Friday, October 28, 2011

Essential Pepin is in!

I just picked up the latest from Maestro... A culmination of 60 years of cooking in a beautiful collection of his best recipes... with a DVD of instructions: how to make chocolate leaves, and how to put an apron on, and.... I love Pepin and look up to him. I learned A LOT from him. In fact, to relax, I usually go to YouTube and watch some of his KQED episodes... I really do. You go Jacque, and for many more years of health and cooking shows....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes Okido Style

Yes, it is that time of year where you see tons of beautiful orange pumpkins sitting around anywhere you look. Apart from being aesthetically pleasing to look at, a pumpkin is a good -in fact great- source of yummy things. The top on mind -blame my upbringing- is the seed... pumpkin seeds: roasted and salted make a wonderful snack and perfect accompaniment to a good ale. There is also that thick orange skin -or is it fat, or muscle- that you can make pumpkin stuff out of: pumpkin pies, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin kibbeh, -and in our family- pumpkin PANCAKES! Ever since we got that okido issue, we -meaning all of us- have been hooked on it.
The recipe is below (pics to follow). Please make it, and make it often.

Thanks Okido issue 6:
Ingredients: 1 cup of flour, 2 tbsp of brown sugar, 1 tsp of baking powder, 1 tsp of cinnamon (or other mix of spices), 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 1 egg, and 2 tbsp of oil (I usually skip).
What to do: Mix above ingredients together. Warm a pancake pan on medium and drizzle with very little oil (you do this the first pancake only - no need for oil afterwards), and make pancakes. Serve immediately with syrup.yeahhhhhh

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Paris, O Paris...

This is a brief post about what we ate on our recent lovely trip to Paris. We have made it to unbelievable restaurants, sampled amazing chocolates, saw beautiful art, walked romantic streets, and just had a great time. The restaurants we ate at are all in the nouveau French cuisine where the emphasis is on fresh, local, healthy,... and amazing.

Arriving to our hotel, we head immediately to lunch at Ze Kitchen Gallery... a funky and hip restaurant in St. Germain right a block from the Seine.

The appetizers we chose were a play on raw fish. These dishes to me are as good as the fish you get, and they were wonderful (with a unique presentation): Asian flavors, mixed with slightly sweet and crunchy peels of cucumber, some radishes marinated green papaya and mango. Dora had the (raw) sardines, tomato and a ginger like sauce. It is slightly challenging to eat raw sardines as the fish is a little tough.

Trout from Banka....

Desert... Chocolate sorbet, Giandua on macademia cookie with a "dried" sugary mint leaf...

The entrees were somethings else. Dora had the cod fish... cooked to perfection with some type of miso sauce and again amazing presentation. I had the rabbit which was braised in the oven and then (I think) sauteed with pesto wild mushroom... Finally, for desert, we shared a Giandiua chocolate masterpiece on some macademia cookie... a perfect ending to a beautiful lunch. Overall, we felt the restaurant, although the food was super delicious, in some way overdid the Asian/French fusion somehow too much. The trout was the most memorable dish, and I would come here just to have it, but the rest, apart from looking pretty (paris style), did not really come through and shine.

The next day, all rested after a long evening of strolling along the streets of the Latin quarter, we head to the Louvres in the morning and then take the train to Rue Varonnes for a fabulous lunch at Septime! WHAT AN AMAZING TREAT... perhaps the best meal we had in Paris (may be anywhere??) The restaurant is unassuming and simple, more like a bistro, in a friendly neighborhood. It does not have the snobby feel of Ze above, but nonetheless very elegant and inviting. The menu is simple: we ordered the "Carte Blanche:" four dishes and wine... (it was difficult to get a reservation here as I called many times more than a month ahead... they only answer the phone right before each sitting... go figure that one out).

The first dish we got was this Tomato dish below.... I have never had a salad as good... an Ode to the Tomato: the grainy white you see is tomato granita, various pieces of heirloom with thin slices of some radish, sprinkle of fresh ricotta, all drizzled with some magic sauce. Wow. I still remember the taste of this when I close my eyes, and if I had to summarize my trip to Paris, it would be this salad: what was it, crunchy and fresh, amazing flavor, cold granita was just the key as the temperature added an aspect of freshness, warm house-made ricotta, and finally the drizzle some sort of oil citrus magic... Bravo to the chef for creating such a SIMPLE combination that elevates the tomato to a front and center masterpiece... Wow.

Tomato, ricotta....

Next, we had the "merlu de ligne" ( a line caught Hake fish -same family as cod) lightly lightly seared and mixed together with among other things a courgette -zucchini- sliced in half and lighly cooked stove top with some slight caramelization ---- WOW. I have never had a zucchini taste so good. The bubbly sauce is made out some boiled ham sauce... I mean this was a total grand slam.
Merlu de ligne
cochon Iberique

The third dish is a meat dish and  out comes this porc "iberique" (from Spain) where the restaurant had the porc farmer eat exclusively a diet of certain mushrooms, and nuts. The meat is seared lightly, covered with a cabbage leaf, also lightly seared with a little aromatic salt, and then all drizzled with some olive oil sauce... I mean this was just pure bliss. Again, as in the above dishes, no fancy acrobatics hide-behind-some-sauce meat, fresh raw and let nature do the work for you. This restaurant is easily at the very top of its form, kicking on all cylinders.
Finally, there was the desert: simple, (cold) chocolate ganache, with an orchestra for the raspberry: a sorbet with a hint of mint and lemon, fresh berries, and all sprinkled with deep frozen raspberry crumbs.

This restaurant represents I think the finest example of this nouvelle cuisine Francaise: simple execution based on 1st class ingredients (they are obsessive about the ingredients - soil, geography of the farm, what the animal eats, where the zucchini comes from....), and fresh. None of the old guard saucy and heavy French, but a more youthful reinterpretation of an illustrious culinary tradition. This is my favorite meal of all time...

Bye Bye - Adios.... (in front of Septime -can I live here???)