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Monday, July 31, 2006

Rhubarb Blueberry Pie: Recipe

I have confession to make. Just the thought of making pastry scares me. With savory food you can usually fix whatever you're making along the way. You can taste for seasonings and for "doneness". But when you bake something you just don't have that option. It's all some science experiment with bamboo skewers and formulas. With enough practice, I imagine you get to the point where you know how juicy your fruit will become in the oven, how long to whip the egg whites, when your dough is properly chilled, how much sugar is just enough, when to add lemon and when to add vanilla. But me, I fret. I try to find a good recipe and pray it works. When it does I treasure it. I've never believed I was capable of making a pie. But I was lured into it this Summer by a number of food blogs with their tantalizing pie posts . So I gave it a go. I made a variation on the classic Cuisinart crust, the filling was a mixture of blueberries and rhubarb with just a sprinkling of...
Saturday, July 29, 2006

This week a bunch of sweet posts. Sweet Napa reports from Pierre Herme in delicious detail. It's her favorite pastry shop in Paris, mai oui! There's been a flurry of activity over at Albion Cooks lately. But the post on baking with lavender really caught my eye. From Nami-Nami a lovely post about cloudberries . Makes me want to go hunting for them. Finally Sam over at Becks & Posh is participating in the Blogathon today which means 24 hours of blogging, if you are reading today do head over to her blog and check it out and make a pledge on behalf of Food Runners. FOOD...
Thursday, July 27, 2006

Gourmet Indian Food

Indian food is hot. Not just spicy hot but trendy hot. Or on the verge anyway. I've always been a fan of Indian food, but ever since I ate at the Bread Bar at Tabla I've seen new potential for the gourmet side of this cuisine. What I experienced there was traditional Indian spices combined with fresh local seasonal produce and modified cooking styles that kept some of the brighter notes. Some non-Indian ingredients like rhubarb and rosemary were seamlessly integrated into traditional dishes like chutney and bread. So often Indian food I've eaten in restaurants is cooked ahead of time, the typical "lunch buffet" and not made to order so the food at Tabla was a revelation for me. Early this year I also tried some wonderful packaged Indian food at the Fancy Food Show, it was fresh tasting, organic and truly delicious. I don't usually expect packaged food to taste that good. I'm also a fan of Zante's Indian Pizza while it's not necessarily "g...
Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Amy Meets Jacques Pepin!

READ MORE Over at Bay Area Bites is the first part of my interview with Jacques Pepin . Read about the "celebrity chef" phenomenon, cookbooks, food trends and more... FOOD...
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Still hungry?

READ MORE Over at Cool Hunting is my post about Farmer's Popcorn . Have you ever seen popcorn that pops right off the cob?! FOOD...

Big Flavors Revealed

The first seasoning is cassia chunks, I bought some at Penzey's during my trip to Oregon. I liked the idea of using it in mulled wine or in chai. In the U.S. the spice labeled "cinnamon" is usually cassia. As for the second seasoning, I have a confession to make. I thought I was buying that refreshing little blend of seasonings you get in Indian restaurants. The one that is kind of a breath freshener? But instead I got panchpuran, an Bengali seasoning mix of mustard seeds, cumin, fennel, fenugreek and nigella seeds. It has a mild, sweet oniony flavor and is used in chutney, vegetable and fish dishes. I plan to experiment with it soon. Any recipe suggestions would be greatly appreciated! The third is my latest find at Trader Joe's, Hawaiian black sea salt. It is sea salt infused with charcoal and has a mineral flavor that really works well with fresh sliced tomatoes. I used it last night on top of my Pizza Margherita, with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella. It also looks ...
Sunday, July 23, 2006

This week we have a theme! Learn to cook something new. But before we get to that, as of this morning still no winners on the Big Flavor contest . All the right answers are in there, but no one has hit the winning combination yet.... If you are afraid to prepare whole fish, perhaps the secret is to start small. Like anchovies. Check out Delicious Days and you'll see what I mean. I think one of the easiest meals is steamed mussels. Head over to Cookbook 411 for a lovely vacation to Prince Edward Island, some scrumptious potatoes and no-muscles needed mussel instructions. For dessert, learn all the inside and outside secrets to making great pie from a genuine pastry chef at Eggbeater . I'm just about convinced to give it a try. Finally once you've learned to cook something new, document it. For aspiring food photographers, don't miss the food photography tips over at 101 Cookbooks , one of the best looking blogs around. FOOD...
Friday, July 21, 2006

Big Flavor Contest

1. 2. 3. These magnified photos are of tasty kitchen ingredients. But what are they? Take a good look at each of the photos and then decide. Leave your answers in the comments section along with your email. The first person to guess all the items will win Passport to Morocco, a collection of 4 spice blends from The Occasional Gourmet . One runner up will win a 2.5 ounce package of Caffe Sanora Organic Arabica Coffee (dark roast, ground) Only one entry per person, so choose carefully! Remember, you MUST include your email to win. Good luck! FOOD...
Thursday, July 20, 2006

Still hungry?

READ MORE Over at Cool Hunting is my take post on Origen 99.9 a unique restaurant in Barcelona and one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, the Furi Knife Sharpener FOOD...
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lime & Salt Tortilla Chips: Recipe

Corn tortillas come in such huge bags, I don't know how can you possibly use them all. Buying one of those packages, though they are cheap, is a major commitment in my house. It means weeks of enchiladas, tacos, chilaquiles and when I run out of ideas, tortilla chips or totopos as they are known in Mexico. I love the word totopos, even though it sounds a bit too much like the Italian name of a certain well-known cartoon mouse . Traditionally totopos are tortillas cut into triangular wedges that are deep fried in oil. If there is one thing I just can't bring myself to do, it's deep fry anything in oil. I just can't. Don't ask me. So here is what I do instead, I bake the tortillas. Baking doesn't make them as light, crispy and decadent as frying, but they are still yummy and as a bonus you can enjoy them with very little guilt. If you look for tortilla chips in the store, you'll find they come in all kinds of flavors. With a little experimenting I found ...
Monday, July 17, 2006

Lettus Organic: Restaurant now called THE PLANT

Sometimes you're in the mood for something light, healthy and fresh tasting. You might want to eat out, but where do you go? Thai or Vietnamese food or even sushi might fit the bill. But if you want a sandwich or salad, it's not as easy as it might seem to find something really satisfying. On one tiny block in the Marina, Steiner St, there are a whole host of restaurants to choose from including one of my favorites, Isa . A fairly new addition this year is Lettus Organic . It's not vegetarian but there are tons of vegetarian and vegan options. Much of the food is made behind the counter and you can see the care and concern that goes into each plate. Portions are not huge but are very satisfying. You'll find no imbalance between health and taste and no preachy or earth mama vibe. Salads are a perfect example of something simple that can be excellent when made with care or terrible if just one element is off--too much dressing, slightly wilted greens, etc. Here every...
Saturday, July 15, 2006

I hope you didn't miss the restaurant review ratings system over at Becks & Posh and a compelling case for why you should read restaurant reviews on a blog to boot. This week I got a chance to meet pastry girl, whose blog, Dessert First, I will be reading more often. Her post on falling in love with lychees is on the menu this week. Last but not least yet another gorgeous set of photographs from Cookbook 411 . An inspiring post all about apricots really makes me want some! FOOD...
Thursday, July 13, 2006

Cinc Sentits: Restaurant

On vacation, you should always splurge on at least one meal if not more than one. Otherwise, really what kind of vacation is it? In Spain lunch is the big meal so splash out then, not at dinner. Now your concept of splurge may be different from mine. You may decide to eat in a cafe instead of having a picnic. Or like me, you might try the chef's tasting menu at Cinc Sentits, (Catalan for five senses) which cost 50 euro or about $63. Regardless of your concept of splurge, I would definitely recommend Cinc Sentits . First off, Cinc Sentits is in an elegant neighborhood, and the restaurant is elegant as well. The tables are small and intimate and the minimalist interior feels decidedly soothing. Service is handled by the chef's mother and sister and it is friendly and shows a high level of care and pride. The meal started off with a shot of warm maple syrup, a nod to where the Catalan chef was raised, Canada. In the bottom of the shot was sea salt, perhaps representing the o...
Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gourmet Barcelona

Not only is Barcelona an amazing food city, it knows it. Starting at the Plaza Catalunya, on Friday or Saturday at 11:00 am you can take a Gourmet Walking Tour put on by the Barcelona Tourism office. The cost is just under $15 and it is well worth it. Over the course of two hours a local guide leads you down a bit of the Ramblas, from the Boqueria into the Barri Gotic and finally to La Ribera making numerous stops along the way. The tour is a terrific way to orient yourself and make sure you hit some of the best examples of Barcelona's gastronomic riches. The first stop is Granja Viader , the site where Cacoalat, a kind of bottled chocolate milk was invented. This is a great place to find all kinds of local dairy products, cheeses, crema catalan, yogurt, but also cakes and sweets that are local specialties. On to the market! I will post more about the Boqueria but suffice it to say it one of the most impressive covered outdooor markets in Europe. There is a great variety of ...
Sunday, July 09, 2006

This week the food blogging world was filled with posts about Summer fruit, ice cream and sweet peas. But the theme of my posts of the week is posts from bloggers who have been missing in action lately. Welcome back! Which is worse, skipping a meal or missing a plane? To help you make up your mind on this issue, skip over to In Praise of Sardines to read this weeks most hilarious post. You may have heard about Incanto's head-to-tail feasts, but check out SF Gourmet's description of a Strawberry Dinner . More themed dinners are on the menu at Incanto, a restaurant on my neverending list of places to try. Near disaster in the kitchen doesn't keep Grub Report from posting, in fact it seems to have inspired a post, with a delicious photo to boot. I'm now convinced, roasted or steamed, fresh corn is the ultimate Summer food! FOOD...
Friday, July 07, 2006

Cucumber Avocado Soup: Recipe

Last Summer I spent my birthday up in the Napa valley. I stayed at a spa, went wine tasting and ate out, of course. It was sunny and relaxing and just a little bit indulgent. I had a terrific time and especially terrific meals, the highlight of which was a cool creamy soup at chef Douglas Keane's restaurant Market , in St. Helena. Frankly the soup ingredients sounded like a spa treatment--yogurt, cucumber, avocado, was it a soup or a facial? Inspired to create my own version I gathered a whole bunch of fresh green ingredients and started experimenting. If your cold soup repertoire consists of gazpacho, try this one on for size. It's a great solution for dinner on a hot night, especially since it can be made in minutes and without heating up the kitchen. So how is my soup different from Keane's ? Rather than using red wine vinegar, I used lime juice. I used only yogurt, no buttermilk. I also peeled the cucumbers which means the soup does not need to be strained. I garni...
Thursday, July 06, 2006

Did you get it?

Just a quick note to say the monthly email newsletter went out this morning. If you didn't get it, feel free to sign up for it and I'll send you a copy. It is a double opt-in system, so after you sign up you'll be asked to confirm your subscription. The newsletter provides links to posts from the prior month along with a preview of what's coming up as well as some links to sites I think you'll like. This month I share my wishes for Summer and what to expect later this month. Thanks again for visiting and staying in touch....
Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Certified Humane

Portait of the author as a chicken farmer When I was growing up I didn't think much about where my food came from. Perhaps because I ate fruit and vegetables from my mother's organic garden and eggs from our chickens, and salmon that my father caught, the concept of a factory farm was unknown to me. But despite infrequent raids on my mother's garden, I don't eat food so directly provided by my parents anymore. It's easy to be dismayed at the poor quality of our food and terrible way animals are treated. Can't animals be treated well? Ideally we would want to allow them ample pasture to roam, proper diet and minimal stress levels. As good as they had it at my parent's place. Demand for organic and increased standards and regulations means organic choices are no longer limited to farmer's markets and "health food stores" but are more easily found in supermarkets. But can you imagine a future beyond organic? A more humane future? One with s...
Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July Fourth Goodies

Here's the after picture of the flaky cheese and herb filled pastries I made. The recipe is in From Tapas to Meze , by Joanne Weir. Known as borek, boregi, briouats, briks, and even tiropitas, all depending upon the country you find them in. The pastry and the cheese filling varies a bit, but the concept is basically the same. The result? Crispy, cheesy and delicious. FOOD...

July Fourth Eats

These little cheese and herb phyllo pastries have yet to be baked, photos of the finished product later. July 4th is American Independence Day. But I prefer to think of it as a holiday that celebrates self-determination and freedom. This July 4th liberate yourself from the expected and make something that is infused with your style--be it spicy, sweet, fruity or even a bit nutty. My effort is decidely cheesy. If you need a little inspiration, here are some links to salads that are perfect for barbecues, picnics and all manner of July 4th parties. Asian Style Slaw Greek Style Salad Herb Potato Salad Spinach Fig Salad Two Bean Salad Happy Fourth of July! FOOD...
Sunday, July 02, 2006

Everyone's a critic. Especially a food critic. So maybe that's why professional food critics have such a hard time pleasing the public. When it comes to Michael Bauer, our own local food critic, I have this to say, one of my all-time favorite cookbooks was one he wrote, The Secrets of Success Cookbook (the recipe for Bizou/Coco500's fried green beans is in it, do I need to say more?). I am also beginning to really enjoy Bauer's blog. This week his blog post Say Goodbye to Short Ribs hit the nail on the head. In terms of his predictions that pork belly and pork shoulder will turn up on menus near you, I agree and add marrowbones as another hot restaurant trend. Ever go to the beach to find pottery shards? Me neither but Meathenge has a great post about it, well worth checking out. I came across no fewer than three food blog posts and recipes for blueberry muffins this week. I agree with Elise that muffins can be tricky. My last batch of orange chocolate muffi...