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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Bubble Tea

Bubble tea. Have you tried it yet? Maybe you've heard it called milk tea or tapioca tea or pearl tea. It's also been called boba tea (boba means big breasts in Cantonese). This stuff has really taken off in San Francisco and the fad is now spreading across the country. You can find little Asian shops all over town that sell it. This chilled tea comes in all different flavors, colors and in different formulas all non-carbonated and non-alcoholic. The flavors are tropical. Most are a mixture of tea, syrup flavoring and milk. I tried lychee green tea this afternoon without the milk and it was very refreshing. It's a lot less sweet than soda but sweeter than you might be used to for tea. It comes with a huge straw to accomodate the optional big black tapioca pearls that sink to the bottom of the cup. Tapioca pearls are gummy and flavorless but add some textural interest to the drink. From what I have read bubble tea originally came from Taipei, Taiwan sometime in the 198...
Sunday, September 28, 2003

Nick's Crispy Tacos Restaurant

Close to a year ago a taco place opened up a few blocks from us. I was eager to try it but Lee was hesitant. First off the location. It's inside a "happening" pick-up bar. Second of all the name, Nick's Crispy Tacos. We both love taco's but crispy tacos? That's just not the way they're meant to be. So this weekend the San Francisco Chronicle comes out with their Bargain Bites feature and which local spot is mentioned? Nick's. Turns out the place is run by a Culinary Institute of America graduate. He used to work as a bartender at Pesce down the street. The place was packed when we stopped by for lunch today, and for good reason. The food. We each had a fish soft taco ($3.25) and they were terrific. Crispy batter fried fish with finely shredded cabbage and a creamy sauce on it. We also shared a basket of chips, salsa and guacamole and that was good too. The chips were hearty and clearly homemade, the guacamole was super fresh and plentiful. L...
Friday, September 26, 2003

Turkey Meatloaf Recipe

Mmmmmm meatloaf. Is there a better comfort food than meatloaf and mashed potatoes? I can't think of one. Ok, maybe chicken soup. But I love meatloaf. I love making it as much a eating it. I think it's because you don't need a recipe and whatever you feel like doing with it you can. I used to use recipes for meatloaf. I even made a terrine style one with three different layers from the Silver Palate Cook Book. But I found I like mine the best. Here's what I do: I use ground turkey, I like the texture and the flavor. Note: You can add almost anything you like to meatloaf. Sometimes I add leftover roast vegetables or a sausage or some chopped prosciutto and a bit of Chinese chili garlic sauce is always a good addition. You can really use a lot of things up in a meatloaf if you have leftovers in the house Serve with mashed potatoes of course! A simple side dish works with it too, like peas or green beans. Turkey Meatloaf Ingredients About 1 lb ground turkey ...
Thursday, September 25, 2003

Weight Loss Tips

News flash! Americans eat too much and that's why they're fatter than the French. I was just reading a news article about a study that was done where portion sizes were compared in restaurants in the US and in France and it turns out that portions in the US are bigger! No shock, really. Then standing in the supermarket line yesterday I also read a cheesy tabloid article on a woman who lost over a 100 pounds on a diet she designed herself. And what was this diet you might ask? She limited herself to 2-4 servings of vegetables per meal, 3 servings of protein and a similar amount of complex carbohydrates. Eliminated sweets and snacks other than fruit, at least I think that's what I read. Lately a number of people I know are on the Atkins diet, the Zone diet or some version of those diets and the thing that strikes me is how complicated they are. No combining certain foods, measuring portions, counting carbs, and the end effect I think is the same. If you are paying more a...
Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Plum Good Cake Recipe

The great thing about becoming an experienced cook is that you can be more creative with recipes. By that I mean you can experiment. Once you know a recipe well you can make changes as you like; but even if you don't know a recipe well, with experience you can anticipate what the results will be like and make changes. This morning I found a Plum Cake recipe that sounded good. I typically like my cakes to be less sweet so I decreased the sugar. I also had purple French plums instead of red plums so I altered the number needed for the recipe (French plums are sometimes called French prunes, you can see them in the picture above). My oven runs hot, so while the original recipe called for baking the cake for an hour, I checked the cake every 15 minutes and mine was done in half the time. I also used turbinado sugar for the topping because it crunches up nicely in the oven. Last but not least I changed the name of the cake. Here is my version of: Plum Good Cake Ingredients 1 ...
Sunday, September 21, 2003

Picnics

I'm not doing much cooking these days. It's just so hot that I'm not very hungry also the kitchen is too hot to spend much time in. One way to enjoy the summery weather is to get outside. This weekend I went to Golden Gate Park to see one of the last performances of Free Shakepeare in the Park. This year they performed Love's Labour's Lost. Performances begin at 1:30pm so though I didn't feel up to cooking, preparing a picnic was in order. Picnics are great. Lee and I sometimes go down to a park only four blocks away and have a picnic on the weekend. We have no fewer than three picnic baskets! We also have about three designated picnic blankets. The best one by far is fleece and lined with a waterproof tarp on one side so picnicing on damp grass is never a problem. If you want to get one of these fabulous blankets, go to Sunday Afternoons For a picnic you can just buy stuff like cheese, salami, fruit, bread and sodas or you can put together some salads. ...
Friday, September 19, 2003

Jacques Pepin

You learn by doing. How many times have you heard that? It couldn't be more true when it comes to cooking. I have been very lucky to learn from my parents who are both good cooks and to learn from a wonderful cook whose family I lived with in Italy. Watching, listening, smelling, touching, tasting, all are necessary to become a good cook and are done in person. I was reminded of this reading the beginning chapters of Jacques Pepin's The Apprentice-My Life in the Kitchen. I adore Jacques Pepin. There I've said it. While I've never even met the man, I have at least 4 of his cook books and have watched him cook on TV for countless hours. The next best thing to sharing a kitchen with a great chef is to read a good cook book or to watch a cooking show. And I have learned so much from watching him. His techniques are inspiring. Like watching an artist with a paint brush or a muscian with an instrument, the way he uses a knife is just amazing. He can make de-boning a chick...
Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Comfort Food/Italian Food Names

Lee's got a cold. That means comfort food from all around the world. We started the week with a big pot of home made chicken matzo ball soup. The matzo ball recipe I use is on the back of the Streit's brand matzo meal box. It calls for 1 cup of matzo meal, 4 eggs, 1/2 cup oil (I use chicken "schmaltz") and 1/4 cup water. This recipe has more eggs than some but I believe the real secret is letting the dough rest in the fridge for almost an hour. The matzo balls come out big, plump and light, not dense sinkers. For some reason your taste buds seem to get numb when you have a cold. You can barely taste anything. And so nothing tastes like it should. The other day I picked up some spicy Chinese food which is oddly comforting and then tonight I made Pasta Puttanesca. Like so many Italian dishes, there are multiple stories associated with this one. The name puttanesca is derived from puttana meaning "whore" in Italian. The sauce combines fresh chopped tomato...
Monday, September 15, 2003

Cooking Shows

I admit it. I'm addicted to watching cooking shows on TV. Almost all of them. There are a few I don't care for, but I'll save that for another time. I was thinking about the things I have learned from cooking shows and here are some of the specifics: Rachael Ray. She hosts a cooking show called "30 Minute Meals". From her I learned about the "garbage bowl" keeping a bowl at your workspace saves you steps to the garbage and the inevitable messes that happen in between. Jacques Pepin. From Jacques (I like to imagine we are on a first name basis) I learned a quick and easy sauce for fruit--simply mix some fruit jam or marmalade with lemon juice and chopped mint. Voila! A great way to perk up fruit that is not fabulous on its own. From Julia Child I learned that a little butter makes almost everything taste better. From Alton Brown of "Good Eats" I learned that an egg slicer is great for slicing mushrooms in a hurry. From Mario ...
Saturday, September 13, 2003

Salad Nicoise Redux

Summer food post #182. Well, maybe not, but lately it's been hot and hot weather requires an appropriate menu. Tonight we had a salad nicoise. If I say "salad nicoise" you probably think of a salad with olives, potatoes, string beans, anchovies and tuna right? Well believe it or not, tuna is not authentic. I heard Jacques Pepin mention this once on TV and sure enough it's true. According to the definitive source, the Escoffier Cook Book, the instructions are as follows: Take equal quantities of string beans, potato dice, and quartered tomatoes. Decorate with capers, small, pitted olives, and anchovy fillets. Season with oil and vinegar. For my version of salad nicoise I cooked chinese long beans, boiled potatoes, quartered tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, sliced daikon radish and composed on the plate with olives, tuna, anchovies and dressed it all with aioli. As long as we're not being purists might as well go all out and make it to taste! So somewhere along th...
Thursday, September 11, 2003

Chez Nous Restaurant CLOSED

If you are looking for a good way to celebrate with a small group, nothing beats sharing a meal and I really do mean sharing. Recently we ate dinner at Chez Nous on Fillmore street to celebrate Hande's birthday. While it's small and noisy, it's also quite lively and fun. The food is mediterranean and served as "small plates". We shared the pomme frites with harissa aioli, the mussels with chorizo, garlic and cilantro, the tuna carpaccio with taro chips and an artisanal cheese plate with walnut baguette. For dessert we went all out and had pots de creme chocolate, the yogurt, fruit and Greek honey and a fresh fig and raspberry free-form tart. You don't want to get short changed on dessert and it was a birthday celebration after all. Everything was terrific and just perfect for three people to share. While I did see someone eating a couple of things at the bar, in the past I've eaten there with just one other person. With two people you are limited in ho...
Tuesday, September 09, 2003

More Great Food Sites

If you have discovered this blog you undoubtedly fall into one of two categories--friend and/or family of Amy OR hip, cool, cutting edge type. Or you could be both. Why? Because blogs are "the next big thing" . Let's face it, when AOL catches on you know they're on the verge of going mainstream America. I did a little poking around before I got this blog started and here is what I found and like: 101 Cookbooks "When you own over 100 cookbooks, it is time to stop buying, and start cooking. This site chronicles a cookbook collection, one recipe at a time." Wonderfully I might add. Heidi is not only an adventuresome, intelligent cook, she is also a terrific writer and photographer. The Julie/Julia Project "365 days. 536 recipes. One girl and a crappy outer borough kitchen." Technically the year is over, but what a ride! Not for the faint hearted. Knowledge is Power no matter how trivial log While it claims to be a weblog "exploring...
Sunday, September 07, 2003

Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival

This weekend started off with a search for a crepe recipe. Since my computer is in the shop, I didn't have access to my recipe collection including my no-fail crepe recipe. This prompted me to try a great Austrian recipe that used seltzer water! I think I may have to add this recipe to the collection because with a little tweaking it's a keeper. And if the crepe recipe was worth keeping so was the combination of strawberry yogurt and smushed backberries and raspberries that I filled them with. After our decadent breakfast, Lee and I went to Ghirardelli Square. One trip to a chocolate factory deserves another I suppose and while no longer an operational chocolate factory like Scharffen Berger, it does have some advantages namely the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. For $6 you get 5 "samples" of various types of desserts, mainly chocolate ones. For our 5 samples we had a ginger chocolate "moon" cake--which tasted like a brownie, a chocolate cup with lime m...
Friday, September 05, 2003

Cappuccino Biscotti:Recipe

Mmmmm chocolate! Second time visiting Scharffen Berger chocolate factory yesterday. The tour is really worth a repeat visit because they seem to be learning all sorts of new things about chocolate every day and each guide puts their own unique spin on the spiel. For instance, yesterday I learned that it turns out that the fat in chocolate is high in antioxidents and that chocolate isn't as high in caffeine as it was once thought to be. There are all sorts of stimulants in chocolate that give us a buzz. Chocolate is very mildly psychoactive since it contains theobromine, small quantities of anandamide, an endogenous cannabinoid found in the brain, as well as caffeine and tryptophan. The tour guide shared his experiences using the chocolate nibs in different savory recipes. The cashier mentioned that she puts them in a pepper grinder and uses them like spice! I had bought a bag a while ago and thought I would try using them in biscotti. Here is the recipe I plan on trying nibs ...
Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Mexican Food Lover

What is it about Mexico? What makes the food taste better there? This past weekend Lee's mom cooked dinner and made a delicious shrimp in garlic butter. She said it was what she cooked on her last trip to Mexico and it did indeed remind me of eating seafood in the Yucatan. A few basic ingredients, but fresh and somehow everything just tastes more intense when you're there. I think part of the answer is that in many parts of Mexico you are not eating things that have been shipped long distances. I could be wrong. But in general I think the food really is fresher. Eating locally makes a difference. Anyone enjoying this summers fresh tomatoes knows what I mean. The best produce just doesn't last forever. It's delicate and precious. Ok, potatoes last but I've even had fresh potatoes and they do taste better than those that have been sitting in storage. Tonight I made fish tacos so I could use up the tomatillos from the last organic produce delivery before the next ...