Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Sorry for the sporadic posting.  Summer has collided with a crazy busy schedule.  Lots of fun food stuff happening too.  Last night I took a fantastic class at 4505 Meats.  If you can't make it to Ryan Farr's kitchen, find him at the farmers' market and take home some sausage.  Amazing stuff!  Also spent a Saturday at Soul Food Farm learning all about how acid effects cooking with Samin Nosrat.  A bright sunny day, we enjoyed an incredible lunch amidst the happy chickens at Soul Food.  Samin is a pro and Alexis and Eric were perfect hosts. When it comes to food, there is always more to learn.  If you haven't taken a cooking class lately, go!


Featured in today's LA Times is one of the paper's most popular recipes, Lemon Blueberry Buckle.  When berries are in season, you see recipes everywhere for cobblers, crisps, crumbles, and buckles.  Each one is it's own variation on the fruit/crust theme.  A buckle leans more towards cake than pie but its usually topped with a crumble-like topping, and should be bursting with fresh fruit.  Blueberries should be excellent right now but any other berries or stone fruits will do.  This simple recipe is definitely a keeper for your next summer dinner al fresco.

When you're planning that al fresco summer party, it's hard not to turn to the ever popular burger.  Nothing makes me happier than showing up at a BBQ to find juicy grilled burgers as the main course.  They need to be cooked well, moist with some char but not completely blackened.  A good way to ensure your burgers don't dry out is to add some ground pork to the mixture.  This recipe for Japanese Burgers with Wasabi Ketchup, from today's NY Times, takes it a step further by using half beef and half pork.  You'll also see some minced onion mixed in with the meat.  I love doing this because the onion is not only sweet but it releases lots of moisture as it cooks, again helping keep that burger nice and juicy.  And the kick of wasabi in the ketchup?  'Nuf said...yum.

Well, we've got dessert and your burgers covered.  Now a salad to complete the menu.  How about Chilled Shrimp with Cabbage and Peanuts, from today's Washington Post?  Succulent rock shrimp add some substance to this light and crunchy salad with an Asian twist.  You could easily make the dressing, wash your greens, and cook your shrimp hours ahead of time. Makes throwing this together a snap, and pretty darn gorgeous to boot.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

As spring moves into summer, it's hard to believe some of the abundant produce of the season is already on the way out of the market.  While you can still get your hands on them, pick up some favas, artichokes, spring onions, and green garlic.  Together in this Mediterranean Artichoke and Fava Stew they flaunt the very best of spring to create a healthful stew that needs little embellishment.  I really believe that when you cook with produce that is at the height of its season, much of your work is done for you as the veggies already taste amazing.  Crusty bread and a bowl of this stew...that's my kind of dinner.

Sometimes you have those nights when you have to raid the pantry for dinner.  No matter how well you've prepared yourself there is just nothing in the fridge.  We've all been there.  In today's Chicago Tribune they provide a bit of pantry inspiration with this Late Night Spaghetti.  To call it a recipe is a bit of a stretch but sometimes it takes looking at a "recipe" like this to get your own mind working with what you have in your kitchen.  Pasta is a great foil for all the bits of cheese and those briny condiments you have around.  This one uses some grated Parm, a bit of tapendade, and crumbled Gogonzola.  What can you create with what you have at home?

This time of year begins my seasonal ailment-produce overload.  I go to the market, buy fruit and veggies that all look incredible, bring them home and cook like crazy for a day or two, then find myself with a fridge full of produce I need to use asap.  Russ Parsons, of the LA Times, writes about Breaking the Vegetable Rut via two new books.  The first is "A Year in my Kitchen" by Skye Gyngell and the second is "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi.  Both London based, they have very different styles: Gyngell being clean and simple and Ottolenghi taking global flavors to create much bolder dishes. I loved the sounds of the Green Pancakes with Lime Butter and the Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad, punched up with yogurt and tons of cilantro (both from "Plenty").  
 If you're in the Bay Area and want to taste Ottolenghi's food live and in person, head on over to my all time favorite bookstore, Omnivore, and see if you can get tickets to his dinner at Camino, in Oakland (he's hosting two at Contigo as well but both are already sold out).  They are also hosting a book signing from 6-6:45 on 7/12 at the store-it's free and you should not miss it!
Happy Reading and Happy Cooking!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

School's out today.  I have mixed feelings, as always.  It's been a fantastic year, and I happen to be one of those people who loves the routine of the weekly schedule.  But I'm not going to lie..sleeping in and not packing a lunch sounds damn good right about now.

For those of us who developed our passion for food at the apron strings of a grandparent, take time to read the article in today's NY Times about sons and daughters of immigrants who have taken their parents old family restaurants and made them their own.  From Williamsburg, NY to Highland Park, CA, 20 & 30-somethings are seeing the value of the hole-in-the-wall joints they grew up in and the customers are loving it.  There is Jason Wang, the 23 year old chef at Xi'an Famous Foods-started in Flushing, Queens and now operating out of 5 locations with a huge cult following, and Diep Tran of Good Girl Dinette in the Highland Park neighborhood of LA, making Chicken Curry Pot Pie inspired by her family's Pho 79 Vietnamese restaurants.  Even if you didn't grow up with a tattered book of family recipes, it's tough to not be inspired by this new wave of tradition.

Speaking of inspiration from grandparents, my love for phyllo dough comes directly from my Noni.  When I was really young I remember her making the dough from scratch and stretching it across her dining room table, it was incredible.  In her later years it came from a box, as mine does now, but her ability to work with it, filling the flaky dough with cheese, potato, or spinach, was artful.  In our family most of the filling was encased in phyllo triangles, easy to master.  This recipe from the LA Times, for Goat Cheese and Basil Stuffed Phyllo Parcels, uses a different technique.    After encasing the filling in two sheets of dough, squares are folded like envelopes to expose the basil.  You can see how beautiful it looks.  Do not be intimated by the dough.  The ultra thin sheets need to stay covered on your counter while you're working-I use a sheet of plastic wrap and a damp towel, or they will dry out.  Beyond that it's really not hard-if it cracks or breaks, don't worry.  Once you fill and fold these babies no one will ever notice those tiny imperfections.  

One of the best things I've ever eaten in my entire life was a sandwich I had in South Carolina.  It was white bread, Vidalia onion slices, dripping ripe tomato slices, salt, and mayo.  It was at least 12 years ago and I will never forget how amazing each bite tasted.  Hence my attraction to this Tomato Pie in today's Washington Post.  No, it's not the most sexy dish you'll ever make, and the ingredients are nothing fancy.  It's even early to think about making it because you can just tell this is best when you have those uber-ripe tomatoes late in the summer.  But, ahhh, a girl can dream....Find me in August and I can assure you I'll be diving into this one.

Happy Reading and Happy Cooking.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What I'm Reading Today

Last night ended a six week series I teach called Basics Three.  It's the culmination of many weeks of technique classes and one of my favorite to teach because it's full of students I've known for a long time.  This group really impressed me with their massive improvement in the kitchen.   "S", who came in with little confidence behind the stove,  rocked out pate au choux that was stunning.  "M" showed us that he could julienne carrots like a real pro. "K' and "C" fired so many homemade pizzas last night I think they have fall back careers should they ever need them.  It showed me why I love to teach so very much.  When people learn simple skills, and get to practice in a place with just enough hand holding, they're encouraged to do it more often.  It's motivating, educational, and a whole lot of fun.  Spring Basics Three-stay in touch, I'll miss you guys.

Gordon made some mean fried chicken in class last night (this version, which I love) but lately I've been dying to try real Korean fried chicken. I know SF probably has a few good spots (suggestions?) but, from what I hear,  LA or NY are the better choices. In today's LA Times

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