Thursday, October 27, 2011


This past Sunday I did what I haven't done in a while: walk to the grocery store and stock up on foods for the day.

I bought radishes and assembled a little morning snack of radishes, butter, and sea salt on wheat.  Normally, I like the combination on a fresh French baguette, but it just seemed like a waste of a one mile walk to and from the grocery store if I immediately loaded up on a loaf of bread...although, I guess globs of Frentel butter isn't an ideal after walk ingredient either...


The main reason I dragged myself out of bed early Sunday morning was to grocery shop for ingredients for a dish that I've been longing to make for a while now.

A few months back I watched a re-run of Avec Eric with Eric Ripert where he created his version of ratatouille.  I'm a huge fan of ratatouille (both the movie and the dish...though I've only made the dish once in college) and it's simplicity--I like to think of it as the ideal Autumn lunch.

What really intrigued me about Ripert's ratatouille was that after the vegetables were prepared, he loaded ladle-fulls into coquettes, made a little nest in the center, and cracked two eggs into the crater.  Genius. 

This is my variation on Ripert's recipe.  Although there's absolutely nothing wrong with his, I made my ratatouille based on what was available at the store.  In case you're interested, here is his recipe.

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, cut into ½-inch dice
2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice
6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
4 tablespoon tomato paste
5 roma tomatoes, cut into ½-inch dice
2 small zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice
1 yellow squash, cut into  ½-inch dice
2 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
8 eggs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
¼ cup julienned fresh basil
fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, red pepper, and garlic to the pan and sauté until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, adding water as necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

This dish is fantastic the next day so don't be afraid to make it ahead of time.  It's definitely one of those dishes that gets better overnight when all the flavors marry.

Preheat oven to broil.

If the ratatouille was done ahead and kept cold, gently re-warm over medium heat. Spoon about ½ cup of the ratatouille into a cocotte, crack 2 eggs on top of the ratatouille and place the cocottes in the broiler and cook until the egg whites are just barely set, about 5 minutes; serve hot with Parmesan and basil on top.  Serve with crusty bread.

Makes 4 servings.

For the bread:
Cut a fresh baguette into 1 inch slices.  Line them up on a shallow rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil and broil on high for a minute or until the bread becomes golden.  (You really have to be careful with this part.  From experience, your toasts can go from golden brown to burnt in 0.05 seconds) Remove the toasts from the broiler.  Peel a clove of garlic and cut off one end.  Rub the garlic on the toasts for the perfect garlic bread.  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I've been in blog hibernation for the last few months.  Not reading blogs, not updating my own blog...all not intentional.  Today, I stumbled across Food in Jars again which led me to pull up Orangette and reading back on posts that I've missed, I realize exactly how long I've been away.

I kicked of 2011 obsessed with blogs and blogging, don't get me wrong, I'm still in love with them, but something changed.  I've been picking up books from my bookshelf--works that I purchased over my college years, perused, but never really read--and now I'm beginning to appreciate them.  More and more I find myself flirting with the idea of writing a book, although I don't know if I'm disciplined enough to do so, nor do I think I have the time. But, it's always fun to think about.  And I have to admit that as I type, I'm realizing how much I have missed writing.

This past weekend my family and I took a mini road trip to Carmel--God was it gorgeous.  After four years of engagement, my cousin and her fiance got married on a beautiful Carmel beach (Congrats Jamie & Joe!!).  I have to admit, it makes me want to plan a wedding...but what girl doesn't go through spastic moments of wanting to plan her dream wedding?  

It was nice to finally catch up with family that I haven't seen in years.  It's kind of awesome how even with the distance and the lost time we still talk, get along, and act out (parents and cousins alike) like we've never been apart--we're all just older now.  Watching all the parents dance to Ryan Tedder & Pit Bull was just a riot!  I loved every moment of it and I can't hardly wait to get a copy of the wedding DVD to relive the dance floor.


Corn and Crab Chowder

I got the Halibut, my mom got the Lamb, and my dad got the Filet Mignon.  Just like any family of food lovers, we then swapped a bite of each.

Wedding Cake!

To say the least, it was a fantastic weekend.  The food at the wedding was amazing, my cousin looked gorgeous and so happy, and it was so much fun spending the weekend wining and dining with family.  Not to mention, Carmel is one of the cutest little towns that I've ever been to.

I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Green Tomato Jam

I've come to the sad realization that my curiosities have missed canning season and my hopes of stocking up on jars upon jars of colorful jam to have through fall and winter have been smushed.

But, the good news is that I've finally got the kahunas to open up that jar of green tomato jam that I've been saving for who-knows-what.  I just really love the story behind this particular jam and all the confettura that come from this monastery just outside of Rome.  Made by Trappist nuns, their jams are sweet and capture the essence of the starring fruit--in this case, green tomatoes.

I've been using this sweet, sweet jam on everything from buttered toast, to dolloped on top of cheese, to grilled poultry--it's fantastic on all the previously stated and I'm in the process of discovering more tasty vehicles for this crazy colored jam.

If you ever come across this gem, I suggest you snatch up a jar.  In fact, I have just the place for you to get your hands on this GREEN TOMATO JAM.  With Thanksgiving coming up, I'm thinking of using this a replacement for cranberry sauce.  Doesn't sound to shabby, huh?

Rain Coast Crisps, Asiago, Speck, bruschetta toasts, and green tomato jam.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hog and Rocks

Two of my favorite things under one roof.

Well this is long over due but I love this place so much that I thought I'd share some pictures anyways.


Ham from all over the U.S.  Yes! The U.S.  I was so surprised at how deliciously savory these hams were and the quality was just amazing.  If no one told me these were made right here in the U.S. of A. I would have sworn these were Serano hams.

Duck hearts
We probably could have done without the duck hearts, I mean, this place is called 'Hog and Rocks' and that is what they do best.

I have a feeling I'll be going back real soon!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


It's that time of year again.  The holidays are just around the corner and I'm already bookmarking all recipes I want to test and practice before I decide what to make for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This year is a big deal for me because it's been one year since I graduated and I want to make this first year of holidays since I've officially moved back to the City a memorable one.  There are several things at the top of my menu list, one of them being paella.  Though I had been flirting with the idea for a while, I didn't seriously look into a paella pan until more recently.

And well, I finally did it.  I purchased a paella pan with all the ingredients for a great paella and I could not be happier!  

About a month ago, I became obsessed with paella after having for the first time in years and then after watching an episode of Avec Eric  I thought to myself "Alright, I'm getting a paella pan!".  So what's been the hold up?  Well, I thought it would just be as easy as that--buy a paella pan.  But it wasn't.  There are carbon steel pans, stainless steel pans, and enamel coated carbon steel pans--I had no idea what the differences were other than their prices and I'm pretty particular when it comes to choosing kitchenware.  My head was spinning.

So after some research and asking around, I was pointed in the direction of The Spanish Table in Berkeley.  It was love at first site.  If you're ever in the mood for making tapas or paella this is your one stop shop.  After stepping one foot in the door, The Spanish Table became one of my favorite specialty food/ kitchenware stores around.  I was so impressed by their selection.  They have everything from paella pans, to Jamon Iberio, to canned fish, to Spanish wines, to all the fixings for an amazing Spanish inspired meal in--they seriously have it all.

It might be helpful to mention what type of pan settled on.  I bought an enameled carbon steel pan that supposedly feeds 4 but according to the guy at the shop, it means "four Spaniards"  which roughly translates to 6-7 servings for us.  The reason I chose the enameled one was because the stainless steel was far too pricey and two of the workers at The Spanish Table recommended either the carbon steel or the enameled pans.  The carbon steel pan, as it turns out, is a lot like a cast iron skillet or a wok where you have to season it after each use and it easily rusts if it comes into contact with water for long periods of time.  The enameled, on the other hand, can be soaked in water after each use and does not need to be seasoned.  They both supposedly come out with the same quality of paella.  So, knowing me, I chose the one with the easiest clean up. 

Eric Ripert makes paella look easy.  He really does.  But let me tell you, it definitely takes some practice.  Although I have to say that this first attempt at making paella was not too shabby, though I will have to make it several more times before I get it just the way I like it.  This time around I didn't follow Ripert's ingredient list exactly because of the limited amount of time I had to grocery shop today but I thought I'd give you his entire recipe here anyways so that you can make it the way he did.

Recipe via Avec Eric:


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ pound chorizo, sliced ¼-inch
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
½ tablespoon saffron
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 cups short grain rice
8 cups chicken stock
2 cups green peas
1 pound striped bass fillet, cut
   into 8 pieces
18 large shrimp, peeled and
1 pound mussels, rinsed and
   beards removed
2 dozen cockles, scrubbed
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled
   and cut into ¼-inch julienne
¼ cup chopped parsley
- paprika
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges


Place an 18-inch paella pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, ad chorizo and render the sausage. Add the onions, garlic, saffron and turmeric and sweat until just softened. Add the rice, stir to coat and lightly toast the rice for about 3 minutes.
Add chicken stock and stir to combine. Cook for 15 minutes adding more water as necessary to keep the rice moist. Stir in the peas and add the striped bass and shrimp to the rice, making sure each piece is slightly buried in the rice. Cook the paella for another 4 to 5 minutes until the shrimp and fish start to turn opaque. Add the mussels and cockles with the hinge sides down, so they can easily open and place the peppers around the pan like spokes on a bicycle. Cover with foil and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or until the mussels and clams open.
Uncover and sprinkle with chopped parsley, paprika and serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Ripert's recipe does not call for this but the people at The Spanish Table said that you can finish it off in the oven also if your rice is cooked through and there's not enough liquid for your seafood to cook.


Friday, September 9, 2011


I've taken a curiosity to canning after spending an entire afternoon on Marisa's blog Food In Jars.  If you've never been, I seriously suggest you visit.  It's only fair that I warn you, days if not weeks, will be lost browsing through her site of intriguing jams, preserves, and pickle recipes.  I've always flirted with the idea of making fruit preserves or perhaps even pickled peppers of some sort but it all seems so intimidating what with sanitizing, making the perfect brine, creating the most amazing combination of flavors and so forth.  But after looking through all of her unique recipes and the impresiveness of others' collections, my curiosity has been sparked yet again. 

In addition to Paella this weekend (finally going to pick up a pan and some saffron, and am so excited!), I predict that there may be some end of summer canning coming my way as well.  Though I'm afraid I might have missed the best batches of sweet summer fruit...

(all photos via Food in Jars)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Doggy Birthday

To kick off today's post is Kona!  Today is his seventh birthday and I stopped by this cute little dog shop in Alameda called Dog Bone Alley to pick up some wheat, corn, and soy free organic birthday treats.  
Kona has a sensitive stomach so these treats are perfect for him!

Birthday cookie and cannoli.

He was skeptical at first...but I think he enjoyed it in the end.  The birthday cookie smelled a lot like a gingerbread cookie with a yogurt icing--I was tempted to take a bite.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why, Hello there.

Yes, I've been gone yet again and I gravely apologize.  I've been busy with a thing called l-i-f-e but now that I've gotten things sorted out (for the most part) I'm back!  Aren't you glad I left you with a recipe though?

Instead of starting from the beginning, I thought we'd work our way backwards.  I spent this past weekend on a little Labor Day road trip with my family.  It was a trip that I had been debating about whether or not I should go on since my work load has been pretty heavy these last couple of days (yay!), but they promised me good barbecue in exchange for me being the cheerleader at their bowling tournament, so I relented.

After several, and by several I mean practically all that I've attended, failed festivals and cook-offs I was less than excited to go to another...especially in 85+ degree scorching heat.  But just say the word "pork" and I'll start wagging my tail uncontrollably.

To my surprise the Nugget Rib Cook-Off 2011 in Reno was fantastic!  Though it was incredibly hot, I had no trouble weaving my way through the small crowds of people to get to the best ribs, brisket, and array of barbecue sauces.  Finger-lickin' good.  Not to mention, my mom made the perfect tasting partner--four hands grabbing food and fresh squeezed lemonade are better than two!  Though the likelihood of us going back next year is slim, this was one cook-off that I can actually say I enjoyed.

My mom and I are suckers for roast corn, so our first stop was here, at the roast corn stall.

I was excited to see that Famous Daves was participating in the cook-off.  Though the ribs were a little dry and not fall-off-the-bone as expected, the sauces were really addictive.

The selection of Famous Dave's sauces from tangy and sweet to xxx-spicy.

 I was so impressed and relieved that they had plenty of shaded seating for us right next to Famous Dave's stall.

We got a little insider tip from a veteran Nugget Rib Cook-Off goer that this year, Checkered Pig had the best ribs.
I can't say for sure if they were the best ribs there, but they sure as hell were better than Dave's!

He also pointed us in the direction of Kinder's for the best barbecue sauce so we took our Checkered Pig ribs and trekked across the cook-off in search of Kinder's. 

Of course, we weren't going to stand in line just for a few squirts of barbecue sauce.  We also ordered a brisket sandwich.  I'm usually skeptical about brisket because too often have I had a dry, tough, flavorless brisket plus, I'm honestly not a huge fan of sandwiches.  But again, I was not let down.  Kinder's sweet roasted garlic barbecue sauce on top of moist, chopped brisket, shoveled between two airy buns turned out to be the trifecta of awesome.

Did this cook-off change my impression of cook-offs?  No.  I won't be prancing around excitedly looking for another cook-off or food festival to go to anytime soon.  But I will say that this is, by far, the best one that I've been to.  And if ever I had to attend another cook-off, it would be this one.

To go off on a little side tangent, I thought I'd just share the other half of the rib cook-off day with you since I was also caught off guard by how amazing La Strada at Eldorado was.

Let's set the record straight.  I hate over-priced hotel casino food.  The fact that they would sell you low quality, poorly executed food for over $20 is absolutely ridiculous!  I can't tell you how many times I've protested and cringed when my parents suggest that we eat at a hotel restaurant out of convenience when we all know that we're going to regret it.

But seeing as how buffets have taken a steep turn for the worse, we ventured away to try the Italian restaurant in Eldorado.  Can you imagine how skeptical I was?  Italian hotel restaurant with food priced above $20 per entree.  I was about ready to shoot myself.

Needless to say, they proved me wrong.  I didn't even feel like I was in Reno anymore.  The food was great, the prices were decent for the portion sizes and quality, and the atmosphere was nothing you'd imagine from this part of Nevada.  I am impressed, Eldorado.  Bravo.

Spinach and arugula salad.

Catch of the day: Grouper with lemon caper sauce on a bed of polenta

Dried porcini and saffron risotto with sweet Italian sausage

Seafood linguine in white wine sauce.

I'd say this was a successful little getaway to Reno.

Now I'm off to my own warm bed to finally watch Sideways.  Has anyone else seen it?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Roasted Pork Jowl and Feet Porridge

You're probably tired of hearing me complain about the weather, hell, I'm tired of complaining about it...So instead of continuing to voice my frustration for the lack of a summer, I've decided to make the best of it.  

I introduce to you Chinese roasted pork jowl and feet porridge with dried bok choy and dried oysters.  

I'm completely aware that not everyone readily has access to these ingredients and to many this may not seem like a combination sent from the porridge gods, but the wonderful thing about porridge is that you can put practically anything in it.  For example, David Lebovitz offers a recipe that has Chinese sausage in it, but if you can't find it or don't have a taste for it, then he suggests slab bacon as a suitable substitute.  Which I too will offer here as a substitute for the pork jowl and feet.  Although, it is much better with the roast pork parts.  

I'm a firm believer that the head of a roast pig has some of the best tasting morsels of meat on the entire animal.  Rich, tender, succulent meat that just falls off the bone.  Perfect for eating as is, or in this case, as the star of a porridge.  And as for the feet, the caramelized, crispy skin and roasted bones add so much depth of flavor to the porridge that it's difficult to duplicate. 

So, if you know of a Chinese BBQ joint near you hurry on over and pick up some feet and jowl.  

Did I mention that it's dirt cheap and really good?  Take that you peacoat and boots non-summer! 

Serves 4-6 

1 1/2 cups long grain rice
28 cups water
Half a suckling pig's head
2 pigs feet
1 cup dried bok choy, reconstituted (fresh bok choy is fine)
10 dried oysters (you can leave this out if you choose)
vegetable oil

Sesame oil
Shredded lettuce
White pepper
Chopped cilantro
Chopped scallions
Shredded ginger
Diced thousand year old egg

Soak the dried bok choy in water and set aside
Bring the 28 cups water to a boil
In the mean time, rinse the rice and toss with about a teaspoon of oil and a pinch of salt
When the water comes to a boil add the rice

In another pot, bring water to a boil
Add the jowl and feet to the second pot and when it comes up to a boil drain the feet and jowl.  This process helps to get rid of the extra fat

Stir the rice occasionally making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot
When the rice begins to bloom and it starts to become the consistency of porridge, add the blanched jowl, feet, and dried oysters and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, again, stirring occasionally.
Add the reconstituted bok choy and let simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes.

And it's ready to eat!

I like to pour the porridge over a bed of shredded lettuce then garnish with cilantro, scallions, ginger, a drizzle of sesame oil, a pinch of ground white pepper, and some diced thousand year old egg.


Thursday, August 18, 2011


With all this fog sometimes it's hard to remember why I love San Francisco so much.  But yesterday's little escape to Washington Square Park, where a little break in the clouds invited the sun in, with two of my girlfriends reminded me of that.

I'm not a huge fan of sandwiches.  I never quite know how to attack them and I'm a bit of a prick--I have to wipe my hands between bites.  I must admit though, this sammie from La Boulange was spectacular.  The bread was buttery and light, the flank was medium rare and tender, tomatoes were sweet, and of course I was sold by the peppery arugula.

It was a great day of catching up, a sandwich that changed my mind about sandwiches, and a reminder of why I love this city so much.

I foresee many more days like this in the near future.  And by that, I mean next week!

PS: I've really taken a liking to Adele's songs recently, so I wanted to leave you with one that I've found very touching "Someone Like You".