June 26, 2006
MxMo4 (Apéritifs): The Food Pairings

I was particularly excited when Mike told me about the fourth installment of Mixology Monday, which focuses on apéritifs. I always enjoy my husband's experiments with spirits, but I feel bad sometimes that my contribution to cocktail hour is generally little more than "thank you, honey."

bubbling away

When MxMo 4 was announced, we both thought it presented a perfect opportunity for me to take a more active role by preparing a series of appetizers to pair with our drinks. After all, apéritifs are traditionally accompanied by a little plate of something savory to whet your appetite before a meal. We discussed it over the course of a few weeks, then decided on three pairings based upon the spirits we wanted to play with and ingredients which we thought would complement their flavors. Here's what we came up with.

serrano ham, black fig, blue cheese, sherry

First Course: Roasted black figs stuffed with Old Chatham Hudson Valley Ewe's Blue and wrapped in Serrano Riserva
Paired With: Adonis

Salty blue cheese and Serrano ham really just call out for Sherry, to me. I had a few ideas about how to serve them, but when I saw these gorgeous black figs at Greenwich Produce, I knew I'd revisit an old favorite recipe. I make an "X" cut in the top of each fig, stuff a chunk of blue inside, then wrap them in a thin sheet of Serrano - simple but elegant. Since our oven is still out of commission, I used the toaster oven my parents got us as a housewarming present. The stuffed figs were roasted at 450 for about 10 minutes, until the ham crisped at the edges and the cheese became melted and gooey. I love these little sweet-salty bites, and we agreed they went really nicely with the softly sweet, yet smokey flavor of the Adonis.

Second Course

Second Course: Crab-Stuffed Baby Artichokes
Paired With: Cynar

What else could I pair with an artichoke liqueur than, well, artichokes? I love the combination of artichokes and crab, so I decided to stuff the cooked halves of baby artichokes with a lemony crab salad. After cleaning the 'chokes and boiling them until tender, I drained them and laid them on a baking sheet. I combined fresh crab meat with a little mayo, copious amounts of fresh lemon juice and zest, some minced shallot, sea salt, cracked pepper, and some fresh thyme and chives from the garden. Each 'choke was topped with a heaping spoonful of the crab mixture, then a thin slice of Ouray cheese. They went into the toaster oven to broil until the cheese was browned and bubbly.

We had these with the Cynar, which Mike simply poured over ice and garnished with a lemon wedge. It was... different. Not at all unpleasant, but probably not my favorite thing. The drink did work well with the dish, though. My only complaint about this course is that I think the 'chokes could have taken a stronger cheese - perhaps something a little saltier or sharper, which might also have tempered the sweetness of the Cynar. Mike agreed, but was still popping cooled leftover 'chokes into his mouth as he mixed our next drink. A success, but with the caveat to try a different cheese next time.

Third Course Seelbach

Third Course: Duck Rillette Toasts
Paired With: Seelbach

Since the inception of our Fizzy Friday tradition earlier this year, a glass of something sparkling has become one of my favorite ways to preface a meal. With this in mind, I requested a champagne cocktail of some sort, which I intended to pair with some of Mike's delicious duck confit rillettes. He discusses why we settled on the Seelbach here, and I will just go on record here and say that I think the choice could not have been better. The rich, creamy rillettes with their little bites of vinegary wholegrain mustard and slivered cornichon were a perfect foil for the complex layers of flavor in the Seelbach, the bourbon and bitters echoing some of the warm spices in the cure mix Mike had used in the duck confit. It was truly a sensual and luxurious mingling of flavors and textures, and was my favorite pairing of the day.

How we had room for dinner and wine after all this yumminess is still beyond me, but we did it. We went to bed with full bellies and happy taste buds, and the memories of the wonderful food and drink made my slightly fuzzy head the next morning totally worthwhile.

Posted by jenblossom on June 26, 2006
June 25, 2006
High Maintenance Gimlets
gimletsmall.jpgYesterday I was charmed when I was skimming Fancy Toast & read the most amusing food blog entry I've seen in some time: High Maintenance Gimlets. It's not just that I love gimlets. Or cucumbers. (Though I do love both. I even like cucumbers in my cocktails.) The writing is excellent - and I keep coming back to that High/Low Maintenance vs. High/Low Quality matrix for another grin. As a solidly Quadrant III girl, I was compelled to mix up up a few of Erielle's cocktails to accompany our movie last night. Amusingly, I didn't read the comments until this morning - and sure enough Kip: I picked Hendrick's off my shelf to accompany the cucumbers. I made a few other amendments to Erielle's formula - I prefer my gimlets a bit more on the tart side, so I upped the lime, and dropped the sugar. So very tasty!

1 cup cucumber water
1 tsp sugar
juice of 3 limes (more like 3 tbsp)
3/4 cup Hendrick's Gin

Shake hard over ice, strain & serve!

Posted by shock on June 25, 2006
June 08, 2006
For Mko: Beignets aren't just for breakfast

A nice little snippet by Amanda Berne from the Chronicle on the current local popularity of beignets, and how and where to get 'em in SF.

(I also noticed my friend Dabney is writing for the What's New column as well - just had to give her a shout-out!)

Posted by rebecca on June 08, 2006
June 06, 2006
Nouveau Potato Salad

I was SERIOUSLY craving potato salad and made this recipe from Epicurious, slightly altered. God, I love that site.

If only I had a digital camera to show off my creations like you guys! (Hmmm, except that what'd you see is a big ungarnished white glob in a bowl on a very messy counter.)

Potato Salad with Garlic Mayonnaise and Chives follows!

2 pounds small boiling potatoes (about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter)
[I used russet potatoes, and I actually really liked the contrast of the tart dressing with the sweetness at the center of each slice of russet.]
3 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus additional to taste if desired
[I only had bottled lemon juice, and it tasted just fine.]
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot water
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

In a large saucepan combine potatoes with salted water to cover by 1 inch and simmer until just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and cool until they can be handled.

While potatoes are cooling, in a large bowl whisk together garlic paste, 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, mayonnaise, and hot water.

Peel potatoes and cut in half. Add potatoes and chives to dressing and toss well. Season salad with additional lemon juice and salt and pepper. Salad may be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled, covered. Before serving, toss salad with 1 to 2 tablespoons water to moisten dressing.

Serve salad at room temperature.

Serves 4 generously.

August 1994

Posted by leek on June 06, 2006
June 04, 2006
C^3 Shrimp Tacos
shrimp & tofu Last night Heather came over for dinner, and I pulled out a little something I created Tammy's birthday - tacos filled with grilled seafood crusted with coriander, cumin & chipotle. (Shrimp & scallops went into the original - last night I went with shrimp & tofu.)

I like to serve the tacos with a bright, tangy mango salsa & a big green salad with avocado & colorful bell peppers. Just the thing for an early evening dinner after a hot (well, for San Francisoc) pre-summer day.

c-cubed spice rub
2 tbsp coriander
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp kosher salt

Mix spices together; taste and adjust heat.

Peel your shrimp and/or cube your tofu.
Coat each shrimp, scallop or cube of tofu in the spice rub. String them on skewers.

Grill over a medium-hot fire. Put the tofu on first; it needs the longest on the fire. Remove the tasties from the skewers, and squeeze a generous helping of lime over the top. Serve with radishes and extra lime, warm tortillas, and a fruity, tangy salsa.

Posted by shock on June 04, 2006
June 01, 2006
Green Garlic and Spring Pea Soup

Dinner: May 31, 2006
Originally uploaded by Jenblossom.

We got some beautiful green garlic at the Union Square Greenmarket last weekend, which I had never cooked with before. There was a bit of a chill in the air last night, so a light spring soup sounded perfect for dinner. A quick Google search brought up meriko's post, which I used for inspiration. I made a few changes according to what we had on hand, snipped some herbs from the garden and within about 45 minutes had this beautiful, subtly flavored soup on the table - every spoonful was like a taste of springtime.

Green Garlic and Spring Pea Soup

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
12 stalks green garlic, white and pale green parts only, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup white vermouth
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup fresh peas
1/2 cup creme fraiche
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)

For garnish:
4 baguette slices, toasted
snipped fresh chives
additional creme fraiche

Melt butter in a large heavy bottomed pot, then add the green garlic. Add a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until softened. Add vermouth and allow to cook town for a couple of minutes, then add the stock, water and thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs from the pot, then add the peas. Pull the leaves from the thyme sprigs and return to the pot. Cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until peas are tender and bright green. Remove the soup from heat and puree using a stick blender, regular blender or food processor. Return soup to pot, adjust seasoning, and stir in 1/2 cup of creme fraiche, stirring well until it is fully incorporated. Add lemon juice and stir.

Place soup into bowls, garnishing each with a baguette slice, a dollop of creme fraiche and some chives.

Serves 4.

Posted by jenblossom on June 01, 2006