Monday, August 31, 2009

Gin Gimlet + Don Draper - Cucumber Saladita

Laundry, no-stove cooking, a gin gimlet and the latest episode of Mad Men.

Monday night has been heaven, dear readers.

And when Don Draper skillfully hopped over that bar to make a couple of Old Fashioned's? My heart may have skipped a beat or two. I mean (for those of you who watched it) how good was that episode? Best one yet, I think. The look on Joanie's face when she played her accordion at the dinner party! If someone doesn't give that girl an Emmy I'll spit!

Have I mentioned that I love this show?

I could go on of course. For those of you who haven't yet watched it, I highly recommend checking it out. It makes folding one's laundry so much more bearable. I like how I have to give myself incentives to actually make it all the way through my chores these days. Put the clothes in the wash before I start Mad Men, a glass of wine after I finish the dishes, a little nap before I make the bed. I'm really becoming quite indulgent. I'll have to work on that. Perhaps become a little more selective with the incentives. But Monday is through, Mad Men has been watched and my laundry is dry and neatly folded. Well done, I say, well. done.

This is my no-cook summer dinner. Cucumber Saladita. Vegetarian and easily adapted to become vegan, just omit the feta. It's fresh, delicious and happens to be another installment of the "frugal me" meal plan. So far that $20 has spread itself out quite well (as long as you don't count that dinner at Burma Superstar or the sandwich at the Healdsburg Bar and Grill yesterday...which I don't!). This is a great addition to any BBQ.

Cucumber Saladita
Saldita - A colorful mixture of chopped vegetables
Can easily be made vegan by ommiting the cheese
Serves 6

2 cups fresh corn kernels
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely diced poblano chile
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons very finely
minced red onion
1 pinch salt
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
3 large cucumbers, preferably English seedless
2 medium firm, but ripe, avocados
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

In a medium bowl, combine the all the ingredients from the corn through the cilantro, and mix well. Cover the bowl and set in the fridge to marinate for 1/2 hour to an hour before using. Meanwhile, halve the cucumbers lengthwise, scrape out the insides with a spoon and discard the seeds. 15 minutes before serving, remove the salidita and let it come to room temp. Dice the avocados and add them to the saladita, mixing gently. Add pepper to taste.

Fill each cucumber half with about 1/3 cup of the saladita mixture. Garnish with the feta and serve cold or at room temp. There will be lots of leftover saladita mix, eat at will!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cupcakes...not muffins - The Best Blueberry Muffins

I'm sort of a savory breakfast kind of girl. Forget the waffles and pancakes, for the most part, I'm all about the eggs and bacon. Normally, I skip right over the muffins and scones and head straight for the toast. In fact, until very recently I shunned muffins altogether. I loved cupcakes. Hated muffins. Weird? Maybe. I don't really know why, to tell you the truth. Perhaps it was the consistency. Whatever it was, my distaste for muffins was well-known amongst my friends. So I can't really explain my sudden urge the other morning for a warm blueberry muffin right out of the oven, I just knew I had to have one. I'd never made muffins before, so I did some sleuthing for the best recipe I could find. Lo and behold, the New York Times happened to have an article in the archives from 1987 that featured what they promised to be, the best blueberry muffin around.

So of course, I had to try it.

And guess what? I loved it! I even made a second batch to bring into work. The co-worker stamp of approval is extremely important when it comes to my recipe testing. This one got a big thumbs up. It was light, not to sweet, just a hint of salt and lemon. So perfect right out of the oven. I think I might be a muffin long as I stick to this recipe anyway. But I must admit, I'm curious. Any fantastic muffin recipes anyone has to share? Send 'em on!

Blueberry Muffins
adapted from the New York Times Jordan Marsh Recipe
makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar plus 3 teaspoons
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups blueberries, washed, drained
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375. Beat the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Next, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder, and add to the butter mixture alternately with the milk. Crush 1/2 cup blueberries, lemon zest and juice with a fork, and mix into the batter. Fold in the remaining whole berries.

Grease 12 large muffin cups, and fill with batter. Sprinkle the 3 teaspoons sugar over the tops of the muffins, and bake for 30 minutes. Cool another 30 minutes before removing. Store, uncovered overnight, or the muffins will be too moist the second day.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Shooting Stars - Tomato Bruschetta Tatlettes

I really do have the best of intentions when it comes to this blog. I intend to post every week day, but unfortunately, sometimes life catches up with me and hands me a broken down car in a gas station parking lot, a "liquid-damaged" laptop, and an overwhelming desire to order in and take a big old nap.

So you'll have to excuse me if I miss a day or two here and there. There are times when cooking is the perfect remedy to a long and stressful day, and then there are the times where it's the last thing you want to do, and some wonderful person in your life has offered to take you out or even cook for you. I do love those evenings.

Lately the evening's around here have been shockingly cold. The fog seeps in through the city, low and slow with a blast of cool air. It's stunning how quickly the temperature drops from a pleasantly warm afternoon to a damp and chilling dark. It doesn't feel much like summer at night in the Bay Area. We did have one clear evening this past weekend, and when I looked up I saw one of the biggest shooting stars I've ever seen, bright white and blazing across the sky. So fast, I'd have wondered if it had been there at all, if not for the luminescent trail it left in it's path. We're at the end of those August meteor showers that I look forward to every year. They bring back memories of the last of summer vacation, lying on a beach with friends and family as a child and watching them fall, one after another, after another. Shooting stars, tomatoes, BBQ's and the beach. All of these are summer to me.

Tomato Buschetta Tartlettes
makes 8

Pate Brisee (click for the recipe)
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped, or 1/2 basket cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp goat cheese
2 tbsp Parmesan
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 tbsp fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
8 tbsp ricotta cheese (1 for the bottom of each tart)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 400. Roll out the pate brisee and cut the dough into 8 rounds using a 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter. You might be able to get more than 8 if you roll the dough quite thin. Press the rounds into the the cups of a lightly greased muffin pan. Prick the bottom of each dough round several times with a tooth pick and bake for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the tomatoes, basil & thyme, goat cheese, Parmesan, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts together in a bowl. Once you've removed the dough from the oven after baking, spoon the bruchetta mixture into each shell. Put back in the oven and bake at 400 for 6-8 more minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese is just beginning to brown. Let cool slightly and serve.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cocktail Hour at the AMPM

This is cocktail hour when you're stranded with your co-workers at the AMPM outside of Fairfield, waiting for the tow truck.

One 20 oz Tecate

Three Big Gulp cups

Curbside Cocktail Hour

Yep. Good times. One 20 oz Tecate, one 30 mile tow plus one $100 repair later and the Red Wagon rides again!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stranded at the AMPM - Summer Vegetable Lasagna

Thanks, Monday. That was fun. Let's never do it again.

Note the sarcasm.

Turns out it's kind of risky to take my car outside of an 11 mile radius from my apartment, because if it breaks down, that is exactly how far my roadside assistance will cover. After that? $10 per mile. Good to know. Probably would have been smarter to realize that before my four co-workers and I were about 30 miles outside of town, headed to work event. Painful. So painful.

Thankfully, my co-workers are beyond amazing. The kind of people you'd actually enjoy being stranded at an AMPM in the middle of nowhere with. And one of them happened to be covered by AAA, which (depending on your coverage) will cover your towing 100 miles or more. Chris, our tow-truck guy, was very nice, and as luck would have it, my amazing mechanic was still at the shop after 6:30 pm. He bounded up as we pulled up and gave me a pat on the back. "Don't worry," he said "It's not that bad. I promise it won't cost that much." Luckily, I know I can believe him. If anyone needs a good Berkeley mechanic, lemme know!

And that, my friends, was just the best part of my day.

Except for the leftovers of the summer vegetable lasagna I made last night.

It is good. I am exhausted. If you'll excuse me, it is definitely time to end this day. Good. Night.

Also: Seriously, Monday. Never again.

Summer Vegetable Lasagna
Serves 8

1 lb lasagna noodles (in the interest of time, I used the no boil noodles)
1 1/2 cups ricotta
1 1/2 cups spinach (I used frozen)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped mint
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
2 yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
1 jar spaghetti/marinara sauce (about 24 ounces) divided into thirds

This lasagna is all about the veggies. I made a sort of piperade with the onion, bell peppers and garlic, similar to a ratatouille. This makes for a for a fragrant and tasty filling. Adding squash and fresh summer herbs to that increases the depth of flavor. Overall, it's a pretty healthy dish, a great way to use summer squash and zucchini.

Preheat the over to 350. Butter a 11x14 glass baking dish. Saute the diced bell pepper, onion and garlic over medium heat until fragrant and slightly tender and add a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Spread 1/3 of the spaghetti sauce on the bottom of the dish. Layer 4 lasagna noodles over the sauce. Mix the ricotta cheese with the mint, parsley, salt & pepper. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over the first layer of noodles. Layer half of the zuchini and squash slices over the cheese. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Spread the spinach over that, and over the spinach, spread the onion and pepper mixture. Pour another layer of sauce and sprinkle half the parmesean cheese over that. Add another layer of 4 lasagna noodles, then the last layer of ricotta mixture, the last layer of squash, and the last of the sauce and parmesean over that. Bake for 45-50 minutes, uncovered. Serve.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Big Salad - Chopped Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

During summer, I like to open my refrigerator door to a big bowl of waiting something. A ready-made snack, just there...waiting. No muss, no fuss. I want it to be easy and immediate.

Maybe it's laziness. Not really wanting to slave away over the stove while the new episodes of Mad Men and Top Chef are about to come on. Or maybe it's just that there's so much to be done, so much to be enjoyed during these final summer months that it's really just more efficient to make a giant something or other and save the rest to enjoy while Don Draper fills your screen.

So when I came across this salad on Smitten Kitchen, I knew it was in my future. It's endlessly adaptable, relatively cheap and perfect for stretching into a few meals. Perfect for a girl on a budget!

I had one head of green cabbage, on purple. A red bell pepper, a jalapeno, some yellow Early Girl cherry tomatoes, celery and a bunch of radishes. Perfect. Seriously, this is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink type of recipe. Do with it what you will, but the dressing is killer!

Chopped Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

for the dressing:
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp shallot, minced
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp chives, minced

for the salad:
1/2 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced into ribbons, then chopped
1/2 head purple cabbage, cored, thinly sliced into ribbons, then chopped
1 bunch radishes, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 basket cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 jalapeno, seeds & membrane removed, finely diced

Whisk together the dressing ingredients, toss with salad ingredients. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sushi & Skewers - Pictures by Brian

Sunday was the double BBQ day, with the second being a "sushi n' skewer" party. No BBQ would be complete without the dogs romping together in the yard. Well, that and a batch of sangria. How gorgeous does that look? Amber and Sam both proved themselves masters of the grill.
Hopefully the Bay Area weather will cooperate and we'll have many more of these this summer. Here's to an Indian Summer and BBQ's till November!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Frugal Me - Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Kalamata Olives

So the arrival of the new computer comes with a hefty bill. In which case, I've put a moratorium on going out/eating out. At least for the next month. To make this situation somewhat bearable, I decided to give myself a challenge. $20 for groceries and the current contents of my fridge and pantry to live off of for the next few weeks. Can it be done? Is it even possible? Will I fail miserably and go tearing into Trader Joe's in tears?

Well, so far so good. $20 went pretty far at my farmer's market. I came away with the following:
  • 3 Bell Peppers (1 a gorgeous eggplant color)
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 head of Romaine Lettuce
  • 1 bunch of radishes
  • 3 lbs tomatoes
  • 1 basket cherry tomatoes
  • 1 basket strawberries
  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1 loaf of sourdough
  • 1 bunch basil

So combine all that with a pantry full of staples (pasta, lentils, grains, rice and whatnot) a freezer full of homemade stock and frozen vegetables and meats, and I'm feeling pretty good about this challenge. Some soups, maybe a lasagna and a general cleansing of the pantry. I'm actually pretty stoked about this.

Until I made the tomato tart. Now that's a recipe I have yet to perfect.

I was redeemed when rifling through the back of the pantry and stumbling upon a can of chickpeas and a jar of kalamata olives. I tossed them together with carrots, celery and a red wine vinaigrette, and added some sauteed shallots for good measure. It was divine. The kind of effortless dish that works perfectly for a weeknight dinner, a weekend snack or a side dish at a BBQ or potluck. I was feeling quite proud of myself. Not to mention that it's pretty cheap to make. Chickpeas can be found at Trader Joe's for 89 cents a can! As long as things like this come out of this project, I tend to feel pretty good about frugal me.

Chickpea Salad with Carrots and Kalamata Olives
Serves 3

1 can chickpeas (washed, drained & dried)
1/2 cup kalamata olives (pitted and halved)
1 shallot
1 carrot
1 celery stalk
2 tbsp parsley
2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Start by peeling the skin of the carrot with a vegetable peeler. Once the skin has been removed, continue to peel the carrot into long strips, until it's all peeled. Set the strips aside in a bowl with chickpeas and olives. Dice the celery and add to the bowl. Next, heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium on the stove. Slice the shallot thinly and saute until translucent. Add to the carrots and chickpeas. Toss the mixture with the red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt & pepper. Serve.

And We're Back - Strawberry Hand Pies

Hello, hello. I know, it's been awhile. I could regale you with tales of computers lost and new ones delivered, BBQ's attended the new episode of Mad Men, and a strange case of food poisoning. Plenty of reasons for my absence. But here I am, I'm back, and while I haven't cooked for several days, I have a backlog of tasty recipes just waiting to be shared.

In the meantime, I can't tell you how distressing it is that it's already August 18th. Summer is flying by and I feel like I barely have time to blink. Will it stay like this? Will it just keep going faster and faster with no time to catch up? Soon enough, it will be time for sweaters and hot apple cider again. At least I have my pie crust perfected, something to look forward to. Apple, Pumpkin, preserved cherry....

I've been receiving "trip-texts" from Ilsa this week. She and Matt just completed their drive to Minnesota. This was Monday's text: "Nebraska-the loudest longest roll of thunder I've ever heard, bacon fried noodles at the breakfast buffet, and fields of corn." Maybe she'll send along some pictures from the trip to post as well.

Back to pie crust. Butter makes all the difference. I think I've found the ultimate Pate Brisee. And I'm somewhat sorry to say that Martha Stewart gets the credit for that. But hey, I guess she knows what she's doing. And you can't argue with the flakiest, tastiest pie crust around. And I'm not even a crust person! But the thumbs up was given by all at the office, and by several friends as well. Lucky them, eh?

I stumbled across this recipe in Smitten Kitchen and didn't have to adapt it much at all. What could be better than individual, personal sized pies? So delightfully handy!

Strawberry Hand Pies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen & Martha Stewart

Pate Brisee
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 cup ice water

I gave up using the food processor for pate brisee awhile ago. Instead, I whisk the flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl, cut the butter into cubes, and combine by adding the butter to the flour mixture, and continually pinching everything together with my hands. Eventually, the mixture combines into a shaggy mess, with the butter breaking down into pieces no bigger than a pea. At that point, I add the water and combine gently into a loose ball. I then turn out the dough onto a silpat or lightly floured surface, break it into two balls, and smear each across the surface to distribute the butter and gently form it back into a ball. I flatten each ball into a disk, wrap each in plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for 1 hour. When ready to roll out the dough, I let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes to bring it back to temperature.

You could use the food processor of course, but it can easily be done without it, leaving less to clean!

Strawberry Filling
makes 12 individual pies

3 cups strawberries (hulled and cut into quarters)
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 egg (for brushing the surface of your dough)
1 tsp sugar (for the dough)

Roll out the first disk of your pate brisee on a lightly floured surface until it's about 1/8 inch thick. Using a 5 inch round cookie cutter, cut out 6 pieces for your pies. You'll need to set the finished ones aside, recombine the dough and roll out again. Once you've finished the first disk, move on to the 2nd. Place the finished pieces on two baking sheets lined with parchment or silpats. Heat the oven to 425.

Combine the strawberries, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp of the strawberry mixture into the center of each individual pie round. Lightly brush the edges of each pie round with the beaten egg and fold the top of the dough over to enclose, forming a half circle. Gently press the edges together to seal (you don't want the juice to run out) and brush the whole thing with beaten egg. With a pairing knife, slash the top of the dough in the center twice, to create steam vents for the pie. Sprinkle the pie with sugar. Repeat with each.

Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Let cool before serving.

Of course you can use any filling you like. I made blackberry as well, which was delicious. Depending on how sweet your fruit is, you might use less sugar as well.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

100 - Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles

There ought to be champagne.

This is something of a blog milestone. My 100th post. Small victories are a necessity in life. Especially when one is being soundly defeated by several piles of laundry lurking in the closet. I think I can safely ignore those ominous piles for another evening, at least. There are plenty of distractions to be had in the meantime - such as creating an excuse for celebration. Hence the 100th post. Let the celebrating commence.

There ought to be champagne. Instead, there are popsicles.

Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles
makes 6

You can use any fruit you like. For a more grown-up version, add a few tablespoons of rum or vodka to the mixture before pouring in the molds. Careful not to add too much or it won't freeze!

10 ounces (two small cartons) plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup strawberries (washed, dried and hulled)
3 tbsp sugar

Use a blender to blend the strawberries and sugar to a liquid consistency. A hand blender works perfectly for this. For a chunkier consistency, just mash the berries with a fork.

In a large bowl, mix the strawberries with the yogurt until well blended. Pour the mixture into six popsicle molds, or 6 paper cups. Add popsicle sticks and freeze until solid (about 4 hours). Remove from molds and eat! If using paper cups, simple tear the cup away from the popsicle. Easy!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Open Road - Plum Puffs

Just as the Bay Area weather is starting to heat up again, so is the work load at my desk. The early summer months often provide a reprieve from events and the amount of phone calls and emails to return, but as soon as August rolls around, it's back to business as usual. Which, of course, triggers my road tripping day dreams.

Lately, I've been thinking about the train. Taking a long train trip somewhere, getting off at each little town off the beaten path. I fantasize about finding the locals and asking where the best food and drink in town is, and then plopping myself at a small table with a piece of pie and watching the small town world. In theory, trains seem like such a romantic, old-fashioned way to travel. I like the idea of being able to settle in comfortably at the window as the countryside speeds by. It's commonplace in Europe, but it seems like something that should be done at least once while living in the U.S. Just getting an idea of what it all is. What it looks like from the rails. Stopping to breathe in a place. The taste and smell, the people.

Then again, there's always the car. On a trip up North on I5 last year, my stereo cut out. I drove in silence for several hours, noticing how much easier it is to tune in to your thoughts more intently with nothing but the drone of the road and the crush of wind against the car under them. Peaceful. As much as I love driving with the windows down, the radio loud and a friend singing along beside me, it's also just as nice to sit alone together. In silence or in conversation. Road trips are the perfect conversation inducer. I heard a great piece on NPR the other day by Robert Reich about a road trip he's about to take with his son. It's well worth reading, it's up as a blog here. In it he says, "You can't see anything of this country from five miles up. But on the road, especially when you're off the interstates, you can see it in all its beauty and craziness, it's crassness and its charm. And you can't help but understand it just a little bit better."

Maybe at the end of the month. Maybe in September. There's a road trip in my future soon.

Plum Puffs
adapted from Food & Wine, July 2009
makes six
1 sheet of puff pastry
4 medium or large plums
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 egg, beaten

Pre-heat the oven to 375. Slice the plums about 1/2 inch thick and toss in a bowl with sugar, cornstarch and cardamom. Set aside. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the puff pastry till it's about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 6 6 inch squares. Put the squares on a baking tray and stick in the freezer for 5 minutes so the pastry firms up. It will be easier to work with that way.

After the 5 minutes is up, remove and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or on your silpat. Spoon the plum mixture into the middle of each square, and fold up each corner, pinching them together at the center of the puff. It should look almost like a pinwheel. Pinch the bottom edges together as well so the juices don't escape and run out during baking, but leave the center seems open that that steam can escape. Brush each puff with egg and sprinkle sugar on top. Bake for about 30 minutes until the pastry is golden. Let cool and serve.

Whiskey Smash Feature on TheKitchn

Now that's a nice way to start a Monday! My Whiskey Smash Cocktail recipe is featured on one of my favorite blogs thekitchn today. Take a look and leave a comment if you wish!

The Whiskey Smash on The Kitchn

Thanks to The Kitchn crew!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Farewell My Computer - Roasted Pork with Tomato Peach Compote

Tragedy has struck Dear Readers: Last week I quite clumsily and accidentally knocked a glass of water onto my beloved laptop. I quickly snatched a dish towel, turned the computer upside down and mopped up the liquid as best I could. It whirred a bit, flickered dimly, and then seemed to be fine. I thought (quite incorrectly) that I had averted disaster. Alas. It was not so.

Do you know what Apple charges for "advanced liquid damage" Dear Readers?

I do.

So much that it's not worth fixing. Especially if your beloved laptop is no longer under warranty.


And so the search begins for a replacement for a new, trusty companion. And until it is found, postings might be a bit sparse. You see, it's not that I can't turn my computer on and access the Internet. I can, in fact. It's just that more half my keyboard doesn't work (including almost all the vowels) so if I tried to write a blog on that computer, it would look something like this...


The Spacebar is also broken. As is delete.

So let this be a lesson to you all. Keep all liquids far away from your computers (duh.) On a related note, I was told by a friend who used to work in customer support at Microsoft that I would be shocked SHOCKED by the mass amount of people who would call in and complain about their "cup holders" being broken. These people were all shocked SHOCKED to learn that that was not actually a cup holder in their computer, but a place to hold CDs and DVDs for software and such, and that they should not be using it as a cup holder. And in fact, that might be the reason it was broken in the first place.

Kind of makes you rethink any faith you might place in humanity.

Roasted Pork with Tomato Peach Compote
Gourmet, July 2009

For the Pork:

2 (3/4-pound) pork tenderloins
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chopped peeled ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the Compote:
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 pound tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 peach, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat to 425.

Mash garlic, ginger, curry powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to a paste using mortar and pestle or a fork and a small bowl. I used a garlic press for the ginger and the garlic to extract more liquid. Rub all over pork.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown pork on one side, about 5 minutes, then turn over and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 145 to 150°F for juicy meat, 10 to 12 minutes. Let pork rest, uncovered, on a cutting board while making compote.

Add onion to skillet (handle will be very hot) and sauté over medium-high heat until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomatoes and peach and sauté until just softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in thyme and, if desired, sugar.

Slice pork and serve with compote.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Pickle is a Pickle is a.... - Refrigerator Pickles

I have literally been living off these things for the last few days. Well...maybe not literally. There was the exception of that insanely delicious roast chicken with a side of mashed potatoes (my favorite) and then there was a chopped salad, and, ok ok, I admit it, strawberry hand pies that I brought in today for my co-workers (now THAT is a recipe for another time) best breakfast EVER!

But mostly, I've been eating Refrigerator Pickles. When you gotta have a pickle, you gotta have a pickle. And I needed a pickle. Thing is, I didn't have any. What I did have was an over-abundance of cucumbers. Obviously something needed to be done.

But pickling sounded like such a lengthy process. I then remembered hearing about making refrigerator pickles. A quick end to the mean. Naturally, I had to try it. Plus, I just kinda love the name.

And now, I'm an addict. I keep sneaking into the fridge, a bit pointless really as I live alone without so much as a cat to witness my sneaky behavior. I keep telling myself "just one more!" and low and behold, I've then eaten 7! So buyer beware, this recipe may cause an unhealthy pickle obsession.

Come to think of it...I've always been slightly pickle obsessed. It runs in the family. As a kid, my sisters introduced me to chocolate dipped pickles. I know, I know, it sounds disgusting, you reel cringe and shiver at the thought! But, actually, it's delicious! Who woulda thought? Sweet and sour and salty with a satisfying crunch. My friends all thought I was nuts, until they tried it, and then they had to admit, it wasn't half bad.

But (and I'm sure you're thankful for this) this is not a recipe for chocolate pickles (if you really want to try them I'm sure you can figure it out on your own). This is your basic slightly sweet pickle recipe. Easily adaptable to be less sweet and to add dill or whatever you like. And most importantly, ready in just a few hours. It's supposed to be 8 hours, but I couldn't wait and snuck a taste after 2, crunch, but great!

Refrigerator Pickles

2 lbs persian or english cucumbers
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup white vinegar
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp turmeric

Slice the cucumbers about 1/2 inch thick. Set into a large jar with the sliced shallots. Pour the vinegar into a large bowl and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Add the spices. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers and shallots. Seal the jar with an air tight lid and refrigerate for 8 hours (or less if you, like me, just can't wait). Pickles will keep up to 2 weeks.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Whiskey Smash! - Whiskey Smash Cocktail

I don't know about you, but July nearly did me in. What we need here is a cocktail. Tonight, at 6pm, stop what you're doing. Stop everything, and make. this. drink. This, my friends, is the Whiskey Smash. I stumbled upon this drink at the Oakland restaurant Flora, and have since recreated it many times. If you like cocktails, you simply must make your way to Flora. I will stake my reputation on their drinks. Quite possibly the best in the Bay Area. I haven't found anything better in San Francisco. And the food at Flora is fantastic. I can think of nothing better than starting a Friday night with a proper cocktail and appetizer at their beautiful bar. In fact, I think I'll have to make that a plan this week.

This drink is best made for a catching up session for friends. Perfect on a warm summer night.

The maple syrup in place of simple syrup may sound a bit strange, but it's a complete revelation. Maple syrup + cocktails forever! Don't knock it till you try it. Also, I believe this might be called a Trailer Smash at Flora, not positive about that. It's a damn good name though. Since I lack the mixology skills (and perfect cubed and clear ice cubes (I am forever in search of perfect ice cubes and long to be able to recreate them in my own kitchen!)) of those who work their magic at the Flora Bar, I can't in good conscience use that drink name. Not until I've had a few bar lessons at the very least. For the record, I am an excellent student.

Whiskey Smash
serves 1

1 shot Maker's Mark (or whatever whiskey you prefer)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp maple syrup
6 mint leaves (reserve 2 for garnish)

Muddle the mint, lemon juice and maple syrup in your cocktail shaker. Add ice and liquor. Shake until cold. Serve on the rocks and garnish with mint.

Couldn't be simpler. Trust me. You'll love it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ilsa's Favorites - Tomato, Peach and Mozzarella Salad & Tomato Salad with Kalmata Olives

I met Ilsa on my first day of my first "real" job. Having graduated from college and moved to Oakland, I officially considered myself an adult. Ilsa had just moved and started at our workplace as well. We became fast friends and even shared an apartment for awhile. When we're together, more often than not strangers ask us if we're sisters. I was with Ilsa the night she met Matt, she's been there for me through everything the past five years, and together we all toasted their next big adventure, living in Minnesota where Matt will be studying at the Mayo Clinic.

Aside from a short stint in Italy, Ilsa's never lived anywhere but the West Coast. It's a good thing she likes snow, I hope the novelty of it sticks! To say she was nervous about the move would be pretty accurate, but she's also excited about starting a new chapter. She'll continue some work for her Berkeley job, but she'll also do more freelance graphic design work, and hopefully have more time for her art (she designed the banner for this blog & one of her first gifts to me was the painting above) and she's promised me she will turn her attention to cooking as well and finally get herself some measuring cups and spoons.

It's always hard to say goodbye to a friend, but it was especially hard to say goodbye to Ilsa on Sunday. We all met at Lanesplitter, our neighborhood joint, to toast their departure over pizza and beer. Once we'd said our goodbyes and I was choked with tears, I drove home, cried and slept. It's hard to imagine not having Ilsa around, since we've been together here almost since day 1. Saying goodbye feels simultaneously surreal, raw and all too soon.

So here are just a few of the things I remember: Road trips and Superbirds, Croquet and Boccie Ball, Super Secret Spies, Ilsa's ability to fall asleep at a moments notice no matter where she is, Giant Polar Bears and Port Costa, Big Lebowski Bowl, hill rolling, corned beef & cabbage, big shindigs and red cowboy boots, cupcakes (so many cupcakes) Top Gun boys and Bay to Breakers, The OC and Dice, tomato salads, kalmata olives and nutella cakes (but not together), aquariums and goat cheese, Tahoe, Santa Cruz and Ashland. Cold nights at the Bruns, beach sandstorms, thermos full of red wine, rooftop breakfasts and outdoor movies, Deadwood and the best horrible movie of all time, infested Christmas trees and handmade ornaments, fast walking and reservoirs...just a few things.

Of course, I can always visit. I've never been to Minn!

Tomato, Peach and Mozzarella Salad & Tomato Salad with Kalmata Olives

Tomato Salads are one of Ilsa's favorite things, and she made a spectacular one a few weeks ago that I've been recreating ever since. She has a deep of love of peaches and kalmata olives (though not together) In honor of her, I'm posting her tomato peach salad and a standard tomato salad. Basically, two versions of the same salad, with slight variations. These are perfectly easy and fresh during the summer. Just chop, toss and serve.

Peach, Mozzarella & Tomato
4 heirloom tomatoes (in a 1 inch or 1/2 inch dice)
1/2 cup basil (chopped into ribbons)
3 peaches (in a 1 inch dice)
1 cup fresh mozzarella (diced into 1/2 inch)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Toss in a bowl together and serve!

Tomato & Kalmata
4 heirloom tomatoes (in a 1 inch or 1/2 inch dice)
1/2 cup basil (chopped into ribbons)
3/4 jar kalmata olives, pitted and halved
1 cup fresh mozzarella (diced into 1/2 inch)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Toss in a bowl together and serve!

Bourdain in SF

Well well well, what have we here? I do believe that is Anthony Bourdain himself at Hangar One. Just tasting some of their Absinthe Vert with the staff.

His trip to the Bay Area hasn't been a secret around here, but we were all curious to know where he ended up. I have to commend the production crew with this particular choice. I blogged about the tour and tasting there back in June. Obviously someone on the No Reservations staff knew the right place to go! If you haven't checked out St. George/Hangar One yet, I highly suggest you go.

Episode airs on August 10th. I for one, cannot wait!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cooking Improvisation - Ahi Tuna Tartare

I wish I could say that this dish was meant to wow me, impress me and woo me. But I think it had more to do with a long-standing craving and obsession of the person who made it. He's only been talking about it for, oh, about a year and a half or so. I think he's been dreaming about it as well. Something about recreating the dish he'd had in the restaurant of a fancy-shmancy hotel a few years back.

I can't really blame him though. It looked spectacular, and it tasted divine. It was a truly impressive presentation, they kind you'd see in a fancy, modern restaurant. The kind of dish you need one of those kitchen ring molds for. But if you, like me, don't happen to own one of those, don't fret. You can, much like we did, improvise!

Like anyone who has an affinity for Gin & Tonic's, I had a nearly empty plastic tonic bottle that we sliced up to create a mold. Once washed and dried, it did the job perfectly. It's an easy way to make a dish look fancy without a lot of work.

Ahi Tuna Tartare-Courtesy of Daniel

"This is a recipe for Ahi Tuna Tartarre, loosely interpreted from my recollection of a dish served at an old South Park / San Francisco haunt called 'Infusion'. Its a three-layer concoction with triangles of griddled sourdough bread. Serves 4 as an appetizer."

You'll need 2 kitchen ring molds (or whatever you can improvise!)
8 ounces very fresh ahi tuna
2 ripe avocados
1 cucumber (persian or english cucumbers work particularly well in this dish)
1 small jalapeno/serrano pepper (seeds and membrane removed)
1/4 red onion
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp soy or tamari sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 loaf good custy bread (cut into triangles)

Make sure all ingredients are chilled. Try putting the avocado in the freezer for about 20 minutes for the best results. It will be easier to work with.

Dice the ahi, cucumber, and the onion into a consistent size (about 1/4 inch). Dice the jalapeno into an even smaller size. Marinate the ahi with half the jalepeno in the soy sauce. Mix the cucumber and onion in the rice wine vinegar, and add salt to each (I suggest doing this to taste). Dice or mash the avocado and add the juice of half a lime and a little salt.

Taste each component and add more salt or jalepeno to your taste.

Next, arrange the layers in the mold on your dinner plate, splitting the mixture equally into each mold. Toss the sesame seeds in with the ahi mixture and create the first layer at the bottom of your mold. Next, add the cucumbers and onion, packing the mold down a bit, and finally, add the avocado on top. Chill in the refigerator while you cut your bread into triangle and spread a little olive oil or butter on it, then grill, toast or griddle the bread on both sides. Pressing a heavy pan down on top of the bread while grilling helps ensure nice grill marks on the bread.

Carefully remove the molds from the tartares. Serve with bread!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Spice Rack Solution!

I am posively giddy about my new purchase from purposedesign on Etsy! An absolutely beautiful spice kit, exactly what I've been looking for to fill an antique printing tray to make a gorgeously unique spice rack, perfect for my tiny kitchen. The idea came from the blog The Traveler's Lunchbox, but I found the solution for the tins on one of my favorite local blogs sfgirlbybay who has such a great eye for wonderful things like this. I've been looking for these tins for ages, but didn't want to commit to buying 100+ on ebay. I was so happy about this find, I had to share! This would make such a fantastic housewarming gift. The tray's are easy to find on ebay, or even at your local flea market or antique stores.

I ordered the Large Indian Spice Tube, which comes with several spices that are currently missing in my pantry. The price is right, and it's up to you as to how you choose to display and store them! Visit purposedesign on Etsy here: and be sure to check out The Traveler's Lunchbox and sfgirlbybay!

Photos from purposedesign & The Traveler's Lunchbox