Sunday, December 3, 2017

Ten Foodie Gifts Under $25

'Tis the season to make yourself crazy trying to figure out hostess gifts, stocking stuffers, inexpensive Secret Santa options, and little treats for yourself to take the edge off the stress. Here are some ideas to help you out with those things. They also make great housewarming gifts and are, for the most part, much healthier than a giant tub of popcorn coated in various flavors or a tin of butter cookies...not that there's anything wrong with those!
Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links. Click on the image to buy the items and support my efforts here! 

1. Smoked Maldon Sea Salt 

Fancy yet surprisingly inexpensive. Print out this article or one of the accompanying recipes on pretty paper to go with it. 

2. Sherry Vinegar 

A great ingredient and a nice change from the now ubiquitous balsamic. Print this recipe to accompany it or give it with pumpkin seeds and persimmons, which go great with it in a salad. 

3. Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book 

Humphry Slocombe has taken San Francisco by storm with its Secret Breakfast flavor (vanilla with cornflakes and bourbon) among other fantastic options. Let someone enjoy reading or trying things out. 

4.  Bariani Olive Oil

There's been a lot of concern lately about "fake" olive oils. This stuff is the real deal, sold at farmers' markets and high end stores. It's also delicious and healthy. 

5. Zyliss Paring Knife

The perfect addition to a kitchen set for when friends come to help and for taking along for picnics. I grabbed one at my local market when I was in a hurry one day and it has become my go-to knife. Pair with a super good salami chub if you want to add something to the gift. 

6.  Madeleine Tins

Need a little gift for someone whose kitchen seems to have it all? Try choosing a Madeleine tin or two. You might even get to reap the rewards in the future when the baker uses them. Print this recipe for them to give them a little extra incentive. 

7. Microplane Grater

Chances are that your foodie friend already has one, but a second one in a holiday color will likely also be put to good use. Pair with some whole nutmeg or nice grating cheese.

8. Beeswax Food Wraps 

Environmentally friendly food wraps for your friend who is tired of putting plastic wrap in the trash. Pair with a lovely local cheese or two. 

9. Piment d'Espelette

Seems like every day there's a new trendy red pepper on the market...this one has been on fancy menus for long enough to have some staying power. 

10. Heirloom Beans 

Compared to supermarket beans these are pricey, but they're still affordable and a much healthier option than all the sweets in the supermarkets. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Beer-Brined Indoor Ribs

Hello again! Somehow this summer got away from me and I didn't get around to sharing anything here, but the Anchor Brewery Picnic Contests at the Stern Grove Festival gave me the chance to come up with a few new things, one of which was these delectable, tender, low and slow, cooked indoors because I live in a third floor apartment ribs. They helped us win Honorable Mention (two tickets to the SF Symphony) the first time, and First Prize (a private tour of the brewery for 8, plus Nutcracker tickets) the second time. Jane's watermelon whale and Jason and Steve's shandies made from fresh juices put us over the top!

You can do these ribs any time you need to be reminded of summer. For AH purposes, these are strictly phases 2 and 3, and you can search the FB group or the upcoming cookbook for Hayda's Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce to make and brush on top for the last half hour of cooking. 

I mean, did you think you could get these results without a BBQ?

Recipe here, step by step following: 

It takes some time and some advance planning, but it's worth the effort for a special dinner or picnic. Here's what you need: 

And, of course (I've been very happy with the ribs I've bought at Trader Joe's): 

They're delish without a sauce, but you can put on your favorite bottled one, or try Hayda's recipe from the AH FB group or this one I riffed off of for the picnics to add more beer to the recipe: Porter BBQ Sauce. For the ribs I made for this blog post, I just mixed together a quick glaze of dijon, honey, and more Anchor Steam. 
dissolve salt and sugar in one bottle of beer, add garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf

remove membrane from rib side of racks
Add mixture, the other two bottles of beer, and the ribs to a large glass or plastic bowl.
add water to cover or turn ribs after a few hours. Cover bowl and place in fridge for 20-24 hours.
Osmosis will do its thing over this time and the salt and flavors will work their way into the meat. 
After brining, prepare rimmed pans with foil for easy cleanup and racks to hold ribs
above the pans. You can MacGyver a rack with rolled up foil if you don't have anything else,
but don't cook them right on the pan or they'll kind of steam.
Preheat the oven to 300 and place each rack on a pan. Turn front to back after one hour
and then again every thirty minutes until three hours are up. 
If using a glaze or BBQ sauce, brush it on when you turn it the last time and
let it cook for just the last 30 minutes. 
Let rest for at least ten minutes when you take them out of the'll be really
hard because you'll have been smelling them for so long...cut
 them apart with a sharp chef's knife and enjoy! 
The winning team, AKA The Champagne Mafia. Ribs to the right of watermelon whale :)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Kalamata Olive Hummus

Have I mentioned how much I looooovvvveee olives? They're one of my favorite foods. According to my Grandma Irene, my love affair with them started in her kitchen when I was about 2. Hummus is one of my go-to healthy snacks, and since I've started making it regularly the store-bought stuff just doesn't quite cut it anymore. Makes about 2 cups of hummus.

  • 2 c cooked, drained chickpeas (home cooked from dried is best, but 1 can will do)
  • juice of 1 lemon (if the lemon doesn't have much juice, add a little more)
  • 1/4 c tahini
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, plus a dash of hot sauce or paprika if you like. 
  • 1/2 c pitted Kalamata olives, plus a few more for garnish

1. Put chickpeas, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and tahini in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend until evenly smushed into a puree--they might still look a little grainy, but you'll add enough olive oil to fix that. 

2. With the motor running, drizzle in 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil, pausing after the first to let it blend another minute. If it's smooth enough, you don't need the second tablespoon. 

3. Taste to see if the lemon and tahini are balanced. Add a little more of whichever one you need. Don't succumb to the temptation to add a lot more salt, since the olives have a lot. 

4. Drain the olives well and chop them a teeny bit. Add them to the food processor and blend until they are large black flecks of olive throughout. Don't process any longer, or you'll have purple hummus! It doesn't look as cool as it sounds. 

5. Scoop into a bowl and top with a few whole olives. Enjoy with an array of beautiful fresh or blanched veggies. 

Peach Breakfast Ricotta

The stone fruits are in! White peaches are just the most heavenly part of summer for me. Of course, you can use yellow peaches, nectarines, apricots, strawberries...whatever tickles your fancy. Yellow peaches are a little more acidic, so they have a stronger flavor that you may prefer. This is kind of a modern version of the classic canned peaches with cottage cheese, inspired by a recipe in Ina Garten's Make Ahead cookbook. It's AH-friendly, phase 2 if you use the honey and phase 1 if you skip it. It's a little higher than 50% on the fat, though, so you might have an egg white on the side to balance it out if you like.
Ingredients: (for one serving)

  • 1 c whole milk ricotta (store bought is fine or you can make your own)
  • 1 medium to large white peach
  • 2 Tbsp slivered almonds
  • tiny pinch cinnamon
  • tiny pinch nutmeg
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)
  • lemon zest (about 1/2 tsp)
  1. Toast the slivered almonds in a pan on the stove over medium heat, about 2-5 minutes depending on your pan. You can do this in the oven, but I find it better to do on the stove where you can keep an eye on them. They're done when most are golden brown. 
  2. Dice the peach into small pieces. Peel it if you prefer, but I like the skin and I'm too lazy to peel. 
  3. Stir the cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest into the ricotta and put in a bowl. 
  4. Put the peaches and almonds over the top and drizzle with the honey if using. Sprinkle with a tiny bit more cinnamon if you like. 
  5. Enjoy!!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Parmesan Roasted Asparagus

It's Spring! After a looong rainy season, California is past the drought and reveling in spring produce. My beloved Berkeley Bowl has been running asparagus specials, and since it's not too hot yet, I decided to roast some with olive oil and parmesan.
Last week, I tried doing the same with green beans. It was also good, but not nearly as special. I got this particular technique from Tyler Florence, with the grated cheese all over the pan forming tiny fricos in between the spears.
Preheat the oven to 400. Wash and pat dry 1 lb asparagus tips (or whole asparagus with the woody part at the bottom cut or broken off). 
Drizzle with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with just a touch of salt. Grind fresh black pepper over the top. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet, preferably one with a rim. Don't line with foil because you'll want to be able to scrape up all the melted cheese on the bottom of the pan. Take out a microplane or similar grater and grate some fresh Parmesan generously over the top. It's important to use fresh grated parm here or you'll end up with some odd, unmelted white powder and yellow lumps thanks to the cellulose added to the pre-grated kind.
Did I mention generously? This was a little less than I wanted.
Roast at 400 for 10-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the asparagus. After that, you'll have a lovely pile of roasted asparagus with some bonus frico in between! Scrape it all onto a platter and serve. Using that very fine grater again, grate a little fresh lemon zest over the top.
Recipe card:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Oven-Baked Cassoulet with Instant Pot Assist

A wine bar near me used to have Cassoulet Nights. Since I got my Instant Pot, I'd been thinking I could make a cassoulet in it...but once I found and bought some of the traditional ingredients, I did more research and realized I couldn't. Yes, you could toss all the stuff in there and set it for 40 minutes and have something really delicious, but it wouldn't have the same flavor dimensions of the real deal. However, as there are many steps in the process, the IP helped me with two of them.

Cassoulet is made with different meats in different cities, as it was once an inexpensive dish that used whatever was readily available to people in that area. Once upon a time, duck confit was a necessity for French people trying to make it through a pre-refrigeration winter. Today, it costs a fortune, so although I love it, I opted for the Toulouse garlic sausages (slightly less expensive) and pork shoulder (a lot less expensive). They're hard to find, though, so feel free to use another kind of sausage you like, even chorizo if you like some heat.

It can be put together in a day, but dinner might be pretty late so it's best to break it up over two or three days. The three main steps are: cooking the beans, cooking the pork, and baking the cassoulet.

1) Day 1: cook the beans and season the meat (sorry, canned beans won't work here): 

Sprinkle salt and pepper over 1 to 1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder. (Buy 2 pounds total of meat, either 1 pound each pork shoulder and sausage, or 1.5 pounds pork and 1/2 pound sausage). Wrap back up and put in the fridge.

For the beans, you'll need 1 lb flageolet or navy beans, 3/4 tsp salt, a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, a small shallot, and 1 or 2 garlic cloves. You can wrap up the seasonings in a little cheesecloth, or just plan to fish them out one by one.

If you use the Instant Pot, cover the beans with another inch or so of water. Set the pot on high for 21 minutes for flageolet beans or 20 for navy beans, which are a little smaller but a lot cheaper. Let the pressure release naturally for another 15-20 minutes, then release any remaining pressure with the valve and put the beans and their liquid in something to store them in the fridge overnight.

You can also soak the beans overnight and simmer them for about 45 minutes, or cook them from dried for about 2 hours. 

2) Day 2 (or do Day 1 and keep in fridge): Brown and/or cook the meats

For this step you'll need, in addition to the pork and sausage mentioned above, 4 oz diced pancetta, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion or 3 shallots, 1 small celery stalk, 2 small or 1 medium carrots, and 2 Roma tomatoes

Cut the pork shoulder into roughly three inch pieces. Chop the vegetables, not too finely if you're using the Instant Pot. Put the pancetta and oil into the Instant Pot and then push the saute button. Starting from a cold pan allows the fat to render out better. Stir when the bottom bits are nice and brown. Remove the browned pieces and place in a small bowl, then add all but 1 Tbsp(ish) of the fat from the pan to the bowl. The fat will really flavor everything...and I'm using way less than most recipes. A lot of them call for duck fat and/or salt pork. It's just starting to render out here...
...and beautifully brown here. 
Add the sausages in to brown those on two sides. You don't need to cook them through because they'll finish up in the final, lengthy, baking. 
Remove and set aside. Put the shallots, carrots, and celery in the pot and stir with a wooden spoon to move around and scrape up the brown stuff from the bottom. When the vegetables start to soften, add in 1 cup chicken broth (or water, or white wine). Stir a little more, then add the tomatoes and pork. If there's a bone, add that, too. Close the lid and set IP for 25 minutes high pressure. Once it finishes the time, allow another 15-20 minutes for the pressure to release naturally. If you release the pressure right away, the meat will be tough. 

You can let the meat cool, refrigerate it and assemble the next day, or you can get to step three now.

3) Day 2 or 3: Assemble and bake...aka le douleur exquise...the waiting can be HARD!

Pre-heat the oven to 300. Layer half of the beans in a heavy, oven-proof pot. Sprinkle half of the pancetta over them. Remove half the chunks of pork and add to the pot, then some of the vegetables from the pork cooking, then another layer of beans and pork. Layer in the sausages somewhere along the way and pour any remaining pancetta fat and vegetables/liquid from cooking the pork over the top. Add some chicken broth and some water or bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans.
Put in the oven, uncovered, for what will be a total of 4-5 hours. Yup, you'll have to smell it cooking for THAT LONG. You can blame Kenji from Serious Eats, as I took the timing from him. After two hours, there should be a little bit of a crust forming. Tap it and make a hole in it. Add a little more liquid through the hole so you don't re-hydrate the caramelized bits on the top. After that, check again every 30 minutes for 2-3 more hours, adding more liquid if the beans are dry in the middle. The crust will provide some texture so that you don't need bread crumbs, and may even get very dark, which is OK, but I don't think the size of my pan will let that happen.  Serve hot with a little fresh parsley and grated lemon zest...and don't forget the medium red wine!

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