Tuesday, December 29, 2009

RECIPE: Chole for the Soul

Since it’s been bone-chilling cold in my apartment these days (damn uncontrollable San Francisco steam heaters), I had a craving for something warm and spicy.  I was cleaning out my cupboards and found a bag full of Indian spices that I bought a few months ago when I went through a Bend It Like Beckham-inspired Aloo Gobi phase…which is how I ended up making a nice pot of Chole Masala last night.  It’s pretty easy, and the fun part is that you don’t have to measure anything exactly.  I’ll try to give you some measurements, but really, it’s all about “season to taste”.

You will need:

1 15-oz can of Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 Roma tomato, chopped
1 T. tomato paste
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large piece of ginger (about as big as your thumb), minced
1 t. ground turmeric
½ t. cumin seeds
1 t. Garam Masala
2-4 chopped green chiles, or red pepper flakes (adjust to your preferred level of spiciness)
½ t. salt
Ghee, or olive oil (for vegan version)
Handful of coriander, chopped

In a heated saucepan, toast the cumin seeds.  Then add some oil and sauté the onions.  Add turmeric and a little water (so the spices don’t stick to the pan).  The add chilies, ginger, garlic, and a little more water.  Then add the tomato paste and tomatoes.  Keep stirring and adding water so you get a sauce-like consistency.  Then add the garbanzos, garam masala, and salt.  Simmer everything for 20-25 minutes (or longer) and add a handful of chopped coriander and stir it through.  Serve with basmati rice!

Monday, December 14, 2009

RECIPE: Vegan Udon Sushi Rolls

One of my favorite things to eat are nori rolls.  These differ from “sushi”, as I don’t put sushi rice into them, but this version of a nori roll was something I modified after eating something similar this past weekend – it has the carb component (like regular sushi).  It’s a pretty simple and tasty lunch item.  You will need:

Nori sheets (you can use roasted for more flavor)
Chives or green garlic shoots 
Cooked organic udon noods (well drained)
Roasted sesame seeds
Umeboshi paste (optional)

Lettuce, spinach, or any other type of fresh greens

Take one sheet of nori and dab a thin line of umbeboshi paste (depending on how strong of a taste you want of the umeboshi) about an inch to two inches from one edge.  Arrange a handful of noodles on nori, and add sliced avocado, slice tomatoes, chives/garlic shoots, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Top with a handful of greens (I prefer spinach, which is rich in iron).  Roll the nori tightly to create a “sushi” roll, and either eat as is, or cut into slices.  It is absolutely delicious, and quite filling. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

EAT: Beijing Restaurant

Beijing Restaurant
1801 Alemany Blvd
(between Ocean Ave & Ruth St)
San Francisco, CA 94112
(415) 333-8182

I can navigate a Chinese takeout menu fairly well. I stay away from things that look gruesome (chicken feet), gelatinous (jellyfish), or just make me feel bad (shark’s fin). Fried rice and cha siu pork are things that I grew up with, thanks to my family’s Chinese restaurant in San Diego. But that wasn’t what we were looking for when my friend Ed suggested we head to Beijing Restaurant. It was all about noodles and dumplings – two things that, when done well, are like a party in your mouth. Seriously.

 Yao Ming and the owners

Beijing Restaurant is located in the “Mission Terrace” area of San Francisco, on the corner of Alemany & Ocean, in a little red building adorned with lanterns. Kind of out of the way for those of us that live closer to downtown SF, but hey, Yao Ming makes a stop here when he’s in town, so it must be good, right? I came, armed with my artillery of Chinese food “experts” (aka three of my friends of Chinese heritage who like to eat). We sat down and began the ordering process. Be warned, this place takes a little longer than your average Americanized Chinese food place, so if you’re starving (like we were), have a piece of fruit beforehand or something.

First up was the Beef Pancake. I love this dish – crispy layers of fried something on the outside and yummy, flavorful beef in the middle. Served piping hot. Then, they brought out the Zha Jiang Mian – Beijing style noodles. These is a cold noodle dish with fresh, hand-pulled noodles, cucumber, sprouts, and this wonderful hoisin(ish) sauce with bits of meat in it, mixed together. I really loved the cucumber added to the dish, as it made it taste so fresh and perfect for the muggy weather we were having. A word of advice – use the sauce sparingly, as it’s quite salty on its own.

The dishes were coming one at a time, which worked well because it made you enjoy your food (eat slowly!) and there was no way in hell we were gonna fit all the food on our table with drinks and elbows. Our next “course” was the lamb dumplings. I don’t know how to explain it, but when someone does a dumpling correctly, it makes me so happy. Delicate balance of dumpling skin, meat, and sauce. Freshly boiled. Beautiful.

I insisted that we order a vegetable to offset some of the carbs, so the only greens of the evening were the Spinach with Garlic. Then came the Lion's Head meatballs - served in  four pieces.  So tender, so delicious.  And finally…our Flour Balls with Three Flavors. Almost like a cross between a noodle dish and a dumpling dish, I’d had a version of this at Old Mandarin Islamic (another fantastic Chinese restaurant).  I don't really know the the "Three Flavors" is, but I'm guessing, Chicken, Pork, and Seafood.  Just eat it.  It's delicious.

All I can say is, I was so content after our meal. I wasn’t stuffed either, nor did I have that overly-MSG’ed feeling I usually get when I eat Chinese food. I would definitely make the trip out here again – and you should too!

Monday, October 19, 2009

1788 cognac, 1875 wine on sale at Paris auction

PARIS — Over the years, the chief sommelier had forgotten they were there. And when the four bottles of 1875 Armagnac Vieux were finally unearthed from the labyrinthine wine cellar this week, they were covered in a black fungus that looked like matted cat fur.

The landmark Tour d'Argent restaurant, which dates back to 1582, is cleaning out its 450,000-bottle wine cellar, considered one of the best and biggest in the world. It is putting 18,000 bottles up for auction in December, an event that has captured the imagination of French wine lovers.
The restaurant is selling mostly wine but also some very old spirits, like three bottles of a Clos du Griffier cognac from 1788, the year before the French Revolution, as well as the ancient Armagnac, valued at euro400-500 ($595-$743) a bottle. The fuzzy fungus is nothing to worry about — it thrives on the fumes of such spirits and is easily wiped away.

The restaurant wants to cut down on wines it has in multiple to vary and modernize its selection.
"You'll probably see, we've got too many bottles," jokes chief sommelier David Ridgway.
Unlocking a padlocked iron gate, the tuxedo-clad sommelier ushered visitors into the restaurant's underworld, where bottles are stacked floor to ceiling in a succession of caverns. Though everything is registered in a computer, there are occasional surprises, like the 1875 Armagnac, which Ridgway came across while looking for something else.

The wine cellar of the Left Bank restaurant, known for pressed duck and spectacular views of Notre Dame, is a part of its history. A sign marks the spot where a brick wall was built in 1940 to hide the best bottles during the Nazi occupation in World War II.

Visitors are offered sheepskin blankets for the chill: 14 degrees Celsius (57.2 Fahrenheit) this week, but dipping to 12 degrees Celsius (53.6 Fahrenheit) in winter.

"I like the wine to live a little bit of the seasons, even though it's temperature-controlled," said Ridgway, a Briton who has overseen the restaurant's wine menu since the early 1980s.

Times have changed since then, Ridgway says. Expensive jewelry or clothes no longer indicate what diners will pay for wine, and it's not taboo now for people to say what they want to spend. Still, he has to tread carefully: Propose a wine too inexpensive and some "people feel we have looked down on them, almost."
Estimated prices at the Dec. 7-8 sale by French auctioneer Piasa start at euro10 ($15) a bottle and go up to euro2,500-euro3,000 ($3,716-$4,459) for each 1788 Cognac, one of which will go to charity.
Among wines on sale are Chateau Lafite Rothschild (1970, 1982, 1997), Cheval Blanc (1928, 1949, 1966) and Chateau Margaux (1970, 1990). The total sale is expected to bring in around euro1 million ($1.5 million).
Buyers can rest assured the bottles aren't counterfeit — a major problem in the industry — because the restaurant bought them directly from vintners. As for the restaurant, the timing of the auction is right even as Europe struggles amid a global economic crisis.

"I'm sure there are some amazing treasures in that cellar, and it's a good time to sell because the wine auction market has really come storming back" after tanking during the early months of the financial crisis, said Michael Steinberger, Slate's wine columnist and author of "Au Revoir to All That: Food, Wine, and the End of France."

The restaurant, a family business, was once the summit of French gastronomy, attracting royalty, politicians and film stars. Each duck served comes with a certificate: U.S. President John F. Kennedy ate duck No. 245,200, while Mick Jagger feasted on No. 531,147 and Princess Grace of Monaco savored No. 496,516.
But recent years have brought setbacks. Longtime owner Claude Terrail died in 2006, and his 29-year-old son Andre now runs it. The restaurant, where a prix fixe lunch menu costs euro65 ($97) and a tasting menu at dinner goes for euro160 ($238), long held three Michelin stars but is now down to one.
The economic crisis has affected the restaurant's finances only "a bit," Terrail said, in part because of its name and diverse international clientele. While the kitchen was recently updated, the wine sale may fund more extensive renovations down the line.

The restaurant's name means "The Silver Tower" in French, and all the bottles for sale are stamped with the restaurant's insignia, a tiny tower.

On the Web:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Burger Craving - SO Not Good For You.

Partially due to to laziness, I have been subsisting on a mostly vegetarian diet.  I can't muster the energy to roast a chicken or marinate and cook pork chops during the week.  I've been fortunate enough to get tons of great produce from farmer's markets and Berkeley Bowl (love love LOVE BB, but it's all the way on the other side of the Bay so I can't get there that often).  The veg diet is wonderful - but sometimes, you just want something meaty like a burger.  You know?

So tonight, I went down the street from my house and ordered from Johnny Rockets, a chain that specializes in old-fashioned style burgers.  A little on the pricey side, and everything is a la carte, but I figured the quality is better than Mickey D's so what the heck.  I ordered a Rocket Double - two meat patties with tomato, onion, lettuce, cheese, and special sauce (Thousand Island) on a bun.

As I waited for my order, I happened to see the Nutritional Information pamphlet.  This bad boy has......wait for it....1,193 calories.



That's what I said.

When I got my burger home, I took off a patty out of guilt.  It was still delicious...but that spin class is sounding reeeeally necessary right about now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

So Long, Sweet Summer...

As the fog and mist creep back into the Bay, I had to post some photos of summer desserts.  Two of my favorite things to make:  tarte aux quetsches, and a strawberry custard tart. 


1 fully baked sweet tart shell (recipe below)
1 batch pastry cream
1 lb strawberries

Fill the tart shell with pastry cream. Hull and slice the strawberries, reserving one perfect strawberry, and arrange in a circle on top of the pastry cream. Put the one reserved strawberry in the middle.

Sweet Tart Dough
(Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4 1/2 ounces) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk
9-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom
rolling pin

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to mix. Toss the pieces of butter with the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in—you should have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas. (If you don't have a food processor, you can use a pastry cutter, or, if you are really in a pinch - two knives.)  Lightly stir the yolk, and slowly add it, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses—about 10 seconds each—until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and, very lightly and sparingly, knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
To roll the dough into the pan: Butter tart pan with a removable bottom.

* If you want to roll the dough, chill it for about 2 hours before rolling (unless you've used frozen butter and the dough comes out of the processor firm and cold, in which case you can roll it immediately). I find it easiest to roll this dough out between two sheets of plastic film – make sure to peel away the film frequently, so it doesn't get rolled into the dough.
* You may also use the press-in method - you can work with the dough as soon as it's processed. Press the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

 Prick the bottom with a fork four or five times. Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes (I do it for nearly and hour) before baking.  It will help prevent the crust from getting giant air bubbles.

To fully bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil, buttered side down, tightly against the crust. Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon (or prick it with the tip of a small knife). Bake the crust for another 8 minutes or so, or until it is firm and golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the crust to room temperature.

Pastry Cream
(Tartine - awesome, awesome book)

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
2 large eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Add the salt, place over medium-high heat, and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, slowly drizzle about 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continuously. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 minutes. The mixture must come just to the boiling point (slow bubbles, not boiling vigorously, or you will curdle the eggs, yuk). Remove from heat and immediately pour through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into 1 tbsp pieces and whisk into pastry cream 1 tbsp at a time until smooth.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing directly onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming and put in the refrigerator to cool.


1 1/2 C of unbleached flour
1 stick unsalted butter (frozen, cut into small cubes)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbl. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 Tbl. ice cold water
egg wash (1 egg mixed with 2 tsp. milk)
Tart filling:
1.5 lbs. small plums, halved and pitted
2 Tbl. cassonade (raw sugar)
egg custard (2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg +1/4 cup sugar —- tempered with 2/3 cup of hot milk)
Directions for tart crust:

Cut the dry ingredients with the butter until you have pea-sized pieces. Add the egg yolk and cold water. Stir and combine. Add enough cold water until the mixture clumps in your hand.  Next, place the dough onto some plastic wrap and form a flat disk. Wrap and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.  Roll the dough to about 1/8 in. thick and gently place it on your tart pan. Using your fingers, gently mold the dough to fit the tart pan and crimp the edges. Put the whole thing back in the fridge for about 15 min. or so.

Then, in an oven preheated to 350F, blind bake the tart shell for 15 minutes.

Next, arrange the plums on the tart in whatever way you feel  - you can see how I've done it in the photos.  Bake the tart for 15 minutes – the plums will begin to soften.
Take the tart out of the oven and pour the custard into the tart, making sure it surrounds all the plums. Sprinkle the tart with cassonade.

Brush the outer crust with a little egg wash. Lower the oven to 325F and bake for another 30 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.

Bon apetit!

Wine & Spirits Top 100 Recap

Wine &  Spirits Top 100
SF Design Center Galleria
October 14th, 2009

I was so engrossed in tasting, this is the only photo I took - just so I could remember the wine.

The annual Wine & Spirits Top 100 event sends many oenophiles into a frenzy – 100 fantastic international wineries pouring their best offerings until the waters run dry (literally)…what’s not to like? Being a self-proclaimed wine n00b and also being unable to afford 12-packs of Domaine de la Romanee Conti or Screaming Eagle, I was beyond excited to score a free ticket at work – plus, I heard they were pouring Krug and Cristal, and I decided this was probably a good time to see what all the fuss was about. (Squeee!)

The event was being held at the San Francisco Design Center Galleria, and for the first time, they were including a few up-and-coming Bay Area restaurants in the mix - totally exciting for someone who loves food (like moi).  Our tickets allowed us into the “public” portion of the event, which was a bit of a madhouse.  I'd highly recommend getting trade tickets if you can.  Arranged by wine type (Sparkling, Rich Whites, Floral Whites, Pinot Noir, Rhone Family, etc.), the booths were lined up all around the first and second floors of the Galleria, with the handful of restaurant booths interspersed within the winery tables, serving complementary foods. One of the wonderful things about this event was that many of the booths actually had the winemaker pouring – a great opportunity to talk about the wine and learn a little bit about the vineyards.

Even though you’re supposed to start with the sparkling and lighter whites and end with dessert wines, I kind of liked going all over the place (it keeps me from getting palate fatigue). I started with a glass of 2004 Iron Horse Green Valley Blanc de Blancs. Next up - a deviled egg with crab meat from Nettie's Crab Shack.  From there, we went all over - 2002 Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Cristal (and yes, it lives up to the hype), 2006 Calera – Mills Vineyard Pinot Noir (already a personal favorite), NV Krug Grand Cuvee (another fabulous sparkler!).

In between the wine tastings, we also managed to eat Hog Island Oyster Company Kumamoto and Sweetwater oysters, Hudson duck with toasted farro from RN74 (Michael Mina's new restaurant venture), braised pork belly from heaven's dog, and “pho” beef tacos from Kitchenette (seriously amazing). When we got to the second floor (Cabernet central), we tried some 2005 Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon (holy tannins, Batman) and some Iberian wines – a 2005 CVNE/Contino Rioja Reserva caught my attention, paired with Gitane's “Bacon Bonbons” (a bacon wrapped prune stuffed with goat cheese) – perfection.  I also enjoyed flour + water's pumpkin soup - lovingly and carefully prepared, although it was the temperature of molten lava; one had to be careful not to burn their tastebuds off...probably not a smart idea for a wine tasting.

Back on the first floor, we wandered the Pinots again and ended up tasting a really fantastic wine from Drew Family Vineyards – their 2007 “Fog Eater” Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. After having Drew’s Pinot Noir, I wanted to try Flowers winery offerings…we had the 2006 Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, Andreen-Gale. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. (Sorry, guys.) Last but not least, I ended the night with a tasting of Vilmart & Cie. 2000 Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Gastronome Premier Cru followed by the NV Brut Cuvee Rubis paired with milk chocolate from Brix Chocolates and a little huckleberry compote with goat cheese puree from Candy Bar.

All in all, an overwhelming yet awesome event. My only with is that it were less crowded so you had more time to really take your time and taste wines and take notes. But for a wine neophyte such as myself, it’s a great place to taste some of the big names without shelling out tons of cash. Totally looking forward to next year!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

RECIPE: A Couple of Tapas Recipes

I told my friend I'd make him dinner - something that I like to do for any of my friends who love to eat - and racked my brain thinking of what to make for him. I've been on a pasta ban for a while, so I didn't want to do Italian, and French cooking seemed a little too formal, so I decided on Spanish tapas. Easy, simple, using mostly similar ingredients, I'd be able to make several dishes within minutes. Two of my "must haves" are Camarones al Mojo de Ajo and Pan Tumaca - both are incredibly easy and require little to no accuracy in measurement.


Half a pound of large white shrimp, peeled and deveined but with tails still attached
6-7 cloves of garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper
Pimenton de la Vera
Olive oil
Chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a skillet that holds heat well (heavy bottomed is preferable). Saute the garlic until it is lightly browned, then add the shrimp and saute until the shrimp is cooked through and the garlic has darkened. Be VERY careful not to burn the garlic. Season with salt and pepper, then toss with a dash of pimenton de la vera.

Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley.


The preparation of pan tumaca is pretty similar to that of Italian bruschetta, but instead of using chopped tomatoes, I use a puree. When using olive oil as a dressing (not heating it up), use the best tasting olive oil you can afford.

Plain baguette
One whole clove of fresh garlic, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Jamon serrano
Large, ripe heirloom tomato (I like the reddest, ripest ones you can find!)
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley

Using a food processor, puree the tomato and season with salt and pepper. Let the puree sit for a few minutes to rest. Slice the baguette and toast them in the oven. While the slices are still warm, rub them with the fresh garlic. You can use as much or as little as you prefer - be warned that fresh garlic is quite potent, so you may want to keep that in mind! Arrange the slices on a plate and top each one with a generous spoonfull of tomato puree. Top with a small piece of jamon serrano. Drizzle olive oil across all the bread slices, and garnish with parsley.

Easy right? I told you so. Buen provecho!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

RECIPE: Pork Chops with Cherries

A telltale sign that summer has officially arrived? Cherries are in abundance at the market - along with strawberries, peaches, nectarines, plums…yum! For dinner, I wanted to make something using things I already had in my refrigerator. I went back to Whole Foods and purchased some boneless pork chops and then went to work.

You will need:

3-4 boneless pork chops (medium thickness)

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

½ lb dark red cherries, pitted and halved (you can use more or less, depending on how much fruit you want in your dish)

Red wine (I happened to use a splash of Cotes Du Rhone that I had open)

Balsamic vinegar

Dried thyme

Ground cinnamon

A pat of butter

Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat a heavy sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat, and add a bit of olive oil. Cook pork chops evenly on both sides, so they have a nice brown crust on them, and are cooked all the way through (timing depends on the thickness of the pork chops). Once the pork is cooked, put on a plate to rest.

Meanwhile, use the same pan that you fried the pork in, continuing to keep it heated, and deglaze it with a bit of balsamic vinegar. Add the onions and sauté until soft, then add the cherries and continue to cook until the cherries have softened (they will almost start to dissolve). Add a splash of red wine, a light sprinkle of thyme, and a tiny pinch of cinnamon, and season with salt and pepper to taste. You can adjust the flavors by adding more vinegar, spices, etc. At the end, mix in a pat of butter to add a bit of shine to your sauce. Serve pork chops with a nice spoonful (or two) of the cherry sauce on top….and VOILA!

For the haricots verts, I use this simple recipe:

12 oz haricots verts (I think this is how they are packaged at Trader Joe’s)

Olive oil

Dijon mustard

White wine vinegar

I don’t know the exact measurements, but make a little vinaigrette out of the olive oil, mustard, and vinegar, and toss it with STEAMED haricots verts. It’s delicious and makes a nice side dish to the pork.

I didn’t choose to serve a starch with this, but you can most certainly add on a side of potatoes or wild rice or quinoa to make it a heartier meal. I opted instead to have a couple small slices of baguette topped with a bit of pungent cheese, and accompanied my meal with a big glass of Cotes du Rhone.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

RECIPE: Pork Tenderloin with Herbs de Provence

Before I started cooking regularly, I always wondered how my mom cooked without measuring anything. As a child, when I started learning how to cook by recipe, I was very precise at measuring and timing. But as time went on, I found myself using cookbooks more for inspiration than anything else, and becoming one of those people who adds a dash of this and a sprinkle of that. Tonight's dinner was pretty impromptu - I stumbled into Bryan's (an amazing butcher shop in SF's Laurel Village) and pondered over what meat to get. Chicken? Duck? Rabbit? Beef? I settled on a nice piece of pork tenderloin - about a pound - and went to work to make dinner for my friend Candice and I.


Pork tenderloin (about 1 lb. for two people)
Two garlic cloves
Herbs de Provence
Sea Salt
Black Pepper (preferably freshly ground)
Olive Oil
Summer Squash, sliced
Onion, sliced very thinly
White wine

Chop up garlic and mix with a healthy amount (a tablespoon or maybe more?) of Herbs de Provence, fresh ground pepper, and sea salt. This is your rub for the pork. Heat an oven-proof pan, add some olive oil, and brown the outside of the seasoned pork tenderloin on both sides (just about a minute on each side). Then put the entire pan in the oven (set to 350 degrees), covered with foil. Take the squash, toss in herbs, salt, pepper, and olive oil, and then add to pan. Cook the pork for about 15 minutes, then remove the foil. Put the oven on broil and let cook for another ten minutes. Total cooking time should be about 30 minutes per pound, maybe slightly less depending on the thickness. (Don't overcook it!)

Take the pork out of the pan to rest, then put the squash aside. Add a little bit of wine into the pan to deglaze it, add salt and pepper, and a bit of butter. Add onions and reduce. Keep adding wine and reducing until the onions are softened and somewhat pickled.

Slice the pork thinly, and serve with squash. For color, I like to also serve it with a green leafy vegetable, like kale or chard. Top with onions and some of the sauce. Voila!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

DRINK: Honig Vineyard & Winery

850 Rutherford Rd
Rutherford, CA 94573
(707) 963-5618
Appointment Only

A few months ago, I took a job that landed me in the wine industry. I'd always been curious about wine, especially living so close to Wine Country, but I was hesitant about getting into the whole food & wine scene in the Bay Area. One thing that has always turned me off about it (wine in particular) is the level of pretentiousness that seems to be rampant within the industry. Napa Valley is absolutely full of food & wine snobs, and I don't have the energy to feign knowledge of the origins of Zinfandel or to pretend to know what the hell "legs" are on my Merlot.

Have no fear, wine n00bs - Honig is the Anti-Snob.

At Honig, it's like being invited to someone's house - the tasting room feels just like a friend's kitchen, with a granite island and rustic wooden table. And your friend knows a lot about wine, and isn't going to make YOU feel bad for not knowing a damn thing. Honig specializes in two varietals - Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Honig even sells shirts that say "Friends don't let friends drink Chardonnay." Hilarious. "Honig" means "honey" in German, and if you forget that, you'll remember when you see the bee logo! The property is small, and the staff is equally little - it seems that many of them have been working there for years.

We showed up fairly late on Saturday afternoon without realizing they were appointment only, but David (aka The Guam Bomb) poured us some wine anyway, and didn't rush us out. We got to hear a little bit about the winery, their sustainable practices, about the winery's dogs, and actually ended up tasting their entire library of wines (the honey-colored 2004 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc was wonderful if you like dessert wines, but they may not have any left by the time you read this!). We ended up meeting a couple from SF that shared the large inside table with the three of us, and David sat down with us and it basically ended up feeling more like a casual afternoon with old friends than wine tasting in Rutherford! (There are two seating areas - inside (photo above) and outside - a nice patio area with lots of shade for those warm Napa Valley days.)

A few tasting notes:

2007 Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley - one of my favorite wines, easy to drink and perfect "introductory" wine for friends of mine who aren't really wine at all. I like that they use stainless steel, as it leaves the wine crisper and cleaner on the palate.

2008 Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley - very inexpensive and nice to have on hand as a casual drinking wine. Just like the 2007, very clean and easy to drink. Would go great with many Asian foods that lean towards the sour (like my mom's chicken adobo!).

2003 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Bartolucci Vineyards - probably one of my absolute favorite Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa, but at $100 a bottle, I can't quite bring myself to buy it. The tannins have smoothed out quite nicely and the wine is still full bodied without being heavy on your palate.

2006 Honig Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc - If you can't get your hands on the 2004 (and you probably can't), definitely invest in a bottle of the 2006. Totally worth it. A great dessert wine with subtle honey notes and a pretty golden hue.

Suffice to say, Honig is now one of my regular stops when I'm up in Napa Valley. Here's a little video of our friend (and now home-skillet) David talking about Honig. Isn't he a cutie?

RECIPE: Duck Breast with Figs in Balsamic Reduction

Taking a cue from one of my friends who loves to cook, yet doesn't like measuring anything (or giving specific ingredients for that matter), I decided to try my hand at cooking duck breast. Granted, the best possible way to cook duck breast (or any meat, really) is by using the sous vide method, but I don't have the time, patience, or equipment for all that!

You will need:

duck breasts (fresh, with skin on)
balsamic vinegar
red wine (optional)
fruit - I used figs (washed and quartered), but you can use fresh ripe peaches or pitted red cherries

Season the duck with salt and pepper. Put a tiny bit of oil in a saute pan and sear the duck breasts, skin side down. Depending on the thickness, you can cook the duck 5-10 minutes on each side. Make sure to get the skin extra crispy, but don't overcook. Put the breast on a plate to rest, and reserve the juices in the pan.

Add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan, then season with salt and pepper and a dollop of honey. Add figs and the optional splash of red wine and reduce until the figs are soft and sort of falling apart. Taste the reduction to make sure it's not too sour - adjust with honey and salt as necessary.

Slice duck breast thinly and serve with the reduction, accompanied by a potato puree and some vegetables (I prefer brussels sprouts or something else green, just for color on my plate). It is DIVINE.

Bon apetit!


It was a sad, sad sight: I had cleaned my refrigerator, and put everything back. All that was left was a door full of condiments, three bottles of wine (one white, one rose, one bubbly), a chunk of parmesan cheese, a nearly-expired carton of almond milk, tortillas, and the end of a stick of butter.

You see, with my schedule being as it is (a full-time job - lately, with 11-hour days, running group, and attempting to have some semblance of a social life while getting important errands done)...I often neglect to stock my fridge. This leads to spending $$$ every day on lunch (and sometimes dinner too) and neglecting one of my favorite things to do in life - cooking. Ironically, I live right between Whole Foods and Mollie Stone's - which are possibly two of the most expensive (yet comprehensive) grocery stores in San Francisco, but can't seem to find the time to go shopping. So after a weekend run on the Embarcadero with my friend Jay, we both ended up in the SF Ferry Building to get coffee...and we were both persuaded to sign up for Farm Fresh To You, a delivery service that boasts Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The guy gave us $10 off our first order, so naturally, I went for the Mixed Regular box: about 10 lbs. of seasonal veggie and fruit offerings (regularly $31.50 per delivery, $21.50 with the discount!). That makes my produce an average of $2.15 per lb. for organic produce - unheard of at Whole Foods or Mollie Stone's. KA-CHING!

My first box arrived on Tuesday. Inside:

Yellow peaches
Black Plums
Summer Squash
Gypsy Peppers
Lipstick Peppers
Heirloom Tomatoes
Greenleaf Lettuce
Red Beets
Nantes Carrots
Red Onions

Everything is CERTIFIED ORGANIC. I have to say, I was pretty impressed, even if a couple of the items looked a bit weathered. I did receive a little newsletter in the box from Thaddeus (I'm guessing, the head farmer of Capay Farms) acknowledging that the latest produce offerings have been "pretty rough" due to the awkward transition between spring and summer. But no matter - I find a strange familiar happiness when I can smell the dirt on my vegetables. My green-thumbed grandfather used to grow bok choy and eggplant and tomatoes in our yard (among many other things) and we were fortunate to have truly fresh produce on a regular basis, so this is very comforting for me. PLUS, this will totally put my creative cooking skills to the test, as you don't really get a choice as to what they give you. I smell an Iron Chef session coming on, don't you?

For more information about Community Supported Agriculture and delivery from Capay Farms, visit http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com or stop by the San Francisco Ferry Building.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

RECIPE: Raw Creamy Avocado Soup

This recipe is super delicious, and refreshing. It is one of the foods that you can eat when doing a juice fast, as it is easy on your system.


1 medium size avocado, pitted and cubed
1 cup filtered water
1 cup green juice (I use Evolution Essential Greens), originally this recipe called for only celery juice, but since I don't have a juicer, I just use pre-made green juice.
1/2 T. finely minced shallots
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Take the first six ingredients and blend in a food processor or blender. I use a hand blender, because I can control it better. Then season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

GREEN FOOD SPOTLIGHT: The Plant Cafe Organic

The Plant Cafe Organic
Neighborhood: Marina/Cow Hollow
3352 Steiner St (between Chestnut St & Lombard St)
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 931-2777

Anyone who has been paying attention to my Yelp reviews, my Facebook posts, or my Tweets (on Twitter) knows that ever since I started running in September, I've been delving deeper into the world of vegetarian and green foods. I feel very fortunate to be living in the Bay Area, where our options seem endless when one wants to eat healthy, sustainable foods. The Plant Cafe Organic (formerly known as Lettus Cafe Organic) has fast become one of my favorite go-to restaurants when I want to eat healthy but I don't have time to go to the grocery store or farmer's market to get all the ingredients myself.

In the mornings, they have breakfast selections, and on weekends, they have a separate brunch menu, which I have yet to try. I personally like their smoothies for the morning, though pricey ($6.50), they are delicious. I highly recommend the mango, which has mango, banana, and ginger. They also have a full juice bar, with one of the best selections of juices I've seen in the city.

Midday, the cafe is full of Marina-ites and employees from the Presidio (i.e. LucasFilm folks) who are getting salads and sandwiches. They have an extensive salad menu ($8-9), as well as the option to "create your own" ($5.95 for small), where you get five "toppings" and a dressing, and the option to add protein (chicken, tofu, specialty cheese) for an extra couple of bucks. I haven't had any of the sandwiches here, but I have had the California Burger ($10.95) - it's The Plant Cafe's own version of a Gardenburger, but it's tastier and fresher than those patties pulled from the frozen food section of Trader Joe's.

After 5:30pm, the dinner crowd heads in - mostly young professionals who don't want to cook, or folks who just finished a workout and want to end their day with a healthy meal. They have a variety of items...quinoa bowls, udon, a fish special, soups, curries. The cold soba noodles ($7.50) are great - a big bowl of noodles, pea sprouts, cabbage, and ginger-lime dressing. My favorite thing to order for dinner is the seasonal tempeh special ($10.95) - it changes every few months, but I have yet to find a version that I don't like. And to finish off a really delicious, healthy meal? The raw cashew raspberry cheesecake - all of the flavor of a sinfully rich dessert, but none of the guilt. Really.

The Plant Cafe may seem pretty yuppie, but it has a hippie soul and is striving to bring local, sustainable goodness to the masses. Bring on the quinoa! (Pretty awesome, since the word "quinoa" wasn't even in my vocabulary until last year.)

New Year's Detox...$85 A Day!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I know, I know..it's been forever since I've posted anything on this blog, but life kind of got in the way. I promise I'll try to keep updating as best I can!


Imagine spending $85 a day on food. Completely possible, if you eat out three times a day, OR if you decide to have dinner at Chez Panisse on a nightly basis. But would you spend $85 a day on food...that you can't even chew?

So, this particular blog isn't quite about cuisine. It's about a cleansing juice fast that one of my friends introduced me to: The Blueprint Cleanse. It's been popular in New York City for the past year or so, and my cousin has done it (and she loves it), and so far, my friend seems to like it. Here's the deal: there are three levels of the cleanse. One for beginners (total omnivores), one for those who eat mainly vegetarian, and one for the stricter vegetarian/vegan types. You get six bottles of all natural, organic juices per day, and you can do the fast for one day up to twenty days. Sounds hardcore, but let me tell you, nothing could possibly be worse than the effects that I experienced when I tried the Master Cleanse a couple of years ago.

I really like the combinations of juices that they've set up. My friend is doing the Renovation Cleanse, which sets you up with:

1. Green Juice: Romaine, kale, cucumber, parsley, celery, spinach, green apple, lemon.
2. Pineapple-Apple-Mint
3. Green Juice (same as the first)
4. Spicy Lemonade: Lemon, Water, Agave, Cayenne
5. Carrot-Apple-Beet-Ginger-Lemon
6. Cashew Nut Milk

My friend says the juices are delicious! And my cousin says the program is "dummy proof".

I haven't exactly convinced myself that it would be worth it to participate, so I've decided to do my own sort of cleanse. I started my day off with a carrot-beet-celery juice combo, and have tempeh leftovers from last night for lunch. I bought some organic juice from Whole Foods (a green veggie juice, a carrot-beet-celery juice, lemonade sweetened with agave) and am going to drink that tomorrow and see how I feel about not eating solid foods for a day. We'll see how long it takes before I cave.