School is in full swing, and once again I find myself constantly pressed for time. Although I’m happy to be in school again, I do miss having days off that are actually days off.
A week before school started I flew home for a short visit. Side note: in the last year I’ve realized how much I hate flying—I’m the person who closes her eyes and mutters to herself whenever there’s even a tiny amount of turbulence. I gratefully exited the plane upon landing, feeling like a stressed-out, wilted flower.
My first day home was spent as free labor at Bailey and Matt’s new house. I helped Bailey fill a couple green waste containers with blackberry brambles and then spent a few slightly stressful hours trying to get her curtains done. I felt like I was back in the Ribbon Street sweatshop as Mom and I pinned and sewed in perfect tandem. But we weren’t the only ones working—Dad and Pippin doggedly (heh) plugged away at building the fence outside.
On Thursday Bailey, Mom, Emma, and I made the trek into San Francisco. Our first stop was the new Tartine location, called Tartine Manufactory. We were shocked to find out that they didn’t bake croissants or morning buns there, but we still enjoyed the coffee and salads they offered. After a brief stop in Heath Ceramics, in which Emma had the time of her life reading an illustrated book about cool animal facts (which she bought, and it’s awesome), we drove closer to Bi-Rite. The plan was to park there and Uber downtown to do a little shopping, but we soon discovered that the whole area is now only 2 hour parking. Tempers rose as we drove further and further from Bi-Rite, Emma impatiently insisting that we should have stayed at the Manufactory. But we finally found 4 hour parking on the world’s steepest hill. As Mom pulled into the spot, perpendicular to the hill’s ascent, Bailey and I sat shrieking and squawking like a couple of dying geese as we felt the point where, surely, gravity would fail and the car would roll down the hill. We finally managed to claw our way out of the car, literally crawling over the seemingly-vertical seat.
After successfully securing an Uber ride downtown from our new BFF Muhammed, we managed to find not a single thing we were looking for. Grumpiness and exhaustion took hold of a couple of us, and we finally conceded defeat. Before leaving the city we stopped by Bi-Rite, of course, and Tartine Bakery, where we secured the last chocolate croissant and an exquisite coconut cream tart.
The rest of my vacation passed as quickly as always. I managed to get into the forest with Dad and Pippin once, where we walked under the silent spell of the misty redwoods. Pippin jogged ahead while Dad and I stopped by every dew-covered, amazingly-constructed spider’s web that seemed to glow in the grey light. On Saturday I got to see Pat, Taz, Oakes, and Arrow for a lovely brunch of scones with lemon curd, bacon, and frittata. Arrow adorably attempted to put the whole house in his mouth, and Oakes got into my parents’ last stash of kids toys.
Before I knew it, the visit was over. It was especially hard to leave the family effort going into Bailey’s house—I hate not being able to be more involved. But I didn’t have much time to dwell on the issue, because school began two days after I got back. Fortunately, Otis stepped up its game this year with a complete remodel. Now we have a lawn, cafeteria, new library, and a couple other buildings. I almost feel like a real college kid!
This recipe is perfect for busy days, and is truly excellent for tacos. I like to use small on-the-vine tomatoes because they cook down really well and have a wonderful flavor. Jonji is obsessed with this dish, so I make it once a week (for now). It’s especially good with Spanish-style rice, plenty of cilantro, and sour cream.
Tomato Pulled Chicken
3 lbs boneless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1.5 lbs tomatoes, ideally Early-Girl, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup chicken broth or water
Sprinkle the chicken pieces with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large cast-iron pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once the oil is super hot, add enough chicken thighs to fit without overcrowding. Let the chicken brown, undisturbed, for about 5 minutes per side. Set aside and repeat with the remaining chicken.
Pour another tbsp of olive oil to the empty pot, add the onion, and turn the heat down to medium. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5–7 minutes, until the onion starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Toss in the 3/4 tsp ground cumin and diced jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, for one more minute. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, their juices, and the 1/3 cup chicken broth or water, scrape the bottom of the pot, and cover. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chicken back to the pot, nestling it into the sauce. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook for 40 minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces to a separate bowl. Continue simmering the sauce. Using tongs and a fork, pull the chicken into small pieces. (You can also chop it up, if that’s easier.) Once all the chicken is shredded, add back to the pot.
Taste for salt and pepper. Enjoy!