The Food Life

Monday, October 17, 2011

How Bad Can That Be?

Have you been to the Berkeley Bowl? Have you seen how many produce varietals that place stocks?! Oh, you have. Am I probably the last person on earth to make that pilgrimage and have that mind-blowing, jaw-dropping experience? Yes. Yes I most likely am.
This hippie-hipster argument about who found what organic produce first could go on for a long time. Point is: that place is amazing. I got brought there by my produce-loving, Berkeley-residing sister, Michaela. Michaela had to push the cart the whole way around the store because I kept freaking out in the aisles saying things like “Dude. Shut the front door. They have fresh espazote?! I’ve never even seen fresh espazote!” and looking at the other shoppers wondering, “Do they even get how cool this place is?!”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kettle Corn 2.0

So, this one takes me back a bit. Years ago, when my good friend Jenna and I were enterprising young foodies, we took a stall at the Marin County Farmer’s Market one summer and sold…well, whatever we were baking that week. Brownies were our trademark, but we also did toffee, lemon bars, raspberry slices—all kinds of ridiculously decadent treats. It was great fun, an incredible amount of hard work and I’d do it again in a hot minute.

One of the great things I remember about trading at the Farmer’s Market was the in-kind trading that all the vendors took part in about 15 minutes before closing time. We used to trade whatever we had left for a couple pounds of fresh heirloom tomatoes, a jar of local honey, or a few rotisserie chickens (yes, seriously). Not to toot our own horn or anything, but we generally found that we made out pretty well with the whole bartering system. The market price for a brownie and a smile was, in those days, incredibly high.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Flourless Orange & Almond Cake

Today: a confession. I love weird recipes. Anything that involves an unexpected method or bizarre ingredient immediately catches my attention. I remember years ago watching slack-jawed as Nigella Lawson confidently boiled a whole ham in Coca-Cola and thinking first “Is she bananas?” and then not long after, “I have got to try that.” Honestly, I wasn’t even that excited about making bagels until I found out that it involved poaching the raw dough in boiling water before baking—but when I did find out, I couldn’t wait to get started.
I’m not exactly sure why I’m drawn to these sorts of strange, seemingly-illogical recipe components, but generally I have a feeling that if a trusted source is telling you to do something crazy with your ingredients, it’s often because there’s a good reason behind it. Also, I think of my sister’s often-cited observation of me, characteristically made through gritted teeth: “You’ve always got to be different, don’t you?”

Monday, July 4, 2011

An American in London

My internal celebration clock went off early in the morning on Sunday. I sprang out of bed and started to contemplate what sort of feast I could prepare that would compliment my jubilant mood. I should note that something similar happens in the third week of November as well. I wanted messy, drippy sandwiches, piquant coleslaw, creamy potato salad and a home-baked crumble for dessert. And fireworks. And margaritas. And general drunken, patriotic merriment. In short, by 7:30am, my expectations for the day ahead were through the roof.
It wasn't long before I realized that I was in the wrong country to celebrate American holidays--i.e., anywhere outside of the US. The kicker: I would have to go to work on Monday while friends and family would be kicking it poolside back home. Sad face.

Never one to be deterred by as minor an issue as international borders, I set about making a 4th of July feast for a few hungry friends regardless of it being neither the 4th (but close enough) nor being in the correct hemisphere (again, close enough).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Basil Love

I maintain that I am not--nor have I ever been-- a fan of mayonnaise. Its gloopy, gelatinous consistency always makes me shudder when I watch beloved friends and family members enthusiastically spreading their sandwiches with the stuff. I just sit there thinking cautiously, "Are you sure you want to do that?" Needless to say, I'm a mustard girl all the way. There is, however, one particular loophole in my one-woman campaign against mayonnaise and that, my friends, is the mighty aioli.

Aioli is in a completely different realm, a different stratosphere if you will, to the humble old mayo. Good aioli is a somewhat thinner consistency, infinitely silkier, deliciously dippable and much more flavorful than its distant relative. It's balanced, but packs a punch and can lend its charms an incredibly wide range of dishes. I can imagine that this aioli would be completely awesome in a BLT, on a summery tomato salad, or a potato salad while I'm at it. It would be heavenly alongside some nice grilled fish, calamari, steamed artichoke or asparagus...I could go on. Really, this recipe is a vehicle for basil--lovely, fragrant, delicate, summery basil. A clove of garlic and a good squeeze of lemon compliment the basil nicely and round out the flavor, but really, the basil is the star here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

DIY Bruschetta

So, a funny thing happened to me today. I decided that rather than continue to sift idly through and admire the many blogs that I regularly read, I really ought to stop neglecting this one. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking—quite the contrary. It’s just that I haven’t been telling that many people about it.

This one today is really nothing special in terms of a recipe. In fact, it isn’t really a recipe at all; more of a suggestion of how to eat. I was inspired by a) a freeform recipe for various bruschette from Chad Robertson’s amazing Tartine Bread (but who isn’t inspired by that?), b) a week in Italy that completely reignited my love of bread and c) my growing (somewhat worrying) love for eating food off of a wooden board.

The best combination of these ingredients turned out to be the goat’s cheese and balsamic roasted carrots with fresh basil. But I probably shouldn’t mention that since part of the fun we had in eating this meal was in testing out various combinations of roasted vegetables, fresh herbs and spreads. Yes, we had some fresh tomatoes with basil and olive oil, but I won't bother with that. Just gather all the components together and have at it.

Mixed Grilled Vegetable Bruschetta

1 loaf of day old bread (sourdough in my case), sliced thickly

1 bulb fennel, cut into ½ inch slices

2 carrots, sliced into ½ inch coins

2 small zucchini, sliced into ½ inch strips

1 small bunch asparagus

1 handful each of fresh basil, parsley and coriander

1 ball fresh mozzarella

½ a round of goat’s cheese

Olive oil for roasting

1 clove of garlic

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F/170 degrees C. Place all the vegetables on a baking sheet and dress generously with olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 35-45 minutes until everything is going brown at the edges (you may want to flip things halfway through the cooking time). When the veggies are done remove them to a serving platter and, turn the oven down to 300F/140C. Put the slices of bread directly onto the oven rack for about 4 minutes. You don’t want to toast the bread, just dry it out a little so that it soaks up all the good stuff. When the bread is just on the verge of toasting, pull it out and immediately rub one side with the raw garlic clove. Place the bread garlicky side down onto the baking sheet you roasted the vegetables on so that it soaks up a little of the leftover olive oil and seasonings.

Serve on a board with the cheeses and herbs and help yourself. No utensils required.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Warm Bulgur Wheat Salad with Poached Egg

I started out with the best intentions. A delicious, healthy, and flavorful lunch was what I was after. And then I opened the door to the fridge and found some leftover pancetta that needed to be used. So, granted, the calorie count shot up, but I’m not sorry. Not only did I succeed in two out of the three initial requirements I had for my lunch, but I also succeeded in ending up with a clean refrigerator.

I often use bulgur wheat as a main starch when I am sick to death of couscous and/or pasta and/or bread. It has a great bite to it and its wheaty flavor stands out in a way that other starches blend in. It’s a cinch to make and is delicious hot or cold. Although I had the time to poach an egg separately today to lay over top this dish, I have also had success cracking an egg into the hot bulgur and stirring to cook, which gives the finished product a nice, creamy texture without everything sticking together.

All in all, a very successful lunch for a very successful day off.

Warm Bulgur Wheat Salad with pancetta, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach and poached egg - (serves 2)

200g bulgur wheat, cooked according to packet instructions and drained of any excess liquid
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup mixed seeds (use any combination of pumpkin, sesame, linseed, sunflower etc.)
Bag of baby spinach
Punnet of mushrooms, sliced (I used chestnut mushrooms here)
2 large shallots, diced
1/3 cup pancetta, cubed
Pinch dried chilies
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/200 degrees C. Place the cherry tomatoes cut side up in a small roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes until the edges begin to char.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm up a few tablespoons of olive oil and toss in the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta begins to brown, then toss in the shallots. When the shallots are softened and translucent, add the sliced mushrooms, the chilies if desired and a pinch of salt. Continue to sauté and stir occasionally.

Toast the seeds in a dry frying pan over low heat, taking care to toss them and not to let them burn—this should take a total of about 5 or 6 minutes. Place a small saucepan of water over medium low heat for the poached eggs. Add the spinach to the pancetta mushroom mixture, turn off the heat and cover to allow it to wilt.

Assemble the toasted seeds, roasted tomatoes and cooked bulgur. When the spinach is wilted (it may take a stir or two to accomplish this), add the tomatoes, bulgur and toasted seeds to the saucepan and toss together.

Drop the cracked eggs gently into their simmering water and allow them to poach about 2-3 minutes then fish them out with a slotted spoon.

Plate the warm bulgur salad on two plates, finish with a final sprinkling of toasted seeds and a twist of black pepper. Top each dish with a poached egg. Enjoy your day off.