in the salt water.


The pristine morel halves were placed on the dehydrator.


It took about 24 hours for the mushrooms to become completely crunchy and dry, then they were safely stored in a jar for future risottos and sauces.


The plan for the evening was filet mignon with morel sauce, shoestring asparagus and mashed potatoes (my favorite). Anna used minced shallot, cooked until almost caramelized, and filled the frying pan with morel halves, then finished them with cream and chives.


The perfectly medium-rare filets of beef were sliced and laid out on a tray, and the morel sauce poured over the top.


We sat down to feast on this ultimate Spring treat, every bite of beef had a bite of morel to keep it happy.


It was a privilege to dine so sumptuously and we were a very merry crowd. The season for morel is brief and I do hope my friends foray out again for the magic morel!

if you would like to learn more about mushroom foraging, the Sonoma Mycological Society is a great resource. You should *never* eat a wild mushroom unless you are with an expert, trained forager.


Pork Love February 17, 2011

Filed under: food,food porn,recipes,Uncategorized — heatherinsf @ 9:15 pm

The day after our fabulous Indian meal, the storm passed and the City’s denizens were treated to the most gorgeous sunset.



I was shooting pictures of the clouds when my phone rang. It was Anna, inviting me over for dinner *again* for a second night in a row, this time for a pigout on pulled pork.

Now I have such a love affair with the noble pig, I could scarcely get on the bus fast enough to meet Anna.

When we pulled up at the Beach House after admiring gorgeous dramatic skies we were greeted by ecstatic doggies and the scent of slow cooked pork.

Anna had marinated a pork shoulder in Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc pork rib dry rub, augmented with a few other ingredients. Then she browned the meat well and roasted it super slow for hours and hours in a Dutch oven. Gorgeous.

Pork porn!!! Pulled pork is almost ready...

When it was done the pork yielded easily to the pressure of a fork and was shredded meat. It was luscious. Mixed together with just the seasoning from the rub and the juices in the pan it was perfectly seasoned and moist. I think though R___ added a few squirts of his favorite BBQ sauce to the pot for added gooeyiness and kick.

Pulled pork

We had a hard time restraining ourselves from sampling right out of the pot but the lure of pulled pork sandwiches, fresh coleslaw and toasted buns called us to the table in a hurry.


What a feast. We had our hands full in seconds with toasted whole grain buns spread with BBQ sauce, mounded with thick chunks of pork, topped with gorgeous coleslaw. Piles of napkins littered the table which was silent except for the clank of beer bottles on the wood surface, the occasional nom-nom from a muffled mouth and the faint drumming of a giant dog’s tail slapping the floor from under the table.

We were too ravenous to take a a picture, it was that good.

All too soon our appetites were sated, the hopeful dogs were disappointed that nothing fell to the floor and our beef supply was replenished clasped in newly washed hands.

Bliss ensued. I really must get copy of the Ad Hoc cookbook!


A Sizzling Valentine’s February 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — heatherinsf @ 10:50 pm

My friend Anna and I love to explore new cookbooks and new cuisines, and this Valentine’s Day Anna called me with the enticing offer of an Indian dinner at the Beach House. It was threatening rain all day and the wind off the coast was positively frigid. A spicy night inside with good friends was too good of an offer to pass up.

Her beau had warmed up the sauna earlier that night so I popped in there for a relaxing interlude with a huge bottle of Pelligrino and a gripping mind-candy spy novel while the lamb was marinating for Rogan Josh. I headed upstairs and was greeted with the enticing aroma of browning meat and exotic spices.

The cookbook in use for the night is the gorgeous The Food of India – a journal for food lovers by Murdoch Books.
The book!

Anna had marinated the lamb with garlic and ginger and handfuls of spices earlier in the day, browned the pieces and let them stew gently with additions of yogurt and other seasonings. The final dish was thick and rich and topped with bright cilantro. The scent was intoxicating, as was the perfumed whiffs from the brown basmati rice cooking on the back burner.

The lamb

Brown basmati

We affectionately began to call the dish Josh Rogan (Seth’s younger brother), and thus began many inappropriate comments about dining on Josh. Or maybe it was the wine!

To accompany this savory treat, Anna prepared Punjabi Cabbage, which was to my wimpy palate mind-blowingly spicy, but exceptionally seasoned with whole pods of cardamom and cloves.

A sizzling plate
Despite our counting the number of pods and cloves that went into the dish, we only found two cardamom pods and two cloves. Who ate them? How could we have consumed them unknowingly?

A massive monsoon washed up from the beach, blowing rain uphill, sideways and crossways, followed by hail and thunder. Inside, marveling at the insanity outside, we were more than warm with our sizzling plates, cooled by dishes of straight Strauss yogurt and bottles of Lagunitas IPA. We looked around the table and realized all three of us were in either our pajamas or robes after our bouts in the sauna. It was great to dine so casually. The best part of any meal is the company at the table, and we dined richly that night.

The Aftermath(the aftermath)

I’m looking forward to trying other goodies from this cookbook. Thanks Anna!


Snausages June 13, 2010

Filed under: food,food porn,recipes — heatherinsf @ 1:41 pm
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A last minute invitation and a heat wave caused me to head over on a steaming hot train to The Beach House for a cool beer in the garden and a sausage feast after sundown.

It was 86 F by 1:00 pm and the cool ocean breeze was most welcome upon my arrival, a chilly 76 F!

The garden is gorgeous and the icy beer was perfect.

Much later in the evening, we started dinner and Anna instructed me with her method to braise cabbage to serve with snausages.


1 small red cabbage, slivered
1 Vidalia or sweet onion, slivered
2 c Russian pickled vegetables (cabbage) or fresh saurkraut
2 T olive oil
1/2 c dried cranberries
1 tsp sugar
1/2 c H2O (we used potato water)
Salt and pepper

In a large skillet, saute the onion in the olive oil until they are golden brown and starting to caramelize.  Add the cabbage and stir until the cabbage has wilted significantly, approximately 15 minutes.  Add the cranberries, salt and pepper and water, stir well, and cover for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The cabbage and onions should be extremely tender and most of the liquid should be absorbed, resulting in some caramelization.

Serves 4


We piled the cabbage onto a pretty platter, and added a panful of sauteed onions and sweet red peppers, and a lovely mound of fluffy mashed potatoes.  The bratwurst and bockwurst were panfried until browned, split in half and browned a bit on the cut side, and arranged on top of the cabbage.


We had pots of insanely hot Russian mustard, a hot sweet deli mustard and soft white deli buns from Nature’s Pride* .  What a feast!

Cool Sofia Rose was poured, and we quickly dispatched most of everything.

The Aftermath

Finally the air began to cool around 11:00 pm and we drifted off to our various rooms for the evening.  I was tempted to let the doggies sleep with me but I think they already had popped on Anna’s bed.  Well, that’s really okay, Bella snores…

*Please note that the Nature’s Pride Premium Harvest (TM) Deli Rolls were provided to me free of charge by Nature’s Pride and other than the product I am not being compensated for discussing them on my sites.


Decomposed Salads June 11, 2010

Filed under: food,food porn,recipes — heatherinsf @ 12:00 pm
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It has been my custom for quite a while to present a deconstructed salad for my guests.  I arrange beautiful lettuces in a deep bowl, add a perfect tomato, a cucumber, and whatever other veggies I like with a sharp paring knife and a side of wonderful dressing.

One day I served this to Anna and she said, “Oh, a decomposed salad!”  Sometimes her mother tongue comes out with hysterical English equivalents.

Now, I always call my pretty salads prepared in this fashion Decomposed Salads because it is just that funny.

Arrange the romaine prettily!

Tonight, over at Anna’s, we had a bonus crop of romaine hearts from our favorite garden, errrr, well, from Costco.   We were both craving a huge salad for dinner plus someone mentioned Caesar dressing and that sealed the deal.

I prepared the salad while Anna finished the flower border in her backyard, a wondrous creation she and her dear beau have been slaving over the past few weeks.  From an empty lot of sand to a sumptuous riot of color and textures, the garden is the best place to watch the sun set with a glass of juice (a Merlot based meritage) and a cozy sweater.  You can hear the surf so loudly in the yard, it’s like a giant engine humming in the background.

This weekend my stepsister J___ shared with me a wonderful recipe for a fast Caesar-like dressing that she serves over crisp cooked asparagus and diced sweet red peppers.  With a few tweaks of my own,  I realized that with just the basic ingredients one normally has on hand in the fridge one can have a delicious Caesar salad anytime.

To accompany the salad I thawed a few chicken thighs and sauteed them in butter and finished them with vermouth and fresh tarragon from the garden.This Chicken Tarragon is a staple recipe in my family, from the amazing Spice Island Cookbook.

New Message
(Chicken Tarragon)

What a delectable dinner!

If you have these, you can make a fast Caesar salad


1/4 c mayonnaise
2 T sour cream
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T H2O
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced or pureed
1/8 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp anchovy paste
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
2 romaine hearts, separated into leaves

Mix together all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl using a whisk, until very smooth. Add more lemon juice if you like it more tangy, like I do. Serve with the lettuce leaves and dip into the dressing with abandon.

You can make this dressing very low calorie by using light mayonnaise and fat free sour cream. Or, make it more decadent by using homemade mayonnaise.

Deconstructed Caesar Salad

Don’t you just want to dive in?

A bonus to the evening, Anna gifted me with a gorgeous Portuguese chicken filled with my favorite herb for stuffing – marjoram. Isn’t she adorable?

My new chicken!

I love chickens!


Burger Night! June 8, 2010

Filed under: eratta,food porn — heatherinsf @ 7:15 pm
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Sometimes a gal just needs a big ole burger!

When Anna invited me over for a burger, I hopped on the train so fast, I almost flew to the beach.

After much wine, gardening, chatting and playing on the computer, we realized what time it was, almost 9 pm.  Anna was slightly in favor of skipping dinner altogether, but I started whinging, because, darn it, I need a burger!

About 10 minutes later, ahhhh.  Meat…..

Ah, success. The wine helped.

Naturally it tasted a lot better that it looks here.  A whole wheat bun, toasted a bit, topped with a perfect medium-medium rare burger from meat we ground ourselves.  A layer of melted blue-jack cheese and sprinkled liberally with crunchy onions.  The garnishment:  a slab of heirloom tomato, a slice of sweet Vidalia onion, and a tangy leaf of mustard greens from the garden, picked moments before eating.   What could be better?

Oh yes, with that burger a lot of great red wine.

Rabbit Ears collage

Maybe too much wine…


Hello world! January 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — heatherinsf @ 10:13 pm

Welcome to Dinner at Anna’s!

Please join us as we have fun playing in the kitchen!