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Friday, December 30, 2011

2012 Food & Dining Trends

In no particular order, here are my predictions with a tiny sprinkling of wishful thinking... Yes, please! More transparency and labeling in the food system Have you been to a supermarket lately? All the seafood is now labeled so you know where it comes from and whether or not it is farmed and if color is added. That is amazing considering that not long ago seafood had barely any labeling at all, but it's just the beginning. I believe consumers will demand labels on produce and meat too. Food contamination and security issues are only a few of the issues driving this trend. Foraging, hunting and wild food Wild and foraged ingredients are showing up on more and more menus and there are classes and books to help you learn about this return to a more primal way of eating. The poster boy for this trend is Hank Shaw. The poster Girl? Georgia Pellegrini! Local culture on the plate Rene Redzepi the chef at NOMA , (the world's number one restaurant according to one surve...
Thursday, December 22, 2011

Meaty Cookbooks Part 2 -- Cooking Techniques

Yesterday I shared some new cookbooks that focus on a particular meat such as pork, brisket or goat , in today's installment I'm recommending four more books that are much more general. One of the most anticipated cookbooks of the year was the Molly Stevens book All About Roasting The book is amazingly comprehensive covering mostly meat--beef, lamb, pork, chicken and poultry but also fish and shellfish, vegetables and fruits. Learn how to choose the best cuts of meat, the basic roasting methods and temperatures, how to carve and more. I love that her recipes also include convection as well as conventional oven temperatures! Recipes you'll want to try include: Quick deviled rib bones, oven roasted porchetta, one-hour rosemary rib roast, roasted buffalo wings, crispy butterflied roast chicken Another roast focused cookbook is sure a surefire winner for Francophiles. Rotis, roasts for every day of the week . This charming book follows a certain format, Monday is roast be...

Brussels Sprouts and Miso Dressing Recipe

Add to my list of New Year's resolutions, use more condiments and ingredients lurking in the fridge. My refrigerator is packed with Chinese sauces, jams and jellies, and various sauces and mustards. Sometimes I barely have room for anything else! So I am trying to use the things I probably used once and then forgot about. First up, miso. I love the salty savory rich flavor of miso, which is a fermented soy bean paste that is like pure umami. You've probably had miso in soup at a Japanese restaurant. I especially like white or shiro miso which also has some sweet buttery notes. I've used it in soup and salad dressings and found that it complements many vegetables. In David Chang's cookbook Momofuku Cooking at Home is a recipe for miso butter sauce which is more like paste, that he was inspired to make after eating miso butter ramen in Japan. He adds a touch of sherry vinegar. In my recipe I make an olive oil based dressing with a touch of buttery white miso. The fin...
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Meaty Cookbooks Part 1 -- Specialty Meats

I eat a lot less meat than I used to. But I am buying it mostly from butchers I know and trust, usually from Bryan's in Laurel Village. So when I do cook meat, generally a couple times a week, I want it to be something special. My guess is that I am not alone and perhaps that accounts for the huge boom in meat cookbooks? For 2012, I hope you buy and cook better quality meat. These cookbooks will certainly help. The Brisket Book is subtitled a love story with recipes. It literally had me laughing out loud with it's cartoons, jokes, stories and more. If you are Jewish, Irish, or even a Texan, brisket is your soul food. The book pays homage with recipes, wine pairings, poems, and everything you need to know to make a version that will make you fall in love. This book and a brisket from Snake River Farms would be the best gift EVER. Recipes to try include: Brisket burger, braised fresh brisket in stout and onions, brisket with ginger, orange peel and tomatoes, basic barbecu...
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Granola Berry Parfait Recipe

I can eat the same thing for breakfast day after day. Then suddenly I'm on to something else. At the moment, my breakfast of choice is a granola parfait. I bought parfait glasses for ice cream, but use them for breakfast and fruit salad more frequently. I also got those skinny spoons you need to fit down into the bottom of the glass! This is hardly a recipe, more of a technique. But anything that can help "cereal" sound more exciting is worth doing. The trick to making a good parfait is to layer the ingredients nicely. Start with the yogurt on the bottom because anything else is too hard to get at with your spoon. I've been using Driscoll's organic berries , Greek yogurt and The Bunnery granola. I recently got some samples of the granola and I really like it. I make my own granola but you have to eat it when it's fresh so I don't always have it on hand. The Bunnery original granola has relatively few ingredients just oats, honey, sunflower seeds, coco...
Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Italian Cookbooks 2011

I'm not sure any other cuisine can top Italian, when it comes to comfort food. While Italian cookbooks are a dime a dozen, three really stood out for me this year and are nice enough variations to warrant adding to your collection if you're an Italian food fiend like me or give them as gifts. Cucina Povera was sure to strike a chord with me, because I lived in Florence for 6 months. It is written by ex-pat Pamela Sheldon Johns and it shares a way of life, of not wasting anything and eating frugally. In the book you'll meet all kinds of people from Italy who cook and garden and make things from scratch. The recipes are for some things you may already know about like Ribollita and Pappa al Pomodoro (and if you don't, then by all means you need this book) but also more obscure recipes that you are unlikely to encounter in a restaurant. Recipes you'll want to try include Tuscan Cornmeal, Kale and Bean Soup, Stewed Peppery Beef Cheeks, Farmyard Crostini (finally a ...
Friday, December 09, 2011

Holiday Gift Fairs 2011

Having gone to one good and one particularly lousy fair last weekend, I'd like to steer you in the right direction. Here are three holiday gift fairs I highly recommend you check out! Sorry for the late notice, La Cocina's Annual Gift Fair is TONIGHT, December 9th from 5-9 pm at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts . This is one of my favorite non-profit organizations in the City. They help women and minorities get into legitimate food businesses. You'll find awesomely delicious goodies from folks like Happy Girl Kitchen - Preserves, Back to the Roots – Mushrooms, Estrellita’s Snacks - Yucca, Plantain Chips, and Tamales, Love and Hummus Co - Organic Hummus, Sweets Collection - Mexican Gellatins, Neo Cocoa - Truffles, Wise Sons – Jewish Delicatessen, McEvoy – Olive Oil, Mattarello Pasta – Artisanal Handmade Pasta and more… Go and get goodies for yourself or to give away. There will also be a silent auction, a tamale alley and more.... The Renegade Craft Fa...
Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Blackberry Mini Tarts Recipe

Last week Driscoll's held a wonderful event for bloggers that I got to have a hand in planning. Bloggers brought dishes made with fresh blackberries, got insider cooking tips from cookbook author and cooking teacher Rick Rodgers and an inspiring food photography tutorial and demo from food photographer Caren Alpert. I learned about pastry tampers, (the secret to quickly forming small tart shells in mini muffin pans) improvising with FedEx boxes and tin foil to get more light in food photos, ate a fabulous of dinner made from Rick's recipes, and tasted some divine desserts from some of my fellow bloggers. I particularly loved Irvin's tangy lemon and blackberry pie. I hope he posts the recipe soon! Rick made a cream cheese crust pastry with a savory filling and a blackberry topping . It was surprisingly similar to my dessert recipe. I got the original recipe from the Land 'O Lakes website. I adapted it for Thanksgiving using cranberries and no nuts or glaze, the...
Monday, December 05, 2011

The Three Must Buy Cookbooks of 2011

I always write a series of "best of" cookbook posts around this time of year. I've recommended a lot of cookbooks in 2011*, but there are three, you simply must add to your collection. They are written by three amazing women who I admire tremendously and feel honored to have gotten to interview or at least meet. They are not just wonderful cooks and writers but cultural anthropologists who dig deep into how people cook, preserving traditions and making food from other places accessible. These books would make great gifts, but really, I recommend buying them for your own collections, that's how good they are. There are lots of books about Spanish food. I know, because I have plenty of them, but The Food of Spain is truly the mother of all Spanish cookbooks with over 600 pages. It has stories, history--it's a true treasury that took years of work to complete. I know this because Claudia Roden told me about the work that went into the book when I interviewed her...
Monday, November 28, 2011

New & Notable Chocolate

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly chocolate." -- Debbie Moose Each holiday season there are new chocolates and I am first in line to try as many as I can. This year there were so many I packed them all up and took them to Thanksgiving dinner to let my friends and family try them too. Here are the highlights: I adore Kika's Treats . Kika is one of the most successful graduates of the La Cocina incubator program in San Francisco. Her caramelized graham crackers dipped in chocolate are unique and a wonderful melange of buttery toffee and rich chocolate. But her latest confection is equally compelling. Luscious caramels dipped in dark chocolate with a pinch of sea salt and a surprising twist. They are lightened up with the addition of puffed brown rice that gives them the perfect crunch. A 9-piece assortment is just $16 (and the box is absolutely adorable) Another local favorite confectioner, Michael Recchiuti is also known for his terrific caramel truffles wh...
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is hand's down, my favorite holiday of the year. I think I even like it better than my birthday, which is really saying something. So here's why: 1. There is nothing you have to do on Thanksgiving, other than share a meal. There are no religious ceremonies or gift giving. You can say a prayer before eating or watch a parade or play football if you want, but you can also take a nap! It's all good. 2. It's inclusive. Anyone who is in America (or outside of America for that matter) can celebrate this holiday if they want to. It's not about race or religion or nationality, in fact, it's about welcoming and helping those who are newcomers and celebrating the harvest. 3. It's about comfort food. I hear a lot of people complaining about traditional Thanksgiving food, they say turkey is boring, pumpkin pie is heavy and stodgy. To them I say, it's comfort food, not fine dining. Get over it. Besides, this holiday is about sharing a meal with f...
Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bargain Shopping at Grocery Outlet

I love a good deal, so you'll frequently find me perusing the wares at garage sales, thrift shops and outlet stores (not to mention sale racks!). Bargain hunting might as well be called "treasure hunting," as far as I'm concerned. Nothing beats the thrill of finding a long out-of-print copy of Better Than Store Bought cookbook, a discarded Moulinex meat grinder, or Santander chocolate priced to move (all things I've scored). Actually, the thrill is in just the possibility of finding something, which is exactly why I like shopping at Grocery Outlet . Grocery Outlet buys closeouts and discontinued items so you never know what they will have. Unlike similar stores, they focus on quality brands and they have just about everything you'd find at a regular supermarket, including some organic produce. Sometimes you can figure it out why the product ended up there, because the size or the packaging gives it away. It might be something that was packaged for food s...
Monday, November 07, 2011

A Visit to Straus Creamery & Cowgirl Creamery

In the San Francisco Bay Area we are very lucky to have such incredible dairy products produced in our own backyard. Though many enjoy the milk from Straus Family Creamery and cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery very few have seen exactly where those products come from. Last week I got a chance to visit both, thanks to Cathy Strange , the Global Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods Market . While visiting California she took a small group of writers to visit both the dairy and the cheesemaking facility, at Tomales Bay and Petaluma. I learned what makes Albert Straus, Peggy Smith and Sue Conely such pioneers. Albert Straus is a second generation dairyman. He took over his parents farm which was established in 1941. He transformed what was a struggling conventional dairy and converted it to the first organic organic dairy West of the Mississippi River in 1994. Despite all the challenges of running a dairy farm today it is thriving. In moving forward, he embraced many of the practices from the...
Thursday, November 03, 2011

Favorite Foods of Hawaii

During the plantation era workers in Hawaii sat together at lunch and ate a bite of whatever their co-workers brought. It might have been adobo, fried rice or teriyaki. Call it potluck, Hawaii style. Trying new flavors has long been part of Hawaii's heritage and something you should do too when you visit. Trying local specialties and discovering new (and old under-the-radar) places in Hawaii is one of my favorite vacation activities. Everyone has their "must try" things to eat in Hawaii. Here are just a few of mine and where to find them on Oahu. Each one of these dishes tells you a little something about the culinary history of Hawaii. Poke (pronouned po-kay) Where to find: Everywhere, but Alicia's Market has a big selection This is perhaps one of the most "authentic" dishes from Hawaii. It's primarily raw fish and it comes in many varieties such as wasabi, tobiko, and Maui onion, but traditionally it was just chunks of fish such as ahi, sal...
Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Cooking My Way Back Home, Kokkari & Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food

I always get excited about cookbooks with a connection to the Bay Area. There are so many things that make eating here special. Of course, it's the fresh produce, but it's much more than just that. It's also the vibe, the service and personality of our local restaurants. The latest crop of cookbooks capture much of that. It may sound odd to say I don't go to Mitchell Rosenthal's restaurants, namely Town Hall and Anchor & Hope (never been to Salt House) primarily for the food. Oh the food is good, some of it is outstanding, but I really go because those restaurants just feel so good and welcoming. It's like a party every night, at both places, not in a rowdy way, in a "I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a restaurant" way. At Town Hall I always sit at the communal table, and I love it. You cannot eat there without making friends with your neighbors and chatting over your dishes. Rosenthal's new cookbook, Cooking My Way Ba...
Sunday, October 30, 2011

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

California is producing some very good extra virgin olive oil, some using old European varieties of olives, harvested the old fashioned way, and--some high quality extra virgin olive oil harvested in a very modern way, for a fraction of the price. So how is possible to get high quality extra virgin olive oil at a low price? Last week I visited California Olive Ranch , the largest California olive oil producer, and learned just how they do it. It all comes down to freshness and quantity. California Olive Ranch plants three varieties, arbequina, arbosana from Spain and koroneiki from Greece. Their olive orchards look nothing like what you may have seen in Europe. The olive trees are pruned into a hedge shape that is harvested mechanically, using a harvester specially developed for shaking the trees to get the olives off without damaging them. Less damage means better quality oil. Here are some numbers for California Olive Ranch: Their olive trees grow 6-8 feet high Trees are pl...