Thursday, March 26, 2009

Foodbuzz Tastemaker Review: Recchiuti Chocolates

The secret stash at Foodbuzz was opened up once again and the Tiny Kitchen got a taste of a new release from Recchiuti Chocolates. The Asphalt Jungle Mix is a combination of Burnt Caramel Hazelnuts, Burnt Caramel Almonds, Cherries Two Ways, and Peanut Butter Pearls. This little box of delights did not disappoint.

The missus, who has the sweet tooth in the family, loved each of the hand-crafted flavors. I was even lucky enough to try a few myself. While a favorite is hard to choose, the Burnt Caramel Hazelnut was crunchy, just a little salty, and the rich chocolate melted in my mouth. While at $12 per 6 ounce box, the Asphalt Jungle Mix will be a treat for special occasions for most people. But you definitely get what you pay for. And if you're not careful, the whole box will disappear before you know it.

Thanks Foodbuzz!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Guest Post: Simple Food Served With Love

My father recently returned from a trip to Guatemala, where he and a group of Rotarians partner with local schools and communities to install clean drinking water systems. He was so excited about the food he experienced on this trip that I thought it would be fun if he wrote a guest post for the Tiny Kitchen detailing his experiences. Like all local, rural food, the meals he ate were humble, but made with so much care and reverence for not only the ingredients but for the honored guests who would be sharing it. The people of rural Guatemala are very poor, yet they eagerly gave what they had to feed these new friends. It is amazing to think about just how generous people who have so little can be. Here is what my father had to say about his trip:

Food is never more tasty as when served simply and with love. It was my privilege to travel recently in Guatemala to be on the receiving end of such meals. A group of us were checking up on a water purification project installed two years ago at the Las Flores School in Salcaja, Guatemala and rewiring the computer lab at that same school so that all of the computers (donated by another group) would work at the same time.

We arrived at Las Flores School early in the afternoon and began work. A couple of hours later we were served a lunch of Guatemalan tamales and freshly prepared papaya juice. The tamales were made by wrapping a paste of rice flour in banana leaves with a piece of chicken, red sauce called “ricardo,” an olive and a few raisins. They were, as are all the best tamales, cooked in lard and carefully unwrapped by someone who cares. Pictured in the photo unwrapping one for us is the Principal of the school, Carolina.

Two of our group had the additional task of checking in on a water system located in the village of La Cumbre. After lunch we drove the 45 minutes up the hill to the church in La Cumbre and made our inventory of the system to get ready for the next day. They fed us. A plate of radish slaw, cucumber slices, pickled beets, a piece of fried chicken from the popular Pollo Campero restaurant, and the best, freshest, warmest and most fragrant tortillas of the trip. I can still smell and feel the wonderful sensation I had when I pressed one flat to my nose and mouth. Heaven will be like this.

The next day, back at Las Flores School, lunch came around about 2, after we took a couple of the older girls on an errand for Carolina into the town of Salcaja. They picked up the chicken fresh from the butcher and took it back to be cooked into Caldo de Pollo (chicken noodle soup). We were served a perfectly seasoned blend of chicken broth, shell macaroni, onions, big chunks of carrot and potato, and a piece of chicken with bones and all. This time the meal was served with freshly prepared sandia (watermelon) juice and fresh tortillas almost as good as those from La Cumbre.

The next morning we were taken to the restaurant owned by our host in Quetzaltenango ( called Xela) where we were staying. The meal of eggs, ham, refried beans and tortillas was typical of what Guatemalans have every day for breakfast, but our host included some special treats. Cambray is a sweet masa tamale with raisins and cinnamon and sugar. A Chuchito is a savory tamale made with masa and filled with the ricardo sauce mentioned above. The name of the restaurant in Xela is Luminar. Rosa’s cooking is worth the trouble to find.

Later that day we celebrated with the teachers and children of Las Flores School and, you guessed it, they fed us. This time the meal was Enchiladas, which means meat and vegetables served on crispy tortillas with jalapeno and other peppers ready to be added when needed. The juice served was made from bananas, but we were honored with an additional drink. Caldo de Frutas (fruit soup) begins when someone in Salcaja, which is famous for this concoction, distills liquor (illegally) and pours it over fruit (apples, cherries, pears) that has been sliced (not peeled) and put in a jar. The jar is sealed and buried in the ground for six months. When it resurfaces the liquor is poured off and served and the fruit is eaten, carefully. There was more liquor in the fruit than was poured off to drink. This is quite a treat and is completely local to Salcaja.

That night was our last in Xela and we were treated to a fabulous Guatemalan Churasco (bar b que) at the home of our host. On the menu was chicken, beef, chorizo and longoniza (sausages), onions, jalapenos, and the special sweet bean filled bananas called Platanos. All of this was served with love and the fun of quite a lot of Gallo Cervaza (beer) made and distributed in Guatemala, but available in most import stores in the U.S. Yours truly added some California wine brought from home.

The rest of our meals were taken in restaurants and two of them do deserve mention. In Antigua La Cuevita de los Urguiza allows you to point at the main dish stew that you want, add two side dishes, order your drink and sit in the courtyard to eat. We eat there every time we are in Antigua, which is one of the great tourist destinations in Guatemala. Our last meal in the country was taken in Guatemala City at the Nessun Dorma, Ristorante e Bar. This is one of the more elegant meals I have ever been served. The charming matre de turned out to be the owner and the head chef. He checked on us several times during the meal and shook our hands as we left. The food, by the way, was fabulous. I had the lobster ravioli, my daughter the spinach ravioli with gorgonzola sauce, others in our party had beef tenderloins with gorgonzola sauce, seared tuna steak, and salmon. I recommend both of these places if you are ever in Guatemala.

I am home now, but can still close my eyes and smell those fresh tortillas and feel the love with which they were served.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Six by 10 Tiny Kitchen Featured on Making This Home

My new good friend Katie, an American ex-pat living in Berlin, Germany writes a great blog about making her and her husband's small Berlin apartment their own. Through creative problem solving and a little trial and error, these two have managed to make the most out of a 36 square foot kitchen. It's pretty amazing what some people can do with such a small space.

Katie thought enough of my humble blog and our diminutive kitchen space, (a cavernous 60 square feet), that she asked me to take some photos and tell her and her readers about how we make the Tiny Kitchen work. I was super excited to get the chance to talk to Katie and show her our little corner of San Francisco.

Take a look at Katie's blog and the tour of our Tiny Kitchen at Making This Home. Enjoy!

Thanks Katie!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guest Post: Compact Kitchen Necessities

It's no secret that cooking anything in a tiny kitchen presents certain challenges. You have to get a little creative when trying to find a home for that extra large mixing bowl or when the dish you're cooking has a large number of ingredients and you've got nowhere to keep all of them. I've gotten pretty comfortable maneuvering around my 60 square foot kitchen, but there is always room for improvement. The good people at offered to lend a hand to me and my fellow tiny kitchen dwellers on finding some of the most useful items to stock in our cupboards. Here's what they had to say:

Compact Kitchen Necessities

Size matters, when it comes to your kitchen. The luxuries afforded by a large and roomy kitchen are many, from more counter space, to a larger 1.5 - 2 bowl kitchen sink. For those of us living in a smaller space, a smaller kitchen is just something that we have to get used to. As frustrating as it may be, you can't let a compact kitchen hamper your culinary creativity.
By choosing the right cookware, appliances and kitchen accessories, you'll be on your way to whipping up masterpieces in no time. From cookware sets and utensils to space saving countertop appliances - this is your guide to compact kitchen necessities.

Compact Cookware Essentials: While an 8 - 10 piece cookware set might be nice, if you are dealing with a compact kitchen, it's just not practical. You have to account for storage space as well as how much space you have to prepare and cook your food. Purchase a durable 3 - 5 piece cookware set instead. Typically, a 3 - 4 piece set will include a fry pan and saucepan with lids. A 5 piece cookware set might include a Dutch oven as well, though not essential, still is very useful for making soups and stews. Stackable cookware sets are essential to help you maximize your storage space.

Utensil Essentials: Utensils have a tendency to take up a considerable amount of space in the kitchen, so purchasing a pre-packaged utensil set is a good idea. A six-piece utensil set typically includes a spatula, cooking spoon, slotted spoon, ladle, pasta fork and serving tongs. Other utensils you might need could include a whisk, garlic press, and cheese grater. Take into consideration the dishes you make most often and use that as a determining factor in which kinds of utensils you purchase. A utensil crock allows you to keep all of your utensils organized and at your fingertips.

Maximize Your Space: Counter space is likely going to be more valuable in a compact kitchen, so utilizing space saving appliances and accessories is a must.

o Strainer/Colander: An over-the-sink strainer is a great example of a space saving kitchen accessory. While the style you purchase is very much dependent on how wide your sink is, look for a strainer with handles that extend a bit farther than your average strainer. The Expandable Sink Strainer from Polder, for example, features expandable handles to accommodate different sink sizes. It also includes a cutting board, giving you even more bang for your buck.

o Dish Rack: The dish rack is typically one accessory that takes up lot otherwise valuable counter space. Why not opt for a dish rack that fits perfectly inside or outside of your sink? The plastic compact disk rack from SimpleHuman was designed to fit the counter space adjacent to the sink perfectly. This particular dish rack features a pivoting spout which drains the water directly into the sink. It's also small enough that you can fit it inside most sink basins, allowing your dishes to drain overnight.

o Double Duty Appliances: Countertop kitchen appliances are continually evolving with an increasing focus on space saving technology. While some of these may seem a bit wacky, they are very practical! For instance, the Egg & Muffin 2-slice Toaster from Back To Basics is a combination toaster and egg-poacher - perfect for breakfast sandwiches. Sunpentown makes a similar product that actually combines a toaster, griddle and coffee maker, while another model combines a toaster and microwave.

Make use of mixers and food processors with optional attachments designed to make your appliances pull double duty. For instance the Universal Bosch Mixer features an optional food processor attachment for added versatility.
By making a few smart choices, you can get as much out of your compact kitchen as you can out a much larger space. You just need to be wary of how much space you actually have to work with, both counter space and storage space.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Catching Up

I've been lagging a little bit in writing up a couple of yummy dishes to recently come out of the Tiny Kitchen. There's no particular reason for this, I haven't been waiting for the perfect opportunity to reveal some amazing culinary creation to you all. Nope, I've just been lazy, and a little forgetful. But enough chit chat. On to the food.

I have made a Frittata for you all before, (you're welcome) but one of the best parts of the Frittata is that it never has to be the same dish twice. Since it's really just a big mishmash of fresh, chunky vegetables and eggs, you can pretty much put whatever you want into it providing it all fits into one large skillet. This time through, I added a can of black beans, something I had never thought to include before, and it ended up being the best rendition of the Frittata yet. Since we had guests, and I was not just cooking for the missus and I but for my Mother-in-law and her friend, I wanted this lunch to be more than just cold cuts and potato salad. (For the record, the missus and I don't eat cold cuts and potato salad for lunch when we don't have guests, it was really just an example. Not that there is anything wrong with cold cuts. Or potato salad. Nevermind.)

Frittatas are pretty basic and easy. Chop some potatoes and fresh veggies, some sausage if you are so inclined, saute, and fold in a dozen beaten eggs and bake. If you have it, use sea salt or another rock salt when seasoning the veggies. It adds that little something extra. Here's what I threw together the other day:

1 dozen eggs, beaten
1/2 lb fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 white or yellow onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bunch of chives, diced
2 Adele's Southwest Sausages, cut into 1/2 pieces
1 can of black beans, with 1/2 of the liquid drained
1 - 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Salt (preferably sea salt or rock salt) & Pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add garlic and onion and stir. Add the potatoes and bell pepper, and saute for a few minutes, then add the sausage. Pour in the black beans with remaining 1/2 can of liquid. Add the chopped chives to the egg. Once this is all combined and has had a chance to cook for about 5 minutes, close the heat of the burner, and add the egg. Allow the egg to fully cover the other ingredients by gently moving them around with a spoon. Put skillet in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. You'll know it is done when the top is nice and brown. If you are still unsure, stick a toothpick into the middle of the frittata, and if it comes out dry, it's done.

The salad was the lettuce from the Eatwell Farm CSA, 1/2 a cucumber, sliced thin, 1 carrot sliced into rounds, 1 bunch of green onions, chopped, and about 2 handfuls of green beans cut in half. I made a quick and easy mustard vinaigrette to dress the salad. Take about 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale & Honey Spice mustard, 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of agave nectar, and a pinch of black pepper. Whisk together in a small bowl and toss with the salad. (These measurements are approximate, so add or subtract the levels of ingredients to suit your tastes.)

Keeping with our theme of healthy, uncomplicated meals, a few nights ago I made quick pasta using the fresh spinach from my Eatwell Farm CSA box. With whole wheat spaghetti, some chopped garlic, salt and pepper and a healthy dose of olive oil, this simple dish made for a great healthy week-night meal.

To get started, you'll need a hefty amount of fresh spinach, about six cups or enough to fill your salad spinner to the brim. (I'm not so good with the measurements, have you noticed?) Heat some olive oil in a large skillet and add about 4 - 5 cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Allow to cook until the garlic becomes aromatic. Add the spinach to the skillet, and stir continuously until it has wilted and reduced in volume considerably. Add a few pinches of salt as you stir the spinach. You'll know it's ready when it is soft and tender. Remove from heat.

Have your spaghetti cooking while you saute the spinach. Once the spaghetti is cooked, remove it from the heat, but do not drain it. Using tongs, remove the pasta from the water and drop it into the skillet with the spinach. Stir the spaghetti and spinach together and serve. Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese over the top, and dig in.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Mission Street Food

The first rule of Mission Street Food is: You do not talk about Mission Street Food.

This underground dining experiment that began less than a year ago in an off-duty taco truck in the Mission has grown into one of the biggest foodie destinations in The City that nobody knows about. It started as a noble experiment: Invite young and up-and-coming chefs to create new and exciting dishes away from the tedious kitchen line, serve it street food-style, and donate profits to local food charities. Soon the word got out that a couple of rogue chefs were serving seriously high-quality eats out of a taco truck on Mission Street every Thursday night. Lines stretched down the block.

After a while, Mission Street Food had to move into an indoor space with tables and chairs, and open the doors a second night per week. Now settled into the Lung Shan Chinese Restaurant on Mission between 18th & 19th, Mission Street Food has a bigger kitchen to work with, and space to seat hundreds of guests per night, often booking up just an hour after opening.

This past Saturday, when we arrived at the front of Lung Shan Restaurant shortly before 6 p.m., there was already a line stretching several hundred feet down Mission. Passers-by gave us funny looks, curious why such a large group of people were standing in front of this shabby Chinese restaurant that was apparently not even open. They seated the first round of people, then started giving seating times to those of us still in line. Since we got there relatively early, we would be seated just after 7 p.m.

To eat at Mission Street Food feels more like a clandestine eating adventure than Saturday night dinner. The restaurant is dark, except for small tealight candles on the tables and the neon beer sign on the front window. People crowd tightly to the front of the building as the hostess rushes in and out of the door, trying to arrange seating. The food and drink are served in the restaurant's own dishes. It all feels as though they have broken in after hours to play "chef" and are constantly worried about being caught.

The menu, along with the cooks, changes each night. This Saturday, Bud Teasley of Boccalone and Carlo Espinas of Bar Jules featured a taste of South Carolina-style Barbeque. While purists may not consider the Blenheim Ginger BBQ'd Pork with Smokehouse Beans traditional South Carolina Barbeque, keep in mind this isn't your traditional dining experience.

The barbecue came served on slider buns plated with the sweet and tangy baked beans. The quirky salad of rhubarb and baby mustard greens came with a small candied apple covered in bacon caramel. It was a little wacky, but it worked somehow; the salty bacon accented the sweet caramel and that cute little apple paired very well with the rhubarb salad. The next dish to hit our cozy little table was the Tater Boat, a deep fried russet potato with taleggio nacho cheese and green garlic. Fried potato with melted, liquidy cheese and garlic? Yes, please.

In the hurried quick-step of the wait staff, the dishes came out whenever they were ready and in no real particular order. No problem there; our table was crowded with plates most of the time, anyway. We didn't come to Mission Street Food for subtle refinement or perfectly arranged dishes. We came for fantastically good food.

And any meal at Mission Street Food would be woefully incomplete without desert. We ordered two: The Butter fried cornbread with min julep honey and Humphrey Slocombe sour cream ice cream and a scoop of Humphrey Slocombe Secret Breakfast Ice Cream.

The butter fried cornbread was an interesting mingling of flavors, from the crisp and buttery cornbread, the sweetness of the mint julep honey, and the subtle tang of the sour cream ice cream that really tasted like sour cream. All together a brilliantly conceived desert.

Then, a small paper cup nestled in a plain white Chinese teacup, filled with the Secret Breakfast Ice Cream. This ice cream, the most talked about flavor from the new kid on the block, is flavored with crushed cornflakes and bourbon. Yep, cornflakes. And bourbon. Wow. For my first taste of the new players in the gourmet ice cream game, I was beyond impressed with the creative flavors and thrilled Mission Street Food included them in their menu.

As an added bonus, the charity Mission Street Food was supporting was 826 Valencia, my favorite writing center and pirate store. We had a fantastic meal courtesy of the fantastic, rouge cooks of Mission Street Food. Dinner is served Thursday and Saturday nights starting at 6:00 until it ends at 2234 Mission Street. If you want to get on the list, bring cash, get there early (before 6) and get ready to wait in line.

For more info on Mission Street Food, check out their blog here, and this recent San Francisco Chronicle write-up.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Box of Plenty

With San Francisco still trying to decide if it's Winter or Spring, I'm feeling pretty grateful to be able to pickup fresh seasonal veggie deliveries from Eatwell Farm. The box of goodies that we picked up just over a week ago has provided us with a refrigerator full of fresh, crisp and delicious fruits and vegetables that never had to see the inside of a supermarket.

In the spirit of our little city apartment receiving the bounty of the season directly from the farm, I want to share the dishes we made over the last week trying to use as many ingredients from the box in each meal as possible. Some days, like Monday, are busy and the missus and I get home at different times, so it's usually leftovers or a quick and easy pasta. Last Monday, Mrs. Rosewater got crafty and threw together a tasty little pesto with spinach, walnuts, and a generous dose of olive oil. It's all about what you have in your cupboard.

Luckily, the rest of the week is a little more consistent, so we have plenty of time to put together a proper dinner for two. Mid-week, we borrowed a recipe from the Eatwell Farm Newsletter for a vegetable risotto. My relationship with risotto has been pretty hit and miss in the past, and it has often turned into a marginally edible rice-paste with vegetables. This time? Not a problem. The rice was just right, and the addition of tarragon made it wonderfully fragrant and richly flavored.

Radish & Leek Risotto

1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1 large or 2 small leeks, with tops removed and diced
1 bunch of radishes (about 8) chopped into small cubes
1 bunch of green garlic (4 - 5), cleaned, trimmed and chopped
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups of vegetable broth
1 Small handful of tarragon, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Saute the leeks, garlic and radishes in the oil until the radishes begin to become translucent and the leeks begin to shrink, about 5 - 10 minutes. Add rice and stir for a couple of minutes, until the oil has been absorbed by the rice. Slowly add heated broth one ladle at a time, stirring constantly, until absorbed and the rice is cooked completely. Taste the rice frequently to test it's doneness. When rice is fully cooked, remove from heat and add tarragon. Season with salt and pepper. No risotto is complete without cheese, so grate about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese (or more, if you like) into the risotto before you serve and stir it in. Serve in a bowl topped with more parmesan cheese. (Yes, I like cheese.)

And since San Francisco and the Bay Area seem to be suffering from juvenile fits of cold wind and rain this month instead of a proper grown-up storm, it felt like a good time to make a thick, tasty soup to keep us warm. Plus, it's pretty much the only thing I know how to make with butternut squash. The recipe changes each time because I always have different ingredients in the refrigerator, sometimes things that need to be cooked and eaten before they go bad.

Photo note: The picture above was not taken by my talented photographer wife, but instead by me. Notice the chipped bowl? I didn't. This is why I leave the visual stuff to the missus, and I stick to the words.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 2 1/2 lb butternut squash (or 2 small squashes) peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 Sweet red onion, chopped
4 - 5 garlic cloves, minced
1 large or 2 small leeks, tops removed and chopped
Small handful of tarragon, chopped
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large stockpot. Saute the onion, leek and garlic until they become fragrant and the onion begins to turn translucent. Add squash, and saute for a couple of minutes and stir in salt and pepper. Add white wine, and allow the alcohol to cook off and liquid to reduce, stirring occasionally. Add 5 cups of broth; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cook until squash is tender, about 40 min. Remove from heat and add tarragon.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth and thick. If soup is too thin, return to heat and allow to reduce slightly. Serve topped with a drizzle of olive oil or heavy cream, and with a plate of crusty, toasted bread nearby.

This soup wasn't the best I've ever made, but it did the trick. I think it needed to be a little thicker, and some cream would have added to the flavor. I love the sweetness of the squash paired with the tart bite of onion and leek. The tarragon just added that little something extra.

Having this huge box of farm fresh veggies thrust at us all at once was a little intimidating, so it's going to be an adventure making sure we get the most out of each delivery and nothing goes to waste. If you haven't already, look into finding a local CSA in your area, and keep your kitchen stocked with the freshest seasonal produce around.