Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mine for the next 3 weeks!

Mine for the next 3 weeks!, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
One of the great things about my new job aside from the freedom to eat the worlds best cupcakes all day long if I want, is being around the bakers. I love chatting with them about what brought them to this place. They're all young and fairly recently out of culinary school. It inspires.
There's another great little perk. Location. I pedal by the Tartine Bakery everyday, famous and getting famouser, especially for their bread. The Tartine rustic loaf is something that continues to ellude me because by the time I ride by the loaves are gone.
I'm hoping there may be a few people who would really understand the joy I felt when I happened to stumble across this book at the Marina library the other day after getting sprung a little early from my retail day at Kara's. I had no idea this book even existed.
My first project: starting my own starter, which means to cultivate my own wild yeast. It doesn't sound really hard, you just need to be attentive to a schedule, which I'm all about these days.
The book instructs to mix a total of 5 lbs. of both white bread flour and whole wheat bread flour. Then in a small glass bowl, filled about half way with room temperature water, begin adding the flour mixture and working it with your hand until a thick batter forms with no lumps, then leave it in a cool, shaded place, covered with a towel for 2-3 days until bubbles begin to form.
Then it becomes a daily process of discarding 80% then "feeding" it with a 1/2 cup of water and a 1/2 cup of the 50/50 flour mix, taking notice of how the batter tastes before and after feeding and how it rises and then falls. The glitch here is that it takes four hours of observation over several days in order to notice a consistency which then tells you that the starter is ready to use. I'm never home or conscious for four hours.
I'm a week into this. I'm just hoping it'll do what it needs to do. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ready to roll

New Message, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This is an addendum to my previous post on the bento box lunch, my newest and current little kitchen project. See, I still have lots of chicken left as well as asian pesto so I'm lookin' for ways to amp it all up. I added a layer of black bean paste to the asian pesto chicken and some roasted red peppers.  You can experiment a lot with what you choose to spread on a tortilla. I've been combining my asian pesto chicken with only yesterdays leftover salad and it has been seriously good. The roll up is an excellent way to use up yesterdays salad, yet for the first time all week, I didn't have any leftover salad. Yay me! So a few postings back I revealed my discovery of a new way to use black beans. The recipe I used from Ottolenghi's book Plenty, was called Black Bean Paste (it's back in the bacon jam post). The name is not all that inspiring. It's really just a black bean hummus, but it's super DE-lish and really versatile. Does Black Bean Spread sound more appealing?
All I can say is that the roll-up I made for lunch today had been swimming in my head all morning until lunchtime finally rolled around and this did not disappoint. Even a few of my collegues commented on it's purtiness.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Asian pesto chicken salad roll-up bento

My new favorite thing going on in the little kitchen these days is happening in the lunch box. After ten years of working in a restaurant when feeding my hunger pangs was a no-brainer, then suddenly not, I'm now having to plan and create lunches for the office and the tiny refrigerator space I'm now allotted. My solution to that is the brilliant bento box, a nutritionally balanced (3 parts grain, 2 parts veg and 1 part protein) and space saving boxed lunch.
I began my search for the perfect lunch box. I went to my favorite Japanese version of the Dollar Store in Japantown called Daiso. I looked at all the different sized lunch boxes. They are very tiny, but here's the thing: a properly packed 600ml sized box/container is designed to contain approximately, a 600 calorie meal. The trick is learning how to pack the box correctly. No wasted space. I have no idea how many calories this particular lunch contains, but what I do know is that I could not finish it. It was plenty of food.
I started with a roasted chicken that I shredded the meat off and then mixed with my favorite pesto, an asian version that I found here at Simply Ming. I saw it on a dvd I got at the library a while back and I've made it several times. This is my favorite way to use it. I then spread the pesto chicken on a flour tortilla with yesterdays leftover salad, roll it up, chill it and then slice it into pinwheels, the depth of my box. I compress it into the space of about half the box with the handy adjustable slider and then fill in the remaining space with a salad. This one was simply romaine, red peppers, carrot nubs sliced thinly on a diagonal and topped off with hard boiled egg topped with salt and pepper.
This is only the beginning.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

cheddar, beer & mustard pull-apart bread

oh good lord. It's taken me forever to get this posted. Smitten Kitchen stopped me in my tracks with This  a few weeks back. I had one of those rare days off where all I wanted to do was spend the day in the kitchen with Sex and the City DVD's playing continuously on in the other room. Over coffee that morning I was checking my email and saw this. I was all set to make cupcakes, having purchased a new set of pastry bags and tips and waaaay anxious to use them. Well, as my ADD tends to roll, I shut down the cupcakes...only run to the store as fast as I could for a bottle of beer, the only ingredient missing from my kitchen. I landed on Newcastle. Brilliant! 
Once I got the the dough rising,I then set about to make the Red Hot Red Velvet Cupcakes. Both butter bombs in the little kitchen at the same time. Neither lasted very long. It was a good day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

red hot red velvet cupcakes

I've been obsessed with cupcakes obsessed that I fanticize about spending my days baking and decorating cupcakes. I decided Saturday would be such a day. Cupcakes, as a rule, don't generally factor into my lifestyle. No kids or bake sales, mostly social events that tend to lean toward 7- Layer Mexican Dip or chocolate chip cookies. But I'm always trying to venture into uncharted kitchen territory and the Super Bowl gave me a scattered array of recipients/tasters. Red Velvet Cupcakes seemed like an appropriate place to start. My recipe search landed me on this recipe from Oprah Magazine.
The cake was super moist and tasty. The spicy icing, thanks in part to my special reserve of Penzey's Extra-Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon, was red hot. The disappointment challenge ended up being the consistency. The icing was too runny to hold any shape so the final flourish was sadly sad, but it was all in the name of practice. I was actually happy that the wonky, starry swirls and ripples diffused themselves into a slow fade because there would have been certain tragedy had I actually managed to achieve quality flourish only to see it all destroyed in the transport. The bicycle basket and a tupperware container are a bad combo.
I think I'll leave the cupcakes to the professionals and stick with cookies.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

bacon jam and eggs on toast

bacon jam and eggs on toast, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Just in case anyone may be wondering what you can do with bacon jam...
So far, I've used it on toast with goat cheese. It was good. On a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with goat cheese, better. The BLT, perfect.
In my attempt to go beyond perfect: bacon jam and eggs on toast with a little twist.
It started when I managed to hit Fresh & Easy at one of the rare times when there were 98 cent loaves of fresh baked Italian bread still on the shelf. This bread is beyond perfect on its own: a crispy crust and unbelievably soft within...AND it's only 98 cents! I said that right? It's worth driving across town for...which I don't have to.
While hugging my cherished loaf, I had a revelation. Grocery shopping in the morning is heaven. How did I not know this? The aesthetically pleasing abundance of fresh foods in a practically empty store all sparkly and untouched? Nuthin' wrong with that. Factor in the freshly stocked clearance shelf and I'm in my Happy Place. I wanna go there right now.
I practically ran home to get this started. It went like this: toast, black bean paste, scrambled eggs, bacon jam then shredded cheddar cheese. Any kind of hummus would do, you need something to keep the scrambled eggs from rolling off your toast. This black bean paste is really, really good. The explosion of cilantro may be too much for some but I love it. I use the whole bunch.

Black Bean Paste
from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Into your food processor goes:
1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans or a can drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt
juice of one lime
a bunch of cilantro stems and leaves chopped

Pulse 4 or 5 times, taste and add more salt if you need it and pulse a few more times until it's a rough paste.

I love my food processor.

bacon jam simmers

Bacon Jam simmers, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
Ever since I saw the Bacon Jam come up on the America's Test Kitchen newsfeed the other day I have not been able to think of anything else...well, until I started thinking about cupcakes. whoa! bacon? cupcakes?