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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Kitchen Gift Guide 2018 & Giveaway

This year my recommendations are short, sweet and all really practical but are things I genuinely enjoy using. Without further ado… Save space   I used to have two big clunky wooden knife blocks. My knives only fit in certain slots and the blocks took up a ton of room. Worst of all, they tended to tip over. So I bought this good looking  bamboo knife block  to replace them and am sorry I didn't buy it sooner. It holds an amazing number of knives! One block replaces two, and holds 14 knives of varying sizes and shapes. It takes up little space and won't dull knives the way wood blocks do. If you or someone you know are still using a wooden block, I highly recommend upgrading to this bamboo block with plastic needles. $22.99  Season away I have had various ceramic salt cellars and none of them quite suited me. I like to grab a pinch of salt and most cellars use a spoon or are too deep to reach into. This  triple salt box  has 3 levels and easily swings open so...
Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Interview with Jim Kempton author of First We Surf, The We Eat

There are many parallels between surfing and cooking starting with the fact that both can be an adrenaline rush. But has there ever been a surfer’s cookbook? That was the question I asked Jim Kempton, a jourmalist, chef, restaurater and surfer. Kempton is the author of First We Surf, Then We Eat: Recipes from a Lifetime of Surf Travel . The answer? Not like this one. Even though I’m not a surfer (yet!) I love this book which combines the best of a memoir and travelogue with recipes. Recipes run the gamut from banana pancakes from Hawaii, Basque tuna steaks, machaca and eggs from Mexico and Rujak, a spicy sweet fruit salad from Bali.  How important is the communal aspect of dining to you and to surfers in general?  It’s important to me because it’s part of what attracted me to certain cuisines, even though we don’t always practice it everywhere it is very important in some places. It’s especially true for surfers. A lot of surfers don’t cook so they dine with whoever does! Surfers tra...
Thursday, November 01, 2018

Remembering James Beard at the Stanford Court

Erica Peters, Marelene Sorosky Gray, Jacqueline Mallorca and John Phillip Carroll In the 1970’s and 80’s James Beard , the "dean of American cookery" took up residence at the Stanford Court  hotel. The hotel was his home for three months out of the year. The San Francisco Professional Food Society recently hosted a conversation with three of his friends and co-workers, John Phillip Carroll , Jacqueline Mallorca and Marlene Sorosky Gray who reminisced about his time at the Stanford Court. It was moderated by food historian Erica Peters.    Here are just a few highlights  from the event:   On his time in San Francisco:  This city and this hotel room were great refuge for him. It was chaos in New York. Julia Child once referred to his New York house as being full of loonies but here he was invited to everyone's home for dinner and he was taken care of. He said, “the city just gets into my blood.” - John Phillip Carroll (JPC) He loved the West Coast and ...
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Instant Indian Cookbook Review

Indian cooks have discovered the Instant Pot and how well it works for Indian cuisine—it can be used to cook everything from rice to yogurt to complex layered meat and vegetable dishes. There are at least 10 Indian Instant Pot cookbooks on Amazon at the moment, and I suspect there are more e-books out there on the topic as well. There are also a ton of blogs that focus on Indian recipes made in the Instant Pot. I recently purchased an Instant Pot but had never used it. I tried it out with a recipe from Instant Indian: Classic foods from every region of India made easy in the Instant Pot! By Rinku Bhattacharya. The recipe I chose was Cozy Butter Chicken. The instructions for this dish were incredibly clear, so much so that I was able to make this dish without having ever used the Instant Pot before. The author points out that timing is an issue “You need to factor in the time it takes to come to full pressure, the actual pressure cooking time, and the time for steam release. I ...
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

All About White Peaches

Recently I received a flat of white peaches. I was planning to preserve them but I quickly realized that wasn't such a good idea. White peaches are lower in fruit acid so they are extremely sweet. They have a lovely almost floral fragrance and a very soft juicy texture. All of this makes them great to eat out of hand, but not so great for canning or cooking. If you can them you need to add a lot of acid such as lemon juice and if you bake with them they lose their shape and can get very mushy.  White peaches are the most popular kind of peaches in Asia, but in the West and in Europe we tend to prefer yellow peaches. White peaches ripen very quickly and require refrigeration once soft or they will spoil. Freezing them is also an option. Since using them raw is best, I had to figure out what to do with them as fast as I could.  I decided to freeze most of the peaches. Frozen they can be added to smoothies. I also pureed some peaches and froze the puree to use to make the B...
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Easy Peach Jam Recipe

I’ve made peach jam several times, thanks in part to an annual delivery of peaches courtesy of the Washington Stone Fruit Growers , but I continue to look for ways to simplify the canning process. Standard peach jam recipes call for a lot of sugar and some powder or liquid pectin. The result is good, but can be a bit on the sweet side and a little rubbery. My preference is for a softer jam with less sugar and frankly less fuss. I wondered if there might be a way to make jam without bothering with the tedious job of peeling peaches? It turns out, there is.  The key to this recipe is the peels. Lemon peel and peach peel are high in pectin and so if you cook the peaches with them, you won’t need to add any additional pectin. I started with a recipe from A Sweet Spoonful , but the main difference was I skipped peeling the fruit and used the lemon peel as well as the juice. I added some slices of fresh ginger in my first batch but I didn’t find it added much flavor so I’m skipping ...
Sunday, August 26, 2018

Alison's Peach Chutney Recipe

I met  Alison McQuade  15 years ago. She wanted me to try her chutney and invited me to meet her at a local wine bar. At that time she was on the verge of quitting her day job and becoming a full time artisanal food producer. While to this day she doesn’t describe herself as a cook, she has mad skills when it comes to chutney. She is also quite a wonderful person and we quickly became friends.   Over the years I have bought McQuade's Celtic Chutney to give as gifts, made recipes using her various varieties of chutney and been an all around fan of her products. Faced with a box full of peaches this year supplied to me by the Washington State Stone Fruit Growers , I knew I wanted to make chutney but couldn’t imagine just turning to any old recipe. So I called on Alison for some guidance. Her recipe uses weights, so if you don’t have a digital scale, please use this as the excuse to buy one, they are not expensive and are essential for baking. The one I currently use is a Sma...
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Halibut Burgers Recipe

I get a delivery of seafood once per week from Real Good Fish , and for two weeks in a row, it's been halibut. Rather than just cook the filets, I decided to go in a different direction, burgers. Sometimes I'm in the mood for a burger even if it’s not a hamburger. Salmon is very popular for burgers, but halibut works too. The trick with fish burgers, much like fish cakes, is to minimize the filler.  I came across a brilliant  technique from Melissa Trainer , who wrote that she learned it from chef Jordan Mackey. The trick is to use pureed raw fish as the binder, rather than bread crumbs or egg. That’s pretty much it. The burgers hold together beautifully. Halibut is lean though, so it's important not to overcook it. You can check the temperature if you like and when it’s 145 degrees it’s done, but I just cook it until it’s firm.  I like my burger served on a bun, but you could also serve it on a bed of greens. It does benefit from a slathering of tartar sauce. U...
Monday, July 23, 2018

Bourbon Cherries Recipe

The pleasure of fresh cherries is fleeting, so while there may be nothing better than eating them soon after they are picked, if you want to enjoy them year round, canning is the answer. This year I decided to make bourbon cherries from the wonderfully sweet cherries kindly sent to me by the Northwest Cherry Growers as part of the “Canbassador” program. They are terrific in cocktails but also spooned over vanilla ice cream.  This year I finally bit the bullet and bought a canner, it's a small one, it holds 7 pint jars which is just fine for me. Over the years I’ve accumulated a number of canning accoutrement—the jar lifter, the jar funnel and the lid lifter. I use a variety of jars, but am particularly fond of the Ball®  Sharing Jars I received from Ball® Home Canning . Designed for gifting, the company that produces them makes a donation to Feeding America for every package purchased (up to $150k).  This year I used a recipe from Ball but I’ve expanded the recipe...
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Indo Fijian Food

I’m fascinated by the Pacific Islands, maybe it's because the San Francisco Bay Area is home to one of the largest populations of Pacific Islanders outside of the Pacific Islands. While I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Hawaii most of the other islands in the region are on my bucket list including Fiji. I was lucky enough to meet some Fijians recently and here is what I learned.  1. Fijians put family ahead of everthing else and are known for being very talented health care workers who say “ caregiving is in our blood .”  2. Fijians are passionate about rugby and were the world champtions in the Rugby World Cup Sevens twice and won the gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics.  3. Fijians partake in drinking kava made from the root of the Piper methysticum plant. It’s has sedative, anesthetic and euphoric properties and relieves anxiety. Originally used in ceremonites, it’s now enjoyed socially and served out of a bowl, if you’re lucky by a charming and handsome Fi...
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Asian Night Markets coming to San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay Area has an incredibly diverse food scene. You can dine at Michelin star restaurants with elaborate tasting menus, or grab something on the go at a food truck and there’s no shortage of options in between. Over the past 10 years street food events have provided a new option. But we’ve been missing something that’s common in Asia, the night market. There have been a few pop-ups, but Off the Grid at Fort Mason is perhaps the closest thing we have to it on a regular basis. With music, drinks and almost 30 food vendors it’s a fun and tasty way to spend a Friday night.  But if you’ve been to a night market in Asia, you know it offers much more than just food and music. It usually includes different kinds of entertainment, vendors and artisans selling their wares and sometimes even activities for kids. Night markets are fun but also a way to discover and connect with different people and cultures in a most delicious way. I’m happy to share two different night mark...
Thursday, June 14, 2018

Roasted Fioretto Recipe

It’s not often that you come across a new vegetable. The first time I saw Fioretto at a market in Chinatown I thought it must be some kind of weird overgrown cauliflower. It turns out it’s a relatively new hybrid that combines the best of broccoli and cauliflower. In addition to Fioretto, it’s also called stick cauliflower, flowering cauliflower, Chinese cauliflower and kaurifurore. It has thinner sweeter tops than cauliflower, and stems similar to broccoli which are sometimes white and other times pale green. The stems deepen in color when cooked.  The hybrid was developed in Japan in 2012 by a seed company and I started noticing it the past year or so but couldn’t find much information about it. Once I tried cooking it, I became a fan. Because it’s less dense, it’s easy to cook and lends itself well to raw, steamed or stir fried recipes. One of the ways I particularly like preparing it is by roasting it with olive oil, salt and garlic. Like traditional cauliflower it develop...
Friday, April 06, 2018

Indian Spiced Rum Punch Recipe

Rum puts me in a happy mood and I know I’m not the only one. It conjures up tropical destinations and pairs beautifully with a variety of fruits, spices and even herbs, which brings me to this rum punch. The idea was to have a welcome cocktail that would be celebratory and special but also complement Indian food being served at an intimate anniversary get together.  Rum punch is often a Caribbean affair, which makes sense since rum is produced there. But this punch had a few Southeast Asian ingredients to boot. It was created by award-winning bartender Christopher Chamberlain who has worked with an incredible number of brands. The base of the drink was built around RumHaven , a particularly delicious coconut rum, made with coconut water. It’s sweet but not cloying and has a lovely freshness.  The recipe is rather involved. Seriously. I’ve made full dinners that took less preparation! But in the end I have to say, it was worth all the work that went into it. I only made a...
Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Top Trends from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2018

I’ve already shared some of my favorite finds from the Winter Fancy Food Show 2018 , but another reason I attend the show is to try and identify what’s trending. Here are my topic picks. Mushrooms Mushrooms seem to be everywhere and showing up in ways that are a bit unexpected. I first discovered crispy oyster mushroom “chips” in Taiwan, but at the show this year I saw Yuguo shiitake chips from China.They are light and crunchy and supposedly healthy. I like them a lot. There were also two kinds of mushroom jerky, one made from mushroom caps and another made from mushroom stems in "Zesty Thai" flavor, available from Pan's Mushroom Jerky . Last but not least there were somewhat medicinal elixirs, cocoa and “coffee” made from lion's mane, chaga and reishi mushrooms by Four Sigmatic . I wasn’t crazy about how they tasted but they are being sold more as a health product than a gourmet one.  Coconut snacks Coconut is nothing new, but it’s being used as a c...