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Monday, May 30, 2005

Tropical Muffins Recipe

Have you discovered cocoa nibs? If you've been on the Shafffen Berger chocolate factory tour then you probably tried them and maybe even purchased some. But if you're like me, you probably haven't had many good ideas of what to do with them. Cocoa nibs are the tiny bits of roasted cocoa beans that are used to make chocolate. They are ground into a paste with sugar to make chocolate bars and confections. But when in the nib form they are unsweetened, crunchy, nutty and chocolate-y without being too bitter. The are great in recipes that call for nuts. So far I have only used them in some biscotti I made a while back. Coming home from Hawaii I thought about making some recipes using the kinds of tropical flavors that I enjoyed in baked goods over there, especially bananas and coconut. But then it occurred to me to use vanilla and coco nibs which are grown in the tropics too. These muffins are deliciously tropical and at the same time fairly healthy. Pureeing the banana...
Saturday, May 28, 2005

Capay Organic Farm Tour Spring 2005

When was the last time you visited a farm? For me it's been ages. But a couple of weeks ago I got to visit the very farm that supplies me with my organic produce delivery once a month, Capay Organic , located in the rural Capay Valley. Capay is a relatively small, family owned and operated organic farm. You can find their produce at farmers markets , at their retail shop in the San Francisco Ferry Building, and they also deliver around the Bay Area through a service called "Farm Fresh to You" . But the newest development is their online store , where you can purchase seasonal produce as well as some dried fruits and nuts. Since one the reasons I subscribe to the service is because I want to support sustainable organic family farms, it was a treat to see the actual farm itself. Many thanks to the Barsotti brothers and their team for showing us around! Won't you join me on the tour? Meet up in the garden! Nice looking garden You knew there would be food...
Thursday, May 26, 2005

Something from the Oven:Book Review

Recently I was at a library book sale and as usual I scanned for hidden treasure among the cookbooks. Browsing cookbooks is nothing short of a history lesson. Here's what I found, as men came back from fighting overseas and Americans travelled abroad for pleasure, their hunger for exotic recipes increased and so did the number of international cookbooks. Cooking on a budget was a popular theme in times of recession like the 1970's. Curiously the cookbooks from the 50's and 60's were dominated by the use of processed foods. Browsing the volumes, I began to wonder, just how did processed food come to such popularity anyway? Not long after my shopping trip I began reading Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America . Not a cookbook at all, but a rich and fascinating history of cooking in America in the post WWII period up until the early 60's. Suddenly it all made sense! The popularity of processed foods, of kitchen appliances like the blender, the ...
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bay Area Bloggers Meet the Press

Over the weekend I got a message from local television station KRON4 : "KRON4 television is hosting a meet-up of Bay Area bloggers at noon on Saturday, June 11, 2005. Snacks will be served and we'll have a little memento for attendees. There's no agenda other than helping facilitate this meet-up. We recognize the significance of the personal media revolution, and we want to listen to what you're saying. We think this is a good way to start. All Bay Area bloggers are invited to attend, so help us spread the word. We've come up with 278 e-mail addresses so far, but many bloggers don't make theirs publicly available. Feel free to add e-mail addresses to the invitation list. We want this to be an informal and intimate get-together, so come prepared to meet and make new friends. Use the RSVP function of Evite to let us know if you can make it. We want to make sure we have enough snacks for everybody." If you are a Bay Area blogger, and would like to partic...
Sunday, May 22, 2005

Guilt-free Panna Cotta Recipe

Lately I've been reading so many blog posts about panna cotta that I guess it seeped into my consciousness. When I learned that the next Is My Blog Burning was "Has my blog jelled?" , like a lemming to a cliff, I felt compelled to make it. To see the comprehensive list of jelled postings, visit Elise's blog . Panna Cotta means cooked cream in Italian. It's a chilled custard primarily made from cream, that is thickened with gelatin rather than eggs. As a result, panna cotta is super creamy, light textured and smooth and of course frighteningly high in calories. Surfing around the web, I found a version made mainly from buttermilk and tweaked it a bit, adding vanilla and minimizing the sugar to increase the tang and decrease the guilt. By my calculations, using lowfat buttermilk and just a smidgen of cream, each serving is about 135 calories, and no more than 6 grams of fat. So without further ado I give you: Guilt-free Panna Cotta serves 6 Ingredients 1...
Friday, May 20, 2005

Five Favorite Books

Ashleigh at Stitched in Holland has tagged me for the latest meme--5 favorite books. Thanks Ashleigh! 1. Total number of books I've owned. You MUST be kidding. 2. Last book I bought. Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud by Jonathan Safran Foer. I devoured it on vacation then passed it along to my mom. If you haven't discovered this new and very young writer you are in for a treat. 3. The last book I read. Something from the Oven : Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Linda Shapiro. This is a fantastic book I have been meaning to review. It was a great read. The book focuses on how the food industry tried to shape how and what we cooked, after the Second World War. There are detailed stories about people you know like MFK Fisher and Julia Child and James Beard and then there are stories about people you probably never have heard of like Poppy Cannon and Marjorie Child Husted (one of the masterminds behind Betty Crocker and an early feminist). 4. 5 books that mean...
Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Gremolata Meatballs Recipe

Coming back from Hawaii I was so glad to have made some meatballs and put them in the freezer. It was the perfect quick meal when the fridge was empty. Just boil up the pasta and go! They were even better the second time around. I have never made the same batch of meatballs twice. I mean, I change the recipe slightly every time. But right before I left on vacation I made a recipe I plan on keeping--Gremolata meatballs. Gremolata as I have mentioned before, is made from parsley, garlic and lemon peel, and is traditionally used as a garnish. But I think it makes a terrific addition to recipes and am on a bit of a quest to see how many things I can successfully add it to. The reason I think gremolata works so well in this recipe is not the parsley or the garlic, though both are delicious. I think it's all about the lemon. Bright lemon peel really perks up meatballs which can often be heavy tasting. Using only the peel with no pith assures no bitter edge. Lemon just elevates the m...
Monday, May 16, 2005

The Grill at Diamond Head Market: Restaurant Review

The Grill at Diamond Head sounds like an upscale kind of place, doesn't it? Then you may be surprised to learn it used to be "Burgerland" a drive-in on the edge of the Kapiolani park just a stone's throw from Waikiki beach. But don't let that bit of history dissuade you from going. The food is excellent and there are a couple of tables where you can eat outside rather than in your car. The prices at The Grill are higher than at most places we ate at, but the portions were huge. So even though we had the most expensive item on the menu, a Surf & Turf plate ($12.75), it was more than enough food for two people. The Surf & Turf included wasabi ahi, garlic shrimp, teriyaki chicken, teriyaki beef and char siu, plus rice of course. At The Grill you can get brown rice instead of white rice and green salad instead of macaroni salad if you like. Many of the plate lunches and sandwiches are in the $6-7 price range. The only thing I didn't care for was the ...
Saturday, May 14, 2005

You Hungry?: Restaurant Review CLOSED

One of the secrets to finding good food in Hawaii is to look in unconventional places. Stay away from the touristy areas and you may just find where the locals eat. While you might never consider eating in an industrial neighborhood, at a drive-in or in a place located in a strip mall at home, in Hawaii you may find your best meals there. On Oahu we ate some of our best meals in a department store, at drive-ins, in bars, and hole-in-the-walls dives. You Hungry? is a perfect example of a very inexpensive place to get very authentic food. It's a little tiny plate lunch place hidden away in a strip mall across from the convention center. You could pass it a hundred times and never think twice about it. There are pictures on the walls of much of the food so it makes a good first stop if you are unfamiliar with Hawaiian food. The menu has very traditional Hawaiian food on it like kahlua pork and poi but also had seafood, stews, and breakfast served all day. This is another one of tho...
Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ethel's Grill: Restaurant Review

Before my trip to Oahu this month I exchanged email with Reid of Ono Kine Grindz . Despite being super-busy with work, Reid graciously put together a list of restaurants for me to try during my week vacation. I am very grateful for his fantastic recommendations! Next time you plan a trip, do yourself a favor and visit some blogs based in the location you are planning to visit--you will end up with some great tips, I guarantee it. One of the places Reid recommended was Ethel's Grill. You can find Reid's post about Ethel's and see his series of photos here . Ethel's Grill is located in an industrial area on Kalihi Street just off the Nimitz. Parking is difficult as is finding the place--a true hole-in-the-wall. The walls are papered with newspaper clippings, many of them about Hawaii-born former sumo champion Konishiki. While I didn't notice any sumo wrestlers, some of the menu items came in "sumo size". The clientele seemed to be mostly blue-collar wor...
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I Love Plate Lunch!

When you think of Hawaii, what comes to mind? The beach? Surfing? Hula? All of that is good, but the food, now you're talking! I truly believe the food of Hawaii is the most underrated regional cuisine in the United States. The combination of excellent tropical fruits, fresh seafood and even ingredients like taro are highlighted in pan-Asian recipes that show the many foreign influences in the islands--Philippine, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc. There are many types of food found in Hawaii, none is more typical than the plate lunch. If you are familiar with the Japanese bento box, then a plate lunch will make all the sense in the world. Traditionally the "plate lunch" consists of some kind of meat, and scoops of white rice and macaroni salad all served up segregated in a styrofoam box. On this past trip to Oahu we frequently saw much healthier versions of the plate lunch. The scoops of white rice and macaroni salad were sometimes being replaced with green salad and b...
Sunday, May 08, 2005

Insalata's: Restaurant Review

When I was growing up there were only a handful of good restaurants in Marin. But as the Bay Area has gotten more and more interested in fine food, options have increased. There are more stores, more farmers markets and more terrific restaurants in Marin than ever. Insalata's in San Anselmo opened in 1997, long after my time in Marin. It's a pretty place, airy and open but not too noisy. Warm and inviting it feels special due in part to the fresh flowers and large-scale contemporary art. The food is something special too. The menu is unique to the Bay Area, a combination of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influenced California cuisine. Everything here always tastes fresh and often features exotic spices and herbs. You can choose from a whole host of appetizers, salads, pastas, and main dishes that change frequently with the seasons. Right now asparagus, halibut and kumquat signal Spring has arrived. Prices for main dishes hover between $17 and $24. At brunch to celebra...
Friday, May 06, 2005

Farmers Market Opens Today

Can we ever have too many farmers markets? I don't think so. One of the most exciting trends in the past few years has been the explosion in growth of farmers markets. According to the USDA , the number of farmers markets increased almost 20% between 2002 and 2004, from 3,137 to 3,706. More opportunities to support family farmers and buy fresh, and often organic produce make farmer's markets very appealing. Last year a couple of new farmers markets popped up in San Francisco and will be returning this Spring bigger and better than ever. One farmers market that I am looking forward to checking out is at The Cannery . The Cannery at Del Monte Square was originally opened in 1907 as a fruit and vegetable canning plant. Later it was purchased by Del Monte. In 1963 this gem of a building was restored and turned into a shopping mecca for tourists. Now there are a couple of attractions that may lure the locals, the farmers market which takes place Fridays and Saturdays from 9 unt...
Wednesday, May 04, 2005

From the Garden

The closest I get to fresh produce is the farmers market or my organic produce delivery box. But I have some great sources who, in addition to bringing me treats from the garden, keep me up to date on what's going on in the world of produce. This report comes to you thanks to one of those sources who scoured the seed catalogs to give a glimpse of what we may be seeing in the way of produce this year. Carrots New hybrids that are in shades of pastels (lemon, cream, light tangerine, etc.) Both the skin and cores display the diversity. There's even a new carrot called "Purple Dragon" by Thomson & Morgan , that is a deep purple and claims high antioxidant and vitamin content. Peppers While emphasis has been on the hot peppers over the last several years, I'm seeing an increase in sweet pepper development and heirloom revival. Many have the appearance of something that might sear your tongue and cross your eyes, but it's all show. Some are derivatives of...
Monday, May 02, 2005

Mini Mandoline, My Love

I love puttering around in junk shops. The funkier and cheaper the merchandise the better. In Japantown there is a great store called Ichiban Kan filled with tons of cheap stuff. Ichiban means number one or best, I can't say what kan means (there were too many definitions when I looked it up online). The English name on the sign out front is "different things". How true! They carry everything from Japanese toothpaste to Pocky snacks to sparkly ribbons to plastic storage containers. It's really just a Japanese version of a "dollar store". And I simply can't go in there without finding some treasures I have to buy. Take for example this mini mandoline slicer. Is it not the most adorable thing you could ever hope to find for your kitchen? I mean who doesn't need this to sliver radishes, garlic and even scallions. It's so cute! I use my standard full size mandoline all the time, but this one comes in handy when making a salad. Obviously this...