May 31, 2003

I had a pseudo-chopped salad at Indigo a few weeks ago, and thought it was super tasty. I filed away the basic ingredients in my head (romaine, red cabbage, fava beans, pancetta chunks, green apples, avocado, and a very parsley-fied mustard dressing with blue cheese crumbled atop) for a future reproduction. When Forrest dropped by last Sunday, i took a shot at it - it was different, but i think really yummy. The red cabbage adds a nice flavor, crunch, and visual contrast. I served this with risotto with morels, fava beans, and capricious cheese. (Hence, no favas in my salad.)

for the salad:
--A mix of crunchy/firm lettuce (i used red leaf and a romaine heart. All romaine would be fine, but don't use a mesclun mix for this salad)
--red cabbage
--a green apple
--blue cheese (i used point reyes blue)
--fava beans (optional)

for the dressing:
--a flavorful but not-too-spicy mustard (you're going to use a lot.)
--a ton of parsley (i prefer flat-leaf/italian)
--a bit of vinegar (white wine, sherry, & red wine are all ok, but don't use balsamic)
--some olive oil
--salt & pepper
--A little juice (i used apple-cherry cider)

Use a 4:1 ratio of lettuce to cabbage. Maybe even a little less cabbage. Wash and dry your lettuces. Chop the lettuce into fairly small pieces, and slice the cabbage finely. Tuck your salad bowl in the fridge for a while.

Make your dressing: purée the parsley (you want at least 4 big handfuls - the dressing should be REALLY green) with 3-4 tablespoons of mustard, a tablespoon of vinegar (i used a really nice spanish sherry vinegar), and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Thin to taste with olive oil and a tablespoon or two of juice, until the dressing is thinner than a mayo, but a little thicker than a caesar dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. It should be a very green tasting, round, mellow dressing.

Cut your pancetta into small cubes (1/3" or so?), and brown and drain them. Crumble some blue cheese into a bowl.

Dice the apples and the avocado to a similarly-sized dice.

Toss the salad at the last minute, reserving the blue cheese and a third of the avocado. Plate with a little extra avocado and a mound of blue cheese on top.

Posted by shock on May 31, 2003
May 29, 2003
Jean-Pierre's Cured Salmon

This has come to be my favorite recipe for cured salmon. It involves curing the fish in plain salt for a few days, and then marinating in a bath of tasty things. I have served this a number of times - as a starter at Bornschlegel family vacation, as the protein element for a summer evening picnic-style supper when it's hot, and most recently, at Mother's Day brunch. I'm sure you can vary the herbs to good effect; i have a bit, but i love coriander so much that it stays my base. This recipe is from The Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook.

Jean-Pierre Moulle, a passionate Frenchman, forager, and fisherman, has been the downstairs restaruant chef for many years. He devised this recipe as a first course for a special wine dinner a few years ago. It was so well loved that we now serve it upstairs as an appetizer.

Servers 8 to 10.

1 side salmon, skin on, 2-3 lbs
1 lb rock salt
1/2 bottle sauvignon blanc
1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
3 large shallots, diced fine
2 tbsp thinly sliced chives
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped chervil
2 tbsp white peppercorns, coarsley cracked
3 tbsp whole coriander seeds

The side of slamon will contain little pin bones runnign from the head end about halfway back; they will interfere with slicing later unless removed. They can be easily located with your fingertips and pulled out with small needle-nosed pliers or tweezers. Place the fish in a shallow glass or stainless steel pan, skin side down. Cover the flesh side with rock salt. Refrigerate for at lesat 6 hours, or preferably, overnight. Rinse well, pat dry and return to a shallow pan, this time with the skin side up.

Prepare the marinade. In a glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the wine, olive oil, shallots, and herbs. Pour the marinade over the fish, then cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Strain the marinade through a fine sieve, reserving a few seeds. Taste and correct the seasoning.

Slice the salmon thinly on an angle and arrange a few slices per person on chilled plates. Spoon a little of the marinade over each serving and garnish with fresh herbs and the reserved coriander seeds.

Notes from meriko:
I use kosher salt, about 3/4 inch deep over the salmon. I also used fresh thyme from my garden sometimes instead of chives and no chervil. I have used ground coriander when i had no seeds to good effect. I have kept it in the marinade for up to 3 days.

Posted by shock on May 29, 2003
May 26, 2003
experiments with BBQing

Ah, the weekend of the double booked bbq. BBQs are my favorite, but I was sad that two were back to back, and I'd only get to spend a little bit of time at the first one. But in other news, allowed me to create even more bbq dishes than usual!

I stuck with old standards for the first bbq (teriyaki flank steak and grilled asparagus) but busted out some new marinades for the second (orange-chili chicken, spicy prawns, japanese style portabellos). All in all, it worked out!

My flank steak marinade is the simplest thing in the world. Buy flank steak. Cut into manageable sizes. Throw in plastic bag. Pour in enough Soy Vey teriyaki sauce to cover. Let sit for 24-48 hours. Grill so they are nice and crispy on the outside, perfectly red on the inside. Big change for this attempt was I think I mastered the art of slicing it into small strips for serving afterward.

Asparagus is similarly easy. Trim hard ends, rinse, and toss in plastic bag. Pour in a bit of garlic olive oil (I use TJ brand), and grind in some fresh salt and pepper. Toss around in the bag until everything is covered, and let sit for a couple of hours. Then grill to taste (these went on while the fire was still really hot, so got just the right amount of almost burnt on one side, and then barely done on the other, and tasted perfect).

Both of these disappeared off the plate fast, as I wandered around the party offering them out. Next time, I'd make at least double portions of each.

At my other BBQ, I worked on my new dishes.

First were the japanese marinade portabellos. I was trying to replicate a marinade that banshee had done once that knocked my socks off, and found something online that looked a lot like it.

What I found called for:

¼ cup soy sauce
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons mirin
2 Tablespoons sake
¼ teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon grated garlic

I didn't have any sake, and had to go to abattoir for the mirin, and fudged some of the other ingredients (definitely used more garlic & ginger, and added some green onions, sesame oil and hot oil). The results were a bit too sweet/teriyaki for me. What banshee had made was more focused on the garlic/ginger/soy flavors, so I'm guessing his had less sugar. Next time I'll make sure I use sake, and cut the sugar a bit. And add a bit of crushed red pepper. On the other hand, they were pretty delicious, and the crowds were pleased.

The stars of the evening were the spicy shrimp. Mmmmmmm... I went to Bryan's meat and fish shop (such a great place) and bought some of the biggest most wonderful tiger prawns I've ever cooked with before. Shelled and deveined them, and put them in this marinade:

1 cup vinegar, rice
1/4 cup lime juice (I used fresh squeezed)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (I used a cilantro herb paste instead)
2 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon oil, sesame
1 salt
1 teaspoon chili paste

God these were amazing and perfect. I probably ate half of them personally because I couldn't stop myself. Just wonderful. Next time, I'll probably try to put in more chili paste and lime juice, a little less vinegar, as those flavors didn't super stand out, but they still rocked. Can't wait to make these again.

Finally, the orange chili chicken breasts were done grilling. Here's the recipe I followed:

4 boneless chicken breast halves, with skin
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 garlic clove, pushed through a press
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

These were okay and all, but really nothing to write home about. The orange and chili flavors just didn't really stand out much. The recipe called for 6-8 hours of marinating, but circumstances meant I had to do them for about 24. They were plenty tender and juicy and all that, but really, not that special. Probably won't do this as a repeat.

Which doesn't matter, cause oh, those tiger prawns!

Posted by carrie on May 26, 2003
May 23, 2003
Asparagus Pesto

Most recently, i paired this with puff pastry and cured salmon (see Mother's Day Brunch), but i've served it over toast (see Tad's birthday menu), mixed it with orichiette, tiny fried potato cubes, and pancetta, stirred it into israeli cous-cous served with sausages... you get the picture. Very versatile. And Beca liked it! A cooked veggie! This is definitely one for your sprint repetoire.

From the Tra Vigne cookbook.

1 large bunch asparagus, about one pound, trimmed and cooked for five minutes in boiling water.
1/2 cup packed coarsley chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 tbsp minced garlic
salt and pepper
about 1 cup pure olive oil
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cut the aspagus spears into thirds. Put in a food processor with the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep in mind that you will add Parmesan as well, so be careful not to oversalt. With the machine running, solwly add the cup of olive oil. When the sauce is about the consistency of mayonnaise, it has enough oil. Pulse in the parmesan. Thin with water if necessary to acheive a slick, saucy pesto. Scrape into a bowl or jar, cover and refrigerate until needed. You should have about 3 cups.

Caveats: I used more pine nuts (4-5 tbsp). I use about 3/4 cup virgin olive oil. I used a little less parmesan, and maybe a tiny bit more garlic. I have sucessfully done this without basil (paler green, more purely asparagus), and without the parmesan (for a vegan starter).

Posted by shock on May 23, 2003
May 21, 2003
Nigella Lawson in SF

Domestic goddess does lunch / A Brit with wit finds plenty to covet in Bay Area markets

Heather sent me this article today ... I really agree with Nigella's approach to cooking...


The curd is tasted and deemed too sweet; Lawson adds a jolt of lemon juice. The talk among the assembled food journalists turns to recipes. "I'd like to see people discard the tyranny of the recipe and trust their own tastes more," she says. "Total adherence to every detail of a recipe -- unless you are baking -- encourages dependency on others. It's like being infantilized. "

Posted by karine on May 21, 2003
May 20, 2003
saucy girl

I've been so busy making long-distance calls to New York that I never posted this yummy recipe I made for salon, like, weeks and weeks ago. Cavatappi with Vodka Sauce from the May 2003 Cooking Light turned into Fusilli with Vodka Sauce because I don't have the first fucking clue what cavatappi pasta looks like. The creamy/tomatoey sauce managed to infiltrate itself into every nook and cranny of the pasta with slurpilicious results.

Cook 8 ounces uncooked cavatappi (or fusilli or penne) pasta (about 3 cups) according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 2/3 cup finely chopped onion and 1 garlic clove, minced; cover and cook 3 minutes or until tender. Add 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce; simmer, partially covered, 8 minutes or until thick. Combine 4 teaspoons all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon water, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan; cook 1 minute. Add 3/4 cup half-and-half, 1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk, 1/3 cup vodka, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper; bring to a boil. Stir in 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese. Reduce heat to low; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Add pasta, toss to coat. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons finely chopped basil. Yield: 4 servings.

Posted by astraea on May 20, 2003
May 18, 2003
mother's day brunch

Last weekend, Russell and i prepared a Mother's Day Brunch in honor of Laverne and Freida. Unfortunately, only Laverne & Andrea were able to attend. Nonetheless, we had a truly lovely time. The menu:

Champagne et Fraise
Mt. Tam cheese & crackers

Puff Pastry Rounds with Jean-Pierre's Cured Salmon, Asparagus Pesto, and Créme Fraiche

Crab, Green Garlic, Asparagus, and Shiitake Tarts
Melon with Rosemary-Mint Syrup
Salad Verte

Coffe with Cream and Sugar
Chocolates from Joseph Schmidt


I made the purée for the cocktails by grinding up a ton of fresh strawberries with some sugar and Grand Marnier, and forcing it through a fine strainer to remove the pulp and the seedy bits. A little bit of work, to be sure - but so much less than the straining for a pot of jelly! Added the purée (some with OJ, some without) to the champagne in a cocktail strainer, and decanted into flutes. Russell had a version with ginger ale substitued for the champagne, and an extra hit of Grand Marnier.

The puff pastry was the last from NYF; i cut it into small circles, baked it at 500, and let it cool. The cured salmon is a Chez Panisse recipe; the asparagus pesto a standby from The Tra Vigne Cookbook. I'll post both of them soon. I was VERY happy with this app - the flavors definitely melded & gave more than the sum of their parts. (And there's just something about bite-sized food, no?)

I also owe you a long posting on the method for the breakfast tarts i keep posting about. They're truly versatile, and a lot of fun. Today the filling started with a few eggs, some sour cream, and some heavy cream whipped together. I folded in sautéed shiitakes, green garlic braised in butter, blanched asparagus, the meat from two crabs, and thyme from the garden. Plated them on a little salad. The melon dish is the one that Todd & i created for brunch a few weeks ago. Infuse a simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water) with a handful each of mint and rosemary for a half-hour, and strain. Dress your melon, and chill well before service. I served this course with a Viognier from Paso Robles.

I think Carol would have been pleased with my dessert. I used the lovely demitasse cups she gave me for Christmas to make something i called "coffee with cream and sugar" - a bi-layer créme brulée with the bottom layer flavored with coffee, and the top layer flavored with vanilla. The idea melded from several recipes in Claudia Fleming's The Last Course and the French Laundry's signature "Coffee & Doughnuts" dessert. The chocolates were wee caramels covered in dark chocolate from Joseph Schmidt.

Posted by shock on May 18, 2003
May 16, 2003

It was everything that the reviews and meriko said it would be. One of the best meals of my life, for the mind-boggling low price of $32. This is definitely going to be a monthly indulgence for me.

We went for the "second wednesday" event that I'd been told was a tasting menu all from a specific region on spain. But when we arrived, it didn't appear that it was any night other than a regular night. Our server never mentioned anything about it, and I was too shy to ask.

First treat, they brought is little shots of sherry with tasty little crackers with olives on them resting on the top of the glass.

Second treat from the chef was a very small bowl of chicken and potato soup, that was super yummy.

But then, oh, the impressiveness of the first official course... They bring large soup bowls over, that are soup-free, but plated with 3 little breadstick things, a bit of cooked onion in the middle, and sprinkled with cheese. and then they ladled onion soup into the bowls. Absolutely amazing presentation. And delicious!

Second course was a salad plate, with about 5 small pieces of asparagus wrapped with prosciutto sitting in the middle of the plate, on a sauce, with circles of raw onion surrounding little circles of zucchini drizzled with balsamic on other parts of the plate with a few tiny lemon slices also drizzled in balsamic. Can't really do justice in words to how artfully this was presented as well. So beautiful. And tasty!

Third course was a dish that was like a little mountain of rice, covered in the world's thinnest slice of apple, with a line of a green sauce running through the middle of it and off to the sides. The rice/apple dish tasted amazingly of scampi, just the right amount of butter/lemon flavoring, with a little sweet tartness from the apple. I could have eaten bowl after bowl of it.

Fourth Course was a plate with a triangle of thin paper pocket in it, with a smear of something yellow against the edge of the plate/bowl. Server cut open the paper, and inside was a steamed white fish, with various vegetables,
that was amazing and the yellow stuff was a potato puree of some kind.

Our last savory course was two small pieces of baked pork, with two sauces, one carrot infused, one lime infused, topped with seasoned raw carrot shavings that were amazing, over a garlic puree.

For our sixth course, and first dessert course, we were served little glasses with an amazing custard, with chocolate at the bottom of the glass, and drizzled on top, served with a cinnamon chocolate thin cookie, that looked crisp but was actually relatively flexibly bendy.

For our seventh and last course, they brought out a plate with a tiny vertical rectangle of chocolate and mousse cake, surrounded by chocolate and a bit of strawberry preserves. Then they lit rum on fire, and poured the rum in a circle around the cake, making a firey circle. So fun! Burning man on a plate!

I can't wait to go back :) And next time, with a digital camera

Posted by carrie on May 16, 2003
May 14, 2003
solitary supper

Saturday night i found myself with a wealth of lovely ingredients from the Farmers' Market, and only myself to cook for. I made a dinner that was full of some of my favorite things that Russell just doesn't much care for - and enjoyed it quietly by candlelight with a book. Sometimes i forget that spoiling just myself can be as much fun as spoiling the people i love, food-wise.

Dinner was two small artichokes, steamed. Seared scallops and morels pan-roasted with butter and thyme. A small wedge of Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam, and a nice class of Sauvignon Blanc. (Click on the cheese to see the full pic.)

I popped the artichokes in to steam, first thing. I heated up a sauté pan and slowly roasted the morels with butter, thyme, and salt. I removed these, and seared the scallops in the same pan. Deglaze the pan with a healthy glug of chardonnay verjus, reduce until syrupy with the liquid the scallops are releasing in the holding bowl, and mount with a little butter.

Posted by shock on May 14, 2003
May 10, 2003
farmers' market booty

The new location for the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market is divine. I had SUCH a lovely time this morning - it's much roomier than the old locale, and while not everyone is quite moved in yet, it's already wonderful. I worry about the wisdom of having a Sur La Table in the same building, but i'm sure i'll manage. ;)

My take for today:

--Spring morels & shiitaake mushrooms (the morels look SO GOOD. I plan to serve them to myself tonight sautéed in butter with artichokes and scallops. A "russell isn't eating with me tonight" dinner at its finest...)
--fava beans
--green garlic
--basil (green AND purple)
--some jams and chutneys for my mom-in-law
--S.F. Drake & Mt. Tam cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery
--strawberries (to go with the champagne tomorrow, gotta have 'em!)


Posted by shock on May 10, 2003
May 09, 2003
dai/thai sunday supper

dai tartare

A few weeks ago, i had an open bottle of Greenwood Ridge reisling and a hankering for some kind of Asian food - so i popped open Hot Sour Salty Sweet and found a few things to try. Our Sunday supper ensued.

The menu:
dai tartare with gingered lemon drops (another dai tartare shot)

salmon, thai green curry, and coconut rice

The dai tartare was nice and simple - ground or chopped meat, mixed with Schezuan pepper & salt, served with a mild lettuce to wrap around spoonfuls of the meat. I was supposed to have a dipping powder of ground thai chilis and Schezuan pepper & salt, but i weaseled out of subbing chili powder for the thai chilis. Very tasty.

The drinks are ginger-infused vodka, a touch of simple syrup, and most of a mild lemon.

The salmon was pan-fried after marinating in a paste of lemongrass, ginger, and garlic; the green thai curry is my usual haphazard with lots of basil, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and curry paste. Overall, very tasty, and a great pairing with the wine. I need to find a better way to plate my rice dishes though...

Posted by shock on May 09, 2003