Friday, July 31, 2009

The Ever Insightful Michael Pollan

How I missed this in Wednesday's NY Times, I don't know (vacation mode, I guess).

Please take the time to read Out of the Kitchen, On to the Couch. The 8 (yes, eight) page manifesto written by Pollan on the demise of home cooking. Each page touched a hot spot with me, a firm believer in cooking at home.

He uses Julie and Julia as a jumping off point, Julia specifically, and spends a good amount of time praising Julia's efforts to get Americans into the kitchen. I love him saying, "Child was less interested in making it fast or easy than making it right, because cooking for her was so much more than a means to a meal. It was a gratifying, even ennobling sort of work, engaging both the mind and the muscles. You didn’t do it to please a husband or impress guests; you did it to please yourself." He of course flips to food television today and is hard pressed to find it redeeming the way Julia's era was.

It's long but so, so well worth the read. Print it off, take it on the plane, read it over lunch, or bring it to bed. I'd love to know what you think.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

Well, I finally chased the sun and found some summer. In Sonoma, CA for just a few more days and left the frigid summer temps in San Francisco behind. Definitely harder to motivate in the kitchen with the warm sun and swimming pool beckoning but, we've put the grill to use and made a few amazing meals. Managed to check the food sections for you today so, here's what I've got.

I love slaw. Especially in the summer, when rich bbq is coming off the grill-something about the cool briny crunch is the perfect counterbalance for an outdoor meal. Today's LA Times goes out of the box with a few new recipes to use next time your craving a crispy fresh salad. Zucchini Slaw, Daikon Slaw, even Curried Cantaloupe Slaw...check them all out. While you're there, Russ Parsons' follow up article on eating organic is well worth a read. A personal preference reigns here but, it's good to know the facts.

Today's NY Times goes behind the scenes of the latest food movies, debunking many myths about food styling-no hair spraying of turkeys here. Julie and Julia was styled by Martha Stewart veteran Susan Spungen-an amazing woman I've had the pleasure of working with. I haven't seen the movie yet but, have no doubt every bite looks delicious if she is involved. As far as recipes, Mark Bittman has one that's new to me: Stone Fruit Patchwork. Think lattice topped fruit pie with no bottom crust-in other words, think easy...yum.

If you do want to cook from the Washington Post today, how about Corn-Poblano Soup, an Eastern Shore Crab Roll, or Peaches and Cream with Raspberries. I actually think the combo of these three things add up to what might just be a perfect meal.

My Seattle friends are absolutely roasting this week...if you're wondering where the summer heat is, believe it or not it's camped itself in the Pacific Northwest. No one I've talked to has the slightly inclination to cook but, I do think a few would be convinced to throw together this Watermelon, Arugula, and Toasted Almond Salad from today's Seattle Times. The recipes calls for pan searing the watermelon, which is a cool idea but, for those 100+ degree days, I'd throw it in raw and crunchy.

Hope summer is treating you well where ever you are!

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking...Jodi

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Couple New Faves

It's often hard to keep up with what's new in San Francisco. Sure, the economy has axed a restaurant here and there but, it hasn't kept the list of new spots from continuing to grow. Over the past couple of weeks, I've tried a couple. One just a few weeks old and the other a few years.

First was Tacolicious. Spawned from the creative minds of Joe Hargrave and his team (Laiola) and food writer extraordinaire Sara Deseran (7x7), this spot is available at the Thursday market at the Ferry Building. The market is hosting a handful of amazing prepared food vendors for the Thursday lunch crowd and it's packed. I arrived around 11:30 and just missed the rush. My husband tried to go at 12:30 and the lines were prohibitive so, my first piece of advice is arrive early. If you friend them on Facebook you can see what they're cooking up each week. Usually four kinds of tacos made with traditional Mexican braises (just the word 'braise' made me know I'd be a fan). The day I went there was guajillo chile braised beef, chipotle braised chicken, braised pork shoulder with crispy chicharones on top and a veggie mix of nopales and beans. I went for one beef and one pork. The pork taco was really tasty but, when my first bite yielded the crispy chicharones, I was a bit surprised, thinking I had bone or something else I didn't want in my taco (of course I easily couldn't have looked at the thing before I ate and realized what it was)-I just didn't love that duo texture thing. Now that beef taco-WOW! Hands down the best taco I've ever, ever had. Not too spicy but amazing seasoned. The meat melted in your mouth (and appropriately down your arm) and I loved the pickled carrot, onion, and jalapeno garnish sprinkled on top. They have three salsas you can put on your tacos and I loved the verde with my beef. Anyone looking for me at 11:30 on Thursdays will now know where to find me! Ugh...recipe testing today so sadly I'll just be dreaming about it.

My second new find is Brenda's French Soul Food. Not new to the city but new to me. I've been hearing about this Creole inspired spot on the south end of Polk street for along time. I went for lunch and even around 11:30 I had to wait a good 20 minutes. This is a tiny brunch and lunch spot so expect a line. Eating solo I knew I couldn't try too much-the plates looked huge so I needed to choose carefully. I picked the shrimp po'boy and was not dissapointed. While Tacolicious might have the best taco around, this is definitely the best sandwich ever! On a perfectly toasted (and gigantic) roll the sandwich was bursting with small cornmeal crusted shrimp. They were cooked absolutely perfectly with just the right crunch. To balance the crispy shrimp, there was a chipotle remoulade sauce that was spicy, creamy, and (dare I say?) finger licking good. When the plate I arrived I thought to myself "I'll never eat all this"...about 20 minutes later the sandwich and most of the crunchy slaw on the side were long gone. I saved no room for the monster beignets that looked amazing so next time I'm bringing a friend!

Do you have any new faves?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

Hope the sun is out where you are! We're heading in search of it next week so Mmm...That's Good might just be taking a break. In the meantime, this should hold you over.

Food trucks are all the rage from Seattle to New York. Google them in your town and I'm sure you'll find a few hidden gems for your next lunch. Most of them Twitter their locations, if they rove around town, while others park it at the same place every day. Today's LA Times talks about the latest and greatest down south. If you're in or around LA, and the line for Korean tacos is too long at the Kogi BBQ truck, here are some alternatives: Let's Be Frank, the San Francisco grass-fed hot dog spot, Coolhaus for hip ice cream sandwiches, or the Nom Nom Truck for Banh mi, those stacked and delicious Vietnamese sandwiches. And I thought it was just tv's that came from the 'back of a truck'!

Mark Bittman is back at the NY Times with a powerhouse list of 101 simple summer salads. I think even us non-salad eaters crave the crunchy veggies when the sun comes out. Whether its the waistline or the great produce, salads just feel right in the summer. He gives you some amazing vinaigrette ideas (because, yes, you should be making your own) plus his 101 ideas what to use them with. I'm liking mache with figs, almonds, and almond butter vinaigrette (#28), grilled cheese sandwich cut into croutons and put on a Caprese salad (#44), crab, corn, and avocado (#68), and the deconstructed Reuben-cabbage, Swiss cheese, rye croutons, and Russian dressing (#77). This one's worth printing and keeping in the recipe file.

Across the country at the Washington Post their signature quick and simple recipes abound. Sunflower-Seed Crusted Pork with Cilantro Pesto, Honey Mustard Chicken, and even Six Recipes for the Perfect Clambake will all have you making a yummy no fuss dinner.

If you love fresh figs as much as I do, today's Seattle Times has a handful of recipes to try. Turkey Sliders with Fig Salsa, Pork with Pinot-Infused Fig Chutney, and Figs with Gingered Mascarpone. If you haven't cooked with the little lovelies before, any of these recipes would be a great way to get started.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Perfect Summer Lunch and Eggs

Big news. Today I signed a contract to write another book, all about eggs. Yep, it'll be a spring title by me and sold all over the place. Should actually get author credit on the front this time, which will be a nice change!

When I test recipes for a cookbook, my first step is to write a draft of everything. This is a smaller book, only 40 recipes, so it doesn't take too long. Being up to my ears in eggs this week, I turned to the carton when I went into the kitchen to find something for lunch.

I had a juicy heirloom tomato which I diced and tossed with a pinch of minced fresh garlic and a handful of basil from my garden. A little salt, pepper, and Bariani olive oil and that was delish already. I had some ciabatta so I brushed a couple slices with some olive oil and threw 'em in my trusty old (very old) toaster oven. While the bread was toasting and the tomatoes were getting some love, I poached two eggs. When all was said and done I put the toast on the plate, mounded the tomatoes on top, and crowned it all with the eggs. I can't tell you how perfect it was! Sadly I ate it so fast I didn't get a photo. Next time...

It made me realize (or re-realize) the joys of a poached egg. While I love them for breakfast, there is so much to do with them other times of the day. I braised a heap of Romano beans from the farmer's market today. My plan was to serve them with dinner but, my hope is I have them leftover so I can heat them up and throw a poached egg on top :)

Roasted asparagus, frisee salad, what else do you like with a poached egg on top?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

Woke up and spent the first hour of the morning thinking it was Tuesday. Shows you what happens when I get into summer mode! So, happy Wednesday. Here's what I'm reading...

I love Vietnamese food, just don't cook it enough. I tends to be lighter than Thai food, it's bursting with fresh herbs and vegetables, and it actually comes together pretty quickly if your pantry is stocked with the right things. Andrea Nguyen, guru of Vietnamese cooking, writes a great article in today's LA Times. Not only will you read about all the delish fresh herbs used in the dishes but, recipes like Rice Noodle Bowl with Stir Fried Beef, Salmon with Tomato, Dill, and Garlic Soup, or Rice Noodles with Chinese Chives, Shrimp, and Pork will motivate you to cancel that Slanted Door reservation and try this cooking yourself.

I don't love saffron. For some reason it tastes too metallic when I eat it so I tend to shy away from recipes that list it as an ingredient. That said, this recipe for Summer Vegetables in Saffron Broth with Ricotta and Toasted Baguette looks amazing. From Christopher Lee of Aureole restaurant in New York (and Vegas), it seems to be the perfect way to let your farmer's market bounty shine at the table. I also loved the video on The Making of the Gyro Cone...haven't you always wondered how that conical giant of 'spiced meat' gets made??
No, those aren't giant Popsicles.

I love sweet onions. One year we were in North Carolina with my husband's family. My mother in law introduced me to what might be the best sandwich ever-white bread, farm fresh tomatoes, slices of sweet onion, and mayo. I think I stood at the counter and ate three in a row. Coming from Seattle, I have an affinity for the Walla Walla Sweet, grown in Eastern Washington. Today's Washington Post writes about the onion and gives four recipes for using the gems (of course any sweet onion will work here). Whether you like your onions with Mussels, in a Salsa, or just cooked Straight Up-your recipe is here. The paper also has a great article on Michelle Obama's future plans for her White House garden and food policy.

When fresh blueberries are in season, they are always in our fridge. The huge ones, my son calls them 'kings', are coveted and we eat the things like candy. In today's Seattle Times there is a recipe (courtesy of the AP) for Blueberries and Cream Cupcakes. It's part of an article about Martha Stewart Cupcakes, the latest from the queen of all things domestic and perfect. My son wont eat a cupcake, or cake, with a 10 foot pole but, if I can sneak away a stash of blueberries I may just make them for someone else.

The SF Chronicle makes news of Nate Appelman's departure from A16 and SPQR. The guy recently took home a shelf full of culinary awards and he is manning the stove all the time. I read a recent article where he hinted and cooking outside of SF...we'll see. While you're there, Grilled Eggplant Salad sounds like a perfect summer dinner too. that it really is Wednesday, I've got to run! Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Simple Summer Dinner

I taught a class recently called Simple Seasonal Cooking at Tante Marie's Cooking School. I wasn't surprised when it sold out instantly-people love easy dinners. This is of course a great time for simple cooking. When produce is this fresh and delicious, you don't need to do much to it to transform it into dinner.

Last night I decided to make a big salad nicoise. Rather than serve it with tuna, a bought a gorgeous piece of fresh halibut. I made a quick marinade of grainy mustard, a pinch of ground fennel seed, chopped herbs from my garden (thyme and oregano), a few thinly sliced shallots, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. I put the fish in a dish and slathered it with the mixture then parked it in the fridge for about an hour. If your fish is thick and on the dense side, marinating in a non-acidic mixture works fine. If you've got thinner fish, and/or a marinade with a lot of acid in it (wine, vinegar, lemon juice, etc.), don't marinate it for more than 30 minutes or you'll end up with ceviche.

While the fish was soaking up all those flavors, I blanched some green beans and halved some cherry tomatoes. After the beans were done (I shocked them and patted them dry), I tossed them with the cherry tomatoes and a pinch of salt and pepper. I made a simple red wine vinaigrette with a bit more of that mustard,thyme, and oregano and put a very thin coating of it on the beans and tomatoes. I also boiled some tiny, almost walnut sized, new potatoes. When they were tender they went in their own bowl with a bit of vinaigrette and got a good toss. I cooked the fish at 350 for about 6 minutes then broiled it briefly just to get a nice crust on the top.

To serve it all, I pulled out one big platter and composed the salad-mounds of beans, tomatoes, potatoes, fish, some hard boiled eggs cut into wedges, and some leaves of green leaf lettuce. I forgot the olives and anchovies, a must have for a real nicoise, but no one minded. I'd made a batch of tomato gazpacho and together it was the perfect summer meal.

Now, being that this dinner was so light, I couldn't resist tipping the scales and trying this Corn Fritter recipe from my recent Fine Cooking. OK, maybe I blew out all the healthful benefits of my meal but, the fritters and charred tomato sauce were well worth it.

When you think simple summer dinners, what comes to mind?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Movable Feast...

...the title of a wonderful article by Robyn Eckhardt and David Hagerman in the WSJ.

The writer and photographer, husband and wife team, were with us on our February adventure in Thailand and chronicled it for this article. If you're curious about our trip, or thinking about a Thai cooking adventure yourself, check this really reflects the amazing experience we had.

A Movable Feast: Cooking Local in Thailand

For more of Robyn and David's great writing and photographs, check out their mouthwatering blog at Eating Asia. Their most recent post is an extension of the article with some more amazing photos.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

The sun's up early in San Francisco today. A good sign, I hope. Hasn't yet felt like real summer here...then again I guess that doesn't come until September. Oh well, a good excuse to try out some of these recipes!

The LA Times takes a look at the restaurant scene in Napa Valley. Always a food destination, the Valley is the home to some hot new spots. Bardessono, the new Eco-friendly resort in Yountville sounds like a definitely stop for a meal, even if the high three figure room does not fit your budget. A few friends of mine have eaten at Bottega, Michael Chiarello's new place, and one loved it while the other was on the fence. The Times seems to think its a mixed bag too but, I've got a feeling sitting at the bar for drinks and apps would be the way to do it. There is even a recipe for Molasses Ginger cookies from St.Helena's Model Bakery...a perfect spot for breakfast or a snack, now you can have a taste without even leaving home.

I love, love, love shortcakes with fresh berries. When I talk shortcakes I mean the buttery biscuit type not the spongy cups found shrink wrapped next to the gelatinous pie filling at the market. Today's New York Times has a recipe for Strawberries with a Brown Butter Shortcake that might change my mind. This sponge cake, much like a classic genoise, is topped with slightly warm berries with a hint of orange. It looks stunning and probably tastes just as good.

The San Francisco Chronicle has a nice article on refreshing, non-alcoholic, summer drinks. From Strawberry Lemonade a la Nopalito to Bakesale Betty's Lemon Ice, there are some perfect treats if your summer is actually warm. Best part are the little snacks that go with them...I'm loving the Five Spice Popcorn Chicken.

Today's Washington Post is packed full of info on canning and preserving, something I always say I'm going to do. Recipes like Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam or Preserved Zucchini will have you filling jars in no time.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking

Friday, July 3, 2009

Homemade Ice Cream

Years ago I bought a Krups ice cream maker. The $50 machine is one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I leave the canister in the freezer and the small dasher and motor attach to the top and plug into the wall. Smaller than a food processor, the thing churns perfect ice cream. Sadly, it is tough to find now but Cuisinart makes a similar one and I've used it before with great results.

In the summer, Vanilla Bean ice cream becomes a partner to fruit crisps and pies. If I've been over zealous in my farmer's market shopping, I use the over ripe fruit for sorbets or ice creams. My new glass food storage containers keep the ice cream totally sealed so a batch will last up to a week and hold its consistency beautifully (that is if we don't eat it all in one sitting).

Having just returned from an overnight in St.Helena and a visit to the farmer's market, I have a box of juicy peaches just screaming to get into the ice cream maker. I used my Philadelphia Style Ice Cream base (no eggs-light and perfect, in my opinion), skinned and pureed three of my peaches, and crushed up a vanilla bean. I'll refrigerate the base for a few hours and churn it tonight. After a chill in the fridge, it'll be a perfect dessert for the Fourth. It may get caramel sauce and toasted pecans, if I really decide to guild the lily. We'll see...

Here is the recipe for Phili style ice cream. You can infuse it with anything you like-fresh mint, crushed coffee beans, pureed fruit, or dark chocolate. Have fun with it-it couldn't be easier.

Philadelphia Style Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar

vanilla bean, split lengthwise
pinch of salt

In a pot, combine the milk, cream, and sugar. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pot, adding the pod as well. Bring the mixture just to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved, 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the salt, and let cool completely. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate until very cold. Strain the mixture into the ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions.

If you're infusing any other flavors, add them into the milk mixture with or instead of the vanilla bean. When you strain the chilled ice cream base, any big bits will be removed.

Makes 1 quart

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What I'm Reading Today

This summer schedule is killing me-everyone goes to bed way past their bedtimes and we all wake up far too late. Just getting to the post now-sorry for the delay.

I love the idea of homemade ice cream sandwiches. I love making cookies and crank out a lot of homemade ice cream so, its a natural match at my house. Takes a little planning ahead but, certainly not difficult. Today's LA Times features a few mouth watering combinations to try but, the one that sounds best to me is the Chocolate Sea Salt Cookie ice cream sandwiches-they even call for store bought ice cream so that really makes life easy.

How many of you are BBQ'ing burgers for the Fourth? If you answered 'yes', this NY Times article is the one for you: The Perfect Burger and All Its Parts. You'll find tips and tricks from chefs coast to coast, plus great recipes for a burger, homemade brioche buns, and a tomato compote from Daniel Boulud's new DBGB.

If you're not opting for burgers, maybe Fried Chicken is your dinner of choice. If you're Gillian, Brian, Francine, or Stephanie your recipe, in today's Washington Post, is the best. Funny how everyone claims the title, right? Well, these four recipes cover all tastes-seasoned crust, fresh herbs, overnight brining, or lightly battered. Each one looks fantastic to me-I love fried chicken! Finish your meal with Chocolate Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies and I think you're crowd will forget all about the fireworks.

Ever tried cooking a whole chicken on the grill on top of a can of beer? I haven't done it myself but, I've enjoyed the fantastic results at my mother-in-law's. It might sound strange but, I can attest to the moist and tender chicken you get when that bird gets a bit tipsy. Today's Chicago Tribune has a video that walks you through it. If you've ever been fascinated by this off beat cooking technique, now is the time to give it a try.

Happy Reading and Happy Fourth of July Cooking!
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