gastronome
March 29, 2003
farmer's market

Today we went to the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market; it's open from 8:00am to 1:30pm on Saturdays. You can find the maze of tents, produce, people, and other tasty things at Embarcadero and Vallejo. I can see this becoming a Saturday morning ritual for the Borogoves.

Spring is so very here. Summer berries aren't here, but nearly every produce stand had gorgeous bunches of green/spring garlic and tiny leeks. The asparagus is out in force... an astonishing number of people were selling asparagus ravioli. The cheesemongers had lovely wares, and the artichokes are looking perfect. There's something especially satisfying about buying your food directly from the people who grow, raise, and make it.

We're working out new food routines, now that Russell's employed again. We MUST not descend into eating out more nights than we eat in; in our neighborhood, it's frightfully easy to do so. I realized this week that as long as there was good produce in the fridge, i was happy to whip up a quick dinner - but when i only had staples, i was much less interested. My body must be craving all the spring greenery. I'm hoping a weekly trip to the farmer's market will help get me into the groove of cooking most nights again - the produce is definitely inspiring.

This week's loot:
Several bunches of beautiful, thin asparagus. Three large bunches of green garlic. (Two of them are destined for a pot of green garlic soup sometime this week.) A head of cauliflower. A bag of sweet oranges. A stack of sugar snap peas. (Snap peas and asparagus mean spring to me. I miss sharing our spring dinners with James.) A celery root. A piece of Point Reyes Blue; a piece of Capricious washed curd goat cheese; and a lump of fresh feta from the Capricous folks.

Thus far, we've had some of the green garlic pureéd into mashed potatoes and served with asparagus and pine-nut crusted rock cod; tonight i think we'll have some of the snap peas and risotto with celery root next to our roasted chicken.

What do you buy at the farmer's market?

Posted by shock on March 29, 2003
March 23, 2003
Sunday brunch

A few weeks ago, Tammy & Todd came over for Sunday brunch. Todd and i whipped up a tasty brunch while Tammy drew Russell's hand and the messed around with R's music programs. We ate, basking in the sunbeams in the bay window. I've always liked joining friends for brunch out; i had no idea i would enjoy hosting brunch as much as i did. It was lovely. I see grilled brunches coming up in the near future, if the weather stays this lovely!

The menu:

Pomegranite kir royals

Point Reyes Blue & Paranno with sliced apples

Oysters

Crab, asparagus & goat cheese tarts
Honeydew with rosemary&mint syrup; grapes

Plenty of coffee!

I'll post a master recipe for these free-form tarts i've been playing around with; i'm very happy with them, overall. On a whim, i infused some simple syrup (1:1 water:sugar) with rosemary and mint from the garden, and tossed the honeydew balls in it, and then chilled the mixture. The light touch of the herbs was fantastic against the cool melon flavor, and was overall a good contrast to the sweet, tangy, and rich tart.

Posted by shock on March 23, 2003
March 17, 2003
brownie cheesecake

this is a very fudgy cheesecake and I am told it is good in a vanilla crust, but have only tried it in a chocolate crust.

Crust

1 1/4 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (~30 cookies or chocolate cookies)
1 Tablespoon sugar
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick ) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped walnites or pecans

Cake

12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup hot very strong brewed coffee
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature

1. preheat the oven to 350F
2. for the crust, place he wafer crumbs, sugar, butter and nuts in a small bowl and toss them together with a fork. press the mixture over the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan and bake for 10 minutes. remove it from the oven and cool.
3. reduce th oven heat to 300F and place a roasting pan or baking dish filled with hot water on the bottom rack of the oven to create moisture.
4. for the cake filling, melt the chocolate in the coffe in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water.
5. cream the cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and flyffy, about 2 minutes. stop the mixer once or twice to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
6. add the eggs and beat the mixture on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. scrape the bowl and beat on medium speed 30 seconds longer
7. add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat on mdium speed for 15 seconds. scrape the bowland then mix until the batter is smooth and uniform in color, about 10 more seconds.
8. pour the filling over the crust and bake the cake on the cetner oven rack until it is set and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 25 minutes.
9. allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack, then refrigerate overnight.

the cake might sink and/or crack, have some whip cream on hand to top it with . this will hide the imprefections.

Posted by karine on March 17, 2003
March 15, 2003
casserole o' the barley

Thank goodness for salon, an excuse to cook! This Baked Barley with Shiitake Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions from the March 2003 issue of Cooking Light was a huge hit, and I'm eating the leftovers straight out of the pot right now (avoiding the onion chunks). I usually have trouble getting grains to be tender enough, but the slow baking did the trick. It also gave the barley the chance to soak up all the yummy mushroom flavor. Slurp.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 4 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 3 medium) and 1 teaspoon sugar; cover and cook 25 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add 3 cups sliced button mushrooms (about 9 ounces) and 3 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 8 ounces); cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Add 1 1/2 cups uncooked pearl barley; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring 4 cups vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour broth over barley mixture; cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until barley is tender. Let stand 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if desired. Yield: 6 servings

Posted by astraea on March 15, 2003
March 10, 2003
cheesecake

Anyone have a favorite cheesecake recipe? I'm making a stack of them as birthday cakes for a friend this weekend. I'm not particularly fond of cheesecake myself, so if someone has a killer recipe, share, share! My current one is a pretty basic one, full of vanilla beans, from Food & Wine - i made a bunch during the holidays of 2001.

Posted by shock on March 10, 2003
restaurant slave

The blog of a woman in her late twenties, who works in the webtech industry, is friends with the chef of a well-known, swank Italian restaurant in the city. She has no formal training, but cooks for friends, and wants to know if she should take the plunge and put a career-change leap into her life. So she convinces him to let her work in the kitchen. She does so, 2 nights a week, after work for about a year.

No, she's not me. I sat down and read this through, from the beginning, this weekend. Envious? You bet. A great read - give it a few cups of coffee and an hour or two.

Posted by shock on March 10, 2003
March 08, 2003
chocolate crackle cookies

This is not a cookie for someone seeking immediate gratification in the form of a 15-minutes-from-scratch-to-baked-cookie sort of recipe. This is not your average chocolate cookie; this cookie is chocolate perfection. It's a weekend in Aspen cookie, it's shoppping in Barney's cookie; this cookie ain't no Safeway Special. It feels like a high maintenence cookie... and is in fact a Martha recipe! (Damn her to hell for setting the bar so high and delivering!)

The recipe produces 4 portions of dough that can be popped in the fridge and baked over several days. The result? Dangerously good chocolate cookies which are gooey on the inside; firm, crackled, and dusted with confectioners sugar on the outside.

Chocolate Crackle Cookies
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, corsely chopped
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup confectioners sugar

Melt chocolate on a heat-proof bowl, or the top of a double broiler, over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool. Into a small bowl sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer beat butter and light brown sugar until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add melted chocolate. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk. Mix on low speed until combined. Divide dough into quarters, wrap with plastic wrap and chill in refridgerator until firm (at least 2 hours).

Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets w/parchement paper (or use a SilPat). On a surface dusted with confectioner's sugar, use your hands to roll each portion of the dough into a log 16 inches in length and about an inch in diameter. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and return to the refridgerator to chill (at least 30 minutes). Cut each log into 1-inch pieces and toss in confectioner's sugar a few at a time, rolling to completely cover each ball. Place cookies on sheets 2 inches apart. bake until cookies have flattened and sugar splits (12-15 minutes).

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to a week... if you don't eat them all first! Many thanks to my husband for test-driving this recipe for me!

Makes about 5 dozen.

Posted by rebecca on March 08, 2003
March 07, 2003
Professor's fan club

I'm so in love with Gary Regan's column, that I dream of starting a bi-weekly Professor's study group, to get together with a bunch of people and sample all the cocktails he makes.

This week - the Floridita

Posted by heather on March 07, 2003
March 06, 2003
Salmon with celery root

Heather picked up a celery root tonight, in response to a list of things that go nicely with fish i supplied a few weeks ago. Here's the recipe i was thinking of - i made it about a year ago for Tammy and Todd, and served it with roasted tiny red potatoes, cut in half and cooked in salt, a bit of olive oil, and fresh rosemary from the garden. Add a salad, and you're set! The recipe is from Alison Becker Hurt's Kitchen Suppers It's very tasty, quick & easy.

Serves 2.
2 small knobs celery root, peeled (one big one is fine, too)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c. finely chopped shallots (about 2 shallots)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, shaved thinly
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (i omitted the dill. i hate dill.)
salt & pepper to taste
2 12-oz skinless salmon filets
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

1. Cut each celery root in half and trim away any nasty parts from the center. Cut it into 1/8" strips. (It's ok if they're 1/4", really. You want pieces of celery root you're happy to pick up on a fork and pop in your mouth, but not TOO small.)

2. In a large skillet, heat the butter over low heat. Add the celery root and shallots. Cook until the celery root is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the red onion, garlic, parsley & dill. Mix well. Cook until the onion is tender - about 3 minutes. Season with pepper. Remove the veg mix to another plate; leave as much of the juice as you can in th epan.

3. Increase the heat to medium-high. Lightly season the salmon with salt and pepper. Place it in the skillet and squeeze the lemon over it. Cook, turning once, until medium-rare. (About four minutes, total.) Return the celery root to the pan, smothering the salmon. Cook until the celery root is reheated, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Posted by shock on March 06, 2003
Millennium Tofu Spread

This is a fantastic spread - the herbs and the miso make it interesting to taste, and with enough time in the food processor, the tofu itself becomes silky smooth. My friends across a range of eating styles enjoy it - the vegans, the vegetarians, and the omnivores. I prefer it to mayonnaise, and happily spread it on bagels and toast - i'll even use it in a tuna salad. It is certainly not a mayo-imposter; it's a different beast that serves the purpose of having something rich and tangy and a little wet on your bread. Texture-wise, it falls somewhere between a smooth hummus and a whipped cream cheese. My niece Allison thinks it's good on grapes, too!

Recipe from The Millennium Cookbook.

Makes about 2.5 cups

1 yellow onion, cut lengthwise into thin crescents
3 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
1 tsp salt
1/4 c. dry white white wine, sherry, or vegetable stock
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 c. vegetable stock or water
12 oz. firm tofu, drained
1/4 c. light miso


In a large saute pan or skillet, cook the onions, garlic, salt and wine over medium heat until the onions just start to soften, about five minutes. Add the herbs and vegetable stock. Cover and cook until the liquid evaporates and the onion and garlic are very soft and lgiht brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Crumble the tofu into a medium bowl. Add the miso and the onion mixture and blend well. In a food processor, process this mixture, in batches if necessary, until smooth. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Nutritional info per tbsp:
33 calories (27% from fat), 2 g protein, 4 g Carbohydrate, 1 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 294 mg sodium, 0.3 g fiber.


meriko's notes:
Sometimes i use sherry instead of white wine. I also used about a tsp fresh thyme, a tsp fresh sage, a tsp fresh rosemary,and a tsp dried basil, no oregano, and the appropriate amount of nutmeg. I salted and peppered to taste. Leave this in the food processor longer than you think you need to; and don't worry about the texture being a little weird when it's warm. It will silken out as it cools.

Posted by shock on March 06, 2003
March 03, 2003
Restaurant Sims!

Woahhh - Russell sent this to me today. I wonder if it will be fun? I'll report back after he buys it for me and we waste several evenings on it.... Beca, are you up for a Saturday day of this?

Restaurant Empire

Posted by shock on March 03, 2003
March 02, 2003
gentle spring pasta

Tonight Robert & Laureen came over for dinner. I didn't have a ton of prep time, but Carrie had planted the idea of "asparagus and shiitake mushrooms" in my head earlier in the day, and i spent a bit of my walk working up an idea for an entrée for the evening. The dinner worked well, i think - Campari and soda with olives to start; the pasta below as an entrée, a salad, and then some apple-caramel tarts for dessert. I think this pasta would be good with any sort of spring veggies - i was especially pleased that it wasn't too heavy at service.

Ingredients:
penne
asparagus
pancetta (sliced thickly, like bacon)
shiitake mushrooms
butter
Navarro Chardonna Verjus (any other white wine verjus would be fine; if you can't find verjus, use a bit of vinegar with some white wine to sub in.)
a few capers
fresh thyme
fresh parmesan

Fry the pancetta until it's crisp. Remove to a paper towel; reserve the pancetta fat. (I poured off half of it, and left the rest in the pan to cool for the next step. If you're prepping a sweet apple tart on the other counter, make sure to keep very clean between handling the bacon and the tart crust. ;) )

Snap the thick ends of the asparagus; slice the rest on the bias to about the length of a penne. Clean, stem, and thickly slice the mushrooms. Pull the thyme leaves from their stems.

Put on a pot of water to boil.

Once the pan is coolish, turn it back up to medium, toss a small amount of butter in on top of some of the pancetta grease, and sautée the shiitakes until they are crispy around the edges, but still soft inside. Let them give up about half of the water.

Let the pan cool a bit, add the rest of the pancetta fat, a touch of butter, and when it's medium-hot, add the asparagus. Keep shaking the pan. After a minute or two (you want it to brown up a bit, but it won't be tender at all yet) throw in some verjus (maybe a third of a cup for a whole bundle of asparagus?) and put a lid on the pan for a minute or two to let it steam. Remove the asparagus and reserve the deglazing liquid.

When you have a moment, rough-chop your pancetta.

Add your penne to the pot when it's boiling; cook it 'till al dente.

Find your largest skillet. Brown some butter. Toss in they thyme (it will pop), and then the capers. Stir it about. Throw in the reserved deglazing liquid, a little more verjus, and a little wine. Salt. Pepper. Let this come to a simmer, reduce heat to low.

When the pasta is done, drain it and toss it straight into the skillet. Turn up the heat; add a little more butter, salt and pepper. Toss in the asparagus and pancetta. Turn to heat and coat. Put the pasta on a large plate; grate fresh parmesan generously over the top. Mound a handful of your shiitaakes in the middle. Serve.

Posted by shock on March 02, 2003
March 01, 2003
cosmopolitan dinner

As Mary Anne put it, this was a very cosmopolitan dinner - Some plain ol' Americans, a Canadienne, several Australians, a Scots, and (forgive me if i get this wrong, Mary Anne) an American-born Sri Lankan. Mostly though, it was great conversation over good food with lovely people. These folks definitely benefitted from Tad's dinner on Saturday - oddly, the tofu spread seemed more popular at this dinner than the asparagus pesto. The opposite seemed true at Tad's dinner. Wacky!

So the final menu:

Kir Royal

Roasted red pepper soup
(Again with the demitasse cups! They make me sooooo happy.)

Crostini with tofu spread
Crostini with asparagus pesto
Lovely cold grapes

Salmon baked with pumpkin-seed oil
Salsa verde
Charred shallot mashed potatoes (these were vegan!)
Sugar snap peas

Carrot cake cupcakes
Coffee
Toffee & truffled almonds

Posted by shock on March 01, 2003