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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Lasagnette with Lemon Recipe

Do you believe in reincarnation? Not being part of my cultural or religious tradition the concept of reincarnation always seemed pretty farfetched to me. Except for one thing. I buy dry pasta like it's going out of style. Right now I have on hand 33 packages. From the typical angel hair, spaghetti, lasagna to the more unusual like campanelle, trinette, and maniconi. And it's been months since I purchased any. It's not like we eat it every day or anything. But subconsciously I feel the need to stock up. Could I have been a poor, starving Italian in a past life? Quite possibly. Many people are avoiding pasta these days because of their fear of carbs. Shame really. My suggestion is to make pasta a first course instead of a main course, as it's done in Italy. My other suggestion is that when you want to make a really special pasta course, use an artisanal pasta like Pasta di Gragnano, Rustichella d'Abruzzo or the less expensive but equally good brand Latini availab...
Monday, March 29, 2004

Great Food Magazines

I have a shocking confession to make. There are times, sometimes whole weeks when I don't feel like cooking. The fridge may be empty or full; it makes no difference. Not in the mood. The muse has left the building. In this predicament we just have to eat out, order in and wait for the feelings to pass. Another good solution to jump start one's cooking mojo, is to turn to cooking magazines. There are so many cooking magazines available at my local newsstand it boggles the mind. There are the widely available typical American ones like Everyday Food, Bon Appetit, and Cooking Light and the more esoteric ones like Saveur, Cook's Illustrated, Food Arts and Gastronomica. There are also a whole host of foreign ones, from English speaking countries mind you, like Olive, Delicious, BBC Good Food and Food & Travel. English ones, Australian ones, Canadian ones. Some really interesting stuff too. But because they are printed abroad they come at a high price. Browsing at the...
Saturday, March 27, 2004

Lost Recipes Cookbook

There are two kinds of cookbooks. One kind often features beautiful photography, and has recipes written by famous chefs from even more famous restaurants. These cookbooks are likely to weigh a lot, and cost a lot. While amazing works of art, bound to impress, they aren't really very practical for the home cook. Sure they may be a nice reminder of a once-in-a-lifetime meal, they may sit proudly on a coffee table, but live in the kitchen? Probably not. The other type of cookbook was written with the cook in mind. Not the chef, the cook. That person who everyday decides what to serve to family and friends. It's possibly not even written by a "chef" but by a non-professional cook. Someone without a drop veal demi glace on hand. No white truffles in the fridge, no support staff of any kind unless you count a spouse or kids who might set the table or wash the dishes now and again. Lost Recipes--Meals to Share with Friends and Family by Marion Cunningham is exactly...
Thursday, March 25, 2004

Baby Artichokes Signal Spring

Baby artichokes mean spring to me. I first discovered them when I lived in Tuscany. There we ate the mini or baby ones raw, or made a frittata with them, the minute they came into season in March and April. I had grown up eating the large sized artichokes but the babies were a revelation to me. I loved the small version we ate in Italy so much I brought seeds home for my mother hoping she could grow them. It was years before the mini ones started to be sold commercially in the US. Fortunately now you can find them in markets all over the Bay Area. For more about baby artichokes and how to prepare and cook them, check out Ocean Mist A bizarre looking food to anyone unfamiliar with it, artichokes are grown in California though they are native of the Mediterranean. The artichoke's spiny tips indicate it's in the thistle family. Artichokes are actually the edible bud of a flower; and are a good source of vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. Unlike the larger versions, baby ...
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

What Makes A Good Cook?

A recent entry from Craigslist Food Forum with names removed to protect the identity of the posters: What makes a good cook? . . . passion . . . Intuition . . . A curious nature... . . . restraint . . . sensuality, creativity, good hands.... . . . An acute sense of taste and smell . . . an open mind for new possibilities, but also a good memory and analytical skills for accumulating knowledge of what works well . . . Obviously, one of those Eggstractor™ thingys . . . love for it and experience . . . good cookbooks . . . The abilty to eat everything they cook . . . Innate interest in/love of/passion for food . . . a desire to please . . . Ability to plan ahead.. . . . all that and knowing how to shop . . . Genes and some good pots . . . . . . lol i thought you said "and some good pot"! The wonderful thing about cooking is, it's pretty much accessible to anyone who wants to give it a go, unlike say, race car driving. But what makes a GOOD cook? That's a ...
Sunday, March 21, 2004

Kappa Restaurant Review

Small plate restaurants may seem like something new and trendy. But that's not necessarily the case. Many cultures have a tradition of small plates--tapas from Spain, dim sum from China, and koryori from Japan. If koryori is new to you, you're not alone. Koryori is actually a Kyoto version of kaiseki, a traditional ritualized seasonal meal that is born of Buddhist traditions and was developed to accompany the tea ceremony. Restaurants that serve it cater primarily to Japanese clientele and unlike sushi or tempura, koryori has yet to be widely known outside of Japan. But there are koryori restaurants in the US, though you may have to do some research to find one. This past Friday night Lee and I enjoyed a koryori dinner at Kappa, on Post Street in San Francisco. It felt like being let in on a secret. Not only was the style of cuisine new to us, but the entrance to the restaurant was somewhat obscured with no sign in English. The restaurant had no windows and the door wa...
Friday, March 19, 2004

10 Minute Sesame Noodles Recipe

Condiments. I can't get enough of them. In our fridge we have no fewer than five mustards, six jams, seven Asian sauces, and various chutneys, Indian pickles, salsas, HP brown sauce, relish, horseradish sauce and ketchup. You name it, it's probably in there. But if there is one and one alone that I can't live without, it's Chinese chili garlic sauce from Lee Kum Kee . I use it in all sorts of dishes to punch them up a bit. You can add it to soups, stews, and stir frys of course. You can use it alone as a dipping sauce or mixed into mayonnaise it makes a great spread or dip for veggies. I even use it in place of harissa in Moroccan style meals like couscous or tagine. Best of all, you can use it as a shortcut to make a tasty meal in minutes. This week I adapted a recipe that uses a Thai spice blend. My sister sent me some a while back and I have struggled to come up with ways to use it. Most herbs are just better fresh than dry. But this blend when reconstituted in s...
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

All About Lavender

For a number of years now there has been a migration of sorts. Sweet, fresh and fruity flavors found in the kitchen have made it into bath and body products and conversely floral scents have headed for the kitchen. On any trip to the drugstore or supermarket you can find apple shampoo, vanilla scented body lotion, citrus ginger body wash etc. Meanwhile in upscale markets in the produce section you can find edible flowers. In addition to using flowers as a pretty garnish there are actual recipes using the petals of roses, chive blossoms, banana flowers, nasturtiums and the like. One flower that seems to be gaining in popularity is lavender. Anyone who knows Latin or almost any romance language may recognize that lavender comes from the Latin word "lavare" which means to wash. Lavender has antiseptic properties and has traditionally been used in soap. So a lavender liquid dish soap is a natural. Aromatherapists claim that lavender will relax and calm you, just what you ne...
Monday, March 15, 2004

SF Station

I am very pleased to announce that I have just begun writing for SF Station . SF Station has been bookmarked on my computer since it launched. It's a great site for finding out what's going on in the City, and also offers the giveaway where you can sign up to win free passes to museums, clubs and bars, movies, theater etc. SF Station will be reprinting some past restaurant reviews from Cooking with Amy as well as new articles so stay tuned. The restaurant review I wrote for Lotus Garden has been reprinted on the front page of SF Station click here if you would like to read it. More about SF Station: SF Station is San Francisco's independent online information source for Arts & Culture, Entertainment, Food, Shopping, and Urban Lifestyle. SF Station provides in-depth and up-to-date coverage on SF Bay Clubs, Music, Film, Theatre & Dance, Events, Galleries, Museums, Restaurants, Bars, Fashion, and more....
Saturday, March 13, 2004

Meet Paul Frohlich

Paul is the proprieter of one of the top specialty food stores in San Francisco, Yum  (sadly Yum closed, you can find Paul at Boccalone at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza) Located at 1750 Market Street, Yum carries most everything to make a cook's heart sing. From childhood favorites like marshmallow fluff to a selection of over 100 exotic spices, some of which you've probably never heard of, Yum not only offers up great selection at reasonable prices, but does it with grace and style. And where else might you expect to find balasmic vinegars stored in a chrome medicine cabinet? Read on to learn more about who and what has inspired such a fabulous store. This store is so unique in breadth and depth of products, what inspired you, was there a niche you were trying to fill? There is and we're not there yet--I've lived in NY, London, Paris, and San Francisco and it struck me that in all those cities have some sort of food hall--San Francisco didn't. It used t...
Thursday, March 11, 2004

Bittersweet Cookbook

In Berkeley there are two famous Alices. One is Alice Waters, executive chef and owner of Chez Panisse, the great proponent of organic and sustainable food production and then there is Alice Medrich. Alice Medrich revolutionized the way way we think about chocolate in this country. Her store Cocolat which opened in 1976 sold the most decadent chocolate desserts and truffles ever. Gourmet magazine famously said, "Cocolat is to chocolate what Tiffany's is to diamonds". Growing up in the Bay Area Alice Medrich was the much bigger star in my constellation. Working at a gourmet food store that carried her products I had firsthand experience of her delicious confections. And so did many folks in the Bay Area as her stores expanded and a wholesale business was developed. After college I briefly considered going to work for Alice Medrich at Cocolat, but given my retail experience, I was wanted in the store, not in the kitchen which is where I wanted to be. But I got to try ...
Tuesday, March 09, 2004

All About Egg Coddlers

Every once in a while I gain possession of some kitchen gadget or device that has fallen out of favor. Often despite my best intentions it just ends up on yet another shelf, unused, unloved. But aware of the risk, when my mother offered me her set of egg coddlers, I couldn't resist. They are so charming to look at that even if you swore off eggs you might want to put large blossoms in them for decorating a table or you could use them for serving jam or marmalade. They can also be used for heating up baby food. Egg coddlers allow you to cook an egg to the consistency you like, and serve it up in a convenient and attractive manner. Personally I love the tecture of poached eggs, but there is no way to really get them dry enough once they emerge from their bath. I know Martha Stewart places them on the heels of bread and trims them just so, but they still seem drippy to me. I also like soft boiled eggs, but eating them out of the shell is a mess. I know they look cute in egg cups, ...
Sunday, March 07, 2004

Balsamic Onion Marmalade and Gruyere Tartine Recipe

An Italian blogger , living in Germany came up with a unique virtual blog event, a blog cooking day called "Is my blog burning?" "Why not put up a day where, just for the fun, bloggers take up a certain theme and come up with a recipe (original or not) for it? It would be really interesting to see what people from different backgrounds come up with and a great chance to get new ideas." A French blogger picked the theme of tartine for today, March 7th, 2004. tartine n. A French open-faced sandwich, especially one with a rich or fancy spread. So I went down to the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace to find some inspiration for this event. What was in season? What nice bread was available? Sweet? Savory? Hot? Cold? So many choices! I managed to get one of the last "pain au levain with walnuts" and this helped me with the rest of my decisions. I chose to make a balsamic onion marmalade tartine topped with Gruyere cheese. A French bread (w...
Friday, March 05, 2004

How Many Cookbooks?

How many cookbooks do you own? At last count I had 75. My sister really started me off with "The Joy of Cooking" circa 1984 for which I will be forever grateful. In terms of classics I also have the Escoffier, Fannie Farmer, and several cookbooks by both Jacques Pepin and Julia Child. I have an appetizer cookbook, dessert cookbooks, magazine compendiums, regional cookbooks and even two pressure cooker cookbooks. No favorites really. I love all my babies. I started scouring the shelves of thrift shops for cookbooks when I was still in my teens. It was amusing to see the fads of yesteryear in the titles--the blender cookbooks, cooking with wine, microwave cookbooks, and endless diet cookbooks to be sure. But finding a really good one was like finding hidden treasure. Those rare cookbooks inspired me, encouraged me and motivated me to become a better cook. And at less than a dollar a piece they were a bargain. On a sinister note, in Iowa a compulsive "cookbook crook&...
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Luna Park Restaurant

When friends come in from out of town, it can be challenging to pick a restaurant. Not because there aren't any good ones, but rather because there are too many. Mainly I want the place to be consistently good, have lots of options for all kinds of eaters (light, meat and potatoes, vegetarians, dessert fanatics) be fun and also give a good sense of what being in San Francisco is all about. If possible, convenient parking near by is nice to have too. One restaurant I return to time and again is Luna Park on the very hip part of Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission District. In addition to all of the aforementioned--choices, fun, etc., it has the added bonus that the prices are quite reasonable. The only down side is the noise level, though if you go with a group of no more than 4 or 5 people you can sit in a cozy booth and having a conversation is less of a challenge. Luna Park offers a number of interesting appetizers that are great to nibble on with drinks or whil...
Monday, March 01, 2004

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes Recipe

Waking up is hard to do. Really hard. For some, a strong cup of coffee or tea helps. Not for me. I wake up slowly and after being up for at least an hour or two I tackle breakfast. Left to my own devises, I would probably just eat brunch and save the real breakfast food for dinner, but Lee prefers something a bit more traditional. The big problem with breakfast for me is always--what to have? Savory or sweet? Both are appealing but if I eat something sweet I may not get enough protein and as a result I'm ravenous barely an hour or two later. Nutritionists recommend a "balanced" breakfast meaning both carbohydrates and protein. Easy to do with eggs or cheese but harder to do with sweets like pancakes. Having sausage or bacon on the side is another way to go but probably not the best choice everyday. French toast or crepes are both sweet and have protein but I'm always looking for more protein-rich sweet options. Ricotta pancakes are a perfect way to go. The ricott...