February 15, 2010

julia child: moules a la mariniere (with clams instead!)

despite my failure with the garlic soup i decided to go pellmell ahead with trying julia child’s simple recipe for steamed mussels in white wine. there was one little hitch to this plan: i couldn’t find mussels at the grocery store. what to do? i’d already prepared all the other ingredients. so, as julia child would, i improvised. i couldn’t find fresh mussels at either supermarket i went to (are they out of season? i probably should have checked) but i WAS able to find large mahogamy clams.

wash and scrub up the clams as much as possible so that you get rid of as much sand as you can. soak them in water for about an hour, clean and change out the water, and soak for another hour.

finely mince half an onion. i need to start wearing goggles while cutting onions because i never fail to descend into a weeping mess. crying for no reason! so post modern.

we don’t really drink so this is the only white wine in the house, used to occasionally poach salmon. finished off the bottle, giving me about 1.25 cups of white wine. the recipe calls for 2 cups, but it seemed pretty versatile as you could also go with just one cup of a dry white vermouth.

the prepared pot with all the ingredients- the white wine, 6 tbsps of butter, finely minced onion, 8 sprigs of parsley (i put in less as i’m not that much of a parsley fan), pepper, 1/4 tbsp of thyme leaves, and half a bay leaf.

bring the mixture to a boil for 2 minutes to burn off the alcohol. it’s gonna start smelling reaaal good

add the clams and cover the pot. steam for five minutes, occasionally shaking the pot to help them cook more evenly.

after about 5 minutes the clams should open. if not, ladle out the ones that have opened and let the others cook until they’ve fully “popped” open (you should be able to hear the pop)

the broth is terrific with a good, crusty bread to help sop it up- we heated up an epi from bouchon. this was actually baked into the shape of a heart!

ENJOY!!! unbelievably delicious- the fragrant clams really perfumed the white wine broth with all its buttery goodness and even though i’m not a parsley fan it did really bring out the flavour of the wine and the clams. the minced onions give just a little crunch to the juicy tenderness of the just opened clams. start to finish, including my slow-ass cutting of the onions, this probably took about 15 minutes top- maybe even 10. highly recommended- it’s SO easy and so good! definitely going to make this again when i can find mussels at the supermarket- or clams for that matter.

little sis @ 10:57 pm | categories: cooking,julia child

julia child: beurre au citron

as most people who know me well know, i sort of have a tendency to be easily taken by passions on whim. just read julia child’s cheerfully wonderful “my life in france” and was suddenly taken by the impulse to cook from the immortal mastering the art of french cooking. now i’m no julia child or even julie powell, but hey, i thought, she made it sound so easy in the book. and then it came in the mail.

this thing is a behemoth. and veritable encyclopedia of deliciousness francais.

aside from a couple of handdrawn diagramesque pictures this is what much of the cookbook looks like. now, i’m the kind of learning impaired retard who needs to learn things visually. i learned to cook from being shown or from following photograph laden cookbooks discovered in secondhand bookshops in japan, or the step by step photopr0n of people like the pioneer woman- so i’ll be doing my best here. for your benefit (those of you as intimidated by word laden tomes as i am), whenever i cook from this classic encyclopedia, i’ll do a step by step with photos.

to start off i decided to go with something simple- artichokes with a lemon butter sauce

fresh artichokes! wash ’em up.

steam them in whichever way is easiest- our vegetable steamer is really convenient.

cut up a fresh lemon

juicing up a whole lemon will get you about 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

one whole stick of butter!

slice the butter into 8 pieces

boil the fresh lemon juice with salt and pepper down to about 1 tablespoon

remove from heat and wisk in 2 pieces of the butter

return to low heat and one by one add in each piece of butter, whisking together

always taste while you cook! i found the lemon to be too sharp and cutting so i added brown sugar until the flavour rounded out.

at the end you should have a rich, fluffy, buttery lemony sauce

pour over your freshly steamed, cut (with choke removed) artichokes and serve immediately. enjoy some fantastic buttery goodness!

i decided to start off learning the recipes of mastering the art of french cooking with 3 dishes- unfortunately the one i tried after this one was VERY unsuccessful- the garlic soup, despite an enormous amount of effort (all the time i spent slowly beating, drop by drop, the soup into the egg yolks! all that straining!) it was a huge clunker- i kept wondering if i’d done something wrong but i followed the recipe to a T and ended up with a weird concoction of hot water tasting vaguely of garlic and olive oil. it was so bad i actually threw the rest of the batch out. but the next recipe i tried out was both easy AND incredibly delicious- stay tuned for moules a la mariniere… with a twist!

little sis @ 10:32 pm | categories: cooking,julia child

ubuntu redux

had a really lovely trip to napa this weekend; couldn’t have wished for more beautiful weather, despite the on and off rain lately in the bay. curiosity led me to ubuntu, which if you can remember my sister went to a couple months ago while home for the holidays. my sister didn’t rave too much about it but then again they’d gone and had BURGERS before their VEGETARIAN MEAL so that may have, er, flavoured the trip a bit. i however had faith, being a vegetable lover who goes through bouts of vegetarianism! we also wanted to get a yoga class at their annex studio in; unfortunately we couldn’t find a suitable one that fit into our schedule.

as a sidenote i quite stupidly left my camera on in my bag on the drive up (and hadn’t brought my charger) so that by the time we got to ubuntu there wasn’t really any battery left. i’m shocked i somehow even managed to get these shots; these were obtained by popping the battery in and out of the cam before each shot and not being able to 1) preview the shots, or 2) change any of the settings, including ISO, so it’s a wonder they even came out at all. anyway. on with the food.

my apologies to the poor waiter in this shot; i know it’s kind of hilariously unflattering but it’s also the only shot i got of the open kitchen. we were seated in the middle of the restaurant with a view of the open kitchen where they busily prepared the food.

transcendent butter! i’m a sucker for butter. i’m more of a sucker for fresh butter, mmm

a special of the day, rosemary lemonade. look at that cute, fresh little spring! i was afraid the rosemary might end up overpowering but it ended up just nicely, lightly perfuming the fresh taste of lemon.

borage and lemongrass curry- chard condimento & pickled stems, whipped coconut, preserved lemon
“why little sis,” you must be saying to yourself now, “how on earth is it that you managed to remember everything that went into this soup? usually your posts end up consisting of titles like “this was some kind of green curry soup, bollocks if i remember what was in it”. well, reader, i have a confession to make- i took one of the menus with me. anyway, we LOVED this soup. it was curry, yet it was light. it was fresh, flavourful, and each element was in good balance, we were afraid that either the curry or the lemongrass would overpower. not the case. surprisingly refreshing for a curry soup. we sopped every last drop of this up with bread.

salad of assorted broccoli and cauliflower- miso bagna cauda, sylvetta arugula, meyer lemon, parmesan

yum!!!! i love it when simple dishes are done well. this was an exceptional example of how simple, good ingredients can make a vegetable shine. the miso gave a nice unexpected touch.

cool burrata with a garnet yam-stuffed donut- smoked trumpet “bacon”, foraged green salad, sherry maple

we agreed that this was the most unique of the 3 dishes we ordered. the yam-stuffed donut had the consistency of my beloved japanese curry-pan (a fried bun of bread filled with curry- though in this case it was filled with a sweet yam filling). the contrast of textures between the salad, the creamy burrata cheese, and the fried donut were pretty interesting.

after brunch instead of ordering a dessert at ubuntu we opted to go to the nearby sift bakery for cupcakes and coffee as we’d seen it on our way in and a quick iphone yelp assuaged fears about dubious quality. what a cute little store! half cutesy fashion boutique, half bakery. we split two cupcakes- one that was basically a boston creme pie in a cupcake and the other a chocolate ganache with a white chocolate filling. unfortunately the coffee was subpar and we felt like the fillings of the cupcakes were too near room temperature to be enjoyable and the texture of the cake wasn’t quite right.

sadly this is also around the time my camera died for good. we’d eaten light at ubuntu to be able to keep eating our way all the way to st. helena- such adventures! so many things bought at bouchon bakery! but alas, perhaps another time….

little sis @ 2:40 pm | categories: bakeries,brunch,napa

February 3, 2010

brenda’s soul food

brenda’s soul food is a sweet n’awlins style brunch place near civic center in SF that i’ve been meaning to try awhile; a friend used to live nearby and had recommended it, but by the time we got there the HUGE line clustered outside the nondescript door was unmanageable and we were both starved so we tromped off to absinthe in hayes for a decadent brunch. this past weekend i was determined to finally make it there and see what all the hype was about. we got there around 10:45 and patiently waited until about 12 when we were (ravenously and already ready to order) seated. it’s a tiny, sweet little restaurant that doesn’t fit many people and it’s ungodly popular with all them hipsters, which accounts for the line. i’m happy to report that brenda’s indeed lives up to the hype. being from the south i’m a bit picky when it comes to what passes for “southern food” here in california (still have not had decent bbq out here) but brenda’s soul food really delivered for a homey, down south brunch.

watermelon iced tea and chicory coffee. the refills kept coming! the watermelon tea (aren’t the chunks of fruit adorable?) was a wonderful mix of freshly squeezed watermelon and fragrant iced tea. the coffee was also good, but i just got back from costa rica so….. (see below LOL)….

a flight of beignets which were the following flavours:

creole crawfish, molten chocolate, warm cinammon apple, and regular. we liked the cheesy creole crawfish one the best- intense and flavourful- and the beignets were fried perfectly- fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside without being oily.

eggs benedict with fried catfish. i can’t resist eggs benedict (no wonder my cholesterol is so high) and i can’t resist fried anything. this was a nice southern take on eggs benedict and the biscuits were AMAZING! so buttery, so flaky. this was a daily special not on the menu.

remember those delicious biscuits? well, good thing we got the biscuits and gravy, which were another daily special. i could eat this sausage gravy until i DIED. very meaty, a touch spicy, and soooooooooooo decadent,  it was like eating some kind of delicious, delicious death. this is how southerners eat, y’all.

we also ordered these housemade granola pancakes in some kind of misguided attempt to be healthy but by the time we were through with all 3 preceding fat-soaked dishes we were pretty much ready to die and ascend into some kind of new orleans heaven. i LOVE granola and my go-to before sleep snack is usually fruit/yogurt/granola but in this case it made the texture of the pancake kind of weird.  it was the only dish i didn’t wildly love but that could also have something to do with the fact that i was so full at that point any more food began to resemble an enemy.

is brenda’s soul food worth the atrociously hungry wait if you stop by on the weekend? this southern-raised girl says YES! the staff is adorably friendly, the food got marks of approval from all 3 diners in our group, and we left happy and satisfied, though sad/a little bit ashamed to leave behind ginormous amounts of uneaten pancake.

little sis @ 11:32 am | categories: brunch,creole

January 14, 2010

costa rica: magical coffee

the last thing i’d like to write about costa rica is the coffee. oh my GOD, the coffee.

i heartily admit to being a coffee-lover. i stopped drinking it for years when it, uhm, gave me an ulcer from too many all-week study sessions consisting only of coffee and no food, but recently i’ve fallen back under its addictive, caffeinated spell.

i go out of my way to seek out good coffee. blue bottle in san francisco is excellent. for awhile, there was an espresso trend in taiwan that yielded stunningly good coffee. but i have to tell you- costa rican coffee is the best i’ve ever had in my life.

the very best coffee of the trip, i have to say, was the freshly made coffee given to us by the wonderful jose of rustic lodge in monteverde, where we stayed two nights of our trip, spending our days ziplining through the cloudforest, riding horses into the sunset, and looking for exotic animals on night hikes. he brewed the coffee for us as soon as we arrived fresh from the volcano arenal, for breakfasts in the morning, and once when we turned up bedraggled after a morning of ziplining. as i sipped, i asked him if the bags of coffee we’d seen in reception were what we were drinking. he laughed and explained that they grew the coffee themselves, roasted it themselves, and then kept it in a tin in the kitchen. unfortunately, it was not for sale. the coffee for sale in reception was by one of his neighbours, but, laughing, he told us not to buy it because it was so overpriced, and to just go to the supermarket! i later did, returning home with several packages. but when i voiced my dismay at not being able to bring back with me the delicious coffee of the lodge, he laughed again, good-naturedly. “i know!”, he said. “it’s so good!” my friends, the man wasn’t boasting or teasing me. truly, it was amazing coffee, a cup that i am very sad to have left behind in costa rica.

little sis @ 1:55 pm | categories: coffee,costa rica