Tuesday, December 13, 2011

old fashioned butter crunch candy

Butter crunch candy, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
The little kitchen is a bit spazzy these days. My computer is dead so I'm reduced to the limits of library computers for a while. I feel like Dorothy as I race against the diminishing time whilst trying to sum up a weeks worth of kitchen triumph and tragedy.
This butter crunch candy? triumph.  America's Test Kitchen does it again in a Holiday Cookies publication. These are the ATK mags that can be found at the check-stands of your hoitier markets like Whole Foods and Mollie Stones. I was in the market for a new cookie or two to add to my Christmas repertoire but when I spied this candy recipe I couldn't get home fast enough to make it, knowing that I had all of the ingredients at home already..not that I need any more things to go all OCD/ADD on at Christmas but I was a bit challenged the last time I tried to make caramel. It scared me. It's like stirring a pot of molten lava...but success...even without a candy thermometer!!!

Old Fashioned Butter Crunch Candy
America's Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies 2010

1 3/4 sticks of butter
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
4 oz. of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate roughly chopped
1/2 cup of pecans chopped

This makes about 1 1/2 pounds of candy.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread out the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them until they become fragrant and darken just a little, about 7-8 minutes, toss them around after about 5 minutes. You won't need the oven again for this recipe so you can also toast them in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat for about 5 minutes tossing them around a little if you don't want to bother with turning the oven on.
Line a 9"x13" cookie sheet (mine was a little larger) with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the sugar, water and corn syrup and stir constantly while it boils. After about 10-12 minutes it'll turn a light caramel color. If you have a candy thermometer it should read 310 degrees. I didn't so I just watched and stirred. It bubbles like molten lava so be careful. I used a silicone spatula to stir it but you can also use a wooden spatula (something heatproof with a flat edge/bottom to keep moving the caramel off the bottom of the pot). When it turns a light caramel color remove it from the heat and pour it onto the baking sheet. My sheet was a little larger than required so I just let the caramel spread out as much as it wanted. Let it sit for about 5 minutes then sprinkle the chocolate all over the caramel. Let that sit for another 5 minutes so the chocolate can soften a bit, then using the back of a spoon ( I used a large soup spoon) spread the chocolate over the caramel. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the chocolate and let it rest for at least an hour.

I just left mine on my counter over night and the next morning broke it into pieces stored it in a ziplock bag drawing as much air out of the bag as I could. I've left in on my kitchen table for a couple of days now and it tastes amazing. This reminds me of Almond Roca, which has to be my all time favorite candy. This is better. Thinner...less stress on the dentals...butter crunch bliss.

Foccacia pizza

Foccacia pizza, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I've been getting more experimental in the little kitchen lately. It's a pretty cheap form of entertainment too.
I was cruising by the clearance shelf at Fresh and Easy the other day and spied a couple of packages of foccacia dough. Having had a success with it in a foccacia throwdown a few weeks back, I couldn't help but wonder "how awesome could a pizza be made with this and those little bits of rosemary baked right into the crust?"
Uhmmm no....problem was, that the foccacia dough doesn't move onto the pizza stone like regular pizza dough , in fact it doesn't move on at all, so I had to bake it on the cookie sheet which doesn't crisp up as well. Tasted great but the crust was too doughy. Live and learn.
 My go-to pizza starts with this really simple pizza dough from Smitten Kitchen. While it's rising I heat up my pizza stone in a 500 degree oven.
I roll the pizza dough out on a well floured board then move it onto a rimless cookie sheet generously sprinkled with corn meal. This makes it easier to slide onto the hot baking stone. Before moving it onto the hot stone, I start with a generous smear of this super simple and crazy good tomato sauce from 101 Cookbooks, about 3/4 of a cup of caramelized onions (I cook these up by the pint, 6-7 onions), a 1/2 cup of fresh parmesan, 1 1/2 cups of coarsly grated  mozzarella and my new favorite thing, any one of the flavored sausages from Fresh and Easy, meat removed from the casing of two sausages and browned in a skillet on the stove top before sprinkling it on the pizza.
10 minutes in the oven and I'm in pizza nirvana for days.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

mushroom risotto

Mushroom risotto, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
If I had to choose my favorite little kitchen production, the one thing that I've made over and over again in my year and a half here, the most generous and versatile thing to ever emerge from my oven, it would be the roasted chicken.
This is what became of the first half of the stock. I was gonna make lemon chicken risotto but I couldn't get to the recipe since it was trapped inside my <gaaahhhh> dead computer. Not to worry though, my trusty Cooks Illustrated Cookbook comes through.
I've made this Mushroom Risotto several times now and I absolutely love it. Risotto requires a lot of TLC but it's worth it.

Dutch Oven Boule

Dutch Oven Boule, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Fresh baked bread doesn't suck, even when it's not quite as airy as I would have liked and even if it's a tad scorched on the bottom.
Ruhlman made me do it again. I just got Michael Ruhlman's new book Ruhlmans Twenty and this is the first recipe I had to run off and make. Again. Twice.
What is it about this man that makes me take his every word as gospel? He's cute and he's funny and he knows his way around a kitchen. I'm a little bit obsessed if you wanna know the truth. I've got three of his books going on at the same time. Ratio got me baking this boule last year and it pretty much convinced me that my skills as a bread baker need some finessing...at least until I hit to lotto and  buy myself a Kitchen Aid, although first things first. I need a new computer.
The third Ruhlman I'm reading is The Making of a Chef. This has been my bus book for a while now. I am certainly not planning on becoming a chef or going to cooking school (although spending a week at a cooking school in Tuscany sounds absolutely dreamy). I was surprised  by how fascinated I was by his journey through the Culinary Institute of America.
Anyhoo...bread: I need to become one with all the kneading. This simple dough recipe first appeared in Ratio, a brilliant book by the way, that breaks down most of the basics of cooking proportionally. For example a basic short cookie dough is 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat and 3 parts flour or bread dough: 5 parts flour, 3 parts water plus a bit of yeast and salt. Then batters, doughs, sauces, roux etc. What an eye-opener.
It wasn't so much the bread ratio that got me itching to make this, it was that it was baked in a dutch oven and I had only just bought one. It HAD to be made.
It turned out...ok. Well better than ok. Fresh baked bread outta the oven? great. It was nice, but I literally ached the next day from all that kneading. Ruhlman instructs that the dough is properly kneaded when you can tear off a small piece and stretch it until it's transparent. If it just breaks it needs more kneading. It never did reach the level of transparency shown in the books photo.
After what seemed like forever. I gave up and baked it up anyway. It was fine, if not a bit dense. It didn't suck. Ok. I made french bread. Done. Move on and enjoy a loaf from Boudin for $2.65. I live in San Francisco for pete's sake. The best sourdough in the world. Then I discover that my new neighborhood Fresh and Easy has fresh baked Italian loaves for 98 cents! The lightest softest bread I've ever had.
Fast forward to last week, I get my new book in the mail (yeah I know...I wasn't supposed to do this anymore...drink margaritas whilst browsing Amazon) and what do I see but this damn Dutch Oven Boule again, this time in a beautiful full color photo (Ratio is a small format paperback with black & white pics) whilst Rulhman waxes all poetic about the tranquility of kneading even after admitting that he starts it off in the Kitchen Aid, yet I'm suckered in to making it again. My OCD is not done with this.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Turkey Day Table

T-day, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I love our colorful collage of a table. It pretty much represented the mish-mash of De-lish that was eagerly  and thankfully consumed before we moved it all into the living room to watch the Niners (wah!) game.
As has become tradition, Thanksgiving is celebrated at the little sister kitchen. Dede cooked the bird in the outdoor grill and it was phenomenal not only in its juicy-ness but that big bird was cooked in 2 1/2 hours.  I can't remember how big she said it was but it had to be close to 20 lbs.
Next up we got the smashed taters that were co-mingled with cauliflower and plenty o'butter.  The veggie palooza continues thusly:
It began in my ADD-led brain, trying to figure what I could shop, pre-cook, prep and then reasonably carry (along with an overnight bag) on the train. I had my head spinning. I just had to shut it all down and go have a margarita.  At the same time I'm OCD-ing on Plenty, my current library loaner cookery book (Brit-speak for cookbook) I wanted to make everything. I settled on two plus a Sweet Corn Soup from Ottolenghi's Guardian column, The New Vegetarian.
Sitting in between the taters and stuffing is the Spicy Sweet Butternut Squash with Yogurt Tahini, Limes, Jalepenos and Cilantro. I roasted the squash the day before and they were a little on the soft side in the reheat but man! they were tasty. The spice factor comes from cardamom.
My next Plenty platter was the Bean Salad, a mixture of green beans, snow peas and frozen peas tossed together with jalepenos and scallions then lightly dressed in olive oil infused with garlic, crushed coriander seeds and mustard seeds, finished off with salt and pepper then lime juice.
My veggie trio concluded with the most awesome Whiskey Glazed Carrots from my newest, favoritest, cooking cowgirl, Ree, at pioneerwoman.com . Can't give the Brits all the glory.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rainy Day Baking

Rainy Day Baking, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Gingersnaps! Smitten Kitchen does it again. So perfectly spicy and timely. I'm getting the holiday baking off to an early start. Literally...5:45 a.m. early. Crazy! What's really crazy is that I've never made gingersnaps before. I honestly can't even remember ever desiring a gingersnap, being offered a gingersnap or eating a gingersnap. I've lived my whole life in a gingersnap void. Then two things happened. TKD mentioned that gingersnaps were the only cookie he liked and a day later Smitten Kitchen posted her gingersnap recipe. Kismet? Perfect timing? or coincidence?  I decided earlier this week to audition new cookies for the Christmas cookie trays. I've been making the same three cookies for 10 years. Time to shake things up a bit.
Especially now that I've factored in the freezer.
I fell asleep watching Gosford Park last night and the night before and the night before. I love that movie, Clive Owen, Richard E. Grant, Helen Mirren...the all-star cast just goes on and on. What's not to love? yet it's proven to be better than a sleeping pill. Nod off early and here I am baking before sunrise.
I've got 3 new cookies in the freezer,  the doughs that is. World Peace Cookies (not so new), Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties and finally Gingersnaps.
I woke up and cracked open an eye to see how close it was to coffee o'clock. 15 minutes...and visions of gingersnaps were dancing in my head.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thanksgiving Bounty

Hello, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
My friend Rick, dropped off about 30 pounds of squash and yams the other day. They had been purchased as set dressing for a fancy private party with a Moroccan street market theme. He ended up with a garage full of this stuff.
So ahead lies the challenge of what to do with this cast of characters.
One 900 gram squash made its way into Ottolenghis Sweet Corn Soup which I doubled to accomodate the whole squash and my family for T Day. I froze the soup in four 2 cup freezer bags.
I'll probably roast up a batch of fries with a couple of dipping sauces for T Day/football appetizers and there's a gorgeous recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash with Sweet Spices, Lime and Chilis in Plenty.

T-Day soup's on

T-Day soups on, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Six days 'til turkey day. I begin with vegetable stock for the Ottolenghi Sweet Corn Soup. The ironic twist here is that his recipe doesn't even require stock! Just add water...just when I've got a freezer bursting with veggie bits (including about a dozen corn cobs) that have been dying to find their way into an awesome soup.
This is better than plain ol' water. Right?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Surprise Tartin

Surprise Tartin, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Surprise! This tastes waaaaaay better than it looks. I was photographically challenged. This comes from Ottolenghi's Plenty, my current library possession and cookery project.
The beautifully lit, styled and photographed tart that was in the book got me all  churned up and the only thing missing from the little kitchen were potatoes. I already had a jar of sloooow roasted tomatoes waiting for a new purpose. Cool, so off to the store for potatoes and 15 minutes later I'm preparing this.
This tartin is full of surprises. It's a savory potato pie with roasted tomatoes, sauteed onions, fresh oregano, goat cheese and puff pastry. First surprise-caramel. A thin layer coats the bottom of the cake pan before you start laying down the cut potatoes. I need some more practice with caramel. Surprise!  burnt lip wilst trying to taste whether it was burnt or not. The smell should'a tipped me off. Molten lava. Don't do that. The cooked potatoes drink up the caramel which enhances the overall sweetness of the caramelized tomatoes and onions. The goat cheese and puff pastry finish...perfection! The next surprise is in the reveal. This is one of those flip-overs as you're building it from top to bottom. This wasn't as purdy as Ottolengi's but dang! 
The best surprise is how good this is. I made this for lunch. It was gone before bedtime. Ate the whole thang. No surprise.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Oh. My. Goodness.

Currently OCDing on this, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.

I like pretty pictures.
It was still dark when I scooted down to Simple Pleasures for a beautifully leisure morning...like 6:05 a.m. Madness for a day off. I booted up the email and saw the notice from the library that THIS was waiting for ME...after what seemed like an eternity of waiting. Two blocks and four hours away. I was giddy with anticipation. At 10:05 I had it tucked under my arm and it hasn't left my side since.
Plently by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Hmmmnnn where do I begin? I like pretty pictures.
Almost exactly a year ago I started this blog...after several  months of noodling around my kitchen, it seemed necessary to manage my kitchen ADD keep track of everything I was doing there and what was inspiring me. Smitten Kitchen had posted her Cauliflower Parmesean Cake. The pretty picture piqued my curiosity enough to reconsider my aversion to cauliflower. It also piqued my interest in Ottolenghi. She linked to her recipe source, a column in The Guardian (UK) called The New Vegetarian by Yotam Ottolenghi. He simply calls it Cauliflower Cake. Innovative.  That word comes up in almost every thing that's been written about him.
SK's  comment section was abuzz with rave after rave for Ottolenghi and his London eateries. The book I've got in my hot little hands is a compilation of recipes and lots of pretty pictures from The New Vegetarian.
I googled images from Ottolenghi's eateries (boutique take-out) after reading about the stunning manner in which the food is presented. This is not about food all dolled up for the camera. It's for real.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Serendipity Sliders

Sliders, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I love serendipity.There's nothing breakfasty about these li'l burgers. It was really sorta freakin' me out that these little beef patties were cruisin' well past their sell-by date. I woke up thinking about sliders and just had to cook them asap. Last night I sloooooow roasted a sheet pan full of  farmers market tomatoes. Following a process I found in Gwyneth Paltrows cookbook (3-5 hours at 275 degrees), I'd put them in the oven around 8:00 somehow thinking I'd be awake long enough to see them through. By 10:30 they were on their way but still too plump. I turned the oven off and went to bed. When I anxiously woke at the crack of dawn with sliders on the brain, I fired up my cast iron skillet and commenced to cook. I only remembered the tomatoes when I opened the oven door to pop in some buns. Angels were singing. They had finished to a sunken syrupy perfection by the next morning in the residual heat.
I know I've said this before and I say this like there's actually someone out there reading this who gives two hoots but, slow roasted tomatoes are the bomb (thanks GP!). They are soooooo sweet and flavorful and can transform a good sandwich into a great one...a memorable one...a sandwich someone will write poetry about. Chop 'em up and toss them into pasta or on a salad or in an omelette....anyhoo...I digress.
Sliders. ok. these little suckers didn't suck. I topped them with crumbled blue cheese, spread 'em with a little canola mayo and some super sharp dijon and plopped down a slooooooow roasted tomato onto each bun. Absolutely brill! I can only imagine how good they'd be if I'd actually used fresh meat and bread.
I would have never-in-a-million-years thought to have made sliders if it hadn't been for the Fresh & Easy clearance...or unless Smitten Kitchen made some. Now I'm thinking of Turkey Feta Sliders on some kind of mini naan bun...oh! and some mint chutney.
This will keep me up at night.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mint Chutney Chicken Sandwich

Mint Chutney Chicken, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I am lately obsessed with my new neighborhood market, Fresh and Easy. I find myself the teensiest bit thrilled when I find that weekly circular in my lobby every Tuesday looking for that $5 coupon, the one that they dangle at me a couple of times a month. The one that sucks me in and has me spending more dollars than I've ever dropped at Whole Foods. There are evil geniuses cackling away up in their corporate offices.
How else can I explain buying vegetables in a package and clearance-shelf meat? Why would I be standing at the front door at 7:59 a.m. openopeneopen, then dragging two heavy bags (including 2 gallons of vanilla bean ice cream) plus a full backpack two blocks home.
Whatever. I'm up to my ears in carbs; cinnamon raisin bagels, fresh italian french bread, skillet cornbread and naan. Oh and I bought mini hamburger buns cuz the mini beef sliders were on clearance. Jeez...I've got vegetables mocking me at every turn and most unusual, too much meat. I bought tequila lime chicken breasts...yes more meat at it's sell-by date. It still took me two days to cook it. The Little Kitchen has morphed into it's own whacked out version of The Iron Chef...buy everything on the clearance shelf and make something asap...or not. Iron Stomach Chef?
I then find I must counter-act that chaingrocerystore action by high-tailing it down to the farmers market...ahhhh fresh herbs and tomatoes and corn on the cob. Now we're talking...yet all I did was glance at the Suhki stand and the guy selling  those Indian breads and spreads was pushing bites at me so eagerly that I felt compelled to buy something, and since I'm all about Indian food these days, well the ending is happy. Mint chutney and a bag of 2 large naan rounds.
I made these awesome sandwiches with my manky chicken. I stirred some plain yogurt into the mint chutney to spread on the naan....ooooh dang panini! too late. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Skillet Cornbread

Skillet Cornbread, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Nothing makes me happier and more at peace with the world than getting up at the crack of dawn and doing something productive...especially when it involves the flea market. I spent many, many years scouring flea markets, thrift shops and yard sales furnishing and outfitting the many apartments I've lived in over the years. After 10 years in the same studio apartment I've feng-shui'd most of that crap back out into the thrift shop cycle of life and a weekend job makes a leisurely day at the flea market impossible.
Thanks to the friend I affectionately call my test kitchen dummy, I managed to make my first trip to the Alemany Flea Market before my day shift. It was still pitch black outside when TKD swung by in his pick-up a few Sundays back to whisk me off. I had one goal: to find a cast iron skillet. I had seen a recipe for Skillet Cornbread somewhere. Months ago. I became absolutely obsessed with getting my hands on a cast iron skillet with the sole purpose of making cornbread...just not badly enough to cough up the big bucks to buy then carry it around  with me all day whilst riding a bicycle or public transpo. My early bird friend and his truck solved my logistical nightmare and I got to work by 10 a.m. having dropped off my $5 skillet at home along with a $5 pyrex measuring pitcher-a wide 4 cupper. I love it.
I made my first batch of Skillet Cornbread this weekend. It was not good. I found a recipe on epicurious that had potential but didn't call for any fresh corn. Weird. Lots of melted butter. Good. I added corn and browned the butter. More good. I used bacon grease to heat up in the skillet. Yum. When the batter hit that hot bacon-greasy skillet it sizzled. Awesome. That's what makes skillet cornbread special. The crusty bottom. Problem was the top third of the bread was underbaked though the top was well-browned and it was really dense and heavy. My mistake was having the rack too high 'cuz I was too lazy to take out my pizza stones and move things around. Live and learn.
For this next batch I used Smitten Kitchens recipe for Corniest Corn Muffins. This batch was brill'.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chili Sauce Chicken salad

Chicken salad, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
The other day, a friend I affectionately refer to as my test kitchen dummy, showed up with a bag of vine ripened tomatoes, pears, peaches and ancho chile's along with a recipe for Fresh Chili Sauce, a recipe from a co-worker. "I don't see any meat or beans in the recipe though..." he seemed perplexed. I studied the recipe a little longer than necessary "this looks like a condiment". "Oh...uuuuh...ok...you'll know what to do with it".
I made the chili sauce, adding my own savory concoction of sauteed onions, garlic, ginger and Indian spices. It turned out really nice. I was amazed at how much I loved the sweetness. I've never included chile sauce in my repertoire so I wasn't quite sure what to do with it. I'm not a big fan of ketchup.
First up...Chicken Salad. I mixed the chili sauce with yogurt, added a little more salt and pepper which really brought out the tangy-ness, then tossed it with my Tikka Masala grilled chicken, chopped pistachios, chopped dried cranberries and cilantro.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

Chicken Tikka Masala, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
It took a couple of days to actually produce the first recipes from my new gospel that is the Cooks Illustrated Cookbook, but it was well worth the effort. I get so much pleasure from just reading it...especially the cooking tips. One of my favorites so far is about cooking with vodka. Does high end over low make a difference? They compared Grey Goose to the cheapest vodka they found. If you buy cheap vodka and filter it through your Brita 4 times it makes no difference in a cooked dish. Love it!
Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice Pilaf? so good it was dinner last night and breakfast this morning. Hell! what's not to love about spicy tomato sauce, heavy cream and big chunks of charred yogurt crusted chicken breast? Besides I just love saying "Chicken Tikka Masala!"
I could eat this 'til I'm sick and no doubt will. Another tip, (I did not come across it until after the chicken was done...sigh) is: cream based tomato sauces don't freeze well. I should try it anyway.
I begin in my comfort zone: Basmati Rice Pilaf which I did the other morning before work. I love having flavorful rices and farro around and I make large batches of  pilaf that last for a few days. I've been testing out my new Penzeys curry spices on brown basmati rice, by simply stirring the spice into onions and garlic sauteeing in hot oil, then stirring in the rice and toasting that up a bit, then pouring in hot water with vegetarian chicken seasoning then letting it all cook out. Pilafs finishing in the slow cooker are a fantastic thing to come home to in the evening. I'm ALWAYS surprised when I do this. I walk in my front door and I'm like "what the hell? Honey?" then I realize that I am my own honey.
I had an old bag of Basmati Rice Medley from Trader Joes. It's purdy. Whole spices are tossed around in a pan of hot oil ( a cinnamon stick, green cardamom pods and whole cloves) then, the rice is tossed in, stirred around a bit, covered with water (I really want to use a chicken seasoning here but refrain myself from these impulses the first time out with a recipe-especially from a source I revere) and cooked on the stovetop. 
Yesterday morning I coated 4 trimmed chicken breasts in a spice rub and left them refrigerated all day. I also made up the sauce just until the point the cream is added and left that in the fridge 'til I got home. When I got home I reheated the sauce, coated the whole chicken breasts in a thick mixture of oil, garlic, ginger and yogurt and popped them in the broiler. CI says this keeps the breasts moist. Into the tomato sauce mixture, I stirred in  the whole 8oz. carton of heavy cream (the recipe called for 2/3 c.-my only deviation from the gospel of CI-oh that, and I forgot to add the cilantro at the end and that really pisses me of since I had it in the fridge and I'm ALWAYS dumping dead cilantro) brought it just to the simmer and took it off the heat. The chicken was cut to 1" cubes then tossed into the sauce. Dish it up and bask in all of its glory.
This is really one of the best dishes I've made in the last year.
Cooks Illustrated Cookbook: 2 for 2!

Mise en Place: Chicken Tikka Masala

A few days ago I stumbled upon a cute blog called The Art of Doing Stuff. The minute I saw her pic depicting her white prep dishes, I dashed off to my local chinese restaurant supply and picked these up for 2 bucks each.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2000 recipes

A new cookbook, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I usually don't get all that excited by book signings, even when Anthony Bourdain was in town awhile back and  I LOVE that man.
But when my America's Test Kitchen feed on facebook announced that Chris Kimball would be in town today...I mean, how could I not go. I don't have to buy a book, I told myself. I've resisted the 70% off offers that I get through my ATK newsletters every week. I swore off buying any more cookbooks. I didn't even know there was a new cookbook. Well, it goes without saying, I've got a new cookbook...an 875 page behemouth of a cookbook. A $40, full on retail paid, cookbook. 2000 recipes from the best of Cooks Illustrated Magazine. But it's signed...to me "To Michele, nice to meet you, Chris Kimball" Nuthin' wrong with that.
Questions asked at the book signing:
What is the recipe that has given ATK the most trouble? Fudge! What recipe is the test of a good cook? Apple pie.
 I'm not gonna go all Julie/Julia on this but I best get crackin'.
In continuing with my Indian curry obsession, I'll be making Chicken Tikka Masala tonight (which as it turns out is not an authentic Indian recipe, but originated in a London curry house). I love this book already;-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

pottin' some pies

Pottin' some pies, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
These little dishes of stewiness are on their way to chicken pot pie nirvana.  This one features a tandoori twist, in keeping with my current curry fixation.
I roasted a chicken the other night...for the sole purpose of conjuring up some new leftover ideas. I made an Apple Quinoa Salad with Curry Dressing that turned out pretty great. Problem was I never got a chance to eat it (thanks to some clean freak at work), but those few tastes were nice.
I never got around to making the curry chicken salad I had spent days searching and bookmarking. Suddenly I fixated on the idea of a Tandoori Chicken Pot Pie.
I start by cleaning out the fridge of anything teetering on the edge...leeks, asparagus, fennel, zucchini...then adding potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and garlic cloves (skins on). Chop everything (except garlic) to a large dice and toss it with salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes toss and bake for 10 minutes more. The crucial thing is to NOT crowd the veg or else it'll all just steam, not brown. I always have a ton of veg to use up so I end up having to roast in batches. Yeah, it takes forever. While the roasting is finishing up, I start the sauteed stuff.
Into the hot dutch oven goes about 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (olive oil is fine too) let it melt and get hot (oil ripples in the pot) then toss in a cup of diced onion...today it was a leftover half of a large red onion and a similarly fated half of a yellow onion...why did I have 2 old onion halves in the fridge door? who knows? Then I stirred in 2 teaspoons of minced ginger, the roasted garlic (skins removed) and a teaspoon each of Penzey's tandoori seasoning and a garam masala mix I got from Haig's Delicacies a while back. Then I toss in the roasted veg and stir that around a bit. I probably could have used 2 teaspoons of each spice mix since there was soooo much veg but in the end the stew tasted really nice.
Next goes the 4 cups of chicken stock I made with my roasted chicken carcass the night I roasted the chicken:-) I'd refrigerated it so it was pretty gelatinous...I nuked it for 2 minutes before tossing it in the pot.
Then the diced and shredded chicken goes in (I'm not a fan of dark meat so when I carve the roasted chicken and remove the breast meat for chicken salad sandwiches and other salads, I shred the remaining meat off the bone and save it for exactly this purpose-it's usually about 2 cups of chicken-my ratio of veg to chicken ends up being about 3 to 1.
I then toss in a cup each of frozen corn and frozen peas...let that heat up a minute or two then add 1/3 cup of dry vermouth. Let that cook out a bit 3-5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium low and while that's cooking, in a small non-stick pot, melt two tablespoons of butter then add two tablespoons of flour...this is called a roux and it's purpose is to thicken the stew. Stir it about for a minute to cook the flour, then scrape it into the stew.
Stir that around a bit and you'll notice that everything starts to thicken. Turn off the heat.
The last step is to add the creaminess. This can be done with a cup of heavy cream or sour cream. I like to use greek yogurt or strain the whey out of non-fat yogurt. This time I added the last bit (about a 1/4 cup) of apricot chutney, a jarred preserve I picked up from Casa de Fruta a while back, to my strained non-fat yogurt  and stirred that around for a bit and then added it to the pot.
Seriously, this was off-the-charts good.
The topping will be herb biscuit crust...or maybe it'll be polenta, that I dollop on top with a small ice cream/portion scoop and bake for 30 minutes until the biscuit topping is golden brown. Let it rest for 10 minutes then serve.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Naan, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
ok...so I made the naan last night. Easy, just like pizza dough in the food processor. I think I rolled them out too thin though, they look like grilled tortillas, but they were pretty good even the next day. I brought them to work and even though fresh hot tortillas were ready and waiting I ate my homemade naan for lunch today with the chana masala and Chevy's mexican rice. It was gooooood!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

chana masala~the latest from an ADD-led brain

chana masala, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
The other day I was noodling around the food blogosphere and came upon a recipe for an apple quinoa salad with a curry dressing. It looked inspiring as I had 2 apples left over from my galette and everything but the curry. No worries, I say to myself, this would be pretty awesome with a honey mustard. I didn't make that.
My ADD & OCD kicked in simultaneously and I'm suddenly obsessed with curry, which is just damned freakish because I don't even know if I like curry. I've dined out at my neighborhood India Clay Oven exactly twice in the ten years I've lived all of 10 blocks from the place. In spite of its remarkable under $10 all-you-can-eat buffet lunch, I didn't find the food all that remarkable. It was fine. Given a choice, I tend to go Chinese when I'm looking for a quick inexpensive meal out.
Remembering that I'd be needing to make a trip to Menlo Park for costume related business, visions of Penzey's danced in my head. Curry? you ask? I didn't know there were that many curries outside of India or an Indian market. They've got 9 different curries. I ended up with Sweet Curry Powder and a Tandoori Seasoning. I already had an unopened bag of Garam Masala, purchased earlier this year with no purpose or plan.
I spent the hour train ride home on my netbook searching for curry recipes, none of which I found inspiring. I should have known better and started with Smitten Kitchen. You'll note that I have still not made that Apple Quinoa Salad with the Curry Dressing that set this whole business in motion to begin with. Those apples will no doubt shrivel up and die right in front of me. As soon as I got home I decided to make a simple rice curry to test out the flavor. I sauteed some garlic and onions in olive oil, added a tablespoon of the sweet curry powder and a cup of Trader Joes brown basmati rice, stirred that up in the skillet for a bit and then transferred it to the slow cooker with vegetarian chicken seasoning and water. Then I went out for a margarita and a trip to Fresh & Easy, my new favorite grocery store.
Anyhoo, SK has a handful of Indian recipes and each one inspires. I started with this Chana Masala, knowing that I had a couple of cans of garbanzo beans in the pantry. I picked up some dried chick peas on my way home from the train station anyway and threw them in the slow cooker before I went to bed. They were perfect this morning. I'd roasted three pounds of tomatoes last night, planning to make soup but they got diverted here.
So this was what I whipped up for breakfast. Curried rice with Chana Masala and a poached egg on top! It's been cooking around in my ADD-led brain for days now.
I just had it again for lunch and I bet it'll be tasty in a breakfast tacodilla tomorrow.

Note to self: Naan?

Monday, October 10, 2011

a typical breakfast

Breakfast, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Never mind the dirty counter top okay?!? here's what's up...for the past few weeks, I've been lamenting the loss of my kitchen mojo. Upon reflection, it's been more like a pause in my kitchen ADD, that constant desire to find the next best recipe. I flip through my cookbooks with less enthusiasm and without my colored post its...soooo unlike me! I spend a little less time perusing my favorite foodie blogs but I also spend less time trashing my kitchen. Correction: the kitchen usually remains trashed from the two or three days of depositing dirty dishes all over the counter top and leaving them alone.  Yeah...I do that. A lot.
This morning started along a similar path. I got out of bed much later than usual, I do that a lot too, seemingly totally un-motivated by coffee, fresh and ready, down the street at my local cafe. I eventually made it down there, but it left me prescious little time to get back home and ready for work. I could have had a nicely loaded bagel with my coffee and contemplated it several times but here's what I did instead, after heading back home:
I heated up the last of a pre-cooked batch of buttery, cheesy polenta (I cook up a big pot that lasts a few days, I then heated up the last bit of charred corn and made my tacodillas (corn, caramelized onions, roasted peppers and whatever cheese I have, usually goat cheese). I had a breakfast that was better than anything I could have had at any restaurant and it didn't require much effort.
There are so many little things I've learned in my year of cooking. I love love love polenta. Comfort food that rivals the best mac 'n cheese. Then there's the beauty of caramelization. Onions that can just be left alone over a low flame for an hour or so. Roasted  peppers... just a few minutes in the broiler result in what has become one of my refrigerator staples. Slow roasted tomatoes. Crazy good. Very little prep time and slow cooking tranforms simple and inexpensive vegetables into bliss.
There's a new supermarket in the neighborhood called Fresh and Easy. I've grown to love it. They have a clearance area where things are at their sell by date. Yesterday I hit the motherlode purchasing several two-packs of a red and yellow pepper for .50 cents (which I immediately roasted), a fennel bulb for .30 cents and 3-pack of heirloom tomatoes for .30 cents.
Shaved Fennel Salad for lunch today;-)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

an apple galette and reclaiming my comfort zone

Apple Galette, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
September was not a productive month in the little kitchen. Other artistic endeavors aside, I've had a hard time getting my kitchen mojo back. Several weeks ago two things occurred somewhat simultaneously that yanked me out of my kitchen and my comfort zone and denying me of my much coveted, sanity restoring, sleep.
When I'm not trashing my kitchen or mixing up margaritas at work, I can be found rummaging through the many vintage, thrift, discount and fabric shops throughout San Francisco and the peninsula, foraging through the costume rental warehouses at A.C.T. or TheatreWorks in a mad dash to acquire all things necessary to costume the occasional stage production.
This past weekend I opened a production of Cabaret, to great reviews. It involved a lot of very long days and very short  (on sleep) nights. The stress of pushing toward a deadline seems to have collided in full-force with off-the-chart hormonal imbalances aka menopause,  that has separated me from my comfort zone.  
I'm attempting to get my toe in the zone here with this Apple Galette. I've been wanting to make a galette for ages. I've always been attracted to the simplicity of this free-form tart. Fortunately I don't have to look too far for inspiration...I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen (natch!). She calls it a Simple Apple Tart (she builds hers in a tart pan). She also instructs the galette approach which simply requires you to roll the dough out into a 14" round, transfer it onto a piece of parchement on a baking sheet or slide the parchment onto a pizza stone (that's what I did), tile your sliced apples in a circle starting two inches in from the edge and filling in to the center and then folding the dough over the edge and pinching tucks every couple of inches. The recipe didn't call for any cinnamon so I didn't use any. That was tough 'cuz I really really had to resist grabbing that little jar of Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon I coveted from Penzeys...sigh...so as instructed I sprinked a coarse sugar over the whole thing. She also instructs to save the peel and cores and cook them with water and sugar to make a syrup which gets brushed over the top after the galette is baked. 
This really couldn't have been simpler. I love the apple pie comfort. It makes a great dessert with a little vanilla ice cream. I brought some to work for a breakfasty snack. I used golden delicious apples which were recommended and clearly for a reason. I was expecting some sogginess and there was none.
I'm comfortable with this.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ready for roasting

Tomatoes ready for roasting, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.

The little kitchen has been sadly neglected these several weeks, but for the sake of art. Even in the midst of the insanity and sleep deprivation that has invaded my life and body lately, I feel like I need my kitchen more than ever.
Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for Roasted Tomato Soup a little over a week ago and I'd find myself from time to time, thinking about this damn soup.
What's remarkable about this is that the soup is finished under a broiler like a French Onion Soup...in an oven-safe bowl with a toasted chunk of french bread and a topping of shredded cheddar cheese.
I roasted the tomatoes last night with generous slather of Magic Sauce from 101 Cookbooks. Magic Sauce is an herb infused olive oil featuring sweet paprika, hence the orange sheen on the tomatoes.
I made the soup in a mad dash this morning but it got a little burnt under the broiler so I'll try it again tonight.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Three Amigos

Three Amigos, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.

These three jars of jammy roasted goodness are in a perpetual rotation in my fridge. When I manage to get all three in there at the same time...well it's bliss.
My first favorite thing is Onion Jam, sloooowwwwly caramelized onions. Second are roasted red and yellow peppers. Last but not least are the slow roasted tomatoes, a technique I recently discovered in Gwyneth Paltrows cookbook.
Individually any one of these are a gorgeous and flavorful addition to my breakfast tacodillas or on a BLT or any kind of sandwich, tossed into a pasta or on a salad...the possibilites are endless.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Zucchini Fritters with Magic Sauce

The bad news is the bad picture. Night time photography in the little kitchen never goes well. Armed with a low budget cell phone cam and a little help from flickr, my pics are pretty simple. There's no fancy lighting equipment to produce decent pictures at night when the whirlwind of creativity in the little kitchen generally finds its groove. The pics and styling usually happen in the morning when the light in my kitchen is at it's optimal alignment.
The good news is that these two recipes were soooooo good that nothing made it to the next morning to be primped an styled.
The first to arrive in my inbox came from Smitten Kitchen. Zucchini Fritters (go to smittenkitchen.com and get this recipe NOW! it's awesome). I am happy to declare that I am no longer on the fence about zucchini. I was also excited enough by it to go out and buy a cast iron skillet today ( a $5 flea market find, truth be told). but I'm getting ahead of myself as it's been  week since I made these for the first time.
Immediately upon reading the post, I dashed on over to my neighborhood produce market and bought up a bunch of zucchini. Within a day or so Heidi Swanson at 101cookbooks posted a recipe for what she calls Magic Sauce. It's a garlic, fresh herb(rosemary, thyme, oregano), pepper flake and sweet paprika infused olive oil that is seriously outta this world. It's similar to a chimichurri sauce...but different.
I've made this Magic Sauce three times in the last two weeks, doubling the recipe the 2nd and 3rd times. I've used it to brush onto corn tortillas for my breakfast tacodillas, on my turkey BLT's from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, I mixed it into scrambled eggs and diced up turkey bacon for my black bean quesadillas, I've brushed it on the tomatoes getting ready for the slow roast and next on the to do list is to toss it into some pasta.
Together these things are magic. I love it when I can marry my two favorite foodie blogs and come up with something spectacular.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Roasted Sweet Pepper Soup

Roasted Sweet Pepper Soup, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
My current obsession is soup. I was inspired by the cold damp beach weather out here in the Outer Richmond and a simple stock recipe I found on ruhlman.com, my other current obession.
Michael Ruhlman is a food writer, journalist and author who has written numerous food-centric books, one of which I'm currently reading, "The Making of a Chef". It chronicles his time as a student at the Culinary Institute of America, research...taken on solely for the purpose of writing about it. I think I first became aware of him  when he appeared on "No Reservations" as Anthony Bourdains nemesis and partner in crime in the Vegas episode and later the Cleveland episode. He's funny... and he's easy on the eyes to boot. The man knows a thing or two about food. His recent post about his approach to chicken stock seems to have stirred up a shit load of contraversy in his blogs comment section about food safety.
He leaves his chicken stock in a pot on the stove top and just reheats it to 180F when he needs to use it or within 24 hours.  One chicken will render about 2 quarts of stock. He doesn't refrigerate it, and apparently manages to use it all within a couple of days. So far no one has gotten sick.
It was enough to inspire me to do something with the freezer full of chicken scraps I've been saving up. This was my first attempt at Chicken Stock.
I dumped a bag full of parts into the dutch oven, covered it with water and proceeded to cook it over a low flame for several hours, maintaining a 180F temperature for 4-6 hours. Add a large carrot (peeled and cut into large chunks) a large onion (cut into eighths), black peppercorns and a bay leaf to continue cooking for the last hour. There's much straining  of chunky parts through a clean kitchen towel and then skimming off fat as the stock cools down. Just leave it on the stove top and use as needed. Seems to be fine.
The next evening (I'd started my stock the previous evening and cooked it for about 4 hours. Shut it down leaving it on the stove over night and then adding the vegetables the next morning to contintue to slow cook for another hour. I shut it all down again prior to leaving for work and did all the skimming that evening. I made a roasted cauliflower soup that night and the day after that I made this roasted sweet pepper soup. By the third day the stock just looked too nasty and I dumped it. Both soups were delish and I didn't get sick.
I found this Roasted Sweet Pepper Soup recipe in a recent post at Sass and Veracity, a new food blog I discovered. I've made this twice now and it's incredibly good and even better the next day. The first time I used red, yellow and orange bell peppers, not realizing that the sweet peppers she was using were actually mini sweet peppers. I always thought those little clamshells of mixed peppers were hot. Turns out they're not. I bought some today at Smart and Final and tried it again. I'm not a fan only because it takes for freakin' ever to peel and de-seed the two pounds the recipe calls for. Between the finishing up of my new batch of chicken stock, the tedious pepper thing and my overly ambitious and misguided decision to make Gwyneth Paltrows Vegetarian Chili at the same time, I just spent four hours cooking.
GP's vegetarian chili is awesome. No regrets.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This made me very happy today

Yay Penzey's!, originally uploaded by riptideredsf,
A little more than a year ago, in my early days of everyday cooking and becoming one with my kitchen, I first discovered my favorite foodie blog Smitten Kitchen. Holidays were approaching and I was entralled by Deb's post for Spiced Applesauce Cake. In that post she waxed poetic about Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon and the Penzey's spice stand at the Grand Central Market in NYC, describing this particular cinnamon as being stronger, clearer and more flavorful than any cinnamon she'd ever used before. I made the applesauce. I made the cake. spectacular! even with everyday supermarket I-don't-know-how-long-this-has-been-in-the-pantry cinnamon. I eventually found a Vietnamese cinnamon at Rainbow, a local natural foods co-op, which I scooped out of a giant jar. It wasn't Extra Fancy though. I can't say whether or not it outshined the supermarket stuff. The applesauce I'd made with it back then was pretty darned good though. I haven't really given it much thought since.  Fast forward to yesterday morning.
I had an appointment out of town in the little burb of Menlo Park, an hours train ride south of San Francisco. Early for said appointment, I was killing time on Santa Cruz Avenue, a trendy little shopping street where I've been known to browse the thrift and resale shops...but reeeeaaally? $16.99 for a silk camisole from the Goodwill?!? Madness. Back on the street, dishearted and  quite steamed at such nervy prices,  I look across the street and see the name Penzey's Spices lettered across a storefront. My heart practically leaps out of my chest. Extra Fancy within my grasp...yeah...talk about madness.
I dash across the street and spend a moment peering through the window like a kid at a candy store. I'm entralled by the inviting oldey timey country merchantile shop design. I enter and begin to browse around the old fashioned wooden crates stacked upon wooden barrels. Each crate features an individual spice or herb, offering 3 or 4 sizes and packaging options (jars or plastic sealed bags), and the best part are the big jars. I'm instructed to give the jar a shake, remove the top and stick my nose in and sniff away, just be careful with the peppers. After nosing around a bit, I'm drawn to a far corner where there's a 30's kitchen repro, kinda like something you'd find in the Smithsonian, displaying all of the baking spices. I've hit the motherlode and the Extra Fancy.
I remembered giggling at that Smitten Kitchen post when she described going into that shop for just one thing and ends up having to bust out the granny cart. Silly girl. I so get that now. An hour later (and now running late for my appointment) my shopping basket is full. In addition to my Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon, I've got (I don't know why) both black and yellow mustard seeds, dried sage, bay leaves, a poultry rub, black extra hot peppercorns, chervil (never used it before but upon opening the sniffing jar I'm intrigued aaaand it's French) and a chili spice mix.
First order of business is to do Gwyneth Paltrow's vegetarian chili again and applesauce and perhaps a roasted chicken...silly girl!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jamaican Veggie Patties

Jamaican Veggie Patties, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I read a bold statement awhile back. I can't remember where or exactly when...epicurious maybe???  It didn't seem to mean a lot at the time but every now and again I think about it.

"You can eat all the fast food you want...as long as you make it yourself"

When I was in grad school at NYU I was addicted to Jamaican Beef Patties that could be found along side of a big slice from Ray's Pizza. Inside those flakey yellow pastries was a spicy, wet meat mixture that was outta this world. I had no idea what was in them and I didn't care. All I knew was that for 3 bucks I could fill up on a big slice of pizza and a meat pie and I was ready to face the grad school grind. I refer to those three years as my institutional years.

Once I moved back to California I never saw those killer, lard laden meat pies ever again. Outta sight outta mind. Then one day a few months ago I'm noodling around over on 101cookbooks and I see a recipe for Jamaican Veggie Patties.  It's also vegan so I'm thinking its gotta be healthy. Healthy fast food I can cook myself. The vegan aspect is that butter is replaced by coconut oil. So I put that on my shopping list for my next trip to Rainbow, a local natural foods co-op I'd recently discovered. The recipe also requires coconut milk which was easily procured from my neighborhood Chinese market.

The upshot is that the preparation of these veggie patties is far from fast, but the result is worth it. Pastry vexes me. Rolling the chilled dough out is a pain because it cracks and sticks all over my rolling pin. I'm not sure what I may be doing wrong or if that's just the nature of certain pastry. I was still rolling dough balls and making patties at one in the morning, but when all was said and done the results were awesome. I froze half of the dozen unbaked pies and the baked the rest, which were an easy heat up in the microwave. The scent of the spice mix, cumin, allspice, cinnamon and cayenne linger in the kitchen for a couple of days.

I tend to over do it in the veggie compilation because I'm trying to use up whatever I have in the fridge. But no problem. I made breakfast burritos with the remaining mix...another great fast food from the little kitchen.

Monday, August 15, 2011

roasted tomato omelet with caramelized onions and blue cheese

It's been a week of firsts and oddly enough I have Gwyneth Paltrow to thank and my neighborhood public library. I've had GP's cookbook My Fathers Daughter on a hold request for months now and I finally got it last week. I sensed it's potential when even before I was midway through my page by page perusal I had tagged more than ten recipes.
The grand testament to this books inspiring and persuasive presentation is that GP has done what no other has managed to do...convince me to eat brussels sprouts! Seriously. I may have been force fed brussels sprouts as a kid. I must have blacked that out. Some kitchen trauma caused my perceived distrust distaste for them.
She doesn't really create a "recipe" for brussels sprouts. She instructs to steam them for a few minutes, slice them in half then pan fry in olive oil, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and then finish off with fresh lemon juice. Soooo simple and surprisingly good. I will do them again. Tonight.
Two nights ago I made the Slow Roasted Tomatoes (again from GP's book) and I had the same reaction as I did the first time I tried the caramelized onions...HOLY CRAP!!!! these are magical. What's great is that with about 2 minutes of preparation, I can sit back and leave it all alone. The tomatoes get sliced in half (through the equator) brushed with a tiny bit of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, onto a cookie sheet and set into a pre-heated 275F oven for 3-5 hours. They're done when the edges are darkened and most of the moisture is gone. In the meantime the onions (about 5 or 6) medium sized, get peeled and sliced then tossed around a hot dutch oven with 2 T of olive oil to get them all coated and given some time to start to brown around the edges. Then they go on to cook on a low heat for an hour or so until they're all caramelized into a jammy sweetness that are magical in so many ways. I've become obsessed with them wrapped in a corn tortilla with a sprinkling of blue cheese.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pomegranate Spritzer

Pomegranate Spritzer, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I've been playing around with mocktails for the last couple of days in an attempt to channel my creativity in the kitchen into my downtime at my job. During the day I work in a bar mixing up all kinds of margaritas and when work is done I've been known to enjoy a margarita or two or three myself, but there are times when a margarita or any cocktail for that matter may just not be the thing. Booze makes me lazy, yet the social time and the happy hour most definitely remain the thing. 
Things were slow today so I concocted this refreshing blend of pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice and club soda topped off with the juice of half a lime and half a lemon. I prefer a tart drink but I also made one with the addition of agave nectar to sweeten it up a little. You could also substitute Sprite to sweeten it up even more.
I gave the recipe to one of my favorite bartenders after work and had her sub cranberry juice for the pomegranate.

breakfast quesadilla with sauteed mushrooms

My mad kitchen skills seem to not only be fueled by OCD and ADD, now there's the more frequently occurring CRS (can't remember shit). Big bag of 'shrooms? from when and where did you come? I've known they were there and every day there's a fleeting thought to cook them. This morning, whilst sipping my pint of java at the cafe and trolling the internet, apropos of nothing, I had this image of sauteed mushrooms laying across a bed of caramelized onions wrapped in a warm blanket of an egg lined tortilla. 
Moments later I was back in the little kitchen inspecting mushrooms in an attempt to identify their origin and gauge their mankiness. I wouldn't eat them in a salad but they were crying to be tossed around in a buttered skillet with shallots, garlic, thyme and a little salt and pepper. Shredded cheddar and slivered basil finished these off quite nicely.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Eggplant Pilaf with Pistachios and Cinnamon

Eggplant Pilaf, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This colorful concoction is what became of the other half of the eggplant and my day off. The recipe comes from Gourmet via epicurious.com. I used the Basmati Rice Medley from Trader Joes. This pilaf also includes fresh dill, tomatoes and dried cranberries. The recipe called for dried currants but I didn't have any but I always have dried cranberries and oddly, I had pistachios. Yay pantry!
This is definitely a keeper. The sweetness of the cranberries with the cinnamon is gorgeous. It was great this morning topped with a poached egg and shaved parmesean.

Eggplant Pizza

Eggplant Pizza, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I've been bikeless for ten days now and I'm starting to freak out about the severe reduction in exercise and the calories I'm no longer burning. I was at the produce market yesterday vowing to continue my quest to bring fruits and vegetables back into the little kitchen everyday. I'm also trying to revisit the idea of trying something new. Then I saw the big eggplant for a $1 and decided to give it another shot. I'm still on the fence about the eggplant. I bought my first one last summer when I had access to a grill and it was pretty darn good. I'd also made an eggplant crostini that needs to be made again. That's actually what I was going to do when I got this one, yet as the ADD goes I spent half the morning googling eggplant recipes and when I hit upon the Eggplant Pizza on epicurious, I was like "of course!" if it can't work on a pizza then there's just no hope - and since I had all the ingredients on hand this was the decided task of the day...yet I kept looking and finally stopped at Eggplant Pilaf (it was a very large eggplant).
I think the pizza looks kinda pretty and it does taste good. I'm just trying to find the eggplant. I'm tasting the cheeses, garlic and the heat of the red pepper flakes.
Oh and I was just informed that eggplant is a fruit. I learn something new everyday.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


A day off. I woke up this morning to a dreary overcast day. It's usually dreary and overcast out in this neck of the woods. Cold. Wintery. Damp. That's the downside to living by the beach.Yet, two miles inland, the sun shines and the sky is blue. This is Summer in San Francisco.
I  decide to play up the rainy day angle and channel my inner domestic goddess. I grab my new stack of library books and magazines (because I juuuust don't have enough inspiration here in the little kitchen already), a pile of post-it tags and trot on over to Simple Pleasures. First order of business after purchasing my pint of coffee is to open up the netbook and search for eggplant recipes. Stay tuned for Eggplant Pizza.
After noodling around on the computer for an hour, I pull out The Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics first. Within ten minutes I've tagged about 20 recipes and I'm freakin' starving. I quickly pack everything up (didn't even finish my coffee) and tear on back to the little kitchen. 
Yet, first thing I do when I get home is make pizza dough and get that rising. Then I commence with the preparation of my breakfast quesadilla using up the last of my caramelized onions. Within minutes the quesadilla is on the plate. Ready to eat. Do I dig in? not just yet. I'm still trying to get a good picture of this thing. I need to dress it up. A little dollop of yogurt with a little lemon zest? Next thing I know I'm making a cucumber dill salad.
Yes. I know I'm a freak.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Rotten Peaches...

Peach Shortbread, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
...never tasted so good. This was one of the first recipes I made last year in my pursuit of a fruitier and veggier kitchen. I was all about peaches when I first discovered this recipe for Peach Shortbread on Smitten Kitchen. It was also my introduction to browned butter, the process by which you melt butter and slowly cook it until the solids separate and toast to a nutty brown. It adds another dimension to the perfection of butter...and yes if you didn't think butter could get any better, try browning it. All this butter effort was probably too good for those rotten peaches.
I'm embarrassed to admit how many peaches I've tossed in the last few months. I buy with the best of intentions, only to let them sit all pretty in a painted ceramic bowl until they become consumed in a murky puddle. I really hate when that happens. The other day I  come home from work and I'm greeted by a bowl of rotting peaches.  Ok. Enough is enough. Perhaps a crisp? a tart? I've been wanting to do a free form tart yet the shortbread started dancing around in my head and before I knew it I was browning butter. After babysitting it over the stove for 20 minutes, it needs time to cool and solidify. This wasn't going to happen quickly, even in the freezer. It wasn't until I started thinking about the whole grain flours hanging out in the fridge that I started to feel inspired and decided on trying kamut flour in the shortbread to replace half of the all purpose flour. I'd made cookies from Good To The Grain with kamut flour awhile back so it seemed like a good fit. It was. Even at 1 a.m. when I finally got to eat the spoils of my rotten peaches.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Breakfast Quesadilla

Breakfast Quesadilla, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Here's another riff on my newest favorite thing with a whole wheat tortilla fused onto a little omelet of caramelized onions, roasted peppers, blue cheese and basil. This one was far prettier in the skillet than it was on the plate but the taste is pretty freakin' awesome.
I still can't get over the onion transformation in the caramelizing process. Now I always have a jar in the fridge. I've made scones and biscuits with them and of course they're great on pizza or on top of a foccacia. So far I've been using just cheap, .39 cents a pound, yellow onions. Would caramelizing sweet onions be much too much or ultimately sublime? and of course there's the red onion...sigh...this is what I do.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Refrigerator Rescue-Slaw

Slaw, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
It was the fennel that first cried out to be saved, a little brown around the edges, reaching out at me from the veggie drawer with its four trimmed fronds, then the discovery of a red bell pepper that had totally curled up in the corner of the drawer but was still surprisingly firm, a purple cabbage beginning to puddle in its bag... the great thing about cabbage is that it has a pretty great drawer life once you peel away the manky outer layer. It's all good now with the addition of some grated zucchini and a chiffonade of basil then Smitten Kitchens "Not Your Mamas Cole Slaw" awesome dijon blue cheese dressing with my additional riff of homemade mayonaise. At the very end of the processing I added a drizzle of agave nectar. I like a touch of sweetness in my mayo.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

charred corn tacodillas

Charred Corn tacodillas, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Is it a taco or quesadilla? I couldn't decide. I was having another ADD/OCD moment in the little kitchen yesterday as I bounced between my two favorite foodie blogs Smitten Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks. Heidi had posted a recipe for quesadillas a while back that had me all atwitter with her method of cooking an egg onto a corn tortilla then filling it with a little feta, herbs and toasted capers. I've made several versions of that quesadilla since and I love it!  A couple of days ago Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe for Charred Corn Tacos and though eggs weren't included in this recipe, she noted that eggs and tortillas pair up frequently in her kitchen. So from blog bouncing to bouncing off my little kitchen walls...
I created another hybrid. I just made these minutes ago and they are soooo good I had to get this down asap. Taco? Quesadilla? I guess in order for it to be a quesadilla the cheese has to be the dominant factor essentially binding all the other ingredients together.
I like the word tacodilla, a marriage of my two favorite blogs. My addition to the charred/sauteed corn filling are the grape tomatoes and some leftover caramelized onions. These were freakin' off-the-hook!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

meaty pizza


Ready for the oven, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This insanely loaded pizza is just ready to go in the oven. I then baked it up for a friend with whom I've been sharing my pizza triumphs.
The other day he handed me a bag of meat and cheese. I had some fun with this one yesterday. It included not only sausage and pepperoni (he'd inadvertently bought a 70% less fat turkey pepperoni), but the night before I caramelized some yellow onions, sauteed cremini mushrooms and roasted some red peppers. I had one slice before I handed it over and dang! it was good.
When I do this again, I'll double the dough and make it thicker so as to carry the weight of all that stuff.
I changed up my strategy on getting this behemoth onto the hot stone. I coated a rimless baking sheet with lots of corn meal then placed the rolled out dough on it before I started loading. It slid onto the stone easier and is much lighter and less cumbersome than the wooden cutting board I'd been using.
The little kitchen is happily a work-in-progress.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Little pizza kitchen

Little pizza kitchen, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
There's a whole lotta pizza goin' on in the little kitchen these days. I've been making up for lost time since I got the new pizza stone. This is my first attempt into the world of meat. I've been eyeing the varieties of flavored sausages since we started making the cajun bbq quesadilla at work. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the spice and heat, so naturally I'm thinking about getting that onto a pizza.
This one starts with a tomato sauce made from canned crushed tomatoes. This is a really simple sauce I got from 101cookbooks. It was from her recipe for Stuffed Shells. I heated up some olive oil in a pot, added chopped garlic, a chopped shallot and some red pepper flakes before adding the can of tomatoes. Done.
I topped the sauce with mozzarella and parmesean. I cut up two largish cajun spiced sausages and browned them in a skillet a little before adding them to the pizza. This was goooood!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

World Peace Cookies

World Peace Cookies, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
It looks as if this is becoming the year of the cookie. I'm always looking for an excuse to bake them. I made these yesterday as a going away present for my friend Mike who's off to New York for his next big adventure. I've been dying to try them ever since I saw them in one of Dorie Greenspans newsletters. They can be found at  http://www.doriegreenspan.com/. They are little bites  of chocolatey chocolate chip bliss and one bite induces feelings of peace and joy, hence the name.
If only one could stop at one bite. These are chocolate crack.