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Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter!

As someone who doesn't celebrate Easter, I have to say, it's one of my favorite holidays. I love Spring--chicks and bunnies, dyeing eggs, Easter egg hunts and deviled eggs. And in Italy I enjoy digging into the dove shaped cake called Colomba di Pasqua and big Perugina chocolate eggs impeccably wrapped.   I'll never forget my first day in Florence, because I got to see the famous "Scoppio del Carro," It's a kind of crazy spectacle with a cart coming into the piazza led by a team of oxen and plenty of pageantry. A wire connects the carriage with the duomo and a mechanical dove travels the distance between the two and when it reaches the duomo the cart explodes with fireworks. After that, it hard to get excited about peeps!  Tomorrow I will be sharing a very cool new recipe I created for deviled eggs with a secret ingredients I will reveal when I demonstrate the recipe at Macy's Union Square at 2 pm . I do hope you can make it! I will share t...
Thursday, March 28, 2013

Coffee Blending & Peet's Anniversary Blend

To create a recipe you have to know your ingredients and to blend coffee, you have to know your beans. At  Peet's  Coffee & Tea they don't just taste their coffee once, but three times, once at purchase, once when it ships and finally when it arrives at headquarters they taste it in the coffee tasting room, where they also roast samples of it. Recently I got to visit that very coffee tasting room, which feels a bit like a cross between a lab and a kitchen with drawers filled with bean samples, multiple kettles, a roaster, espresso machine and timers. I was in the company of a barista and Doug Welsh, coffee buyer and VP of Coffee, who combines beans to create coffee blends at Peet's. At the most basic level blending comes down to three things, says Welsh:  Acidity + Aroma  + Body Coffee tasting is also known as " coffee cupping " and it's not the same as just brewing coffee for drinking, in fact, like wine tasting, you spit rather than swallow the c...
Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Passover Spinach Ricotta Gnudi

Spinach ricotta gnudi, made with no wheat flour, are my latest recipe, just in time for Passover. This week marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday celebrating the Israelites liberation from Egypt and also Spring, rebirth, renewal, freedom, belonging, ...you get the picture. Since the Israelites had to flee their oppressors quickly they didn't have time to allow bread to rise, so the story goes. To commemorate that time, during Passover Jews eat foods made with matzo meal or matzo cake meal, but not with regular flour. Most other non-wheat flours are also not allowed. Gnudi are a little larger and plumper than gnocchi but somewhat similar. Some people think of them as "ravioli without the pasta."  This recipe is very easy because you use one of those "blocks" of frozen spinach. The secret is getting as much water as possible out of the spinach. You want the dough to be very stiff. Rolling the dumplings in potato starch also helps keep them from falling ...
Monday, March 25, 2013

Hakka Cuisine

If you want to try Hakka cuisine, head to Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco, or read  Linda Lau Anusasananan 's book, The Hakka Cookbook . I received a review copy of the book in the Fall, and was lucky enough to dine with the author at Hakka Restaurant recently and fell in love with the hearty robust flavors and comforting rich dishes. Even if you have other Chinese cookbooks, it's worth getting to know Hakka cuisine, because it's mostly home style cooking, ideal to try in your own kitchen. In the book Anusasananan traces her roots and shares stories from the people she meets on her journey into her past. Since Hakka people moved all over the world, there are stories about the cuisine from places like Peru, Hawaii and certain cities in the US and Canada. There are classic recipes for Fried Pork Hash Wontons, Salt Baked Chicken (which Anusasananan thinks may have been the creation of a crafty salt salesman) and lots and lots of vegetable dishes including Braised Mounta...
Thursday, March 21, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Feta and Dill Recipe

I've very excited to announce I will be doing a cooking demo during Macy's Flower Show in San Francisco on March 30th at 2 pm. I'll be sharing some recipes for jazzing up your sack lunch. So skip the sandwiches! This fresh and hearty salad is healthy and inexpensive to make and might make your co-workers jealous. Better bring some to share!  Quinoa is kind of like a blank canvas, it doesn't have much flavor or texture. It has protein but to be satisfying I think you need more variety. A little bit of feta and chickpeas add more protein and creamy textures. Originally I was trying to make a Greek inspired salad, but I didn't want to add salty olives and I found it was a little bland. Fresh dill and lemon really add some zest to it. I also used English cucumbers which are available all year round. I do have a few tips for making this salad, for one, always remember to rinse quinoa before you cook it. It is very bitter otherwise. Also I use less water than t...
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

American Wine & The Art of the Restaurateur

Did you know that there are more than 7,000 wineries in the US? Clearly American wine deserves its own book. While American wine has been covered before, I'm not sure it has ever been covered quite so comprehensively as it is in American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States . The book is good for helping to sort through the American viticultural areas (AVA's) and works for wine drinkers, armchair travelers as well as those looking to actually venture into the places in the United States where wine is being produced. For each region you get history, culture, a bit about the geography and a sense of who the major players are, and some great profiles of winemakers. There are maps and wine labels and glossy photos and the writing is straightforward and not too fussy, as you would expect from two preeminent wine writers, Jancis Robinson of the UK and Linda Murphy the former wine section editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.  Make n...
Monday, March 11, 2013

Walnut Mushroom Casserole Recipe

When I was growing up, my parents took me and my sister to all kinds of restaurants but rarely ones with "kid's menus." We regularly came into San Francisco to eat Chinese food, tried sushi long before it became popular, and celebrated birthdays and school graduation at fancy French restaurants. Unlike many kids who probably longed for Taco Bell or McDonald’s, I enjoyed eating at    The Good Earth ,  a casual restaurant near my house .  The menu  had a mix of salads and sandwiches and some very unique entrees. It wouldn’t necessarily be considered “health food” by today’s standards but there were quite a number of vegetarian dishes.  At The Good Earth, pretty much anyone could find something they would like to eat, and that made it perfect for dining out with everyone from my teenage girlfriends, to my grandmother. The Good Earth was famous for it’s spicy cinnamon tea which you can buy to this day. Although the restaurant chain was sold and very few restaurants rema...
Friday, March 08, 2013

Coconut & Chili--Fancy Food Show Trends 2013

In addition to " chia in everything " two other trends I saw at the Winter 2013 Fancy Food Show were lots of products with coconut and a more sophisticated use of chili.  It was impossible to miss the virtual rivers of coconut water at the show. Interestingly, they don't all taste the same. Some are sweet and others have a funny aftertaste. Some are thin and others are slightly viscous or have chunks of coconut in them. I'm still not a huge fan, but maybe I just haven't tasted the right one yet. Here were a few of my favorite coconut products. Why So Good! toasted coconut chips are not yet on the market, but they will be soon. They are an addictive snack, salty and sweet but with a ton of crunch. Never mind potato chips, once you open a bag of these, poof! It's empty. Dang Foods makes a similarly delicious product, also imported from Thailand.  JJ's Sweets Cocomels are nice little caramels that happen to be made with coconut milk. They ...
Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Azalina's Malaysian Pop-up Dinner March 10

Suvir Saran with Azalina Eusope at the SF Street Food Night Market, 2012 There are some chefs who cook with their whole being, with their blood, sweat and tears, with their heart and with their soul. Azalina Eusope is one of those chefs and you can taste her passion in every bite. I am not alone in feeling honored to eat her food.  Azalina’s specialty is Malaysian street food, and it should come as no surprise because she’s a fifth generation street food vendor. Fifth generation. I have no idea what my great grandparents did, let alone my great great grandparents. I know they didn’t eat food nearly as vibrant and textured and layered with flavors as what Azalina cooks. Malaysian street food is not subtle or elegant, it’s in your face, big, bold, exciting, and comforting all at once. It demands your attention and you will be happy to give it. I could tell you that Azalina is an inspiring role model , a success story, an immigrant, a member of the Mamak tribe renowned for t...
Monday, March 04, 2013

Sweet Potato Poha Recipe

Not long ago  Chef Suvir Saran tipped off Facebook followers, letting us know his poha recipe that was on Tasting Table and urging us to try it. I know how good it feels to have people cook your recipes and so does cookbook author and food writer Marlena Spieler so we both took him up on it. Neither of us had ever cooked with poha before. Poha are rice flakes used in a variety of Indian recipes, especially for breakfast. They cook up light and fluffy and are very mild. Like hash brown potatoes, they make a great blank canvas for spices, aromatics and vegetables.  Marlene Spieler shopping at Vik's Planning to cook an Indian dish makes a fine excuse for lunch at Vik's Chaat House in Berkeley. Marlena and I met up for bountiful chaat, pani puri and a luscious special with creamy eggplant and okra then we headed over to the adjoining shop for further culinary adventures. I stocked up on fragrant curry leaves, coconut flakes, thick poha flakes, chiles and black ses...
Friday, March 01, 2013

A Place at the Table: Hunger in America & Beyond

Certain issues are very near and dear to my heart and none more so than hunger. Having worked in a homeless shelter, I got to know people who struggled to get enough to eat on a daily basis and it was an honor to be able to feed them. Ironically the homeless shelter I worked at was in a very wealthy county. But hunger is something that the richest and the poorest countries have in common and it doesn't just affect the homeless. And it will take public effort to make the changes necessary to see that hunger is wiped out.  A Place at the Table , a film addressing hunger in the US is being released today, March 1. I got a chance to preview it and found it very moving with portraits of people struggling in our midst. It looks at just some of the reasons that hunger exists in the US. Perhaps not surprisingly, politics and subsidies are an important part of the picture. The film aims to increase our understanding of the problem it also points to some solutions. Though the current...