Tag Archives: Food

White Truffles – Mother Nature’s Best Perfume

22 Dec

There is nothing in this world like the aroma of a fresh White Truffle from Italy. This particular one is from Tuscany, and was served at Oliveto in Oakland. Lucky for us, since Antiquity, someone figured out that this ugly duckling is worth the hunt!

One of the best ways to enjoy them is thinly shaved over a fresh, buttered Tajarin Pasta or soft-scrambled Eggs (Parmigianno-Reggiano optional). So simple and so divine!

For a more affordable way to get that special flavor and aroma, I really like La Tourangelle White Truffle Infused Oil. It’s delicious when added to a vinaigrette (take any standard recipe and replace 1/2 of your Olive Oil with the Truffle Oil) or drizzled over Popcorn in lieu of Butter. If you can find 479 Popcorn in your grocery store, the Black Truffle and White Cheddar flavor is a real treat. They have gift packs online too.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Learning How To Make Sausage

23 Jun

I took a class not too long ago at The Local Butcher Shop and came home with a total of 5 pounds of Sweet Italian Sausage and Goat Merguez. I learned that making sausage is actually quite easy and involves only a few steps and I hope this inspires you to give it a try.

Basically, you start with some good quality coarsely ground meat, including Pork, Chicken, Turkey, Lamb, Goat, or even Seafood, which you can ask your butcher to grind, or do it yourself. Next, with impeccably clean hands or with rubber gloves, mix in your spice blend (the photo above is Merguez — a sausage with North African flavors such as Harissa, Sumac, Fennel and Garlic) and a chopped, fresh herb. Wash your casings and stuff them (not too densely) using an attachment on your meat grinder (KitchenAid has attachments for grinding and stuffing). Then twist the sausage into the size link you prefer (twisting each link in the opposite direction) and cut them apart, or if you have a smaller casing, you can roll it into a spiral, like I did with my Goat Merguez.

I have to say, after making my own sausage, it’s tough to go back to store-bought. One of the tips from The Local Butcher Shop is to include some chopped fresh herbs (like Sage, Oregano, or Cilantro) and that really does make a difference in the flavor.

Unfortunately, since the recipe for Sweet Italian Sausage and Goat Merguez are protected via copyright, I’m unable to share them with you, however, I did find a recipe for Simple Homemade Sausage Patties on Martha Stewart’s website (from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s cookbook Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys) that you might like and it doesn’t even require the casings.

Here are some additional links for purusing:

 http://www.sausagemaker.com/

http://ruhlman.com/2011/05/the-no-nitrites-added-hoax/

http://ruhlman.com/2011/02/meat-curing-safety-issues/

If you have a good local butcher shop in your neighborhood, you can try to buy the casings and curing salt from them, otherwise, you can buy them online. Now I just need to find the time to make another batch!

Savory Baked Apples

13 Apr

Here’s a tasty idea I found on Cooking Light…along the lines of my recent post on Apple Pie In An Apple. This could be easily adapted for Vegetarians or Vegans too. Click on this link for details.

Other combinations or substitutions I might try are the following:

  • Granny Smith Apples
  • Pecans
  • Almonds
  • Golden Raisins
  • Dried Apricots
  • Sundried Tomatoes
  • Leeks
  • Shallots
  • Spinach
  • Fennel
  • Celery
  • Fontina or Cheddar Cheese (how can you can wrong?)
  • Curry Powder
  • Garam Masala (do you have this spice blend in your pantry yet? It’s so versatile)
  • Thyme
  • Couscous (White, Red or Tricolor)
  • Bulgur Wheat
  • Farro
  • Bread Crumbs (for topping)

By changing up the flavors, you’ll be able to serve this for many occasions as a main course, or for a side dish I think that half an apple per person would be adequate (cut in half before stuffing). This could also be a good dish for entertaining, since you could easily make the stuffing a day or two ahead. It would be delicious with a Pork Roast or any poultry!

Apple Pie In An Apple – Part 2

10 Apr

This post is related to Apple Pie In The Apple on my blog in February. I found another recipe online yesterday, and after trying this idea myself, I’ve adapted the original “re-blogged” recipe, and feel obliged to add Part 2.

Check out this link for the other recipe I found. It’s got nice pictures, including the lattice crust, that you may find helpful.

I’ve mentioned previously I’m not much of a baker (mainly because I don’t have the patience to measure out lots of ingredients), therefore, hoped to find an easy pie dough recipe and referred to Michael Ruhlman’s ratios for Pie Dough. I’ve put a link of his book Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking on My Tasty Store and there is also iPhone App  available for about $4.99. I think it’s worth it just for the convenience of having it if you’re a traveler who cooks while on vacation.

For a single crust:

  • 12 ounces Flour (350 grams)
  • 8 ounces Fat (I used Unsalted Butter, cut into small pieces; note:1 stick of Butter is 4 oz.)
  • 4 ounces Water (I added 1 ice cube to keep it chilled)

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt (Optional)

1 Tablespoon of Sugar (Optional)

Mix dry ingredients and Butter in a Food Processor until Butter is in Pea-sized pieces.

Slowly add in the Water until it starts to hold together , but work it as little as possible (you may not need all of the Water, depending on the humidity of your environment). Don’t worry if it’s not totally formed into a ball.

Dump it out onto a piece of plastic wrap, knead it a bit and shape into a flattened disk, wrap up the plastic disk and place it in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes and up to a full day.

Once chilled, roll out on a floured surface and cut into strips for the lattice (you should count on chilling longer than 20 minutes if the temperature is warm and/or if the dough is very soft).

My tips/filling recipe are below:

  • 4 Apples
  • 4 Tablespoons Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend (or Cinnamon)
  • 2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (Optional)
  1. I figured out that you should not try to make the lattice directly on top of the apple (it’s too hard to get it looking nice). Make it on the counter and then place it on top of the apple. Leave a little space in the lattice for steam to get through.
  2. I also dotted the top of the apple with a little butter for extra flavor which you can see in the photo above (optional but delicious!)
  3. I used Pumpkin Pie Spice in lieu of Cinnamon
  4. I used 4 Apples, not 5-6 as in the original recipe I re-blogged, and there was plenty of filling for the apples.
  5. I used a Tablespoon of Light Brown Sugar per Apple in lieu of 1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar and 1/4 Cup White Sugar (since I prefer the flavor of Brown Sugar)
  6. I used a round metal Teaspoon measure to scoop out the Apple.
  7. I tried setting the Apples on the top slice of the Apple (that is cut off the top) as a base…it helped stabilize 3 of the apples but the 4th one slide off during the baking process. Not sure I’d do that again, unless the top slice was a little thicker, or maybe I’d cut a bigger hole in it for the base of the apple to sit in.
  8. I’m not crazy about covering them with aluminum foil and will be test without next time. I felt it took too long for the crust to brown.

I think this concept would work equally well if you wanted a short cut and topped the Apple with some nutty Granola instead of a crust. If you try it, please share your tips or ideas. Would love to hear them!

Crab Louie Salad and Spud Point Marina

20 Feb

There is nothing like freshly cooked Dungeness Crab, dipped in garlic butter! I also like to make a second dipping sauce from Mayonnaise, Lemon Juice and some Curry Powder. The flavors pair very well with the Crab and a simple shaved Fennel & Apple salad (tossed with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Salt & Pepper), along with some crusty bread, can’t be beat. By the way, family members, please note for my “Last Supper”!

We wanted to cook up some live Dungeness Crab for dinner a few weekends ago, so took a drive out to Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay in Northern California. It’s just a few minutes north of Lucas Wharf. Lucky for us, Seafood Watch considers this type of crab sustainable and Paisano Brothers Fisheries had a holding tank full of them–being well into the season, we were surprised by the large size of 2 1/2 to 3 lbs. It’s a good idea to take an ice chest since they only have plastic garbage bags, which are easily punctured by their claws, making your trunk wet and possibly having them escape!

If you’re not up for cooking them yourself, Spud Point Crab Company is across from the Marina and serves Crab sandwiches and Clam Chowder, among other things.

We had plenty of leftover Crab, so I made a salad with a “Louie” style dressing (including Mayo, Sweet Pickle Relish, Ketchup, Lemon Juice, Chopped Capers).

Hopefully, we’ll do this again at least one more time this year! The season begins in Mid-November (perfect for a pre-Thanksgiving meal) and runs to June, but it’s best to get them in the winter months. Do you have a favorite Crab recipe to share?

Valentine’s Day Cocktails

12 Feb

I love idea of serving a cocktail with a Pink blush on Valentine’s Day. Here are a few ideas…plus one  (not Pink) with Chocolate–yum!

“Posmo” (a spin-off of the classic Cosmopolitan):

  • 1.5 Oz. Vodka
  • 1/2 Oz Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime (before cutting, slice some off a piece of zest for garnish)
  • 1.5 Oz. Pomegranate Juice

(Optional: rim the glass by rubbing the cut Lime on the edge and dip into sugar)

Cherry Lemon Drop:

  • 1.5 Oz. Vodka
  • 1/2 Oz. simple syrup (I like to make mine from Agave Nectar — I make it in a shot glass by filling it with water and about 1 teaspoon of Agave)
  • Juice of 1 Meyer Lemon (use 1 1/2 if you like your drinks tart, like I do)
  • 1.5 Oz. Cherry Juice

(Optional: rim the glass by rubbing the cut Lemon on the edge and dip into sugar)

Raspberry Lemon Drop:

  • 1.5 Oz. Vodka
  • 1/2 Oz. simple syrup (I like to make mine from Agave Nectar — I make it in a shot glass by filling it with water and about 1 teaspoon of Agave)
  • Juice of 1 Meyer Lemon (use 1 1/2 if you like your drinks tart, like I do)
  • Muddle about 5 raspberries (fresh or frozen) in the shaker before pouring in the ice and liquids

(Optional: rim the glass by rubbing the cut Lemon on the edge and dip into sugar)

Chocolate Martini:

1 oz. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

1 oz. Vodka

(Optional: add a splash of Creme de Cacao or Half and Half, and rim the glass with cocoa powder and sugar)

For all of these Martinis, pour ingredients into a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a Martini glass. Of course, you could serve them over ice, if you prefer.

Blood Orange Margarita:

  • 1 Oz. Tequila (preferably Silver)
  • 1/2 Oz. Cointreau (or Triple Sec)
  • Juice of 1 Blood Orange
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime

Pink Grapefruit Margarita (adapted from Sunset Magazine):

3 parts freshly squeezed Ruby Grapefruit Juice, 2 parts Tequila, 1 part Cointreau (or Triple Sec)

If you use 1 Oz. of Tequila per serving, it’s easy to adapt it for as many servings as you need. This is one of my favorites!

For the Margaritas, pour ingredients into a shaker, blend and serve on the rocks. Salt or Sugar Rim optional. You could also mix some spice into the salt by mixing it into a mortar with pestle. I have tried Aleppo Pepper, which is quite mild (and delicious on eggs too!), and Aji Amarillo , a bit hotter (from Crescent Moon Farm via the Sebastopol, CA farmer’s market).

The photo is a Purple Basil Lemon Drop. In lieu of adding Cherry Juice to the Lemon Drop recipe above, muddle about 10 small leaves of Purple Basil into your mixing glass. Shake up your drink and strain it into your glasses. It will be a lovely Lavender color (although in this photo, it appears more Pink). Not quite as appropriate for Valentine’s Day, but equally refreshing!

Green Smoothies To Revitalize Your Body

11 Feb

Looks can be deceiving! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how delicious this tastes and you will feel so healthy after drinking it. The flavors go together really well and it’s definitely a great way to start the day, cleanse your body, and increase the amount of antioxidants and vegetables in your diet. By using a blender instead of a juicer, you will benefit by getting more fiber too.

In a blender, add the following in order:

  • 1 Apple, cored and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (not peeled) — I like Gala Apples
  • 3/4 of 1 English Cucumber (not peeled — I recommend English Cucumbers since the skin is thinner and they are seedless so easily digestible
  • Fresh Spinach Leaves, 2 big handfuls
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon (optional: include some of the zest, but avoid the white pith)
  • Ginger, a small 1/4 inch slice, peeled and finely grated (Optional)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of water

Start with low-speed and move up to the highest speed. Makes 2 servings.

If you like it, try these Mix and Match Green Smoothie recipes from the VitaMix company.

By the way, here is link if you’d like to get more information or purchase one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, the VitaMix Blender.

“Let food be thy medicine …” – Hippocrates

Easy Greek Layer Dip for a Healthy Superbowl Appetizer

4 Feb
Layer all ingredients below, starting with the Hummus, in a clear glass dish and serve with Toasted Pita Chips
  • Hummus, homemade preferably
  • Roasted Red Peppers, chopped
  • Cucumbers, chopped (or Tzatziki)
  • Kalamata Olives, halved

Hummus Recipe:

In a small Cuisinart food processor, chop 1-2 cloves of Garlic (Roasted Garlic mellows the flavor so you could add up to head if you like). Garlic Powder will do if you don’t have cloves.

Add a can of drained Organic Chick Peas, the juice of 1 Lemon, 2-3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil, thin with a little water until you get the consistency you desire, salt & pepper to taste, optional: Smoked Paprika

Tzatziki Recipe:

In a medium bowl, combine a Cucumber, seeded, then coarsely grated, with 2 cups of Greek Yoghurt, preferably Whole Milk, juice of 1/2 Lemon, 1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil, 1 finely chopped Shallot, 1 finely chopped clove of Garlic, a couple sprigs of fresh Dill, chopped (or about 1/2 – 1 Teaspoon of dried Dill) and Salt & White Pepper.

Seven Hills – San Francisco

22 Jan

Our good friends Katie and Michael recommended Seven Hills (named after the 7 hills of San Francisco: Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Rincon Hill, Mount Sutro, Twin Peaks and Mount Davidson). We had an early reservation and after several minutes, the Chef came out to say hello to our table. As we were introduced by Katie and Michael, I had no doubt we were about to have a really special dinner.

It was such a pleasure to meet Alex Alioto and Alex Solomou, the partners of this fantastic restaurant, located on Nob Hill at 1550 Hyde St. Alex Alioto, the Chef, shared with us that he worked in restaurants in Italy and Germany, as well as The Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, working with Ron Siegal (who used to be the chef at Masa’s) and The French Laundry.

We shared Appetizers consisting of Salt Seared Monterey Bay Calamari with a delicious Eggplant Caponata, Roasted Niman Ranch Bone Marrow with a Parsley and thinly shaved Black Radish Salad (along side some Crostini and Hawaiian Red Sea Salt to garnish), and Grilled Mackerel with an Olive Tapenade. All outstanding!

The fresh pastas were light and delicious. I don’t order pasta often these days, but I had feeling their Carbonara would be worth the calories. It was amazing and I especially loved the generous, savory pieces of Fra’ Mani Pancetta.

One of the other stand out pastas of the night was a Tallegio Cheese Agnolotti with Squash Puree and Vegetable Broth. The Squash Puree was delicate and the infused green oil floating on top of the broth was a lovely sight. Thanks for sharing a bite, Jenny, and Victor for ordering some great wine!

For dessert, we shared some House Made Fresh Ricotta Cheese “Doughnuts” with an Orange Creme Anglaise. The Ricotta was mixed into the dough and they were lightly dusted with sugar. If you’ve ever had Ricotta Pancakes, they were similar, but even better since they were crispy all around. I especially loved the orange zest. Can’t wait to go back!

Hmmm…I think I need to make some Lemon Ricotta Pancakes soon!

How To Prevent A Cut Apple From Browning In Your Lunch

21 Jan

Sometimes it’s the simple ideas that bring me happiness. This one did! To prevent a cut apple from browning in your kid’s lunch box, secure a rubber band around it. I wish I had thought of this, but I found it after stumbling upon the Bragg Blog (Bragg Live Food Products include a delicious Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar). I actually like the idea for myself too, since I prefer to cut up an apple rather than biting into a whole one, especially at my desk at the office.

You surely know the trite expression “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, and it’s a good reminder that most of us are not eating enough fruit and vegetables each day.

The new USDA Guidelines suggest you fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables–here is a link with some guidelines and nutrition data: www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov. I’d try going lighter on the fruit and eat more vegetables, since some fruits are quite high in sugar…mangoes, bananas, oranges, for example. On a side note, I read recently that the average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. Just imagine what a pile of that looks like!

Do you remember the Seinfeld TV show episode with Elaine who wants a “BIG” salad? That’s the kind of salad I like, that really satisfies my cravings for raw vegetables, and makes me feel super healthy with no remorse after eating a meal. You’ve probably heard of the “Meatless Mondays” campaign. What do think about “Salad Saturdays” or “Salad Sundays” where you fix a BIG salad for dinner instead of a eating heavy meal? Uh oh, I’m off on a tangent but I’d love to hear your ideas of what you’re doing to eat more fruits or vegetables!