Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Suppers

When the sun comes out and the weather heats up, being stuck in the kitchen isn't all that appealing. Easy meals are best, especially those that require little time over the stove. I developed this recipe for a class I taught twice this month, Quick and Easy Mediterranean Cooking. It's a simple salad that makes a perfect summer main course and requires little, or no, time over the stove.

Grilled Shrimp Salad with Summer Squash and Salsa Verde

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoon minced garlic
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped capers
6 flat anchovy fillets, mashed well
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow zucchini

Place the shrimp in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, half of the garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir well and set aside for about 20 minutes.

To make the salsa verde, place the parsley, mint, capers, anchovy, remaining garlic and mustard in the bowl of a food processor. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and stir well. With the motor running, add ½ cup of oil in a steady steam until the mixture forms a thick sauce. Taste and add a pinch of salt and/or pepper as needed.

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini into long thin ribbon-like strips. Toss them together with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, remaining ½ tablespoon lemon juice, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Scatter the zucchini over a serving platter.

Prepare charcoal grill or heat a heavy grill pan over high heat. Grill the shrimp until just pink and tender, about 4 minutes total. Alternatively, you can saute the shrimp on the stove top until cooked through. Transfer the shrimp to the platter, nestling it on top of the zucchini. Drizzle with salsa verde and serve right away.

Happy Summer Cooking!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

Wow...this summer thing has gotten away from me. I realize how much time I have to blog when my son is in school. He's obviously home these days...sorry for the lapse.

A little bourbon, a few peaches, a handful of pecans, and some vanilla ice cream? Yes! In today's LA Times the recipe for Peach and Pecan Sundaes looks divine. I'm bbq'ing for friends this Friday and I think I've just found dessert. Of course the Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding doesn't look so bad either.

Today's NY Times food section is the Summer Drinks Issue. They've got you covered, from A to Z (ok, A to W), no matter what your libation of choice may be. Daiquiri, Julep, Rickey, or's all there. Of course, you'll need some food to go along with those cocktails--Greek Style Nachos with pita and ground lamb or Suppli al Telefono (fried risotto balls stuffed with cheese) should do the trick.

I love the crispy, crunchy bread sticks we get at Pizzeria Delfina. Today's Washington Post has a recipe for making your own, along with Tomato Rosemary Foccacia and Honey Whole Wheat Bread. The article talks about all the D.C. restaurants that are now making their own bread. Maybe you should try it too?

The Seattle Times has an informative article on using leftover bread. Me? I usually throw mine in the food processor so I can add it to my bread crumb bag in the freezer. The article has a few other ideas, including a great looking recipe for a Panzanella with Fresh Herbs.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bidding Farewell to a Legend

(Me, Wolfgang Puck, and Annie Stoll
photo credit to Marcia Gagliardi, aka 'the tablehopper')

I got an amazing invitation last night. My friend Annie invited me to be her guest for the final dinner at Postrio. For those of you who don't know the restaurant, it is Wolfgang's 20 year old San Francisco outpost. A spot to eat the latest in trendy food and wear the latest in trendy attire, the place was a hang out for many over the years. During its tenure, the kitchen saw the likes of Craig Stoll, Richard Reddington, Annie Gingrass, David Gingrass, Mitch and Steven Rosenthal, Janet Rikala, and many others. All those hands were on deck last night-expediting and manning stations on the line to put out some really amazing food. In all honesty, we expected more of a party and less of a focus on the meal but, these veterans of the kitchen gave it their all.

The menu for the night was the opening menu from the first night at Postrio, even the prices were the same. We ate beautifully seared foie gras with roasted fennel, the 'giant blini' with smoked salmon, a steak cooked to absolute perfection, and Chinese style duck with steamed buns. It was really impeccable food (even the butterscotch sundae was to die for).
The food wasn't the only thing that was beautiful last night. Guests pulled out the stops and were dressed to the nines. We arrived early and posted ourselves in the bar so we could see people as they arrived. Annie knew everyone from her long SF restaurant history. I mostly sat and stared, enjoying the star sightings immensely. Let's see...we saw the dear Mary Risley, Chuck Williams (of Williams-Sonoma), Willie Brown, Denise Hale, Tatiana Sorokko, the incredible writer Peggy Knickerbocker, the 'tablehopper' Marcia Gagliardi, and or course Wolfgang himself. He was working the room, cozying up to San Francisco's elite for one last time.

Willie Brown toasted Wolfgang at the end of the night. When Wolfgang returned the toast with a huge thank you to everyone, he finished with the now famous line from the guv, "I'll be back". Time will tell but, if last night was any indication, Wolfgang will be a legend in SF for a long, long time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

Happy Summer. Here's what I'm reading this cool San Francisco Wednesday.

Of course I'm loving the NY Times article about Thai food. The green papaya salad and chicken larb both bring me back to my trip. Easy ways to try your hand at Thai cooking for sure. I've also been hearing a lot lately about this roof top garden on top of Glide. Apparently so have the folks at the Times because it's featured in their lead food story today. Green roof gardens are of course amazing but, when you do it like Glide it's even better. The neighborhood residents get the bounty in exchange for working on the garden. What better way to teach about where food comes from?

"Smart Steak Cuts for Lean Times"-a great article from today's LA Times. You will be thrilled with the big flavors of these dishes, as will your pocketbook-chimichurri and flank steak or fennel and pork steak?

The Washington Post is one fantastic food section. I have a hard time choosing just one favorite article or recipe each week because it's so packed with goodness. Check out the entire section but, for a few highlights you can try Rainbow Chard and Comte Quiche, Chipotle Grill Roasted Rack of Pork, or Shrimp and Pineapple Fried Rice.

I love Pasta alla Norma-fresh tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, and ricotta salata on top. This recipe, from the SF Chronicle is an easy one for any night of the week. I also loved reading Michael Bauer's blog about last night. It was one of the two final dinners at the legendary Postrio restaurant here in SF. I was lucky enough to be invited tonight so read Bauer's scoop and then I'll post more tomorrow-should be amazing.

I love rhubarb and today's Seattle Times has a handful of yummy ways to use it (syndicated from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food): Chutney, Compote, Shortcakes, and Crumb Bars. They also have the AP's write up of Food Inc., a movie everyone should see. Produced by Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, the film sheds light on our food systems and where our food is coming from (hint, it's not the roof garden at Glide!). I haven't seen it yet but it's on the top of my list.

OK...there's your reading list for the day. Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Homemade Jam

Saturday morning I found myself leaving the farmer's market with a load of fresh berries and cherries. I was on a jam mission so, three pounds of strawberries were headed for jars. I did some reading online to compare recipes and prefer the idea of doing it without pectin. The recipe I used was inspired by one from Martha Stewart, who I figure has made a jar or two of jam in her time.

The berries were perfect-red throughout, ripe but not mushy, and fragrant of spring. I hulled and cut them into a large stockpot, slowly added sugar, and cooked it to almost 220 degrees, which took about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, my son was quiet as a mouse, only to return with his own custom made labels for the jars-perfect!

We filled three jars and had enough warm jam left over to slather on two pieces of toast. I have to say, I think the berries were so sweet I could have cut the sugar back even more than I did (the original recipe had about 20% more than what I used). This is sweet jam but, it's pure strawberry and just delicious. Tomorrow I think we'll make homemade bread and really put it to the test.

Strawberry Jam
3 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 to 1 1/2 pounds sugar, depending on the sweetness of the berries

pinch of salt

In a large stockpot, heat the berries with 1/4 cup of the sugar over medium heat until they release some juice and the mixture becomes quite juice, 5-6 minutes. Add one-third of the remaining sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Continue this process, adding the remaining sugar in two parts, until all the sugar has been added and dissolved. Stir in the salt.

Bring the jam to a boil and let cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to a low boil, put a candy thermometer in the pot, and cook until the mixture is very thick, jam-like, and about 220 degrees. This will take about 30 minutes-don't cook it too hot or your jam will scorch. Meanwhile, put a small plate in the freezer. When the jam seems ready, remove the plate from the freezer and put a spoonful of jam on it. Return it to the freezer for 1-2 minutes. When you take it out and press it gently, it should wrinkle slightly, almost like a gel, and feel thick like jam-this means it is done.

I don't go through the sterilizing process for true canning. I put my jam in clean jars, seal them tightly, refrigerate one and freeze the others, pulling them out when I need them. If you want to sterilize your jars so they can go into the pantry, buy some new Ball jars and follow the directions for keeping everything clean and hot so you get a good preserve. Have fun!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Few of my Favorite Things

I had a student in my class Tuesday ask me for a list of my recommended kitchen equipment. I usually hand out a list that I've had in my files from years ago. It was compiled from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking (which was actually my text book in culinary school). It's inclusive of many things for cooks and bakers alike but, after I handed it out I thought to myself, "this list needs serious updating".

I set myself to the task and ended up with this list-my must-haves for the kitchen. Keep in mind, I adore baking so there are some things you may not need if you don't share my love for all things sweet. Questions about anything? Let me know.

8-10 inch chef's knife (my favorite is this Bob Kramer from Shun)
2" pairing knife, sharp but cheap is fine. In fact, get two because one will sure take a trip into your disposal at some point
Serrated bread knife
Honing steel
Kitchen scissors
Needle nose pliers: for removing those pesky fish bones

Medium nonstick saute pan (6-8"): great for eggs, pancakes, omelettes, and fish
6 and 12" stainless steel saute pans, with a lid
1 quart, 2 quart, and 4+ quart saucepans
Dutch oven (I love my Le Creuset) or Stockpot
Grill Pan: preferably cast iron, great for those small apartments when you can't have an outdoor grill plus, this one works as a panini press too
Griddle: if you're one to make brunch or breakfast for a crowd, a nonstick griddle is great to have

Food processor: Cuisinart only. I bought another brand after my tank of a Cuisinart broke and it doesn't even compare
Standing Mixer: My Kitchen Aid mixer is always out on my counter-I use it all the time. If you are not a baker, this one isn't necessary

Liquid measuring cups: Pyrex are great, 1 and 2 cup versions
Dry measuring cups
Measuring spoons
Wooden spoon
Flat wooden spatula
Metal spatula
Pancake turner
Silicone rubber spatula(s)
Sauce whisk
Balloon whisk
Slotted Spoon
Stainless Steel mixing bowls

Wood cutting boards (my preference)
Plastic cutting board (if its headed for the dishwasher)

Rimmed baking sheets: I keep a couple half-sheet pans and couple quarter-sheet pans
Rimless baking sheet: one is nice to have if you're a cookie baker
Silicone baking mat
Baking pans: 8-9" round cake pan(s), 8-9" square cake pan, 9x13 Pyrex baking dish

Box grater
Rasp ('Microplane') grater
Press juicer
Vegetable peeler
Corkscrew (duh!)
Pepper mill

OK...what am I forgetting? I'm sure there is plenty so let me know. And expect and update here shortly. Happy Shopping!

What I'm Reading Today

Remember when you were a kid and you counted down the days until school would end? Well, for my son today is that day. He's ecstatic. I have to admit I'm excited too. I'm looking forward to sleeping in, not spending my morning screaming 'let's go, let's go, let's go', and having a schedule with lots of room to breathe. Of course, ask me again in a few weeks...I may just be counting down the days until school starts again!

While I still have the time, here's what I'm reading.

In today's LA Times 'cookbook watch' section, they feature six books to help you hone your knife skills. They do a thorough examination of this handful of titles and, if you're like so many people I know, you can never have good enough knife skills. I, of course, think you should take a cooking class to really get it right but, if you can't do that, I think one of these books would be a must-have.

“Act like your grandmother: badger the fishmonger until you get what you want, and take it back if it disappoints you.”
A quote from Mark Bittman in today's NY Times. He writes a fantastic and accessible article on fish. We've all heard, over the past few years, about the controversies surrounding the world of commercial fish-over fishing, farmed fish, sustainable fish, etc. The Monterey Bay Aquarium publishes an easy list of 'good fish/bad fish' for shoppers but, Mark's article is definitely required reading for anyone who calls fish dinner on a regular basis. He includes a few great recipes too...I'm loving Sauteed Squid with Garlic, Chili, and Bread Crumbs. (also making Raspberry Rhubarb Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits from the article Rhubarb Three Ways.)

If you haven't tried pea shoots, this is the season. These little tendrils from pea vines are delicious-they cook quickly and have a sweet pea flavor. In today's Washington Post, there is a quick dinner recipe for Spice Seared Tuna with Avocado, Mango, and Pea Shoot Salad. Yum!

The SF Chronicle wants to teach you a million ways to use a Poblano chile. I love 'em-not too spicy, fragrant, and easy to find. I especially like their idea for Blackened Poblano Chile Pesto.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Friday, June 5, 2009

When in Seattle....Eat Mexican Food?

I've been in Seattle for two days and, yes, both nights I went out for Mexican food. Not your run of the mill taqueria stuff (although I love that too). These are two hot Seattle spots, one relatively fresh on the scene and one well aged, and both were fantastic.

The first night I was out with the girls and we had a booth for 8 at our favorite haunt-Cactus in Madison Park. Serving Mexican and Southwestern food, this amazing place has been packed since it opened its doors back in 1990. I've been eating here ever since and have yet to find something on the menu I don't like. Some of the highlights from last night were the rich and creamy butternut squash and goat cheese enchiladas, the overflowing seafood enchiladas, house made chicken tamales, a Navajo torta, and the ever-popular and always delicious green enchilada. We passed forks and bites across the table and tasted everything. Between sips of perfect margaritas and mojitos we were reminded why we keep coming back to this well run, cravable spot.

Night number two was in Ballard. We were three adults and three kids. We needed to eat early and do it at a place where we could all find something on the menu. We found it at La Carta de Oaxaca. I know Seattle locals have been loving this place for a while now but, it's new to me. It's been on my list for a long time, being my brother's favorite neighborhood spot. I LOVED it! First, when chips come out hot from the fryer you know you're off to a good start. These were crisp, light, salty, and lovely-you almost didn't need the guacamole or six house made salsas (but, then again, those were perfection too). I ordered the halibut tacos-the best I've ever had. Sauteed halibut, cabbage, chipotle crema, and soft corn tortillas-three of them for $11, and I think that might have been the most expensive thing on the menu. The prices were very reasonable (especially compared to SF). My brother says he often over hears people ordering two and three dishes each because things are priced like tapas-I'd advise against it because you will be insanely full. They aren't huge portions but, with food this well seasoned and fresh you don't need monster sized plates. My brother had the Lamb Birria-stewed lamb with beans, rice, and warm tortillas-lamb tacos? Hello yum! My sister-in-law had the red chile enchiladas with a fried egg-not too spicy, not overly slathered in cheese, and really fragrant. I don't think there was a visible crumb on any of our plates. Margaritas, beer, and even kid friendly portions made us all happy. I'll be back here again and again.

I know-you think Seattle and expect salmon, fish and chips, and clam chowder. These days the Emerald City is making me think south of the border!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

A drizzly cool day in San Francisco. The perfect day for some cooking! Here's what I'm reading today.

The LA times concedes today-the cupcakes is here and not going anywhere. Where ever you live, I'm sure a cupcake bakery has popped up over the last few years. I make a damn good cupcake on my own but, I will admit to being gifted some amazing Kara's cupcakes last weekend and they were delicious. In their article about the little cakes, they have a link to a long list of cupcake recipes. Next time you're thinking of going to the bakery, maybe you should make your own. And if you're in L.A., there is even a local cupcake map!

Crispy Chicken Schnitzel-a lightly breaded and crispy piece of boneless chicken. Top it with an lemony herb salad and this is my kind of dinner. A 15 minute meal that will please even the pickiest of eaters at your house, this is easy on the wallet too. Of course if you want to make it more interesting, you could serve it with a Rye Old Fashioned because hey, who doesn't like a good old school cocktail? Thank you NY Times.

Sunday's SF Chronicle featured old San Francisco recipes reinvented for modern times. Emily Luchetti, local pastry chef extraordinaire, tackled the It's It, an ice cream sandwich that's been made in the Bay Area since 1928. The original version is vanilla ice cream between two oatmeal cookies, coated with chocolate. In Emily's version, she uses ginger ice cream, spikes her cookies with cinnamon, and coats half of it in bittersweet chocolate. Now that's a summer dessert to try.

The Washington Post talks about their five favorite inexpensive kitchen tools. My favorite? Your hands! OK, the rest aren't this inexpensive but, still some must-haves on the list. Also, I was trying to decide if Brownie Scones sounded good but, when I read the head note "
These scones answer the craving for dessert before 10 a.m" I knew they were for me.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!
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