Saturday, January 31, 2009

Artichoke Pizza

After doing what seems like endless amounts of dishes in culinary school, I am exhausted. I want to:
1. Get away from my classmates who decided to be lazy and did nothing but watch some of us do all the dishes
2. Sit down and never get up
3. Vegetate and distract myself with fun things (eating anyone?)

When I got to accomplish all these activities, I was in a much better mood. I met my friend and decided to try a decadent and giant pizza at artichoke. Artichoke Pizza has an old New Yorker appeal, but with a gourmet sophisticated touch. It is simply a storefront, no tables, just a counter, where you order your pizza or slice and huddle on the sidewalk (no matter if it is a cold winter night.) The ceiling is an art decoWe ordered a whole pizza (for two-quite ambitious seeing as though they serve one size 18 inches.), the artichoke and spinach. This creamy white pizza, with bubble up brown cheese and crispy chewy crust was filling and amazing. It was a very comforting pizza. It taste as though someone smeared artichoke spinach dip over the pizza, added a few tender artichoke leaves and some mozzarella and baked it to oozing savory perfection. It was a very different pizza than I was used to, not a bad thing. But different. I have never really had a creamy pizza. It is something you can’t eat too much of, or maybe you can and just get really sick. We paired this pizza with woodchuck hard apple cider, which seemed like the perfect beverage with this pizza. Sweet granny smith cider cut the heaviness and creaminess of the pizza. For that day, after all those dirty dishes, artichoke pizza was what I definitely needed. It is an indulgence for sure.

Artichoke Pizza
328 E. 14th street
NY, NY 10003

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Commitments to Being Healthy

Going to cooking school is hard. You are probably thinking, all the burns, the standing on your feet, the endless repetition. You are wrong; it is the endless consumption of food, good food, but fatty and rich (most of the time.) So this year is a fresh start and that means battling my cooking school consumption. How will I do it? Cook more…. By cooking at home, I can make healthy and flavorful meals. I don’t really think it terms of healthy, but what I enjoy eating. It just so happens this recipe is both healthy and delicious. I used the recipe from Martha Stewart Living. Asian fish en papillote contains in its pouch wild fluke with bok choy, lime, hot chili, and cilantro. I made a side of rice (I used brown) with shitake mushroom and scallions. I added a few touches to bump up the flavor. I sautéed the shitakes in sesame oil.
And I also add a splash of soy sauce to the papillote which when cooked creates a balanced sauce.
I make extra brown rice and mushroom so I can make fried rice the next day, with veggies and tofu. 2 healthy meals in one.
Here are the recipes:

Fish en papillote
Serves 4
Zest from 2 limes, finely shredded
3 limes juiced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 piece (2 inches) ginger, peeled and julienned
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 mild to spicy red chilies, halved
4 fillets (6 oz ach) black bass, halibut, or striped bass (I used fluke)
4 head baby bok choy
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
8 sprigs fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 450. Mix lime zest and juice, garlic, ginger, onion and chilies in a medium bowl. Fold four 20-inh pieces of parchment in half lengthwise. Unfold and place 1 fillet and 1 head of bok choy along each crease. Rub both with 2 tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Top each fillet with some onion mixture and 2 sprigs of cilantro. (Here is where I sprinkled a little soy sauce over the top.)
2. Fold parchment over fish, making small overlapping folds along the edges and sealing with a paper clip. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Roast until parchment puffs, 10-12 minutes. Carefully cut packets, avoiding escaping steam and serve.

Jasmine Rice with Shitakes and Scallions
1 ½ cups water
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed well
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and pepper
4 oz shitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps cut into ¼ inch thick slices
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar
1 scallion cut into 2 inch-long pieces, thinly sliced lengthwise

1. Bring water and rice to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 1 tablespoon oil, and seasons with salt and pepper. Cover and let stand.
2. Meanwhile, heat remaining oil (I used a little sesame oil) in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add shitakes in a single layer, and cook, stirring often until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 2 minutes more. Add garlic and cook until light golden brown. Stir in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Transfer rice to a platter, top with shitake mixture and sprinkle with scallions.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

White Bean and Fried Sage Crostini

It is always hard to find appetizers that are seasonal, delicious and bite size. I love the white bean crostinis at Otto, Mario Batali’s pizza place in New York. They are drizzled with olive oil and hot pepper flakes. I used to only go to Otto’s on Tuesday, because that’s the only day they have them. So, I decided to make my own. I used Rancho Gordo beans. They are the most fabulous beans and honestly, if you try them, you will never want to eat a canned bean again. Yeah, they take a little bit of work, you have to soak them for hours and them cook them for another hour or so. But your hard work pays off. I think when people realize the versatility and diversity of legumes; they will be bean lovers for life. My boyfriend has become one, and it makes me really proud.
To honor these delicious white beans, I like to keep it simple to really taste the creamy interior. I mashed them up slightly with garlic and garlic oil, as well as the oil the sage was fried in, topped with crispy fried sage and hot pepper flakes, just like Otto’s. Serve them on the finest slice baguette you can find, quickly toasted. (I like Acme bread in San Francisco; you can’t beat it.) This makes such a perfect nibble before dinner. And with leftover beans, you can make salads or soups.

I didn’t really measure, but I will do my best. You can use cannellini, butter beans or navy beans, any white bean will due.
1. Soak a bag of beans in water, at least 2 hours. But this depends on freshness. If the beans are relatively fresh they only need to soak 2 hours, if not, they need longer. If you don’t have dried beans, skip to step 3.
2. Strain the beans and put into a stockpot, cover with water, add 2-3 garlic cloves, some black peppercorns and bay leafs. Do not add salt during cooking, this toughens the beans up and they will take much longer to cook. Simmer beans uncovered (this allows the gas to release – so you don’t later) until tender. Add salt when beans are tender. And drain the beans.
3. In a small pan, add garlic cloves and oil and do not let them brown. Cook until soft. Pour the oil and garlic and mash with white beans.
4. Fry sage in a small sauté pan with olive oil. Remove when crisp and drain on paper towel. Season with salt when removed from oil. They should be crisp and have turned a darker green. Add oil from cooking sage to mash the beans. Mash the beans, but keep some whole, you want to see some shape and keep their integrity. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
5. Slice baguette, brush with olive oil and toast in a 400 degree oven. Bake until golden brown.
6. Place bean mixture on top of baguette, sprinkle with red chili flakes and top with fried sage.

If you like a smoother mixture, puree in a blender. And for an added kick, drizzle aged balsamic before adding the fried sage.

Rancho Gordo Beans
Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building (San Francisco)

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Shrimp Cesar

Shrimp marinated in lime, sautéed until lightly golden pink perfection with home made croutons, romaine, sliced thin red onion, and Parmesan curls all tossed in my white balsamic and tangerine oil vinaigrette. This salad is inspired from a Martha Stewart Living recipe, but then re-interpreted by yours truly. It is light refreshing, bursting in fresh flavors. The citrus livens things up, but you still get that Cesar salad fix. It makes for a perfect light meal, that is sure to please.
I have to take a second and talk about the olive oil that I use in this recipe; it is just incredible. It is tangerine olive oil from StoneHouse. It is a bright orange color with a sweet citrus-y aroma, still having the full-bodied complexity of olive oil. It livens up salads, or could be drizzled on top of fish or seafood. I used it in my re-interpretation of this Cesar salad, but I just recently used it on some roasted beets.
Here is a quick recipe for Shrimp Cesar; I don’t think it needs much explanation:
De-vein and peel wild gulf large prawns and toss with salt, pepper, lime juice and lime zest.
Sauté quickly in a sauce pan over high heat until pink and lightly caramelized. Be sure not to over cook.
Cut cubes of baguette, toss with olive oil and salt and bake at 450, until golden brown. I love homemade croutons, and it is a great way to use up day old bread.
Chop romaine and thinly slice red onions. Combine with croutons and toss with a vinaigrette of tangerine oil and white balsamic. (If you don’t have this fantastic olive oil, feel free to add orange zest, with a little orange juice to red wine vinegar and olive oil). Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add shrimp and Parmesan curls. Plate, Serve and EAT!

To get StoneHouse oils, check out or visit the Ferry Building and stop by their stall.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Nettie's Crab Shack

Nettie's Crab Shack is situated in the Marina of San Francisco, a place I rarely visit, due to its infamous reputation of elitist snobbery, without the good food to match. But when Michael Bauer, SF food critic mentioned his new top picks for 2009, Nettie’s crab shack made the list. With enticing descriptions of fresh crab and a modern take on American classics it sounded delicious and perfect for my crab addiction.
Nettie’s Crab Shack is a simple, slightly nautical themed restaurant with an open kitchen and blackboard specials. The cocktails are nothing short of fun and whimsical like a Boston freeze with bourbon, a spiced Louisiana lemonade, and a stellar bloody Mary. All delicious!
We ordered the manila clam steamers, which were highly aromatic with bay leaf and celery. A few clams had a little grit, but it wasn’t too bad. With the clams, we ordered a pail of shoestring potatoes, super crispy and rosemary scented.
I tried the crab roll served with pickled vegetables and homemade potato chips. The crab is simply prepared in tossed in drawn butter served on a soft fresh brioche like bun. The pickled vegetables added some needed acidity. And who can beat home made potato chips. The crab Louis salad, a San Francisco salad was re-invented with lil’ artichokes, beets, green olives and crab tossed in a peppery vinaigrette. The olives and beets worked really well with the crab. All the crab was succulent and fresh.
I also tasted the whole grilled petrale sole served with sweet and sour onions and roasted brussel sprouts. The whole grilled fish was light and flaky and the onion “marmalade” made the dish!
While Nettie's is no fine dining, it does classic American Crab shack well, really well.
Desserts were retro and cute, but nothing special. Pictured are the little lady caramel apples, the best ones we tried. But common, I was here for the crab anyways. Plus try Crab Sunday which offers a bountiful spread with a whole crab per person.

Nettie's Crab Shack
2032 Union Street
San Francisco, CA

Monday, January 5, 2009

Root Beer Chocolate Bundt Cake by BAKED

What better way to start the New Year than indulging? To be honest, I made this before the New Year and brought it to a Benefit Concert at Death by Audio (a Brooklyn venue), and who ever donated money got a slice. It is good to give. This chocolate root beer bundt cake is supremely moist and flavorful. Root beer is used not only in the batter but also in the frosting. We used the best root beer we could buy: Virgil's. It isn't made with corn syrup, it is micro-brewed and you can truly taste notes of wintergreen, vanilla and sasparilla. I am not sure it was necessary to buy the best root beer, since it is going in the cake. Hey, never hurts to start with quality. And for all those who cannot make it to Baked, the wonderful shop in Red Hook Brooklyn, you can now try their decadent sweets. Baked is all about whimsical and retro desserts, plus they taste amazing. The root beer chocolate bundt cake is no different, delicious and sumptuous. Even my grandmother has been begging for the recipe.
The root beer flavor was more present the first day, even though they say in the cookbook it will be stronger the next. This cake is slightly decadent but a sure crowd pleaser, plus it makes everyone feel nostalgic and wonderful (well maybe a little bigger in the waistline.)
You can either buy the Baked Cookbook or just click here for the recipe.

Happy New Year!

Also, I am writing about my culinary school adventures on a great website called Chef’s Blade, a resource center for culinary professionals. I talk about my culinary experiences… the people I admire, techniques and fundamentals. If you can’t get enough of me, go check it out.