Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pantry Paella: Recipe

Pantry Paella
My kitchen is overflowing. My freezer is so full I can barely close it. I sometimes hear the crash of bottles, jars and tins falling off my pantry shelves and onto the floor. I seriously think I could cook and eat without going out of the house for a month. Ok, I might get bored of tuna and beans and pasta, but then again, maybe not. I have no idea what causes me to hoard food, but I sometimes imagine I must have been a starving Italian casalinga in another lifetime.

The other day I was thinking about using the short grain Valencia rice I had languishing in the cupboard to make paella. I was going to buy some shrimp but as I perused various recipes it became clear to me that you can make paella with just about any combination of vegetables, seafood or meat. There is no one paella. I figured I might as well use what I have on hand. In my pantry I had a jar of artichokes and a can of green olives, and in the freezer I had pearl onions, peas and a single sausage. Those ingredients were what I used on top of the paella rice. I tweaked the technique I found in a Mark Bittman recipe Tomato Paella to make the rice.

I know it seems hard to believe, but I only used one sausage for 4 servings of paella! Actually, you could easily make this a vegetarian dish. The idea is to use any leftover cooked or prepared vegetables and meats you have on hand or to raid your pantry. I wouldn't make this recipe unless I had several things I wanted to use up. This recipe is a good excuse for not throwing away that 1/4 cup of leftover carrots or peas or whatever you find yourself staring at when cleaning up after dinner. The variations are endless.

Pantry Paella
Serves 4

4 cups liquid, a combination of broth, water and juice from toppings (see below)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Large pinch saffron threads
2 teaspoons paprika, preferably Spanish pimentón (smoked paprika)
2 1/2 cups toppings--cooked vegetables, seafood, meat (such as peas, artichokes, green olives, red peppers, shrimp, chicken, sausage)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 2 large cloves
2 cups preferably Spanish or other short-grain rice
Minced parsley for garnish
Lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine stock and water with tomato paste, saffron and paprika in a saucepan and heat.
Put oil in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is shiny, another minute or two. Add liquid and stir until just combined.

Put pan in oven and roast, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Check to see if rice is dry and just tender. If not, return pan to oven and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. If rice is dry but still is not quite done, add a small amount of stock or water or white wine. Amount of liquid will vary depending upon the size of your pan. When rice is ready, turn off oven, sprinkle toppings on rice and cover with lid or foil. Let pan sit in the oven for 5 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lemon.


Monday, February 23, 2009

The Ungarnished Truth, A Cooking Contest Memoir: Book Review

The Ungarnished Truth

I'll admit it, even though I find most of the recipes atrocious, I am fascinated by the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Every two years the contest is held with much fanfare and prizes, including a million dollar grand prize. The judges are generally food editors and choose recipes based on taste, appearance, creativity and consumer appeal, but because the recipes use packaged "convenience" foods, they often end up sounding bizarre. Samosa Taquitos with Apricot Chutney Sauce, anyone? Or Huevos Rancheros Pizza?

The Ungarnished Truth, A Cooking Contest Memoir "A Woman, A Chicken Dinner, A Million Dollars" is out now in paperback and I devoured the book in two sittings. Bake-off grand prize winner and author Ellie Matthews is smart, funny and very engaging. Her story gives an almost unbelievable level of detail on her road to the win. But even if she never won anything, you would want to read about this quirky and down to earth woman (who shocked everyone by not jumping up and down or screaming when she won).

In some ways Matthews is a most unlikely contestant. With a scientific mind, and a passion for the outdoors, she is not who you'd imagine even entering contests, but enter she does. Perhaps her amazing eye for detail comes from the fact that she is fully expecting not to win. In fact, she tells herself, and her readers that her first appearance in the Bake-Off is just a practice run.

In addition to sharing everything about the contest and her recipe development strategies, Matthews also shares intimate emotional elements and how the contest wove its way into to her life, even helping her reconnect with a very dear friend she met during a dramatic tragic event in the mountains. But enough about it from me, just read the book, it's an absolute pleasure.

Friday, February 20, 2009

100 Things to Eat (in San Francisco)

100 Things to Try Before You Die

Have you seen the 100 Things to Try Before You Die list over at 7x7? It's a terrific to do list. I've done about half.

2. Coffee-rubbed pork shoulder at Range
3. Carnitas taco at La Taqueria
6. Burger with fries at Slow Club
7. Shaking beef at the Slanted Door
8. Morning bun at Tartine Bakery
10. Baja-style fish tacos at Nick’s Crispy Tacos
11. Pork sugo with pappardelle at Delfina
12. Salt-and-pepper squid at Yuet Lee
14. Beef brisket at Memphis Minnie’s
15. Oysters on the half shell at Swan Oyster Depot
19. Tuna tartare at Michael Mina
21. Pizza margherita at Pizzeria Delfina
22. Vietnamese roasted pork sandwich at Saigon Sandwich
29. Spaetzle at Suppenküche
30. Laughing Buddha cocktail at Cantina
35. Salted-caramel ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery
36. Dry-fried chicken wings at San Tung
37. Rotisserie chicken at Limón Rotisserie
38. French fries at Hayes Street Grill
40. Cheeseburger at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher
41. Pho ga at Turtle Tower
42. Fried-shrimp po’boy at Brenda’s French Soul Food
44. Cannelé at Boulangerie Bay Bread
47. Ceviche at La Mar Cebichería Peruana
48. Angels on horseback at Anchor & Hope
52. Fried brussels sprouts at SPQR
53. Garlic soup at Piperade
54. Spiced-chocolate doughnut at Dynamo Donut
59. Huarache with cactus salad at El Huarache Loco
62. Shrimp-and-chive dumplings at Ton Kiang
63. Meatballs with grapes at Aziza
65. Crispy eggplant at Jai Yun
67. Sand dabs at Tadich Grill
72. Arancini at Ducca
73. Popovers with strawberry butter at the Rotunda
75. Fried green beans at Coco500
76. Chicken hash at Ella’s
78. Chilaquiles with a fried egg at Pastores
80. Apple fritter at Bob’s Donuts
83. Sweet-potato fries with banana catsup at Poleng Lounge
84. A margarita at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
86. A cheese slice at Arinell Pizza
87. Fresh spring rolls at Out the Door
88. Buckwheat crepe and a French cider at Ti Couz
97. Sesame balls at Yank Sing
99. Clam chowder at Hog Island Oyster Co.
100. Cheese course at Gary Danko

I wouldn't say all of these are top favorites of mine, but I can see the merit in each and some of them are absolutely fantastic (see 10, 22, 35, 36, 47, 78). Perhaps I'll come up with my own list one of these days...what's on your list of San Francisco eats?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Double Stuffed Baked Potato: Recipe

Double Stuffed Baked Potato
David Lebovitz and I should never go out to dinner together. Why? Because I have a wandering fork. I love sharing food for several reasons. First of all, I can rarely decide what I want, so sharing generally means I get to try more than one thing. Also I fear I have bad ordering karma and will choose the worst thing on the menu and be stuck with it if I don't share. Finally, I don't like massive portions so sharing also helps me keep from eating way more than I want.

A few years ago there was a diner that was known for serving gigantic portions and my mother and I used to share a double stuffed baked potato and salad. It was one of those potatoes that was way over a pound to begin with and then it had loads of vegetables in it. It probably wasn't as healthy as I like to believe it was. The restaurant and the potato are long gone now but for years I have tried to recreate it. This latest version is my best effort to date.

My double stuffed potato is really just a formula, you can add or subtract the ingredients and the vegetables you use are really up to you. I bet bacon would be a great addition (isn't it always?) and you could use another variety of cheese or leave out the cheese altogether if you prefer. I do strongly suggest you don't skip the green onion though, it adds both flavor and texture. And be sure to find the biggest potato around, because this dish is intended as a main dish, not a side. Oh, and the one time I did have dinner with David Lebovitz, it was Chinese food so I guess he's better at sharing than he likes to admit.

Double Stuffed Baked Potato
For each serving

1 large Russet potato, the largest you can find
1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped vegetables, cooked (I like spinach, carrots, and celery but use whatever you prefer)
1 Tablespoon cream cheese, low fat is fine
1 green onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pierce then bake the potato in a preheated 425 degree oven for approximately one hour, or until cooked through (do not microwave or the skin will be too floppy to stuff). Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 - 10 minutes.

Slice off the top of the potato so that you can easily scoop out most of the pulp. Leave around 1/4 inch around the bottom and sides of the potato. Place the pulp in a large mixing bowl and mash, then mix in with the cheddar cheese, vegetables and cream cheese and just enough milk to make stiff but creamy mashed potatoes. Fold in the green onions and season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper.

Stuff the potato with the mixture and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through and beginning to brown on top.


More stuffed baked potato recipes...

Coconut & Lime's Spinach & Onion Stuffed Potatoes
Simply Recipes Twice Baked Potatoes
Blog Appetit's Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Sustainable Pantry's Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Monday, February 16, 2009

Shahi Dum Aloo Recipe

Dum Aloo, also known as Aloo Dum Pukht, is a favored Indian Curry recipe that you often get to see on many restaurant menus, and this home-made Shahi variation is nothing less! Who doesn't like potatoes? especially when they are baby potatoes simmered in creamy & aromatic gravy made with almonds and cashews and flavored with traditional Indian spices! What makes this recipe different and special is the choice of onions, yogurt, tamarind, almonds and cashews as a base for the gravy. With aromatic spices like cardamom, fennel, ginger, and addition of some milk and cream to add a richness to the recipe, the resulting Shahi Dum Aloo was a wonderful treat for our family. B actually liked it better than the Malai Koftas, which means I actually scored a victory with this make-as-you-go recipe venture!

8-10 baby potatoes
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 mid-size onion
4 tbsp yogurt (plain, not sour)
2 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
3 tbsps almond-cashewnut paste
** soak the nuts in water, then remove skin and blend to a paste
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp dhania powder (dry coriander powder)
1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves)
2 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 tsp fennel powder (saunf)
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp dry ginger powder
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
salt and lemon juice - to taste
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp fresh cream
fresh coriander - chopped for garnish

Skin the onions and blanch them in hot water for 3 mins, then puree them to form a paste. Make a paste from the blanched almonds and cashews and keep aside.

Take 2 tbsp yogurt, add the tamarind paste, fennel powder, red-chilli powder, ginger powder, cardamom powder and sugar to it, and beat it well to form a smooth blend. Keep aside.

Boil the potatoes in a microwave or a pressure-cooker, taking care not to over-cook them. Just microwave till tender, but not mashable. Take a toothpick, and poke some holes into the baby potatoes, then keep aside.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan, add the bay leaf and the cloves, then add the onion paste and saute till light-brown. Add ginger-garlic paste. Saute for 3 minutes. Add all the dry spices (masalas) and roast for anther 2 mins. Finally add the almond-cashew paste and roast for another 5 mins.

Add the tomato puree, the yogurt-tamaring blend, crushed kasuri methi, and salt. Stir and let it simmer for some time. Then cover with a lid, and let it cook on medium flame for another 10 mins, till the curry becomes think and everything blends well to form a smooth texture.

Add the baby potatoes, lower the flame, and and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add 2 tbsp milk or whipping cream, and allow the potatoes to be cooked entirely. They will also suck up some of the flavor from the curry and spices, thanks to the holes you poked them with!

Garnish with coriander leaves and fresh cream if you like. Throw some more chopped nuts and raisins on the top. Serve the delicious Shahi Dum Aloo with any bread of your choice, pulao or simply jeera rice.

Related Recipes:
Paneer Butter Masala
Lauki Koftas in Almond Gravy
Bhindi Masala with Peanuts & Coconut

Related Tags
, , ,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream

Humphry Slocombe
There are lots of things you simply must eat when you come to San Francisco, the latest is ice cream at Humphry Slocombe. It's located in the Mission just off of 24th street, a neighborhood more known for Mexican food, but perhaps becoming ice cream central. Back in the 80's gelato was all the rage, but sadly the fad seemed to die out. For years my pick for interesting flavors was Bombay Bazar, an Indian shop on Valencia street in the Mission district that offers flavors like fig, cardamom and chai. Thankfully over the past couple of years ice cream shops like Sketch, Bi-Rite Creamery (on 18th street in the Mission) and Ici have opened up reintroducing the idea of high quality ice cream with fresh and unique flavors. Suddenly it seems the Bay Area is becoming an ice cream mecca.

Humphry Slocombe might just be my favorite ice cream ever. The flavors are sophisticated and not too sweet. It's a cute and retro looking shop with bright red bar stools that face the street. The friendly staff is more than happy to offer you tastes, not that it will help you make up your mind. The flavors are so good and the texture so luscious one bite is not enough. I literally found myself wanting a scoop of every flavor available. Rich and creamy but not cloying, each flavor varies in intensity but is balanced and satisfying. They also offer nibbles of bacon brittle. Yes, bacon brittle.
Balsamic Caramel
The flavors rotate and they have about 10-12 everyday. I had Maple Walnut and Balsamic Caramel but equally scrumptious were Rose Petal Creme Fraiche, and a smoky Pistachio Bacon. They also offer wonderfully chewy chocolate chip cookies and sundaes that I have yet to try. But not for long. By the way there is no "Humphry Slocombe" it's just a name that pays homage to characters on the British sitcom, Are You Being Served?

Humphry Slocombe
2790 Harrison St @ 24th
San Francisco

Tuesday - Sunday Noon - 8 pm

Here are some more enlightening Humphry Slocombe blog reviews, reports and interviews:

7x7-Ice Cream for Adults


DeFabulous Food

The Kitchn

A Mouthful of Twisted Goodness

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chicken Roasted in a Pot: Recipe

Roast Chicken
Last month it seemed everyone was roasting a chicken. Perhaps the chill in the air inspired a desire for something comforting and familiar. I couldn't watch a cooking show on television, read a newspaper online or food magazine without staring at yet another roast chicken. And blogs! It seems just about every food blogger was roasting chicken. I think it was the steady stream of breathtaking photos that finally got to me.

This is a "poulet en cocotte" recipe that I modified. I saw it on a certain television program and decided I would make it a little differently. It was moist but didn't yield crispy skin. Fresh out of the oven, I particularly enjoy roast chicken with roasted root vegetables or a big green salad and boiled potatoes all slathered with vinaigrette. The next day I shred the leftover chicken and use it in something else like enchiladas, another excellent comfort food.

The liquid from the chicken was very rich and flavorful and I had so much of it leftover, I used it to make grits. Let me tell you, the next time you have any kind of au jus or gravy, use it as part of the cooking liquid in grits and stir in some cheese after taking the pot off the stove. This makes the most amazingly delicious side dish or breakfast. It's perfect on cold mornings when you want something as warm and filling as hot cereal but prefer savory rather than sweet flavors. Honestly, I would make this chicken again just so I had the juice to make grits!

French Style Chicken Roasted in a Pot

4 1/2 to 5 pound roasting chicken
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 small stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 small carrot, roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pat chicken dry and season with salt. Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chicken breast-side down. Cook until breast is darkly browned, about 8 minutes. Using a wooden spoon or tongs inserted into cavity of bird, flip chicken and add the vegetables, continue cooking another 6 minutes. Remove Dutch oven from heat; place large sheet of foil over pot and cover tightly with lid. Transfer pot to oven and cook until thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted in thickest part of breast and 175 degrees in thickest part of thigh, this will take somewhere around an hour and 20 minutes.

Transfer chicken to carving board, tent with foil, and rest a full 20 minutes. Carve chicken, serve with juices from the pot (and carving of the bird).


Here are just a sampling of January 2009, roast chicken posts. Try visiting a few and see if you don't find yourself planning a chicken dinner...

Last Night's Dinner Roast Chicken 3 Ways

Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy blog's Roast Chicken with Pancetta & Olives

For The Love of Cooking Lemon, Garlic & Basil Slow Roasted Chicken

Whisk blog's Poulet en Cocotte Grand Mere

Thursday Night Smackdown Chicken with 50 Cloves of Garlic

Serious Eats Paprika Roast Chicken

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Adadiyapak - Healthy Gujarati Sweet

Anyone who has spent at least a couple winters in Gujarat, would be familiar with the traditional Gujarati sweet called "Adadiyapak". Made with Adad(Udad) Flour, and filled with naturally healthy ingredients, its one sweet that is really good for you and your body! It's especially made in winter, due to availability of ingredients, but nowadays, you can find these at any grocery store around the year. They are filled with the goodness of health and richness of taste, but when they come packaged in a "stainless-steel dabba" all the way from India, marked with the stamp of being labeled as Mom's homemade Adadiya, its extra-special, healthy and extremely delicious. So here's sharing with you my granny's recipe for Adadiyapak, executed perfectly by none other than Mom!

500gm black gram flour (adad no lot)
50gm besan (chickpea flour - optional)
450gm ground sugar
400gm + 200gm ghee (clarified butter)
1 cup milk

few pieces of edible gum (gaund)
50 gm ginger powder
50 gm ganthoda powder (optional)
25 gm vasanu (optional, skip it if you can't find it)
100gm cashew nuts + almonds - (crushed coarsely into powder)

Mix 100gm ghee, milk, black gram flour and besan and keep it aside for 3 hours. Once it cools down a little, pass this flour mixture through a filter (sieve), to form granular flour mixture (looks like Sooji or Semmolina), and keep it aside.

Take another 100gm ghee and fry the edible gum in a pan on high flame; then let it cool for a couple mins, and grind it in a blender to form coarse granules.

Take 400gm ghee in a pan and add black gram flour in it. Stir it continuously on low flame till flour becomes golden brown. Add ginger powder, vasanu and ganthoda powder to this, and mix well.

When it turns golden brown, and the flour looks properly roasted, and starts giving out a nice smell, about 10 mins or so, remove it from the flame. Let it cool a little (about 2 mins), then add the edible gum powder into it. Stir it well and mix properly. Then allow the entire thing to cool for about 20 mins.

Finally, add the sugar and cashew-almond powder into it and mix it well.

Take a deep steel thali (or non-stick flat pan), grease it with a little ghee, and spread the mixture into the thali evenly, levelling the surface.

Garnish it with slivered almonds or pistachios, if you like, then let it set completely for about 10 minutes. Now cut it into squares and keep them out, uncovered for about an hour.

Once cooled enough, you can store the Adadiya squares in an air-tight container, and keep it refrigerated for about 20-30 days. Just let it come to room temperature before eating; one small piece a day is a great way to keep yourself healthy, as long as the supplies last!:)

Related Recipes
Gajar Halwa (Carrot Pudding)
Pineapple Rava Kesari (Microwave recipe)
Churma na Ladoo (Wheatflour Laddus)
Homemade Kaju Katri (Burfi)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chocolate Bar Review

Chocolate bars
You wouldn't know it by looking at me, but I'm in training. In March I'll be on the tasting panel for the Annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon and I take this responsibility very seriously. In fact, I snagged as many bars of chocolate I could at the Fancy Food Show to prepare for my judging. Ok, that's not completely true. I took the chocolate bars because I love chocolate.

The samples of chocolates I tasted are very random. I took bars and mini bars from any chocolatier who did not literally tape the bars into the boxes, prohibiting me from taking any. Why anyone would exhibit at the Fancy Food Show and NOT provide samples of their products is beyond me. But believe me, there are plenty of them. I also took some samples from a company that makes chocolate intended to be paired with wine. I will review those another day.

There is a bit of a debate that rages on about chocolate, both about percentages and about single estate versus blends. Frankly, I don't get it. I drink wine that is produced from a single estate and wine that is a blend of different grapes. One is not necessarily better than the other. Because I prefer dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate I only snagged darker bars, but really, the obsession over percentages is just silly unless you are baking and a recipe calls for one versus another. It's chocolate people. Eat, enjoy, stop fretting!

So here are the bars I gathered for a little in-home tasting:

Amano is one of the great American chocolate producers. Please lord, don't let them ever sell out to Hershey's! I am particularly fond of their Ocumare bar which I have raved about in the past. Not to get too deep here, but there is a complexity of flavors that I find tantalizing. So what I do think of the the Amano Jembrana 70% cacao? Me like. But to be honest, it's a little one dimensional. It's super fly, I mean, super dark and if you are in the ultra bittersweet camp, this bar will make you happy. It's dark but also sweet. I got a spicy nutmeg finish and rich caramel tones. It's from Bali. Did you know there was chocolate in Bali? I didn't!

Another American chocolate company I greatly admire is Guittard. I am proud that they are local, still family owned and operated. They make a very comprehensive line of chocolate that is a favorite of many pastry chefs and chocolatiers. When the government attempted to legislate a decrease in quality to save chocolatiers money, Guittard fought it tooth and nail. Nice. They also made a generous donation of 4 pounds of chocolate to the Menu for Hope fundraiser. Super nice. Personally, I am devoted to their chocolate chips. Since I do favor a more bittersweet bar, I thought I'd try their ultra dark bar, E.Guittard Nocturne 91% cacao. This bar made me swoon. It has a bitterness and a pleasant astringency but also notes of raspberry and cherry.

Santander produces only Columbian chocolate. The Santander Columbian Single Origin 70% cacao bar is not as smooth textured as some of the other chocolates I tried, but it has a very pleasant nuts and coffee flavor I liked.

The Republica Del Cacao 75% Manabi chocolate from Ecuador is fairly mild. Made from Cacao Arriba, it is particularly fragrant. I got both floral and almond flavors. It was very pleasant and interesting to compare to the other chocolates, but less intense.

I liked the Republica Del Cacao 75% Los Rios chocolate better than the Manabi, but it also had a very sweet character to it, reminding me of vanilla and tropical flowers. If you're going to be a chocolate geek, and don't let me stop you, I would recommend including these Ecuadorian bars in the mix.