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, 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 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 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 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.