If you’re lucky enough to be one of the in-crowd in Tarika’s circle, you can expect to be invited to her house and met at the door with a cocktail or glass of your favorite wine. Tarika and Barrett love entertaining, and when they do guests are treated to a casual environment long on retro coolness and short on pomposity; they are quintessential San Franciscan.
But Tarika is so much more than her chic wine selection and the eclectic collection of art that
adorns her walls; she’s hip in a fresh way, bright face, quick smile. She’ll invite you in and chat you up all while tossing together her latest culinary creation. She’s the kind of cook who digs perfectly painted red nails into the body of a chicken just as quickly as she recounts an average workday in the fashion industry. Perhaps it is this work that offers her the freedom to take risks in the kitchen. “Cooking is about feel,” she says. “It’s not this exact science.” Feel is exactly how Tarika approaches her food, lathering chicken with herbs, drizzling oil over chunks of bread; few measuring cups line the counter.
Today she’s making roasted chicken over bread salad, a meal she discovered at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco—where she waits an hour from the time she orders to the time she’s finally able to sink her knife into the bird, juice gushing, saturating salad. While she still enjoys trips to the cafe, Tarika realized she could rock that chicken in her own kitchen if she put her creative cooking to work. And rock that chicken she does; the recipe has become her “yummy go-to” when she wants a cozy meal, and San Francisco weather encourages cozy eating often. It’s also become a family favorite and even made the cut for Christmas dinner last year.
As she scatters dried cranberries onto arugula, Tarika chirps, “Eating makes me feel warm and fuzzy,” but until recently, she did not feel the same way about cooking; in fact, the men in her family were the traditional cooks. It wasn’t until she hovered over a pot of tomato sauce in her brother’s kitchen that she realized the recipe was manageable and thus began experimenting on her own. Actually it was her confidence coupled with “being slightly broke” and having a husband who will eat anything that encouraged her to pursue cooking at home. This has now morphed into a desire to be home after a long week; both she and Barrett routinely put in twelve hour days. Tarika comes home looking forward to making a meal; as she turns on the stove, heats some oil, her shoulders relax. As she chops onions, garlic, thyme, her jaw unclenches, fingers unwind.
One thing is clear, while her work may be demanding and her days long, Tarika is living the life she chose, and she makes a concerted effort to continue on this path. What once were weekly Wednesday dinners with her best girlfriends have transitioned to once-a-month gatherings and holiday feasts, but these women, with their respective significant others, indulge each other in home cooked meals of which the major ingredient is friendship. They’ve come to prefer eating at home—plopping on couches, sipping wine and catching up—to the bustle of busy restaurants.
When it’s Tarika’s turn to cook, you’re guaranteed an excellent meal, but you can also be assured that she didn’t break the bank to feed you. “I only shop on sale. . . it’s the total Asian mom in me,” she laughs explaining that while she looks for fresh, healthy ingredients, the local farmers market isn’t often an option as the market’s on Saturdays and she shops on Sundays. That said, take a gander at the fresh arugula and whole herbs, and you don’t question the caliber of food this woman serves.
Tarika’s breezy in the most genuine way, laid back yet lively; she’ll welcome you into her home and serve you a meal that rivals the best cafe’s, full of simple ingredients, delicate flavors and positive vibes. Once you eat a meal she serves, you’ll wonder if you too are living the life you choose.
For the chicken:
3-4 lb whole chicken
3-4 springs of fresh thyme and sage( or whatever fresh herbs you have available)
3 -4 tbsp of salt
1 tbsp of ground pepper
drizzle of grape seed oil
For the Bread Salad:
1 country loaf ( white or wheat)
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
a few handfuls of arugula
For the dressing:
2 tbsp of French Maille mustard ( or whatever you have)
2 tbsp of white wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
a drizzle of agave
Extra virgin olive oil – dependent on how thick or thin you want
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
Remove the back bone of the Chicken, once removed, crack the breast bone so the bird will lay flat.
Stuff the fresh herbs underneath the breast and thigh skin.
Generously salt and pepper both sides of the bird.
Drizzle grape see oil and rub into bird.
Place on a baking sheet and into the oven. Depending on size of the bird, should take about 45-50 mins. Check about half way through. If it is getting too dark, you can tent with foil but you want the skin to blister and get golden brown and crispy.
Remove crust on country loaf and tear bread into 1inch size pieces.
Put on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil.
While bread is toasting, place arugula in a large salad bowl.
Place dried cranberries in a small bowl, pour a few tbsp of vinegar and water to rehydrate. Drain after 10 min.
Add rehydrated cranberries, pine nuts and sliced scallions to the salad bowl.
Remove bread from oven and place on top of arugula, will wilt slightly from the heat.
Combine all dressing ingredients, and drizzle on top of salad and toss.
Place on a platter, cut chicken and place on top.