Thursday, July 30, 2009

Leah's Birthday Summer BBQ - In Pictures

Pictures courtesy of the multi-talented and extremely fashionable, Brian.

Rose Sangria with Red and Gold Raspberries
Fresh Green Bean Salad in Basil Vinegrette
Purple Potato Salad
Grilled Corn
BBQ'd Chicken
Janet's BBQ'd Ribs

Mason Jars for Sangria

The secret to Sonya's Sangria-sssh! Don't tell!

Rose Sangria

Green Sauce for the Green Beans

Purple Potato Salad

BBQ'd Ribs & Grilled Corn

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Birthday Mushrooms - Guest Post by Leah - Warm Far West Fungi Oyster Mushroom and Garbanzo Salad

As you may have guessd by all the cakes pictured on this blog and subsequently gifted to me, I turned a year older a few weeks ago. Aside from the cakes, Elissa also gifted me a Tree Oyster Mushroom Mini-Farm. Yea I said it. Mushroom. Mini. Farm.

It is so cool.

It was procured at Far West Fungi at the Ferry Building in San Francisco where we had a choice of either Tree Oyster or Shitake mushrooms. I choose Oyster. My farm came in a large plastic bag which ties at the top and leave is to be left on a countertop out of direct sunlight. In two weeks I had about 5 clumps of the most flavorful and tender Oyster Mushrooms a girl could ask for.

The Far West folks say that they “guarantee your first crop. If you follow the instructions the Mini-Farm may produce 3-4 harvests, but each Mini-Farm is hand crafted and can have different results.” I am currently awaiting the second crop, and am thinking about sauteing them with some broccoli raab and tossing it with porcini pasta from Phoenix Pastificio. But, I guess that'll be a post for another time.

Warm Far West Fungi Oyster Mushroom and Garbanzo Salad

1/4 to 1/2 lbs oyster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 lb fresh garbanzo beans, shelled and blanched (canned ones are fine, just drain and rinse them)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon thyme (regular thyme is just fine)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large skillet head olive oil until hot but not smoking. (Oil will be shimmery and will show dimples when you tilt the pan). Add sliced mushrooms and toss to coat with oil. Cook until tender and browned along edges. Add garlic and garbanzos. Toss until combined and cook until the garbanzos are warmed through. Salt and Pepper to taste. Add lemon thyme to finish. Serve warm.

Alameda Pie Truck, guys?

There's this Pie Truck.

It's based out of Alameda.

You order a pie off the website, and dude delivers them to you.

This dude is quite obviously a genius.

Why don't y'all go order some pies.

About Pie Truck
Pie Truck makes delicious pies and brings them to you! Place an order by emailing .

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I also deliver - Cardamom Peach Pie

As promised! Peach pie number 2! Am I tired of peach pie? Nope. If you have another recipe you'd like to share, send it on and I promise to tackle it.

I'll admit, perhaps I did go a bit overboard with 5 lbs of peaches from Frog Hollow Farms. It's easy to get carried away there. I have big plans to jar another few pounds before they start to disappear from the farmer's market. Peaches into the winter!

I recommend being particularly decadent and eating this one in bed (never mind the crumbs) while watching what has become my newest addiction, Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. It's impossible to watch this insanely wonderful travel/food show without a dish of something at your side, otherwise you might find yourself drooling all over the remote.

Cardamom Peach Pie
adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2009

for the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 tbsp ice water

for the filling:
2 1/2 lbs peaches, peeled, halved, pitted and sliced into 1/2 inch slices
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

1 egg, beaten (for glaze)
1 tbsp sugar for top of the pie

Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and combine with your hands (you could also use a food processor, but that just seems unnecessary and messy) till there are no pieces of butter larger than a pea. The dough should be shaggy. Drizzle the ice water over the dough and just combine till it forms a ball. Turn the dough onto your silpat or lightly floured surface and knead briefly to distribute the butter (4-5 turns of the dough). Flatten the dough into two disks, wrap each in plastic and chill in the freezer for at least half an hour.

When the dough has chilled,prepare a baking sheet lined in floured parchment paper. Remove and roll out on the parchment into a 13 inch round. Using a 2 1/2 inch to 3 inch round, scalloped or star shaped cookie cutter, cut out shapes from the dough. If necessary, combine the scraps and roll out again for a total of about 20. Chill on a baking sheet while preparing filling.

Preheat the oven to 400. In a medium bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and toss. Transfer to a 9 inch pie pan. Arrange the dough cutouts in concentric circles on top of the filling, starting at the edges and working towards the center until the filling is completely covered. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sugar.

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling and thick. Cool for at least half an hour.

A List of Wants and Needs

Very wise people (Oprah) have said the following: If you write it down and believe in it, it will eventually come true. I have decided to test that theory. The following are missing from my kitchen. I very much need them. I would like them to just somehow magically appear. A recent post on thekitchn got me thinking about what I need in my very tiny, spatially challenged kitchen:
  • A Mandoline Slicer - Why don't I already have one of these? It's ridiculous! I'm obsessed with presentation and slicing everything just so. I. Need. This.
  • Kitchen Thermometer - Obvious. Hard to procure? No. And still, I go without.
  • Pepper Mill - Mine is broken. It's been suggested that I get it fixed. I say, how about someone gift me a new one?
  • VeggiChop - WANT!
  • Mortar and Pestle - Instead of buying ground cardamom for the peach cardamom pie this weekend, I could have just ground the seeds I already had. Need.
  • Random, Beautiful Dishes for Presentation - The entire kitchen catalogue of Anthropologie? Yes please.

Is that really so much to ask?

Now. Where's my VeggiChop????

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just add bourbon - Bourbon Honey Caramel Peach Pie

This Sunday I did the unthinkable. I took on the unfathomable, the completely ridiculous and totally overboard task of making two peach pies. Not two of the same. Two different recipes. Why, you might reasonably ask? To which I reply, well, why not?

I mean, it's not as if these babies are going to waste. There's a dinner at Ilsa's tonight, and a potluck at work tomorrow. I can't show up empty handed, and the peaches at the Frog Hollow stand at the Farmer's Market were to die for. So stay tuned, dear readers, this is the first of the peach pie recipes, another is to come.

And I admit, I'd been staring longingly at this recipe in Gourmet for about a month, drooling and tyring to get over my fear of pie crust. Not making it exactly, but rolling it out and putting it on top of the actual pie. A task I find somewhat daunting.

But I had an idea for an improvement to this pie. Original? No. Genius? Most certainly.


Bourbon makes this pie.

The smells that drifted out of my oven were totally over the top. How my neighbors refrained from begging at my door, I'll never know. What can I tell you except this...make. this. pie.

Bourbon Honey Caramel Peach Pie
adapted from Gourmet, July 2009
For the dough:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/3 cup ice water

I skipped the food processor and whisked together the flour, sugar and salt. I then worked the butter in with my hands, pinching until the dough became shaggy and there were no pieces of butter larger than a pea. I then drizzled the water over it and stirred gently with a fork until just incorporated. The dough should hold together when squeezed and this point. If it doesn't, add a tablespoon or more of water.

Turn the dough out onto a silpat or lightly floured surface. Smear it out with the palm of your hand two or three times, and then back together. You want to make sure the fat of the butter is evenly distributed throughout. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Put it back together and separate the dough into two flat disks. Wrap in plastic and chill in the freezer for about half-and-hour. Remove and let sit for another half-hour.

For the filling:
3 lbs ripe peaches (I highly recommend sampling from each farmers market stand, so as to ascertain the quality, tough work, I know.)
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

For the bourbon honey caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp water
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 shot (4 tbsp?) bourbon such as Maker's Mark

For the top of the pie:
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp sugar

Cut an x in the bottom of each peach. Blanch in a pot of boiling water for 15 seconds, then immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the peaches from cooking. Peel and slice into 1 inch thick slices. Toss with the filling ingredients and set aside.

Bring the sugar, honey and water for the sauce to boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Boil without stirring for about 5 minutes, swirling the liquid in the pan gently and watching for it to come to a dark amber color. Remove from heat and add the butter, swirling to incorporate. Add the bourbon and toss over the peaches. The caramel might harden, but it will soften again when it bakes.

Roll out one disc of dough with a rolling pin (a wine bottle works extremely well for this) to a 13 inch circle on your silpat or lightly floured surface. Place in the bottom of your 9 inch pie pan. Trim the excess dough so that there's about a 1/2 inch overhang. Add the peach filling. Roll out the next disc of dough to about 11 inches. Cover the filling with the dough, trimming excess and leaving a 1/2 inch overhang. Crimp the pie edges together. Brush the top crust with 1 tbsp of milk and sprinkle with 1 tbsp of sugar. Cut three steam vents in the top of the pie.

Meanwhile, heat a rimmed baking sheet lined in foil in the lower third of the oven at 425. When the oven is hot, slide the pie in and cook for 20 minutes at 425. After the 20 minutes, lower the temperature to 375 and bake for 50 minutes more. When pie is browned on top and bubbling, remove and let cool for 3 hours. Serve while warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

You Can Never Have Too Much Potato Salad - Miso Potato Salad

It's true. You can never have too much potato salad. Well, maybe that's not true for one sitting, and perhaps more to the point, what I really mean is, you can never have too many versions of potato salad. You might end up finding your own personal definitive version of the classic, but of course that doesn't mean that you won't try the version that shows up at this barbecue, or that potluck. There's always room for variations on the theme.

I am of the mind that there is also always room on the table in the summer for a side of it. Which is why a few weeks ago, when Leah and I found ourselves with a feast of three salads, grilled shrimp and squid, grilled corn and bread, she quite reasonably asked me, "We don't need potato salad as well, do we?"

Au contraire. Yes. Yes, we do.

And so she decided to experiment, and make it quick and easy. The result was an absolutely delicious potato salad with an asian twist, that would make a positively noble splash at any summer gathering. She graciously provided the recipe. I could eat this stuff for days.

I suppose you could make your own miso dressing from scratch, if you wanted to be fancy about it. You could also just buy a bottle at the grocery store and toss it together with a few things. These days, it's all about ease.

Easy Japanese Miso Potato Salad - Courtesy of Leah

2 lbs potatoes (I like purple potatoes, fingerlings, or any of the other small organic varieties)
½ lb Chinese long beans sliced at an angle in about ½” pieces (you can also use green or wax beans)
½ cup Japanese miso salad dressing (I used Red Shell brand which you can find in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods, or Berkeley Bowl --- I have even seen it at Safeway.)
3Tbl unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2Tbl toasted sesame seeds (I used both black and white ones because I had them and they look pretty)
1 green onion – green and white parts sliced thinly

Boil potatoes in a large pot in salted water (water should cover the potatoes by at least 1inch) until tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. Drain in a large colander. Cut the potatoes into small, bite size wedges.

Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon or pair of tongs keeping the water in the pot. Use the potato water to cook the beans. Blanch the beans in the salted water for 1 minute. Drain and rinse the beans with cold water to stop the cooking process.

Cut the potatoes into small, bite size wedges.

Combine the Miso dressing, vinegar, and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add warm potatoes and beans, mix to combine.

Garnish with green onion

Salad may be made up to 2 days ahead. Serve cold.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Louise + Jacques - Clafoutis - Guest Post by Leah

While it isn’t confirmed, I always suspected that my grandmother Louise might have had a love affair with Jacques Pepin. I am not sure if she ever met Jacques in person, but I do know, at the very least, that she was very much in love with his cooking. Of course, he’s not too bad looking either and I’m sure his wife of 40+ years, Gloria, thinks so too.

I have no real evidence of a love affair. It’s not like I ever caught them whisk deep in the béarnaise or anything, but she often referenced him when showing me the proper way to cut a chicken or temper chocolate. While Louise wasn’t exactly a woman who waxes poetic, she did have a way of looking at you that conveyed “there is more to this story, and rest assured it is a little tawdry.”

Louise was a risk taker. She loved to ski, (even after breaking many bones) she traveled the world, and drove a red Corvette. But mostly, she loved to cook. She loved taking dishes from her travels and eating experiences and re-creating them in her kitchen at home. With her grandchildren, Louise was generous and patient. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen “playing” and creating meals to share with our loved ones. She always put as much into a breakfast after a sleepover as she did for a family holiday… well -- as much love, if not effort. Besides her chocolate cake, German pancake, mazzoball soup, and a plethora of other dishes, I loved her Clafoutis.

Clafoutis (cla-fou-tee) is a custard-like French dessert typically made by baking fresh fruit (traditionally cherries) and a batter somewhat similar to pancake batter, in a baking dish. It can be served for dessert or breakfast, but my personal favorite is around 4pm after a long day of swimming and playing in the backyard. (Oh man, my sense memory is going crazy!) It's also a great way to use slightly over ripened fruit.

Also, in case you were wondering, I am working on my “there is more to this story, and rest assured it is a little tawdry” side-glance.

Louise’s Fresh Fruit Clafoutis
Serves 4

1 tablespoon butter
¼ cup sugar + more for ramekin
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2-ish cups fresh fruit cut into small pieces (berries, peaches, plums, cherries, strawberries, whatever you desire)

• Heat oven to 400°F. Butter four 3 ½ - inch ramekins and dust with sugar.
• Whisk egg until frothy and add sugar, half and half and vanilla extract; mix to combine.
• Add the all purpose flour and whisk very well.
• Divide the fruit into the ramekins and pour the batter over the fruit.

Bake for 25-50 minutes until golden brown and the middle is set.

The custard will soufflé up and then when you take it out of the oven it will fall back down.

Serve the Clafoutis warm or room temperature either inside or removed from the ramekins.

Bon Appetit!

Another "What to do With Tomatoes" Post - Erika's Homemade Tomato Salsa

You can search high and low for the perfect salsa recipe for years and not find the one that's exactly to your taste. Salsa is the Meryl Streep of dips. Totally and completely versatile. You can use just about any base you like, be it mango, cucumber, melon or tomato. Sweet or spicy, there are just so may ways to go about it.

I found my definitive salsa on my Sister's porch in Ashland while visiting several years ago. I'd brought some friends along, and we were enjoying the sun and munching on chips when Erika decided to whip together this salsa. One taste and we were sold! I don't feel much of a need to keep searching anymore. This is it for me. Though once again, it's one of those dishes that really only makes sense when all the ingredients are at their peak, and the outside temperature is above 80 degrees.

I made this last night alongside my favorite fish tacos. I don't want to brag, but the person who shared alongside them said something along the lines of "These might be the best fish tacos I have ever had." They also moaned a bit upon tasting the salsa. I highly suggest running out to the store and making them both at your earliest convenience. A perfect summer dinner.

Erika's Homemade Salsa

4-5 good heirloom tomatoes, chopped (I mixed in cherry tomatoes as well)
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 sweet onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or diced
1 jalapeno pepper (seeds removed and diced)
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and a little bit of sugar to taste

Mix everything together and serve with chips, in tacos or whatever you like.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grill Baby Grill (too easy) - Grilled Lemongrass Skewered Shrimp & Squid

I'll take any chance I can get to grill in the great outdoors. Sadly, I have no outdoor grill (or outdoor space for that matter) at my apartment, but happily, Leah does, and good friend that she is, she's more than willing to share.

We hit up Berkeley Bowl West last week, remarking to each other that we'd have to come back and spend a good amount of time there at some point. I could spend hours perusing the aisles inspecting all kinds of ingredients I've never seen before (fyi, this is the place to come for durian and kaffir lime leaves, should you need them) Berkeley Bowl is the perfect place to be a culinary adventurer. We picked up everything we needed for our grilled seafood dinner, headed back to her place, poured ourselves some glasses of wine and got to work. Leah had the brilliant idea to make shrimp and squid skewers, and to use lemongrass as the skewers. We hoped the lemongrass would impart a bit of flavor to the seafood. It did not. But it looked pretty! And presentation has to count for something, right?

Grilled Lemongrass Skewered Shrimp & Squid

1/2 lb large raw shrimp (cleaned peeled and de-veined)
2 squid (cleaned, peeled and de-veined)
6 squid tentacle parts (cleaned)
2 lemongrass stalks

For the marinade:
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 garlic clove, minced
salt & pepper

For the dressing:
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp thyme
1 garlic clove
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

Slice the squid bodies into 1/2 thick rounds. Put into a bowl with the shrimp, tentacles and the rest of the marinade ingredients. Let sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Slice the lemongrass into "skewers", keeping the root end intact. Skewer the shrimp and squid with the lemongrass, about 1 of each on a skewer so they aren't too heavy to hold. Skewer through the thickest part of each so as not to tear the seafood too much.

Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing and set aside in a bowl.

Grill over an open flame outside, or on your stove using a grill pan. Cook until the shrimp is pink and the squid is opaque, about 1 1/2-2 minutes on each side.

Pour the dressing over the grilled seafood and serve.

Tomato, Toh-mato - Orzo Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Corn, Feta and Kalmata Olives

I must admit, I am something of a tomato snob. In the summer, they become the main focus of almost every dish I cook. But during the other months of the year, they remain mostly neglected. Tomatoes just aren't the same in the Fall, Winter and Spring. I wait, every year, with great anticipation for the first heirlooms to arrive so that I can finally make my favorite dish, tomato and basil pasta, which I make at least once a week during the summer. A big batch of it sits nearly constantly in my fridge. I crave it almost always and make it every chance I get. It's the most requested recipe amongst my friends, and it's one I'll share soon.

But for now, a cooking by feel recipe. Amber was coming for dinner and I was recreating the coconut curried shrimp dish, but I also had some beautiful tomatoes resting on the counter and fresh greek feta. I was dying for some kind of pasta. Curried shrimp with pasta on the side doesn't make much sense, admittedly, but luckily Amber was willing to overlook that.

Not quite so luckily, she happened to lock her keys inside her car with the engine running right outside my apartment. Never fear. She called AAA, I poured us some rhubarb gin & tonic's and got to work on grilling the shrimp. We chatted, sipped and grilled while keeping an eye out for AAA. Crisis averted and dinner served!

This is one of those cooking by feel recipes for me. I basically took my Mother's tried and true french vinaigrette, mixed it with chopped basil and mint and poured it over the pasta, feta and veggies.

Orzo with Roasted Tomatoes, Corn, Feta and Kalmata Olives

Orzo (1 package cooked according to directions)
2 ears of corn
6 small vine tomatoes
6 ounces greek feta, chopped
8 ounces kalmata olives, pitted and halved
1/2 jar roasted red peppers
3 tbsp basil
2 tbsp mint
6 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp dried oregano
salt & pepper

Heat the oven to 350. Chop the tomatoes and toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, the dried oregano and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes. Meanwhile, Scrape the corn off the cobs with a knife, set aside in a bowl. Add the chopped feta, olives, red pepper and tomatoes when done. Cook the orzo according to the package directions. Toss with the cheese and veggies.

Mix the mint, basil, 4 tbsp olive oil, lemon, minced garlic, mustard and salt & pepper. Dress the pasta mixture with the dressing. Taste for salt and pepper and season accordingly. Serve warm, at room temperature or even cold.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Toulouse - An Anderson Valley Winery

I snuck away to Mendocino County this weekend to a campground in the Anderson Valley, which is overflowing with wineries along Highway 128. We did our share by tasting our way through more than a few of them over Saturday and Sunday. A task I certainly couldn't describe as being in any way arduous. It was hot, truth be told, and we were sweaty and sunburned, but still we pressed on! Here's where we stopped:

Tasting in the Anderson Valley is a very different experience than a Napa or Sonoma trip. In comparison, the wineries in Anderson Valley feel practically undiscovered. You never have to wait for a spot to taste, and in two occasions, we were the only people tasting at the time. No fighting traffic, and we hardly ever encountered a tasting fee. It's a bit further to go, but it's well worth it.

Our favorite visit was Toulouse Vineyards. Every wine we tasted there was fantastic, but their 2007 Pinot Noir was truly exceptional. We were in heaven with the first sip, but then the tasting rep gave us each a piece of mild black licorice, then asked us to taste again. The combination was incredible, bringing out even more flavors and notes in the wine. It was a spontaneous find for us, and truly the best part of our trip. I highly recommend doing a tasting at Toulouse, or ordering a bottle.

More on cooking over a campfire adventures later!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Days - Watermelon, Corn & Feta Salad with Mint

Summer has a way of being terribly distracting. It's so difficult to go about the day to day business of work, errands and chores when outside the temperature is above 85, the sun is shinning and there is a river nearby practically begging to be floated upon. Lately I live for the 5pm hour, and for those hours falling between Friday at 5pm and Sunday at midnight. I do my best to squeeze every possible spare minute into a summer activity. Last night was the outdoor movie night at Pizzaiolo in Oakland. Slices of summer squash, rapini and housemade sausage pizza with blackened and blistered crust and full glasses of red wine to accompany Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. Now that is a mighty fine summer combination if I've ever seen one. Have I mentioned my affinity and undying love for Paul Newman? He is, in my mind, it.

Lucky for me, Pizzaiolo seems to agree. For the next several weeks they'll be showing a Paul Newman film on Wednesday nights at 8:30pm in their courtyard. Pizza slices, wine and housemade oreos are available while you watch. So many of my favorite things together! It's almost too good to be true.

Oh summer. You are so good to me.

Leah and I fired up her grill last week for an evening feast. We whipped together several summery salads, this being one of our favorites:

Watermelon, Corn & Feta Sald with Mint

Leah and I both agree that a mild feta with a firm texture works best here. Greek or American. Serves 4-6.

1 small watermelon
2 ears fresh corn
1/3 lb feta cheese
2 tbsp fresh mint
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
salt & pepper to taste

Cut the watermelon and the feta into cubes. Slice the corn off the cob. Finely chop the mint. Toss in a bowl with the olive oil, lime and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Good Life - Haloumi with Melon and Avocado in a Mint-Lime Dressing

I've notice a trend amongst food-bloggers. It seems at some point in their youth, everyone went to France and since then, food has taken center stage in the daily fantasies. Thinking about that first lick of gelato which made store-bought ice cream seem like a cruel punishment, the bread which made all other bread taste like cardboard, the pastries (oh the pastries) the cheese (oh GOD, the cheese!) and, in my case, the champagne that accompanied breakfast.

My French exchange Father served me my first taste of champagne at my arrival dinner, the night I realized champagne and I were made for each other. He delighted in seeing my face after that first sip and thought it was quite funny. While we were on vacation in Corsica, he always poured a small glass with my morning orange juice. He would laugh and tell me I was meant for the good life in France. I couldn't have agreed more. Needless to say, we got along like gangbusters.

Another regular on the table in Corsica was the melon wrapped in prosciutto. A French classic. It's the perfect blend of sweet and salty. One I like to try and re-create again and again during the summer, desperately tyring to make it taste as I remember it that summer in Corsica when I was 16. Sadly, it never tastes quite as good, but that's true of just about everything that's not in France.

I stumbled across this recipe on Design Sponge, and it reminded me of that sweet and salty combination I love so much. The saltiness comes from the haloumi (one of my favorite cheeses) and it adds mint and avocado. The haloumi is a perfect replacement when you want something vegetarian. I adapted it slightly by adding more lime

Haloumi, Melon, and Avocado salad with lime-mint dressing

adapted from Melina Hammer of Design Sponge
Serves 4

1 cantaloupe
2 avocados
2 blocks of haloumi (8 ounces each)
1/4 cup chopped mint
juice from 2 limes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix mint, olive oil and the juice of 1 lime together. Set aside.

Cut the cantaloupe in half and scoop out its seeds. Use a larger size melon ball tool to hollow out spheres from its flesh. Do the same with the avocados, using the smaller size of the melon baller. Dress the avocado balls in the juice of the 1 remaining lime to keep it from turing brown.

Slice the haloumi into 1/2 inch slices. Pour 2 tbsp olive oil into a skillet and heat over medium high. When the oil is hot, add the haloumi and sear until brown on each side. The second side will take less time than the first.

Place the cheese in a serving dish. Top with melon and avocado balls and dress with the mint-lime dressing. Serve while hot.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wood-Fire's and Pink Skies - Wood-Fire Grilled Shrimp with Coconut Curry

I had all four burners going on Saturday night in Tahoe, preparing the Birthday feast in our rustic cabin. Just an hour before starting dinner we'd been sunning on the beach when a mountain storm blew in in what seemed like just minutes. The wind picked up, chasing us from the sand and big, fat raindrops began to fall just as we walked into the cabin. Luckily the rain was no match for the serious wood-fire Matt and Eric were able to build on the deck. We were determined to grill and stick to the menu. The ladies of the cabin were all quite impressed with their manly prowess over that fire. The rain lasted for less than an hour, and by the time the table was set and dinner was served, the sun was just breaking through the clouds again, coloring the sky a brilliant pink while the lake reflected it all.

Ilsa had requested coconut-curry shrimp, and I remembered seeing a version in Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" some time ago. When I looked up the recipe it called for steaming the shrimp, but what better way to improve upon a recipe than by grilling over a wood-fire?

I have to say, this is one of the most delicious things I've had in a very long time, and as an added bonus, it's incredibly easy to do. I think this would be a perfect camping recipe. Bring the sauce along in the cooler and pour it over vegetable and meat skewers grilled over the fire.

Grilled Coconut-Curry Shrimp
adapted from Mark Bittman

2 lbs shrimp, peeled
1 cup coconut milk
3 stalks lemongrass
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 limes
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp curry powder
salt to taste

Trim the stalks of the lemongrass and bruise to release the oils. Remove the outer stalks from the inner core. Mince the core and set aside (should provide about 1 tsp). Cut the stalks in half and place in a saucepan with the fish sauce, juice of 2 limes and the lime rinds. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk, curry, minced lemongrass core, and sugar. Continue to cook while stirring until the mixture is yellow. Remove from heat and let cool. Add salt to taste.

Meanwhile, cook shrimp. About 2 minutes or less on each side, until bright pink. We cooked them on skewers over a wood-fire oven. They can also be steamed right in the pan with the sauce (about 5-10 minutes until pink) or sauteed separately over the stove. I think grilling tastes the best, but it's a very flexible dish. We also served the sauce over tofu. It would work well over numerous vegetables and proteins. You could also consider adding a dried chili while you simmer the sauce and removing it before serving for heat.

Serve the shrimp with the sauce, delicious!

Monday, July 13, 2009

So Fast - Kaffir Lime Gin & Tonic's

Lately, more and more, I feel a kind of panic to remember everything. I'm crushed when others forget; where we were, what we said and did, what it was we ate and heard. I tell myself, I have to be the one to remember it all, because if these things are forgotten, it's as if it never happened, and I'll exist just a little bit less. Disappearing little by little everyday. So I burn the places and details into my memory, willing myself to remember it all. I'm a map, comprised of the people, places and things I love.

Because it moves so fast. Time seems to speed immeasurably as we grow older. It's a breathless, frenzied weight to hold onto it all.

I wonder how other people handle these thoughts. Do they struggle to hold on and remember? Do they keep physical reminders? Do they return again and again to the places they hold dear in a kind of gravitational pull? I always say that the old places feel somewhat haunted by the events of the past. It's such a bittersweet feeling. I wonder if it feels better or worse to not remember at all?

I'm thankful there are so many good memories to hold onto, and for the friends who hold onto them as well. I don't want to lose any of them.

Kaffir Lime Gin & Tonics (in honor of Ilsa's 30th)

For the Kaffir Lime Symple Syrup:

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
7 kaffir lime leaves, sliced into thin strips
1/2 cup lime juice

Boil the syrup ingredients together, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes more. The syrup will be very fragrent. Remove from heat and strain into a glass container. Put the mixture into the refrigerator to cool

For the Gin & Tonics

3 ounces gin
5 ounces tonic
2 tbsp kaffir lime symple syrup
1 slice lime
2 mint leaves

Pour over ice and serve.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Just one more day? - Cold Sesame Noodles with Cucumber

The most difficult part of vacation is ending it. Tearing yourself away from the shores of Lake Tahoe in exchange for mountains of laundry is enough to make you want to go on strike. In Tahoe.

Long live the three day weekend and give thanks for vacation days.

I plan to try and extend this summer as long as possible. Oh, to be in school again. Whatever happened to a real summer? Sprinklers, pools and 90 days of uninterrupted bliss...

But this weekend was pretty blissful itself. We celebrated Ilsa's 30 Birthday in a rustic cabin on the Nevada side of Tahoe, complete with a nearly private beach, beautiful deck to take in the sun and an extremely well-stocked refrigerator. We cooked up a storm (the famous nutella cake even made an appearance) of wood-fire grilled shrimp with coconut curry sauce, haloumi with melon and avocado in a mint-lime dressing, Mediterranean chopped salad, heirloom tomato and basil pasta, and, what is sure to become a staple in our group, the kaffir lime gin & tonics. There were no growling stomachs this weekend. We did our best to return home with an empty cooler. Success!

So those recipes and more, coming. For now it's back to laundry and a bowl of quick cold sesame noodles (courtesy of Mark Bittman himself) enjoy!

Cold Sesame Noodles
adapted from Mark Bittman

12 ounces linguine (I used whole wheat, but soba and plain would work well also)
1 cucumber (peeled and sliced into thin ribbons)
1/2 cup tahini (or peanut butter)
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp minced ginger
tabasco sauce to taste
salt & pepper to taste
sesame seeds for garnish (about 1 tbsp)

Cook the pasta. When cooked, drain and run under cold water until cool. Meanwhile, slice the cucumber in half and remove the seeds. Slice thinly in long strips.

Whisk together the tahini, sesame oil, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and tabasco. Add 1/4 cup hot water to the mixture and continue to stir until well blended. The mixture should look creamy. Toss with the cucumber and noodles. Add sesame seeds and serve.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Far Away

No recipe today, as I'm off to Tahoe for the weekend. The time by the lake promises to be full of fun and delicious new recipes. I was able to hit up the new Berkeley Bowl West this morning in preparation, a place I feel sure to be spending quite a lot of time in in the future.

So check back in Monday! Till then, happy Friday and happy weekend to you all!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


It started with a rented taco truck, now it's one of the most coveted Thursday night dinning tickets. Last week I had the pleasure of attending Mission Street Food at Lung Shan Restaurant in San Francisco for the first time. Mission Street Food is the brainchild of husband and wife team, Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz. Held in a rented Chinese Restaurant, it becomes a sort-of "hipster dinner party" for Mission locals. The line is long, but they're happy to take your name and send you down the street for drinks while you wait.

Local chefs are invited to come up with their own menu. They cover the cost of the ingredients and that's it. The rest is up to them, and you (as the oh-so-adventurous diner) get to reap the benefits of their creations. Proceeds from each dinner go to benefit a different cause; past recipients have included Meals on Wheels, 826 Valencia and Oakland Food Connection. The Campaign for Better Nutrition benefited the Thursday I attended.

The theme was "McMission," a re-imagined menu of McDonald's standards, presented by California Academy of Science's Moss Room Chefs, Ben Koe, Blake Kutner and Angela Gong. The menu was as follows:
  • Fresh Corn Nuts - with fried cilantro, adobo and lime
  • McShaker Salad - with sunflower seeds, watermelon and jicama
  • Smoked Tofu McNuggets - with ancho-barbecue sauce and tequila and agave mustard
  • Cactus Fries - with habenero-lime ketchup
  • Filet of Bacalao Fish - with coriander cayenne slaw
  • McRib Sandwich - pork belly and smoky St. Louis rib roulade, cipollinis and ancho cress
  • Mac Grande - shredded short rib and chuck patty with "government cheese" and spicy zucchini relish
  • Dulce De Leche Sundae - with hot Mexican fudge and chile cocoa pepitas
  • Granny Smith Apple Pie - a la mode with malted vanilla
  • Bing Cherry Pie - a la mode with malted vanilla
  • Mission Cookie Box
Assorted beverages: Lillet Blanc, Tecate and Newcastle (to name a few.)

All I have to say is, McDonald's never tasted so good. We weren't able to try it all, but the favorites among our group were the McRib, the Mac Grande and the Tofu McNuggets. I only wish my camera would have cooperated in the dark light of the re-imagined Lung Shan.

Just another thing to add to my "things I love about the Bay Area" list. It's growing all the time.

There are no reservations, show up early on Thursdays for first come first serve and put your name on the host's list. Bring a party of 3-4, and enjoy! Visit their website here.

Mission Street Food
@ Lung Shan Restaurant
2234 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leah's Guest Post - Continued - Escabeche

Do you know what it is to have a friend who can cook like nobody's business? I am lucky enough to be able to say that I do. So it is, that when Leah makes Mexican food, she doesn't just make the best Chili Rellanos you've ever tasted, she doesn't just have ice cold pacifico's waiting in the fridge, nor does she just teach you to make tortillas by hand. No. When Leah makes Mexican food, she goes all out. She even makes Escabeche, that little dish of pickled somethings that arrives on the side of a good authentic dish.

Oh my. It. Was. Delicious.


Right now It seems like canning is all the rage. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Happy Girl Kitchen cabbage and man are those pickled beets de-lish! But, to be honest, I am so much more of an instant gratification girl. I think that's why I cook and don't make pottery (all that waiting, and leaving it alone kills me!) I want to be the kind of person who can pick a bunch of Ollieberries and make copious jars of jam for winter gifts or set cucumbers in a brine for weeks until they emerge all perfect and ready for a sandwich. But I am just not. I seem to always be looking for a short cut or at least a way to enjoy the fruits of my labor NOW.

Which is why I am sharing with you two recipes for one of my favorite side dishes, Spicy Carrot and Radish Escabeche. One is the quick eat it NOW version and the other is the "Save for Later" 5 hour soak. Both are equally delicious, but of course, the longer one (the one that takes a little more patience --which is a virtue, they tell me) is a little rounder in flavor. The longer version can also be stored for about 3 months, and so you end up being able to stretch out the enjoyment as well as the process.

Spicy Carrot and Radish Escabeche

These pickled carrots and radishes, which are often found in Mexican restaurants, are great as a side dish but I also love to put these carrots and radishes inside sandwiches for a little texture and flavor kick. You can make them as spicy as you want by adjusting the jalapeno amount.

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced on an angle
1 bunch radishes, washed and sliced into rounds
1-2 large jalapenos, quartered
1 cup champagne vinegar (or any vinegar you like, but NOT balsamic)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
4 whole bay leaves
1 star anise pod

(optional: 2 cups of ice)

1. The Eat NOW Version:
Bring the Water, Vinegar, Salt to a boil in a sauce pan when the salt dissolves bring the heat down to a simmer.
Add the Oregano, Bay, and Star Anise. Simmer for one minute.
Add Carrots, Radish, and Jalapenos.

Turn the heat off and cover for 5 minutes.

Add ice to the carrots etc. to cool mixture down.
When carrots, radishes, and jalapenos are cold drain the liquid out.
Discard the bay leaves and star anise.

Serve cold and enjoy.

2. The Save for Later Version:

Toss together the carrots, radishes and jalapenos and fit into a large glass container (with a lid)

In a large sauce pan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, oregano, bay, and star anise. Bring to a simmer for two minutes.

Carefully pour the vinegar mixture over the carrot mixture until it covers all the vegetables, and allow to cool on the counter top. (Leftover liquid should be discarded) When cool, cap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

Serve cold and Enjoy!
Can be kept for up to three months.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Guest Post by Leah - Chili Rellenos

Rellenos. Tortillas. Cerveza. Ay Dios Mio.

It could be because I am from LA? (Don’t hate) Or, maybe it’s on account of the warm weather? Perhaps, as my mother likes to tell me, it’s a result of all the salsa she put on everything while she was pregnant with me? But, anyway you look at it, I love Mexican Food. From a late night burrito in the Mission, a plate of carnitas at Doña Tomas, or my favorite: Sea Bass with Lime Caper Mole at Tlapazola in Los Angeles. Mmmmm, Lime Caper Mole… I dream that some day I will be able to re-create that sauce….

But, I digress. The thing is that it just seemed like a good evening for Chili Rellenos. While I don’t often shy away from frying, I like to bake these little babies especially when the ingredients are in the height of their season.

I had some Pasilla (aka Anaheim) Peppers from the farmer’s market that were waiting to be used as well as some left over grilled corn and a couple of Pacifico's in the back of the fridge that were just asking to be consumed. So, I called some friends to join me for dinner and headed to Mi Tierra Foods for a few more ingredients. My recipe is definitely not traditional, but it is one of my favorite things to eat.

I like to serve the Rellenos with sliced Avocado, Lime Crema and homemade Corn Tortillas (or if I am simply not feeling it, I buy the “homemade corn tortillas” from Trader Joes or Primavera and pretend like I made them at home… sssshhhh!)

Baked Chili Rellenos

6 Fresh Pasilla Peppers (same as Anaheim’s or Poblano’s)
3 Ears of Corn – Roasted and cut off the cob (can use Frozen white corn)
¼ - ½ Cup Cherry Tomatoes – cut into quarters
¼ lb Queso Oaxaca - Shredded. it is a like a sharp mozzarella (you can use mozzarella or goat cheese)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
¼ cup Cilantro – Chopped
2 TBL Olive Oil

Heat the oven to 350*F and grease a 9x13” baking dish.

Roast the peppers to remove the skin. Try to not rip the flesh of the peppers, they are very delicate. (But if you do, don’t worry, they will still be delicious. ) Cut a slit in the pepper from stem to tip and carefully remove the seeds.

All of the other ingredients should be chopped/cut so they are all about the same size and shape. Combine all of them together.

Very carefully fill the peppers with the corn mixture and place them in the baking dish.

If the peppers rip open, just spoon some of the mixture on top and try to fold over the pepper on top of the mixture.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until all the cheese is melted.

Lime Crema

½ Cup Sour Cream
Zest and Juice of one Lime (it’s easier if you zest the lime before you juice it)
Pinch of Salt

Combine all ingredients

Corn Tortillas

1 1/2 cups Masa Harina
2 tsp Salt
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1 1/4 +/- cups warm Water

Combine the Masa Harina, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add in the oil then the water a little at a time and stir until smooth. The dough should be slightly sticky and form a ball when pressed together. To test, flatten a small ball of dough between your palms. If the edges crack, add water to the dough, a tablespoon at a time, until a test piece does not crack.

Place a piece of plastic wrap onto each side of a tortilla press.

Form a 1 1/2-inch ball of dough and place it in the center of the press, and push the lever down to form the tortilla. (If you don’t have a tortilla press, the dough balls can be rolled between plastic sheets with a rolling pin.) Open the press and carefully peel the tortilla off the bottom plastic and set aside.

Place the tortillas onto a hot, ungreased comal or cast iron skillet cook for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove the tortilla and place it on a clean tea towel; keep it covered to keep it soft and pliable. Continue until you have used up all the dough.

Thanks to Leah for dinner and the post!