Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

School's Out for Summer!  Last night I taught my last cooking class for the summer.  The group was with me for six weeks and as I told them, their Basics series was anything but "basic".  An incredibly fun gang-keep up the cooking folks, I'll miss you.

Hello Pavlova!  I've always loved the look of this dessert-is it not a stunner?  Channeling my inner- Australian, Donna Hay (the Pavlova is named for an Australian ballerina after all), I tried to make one this spring but it just flopped.  It looked ok but tasted so much more like egg than dessert.  I found this recipe, for Berry Pavlova with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Pistachios, in today's Los Angeles Times and after seeing the photo I'm trying it again.  You'll notice the pavlova shell calls for vinegar, critical in this recipe not for its tangy flavor (that shouldn't even come though) but to give the meringue its soft marshmallow-like center.  Don't leave it out!  Once I get mine down I'm going to play with size (love the idea of individual ones) and fillings.  Have you made one before?

Mark Bittman is at it again.  This time, in The New York Times, his now-signature 101 list is all about the grill: 101 Fast Recipes for Grilling.  Clean off that grill grate and be prepared to think outside the box-these aren't just your typical burger or chicken recipes.  Some highlights?  Grilled Guacamole, Grilled Waldorf Salad, Grilled Duck à l’Orange, and Grilled Bread on a Stick with Olives and Tomatoes.  There's even a video demo of his  "Actual Grilled Cheese".  Fire up the grill-this stuff is going to be good!

 (photo from Fiesta at Rick's by Rick Bayless)

I love Rick Bayless.  There, I said it.  It's true-the guy is amazing.  Not only are his books, recipes, tv shows, and title as "Top Chef Master" all rock solid but he is actually incredibly nice.  When I used to do a lot of food styling I had an opportunity to work for him and he was the most appreciative and gracious personality I'd met in the culinary world.  I'm thrilled about his new book, Fiesta at Rick'sa title dedicated to celebrating with friends and food (think tacos, mole, ceviche, and margaritas).  There is a short excerpt in today's Chicago Tribune including recipes for Garlic and Orange Grilled Guacamole (guess Bittman isn't the only one throwing avocados on the BBQ) and Devilish Shrimp.  Add some frijoles, chips, and an icy margarita to the mix and you've got your own backyard fiesta.  OK, I'm off to the bookstore....

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cookbook Club-Ad Hoc at Home

I've already gone on about that amazing Ad Hoc fried chicken.  The opportunity to have it again at Cookbook Club presented itself last Monday and, let me tell you, I'm still a huge fan.  I loved the chance to taste so many more recipes from the book, each and every one absolutely delicious.

It doesn't hurt to have seven great cooks making everything, meticulously following directions while thinking "WWTKD"*.  The net, net-while some of the recipes contain several lengthy steps that lead into recipes-within-a-recipe, the food tasted amazing.  Here's a look at our dinner.

Kelly, our host, greeted each of us with a bag of extra seasoned flour for our own batches of fried chicken.  You know it's going to be good when the night starts off like this!

Tori made the Lamb Meatballs with Oven Dried Tomatoes.  Her meticulous prep and 6 hour-roasted tomatoes paid off.

I tackled the Sun Gold Tomato Gazpacho.  Super creamy and a great start to the meal.

One of three newcomers to cookbook club, Lynette set the bar high with the fresh-from-the-farmers' market Summer Vegetable Gratin. 

Kelly hosted and took on the Fried Chicken.  See how amazing this looked?  It tasted THAT good!

Katie, newcomer number two, brought light and airy homemade Biscuits.  Because what's fried chicken without biscuits and honey (only wish we had leftovers for breakfast).

Tori also made the Creamed Corn, so good with lime juice and lime zest.  Totally new tastes together-we loved it.

CC made the Endive and Arugula Salad with Peaches and Marcona Almonds.  Don't let the idea of a salad fool you-this might have been the best salad I've ever had.  Amen to the peach puree!

For one of the desserts I made the buttery Brownies.  These are the richest brownies you'll ever have-hard to tell from this horrible photo but oh so good.

Finally, to finish things off, our third newcomer, former pastry chef Emily, made this stunning Pineapple Upside Down cake AND Caramel Ice Cream (which I ate to fast to photograph).  Oh my.

If you're not already in a cookbook club, I highly recommend it.  Monday night reminded me that the best kind of book club is all about good friends and good food.

*What Would Thomas Keller Do

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

I hope the lazy days of summer are treating you well.  A little sun would make me happy right about now!  In the meantime, I'm staying in the kitchen.

This recipe, actually from the Sunday New York Times magazine, is like summer in a bowl.  The Grilled Peach Sundaes are a combination of buttermilk ice cream (and whipped cream), salted bourbon caramel sauce, toasted pecans, and grilled peaches.  What's not to like?  The peaches are peeled (easily done after a dip in boiling water) then quickly grilled just to bring out the natural sugars-they should still be firm when they're done.  The caramel sauce, which you should make in advance (and hide way back in the fridge so only you know where it is) is spiked with bourbon and salt to cut a bit of the sweetness.  The pecans are not your typical candied nuts-these are tossed in both sugar and cayenne, another play on the sweet/spicy combination.  Even the ice cream and whipped cream are made with buttermilk, lending a bit of tart to balance out the richness.  In total, it's a dish that looks deceptively simple and is actually quite easy to make but the well thought out balance of textures and tastes might just make this the perfect summer dessert. 

I've never been one of those bacon-crazy people.  I occasionally like a few (very crispy) strips with my breakfast and love a good ol' BLT but bacon in my cookies, latte, or ice cream doesn't really do it for me.   I get bacon-it's smoky flavor and luscious fat have their purpose in cooking, no doubt about that.  When I saw the recipe for Bacon, Cream Cheese, and Horseradish Dip in today's Washington Post I was intrigued.  Dip used to get the love that bacon has now.  Back in the 70s when my parents would entertain, it was dip-galore!  Cheese dips, spinach dip, artichoke dip, onion remember, right?  Let's be honest, the stuff is good-gluttonous but tasty.  Why not marry the two and bring on the Bacon dip?  This combo of horseradish and bacon with a bit of lemon is just calling out for a potato chip.  Backyard BBQ, here we come!

I am not a salad girl.  I'd love to be one of those people who can eat a big plate of lightly dressed greens and call it a meal but I'm not.  I leave the table after a salad like this and think "what's for lunch?".   A fresh mix of seasonal veggies is great before, during, or after a meal but in my case, it doesn't count as an actual meal.  In today's Portland Oregonian there is an article with 29 Salad Recipes to Serve for Summer Meals that Make you Healthy and Happy.  The recipes are divided by salad type:
-with lots of vegetables
After looking at recipes for salads like Warm Lentil and Chard Salad with Garlicky Croutons and Feta Grilled Bread Salad With Shrimp, Lemon and Thyme, and Beet and Pickled Onion Salad with Horseradish and Chives I started thinking that while those simple dressed greens might not win me over, some of these other choices could just do the trick.  

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Small Screen Debut

My small screen debut was last week on  From their "You're Doing it all Wrong" series, it's how to make crepes!

Check out the video here and let me know what you think:

For the recipe, click here.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

Countdown to Fathers' Day-do you have a plan yet?  Here are some options if you're cooking dinner for dad. 

If dad's a sushi guy, this Tuna Watermelon Ceviche just might do the trick.  I've had a Vietnamese style dish much like this before and have to say the combo of crispy fresh watermelon with silky tuna and herbs is a beautiful thing.  When you go on the quest for your ahi filet, remember you want sushi grade tuna-the best you can buy.  The acidic marinade will "cook" the fish a bit but you still want to find a fish monger who carries super fresh tuna.  There are no official FDA standards for calling a fish "sushi grade". The term itself is basically good marketing but a reputable fish monger will tell you if the fish is ok for eating ceviche style or not (it often refers to the fish having been flash frozen briefly to be sure any parasites are killed off).  In terms of pre-packaged/shrink wrapped tuna labeled "sushi grade"-it is not an option.  Buy the good stuff, it is for dad after all.

(Susi Smither/The Guardian)

He'll really love you for this one:  Piperade on Toast.  On the website for London's Guardian/Observer   the food is always stunning.  This particular recipe caught my eye for it's ease, good looks, and contrasting textures.  Piperade is a Basque style combination of peppers, tomatoes, and onions, sauteed until tender and sweet.  This version adds some softly cooked eggs and a thin slice of Parma ham (or prosciutto)-just enough protein to call it lunch, even dinner.  Put it all on crunchy toast and you've got sweet, salty, crunchy, and fresh in each and every bite.  This is food I love to eat!

I usually cook what I'd call 'rustic food'-food that looks good naturally without much fuss or garnish.  When I saw this salad it called to mind something much more sophisticated, looking like a dish I'd be served in a restaurant as opposed to a creation from a home kitchen.  That said, it's easy.  Fennel and Smoked Salmon Salad is basically just that-paper thin layers of salmon topped with fennel, lemon, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Talk about a perfect match of textures!  The sweet salmon and licorice scented fennel are a natural combination, not to mention the hint of lemon in there.  Reserve some of the fronds on top of the fennel-these are the pieces that resemble fresh dill-they work like fresh herbs as a garnish in the salad.  When you look for fennel at the market it may be labeled "anise".  You want full bulbs, pale green with no brown spots, and the stalks and fronds should still be attached. You remove the stalks/fronds before coring and thinly slicing the bulb.  A mandoline or (my preference) a Japanese style Benriner slicer work great for getting it nice and thin.  I think this would be perfect for brunch, lunch, an appetizer, or dinner.  What a beauty.

Here's to all the dad's out there (mine especially!).

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Had to Show You These...

How could I resist?  You've read about my love of homemade ice cream.  In my class just yesterday a student named Jon whipped up a batch of this Vanilla Bean Ice Cream that was fantastic.  I told my students about these Cuisinart ice cream makers--$49.95 and you've got homemade ice cream any time.  

Today I discovered they are now being made in "Buttercup, Crush, Parsley, Pomegranate, and Tangerine".  Following in the footsteps of the brightly colored Kitchen Aid mixers ("caviar, licorice, red cayenne" anyone?) these technicolor appliances are going to the summer's must have gadget.  

If you haven't bought an ice cream maker yet, get yourself one of these!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

The last day of school-really?!  Where the time goes I'll never know but, with summer staring me right in the face, it's time to host a few BBQs, try lots of new recipes, and hit plenty of farmers' markets. 

For those of you in the Bay Area or Seattle, a few notes about some upcoming events for Cooking from the Farmers' Market:
-July 11th I'll be doing a short demo followed by a book signing at Williams Sonoma in Bellevue Square, 10am.  Hometown folks-I expect to see you all there!
-July 19th I'll be shooting a segment for local SF television show View from the Bay.  I believe it airs live but stay tuned for confirmation on that one so you can be sure to set that DVR (if you're not in SF I'll post a link from my site after the show).
-July 20th I'll be signing books at Book Passage in San Francisco's Ferry Building.  The event is at 6pm and we'll definitely have tastes to sample from the book.  What better place to sign books about the farmers' market?!
-July 21st I'll be doing a short talk followed by a book signing at Berkeley's Books, Inc.  The event is at 7pm and, again, tasty treats for all!  If you're over in the East Bay, come by and say 'hello'.

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

The humble Caesar Salad must have hired quite a publicist.  I've been reading all about it lately and I have to admit, I've always been a fan.  In today's New York Times there is a Green Garlic Caesar Salad with Anchovy Croutons.  Green garlic is the lovely young garlic we're seeing in markets for a short window right now (regular cloves work in a pinch if you can't find it).  This is the real deal version, made with eggs to keep it creamy and anchovy for that depth of flavor.  For all you anchovy haters out there, give them a shot here.  You'd be surprised how naked your Caesar tastes when you leave them out of the dressing.  They should never make the salad taste fishy but rather create a deep, salty, savory flavor that is iconic for this dish.  For a few more variations you can read this article from last Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.  It's not recipes but a field guide to some of the best restaurant Caesar's in San Francisco.

I love this headline:  "The frittata: an omelet on slo-mo".  After making dozens of frittata for my "eggs" book, I have to agree that this is the perfect description.  Just know "slo" in this case is really not that slow at all.  A frittata is essentially a (very easy) baked omelet, a brunch staple when it comes right out of the oven but also perfect as part of an antipasto platter when you serve it at room temperature.  While it shouldn't be a vessel for everything in the kitchen sink, the frittata can definitely withstand some bold ingredients.  The variation in today's Chicago Tribune is a Frittata with Goat Cheese and Vegetables, simple weeknight dinner if I've ever seen one.  For more variations, check out "eggs" and look for Spinach, Tomato, & Feta, Sweet Onion, Mushroom, & Bacon,  Red Pepper, Artichoke, & Lamb Sausage and plenty more.

So you're having a dinner party and those same old appetizers are just getting old.  You need something fun, crunchy, different, and about Crab Hush Puppies with Old Bayonnaise from today's Washington Post?  If mayo + Old Bay = "Old Bayonnaise" doesn't sell you, the crispy fritters full of crab and fresh corn certainly will.  This is one of those recipes to do in phases: the mayo can be made 2 days ahead, the batter will hold for several hours, and, while the Hush Puppies are best when they are just out of the oil, they will keep just fine in a 200 degree oven for about an hour.  I love appetizers like this when I'm having a casual party that inevitably ends up in the kithcne.  Your friends can hang out while you cook the fritters.  Heck, get them involved and show 'em how to do it.  Fun and tasty at the same time.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

The sun's finally reared its smiling face in SF.  Grills are being dusted off, picnic tables cleaned, and summer produce is showing up at the market.  Today's recipes are inspired by the market-enjoy!

Strawberries in season are one of the most delicious things, ever.  Melissa Clark, in today's New York Times, transforms hers into a tiramisù that is nothing like the coffee laden version we're used to.  Her market-fresh version takes Italian ladyfingers and soaks them in Moscato wine instead of the more traditional espresso or Marsala.  She dots her mascarpone with fresh vanilla bean and layers it all together for the beauty you see above.  After resting for at least 6 hours (or up to 2 days) the flavors mesh to create the perfect make-ahead dessert for your next sunny evening soiree.  While the strawberries look fantastic here, feel free to use whatever fresh berries, or even stone fruit, that you find at your farmers' market.

Deviled eggs should become a regular on your summer menus.  Farm fresh eggs are so easy to find these days and recipes like this really help them shine.  Once you know how to hard boil the perfect egg (meaning no green ring around your yolk-just bright yellow and tender on the inside), the rest is a breeze.  In this Deviled Egg recipe from today's Washington Post the egg cooking method is identical to mine, plus 1 minute (mine sit covered, off the heat, for 14 minutes instead of 15).  This should be a jumping off recipe-one you use as inspiration for flavors of your own.  Some ideas for other fresh additions I like: finely minced radish and fresh chive, toasted curry powder and mango chutney, minced cornichon and smoked paprika, or diced piquillo peppers and cilantro.  This is one of those recipes that reminds everyone of the past.  Never out of fashion but definitely "old school", deviled eggs are always a hit.  Of course my book, "eggs", has a great recipe to check out too.

Grilling pizza and flatbreads has become a popular summer cooking method.  It keeps the house cool (no 500 degree oven blasting away) and gives the breads a smoky flavor more reminiscent of a true wood burning or brick oven.  In today's Seattle Times, I found this Assoc. Press recipe for Grilled Summer Herb and Olive Foccacia.  The yeasted dough can be made in a food processor and only needs two short rests, totaling just over 30 minutes.  Keep on eye on the dough as you grill it, making sure your heat is just right.  I've seen breads like this char in an instant and that's definitely not the goal.  Look for a crispy, crunchy crust with a light, fluffy interior.  This simple version has Kalamata olives plus some rosemary and thyme (are those really "summer herbs"?) but I'd try using cheese, fresh tomatoes, fig jam, or baby arugula.  The bread is a great base for which ever market fresh toppings you have around.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

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