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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Banana Leaf Coconut Fish:Recipe

What's a beautiful shade of green, used in Asian, Latin American, Caribbean and African cooking, but completely inedible? Banana leaves! Banana leaves grow in tropical climates, and are used to steam, grill, serve and store food. In Thailand they are used just like tin foil and about as frequently. Banana leaves are used when they are still fresh and green, as a result, there is a very moist quality to any food cooked in them. While not grown commercially in the US, banana leaves are worth seeking out because they lend a delicious herbal flavor to food when cooked. They can be used for slow moist cooking of tough meats or even tamales, and for quicker grilling, baking or steaming of more delicate ingredients like fish or chicken. You can cook several servings in a large banana leaf or cut the leaf into individual serving pieces. Steaming or baking individual servings "en papillote" is not only elegant, but generally makes clean up a breeze. The scent of the steam when...
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Cherry Blossom Festival 2004

When the weather warms up we look for any excuse to eat outdoors. It could be a picnic, a day at the beach or a street fair, food just tastes better outside. Especially when the day is sunny and bright and everyone is having fun and celebrating. Warm weather signals the beginning of street fair season and one of the first ones is the annual Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival . The Cherry Blossom Festival features an amazing food bazaar. The food is a mix of Japanese and American favorites, sometimes in the same dish, and it's a major reason we go each year. The air becomes thick with barbecue smoke and the scent of the grill and perhaps the gill. In addition to teriyaki burgers and strawberry shortcake, there is also bbq squid, bbq eel, rice balls and hot udon soup. This past Sunday in addition to the deliciously sweet eel and strawberry shortcake, we ate green tea ice cream, some inari which is a rice stuffed sweet bean curd, California rolls, gyoza and some spicy s...
Sunday, April 25, 2004

Dim Sum A Pocket Guide:Book

Going out to eat dim sum is so much fun! And a bit of an adventure as well. While in a few places you order it, mostly it comes to you. Waiters roll around carts filled with delicacies and call out the names of the dishes, in Cantonese of course. You can take a look inside the steamer baskets and take your pick of dumplings--usually fried or steamed, or filled buns or noodle dishes or maybe even mini spare ribs, and perhaps a dessert or two. Many dishes are standard, but each place that serves it may have some unfamiliar items as well. The best thing is that you get to try lots and lots things in one go--and share them with everyone else at the table. Dim sum is a Cantonese term that means "to touch the heart". It's popular in what used to be known as the Canton provinces--in Guangzhou, to go out to drink tea and order a snack of dumplings. In Hong Kong it's called "yum cha" meaning literally to "drink tea". Here at home we focus more on the...
Saturday, April 24, 2004

RICHART Shop CLOSED

What's the most fun you can have with your clothes on? Quite possibly attending a chocolate tasting! Which is something I got to do this past week. As you may or may not know, I am very fond of chocolate. Some might say obsessed. What drew me to RICHART in the first place were the beauty of the chocolates and their exotic flavors. At their San Francisco boutique run by the founder's grandson, I got a lesson in fine chocolate. I learned that the most delicate and best cocoa bean is the Criollo bean, the name Criollo is derived from creole meaning native, authentic and indigenous. I also learned that they have been making chocolate since 1925, use over 70% Venezuelan Criollo beans and blend their chocolate to a super-smooth melt-in-your-mouth 12-20 microns. They also decorate each filled chocolate with a delicate colored design to indicate its flavor. Michel Richart believes that tasting chocolate is much like tasting wine, so one must pay attention to the base notes, th...
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Ecco La Pasta!

Dried pasta is the perfect convenience food, after all it only takes a pot of boiling water to cook it. But fresh pasta is another story. It takes work. Having a food processor and a pasta rolling machine make it a little easier but it's far from foolproof. And the trickiest pasta of all is really a potato dumpling--gnocchi. Gnocchi is such a favorite in our household that if it is on a menu it will likely find its way onto our table. While I can make a terrific ricotta gnocchi, wonderful pumpkin gnocchi and even a Roman style semolina gnocchi, the secret to making perfect potato gnocchi has remained illusive. And I have tried every trick possible--from baking the potatoes on a bed of rock salt to adding egg yolks to the dough. The problem is, if the dough is too firm it cooks up dense and heavy. And if the dough is too light, it practically melts in the pot of water, losing its shape and turning to mush. So what to do? Well the first thing NOT to do is buy pre-packaged gno...
Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Leek & Potato Soup Recipe

If I told you that I had a fabulous soup recipe with only three ingredients in it, would you believe me? Leeks, potatoes and water or chicken broth. Oh and a little butter to saute the leeks in, that's it. It seems to be a mantra these days that by using the best ingredients one really doesn't need to do much to turn out a great meal. Leek and potato soup epitomizes this thinking. You can add milk or cream or top it off with a dollop of sour cream if you want to fancy it up, but it's really not necessary. Based on my own research (which is corroborated by the reviews of other cooks who have reacted to the multitude of leek & potato soup recipes posted on epicurious.com ) complicated preparations with more ingredients tend to distract rather than enhance. There is something so comforting about leek and potato soup. Its pale matte green color is comforting. Its smell is comforting. And of course the taste, mellow oniony leeks and potatoes combined together in a thic...
Sunday, April 18, 2004

I have to admit it. I am just not a baker. I try. But it's not my thing. I can make cookies or brownies if I stick to tried and true recipes, but cakes? Please. Let's not go there... My blog is burning part 3. If you haven't heard of it yet, it's that group event where food bloggers from all over the world blog on the same topic on the same day. This time around? A Cake Walk . And a mighty big challenge for me. But I had a plan. I had some almond meal in the house that I intended to try baking with during Passover but didn't. So the search was on to find a recipe using almond meal. I found one, had all the ingredients, followed the instructions and bombed out. The cake was supposed to be a flourless tangerine almond tort but I'd just call it a mess. Crumbly, bitter, wet. Ick. That's when I turned to someone who knows what she's doing in the baking department. Not a professional chef, a home cook. Someone who appreciates that some of us don't h...
Friday, April 16, 2004

Dining Out For Life

What are you doing in two weeks? Do you have any plans for April 29th? If you don't, call some friends and get together for dinner. As part of the Dining out for Life program, all you have to do is dine at one of many participating restaurants on Thursday, April 29th and 25 percent of your food bill will benefit the HIV prevention programs of the STOP AIDS Project here in San Francisco. Other cities all around the country are taking part in this event too, so to learn which restaurants near you are participating, go to Dining out for Life and click on Participating Restaurants. Making a difference has never been so easy, so tasty or such a good excuse to go to dinner with friends....
Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Lemony Smoked Salmon Pasta Recipe

Our box of fresh produce was delivered today and in it was a real prize. Green garlic. Green garlic is a fresh, young, green onion-like vegetable. It is very mild and just epitomizes spring. It is only available for a short time, like many other spring treats, and it has a fresh, clean, light flavor and crisp texture. It just tastes like spring. Most other onions are best cooked, like leeks or yellow onions or raw, like scallions or red onions. But you can use green garlic raw, or you can cook it and unlike other onions, both the green and white parts are delicious to eat. The main thing is not to overcook it, because you want the fresh flavor to come through. It's the perfect thing to top a pizza with or sliver into a salad because there is no "bite" to it. I decided to use the green garlic in a pasta and added some other ingredients I had around the house, especially smoked salmon. When I was living in Italy, using smoked salmon in pasta was very trendy. Smoked sal...
Monday, April 12, 2004

Meet Fergus Henderson

A British chef, who has no formal training and cooks traditional British cuisine, known for cooking what is often considered the least desirable bits of the animal, seems an unlikely celebrity. But Fergus Henderson, proprietor of London restaurant St. John and author of The Whole Beast--Nose to Tail Eating is a celebrity of sorts. His restaurant is a top stop for foodies, and he has gained the praise of chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali. Bourdain actually wrote the introduction to his book. At Sur La Table at the Ferry Building Farmers Market today Fergus Henderson spoke about his style of cooking. In typically British manner, he started off by saying that "if you're going to kill the animal it seems only polite to use the whole thing". He talked of not trying to shock anyone, simply wanting to serve the parts that "lie beyond the fillet". Explaining that the texture and flavor of those cuts is not to be missed. But that the names "offal&...
Saturday, April 10, 2004

Meet Shea Rosen

Meet Shea Rosen Shea is a Food Technologist at Mezzetta . Best known for their peppers, olives, they have recently branched out into sauces with their Napa Valley Bistro line. So what does a food technologist do? Develop the company's new food products which includes conceptualizing the line, creating the formula or recipe, and successfully excecuting them in the manufacturing plant. What is your background? I graduated from the University of Missouri with a food science degree. After school I worked for Ore-ida in the San Franciso Bay Area and Los Angeles. Five years later, I changed jobs to work for Wolfgang Puck Food Co. Wolfgang Puck and his chefs influenced me greatly in regards to creative thinking and enhanced culinary knowledge. It was thrilling to be at Spago's twice a week developing frozen pizza's and pasta entrees for the retail product line. I also worked at Safeway for a number of years developing their private label brands. What inspires you c...
Thursday, April 08, 2004

New World Market Shop

I love international travel. Who doesn't? I crave getting on a plane and going some place where everything is unfamiliar and new. But when I can't quite manage a trip I make a little excursion that helps satisfy my wanderlust. I head straight for an ethnic grocery store. Granted there are plenty of things that are poorly labeled and I have no idea what they are or might be, but I have also discovered some real treasures that make me want to stop by on a regular basis. I have shopped Italian, Latin American and Asian grocery stores for quite some time. I particularly enjoy finding ones with delicatessens where I can try some prepared foods. Here in San Francisco we are blessed with many different kinds of delis. The latest discovery for me has been a Russian grocery with a deli counter that runs the length of the store. The first thing I go for is the homemade sour cream. I realize this is an exotic ingredient for some, but growing up in a second generation American fami...
Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Toffee Chocolate Matzah Crunch:Recipe

Passover is a major Jewish holiday. It deals with the age old themes of slavery, freedom, persecution, solidarity, covenants, spring, renewal, redemption, etc. For two consecutive nights, a ritual meal is served and stories told, prayers recited, songs sung and much discussion occurs over what parts of the evening's agenda to "pass over". Actually the term Passover refers to the angel of death passing over the homes of the Jews in the days leading up to when the Jews fled Egypt, before Moses parted the Red Sea and received the ten commandments on Mount Sinai. One thing that most gentiles know about Passover is that it's the holiday when Jews eat matzah. Matzah is unleavened bread and we eat it all week long to commemorate the holiday and be reminded of a time when we were slaves. Many gentiles of course think it's very interesting and delicious. My parents had an Italian exchange student who was positively in love with it and begged them to send him boxes of it...
Sunday, April 04, 2004

Mexican Cooking Tips

Once a year, Macy's department store holds their annual flower show. This year the theme at San Francisco's Union Square store is Colores de Mexico . The store is filled with thousands of colorful azaleas, succulents, bromeliads, orchids, cacti, palm trees and bougainvillea. In additon to the flowers of Mexico, there are also lots of special events--including the flavors of Mexico brought to life by cooking demonstrations given by several Mexican chefs. Yesterday's demonstration featured guest chef Patricia Quintana, author of 14 cookbooks including "Taste of Mexico" and owner of Izote restaurant in Mexico City. Early in her career, Quintana studied traditional French food with the legendary Paul Bocuse, but she is best known for having spent the last 30 years exploring the heritage and contemporary possibilities of Mexican cuisine. Here are some of the tidbits Quintana shared: 1. When chopping hot chiles, lightly oil your hands to keep the chile oil from...
Friday, April 02, 2004

Doubletree Cookies

My sister-in-law Lori is a bundle of contradictions. She is super smart and yet at times naive, she is successful but lives modestly. Lori is the president and owner of a financial consulting firm that has advised more than 200 California public agencies in the last 15 years; yet she looks after her clients and treats them like she treats her neighbors. In fact when clients come to her office, she serves them lemonade and cookies. Some time ago Lori instituted the practice of sending out cookies to her clients as a holiday gift. She heard from a couple of her clients that the cookies (which were being sent from a very famous cookie company) sometimes arrived stale. After reading about The Christie Cookie Company in Inc. magazine she gave them a try. Not only were their cookies good and fresh but for a minimal set up fee, they offered the option of sending them in a customized tin with her company logo on it. Now it appears these are Government Financial Strategies cookies. Lor...