Monday, December 31, 2007

A Holiday Feast

Christmas is a time for enjoying time with family and friends; a time to slow down and appreciate the people you love. In my family, Christmas has always been a big deal, and we all enjoy gathering together in my parent's home for sharing stories about the previous year, good conversation, and of course great food. Typically, we have the standard fare; honey-glazed ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and of course, cornbread stuffing. Not that there is ever anything wrong with the old stand-bys, nothing at all. It's just sometimes, they can get a little bit, well, boring. So this year, my dad and I decided to dress things up a bit and make a few dishes that may have been a little unexpected, but made the meal exciting and really delicious.

Anyone who has spent any part of winter in the Central Valley knows that it gets cold, wicked cold. (Ok, maybe not mid-west cold, but California cold, alright?) And if there is one thing that helps warm the body and the soul on a cold winter night, it's a bowl of hot soup. So instead of just diving into the traditional meal head first, I decided to start Christmas Day dinner off with a Carrot Ginger soup.

Carrot Ginger Soup
1/4 cup butter
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger root
1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Saute onions until translucent, about 5 min. Add slivers of ginger, more or less to taste. 2 Tbs. can be a little overwhelming for some, so add or subtract as you see fit. I found grating ginger to be frustrating and time consuming, so I just used a vegetable peeler to make long slivers of fresh ginger. I added about 12 slivers, and it came out just right, but that can vary on the pungency of the ginger and your own personal taste.

After cooking ginger for 2 minutes, add chopped carrots and stock. I added about 5 cups of stock and left 1 cup in reserve in case I needed more liquid. It turned out 5 cups was perfect. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook about 20 minutes, or until carrots are tender.

Working in batches, using a blender or food processor, blend mixture until smooth. Pour the soup back into the stock pot, and heat on low until hot. Salt & pepper to taste.

Next came a tasty update on an old favorite; the staple that anchors the whole meal. Mashed potatoes. But this time, we made Garlic Rosemary Mashed Red Potatoes.

Garlic Rosemary Mashed Red Potatoes
5 lbs red potatoes
6 - 8 cloves of garlic
4 sprigs of rosemary
1 cup milk

Peel potatoes, leaving half of the skin on each potato in alternating strips. Boil potatoes and drain. Using whatever blunt instrument you have available, preferably a potato masher, mash the potatoes into thick chunks. Using a garlic press, add the cloves of garlic one at a time. Peel the leaves off the sprigs of rosemary, chop roughly, and add to potatoes. Add half of the milk and mix with an electric hand mixer. Combine the rest of the milk with the potatoes to smooth out the texture. Add more milk to taste.

No Christmas dinner would be complete without the centerpiece: The Christmas ham.
But my dad and I wanted to make the ham with a twist. And any reason to open a good bottle of bourbon in the kitchen is ok with me.

Ham With Bourbon, Molasses, and Pecan Glaze
1/2 cup apple juice (preferably fresh unfiltered)
1/4 cup bourbon (I like Maker's Mark)
1 3/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1 cup pecans, toasted, cooled, finely ground
1/4 cup mild-flavored (light) molasses
3 tablespoons dry mustard

1 whole bone-in 16- to 18-pound ham

Boil juice and bourbon in small saucepan until reduced to scant 1/3 cup, about 6 minutes. Combine sugar, pecans, molasses, and mustard in bowl. Add bourbon mixture; stir to form thick paste. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line large roasting pan with heavy-duty foil, leaving overhang on all sides. Trim off skin and all but 1/4 inch fat from ham. Place ham, fat side up, in prepared pan. Roast ham until thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 130°F to 135°F, about 10 minutes per pound or 2 hours 40 minutes for 16-pound ham.

Increase oven temperature to 425. You will have to sort of spakle the glaze onto the ham. Return ham to oven and cook until glaze is deep brown and bubbling, about 25 minutes.

We of course still had our cornbread stuffing, a tasty green bean dish, and what Christmas dinner would be complete without pie? This year's Christmas meal was a wonderful escape from the usual; we succeeded in making an nontraditional dinner that made every one's taste buds wake up. I had a great time sharing the kitchen with my dad, and I think we made a pretty good team. Now I guess we have set a bar that we have to live up to next year.

Thanks to the folks at Recipezaar for the Carrot Ginger Soup recipe, and Epicurious for the Ham with Bourbon, Molasses and Pecan recipe.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pollo Pibil

You might think that after being back state-side for almost a month, I would be over my desires for all things Mexico. Sadly, you would be mistaken. Ok, so I'm not exactly looking at vacation properties on the Yucatan anymore, but I am still thinking about the food. In particular, I have been wanting for some time to make something with "pibil" in the title, so I did my best to re-create a meal I had in Playa del Carmen. The original recipe, for those of you who have never seen "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is made with pork butt and cooked in banana leaves; however, since there are only two of us and pork butt's tend to be a bit large, I chose two chicken breasts instead, and used foil instead of banana leaves because, well because I don't know where to by banana leaves in The City. So here is my attempt at winging a simple yet very traditional Mexican dish.

Pollo Pibil

2 1/2 Tbs. achiote paste
2 - 3 cups orange juice
1 large yellow onion
6 - 8 garlic cloves
1 small habenero pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

In a large bowl, dissolve the achiote paste in the orange juice. The paste is tough and sticky, and will take some work to dissolve completely. I recommend using a fork or spoon to smash up the chunks of paste to save yourself time and unwanted wrist strain. The paste will not completely dissolve, and there will usually be a few small clumps at the bottom of the bowl. Try not to worry yourself too much about this fact, realize that no one is perfect, and move on. WARNING! This mixture, which gives the pibil its characteristic deep red color, will have the same affect on your clothing. For this dish, make sure that your cooking clothes are ones you won't mind donating to the dust-rag pile.

Line a baking dish with foil, covering all sides and edges with foil. You want to make sure that there are no gaps through which the sauce can escape. Then loosely lay one more sheet of foil in the pan, folding it up all four sides. Once you have made a nice bed for the chicken, place the two breasts in the dish. Dice your habanero pepper into tiny pieces and stir into the juice mixture. The pepper is hot enough, but if you like even more heat, leave the seeds and veins in. Slice the onion in big, thick rings about 3/4 - 1" thick,leaving the narrowing rings in place and set in the pan with the chicken. Distribute the whole cloves of garlic around the pan. Finally, pour the achiote/orange juice mixture in over the chicken so that it covers the chicken and onions completely. Cover the dish tightly with another sheet of foil, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

With your oven at 375, leave the dish tightly covered with foil and cook the Pollo Pibil for about 1 hour. Leave it alone to cook; with that much liquid in the pan it will not dry out. Just let it do its thing, and worry about something else for an hour.

For a nice side dish, dice 1/2 a yellow onion, and saute until translucent. Before the onion finishes cooking, press about 3 or 4 cloves of garlic into the pan. Take 1 can of black beans and pour into the hot pan, and bring to almost boiling. Add salt and pepper to taste. Once you are ready to serve, sprinkle fresh roughly chopped cilantro over the beans and the pibil.

I have to say, except for almost ruining one of my favorite shirts, this dish was very easy and really quite good. The achiote and orange juice make a very unique flavor, and of course the habanero gives it a great kick. If you can't find achiote paste, which I brought home from Mexico, use fresh annatto seeds, finely ground in a clean coffee grinder. ENJOY!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Vacation Blues

Bienvenidos! Buenos Dias! Hello there friends! We have returned from our adventures along the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Back from the beautiful sun, white sand, blue water and cold drinks of an all-inclusive resort in Mexico. Back from room service, beach-side restaurants and amazing food in, you guessed it, Mexico. And, oh yeah, we got hitched! If you can't tell by this point, I am suffering from the vacation blues. Just a little bit. It's not easy being torn away from the lap of luxury in an exotic tropical locale and dropped unceremoniously back into the real world.

But alas, we are back, and I do actually have some fun stuff to talk about, food wise. I don't feel I need to torment you all with each and every bite I took while on holiday, but I will throw out a few high-lights (and low-lights.) First of all, the food at our resort was, well, resort food. The Secrets Capri resort boasts five different restaurants, each with their own theme and menus. Our best bet for breakfast was always the buffet, with food ranging from empanadas to omelets to poached eggs, the buffet had it all, not to mention a bloody Mary and mimosa station, and a fantastic Mexican coffee that is made with cinnamon.
The rest of the restaurants were good, not remarkable, but good. The choices were Italian, seafood, Asian, a steakhouse, and of course, the buffet. Everything we ate was always very well presented and tasty, although the portions were small; but my problem was that none of these things were foods I cannot find anywhere else, in any city or at any hotel in America. There wasn't even a MEXICAN restaurant at the resort in Mexico. When they did do a Mexican menu, like at our rehearsal dinner, it was fantastic, with seafood ceviches, grilled marinated pork, and an assortment of other delicious Mexican foods and deserts to fill our plates and bellies.

One of our best food experiences was while on our excursion out to see the ruins of Tulum and snorkel. Once we decided to take a much-needed lunch break after swimming in the Dos Ojos cenote, our driver took us to the town of Akumal, a small resort town perched on the white sands of the Caribbean. We stopped in a residential area, at a small restaurant with sand for a floor dug snugly into the beach. Our group settled at a long, rough-hewn wood table with a straw thatch shade, not ten feet from the lapping waves of the sea. Not only was the locale idyllic, but the food was amazing as well. Just a simple dish of tacos, chopped beef grilled with vegetables, served hot on a plate with warm, fresh tortillas, and an ice cold Sol cerveza is just about as perfect as you can get. I could have sat at that table on that beach all day, drinking Sol, eating the fresh chips and salsa, tacos and tortillas for the rest of the day and been happy. Very happy. So, so happy.

But, of course, we had things to do, and places to go. Later on in the week, once we had officially been dubbed "Mister and Missus", a few of us made a trip into Playa Del Carmen, a busy little beach town with a happening tourist area called 5th ave. (Not after the street in New York, by the way. It just happens to be 5th Ave.) After poking our heads into a few stores, buying a couple of Cuban cigars, we stopped at one of many Mexican restaurants on the avenue, La Parilla Mexican Grill. The place itself was nothing special, just a restaurant for gringos to trick themselves into thinking they are eating traditional Mexican cuisine. The menu even resembled something you might find at Chevy's. What was memorable about the restaurant was what I found on that menu.

Anyone who has seen the movie "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" will remember Johnny Depp's character, Agent Sands, ordering Puerco Pibil at every restaurant he visits. The dish is such a centerpiece of the film that in the DVD, director Robert Rodriguez walks the viewer through how to make the dish from scratch. The dish is pork, marinated in achiote and orange juice, wrapped in banana leaves, and slow cooked until tender and juicy. With the enthusiasm Rodriguez shows for the dish in the movie, I told myself that I would not leave Mexico without trying some. Well, I never found Puerco Pibil, but I did manage to find Pollo Pibil, the same dish made with chicken. The dish was simple: Chicken and onions marinated with orange juice and achiote, wrapped in banana leaves and foil, and cooked until perfect. The dish was great, although it did not provoke me to go back to the kitchen and shoot the cook. I can't help thinking though that the pork dish would have been that much better.

Mexico was amazing. No, really, I didn't want to leave. There was so much there left to do, so many things left to taste. We never got to go out and have a real, authentic Mexican meal. The food we had was good, no doubt, but it was made for gringo tourists who are afraid to leave their comfort zone of safe Americanized Mexican fare. Next time, we will have to travel further off of the beaten tourist path. I cannot wait to get back; back to the white sand beaches, back to the clear blue water the temperature of bath water, back to ice cold cervezas, and back to the warm and hospitable Mexican people who made our stay so enjoyable. Until next time.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Fresh Choice in the Marina

I have been neglecting my wonderful blogs and the blogosphere as of late, and I have to get some new stuff up. My absence is excusable, however, as I have been spending my time preparing for my upcoming wedding next Saturday. That wonderful woman I have so often referred to as my fiance will very soon be referred to as my beautiful wife. Yes, dear bloggers, the next time you hear from me I will be a married man. As of Monday, we will hop a plane to Cancun, Mexico for two weeks of sun, sand, blue water and cold beer. I am hoping to come back to you with a few great foodie things to discuss. Hopefully none of them will involve dysentery.

Before we go, I wanted to tell you all about a great new restaurant out in the hip and fashionable Marina of San Francisco. On the corner of Steiner and Chestnut, Lettus Organic Cafe is a refuge from all of the over priced, pretentious restaurants peppering the Marina. The menu is almost totally organic, with each dish being made of fresh, healthy ingredients without tasting like baked cardboard as with many vegetarian dishes. It should be noted that the menu is mostly vegetarian, but with the option of adding grilled chicken, shrimp, or salmon it will satisfy most carnivores looking for a healthy alternative to heavy meat-laden dishes.

The restaurant is fittingly hip for the neighborhood, with sleek minimalistic furniture of light wood and steel, mood lighting through wood slats on the walls, and an open, spacious feel for what is a relatively small space. We stopped at lettus on a weekday around 6:30, and the restaurant was slow but not dead. Word has it on busy nights the line at the order counter can lead out the door. I ordered the spicy red curry with grilled chicken while my fiance tried the udon noodles with tofu. Other than the salmon dishes, every entree is vegetarian, but with the option of adding chicken, shrimp, or tofu. We started with the vegetarian spring rolls, which were served with two dipping sauces; a peanut sauce and a spicy dipping oil. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, and being one of my favorites, the peanut sauce was delicious.

Our entree portions were huge, so much in fact that neither of us cleaned our plates. The red curry was spicy without being overbearing, and was not so saucy that the rice and vegetables were drowned in it. It was just enough to give the dish a great flavor with the grilled chicken and fresh vegetables. My fiances udon noodles were fantastic, served in a tangy broth with tofu and cooked vegetables. For me, it is a testament to a restaurants quality when you want to share your dish with the people at your table, and we both picked off each others plates throughout the meal. The deserts, made totally in-house, are fantastic and made with mostly organic ingredients. I recommend the chocolate cupcakes.

In the spirit of being totally un-pretentious but unabashedly cool, Lettus offers its entire menu to-go, and even offers a daily "grab & go" area for those on the run. The place seems to be popular with the fashionable marina-ites, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for a healthy and fresh alternative without having to venture too deeply into the vegetarian world. For more information on Lettus, check out their website,

Thanks are due to my friend Josh Marden who, as a former employee of Lettus, insisted I find the place and try it, and even turned me onto those delightful chocolate cupcakes. Thanks Josh.

So now, it's off to Mexico! See you all in two weeks!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sunny October

Saturday, after a long Friday of cold weather and drenching rains, our favorite ball of fire decided to poke his head out and clear the clouds away, allow for a great early morning jaunt down to the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market. Normally on a Saturday morning after a long and soul-crushing week at work, I enjoy sleeping in, lounging around whilst drinking coffee, watching cooking shows on PBS, and maybe eventually making an appearance outside for lunch. On this particular Saturday, I somehow woke up at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. Once my fiance and I were both out of the warm and cozy confines of our bed, we hopped the K-line down to the Embarcadero to find us some good fall fruits and vegetables. And kids, don't be fooled; just because summer has left us doesn't mean that there aren't a bounty of tasty things ripening right now.

Ok, so first stop was to the good people at Frog Hollow Farm, who always have some of the best in-season fruits around. We picked up a few juicy Warren pears after taking full advantage of the sample trays and coming, very judiciously of course, to our decision. We had noticed on our way in while passing the good folks at Cowgirl Creamerythat they were selling fresh Buffalo Mozzarella. Both of us being fans of the combination of mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, we grabbed a tub of the cheese after finding fresh basil and heirloom tomatoes in the market outside. Even near the end of tomato season, we found some great looking tomatoes, some the size of a baby's head. Seriously. I really can't wait to taste them, with that fresh mozzarella, some basil, and just a splash of olive oil. It's the little things that make me happy.

We meandered through the market a bit more, picking up a huge bunch of grapes from a small farm in Dinuba, which, coincidentally, is where my own dear mum grew up. With our bag heavy and fully laden with fresh produce, we took our leave of the crowded market, but not before grabbing an icy bottle of fresh-squeezed apple & cherry juice. I love me some good apple juice. It was just another lovely day in San Francisco, enjoying the brief respite between rainstorms with the sun showing up for just a little while before he disappears behind the fog for another year.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sweet Tooth

Now, usually I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I save that job for my fiance. I do enjoy the occasional slice of cheesecake or bowl of ice cream, and we decided to use the Eat Local Challenge this month to try out two of the Mission's best kept secrets. These places are local in all of the best ways: They are small shops who believe in the benefits of using locally grown organic food for all of their delicious treats, and they are home-grown stops who have managed to make names for themselves in a city filled to the brim with gourmet bakeries, pastry shops and eateries.

Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakeshop, an annex of the Bi-Rite Grocery on 18th Street, (pronounced bee-rite, if you are my fiance) serves seasonally-flavored ice creams, sorbets, and specialty items made from locally produced organic ingredients. You can call to find out what flavors are in season, or just drop by and try out whatever sounds good. We got a scoop each of the Balsamic Strawberry and Raspberry with White Chocolate, both of which were some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted. It was so good, I had no problem eating ice cream at 7 'o'clock on a cold and foggy San Francisco evening. Check out their website here:

Next stop on our search for tasty local treats in the Mission was Mission Pie, a tiny shop on the corner of 25th and Mission. These folks make some amazing pies, made with care by hand with locally grown ingredients. This little pie shop has created quite a following of its own; in fact a lady in line in front of us was buying two pies but for no other reason that she couldn't get enough of their rhubarb. The pie shop is an extension of the Pie Ranch, an organization deditcated to locally produced food and urban renewal. They have recently purchased a ranch on the San Mateo coast to be the headquarters of their production and education programs. The storefront on 25th street sells the final product of all of their hard work. The Pie Ranch organization is the embodiment of local food; a group dedicated to education, sustainable agriculture, and ensuring the fewest steps between the earth and your stomach. Oh, yeah, and they make one hell of a pie. I reccomend both the walnut and the rhubarb. Maybe grab a slice of each. They're just calories, right? Check out the websites here: and

Monday, September 10, 2007

Home Grown

This month, the good people at Locavores and the Eat Local Challenge website are hosting their third annual month-long eat local challenge. The challenge, as the name implies, is to eat foods grown and produced locally, generally within a 100 mile radius of your home. This includes finding locally grown produce, meats and dairy products to enjoy at home as well as finding restaurants that support local farmers and use their products in their dishes. Well, yours truly has decided to join in the fun, and will do whatever I can to eat as much bay-area grown food as I can in the coming weeks. I should mention, however, having grown up in the "green-belt" of California, the great Central Valley, I will make allowances for products grown in and around my home town of Lemoore, California. I will, of course, make it a point to find things grown by small, independant, and hopefully organic farmers. But really, home much closer to "Home Grown" can you get when it comes out of your Mother's garden?

Recently we stumbled upon a pair of Jam producers out of the Santa Clara Valley making apricot jam from the rare and endangered Blenheim apricot. The reviews of this small-batch jam were unanimous: It was the best thing anyone had ever tasted. Ever. So, we thought, why should we not try the best tasting jam in the known world, jam that tastes so good it causes seemingly normal people to eat an entire jar in one sitting? Why not, indeed. From a lone Blenheim apricot tree growing in their backyard in the Santa Clara Valley, once a beautiful and prosperous apricot orchard, these two guys began to produce their amazing jam for their family and friends. They then discovered just how fragile and difficult to handle these fruits were, and just how endangered the species had become. As their jam grew in popularity, spreading from their small group of family and friends to others wanting to taste this delicious elixr, they started trying to find more farmers of the apricots to make more of this fantastic jam.

Eric and Phineas, the two knuckleheads just crazy enough to try something like this, are the epitome of locally grown small farm producers. After discovering the nectar of the gods in a small batch of jam from an ancient apricot tree, they began finding other farmers who grow these delicate little drops of heaven to help support the local small farms of the Bay Area and help preserve the Blenheim variety. So far they have succeeded: After years of producing around 100 jars of jam per year, they are up to around 7000 pounds of jam this year. Needless to say, the jam is amazing, and so are the two men behind it. They have dedicated themselves to preserving these wonderful fruits and the people who grow them, a noble cause no matter how you shake it. This is the reason we eat locally for this challenge and all year round. These guys are the reason we make the effort, the reason we spend an extra few minutes thinking about what we put in our mouths. You can read more about these two, their amazing jam, and the fun they have making it here. Then, check out their website, and please, order one of their fine, hand made and carefully prepared products, at The batch of apricot jam is almost gone, so if you want some, you better act fast.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Table For Two

Several nights ago, my fiance and I took a trip to Oakland to celebrate the day of her birth. A couple of weeks prior, we had read in the Chronicle's Food section about a restaurant that would be having its annual Tomato Dinners on that very same day, so we quickly made reservations and began getting excited about eating a dinner inspired completely by tomatoes. Being the height of tomato season, this promised to be quite an amazing and delightful meal. Each year, Oliveto Cafe & Restaurant in Oakland holds their Tomato Dinners, three days of feasting on a menu of brilliantly inspired dishes each with tomatoes as a main ingredient. And yes, that includes the deserts.

Oliveto, a wonderful Italian cafe & restaurant on College Avenue in Oakland, has two dining areas complete with their own menus. The cafe, located downstairs, serves lighter fare consisting of salads, pizzas and pastas for a casual lunch or dinner, and the menu changes daily to go with what is in season. The upstairs restaurant, where the tomato dinners are held, is the more formal fine dining room that serves both lunch and dinner. The upstairs restaurant is a warm and modern space serving a full seasonal menu that also changes daily.

On any normal day, Oliveto's restaurant serves a delicious array of finely conceived dishes inspired by traditional Italian cuisine. To see Oliveto's full menus, click here. On this day, however, we were treated to a fantastic menu of tomato-laden dishes. For starters, I had the dry-farmed "early girl" and "flamme" tomatoes with burrata di bufala, and my lovely fiance had a green olive crostone with pancetta, green "brandywine" tomatoes, and wild fennel. My appetizer, basically tomatoes with fresh mozzerella cheese and olive oil, was anything but basic. The flavor of the ripe tomatoes paired with the amazingly fresh cheese was so flavorful that I could have eaten a few plates of it for my entire meal and been satisfied. The cheese just melted in my mouth and the flavors of the tomatoes were just so brilliantly fresh. I truly didn't want the dish to end. The crostone was equally as delicious, with the sweet green tomato mixing with the salty pancetta on the crunchy bread making an incredibly flavorful dish.

We shared a pasta dish, Tomato penne all colatura di alici, garlic, hot pepper, and tomato leaf sauce, a wonderfully flavorful pasta with the tomatoes actually infused into the pasta itself. The entrees' again did not fail to delight us. My fiance got the Grilled beefsteak tomatoes wrapped in pancetta, Paola's potatoes, Anchovy and Herb Sauce while I ventured out of my comfort zone a bit and tried the Charcoal-grilled Sika venison with roasted plum tomatoes and fresh shelling beans. The venison was cooked perfectly, just pink enough in the middle and bursting with flavor. It sat in a tangy sauce with the roasted tomatoes and beans that really brought the dish together but the venison was so moist and so tender that it could have been sitting in dishwater and I would have loved it.

And finally, dessert. Yes, I realize that the idea of a tomato-infused dessert might sound a little off at first, but bear with me. It takes a certain sense of adventure, but trust me, these guys know what they are doing. We ordered the Limoncello Baba with "sungold" tomato compote, basically a limoncello-soaked cake topped with a thick tomato sauce. The flavors together were wonderful. The cake was very tart, but the tartness was off-set by the warm sweetness of the tomato compote. We were tempted to order a couple of desserts, but couldn't seem to find the room in our stuffed bellies for any more.

We both loved our meals at the Tomato Dinners at Oliveto. We will make it a point to go back and try their regular menu as soon as humanly possible. Everything at the restaurant was so wonderfully executed; from the helpful and friendly staff to the brilliantly executed dishes. I would recommend Oliveto to anyone looking for a fancy yet completely un-pretentious meal for any occasion, any time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Did Someone Say Cheesecake?

Everyone has that one magical dish, that one thing in their culinary arsenal that they love the most above all of their other dishes. Maybe it is a pie recipe passed down from generation to generation, or the first REAL food you made after leaving home. For me, it is the first thing I learned to cook that was more complicated than scrambling eggs. That one magical dish, my friends, is cheesecake. When I was younger, I wanted to learn how to bake something with lots of ingredients and that might one day have the potential to be on par with the wonderful pies my father makes. So my mother found a recipe for us to try, a recipe aptly named The Ultimate Cheesecake, and with that I found my magical dish. That first cheesecake was pretty good, but there was plenty of room for improvement. Since then, I have made a few adjustments, and I think I have about got it right.

So last week I go talked into making one of my cheesecakes for a baby shower my fiance was attending, and decided to try something I haven't made before and made a lime flavored cheesecake for the event. There was a little bit of trial and error; we had a disastrous trial run with a sugar cookie crust that caused me to have to scrap the whole operation and start again from scratch. After that, we were off and running, and came out with a delicious, sweet and slightly tangy cake that was a hit at the baby shower. Here's what we came up with. Have fun with it.

Lime Cheesecake

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar

5 8oz packages of cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup (more or less, to taste) fresh squeezed lime juice
2 Tablespoons lime zest (more or less to taste)

Crust: Preheat oven to 375 deg. In a bowl, use a fork to mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar with the butter until moistened. Pour into 10 inch spring form pan. Using fork and your fingers, press the mixture evenly over bottom and sides of the pan. The crust should reach the top of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Filling: Increase oven temp to 450 deg. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat sugar, flour, vanilla and cream cheese until blended. It will help immensely if you start cutting up the cream cheese with a rubber spatula before moving to the mixer. Beat in eggs and egg yolks one at a time, waiting until each egg is beaten in before adding the next. Beat batter until smooth. Beat in cream. In small increments, add the lime juice and lime zest to the batter. Taste batter as you go and make adjustments with the lime juice and zest as needed. For a better texture, fold the batter for a few minutes with a spatula, letting more air into the mix. The lime juice may make the batter thin, but it will cook and set just fine. It just may take a few extra minutes in the oven.

Pour filling into prepared pan, bake for 10 minutes. Lower temperature to 250 deg. Bake one hour, or until center is set but not firm. Use a toothpick to test the center of the cheesecake and make sure it is not liquidy. Remove to cool on a rack for about an hour. Place cheesecake in the refrigerator over night for the best results.

When you are about ready to serve the cheesecake, sprinkle the top with lime zest and ring the edge with lime wedges. ENJOY!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Healthy Living

After this weekend with a diet consisting of mainly sugars, starches, and of course, Madelines, I was feeling a bit sluggish and in need of a lean and healthy meal with loads of veggies. I love Ahi Tuna, both raw and seared, and wanted to give the latter a go as I have no earthly clue how to make sushi. Really, those guys are magicians. Magicians with really sharp knives. So while at the local grocery store looking for things to serve my seared tuna with, I put together an assortment of mixed greens, chives, bok choy, red cabbage, garlic, and a green apple. The recipe was lacking something, though; maybe something sweet like mandarin oranges to offset the bitter bok choy and the salty soy sauce. The tuna was great, but the whole dish just needed something. So this is shot number one for seared ahi tuna on a bed of mixed greens.

1 Ahi Tuna steak
Mixed Greens salad
1/4 head red cabbage
1 Granny Smith apple
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 bundle of chives
1 bundle of bok choy
soy sauce
sesame seeds
sesame oil

Blanch the bok choy and set to the side to drain. Chop apple into bite sized pieces, and chop chives into small bits. Toss both in a bowl with the mixed greens. Chop the cabbage into medium sized chunks and toss into salad. Slice the garlic thin, set to the side. On a small plate, marinate the tuna lightly in soy sauce and sprinkle a few sesame seeds on both sides.

In a hot skillet, add a couple of glugs of sesame oil and a small handful of sesame seeds. Add garlic slices. As this begins to sizzle, place the tuna steak in the middle of the skillet. Flip as soon as the side begins to brown. Once both sides are lightly browned but the middle still red, remove from heat and move to a cutting board. Slice tuna steak into thin strips, as thin as your knife will allow.

Chop bok choy in half, removing the leafs from the stalks. Chop the stalks into chunks and the leafs shreds, and add to salad mix. Remove the garlic slices from the skillet and mix into the salad. Place some salad onto a plate, and arrange the slices of tuna over the top. Add a dribble of a sesame seed dressing; a favorite of mine is Newman's Own Sesame & Ginger dressing.

Like I said, the recipe needed something, preferably something sweet. Until I find it, the recipe remains incomplete. The tuna was great, but the salad needed something to counteract the slightly bitter greens. Next time, we'll get it right.

Courtney's French Madelines

This weekend we had a visitor to our small apartment in the fog. My fiance's-mother's-friend's-daughter, Courtney, came to stay with us for a couple of days and escape the ragged heat of Sonoma County. Young Courtney is ten, so we got to take part in some fun kids stuff like checking out the Exploratorium, watching silly movies, and of course, cooking sugary treats. Before she came down the The City, Courtney mentioned that she liked to bake, so we looked through a few cookbooks and thought about what to make. Then, Courtney said she had never had a Madeline. Well, then, it was settled. Madelines it was. These sweet, buttery cakes are pretty easy to make, take very few ingredients, but are very delicate and need constant attention. Just a few minutes too long in the oven and they are toast. Literally.

Our little friend Courtney did all of the measuring and mixing, and we took care of anything involving sharp objects or hot scalding liquids. Once the batter was made, we greased the Madelines pan, and spooned in the batter for our first batch. Now, if you have never made Madelines before, (and this could be true of any cookie or small cake) you may want to burn the first batch intentionally. Because its gonna happen anyway. But if you do it on purpose, you can at least know how long it takes to get there and know when to pull them out the next time. Or just never take your eyes off of them. That might work too. So here it is, the recipe for Courtney's first French Madeline.

4 eggs
2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1 1/2 c. melted butter (yes, that's right, 1 1/2 cups. That is 3 sticks of delicious, creamy butter.)
1 tbsp. vanilla
Confectioners' sugar

Start butter in the top of a double boiler and melt. Set aside to cool. Stir eggs and sugar into top of double boiler until creamy and lukewarm. Remove from heat and beat until cool; add flour gradually, mixing well. Fold in butter and vanilla.

Use special shell-shaped Madeline molds that have been buttered and floured (or small 1 1/2 inch muffin pans). Fill molds 2/3 full; fill muffin tins less than 1/2 full. Bake in a 425 degree oven for ten minutes or until lightly browned. The exposed tops should be white or light brown, but solid. If you are still unsure, use the edges of the cakes as a gauge: The browner the edges, the browner the soft shell-shaped bottom. Be careful, they burn fast. Dust cooled tea cakes with powdered sugar. Yield: 4-5 dozen.

For a tasty addition, peel two peaches or another slightly over-ripe fruit you may have in your fruit bowl, chop into chunks, and toss into the food processor. Puree'. Spoon in 4 - 5 Tbs. of sugar and mix. Serve the Madelines with the puree'.

We had a lot of fun mixing, spooning, burning and eating these wonderful little cakes and I am glad that Courtney got to try them for the first time with us. Thanks, Courtney, for helping me make one of my favorite treats. I hope you liked them as much as I do.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Continuing on my pastry-fueled odyssey into the untamed world of baking, I tackled two new recipes to make my taste buds and tummy happy. First, for breakfast, I wanted to make a sweet pastry to enjoy over coffee. So after somehow waking up at 7am on a Sunday morning, I set about making some Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Muffins. The recipe, as with most pastry, is pretty basic: Eggs, flour, sugar, baking powder, etc. Just remember kids, when combining ingredients, please make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature. Melted butter and cold milk straight out of the fridge don't mix together very well. Mix the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients seperately before combining, and always add the star of the show, in this case the chocolate chips, at the very end.

Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar - no lumps
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. melted butter
2 whole eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup semi-sweet choc chips

Mix all liquid ingredients together. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients, except for chocolate chips. Mix.
Add chocolate chips last and put into muffin tins.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

For the main event, I tried something that has always intimidated me as a cook, even though it is such a basic staple in all of our diets. Bread. French bread, to be exact. Please don't be fooled by its unassuming appearance: bread takes a long time to make. At least a lot longer than those muffins we made earlier. After scouring the internet for a good french bread recipe, I decided to combine a few of the better ones I found, and ended up making some pretty damn good bread. I enjoyed my first loaf of french bread with a HUGE heirloom tomato chopped up and seasoned, along with fresh cheese and butter all purchased at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market.

2 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cups flour
2 tablespoons dry yeast (2packs)
cornmeal (for dusting baking sheet)
1 egg, beaten lightly

Pour warm water into a large bowl and add the salt, sugar and yeast. Mix until dissolved, and let sit for about 10 minutes as the yeast activates. Wisk in oil. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until combined. Mix in the last 3 cups of flour until all of the dry flour is combined in the dough mass. It should look something like this:

Cover the bowl with a towel, and set in a warm, humid place. For this, I heated a pot of water to just below boiling, put the pot of water on the bottom rack of the oven and the bowl of dough on the top. Leave the dough for about 2 hours as it rises, to about double its original size. About like this:

Knead the dough on a flour-covered surface for about 5 - 10 minutes. Divide the dough into two equal sized balls, set each dough ball in its own bowl, lightly greased with vegetable oil. Put the two bowls back into the oven with the warm pot of water. (You will probably need to reheat it.) Let the dough rise for another 2 hours. After the dough has risen for the second time, you can wrap one ball in plastic wrap and freeze. Put the second dough ball on a flour dusted surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Stretch and roll out into a rectangle, about 9x12(ish). Starting from the long side of the rectangle, roll the dough up like a jelly roll, and pinch the ends closed. Pat the dough into a loaf shape, like so:

Cover the loaf with a towel and let it sit for about 1/2 hour to an hour. It will rise more, but not substantially. Sprinkle a baking sheet with corn meal. With a sharp knife, cut 3 diagonal slits across the dough, and brush lightly with the beaten egg. Put loaf in a 400 degree preheated oven. Remember that bowl of hot water? Keep it in there. The moisture will help the bread develop a crisper crust. Cook for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Voila:

I would once again like to thank my friends at for the delicious muffin recipe.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's good to be loved

After working the dreaded "6 to 6" shift (6am to 6pm), I rarely have any inclination whatsoever to step foot into the kitchen and do anything even resembling cooking. Usually, on days like this, the most work I do toward the preparation of my food is asking the person on the other end of the phone at Bullshead to cook my buffalo burger medium-well. It is on days like today that it is wonderful, nay, sublime to have someone who loves you decide she is going to take matters into her own hands and cook a fabulous dinner for the two of you. Today was one of those days, and I have the fortune of being loved by such a woman.

We are both always wanting to try cooking new things; new styles, new ingredients, new levels of difficulty. We have for while not been very big fans of fish and seafood, a tragedy I attribute mostly to us not having been exposed to it properly and not experiencing the right mixture of ingredients. So it is with that sentiment that we occasionally try to broaden our horizons in the world of underwater delicacies, such as my wonderful fiance did tonight. The recipe comes to us courtesy of the good people at

Milk-Poached Alaskan Halibut with Asparagus and Morel Mushrooms

It should be noted at the outset that we did not include the mushrooms. Morel mushrooms are expensive and difficult to find, and neither of us being a connoisseur of mushrooms, we did not know what would do in their place. The dish turned out great anyway. The recipe was also adjusted a little for the number of servings. 1 large halibut stake is probably enough for two people.

2 small or 1 large halibut fillets with skin (just over 1lb.)
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup)white wine, preferably white burgundy
12 thick asparagus spears, peeled & trimmed
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Pat halibut dry and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In large, heavy skillet over moderately high heat, heat vegetable oil until hot but not smoking. Add fish, skin side up, milk, cream, and wine. Bring to light simmer, cover, and place in oven until just cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove halibut from liquid, cover, and keep warm. Reserve poaching liquid.

While halibut is in the oven, cook asparagus in 8-quart pot boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon or tongs, remove asparagus from water and transfer to large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and toss gently to coat. Cover and keep warm.

Place poaching liquid over high heat and simmer until reduced by half. Remove from heat. Divide asparagus between the plates. Peel skin off of halibut and place 1 fillet (or 1/2 a fillet) on top of asparagus on each plate. Spoon sauce over fish and serve.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Good Advice

Yesterday afternoon, while my fiance and I were enjoying the rare sunshine warming downtown San Francisco and browsing the shelves of one of my favorite stores in the free world, the Williams Sonoma on Union Square, we stumbled onto a cooking demonstration by the executive chef of Hotel Rex's Cafe Andree, Evan Crandall. As we arrived, Mr. Crandall and his Sous Chef were just finishing a demonstration on making the restaurants signature crab cakes. (As a quick aside, the crab cakes were awesome. On the strength of these crab cakes alone I would recommend anyone in The City go and sample Evan Crandall's menu. I know I'll be there.)

Once the demonstration was completed, I had an opportunity to talk with Mr. Crandall briefly about the trials and tribulations of becoming a chef. I have been debating for some time now going to culinary school and learning to become a pastry chef. With some prodding from my always encouraging fiance, I figured who better to ask than a seasoned chef at a high end San Francisco restaurant. Despite my usual shyness and aversion to human contact, I found Evan extremely helpful and easy to talk to. He gave me some great advice on where to go to school and how to proceed after I've finished. He even went so far as to give me the names and phone numbers of some people who might be able to help me along in my journey to professional pastry chef. So Evan, thanks a bunch. I hope someday to have you eat at MY restaurant.

After the kind words of advice and encouragement from my new friend, I decided to get to work honing my skills at baking. Once at home, I found a simple recipe for blueberry scones, hit the store, and quickly got to baking. Turns out the recipe is great. The scones are sweet and crumbly, with just enough tartness from the blueberries. Not bad for my first go at breakfast pastry. Thank you to my friends at for the recipe. Here we go.

Blueberry Scones

Makes 8 scones

2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
6 T. unsalted butter
1 c. fresh blueberries (or frozen blueberries, thawed completely)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 tsp. orange zest

Place oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 425 degrees F. Line cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper. To prevent scone bottoms from over-browning, stack the prepared cookie sheet on top of another cookie sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix in the butter with a pastry cutter or two knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Gently fold in blueberries. In a small bowl, combine the egg, vanilla, cream, and orange zest. Add to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. Do not over-stir.

Knead dough in the bowl four or five times, then transfer to a lightly floured surface or a large plate covered with waxed paper. Pat dough into a 7-inch circle and cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 425 for about 20 minutes, or until scones are browned.

Option: Melt 2Tbs. unsalted butter and brush over the warm scones fresh out of the oven. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon & sugar. Serve Warm.

Storage: After cutting batter into wedges, wrap them in plastic wrap in layers and place in the refrigerator. Let the dough return to room temperature before putting in the oven.

Kitchen Confidential

So there is this book that I have to share with all of you. First of all, let me warn you: This book is not for the faint of heart. This book is not for those people who believe that the food they order at their favorite four star restaurant is personally prepared by the clean and careful hands of their favorite celebrity chef. This book IS for people who are curious to know just exactly how a real kitchen works and what it takes to survive in the second ring of hell that is a busy dinner rush; let me tell you, it is nothing like the safe and relaxed atmosphere of Emeril's TV kitchen.

"Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly", by Anthony Bourdain, is a brutally honest, eye-opening look into the world of cooks and kitchens, about the world of the people who prepare the food you eat. Bourdain is bitter, vulgar, and cynical; He is whip-smart and is a quintessential New Yorker. He completely de-mystifies the world of working in a restaurant, from dish washer to executive chef. I must warn you, though, that what you find in these pages may not always be pleasant. You will find, however, hysterical and memorable moments that you will be repeating to your friends and loved ones over and over again. I am pretty sure that my fiance is sick to death of listening to me prattle on and on about what "Bourdain says in his book."

For instance, you will learn just what is in your Hollandaise sauce and why under no circumstances should you order fish on a Monday. You will also learn about the journey Bourdain took to become the executive chef of Les Halles in Manhattan. Bourdain's experience is a unique one, and he shares it with complete honesty and integrity. The world of the cook is not necessarily as rough and gritty as Bourdain's, but it's good to know it could happen. For any one thinking about becoming a chef or trying to run a restaurant, this book will probably cause you to think twice. But it could also inspire you.

Anthony Bourdain is also the Author of "The Nasty Bits" and most recently "A Cook's Tour", a record of his travels around the world. He can also be seen on the Travel Channels "No Reservations".

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Great Chops

Here is a pretty simple recipe that I enjoy making often, mostly because its delicious, quick, and easy to clean up. (A very important consideration with a mini-kitchen.) I am not sure where I saw this recipe, or if I just pulled it out of thin air, but it has managed to find its way into our regular repertoire of meals. I know I am not the first to make this dish, but I hope this version of a fairly simple recipe makes others as happy as it does me. The flavors of the caramelized onions and apples mingle together very nicely and marry perfectly with the lighter flavor of the pork chops. I recommend serving a simple mixed green salad with chopped apples, pears and goat cheese to compliment the flavors of the meat and caramelized vegetables. I like to use a slightly tart green apple like a Granny Smith and a red onion. The red onion is a bit sweeter than their yellow or white cousins, and the tartness of the green apple really comes out in the heat of the skillet.

Pork Chops with Caramelized Apples and Onions

2 Center Cut Pork Chops
1 Granny Smith Apple
1/2 a Red Onion
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil

Chop the apples into bite-sized chunks and set aside. Slice the 1/2 onion into thick ribbons. Season both sides of the pork chops with salt and cracked pepper. Pour a few good glugs of olive oil into a large skillet on medium-high heat. Once the oil has heated up, drop the apple and onion into the oil and season with salt & pepper. Saute for about five minutes, or until the onions start to become translucent and the apples begin to brown.

Make a hole in the center of the pan, and place the seasoned pork chops in the middle. Continue stirring the apples and onions around and over the chops, letting them caramelize and flavoring the meat at the same time. After about five minutes, flip the chops. When the pork chops are brown and crispy on each side, take the pan off of the heat. The apples should be soft and brown and the onions translucent and caramelized. Serve the pork chop covered with the apples and onions.

Apple and Pear Mixed Green Salad

1 Granny Smith Apple
1 Danjou Pear (or whatever looks best at the market)
Mixed Greens
Crumbled Goat Cheese

Chop the apple and pear into bite sized chunks, toss in with the mixed greens. Add the goat cheese crumbles to suit your tastes. Drizzle lightly with a balsamic vinegar or sesame seed dressing.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Beef Tenderloin Bites on a Bed of Arugula

Cooking at home is all about using the best ingredients you can get your hands on and making due with what you have at your fingertips, especially when grocery shopping happens right after a long and exhausting work day. It is also about finding new and tasty things to add to your repertoire and improving on your basic cooking skills. So tonight we went with Beef Tenderloin Bites on a Bed of Arugula, along with a Roasted Beet, Onion and Orange salad.
Now first off, beef tenderloin, as the gentleman at the meat counter today explained, is another word for Fillet Mignon. And Fillet Mignon is another word for $25 per pound. The meat-guy looked at me sideways when I told him I was going to chop it up into little bites, cover in breading, and broil. So, we went with the top sirloin instead, which is slightly more economical. It should also be noted that the "gourmet" grocery store I shop at did not have arugula, so we had to settle with red leaf lettuce. Turned out to be pretty good anyway. It should also also be noted that apparently I cannot tell the difference between regular parsley and cilantro. If any of you are having trouble identifying your herbs, please consult with the closest store employee. I am seeking professional help for my apparent herb-related dementia and hope to recover quickly.

Beef Tenderloin (Sirloin) Bites on a Bed of Arugula (or Red Leaf Lettuce)

1 1/2(ish) cups bread crumbs
(I used fresh bread chopped up in a food processor, but only because I like to make more of a mess than necessary. You can buy pre-packaged crumbs that would work just as nicely.)
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, (couple of handfuls)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 - 4 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
2 to 3lbs Top Sirloin or Tenderloin steaks, about 2 to 4 steaks, depending on how many people you are serving.
Salt & Pepper
5 to 6 cups arugula (or red leaf lettuce), chopped
1 lemon, halved

Preheat broiler to high.
Mix bread crumbs with parsley, cheese. Warm the oil and garlic over low head to infuse flavor, about 5 min. Pour oil into bread crumbs and combine to distribute equally and moisten the bread crumbs.
Season the meat with salt & pepper. Coat the meat in bread crumb mixture to coat evenly. Spread meat onto baking sheet and broil until crisp and meat tender, about 6 to 7 min. Serve meat on bead of shredded arugula (red leaf lettuce). Squeeze lemon juice over beef and arugula.

Roasted Beet, Onion, and Orange Salad

1LB beets, preferably small ones
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
20 large pearl onions, about 1/2lb
4 oranges, 2 peeled and cut into wedges, 2 juiced (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped cilantro (Basil works fine, too, in the absence of cilantro)
OPTIONAL: Grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the stems and tails off the beets. Do not peel. Line the bottom of a baking pan with foil. Place the beets in the pan and toss them with half of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes.

Trim both ends off the pearl onions. Then toss them with remaining olive oil and salt and pepper. Add pearl onions to the beets and roast an additional 15 minutes, until beets and onions are tender.

Peel and remove the membranes from the oranges with a sharp paring knife. Cut the oranges in half lengthwise and then crosswise into thin slices. Seed the slices, if necessary.

Peel and quarter the beets. Lay the beets on a large platter. Top the beets with the orange pieces. Scatter the roasted onions around the beats.
In a medium bowl, combine the hazelnut oil, coriander, and orange juice. Whisk until well combined and season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the dressing on top and sprinkle with coriander and grated cheese.

I would recommend getting the beets and onions going first before starting to work on the meat. You will have 25 mins while the beets cook and an additional 15 while the onions cook to get the meat ready to cook and onto the baking sheet. And, if you are like me and only have one oven, you will need to have the vegetables out of the oven before you turn on the broiler and cook the meat. If you have the time and the extra hands, get the bread crumb mixture ready while your significant other/neighbor/dancing partner preps the beets and gets them in the oven. This will give you both plenty of time to bond while chopping all of the other vegetables. Many thanks to Rachel Ray and Michael Chiarello of Food Network for creating these dishes.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Caramelized Pineapple (Attempt #1)

Tonight on a whim we decided to try to caramelize some fresh pineapple chunks chopped from a Maui Gold Pineapple that was getting to the point of "eat or toss". Without any instruction or knowhow, other than having watched the episode of Jacques Pepin's cooking show on the topic, we made our first attempt at what should be a relatively simple recipe. We checked a few interenet recipes, all of which called for a few ingredients we didn't have, such as corn syrup or rum, but hey, caramel is just cooked sugar and water, right?

After the sugar carmelized, we poured in about 1/2 cup of pineapple juice (canned), watched as the brown sugar turned into a sticky, viscous clump. Caramel, right? Not really. We added the pineapple chunks, and waited. And stirred. And waited. Nothing really happened. Maybe too much liquid, not enough sugar, I don't really know. The pineapple sat, being sauteed in sugar water until it grew soft and we figured we should take the whole operation off of the heat before we ended up with warm pineapple mush. Strangely enough, after the initial caramelization of the sugar, nothing much turned into caramel, on or around the pineapple.

So we live again to try another time. Maybe next time with just sugar and water. Maybe I should learn how to make simple syrup. Maybe I should try my hand at caramel? Oh well. At least the ice cream was good.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Roll Call

Thanks to a very enterprising young woman out there in the Blogosphere, Jenn, the "Leftover Queen", we foodies now have our own easy to use list of food blogs at our disposal. The Foodie Blogroll, (check out the right sidebar) is a quickly growing roll call for all of the food-related blogs out there for us all to enjoy. The premise is pretty basic: Get all of the hundreds of thousands of food blog writers to post their web address on one roll call, and anyone looking for an interesting blog on say baking, English cuisine, or even the misadventures of one cook in his tiny San Francisco kitchen can basically overdose on food-related stuff.

Admittedly, there are plenty of more interesting blogs than this one, and I am just happy that my little piece of the Blogosphere can be added to the long list of fun sites dedicated to food. So to Jenn the "Leftover Queen", thanks for the great idea and the chance to get my modest fledgling blog about my tiny kitchen out into the great big world.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Why Six by 10?

I named this blog Six by 10 because of the microscopic size of the kitchen in the San Francisco apartment occupied by my fiance and I. The kitchen itself is six feet wide by ten feet long, with an electric stove, full size refrigerator, about six feet of impossible to use counter space, and one electrical outlet. And the refrigerator is plugged into that outlet. So in reality, we have one plug with which to power the microwave, coffee maker, blender, toaster, and the laundry list of other small appliances we use to occasionally make our favorite culinary delights. Needless to say, the kitchen is tiny. Tiny, and completely impractical as an actual kitchen. But somehow we make it work. The two of us can't actually both be in the kitchen at the same time, as it makes it impossible to get anything made, but the magic still happens.

So in my tiny kitchen and outside of it, we love food; preparing it, cooking it, learning about it, and of course, eating it. I hope that with this blog I can share my experiences, successes, failues, good and bad restaurants, insights, and whatever else comes to mind in regards to the world of food. Who knows? Might be fun.