Friday, August 28, 2009
A couple of weekends ago when I was visiting my friend Christine, we took time out to visit the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market. Boy was it a delightful feast for the eyes (and mouth)! My camera lens and tongue were in foodie heaven. Although I couldn't bring back a large bounty, I did find my share of happiness. For example, I purchased a bunch of the most delicious, green table grapes I have ever tasted. They're called "Princess" and we picked them up at G L Alfieri's stand. They almost had a muscat sort of quality to them and if a woman hadn't handed me a sample I probably would have passed them right on by! We also purchased some sweet and tangy Green Grenade Pluots from Bella Viva Orchards, an unnamed "Batch #5" cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and crusty bread from Acme. All of our purchases were loaded into a backpack, carried on a 4.3 mile, 900 foot elevation hike from the Green Gulch Farms and Zen Center (who also happen to have a booth at the Farmer's Market) to Muir Beach, and then finally to the lovely front lawn of the The Pelican Inn B&B where we plopped down our tired bodies and feasted on our Farmer's Market treats, washing them down with a frosty, post-hike beverage. Now that's my idea of a perfect day!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
When I think of food with family and friends, this is one of the first recipes that comes to mind. A couple of years ago, Jonathan and I visited our friends Miguel and Anna in Atlanta. The pair are truly the most wonderful hosts and do everything they can to ensure your comfort. Since part of this hosting responsibility involves satisfying rumbling tummies, Anna and Miguel definitely didn't let us go hungry. One unforgettable meal from the weekend involved Miguel's fabulous fish tacos (and not because one of the dogs decided to dip his nose in the guacamole on the counter and show all of us his creamy, light green beard).
I'll let you in on a secret - not only are Miguel's tacos excellent because they taste incredible, but because they're super, super simple. The concept is relativey easy - so much so, I'm not even going to prepare a formal recipe for you, just provide you with some basic instructions.
First, you're going to take fresh filets of tilapia (figure 1-1.5 per person), rinse them in some cool water and pat dry with a paper towel. Next you'll decorate the filets by seasoning them heavily with "Old Bay" brand seasoning on both sides and some freshly squeezed lime juice (just cut the lime in half and let your hands do all the dirty work - don't be afraid to get them all citrus-sticky). After you're done doing this, cover the fish in plastic wrap until you're ready to cook, placing them in the refrigerator if you don't plan to grill for a while.
When you're ready to fire it up, grease the grill ("Pam Grilling" cooking spray will do the trick) and pre-heat to medium-high heat. When it's reached the desired temperature, place the fish on the hot grate and cook for approximately five minutes, turning mid-way through and dousing with beer a couple of times during the cooking process (I generally pick a bottle of what ever we have in the fridge. This past time it was Negra Modelo).
When the fish is fully cooked, lightly shred the filets with a fork and put them in a large serving bowl. Then serve them up with some shredded red cabbage, fresh salsa, homemade guacamole (my easy proportions for "perfect guacamole" can be found here) and freshly toasted corn tortillas. And if you're wondering the trick for cantina-style tortillas, heat them on the grill while the fish is cooking and then wrap them in foil until ready to serve.
What could be easier and more delicious? I think you'll be very pleased with the results - and the smiling faces. Buen provecho!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Thursday: When I arrived on Thursday evening, Christine picked me up from the airport and took me to Circa on Chestnut Street. There, I had a nicely prepared, flat iron steak with roasted garlic mashed potatoes and a delicious, smoky asparagus (the asparagus was the highlight of the dish). The steak was plated with a red wine demi-glace and topped with horseradish foam (Christine and I had a discussion about foam - we're not really sure we'd categorize it as a food). We shared the Truffle-Parmesan Fries for an appetizer, which were good, but I prefer metro-Detroit's Town Tavern's version. By the way, I've already decided I want to check out Laiola the next time I'm in San Francisco. It's next door to Circa and the menu (and atmosphere) looked excellent.
Friday: After wrapping up the work day on Friday, we took a long walk from the Presidio area to Union Street. While doing some window shopping, we passed by a sweet shop (Miette) and decided a small, pre-dinner treat was in order. I tried an old fashioned cupcake (a very tasty chocolate cupcake with french meringue frosting and a candied peanut on top) while Christine had a delicious, pistachio macaroon. Then, after browsing in a couple of cute stores, we decided to eat dinner at Mamacita. Mamacita was jam packed and everything they brought out of the kitchen looked delish. We waited for our meal and snacked on "guacamole al don" - i.e. guacamole with fresh tortilla chips and crushed tomato salsa. I had the pan-roasted halibut with poblano chile-polenta and roasted chile-tomato salsita and Christine tried braised meyer ranch tri-tip beef enchiladas baked with oaxacan mole coloradito, leeks and goat cheese. Both dishes were savory, filling and very good. We were so full when we left the place, we decided it was a good thing we had a couple mile walk home -and- that next time we should probably skip the guacamole and chips and wait for the main event.
Saturday: Saturday we started the day with crepes (I love the fact SF has a ton of creperies!) at Crepevine. Both of us selected savory crepes (I had the Greek since I love spinach, feta and kalamata olives). We then took some time out to visit the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building (I'll blog about that experience later). After the Farmer's Market we visited J-Town for a festival and then went to Rose's Cafe for lunch. The brunch menu was still in effect so I ordered the Crescenza-Stuffed Focaccia with white truffle oil. It was very good, but I think what they served me was the pizza crust with crescenza and truffle oil instead of a stuffed foccacia bread. Christine opted for the roasted Turkey Breast, Avocado, Provolone & Dijon on Brioche. It seemed to be lacking tomatoes, so when she ordered some on the side you can imagine our surprise when they showed up with a gorgeous plate of heirloom slices (I stole a few as well as some arugula from her side salad to add to my "pizza"). The highlight of the meal were Italian sodas - I had peppermint, Christine had curant. After lunch, we joined one of Christine's roommies for a hike near Muir Beach and after effectively working off both breakfast and dinner on our 4+ mile hike, we cleaned up and had a late dinner at Nopa. We started the evening with flatbread of house smoked bacon, grape tomatoes, goat cheese. It was excellent and better than any sort of BLT you can imagine. Christine ordered their famous, grass fed hamburger with pickled onions and french fries, and I tried a roasted chicken dish served with a salad of purple heirloom tomatoes, purslane, croutons. Although it was fun to eat the purslane (purslane is pretty much a weed you can find in your own yard if you'd like...and the flavor is fresh and lemony) and the tomatoes were super-fresh and flavorful, my chicken was a little dry. Next visit I would definitely have the hamburger or the pork chop...the two dishes for which they are famous.
Sunday: My last day in town, Sunday, we started the day intending to go to brunch at a funky little place called Liverpool Lil's. However, since they weren't yet open when we arrived (why do so many places in San Fransicso open super late for breakfast?!?), we opted for Judy's Cafe. My favorite thing I ordered was the delicious, fresh-squeezed OJ (although it was quite pricey at $5 a glass). I had a farmhand omelet that had a little too much spice on the potatoes, but was good. If you visit Judy's (and many small restaurants in SF) by the way, be sure to bring cash - they are a cash-only venue. If I visited Judy's again, I'd try the huge plate of Sourdough French Toast (sharing with a friend is probably a good bet). After breakfast, we wandered around the fabulous new Academy of Sciences, checked out the Sutro Bath Ruins, relaxed on Crissy Field for a couple of hours and saved up our appetites for dinner at Zuni Cafe where we feasted on their famous "Chicken for two" (which takes an hour upon placing your order) and shoestring fries. The bloody mary we had for a pre-dinner drink was excellent with balsalmic, finely diced onion, and plenty of spice. And the chicken was perfectly, perfectly, perfectly cooked and served with a warm, chewy, flavorful bread salad. We did notice it the dish was very salty though (between the brine from the chicken skin and the cooking juices poured over the bread salad). So you may want to take that into consideration when placing appetizer and drink orders. For those of you who are unable to visit this San Francisco institution, Zuni has a cookbook (or rather the awesome Judy Rodgers has a cookbook)...with fantastic descriptions and instructions (it may change the way you cook). You can find it at several retailers including Amazon and Overstock. You can also find their recipe for their famous chicken and bread salad here.
Click on the image below for a better view of what we ate.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Jonathan and I polished off the raspberries almost instantly. And knowing I needed to make something with the basil and zucchini before I went out of town for a week, I remembered reading about Molly's dinner party (from her book "A Homemade Life") where she used these two ingredients as key flavors in a wonderful pasta dish. The pesto recipe below is my own, and unlike most store-bought versions, I prefer it to be hand chopped due to the nice, homemade texture it lends. I also like a dollop of sour cream on the side for a hint of tartness (I grew up with a creamy version of pesto spread over rotini noodles that was basically pesto blended in with sour cream and parmesan). This is an easy and super fresh lunch (or dinner) idea and is perfect for this time of year - especially since zucchini and basil are in abundance.
- 2 large bunches of basil, leaves only, washed and dried
- 3 medium cloves of garlic
- 1 small handful of raw pine nuts
- 1/2 cup of loosely packed Parmesan (freshly grated)
- 3-4 Tb of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large, garden fresh zucchini
- 1 package of long, pasta noodles (I used linguine)
- On a large cutting board, roughly chop the basil
- Add the garlic and pine nuts, further chopping to combine. Chop until the garlic and pine nuts are fine bits
- Fill a large pot with water and place over high heat, salt generously and bring to a boil (once it reaches a boil, slightly reduce the heat to prevent water from spilling over the edges of the pot)
- While the water heats, carefully slice the zucchini into thin, long slices (use a mandoline for the best effect)
- Place the zucchini slices into the pre-heated water for 6 minutes or so (just enough time to cook them but not become mushy)
- Drain the zucchini and place aside (do not get rid of the hot cooking water!)
- Add the pasta to the cooking water and prepare as directed on the box for al dente
- Drain pasta, toss with pesto and zucchini and serve with some freshly shaved parmesan (I like to use a vegetable peeler to make nice curls) and a dollop of sour cream on the side (if you'd like, this is optional)
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I have always been a fan of pickles and serving them in new ways (Jonathan introduced me to grilled cheese with pickles not too long ago and I wondered why I had never thought to try it before). And as I've mentioned in past postings, my mom does a lot of canning every year, often making a couple batches of pickled veggies, green beans being one variety. Her green beans I fancy even more than traditional cucumber-based dills since they're firm, crunchy and tangy with a touch of a kick. So when I found this salad in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine, I was instantly reminded of my mother's canned, hot beans and thought this seemed like a dressed-up, refrigerator-version.
I first mentioned this side dish a couple of postings ago (I served it with Swordfish Milanese). As in any refrigerator pickle recipe, it's important to make this a day ahead as the flavors really concentrate overnight. The fresh green beans will lose some of their bright green color the longer they're in the fridge but don't worry, they will keep their crunch and absorb a ton of flavor.
Sweet and Tangy Three Bean Salad
Adapted from: Better Homes & Gardens
- 8 oz. fresh green beans, trimmed
- 3/4 cups cider vinegar
- 2/3 cups bloody mary mix (I prefer Mr & Mrs T's Premium Blend)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 tsp. stone-ground mustard
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 14.5-oz. can cut wax beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15-oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 6 baby carrots, sliced
- In large saucepan cook green beans in boiling lightly salted water
Monday, August 3, 2009
Luckily, last week, I traveled to Las Vegas to speak with one of my client's customers. Since it's a rareity for me to have great food while on the road, in the spirit of food-sharing, I'm forgoing the mantra "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," and posting all the recipes for a delicious meal I had at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. How awesome is it I was able to find every single recipe on the web?!?
At Mesa, I started the evening with a bowl of the Tomato Tortilla Soup and a delicious jalapeno, onion, cornbread muffin from the bread basket. The soup was warm, spicy and flavorful - and I think it'll be a perfect recipe for using up excess of steaky tomatoes I'll have in my garden in a few weeks. The muffin was a great compliment - hot and flavorful with just the right amount of kick. After this starter, I enjoyed a mouth-watering main dish of New Mexican Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Tamale and Pecan Butter and washed it down with a cool glass of Duvel (Belgian blonde ale). Although I really enjoyed everything I ate, the Sweet Potato Tamale stole the show. It was slightly sweet, hearty and warm and had a great texture.
Since thinking about the four recipes together is quite overwhelming, I suggest you split what I enjoyed into two meals: Soup and Muffins and Pork and Tamales. You could make the soup and muffins for a relaxed summer dinner one evening and then try the pork with the tamale on a more special occasion (this recipe would probably really impress company). Also, although the Bourbon-Ancho sauce with the pork was nice, if I were making this dish at home, I'd probably only prepare the pork with a similar version of the spice rub (the sauce and rub are both super spicy and I didn't feel like the sauce added any new flavors to the dish). If you try anything, however, make sure to put the tamale first on the recipes-to-try list. It was fantastic! Just thinking about it makes me hungry.
Recipe by: Bobby Flay
Source: CBS News
- Canola oil or peanut oil
- 2 flour tortillas, cut into long, thin strips
- 2 blue corn tortillas, cut into long, thin strips
- Heat 1-inch of oil in a high sided medium sauté pan over medium high heat until it reaches a temperature of 350 degrees.
- Add the tortilla strips in batches and fry until just crisp, 20-30 seconds.
- Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels and season immediately with salt.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 overly ripe beef steak tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Chopped cilantro
- Diced avocado
- Grated White Cheddar Cheese
- Fried Tortillas
- Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over high heat.
- Add onions and cook until soft, add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes and enough water to cover the tomatoes by 1-inch.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until tomatoes are very soft and start to break down, approximately 30 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the mixture to a food processor and process (in batches if needed) until smooth.
- Return to the saucepan, season with cayenne, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheese, cilantro and a few fried tortillas
Blue Corn Muffins
Recipe by: Bobby Flay; Source: Food Network
- 2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons finely diced onion
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
- 1 jalapeno peppers, finely diced
- 1/4 cup fresh or frozen corn, thawed
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves
- 3/4 cup blue cornmeal (can substitute yellow)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Grease a 6 slot muffin pan with non-stick vegetable spray.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, bell pepper, jalapeno, corn and cilantro. Whisk in the butter mixture.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, soda, salt and sugar. Mix into the liquid mixture.
- Divide the batter evenly among the muffins slots and bake for 16 minutes or until set, turning the pan once for even baking.
New Mexican Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
(Serve with Sweet Potato Tamale and Pecan Butter)
Recipe by: Bobby Flay
Source: Food Network
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 (2 pound) pork tenderloin
- New Mexican Spice Rub, recipe follows
- Bourbon-Ancho Sauce, recipe follows
- Sweet Potato Tamale with Pecan Butter, recipe follows
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Heat olive oil in a medium saute pan, over high heat.
- Season pork with salt on both sides. Dredge pork in the spice rub and tap off any excess.
- Sear the pork on both sides until golden brown. Cook in the oven to medium doneness, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Let pork rest for 5 minutes before slicing into 12 slices. Plate 3 slices per plate.
- Drizzle with the Bourbon-Ancho Sauce. Place a Sweet Potato Tamale, topped with Pecan Butter next to the slices of pork.
New Mexican Rub
- 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon pasilla chile powder
- 2 teaspoons chile de arbol
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons allspice
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons bourbon
- 3 ancho chiles, soaked, seeded, stems removed and pureed
- 6 cups homemade chicken stock
- 1 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed
- 8 whole black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add the onions and cook until soft.
- Add the bourbon and cook until completely reduced.
- Add the remaining ingredients and cook until reduced by half. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, return mixture to the pan, and cook to sauce consistency, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of bourbon and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt.
Sweet Potato Tamales
- 20 dried corn husks
- 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels, preferable fresh
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 head roasted garlic, cloves removed
- 2 cups chicken stock or water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
- 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large or 2 medium sweet potato, roasted at 375 degrees for about 1 hour or until soft, then peeled and flesh mashed
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- Pecan Butter, recipe follows
- About 2 hours before you plan to form the tamales, clean the husks under running water. Soak them in warm water for 2 hours, or until softened.
- Puree the corn, onion, roasted garlic, and stock in a food processor. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and cut in the butter and shortening.
- Using your fingers, mix in the cornmeal, honey, and salt and pepper until there are no visible lumps of fat. Fold in the sweet potato puree, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and maple syrup. The mixture will be a lot looser than you think it should be, but when the tamales are steamed it will dry out.
- Remove the cornhusks from the water and set aside the best 20 husks. Drain and pat dry. Tear the remaining husks into 1-inch wide strips to be used for tying. Lay 2 husks flat on a work surface, with the tapered ends facing out and the broad bases overlapping by about 3 inches.
Place about 1/3 cup of masa mixture in the center. Bring the long sides up over the masa, slightly overlapping, and pat down to close. (If the masa drips out a little at the seam, that is no problem.) Tie each end of the bundle with a strip of cornhusk, pushing the filling toward the middle as you tie. Trim the ends to about 1/2-inch beyond the tie.
- Arrange the tamales in a single layer on a steaming rack, cover tightly with foil, and steam over boiling water for 45 minutes.
- To Serve: slice a slit on top of each tamale and push both ends of the tamale toward the middle to expose the masa. Top each with 1 tablespoon of Pecan Butter.
- Pecan Butter: 1 stick unsalted butter, softened 1/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped 3 tablespoons maple syrup Pinch cinnamon Salt and freshly ground pepper. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Scrape into a ramekin and refrigerate until solid, about 2 hours.