Friday, March 27, 2009

sf chocolate salon

A Few Useful Definitions (from sf chocolate salon):
1. An assembly of guests in such a room, esp. an assembly, consisting of the leaders in society, art, politics, food, etc.
2. A hall or place used for the exhibition of works of art.
3. A shop, business, or department of a store offering a specific product or service, esp. one catering to a fashionable clientele

i went to the 3rd annual san francisco chocolate salon on saturday, march 21. it was almost overwhelming to be in the large room surrounded by all...that...chocolate. almost. now, i didn't get to every table but i did make my way around the whole room. there were a lot of small, local business there, showcasing their creations. there were all kinds of truffles and molded chocolates there...classic, "eyebrow raising" flavor combos. i saw fabric decorative boxes that look like chocolate, chocolate liqueur, chocolate beauty products, "healthy chocolate" and even chocolate frosting (photo from sf station).the tastetv awards were announced yesterday and neo cocoa won the award for best truffles. their truffles were by far the most beautiful. i sampled the freshly zested lime. while the lime flavor was pronounced, it wasn't my favorite truffle of the event. (photo by food gal.)

if i had to give out the award for best truffle, i would give it to the first one i tasted at the salon: chocolate cognac by coco delice. Imagine intense, dark chocolate elevated to the next level by the smooth cognac.

the award for best flavored chocolate was given to marti chocolatt and i agree with this choice completely. she was obviously very popular at the salon because by the time i got to her table at 3:30, she was out of business cards and several samples. luckily, i was able to try a few things: purple yam, starfruit, goat cheese, coffee. the flavor combinations were very interesting and i spent more time at her booth than any other. most of the samples i tasted were a fusion of chocolate and filipino produce. this is what her table looked like...

Another highlight of the salon was the brazil honey cake by kika's treats. the moist, flavorful cake was enclosed inside a crisp layer of dark chocolate. i couldn't believe it when i found out there are no eggs or dairy in this cake! kika makes her treats at la cocina, an incubator kitchen for female entrepreneurs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

michelle's garden

“A real delicious heirloom tomato is one of the sweetest things that you’ll ever eat,” Michelle Obama said. “And my children know the difference, and that’s how I’ve been able to get them to try different things.

“I wanted to be able to bring what I learned to a broader base of people. And what better way to do it than to plant a vegetable garden in the South Lawn of the White House?”

last week, michelle obama and 26 fifth graders dug up part of the south lawn in preparation for an 1,100 square foot vegetable garden. organic and seasonal vegetables will feed the first family and white house guests, but there won't be any beets since the president doesn't like them. instead romaine, spinach, collards, sugar snap peas, broccoli, fennel, radishes, rhubarb, onions and shallots will be planted in the garden. herbs will include mint, chamomile, sage, thyme, garlic chives, cilantro and parsley.

on the day of the big dig, michelle told the photographers to "quit taking pictures and pick up a shovel." i love her! :o)

the 5th graders will come back in two weeks to help plant the herbs and vegetables. they'll return later to help the white house chefs prepare the fruits of their labor. lucky kids... do you think these kids will go home and encourage their families to grow their own produce? and do you think their parents will actually do it?

of course, i have to mention alice waters. apparently, she was thrilled to hear the news after everything she's done to advocate for a white house garden.

seasonal, local and organic produce tastes so much better than the stuff you can find in the supermarket. i remember my nana's tomatoes from her backyard garden. all summer, i would slice tomatoes and eat them a piece of fruit.

i don't have a backyard so unfortunately, i don't have anywhere to plant a garden. but i'm going to start growing vegetables on my balcony with self-watering containers. more on that later...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

fast and fresh

spicy. mango. shrimp.

when i saw these 3 words together in sunset magazine, my eyes widened and i smiled....mmmmmmmm. excited to try the new recipe, i talked about it with a friend. for some reason, she didn't understand the combination and her face kinda scrunched up into a perplexed expression. i don't understand the confusion. i love spicy and sweet flavors together so i put this meal together the very next day.

i'm happy to report that the recipe was both fast and fresh. i think i actually finished in less than 30 minutes. since i was in the mood for some veggies, i decided to add a handful of spinach to the shrimp. also, i didn't have any basil and coconut isn't really my thing, so i just left those ingredients out. this dish was very easy to make and tasted even better the next day, when i took it to work for lunch. looks pretty good, right???

garlicky shrimp + tart-sweet mango + fresh spinach = a very happy christina :o)

heather ripley, from menlo park sent this recipe to the magazine and ended up winning the contest. go heather! thanks for sharing with everyone. here is the recipe the way it was printed in the march 09 issue of sunset magazine:

heat 3 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. saute 1 cup chopped onion until golden brown. add 2 tsp minced garlic, 1 tsp. red chile flakes, 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, 2 tbsp. soy sauce, 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice, and about 12 oz. peeled and devained medium shrimp; cook stirring often until shrimp turn pink. add 2 cups cubed fresh (preferably unripe) or frozen mango and cook until warm. sprinkle with 1/4 cup toasted shredded unsweetened coconut and serve with steamed jasmine rice. serves 4.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

happy pi day

someone told me it's pi day today. pi, you know...3.14. math was never really my thing so when every time i heard someone say "happy pi day," it really just made me want to eat a slice of pie.

on my last trip to sweet adeline bakeshop in berkeley, i was pleasantly surprised to see their new cookbook for sale. after skimming through the cute little book, my gentle surprise suddenly turned into overwhelming enthusiasm when i saw the recipe for concord grape pie. my reaction is the result of a couple good memories from last fall.

one day in october, i stopped by sweet adeline when i had a sweet tooth. after surveying all the goodies behind the glass, i had a detailed conversation about this important decision with the patient front counter person. finally, i decided to try a slice of concord grape pie. until that moment, i had never heard of this pie but i was more than ready to give it a try.

the crust was securely centered in that magical space between flaky, crisp and tender, and it was an appropriate foundation for the fruity filling. memories of welch's grape juice and jelly played like a slide show over my closed eye lids. then the brightness and warmth surfaced, followed by the crunch of the crust. i opened my eyes wide with surprise. the experience was satisfyingly familiar and the same time. unfortunately, i ate my slice of pie so fast, i didn't have time to identify the source of this new flavor experience.

the pie was on my mind for the next few days, so when i found out my family was going to tailgate at the next 49er game, i immediately offered to bring dessert. i attempted to describe it to my mom, but i just stumbled over my words as i tried to locate adjectives that would explain what i felt when i ate it: comfort, excitement and confusion. somehow, she understood my gibberish and reassured me that she would be able to solve the mystery.

on the morning of the game, i picked up the pie from sweet adeline and an intoxicating aroma filled my car. my index finger couldn't help but reach through the crumbly streusel topping to land in the gooey, purple goodness that lay waiting underneath. it was a beautiful sunday in san francisco. sunny and warm, with a gentle breeze - perfect weather for tailgating. my dad stood over the grill while my brother handed him the hot links. i decided a quick bite wasn't going to hurt anything, since i had to wait for lunch anyway. so i found a fork and sat down with the pie box in my lap. again, i was so overwhelmed with the familiar and new feeling, i didn't slow down to actually taste the pie. after listening to a few squeals of delight coming from my direction, my mom came over and took the fork out of my hand to see what the fuss was about. she brought the glossy and matte jumble of fruit, crust and streusel to her mouth and after a few milliseconds, her eyes rolled up and to the left. my mom exclaimed, "Oh my goodness!" as her fork took another dive into the box on my lap. i looked up at her and shaded my eyes from the sun: "what's in it?!?" my mom expertly tapped her tongue against the roof of her mouth and stood with her hand on her hip, deep in thought. after what seemed like an eternity, she confidently said "Lemon. And cinnamon. And the crust is really good." after another fork-full to confirm her hypothesis, i confidently agreed. the mystery was solved. and my purple lips smiled.

a baker's dozen
recipes with love and appreciation from sweet adeline bakeshop
concord grape pie
yields one 10 inch pie - serves 8

pie dough
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
8 ounces salted butter, cut into 1 x 1 inch pieces, frozen
2-4 Tbsp ice water
1 tsp lemon juice

place dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. using the plastic bread knife (not the steel cutting knife), pulse the butter into the flour, until the butter pieces are one quarter their former size. add the lemon juice and enough water for the dough to just come together. pat the dough into a round disk, and refrigerate over night.

roll dough to fit a 10 inch pie pan, flute the dough decoratively. chill until it is form. line the pie shell with parchment paper and raw beans or rice. be certain that the rice or beans come to the top of the shell. place on a lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees in a convection oven for 10-40 minutes. remove the weights and parchment paper, continue to bake the shell until golden brown.

3/4 cups flour
1/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
7 Tbsp butter

combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, cut in the butter until the mixture is crumble. chill.

concord grape filling
1 1/2 pounds concord grapes
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tbsp butter

preheat oven to 350 degrees. stem and wash grapes. mix dry ingredients together, then mix with the grapes. place the fruit in a non-reactive sauce pan, on low heat begin to cook the grapes, stirring the mixture until the grapes begin giving up their juice. bring to a boil and simmer the fruit for 10-15 minutes until it thickens. take the mixture off the heat and add the butter. let the grapes cool slightly and pass them through a food mill. pour the mixture into the pre-baked pie shell. top with the streusel. place on a lined jelly roll pan and bake the pie for 40 minutes until the streusel is golden and the mixture is bubbling and gelled. the filling will look loose.

Monday, March 9, 2009

cooking for mr. latte

book review

cooking for mr. latte: a food lover's courtship, with recipes
amanda hesser

cooking for mr. latte is the story of the author's relationship with her man from the first (blind) date through their wedding day. this book came out of a column (food diary) she wrote for the new york times so the chapters are nice and short, the way i like them. after telling the stories about the important meals, she gives you the recipes. there are some things i really liked about this book...and there are a couple things i did not...

  • i LOVE the way she describes food.
    on reading a menu: "pearl's is like a poem that you return to again and again. it never changes, yet each time the words leap out at you with new vitality....when my meal was set down before me at the marble bar, everything else faded away. the shrimp were coated in a generous crust of salt and pepper. fried with their shells on, they crackled under my teeth as the warm, salty juices washed over my tongue."

sigh. :o)

  • the way she described the food made me want to try some of the recipes.
  • i'm also inspired to cook for my family and friends.
  • i like the whole idea of describing how she fell in love with her man and the role of food in her life.

  • i've seen jeffery steingrten on iron chef more than a few times and it seems like she described him accurately: "over the course of a meal, he can be difficult, provocative, witty, amusing and, often, exhausting."

  • the sketches added cuteness like it does in harry potter books. it's a little sneak peak to what you're about to read. izak is a fashion illustrator but he also sketched for the columns and this book.

now, there are a couple things i did not like so much about the book.

  • amanda is inspired by european cuisine...french, italian and spanish specifically. the food from these countries is delicious and has heavily influenced american and california cuisine. the thing is, there's a lot of delicious food all over the world...all through asia, africa and latin america.
  • even though i loved the way amanda described food, i didn't really like her character in the book. she just sounded kind of full of herself. the amateur gourmet and poco cocoa think she's unlikable or snooty but petit foodie thinks she's humble...go figure.

i'm going to try some of her recipes so i'll let write about that later...

Monday, March 2, 2009

believe in yourself

throughout most of this season of top chef, carla believed in herself. she had the courage to show her quirky personality and cook with love. she remained centered and after a slow start, ended up winning three quickfire challenges.

in part one the top chef finale, carla was the clear front runner. casey, a finalist from a previous season, was carla's sous chef and talked her into changing a few dishes. to make a long story short, the dishes didn't turn out right and hosea ended up winning the competition in part two.

"my biggest competitor was myself." this is what carla said in her npr interview. she also said she second guessed herself and didn't believe. unfortunately, carla is not top chef even though most people, including the winner, thought she was going to win. she's obviously a talented chef but it just didn't happen for her. i don't think she was robbed. when she stopped believing in herself on top of all the time contraints, it just slipped out of her fingers.

carla made me think about how much believing in yourself really matters. this is the difference between people that don't achieve their goals and people that do. i think she learned a big lesson that day...and i did too...