Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Halibut Cheeks in a Soy Broth with Green Onions, Ginger and Cilantro

Halibut Cheeks are one of those delicacies that are simple wonderful: delicate in flavor and texture, they are sweeter and more tender than the halibut fillets.
They need very little cooking time so beware; you wouldn’t want to ruin the creamy soft texture by overcooking them. We found halibut cheeks at the Farmer’s Market and just had to snatch them up. I sautéed them and then cooked them the rest of the way in a soy broth. With the added flavors of fresh cilantro, green spring onions, and ginger giving the dish a freshness and spice, which added depth to the broth and a freshness to the dish.


Serves 2-3 people
6 halibut cheeks
2 green onions thinly sliced
½ bunch cilantro cleaned and
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons Thinly sliced ginger
1 tsp sesame oil

Heat sesame oil in a large sauté pan. Salt and pepper the halibut cheeks and place them in the sauté pan over high heat. Flip when they have a nice sear. Add the broth, soy sauce and ginger and let reduce down. When halibut cheeks are cooked, around 5 minutes or less, place them in a shallow bowl, spoon out broth in the dish and garnish with cilantro and sliced green onions. Serve and ENJOY!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Madeleine Patisserie

A little French Patisserie sits amongst the busy 23rd Street in Manhattan, awaiting pedestrians to look in at the lovely display cases filled with fruit tarts, croissants and of course a seemingly endless amount of macaroons. What? Did I just say macaroons? Despite this bakery’s name, it isn’t known for the Proustian delight, but the French macaroon. Macaroons epitomize luxury with their delicate yet ultra sweet quality. I mean, common, they were Marie Antoinette’s favorite. At Madeleine, macaroons come in many flavors: the common, chocolate, raspberry, pistachio, vanilla, and more intriguing and experimental flavors, Caramel Fleur de Sel, Port Wine and Chocolate, Lavender, Rose Water.

Here are the one’s I tried:
Pistachio Orange: I do not like the overtly green color, and lack of pistachio flavor, but the orange came through nicely.
Caramel Fleur de Sel: This one was one of my favorites. It had a nice balance between salt and caramel. A warmth and smooth quality permeated throughout this two-bite delicacy.
Port Wine and Chocolate: The port wine tasted more like grape juice, and the chocolate was much more of a milk chocolate, surprisingly lacking in chocolate flavor. Overall, in concept this one sounds interesting, but in fact, it fell flat and needs work.
Apricot and Champagne: Here you could taste more of the champagne; a light fruity wine came through. The apricot was a nice pairing and this one worked much more successfully than the port wine.
I will note, that since these macaroons are slightly refrigerated, they need time to come to room temperature, to restore their chewy delicate quality and for the flavor to release. Since being under a time constraint, I did not allow them to sufficiently come to room temperature, which I assume affected the taste and texture slightly. But these macaroons were still delicious. Although my favorite macaroons I have tried thus far in America have to be from Miette, the patisserie in San Francisco. They have the perfect texture and the grapefruit is well, incredible.

Madeleine Patisserie
128 W 23rd St
(between 7th Ave & Avenue Of The Americas)
(212) 243-2757

Friday, August 22, 2008

Easy Summer Pasta: Summer Squash with Basil and Mixed Mushrooms

I make this pasta way too often, but with different combinations depending on the season. For fall I do roasted cauliflower, mushrooms and roasted peppers. Or asparagus, peas and mint for spring. But for each one, I use oil with garlic, lemon zest, red chili flakes. It works well with an assortment veggies, while providing a little heat, a nice acidity and of course garlic goodness. For this variation, the summer squash and basil is light and summery while the mushroom brings this airy combination down to earth. This makes an easy weeknight meal without too much fuss but an outcome that’s just simply delicious.


1 box Fusilli Pasta
4 summer squashed, halved and thinly sliced
A handful Crimini mushrooms, roughly chopped
A handful of oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
A handful of shitake, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 zest of a lemon
½ bunch of basil – chiffonade
3 tablespoons of olive oil plus more for sautéing and roasting.

Spread the mushrooms on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and olive oil and roast for 10-15 minutes at 425 until cooked and lightly caramelized. In a sauté pan, coat with olive oil and place squash and 2 cloves of the chopped garlic in a pan over medium heat. Boil water for pasta, and heavily salt. Cook pasta for indicated time, make sure it is a little al dente. Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan, heat 3 tablespoons of oil, the rest of the garlic, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest. Heat up and toss over strained pasta. Add sautéed squash, roasted mushrooms, and fresh basil. Then, season with pepper and salt to taste. And don’t forget some freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


A Red Hook institution for baked wonders might be far away for some New Yorkers, but now that Ikea has opened, a flock of newcomers (like me) have come to taste some sugary goodness. This bakery gets a lot of press, and from the orange front and chic interior, I can see why. But it isn’t just the lovely surroundings but the baked goods.
Parking my large obtrusive U-Haul in front of the store, I climbed out to try a few of these infamous baked goods.
The red velvet cupcake with cinnamon frosting topped with a red hot was by far the best thing I had there. The red velvet was deep in flavor exuding just enough chocolate. It was ultra moist and topped with the silky smooth and wonderfully complementary cinnamon frosting (just enough cinnamon, but not too overwhelming.) Perfectly sized, I devoured in way too short of a time.
The chocolate cookie sandwich filled with vanilla cream was extra generous in size and tasty. While I do admit, I prefer the ones at Westville (NYC) with a chewier softer, more rich in chocolate cookie, this one was still quite good; yet the vanilla filling was quite firm.

Finally we tried something savory, cornbread with chorizo. While I am not a big fan of meats in my baked goods, my boyfriend (the meat lover) was eager to try it. It was nice and smoky, but I though it was too dense and moist. It lacked that crumbly light, buttery-ness that I look for in cornbread.
Overall, I would make it out here for there amazing cupcakes and slices of cake. You can make a day of it, by going past the athletic fields and picking up some tacos. Pork Chop Express has a great post about the variety of tacos and aqua frescas in Red Hook. Then swing by Baked for your sugar fix.
359 Van Brunt Street
Brooklyn, New York 11231

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Peanut Butter Sandwhich Cookies

I love peanut butter cookies, but sandwiched between a sweet creamy peanut butter filling is even better. These little nostalgic sandwiches recall a memory I am not sure even existed. A childhood snack with a tall glass milk, why couldn’t it be my memory? Mostly I came home to sliced cucumbers (which is one of my favorite snacks.) But peanut butter cookies with more peanut butter sandwiched between are decadently good and pretty easy to make. They are a great cookie to bring along anywhere, as they hold up well in any arduous cookie situation. (Well I have not tested this, but they hold up better than most of their cookie counterparts. If you cannot think of an arduous situation for a cookie, just use a little imagination. Example: stuffed into purse, stomped on by elephant) I brought these cookies to the Giant’s bleacher seats. These cookies just begged me to take them, and they suited this American past time quite well. Common, you have all heard of baseball and peanut…
I used Martha Stewarts’s recipe. While she is the queen of domesticity and all things crafty some of her recipes in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook fall flat (or else I am just a poor baker. I assume it is a little bit of both.) But she does some pretty tasty cookies. I used an all-natural, slightly chunky peanut butter, but it is up to you how you would like your cookies. I am just going to go on one little rant: Please pick all natural, do you really think it is necessary to put corn syrup in peanut butter. Peanut butter is supposed to be just that, peanuts crushed up until the consistency of butter. So respect the peanut!)

Here is the recipe:

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies

2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) butter, room temperature
¾ cup smooth peanut butter, preferably natural
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Filling (recipe follows)

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Place butter, peanut butter and both sugars in the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat to combine, scrap down the sides of the bowl, if needed. With mixer on low add reserve flour mixture and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Divide dough in half and shape into two flattened disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a ¼ inch thickness. Using a sharp knife, cut dough into 2 1/2 –by- 1-inch rectangles. I cut a thick piece of paper with these measurements and used it as a stencil. I traced by knife around it. Much easier than eye balling it. Using the floured tines of a fork, score the top of each cookie. Transfer cookies to prepared baking sheet, placing ½ inch apart, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until lightly golden around the edges and firm in the center, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Using an offset spatula, spread 1 tbsp. filling onto the flat sides of half of the cookies. Sandwich with remaining cookies, keeping flat sides down. Unfilled cookies can be kept in an airtight container for up to a week. Once filled, cookies are best eaten that day, but can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Peanut Butter Filling
Makes enough to fill 3 dozen cookies.

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
¾ cup smooth peanut butter, preferably natural
3 tbsp. heavy cream

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachments combine all ingredients. Beat on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate u to 3 days. If refrigerated, let filling stand at room temperature to soften, you might have to stir or beat to attain desired consistency.

Friday, August 15, 2008

San Francisco's SPQR

SPQR is replacing a long time favorite Chez Nous for unpretentious locally inspired Italian food, with lots of antipasti and wine to choose from. It had big shoes too fill…but with all the hype, I expected great things.
Antipasti are by far the star of this restaurant choosing from cold, hot, or fried. The wild arugula salad with ricotta salata, figs and peaches was delicious and summery. The fried sardines (eaten whole) were crispy, delicate and aromatic of the sea and were served with pickled cucumbers and bean puree. The fried cauliflower was tender, crisp, with a nice lemony note and saltiness from the capers. The cecini beans were equally delicious done with onions and kale. The kale slightly disintegrated created a quasi-sauce for the beans. It was earthy, warm and flavorful.
The pastas were all quite good, but lacked in finesse that what would have been expected. The pasta is home made and keeps that feel in both presentation and flavor. A pork ragu, a tuna puttanesca, and cannelloni stuffed with beef and kale all seemed like something your grandma could make (or at least mine could make it.) While the pasta was good, the flavors were homogeneous and to be quite honest, since I love making pasta, I am uber-critical.

Dessert was not quite what we expected or wanted. The plum fritters, deep-fried plums, lacked sweetness in the batter, which was needed for the tart plums, even despite the sweet crème anglaise dipping sauce. The panna cotta was not so much a panna cotta but a parfait of cherries, chocolate pot de crème, cake, and whipped cream. While this is partly the fault of the menu, inaccurately describing the dessert, panna cotta is best without all the embellishments. Cake simply wasn’t necessary and detracted from the creamy panna cotta. To be honest the panna cotta lacked all gelatin, so more of a pot de crème, yet not creamy enough to be able to be called such.
Overall, go there; get some wine, and delicious antipasti. Perhaps SPQR has the curse of Chez Nous, excellent small plates. Hey, I don’t think anyone would mind that curse.

1911 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 771-7779

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Delitia Italian Butter

The Italians may not be known for their butter due to Louis XIV of France refusal to use oil and make butter the national fat of choice. Italy does have cows, and does make some pretty good butter. Butter de Campagna, a country style butter wrapped in paper, taste very creamy and delicious. It is light in color and is made in the region where they make Parmesan Reggiano. I like to use this butter for pasta, but its light flavor makes it great for composed butters.

Where to find this butter:

In San Francisco:

Rainbow Grocery Store
1745 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 863-0620

Commodities Natural Market
165 1st. Ave.
New York, NY 10003
Cross Streets: (between 10th and 11th St.)
(212) 260-2600

If you can’t find this butter, Fork and Bottle blog does a review of various artisinal butters. Delitia is reviewed along with others. So, if you can’t find Delitia, you are bound to find one of these delectable butters at the store.

Also, I was just written up on Becks and Posh for my blog. So, a big thank you to Sam.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Panna Cotta with Berries

When I was in Rome, I had the most delicious panna cotta, milk custard, topped with wild berries, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. It was creamy, sweet and just plain comfort food. I had to go back to the restaurant to get it again.
I have even adored and lusted over the panna cotta with pomegranate sauce at Incanto (San Francisco restaurant known for its offal). After wanting it more than I had opportunities to eat it, I decided to make it.
Its simplicity surprised me, and made me realize why did I ever pay so much money for this dessert out at restaurants. A few ingredients, which included, cream, half and half, sugar, vanilla bean, and gelatin with a minimum of cooking makes this a perfect dessert for a dinner party. A beautiful presentation, a creamy decadent taste with minimum effort. I topped mine with crushed raspberries and sliced strawberries from our garden:
I am giving you the link from epicurious in which I cut this recipe in half to make 4 ramekins.
Click here for the recipe.
I did substitute the vanilla extract for the vanilla bean. I think it gives a more complex yet mellow vanilla flavor. I scraped the bean and placed it in my cream mixture with the pod. Before adding the cream to the gelatin, I removed the pod. I love to see a sprinkling of vanilla bean. I also think it is important to use quality cream. Since cream is the predominant flavor, pick the very best. I enjoy Strauss’s cream; it is sweet and ultra thick, perfect for this dessert. Panna Cotta is quite versatile; in The French Laundry Cookbook they serve a cauliflower panna cotta, making it savory. But the creamy milk custard allows you immense creativity, plum sauce, kumquats, three citrus etc…
Enjoy this delectable Italian dessert!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Oyster Love: A Review of Hog Island Oyster Bar and my insatiable appetite for oysters

In French, seafood is called fruits de mer, and rightfully so. They are the fruits of the sea, but in particular one mollusk reigns supreme: The Oyster
The rich salty brine encapsulating the fleshy sweet meat is slurped up way too quickly. The oyster taste like the water it is in, kind a like terroir for wine or in this case, a merroir (tasting of a particular sea.) Oysters can be eaten raw, having the perfect shell, possessing a nice curved lip that allows for easy slurping. But they can be fried, grilled, baked and enjoyed many other ways, but in all heat methods, they risk being overcooked. A good chef wouldn’t do this to the mighty oyster.
The local favorites I indulge in each weekend our Kumamotos and Sweetwaters. Kumamoto oysters are very small, and have a salty sea like flavor. Sweetwaters are bigger and meatier having a much sweeter quality. Both are delicious paired with a simple minuet, which adds a bit acidity to complement the salty sweet creamy mollusk. I get these at the farmers market from Hog Island Oyster at 8:30 am. I don’t care what time I get them, as long as I get them.

Today, we went to Hog Island Oyster Bar, in the Ferry Building. Having a very limited menu of oysters, manilla clams prepared 3 ways, baked oysters, salads and really good beer, there may not be a lot to choose from, but who needs to? We started off with raw oysters again Kumamoto and Sweetwater and then got baked oysters done with butter and tarragon. The baked oysters were enhanced with the buttery goodness, making them seem succulent, meaty and oh so sweet. We then had a beautiful salad of white peaches and beets (more on my recreation of this salad later). We also enjoyed manilla clam (which are small tender clams) steamers, opening up their shells in a shredded pork and slightly spicy broth, accentuated by bitter chicories and cecini beans.
The clam chowder was equally impressive, tasting of cream and leeks but not thick at all. With big chunks of potato and clams in their shell, this made for one of the best chowders I have ever tried. Funny it was on the west coast, since east coasters would be up in arms about such claims. But its true, a west coast mentality towards food (putting the ingredients on the pedestal) works for these bivalve creatures. The oyster should always be the star and Hog Island truly sees their potential.
Check out Hog Island

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Summer Pazanella Salad with Tomatoes

What to do with old epi acme baguette, oh, just a quick light meal. A delicious pazanella salad is created by using old toasted epi bread, cubed with some fresh early girl tomatoes (from Dirty Girl, at the Ferry Building), fresh red onions and Bodega Goat cheese (from the mart as well). I also added a few chopped chives and parsley.
Pazanella salad would go perfect with brunch, such as eggs, or even a roast chicken. It is a great way to use up stale bread.

I first cubed the bread, and tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then I placed them on a baking sheet and baked at 425 for about 5 minutes, until lightly golden, but not crunchy like a crouton. Then I let them cool slightly as I chopped early girls, sliced red onion and finely chopped the herbs. I tossed in the bread. I dressed it with simple red wine vinaigrette. I first coat everything with oil, then toss, and then repeat with salt, pepper and red wine. I served it with a slice of Bodega goat cheese, which is creamy, not too strong, and a perfect complement to the sweet tomatoes. Eat and Enjoy!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Rose Bakery and Lamb Chops

Not knowing the importance or deliciousness of Rose Bakery, I was intrigued by a simple summary in our guidebook: a London bakery in Paris using seasonal organic produce to make delicious scones, lunch and breakfast food. I had to go.
Up a winding street, filled with bucheries, patisseries, and produce stands, people lined up to purchase to go items.
We sat down to creamy scrambles eggs with a cheese and an herb scone accompanied by a corn and tomato salad. The scone was tall and tender. And the combination of all three was delicious. The pancakes were extremely fluffy but the berry sauce needed to be sweeter. I also enjoyed the fennel/apple salad with walnuts, which was crunchy, light and refreshing.
I was so captivated by this place and figuring out its’ highly regarded reputation, I came back for seconds. This time I had a savory tart of broccoli and smoked salmon. The crust was buttery and crispy and the broccoli and salmon were layered to ensure that every bite was in balance.
My boyfriend bought me the cookbook, where Rose, the owner handed me the copy. Returning home with my great big green book, I wanted to try to recreate the delicious meals I had in Paris. My first recipe was braised artichoke with lemon and grilled lamb chops.
Finding some baby artichokes at the farmers market and Sonoma raison loin lamb chops, I knew I had the ingredients that Rose herself would approve of.
Recipe Follows.
The artichokes were rich in flavor from braising, with just a hint of lemon. The mirepoix that they were cooked in was just as tasty. And the lemon and artichokes was a great earthy complement to the grilled lamb. It also makes a lovely presentation. Breakfast, Tea and Lunch is a great cookbook with beautiful pictures. I will say, the recipes aren’t exact because of measurement conversions and sometimes the recipe instructions are spotty. But after going to the establishment, it is not just a cookbook but also a keepsake.

Lamb Chops with Braised Artichokes and Lemon

Serves 6
Juice 2 lemons (for acidulated water)
12-14 medium globe artichokes (or smaller ones – which I prefer)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for chops
3 onions finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
About 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
18 lamb chops
Chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, to garnish

Half-fill a large bowl of water and add lemon juice.
To prepare the artichokes, remove their stalks and the tips of their outer leaves, then peel them down to the light pale green leaves. Halve them and scoop out and discard the fuzzy inside.
Put the artichokes the acidulated water to stop them from turning brown.
Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and cook the onions over a low heat until softened.
Add the celery, carrots, salt and pepper and lemon zest. Continue to cook over a low heat until all the vegetables are turning golden (nice carmelization has occurs) – about 15 minutes
Add the garlic and the artichoke hearts.
Pour enough stock to cover vegetables and simmer for about 25-20 minutes until the artichokes have just cooked and the liquid has reduced by half.
Check seasoning and set aside.
Season the chops and frill them, till they are cooked through but still slightly pink – about 5 minutes each side.
Serve with the artichokes on the side or underneath the chops. Garnish with parsley and Enjoy.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dynamo Donuts

Dynamo Donuts doesn’t refer to the décor or the smooth and creamy lattes but the explosion of flavor on your taste buds. Located in the mission district, this little donut/coffee stand is making quite the name for itself. A large stainless steal espresso machine sits on top chocolate colored tiles and a mossy green border. Three glass cake holders display the three flavors of the day. The idea is simple: great coffee and amazing donuts. These donuts are made with organic ingredients and possess an artisanal quality to them.

Today: Lemon thyme, Spicy Chocolate and my personal favorite Banana de leche.

Lemon Thyme was a yeast donut containing a light lemon flavor and a sprinkling of thyme in the dough. It had a lemon glaze with an herby undertone. Light and delicious

Spicy Chocolate a chocolate cake donut, which was ultra moist coated in sugar, spices and a bit of salt. A nice smokiness from the spice came through and worked well with the deep rich chocolate.

Banana de leche a yeast donut that was uncompromisingly fluffy rolled in sugar and filled with fresh sliced bananas and de leche. Oh so good.

The latte was equal to these all start donuts, creamy and frothy comparable to Blue Bottle.

We went very early in the morning before heading to the farmers market so there was no line; but be advised, I heard it gets crowded. Dynamo Donut is similar to Donut Plant (NYC) but quintessentially San Francisco, having exotic flavor combinations and serious coffee blending into the façade of the mission.

Dynamo Donuts and Coffee
2760 24th Street
(between Hampshire St & York St)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 920-1978