Monday, October 26, 2009

deb's mom's apple cake

i'm in a phase.

a rustic-cake-laced-with-fresh-seasonal-fruit phase. this summer i baked cake after cake with all kinds of beautiful fruit: blueberries, blackberries, peaches, plums, pluots and cherries. now that it's fall, i did a search for an apple cake recipe. that's how i found deb's mom's recipe on smitten kitchen.

it had a soft but sturdy crumb and was framed by a gentle crust. in my version of her recipe, the lemon and orange zest and the lemon juice added a tartness that really brightened the flavor. it was absolutely delicious with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. i make a dessert every week for sunday dinner, but this was the first time my friends demanded to take a piece of cake home. the slice in the picture was the only one left!

deb's mom's apple cake
(adapted from smitten kitchen)

6 mcintosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
about 1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
zest from one blood orange and one lemon
juice of one lemon
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup blood orange juice (around 2 oranges)
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon, sugar, zest and lemon juice.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, wisk oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

the call that never happened

i used to be painfully shy. like in 5th grade, i was afraid to raise my hand in class - that kind of shy. but i quickly developed into a talkative and confident 6th grader, when i got cast in in the school play. and you couldn't shut me up when i was the president in high school.

now, i wouldn't consider myself shy at all. soft spoken - sometimes, but shy - no.

so i was kind of surprised when i realized that a part of me really is still shy, at least in some situations...

i had already planned to bake the gateau therese from david lebovitz's hilarious new book, when i found out he was going to be interviewed on by adam roberts on the same morning. the interview was streaming live online, and callers could ask questions. let me be clear: david lebovitz was one phone call away, at the exact moment that i was baking this cake.

i quickly tried to think of a question. the first thing that came to mind was "did you forget the vanilla in this recipe?" what a horrible question!!! i didn't want to insult the author before i even tried his recipe. adam kept asking for people to call in and ask david questions. ok come on, christina. think of a good question. um... "i only have an 8.5 inch glass pan and a 9.5 inch metal pan. Your recipe calls for a 9 inch loaf pan. Which one should I use?" yawn, booooooring. i want to ask him a question that makes him think and smile at the same time. come on, christina!

as i listened to the interview, my internal battle intensified. at one point, i even picked up the phone and dialed a couple numbers. then suddenly, the interview was over. i slipped the cake in the oven and plopped down on the couch, dejected. did i really let this opportunity slip out of my fingers? the timer beeped before i could get too depressed, and what emerged from the oven actually made me smile: a soft, dark, fudgy, intense, bittersweet rectangle of goodness.

later, i wrote a bland review of the book and recipe, but i never posted it.

so why am i telling you about the call that never happened right now? because david lebovitz is coming to the bay area! and i am not going to miss out on another opportunity.

i'm going to meet him, and tell my little story. then we'll laugh and eat dark chocolate.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

costa rica: desayuno

i was in costa rica for month this summer. i spent time exploring crowded city streets and laying out on beautiful beaches. wherever i went, i made sure to taste every weird looking fruit i could find. and i talked about food with anyone that would answer my questions: chefs, home cooks, taxi drivers and kids. because of this persistent (annoying?) curiosity, i was able to learn quite a bit about costa rican cuisine.

most people eat desayuno (breakfast), but it's not the most important meal in costa rica. this is one of my first meals in the country: gallo pinto (rice and beans), scrambled eggs, cheese, bread and coffee. so why is my coffee so light? i'm not really a coffee drinker - it's too bitter for me. so instead of cafe con leche, i drank leche con cafe: 50% coffee, 50% milk and buckets of sugar. i know, i know...
i stayed with friends for most of the month, but we drove to the coast and stayed at the doubletree in puntarenas for a couple days too. it was my first time staying in an all-inclusive resort hotel, so i tried to pace myself in the buffet lines. this is what i are for breakfast one day: freshly made corn tortilla filled with black beans and cheese, a big plate of fruit and juice. the green and white fruit (on top of the pineapple) is guanabana (sweet and floral) and the juice is made from cas (tart citrus).

this jam was soooooo good. at first, i thought it was blueberry. that's what the picture looks like anyway. it's a german company so the label says it's johannisberre. in spanish it's grosella negra. i didn't know exactly what fruit my favorite jam was made from, but i didn't really care!

the sweet, dark, gooey spread has the softest whisper of tartness. here i'm eating it on a piece of toasted baguette with salty white cheese. salty-sweet goodness!

i usually have a sweet tooth, but this day, i didn't want any jam. my taste buds were craving savory gallo pinto, salty bread and cheese and bitter coffee. queso fresco is a soft, fresh cheese that costa ricans eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between.

look at all that food - i must have been hungry! the bananas were so much more flavorful than the ones that are shipped to california. the flavor was floral, and the flesh soft under my teeth.

my sweet tooth returned, and so did my favorite jam. i made sure to pack a couple jars in my suitcase, and i found it online in case i run out. who knew black current jam was so lovely?

minimalist breakfast. cafe y pan. simple, yet satisfying.

i'm sure you probably guessed that gallo pinto is the national dish of costa rica. it's substantial, but not too heavy, and simple enough to put together using leftovers from yesterday's lunch.
gallo pinto

1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
garlic powder (to taste)
2 cups cooked black beans
2 cups cooked white rice
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

heat oil in a skillet. cook vegetables until they begin to soften. add beans, stir gently and simmer for 2 minutes. add rice, stir gently and simmer 3 minutes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

pop quiz: rustic fruit desserts

i was expecting a free cookbook in the mail, since i was a finalist in a culinate blogging contest. but for some reason, i was suspicious when i saw a mystery package on my welcome mat. what on earth could ten speed press be sending me? after a few seconds, i figured it out and ripped open the package. yay...rustic fruit desserts!!! i did a little dance and thought about how this is the perfect cookbook for the beginning of summer - the recipes are even separated by season.

as i flipped through the pages, i found myself wondering what are rustic fruit desserts exactly? i thought i knew what crumbles, buckles and cobblers were, but what on earth are pandowdies? i found the descriptions in the introduction and quizzed myself. when i was at my mom's house a few days later, i quizzed her too. we both knew a lot, but we also learned a lot too.

what do you think? do you really know rustic fruit desserts? here's a little quiz to test your knowledge. these descriptions came directly from the introduction; i just changed the order.

i'm going to describe the recipes i tested - and give you a few hints. ;)

my friend candace made the stone fruit slump, with a little coaching from me. this was her first dessert! not bad, huh? she adjusted the recipe by adding a pinch of cardamom to the simmering white and yellow nectarines. then she covered the skillet and steamed the dumplings on top of the fruit. it was sweet, but not too sweet and the cardamom perfectly complemented the nectarines. the dumplings were fluffy and flavorful and a scoop of vanilla ice cream was the perfect topping. you can find the recipe here.
a few days later, i made an upside-down sweet cherry cake (not in the quiz, sorry). it was my first time making caramel, and this recipe seemed easier than others i've seen. i just boiled butter, sugar and lemon juice until the color changed from beige to amber. after pouring the caramel in the cake pan, i arranged pitted bing and rainer cherries on top. it was a standard orange butter cake, but soft egg whites were folded in just before baking. this cake was sweet and rich, but with a very light crumb. i didn't know that cherries and oranges complement each other so well.

to make the lemon blueberry buckle, i mixed the cake batter and sprinkled the crumb topping over the cake. then i drizzled lemon syrup all over, as soon as it came out of the oven. the sturdy texture reminded me of a muffin. it was wonderfully tart and a slice would be great for breakfast. you can find the recipe here.

so tell did you do on the pop quiz?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

mo' better food

i heard mo' better food returned to west oakland on june 13. when i went to the farmer's market the following weekend, there were only 2 booths, but don't worry. there was a large selection of fruits and vegetables.

scott family farm displayed baskets of onions, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, onions, green beans, potatoes, lemons, oranges, nectarines, peaches, red and green tomatoes. wow! i was surprised at the variety of fruits and vegetables.

my heartbeat raced as my hands hovered over the basket of fragrant nectarines. i picked up a nectarine and breathed in the floral perfume. the skin was almost silky and it felt heavy for it's size. without squeezing too hard, i pressed a finger into the nectarine, ever so gently. a grin appeared on my face as i realized these will be perfect for the recipe i read earlier that day: stone fruit slump.

as i inched to the other side of the table, i saw all of those beautiful vegetables. again, i felt flustered as my imagination went into overdrive. the possibilities are endless! i settled on some zucchini and squash for a side dish, tomatoes and lemons for a raw pasta sauce, and oranges and lemons for cookies. at $10, my first visit to mo' better foods was a bargain.

watch mr. scott's interview to see what he has to say about the industry and his farm. on top of the "chemical free" and "natural" fruits and vegetables, it's a business i feel good about supporting.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

easy pork skewers

i buy food from several different places, depending on what i'm looking for, the day or the time. you can find me at the farmer's market, berkeley bowl, whole foods, lucky's and trader joe's (or tj's for short). i created this recipe after a recent trip to tj's, but of course you can get the ingredients anywhere. i really like trader joe's but the produce isn't always fresh, so be careful.

this recipe is easy enough for a fast weeknight meal, and impressive enough for company. make them for your dad on father's day! i used the broiler, but feel free to throw these babies on the grill. if you don't eat pork, just make chicken or veggie skewers.

happy father's day!

easy pork skewers
serves 6

1 pork tenderloin, cut into 2 inch pieces
onion powder
garlic powder
1 container fresh pineapple, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 1/2 red onion, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 red bell peppers, cut into 2 inch pieces
stir fry sauce

soak wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. preheat broiler. put pork in a small bowl and season (to taste) with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. toss to cover evenly. put ingredients on skewers in the following order: pineapple, pork, onion, pepper. place skewers on baking sheets in one layer. cook under the broiler for 5 minutes. remove baking sheets then brush stir fry sauce over skewers. place back under the broiler for another 5 minutes. remove baking sheets again, brush with sauce and cook for another 3-5 minutes. serve over steamed jasmine rice.

Hoisin-Glazed Pork Skewers on Foodista

Saturday, June 20, 2009

uptown unveiled

on thursday, the sun finally broke through a thick gray layer of clouds. is june gloom finally over? uptown is a burgeoning area in oakland. it seems like there's a new business opening every few months! uptown unveiled was a free street fair on telegraph avenue between 16th street and grand avenue. live music performances, walking tours, skate boarding, dj's, art and food filled the streets.
looney's smokehouse is opening their second location in july at 5319 martin luther king way (where sweetie pie and poppy's used to be). i didn't taste the food but this plate of brisket, baked beans and mac and cheese looks pretty good to me.

it was a beautiful day in the town...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

take me out to the ball game

i love football.

no, i really love football. it's not unusual for me to watch 4 games on a sunday, then turn to sports center for highlights. when john madden announced his retirement, i was broken hearted. i mean he's definitely earned it, but what am i gonna do without him? since i'm not the biggest basketball or baseball fan, this time of year, i'm usually just waiting for football season to come around again.

but i also love food. so when i read about a bacon wrapped hot dog at at&t park, i let all of my baseball friends know that i needed to try this ballpark delicacy. asap. when my sports addict brother invited me to a game, i was more than ready. food and baseball...this is where our worlds collide.
my brother told me to find out exactly where i wanted to eat (so he wouldn't have to miss too much of the game). that morning, i did my research and planned my attack:
1. tijuana-style bacon wrapped hot dog
2. crazy crab sandwich
3. made-to-order caramel corn

i spotted the tres agave cart almost immediately. after buying a couple hot dogs, we made our way to our seats carefully carrying part one of our lunch. the bacon wrapped hot dog ($6.50) was a celebration of meat, and all of the other flavors contributed to the party: smoky, creamy, spicy, and slightly sweet. the hot dog was topped with grilled jalapeno and onion and a squirt of chipotle mayo. everything was slipped into a pocket sliced into the top of a lightly toasted - but chewy - hunk of bread. i didn't see any cucumber pico de gallo, but it was still tasty.

after a few innings, i decided to venture out again, this time behind the scoreboard. the crazy crabz sandwiches ($15) were made to order. the baguette was sliced diagonally and then slathered with parsley butter. the crab was lightly dressed in mayo and then left alone, allowing its natural sweetness to shine. a couple slices of fresh tomato and a splash of lemon juice completed the bite. who knew you could eat so well at a baseball game? after the initial shock, my brother said it has officially become one of his staples. he will get a crazy crab sandwich every time he goes to a baseball game!

during the 7th inning stretch, i embarked on an unsuccessful search for caramel corn. after looking high and low and asking about 10 employees, someone finally told me only ticket holders on the club level have access to made-to-order caramel corn. bummer.

anyway, it was a beautiful day in san francisco and the giants won the game. the only thing that would make me happier would be news of delicious food at candlestick park, just in time for football season.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

haiku: white nectarine

silky skin, soft flesh

floral perfume, sticky mess

sweet juice everywhere!

photo from wikipedia. my hands were too sticky to pick up my camera. and the nectarine was so good, i wasn't thinking about taking a picture anyway.

Friday, May 15, 2009

taraji and brad muffins

i usually bake about twice a week.  i love baking because it calms me down and makes me happy. :o)  somehow, my life got so busy that i went more than a week without baking anything.  how could i let that happen???  it was about 10 pm when i realized i couldn't go a minute longer without baking.  that's when i pulled out my "recipes i wanna try" file.  (do you have a file like this?  what's in it?)

even though this is my first dorie greenspan recipe, i know she's an excellent cookbook writer.  i mean, there's a even group of bloggers that have been baking their way through her (huge) cookbook together.  

i love dorie's headnote: "the orange flavor in these delicate, cakey and generously blueberried muffins is in the background, like a play's prompter - present, but only to encourage the performance of the star.  in this case, the blueberries."  this description was all the encouragement i needed to get in the kitchen.  and it's accurate.  if the blueberries are brad pitt, the orange is taraji p. henson.

adapted from dorie greenspan's baking: from my home to yours

orange berry muffins
grated zest and juice of  1 orange
about 3/4 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
3 tablespoons honey
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries

preheat oven to 400 degrees.  put paper liners in a 12 cup muffin pan.  pour orange juice in a glass measuring cup.  add enough buttermilk to make 1 cup.  whisk in eggs, honey and butter.  put sugar and zest in a large bowl.  rub together with your fingertips until fragrant.  whisk in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir everything together with a spatula.  stir in blueberries then fill paper liners.  bake for 22 - 25 minutes.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

mexican everyday

when i was in chicago last month, i went to frontera grill and had an amazing dinner! the guacamole was the best i've ever tasted....buttery and tangy.  tender pork was wrapped inside house made corn tortillas and blanketed with a complex sauce.  (complex because i've seen rick bayless make a sauce with 17 different ingredients on his show) the rhubarb ice cream was lovely by itself, but the bittersweet chocolate sauce and the goat milk cajeta took the dessert to the next level.  after loosening my belt, i waddled out of the restaurant with a smile plastered on my face and a dazed and confused look in my eyes.  fortunately, i was lucid enough to buy rick bayless' cookbook "mexican everyday" on the way out.  

with hundreds of recipes and great photos throughout, it's a beautiful book.  for sunday dinner, i decided to test a few recipes: jicama salad with watercress, romaine and lime-cilantro dressing, red chile chicken and rice with black beans and pineapple skillet upside down cake.  

the salad was delicious!  the jicama was refreshing and crunchy, the watercress was peppery and the vinaigrette smoothed everything out.  this was my favorite recipe.  i didn't add the jalapeno because some of my friends don't eat spicy food.  

when i was studying abroad in the dominican republic, i spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my host mom, and arroz con pollo was one of her specialties.  she didn't have to measure anything!  somehow she knew the perfect amount of  water the rice and beans needed to cook perfectly.  when i got home and tried to replicate her dishes, my experiments failed horribly, with the rice either burned or undercooked.  this was a few years ago, but i hadn't tried again...until now.  and it worked! the rice wasn't cooked burned or undercooked, the only problem was it was too mild for me.  maybe i'll add a jalapeno next time, when i'm cooking for myself.    

the last time i made a pineapple upside down cake, i used canned pineapple slices.  this time, i used fresh fruit.  the brown sugar topping was caramelized and intense.  everyone thought it was delicious.  the cake had a great texture and the brown butter added nuttiness.  ku even said it was still on her mind the next day!  i was happy everyone loved the cake, so i just watched their eyes roll up and to the side and let them go on and on about how good it was.  

but my taste buds were pleading for vanilla.   next time, i'll add a teaspoon or so to the cake batter and hopefully that will round out the flavors.

here is one recipe i tested.  you can find the others - and many more - in his book.

adapted from mexican everyday by rick bayless
serves 4
3/4 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/2 cup cilantro
1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into sticks
1 medium bunch watercress
romaine leaves

combine the oil, lime zest, cilantro and salt in a mini food processor.  blend until smooth.  in a large bowl, combine jicama, watercress and romaine.  drizzle a little vinaigrette on top and toss.

Friday, May 8, 2009

contact high

when i went to dopo the first time, i didn't order pizza...and i was starting to realize that might have been a huge mistake.  this is what somebody wrote:

best pizza in Oakland
I've tried them all and Dopo is the best

that's a bold statement!  i was skeptical, but intrigued.  pizza was on my mind for an entire week, so i decided to pick one up on my way home.  it was a white pizza (which just means it doesn't have red sauce), topped with house made pancetta, asparagus and thinly sliced red onions.  i watched the cook check the bottom crust to make sure it was brown.  she pulled it out with a pizza peel, sprinkled shredded white cheese, cut it into slices and put it in the box. 

i got in my car and the aroma immediately filled every breath of air.  i made it exactly one block before i had to pull over.  somehow, i remembered to take this picture before i grabbed a slice and shoved a corner in my mouth.  

with wide eyes, i exclaimed, "WOW!"

the salty pancetta brought out the sweetness from the asparagus.  
i sped home, rushed in the door, poured myself a glass of wine, plopped down on the couch and gently placed the pizza box on the table in front of me.  i grabbed another slice.  the chewy texture of the cured meat highlighted the tender slices of vegetable.
the crust was so thin and crackly on the bottom - and chewy on the edges.  the edges didn't have enough flavor.  maybe they should add more salt to the dough.
after a while, i noticed that i was moaning after every bite.
this reminded me of a book i read last summer, eat pray love.  i raced to the bookshelf and grabbed the book, glancing at the pizza every couple seconds to make sure it was ok.
"so sophie and i have come to pizzaria da michele, and these pies we have just ordered - one for each of us - are making us lose our minds.  i love my pizza so much, in fact, that i have come to believe in my delirium that my pizza might actually love me, in return.  i am having a relationship with this pizza, almost an affair.  meanwhile, sophie is practically in tears over hers, she's having a metaphysical crisis about it."
yes!  that's exactly what i feel like.  i'm delirious!  i'm high!  i'm high on pizza!  i take another bite.
i had to call a friend to share what just happened.
"i'm high on pizza!"
he laughed.   i explain that pizza was invented in naples and i read the passage from the book to see if that will help him understand.  he laughed again.  
"i have to go to naples!"
"you cannot go to naples just to eat pizza."
my face drops into a frown as i try to think about which friend i should have called in a moment like this.  i'm having a revelation.  this is not a game.  i don't need to be discouraged right now.  i need to be uplifted.  i need to fly and soar and frolic.  i wonder if pizzaria da michele is still...  what did he say?  how can i concentrate when this beautiful, lovely, gorgeous pizza is just sitting there, patiently waiting for me???  what?  he has to get off the phone?  yes!!!  i mean...
"ok, talk to you later."

without wasting a nanosecond, i dive into the pizza box again and resurface with another triangle of love.  this time, i noticed the pepper in the pancetta.  my tongue was so happy, it was dancing in my mouth. 
at this point, i wasn't even hungry anymore. but i couldn't stop.  just.  one.  more.  slice.
finally, i flopped back on the couch and looked at the lonely slice of pizza that was left in the box.  "did i really just eat almost an entire pizza?  by myself?  oh well.  it was delicious."  

and that was the last thing i remembered before i fell asleep on the couch, smiling and dreaming about naples.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

spring aint so bad

spring is not my favorite season.  maybe it's because june, july and august are always the best months for students and teachers.  maybe it's because i love fruit and can't wait to eat all the sweet melons, berries and stone fruits that are available.  maybe it's because if i had to choose, i would rather be too hot than too cold.  maybe it's a combination of a few different reasons, but the fact is....i love summer.  

spring is ok.  my birthday is in the spring.  the weather is mild.  but really, spring just makes me look forward to summer.  

this year, a poem and a picture really touched me.  deep breath.  i started to notice lovely blossoms on trees that had previously been naked.  spring IS a new beginning.    and that's always a beautiful thing.  
i know what fruits and vegetables are in season in the spring, but they hadn't really inspired me....until i decided to give spring a chance.  i went to the farmer's market on a saturday.  

there are a few reasons why i go to the farmer's market:
1. it's fun.
2.  seasonal and local food tastes better.
3.  it's a good place to learn about food.
4.  you can taste before you buy.
5.  it's cheap.

i had a taste for a fresh, simple pasta dish that would celebrate spring.  this was on my mind as i walked through the market.  first, i saw green garlic.  i've read that green garlic has a different flavor than regular garlic - more mild and gentle.  i had never cooked green garlic before so i decided to buy a bunch ($1).  next, i picked up some carrots to add some sweetness and color ($1).  these were actual baby carrots - not the packaged nubs that are cut from large carrots.  the crooked orange fingers beckoned to me.  i noticed a type of basil ($1) i had never seen before.  the aroma was familiar, but the leaves were on a very long stem - about a foot long.  i forgot to ask what kind of basil it is.  does anyone know?

i thought it was too early for tomatoes, but one farmer was selling some.  i slipped a strawberry tomato in my mouth and closed my eyes.  it tasted like summer!  these will make a nice addition to my pasta.  i put about 1/2 pound ($2) in my bag.  the asparagus was the most expensive thing i bought that day.  after looking at all the different types, i decided to buy the skinny ones ($3.50) because they were roughly the same size as the carrots.  all of this fresh, beautiful produce would only cost me $7.50.  

i channeled my inner alice waters and decided to make a very simple dish.  i wanted the vegetables to speak for themselves.  it was my first time working with green garlic so i didn't expect it to make my eyes onions.  watch out.  you've been warned.  

you all know i learned how to cook without using recipes.  this is just a general guideline so you can make your own pasta dish, depending on what you find at your market.  just make sure all of your vegetables are sliced before you begin.  the cooking goes pretty fast, and you don't want the veggies to get mushy while you're slicing and dicing.  

the tomatoes released their juices and combined with the wine to make a silky sauce that enrobed the pasta.  delicate is the perfect word to describe green garlic.  the taste definitely reminded me of garlic, but this was much more subtle.  i need to work on my knife skills, because this dish didn't exactly look attractive.  but it sure was tasty!  my restraint paid off in the end, and i got exactly what i was looking for:

spring on a plate

olive oil
green garlic, thinly sliced
skinny carrots, sliced diagonally
skinny asparagus, sliced diagonally
salt and pepper
white wine
tomatoes, diced
basil leaves, torn

heat oil in a pan. add green garlic and saute for a minute.  add carrots and saute for a minute.  add asparagus then a few glugs of white wine.  add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for a few minutes.  add tomatoes and basil and allow to heat through for a minute.  serve over any kind of long pasta, cooked al dente.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


i've heard a lot of good things about dopo and it's even on the 100 best restaurants list.  since i also heard it can get busy, i called the restaurant before we left the house.  i found out they don't take reservations for groups smaller than 5 people, but they said they could seat us now.  we got there around 8:30 and noticed all of the tables were full.  there wasn't an obvious host station so we just kind of stood their awkwardly for a few minutes until someone came to talk to us.  

the host said we could wait for 30 minutes for a table in the dining room....or.....there's outdoor seating around the corner.  it was kind of chilly but he said it's tented and heated and there are blankets so we could tuck ourselves in.  we were skeptical about this "outdoor seating" but we followed him to this little sidewalk right next to the restaurant.  our table was actually pushed up next to the outside wall and there were little blankets, folded and draped over the back of the chairs.  the host said some people like to eat out there because it's a lot quieter.  our hunger is what made us sit down at the table in the little alley.  we were kind of chilly out there, and the blanket was small so it only covered my lap. 

the double-sided wine list was organized geographically, not by type of wine like usual.  on one side of the list, names of red wines were arranged around a map of italy; white wines were on the other side.  since they were all italian wines, i didn't recognize some of the names but the server was very helpful.  he asked me what kind of wine i like...full-bodied whites...and he gave me a couple suggestions and described each one.  i forgot what it was called, but it sure was full and crisp!

after the server took our drink orders, the host came back to check to see if we had any questions about the menu.  i asked him what ciccioli is and he proceeded to give us a VERY detailed description.  he said it's pork, slow-cooked with thyme until it's a pork butter.  he went on to explain how the french's version is chunkier and how they make it in house and how good it is and a few more details.  as he walked away, my quotable friend looked at me and said 

"you had me at pork butter." 

at first, the ciccioli reminded us of tuna.  but once we slathered enough on bread, the flavors began to sing: definitely pork, olive oil, salt and pepper.  

we ate the "salad of north carolina white shrimp ceci beans and trapani pesto" next.  it was brown and pretty unattractive.  my first bite was tangy and rich.  the slice of lemon on side was begging to be included.  bite #2 was even better than the first due to the extra acidity.

although the "fusilli with hoffman farm hen" was rich and buttery and cheesy, it wasn't very special.  my girl said she felt she's had that meal at somebody's house before.

the eden farm bone-in pork chop was huge.  i like more seasoning on my meat, but it was nicely cooked.  um, i hate to go there, but there's something you should know.  there is an unfortunate detail about the way this dish looked. the red sauce that was poured generously over the chop reminded me of blood, so by the time i finished eating, i felt like a cannibal.  gross, i know, but i had to warn you.

the "carrots, sugar snap peas and mint" was the best dish of the night!  crisp-tender, slightly sweet vegetables, tangy pickled onions.  i didn't taste the mint but i didn't miss it at all.  i secretely cheered when my girl announced she was full, because i proceeded to finish every last morsel on the plate!

when we read the dessert menu, we noticed two important things missing: 1. cake and 2. chocolate. i was trying to figure out what was wrong with these people until the server explained what diplomatico is: chocolate mouse cake with chocolate shavings.  whew!  again, we didn't especially like the way the dish looked, but it was cool and refreshing.  be careful though, i think there was more espresso than chocolate.  the picture above is from italy in sf, who wasn't impressed with the dessert.  what do you think about the presentation?

the day after our dinner, i read that dopo is supposedly well known for their amazing pizza.  oops.  oh well, i'll put that on the list for next time.

if you go...
-be ready to wait or ask for 2 blankets.
-ask the host to describe the ciccioli.
-ask the server to help you choose a wine.
-order the carrots if they're on the menu.
-try not to look at the food before you take a bite.
-order a pizza.

4293 piedmont ave
(510) 652-3676

Sunday, April 26, 2009

very happy hour

i went to the farmer's market on saturday and ran into a friend.  he talked me into going to happy hour at easy lounge, down the street.  it was a beautiful day and i was intrigued by the farmer's market cocktails they serve.  they get fresh fruits and vegetables at the market and turn those into cocktails.  these drinks are $6 during happy hour (2-5pm, saturdays).

this was the menu when i was there:
-off with her head - fresh tangerine juice topped with proseco
-drink me - skyy vodka, triple sec, fresh carrot juice, fresh blood orange juice, served up
-whooo are yooou? - beefeater gin, fresh cucumber, ginger syrup, topped with soda and ginger ale

all 3 drinks were refreshing and tasty but my favorite was "drink me."  the carrot juice was sweetened slightly by the blood orange juice and it was garnished with a mint leaf.  i nibbled the leaf and then took a sip of the drink.  mmmmm....even better!  if i made the drink, i would try to incorporate the mint into the drink itself, not just as a garnish. 

i always see a long line of people waiting to buy kettle corn at the farmers market, but i've never tried it.  maybe it's all that smoke billowing out of the little tent that discourages me.  well easy also has complimentary glasses of kettle corn  for people to snack on.  it was soooo good!  the freshly popped corn was sprinkled with sugar and salt.  it surprised me because i wasn't expecting the sweetness.  i guess that means i'll have to stand in the long line to get more....or i can just go get a cocktail.  :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

pineapple upside down cake day

i woke up on monday morning and checked my twitterberry.  i'm following foodimentary, a one man operation run by john-bryan hopkins.  he sends out interesting quotes and facts about food several times a day.  according to him, april 20 was pineapple upside down cake day.  i've never heard of this day but i got a serious craving and ended up baking before work.

i used canned pineapple slices, like i did before, but it was kind of chewy this time.  one can is convenient because it has the right number of slices for 2 eight inch cakes.  when i first learned this technique, i started making all kinds of upside down cakes: peach, blueberry, apple.  i think next time i make pineapple upside down cake, i'm going to try fresh pineapple, not canned.

i adapted a recipe from my mom's old betty crocker's cookbook from 1988.  it's a basic 1-2-3 cake that's pretty good.  with the brown sugar glaze, it's very moist.  i'm still looking for recipe for a yellow cake that's moist, even without a glaze.  does anybody have a good recipe?  

3/4 stick butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup pineapple juice
2 cups all purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs

heat oven to 350 degrees.  grease and flour 2 eight inch round cake pans.  in a small pan, melt the 3/4 stick of butter and brown sugar.  let cool slightly.  sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  in the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the 1/2 cup butter and sugar for a few minutes, until it's light yellow.  add the eggs, mixing after each one.  add vanilla.  add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix.  add 1/2 of the pineapple juice and mix.  continue until everything is mixed together.

spread brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the cake pans.  top with fruit.  spread cake batter on top.  bake for 35-40 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

vegan soul kitchen

my full review of this cookbook is on cityflight.

when i get a new cookbook, i first turn to the dessert section.  although i'm very impressed that bryant managed to find a way to make a vegan chocolate pecan pie, i wasn't brave enough to try it.  please let me know if you do.  after reading through the dessert section, i started back to the beginning.  i turned down the corners of all the pages that looked interesting and narrowed it down to a manageable challenge.  

i tested 5 recipes from bryant terry's new cookbook for sunday dinner.
1. citrus collards with raisins redux
2. sauteed jalapeno corn
3. garlic broth-braised brussels sprouts
4. sweet sweetback's salad with roasted beet vinaigrette
5. california slurricane

i love to eat corn, brussels sprouts and beets but i've never cooked them before.  it took a few hours to cook everything but i enjoyed the process.  my friends (who are not vegan) were skeptical, but willing to participate in the taste test.  

my adaptations are in italics; for bryant's full recipes, buy his book!

citrus collards with raisins redux

course sea salt
2 large bunches collard greens, ribs removed, cut into a chiffonade, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest

in a large pot over high heat, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. add the collards and cook uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes until softened. meanwhile, prepare a lar
ge bowl of ice water to cool the collards.

remove the collards from the heat, drain, and plunge them into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking and set the color of the greens. drain by gently pressing the greens against a colander.
in a medium-size saute pan, combine the olive oil and the garlic and raise the heat to medium. saute for 1 minute. add the collards, raisins and 1/2 teaspoon salt. saute for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

add orange juice and zest and cook for an additional 15 seconds. do not overcook (collards should be bright green). season with additional salt to taste if needed and serve immediately.  i accidently added too much salt so i added some vegetable broth and let it cook out for 2 more minutes.

has anyone else ever put raisins in dark green vegetables before?  bryant terry says, "the defining ingredients, the ones that would perplex people when they heard the name of this dish, would be the thompson raisins and freshly squeezed orange juice."  i saw a tv chef put raisins in a broccoli dish a few years ago s
o i've been adding this touch of sweetness for a while now.  so i wasn't "perplexed" when i first saw this recipe.  it was good!  although the recipe only calls for orange juice, i a
lso added about a teaspoon of orange zest (like in the cookbook photo).

sauteed jalapeno corn

course sea salt
3 cups fresh sweet corn, from about 6 ears
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced
freshly ground black pepper

bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat and add 2 teaspoons of salt. add the corn, immediately remove from heat and let sit for 30 seconds. drain in a colander.

in a
 medium-size saute pan over medium heat, combine the olive oil, garlic, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and saute, stirring often until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
add the corn and jalapeno and cook, stirring
 frequently until thoroughly mixed, 3 to 5 minutes.
season with salt and pepper to taste.

now, i didn't start to like corn until last year.  whenever this vegetable appeared in my mom's kitchen, i avoided it like the plague.  i saw a demo online where bryant made this recipe.   it looked so delicious and easy, i had to 
make it.  

after shucking the corn, i tried to cut the corn off the cob like bryant did in the demo.  unsuccessfully.  there was more corn on the floor than on the plate!  i was about to get 
frustrated when i suddenly remembered a tip i read or heard somewhere (i think it actually might be rachael ray).  i put cob in the middle of an a
ngel food cake pan and tried to cut the corn off again.  this tim
e, the corn gently dropped into the pan.  

this dish was pretty easy and fast to put together.  smoky and earthy yet fresh and sweet. ...and spicy!

garlic broth-braised brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed of 
stems and cut in half lengthwise
1 cup vegetable broth
coarse sea salt
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons minced fresh lemon thyme
black pepper

coat a large saute pan with the olive oil.  saute garlic for 1 minute.  the brussels sprouts, arranging them cut side down, making one snug layer.  turn the heat to medium-high and saute until the cit sides are lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
add the vegetable broth and 1 teaspoon salt.  bring to a boil and stir well.  immediately reduce the temperature to low, cover tightly and braise for 15 minutes.  add the white wine and the lemon thyme, stir well, cover, and braise 5 minutes more, until the brussels sprouts are meltingly tender. remove from heat season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

i had no idea brussels sprouts grew on a stalk like in the picture!  i wonder how it looks on the tree or bush.  instead of making garlic broth, i bought a box of vegetable broth.  i minced a cloves of garlic and sauteed them before adding the brussels sprouts.  also, i couldn't find thyme at the supermarket so i just used lemon thyme.  delicious!

sweet sweetback's salad with roasted beet vinaigrette
4 medium beets, scrubbed, tops trimmed, root tails left intact (i used a mixture of golden, red and striped beets)
course sea salt
4 tablespoons plus 6 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon agave nectar
black pepper
5 cups baby arugula

combine the beets, 3 quarts cold water and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium pot over high heat.  boil uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the beets are easily pierced with a knife.  drain.  peel the beets by holding them under cold running water and rubbing their skins off with your fingers or a clean towel.
preheat oven to 400 degrees.
trim the tails off the bottom of the beets.  reserve two of them for the vinaigrette and compost the others.  cut the beets into a 1/4 inch dice.  in a medium bowl, toss the diced beets with 4 teaspoons of the olive oil.  transfer them to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking.  remove the beets from the oven, transfer them back into the bowl just used, and toss with 2 tablespooons of red wine vinegar.  return to the baking sheet and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  set them aside to cool.

in a blender, combine the reserved roasted beet tails with the remaining red wine vinegar, mustard agave nectar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.  blend while slowly pouring in 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  if needed, add more salt to taste.
place the arugula pieces in a large serving bowl, add the roasted beets on top.  immediately before serving, toss well with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat.

this recipe took a long time to make, but it was very tasty!  i was surprised at how easy the skins came off after they were boiled.

california slurricane
1 cup light rum
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2 cup freshly squeezed navel orange juice
1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice
3 tablespoons agave nectar

stir all the ingredients in a pitcher.  fill glasses with ice.  pour over ice.  

my only problem with this recipe is the song.  i have to say, i think bryant really didn't come through with this one....probably because he's only been living in oakland for a little while.  i'm not from the town, but i must have a few more years on him....this was a no brainer for me.  listen to the song i played while i was making this drink and tell me it's not perfect.  :)