December 30, 2002
Andiamo - Yummy Italian in the Marina

I rarely find myself in the Marina, so its kind of annoying to discover wonderful little restaurants over there, but last night I found myself over in that area for one of the few reasons I ever do... A movie was playing at the Presidio theater that wasn't showing anywhere else (About Schmidt, by director of Election. A good film, but not a must-see).

Anyway, wasn't going to be able to eat till 10pm, and did a citysearch look to see if there were any interesting looking restaurants open late, and came across this one, that was at the top of the list of user ratings, and right around the corner.

It's called Andiamo and is just around the corner from the theater, web site claiming open till 11pm on a sunday. And the menu boasted an arabbiata, which meriko knows I am extremely partial to. And so, my evening's sustenance was planned, and my companion and I travelled forth into the wasteland known as the Marina, knowing that there would be warm yummy pasta to be had eventually. And, I have to admit, soulless yuppies do know how to eat.

We got there around 9:45ish, and the sign on the door indicated that they closed at 9:30, but they welcomed us in, and seated several people after us, so maybe they are just schizophrenic. Small cute cozy place. And our waiter was of that particular type, the uber friendly flirty handsome italian stud who sits down next to you to take your order, that is one of my favorite bits of small italian restaurants. Ah, must go back to florence.

I ordered the carpaccio (I'm at the point where I order that any time I see it on the menu, especially when it shows up as a special) and the previously mentioned arabbiata (how could I resist), although it was hard, cause they had crab stuffed ravioli in a butter garlic sauce as a special. But must stay focused!

The arabbiata was just wonderful. Probably not as amazing as the angry pasta of pastaio, rest in peace, but the most worthy successor I've found to date. Fresh grated pepper and cheese topped it off perfectly.

The carpaccio was kind of disappointing. The thinly sliced meat came draped over the greens underneath it, and neither the meat or the greens had any sort of vinegar or seasoning or flavor to them at all, on their own. Its the first time I've had carpaccio done in a way where it was just kind of bland. Ended up having to squeeze lemon over it and sprinkle salt (I almost never find myself using salt) and having to chase all the few capers to make each bite fun. Wouldn't get this again there.

Michelle ordered garlic bread and the carbonara. The garlic bread was great, and the bite of carbonara I had was just amazing. So simple, so delicious, so bad for you. Michelle didn't end up finishing all of her pasta, and it was all I could do to keep from throwing myself over the table to lap up the rest of it. But I was able to restrain myself, and with a tear in my eye, I watched the waiter clear away her dish. But I think I am the better woman for it.

If I go again (which I'm sure I will), I will be hardpressed as to which pasta dish I will order, they were both amazing. Maybe I can convince them to do a half and half order :)

We had wine, which michelle picked out (she's a total wine girl) and I don't remember what it was, but I loved it.

We finished things up with tiramisu. I'm not much of a desserts girl, and never really been partial to tiramisu in particular, but this was really excellent. Very light and tasty.

Oh, and did I mention? This place is extremely inexpensive. Two appetizers, two entres, two glasses of wine, and a dessert, and our bill came to $42 pre-tip.

Posted by carrie on December 30, 2002
December 29, 2002
planning NYF 2002, deux

Today i spent much of the day working on NYF, in a scattered sort of way. The morning started with coffee, cookbooks, and menu-planning; it ended with cocktail development (and a gastronome post!).

Today i flushed out the menu. More to come on the final menu, and the whys and whats. I made up the ingredients list, by dish, and we marched out to attack the consumer centers of our fair city. We spent some time searching for some tableware i needed (demitasse cups & caviar spoons), and went on a caviar hunt. We picked up some of our ingredients at Andronicos. (Bi-Rite turns out to have caviar and raw foie gras this time of year, but they only had imported caviar; i was heartset on California caviar.)

With shopping success we came home, and i began prototyping some of the dishes - i try and practice the dishes i am making up & i'm uncertain about, or are new to me and reputedly tricky. Today i worked out the kinks in an orange juice-based curd (from the lemon curd recipe in the lemon and blueberry tart); next i test-drove blinis, which we ate for dinner. (See Tom's advice on cooking for crowds - the lessons apply for almost any fancy dinner with many courses, and you should take his counsel with my full endorsement.)

I spent a good chunk of time working out the components to cooking each dish, and then worked up my timeline for tomorrow and Tuesday. Are y'all interested in seeing such things posted here? Tom posted his menu list and his prep list (like my timeline in concept; yes, i do learn from my friends!) for his birthday party this year, and i found it quite interesting. Let me know - if anyone is interested, i'll transpose my prep lists and timelines with notes on how well we matched them after NYF. Heck, maybe i'll just subject you to them anyway. ;)

Finally, we set back out to find some Stoli Vanil, and i worked on the proportions for a cocktail i'd like to call a 'key lime pie'. Stoli Vanil, Charbay Key Lime Vodka, and simple syrup... the garnish will stay a surprise! I think Tad will especially like this concoction.

Tomorrow: Pain de mie! Puff pastry, from scratch!

Posted by shock on December 29, 2002
sauteed garlic shrimp

Shrimp freeze well, are easy to defrost, and quick to cook. Even when food stocks in the pantry dwindle, I usually have some frozen shrimp on hand to play with.. which probably explains why my last posting also featured shrimp! This one is quick and super easy. I got it from Martha's January 2003 'What's for Dinner?' section (page 132). I opted to eat it over rice this evening, but it would definitely be fantastic over pasta.

Sauteed Shrimp
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 - 3/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
splash of dry white wine
salt and pepper
lemon wedges for serving

1) Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until soft but not browned (about 1-2 minutes). Add shrimp, parsley, oregano, and pepper flakes, stirring frequently for 2 minutes until shrimp are bright pink and opaque.
2) Raise heat and add wine. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.

Serves 2 (Eat one serving for dinner, save the other half for tomorrow's lunch!)

Posted by rebecca on December 29, 2002
December 27, 2002

Southerners have a tradition -- you must eat black eyed peas and greens on New Years Day for good luck and prosperity in the next year. I have a mini-traditional menu I make on New Years Day to achieve this --
Greens with onions (I think I'll try this recipe this year)
Crook's corner Shrimp and Grits (without the meats or shrimps)
and of course a mess of Black Eyed Peas.

I'm not sure what time I'll be making it this year -- usually depends on how late I'm up the night before, and if we go to the Monterey Aquarium -- but if you'd like a bite for luck, let me know and I'll call you when it's on.

Posted by heather on December 27, 2002
rainy day breakfast

I am not sure what has gotten into me, but I have been doing a lot more
cooking. Maybe just feeling poor and not wanting to eat out.

Shari called in sick today, so I made us a very warming breakfast.

Polenta/yellow grits - with parmesian cheese
eggs sunny side up
and bacon

So rarely do we have bacon in our home, when i saw
the thick sliced bacon on sale at the meat counter i knew i could come up with a yummy use for it.

with a mocha for shari and tea for me.

just thought I would share

Posted by karine on December 27, 2002
December 25, 2002
Ginger Shortbread

Ginger Shortbread
The recipe is from Rosie's Bakery. Chocolate Packed, Jam Filled, Butter-Rich, No-Holds-Barred, Cookie Book, Judy Rosenberg

2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon (lightly packed) light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons ground ginger
1 cup coursely chopped candied ginger (chopped by hand)

1. sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together into a small bowl, and set aside

2. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, creamthe butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and ground ginger together in a medium-sized mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer once or twice during the process to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.

3. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the mixture is fluffy again about 45 seconds. Scrape the bowl.

4. Remove the dough from teh bowl and place it on a work surface. Work the candied ginger into the dough with your hands

5. Divide the dough in half. Place two 16-inch lengths of waxed paper or plastic wrap on a work surface. Shape each half of the dough into a rough log, about 10 inches long and 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and place it along one long side of the paper. Roll the dough up in the pape, and twist the ends like a hard-candy wrapper. Refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours.

6. Remove the dough from teh refrigerator. Using your hands, roll the wrapped dough gently back and forth on the work surface to smooth out the the logs. Refrigerate again for 4 to 6 hours.

7. Fifteen minutes before baking preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, or leave them ungreased.

8. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap the logs, and cut them into slices that are a generous 1/3 inch thick.

9. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets, and bake until they are golden and firm to the touch. About 28 ro 30 minutes ( to test for doneness, remove a cookied from the oven and cut in half. There should be no doughy stip in the center) Cool the cookies on the sheets.

10. Store the cookies in an airtight contrainer at room temperature for a day or two if you think you will be snacking on them. After that, store the container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. ring cookies to room temperature before eating.
makes about 60 cookies.

I removed steps 5-10 and instead too the dough and packed it into an 8x8 glass pan and baked it for 30 minutes. They might be slightly underdone, but they are amazing. So much ginger in such a little package. Oh the only problem I came across in baking it in the pan was that when I went to cut the cookies they were uneven due to the ginger chunks.

Posted by karine on December 25, 2002
xmas eve dinner

I started a tradition of cooking a big Christmas dinner for Shari and I when we moved in together in 1999, (just in time for Christmas). Normally I make a leg of lamb.

I mentioned this to Meriko last Friday night and she suggested a butterfly leg of lamb stuffed with sauted spinach, mushrooms and feta. I thought this a great idea. Since Christmas day was going to be busy, I made our feast last night.

We had the leg of lamb stuffed with, spinach, portabellos and a touch of feta, rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic. Then I rubbed olive oil, lemon juice, salt pepper, fresh rosemary and garlic on the outside.

Mushroom and broccoli Risotto, green salad, and rosemary bread with butter and roasted garlic.

and for dessert I made Ginger Shortbread. I had to alter the recipe a bit, since the kitchen was too warm for me to roll the dough into a log and refrigerate. I ended up putting them into an 8x8 pan and baking. They are amazing, recipe to follow.

The dinner was fantastic, the only short coming was the bottle of wine.
Which was a little past it's prime. It will make for an excellent cooking wine, but sipping it with our dinner was not an option.

Posted by karine on December 25, 2002
December 24, 2002
Portobello Mushroom Salad

This is my favorite salad, ever. We had this deliciousness on the back patio at Brava Terrace one night, and everyone at the table was moved by it. The mushrooms are just fantastic. Broiling them with peanut oil really seals in the juices and makes for a meaty-fun mess.

I use a lot less oil in the dressing than they suggest, and if I can't get/don't have the fresh herbs, it still tastes just great over plain spinach.

Portobello Mushroom Salad
Brava Terrace, St. Helena, CA
Gourmet Archives

4 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup walnut oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
4 Portobello mushroom caps (about 1/2 pound)
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cups firmly packed spinach, washed thoroughly,
spun dry, and cut into thin strips
1 large shallot, chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh basil, thin strips

Prepare grill or preheat broiler.
In skillet cook garlic in butter over moderate heat, turning, until
garlic is golden brown.
In blender blend garlic mixture, walnut oil, vinegars and salt and pepper
to taste.
Scrape gills off mushroom caps and brush both sides with peanut oil.
On a grill or in shallow pan under broiler grill or broil the mushrooms
about 4 inches from heat 3 minutes on each side, or until tender.
In a bowl toss together spinach, shallot, and garlic mixture.
Divide spinach mixture among plates and top with mushroom caps.
Sprinkle caps with fresh herbs. Serves 4.

Posted by heather on December 24, 2002
December 23, 2002
planning NYF 2002

In the waning days of 1999, Beca & Russell & i started a tradition that i think is my favorite part of the winter holidays: New Year's Feast. We were looking for a way to celebrate with people we loved, in a cozy, non-crazy environment. We combined my love for elaborate dinner parties with these criteria, and came up with NYF. We share a multi-course meal slowly through the night, chatting and enjoying each others' company. We generally issue an open invite to stop in for a glass of wine to anyone passing through the 'hood on their way to their festivities, and get to say hi to a variety of lovely folks throughout the evening. The first few years, our dirty little soiree included a viewing of Show Girls, but we've reserved that firmly for the first these days.

I get the joy of planning a festive meal - i don't worry about costs or money; i cook things i am challenged by and interested in cooking. I get to execute the dishes, and dedicate a few days in the kitchen, and then share the meal with some of my favorite people.

Last year i was on an Asian-fusion American-nouveau kick. This year i'm feeling like the menu is going to have a distinctly French feel to it. I want to do a caviar tasting; i'm deciding between the traditional Big Three, or a few locally farmed and created caviars. I definitely want to do a steak tartare for the meat course. and i have dessertish dreams for a clever tart. I'm toying with some sort of crab dish for the fish course, and perhaps individual onion tartlettes? I'm going to pick up a few cookbooks for perusal in the car during the holiday road-tripping. Discuss, discuss!

NYF 1999
NYF 2000
NYF 2001

Posted by shock on December 23, 2002
December 22, 2002
bread or pastry?

Bread scares the tar out of me. I never have any idea if I'm doing it right. I tried this recipe for Apricot-Cream Cheese Braids, and they turned out a little squishy in the middle for my tastes. A more accurate oven probably would have fixed me right up.

We polished off one loaf for dessert tonight. I have three left that I think I will toast before serving...

To prepare dough, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 (8-ounce) carton light sour cream in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; cool. Dissolve 2 packages dry yeast (about 4 1/2 teaspoons) in 1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees) in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream mixture and 2 large eggs, lightly beaten. Lightly spoon 4 cups all-purpose flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Gradually stir flour into sour cream mixture (dough will be soft and sticky). Cover dough; chill 8 hours or overnight.

To prepare filling, combine 2/3 cup apricot preserves, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 (8-ounce) blocks 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened, and 1 large egg, lightly beaten, in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.

Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Turn each portion out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 4 or 5 times. Roll each portion into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Spread one-fourth of filling over each portion, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Starting at a long side, carefully roll up each portion jelly roll fashion; pinch seams and ends to seal.

Place 2 loaves on each of 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Cut 4 (1/4-inch deep) "X"s in top of each loaf with scissors. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 25 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place 1 baking sheet in oven (cover remaining loaves to keep from drying). Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Repeat procedure with remaining loaves. Cool loaves slightly.

To prepare glaze, combine 1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons fat-free milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle warm loaves with glaze.

Posted by astraea on December 22, 2002
December 20, 2002
butter pig

My friend Tom Cooks. Yes, with a capital C. He taught me to make risotto, and buerre blanc, and any number of tasty things. He even showed me how to make a boneless chicken. He has some not-often-updated cooking web pages, and recently started a food log - butter pig. Check it out! (You can see his write-ups of his birthday party this year; i still owe y'all my write up.)

Posted by shock on December 20, 2002
December 19, 2002
On onions & rhythm

As Jessa of Bookslut said, here's a love letter to James Beard.

Posted by shock on December 19, 2002
December 15, 2002
grrrr meat

Yes, another slab o' meat recipe. It doesn't call for roasting a small woodland creature on a spit over a campfire flame, however, which would make it perfect for a LOTR viewing.

Take a 3-pound sirloin tip roast and rub it with a mixture of ground coriander seeds, cracked black pepper, kosher salt, and crushed garlic cloves. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then another 40 minutes at 300. Take it out, pitch a tin foil tent over it, and let it stand another 15 minutes. For sauce, combine prepared horseradish, stone-ground mustard, and white vinegar. Kitchen science fact: the rub turns into a yummy crust on the roast beef! Slice and serve with sauce. Add a vegetable and a starch if you're actually in the mood for a balanced meal. Hah.

Posted by astraea on December 15, 2002
pate with porcini and calvados

This is the first (meaty) pate i've ever made! It's nice for a beginner - it's the sort of pate you make, scrape into a bowl, and chill for a few hours rather than the kind that you put in a terrine mold and bake in a fiddly water bath for a long time at a low temp. That's probably also a bonus in the summer, or when you're cooking a million-billion things. It's very tasty, and adds the fun party game of scraping the top layer off to reveal the pink underbelly - which oxidizes quickly enough to see with the naked eye! anne made this for Thanksgiving, and i entreated her to send me the recipe. Aside from that, i'm unsure of the provenence. Oh, and Goblin? She likes it, too.

1/2 oz dried porcini
1 cup chicken stock (full salt)
3 1/2 T calvados
4 T butter
1/3 cup minced shallots
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T fresh thyme, minced
1 lbs chicken livers, rinsed and deveined
3/4 t salt
freshly ground pepper
2 T heavy cream

Rinse porcini. In a small pan, bring chicken stock to a boil. Pour chicken stock into a small bowl with the porcini. Let sit for 10-20 minutes. Remove porcini from stock and mince. Set aside.

Let stock sit for a few minutes, then pour it back into the saucepan, discarding the sandy stuff at the bottom of the bowl. Add calvados. Simmer until stock is reduce to 1/4 cup. Let cool.

Rinse and devein the chicken livers. Mince the shallots, garlic and thyme.

In a large skillet, melt butter over low heat. Add shallots, garlic and thyme. Cover skillet and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Raise the heat to medium and add chicken livers, salt and pepper. Cook until livers are done but still pink inside.

Add everything (don't forget the mushrooms) to a food processor and process until smooth.

Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

This pate oxides very easily, so you probably want to scrape off the top before serving.

Posted by shock on December 15, 2002
molasses-ginger cookies

These are tasty, chewy, spicy, molasses-ey cookies. They don't pack the ginger punch that my ginger cookies do, but that's ok - this is a different monster. I first made these last year; Heather passed on this recipe from Nola. My friends at work argue about whether these or the triple-chocolate cookies are better. Me, i like them both.

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour

Mix in order given. Roll into balls the size of a quarter and roll in granualated sugar. Place dough on cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 9-11 min.

I alternate position from bottom to middle of the oven half way through and slam the cookie sheet down so they're heavier. It makes a satisfying loud noise and releases tension. This must be the variable factor in it all - how hard and what angle I slam the cookie sheets.

Notes: The original recipe called for margarine, but you know me - i replaced it with butter. The slamming, as noted, is good fun - and the cookies are different when you don't. Cook a little shorter if you want them chewier, and a little longer if you want them crispy.

Posted by shock on December 15, 2002
triple chocolate cookies

I've been making these during the holidays for the last few years - everyone always loves them! They're rich without being too heavy. I extracted the cookie from a Food and Wine recipe for Triple chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies... I tried them with the filling a few times, and it never comes out quite right. The cookies on their own are just stunning, so they stand on their own.

Makes about 3.5 dozen cookies.
1c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably dutch process
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (i usually use sharffenberger)
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1.5c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 oz milk chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch chunks (i have often used callebaut chips for this purpose)

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt the unsweetened chocolate with the butter over low heat. Scrape the melted chocolate into a medium bowl and let cool. Stir in the granulated sugar and vanilla until blended, then mix in the eggs. Stir in the dry ingredients until a soft dough forms, then fold in the milk chocolate.

3. Roll slightly rounded teaspoon of the dough into 3/4 inch balls. Arrange the balls 2 inches apart on th eprepared baking sheets and flatten them slightly. Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, or until firm outside but still soft in the center; rotate the baking sheets halfway through. Slide the cookies onto wire racks to cool.

Notes from meriko: i cook mine around 9-10 minutes, and i use silpats or non-stick cookie sheets to good effect to replace the parchment paper. I often use semi-sweet chocolate instead of milk for the chips, and noone complains. And yep, the dough will be pretty sticky - just make sure you roll it in your palms, and wash your hands before you do your intra-tray-bake tasks.

Posted by shock on December 15, 2002
a tree-trimming party

One of our insta-traditions started when we moved into the Hill Street house some years ago, and realized that we had a huge Victorian bay window, crying out for a huge Christmas tree. We invited a bunch of people over to help trim our tree, but we didn't really have the ornamenture necessary to fill the beast. We pulled out the huge bin of lego, and our friends happily built and built and built. Each year, the ornaments get broken back down into the bin, and the next year, the tree is different. As you might imagine, such hard work requires some pretty serious fortification. Here's the menu of snacks and tasties from this year's party:
Triple chocolate cookies
Molasses-ginger cookies
Pate with porcini and calvados
Several cheese boards
Apples, grapes & pears
Assorted Olives
Spicy maple nuts (cashews, almonds & pecans)
Hot spiced apple cider

Posted by shock on December 15, 2002
December 13, 2002
peanut-coconut shrimp soup

Another great one from the Best of Sunset Recipes magazine. This soup takes about 10 minutes to whip together from start to finish. Lacking Asian peanut sauce in my pantry, I took a 'danger meal' route with the soup and made some creative adjustments. It makes enough for 2 regular portions, or one super generous one. Here are the details:

Peanut-Coconut Soup with Shrimp
1 1/4 cups reduced fat chicken broth (I used veggie broth)
1 1/4 cups canned reduced fat coconut milk
3 tablespoons Asian peanut sauce (I substituted organic peanut butter, garlic, ginger, chilie oil, soy sauce)
6 ounces uncooked shrimp peeled & deveined
2/3 cup frozed petite peas (I left these out)
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
lime wedges

In a 2 quart pan, combined broth, coconut milk, peanut sauce (or equivalent!), and peas (yuck - or not!). Bring to a simmer over high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Rinse and drain shrimp, stir into soup. Remove from heat. Let stand until shrimp are just opaque - about 3 to 4 minutes.

Ladle soup into warm bowls and sprinkle with green onion. Offer lime wedges to squeeze into soup.

About 270 calories per serving.

Posted by rebecca on December 13, 2002
December 12, 2002
Danger Dinner: Mongolian Lamb Burrito

I've been wanting to try some variation on Mongolian Hot Pot for a while. This dish was one of the great successes of a short-lived program in my house when I was a kid, where one meal a week would be "international" - we'd pick a country, and the kids would find a recipe, assist in cooking it, scrawl the national flag in question on a paper to be tacked to the dining room wall for the duration, and we'd eat.

International Dinner Night didn't last all that long, but we had Mongolian Hot Pot - lots of sliced meats and veggies brought to the table raw, and a big electric skillet full of broth - once in a while for years to come.

Yesterday I went out to get ingredients for MHP - carrots, bean sprouts, bok choy, and a bit of lamb. Everything else was already in the house. However, meriko's been working late this week, so I finally gave in and improvised something between a mu shu lamb dish and a burrito tonight.

Julienne one medium carrot, slice one stalk of celery, pull out a quarter-cup of the bamboo shoots you've been saving since you made danger curry. Drop a cup of rice and 2 cups water into the rice cooker and fire it up. Slice up 1/3 lb. of lamb chop. Make a sauce to your taste: I used soy sauce, turkey stock, peanut butter, mirin, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, chili sauce, and five spice - danger dinner fans will recognize this as pretty similar to my danger noodle sauce, but you should grab whatever you think will taste good. I went heavy on the soy sauce and mirin, letting the sauce be very salty-sweet, on the basis that the blandness of the rice was going to cut the flavor of the other stuffings. I don't think my sauce was very Mongolian, but neither was the Bornschlegel family's hot pot, truth be told. Put a little peanut oil in the sauté pan, fire it up, and cook your stuffings. I cooked the carrot and celery first with just a tiny bit of the sauce (trying to let them retain their basic flavor), then took them out and put in the lamb, bamboo shoot, a handful of bean sprouts, and the rest of the sauce, cooking that down until it was thick and gooey. I then threw that in the bowl with the carrot and celery.

Finally, put a dry pan on medium heat, warm a tortilla in it (I had little fajita size tortillas on hand, though my Original Vision was of a full sized burrito), scoop in about three parts rice to two parts lamb-n-veggies-mixture. It's easy to overfill if you're not a professional burritista, so watch it. Fold it up burritowise, and if you're so inclined, put it back in the pan to crisp the shell a bit - I find this helps hold the burrito together; this is our basic technique for morning tofu-sausage scramble meals on weekends, as well. Chomp chomp! The rice makes it less intense than something like mu shu pork, palatable for a burrito-sized serving, even if your sauce is seriously concentrated.

The concept of a Chinese burrito gains some extra appropriateness in light of the fact that I got some of the ingredients at one of the groceries down on Mission that serves both hispanic and asian communities, carrying a plethora of ethnicities' worth of food.

Oh! I should also point out how easy this would be to adapt to veganity - tofu instead of lamb, veg broth instead of turkey, check the ingredients going into the sauce, and you're set!

Posted by russell on December 12, 2002
rosemary flatbread

An excellent recipe for grilled flatbread hors d'oeuvres from The Best of Sunset Recipes (currently on a Safeway checkout magazine rack near you). Lacking a grill, we popped these directly into the oven on top of a super-hot pizza stone. They turned out fantastic, but I'm sure grilling them would have made them even better. I'm usually scared to death about making breads, but this recipe made it easy to produce what looked and tasted like something you'd find in a first-class trattoria! Here's the recipe:

Grilled Rosemary Flatbreads
1 package active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup finely diced onion
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
2/3 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
fresh-ground pepper

In a bowl, sprinkle yeast over 1/14 cups warm water. Let stand until softened (about 5 minutes). Add salt, onion, 1 1/2 tabelspoons olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups flour. Stir vigorously until dough is stretchy (about 5 minutes). Stir in 1 1/4 cups more flour. Scrape dough onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky (about 10-12 minutes). Add flour to prevent sticking.

Place dough in well oiled bowl, cover airtight, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled (about and hour). Briefly knead to expell air, cut into 6 equal pieces and shape each into a smooth ball. Use a floured rolling pin to roll one flattened ball into a 8-inch round. Brush round with 3/4 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon rosemary, 2 tablespoons parmesan, and pepper. Press seasonings into bread and place on a plastic-wrap covered plate. Cover with another layer of plastic wrap. Repeat to roll out remaining balls, adding each round to stack, covering with plastic wrap until all are ready for chilling. Rounds can chill up to 6 hours before grilling.

Place a few dough rounds on an oiled grill, rotating breads for even browning. When bottoms are browned, turn breads over and cook until seasoned sides are browned. (We found that when baking it on a pizza stone, you dont need to flip it at all). After removing from heat, immediately cut each flatbread into 6 wedges. Provide olive oil for dipping.

Makes 6 flatbreads, or 12 servings.

Posted by rebecca on December 12, 2002
pizza my ass

An easy menu for a weeknight on which everyone around the table is exhausted:

Quick Pizza Margherita
Lemon broccoli
Chocolate wafer cookies

Perkiness was up by at least 75% by the end of the meal.

Posted by astraea on December 12, 2002
December 11, 2002
gingerbread tiles

Hungry for some new holiday dessert options, I tried a new recipe out of the latest issue of San Francisco magazine for Glazed Gingerbread Tiles. This recipe was contributed by the folks who run Tartine Bakery - the one down the street on Guerrero that's been packed since it opened a couple months ago! My husband tasted the fruits of my efforts and declared the recipe 'a new family favorite.' The cookies were spicy, rich, and dense without being belly-bustin heavy.

Glazed Gingerbread Tiles
3 3/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1/4 cup cool water
1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Combine the flour, cocoa, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium speed beat the butter until smooth, add the sugar and continue beating until fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the egg and beat untill combined. With mixer running, pour in the molasses and beat until incorporated. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until thoroughly combined. Divide the dough in half, shape into flat squares, and wrap in plasticwrap. Refrigerate until cool, about an hour. Heat oven to 350F. Place dough on parchement-covered baking sheet and roll it out with a patterned rolling pin until its approximately 1/3 inch thick. Bake the dough until it's no longer shiny - about 8-10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

To make the glaze: Wisk the water and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Brush the warm cookies with the glaze. When cool, cut the cookies into 3-by-4 inch pieces.

Posted by rebecca on December 11, 2002
December 03, 2002

Wow. This is 'The Red Place' at the corner of 24th and Van Ness - i first spotted it on Dia De Los Muertos, and resolved to return. Adam, Russell & i were headed for El Farolito, and then out for drinks - but i diverted us on a whim to try Lorca.

Not a mistake. A charming bar - with both a bar and tables. Charming, sweet bartender - who checked whether R liked his Manhattan 'west coast' or 'east coast', and chatted gracefully. The drinks were divine and well-crafted, as well. (Adam drank Parchment Moons; i tried a Sapphire Poppy Punch, followed by a Spanish-inspired gin-based cocktail which is yet unnamed.)

Everything on the menu looked great, but at the top there was the option of a seven course tasting menu, for $28.00 per person. We threw ourselves on the mercy of the chef without hearing what was on the tasting menu. They thoughtfully asked whether we had any allergies the chef should know about.

I'll try and recount as best i can what we ate; overall - the food was impeccable. Spanish food, but not tapas. Our dishes were from a number of regions, north and south, and they were careful to tell us the inspiration for each as it arrived. Dishes were plated with care and served with panache - the soup was served in ways i normally associate with places like La Folie or The French Laundry. When we were served small, lidded casseroles, they made a clear effort (even in the small restaurant) to lift all three lids at the same time. Small touches. And every bite was delicious!

We started with an amuse-bouche type deal - a glass of chilled fino (Spanish for sherry - this one was fairly sweet) with an olive cracker perched on top for eating afterwards. We were told that it should open our appetites.

This was followed by a very small plate of tiny cubed potatoes with beef, served as an appetizer. I think i saw this on the full menu as a main course. The beef and potatoes was followed by what i think was my favorite - a tiny shrimp, a raw-garlic-ey (but not too sharp) puree of maybe potato? and a swirl of balsamic in a soup dish. A puree'd trout soup was poured over this - you scraped up the reduced balsamic as you ate the soup. Divine. I wish i had photographed this for you.

After the soup, we ate a fish course of marinated, cooked sardines, layered with thinly sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and sprouts, with a lovely sauce. In the photo, note the sauce presentation - the dishes were unique to the course, and the sauce is shaped to look like the fish, which is presented as a 'sandwich' architecture. The flavor was superb - you could taste that it was a sardine, and that you were having essense of sardine without feeling it was 'fishy' or 'gamey'.

This was followed by a dish whose name translates to 'bull's tail' - rice and oxtail, wth some capers and herbs. It needed a little salt to bring up the flavor - but there was salt on the table, and i'd rather they under than oversalt. This was tailed by another fish dish - a perfectly seared piece of mahi mahi on a bed of puree'd potatoes, with mushrooms (wild and domestic, if i am calling them correctly), and a mushroom infusion poured around the dish at the table. Again, so tasty and rich - but balanced on the edge.

We then had a pork en adobo - layered with fried potatoes and other tasties. Then some tiny pieces of flan with sliced grapes, served with flaming brandy poured about them; and then a dessert try with small drinks poured at the table of amaretto, OJ, and mint (poured into tiny glasses with caramelized sugar springs), warm chocolate cake bites with orange cookie, and a tiny custard in a tart shell.

I was perfectly fed - not overfull, not hungry, and as Thomas Keller would say, left wanting just one more bite. Perfect. (You know the game. Click on the food to see the full set.)

Posted by shock on December 03, 2002
December 02, 2002
Limon Redux

Long ago, at the inception of this here site (uh, a few months ago), i passed a restuarant called Limon and posted that i wanted to try it. After eating there once with my dad and Russell, and another time a few weeks later on a business dinner, i was thrilled. The food is fantastic; everyone concurs. The staff is friendly, the joint is small, the prices are reasonable. It's a little further than Villa Poppi, and a different genre of food, but i think that we may have found our replacement for homey, kickass food in the Mission. I scanned the menu for y'all last month, but didn't get around to compressing it and making it readable. I've tried about 2/3 of the things on it now, and would eat them all again, happily. Poking around SFGate today, i saw that Michael Bauer agrees with me. I hope we can still get a table.

Anyone up for a December gastronome outing?

Posted by shock on December 02, 2002