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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mexican Cooking Class with Ruth Alegria

It's hard to spend time with Ruth Alegria, and not want to jump on the next plane to Mexico City. To say she knows Mexican food would be an understatement. Ruth has lived in Mexico City for almost 10 years and before that studied the cuisine with luminaries including Diana Kennedy and Enrique Olvera. She also opened the first Mexican restaurant in Princeton, N.J., in 1980 and received two stars from the New York Times. Her culinary tours and cooking classes at Mexico Soul and Essence are not just beloved by her students, but were singled out by Saveur magazine as among the best in all of Mexico . But it's not just the recipes, it's the techniques and insights into shopping, ingredients and the history and culture that make her such a wonderful teacher and guide. This past Sunday at the lovely Tamarindo Antojeria restaurant in Oakland, proprietor Gloria Dominguez hosted a cooking class with Ruth. We made salsas, agua fresca, a creamy poblano soup, an ensalada with ...
Monday, April 29, 2013

Vegetable Cookbooks

Is this the year of the vegetable? It sure seems like it! Vegetable centric cookbook are in the spotlight, and it's not one size fits all. There are cookbooks about foraging, using roots, healthy eating and more. In honor of Meatless Monday, here's a round up of some interesting ones I've come across lately. The Duke's Table is a vegetarian book of Italian food, written in 1930 and now available in English. I learned to love vegetables in Italy where they are never, ever served plain. They are always "dressed" and I find this makes all the difference. Even a little drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice make a dish of vegetables more appealing. This book has a staggering number of recipes, over 1000 and everything from pasta dishes to souffles, egg dishes, soups, ice creams and even some raw dishes (those are a little out there!). Some of the recipes are healthy, some are not, but all are interesting and offer a peek into a fascinating diet of a man of me...
Friday, April 26, 2013

Rice Paper Salad Rolls Recipe

Rice paper salad rolls are basically salads wrapped in rice paper. You probably already have plenty of salad ingredients in your fridge, but what about Vietnamese rice paper?  It's one of those pantry ingredients I've sometimes bought and used once, and then forgot about. And that's kind of a shame because it has a lot going for it. It's cheap, keeps forever and is easy to use. Rice paper is traditionally used to make Vietnamese "Summer rolls" but like tortillas, it's extremely versatile and shouldn't be limited to only Vietnamese cuisine. Use it as a wrapper for pretty much whatever you like and you've got a great appetizer, snack or meal. While tortillas are served warm, rice paper rolls are served at room temperature. I believe eating outdoors is more fun than eating inside, and that eating with your fingers makes everything taste better. So that makes rice paper salad rolls perfect for picnics (or take from home lunches). I have used all...
Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nambé CookServ

Wedding season is coming up and I recommend going off the registry to buy something really special. There are lots of basic items that end up on registry lists, for example, a stock pot or soup pot. You need a big one, but a smaller one is very useful too, especially for households of two people. I use mine for pasta, boiling potatoes, making soup and blanching vegetables.  A soup pot will probably last you a lifetime so it's worth getting the nicest and most pleasing one you can find. To that end, the CookServe line of Nambé cookware fits the bill. Nambé recently sent me a soup pot to try and I really love it. It's so pretty to look at, I don't want to take it off the stove! All of the CookServ line is designed to be oven to table, made from 5 ply stainless steel and is compatible with all ranges including induction. It also has nubs on the interior of the lid to baste. I've found all the handles stay cool when I am cooking on the stove. The design of the cookw...
Monday, April 22, 2013

Meet the Bloggers

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It's the people I meet (online and in person) that make food blogging so worthwhile. It's been a long time since I've shared links to blogs that I love. Here are a few to bookmark (from upper left to lower right). Get to know these bloggers, you'll be glad you did. Joumana Accad Joumana is a Lebanese American food writer and home cook and the voice of  Taste of Beirut . I learn so much from her blog where she shares recipes but also food traditions and ingredients. She offers a peek into a world that I know very little about. Also her photos are lovely. She's top on the list of bloggers I hope to meet in person one day. Michael Procopio I've known Michael and his blog,  Food for the Thoughtless  for ages, since we both blogged for KQED over eight years ago. This year seems to be his moment in the sun with nominations for awards for digital media and humor from IACP and James Beard . And it's abou...
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Coach Farm Cheese Naming & Giveaway!

Would you like a sample of the new aged goat's milk cheese from Coach Farm ? I couldn't say no to that offer, and I'm guessing you can't either! The wonderful cheese magazine Culture is hosting a naming contest for the new cheese and invited me to describe it. Head over and read my post , then you can submit your own ideas for names. "The new cheese reminds me of snow on a spring day, bright and clean quickly dissolving like snowflakes in my mouth. It's mostly crumbly, soft and smooth but has a creamy layer (aka paste) just beneath the rind."  I'm also giving away a special package of Coach Farm's goat cheese! The winner will receive three cheeses: Fresh Farmstead Goat cheese, Triple Cream and a sample of the new aged goat cheese. Share your favorite way to use goat cheese in the comments section, and one lucky winner will receive the Coach Farm gift package containing three cheeses. This giveaway ends at midnight PST on April 24, 20...
Friday, April 12, 2013

Eco Friendly Shopping Tips + Contest + Giveaway

Shopping eco friendly is easier than you might think, even at a bargain focused store like Grocery Outlet . Recently Grocery Outlet gave me a $30 gift card to see what great eco friendly bargains I could find for Earth Day. Here are my top picks: Eco Friendly Shopping Tips 1. Buy fresh produce  The less processed and less packaged, the better. Grocery Outlet sells some beautiful greens, I found these greens for just 99 cents a bunch.  2. Choose recycled chlorine free paper products Recycled paper products are better quality than you might think these days and using them is an easy way to go green. 3. Invest in stoneware and ceramic baking dishes  Made from silica or clay and water, not noxious chemicals, they will last a lifetime if cared for properly with no warping or flaking of non-stick coatings. These beautiful pieces were only $4.99 each. 4. Pick reusable products I found coffee "pods" for use in Keurig coffee makers and wat...
Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gulf Coast Seafood

I started blogging ten years ago and since then, everything has changed. Blogging has changed, my career has changed, my shopping, cooking and eating have all changed. Hands down, the best thing about blogging is not the food, but the people I get to meet. I meet chefs, fishermen, farmers, policy makers, politicians, scientists, nutritionists, artisanal food producers, editors, other food writers, photographers and more. And all of those folks help me to appreciate and learn more about food. I'd like to think I also make more informed choices today than I did ten years ago. A few years ago I got to attend the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sustainable Foods Institute . Not long after I was invited to New Orleans to learn about seafood in the gulf . Both of those experiences have made me a much more thoughtful consumer of seafood. I believe in the sustainability, safety and deliciousness of gulf seafood. When I buy shrimp, it is always gulf shrimp. I am very honored to be chos...
Monday, April 08, 2013

Smoky Tomato Soup Recipe

It's easy to get so caught up in the idea of eating seasonally that we forget that there are certain things that aren't necessarily seasonal, for example vegetables grown in hothouses or greenhouses like Belgian endive, cucumbers and mushrooms, also preserved produce--jams, pickles, chutney, frozen and canned foods. Which brings me to canned tomatoes, which are a great choice for recipes since fresh tomatoes are in season for a fairly short period of time. While I wouldn't use a canned tomato on a sandwich, they are a must for most tomato based sauces. Lately I've come to appreciate canned fire roasted tomatoes for their lovely smoky flavor. They are great in stew or chili and a sneaky shortcut when making this zippy soup. A nice option in this shoulder season when somedays still feel like Winter, it's something you can make from pantry staples--a few aromatics, cans of tomatoes and broth. Having tried many brands of fire roasted tomatoes, I like Hunt's best...
Monday, April 01, 2013

Healthy Deviled Eggs Recipe

Deviled eggs are a favorite for Easter (and more importantly, the day after!) but really there's no reason not to eat them whenever you want. I was looking for a way to make them a little bit healthier and found an ingredient that is creamy, mimics the texture of hardboiled egg yolks and has a very mild flavor--cannellini beans! I remove 1/3 of the yolks, then puree white beans with the remaining yolks, a little mayo, mustard, horseradish and some hot sauce then I fill the egg whites as usual. You would never know these are "light" deviled eggs, but they have 1/3 less fat yet plenty of protein and some added fiber.   Deviled eggs are fun to make because you can customize them however you like. Someone came up to me after my demo at Macy's this weekend and told me she makes deviled eggs with pesto. I've made them with wasabi and also with curry powder. But the sky is the limit! Another option is just to top them with different garnishes. Some garnishes inclu...