November 29, 2004
All Day Lasagna

Inspired by a recent post on Gothamist, Mike and I decided that we wanted a good, traditional-as-we-can-make-it lasagna… no clunky boxed noodles, no overly chunky fillings, no gobs of cheese, just clean, pure flavors and textures.

On Friday, we traveled to the Belmont neighborhood in the Bronx, an area with a large concentration of Italian immigrants, which is renowned for its handmade Italian specialties and imported goods. We came home with beautiful sheets of fresh pasta, cans of San Marzano tomatoes, and delicious creamy cheeses. On Saturday, we went to Ottomanelli's Meat Market in the East Village for ground beef and pork for the sauce. We had our ingredients, but if this was to be a truly flavorful lasagna, I was going to need a whole day to prepare it. This All-Day Lasagna would have to wait until Sunday.

Sunday morning came, rainy and cold. We were put slightly behind schedule by a leaking door frame and the ensuing wait for our landlord; however, the cooking got underway at around 1 p.m. While Mike went off to do laundry, I got to work on an adaptation of Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese sauce. I went the “beef and pork adaptation” route, using two parts ground chuck to one part ground pork, and I added double the quantity of tomatoes she calls for, but otherwise, I followed her recipe. About an hour after I started, the sauce was ready to simmer for the afternoon, and the apartment was beginning to smell absolutely amazing. I did a quick clean-up of the kitchen, and I was ready to start prepping the other ingredients.

I had refrigerated the fresh pasta sheets, so I removed them from the refrigerator to allow them to come to room temp before blanching them. I did the same with the cheeses, portioning out half a pound of ricotta and 1/4 pound of fresh unsalted mozzarella, cutting the latter into thin slices. I got out all of the pots I’d need, as well as our wonderful new Chantal earthenware baker, which I went ahead and buttered to keep the lasagna from sticking to it as it cooked. Finally, I finished my mise en place by measuring out all of the ingredients I’d need for the béchamel, arranging them on the counter within easy reach.

At around 6, it was time to finish my prep and begin to assemble the lasagna. I wasn’t really working from a recipe at this point, but I did consult my copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, as well as both Mario Batali’s and Giada De Laurentiis’ versions of the dish, for guidelines.

Using a pizza cutter, I cut the fresh pasta sheets to fit the baking dish (about 6x8). I had a large pot of salted water at a rolling boil, and dry towels laid out on the counter – the pasta sheets would have to be briefly cooked, removed from the pot and plunged into an ice bath, rinsed gently under running water, then laid out on the towels and patted dry to remove any starch before setting them aside.

I spread about a cup of Bolognese sauce into the bottom of the buttered baking dish, then put my first cooked and dried pasta sheet over it, pressing gently. On top of that, I added the ricotta, which I had blended with one egg, a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg, and a cup of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry. I placed another pasta sheet on top of that, and spread a cup of Bolognese over it.

At this point, I took a break from blanching pasta sheets and turned my attention to making a béchamel. I used four tablespoons of unsalted butter, which I melted in a pan, and to which I added three tablespoons of unbleached organic flour. Using a flexible plastic spatula, I combined these into a roux, being careful not to let it turn brown. Once the mixture was smooth, I slowly added two cups of whole milk, which had been brought to room temperature, a pinch of salt, and another tiny grating of fresh nutmeg. I stirred constantly until the mixture was smooth and lump-free, and was thickened to creaminess. I removed this from the heat and set it aside, then prepared two more sheets of pasta, placing one over the layer of Bolognese that I had last added. I spooned about a cup of béchamel over that layer, then added another layer of pasta. I added one more layer of Bolognese and pasta, then poured the remaining béchamel over the top, and studded it with my slices of fresh mozzarella.

This went, uncovered, into the oven, and cooked for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees – just until the lasagna was bubbling around the edges and the top was nicely browned.

The result was absolutely delicious. The pasta was so tender, the béchamel creamy and delicate, the Bolognese sauce rich and succulent… it was really a revelation, and far different from lasagnas we had tried in the past. I have to say I was very happy with the result, though I think I’d make one adjustment next time, and add some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over the béchamel before baking. All in all, though, it was a wonderful combination of fresh, quality ingredients, and no ingredient overpowered another. This All-Day Lasagna was time and labor intensive, but definitely worth it.

Posted by jenblossom on November 29, 2004
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle-Maple Sauce

This dish was the surprise hit at Thanksgiving 2004. Since we were doing the potatoes mashed, I wanted the sweet potatoes to have a different kind of texture. We decided to wedge them into pieces and roast them in the style of patatas bravas, and William whipped up a very tasty chipotle-maple sauce to accompany them. We used two preparations of chipotle in the recipe - Tierra Vegetables' chipotle powder and chipotles en adobo. I don't particularly care for sweet potatoes, but even I thought these were pretty darned good. Apparently, we should have made more sauce....

For the Sweet Potatoes:
5-6 medium sweet potatoes
olive oil
chipotle powder
salt & pepper

Oven at 400 F.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 2-inch wedges. Toss them in olive oil, salt, black pepper, and a bit of chipotle powder. (Don't overdo this - you only want a little heat on the potatoes themselves.)

Liberally oil a baking sheet, and lay the potatoes out in a single layer. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until soft inside and crispy on the edges. Serve warm.

For the Chipotle-Maple Sauce:
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 yellow onion, small dice
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1/2 stick of butter
1 tbsp + 1 tsp flour
enough veg stock to thin roux (see below)
5-6 seeded and chopped canned-in-adobo-sauce chipotles
5-7 teaspoons of adobo sauce (from item above)
1/4-1/3 cup of maple syrup
1/2 stick of butter for mounting sauce

0. drain chipotles, reserving adobo sauce
1. remove stem tops of 5-6 chipotles then seed and chop into pleasantly
sized (small) pieces
2. chop all other veg
3. melt butter over med heat
4. saute onions, garlic, shallots until slightly soft then reduce heat
slightly and carefully brown the veg taking care not to:
- burn the butter or garlic
5. when veg starts to go brown, add flour and stir, reduce heat and cook to
a dirty blonde roux
6. add 5 teaspoons of adobo sauce and stir
7. add enough veg stock to start to thin roux, then thin to desired
8. stir in maple syrup
9. cook for 5-7 minutes on low then strain to get rid of all veg bits
10. cook on low for another 5 minutes just to make sure flour is cooked

- at this point: taste and adjust seasoning including adobo for heat level
remembering that actual chipotles will be going in just before serving. The
addition of the chipotles will definitely make the heat level go UP so plan
accordingly. Adjust for sweetness, if that's your thing as well. You can
hold the sauce on either super low simmer or on top of a warming area.

To finish the sauce:
11. bring sauce to heat over medium heat then take off heat to stir in 1/2
stick of butter taking care not to break the sauce. You can add more butter
if you want but 1/2 stick should make it glossy...
12. add the chopped chipotles
13. taste and adjust seasoning...a bit of salt at this point is probably

Sauce should be served warm not blazingly hot.

Posted by shock on November 29, 2004
November 26, 2004
thanksgiving 2004

This Thanksgiving we cooked up a storm and served 16 lovely folks a feast. (And another 6 or so who came and snacked and helped eat dessert! And yet, there are still Too Many Leftovers...) William joined me in the kitchen - a sous chef extraordinaire. Click the teasers for the full-sized pics; the full menu is below. I'll post some recipes over the next few days. (Yes yes! Including the timpano!) If you have requests, send 'em in the comments!

Some observations this year: all the truly tedious prep worked seemed to center around peeling food that resembled brains. (Brussell sprouts & chestnuts.) The biggest hit of the night was a dish we put together on the fly. ("William, can you do some kind of chipotle-maple sauce to put on chipotle-rubbed sweet potatoes?") William's stripey herbed flatbread in a champagne bucket ruled my inner presentation contest. The item I forgot to serve this year: calvados & porcini pate. Final glove count: nine.

pomegranate & lime cocktails

calvados & porcini pate
cowgirl creamery cheeses
grilled figs

roasted butternust squash soup

slow roasted turkey with gravy
timpano with herb-garlic gravy
pignola risotto with tomato sauce & fresh basil

sugar snap peas & french beans
ridiculous mushrooms
cranberry and satsuma relish
cranberry sauce with port and rosemary
grilled endive
roasted sweet potatoes with chipotle-maple sauce
brussell sprouts with bacon
mashed potatoes with charred shallots
savory bread pudding with leeks & chestnuts
herbed flatbread

salad with fig balsamic vinaigrette

pie (at least) three ways
pink-lady & cranberry crumble
cypress sorbet
ice creams
raven’s rum balls
bubbe’s brownies

Posted by shock on November 26, 2004
November 15, 2004
Breakfasty Cake

Trying to prevent myself from making the morning journey to the Tully's or the Starbucks or the swedish bakery, I made this relatively healthy cranberry-orange bread to take to work. It tastes kinda healthy, but is still yummy enough to satisfy one's morning sweets craving, if one has one, which one does when one is me. The recipe's from my 2002 Cooking Light cookbook.

Cranberry-Orange Tea Cake

1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. sugar
2/3 c. sweetened dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. 1% milk (I used skim)
2 T. butter, melted
1 T. grated orange rind
1 egg
Cooking spray
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 T. orange juice

Preheat oven to 350.
Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flours and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Combine milk, butter, rind, and egg; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8x4" loaf pan coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350 for 45 min. or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 min. in pan on a wire rack, and remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Combine powdered sugar and orange juice; drizzle over bread.

Yield: 12 servings of 1 slice each.

Cal: 184 (14% from fat). Fat 2.9g (sat 1.5g, mono .8g, poly .3g). Protein 3.3g. Carb 37.8g. Fiber 1.5g. Chol 24mg, Iron 1mg, Sodium 123mg, Calc 53mg.

Posted by leek on November 15, 2004
November 14, 2004
danger tart
tart1web.jpgMore a method than a formal recipe: some of the tastiest tarts I've produced come from leftover inspiration. They're versatile - you can serve them for breakfast, lunch or dinner; with a salad or with soup, or even just cooled off for a picnic the next day. (I started making savory galettes and tarts for dinner parties; they always get high marks with the guests. Once I realized that the technique was pretty standard, they became a staple in our "use up what's in the fridge" suppers.) Yesterday I made one for brunch, and nibbled on it after a bunch of yardwork left us starrrrrving.

Oven at 350. Minimum ingredients:
A couple of eggs, some liquid (stock, milk, wine), and some sort of protein & veggies.

For the crust: You can whip up a basic gallette dough & stuff it free-form. For the truly instant, you could grab a premade pie crust, frozen puff pastry - or even a deep-dish pizza shell. For those in the SF Bay Area, I find that Vicolo's pizza shells are perfect; they have a bit of a ridge, the crunch of cornmeal works well with the "tart" concept, and, well, I keep them in my freezer.

For the filling substrate: Beat two eggs gently with a fork. Add a bit of milk or cream, and grate in fresh pepper. You'll fold your ingredients into this bowl.

Cube or shred cheese, chop up leftover meats and veggies, and toss them in. Stir in a spoonful or two of salsa or some tasty sauce you may have. (Precook your meat if it's raw - it won't be in the oven long enough to cook through, unless you're using shrimp and scallops.) Throw in a bunch of herbs - fresh if they're wilting away in your fridge. Fold these into your tart base. You want the egg mixture to coat the chunks, but not be too runny.

If you have raw pastry or gallette dough, roll it out into 6 or 7" diameter circles. Spoon some filling in the middle, and fold the edges over the filling leaving a 2 or 3 inch hold in the middle. Pinch the edges together. If you have a shell of some sort, spoon your filling on in. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes; raise the temperature to 375 and bake for 5 more. The fillling should set, and the crust should be golden. (If you're familiar with your shell pastry, bake it as you're used to; but you want the tart to be in for at least 15 minutes at 350 to set your filling. Longer won't hurt it.)

Yesterday's tart had small chunks of chicken, chopped roasted gypsy peppers, the last of the basil from the yard, a sautee'd onion, goat gouda, a touch of gorgonzola, and a few spoonfulls of romesco stirred in. I served it with a mache salad with a simple vinaigrette.

Posted by shock on November 14, 2004
November 13, 2004
cumin curried hummus

Everything in my kitchen is yellow. You see, this evening I made Cumin Curried Hummus from the November 2004 Cooking Light and bore witness to the remarkable staining power of certain spices. The flavor of the hummus comes out similar to Indian lentil dal, and let's just say I've never attempted to make my own dal but the hummus was ready in about 15 minutes flat. I served it with wedges of lavash and baby carrots for dipping.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add 3 garlic cloves, chopped; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add 1 tablespoon curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds; cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring constantly. Place garlic mixture, 1/2 cup water, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 (15 1/2-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained, in a food processor; process until smooth. Yield: 3 cups.

Posted by astraea on November 13, 2004
November 11, 2004
lemon-ginger scallop salad for one

Yesterday at the store I got some lovely big fresh scallops, but hadn't really figured out what I was going to do with them until tonight. As evidenced by previous postings, I like seafood and salad, so I figured I'd stick to the basics and just wing it. The result? Beautifully seared lemon-ginger scallops over salad.

Seared Lemon-Ginger Scallops Over Salad
1/2 pound fresh scallops
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 2-inch piece frozen ginger root (defrosted)*
1 lemon
1 tablespoon soy mayonaise (or aoli)
salad greens
fresh ground pepper

* OK this is my weird contribution to cooking science today. Freeze a piece of ginger root, then leave on a counter to defrost (about an hour or two). You will now be able to pinch the ginger and out squirts juice! For real! The inside of the defrosted ginger is like sponge, holding the juice. It's amazing.

Heat peanut oil on high in a non-stick pan. When oil is hot, sear scallops (under 3 minutes on one side until golden brown, a minute or two on the other), squeezing lemon and ginger to taste over them while they cook.

Put salad greens in bowl. Squeeze ginger and lemon into a mayonaise and stir in fresh ground pepper to taste. Toss into greens. Remove scallops from heat and place on top of greens. Done!

Serves 1

Posted by rebecca on November 11, 2004
November 08, 2004
L-cubed tapas

Last night I finally had a chance to cook for the Lempert-Lopez's. (It's been on the list for a YEAR.) The Leckmans joined us, and it was Sunday-as-unusual! Beca said she was craving tapas - specifically the gambas al ajillo and potatoes decadence we used to get at Timos. With that, I was off and running....

marcona almonds & olives
wacky spanish goat cheese (I forgot the name already. tsk.)
hummus with ground lamb and pinenuts
grilled figs with herbed goat cheese and proscuitto
french 75s and apple sours

mushroom and almond soup

sorbet of grapefruit, champagne & campari

gambas al ajillo
lamb meatballs in almond sauce
chorizo and apples in hard cider

potatoes decadence
roasted artichokes with romesco
fried gypsy peppers
salad with sherry-shallot vinaigrette & blue cheese
Jump the Stump (a red, from Beca)
an albariño I picked up at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant

capricious with truffled honey and asian pears

Posted by shock on November 08, 2004
November 07, 2004
Pim: on Food, SF, and America

Pim wrote a lovely piece about an amazing Halal break-fast meal in a pizza joint in the Tenderloin. At the end, she writes some well-placed commentary on the peace and generosity that can be found in breaking bread together and sharing food. And you know? It's things like that dinner - they start in unlikely places - that spread tolerance, understanding, and a horde of other things I deem really important to living in America.

"It’s a meal like this, in a place like this, that is what makes me happy to be living in San Francisco. Here, we do not treat Muslims as though they are closeted terrorists. Here, a Chinese, a Thai, two Jews, and a Christian can sit at table in a Hallal restaurant and be treated like family by observant Muslims, and generously fed the same meal served at their revered mosque. Here, we are all human beings. Here, we are all friends."
Read the whole thing. Anyone want to get some couscous?

Posted by shock on November 07, 2004
cardamom-date snack cake

When I bake it always looks like a flour bomb has gone off in my kitchen. It's worth it though. This spicy little cake from the November 2004 Cooking Light filled my house with the scent of fall/winter/holidays. When I served it to Dan and Carol and Dan's parents we accompanied it with cups of hot tea, though a tall glass of cold milk would wash it down nicely as well. The dates make the cake extremely moist and tender, so I used a bread knife to cut it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare cake, coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Lightly spoon 2 cups all-purpose flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine 5 tablespoons butter, softened, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1 cup applesauce, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 3 large eggs in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add to flour mixture; stir just until moist. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped pitted dates. Spoon batter into prepared pan.

To prepare topping, combine 1/3 cup sliced almonds, 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons butter, melted, stirring with a fork until blended. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan. Yield: 16 servings.

Posted by astraea on November 07, 2004
November 06, 2004
Simple Supper: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

I used to make this soup all the time - it was inspired by a tomato, basil and asiago cheese soup at the now defunct Franklin Street Brewing Company in Detroit. I loved it so much I started experimenting until I got it right, but I have refined it over the years. It's easy as can be, and wonderfully comforting on cold autumn nights.

Jen's Tomato Basil and Asiago Soup

In a heavy bottomed pot, warm a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Add 1/2 of a small onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup) and saute until translucent. Add one clove of garlic, just lightly smashed with the side of a knife... I love how keeping it basically whole allows the flavor of the garlic to come out, but it's much more subtle than chopped garlic.

Tonight I used one box of POMI crushed tomatoes (26.45 oz - you can certainly substitute an equal amount of canned crushed tomatoes), two cups of organic chicken stock, and a tablespoon of dry vermouth. Bring this to a simmer and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring well. Finally, add about 1/2 cup each finely shredded aged asiago cheese and fresh basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade. Stir well to incorporate and let cook another five minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with more fresh basil leaves.

(And if you're wondering, the grilled cheese sandwich is cave-aged gruyere and Cabot Vermont-style extra sharp white cheddar on wholegrain wheat bread. YUM.)

Posted by jenblossom on November 06, 2004
November 05, 2004
Thomas Keller in SF

Thomas Keller will be signing his new book (Bouchon) at Williams Sonoma in San Francisco on Saturday, November 6. 4pm-6pm.

From the invitation:
Saturday, November 6, 2004

340 Post St.
San Francisco, CA
(415) 362-9450

Please joins us for a visit with Thomas Keller as he signs copies of the Bouchon Cookbook.

Thomas Keller is the chef and owner of the legendary French Laundry in Yountville, California, and owner of Bouchon, a second, more casual French restaurant in the same town, as well as the Bouchon Bakery. In February he opened a second Bouchon in Las Vegas and the eagerly anticipated restaurant, Per Se, in New York. Keller grew up in restaurant kitchens in Southern Florida, but honed his skills in New England and France. He was the chef of La Reserve, Restaurant Rafael, and Rakel in New York before moving to California.

We hope to see you there!

Posted by shock on November 05, 2004
Bonny Doon/Moss Beach Distillery

Bonny Doon is all over the winery/local restaurant dinners these days. This time -- in Half Moon Bay at the Moss Beach Distillery. 10 November 2004. Three seatings: 5:30 pm, 6:15 pm or 7:00 pm. Call 650-728-5595 for reservations. And you can even peek at the menu!

The Chef
MBD Chef Brian Barisione will create a feast using the freshest seafood, hand-made pasta, and prime aged beef.

The Winemaker
BDV Creative Director and former Winemaker, John Locke will charm you with his witty anecdotes and a look into the alternate Dooniverse that is Bonny Doon Vineyard.

The Honored Guest?
Perhaps the famed Blue Lady, the well-documented ghost of Moss Beach Distillery will grace us with her presence. This is an event not to be missed!

Moss Beach Distillery. 140 Beach Way, Moss Beach 94038

WHEN: Wednesday, November 10, 2004

COST: $85 per person, plus tax and gratuity

CALL TODAY FOR RESERVATIONS! Call with your choice of seating times at 5:30 pm, 6:15 pm or 7:00 pm 650-728-5595

Grilled Prawn Lemon Grass Soup
Pacific Rim Dry Riesling 2003

Seared Sea Scallops with Vanilla Bean Beurre Blanc
Le Cigare Blanc 2003

Gnocchi with Fire Roasted Red Pepper Puree and Pancetta
Ca‚ del Solo Sangiovese 2003

Grilled Natural Center Cut Prime New York Steak crusted in Szechwan peppercorns and served with heirloom tomato jam
Cardinal Zin 2003

Red and Gold Raspberry Tart - a rustic tart served with a dark chocolate chantilly cream

For more information on our participants, visit us at

Posted by shock on November 05, 2004
November 02, 2004
greetings and chicken soup

I'm very happy to have been asked to contribute, and I can think of no better way to start off, during this celebration of el Dia de los Muertos, than by posting one of my favorite dishes... a chicken soup, based on my grandmother's recipe. It's appropriate for the season, and who doesn't love a nourishing, comforting bowl of soup? It really does feed the soul as well as the body.


Jen’s Grandma’s Chicken Soup

** Note: this is the “quick & easy” way to do it… if time permits, I’ll stew my own chicken and use the stock and meat from that.

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
8 cups chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed
2 baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 heaping tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon dried mexican oregano
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
juice of 1/2 lime
few dashes hot pepper sauce
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
diced fresh avocado and tomato, and fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


Add oil to a large, heavy bottomed pot and sautee garlic and onion until translucent. Add chicken, broth, potato, garbanzos, lime juice, hot pepper sauce and spices to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add rice, cover and simmer until rice and potatoes are cooked through. Be sure to taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Serve with avocado, tomato and cilantro sprinkled on top and warmed corn tortillas on the side.

Posted by jenblossom on November 02, 2004