Archive | January, 2010

Sears Fine Foods- San Francisco

29 Jan

We had no idea what to do on Christmas Day.  We knew it would be tough to find places to eat and our only plan was to have a merry Jewish Christmas at the movies (specifcally to see “Nine” at the famous Castro movie theater!)  We asked the concierge where we might find a place open for breakfast and they recommended Sears Fine Foods right up the street.

The place was kitschy but cute.  Very diner-like with a theme revolving around getting a token as you leave to spin a slot machine for a free meal.  (We didn’t win) 

We went all-in for the breakfast.  Mike got 2 eggs, 2 strips bacon, 2 sausages with 2 pancakes.


I went with the “Sears’ World Famous 18 Swedish Pancakes” (with a side of sausage).  They were actually quite tasty!  I still like my own better, but these were still good.  Light and flavorful.

Though I’m not sure if I’d call them “world famous.”

Overall, Sears Fine Foods was exactly that… fine.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there again, but if it’s the only place open on Christmas Day, it’s not a terrible option.

Total Nom Points: 5 out of 10

Nomming along the San Francisco Waterfront

27 Jan

Our first day out in San Fran was Christmas Eve.  We were worried that a lot of things would be closed, however, we lucked out for the most part (and even Alcatraz was open).

Our first stop was in the ferry building where I got breakfast and coffee from the famous Blue Bottle Coffee Company.  I got the New Orleans style coffee and a cinnamon brioche.

They did a very pretty leaf on the top of the coffee.

Both the coffee and brioche were delicious.

The brioche was perfect.  Buttery and perfect balance of cinnamon, nuts, and pastry. 

Our next stop was outside the Fisherman’s Wharf.  When I iPhoned the restaurants on the wharf, all reviews were pretty abysmal.  I also knew that dungenous crab is popular in SF AND it was in season.  So I figured the little huts along the water would be a fun place to eat some authentic crab.

I was wrong… both the crab sandwich and the lumb crab meat were… bland. At best.

Perhaps I’m too used to New England crab and there is a big difference, otherwise the crab just wasn’t great.

And we were still hungry… so we both decided to have our first In-N-Out Burger experience.

I know it was animal style. And it was delicious.  I managed 2 bites before my arteries started to protest.

The Animal Fries, however, wow!  They were delicious, fast food, gross goodness.  I had a few more bites of this than I intended.

While the food left a lot to be desired (I think a lot had to do with our selections), it was a beautiful walk and I just loved the waterfront.  Our trip to Alcatraz was also awesome.  I was really impressed with the tour.  Sure it’s touristy, but it’s fun and interesting.  Next time I’ll do some more research or stick to the restaurants on the inner part of the peninsula. 

First Crush- San Francisco

25 Jan

I heard so many good things about the food in San Francisco (especially from one of my fave bloggers, Feisty Foodie).  I was incredibly excited when I was asked to travel there for business (I had never been) and extended the trip to include leisure travel with Mike over Christmas week.  I was so excited to try so many different restaurants in SF (plus I knew it was prime artichoke growing territory… MMM!) and we planned the last 2 days in Napa where more wonderful nomming was to take place.

It was just my luck that I came down with a wicked case of food poisoning or a stomach bug about an hour before leaving for the airport.  (I do not wish having stomach problems like that on an airplane to my worst enemy!)  It actually had me completely in bed for 24 hours after the trip and sans food for the first two days.  I somehow dragged myself to work on Day 2 but it wasn’t pretty (I was so bad off that I never would have gone in had they not paid for me to fly out there and I knew I actually had to SHOW UP or risk them not reimbursing me).  By the end of that evening, I was finally feeling semi-capable of nourishment and went with chicken soup from Westin’s room service.  It was actually quite tasty and I’m pretty convinced it was slightly magical as that was the turning point.

By the next night I convinced myself I was well enough to eat again.  We were staying in the Union Square area and used our Urban Spoon iPhone app to pull up a convenient restaurant.  First Crush sounded like a good place so we went for it without much research (very uncommon for me!)

We started with something that sounded right up my alley: roasted winter squash with chestnuts, pearl onions, squash puree, and pomegranate reduction.  It was really, really good!  I was a bit dissapointed that there weren’t more (and bigger) chestnuts since I love them, however, I got over this very quickly with the amazing flavor combination and freshness of the ingredients. 

Mike went with the pistachio crusted wild hawaiian walu with rainbow carrotes, roasted fingerlings, fried shallots, and glace de veau. The crust was perfect and the fish was moist and flavorful.

I ordered the artichokes braised a la barigoule with toasted barley, flageolets, sunchokes, and lemon oil.  It was good but I was expecting a bit more robust artichoke flavor.  (I think I expect too much of my favorite veggie).  I really enjoyed it, however, and I’m glad I ordered this dish.

Overall, for a random restaurant in the middle of an unknown city, I thought we found a gem.  None of the desserts sounded especially appealing (which was surprising for a wine place… I always expect those 2 to go together) so we skipped.  What we ordered, however, was especially fresh and very tasty.  We enjoyed this first meal at First Crush very much.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

22 Jan

I have finally made it to the post just before I left for my San Francisco trip (where there are many Noms to be written about!) dating this baking expedition back to 12/20/09 (sorry… way behind with so much to write about).

My mom and my sister were gracious enough to cat sit while I was gone, and I had to make SOMETHING to thank them.  Mike suggested peanut butter cookies and, since I love me some peanut butter and chocolate together, I decided to find one with chocolate chips.

(Have I mentioned I love my Silpat?)

The recipe was very easy (see below) and when they say you need to flatten the cookies on top, they mean it. I scooped with a melon scooper and then flattened with the back of the spoon.

I really enjoyed these, though it’s my classic problem with peanut butter.  I LOVE peanut butter (I eat it off a spoon, and a little too often). I love chocolate chip cookies. But I just don’t love peanut butter cookies.  They’re good, but not GREAT.  I think these are the best ones I’ve ever had though in this small category.

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RECIPES
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Ingredients

·      1 cup butter, softened

·      1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

·      2 eggs

·      1 cup peanut butter

·      1 teaspoon vanilla extract

·      2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

·      1/4 cup cornstarch

·      3/4 teaspoon salt

·      1 teaspoon baking soda

·      1/2 teaspoon baking powder

·      1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  2. Cream together butter and brown sugar. Beat in eggs, peanut butter and vanilla.
  3. Add flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Roll into balls about 1 1/2 teaspoonfuls (or use cookie scoop) and place onto ungreased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly because they do not flatten much while cooking.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.

Homemade Pasta

20 Jan

After epicly failing on the bread… I decided I had to redeem myself. So I decided to put  my new KitchenAid (with pasta roller attachment!) to work and make some pasta. On a whim, I also secured myself the cookbook “Pasta Sfoglia” by Ron and Colleen Suhanosky with Susan Simon after reading about it in one of the food blogs I constant.  I’m strange about cookbooks… I love having them, but I hardly ever use them.  I usually find recipes on the internet as I am a complete slave to reading reviews of the recipe to determine if I’ll like it, what I should change, and how it’s ranked.  Yes, I love crowd sourcing.

This book, however, is already pretty sticky with bits of butter and dough that have escaped out of my bowl (happens often) and onto the pages.  My first attempt was surprisingly easy and left me wondering why I thought pasta making was so terrifying and complicated.  It couldn’t have been easier!

I made the fresh egg pasta from the book (full recipe below) and then I wrapped it in plastic and stuck it in the fridge for about an hour.  It seemed to have a perfect consistency when I took it out (pliable without being sticky).

Though I noticed by the time I put the 3rd dough patty in, it had warmed up to a bit stickier than I wanted (so I added some more flour and prayed… though it did require more reworking than the first 2).


The tip in the book for making pappardelle was to put 3 sheets on top of each other with flour between them and lightly roll…

…Then cut into wide noodles.


Then unroll and presto! Perfect thick noodles (I used a pizza cutter and it worked perfectly).

They were excellent all cooked up (though I did wish for more flavor… I’ll have to explore upping the salt and try with some other types of flour, especially some healthier whole grain options).

I put some more of my new favorite homemade grape tomato sauce on top and MMM was it good!

I still can’t believe I made this all from scratch. This is one of those days that I look back to how far I’ve come (I hermetically sealed a pot while making Rice-A-Roni for the first time in college).

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RECIPES
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Fresh Egg Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. EVOO
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Rice flour for dusting (I just used regular flour)

Directions:

  1. Add the all-purpose flour, eggs, extra virgin olive oil, and salt to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse several times until the dough resembles medium crumbs. (I actually don’t have a food processor so I just gave it a few pulses in the mixer)
  2. Turn out the dough onto a clean, dry, rice flour-dusted work surface.  Gather the dough together and knead it until it comes together and is smooth and elastic.  Cover the dough with a kitchen towel or plastic film and let rest at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. (if wrapped tightly, dough can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days or frozen for 2 weeks and then defrosted in the fridge.  The book notes that the dough will discolor slightly but the flavor will be fine.)
  3. Rolling the pasta (pappardelle, tagliatelle, and fettuccine):
    1. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and flatten each into a disk.  Dust with flour.
    2. Set roller to setting 1.  Feed the disks through, one at a time, and fold the dough to meet in the middle and press down to seal between each pass.  Put the open side of the dough back through the rollers for a total of 3 times on setting 1.  Fold dough so both ends meet in the center and press down.
    3. Adjust to setting 2.  Feed the open side of the dough through the roller twice.
    4. Adjust to setting 3 and feed through the roller twice. Since the roll will be long, cut it in half.  Feed through on setting 3 one more time.
    5. Dust each sheet with flour and stack.  You can now cut it as I outlined above.
    6. I have cooked my pasta immediately each time, so I can’t advise on storing it (yet).  Google!

Cheesy Biscuits!

18 Jan

Left with a few hours to kill one weekday evening, I reached out to a friend to see if she’d want to grab some dinner. Turns out she already had dinner plans with her boyfriend and a friend of mine from college (small world that they knew each other!)  Turns out that they were going to… Red Lobster

Most chain restaurants would not be exciting, however, Red Lobster with their cheesy biscuits is always a good call in my book (their real food isn’t half bad either!)

I believe this dish was the shrimp and fish (?)….

Then shrimp and steak…

Shrimp, Shrimp, Shrimp, and more shrimp.

And then I just had an appetizer of the coconut shrimp which had a pina colada dipping sauce that I could have drunk. It was scrumptious!

Red Lobster is not a place I could eat every day (especially with their calorie counts!), however, it’s a fun treat every now and again.

Thanksgiving 2009

15 Jan

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Nobody I know quite does Thanksgiving like we do.  40 loud, wonderful people somehow all fit into one house and we all sit down to dinner. Everyone brings a dish, and usually it’s the same dish for 50+ years.  I have been trying to write this blog for weeks (months) now, however, it’s quite a daunting task!  It’s never too late to talk about Thanksgiving though. What could be wrong with a holiday filled with family, food, and reminding ourselves to be thankful for the best things in our lives?

What’s amazing to me is that some of the cousins that are there are my 6th cousins (or something like that… it’s just too hard to calculate).  The discussion comes up every year that no one is quite sure how some of us are related and it’s always tossed around that we should make a family tree.  It never gets done… but no one seems to mind. (And if any of you should see any errors below or have any additions, please feel free to let me know! I know what an opinionated bunch we can be.)

I have to give special thanks to my sister the photographer for these amazing pics!  My point and shoot will never be able to capture what her good camera does and her eye is just fantastic!

So how does this work?  I’m pretty sure our gracious hosts begin prepping for the next Thanksgiving the day after the previous Thanksgiving ended.  I do know they collect takeout containers all year to ensure we can all take home some leftovers!

My dad usually brings an appetizer, but this year he wanted to do something different.  He went with toasted bread with guacamole and shrimp.  It was fresh and delicious.  I think I see a keeper! (At least for a few years)

A new addition this year was pigs in blankets.  How can you go wrong with tiny hot dogs in pastry?

I have to say, it is not Thanksgiving without the meatballs.  I don’t know how this Jewish family started the tradition of meatballs every Thanksgiving, but I’m sure glad they did!  As soon as I smell the sauce and see the little copper pot go on the warming stand, I know it truly is Thanksgiving.

I guess serving it with challah makes it more culturally fitting, but really it’s just the conduit for getting as much sauce as possible up from our plates.

We used to have one giant turkey, however, this year we had THREE smaller turkeys.  This is the one thing that isn’t cooked by the family.  We outsource this due to simple volume of meat.

Thankfully, we have many expert carvers in the family.


Mike attended his first Thanksgiving last year and I give him a lot of credit.  It cannot be easy to walk into our family, especially at Thanksgiving.  We are a loud, out going, crazy bunch.  And there are a LOT of us.  Mike managed to hold his own, however, and even brought a butternut squash souffle last year that was a hit. So of course we brought it again this year.  Unfortunately we had a bit of a collapse this year, so there was a little hole in the middle.  Nobody seemed to mind.



The cranberry sauce is homemade, and even I, who isn’t a cranberry fan, look forward to this every year.

The dinner spread pretty much never changes.  There is always turkey, gravy, string beans, sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, baked turnips, cranberry sauce, corn bread (new arrival in the past few years) and stuffing.  This year the stuffing was a bit different than normal, however, I LOVED it.  Whichever cousin made this… take note!

The spread is so big that Stacey had to capture it in 2 shots and then put the panorama together.

Everyone is assigned seats each year, designated by a leaf with their name on it on their plate (see in the below picture on the left).  The plan for plates is the same for most people: take a little of everything.

To me, the desserts are epic.  My sweet tooth is never quite so satisfied as it is on Thanksgiving.  This is also filled with tradition, however, there are more change-ups in dessert than there are at dinner.  There are always items that remain the same: Dinah’s brownies and apple pie, marble cake, cheesecake, and chocolate chip cookies.  This year we had the addition of gooey pumpkin squares, a new (winning) recipe for the pumpkin pie, and I brought the pumpkin whoopie pies and the salted english toffee that I fell in love with this year.


Just looking back at these pictures is making my mouth water.

When it’s all over (and that is a sad, sad moment), the take out containers come out and everyone goes home with some leftovers.  As soon as Thanksgiving ends, I look forward to the next year.

My dad, sister, and I actually started a tradition a few years back of having an Annual Leftovers Party at my dad’s house the Friday night after Thanksgiving.  It’s a fun way to share some of our Thanksgiving with our friends and get to sample some of their Thanksgiving.  I added some new food to the Leftovers Party including a baked spinach and artichoke dip with roasted garlic in a bread bowl.  SCRUMPTIOUS!  Though I think some people were a bit alarmed at the amount of garlic! (look closely and you’ll see full cloves sticking out below)

We also had made a second squash souffle just for this occasion.

We always wind up with too little room for the food and then spend half the time shooing away the dog and cats. But everyone samples a bit of everything, drinks beer, and has a merry old time.



Stacey takes such beautiful photos that I have to share some more, even if they aren’t specifically food focused:





Can’t wait for next year!

Homemade Short Ribs

13 Jan

FreshDirect had a sale on short ribs, and since I’ve been loving them so much at restaurants lately (especially at Bottega… teaser), I went with it.  They also had a recipe on the site that sounded especially appealing considering my new fascination with kale.

I even ate the stems!


The short ribs got browned first (this is where I decided it was time to get a cast iron pot… which I did a few days later).

Then it was veggie prep and softening time (including these beautiful, huge portobellos).

Then  the short ribs went back in the pot and I let it cook for a good long time.

The meat then came out and the kale leaves were added to the pot.

The meat was SO tender at this point that the bones literally slid out (and we had to fish for them).

When I added the veggies, it just looked great.

It was a very nice recipe, though next time I think I’ll add more tomatoes.

Our dessert was also a Fresh Direct sale item: Frozen chocolate souffles.

They were… just okay… I wanted more chocolate!

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RECIPE
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Short Ribs with Mushrooms and Winter Greens

From “The Mushroom Lover’s Mushroom Cookbook and Primer” by Amy Farges and Christopher Styler

The flavors in this stew pot are intense, the meat meltingly tender, and the sauce – with its wine-coated mushroom nuggets – irresistibly mouth-filling. The do-ahead factor makes it a best bet for winter entertaining.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

20 small (about 12 ounces) white or pearl onions
1 bunch (about 1 pound) of swiss chard, ruby chard, or kale
8 pieces (2 1/2-inches each) short ribs of beef about 31/2 pounds
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces small button mushrooms
3 medium (about 1 pound) portobellos, trimmed and cleaned, caps cut into 8 wedges each
3 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup canned diced tomatoes or chopped drained canned plum tomatoes

DIRECTIONS

1.            Heat a medium-size saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Trim the root ends from the onions, leaving the core intact. Drop the onions into the boiling water. Bring back to a boil and cook the onions 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Slip the skins off the onions, leaving the onions whole.

2.            Remove any wilted or damaged leaves from the greens. Pull the leaves from the stems. Trim the stems and cut them crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Cut the leaves crosswise into 2-inch pieces. Wash and dry the stems and leaves separately and set aside. (If making the stew in advance, store the leaves in zipper-top bags in the refrigerator box up to 2 days.)

3.            Rub the short ribs generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the short ribs and cook, turning as necessary, until they are well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. If the bits that stick to the pot start to burn, reduce the heat to medium. Remove the short ribs.

4.            Add the button mushrooms, portobello wedges, onions, and stems from the greens to the pot. Pour in the stock, wine, and tomatoes. Tuck the ribs into the mixture. Heat the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, until the beef is tender, about 2 1/2 hours. About halfway through, add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind the liquid will be further reduced and the seasoning will be intensified. (The short ribs may be prepared to this point up to 2 days in advance. Cool completely, then refrigerate until needed. Bring the stew to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes before continuing.)

5.            Remove the short ribs from the pot. Heat the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the leaves from the greens and boil until tender, about 8 minutes. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Divide the contents of the pot among 4 shallow serving bowls and top each with 2 short rib pieces.

Excerpted from THE MUSHROOM LOVER’S MUSHROOM COOKBOOK AND PRIMER copyright © 2000 Amy Farges, Christopher Styler.

Reprinted with the permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Make it a Meal

11 Jan

Last minute one weekday night, mom decided she would stop by my apartment with her boyfriend, Rich, for a meal and to take my key so she could cat sit (thanks again mom!)  Luckily, I had enough in the fridge to make a meal for four.

I knew I had to make the Krispy Krack Kale since I’d been raving about it (I even had an extra bushel to send home with her to make her own!)  I also used the squash recipe that turned out so well last time.  We also heated up some pappardelle and put a butter/wine/shallot sauce on top.  I also had a smallish lemon herb roasted chicken in the fridge from Fresh Direct.

It was certainly a cobbled together meal, but it turned out delicious!  And I managed to have it all on the table in under an hour.  It’s nice to know that I can actually cook for more than two people!

Failed Bread and Tuna Noodle Casserole

8 Jan

I was watching Chef Academy, again, and they made this bread that looked heavenly stuffed with cheese.  How do you get better than baked goods filled with cheese?  I had never made bread, but having made many a baked good in the past, I figured I could get some kneading practice in.  They made it look so easy.

Literally the next day I pulled up the recipe online and it seemed simple enough.  I was careful to measure well and concentrate on what I was doing (I’m usually a pretty hap hazard baker… I know… hand slap for me). I followed the first 2 directions:

For the Bread:

1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, butter and yeast.

2. Stir in the water and mix into a soft dough.

As soon as I added the water (1 quart) to the flour (1 pound) I knew something was wrong.  It just looked too much like paper mache and not enough like dough.  I thought maybe the flour would thicken it so I mixed… and mixed… and mixed.  Soft dough was not to be had.

So I looked back and determined it was the flour to water ratio that was off and added more flour.  And I mixed and I mixed… and I added flour and I added flour… and this is what happened:

I couldn’t even make it into a ball.  I think by the time I had realized the ratios were off and added more flour, the yeast had already reacted (or something) and it was an EPIC FAIL.  On top of that, I noticed that the ingredients list sugar but it didn’t say anywhere in the recipe when to add the sugar.  It was at this point that I cursed Chef Novelli.

It was a sticky mess that made a mess of everything.

Including my pretty brand new Kitchenaid.  ::Pout::

So I had now had my biggest cooking fail since hermetically sealing a pot in college (WHOOPS!) and I still had to do SOMETHING for dinner.  Luckily yet another cooking show (Top Chef finale… I’m such a food television sucker) had me craving tuna noodle casserole and I had everything in stock.  So total change of plans and I had this assembled in less than 10 minutes and I was thinking to myself “why don’t I make this ridiculously easy casserole more often?”

Mmmm… layers:

It turned out decent, though a little plain.  I think I need to find a way to spice this up a bit.  And add roasted garlic.  Mmmmm.

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RECIPE
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Since the bread recipe was obviously ENTIRELY WRONG, I won’t reiterate it here.  I have a new bread recipe from my friend, Lillian, so once I succeed with that, I’ll post it.

TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8 ounce) package wide egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 4 slices american cheese (I used shredded since it was on hand)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tuna, drained
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • Optional: Canned peas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
  2. In a 1 1/2 quart glass casserole dish, layer noodles, butter cubes, 2 slices of cheese, 1/2 of the tuna, and 1/2 of the soup. Repeat the layering with the remaining ingredients. Top the casserole with bread crumbs. (ok… I didn’t layer… I stirred it all together… oops.)
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 to 15 minutes. (mine took some additional time)