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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Fresh Herb Potato Salad Recipe

What do Jerusalem artichokes, horseradish and dandelion greens have in common? You'll never guess. Each has a name that is an English version of a foreign name. The Jerusalem artichoke is a variety of sunflower, and the name is derived from "girasole" which means sunflower in Italian. Horseradish is "meerrettich" in German and because "meer" sounds like "mare" the English called it horseradish. Dandelion comes from the French "dent de lion" or lion's tooth, in reference to the jagged leaves of this bitter yet tasty weed. Like horseradish, dandelion has quite a bite to it. It can be eaten raw or cooked and like other leafy greens, it is a good source of vitamin A, calcium and iron. But frankly, I'd never cooked with it until this weekend. I found a Jamie Oliver recipe for a potato salad using chopped dandelion greens and I also heard raves about a potato salad with chopped fresh mint, so I decided to combine the two. Un...
Monday, June 28, 2004

Asian Slaw Recipe

So for the picnic this weekend I made a red cabbage cole slaw and a napa cabbage cole slaw. I can imagine you are asking yourself, why bother? Well it wasn't on purpose; I just ran out of room to fit all the cabbage in one bowl. When you start shredding napa cabbage an amazing thing happens. It explodes. Napa cabbage grows so densely that a relatively small or medium head of cabbage not only weighs a ton, it seems to expand when you cut it up. So after shredding two heads there was no room to fit the already shredded red cabbage in the mix. I also realized there might be someone who didn't like cilantro and making two batches would allow for a little more choice of flavors. The red cabbage cole slaw included shredded red and yellow peppers and carrots. The napa cabbage cole slaw included slivered green onions and cilantro. Both were quite tasty and tasted different though the Asian inspired dressing was exactly the same. I like to make the cole slaw the night before I se...
Saturday, June 26, 2004

I Love Chocolate:Shop

I can't believe it's been a whole year, but it has. I began this blog on my birthday and here it is, and another birthday has come around, mine and my blogs. Three hundred and sixty five days and almost twenty three thousand visits to the site! To say I'm overwhelmed would be an understatement. Saturday couldn't have been a better day for a picnic in paradise. Paradise beach park to be exact. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and everyone was smiling. The menu consisted of some amazingly tender and tasty barbecued ribs courtesy of my father, some veggie kabobs, a red cabbage cole slaw and a Napa cabbage cole slaw and a potato salad that I made. The salads were both quite popular so I will post the recipes this week, in time for fourth of July picnics. A big thanks to Donna for bringing a platter of tomatoes and mozzarella and basil and a platter of veggies and dip. Another thanks to Alton for bringing some delicious miniature watermelons. But best of all...
Thursday, June 24, 2004

Peach Walnut Vinaigrette Recipe

When I was in high school I used to come into San Francisco's North Beach to hang out in cafes and drink Italian sodas and fancy coffee drinks. Torani syrups were a fixture in those cafes and they still are. But flavored syrups can actually be used for a lot more than just funky coffee drinks and sodas. You can make all kinds of fancy cocktails with them, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. In addition to sparkling water you can add them to anything from champagne to lemonade to iced tea. You can also use them for things like marinades, vinaigrettes and sauces. Long ago I learned a fruit salad recipe from Jacques Pepin (from his TV show, I didn't actually mean in person) Simple enough, you just whisk together chopped mint, orange marmalade and fresh lemon juice and serve over sliced fresh fruit. For the summer, you could also make a very light marinade to macerate the fruit substituting some of the fruity flavors of syrup for the marmalade. The flavored syrups I'm pla...
Tuesday, June 22, 2004

French Laundry:Restaurant

How do you go about describing one of the best meals of your life? By thinking back over it a couple of days later when the full weight of it has finally begun to sink in. Surprise and delight are the two main things you experience at the French Laundry and they are both slow to fade. The preparations are designed to taste good, to tantalize your senses, and not just your sense of taste but of scent and memory, and especially your sense of whimsy. Dishes are not overburdened with sauces, they are in some ways minimalist compositions, that highlight the highest quality of ingredients. One of the dishes that most amazed me was spinach cooked in butter with sel gris and "calotte de boeuf" basically a piece of steak. But the spinach was ethereal and the beef was the most tender and flavorful I have ever had. When I asked the waiter about it he told me that the Snake River Farm in Idaho breeds a cross of Wagyu and American black angus. On the side was one of my favorite thi...
Sunday, June 20, 2004

French Laundry Garden

Many meals begin in the garden. And so did our meal at the French Laundry . After parking the car, we couldn't help but notice the lovely garden directly across the street; having more than a few minutes to spare, we welcomed the invitation by one of the chefs/gardeners to take a look. As Graham went about his work, he graciously showed us around and we chatted about the restaurant, the bounty of the garden, and cooking in general. We saw pepper plants that while young, promised a harvest in the not too distant future. We tasted strawberries from a bed that was about to be pulled up and sniffed a variety of herbs ripe and ready to be picked. Like our meal to come, the garden was a snapshot in time. If you think you are looking at a snake in the photo above, you are not. What Graham is holding is actually a type of cucumber. Variegated with dark and light stripes of green it really does look like a snake though. And the whimsy of a cucumber that looks like a snake was a prec...
Friday, June 18, 2004

Blog Resources

I am blessed in that I always seem to have something to write about. Writing really does come easily to me most of the time. But I have to admit, I'm so excited at the prospect of going to the famed French Laundry tomorrow, that I'm actually a bit stymied. Rather than my usual ramblings about food today I turn to the topic of blogs. It used to be that when I mentioned I have a blog, people had no idea what I was talking about. As it is now, people tell me they have heard of blogs but still aren't sure what they are. It's kind of like the early days of the internet in some ways. Blogging has been around for a while, but not everyone has caught on yet. And like the early days of the internet, finding "good" sites is not always easy. Time magazine has just written an article on blogging and also a piece on "how to find your kind of blog" . They point out several of the better directories. If you have a hard time keeping track of all the food ...
Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Tabla:Restaurant CLOSED

In New York, I wanted to eat at some special places, places that New Yorkers really love. Reading the New York Collectors edition of Gourmet magazine, I happened upon a mention of Tabla Bread Bar . I've just recently discovered Indian "chaat" or snack food and Tabla sounded like a very upscale version of chaat. The places I've been for chaat in the Bay Area are nothing fancy but Chaat Cafe and Vik's Chaat Corner in Berkeley, are both great places for a wonderful snack or a meal. Tabla bread bar serves small plates including soup, salads, "street foods" vegetables, tandoori breads and chutneys and raita. It was the perfect place to go with a vegetarian friend because the veggie choices are so varied. One of the more unusual dishes that we tried was the bhel puri--a Bombay street salad of puffed rice, apples, fingerling potatoes, tamarind and mint. The complexity of flavors and textures were tantalizing, it was crispy and refreshing at the same time....
Monday, June 14, 2004

Julia Child's Clafoutis Recipe

Cherries seem like such an American fruit. I guess it's the mythology of George Washington and the cherry tree. And then the idiom "as American as cherry pie". But cherries come from Asia Minor and are named after a Turkish town, Cerasus or the Greek city of Kerasounta, depending upon who you believe. Historically they have also been grown in Rome, in England, in France and of course, the United States. While cherry pie is quintessentially American, my favorite cherry dessert has got to be the cakey, pudding-like French clafoutis, which is traditionally made with cherries. You've got to love clafoutis because it's such a great word to say-- kla-foo-TEE. Just saying it out loud makes me smile. Try it, you'll see what I mean. I'm not the only one who loves clafoutis. A few years ago in Paris, Lee and I were eating a late dinner in the Marais at a small and rustic Burgundian restaurant. Near the bar was a casual display of desserts. The least elegant ...
Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Artful Vegan:Cookbook

Millennium restaurant has long been a favored restaurant when Lee's dad and stepmom come up to visit, because the menu is diverse enough to satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Not a tofu and sprouts kinda place, Millennium is known for its sophisticated offerings and presentation that make it the de facto celebration choice for many vegetarians and vegans. Chef Eric Tucker along with Bruce Enloe have written a second Millennium cookbook, this one The Artful Vegan Fresh Flavors from The Millennium Restaurant . The cookbook makes a wonderful memento of meals at the restaurant. It is filled with "special occasion" type recipes, most of which require multiple preparations most easily prepared in a restaurant though modified for the home chef. Asparagus-rhubarb cannelloni with turmeric-orange sauce and herb aioli for example has two sauces to go with the main event. But in some ways this is actually good for the adventurous cook, because you can easily take bits a...
Thursday, June 10, 2004

Cheddary Corn Chowder:Recipe

Oh how I look forward to Wednesdays! It's not just the middle-of-the-week mark, it's also the day that most major newspapers publish their food sections, and the day my organic produce box is delivered. So why do most newspapers publish a sports section every day and a food section only once a week? Another unsolved mystery of the universe. After all, eating on a daily basis is fairly typical so a daily food section makes perfect sense... This week the produce delivery signaled that summer is surely on the way in. The box included lots of summer "sweeties" like cherries, peaches, strawberries and corn. When corn is fresh it can be one of the sweetest vegetables around. It also has vitamin C and trace amounts of beta carotene. Unfortunately it can lose up to 40% of its sugar content after as little as six hours of room temperature storage, so if you buy it freshly picked cook it as soon as you can. If you don't, it's likely to turn starchy. Though I grew u...
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Astronaut Food

While most people look forward to seeing major artifacts like the lunar modules, spacecrafts and early airplanes at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum I couldn't wait to see an exhibit of food eaten in space. I guess my facination with space food began when a sporting goods store opened up around the corner from my home and sold various types of dehydrated foods for backpacking. The food dehyrdation technology was developed in the 1960's for use on space missions. Some of the food was rehydrated using water in space (or in the back country, as the case may be) and some was eaten dehydrated. Apparently the rehydrated meals were none too tasty, according to the Gemini astronauts, among the first to eat meals in space. I understand from backpackers that it wasn't much improved when sold to them either. The history of food in space has lots of unappetizing experiments that astronauts suffered through. But the product that my sister and I indulged in with glee was ...
Saturday, June 05, 2004

Cake Love:Shop

Growing up, a chocolate eclair was a highly desirable delicacy. Always tucked away in the bakery case, it promised a sensually luscious, chocolatey, creamy experience that was impossible to eat without making a mess. It seems in retrospect that chocolate eclairs were more commonly available back in the 70's than they are today. So on the rare occasions that Lee or I find one now, we feel compelled to order it. Perhaps it is our Proustian sweet, allowing us to recapture a bit of our childhood. In any case, it sure beats a madeleine...! Cake Love is a terrific bakery on the historic U Street in Washington DC. Dedicated to creating the most delicious cakes, they also serve one of the most obscenely oversized chocolate eclairs ever seen. It speaks to the passion of the owner and baker. Our national ideology is based on the idea that no matter who you are, with enough hard work and passion, anything is possible, so it seems particularly fitting in DC that a lawyer by trade would dis...
Friday, June 04, 2004

Beard Papa:Shop

As an intrepid culinary adventurer, I am always pleasantly surprised to discover new gourmet specialty shops. While in New York last week, I stumbled on a most "Japanese" style pastry shop. I say this because the brand name makes no sense in English and the logo is awfully cute. Let me introduce you to-- Beard Papa's Fresh 'n Natural Cream Puffs While they have just opened their first US shop, since 1997 the oddly named Beard Papa has been innovating that French classic, the cream puff in Japan. A cream puff is a hollow puff made of choux pastry and usually filled with sweetened whipped cream or custard. A choux pastry is really one of those great chemistry experiments in the kitchen. The instructions sound like a cruel joke to be played on a novice baker, but it actually is fairly easy to accomplish. The dough is a combination of boiling water, butter, flour and eggs, combined over the heat into a sticky pasty mess that when baked turns into a light and crispy ...
Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Yum:Shop

Some of you may remember the interview I did with Paul Frolich of Yum a few months back, my full review of his market is now a "foodie" column on SF Station I will be back home on Thursday and look forward to sharing many of my culinary adventures with you all very soon! Best, Amy...