Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bakesale Betty's Slaw!

I have been known to go to excessive lengths for food; I almost always find it extremely rewarding. So begins the story of my love affair with Bakesale Betty. My mom came to visit me in San Francisco about a year ago. It was a very rainy Saturday (shocking for San Francisco) and I announced to her that I was taking us on a field trip across the Bay to taste the best fried chicken sandwich. We schlepped across the bridge and had, as always, a delightful Bakesale Betty experience (they even gave us a free beef brisket sandwich - which subsequently became my favorite sandwich IN THE WORLD and to this day I mourn the loss of that sandwich and dream of obtaining the recipe . . .anyways, I digress). The Bakesale Betty sandwich is so satisfying and a key part of the magic is their spectacular slaw - and so, my endeavor to re-create it begins . . .
I found what appears/claims to be the actual Bakesale Betty recipe and gave it my best. I began by thinly slicing half of a red onion and marinating it in 1 cup of red wine vinegar. Meanwhile, slice a half of a head of cabbage thinly, and combine with two jalapeños (seeded and sliced) and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Once the onions have marinated for 20-30 mins, remove them from the vinegar and discard (the vinegar).

To make the vinaigrette, combine 3 tablespoons dijon mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil (I used less), 1 teaspoon salt and 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (the first time I made this I used 3 tablespoons of the red wine vinegar from the marinating onions -- it was a bad call, as it made the whole thing very oniony).
Et voila! The slaw is done, toss the dressing on the cabbage mixture and add in the marinated onions. We ate ours on tilapia fish tacos and I added some fresh radishes.  My slaw was good, but it was not up to Bakesale standards - I will keep trying!

Here is a nice BsB write-up from a Bon Appetit reader.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Japanese Eggplant Sauce with Hot Sausage

Pasta is always one of my go-to meals. It's comfort and it's soothing, and I feel like I move through it naturally without having to think too hard. 

One of my favorite neighborhood haunts when visiting home is La Pergola, an Italian hole-in-the-wall that has that old world chianti-on-the-table charm. They have a little garden across the street and when it's in season they offer, as a special, a japanese eggplant sauce that's fantastic. I set out to mimic La Pergola's eggplant sauce . . . I was nowhere near theirs, but hey -- whatever it was that I came up with was pretty good.
To start: Dice up 4 or 5 japanese eggplants. In a medium saucepan, heat a little olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is nice and warm, squeeze out 4 sausage links' worth of a nice fennel-y, spicy Italian sausage and break them into chunks (see above). Add some fresh torn oregano and marjoram, and brown the sausage. 

In the remaining fat, add 5 smashed cloves of garlic and the diced eggplant. Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Drizzle with a little extra olive oil as needed.
Once the eggplant begins to caramelize, add the sausage back in along with one large can of whole roma tomatoes. Toss in some fresh mashed basil leaves and two bay leaves. Re-season and add a pinch of sugar for good measure. Let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
Serve with a nice sauce-catching pasta like rigatoni. Shave some parmesan over the dish as you plate, and add a few leaves of fresh shredded basil . . . and a healthy glass of red wine never hurts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Panna Cotta with Cumquats & Stewed Rhubarb

In keeping with my adventures in new dishes, I decided to make my very first panna cotta. I did my research and was drawn to David Lebovitz's "Perfect Panna Cotta" recipe . . . but knowing that I was going to be eating most of this by myself I was a wee bit scared of all that cream so I decided to put off the big splurge and concoct a 'healthier' version.  
First I combined two tablespoons water, the juice of one lemon and 1 packet (about 1.5 teaspoons) gelatin in a little bowl. Stir to combine and then let it sit. (Below is a photo of me holding the bowl vertically and the gelatin kindly does its thing and stays in the bowl - very entertaining.)
In a medium sized bowl combine a heaping 2 cups of plain lowfat greek-style yogurt and 3/4 cup half and half. Stir and set aside. Next, in a saucepan combine 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup half and half and a skimpy cup of sugar. Stir over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add in your gelatin mixture. To complete, add the warm cream mixture to the yogurt mixture. Here's where I got a wee bit creative - owning no fancy molds or ramekins, I got out the ol' muffin tin, greased it up, and poured in my panna cotta (worked like a charm). Et voila! Je suis fini! Pop the panna cotta in the fridge and chill for 6 - 36 hours (whenever you finish 'em off).
To serve, my lovely mother made some stewed rhubarb (she put 4 stalks of rhubarb, in chunks, 1 cup of sugar and enough water to just about cover the rhubarb; simmer for 30-40 minutes until it is tender but not complete mush) and I popped out the panna cotta added some freshly sliced cumquats and drizzled with the stewed rhubarb. I thought it turned out pleasantly delicious - the panna cotta was creamy but not too heavy and it contrasted nicely with the flavorful rhubarb and tart cumquats. Next time, I will try the heavy-duty full cream version but this was a successful alternative if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

PIGGIE! - Thai-Style Ribs

I made ribs for the first time! (It was very exciting.) As a ribs-lover I don't know why I have never made ribs myself, I guess I have always had my favorite ribs joints and it always seemed like something difficult to perfect. One of my favorite aspects of writing a blog is that it provokes me to try lots of new and different recipes that I might not otherwise have thought to attempt. Thus, I had a craving for ribs and ribs I set out to make! Onward!

I arrived at Safeway (I am usually a Trader Joe's devotee but this called for a super market) eager and well-prepared, list in hand. I happily trotted over to the meat section and began the search for spare-ribs. My first quandary arose when I looked at my recipe (c/o Lobel's Meat Bible) which clearly stated that I should have my butcher cut "across the bone into 2-3 inch 'racks,' each rack cut" into individual riblets. Well, if you've ever been to Safeway (no offense to Safeway) you would know that when you look around for a butcher there is nary a one to be found and unfortunately, the Local Butcher Shop is not yet open. So, I decided to make the most of it and forge forth as my own butcher with a 3-pound rack of spare ribs. 

For the marinade: Combine 1 cup sliced shallots, roughly one head of garlic (peeled and chopped), 1 cup cilantro, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 6 tablespoons soy sauce, a 3-inch piece of ginger chopped, 2 stalks of lemongrass, 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a blender - oh and a good dollop of sriracha. The marinade is ready to go!

*Side note - I tinkered with the original recipe a bit, throwing in lemongrass and sriracha, etc.
At this point I realized I had to "butcher" the ribs. Which ended up being more like a rib massacre, but the result was fine, there were individual ribs . . . definitely not uniform in size . . . and there may have been a few pieces of meat that didn't seem close enough to any bone to truly belong to the rib so I just cut those off and made little boneless ribs. Cut to the chase - I threw the random meat bits into a ziploc bag with the marinade and stuck it in the fridge for 7 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the ribs out on a baking sheet (I needed two). Put the ribs in the oven for an hour. Eat up! The recipe calls for a dipping sauce which I didn't make, but it sounded lovely. I served the ribs with rice that I cooked with lemongrass and a little cucumber salad (sliced persian cucumbers, a handful of chopped cilantro and mint, 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Lunch at Artisan, Paso Robles

On our way back to the city we stopped for a nice lunch at Artisan in Paso Robles. We jumped right in with an order of the jalapeno cornbread accompanied by honey lavender butter. The cornbread was served in a cast iron mold shaped like mini corn (the actual bread just looked nothing like corn but it was a cute idea and I liked the pan). The cornbread was nice, clearly there was some butter involved (not complaining) and I loved the hint of jalapeno flavor.
We also shared a bowl of black bean lentil soup with shredded tortilla crisps on top. The restaurant kindly gave us a taste of the soup which promptly convinced us to order a bowl of it (we couldn't stop ourselves at just a cup).
For our entrees we had the chopped salad with Point Reyes blue cheese. As you can see above the egg was PERFECTLY  cooked (I know this is subjective) but I am often wooed by oozy yolk-y goodness.
]Jan - this is a pasture on Highway 1 somewhere between Hearst Castle and Cambria.

The reuben with red cabbage and housemade russian dressing. The sandwich was yummy (although my favorite reuben is still from the La Brea Bakery take out counter).
I chose the burger. It is a rare occasion that I meet a burger that I don't like, and this was no exception. Quick observation: I think the trend of the moment is to serve a burger with a large serrated knife stabbed through the center of it -- very dramatic. Anyways Artisan's burger was served with white cheddar and housemade thousand island-y dressing. It was tasty and actually served medium rare (yay) but the patty was of the baseball-variety (extremely thick and not that wide across) and I thought the meat was just meh. When I make burgers at home I like to add spices or a little something extra into the meat (cilantro or cheese or Worcestershire) to give it flavor and flare and I found their meat a bit boring for the snazzy $13 presumptions. One last important note - the fries were perfection, golden and crusty exterior, melty buttery interior - yes please.
Jan - this is Moonstone Beach.

For Artisan's recipe for their Cuban sandwich with housemade zucchini pickles click here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pork Tenderloin with Gremolata over Corn Polenta

 To make the polenta: Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add in 1 cup polenta (I used cornmeal which is apparently a finer grind than 'real' polenta) and season with salt. Whisk the polenta frequently until the water is absorbed and the polenta cooked and creamy (about a 1/2 hour).  Once the polenta is cooked stir in 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, 1 cup corn kernels (I used canned), and . . . for the guilty-pleasure 50's throwback add in one small can of creamed corn (optional but highly recommended).
Gremolata: Mix the zest of 3 lemons, 3/4 cup finely chopped parsley and 1 minced garlic clove. Add in a couple drops of nice olive oil and season with a hint of salt. Toss it all together and let the flavors marry.

Now, for the pork: Season two 3/4-pound pork tenderloins with salt and pepper. Rub the tenderloins with 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic and 3/4 cup peach jam. Set the meat aside and let marinate for however long you have (2-8 hours . . . for me it depends on how far in advance I'm able to plan, usually not very).
Heat the oven to 450 degrees. You can sear the tenderloins at high heat before putting them in the oven to give them a nice crispy exterior and seal in the juices. Place the pork tenderloins in a roasting pan and pop them in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches about 140 degrees. Once you take the pork out the temperature should climb up to around 145-148, bringing it to a lovely pink on the inside. Let sit for 10 minutes. Slice up the pork and sprinkle with gremolata. Dig in.
I served it with fresh baby asparagus, lightly steamed and drizzled with a touch of olive oil.