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 or stop by the San Francisco Ferry Building.