Conflicted Burgers

Conflicted Burgers

Darling Sister,

To every San Franciscan who tries to tell me SF is “Northern California,” I can’t help but roll my eyes and remind them that there are 8 whole hours of California north of here. When I lived up north, there was a brown rice veggie burger at a local restaurant that never failed to delight. I’ve tried to recreate it for you here.  To tempt my husband into eating it for sunday lunch – the one lunchtime usually reserved for treats and indulgences – I topped it with bacon and avocado and must say it’s tremendous, though of course no longer vegetarian. We all make sacrifices!

Yours in contradiction,



Leftover Rice Veggie Burgers

Notes: This recipe is one of estimations – the amounts below are tentative. Depending on how cooked your rice is, how long you leave the mix to set up, and how humid the day is, you might need more or less bread crumb or more egg. In the end, the mix will be somewhat soupy and you might lose faith. You’ll press on and spoon it into your hot pan, spread it out into a patty with your spoon, and realize it’s all going to be all right.

This is great with leftover rice – white or brown, it doesn’t much matter. You can also make quick rice the day of – bring 1 cup of rice to a boil in 1 quart of water and boil until tender. Rinse under cold water in a sieve, drain, and proceed as below.

In a medium bowl mix together with a fork:

  • 2 to 3 cups rice, cold or at room temperature (just not hot!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup panko or regular dry bread crumbs (I like the texture of panko here)
  • 2 teaspoons Spike salt-free seasoning (the one with the navy blue lid)
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • The original burger may have 2 teaspoons or so of nutritional yeast added, but I don’t like the flavor. If you’re into it, by all means add it!

Leave the mix to set up a bit while you butter and toast your buns in a dry frying pan.  When you’re ready to cook, the mix should look glossy and quite wet – not so wet it won’t hold up in a pile if you scoop it with your fork, but definitely not crumbly or dry-looking. If the breadcrumbs have soaked up most of the wet egg and it’s not glossy and wet, add another egg and a bit more bread crumb to bring it together.  Remind yourself this is a riff of a recipe, not a prescription. Too much egg won’t hurt, but too dry a patty won’t hold together.

Put a swirl of olive or vegetable oil in the bottom of your pan (or if you’re decadent, a pat of butter and a bit of oil). Spoon the batter into the hot pan, and spread it out with your fork to be about the size of your buns, and about 1/2 inch thick. Let it fry for 2-3 minutes before turning and frying the second side. Add more oil to the pan if needed and continue to flip and crisp the patty up to your liking – I like a golden brown lacy edge.

This recipe made 6 burgers for me, but your yield will depend on the size of your buns!


Finally, Focus

Finally, Focus

Darling Sister:

Since we moved into this house just before our wedding, we’ve been stumped with what to do with the untamed, sloping, clay-riddled backyard.


Up to now, our best approach was to pull the clover in the spring, pull the foxtails in the early summer, and wage slow war on the mallows that took over in the fall. This resulted in a heck of a lot of compost, but not a lot of pride in the backyard department.


I browsed the internet and read gardening magazines, waiting for the perfect plan to hit me; it just never did.

A wise colleague suggested that a perfect yard plan was too precious – that room to riff and try new things was key to being happy with a landscape in the longer term.  That piece of advice, along with an inspirational trip to a friend’s garden – all planter boxes and greenhouses and cheerful clay pots (see header image!)- and I was inspired!



Fortunately, our darling friend Nicky is a handyman extraordinaire – he’s on the job and texting me lovely photos of our yard-in-progress! I can’t wait to share it with you!




Date Night: Clams with White Wine Sauce

Date Night: Clams with White Wine Sauce

Darling Sister:

When my husband chooses what we should have for date night dinner, it’s always the same thing. Fortunately, we both agree that clams steamed over white wine and butter, dressed with a little herby dill and parsley, is just the ticket.

This recipe is simple enough to pull together quite fast, but tastes complex enough to impress company as an appetizer, served alongside a buttery, parmesan-topped bucatini, or (as here) as a private treat for two, when there’s not a soul around who will judge you for the volume of delicious bread you dip in the sauce.


Steamed Clams in White Wine

For two adults, as a main, I used 2 pounds of littleneck clams. Buy them fresh from a fishmonger who is interested enough to gab with you (not out of the grocery case in a netted bag – those are a crapshoot). Take them home and turn them out into a colander set over a bowl. Tuck them in with a damp rag overtop to keep them from drying out, and leave them in the refrigerator until dinnertime.  When you’re ready, open a nice light red wine (I like a pinot or a lighter table wine with these) and let it breathe while you pull this together.

You will need:

  • 2 pounds littleneck clams
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped dill
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


In a dutch oven, melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter over medium heat and add 12 cloves of minced garlic plus one minced shallot. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes, until fragrant and no longer sharp-smelling. Add a pinch of salt and several turns of black pepper.

Give your clams a quick rinse under the faucet, then lower into the pot and quickly add 2 cups of dry white wine – I prefer sauvignon blanc here.  Cover almost completely with a lid, but keep a watchful eye on the contents.

In 5-7 minutes, the clams will start to open wide (usually one at a time). As they do, remove them with tongs to a bowl.  Within 3 minutes (give or take) they should have all opened. Remove any that refuse to open and toss them – they are not edible.

When all you have left is broth, let it simmer for 5 or so minutes, tasting as you go. You’re looking for a well-rounded, slightly acidic sauce for the final dish. Adding a pinch or so of salt can help here. At the finish, add 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley and maybe 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh dill. Pour the sauce over your clams and serve immediately. I like this best with a green salad (here, butter lettuce and radish, with balsamic vinegar) and lots and lots of crusty bread.


Bon appétit!


Rock City

Rock City

Darling Sister,

Today I searched out the sand caves at Rock City in Mount Diablo State Park with Andie. I had vague memories of hiking around in high school, and knew I wanted to find Sentinel Rock. The original plan was to park off the road past the homes, and hike in on Summit Trail. I didn’t see anywhere safe to park so we drove in through the south gate. Only $10 parking for the day. I didn’t get as many steps in as I had hoped, but I definitely got a workout!

FullSizeRenderAndie was brave enough to climb up inside one of the caves.

Copied from, here is an explanation of how those caves are formed.

“Mt. Diablo State Park is famous for its stunning sandstone formations, also known as ‘tafoni. Although commonly referred to as “wind caves,” the element most responsible for creating these formations is water. Mt Diablo is probably only 2 million years old at the most, and the caves are only a few hundred or thousand years old. Geologically speaking, the porous sandstone in which these caves form can’t stand up to our Mediterranean climate of wet winters and dry summers for long.

On tafoni structures, you can often see a dark mineral crust called a duracrust. This is what remains of the mineral cement that holds the sandstone together. Brought out by capillary action as rainwater evaporates, it’s then deposited on the outside of the rock. When the duracrust falls off, the sandstone underneath erodes rapidly…”




While following the winding trail, we came across some trees that looked like manzanita, and Andie thought they might be called refrigerator trees, since the bark was cool to the touch. They were unlike manzanita I had seen before. Their bark almost looked like muscles.

Thanks to our questions were answered.

“The mountain is home to many endemic plant and animal species, including the Mount Diablo manzanita (Arctostaphylos auriculata), found nowhere else in the world. Some botanists think the peeling red bark of the manzanita is the tree’s way of shedding harmful molds and fungi. The plant flowers early to take advantage of winter rains in our Mediterranean climate.

The Mount Diablo manzanita (Arctostaphylos auriculata) grows only around Mount Diablo. Its blossoms are pinker than those of other manzanita species…”

I knew from past memories that the Sentinel Rock had to be to the North somewhere, and Andie climbed up a boulder to use the panoramic view to spot it.

FullSizeRender-4We followed the trail, which included steps carved into the soft stone. You would have enjoyed the hike.


FullSizeRender-6The view from the top of Sentinel Rock! We made it. Phew! I was worried, there was a woman who was huffing and puffing at the base who said she couldn’t make it to the top and had to come back down.



The steps leading down. Supposedly around 1933 they installed the pipes and cables for a safer trek to the top. Made me wonder how old the initials were that are carved into the rock. (It is illegal to deface any state park property – even though the soft stone is covered with carved initials – don’t be lured into adding your own – not that you ever would!)

IMG_4941The moment Andie brought to my attention that I was crouching in poison oak! F.Y.I There is TONS of poison oak all over the mountain right now. 


The perfect way to end our hike – Ice Monster! Andie introduced me to this Taiwanese shaved snow amazingness. I got the strawberry with bananas and condensed milk syrup. Andie got the honeydew. You really have to try this place, it is like nothing else. One of a kind in our area.

p.s. I bathed myself in Technu and am itching as I am typing this.

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