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Showing posts from 2009

Fruitcake (Lebovitz style)

Delicious!

There's A Pizza War

And lucky for us, we're living on the front line. When we first moved to North Beach, we ate at North Beach Pizza about once a week- it's a block away, has friendly service, and beautiful pizza. We soon realized that by walking an extra two or three blocks, we could also enjoy the classic, Golden Boy Pizza, or the new kid, Tony's Pizza Napoletana. Talk about hard decisions! Nikos stands by North Beach - once he finds something he likes, he's difficult to budge. I, on the other hand, although enjoying North Beach for its feel-good atmosphere and always-consistent pizza, and appreciating Golden Boy for it's no-nonsense, pizza-in-hand-with-beer-at-the-bar attitude, have a soft spot for Tony's (if we can ever get in). It's pricier than the others, but I don't mind paying for the top-quality ingredients. Tony Gemignani (a bit of a celeb in the pizza world: he's won a pizza "world-cup", has been on Food Network, etc etc) is passionate abo…

Yogurt Soup: Perfect!

Yes, you read it correctly, Yogurt soup. It is one of those things that go well with cold weather, feeling happy, cozy moments, lazy Sunday afternoons, etc.
What:2 lbs of yogurt (use at least 2%) one clove of garlic a pinch of rice a tablespoon of cornstarch some salt dried mint
Put the yogurt through a metal strainer directly in the pot. Force it through with a spoon. Add to the pot the cornstarch that was mixed in a small cup of water. Place pot over medium heat and STIR, and STIR and STIR. After 5 minutes add the salt and the rice, and KEEP STIRRING until you see bubbles, or it has started boiling. This will take about 20 minutes (yes you need to stir this whole time). Then, you can turn to low heat and keep it on until rice is cooked.
Fill a bowl, sprinkle some crushed dried mint on top, and ENJOY!
(of course in Lebanon, you would eat this soup with many things in it - my favorite is Shish Barak or Lebanese Raviolis - which are meat filled little ''hats'' ... but that is …

PIES, etc

So, I have been making some of the pies from David Lebovitz's blog (boy am I so jealous - living in Paris, and blogging about food there). Anyhow, I made two pies: the almond Chez Panisse Pie, and the Quince "Easy" pie. I loved both. DAvid is really good, and has a good palette.
The almond pie was my favorite. It is crusty, rich in flavor, and just delicious. It is a bit tricky to make. The texture is heavenly: The top is this crackly caramelized almonds bathed in sugar and cream (need I say more), but sitting on top of a thin film of simple pie crust which is slightly chewy. The Grand Marnier comes through, along with the pungent almond smell. I love it .
The second pie will be my every other week jam pie. It really is simple to make: just mix flour, butter and baking powder, add the almond essence (do NOT forget this!), lay the dough in the pie mold, put your favorite jam, cover with dough leaves, sprinkle with sugar, bake. Done. He also calls for adding a third of a cu…

Moods

Hey, it is the fall here in the Midwest. A special time with beautiful colors, and smells. The markets are full of local apples (mostly from Michigan), and all apple-centered products, like apple donuts, and apple pies, and apple cider, and apple songs, and even apple festivals (we went to the Long Grove one). I have been seeking comfort these days at our local Japanese restaurant, in love with their Udon noodles in hot aromatic broth and tempura fried vegetables. What a simple dish, yet it is so satisfying and warm with the vegetables dressed in this beautiful crackly cover. I have also picked out some fresh white beans from the market, another warm and cozy dish: boil them, cut some tomato some vinegar and oil, some onions, basil and mix. Pure comfort. Go out there and enjoy the leaves before the dark days of winter arrive!

Harvest time . . .

In Napa!


And the best part of it all. . .

We left with a bottle of Domaine Carneros 2005 Brut Vintage Cuvée- fabulous!

Fun Stuff

In the last week, I made fun little things that looked and/or sounded good. I know they would taste good. So, first, from Smitten Kitchen, I tried the breakfast bars. I used both fresh raspberries and blueberries. They were good, just exactly as I had expected though. I do like the earthy oat flavor, but for some reason, I thought they were a bit too sugary... I also made the fabulous no-knead bread. I was a bit disappointed since I repeat the SAME recipe everytime and the bread is inconsistent: this time it looked great, but did not get the holes.... in the middle (I added 3 oz of beer to the mix for flavor, and that is definitely recommended).
On the other hand, I did some simple Macaroons (I am not sure why, I just happened to be in a coconut mood, and had just bought some flakes for my weekly homemade granola mix - thanks nytimes). So, I did these for the first time, and I was blown away. Simple, elegant, very tasty (healthy too-just egg whites - no milk of any kind, butter or oils…

Say Cheese!

One of the many treats of walking through San Francisco's Ferry Building is stopping by Cowgirl Creamery cheese shop (the actual creamery is located about an hour north of the City). The staff is very helpful and very knowledgeable of the array of cheese, which they bring from over 200 producers in the U.S and Europe (Cowgirl produces just under 10 of their own). They also don't push you to overbuy, and they let you taste anything you want! We last tried a gorgeous Spanish Mahon Reserva and a Greek (of course!) Mt. Vikos feta, which was possibly the best we've ever had. I can't wait to go back and try a few of Cowgirl's signature cheeses- or maybe we'll just take a road trip up to the creamery and see how they make them as well!

With flowers in my hair and great food in my mouth.

I'm sorry for the long long delay since my last post- there were vacations, and moving, and no internet... but all along, the happy food never stopped. I'll begin from my most recent happy foods and slowly work back in time...

Life has taken me to San Francisco. If you mentioned San Francisco to me about 10 years ago, I would think immediately of cable cars and Rice-a-Roni. To my great delight, it has ohh so much more. We settled into an overpriced, and undersized one bedroom right below the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. It's a couple blocks to North Beach, and a few more to Chinatown. As you can imagine, there's great food all along the way.

Most people say everyone living in North Beach has their favorite Italian restaurant, and Niko and I, though still trying things out, are already leaning towards Ideale on Grant Street. If you go on a Friday night, you'll probably be seated at the bar for about 20 minutes before getting a table. You won't mind though …

The Taste of MY Chicago: The GCM Annual BBQ in the Park

The annual event was yesterday, and what do you know, I learn something new about the culinary food in my city. I have never been to this and it is the BEST food fest I have EVER attended. I will explain. It is an outdoor bbq of sorts on behalf of Chicago's premier farmers market, the Green City Market which is held Wednesdays and Saturdays in the Park part of Lincoln Park. So, the farmers's famous customers, i.e., the TOP restaurants in the city hold this all out cooking showdown with literally the top restaurants there: rick bayless(above), naha, Vie, spring/custom house, blackbird/avec, Spiaggia, Nomi, 4 seasons, primehouse, Eve, Hot Chocolate, Mado, North Pond, Fox and Obel, and the list goes on (check out he official list here). It is an all-you-can-enjoy evening of elk, goat, beef, turkey (amazing turkey from Paul Virant... WOW), wonderful TROUT, and local cheeses. It is the feast of feasts where everyone walks around with a constant smile on their face and full hands: a b…

Grilled Pizza? Yes, please invite me over when you throw one on

I just saw a recipe from Martha's (something) about making a pizza on the grill. Really simple, it says: 1) get dough and shape it like a pizza, 2) brush both sides with olive oil, 3) throw it on the Weber for 4-5 minutes, flip it, 4) top it with your ingredients, and Voila! We put (like the recipe suggested) fontina cheese, and then when it came out, fresh arugula with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. It was AMAZING. I really liked the charred pieces of dough with the crispy edges, and the elegance of it. Plus, the arugula added a nice bite with its slight bitterness and the muted taste of the fontina. And of course, is there anything better than dough, salt, and cheese, all warm and gooey? No there is not. This is just another way to enjoy pizza that is simple, quick and guaranteed to beat almost all of your local delivery options (add Italian ham on top of the arugula next time).

The STAR in (the) Lone Star STATE? It is the BRISKET!

Yes. It is. According to Wikpedia this is the part of the body that cows lie on, and it is not considered by any means a premium cut of beef (main part of what goes into corned beef). Well, inspired by an article in the latest Saveur magazine devoted to everything Texan, I decided to tackle one of these babies on a medium sized Weber kettle. You see, I have had brisket from the BEST in Texas (Kreuz, Blacks, Smitty's, Cooper's in Llano,...) and so, I know (kind of) what the brisket is supposed to look, feel, and taste like: soft, juicy, really juicy, caramelized on the outside, really lean on the bite, and boy oh so smokey. That is the taste I always remember. The smoke. Well, I did what I am told: prepared a simple rub and laid it gently on an otherwise unattractive flat piece of meat - about 5 lbs of mangled tendon and fat. I started the next morning and followed the recipe verbatum (with major problems trying to contain the heat in the 250 range - it kept cropping to 300).
W…

Letter from Emilia-Romagna II

Again, my journey continues in the land of olives, cheese, and wine. We did visit a local wine producer's shop today to sample some wine and perhaps buy some. I am no connoisseur of wine, but I can tell whether something is not great. We tasted many wines and all tasted great to me. What is stunning is the price. They all ranged from 2 Euros (yes TWO!) per bottle to the expensive of 8 Euros! This must be the reason they do not drink soft drinks, and beer here. Wine is good, and Wine is cheap.
On the food front, we continue to visit local small restaurants, and so far Benilde's hand made tagliatelle are my favorite. It turns out that she does not use the hand pasta machine, but actually does it the old fashioned using the wood stick (like a baseball bat). The pasta is lightly boiled, feels hard, but just the right amount, covered with ragu (my favorite topping). But amazingly the sauce does not leave a film of fat on the bottom of your plate. It is cooked long, but somehow, it…

Letters from Emilia-Romagna I

I am spending a week in beautiful Bertinoro, a village in Emilia-Romagna, a northern region in Italy. This "state" is known for Ferrari's, Lamborghini's, and Maserati's but it is equally famous for its hams from Parma, its world renown cheese -parmigiano reggiano- and many other delicacies. And, who can forget the mortadella.
We go out every evening to one of the small local restaurants. A background: Bertinoro is small, really small, but it sits on a high hill, relative to its surrounding. Since it is close to the coast (the adriatic - Rimini- is 40 Km alway), it tends to be a bit stuffy down below, and at night Bertinoro is busy with sun bathers coming up to cool off over pasta and Sangiovese wine.
The local food can be summarized with: PASTA, PASTA, and PASTA. There is also a local bread, (Piadona I believe) - unleavened flat bread that looks like thick flour tortilla. It is served usually with a soft raw cheese that is slightly similar in consistency to cottag…

Tellia, or Italian style "stuffed pizza"

On a lazy Saturday afternoon watching another one of Lidia's Italian shows, I noticed this interesting green pie that she was preparing. It looked intriguing: escarole cooked, stuffed in pastry bread and baked. It reminded me of the cute spinach pies that my mother and aunts prepared. Half way through this show, I was interrupted by someone wanting to watch the fire truck movie. So, I complied before catching the full recipe. I was determined to make this... immediately. Basically, the filling is escarole cooked in garlic, capers, olives and oil. And the dough, half semolina half white flour (I found-using google- someone had the measurements of the crust). And there is the Tellia, as it was called, a pie from Southern Italy, a town called Gaetta between Naples and Rome to be exact. Simple and delicious. A lot easier to make than those delicate Spinach pies the ladies back home make (the spinach needs to be mixed just perfectly, and the pies hand massaged gently into beautiful pyr…

Green City Market - Chicago

On a beautiful Saturday, enjoying rhubarb, honey and mint sorbet, we strolled in Lincoln Park among the crowds and between the organic stalls at Green City. So early in the season, the first days of Spring (yes, Spring in Chicago starts late), the Asparagus stole the show at the market.
Can it get better?

Garlic Lovers, rejoice: Mojo de Ajo

This is a fantastic, fantastic shrimp preparation courtesy of Rick Bayless.

It really is that good!

Farmer's Market

With Safeway (a.k.a. Dominick's, for the Chicago contingency) a 15 minute walk from our apartment, I find myself going there at least every other day. In the beginning, I was excited when I saw tomatoes or strawberries from California - my now "home state" - they had to be fresh. I find myself expecting this now, and when I see produce from Mexico it drives me crazy! This last weekend, Niko and I decided to check out the Mountain View (home of Google) farmer's market - it was wonderful! Fresh (and locally!) grown tomatoes, asparagus, artichokes, zucchini, leeks, mushrooms, flowers, everything you could imagine! And, for the most part, everything is comparably priced to what's found at Safeway. I can't wait to check out the San Francisco markets!

Some of my favorites

Simple Guacamole. Just Delicious.

What else, Baba Ghannouj, a.k.a., the "spoiled daddy"... need I say more. One of my favorite eggplant preparations.

My kind of historical monuments

Knefeh: The royal breakfast of champions in Lebanon

It was my favorite Sunday morning breakfast growing up. The ritual, the walk down the hill to "sea Sweet" bakery, the way to order it "easy on the syrup," the walk back home all culminates with all of us sitting on the balcony enjoying Knefeh Bi-jibn (or knefeh with cheese). Some think that it is all in the bread. The bread, oh the bread (a picture I found on the web is on the right). I can go on and on about it: Not sweet, not chewy, with enough crust, and covered with sesame, shaped in just right way to be used as a vehicle for the knefeh. In fact, it is made for knefeh, exists only for it. It is a sort two-in-one version of the trinity. Now, on to the real part. I made knefeh this weekend (picture below). It has two parts, the cheese part and the "cake" part. I am not sure what cheese is used, sweet cheese (technically it is not sweet, it is just a cheese without salt), but mozzarella should work. I used some cheese from the Arab store here. The cake p…