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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Smoky Citrus Tea Shrimp Recipe

In a marriage each partner does certain things for the other. One of the things I do for Lee, my husband, is make him a pot of tea every morning. He simply cannot function without it. He rejects the idea of making it himself; when I make it he calls it "tea with the love". How I could I ever deny him that? While I like drinking tea I don't drink it everyday as Lee does. But I do enjoy making it and I have long been fascinated with both the ritual of tea and the idea of cooking with it. Ever since making Indian style chai from scratch in college, I have tinkered around with recipes, such as Tea Smoked Chicken . When I had some powdered chai tea that was too sweet for me taste, I made some Chai Cookies with it. So I was really excited when this month's "Is My Blog Burning" event was announced with the theme (and pun) tasteTea . I have several books about tea that include recipes, maybe three or four. One recipe really caught my eye, Smoky Tea Prawns us...
Thursday, July 28, 2005

Perfect Peanut Sauce Recipe

Peanut sauce is better than 31 flavors of ice cream. Ok, that sounds completely ridiculous, but how many things are as versatile as peanut sauce? What else can you think of that perfectly complements raw or cooked vegetables, chicken, beef or shrimp satays or kebabs and hot or cold noodles? Perhaps some kind of vinaigrette, but I'd rather have the peanut sauce! Peanut sauce is commonly found in the cuisine of various Asian countries. There is an Indonesian peanut sauce, which is served over a kind of vegetable salad, called gado gado, seen in the picture above. There is a Chinese peanut sauce served over noodles and a Thai curried version of peanut sauce served with slices of chicken or tofu over spinach. You can make it spicy or mild. You can use chopped peanuts or peanut butter. You can make it thin with water or thick and creamy with coconut milk. I even know some peanut butter-haters who love peanut sauce, that's how good it is. I meant to post this recipe for a cert...
Tuesday, July 26, 2005

All about Blueberries

When I was growing up, Summer vacation meant camping trips. My family would head north and up the Oregon coast to play in the dunes, go beachcombing, and enjoy spectacular scenery all along the way. One stop we used to make on our trips was blueberry picking at Jensen's farm. At Jensen's we'd pick blueberries by the bucket, probably eating almost as many as made it into the buckets. Each bush differed slightly in the size and flavor of its berries so tasting was absolutely necessary! Back then I just knew that blueberries were delicious. But now I know a little bit about their health benefits . Blueberries have the highest antioxidant value of any fruit, (the capacity to destroy free radicals). Scientists believe eating blueberries lowers cholesterol, protects your eyes, and your heart. For the elderly eating blueberries may help the brain by reducing the effects of Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and even brain damage after a stroke. There was even some research in M...
Sunday, July 24, 2005

Eating ONLY Local?

There has been a lot of hullaballoo about eating local as of late. It's a topic that has been written about in Gourmet magazine, in the San Francisco Chronicle, in blog after blog and countless other places I'm sure. There is even a group called the Locavores dedicated to this way of thinking. But I don't agree with it. Don't get me wrong. I believe in supporting local producers. I believe in sustainable agriculture, in family farms and in more organic choices. I even think as an experiment it is interesting to find out what really is produced locally. But, I don't believe in limiting one's self to eating local and will not be participating in this experiment. Why? Here are my top five reasons: 1. It's not sustainable, meaning it does not support local family farms in a sustainable way. According to Patrick Martin, past Director of Slow Foods USA "Small family farms are essential to guaranteeing the diversity and safety of our food supply."...
Friday, July 22, 2005

Mariposa: Restaurant Review

A few months ago I posted a bunch of reviews of restaurants in Hawaii where I had been on vacation. Many of those restaurants were recommended to me by another food blogger, Reid from Ono Kine Grindz . Recently Reid reviewed Mariposa , a restaurant I ate at back in May. Upon reading his review it occurred to me that Reid had recommended Mariposa and Lee and I had a lovely lunch there too. So without further ado here is my review: Nestled away in the Neiman-Marcus in the Ala Moana Shopping center is Mariposa, a very airy pretty restaurant set on a veranda. The service was outstanding and the attention to detail, even when the restaurant was packed, made us feel special. Every meal starts with their signature popovers and a fruit flavored butter, also a demitasse cup of chicken consomme. It sounds old-fashioned but it's really very nice! Check out Reid's post for a great photo of the popover. I had a special salad of local greens, tomatoes and crunchy coconut shrimp. Ea...
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

On The Road Again

Subscribers to the Cooking with Amy newsletter already know that I am going out of town for a few days. In fact I'm heading up to Oregon to see some Shakespeare plays in Ashland and up the coast to visit with my adorable niece and nephew. As usual, I will try to post from the road, but no promises! In the meantime you can read my interview with the wine director and sommelier of hip new restaurant Jack Falstaff over at Bay Area Bites today. And I've also refreshed and rearranged some the of the links on the left hand navigation. If you click on the rating sites, Blog Top Sites or Top 100 Bloggers you may discover some other sites of interest, you never know! cheers, Amy...
Monday, July 18, 2005

Cooking School Secrets: Book Review

A friend once told me the best way to sell a book is to put "secret" in the title. He's probably right, I have two cookbooks with secret in the titles and they are both terrific. One is Michael Bauer's Secrets of Success Cookbook : Signature Recipes and Insider Tips from San Francisco's Best Restaurants. This book is a gem, based on a long-running newspaper feature. You not only get great recipes from wonderful restaurants, but you also get tips from top chefs, bound to make you a better cook. While you may not find this book in your local bookstore, it is easy to find inexpensive copies on Amazon . The latest cookbook which promises secrets, really delivers. In the vein of telling stories out of school, it's Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks . And who better to share those secrets than author Linda Carucci, the winner of the IACP cooking teacher of the year award. Here is a sampling of "secrets" I gleaned from the book: * Why Diamond...
Saturday, July 16, 2005

Spaghetti Salad: Recipe

I think you can argue that it isn't really Summer until tomatoes are juice-down-your-chin ripe. When a tomato is at it's sweet peak, I'm not alone in believing it should be eaten raw. In countries where tomatoes are grown, there are lots of great recipes for using fresh, uncooked tomatoes--Italians make Insalata Caprese , Spaniards make Gazpacho, Americans make tomato sandwiches, etc. Around twenty years ago I remember a potluck dinner where someone who was a restauranteur brought a bowl of pasta tossed with a fresh uncooked tomato sauce. It was a revelation to me that something so basic could be so delicious. It wasn't until I lived in Italy that I learned such simple fresh ingredients are really what Italian cuisine is all about. In Italy a sauce of uncooked tomatoes is called "salsa cruda", but in English that sounds just horrid. So I'm taking the liberty of calling this "Spaghetti Salad" instead. It makes a great weeknight dinner or a t...
Thursday, July 14, 2005

Seeking Recipe Testers!

Have you ever wanted to be a recipe tester? You know, try out recipes and report back on how they turned out--what went wrong or what could be improved? I know I have. Well here's a great opportunity to do it. Next year Collectors Press is publishing a book called The Good Home Cookbook: More than 1000 Classic American Recipes and in the meantime they are soliciting home cooks, professionals, and food writers to take part in testing recipes in their own kitchens. That means you! Not sure if you're up to it? You can get a sneak peek at what's required by looking at the recipe test form, available online . What do you get in exchange for participating? Test one recipe and you will be listed as a contributor, test five or more recipes and you will get a free copy of the cookbook. Pretty cool, don't you think? You can learn more about the book and how the testing is going by checking out the blog here . If you'd like to be a tester, send an email to recipeteste...
Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fudge Is My Life Chocolate Sauce

One of the nice perks to blogging about food is the food. In addition to cooking at home and going out to restaurants and trying food at the Fancy Food Show , I sometimes get treated to samples of new products. If I try something and I don't like it you probably won't see me waste any space telling you about it. But if I do like it, I'll let you know. I'm not one to keep secrets. So meet my new friend, Dark Chocolate Sauce from Fudge Is My Life . I don't buy cream very often. It's a great staple ingredient but I try to cook fairly healthy and having it on hand just seems like a bad idea. When I do have it around, I end up making things like chocolate sauce. But sometimes I want homemade chocolate sauce! What's a girl to do? Well, I know what to do now, pick up some of this sauce in a hurry. It's just like what I make from scratch. It has cream, brown sugar, cocoa powder, sugar, butter, honey, natural flavors and salt. That's it. No artificial fl...
Sunday, July 10, 2005

Isa: Restaurant Review

Much as I complain about the Chronicle's Top 100 Restaurant list, I can't help but want to try every restaurant on the list, just to be sure. The Chronicle has been raving about Isa for years and chef Luke Sung was twice nominated as a rising star chef by the James Beard Foundation. So it's always been in the back of my mind to try it. A few weeks back dining out with Lee and my folks, we decided to give it a whirl. I should start out by saying that Isa is a small plate restaurant. Much like Chez Nous the menu is Mediterranean though perhaps slanted towards French. While a casual place with a large heated patio it feels festive and modern, a great place for a birthday dinner or intimate celebration. One of our first dishes was a Sauteed Local Calamari which was served with braised fennel, olive, parsley, bread crumbs. It was so succulent and tender. If you go to the store it's hard to find local fresh calamari, what you get is frozen and never as good as this was...
Friday, July 08, 2005

Life's a bowl of cherries

Life is just a bowl of cherries Don't take it serious, Life's too mysterious You work, You save, You worry so But you can't take your dough When you go, go, go Lew Brown I know it's a cliche but how can I help it? A bowl of cherries is so beautiful it's hard not to get romantic, poetic and downright lyrical about them. The cherries pictured above are Rainier cherries and are very crisp and sweet. Actually almost 25% sweeter than other cherries. They also cost 3-4 times the price of other cherries. They are expensive because they are fragile and have to be picked and stored with care as they bruise easily. But now is the season and you may find a deal on them like I did at the 4th Ave and Geary Farmers Market. I think I paid $2.50 a pound. Though cherries date back to 300 BC and a town in Turkey called Cerasus, the Rainier variety has only been around about 45 years. Like the mountain it's named after, it comes from the state of Washington and is a cross ...
Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fork In The Road: Book Review

Last night when I decided to make jambalaya with some leftover hot links, I headed straight for Paul Prudhomme's cookbook, Fork In The Road as I always do. Some years back when low-fat was all the rage I purchased the book because I was interested in cooking Louisiana cajun style, something I knew nothing about. Prudhomme was a precursor to the "celebrity chefs" of today, truly larger than life, his restaurants and cooking were renowned then as they are today. What I didn't expect from the book was that it would teach me not just new recipes such as jambalaya, red beans, and gumbo, but also new techniques. To add complexity to dishes, Prudhomme would add the same ingredient several times, sauteed, braised, even added at the last minute. This was such a revelation to me! Think of a bowl of chili with onions cooked in it, but also raw on top. Two different tastes, textures and flavors. Now imagine using onions, peppers and spices this way. He also was a big propone...
Monday, July 04, 2005

Fourth of July Salad

Six Degrees is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. You may remember a few years back there was both a movie based on it and a popular trivia game based on it called the " Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon ". At this point I imagine you thinking what does this have to do with salad or the Fourth of July? Well, here goes: Fourth of July Independence Day Democracy Greece Greek Salad Greek Inspired Salad So there you have it, my salad is connected to the Fourth of July by six degrees of separation! While I am making this salad for a potluck (see the last post) I think with the beans and cheese it would make a nice light dinner with some fresh pita or French bread. Perfect Summer fare. Note: Using a mandolin if you have one will make all the slicing a breeze Greek Inspired Salad makes enough for a big potluck! Ingredients 4 ...
Saturday, July 02, 2005

Potluck Possibilities

What are you doing to celebrate the Fourth of July? I'll be at my folk's place. For as long as I can remember my parents have held a Fourth of July party. It's their one big party every year and a great chance to catch up with most everyone they know. Here's how it works. My dad barbecues a whole array of international sausages--Italian, Polish, German, etc. My mom makes a fruity iced punch and later two flavors of homemade ice cream. Added to this, each attendee brings a potluck dish, either an appetizer, a salad or a dessert. Over the years I have noticed that the potluckers fall into three archetypes. The first is the Shopper. With no desire or ability to cook they resign themselves to shopping instead. Their contributions range from insipid to inspired. The second is the Repeater. This person made something wonderful once and got so many raves they figured, why mess with success? And so they trudge along bringing the same thing year after year after year. Frankly...