Friday, September 30, 2011

Five Things

I've been celebrating my birthday all week, and the celebration will continue this weekend as we head to a couple of great dinners.  Yesterday was my actual birthday (29 on the 29th!), and John's mom gave me this great organic dog biscuit cookbook.  Harper is in for a treat soon!  I'll let you know how the pumpkin cookies turn out!

Our new favorite thing to buy at the farmers market are these BBQ pork buns from a stand that sells dim sum.  We just take them home and steam them for 15 minutes, and dinner is ready!  Delish!

I ordered a new pair of glasses from Warby Parker, and they arrived this week.  All of their prescription glasses are $95, and the shipping is free.  They send you 5 pairs for a free home try-on, which helps solve the problem of buying something like glasses online.  Like the whole Toms thing, for every pair you buy, a pair is donated to someone in need.  Works for me!

We've been eating a lot of vegetarian meals lately, so I've been trying to incorporate more beans into our diet.  I've started cooking beans from scratch, which has proven a lot more challenging than I originally anticipated (I keep overcooking them!).  I finally made our first successful meal of beans recently though, so that's progress.  These Rancho Gordo heirloom beans are from a local company, and I can't wait to try them.  Good Mother Stallard - that sounds like a good type of bean, right?

John and I have been preparing like mad for our trip to Paris.  And by "preparing" I mean buying things like new jeans and boots for said trip to Paris.  The important stuff, of course.  Hopefully I can go shopping again this weekend to load up on last minute essentials like cardigans and skirts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kabuto - Best Sushi in SF

It is possible I have never seen an episode of Cheers (not on purpose at least).  I have, however, eaten at a Cheers restaurant, which had the most unfathomably disgusting ribs a 12 year-old could and would not choke down.  When I think of Cheers, though, I think of sushi, not those ribs.  This relationship would be a mystery to anyone but John.

We both have fantasies of having a local restaurant that we love and visit so frequently that they know our name.  We had such a place (well, minus the knowing of the actual name bit) in New York - our favorite sushi haunt, Takahachi.  We went there almost every Friday night for a late dinner before we walked to the movie theater to see whatever romantic comedy was showing.  Our usual waiter always greeted John enthusiastically when we came in and the chefs would smile their "hellos."  So to me, when I think of great sushi I think "the place where everybody knows your name."

By far our favorite sushi place in San Francisco is Kabuto.  They don't quite know us yet, but we are working on it.  It's not in walking distance to our place like Takahachi was, so it takes a bit more time to create the Cheers vibe.

We went to Kabuto for the first time a couple years ago based on its insanely positive Zagat rating.  Thank you Zagat, for another win!  The atmosphere is a little lacking, but I almost prefer it that way.  There is nothing pretentious about this place, and we always sit at the sushi bar to watch the action.  Everything is fantastic - from the sashimi to the American-style rolls (shrimp tempura above) to the special rolls the chefs think of (I know we had one with pear recently).  We recommend this place to everyone we know, so it must be all their new customers that are distracting them from recognizing us just yet.  I guess we'll just have to go more often.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rye Soda Bread

I guess fall has finally arrived in the Bay Area.  I say "I guess" because it rained this weekend for the first time since May but is now back to sunny and 75 degrees for the week.  Fall is strange round these parts.

It seems everyone nowadays considers fall their favorite season, my husband included.  Not me.  I'm a summer kind of gal.  Frankly, I feel like fall is only welcomed with open arms because people get sick of 90 degree weather.  Well guess what, it's nice and temperate all summer here, so why would I want it to get cold and rain? Why would I want my beautiful tomatoes and strawberries to disappear from the market?

I suppose I am interested in the breads and soups of fall and winter.  They even might be trading my tomatoes for.

I made this rye soda bread in the dead of summer and we enjoyed it with some leftover soup, but I'm sure it would have been even better once the temperatures start dipping.

If you haven't made soda bread before, it's a breeze.  There is no yeast involved, so you don't have to wait for it to rise.  30 seconds of kneading is all you need (har har) to pull this bread together.

The rye flavor in this bread is very mild, so it works well to accompany just about any soup recipe you have.  (And Lord knows it goes well with butter.)  Next time I will probably make a half recipe since this bread is too dense and filling to finish between two people in one evening.   I suppose if soda bread and soup are involved, I can join the masses and welcome the love of fall into my life.  But only if it means I have an excuse to buy another cute pair of boots.

Rye Soda Bread

2 1/3 cups rye flour 
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and topping
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 3/4 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
2 cups buttermilk, plus more for brushing the bread

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven.

In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking soda, and salt.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the buttermilk.  Stir together by hand until the dough just comes together.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead for about 30 seconds.  The dough she pretty a pretty cohesive ball.  

Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet.  Brush buttermilk over the top and sides of the dough and sprinkle with flour.  Cut eight slashes into the dough ball, being careful not to cut all the way through.

Bake for 30 minutes and then move the rack up a level and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.  The bread is done when it is crusty, heavy, and make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Five Things

Harper had a week-long sleepover last week that thrilled her to no end.  Our neighbors went out of town, so we were taking care of Mochi and Latte for the week, and Harper couldn't have been happier.  Now that the Three Amigos have been separated, since our neighbors came back, Harper has been moping around the house and attempting to drag me to their place on every walk.  Apparently I'm not as much fun as Mochi and Latte to have around.

As a thank you gift for watching the dogs, Joyce and David brought us this huge box of cookies from Hong Kong. My favorites were the panda cookies in back, but the almond biscuits came in a close second.  Now I need to figure out a way to transport Paris pastries back to the U.S. to thank them when they watch Harper!

Last weekend I got to meet one of my heroes: The Alice Waters.  She was at Omnivore Books for a signing, and I couldn't miss the chance to meet her.  I didn't even know she had so many cookbooks - and I already have a lot of hers!  Naturally I needed copies of these previously unknown books of hers.  I got her to sign a few of her amazing cookbooks in her distinctive handwriting, and I walked away giddy.  She was very sweet.

Vintage food mill - score!  Per my request, my mom sent me her old food mill, in the box and everything!  Is that Italian, Mom?  I remember using this together in her kitchen to make homemade tomato sauce out of our garden's tomatoes.  Pretty much what I imagine doing with it again one day!

And last but not least - to my Wedding-Date-For-Life, John.  Weddings are a lot more fun with a wonderful man by your side.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Creamy Stovetop Corn With Poblano Chiles

Remember when roller skating parties were the Event of the Season in elementary school?  The clunky brown skates with orange laces didn't usually compliment my outfits, but somehow I was able to overcome this and have a good time.  The games were the most interesting part of the evening.  The limbo and Four Corners were popular, but Red Light, Green Light was always my favorite.

Was Red Light, Green Light, popular at your local skating rink too?  You know the game - the random skating rink employee asserts his power over adolescents by calling out "green light" to get them to go and "red light" to get them to screech to halt.  This game is, not surprisingly, much more difficult on skates than it is in Chuck Taylors.

The first person to reach the finish without getting busted for moving after "red light" is called, is the winner.  Of what, I can't say for certain.  I seem to remember that coupons at the snack bar were involved.

I have no doubt that this stovetop corn was nothing like that snacks served at the skating rink, but the red, green, and yellow can't help but remind me of a stop light.  If I recall, "yellow light" meant you could keep moving, and was really only used to trick you into stopping before you needed to.

This colorful dish tastes as good as it looks, maybe even better (especially in the dim lights of my no-longer-sunlit-during-dinner kitchen).  This recipe comes together quickly, other than roasting the chile peppers.  After melting one pair of plastic tongs holding the chiles to the gas flame on our burner, I decided it was easier to simply place the chiles directly on the burner surface and roast them that way.  After blistering the skins black (using your broiler or gas stovetop work well), the chiles are placed in a Ziploc bag for 10 minutes to steam.  The skins slide off pretty easily after that, and then you can move onto the easy stuff.

I'm new to the world of creme fraiche, and I have to say, I like it here.  Think of creme fraiche as the French version of sour cream.  I know for sure it is sold at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, so check there if you are as new to the creme fraiche world as I am.  The tang from the creme fraiche really makes this dish shine.  The sweet fresh corn tastes perfect next to the smoky chiles (which are not spicy after roasting, by the way).  A squirt of lime juice at the ends brightens all the flavors to bring it to the next level.

I've made this dish three times in about a month, that's how crazy I am about it.  There is probably only a week or two of fresh corn left, so get to it.  Or, more appropriately, green light!

Creamy Stovetop Corn with Poblano Chiles
Adapted from the NY Times

2 tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, diced
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Cayenne pepper
Minced jalapeno, optional
Kernels from 4-6 ears of corn
2 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch strips (I have also substituted Anaheim and Hatch chiles)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Juice of 2 limes

Start out by roasting your chiles, and place them in a plastic bag to steam before peeling.  (See here or here.)  Cut kernels off of 4-6 ears of corn.  Remove skins from chiles and cut into 1/4-inch strips

Heat two tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  When melted, add in diced red bell pepper,  Cook pepper for 3-5 minutes, until slightly softened.  Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and minced jalapeno (if using).  Add corn and chile strips to pan and cook until corn is tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes.  Add plenty more salt and pepper.  Add in scallions and creme fraiche and heat through.  Add in the juice of two limes and taste for seasoning.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Rest of Napa

This was our third weekend trip to Napa (the first being our honeymoon), and I think I love that place more and more each time I go.  Not that it's original to love wine country - the food and the beauty are unmatched. We are pretty lucky to have this place in our backyard.

This was our first time in Napa with a pooch, and it made the experience better.  This shot was taken at the Rutherford Grille before I chowed down on BBQ ribs and cole slow.

We stopped at Peju winery on the way out of town to pick up a couple of bottles - with Harper of course.  It's amazing how many wineries in Napa welcome dogs.

We stopped at a farm stand to pick up some local vegetables to eat for dinner when we got home.  Big juicy tomatoes, a couple of white nectarines, and an eggplant zucchini.  What I made for dinner didn't exactly compare to the food we had in Napa, but we made do.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Napa Knapp Wedding

Two weekends ago John and I attended the most beautiful wedding in the history of weddings.  Our friends Trevor and Andrea got hitched at the Beaulieu Garden up in Napa.  

Trevor looked very excited as he anticipated his beautiful bride.

And she was beautiful all right.

Cheers to the happy and lovely couple!

And a big thanks to them from all their guests for hosting such an amazing party.

It was like a fairy tale eating under the lights and chandeliers.

Don't you wish you had been invited to this incredible affair?

Everything was perfect down to the personalized menus, color-coordinated napkins, and floral sprigs.

I loved this cute method of the seating chart pick-up.

On top of the incredible setup, the food not to be believed.  They picked the chef for her farm-to-table cuisine and we were blown away.

And this is how big we were smiling before we ate the peach and arugula salad, crab cakes with succotash, and sea bass with fresh peas.

By the time it was dark we were digging into our wedding pie (instead of cake).  I chose raspberry and John had apple.  I wouldn't have minded a taste of the third option, peach, but I wasn't very well acquainted with the guest on my right, so I decided to keep my request to myself.  

Best wishes to the happy couple.  May their life together be as beautiful as their wedding.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Smitten Ice Cream

Remember that "ice cream of the future" they suckered us kids into eating in the 80s.  Newsflash:  Dippin' Dots is not the ice cream of the future, it's just sugared ice pebbles.  Also, there was the "space" ice cream that was freeze-dried and altogether saw dusty in flavor.  Neither ended up being better than real ice cream...or even as good as ice cream.

Well guys, I have discovered the real ice cream of the future.  If you've seen Top Chef, you've seen the contestants whip up ice cream with liquid nitrogen.  I never thought much of it, because I figured it was just a trick to use when you're in a time crunch, not something that would make ice cream better.


Ice cream made with Liquid Nitrogen is the creamiest ice cream you've ever eaten.  Maybe because of the quickness with which it freezes the ingredients, but there are essentially no ice crystals in this ice cream, making it taste even more luscious than you're used to.

Smitten Ice Cream in San Francisco churns your flavor TO ORDER with liquid nitrogen.  You read that right, folks, they make the ice cream just for you.

This will be the freshest and creamiest ice cream of your life.  I have to even reluctantly admit that it's better than my own homemade ice cream.  Plus it requires no work from me and allows me to have fun flavors while John has his boring chocolate.  Get yourself over to Hayes Valley and try yourself a scoop (or two)!  Welcome to the future.
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