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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

All About Chutney

I first had chutney served with Indian food, probably with curry. It was thick and gloppy and vinegary but I loved it anyway. Since that time I have eaten chutney with roasted meats such as lamb and pork and I can't bear to eat a cheese sandwich without it. I've even experimented with adding it to stews and casserole dishes. I've also discovered that there are lots of different kinds of chutney. Some are fresh and raw, others are cooked but only slightly and the most common type I've tried is a fully cooked chutney, which usually includes vinegar, spices and some combination of fruit and or vegetables. They range from sweet to spicy and sometimes a pleasant combination of the two. The name chutney is an anglicized version of the Hindi word, chatni . It became very popular in Europe in the 17th and 18th century and the first mention of it in the Oxford English Dictionary comes in the early 1800's. It is popular in the British Isles, and can be found in many form...
Monday, March 28, 2005

Spring Vegetables

Typically the arrival of thistle shaped green vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes signal that Spring has sprung. But last week I was seduced into buying some exotic looking white asparagus and violet artichokes, each of which are much more common in Europe than they are here in the states. Fortunately interest in a greater variety of vegetables is growing and so they are getting easier and easier to find. My two sources? Berkley Bowl and Trader Joe's . Last week I got a chance to go to Berkley Bowl for the first time. Berkeley Bowl is an independent supermarket that puts the big chains to shame. The produce section is what they are most famous for and it truly is impressive. While not as elegant as the great food halls in London, the variety and volume is way beyond what I'm accustomed to. Prices are moderate, I bought a pound of white asparagus and a four pack of Belgian endive, for a little over two dollars each. Canned white asparagus have a tinny flavor and m...
Saturday, March 26, 2005

A chocolate a day...

Do you know what this is? Pretty obvious right. Bars of chocolate. But that's not all, it's also Lee's latest prescription. Lee's doctor told him to eat one square of a dark, bittersweet over 70% chocolate bar every day. This is the tastiest medicine, and the only downside is that there is no way our insurance is ever going to pay for it. There have been several studies linking chocolate with health benefits. Darker chocolate is the most beneficial. Studies show that phytochemicals called flavonoids in chocolate block arterial damage caused by free radicals and inhibit platelet aggregation which can lead to heart attack or stroke. The antioxidants also relax the blood vessels and inhibit an enzyme that causes inflammation. While high in fat, chocolate is cholesterol free and very high in magnesium which is considered good for both the cardiovascular system and high blood pressure. There are tons of articles on the internet about the healthful properties of chocola...
Thursday, March 24, 2005

Cranberry Zinger Muffins Recipe

Today is the 13th edition of Is My Blog Burning hosted by Maki of I Was Just Really Very Hungry . Check out her site for a complete listing of participants. Baking muffins is a great way to start the day. The smell and warmth fills the house and the muffins themselves lure any sleepyheads out of bed. Leftover muffins make for a good breakfast-on-the-run during the week. Somehow a muffin just seems more special than a slice of coffee cake. I'm always looking to develop that perfect recipe that uses things I happen to have on hand. So in general I avoid recipes with buttermilk and heavy cream. In the interest of health, I also prefer not to use too much butter or too many eggs, if I can. Experimenting with baking is tricky. I made this recipe several times before I got it right. But now it's a keeper! It's Spring and I am craving mouth-watering tangy flavors. I find most muffins are too sweet for breakfast. This muffin recipe combines lots of tangy flavors that I lov...
Wednesday, March 23, 2005

If you haven't checked it out recently, head over to KQED's food blog, Bay Area Bites . The site has relaunched with a new look and a new feature--Take 5. Take 5 features five interview questions with a person involved in the culinary life of the Bay Area. Today's Take 5 focuses on Belinda Leong, the pastry chef at Restaurant Gary Danko . Take a look and let me know what you think! And check back here tomorrow for Is My Blog Burning ......
Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Cookies, anyone?

Take one part improv, a lot of monologue, a pinch or two of dialogue and a healthy dose of comedy and mix it up with one hip solo performer and what do you get? One smart cookie! Heather Gold's one woman show, "I Look Like An Egg, But I Identify As A Cookie" follows a recipe of sorts, the wet, the dry, the mixing, forming and baking, each of which relate to a part of her history and identity. Proving that women are the ultimate multi-taskers, Heather actually bakes cookies on stage while sharing her adventures through many life changing experiences and nothing is off limits--growing up Jewish in Canada, enduring law school, her dot com escapades, even her sexual experiences. It's a tasty performance that ends with a cozy cookie party for the audience and performer alike. Cooking with Amy, live onstage? Well, yes! I am excited to be the special guest for the April 3rd performance at the Hotel Rex. I join the ranks of other illustrious guests, such as writer ...
Saturday, March 19, 2005

Is My Blog Burning? #13

Think of this vintage Betty Crocker recipe card as a reminder. Is My Blog Burning? is coming up this Thursday, March 24th. For those who dn't know about it, Is My Blog Burning? is a virtual online event where food bloggers from all over the globe post recipes on a given theme on one single day. For more information you can visit the "official" IMBB site This time the theme is My Little Cupcake (or muffin) and it is hosted by Maki of I Was Just Really Very Hungry . I made cupcakes back when the theme of Is My Blog Burning was cake, so I've been experimenting with muffin recipes and am almost satisfied with my recipe, almost. If you want to participate there is still time, visit the IMBB link for details, dust off your muffin pans and preheat your ovens!...

Author Event Today

One of my absolute favorite food blogs is Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks . Heidi is a talented writer, designer, photographer, cook and cookbook author in addition to being a very sweet person. Her blog is an exploration of recipes from her vast cookbook collection. She is one of the first bloggers to publish a cookbook, Cook 1.0 . If you are in San Francisco today, though it's rotten weather, Heidi will be at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market from 10:30-11:30 doing a cooking demonstration and signing books....
Friday, March 18, 2005

Zante's Pizza : Restaurant Review

Dungeness crabs, sourdough bread, a wide choice of cuisines--especially Asian. We are so blessed in the Bay Area with great food. But something else particular to San Francisco may be Indian Pizza. Yup, you heard right, Indian pizza and I'm pleased to report the one place making it, Zante's in Bernal Heights, delivers citywide. Ever since I tried this pizza a few weeks ago I have been positively obsessed with it. There are several things that make this pizza addictive--but the most important is probably the sauce and the unique toppings. Now I know what you're thinking, pizza is all about the crust, but in this case it's not. They use Sag paneer, a cheesy pureed spinach that works perfectly as a base. On top of it they add eggplant, cauliflower, ginger, green onions, cilantro, garlic, cheese and if you like, tandoori chicken or lamb. The crust is a chewy and crisp thick pizza dough, good but not the greatest. The whole thing is baked in a tandoori oven. Luscious sp...
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Creamy Beet Soup Recipe

Beets are like paint bombs. Deliciously sweet, red, flavored paint bombs, so intensely colored they stain your fingers, bleed into the sink, tint the cutting board, you name it. When cooked, they aren't so much red as deep magenta. When mixed with sour cream they turn paler shades of magenta to pink. The color, like the flavor is either something you love or you hate. Beets get a bad rap from the low carb police, but they are actually quite healthy, filled with antioxidants, low in calories, they have significant amounts of fiber, folate, manganese and potassium. I know some people find beets too "earthy" tasting, but both Lee and I love 'em. Especially in beet soup. There are an unbelievable number of recipes for beet soup. It's commonly served all over Eastern Europe. There are versions that are cold, hot, vegetarian, with meat, chunky, smooth, with tons of vegetables, with no other vegetables. Lately I've been experimenting with "less is more&q...
Monday, March 14, 2005

San Francisco Food Lover's Guide: Review

You might have noticed all my caveats about the Zagat Survey the other day. I have none to report for the fourth edition of Patricia Unterman's San Francisco Food Lover's Guide . As the last edition did, this one shall sit right next to the Zagat on my desk. In some ways it is almost the opposite of the Zagat, it is not a guide of popular opinion but rather one very enthusiastic eaters' opinion. The guide is a staggering 562 pages and includes markets, bars, butchers, cafes, and a handful of recipes. A true guide to food in the Bay Area it also has many indexes that include where to eat after 10 pm, with kids, a seasonal produce guide, etc. In addition to San Francisco there are smaller sections on Berkley, Marin and the Wine Country. But the real reason to buy the book is the restaurant reviews. For years friends and family have called me for restaurant suggestions, owning this book is like having Unterman at your beck and call. Far from comprehensive, this is just ...
Saturday, March 12, 2005

Eggplant Lasagna Recipe

When I lived in Italy I especially looked forward to holiday meals. For every holiday and every family in Italy there is a special dish to savor. One of my favorite recipes was one I learned to make while spending Christmas with some friends in Verona. It was a delicious eggplant lasagna, very different from any other lasagna I had ever had. I ate so much of it on that Christmas eve, I just couldn't get enough of it. To this day, this is the best lasagna I've ever eaten or ever made. Eggplant lasagna, for one thing, eggplant! Who puts eggplant in lasagna? And then the sauce, it was a mixture of a tomato sauce and a bechamel sauce. As for cheese, well a sprinkling of parmesan was about it--no ricotta, no mozzarella. The noodles were thin, probably homemade, not the thick curly kind. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, except that it's not really a vegetable. Eggplant is actually a fruit, and a berry at that. I love it's meatiness. It's tremendously ver...
Thursday, March 10, 2005

Madeleines:For the Love of Butter

I like butter. A lot. My parents tell me that as a small child I ate pats of butter right off the table when we went out to restaurants. It's a wonder I'm not morbidly obese. But can you blame me? After all, what tastes better than butter? One of the tastiest buttery treats is a madeleine. They were made famous by Marcel Proust in his novel Remembrance of Things Past . Translations are never quite the same as the original, but I'm sure you get the drift from this quote: "I raised to my lips a spoonful of tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched on my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses." As much as I love them, madeleines can be a little infuriating, the more you try to figure them out, the more they confuse. Are madeleines cookies? cakes? And which side is th...
Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hot!

It's official, food blogs are hot stuff. The latest article to feature Cooking with Amy and a recipe to boot, is in my hometown paper, the San Francisco Chronicle . A big thanks to Chronicle food writer Amanda Berne for such a great article profiling so many of the local food bloggers and blogs I have come to know and love. There are so many articles on food blogs and bloggers it's getting tough to keep track! But Graham over at Noodle Pie has detailed the six major publications that have covered food blogging in the last week or so. Check it out by visiting Noodle Pie . Meanwhile if you'd like to read more about my continuing obsession with Jacques Pepin, head over to KQED's blog Bay Area Bites . I'll be back with something new here tomorrow....
Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Aziza:Restaurant Review

I am so enamored of Morocco. It's the rich super-saturated colors and the flavors that appeal to me, I can't imagine it ever being bland or boring. I know I romanticize the place but I've never been, so indulge me. The closest I've been to Morocco is Aziza , a local restaurant that features contemporary and California interpretations of Moroccan food. I've eaten at Aziza three or four times since it opened a couple of years ago and it's the perfect place for celebrations, small or large. The restaurant has a warm beautiful interior that breaks several spaces into cozy mini dining rooms. The colors are rich terra cotta, blues and golds that give the place an elegant and festive feeling from the moment you step inside. Your evening begins when rose water is offered to refresh your hands. The scent will transport you if the visual environment hasn't already. The staff at Aziza is very professional and accommodating which is necessary because this is not t...
Monday, March 07, 2005

In The News...Again

Wow! Cooking with Amy made it into two articles that published today! The Tennessean ran a really wonderful article in which the writer spends a week trying out blogger's recipes to great success including my recipe for Leek & Potato Soup . Congratulations to the other terrific bloggers featured in the article. The other article is in the online version of Time Asia. It's an article about the online event "Is My Blog Burning?" For clarification, I use the event as an excuse to develop new recipes myself, not necessarily to try other people's recipes, though that is a very good idea....
Sunday, March 06, 2005

Zagat Survey

The best thing about the Zagat Survey is how tremendously convenient it is. While an online subscription may give you access to all the guides, having the actual book also has its merits. It's a great thing to throw in the glove compartment or keep on your desk so you can quickly browse for a place to eat. It may not be the ultimate guide to finding undiscovered great little restaurants, and while I don't always agree with the ratings, or even trust the pricing information, I have to concede it is a very good measure of popular opinion. If you would like a free copy of the Zagat Survey 2006 San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants, all you have to do is participate in their online survey by April 17th 2005 (but do it now before you forget). When the guide is published, the folks at Zagat will send you a copy. If you say something witty they might even publish your comments....
Friday, March 04, 2005

Kitchen to Kitsch

Culinary art is synonymous with cuisine, and according to the dictionary it just means preparing food. But for many, food is art and inspires art. There isn't any type of artist that I can think of that hasn't been inspired by food. Sculptors, painters, photographers, film makers, poets, you name it. There is high art on the theme of food, such as still life paintings from the Netherlands in the 16th century, and then there is low art, such as the kitschy Doggie Diner heads. Here in San Francisco the Doggie Diner was a popular chain of restaurants in the 1950's through until the last one closed in 1986. The huge emblem of the sad faced dachshund with a chefs hat was familiar to all who visited the City. Its demise was quite controversial with battles over whether the 7-foot fiberglass busts were to be preserved as art or not. The preservationists won out and the icon was just recently restored and resurrected to great fanfare on Sloat Boulevard. Now there is an art ...
Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Bills Open Kitchen:Cookbook

I've never really understood the appeal of Australia. In many ways it just seems too similar to California and the Bay Area in particular--the climate, a famous bridge, the beaches, vineyards, a relationship to the Pacific, it's rough-and-tumble "pioneer" heritage, it's melting pot culture of immigrants. But reading my friend Lulu's posts about a recent trip to Sydney gave me a hint of what really makes Australia so special--a relaxed lifestyle in tune with nature. (Scroll down to mid February to read her posts here ) Bills Open Kitchen is a newly released cookbook from an Australian chef who owns several successful restaurants and cafes in Sydney. Like Australia itself, my guess is you will either love this book or fail to understand its appeal. The book is the chefs personal take on recipes of British, Italian, Indian, Asian and Mediterranean origins. One of the features of this cookbook that I really like is a sneak peak at the chefs cookbook shelf. This...