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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Great Summer Cookbooks

Winter is the easiest time of year to feel motivated to cook. When it's cold outside nothing is better than hunkering down in a cozy kitchen to braise and bake and simmer the day away. Summer time is perhaps the toughest season for cooking. Who wants to be in the kitchen when the weather is beckoning you to stay in the sun? When I think of Summer I think of tomato salads, guacamole, ceviche and big antipasto platters served al fresco. And of course anything and everything on the grill. There are tons of grilling cookbooks and each season a new batch comes out (in fact you can find a recent round up of grilling book reviews on MattBites). But this year there are two Summer cookbooks that go way beyond just grilling, giving you many more options when things heat up. They are very different books, though either would be perfect to take with you on Summer vacation to a beach house or mountain cabin, or make a great hostess gift. The Big Summer Cookbook is a soft cover book with ...
Monday, May 24, 2010

Top 20 Cooking Myths

There are lots of myths in regards to cooking. Sadly, they tend to discourage people from practicing a very basic life skill. Here are the myths about cooking that I have heard repeatedly from friends, acquaintances and even cooking pundits. Are any of them keeping YOU out of the kitchen? 1. You can't cook anything good in a short amount of time You don't need to cook something complicated or cutting edge (unless of course you want to!), plenty of great recipes take very little time at all. Here are just a few examples: Asparagus Frittata from Simply Recipes Black Bean Clams from Single Guy Chef High-roast Chicken and Potatoes from Hedonia Grilled Tri Tip Steak with Chimol Salsa from Kalyn's Kitchen Orechiette with Sausage and Kale from The Kitchn Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Aglio e Olio from Skillet Chronicles Choose from steak, chicken, pasta, seafood, some dishes are even vegetarian--all are delicious! 2. Cooking takes too long I don't know what...
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Anthony Boutard on What Makes Fruit Great?

One of the best presentations I got to attend at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Portland last month was a conversation between chef and cookbook author Deborah Madison and farmer Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm . Ayers Creek Farm is an organic farm located in Gaston, Oregon in the Wapato Valley 10 miles west of Beaverton and 40 miles from the ocean. The theme was fruit and I learned so much! Here are a just a few highlights from the discussion: Deborah Madison asked, "What makes fruit great?" • Boutard said, in some ways it's hard to say because everyone's palate is different; for example some people love tart marionberries, some people hate them. • According to Boutard, the best fruit has acidity upfront. Acid and tannins in fruit are complex and cannot be simply duplicated by adding lemon juice. Sweetness on the other hand is not very complex. • Shipped fruit seems like it loses acidity (another reason to buy loc...
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Numi Puerh Tea

I have become a puerh pusher. Anyone who takes so much as a whiff from my cup, ends up buying their own. I discovered puerh tea a few years ago at a wonderful tea shop, Modern Tea , run by tea expert Alice Cravens, (now sadly closed). It was served in the traditional manner in a tiny tea pot with tea broken from a cake of puerh. Not long after I purchases some loose puerh tea from Tillerman Tea in Napa. But it's the perfect-for-sampling Numi Tea tea bags that have made me go pro. Puerh is a fermented and aged green tea that has many of the characteristics of black tea and more antioxidants than either black or green tea. It is dark and malty with rich flavor that can handle a splash of milk. Up until recently it was almost impossible to find high quality puerh tea bags. Normally I buy all my tea loose leaf, bulk, never in bags, but Numi Tea is making some fabulous puerh tea blends, available in bags. They use whole leaf tea, not dust. The convenience of tea bags has worked we...
Monday, May 17, 2010

Mango Cucumber Salad Recipes

Ok here's a crazy idea, one basic salad that can be either sweet or savory. I was trying to think of what to do with some mangoes coming my way from the National Mango Board this week and then I saw a tweet from @SimpleGourmetLA with the idea for a "mojito cucumber, mango and strawberry salad." It occurred to me that both cucumber and mango could go either way--sweet or savory. I'm always looking for ways to use common ingredients in slightly unexpected ways. Here the twist is using cucumber in a sweet fruit salad and using sweet mango in a savory salad. English cucumber is available year round and does not need to be peeled. It has a very mild flavor and a fine texture without big slippery seeds. Best of all, it has a terrific crunch! I used the most commonly available mango, the Tommy Atkins variety in both salads. It's not a very tropical, luscious or creamy mango, but more of a workhorse, with citrus-like flavor, able and willing to stand up to whatever y...
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Interview with Claudia Roden - part 2

Photo credit: Red Saunders In part 1 of my interview with Claudia Roden she shared her experiences from years of writing about the food of the Middle East and her thoughts about cooking in the US and Britain. In part two, she tells us about her upcoming Spanish cookbook, recipe testing, and her opinions on culinary innovation. For years I've read that you're working on a Spanish cookbook, how is that coming along? For 5 years I worked on it and I've just given it in. I spent years eating, meeting people, having fun, also doing a lot of research and the history of Spain through it's food, the literature and so on. I researched the life of the aristocracy, the peasants, the church, every recipe has meaning. I only include a recipe if it tastes good, usually if it lasts 100 years it is good. The added pleasure is to know how it fits in to the culture. It becomes a way of life and it's been very enriching. In a year it will be out, we are now doing the food ph...
Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interview with Claudia Roden - part 1

Photo credit: Red Saunders Historian Simon Schama once stated, “Claudia Roden is no more a simple cookbook writer than Marcel Proust was a biscuit baker. She is, rather, memorialist, historian, ethnographer, anthropologist, essayist, poet.” It is for all these reasons, that I am such an admirer of Claudia Roden. By her own admission she has sometimes led a very charmed life, traveling, eating and learning about food and culture. Presenting food in a cultural context is what sets her cookbooks apart and has won her such respect and acclaim. Roden resides in London, but was recently in the US for the James Beard Awards , where her landmark book, The Book of Middle Eastern Food was inducted into the Cookbook Hall of Fame. Today read part 1 of my interview with her, and tomorrow come back for part 2 . Which cookbook of yours is your favorite and why? The first one, The Book of Middle Eastern Food , is very important to me because it was a labor of love, well, all of them are labors of l...
Monday, May 10, 2010

Roasted Asparagus with Green Garlic & Panko Recipe

This past Saturday at the Ferry Plaza farmer's market I found lots of harbingers of Spring, all green--asparagus, green garlic, artichokes and even obscure ones like wild radish rapini. I bought a bit of each. The rapini I will blanch then probably toss with dressing or pasta and the artichokes I will surely roast. But I picked up the asparagus and the green garlic without any specific plans. Green garlic is milder than regular garlic and tastes and looks a bit like large bulbous scallions. There are lots of recipes that use green garlic as an accent in soup , sauces, risotto and pizza . You can chop and saute them the same way you would any other green onion. Because green garlic is in season at the same time as asparagus it is often paired with it and frankly every asparagus and green garlic recipe sounds great to me. Both are springy and green but one more earthy and grassy, the other sweet and oniony. A typical way to use green garlic is to make a pesto. You can cook it ...
Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wine Pairing Guides

Because I routinely develop recipes to go with specific wines for my client, MyWinesDirect , I'm always on the lookout for books that delve into the subject of wine pairing. I have about ten books or so on the subject. I've already written about my absolute bible, What to Drink with What You Eat , but there are a couple of other books I turn to frequently and wholeheartedly recommend, specifically Perfect Pairings: A Master Sommelier's Practical Advice for Partnering Wine with Food by Evan Goldstein and Everyday Dining with Wine by Andrea Immer Robinson. They both do an excellent job of explaining why certain pairings work and share typically main course recipes that go with a variety of commonly available wines and varietals. Robinson mentions specific labels, but also manages to be descriptive enough about styles, so that you can understand how to swap out wines she suggests for others you might prefer. They are both educational books, but not geeky. Three new books...
Sunday, May 02, 2010

Noodle Fest 2010

You can keep Disneyland, for me the happiest place on earth is Noodle Fest . I am an absolute noodle fanatic, so from the moment I heard about the event, fostering unity between North Beach and Chinatown, I was sold. If you ordered your tickets online ahead of time, a $15 passport got you three mini bowls of noodles in both North Beach and in Chinatown (a total of six bowls).  There were about 30 choices of noodles total, on two blocks of Grant Avenue, on either side of Broadway to the North and the South. My favorites in North Beach were the luscious seafood ravioli in a light creamy sauce from Sotto Mare and the Penne Pasta with Wild Boar and Wild Mushrooms from Cafe Divine . On the Chinatown side I went a little crazy for the Combination Fried Pure Rice Noodles (banh bot loc xao thap cam) from the Vietnamese Chinese San Sun Restaurant but I also liked the Beijing Tan Tan Mein from The Pot Sticker Restaurant and the Cold Noodles with Spicy Szechuan Sauce from Z&Y Restaurant...