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Friday, October 31, 2003

Mo's Gourmet Hamburger:Restaurant

I admit it. While most of the time I try to eat veggies, seafood, and lean meats every so often I crave a hamburger. And I am of the opinion that if you are going to eat a hamburger, you should eat the best possible one you can get your hands on. Let's face it, it's a lot of calories. It's an indulgence of sorts. Life is too short to eat lousy hamburgers. Or lousy anything for that matter, but that's another story. So about now you are probably wondering which fine establishment will I recommend for a hamburger? Perhaps you're thinking Barney's or Zuni Cafe or even In-N-Out. Well, if you were thinking any of those places you'd be wrong. My pick for an excellent hamburger, cooked to order is Mo's. Mo's Gourmet Hamburger is on Grant Avenue in North Beach. They do everything right at Mo's. The bun is fresh and crusty, spread with a homemade slightly mustardy mayonnaise; the beef is center cut chuck ground in house, a full seven ounces. They...
Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Tea Smoked Chicken Recipe

I am a tea drinker. I love just about everything to do with tea, I am especially captivated by the ritual of tea. You might think I mean the Japanese tea ceremony, but actually I find the western rituals of tea making and drinking, while nowhere near as aesthetic or intellectual a pursuit, equally appealing. It seems like such a simple thing to make tea, and in a way it is--you boil water and steep the tea leaves then pour it--but each of those steps if done improperly can make a dreadful libation. The water needs to be fresh, the temperature should be boiling or just under the boil for some types of tea, like green tea. The amount of tea is also crucial. I find that I need to use much less tea than is usually called for to make a good pot of tea. Too much tea in the pot (I steep it in a fine mesh strainer) can make the tea bitter and so too can steeping for too long. Each tea is slightly different and you need to find out just how much time works for each. The longest I steep tea is...
Monday, October 27, 2003

Setting Up House

When I was getting married I indulged in the pornography of bridal magazines. All those glossy photos, fluff and titillation designed to arouse an intense longing and euphoria. Well I thought it was part of the whole wedding experience anyway. One of the features, in almost every bridal magazine is a piece on what you need to set up your household. Often this is in the form of a "Registry Checklist". On the surface this seems very useful. Unfortunately these lists are often straight out of the 1950's. Anyone you know use warming trays? Cordial glasses? Place card holders? Checklists designed to help typically range from the ridiculous to the absurd. In any case, most people are not moving out of their parents home and into their married home, there is usually some single time in there. So how do you figure out what you need when setting up a kitchen at any stage of life? Jerry Gagnon has written a wonderful article in this past Saturday's San Francisco Chronicl...
Sunday, October 26, 2003

Williams-Sonoma Grand Opening

Yesterday was the opening of Williams-Sonoma at Union Square in San Francisco. Williams-Sonoma calls the store it's flagship. Merriam-Webster defines flagship as the finest, largest, or most important one of a series, network, or chain. And the new store certainly lives up to that definition. In 1954 Chuck Williams turned his hardware store in Sonoma into a store specializing in French cookware. The rest, as they say, is history. The inspiration was his love for cooking and eating with a close circle of friends. That love is still very much in evidence. The store opening was like a local foodie feeding frenzy. Some of the highlights from Saturday: *Chuck Williams was signing cookbooks. *Local businessman and entrepreneur John Diefenbach and his wife were sampling the San Macario olive oil that they import from Lucca. Lucca is town with strong ties to the bay area. In the bay area the number of residents with roots in Lucca is staggering and likewise in Lucca everyone ...
Friday, October 24, 2003

Spinach & Yogurt Soup Recipe

When I was growing up there was a good, inexpensive restaurant my family ate at frequently. They had a very simple menu, mostly fresh fish and burgers, nothing fancy. But every meal started with a salad or their famous Leek and Spinach soup. It was so popular that the proprietor put the recipe up on the window for all to see. As I recall it was a package of Knorr brand Leek and Potato soup mix made according to the recipe box and a package of chopped frozen spinach mixed in at the end. He served it with a thin slice of lemon on top. To this day I keep a package of Knorr Leek and Potato soup mix on hand, just in case. What I learned from that recipe is that recipes don't have to be complicated to be good. Sometimes the best recipes are the simple ones. Certainly when ingredients are at their peak of freshness and are high quality, less is more. As an example, Italians rarely cook fresh tomatoes. They are so good raw they eat them that way. Canned tomatoes are for cooking but fres...
Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Bacon, Bacon, Bacon

Let us now sing the praises of bacon. Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love, love, love bacon. It's got just about every taste sensation I crave--sweet, salty, and smoky. And then the texture, crisp, crunchy, and chewy all at the same time. Succulent with flavor and the richness of fat! I know it's not politically correct, but it's heavenly stuff. It just seems like it must be in our genes to savor the stuff and salivate at the very smell of it cooking. The other night we had a spinach salad for dinner. It was hot and neither of us were all that hungry. Now I enjoy salad, but the truth is if I had to live without it I could. Easily. The trick to making salad irresistible is to add all sorts of can't-live-without goodies. In this case I used crumbled Gorgonzola, croutons and bacon. Spinach loves bacon. I added a creamy Vidalia onion dressing and voila! a salad you don't want to skip. When I was growing up there were very few choices of brands of bacon. An...
Monday, October 20, 2003

Science of Perfect Potatoes

I met someone recently who told me if you want to write a bestseller, use the word "secret" in the title. I hate to admit it, but I think he might be right. After all, who wouldn't want to know all the great cooking secrets? The secret to perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes. The secret to deliciously crisp crunchy oven-fried potatoes (the kind that don't get soggy five minutes after coming out of the oven). Well if you're looking for those secrets, you're in luck. Enough experimentation and you can probably discover some of the secrets to good cooking. Personally I'll stick with the experts. One expert, namely Martha Stewart has demonstrated on her popular how-to-do-everything-better show, how to make the lightest, fluffiest mashed potatoes; the secret is to use a ricer. A ricer is a gadget that looks like an enormously large garlic press. I have yet to find another use for the ricer and yet, if you love mashed potatoes, the good ones like you get in reall...
Saturday, October 18, 2003

Saigon Sandwich Restaurant

Like some other recent food trends (nouvelle cuisine comes to mind) fusion has gotten a bad rap. On the surface, the idea of combining two cuisines to come up with something new sounds positively dreadful. Does anyone really want Chinese-Italian food? Current food trends in vogue are more about a pure and simple respect for high quality ingredients and authenticity than new-fangled mish mash. Does anyone remember the wraps fad? Yet there are some great examples of classic fusion cooking out there. Tex-Mex is fusion. Hawaiian food is often a fusion of Pacific Islander ingredients with Chinese, Japanese, Pilipino and Korean recipes. Yesterday Lee and I finally tried Saigon Sandwich on Larkin Street in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. I had read about it for some time, so I won't claim that I "discovered" it by any means. A storefront shop with room for just two women working furiously behind the counter, the place offers only about five items on the menu--a ...
Thursday, October 16, 2003

Stuffed Brinjal Recipe

I'm no vegetarian, but I eat vegetarian meals all the time. Vegetables like mushrooms or eggplant are so "meaty" they make great vegetarian meals. I especially like to go vegetarian when I have Indian food. There are so many great veggie dishes in Indian cuisine I find I really don't miss the meat. A few years back I shared an office with Lulu, who also happens to be a fabulous cook and a vegetarian. She's from India and her knowledge of cooking is so different from mine that we've learned a lot from each other. A western cook and a Southeast Asian cook, a meat eater and a vegetarian, we both shared a passion for experimentation in cooking and for spicy food. When work was slow, we would spend hours chatting about recipes and researching our next meals. Eggplant entrees were often on each of our menus. This past week I found an Indian supermarket and felt compelled to buy several exotic items including fresh curry leaves and small round Indian eggplants. ...
Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Roasted Bell Peppers Technique

Bell peppers. Have you ever seen them growing? When you see them in the store they're in separate bins segregated by color--red, yellow and green and sometimes orange or purple. But if you see them on the vine, you understand they come from one plant. That green peppers ripen to red, yellow, orange or purple depending upon the variety. By the way, the name "pepper" is really a misnomer. Peppers are in no way related to black pepper. But it took botanists quite a while to figure that out. Chock full of vitamin C, and gorgeous to look at, peppers are phenomenal when roasted. It may seem like a lot of work, but it's really not. And in any case it's work worth doing. If you have ever had an Italian antipasto spread that included roasted red peppers marinated in a little olive oil and garlic you know what I mean. And if you haven't, give it a try. They also make a wonderful ingredient in other recipes. I love to put them in sandwiches. Pureed, red peppers make a...
Sunday, October 12, 2003

Fruity Yogurt Pancakes Recipe

What makes American food, American? I've been thinking about this recently. There are a few obvious answers--it's made in America, it uses American ingredients, the recipes were developed in America. There's also the whole "melting pot" thing. But I think it's actually something else. We are blessed in this country with a plentiful and huge variety of wonderful foodstuffs. In the San Francisco bay area there is so much that I can find that inspires me to cook. While there have been times of frugality and poverty, Americans have often lived lives much richer than their counterparts in other countries. Immigrants have brought their traditional recipes here and made them American by being more generous with ingredients than they might have been in the old country. Just look at pizza as a good example of this. For better or for worse, it is often much "richer" here than in Italy. So I think bounty is one important element in American food. The oth...
Friday, October 10, 2003

All About Figs

When I was growing up we had a fig tree in front of our house. My sister and I were avid tree climbers but I have to say, fig trees are pretty lousy for climbing. For one thing the branches are fairly slim and won't hold the weight of even one child let alone two. Then the ants. For some reason ants love fig trees, so climbing on a fig tree means climbing off the tree covered with ants. But somehow it still seemed worth it to get to the figs themselves. In parts of Asia and Africa the fig tree is referred to as a tree of life or knowledge. Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Moslems all talk about figs and fig trees in their sacred texts. The Greeks were positively obsessed with figs, believing them to be a gift from Demeter. In Italy the word fig is slang for female genitalia. It's really no surprise. Figs are a most bizarre and obscene looking fruit. So bizarre they're not technically fruit at all. Figs are flowers, if you open one up you can see they are filled with...
Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Best Food Blogs

Frustrated by the recall election? Don't even get me started! Here's an opportunity to vote for something a lot more satisfying. Forbes magazine has just ranked Cooking with Amy in the top 5 best food blogs. Read all about it at Forbes.com:Best Food Blogs . Then vote for your favorite in the readers poll . And check out the other sites that made the top 5: Deus ex Culina Food Goat Julie/Julia Project Lapin Gourmand...
Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Ginger Pear Upside Down Cake in Food & Wine

Fall is a wonderful time of year. The weather is still good. Many of the summer vegetables and fruit are still fresh and available and fall fruits are coming in too. That means figs and apples and pears in addition to tomatoes and basil. All of which inspires me to head into the kitchen. While pears and apples are good fresh and raw, I do believe they both improve when cooked. They also take well to warm, spicy flavors like ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, even black pepper. I found a recipe for Ginger Pear Upside Down Cake in the November issue of Food and Wine magazine that typifies fall. Lots of warm spices, a caramel pear topping (or bottom depending) and just the act of baking is a fall activity. Perhaps nothing signifies fall more than the chill in the air that gives bakers the permission to fire up their ovens. Now all I need is a reason to bake a cake! The biggest problem with baking a cake is that unlike cookies, it's harder to pass off 1/2 of the bounty to family...
Sunday, October 05, 2003

Tommy's Joynt:Restaurant

If you've ever driven down Van Ness avenue in San Francisco you've probably spotted Tommy's Joynt . It's a hofbrau style restaurant, decorated wildly with memorabilia of all types and packed with red-checked tables. Inside it looks a bit like someones crazy attic or garage. It's definitely not "upscale". And it's menu is anything but trendy. I don't think it's changed at all from when it opened some fifty years ago. If you're looking for a "fun" restaurant I'd choose this one over Hard Rock Cafe anyday. The menu is all about meat. While platters come with a choice of vegetable or deli salad, the house specialty is buffalo stew and they always have roast beef, corned beef, ham and turkey, all carved to order. What amazes me the most about the place is the prices. While I am sure they have gone up over the years, the huge deli sandwich is still under $5. You can eat an enormous meal there for under $10, easily. Lately Lee...
Friday, October 03, 2003

Comments are here

I interrupt this blog to announce--Comments! In addition to the Guestbook feature, there is now a Comments field below each post. If you have any questions or comments you are invited to post them. If others have posted comments you can also read them. Thank you for visiting my blog! Yours, Amy...
Thursday, October 02, 2003

Tomatillos

The harvest is in! The tomatillo harvest that is. I got some earlier this year in one of my organic produce box deliveries. But it was only a handful so I made a fresh chopped salsa and that was it. This time around I have a couple of pounds so I am experimenting. When I was growing up my mom grew tomatillos and cooked them into a green sauce for Mexican dishes. The tomatillo comes from Mexico so Mexican dishes make sense. Tomatillos are funny little fruit that look like green cherry tomatoes covered with a papery husk. A member of the nightshade family they are related to tomatoes and sometimes even called Mexican Green Tomatoes. They are high in vitamin C and vitamin A. They have a wonderful tangy flavor that lends a citrus-like quality in cooking. Tomatillos can be eaten raw, roasted, sauteed, or blanched. So by now perhaps you might be wondering what I did with my batch of tomatillos? We had salmon for dinner and so I made a salsa out of avocado and tomatillos pureed raw in ...