steak quesadillas

The problem with steak leftovers is that they never taste as good if you simply reheat them.

The solution is, clearly, steak quesadillas.

Start with cold steak and a sharp, unserrated blade. Trim off any fat (which should be easy to spot, since it'll be white). Figure out which way the grain of the meat is going, and start cutting perpendicular to it in order to make the meat more tender. Slice as thinly as you're able, and cut the slices into 1 inch lengths. Lightly salt.

Use real flour tortillas. If you see a sign advertising handmade tortillas, buy them. Otherwise, resort to buying from the market: look for something locally made with the least number of ingredients. I'm a fan of Alejandro's, which you can purchase at Walmart. Get the large size.

Heat two tortillas in a large, ungreased skillet on a medium-low setting, turning them quickly so they're warm but not starting to crisp. Put the least crispy side face down and place your steak on the bottom tortilla, making sure all slices are flat. Pile on finely shredded cheese (I prefer the whites: mozzerella, jack, Parmesan and Romano), making sure enough fits between the beef to make it stay together (the mortar to your bricks, if you will). Press the second tortilla on top.

Cook until the cheese is at least half-melted and the bottom is just starting to get crispy, and then flip. Before removing from the heat, ensure that all the cheese is completely gooey. Slice with your knife from before, and serve piping hot, accompanied by steak sauce.

The better your original cut of meat, the better the result. Steak quesadillas in restaurants often use inferior, chewy steak, and it makes a huge and delicious difference when you make it at home and pay attention to the details.


cowboy cliché

All taken on our way home from a local wine tasting in Willcox, on my cell phone. I was kicking myself for not even bringing my point-and-shoot.

Not sure if you can tell, but the setting sun was turning the falling rain orange, so it looked like this firey mist hanging in mid-air.


things i like this week vol. 2

(click on image for source)


book images all via bookshelfporn.com

Best saved for last. Love the look on the face of the officer to the right.


grading day

Annelies and I came back from getting lunch--sushi rolls--to find some of our seniors taking a break from their Group 4 project on the lawn in the front of the school.

Three of the girls were lying in the lush grass, heads on each others' stomachs. They were under the half shade of the tree, and when we passed they lifted themselves in unison to say "hi" to us, then settled gracefully back down again.

The boys were playing some game of catch, one throwing to three or four others, running lightly and easily over the emerald grass, with the compact muscles of late adolescence and their skin glowing.

They all looked so healthy and happy and natural, out there in the October midday, the breeze then just lightly blowing, and it made my heart sing to see them.


party inspiration

Ones I referenced or was thinking of in the previous post:

Part One (pre-party) & Part Two (more-pre, and actual party)

Twinkle lights

Holiday Party avec baubles



I love hosting things at our house. Finally, I have a place that is large, that is interesting, that has no room that I don’t let people see because I use it to stash the excess from the others. We have balconies, and a sweep of sky off the biggest that puts most places in town to shame. If I had more money, I would have the kind of dinner parties I’ve seen in magazines, or on the blogs of people I don’t know but who are much more worldly than I—dinner parties with thousands of tiny lights or baubles hung painstakingly from ceilings, where each course looks like an award winning dish from a five star restaurant, where there is wine and laughter and a beautifully decorated table.

Before I manage that, though, I have to learn the art of being welcoming, of setting people at ease and getting them talking, of obtaining drinks just when people want them without being obtrusive, of having the right amount and variety of food. That’s definitely a “learned” thing, and I didn’t have a mother who hosted well to teach me. When she hosted—which was ages ago—the food was always delicious, but she was tense to the point of awkwardness, and lord knows she always talked to fill any silence anyone might have thought to have (“It seems to me you suffer from what we call ‘pressure of speech’”). I remember being very small and my parents rushing around the house in preparation for some event, vacuuming hurriedly, hiding various things in places people wouldn’t see (the laundry room). It’s partially because of that that one of my goals is to have no closet I’d be concerned about a guest looking in. Plus there is something entirely satisfying about a well-organized storage space—and once it’s organized, it takes very little maintenance.

So I practice on my writing group (to whom I will, of course, read this once I am done). I am the de facto host as our numbers have increased, and I am grateful for the obligatory nature of it—for one thing, it means that at least every three weeks, my house will be clean. (Note to self: next time, clean the day before). Also, because the time is fairly structured, I don’t have to worry about coming up with entertainment.

Perhaps I will have a Christmas party—or New Year’s—wind twinkle lights up and down the trees in the backyard and the front courtyard, have cocktails and cheesecake and a huge Christmas tree downstairs, invite everyone we know.


Caffè Torino

As a general rule, we eat out for breakfast at least once a week, and thereby have sampled many of the breakfast places in town. This morning Colin and I tried Caffè Torino, at the southwest corner of Lambert and La Cañada, which we enjoyed enough that it will likely feature heavily in our weekend breakfast rotation.

The atmosphere is lovely: we sat on the terrace, which had deep, wicker-back chairs and solid tables that didn't wobble on the concrete. The mesh covers they had put up over the terrace let in just the right amount of light; the music was bright and jazzy but at a pleasant volume; Colin appreciated the red stone pillars, and I liked the pots with small citrus trees at the gaps in the wrought iron fence. The noise level overall was quite low and peaceful. Had there been a cobblestone street in front of us instead of the parking lot, it would have been perfect.

I had a hard time deciding what to order. The breakfast menu was fairly extensive, with Italian twists on the usual options. At the waitress's suggestion I went with the Uovo con Prosciutto; Colin had the Eggs Benedict. There is no children's menu, but we ordered à la carte for J: a hard-boiled egg and a fruit cup. They brought a very large piece of paper and a tin cup of markers to entertain her.

They serve LavAzza coffee, a brand from Italy that Colin and I fell in love with originally at Le Delice. It's smooth and strong and chocolatey, and here it comes in large, white mugs with the LavAzza logo on the side. The ice water is served in large goblets with a lemon garnish, which is a small upgrade but one I appreciate. So often restaurants treat their water like the red-headed stepchild, and give you the cheapest cups they have.

My Uovo con Prosciutto was absolutely delicious. The eggs were over medium--and true to that, just runny enough in the yolk--and somehow fluffy, layered with melted, tangy asiago cheese and a crown of prosciutto. I sometimes have texture issues with ham products, but this worked wonderfully with the yolk and the cheese. I picked the red potatoes with rosemary for a side (the other options were fruit or sliced tomatoes), and they were crisp and buttery but not overdone. The ciabatta toast came buttered and was perfect to sop up the excess yolk.

Colin's Egg Benedict had the best hollandaise he's tried so far (he's made it a point to sample the Benedict at every restaurant that serves it). I appreciated that it was an accent flavor and not a soup, as at some places. He said that the Canadian bacon was a bit chewy, but the smokiness redeemed it. Joley's hardboiled egg was fresh and lacked that green film around the yolk that I loathe; her fruit cup had a nice variety, with only a few pieces of melon among lots of pineapple, strawberries, and bananas.

We ordered the Bananas Foster for dessert, which was sweet and delicious but not overpowering; its only downfall was that it very quickly became more of a soup than solid.

They could work a bit more on their service: with only two waitresses, things lagged a bit, especially near the end when the terrace was almost filled. They appeared to be mother and daughter, and both had slight and charming accents. Our brunch set us back about $40, plus tip, which is comparable to other places with much less going for them.

If you're looking for something beyond your typical greasy spoon, this is a stellar option.

(Next time I do a review, I'll bring my camera for pictures. You lose a lot by not being able to see how pretty the food was.)