Monday, October 27, 2008

Lamb with Pomegranate Salsa Verde

....with wild mushroom risotto and crispy delicata squash

After reading food Art (a wonderful professional food magazine), they discussed a pomegranate salsa verde that they served with squab. But I thought it would make an equally nice pairing spooned over the top of a local Sonoma grass fed lamb. This lamb is a bit gamier but exceedingly tender. Pomegranates are a wonderful fall fruit and one of my favorites. As a little girl, I would sit naked with newspaper and paper towel all around me tearing through pomegranates. With fond pomegranate memories, I couldn’t wait to pair this fruit with something savory. The pomegranate salsa verde is a mixture of fresh seeds, pomegranate syrup, ginger and fresh herbs. Unfortunately I didn’t measure out the ingredients but simply tasted the “salsa” to find the balance between herbs and pomegranate flavors.

Pomegranate Salsa Verde

To make the pomegranate syrup:
You can buy store bought pomegranate juice and reduce it down until it forms a thick syrup.
I mashed up pomegranate seeds to extract the juice. I placed this juice in a small pot with water and sugar, to form a pomegranate infused simple syrup, and reduced it down to thick syrup, where it is nape (meaning to coat the back of a spoon.)
In another bowl place:
Fresh pomegranate seeds approx. 1 cup
Grated ginger (1/4 tsp.)
Freshly chopped thyme (1/2 tsp)
Freshly chopped parsley (1/2 tsp)
Finely minced garlic (1/2 tsp.)
A good drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Pour in the syrup enough to excessively coat the mixed ingredients. If it isn’t sweet enough, add a bit more. But I would veer to the less is more with the highly sweet syrup.
Lightly spoon over lamb chops.

Drizzled over lamb chops, the fruity acidity of the salsa gives a breath of freshness to the earthy dish of wild mushroom risotto, lamb and roasted squash. For the crispy roasted squash, I used a delicata prepared in the following manner:
Cut the delicata squash in half, de-seed and make ¼ -1/2 inch wide Half moon slices.
Place on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Put the oven to 425, (if it seems as if it was cooking to fast, turn down the temperature.) You will get an ultra crispy skin and a soft luxourious squash bite.
As for the wild mushroom risotto, follow any risotto recipe you love, but add coarsely chopped mushrooms (chanterelle, morels, shitake, brown, oyster…whatever you would like, but choose three) near the beginning of cooking. Even though this might discolor the mushrooms, it gives the risotto a fuller mushroom flavor without having to make mushroom stock.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Review of Café Eloise

I am always excited to try new restaurants. So when I heard about Café Eloise located in Sebastopol, I had to go. Eloise is a mélange of NYC (like a few hard to miss indulgences and your grandma’s Bubbe’s hand) with local sourced (really local, like their garden) ingredients (putting the ingredient on a pedestal- oh so Californian).
Eloise is located a bit out of the way in Sebastopol, very unassuming, even the décor is warm, yet nothing breathtaking. It seems cozy and trying to take nothing away from the food. The food itself matches this coziness, from cassoulet to the fatty richness of torchon of foie gras, roasted bone marrow and lots of brown butter.
For starters, the prawns from Santa Barbara tasted sweeter and more tender than lobster, done in a spicy oil. They were so fresh and succulent. Messy, delicious and again luxurious. The lentil soup (Morracan style) lacked a little spice and flavor. Yet it’s lightness was admirable but perhaps not what I envisioned. House cured sardines with thinly sliced celery salad were perfect complements. And the bone marrow was extraordinary, served with pain levain toasts and a parsley salad with cornichons, capers, and shallots to cut the fattiness and give it a much-needed acidity. Highly anticipated and decadent, I could have eaten just that and been quite content. (flowers in their garden)

For entrees, the chard and ricotta gnocchi were light flavorful pillows yet extremely rich with brown butter and sage sauce. Skate wing was again with brown butter but the artichokes and croutons were the perfect touches. A little too much brown butter was used, I would have liked to see another sauce, but it was a damn good brown butter.
The dessert menu seemed so uninspired I wasn’t even tempted. Plus the richness of the previous courses made it difficult to even think of dessert.
Café Eloise is just that, a great café with finely tuned comfort classics. It is worth a trip, and if you are in the neighborhood, it shouldn’t be missed. It will be interesting to see what comes of this little food haven.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Homemade Triple Berry Granola

I love granola and for a while I have been wanting to make my own. It makes a lovely gift (I put some in a jar for my yoga teacher, with an oh so cute tag.) The Kitchen Sink (blog) gave me a basic recipe to follow which uses maple syrup, canola oil, brown sugar, vanilla extract, honey and sea salt. Click here to get the recipe. I followed her recipe for the liquid, but for the dried ingredients I mixed it up. But the versatility of granola is what makes it so much fun. Your creativity can be unleashed on these simple rolled oats. I chose a triple threat of dried blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries plus for a nutty side, I used thinly slice almonds and chopped walnuts. It comes out nice and toasty, fruity and obviously crunchy. Making it is so easy, I have no clue why I even bought it. No more store my yogurt will be topped with this crunchy HOMEMADE good stuff.

A side note: I want to formally give a special thank you to Ella Bella farms for providing me and my family with amazing produce over the years. I am sad to announce their departure from California and the market. In short, Ella Bella farms, you will truly be missed. They finally have achieved their dream of being able to purchase land in the great Big Island and continuing their farm. It has been a pleasure eating your food, and getting to know your family. I wish them only the best, even if I do shed a tear. I am jealous of any Hawain receiving their CSA box and organic chocolate.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Momofuko Noodle Bar: Review

Its not like I haven’t been there quite a few times. I mean an affordable locally sourced refined noodle bar, what could be better? One of my favorite things is the raw bar, changing constantly with new fish and an assortment of oysters. The night I went, we tried the hamachi with beet sauce, freshly grated horseradish and thinly sliced apple. While I thought the hamachi, apple and horseradish complemented each other perfectly, sweet, buttery and spicy, the beet sauce was overpowered by the other strong flavors. While alone, the beet sauce was quite flavorful, it didn’t impart much to the overall dish. Yet the fish is so fresh and buttery it is well worth trying something from the raw part to start your dinner.
They are also known for their buns, containing chicken, pork or shitake mushrooms. Each variety is enfolded in a soft white delicate bun, containing the right amount of plum sauce, lightly pickled and thinly sliced cucumbers and of course very tender pulled meat with a delicious crispy crust.
But, this is a noodle bar, and that is where they excel. Home made noodles and extra flavorful broth makes these soups warming, ultra savory and complex. A deep roasted pork flavor is brightened by picked veggies and thinly sliced scallions. The noodles exemplify the chef’s dedication to the craft. Perfectly textured, and soaking up broth, these noodles can stand equally by themselves.
The one thing Momofuko lacks is consistency. The broth is sometimes too salty (or altering significantly from visit to visit) and despite how quick the plates arrive, sometimes two soups will come 10 minutes apart (at least they did for our order.)
Momofuko is a new breed, kind of like a designer dog. Refinement is key. Traditional Asian fare is lightened, re-worked and out comes Momofuko. Chef David Change is quite inspirational for me, a recent culinary graduate; he has created a mini-culinary empire. Not that I want a mini-culinary empire, well that would be nice. I am so envious (in a good way) of a young culinary grad who has big ideas, excels in his profession and is dedicated to the craft.

Momofuko Noodle Bar
171 first ave. btwn 10th & 11th

Let me know, what noodle shops are your favorite?

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Braised Scillian Lamb Patties with Eggplant

After reading Bon Appetite, I found an intriguing recipe that I had to try out: Sicilian Lamb Patties braised with eggplant pepper and tomatoes. Delicious lamb patties (or flattened meatballs) seasoned with herbs (mint and oregano) and Parmesan, braised in roasted eggplant spooned over creamy polenta makes for a great Italian inspired meal. Click here for the recipe.
Here are my tips and tricks:
Start the polenta as early as possible. Mario Battalli cooks in for 4 hours, Judy Rodgers of Zuni cooks it at least an hour. WHY? For extra creamy polenta. Instant polenta just doesn’t give you the same creaminess. Stir as often as you can, but don’t fret if you forget for a little bit. I bump up the creamy factor by adding a bit of butter at the end.
I did make a few substitutions, instead of pecorino I used Parmesan, just because I had it and I used oregano instead of marjoram, which I think was better suited for this dish. I topped it off with fresh mint. Make sure to get the pan really hot when searing the lamb patties, you want a nice crust.

So you bought a bunch of mint and all you need is a tablespoon: My short list for what to do with leftover mint:

Use it in your vinaigrette or add it to your next salad

Sautéed zucchini with garlic red pepper flakes and topped with mint (eat as is or toss with pasta)

Melon tossed with fresh mint and simple syrup (or agave)

Mint Pesto

Help fill out my mint list… tell me what you would do