Monday, December 20, 2010

City by the Day re-vamped!

It's still me. For the new year (a little bit early) I changed my look, but have no fear all else remains the same. I look forward to sharing more food in the near future.

Lazy Sunday - a vacation breakfast

I decided to try out Thomas Keller's method for poaching eggs because I was feeling very patient.

Only partly serious - it turned out to be straightforward and do-able.

I started by filling a medium-sized saucepan with water and brought it to a boil. Once boiling I added two tablespoons of vinegar, as per Mr. Keller's instructions. I brought the water down to a simmer, prepared an ice bath (oh! the excitement for what that will be used for . . .), cracked an egg into a little cup and was ready to poach.
I swirled the water with a wooden spoon (this appears to be the wooden spoon's only role in the egg-poaching process - I was a good recipe-follower and DID NOT use the metal slotted spoon to stir the water, god knows what would have happened) twice (no more. Once again, who knows the catastrophic results if one were to swirl thrice). With the water swirling I gently slid my egg into the water and let it cook for 1 1/2 minutes (sometimes 2 minutes, as needed). Then I gingerly lifted my little egg out of the water and slid it into an ice bath and left them there until they were ready to serve. My only problem with the ice bath is my eggs were a little cold, I'm sure this could be remedied by taking them out of the ice bath and letting them come back up to room temperature. My final qualm (trust me) with poaching is that I find the eggs sometimes retain secret hidden pockets of water that ooze out just when you think you've dried them completely and can safely break the yolk. All in all the eggs were cooked quite nicely, I will just have to work on the temperature and more complete drying. I'll get there.

I served 'em up with some crispy bacon and arugula tossed with olive oil and sea salt.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Salmon with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Israeli Couscous

The salmon at the market looked irresistible so off I went. I feel like I often pick my meals the same way I pick my outfits, one item jumps out at me and then I base the rest of the components around it. Thus I had my start - salmon. I considered doing an asian-flavored version with a panko crust but then was struck by a hankering for Mediterranean and decided to run with it.
I started with a bunch of tomatoes. I love tomatoes, but in the winter get frustrated by the hard, pink, mealy orbs parading around as tomatoes and often ignore them completely until the "true/good" fruits reappear in June. So I think I might have found a way around my tomato drought. I took six tomatoes, sliced them in half and tossed them with a bit of salt and pepper, 1/2-1 teaspoon sugar, fresh basil (a few leaves shredded), fresh thyme, three cloves finely chopped garlic and a drizzle of olive oil.
Arrange the tomatoes face down on a baking sheet and put in a 250 degree oven for 3 hours, or until shrunken and caramelized (see below).

To make the couscous toss a cup of Israeli couscous in a pot and toast it over the burner for a few minutes until it turns golden brown. Add in 1 cup chicken stock and 3/4 water. Cover and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes until done but still al dente (no one likes mushy Israeli couscous). Zest a lemon and toss the finely grated zest in with the couscous, replace lid and let the flavors marry until you are ready to eat.

For the salmon, I used two filets and added salt and pepper and a smidge of olive oil and finished them by adding a few sprigs of thyme on top.
Then I put them in the oven to roast for about 12 minutes (10-15 depending on the thickness of your filets). Et voila!

To finish I laid my salmon filet on a little bed of couscous and topped it with the roasted tomatoes and some kalamata olives for a little Mediterranean kick.
I was inspired by a recipe from Gourmet that you can find here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frances Restaurant

I made it to Frances. On a Friday evening we decided to head over to Frances restaurant in the Castro to try getting a walk in spot at the bar. We got lucky and even got our choice of seats. We cozied up in the window and hunkered down for what turned about to be a scrumptious, sumptuous, 2.5 hour-long feast.
We ordered their house wine which is cleverly served in a 16 ounce beaker from which the diner can pour as much or as little as they please (not to mention it's $1 an ounce, which is pleasant).
For our starter we went with the chickpea fritters which were accompanied by a tomato aioli. The fritters are rich and the texture unique, but in my opinion, fabulous (think thick polenta). It had a wonderfully light and crispy crust (cornmeal?) with a perfectly smooth interior - the aioli was superfluous.
I am often a salad skeptic, I enjoy them but usually they remain a simple refreshing interlude between the main events. At Frances, I think the salad might have been my favorite dish. A lovely mix of fresh greens with roasted beets, a little bit of citrus and ras el hanout (a traditional North African spice blend). The ras el hanout was interesting but not overpowering creating a FABULOUS dish.
Despite the fact that there were just two of us we decided to go big and had a first course (we didn't want to be gluttonous so we split one between the two of us, of course!).
We ordered the ricotta gnocchi with chanterelles, corn and cherry tomatoes. Another deliciously rich and creamy dish. Basically chanterelles are like my kryptonite and once I see them on a menu I can't help but order them (see below for more of my vice).

As one of our two main dishes we tried the saffron risotto made with carnaroli rice, lobster mushrooms, squash and tomatoes.

Followed by soul food farms chicken with polenta, corn and, you guessed it, chanterelles! I should start by saying the polenta upon which this lucky chicken sat was stellar - melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The chicken was perfectly cooked BUT there was a little bit of stuffing in the chicken (I'm pretty sure it was a stuffing) which was seasoned with tarragon which in this was a bit overwhelming for me and overshadowed the other flavors on the plate.
The food was lovely, but in a way, what was more remarkable was how pleasant the meal was as a whole. The company, the atmosphere, the service, and the leisure with which we were able to enjoy our meal. Thank you, Frances.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mulligatawny Soup

In keeping with my promise and my theme of soothing sick-people food, I made my first batch ever of Mulligatawny Soup, and, shockingly enough, it was edible! It didn't miraculously cure the common cold (would have been nice though) but it did provide a comforting dish that my patient could actually taste (a major feat given the amount of nose-stuff-y-ness).
This dish will forever remind me of Seinfeld. For those of you who haven't seen the Soup Nazi episode, it is a must. In choosing my recipe (lots of careful research) I stumbled upon the recipe from the show . . . I have no idea what this means given that it is a show with fictitious characters and fictitious soup, but anyways, here is the "real" recipe.

I loosely followed a recipe that I found on Epicurious, making my own substitutions and altering things as I went along. To begin, caramelize 1-2 whole diced onion(s).
When the onions begin to turn a nice tawny shade throw in 1 cup chopped carrot followed by 5 cloves chopped garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or so and then throw in your spices (2 tbsps each of garam masala and cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, and 2 bay leaves). I like to let the spices get a little toasty (not burnt) and then add in 2 cups dry red lentils.

Stir the mixture up to coat the lentils (I like to do a round of seasoning here, the soup will need some salt in spite of the stock that goes in) and then add in 8 cups chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes or until your lentils are tender. Remove from heat and discard the bay leaves. Puree the mixture.
Once mixture has been pureed, add in 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk and the juice of one nice fat lemon. Taste and add salt if needed (I will say that I reheated this soup as leftovers and I added a little more salt and a little more cayenne the second time around and it was a big improvement). Your soup is technically ready to go but here's how I finished mine. I put a little scoop of cooked basmati rice in a big soup bowl, topped it with a healthy portion of chicken that I roasted and shredded, and finished the whole thing off with a dollop of greek yogurt and some cilantro (as I've probably said before, I think cilantro makes virtually everything better, but that's me).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter in California

Persimmons fresh from the tree (before the birds got to them).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cardamom-Infused Quinoa Pudding with Caramelized Apples

I am living with an invalid at the moment so decided to make some flavorful, slightly spice-y food to heal him (and in the hope that he could actually taste it). Being the health nut that I am I figured we should start with dessert first. The weather and the invalid called for comfort food so I decided to make a version of Indian rice pudding - subbing quinoa in as my grain. I used cardamom and cinnamon to flavor the dessert and topped it off with some caramelized apples.
To begin combine 2 cups whole milk (or lower percentages if you are feeling strong-willed), 1/3 cup cream, 2/3 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or a vanilla bean if you have it - I didn't), 1 teaspoon of cardamom pods, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan.
Heat on medium heat until it is almost boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add 3/4 cup of quinoa, 1 cup golden raisins, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and stir. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the pudding has thickened and the quinoa is tender, you are all set and can turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
While the pudding is cooking (or after, depends if you are a multi-tasker) take peel and dice one large granny smith apple.
Heat a pan over medium heat and throw in a pat of butter. Toss in the diced apple along with a tablespoonful or two of brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Saute until caramelized (I like mine a little crispy, leave them in longer if you like yours tender). Everything is ready! Throw the pudding into a bowl, spoon some apples on top and sprinkle on a little extra cinnamon and eat up.

Next up, part two of my nursing-a-cold-cooking-weekend: Mulligatawny Soup!
For a gorgeous and somewhat Spring-ier quinoa pudding recipe click here to take a peek at Cannelle et Vanille's version.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Little Skillet in SoMa

We were picking up a friend in the loin and decided to take a jaunt across Market and try out Little Skillet, the sister restaurant of Farmer Brown.
The menu is straightforward soul food-y and revolves around their fried chicken and waffles. I must admit I was a bad person and didn't go the waffles route but I was smart enough to order the chicken (after all, it did make Bon Appetit's top 10 places for fried chicken list) .
We tried the bbq pulled pork with grits which was AMAZING. Everything about it was delicious. The grits were perfectly creamy and the ratio of pork to grits worked out nicely with the bbq sauce carrying through each bite, mmm.
As for the fried chicken, it was really tasty as well, good flavor and wonderfully moist. Although I must say, the jalapeño cornbread that they serve with the chicken out-shined the main dish. It was one of the best little squares of cornbread I have encountered, with a touch of heat and a wonderful pepper-y flavor. The only downside to the meal, were the fries. I don't mean to be picky but I must confess I am somewhat of a fry connoisseur (and by that I mean whenever I see fries on a menu I can't resist ordering them). On this particular day I was actually (I feel like it is almost a sin to admit this) considering ordering coleslaw just to cut they fried-richness of everything else I was going to consume but the woman at the counter urged me to go with the fries. Maybe they had just gotten a little cold, who knows, but they were lackluster.
To top off my heart-healthy meal I bought a mini-pecan pie which turned out to be completely scrumptious. The crust was light and flaky and the filling had a nice maple flavor putting me in a perfect fall food coma. I had a very pleasant Little Skillet experience, not to mention, they have a great little hole-in-the-wall storefront, very SoMa chic. I will be heading back to fulfill my next jalapeño cornbread craving . . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Satsuma Marmalade with Vanilla Bean

We had a gray weekend and I was in the mood for what I consider to be a big cooking project so I decided to try my hand at marmalade. My mother has, for years, reminisced about a particular jar of bitter Seville orange marmalade that she got in England some years ago, which inspired me to attempt a bitter (pleasantly so) marmalade. Here's how it went:
  • I started with about 4.5 pounds of satsuma tangerines, 1 immense grapefruit and 3 lemons.
  • To begin, use a peeler to remove the zest-y layer from all of the citrus. For my tangerines, the skin was very thin and did not lend itself to being peeled. So I just peeled the entire thing and used it all.
  • Once peeled, finely slice all of the zest-y bits.
  • Next take all the zest and throw it in a non-reactive (stainless is an easy way to go, le creuset if you are fancy:) along with 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about a half an hour, or until the zest is tender.
  • While that is happening take all the fruit (from which you have stolen the zest) and slice off the remaining peels. Then proceed to "supreme" your citrus - slice out the meat and leave the membrane and pith (set all of this aside and reserve for later use). I did this for the lemons and the grapefruit. For the tangerines, I recommend breaking down some of them and getting about 1.5 - 2 cups worth of fruit (I took a couple of the fatter sections out and then set aside what was left). With all of the remaining tangerine (and you could just do this with all of them from the beginning and forget the meat) I juiced them and once again reserved the membranes for later.
  • By this time your zest should be done boiling. Turn off the heat and drain the zest, reserving the cooking liquid.
  • Tie all of the reserved pith and membranes in a cheesecloth bundle.
  • Once again, in a large non-reactive pot combine 4 cups of the zest-cooking liquid, the tangerine juice, 5 cups sugar (add 1/2 -1 cup more if you want a sweeter marmalade), 2 vanilla beans (split and scrape the seeds into the mixture), and the bu

  • While the marmalade is cooking, place all of your jars (recipe fills about 10 12-ounce jars), rings and lids in a large pot.

  • Your marmalade should set up without the addition of any additional pectin (based on the natural pectin in the citrus) if however, you have problems I found that you can add 1/2 a packet of pectin (1.5 ounces) and then simmer for an additional 15 or 20 minutes.
Finally, your jam is complete and all you have to do is can it!
  • Remove the rings and lids from the pot of boiling water and place on a clean dish towel.
  • Take out the cheesecloth bundle and discard.
  • Remove a jar from the pot and ladle (or use a wide mouth funnel) in some marmalade until the jar is full, leaving 1/4-inch space at the top of each jar. Quickly, using tongs, place a lid tightly on the jar and flip upside down. Repeat until you are out of marmalade.
  • Leave all of the jars upside down until they have cooled to room temperature.
Side notes: To seal the jars you can use the USDA-approved (woot woot) boiling water method. If you use the flip method, make sure the jars are as hot as possible when you are filling them. Finally, and I have to be reminded of this quite often because I thoroughly enjoy popping down the lid tops, when the jars have cooled to room temperature and you flip them over, do not push the lid down, it should go down by itself in 10 minutes or so. If the lid doesn't depress it has not sealed properly and you should store it in the fridge and/or gobble it up immediately. mm