This recipe is adapted from Orangette.
This is a very flavorful puree of sorts that can be eaten as a soup, thickened to make a sauce or used as a puree to eat with chicken or fish...It was delicious and versatile and I loved it (and it can easily be adapted to be vegan)! (I apologize for not having a photo, but I had some difficulties with my camera...and I'm pretty sure all carrot soups look relatively similar anyway so you can use your imagination!).
Also, if you do have the time and have some vegetables that you need to use, I highly recommend making homemade stock as it really improves the flavor of anything you are making...Just brown whatever vegetables you have, add about 8 cups of water and let it cook at a rolling boil for an hour or so until it reduces down! (I have used anything and everything from: fennel & fennel tops, onions, carrots, celery, leeks, sunchokes, garlic cloves, basil, rosemary, parsley, bay leaves, lemon peel, etc, etc, etc...it's an experiment everytime!) oh, and stock freezes well so you can always have a reserve for the times when, well, you don't have time... :)
* 1 Tbsp. olive oil
* 1 large fennel bulb, chopped
* 1 small onion, chopped
* 4 large carrots, chopped
* 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
* 3 cups of stock (vegetable or chicken stock)
* 1/3 cup orange juice (I used tangerine juice)
* 1 Tbsp. sherry
* 1 tsp. salt (I used Herbamare)
* 1/4 cup fat-free half & half (optional)
* Optional garnish: parsley and/or a dollop of creme fraiche
* Heat oil over medium high heat.
* Sautee fennel, onion and garlic until softened, stirring occassionally.
* Add carrots and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
* Add 2 cups of stock (reserve the last cup in case you like a thinner soup)
* Remove from heat and puree in food processor or blender.
* Add orange juice, sherry, half & half, and salt and puree again until smooth.
If used as a soup, this would be delicious with a side salad, some goat cheese crostinis or a crusty chunk of walnut or pistachio bread...
If used as a puree, try it with some fish as pictured below--Australian Barramundi over a bed of roasted potatoes and carrot-fennel puree with a wedge of lime:
Sunday, February 24, 2008
This recipe is adapted from Orangette.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
It's supposed to rain all weekend, so I had planned to hole up in my apartment and do two things: cook comforting food and my taxes. I bet you can't guess which I opted to do first.
I was staring out the window watching the rain slam against the glass (the last time it rained this hard, my bedroom flooded because the building is old and the windows are poorly designed) and I started to day dream about my sunny summer days in a little Italian paradise called Cinque Terre...5 tiny little fishing villages filled with the most welcoming people who offer you a sample of their homemade Limoncello, crazy amounts of seafood restaurants, and the best damned pistachio gelato I have *ever* had in my entire life. Cinque Terra also happened to be *filled* with focaccia stands--more kinds of focaccia than you can imagine. And that's good because I would expect nothing less from Italy.
There were entire shops dedicated to focaccia--the perfect comforting salty carb to munch on-the-go...
I practically ate my way through Italy, as any sane person would do visiting that gorgeouslovelyamazingwonderful country...(here, I'm eating artichoke focaccia, which was *divine*):
So, today, since I had to be indoors anyway due to the oppressive rain, why not make some focaccia?! Yesssss...I have been one of the lucky few who got to try ACME's ridiculously delicious Etruscan focaccia that is made with grapes, so maybe I could try that variation another time. There are countless variations of focaccia toppings and recipes (as my time in Italy proved to me), but I decided on a classic Olive and Basil Focaccia. This recipe is relatively easy to make if you have a bread machine and it was really, really yummy...
INGREDIENTS FOR DOUGH:
* 3/4 cup warm water
* 2 Tbsp. olive oil
* 2 cups bread flour
* 1 Tbsp. sugar
* 1/2 tsp. salt (I used French Grey sea salt)
* 1.5 tsp. yeast
* Place all ingredients in the order listed above in a bread machine on "dough only" setting and let it do its work! Once the dough is ready, you can take it out and put it on a cookie sheet, cover and let it rise more if you want, but this is not necessary and it is perfectly fine to just add the following ingredients:
INGREDIENTS FOR TOPPING:
* large handful of kalamata olives, cut in halves
* 5 or 6 large basil leaves, cut into strips
* 1/2 Tbsp. rock salt, kosher salt or any other flake salt
* olive oil for brushing the top
* lay dough out on a pizza round (circular tray with holes in it so the crust gets crisp!) or a cookie sheet.
* press dough out in desired shape.
* use your fingers to push indentations in the dough (but not enough to poke through the dough!).
* brush the top with olive oil (which should pool in some of the holes you made with your fingers!).
* scatter olives, basil and salt.
* push the olives into the dough again with your fingers (just enough so they get wedged into the dough because we dont want these precious flavor gems to roll off!).
* bake in oven at 425 degrees for 18-20 minutes until golden brown.
Serving Suggestion: Eat plain or serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping sauce!
Friday, February 22, 2008
My vegetarian friend, Tiffany (she makes awesome hipster bags!!), turned me on to Green's Restaurant--an all vegetarian haven run by Chef Annie Somerville...It is incredibly hidden and difficult to find because it is tucked away in a converted warehouse on the docks at Fort Mason...but boy is it worth the hunt! I never would have been able to find this restaurant had i not had the "pleasure" (read: horrifying experience) of taking the California Bar Exam in July of 2007 in another warehouse across from Green's...
One night, my girl friend and I had several occassions to celebrate, so we treated ourselves to a night out!
When I am really excited about trying a new restaurant, I can't help but take a sneak peak at the menu online and contemplate what I am going to order...this can be a difficult prediction to make when you are going to a place that uses local seasonal vegetables and you never know what will be available....What I really wanted to order was Fresh Pea Ravioli with snap, snow and English peas, fava beans, spring onions, almonds, Meyer lemon butter, Italian parsley, chive blossoms and Parmesan Reggiano....uhhhhhhhh!!! Unfortunately, they were out of that dish when it was time to order...
After a couple of glasses of wine, we shared this appetizer: Yellow Finn Potato and Poblano Chili Griddle Cakes with scallions, St. George cheddar, smoked cheese and masa harina. Served with fire roasted salsa and creme fraiche...
I'm not exactly sure what my friend ordered, but it was a stack of various roasted vegetables including bell peppers and butternut squash with some sort of cheese...Served with chard with pumpkin seeds and polenta cakes...
I ordered roasted portobello mushroom caps stuffed with cremini mushrooms and onions...Served with broccolini rabini and mashed potatoes and vegetarian gravy. My friend and I agreed that somehow, someway these were the best mashed potatoes we had ever tasted....They were so good that I begged the waiter to divulge the ingredients--He said they used potatoes, cream, butter and salt but, sadly, I am not convinced that he knew all of Annie's mashed potato secrets--It couldn't have been that simple...
I was completely swooned by Green's. *Swooned* i tell you! It was fresh, creative and delicious and I can't wait to go back and try their brunch menu!
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Goji berries, the himalayan superfood, have been said to increase your libido...Hmmmm...Goji, anyone?! Turns out they are so incredibly healthy for lots of reasons--they are full of potassium, vitamin C, beta-carotene, zinc and lots of other antioxidants...
...and I have already confessed to you my love for the raw vegan treat called Goji Bliss....just pure coconut and goji berries all blended up into a crumbly delicious spread...
These chewy, chocolatey treats were a gift from my friend James who loves the Goji (and who also happens to be in his second year of medical school at UCSD so he should know...). They are incredibly easy to make, yummy and a half, and have a unique unexpected twist of flavor...
* 1 16-oz. bar of dark chocolate (I used TJ's brand, which is 72% cacao)
* 2 cups of goji berries
* 1 Tbsp. szechuan peppercorns
* Boil peppercorns till they become fairly soft (about 3-5 minutes). Then drain.
* Melt chocolate over medium heat (or use a double boiler!).
* Add goji berries and peppercorns. Mix.
* Spread out on wax paper and let cool.
* Cut into bars when cooled.
About a second after you bite into it, you should get a spike of spicy flavor, which quickly dissolves into sweet, chewy, chocolatey yumminess...
Monday, February 18, 2008
When we go out for sushi, there is only one choice. This little family-owned sushi gem is such a hidden secret in this city that I can't even tell you the name of it because its hard enough getting a table as it is without any advertising...There are only 2 tables (yes, 2!!!) and 8 bar seats in the whole place--one chef (aka "the machine"), his assistant (who assembles the hot food items) and one waitress...and they can barely accommodate the demand for this top-notch, creative and fresh sushi.
Sea bass and mango cups broiled in a garlic mayo sauce topped with tobiko:
(from left to right)--Tuna, avocado, mayo and macadamia nut (x2), Albacore, mango, mayo and macadamia nut (x2), Spicy tuna with avocado, Spider roll (soft-shell crab):
(from top to bottom and left to right)--Salmon avocado roll, Rainbow roll (the works!), Unagi (eel) and papaya, and an Octopus avocado roll:
We also ordered a platter of 12 sake nigiri (salmon & rice) because their salmon is the best I have ever tasted...but I somehow failed to take a photo of this one, probably because we gobbled it up so quickly....
Now, I am from Maui and I've been raised on raw fish and sushi--I have had more than my fair share of sushi and tried soooo many sushi places....but *this* place...this place wins:
*the best sushi*. ever.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Blood oranges are a great winter fruit--you can eat them raw, you can cook them down to a syrup for desserts, you can juice them, or you can add them to salads!
* red leaf or butter lettuce
* 1 blood orange
* dried blueberries
* dried cranberries
* goat cheese (optional)
Serving Suggestion: Use a sweeter dressing to counter the sour of the blood oranges...I recommend a fruity vinaigarette or a poppy seed dressing!
Friday, February 15, 2008
Valentine's Day is not the most ideal day to go out to a restaurant for dinner---its obscenely crowded and many places skimp on their "special" menu...so I usually try to make a special meal at home....But this year, I was working all day...But, to my own surprise, I came home around 7 pm to find that my significant other had prepared the following menu:
* Walnut Salad with Sheep Gufanti Tartufo Molitnerno (ie: soft sheep's milk cheese with a black truffle ribbon) on Belgian endive.
* Sunchoke Smash with Homemade Sage Butter Whip.
* Fresh Garlic & Herb Linguini & Black Truffle Gratin
* Steamed Lobster Tails with Meyer Lemon Butter and Grilled Asparagus
The meal was so delicious...I loved every bit of it!
Out of curiosity, what did you do or eat on Valentine's day?! Feel free to share some stories!
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I adapted this recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis and looooved the results! It was slightly time and labor intensive, but it was definitely worth it because it ended up being one of my favorite adapted recipes!
* 1 Tbsp. olive oil
* 1 medium onion, diced
* 1 carrot, chopped
* 3 cloves of garlic, minced
* 1 can (14 ounces) of chopped tomatoes (no salt added!)
* 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
* 1/4 cup white wine
* 1 cup water
* 1 cup cous cous
* 1 lemon, juiced
* parsley for garnish (optional)
* In large pot, heat oil and sautee onion, carrot and the minced garlic until vegetables are soft.
* Add canned tomatoes (with juice), stock, lemon juice and white wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 8-10 minutes.
* Pour small amounts of mixture at a time into a food processor and blend until its a smooth puree. (Don't forget that you need to allow the steam to come out when you are dealing with hot liquids in a blender or food processor or else you could end up with a *very* messy situation).
* Return remaining puree to the pot and add the cup of water and bring to a boil.
* Reserve 1 cup of the tomato puree for plating and moistening the cous cous (nobody likes dry cous cous!).
* Once the puree is boiling again, remove from heat, pour in the cous cous and cover and let sit for about 10 minutes.
* Stir and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
* Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.
* Drizzle with extra tomato puree.
* May also serve with garlic bread...
* Seafood: Serve with prawns sauteed in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice & parsley.
* Vegetarian: Serve with sauteed vegetables (zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, or eggplant)...Or, as pictured below, with some roasted fennel and mushrooms cooked with garlic and sherry! YUM!
Monday, February 11, 2008
Grains are good for you...and they are so versatile that you can mix and match with so many things.
This is a grain mix (from Trader Joe's), which includes:
* Israeli Cous Cous
* Baby Garbanzo Beans (or "channa dahl")
* Red Quinoa
You could also add brown rice, wild rice, or any other whole grain of choice!
* 1 tsp of oil (I used walnut oil)
* 1 medium onion
* lots of mixed mushrooms (I used baby bella mushrooms)
* 1.25 cups of grains
* 1.75 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
* Heat 1 tsp. of oil.
* Sautee onions and mushrooms.
* Season with salt & pepper to taste and set aside.
* Bring liquid to a boil.
* Add grains and bring back to a boil then simmer for 10-15 minutes.
* Stir in onion and mushroom mixture.
* Season with Herbamare to taste.
Serving Suggestion: Serve as a side dish or as a main dish over a bed of steamed spinach...
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Welcome to the wonderful world of flax! One of the best plant-based sources of Omega 3 fatty acids (aka:alpha-linolenic acids...the good fats!) can be found in flax seeds. They are a great source of lignans (which are a natural anti-oxidant for the body), rich in protein and help with digestive systems by providing soluble fiber.
I think most people make the mistake of eating flax seeds whole. You see them in granola and figure it must be good for you. NOPE! While they have a better shelf life, whole flax seeds are really difficult to digest and your body cannot absorb the benefits unless they are milled or ground. If you buy them whole, use a coffee grinder or mortar/pestle to grind them up!
To make things easy, I buy Bob's Red Mill Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal (gluten-free!). I *love* all Bob's Red Mill products and encourage you to seek them out and try something new!
HOW TO STORE:
Flax is highly perishable. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. I freeze mine.
I try to put flax in everything I can: oatmeal, yogurt, muffins, cookies, breads, smoothies, waffles, pancakes...you can even buy flax pasta!!
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I am sure you've heard that there are "good fats" and "bad fats", but maybe wonder "what does that mean?!". Good fats are generally monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that lower cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Bad fats are generally saturated and trans fats that raise cholesterol levels--they are pure evil. So evil, in fact, that there are motivated people who have started a Campaign to ban the use of trans fats!
Now, a word about trans fat--you would be surprised and horrified at how many products and processed foods have trans fat. Avoid purchasing anything that has the words "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredient list, which means that it is made with partially hydrogenated oils. No good can come of this. Go look at stuff in your kitchen!! Also, any product that is so sneaky as to advertise as having "No Trans Fat PER SERVING" is misleading because it contains trace amounts of trans fat that are below the FDA approved threshold for reporting but, in the aggregate, can contain significant amounts of trans fat and should be avoided. For example, take a look at peanut butter. Your average jar of Skippy advertises "No trans fat per serving", is made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean and rapeseed), and adds sugar. Ideally, what you want in a nut butter is the good fats that some nuts provide, so what you want to look for is 100% nut butters that have ONE ingredient: Nuts! (I am in love with almond butter and other raw nut butters, which I will save for another post).
It is best to use fats and oils sparingly, and when you do use oil--pick a good one. Use olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, walnut oil--these oils have low amounts of saturated fats and higher amounts of polyunsaturated and monounstaurated fats. There has also been a controversial debate about coconut oil. Personally, I adore all oils made by La Tourangelle because they are good quality oils that are packed with Omega 3, 6 and 9.
On another note, I once told my mom to think of your body like a machine--if you dont give it the right kind of superior energy (read: foods) then how can you expect it to function on a superior level?! It's true--your body has the potential to be a well-oiled machine!!! I also tried to convince my mother to throw out all items in her cabinet that have "partially hydrogenated" in the ingredient list and she says to me (on the phone): "Since WHEN did you become a crazy health nut???!!". I explained that I am not a "crazy health nut"...I am more like the average health-conscious person who still splurges sometimes but who likes to be aware of what I put in my body....and I love nuts.
Friday, February 8, 2008
I *love* crab cakes. Typically, they are a risky item to order in restaurants because they can vary widely in quality, preparation and taste. For instance, I despise soggy crab cakes, or ones that have more bread crumb filler than actual crab meat or ones made with too much bell pepper...or worse--there are shameful places that use poor quality crab meat or imitation crab meat, but let's not talk about things that masquerade around pretending to be something else because that is a topic in of itself (I dont want to see fish all squished up in log shapes hoping to disguise itself as crab meat. you're not fooling anyone). But when I come across some good crab cakes, oh maaaaan, I am sold and little can tempt me into ordering something else.
I was very impressed with the dungeness crab cakes at Frisee: served with petite frisee mix, crispy lardons (I could have done without this), grilled chili aioli and fruit compote (which was cinnamon flavored apple cubes that seemed really out of place). But it was all high quality crab meat and delicious!
I didn't necessarily agree with the chef's choice of accompaniments, but the crab cake itself was so delicious that I didn't care. Now, the Cortez Restaurant & Bar makes one of the best crab cakes I have ever had (and order regularly): Kataifi crusted crab cake with citrus marinated cabbage & caper-tarragon aioli. Kataifi is basically shredded phyllo dough that is collected into very thin strands and, when deep fried, makes a unique crazy curly design so it has aesthetic appeal and a delicious crunch. Sheer Genius.
Desserts: mediocre but decent.
Chocolate and banana bread pudding with dulce de leche and chantilly cream.
Raspberry "shortcake" with fresh raspberries and blackberries with vanilla cream sandwiched between layers of phyllo surrounded by raspberry coulis.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
This yummy curry surpassed my expectations! I hope you like it too!
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp ginger sugar (if you dont have the amazing kitchen essential that is ginger sugar, then 2 tsp of fresh grated ginger and 1 tsp of raw or brown sugar will do)
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 large potato (I used yukon gold), cut into bite-sized cubes
1/2 cup red lentils
14 oz. can of canned chopped tomatoes (no salt added), with the liquid
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp. curry powder or garam masala
1 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen green peas
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice.
* Heat oil in large pot and cook the onions for about 10 minutes.
* If it starts to stick, add a Tbsp. of the stock to prevent burning.
* Add garlic, ginger sugar, coriander, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon. Stir.
* Add potato and lentils. Stir.
* Add the stock, coconut milk and canned tomatoes with the tomato liquid.
* Bring to a boil, stirring occassionally.
* Add the curry powder. Stir and simmer covered for about 30 minutes.
* Add the peas and stir.
* Just before serving, stir in the chopped cilantro and lemon juice.
Serve over a bed of brown basmati rice.
Herbamare is one of my absolute *favorite* condiments!
It's a natural sea salt blend that contains:
* sea salt
* organic celery leaves
* organic leek
* organic cress*(water and garden)
* organic onion
* organic chive
* organic parsley
* organic lovage
* organic garlic
* organic basil
* organic marjoram
* organic rosemary
* organic thyme
* kelp (with trace iodine).
All of these magical ingredients combine to make a flavorful salt that adds a delicious flavor to everything and anything! You will be able to find this wonderful product in most health food stores.
(and if you like a kick, they made a spicy version)
Monday, February 4, 2008
I went to visit a friend in St. Paul, Minnesota and came across a culinary haven called Penzeys Spices.
It's an entire store dedicated to high-quality spices, herbs, and seasonings! I spent more $$$ than you (and my friend) would believe on spices. They had over 5 kinds of CINNAMON!!! I didn't even know so many types of cinnamon existed beyond McCormick's.
Luckily, they have an online store, so you can order all sorts of things from them, including their amazing Salt Free Selections! I cannot emphasize enough the use of quality spices, herbs and seasonings in healthy, low-fat cooking (provided you watch the sodium intake)!
I went home with:
* Bangkok Blend (Salt Free blend of: sweet peppers, garlic, ginger, black pepper, galangal, hot peppers, lemon grass, basil, and cilantro)
* Chesapeake Bay Seasoning
* Herbes de Provence
* Mural of Flavor (Salt Free blend of: shallots, onion, garlic, thyme, rosemary, basil, coriander, lemon peel, citric acid, black pepper, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, and orange peel)
* Ozark Style Seasoning (salt, black pepper, sage, garlic, thyme, Hungarian papika, regular mustard, ancho chili, celery seed, cayenne, dillweed, dillseed, caraway seed, allspice, ginger, cardamom, bay leaves, mace, china cinnamon, savory and cloves)
* Seasoned Salt (coarse Sea Salt, Smoked Paprika, Sugar, Special Extra Bold Black Pepper, Turmeric, Onion, Garlic, Spice Extractives (including oleoresin of paprika, black pepper, celery, rosemary and thyme)
* Shallot Salt
* Sweet Curry
* Trinidad Lemon-Garlic Marinade (coarse salt, lemon peel, garlic, clove and ginger)
* Vindaloo Seasoning
* Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon
...and I wanted so much more!!
What are you going to pick?!
One of my favorite things to do with my girlfriends is to go have a glass of wine and share some dessert at a wine bar while we gush about the gossip of our lives...no matter what the current drama, a little bit of wine and sugar does just the trick!! (Fortunately, there are countless of swanky wine bars in San Francisco for just such an occassion!)
My friend and I picked Bacar, which is in SOMA ("South of Market, for those of you unfamiliar with the city). Bacar has a fantastic wine selection, good food, sometimes live jazz or piano, and a signature dessert that is AMAZING.
Their version of a Milky Way ($11): a chocolate fudge cake layer at the base, topped with malt ice cream and a thin disk of chocolate, which melts away as a warm bourbon caramel sauce is poured over it all right at the table! *YUM*
I went to the Winter Storm event at Stone Brewery in Northern San Diego...It's an annual event in which the Brewery rolls out the vintages of all of their beers in bottle and draft...
We ordered several rounds of beer, but started with (from back to front):
2004 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine
2005 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine
2006 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine
Stone 04.04.04 Vertical Epic Ale
Stone 4th Anniversary India Pale Ale
Stone 7th Anniversary India Pale Ale
Beer was accompanied by some "Spud Buds"--Stone IPA organic garlicky mashed potatoes, balled up, and deep-fried in their Arrogant Bastard Ale batter. Served with Mike’s beer cheese sauce and Stone Smoked Porter-BBQ sauce for dipping.
After a couple rounds of beer, I realized it would be *essential* to eat some substantial food along with all the beer I was ordering...The Stone World Bistro's Menu boasts an ecclectic mix with lots of fresh, local and organic foods (even the tofu is from San Diego Soy Dairy!). I ordered a vegetarian breakfast burrito with local free-range brown eggs, marinated tofu, onions, cilantro and white cheddar. It was *ridiculously* delicious!
Oh, and these suckers are their version of Onion Rings cooked in a crispy tempura-style Arrogant Bastard Ale batter...
and for dessert...more beer, of course!
For me, the beer highlight of the day was 2004 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine....
Saturday, February 2, 2008
I bought a 21 bean soup mix, which claims to have 21 different types of beans not including any of the lentils you see in the pretty photo...and I just realized that, without actually researching beans, I couldn't list out 21 types of beans if my life depended on it...
Update: I later found this nifty website, which lists waaaay more than 21 beans!