Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What I'm Reading Today

Before I get to the food sections, can I just say how great the farmer's markets are here in LA? I I haven't been to many but the few that I have frequented are packed with amazing produce, seafood, meat and flowers and free of any and all attitude. The people are chill, smiling, and generous. Prices are reasonable, the food is as fresh as it gets, and the sun is shining (which always makes things seem a bit better). If the Venice farmer's market is a Havaianas flip flop (cool but very laid back) the San Francisco Ferry Building is a Jimmy get the picture.

OK...on to what I'm reading today.

I had coffee, house made bread, and soft boiled eggs at Le Pain Quotidien yesterday. It was the perfect breakfast. Before I sat down to eat outside, I browsed all the home made pastries. The quiche looked amazing and, I'm obviously not the only one who thought so. Today's LA Times features their recipe for Quiche Lorraine with Leeks. You may not sit across from Val Kilmer, like I did, when you eat it at home but, it promises to still be tasty.

Flank steak is my go-to BBQ protein. It cooks fast, absorbs big marinades, and everyone loves it. In the NY Times today, Melissa Clark has a really simple Cuban style marinated flank steak. When the sun finally comes out where you live this summer, add this one to your next BBQ.

What a perfect summer salad! Cold noodles, chicken and a spicy dressing. The SF Chronicle is all about cold noodle dishes today and this recipe caught my eye. It calls for Chinese sesame paste, which is easy to find at an Asian market but, better yet, substitute peanut butter. I haven't tried it in this specific recipe but, I've made the change in lots of others and it works perfectly. The recipe also calls for mirin, a Chinese rice wine which is found not only at Asian markets but the Asian food aisle of any big supermarket as well.

Having come back from the farmer's market with three pounds of peaches and nectarines, I loved this recipe in the Seattle Times: Apricot Tart. I know, I didn't buy apricots but, in tarts like this any stone fruit will do. I'll try it with peaches and may also dot it with fresh black berries or raspberries.

Have you been to the farmer's market lately?

(PS...the picture above is from Pike Place Market in Seattle...I had my hands too full to take any photos today!)

Saturday, July 26, 2008


I'm not one to crave a hot dog. In fact, I can think of about a thousand things I'd rather eat than a hot dog but, the humble 'tube steak' certainly has it's place.

My husband is from Chicago and he swears by a traditional Wrigley Field style hot dog-a Vienna Beef dog piled high with mustard, onion, a pickle spear, tomato wedges, spicy 'sport peppers' and a neon green relish that remains a mystery to me. In SF we get them at Moishe's Pippic in Hayes Valley. I usually opt for the corned beef sandwich but, I've tried that Chicago Dog once or twice and, honestly,it's not bad.

Well, we're in LA and everyone swears by the dogs at Pink's in Hollywood. After a day at the oh-so-lame Universal Studios with our son, we drove to Pink's. At 1:15 the line was about 50 deep and we must have waited a good half hour. At this point, any kind of hot dog was sounding good. The menu is huge and their signature dog comes with chili and cheese. We ordered that plus a plain dog for my son and a 'Walk of Fame' dog for me-an all beef hot dog topped with 'yummy' cole slaw and chopped tomatoes. I love cole slaw on pretty much anything, and have to say, while it's not bad on a dog, I prefer it on my corned beef . Check out their menu-there are some seriously odd hot dog combinations I have never seen in my life (strangest being the Pastrami Burrito-two hot dogs, grilled pastrami, swiss cheese, and onions wrapped in a tortilla-and I saw two people ahead of me order this monster!).

After we ate and drove home in stretches of LA traffic, my stomach stayed full for hours. When hunger finally reared its head later that night, I thought back on that hot dog. Was it really as good as it tasted when I was sitting in the warm sun and famished? Eh....probably not. I am glad I went to Pink's, I don't need to go back, and next time I'll opt for the corned beef at Moishe's (or better yet, at Nate and Al in Beverly Hills).

What do you eat on your hot dog?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I'm Reading Today

Happy Food Section Wednesday. Here's what I'm reading in sunny L.A.

The question is, who is coming to dinner this weekend because I am making this recipe from the LA Times: Chipotle-Orange Pulled Pork on
Brioche Rolls. Recipes like this cook themselves-just turn on the oven, make the broth and wait...Now I just need to know who in LA sells the best brioche roll...anyone?

A gastropub in the Marina? It's the dining trend moving around all the hot eating spots in the country and now it comes to SF. The SF Chronicle spills the news about the new Chestnut Street spot from the folks who brought you Mamacita, Blue Barn, and Umami. I am a huge Blue Barn fan so we'll keep our fingers crossed that the new spot hits the mark.

When I think of no-bake desserts, I have flashbacks of purchased graham cracker crusts, Jell-o and Cool Whip. Fortunately, Mark Bittman turns things around in today's NY Times. His recipe for No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake Bars actually sounds delicious, and not an artificial whipped topping in sight. Think these go with pulled pork sandwiches? My menu is shaping up!

The other night I grilled a whole butterflied chicken and served it with pickled tomatoes and a couscous salad. I wish I would have had this recipe from the Seattle Times for dessert. Cadamom Poached Apricots with Yogurt and Pistachios would have been perfect. I would be sure to find full fat Greek style yogurt for this one.

The sun is out. The farmer's market is busting at the seams. What are you cooking this week???

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Savvy Source

I was recently interviewed by about cooking food your kids will eat. Think I had an opinion? Ha!

The interview was posted today and you can read it here. Take some time to explore the site if you're a parent. It's full of great stuff.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Far Cry from Tomato Soup with Popcorn

Rory prided himself on being the world's greatest prep cook. He always told me, with his wide grin, that his signature dish was Campbell's tomato soup with popcorn in it. Odd? For sure. Very Rory? Absolutely. I still laugh when I think about it.

Sadly, Rory passed away two years ago and we all still miss him dearly. His wife, K, emailed me yesterday saying she'd made dinner and included a dish that reminded her of Rory. "It finally happened", I thought. "My friend, K, who is an incredible cook, is now making tomato soup with popcorn!" Well, I was wrong. Apparently Rory had a few other tricks up his sleeve.

If you're not in the mood for tomato soup with popcorn, try Rory's Heirloom Tomato Salad (inspired by a recipe from Summer tomatoes like this should make you grin just like they did Rory.

Friday, July 18, 2008


If you do one thing after reading my blog posts, get some kosher salt and start using it. If you do one more thing, stop buying store bought salad dressing!

I am amazed, when I walk into a market, at the array of bottled and packaged salad dressings. The aisle is bursting with a dressing for everything-green salad, coleslaw, fruit salad, diet salad (?), and more. The scary thing is, most of these dressings list sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup at the top of their long, long list of ingredients. If the dressing has more than one item on the ingredient list you don't recognize or can't pronounce, step away!

Making your own vinaigrette could not be easier. Instead of buying artificially sweet salad dressing at the store, spend your money on a great bottle of extra virgin olive oil. Find one you like-sweet, fruity, floral, etc.-they vary widely so pick the bottle you enjoy. My favorite right now is Bariani , local to Northern Cal and really delicious. Next, pick a couple bottles of vinegar. I like sherry vinegar (look for a Spanish bottle) and a nice red wine vinegar. They are both reasonably priced and will last a long time. Keep a shallot or two in your pantry, along with a bottle if Dijon in your fridge, and you're ready to go.

The basic French vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid (usually vinegar, although lemon juice works too). To make mine, I use a jelly jar. I add my vinegar first then a pinch of salt, a tsp. or so of minced shallot and a pinch of Dijon. I shake it up and let it sit for a minute-the salt will dissolve and the shallot will shed its raw bite. Next I add my extra virgin olive oil, put the lid on and give it a good shake. The mustard helps emulsify the dressing, keeping the oil and vinegar from separating and creating a creamier consistency. I taste it next and adjust the seasoning. If it's too acidic, I add a pinch of salt before adding more oil-the salt cuts the acid and usually does the trick.

My jar of vinaigrette will keep for about 5 days in the fridge. When I use it I can add chopped fresh herbs, crumbled blue cheese, or minced garlic. All these things go in just before serving or the dressing doesn't keep as well.

It is so simple, you know what goes in it, and it tastes delicious! Try it and you'll find yourself walking right past that dressing aisle next time you're shopping.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What I'm Reading Today

Wednesday food sections are out...

LA Times is my first one today as we've arrived in sunny So.Cal. I'm heading to the Santa Monica farmer's market in a few and will definitely buy figs for this Grilled Fig Salad. So easy and rich!

Flo Braker is an extraordinary baker. We used many of her recipes in culinary school and
occasionally she rights for the SF Chronicle. If you haven't figured out that I love my summer fruits in dessert, let me tell you - "I love my summer fruit in dessert!". This Simple Summer Cake uses an easy batter, tops it with sliced stone fruit and, my guess is, turns anyone into a baker. I love recipes that convince those people who hate to bake that, yes, it's really not that hard.

When it's not dessert I'm loving, it's a good burger. At least look at the front of the NY Times dining section for this shot of burgers, in Paris of all places! While the section has a few burger recipes, it's article on sliders includes this recipe for a bacon, tomatillo and cheese sandwich-slider size. Using your best Homer Simpson voice, say it with me "Mmmmmm....."

Finally, the Seattle Times. How could you not love a recipe for strawberry Anarchy Cake? Another simple cake, this one with an intriguing bit of olive oil and balsamic, that comes together in a flash. The short strawberry season is in full swing in Seattle so, my Northwest friends, try this cake while you can.

I think my list for the farmer's market is getting a little long...happy reading.

Judging a Book by it's Cover

Well, I guess when it's been professionally styled, it sports a gorgeous photograph, and it's on it is the real deal.

My book may not hit the shelves until the Fall but, when I saw the cover today, it hit me..."I wrote a book!"

Let the countdown begin...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Where to eat in LA?

So we're off to LA later this week for a long, extended stay. I've got a few restaurants I've been wanting to try but, would love any suggestions.

Where do you eat when you're in la-la-land??

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pike Place Market

You can say all you want about San Francisco's Ferry Building farmer's market but, the age-old original, real deal market is Seattle's Pike Place Market. While most of the merchants can be a little less than generous with their samples, the produce, seafood and flowers are amazing.

We spent our last night in the Pacific Northwest down at the Market and it was stunning. It was 80 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and a perfect view of Mount Rainer, the ferries, and all kinds of edible goodies. The season here is a little behind our San Francisco produce so they're just seeing cherries, English peas, and favas. Stone fruit at the Market was still from California but, the berries and figs were mouthwatering.

After wandering around the Market we made our way to the Steelhead Diner for dinner. Chef Kevin Davis and his wife/partner/front of the house manager Terresa Davis know how to showcase the best of what Seattle and the Northwest have to offer. My second perfect crabcake of this trip-huge and full of crab and nothing else. My entree was a corn crusted halibut that was so juicy-perfectly cooked, a rarity with this fish. The gumbo, salmon, and even the mac-and-cheese (with cheese from Beecher's) were incredible. Kevin and Terresa know their business and execute it really well. We wanted to try the deep fried corn on the cob with smoked sea salt and Aleppo pepper but we were just too time. Check it out next time you're near the market. I bet brunch would be great too!
No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the Market. This was one perfect night!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What I'm Reading Today

Happy Food Wednesday in your local paper. Here's what I read this morning...

Still in Seattle so, the Seattle Times was first. I could count the recipes on one hand today, and my favorite probably doesn't even need an official recipe but, it sounds so good I just might have it for breakfast. They call it Great Dessert for a Cool Summer Night and I call it grilled bread with melting chocolate and sea salt.

How could I pass up the Chocolate Chip Cookies in today's New York Times? I've linked to the article first, as opposed to the recipe, because anyone who makes c.c.cookies will learn a thing or two from reading it-let your dough rest (36 hours!), make your cookies the right size, and (my friend K's best hint too) top them with a bit of salt.

I guess I need a chocolate fix today. In both of the recipes above, use the best chocolate you can buy. Each recipe hinges on the flavor of your favorite chocolate so make it good. In my book, that means at least 60% cacoa, probably more.

I'm heading to LA soon so I loved the LA Times article on bargain eats. The long list includes everything from liters of GrĂ¼ner Veltliner under $10 to a Pot Roast Sunday dinner for $10! Who knew?

The SF Chronicle did a big section on basic kitchen techniques which was fine but, my eyes went right to Michael Bauer's review of Rose Pistola, the North Beach restaurant I worked in out of culinary school. My stint was short but, I was there long enough to undercook grilled halibut for the restaurants main VIP-Don Johnson (Crockett and Tubbs anyone?). The place was actually great then but, if MB's opinion is correct, it's got some work to do.

Happy Wednesday....

Monday, July 7, 2008

Truffle Oil

I do not like truffle oil. I can't help it, and I know people think I'm nuts, but I just don't like it. I spent a fall vacation in Tuscany where everything had a hint of truffle oil and I overdosed. I thought I'd get over it but, never did. I love Italian food and my culinary school was traditional French-I should love all things truffle but, I can't do it.

About a year ago, San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson wrote an article in the New York Times that made me feel a bit better. He researched, and validated, the idea that most truffle oil is synthetic, artificial and a fraud. Many times chefs use it in restaurants to raise the prices on their dishes knowing that most Americans will pay more for that overwhelming scent of what they think is truffle. I am also of the opinion that many chefs use it to mask dishes that, on their own, what be just plain bland and boring. It's not a seasoning and shouldn't be used as such. When I go to a restaurant and see four out of eight menu items 'enhanced' with truffle oil, my eyebrows instantly go up. I think it's a cheap trick.

I've had fresh truffle shaved over eggs and once over homemade pasta. It was nothing like truffle oil. It was strong but, earthy and buttery as opposed to smelling like feet (sorry, a girl is entitled to her opinion). So, buyer beware. If the next restaurant you eat at has a menu ridden with truffle oil, something just aint right.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy (late) Fourth of July

We've had a family place on Whidbey Island for over ten years. Living in San Francisco, I don't get there too often but, I've just returned to 'mainland Seattle' after spending the 4th up there. The island is about 30 miles north and a short ferry ride from Seattle. I just read that it is the 40th largest island (and 5th longest) in the US so it does hold some distinction :) It's a fairly sleepy place but, the views are stunning and it's the perfect spot to relax.

I'd heard about a place on the island called The Fishmonger, known for carrying only wild, fresh fish and famous for their crab cakes. Now I make a damn good crab cake myself but, when in Rome.... We had them for dinner one night and they were fantastic. My perfect crab cake is 90% crab, 5% seasoning, and 5% breadcrumbs/panko. These fit the bill and with a little house made remoulade sauce, they were over the top.

Part of what made the crab cakes so amazing was the opening of crab season-just days before we arrived. On the 4th we got a knock on the door from a friend who wanted to drop off a bag of crab. Hello! A bag of crab? Does it get any better than that?! I think was out of this world. We took it to our friend's house that night and it was four Dungeness crabs, cracked and cleaned and we devoured them like savages. Seven adults and four kids and we sucked every last leg and shell dry. The sun peaked out, we opened a French Rose, and it was gone in minutes. If you have not had crab just hours out of the Pacific Ocean you're missing out. It was heaven.

I was looking forward to the local farmer's market on Saturday morning but, the weather in Seattle has been the pits until very recently so the local produce is all late. Strawberries are just arriving (we bought three baskets for shortcake tonight) but, beyond that, the pickins were sparse. By August I have no doubt the place will be brimming with berries, stone fruits, and tomatoes.

After the long ferry line, the ride home, and a night out with old friends last night, I feel like the holiday has finally wound down. It was an ideal Fourth of July with old school fireworks (my son's first smoke bombs, snakes and sparklers), friends and family, and yummy food.

I hope your holiday was just as much fun.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What I'm Reading Today

The Wednesday Food Sections are out and here's what I like today:

I'm in Seattle right now so I poured my coffee while reading the teeny-tiny food section of the Seattle Times. Today they reviewed Mario Batali's Italian Grill. The recipe they printed was for Shrimp on Rosemary Skewers. The thing I loved about it was coating the shrimp in breadcrumbs before throwing them on the grill-just watch your heat, these babies will cook fast!

The SF Chronicle did an article on grilling sausages and the sides to serve with them. I'm definitely making the Sweet Corn with Pimenton Butter. Pimenton is a smoky Spanish paprika that is a lot easier to find these days. I'm also making the Mascarpone Ice the idea of topping it with grilled peaches or juicy fresh berries.

Bittman is back in the New York Times with another one if his '101' lists. This time it is '101 20 Minute Dishes for Inspired Picnics'. I love these lists because they reflect the way I like to cook-simple and without a recipe. It will surely inspire you to get outside for a meal this summer. Also, this article was from Monday's WELL blog but, who doesn't need to know the '11 Best Foods You Are Not Eating' ?

If you've ever eaten at San Francisco's Nick's Crispy Tacos then I hope you've had one of their house made Agua Freca's-Mexican inspired juices made with fresh fruit or even rice. My favorite is the strawberry but, in today's LA Times, there are recipes for a creative list of other kinds, including Watermelon Lime. Spike it with some white rum or vodka for a great summer party drink. Oh, and serve it up with the Buttermilk Fried Chicken and you'll make all kinds of friends.

What are you reading today?
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