A 30-Minute Meal, San Francisco-Style

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To try Sophie's recipe for creamy shellfish enchiladas, click here.

When my boyfriend got a job offer in San Francisco, we were suddenly forced to confront what had, until then, just been idle conversation. "Wouldn't it be a fun adventure to move away for a few years?" we'd mused from time to time over the past six months. As I tend to think in stereotypes, my musings were fairly one-dimensional.

One week, I'd entertain visions of coming home with a huge baguette and a jug of wine to a tiny Parisian apartment, where Dave, who'd taken up smoking clove cigarettes, would be listening to Jacques Brel on a crackly phonograph. Another week, per the insistence from his roommate that our quality of life would drastically improve if we all moved to Colorado, I imagined skiing to work and falling asleep in front of a fire, our four rescued huskies snoring beside me. And for a few weeks we considered San Francisco. I'd pick my breakfast from the fruit trees in our sunny backyard, and, for dinner, hop on my bike and forage for oysters in the bay. Then we'd get high and compost our trash.

When Dave got the offer, I was forced to take my blinders off, get on a flight, and spend a weekend in San Francisco sussing it out. We decided to cram in as much as possible, eating Mexican food at the Ferry Building, driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and tramping through Muir Woods, gorging on fresh fish and drinking beer from mason jars on the docks in Sausalito, walking along the Embarcadero, and even making it out to wine country. My mother, perhaps sensing I was seriously considering a transcontinental move, called me from New York and said, "It's raining here, but it doesn't always rain here."

A group of college friends gathered to cook dinner one night, knowing that if anything could convinced me to move, it would be the combination of old friends and good food. On the menu: guacamole, creamy crab and shrimp enchiladas, arugula salad with strawberries and walnuts, and gelato and sorbet from Ciao Bella. Hello, California.

My college friend Eric, his boyfriend (Tyler), and their newly inherited obese and sweet-natured Cairn Terrier, "Schnooks Lavene"—so christened by Tyler's grandparents, pre-Jersey Shore—hosted the meal at their impeccably decorated apartment. Schnooks proved, by her mere existence, that San Francisco isn't all 15-mile bike rides in the sunshine and fresh food, a fact that calmed my gritty New York heart. She waddles around the house and wheezes like an old broad with emphysema, having fallen victim to two loving and overfeeding grandparents who rarely took her out. Now in Eric and Tyler's care, she's on a strict regimen of daily runs and a diet of dried kibble and water until she is as sleek as her new apartment. She did not partake in dinner.

As friends dug into guacamole and a few good bottles of wine, Eric, Tyler, and I set to work on the enchiladas. Not at all familiar with cooking Latin American food, I was surprised at how easy it was to construct these delicious roll-ups. The filling—white and green onions, jalapenos, shrimp, crab, and a mix of cream cheese and Monterey jack—would have been good on its own or over rice, but it was even more delectable in fresh corn tortillas and topped with enchilada sauce. From start to finish, the recipe took no more than 30 minutes, and was so good I had thirds.

The strawberries in the salad, while not local (all varieties of fruit and vegetables do not, it turns out, grow in abundance year-round in California), were sweet and balanced by a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, and it proved easier than expected to stuff in fresh gelato and sorbet before my friends headed their separate ways.

Back in New York, I'm looking at a stint in the city by the bay as a fun adventure. However, the minute "foraging for my own food" takes on a meaning other than cherry-picking the best ingredients for a Sunday morning bagel from H&H (bagel), Murray's (schmear), and Russ & Daughters (lox), you'd better believe I'll be high-tailing it home.

Recipe: Creamy Shellfish Enchiladas

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Sophie Brickman is a writer living and cooking in New York City. More

Sophie Brickman is a writer living and cooking in New York City. She is a graduate of Harvard College and the French Culinary Institute.

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