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Monday, August 30, 2004

Ready When You Are:Cookbook

What says comfort to you? Macaroni and cheese? Chicken pot pie? Chili con carne? Borscht? Risotto? Pho Bo (Vietnamese beef and noodle soup)? Comfort foods come in all forms and all nationalities. Comfort food often comes in the form of a one-dish meal. Martha Rose Shulman author of more than twenty books including Mediterranean Light has written Ready When You Are a compendium of comforting one-dish meals that features about 200 recipes and all of the ones just mentioned. One of the things l particularly like about this book is that it really gives you a peek into the mind of a great cook. Shulman, a working mom, tells you how she makes meals, including even what equipment she uses. Each recipe gives you a visual clue indicating it it can be made in advance and whether it is vegetarian or can easily be made vegetarian. She introduces the recipes telling you where she got the idea for it, and at the end of the recipe she offers tips on advance preparations and even what to do wit...
Saturday, August 28, 2004

Spinach Fig Salad Recipe

Summer is the season for salads. Some days it just gets too hot to turn on the stove. And you never get quite as hungry on those days anyway. A salad for dinner makes perfect sense. Still I am always challenged to figure out how to make salad feel like a meal. Especially without adding fish or grilled meats. Friday night was one of those salad nights. I had planned on making a chickpea and spinach dish but cooking was out of the question. A spinach salad was devised instead. Fortunately there were several delicious things on hand to make the salad something special. In this case Stilton cheese, red onions that were "bloomed" in vinegar, glazed pecans, and Mission figs. I think the secret to a salad that feels like a meal is a formula of three elements. First off it needs some protein. It can come in the form of grilled chicken or fish or even steak. Or it can come in the form of cheese or nuts or beans. The second element is layers of flavors. Just as a good vinaigrette ...
Thursday, August 26, 2004

Ceramic Peeler:Equipment

I am not a geek, but I am always curious about new kitchen gadgets and technologies. So just a few months ago at the Gourmet Products Show when I saw that several companies were selling ceramic knives, I was eager to give them a try. They are made out of futuristic sounding "zirconium oxide". The manufacturing process also sounds like something out of a science fiction novel; ceramic material is ground into a micro-fine powder, made into slurry and poured into a machine where it is subjected to 100 tons of pressure and molded into blades. I tried one out that was made by Kyocera and was surprised at how light and sharp it was. But talking to chefs and foodies I didn't find a lot of support for these new knives. I heard complaints that they can only be sharpened by the manufacturer, that they are too fragile and can chip or break, and that they don't hold their sharpness as long as promised. This week I got a chance to try out Kyocera's new wide ceramic pe...
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Noe Valley Adventure

Sometimes you just have to venture beyond the beaten path. Well, beyond your beaten path and perhaps onto someone else's. The neighborhoods I frequent the most for grocery shopping are the Mission district, the Richmond and Sunset with many stops on Clement, Geary, and Irving. But reading Pim's blog I learned that Stonehouse Olive Oil had opened up a shop on 24th street in Noe Valley and that was just the push I needed to go exploring. Noe Valley and 24th street in particular is a little neighborhood that has a terrific selection of shops and cafes. The weather is often sunny in that part of the City so it makes for a nice "city outing". First stop was brunch, albeit a late one at Miss Millie's . While the prices are a bit high, this is the place for a gut-busting and delectable breakfast. The menu has very unique items like a Dungeness crab hash with roasted potatoes, cipollini onions, spinach, a trio of peppers and peas topped with poached eggs, a mello...
Saturday, August 21, 2004

Aushak Dumpling Recipe

I love dumplings! Russian pelmenyi, Italian ravioli and gnocchi, Japanese gyoza, Chinese wontons, potstickers, dim sum...I don't think there is a dumpling I don't adore. But I'm more likely to order them in restaurants than I am to make them at home. In the same category as tamales and blintzes, making dumplings is one of the more time-consuming cooking projects around. That said, sometimes you fall in love with something so much that you need to find a way to re-create it at home despite the bother. One of my favorite dumplings is something I could only find at an Afghani restaurant. Until now that is. Aushak, a boiled leek dumpling with yogurt and meat sauces, is so good it's hard to get enough of them. Perhaps that's why they are offered as both an appetizer and a main dish on the restaurant menu. Leeks make a fresh, green filling that has some body to it, unlike mushy spinach. The two sauces are a balance of a white, yogurt, tangy one and a red, rich, me...

Lulu's Blog

Tomorrow is the next edition of the famous "Is My Blog Burning?" event so I am cheating a bit by not really posting much today, except to say check out my dear friend Lulu's new blog. Lulu is a fabulous cook from Bombay. Back when we shared an office and talked non-stop about cooking, she taught me how to make things at home that I used to enjoy only when eating out at Indian restaurants. We often shared lunch so we could sample each others creations. Lulu just moved from the Bay Area to New York and reading her blog you can follow along as she shares recipes and discovers the many culinary sides of Manhattan at Lulu's Gonna Love Manhattan . Check back tomorrow for the dumpling edition of IMBB!...
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Free Culinary Institute Classes

What cook hasn't considered picking up some new tricks by taking a cooking class? But cooking classes usually fall into two categories as far as I'm concerned--either too basic or too expensive. And sometimes both. So I browse the cooking school catalogs and daydream... Just last week though I stumbled upon a section in the Culinary Institute of America's pro chef catalog about e-learning classes. After some online investigation I discovered that they have a number of free classes aimed at professional chefs. A couple of them you can even get credit for taking, if you pass an online exam. These classes have a lot going for them in addition to the fact that they are free; you can go a your own pace, watch streaming videos, download recipes and see mini-movie cooking demonstrations. There are even chat, and discussion features. Because the classes are aimed at professional chefs, they are perfect for people who are already accomplished home cooks. If you registe...
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Nijiya:Shop

Did you ever walk along the beach and see shiny little crabs scurrying sideways in the sand? Or maybe you saw crispy sun-bleached crab shells nestled among the driftwood, seaweed and beach glass that had washed up on the shore? Did it ever occur to you that those little critters would make a tasty snack? If not, you're not alone. Rather than buy any, I thought taking a picture would do the trick... Lee and and I were anything but crabby this weekend. We enjoyed a leisurely Sunday afternoon at the Nihonmachi Street Festival in Japantown . Mostly this gives us an excuse to eat Asian style street food, listen to Taiko drums, watch Polynesian style dancing, and poke around some of our favorite stores in Japantown. We have lots of stores we like in Japantown, but my top two picks are Ichiban-Kan where I find cheap kitchen utensils and gadgets galore and Nijiya, a Japanese mini-market with everything from fresh shiso leaves to sushi grade fish. There isn't an aisle in Nijiy...
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Summer Syrups

I recently wrote about Torani syrups , but at the Fancy Food Show earlier this year I also discovered syrups from the Sonoma Syrup Company . Less sweet than Torani and made from all natural ingredients, Sonoma Syrups are a real treat not just for drinks but also for experimenting in the kitchen. Sonoma syrups come in terrific flavors like tangerine, lavender, pomegranate and vanilla. They give you a bit of a head start in the kitchen for infusing your creations with flavor. One idea is to mix them with powdered sugar to make a simple glaze for homemade baked goods. You can also use them in marinades and salad dressings. I'll be playing around with these syrups and sharing more recipes, but in the meantime check out an article I wrote for SF Station on using syrups this summer. In it you'll find the recipe for Gary Danko's signature cocktail the Orange Dreamsicle....
Friday, August 13, 2004

Thank You Julia Child

Everyone knows who Julia Child is. Not only a national treasure, she is a cultural icon. And though she passed away this morning just missing her 92nd birthday, her impact on American cooking will long continue. It's hard to remember a time before Julia Child. But it's not hard to see how she made a difference. Can you imagine a time when leeks were not commonly available in supermarkets? It wasn't so long ago. But on her TV programs she encouraged us to demand things like shallots and leeks from grocery stores and they complied. In recent years we saw Julia Child in the role of host, introducing us to great chefs from all over the country. But starting in the early 1960's Julia appeared on public television, demonstrating the art of French cooking in a way that had never been done before. An unlikely TV personality, she had a funny voice, was over six feet tall and while she cooked "by the book" she wasn't afraid to let us see her make a mistake or t...
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Food & Wine Bloggers Potluck

One of the things I love about blogs is that they can be such a personal form of expression. Reading them you really get a feel for the blogger, who they are, their sense of humor, what they care passionately about, etc. It isn't long before they feel like old friends. So it seemed perfectly logical to have an event where a bunch of Bay Area based food bloggers could actually meet in person. A series of emails were traded, and the call went out for a potluck to be hosted at the home of Heidi of 101 Cookbooks fame and coincidently the only other blogger I had actually met in person. Other bloggers who attended along with charming significant others included (in no particular order), Derrick of Obsession with Food , Alaina of NYC Eats (who just recently moved to SF) Anne of Cheese Diaries , Alder of Vinography and Pim of Chez Pim . Jen and Heather rounded out the party and we ate and drank and chatted the evening away. No surprise the food was fabulous and the wines flowed...
Monday, August 09, 2004

Vicolo Pizzeria CLOSED

Finding good pizza, never mind great pizza, is a bit like the search for the holy grail. Never ending. And the joy is in the searching, not just the finding. To that end I have to admit I have yet to try several places that come highly recommended. Top of my list is Pizetta 211 in the Richmond. I've also heard good things about Nizza La Bella in Albany. But in the meantime I do have one other Bay Area pizza place that I like a lot. Vicolo Pizzeria . Like Arizmendi there are some down sides to this choice. No delivery. A limited number of toppings. Vicolo pizza is also relatively expensive as far pizzas go. Slices cost around $4. But on the plus side, this pizza is uniquely delicious. Vicolo makes several varieties and you can eat them in the restaurant or buy them partially baked and take them home to finish baking. Some local stores carry their pizza and pizza crust "shells" in the freezer or refrigerated section. Their deep dish crust is made from stone-ground c...
Saturday, August 07, 2004

Arizmendi Bakery:Shop

I remember the first time I heard about The Cheese Board pizza. My parents told me that they had been to a place in Berkeley where they sold pizza at lunchtime and served it in old Reeboks. How disgusting! I thought. Old Reeboks? Dirty old athletic shoes? Really? Then it hit me, old "brie box" not Reeboks. The Cheese Board began in 1967 as a privately owned business. But over time it became a worker owned collective. In 1985 The Cheese Board Collective began making pizza. It was quite a success and to this day, people line up and purchase pizza at lunchtime (they also sell pizza in the later part of the day) An offshoot of The Cheese Board is Arizmendi Bakery in San Francisco. Also a worker-owned collective, they opened up in the Fall of 2000, and use the same recipes as their sister cooperative. So what is special about their "gourmet" pizza? Several things. First off it features a thin, sourdough crust. It is a very chewy pizza that crisps up on the bottom...
Thursday, August 05, 2004

All About Pizza

I know very little about the food chemistry involved in the making of pizza. But I do know this much. You can't get truly great pizza in the Bay Area. You can get good pizza, but that my friends is not the same thing. Locally many people will point you towards Zachary's Chicago style pizza or to A16 and their Neapolitan style pizza or even Tommaso's and their New York style pizza. Each of these are not bad. But they pale in the comparison to the real thing. I have eaten pizza in Chicago, New York and Napoli. I consider those three places the best for pizza. It is amazing actually when you eat pizza in Napoli because it is so unlike pizza in the rest of Italy. It is worlds better. And why is that? One of the great mysteries of the universe. Pizza is not just the perfect balance of crust, sauce and cheese, it is the integrity of each those elements. Like the holy trinity, without one element, God, or in our case The Crust, the rest is meaningless. So what makes a gre...
Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Helmand Restaurant Review

My first apartment in San Francisco was in North Beach, on Telegraph Hill. I thought I would be eating a lot of Italian food but what I discovered was that North Beach was a neighborhood in transition. New restaurants were opening up, not necessarily Italian ones. A restaurant that opened up right around the corner from me on Broadway was an Afghani place, The Helmand . The food was different from other cuisines yet not too exotic and because the prices were low it quickly became a favorite neighborhood spot. Not long after Gourmet magazine discovered it and gave it a terrific review. Fortunately The Helmand has remained inexpensive and has very good service despite its populaity. Perhaps most surprising is how elegant the restaurant is, with linen tablecloths, soft lighting, beautiful photography and an exposed brick wall it looks like a much more expensive place than it really is. Some of the best dishes at The Helmand are the vegetable ones. They are also different from anythin...
Sunday, August 01, 2004

Too Many Pomegranates?

You may have noticed that pomegranates have made their way into my blog quite a bit lately. Having discovered pomegranate concentrate or molasses I have done a little experiementing. I've also been writing a story on syrups including some recipes using pomegranate syrup for SF Station that hopefully will be published soon. Clearly someone is taking notice of my pomegranate promoting...this is an actual email I received last week. I swear I did not make this up! DEAR SIR ; WE ARE IMPORTER / EXPORTER OF ALL KINDS OF FRESH FRUITS IN KOREA. WE HAVE GOT YOUR ESTEEMED NAME AND ADDRESS FROM INTERNET OF THE WORLD MARKETING. WE WOULD LIKE TO OFFER TO YOU OUR QUALIFIED POMEGRANATE CONCENTRATE BROUGHT FROM IRAN THIS SEASON. PACKING : 268KGS PER DRUM QUANTITY : BY YOUR REQUIREMENTS COLOR : RED COLOR WITH LIGHT BLACK (CLEARED) CAN YOU BUY OUR GOODS OR INTRODUCE TO OTHER YOUR CUSTOMERS. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN OUR GOODS, WE WILL GIVE YOU THE BEST QUOTATIONS. WE ARE LOOKING FO...