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Thursday, June 30, 2005

The food meme strikes again...

For those of you who don't know, a meme is an idea that can replicate and evolve. On the internet and in the blogging world they occur all the time. This one originated at Delicious Days but it was passed along to me by Gastronomie . What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own? In nursery school we made butter by putting heavy cream in empty baby food jars that were then attached to the handlebars of our tricycles. Ride around like crazy and voila! Butter. I dare say it was the highlight of nursery school... Who had the most influence on your cooking? My mom. She was a great cook when she did all the family cooking. She impressed everyone by baking bread from scratch back before the introduction of the bread machine. Do you have an old photo as 'evidence' of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it? No early cooking. I was too busy ironing... Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes yo...
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

How to not spend all your money shopping in Napa

Let others shop for jewels or perfume on their birthdays, I like grocery shopping. Especially when I'm not looking for anything in particular. For me, going to an unfamiliar grocery store is like visiting another country, you just don't know what exotic things you'll discover. So on my recent trip up to Napa I stopped in to several stores including the Oakville Grocery , Sunshine Foods and Dean & Deluca . At Oakville Grocery they were very kind to even let me in the door because it was just five minutes until closing time. A quick peek around, some oohing and ahhing over mustards, jams and little snacky crackers and a chat with the cashier about the opening of their new store at the Cannery (September so I was told) and I was out the door without even spending a dime. Further up the valley we bumped into some friends from Benicia who told us not to miss Sunshine Foods so we headed right there. We found a very upscale grocery store with a luscious cheese selection ...
Sunday, June 26, 2005

Happy Birthday to me!

Guess what I'm doing to celebrate? I'm heading up to Napa to eat delicious meals , be bathed in mud and massaged, laze by a hot springs pool and read some juicy food magazines . I'll have lots of yummy things to share next week, no doubt. I'll be back posting on Tuesday. cheers, Amy p.s. I can hardly believe it, but Cooking with Amy turned two last Friday......
Saturday, June 25, 2005

Onion Smothered Eggs Recipe

I am what's known as a good eater. There isn't much I won't eat and hardly anything I won't try at least once. When I was young there was only one food I can recall that I didn't like--hard boiled egg salad. Then while living in Florence I tried tripe, I'll spare you the details, and just say, I didn't like tripe either. So it's kind of ironic that I love Oeufs a la Tripe, my submission for the monthly online event "Is My Blog Burning?" hosted this month by the thoroughly charming Seattle Bon Vivant . Though recipes vary, it consists of hard boiled eggs served with a bechamel sauce, with or without onions, in a gratin or over toast. But there is never any tripe in it. It gets that name because the eggs are just cooked as one "might cook tripe" and perhaps it looks a bit like tripe. One of the oldest dishes in the Cordon Bleu repertoire, there are versions of this recipe supposedly going back to the 17th century. This is a defini...
Thursday, June 23, 2005

Potato Zucchini Pancakes Recipe

Zucchini is a lovely green color. It is low in calories. It is relatively inexpensive and easy, perhaps too easy, to grow. Large ones are good for stuffing. Their flowers are beautiful and delicate and also good for stuffing. That is the sum of nice things I can say about zucchini. Apologies to Clotilde at Chocolate & Zucchini , but I don't much care for zucchini. Zucchini has hardly any nutritional value in part because it is over 95% water. The texture is dull and flavor is bland. Summer squash in general is watery but this can be an asset when cooking something that needs extra moisture, like a cake. Shredding zucchini also gives you pretty flecks of color. You can use it in both sweet and savory recipes to add color and moisture. My favorite ways to eat zucchini are in a sweet zucchini bread or added to potato pancakes. It softens up the texture and makes them colorful. Which is about all you can ask from zucchini. My recipe for Potato Zucchini Pancakes is unusual in t...
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Great Book of Chocolate: Book

Chocolate the exhibition developed by The Field Museum in Chicago has arrived in San Francisco. To the California Academy of Sciences to be exact. This is a great show for kids, with bites of science, history, archeology, sociology and lore. But to be honest I found it a little light on the basics. For example I was amazed to find they didn't cover the three types of cocoa beans. How could they have neglected to even mention criollo, forastero and trinitario beans? Worst of all, unless you visit on a Friday or a Saturday, you don't get any chocolate. Consider yourself warned and plan your trip to the museum accordingly. While I enjoyed learning a bit more about the history of chocolate, especially about the European chocolate salons of the 1600's (it's time for a revival don't you think?) I truly enjoyed my time in the gift shop most of all. Not because I picked up some chocolates there, but because there I discovered David Lebovitz's The Great Book of Choc...
Sunday, June 19, 2005

North Beach Festival

Looking for something to do today? Based on my experience yesterday, I would recommend the annual North Beach Festival . Unlike many other street fairs in San Francisco this one really has the feel of the neighborhood. The chalk painting contest on Kearny between Union and Columbus is terrific, there is live music, arts and crafts and of course, food. Without spending a dime, you can sample organic juices from Nantucket Nectars, fresh Mozzarella and Tomato salad from Precious Cheese and either nonfat or cream top yogurts from Brown Cow. Did I mention macadamia nuts? This year Mauna Loa is passing out little packets of roasted and salted macadamia nuts. It may not be a meal but add it all up and it certainly is a lot of good snacking. If you want something a bit more substantial, a warning, the food at street fairs seems to have gotten more and more expensive. You get a nibble of something for $6 a drink for $3 and may find you're still hungry. This year only one booth even featu...
Friday, June 17, 2005

All about Kumquats

Meet the latest object of my affection. Cute aren't they? But wait until you bite into them! They bite right back. If you like the tang of lemons and limes and sometimes find the sweetness of oranges a little cloying you're going to love kumquats. Anyway even if citrus isn't your thing, just saying "kumquat" is fun. These little gems are often mistakenly called citrus fruit. But kumquats belong to the genus Fortunella named after plant collector Robert Fortune and are native to China. They are unusual in that the skin is sweet and the flesh is sour. Like citrus fruit they are a good source of vitamin C, they also contain vitamin A and potassium. Because they are so small you can eat them whole, though you may encounter a couple of seeds. Many recipes call for scooping out the flesh and using only the skin. The skins are most often candied, but there's a lot more you can do with the whole fruit. Kumquats are good cooked or raw. Just be sure to seed them if...
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

There are many versions of eggplant parmesan. I probably like them all. The earthy sweetness of the eggplant and tomato sauce, the gooey mozzarella, and the sharpness of the parmesan all come together to make something delectable. Eggplant parmesan was the most satisfying vegetarian dinner I ate when I was growing up. In some recipes the eggplant is breaded and fried. While this adds a whole extra layer of texture, I don't think it's necessary. The version I grew up with was one my mom made and perhaps it's just the familiarity of it, but I really do think it's the best. Because it isn't fried it's not greasy which is often what happens with eggplant. A hearty filling entree I wouldn't dream of serving it without spaghetti on the side. There are two techniques necessary for this recipe. One is roasting eggplant slices. Once you master roasting eggplant in the oven you may want to use the slices in other recipes as well. They are great in sandwiches serv...
Monday, June 13, 2005

Shanghai Dumpling King Restaurant Review

The Chinese are masterful when it comes to dumplings. You can enjoy an amazing variety of dumplings in just one sitting when you eat at a dim sum restaurant. But there are other types of Chinese restaurants that specialize in dumplings and serve them all day long. Shanghai Dumpling King is one such place. If someone tells you that they can't get the famous "soup dumplings" or xiaoling bao in San Francisco, send them to the Shanghai Dumpling King way out on Balboa Street. They may even discover some dumplings they've never tried before. There are tons of dumplings on the menu but so far I have tried only three types so I will tell you about those. In addition, my dad felt the non-dumpling offerings were even better than the dumplings, so a word or two about those as well. There are twenty items listed under "Bun/Dumpling" on the menu, though how sweet or savory soy milk, and green onion pancake or Shanghai style crispy salt pancake end up in that classif...
Saturday, June 11, 2005

Click to feed 15 hungry children

One of the things you can't help but notice in reading Tucker Shaw's new book Everything I Ate , is the sheer volume of food consumed in a year. We live in a land of plenty. Or do we? It all depends. Hunger and homelessness continued to rise in major American cities over the last year, according to the latest U.S. Conference of Mayors-Sodexho Hunger and Homelessness Survey . In particular, families with children requesting food assistance and emergency shelter increased substantially over the previous year. Even with an improving economy, overall requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 14 percent over last year with 96% of the cities registering an increase. Now there's a story you don't see in the paper everyday. How would you like to feed 15 hungry children with the click of your mouse? In honor of National Hunger Awareness Day , Dannon has launched a special new "button" on their web site. Every time this button is clicked,...
Thursday, June 09, 2005

Contest Winners & New Book of Middle Eastern Food

Congratulations to Elissa, Joan and Alison. The answer was indeed LOVE. "One's eating shows one's love" I found this quote in Claudia Roden's wonderful cookbook, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food . This is a gorgeous book and if you are looking for a very comprehensive type of Middle Eastern cookbook I strongly suggest you buy it. Of course I am not the first to recommend it, it was originally published in 1972 and hailed by James Beard as "a landmark in the field of cookery". One of the lovely features of Roden's book is that she includes quotes, fairy tales, ancient cookbook recipes, anecdotes and stories from Nasr-ed-din Khoja. For those not familiar with Khoja, these delightful fables give you a romantic version of the Middle East sadly missing these days. A scholar and a trickster Khoja's tales are funny and endearing. There are many sites that also share these tales you can find some here and here . Here is a typical one: A be...
Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Language of Baklava : Review & Contest

Why is it about autobiographies with recipes? Some authors don't just share their experiences but they share the flavors of their life. It's like the proof that what they are telling us really happened. Diana Abu Jaber's memoir The Language of Baklava would be a treat to read even if there were no recipes. She shares in great detail the pleasures of life, including meals. But it's her humor that will make your fall for her writing and her family. "Marry, don't marry," Auntie Aya says as we unfold layers of dough to make an apple strudel. "Just don't have your babies unless it's absolutely necessary ." "How do I know if it's necessary?" She stops and stares ahead, her hands gloved in flour, "Ask yourself, Do I want a baby or do I want to make a cake? The answer will come to you almost like bells ringing." She flickers her fingers in the air by her ear. "For me, almost always, the answer w...
Sunday, June 05, 2005

Roasted Baby Artichokes Recipe

Eating an artichoke is like opening a present--getting to the heart is almost as much fun as "unwrapping" it. Like any good gift an artichoke takes some effort to get right. If it's a large artichoke it needs a fair amount of trimming, especially the spiky tips and outer leaves. Once cooked, you have to go through that unique teeth-and-leaf-scraping exercise to get at them. If you want to get to the real present, the prized heart, your chore continues as you have to trim away the fuzzy choke first. While large artichokes can be stuffed, steamed, boiled, fried or stewed, growing up I only ate them steamed and served with garlic mayonnaise or melted butter and lemon juice. But when I got to Italy it was another story altogether. Isn't it always? In Tuscany where I lived there were several kinds of artichokes available in the outdoor markets. But the little ones were really a treat. Now more commonly available in the US, they are not actually "babies" as y...
Friday, June 03, 2005

Meet Tucker Shaw

Tucker Shaw is author of Everything I Ate A year in the life of my mouth . The book is a visual study of "everything he ate" that includes notes cataloging what he ate and with whom, all in blog-like, chronological order. (see the book review in the last post ) You mention in the beginning of your book that it started as a dare--how did you come up with the idea in the first place? Like a lot of bloggers I've taken pictures of what I've eaten forever, since I was a kid, and since we've got digital photography I thought why not do a comprehensive study? And I experience frustration with food media. I don't think the mundane habits of everyday eating 24 hours, seven days a week are being reported. Magazines focus on new ingredients or famous chefs. I wanted to make sure we were documenting this because I think it's revealing. Food lives in the world, not in a magazine, or a kitchen or a restaurant, and it's with us wherever we are. When read thi...
Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Everything I Ate: Book Review

When I first started looking at food blogs I found that they fell into three categories, the good, the bad and the ugly. Lots of ugly. So many people seemed to be just "documenting dinner". They took bad pictures of mundane meals and then painstakingly described them. Blech! What was the point of that? But then I changed my mind. I read Tucker Shaw's book, Everything I Ate A year in the life of my mouth . On a dare, Shaw documented everything that he ate, in admittedly not great photographs and minimalist notes that revealed only what he ate and with whom. When I first heard about the book, I wondered what it would be like, a novelty? a joke? a journal? I was surprised to find much more meaning than I expected. The book reminded me of that quote from the famous French gourmet Brillat-Savarin, "tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are". Like a cross between a parlour game and a cultural anthropology textbook, reading Everything I Ate A year ...