so, i'll admit it. i totally read "us weekly." i used to hide them underneath an economist or a business week but now, i've fully embraced this guilty pleasure of mine publicly. i mean, without "us" (we're so tight that we're like on a first name basis), how would i know what the teenagers are into these days (HSM 3!!!) or that jen and john are together again (what's up with that?) or that purple is totally this autumn's "it" color? purple nailpolish, shoes, bags . . . and even potatoes?
i've been cooking with purple potatoes for awhile now (so ahead of the fashion curve, i know). at first glance, they look like your typical new potato, except with a greyish-purple skin. but when you slice into them, they reveal a gorgeous pop of bold purple color. although they're not as flavorful as some other varieties, the color they provide more than make up for their mildness. with turkey day just around the corner, show your guests how en vogue you really are by replacing your mashed russets with this medley of roasted potatoes and leeks. i'm sure you'll be hearing lots of, "hot, so hot," all around the thanksgiving table.
medley of roasted potatoes & leeks with herbs
1/2 pound of purple potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
1/2 pound of fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
fresh thyme sprigs
fresh rosemary sprigs
10 fresh sage leaves
6 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
fresh ground pepper
3 leeks, white part only, sliced into quarters
toss first five ingredients together with 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large baking dish. sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper. bake for 20 minutes. while, potatoes are baking, toss leeks with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. season with some salt and pepper. throw on top of potatoes and bake for another 10 minutes.
toss first five ingredients together with 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large baking dish. sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper. bake for 20 minutes.
while, potatoes are baking, toss leeks with remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. season with some salt and pepper. throw on top of potatoes and bake for another 10 minutes.
it's hard to believe that summer is more than officially over. the autumn chill has set in. the farmers markets are now decorated with warm colors from seasonal squash, pomegranates and apples. the thanksgiving issues of all my cooking magazines have all arrived. my only question is where the hell have i been?
two and a half months have passed since my last post. in this time, i went on a fabulous trip to kalispell, montana where fourteen of us pretended we were back at summer camp. then worked too many hours in my day job. then celebrated one marriage after another back east (the late 20's shit my biological clock is now a ticking time bomb phase has apparently suddenly hit my friends). and then doom hit . . . i turned 27. by this time next year, i won't be able to say, "i'm in my mid-20's." instead it'll have to be, "i'm in my late-20's, my friends are all getting hitched, but i'm still boozing it up at the open bar?"
let's hope not.
the night of my 27th birthday, tim asked me, "what are your goals for your 27th year of life?" the panic this question elicits is only rivaled by the question, "when do you plan on giving me grandchildren?" which lately also happens to be my mother's favorite question. but being the type-a overachiever that i am (though obviously a bad one because a real type-a overachiever would have every milestone in her life mapped out), i had to say something. burdened by the guilt of being the most delinquent food blogger alive, i answered that i'd love to work at being a real food blogger this year - give "the petite pig" a new look / feel / get some developer in eastern europe to re-fashion it for cheap (though who are we kidding? the ukrainian hryvnia is probably more valuable than the american dollar). my second answer was get my ass to boot camp but considering the fact that i've had 2 six mile training runs (two months ago) for a half-marathon i'm doing next week, my discipline level is, um, well could use some help too (though i do worry about cellulite and muffin tops way more than the ticking time bomg of infertility) . . .
so enough with the self-deprecation. eat with me. let's at least kick-start my 27th year with something i do do well - cook.
(recipes to come in later blog posts . . . all coming very, very soon)
my dearest readers and eaters,
i hope you all are having fabulous summers and enjoying all that the season has to offer. i've missed sharing recipes and culinary tales with you all these past two months but summer travel (i've got 7 weddings to attend!!) and the demands of a day job has taken over, and i will be on a blogging "vacation" through late august. i hope you all are enjoying the fruits of summer and keeping busy in the kitchen. i promise to do the same and will have lots to share when i return in a month.
in the meantime, eat something good for me!
p.s. for those living in sf, you must head to luella for their mascarpone cheesecake. it's like the nice guy in disguise. it seems all sweet and innocent but all it takes is one bite and you'll never be able to get it out of your head. i know i haven't . . .
as a foodie, people often ask me for restaurant recommendations, and they are always surprised when i have an incredibly hard time giving them an answer. the truth is, i rarely eat out. while i love eating, i love it even more when it comes after i've done the cooking. when i do eat out, it's either the cheap asian eats/hole in the wall burrito joints or fine, fine dining. i figure the in-between stuff, i can do at home, so it's hard for me to justify paying $40+ for a meal that i can make at home and will enjoy even more because i cooked it in my own kitchen. lately though even the pleasure in fine, fine dining has worn off. although i can't prepare it at home, i know that the same thing can be found on the menus of over a dozen restaurants in the city. the "seen it, eaten it" mentality has become all too common. while i hate feeing so jaded about food, it has been awhile since i felt surprised or delighted by a dish. but then a three day weekend in chicago changed all of that.
ever since alinea won gourmet's top honor in 2006 as number one restaurant of the year, i have been trying to find a reason to get to chicago to understand what all the buzz is about. finally last year, i decided that i couldn't wait any longer so tim's "christmas gift" was for a long weekend in chicago for the both of us (though he quickly figured out that this was more a christmas gift for me).
from the moment we entered the restaurant at nine on friday, may 9th, i knew this would be an extraordinary dining experience. as you walk by 1723 north halstead, you wouldn't know that one of the best restaurants in the world is housed inside this non-descript two-story brick building in chicago's lincoln park neighborhood. the entrance leads you into a blank hallway that ends in two glass doors that slide open automatically as you approach. as you step through, one of the dining areas is to your left and an open kitchen to your right. as i stood outside of alinea's kitchen, i found myself forgetting that i was at a restaurant. missing was the calamity of most restaurant kitchens; instead chefs were calmly at work on their culinary science and art projects.
as we were led to our table on the second floor, we were introduced to our 27 course tour menu. while alinea offers a shorter tasting menu, i wanted the full grant achatz experience. it was after all a meal that i had been looking forward to for over two years. in the four hours that followed, tim and i were introduced to surprise after surprise. as each dish was brought out by our army of servers, we were offered an in depth explanation of all the components on our plates. i would finish it, and ask the servers to come back and give the explanation again after i had a chance to taste and understand the dish.
there were new ingredients, new takes on old ingredients and new methods of cooking that i had never seen or tried, but what made alinea stand out from all the fine dining restaurants i've tried lately was every dish had so many dimensions to it. there were edible artistic concepts. there were chances to play with your food: pins to pull out, "apples" to bob for, shots to take. dishes were not only explained for what was in them but then how to eat them. there were dishes that played with your senses: mint vapor, vanilla bean and lemongrass "skewers." we say wagyu beef that had been dipped into liquid nitrogen re-evolve at our table. we took a shot of basil juice with a ginger truffle that had a rhubarb explosion inside. we saw what guinness beer would look like when turned into a gelatin sheet. and while i have to admit that not every flavor combination worked for me. squab is great as squab; encased in a block of dark chocolate pudding = not as great. fava beans, bananas and pecorino are all great on their own; as a parfait = not as great. but despite a few misses, alinea made me remember why food is so amazing again. beyond its ability to nurture and love, food can also be so many other things: fun, lively and sometimes just downright crazy.
thank you alinea for allowing me to remember that.
photos (from left to right, top to bottom):
1) short rib with guinness, peanut & fried broccoli (paired with paolo bea montefalco riserva "pipparello," umbria 2003)
2) oyster, sesame and yuzu pudding served on a lemongrass stalk (paired with a cocktail of louis roederer brut with sauternes, farigoule liqueur, and vermouth)
3) squab with chocolate and blueberry, hazelnut cereal with trio of sauces (paired with mino calo "quarantale" salento rosso, puglia 1998)
4) shrimp woven with yuba, togarashi and a miso emulsion dipping sauce
5) the alinea kitchen
6) green almond in a cucumber jelly with sweet, hot, sour and salty tastes on the four corners
7) wagyu beef with black truffle, potato and blis elixir (paired with prince florent de merode pommard "clos de la platiere" 2003)
8) transparency of raspberry, rose petal and yogurt
every summer, i look to the produce of the season for new salad inspirations. the summer's fruits and vegetables are the perfect beginnings of summer salads, filled with refreshing, fresh flavors and vibrant, popping colors. each time this year, i look for new combinations of ingredients that will remind your palate that summer has indeed arrived. this year, i looked to an old winter comfort to build my first salad of the season. from my bacon wrapped shrimp over polenta, i know that one can never go wrong with bacon and shrimp. to lighten the dish up and make it a salad, i replaced the polenta with fresh summer corn. the shrimp has been marinated with sweet honey and tart white balsamic vinegar, which forms a delicious sauce that melds perfectly with the dressing. tossed with bright cherry tomatoes, creamy avocado bites and thyme leaves, this summer salad really can be the best meal you'll make this season.
summer shrimp & corn salad with honey sauce
3 tbs. honey
1 tbs. white balsamic vinegar
2 tbs. canola oil
3/4 lb. shrimp, shelled & deveined
4 slices applewood bacon, sliced into 1/2 inch square pieces
1 tbs. olive oil
3 white corn, kernels removed
1 tsp. of thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
1 avocado, sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbs. white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper
whisk together honey, vinegar and canola oil. pour over shrimp and let marinate for 30 minutes.
heat a 12" frying pan over medium heat. add bacon and cook for about 5 minutes until the edges start to brown and crisp up a bit. if the bacon releases too much oil into your pan, remove with a spoon and pour into a separate container (i always keep an old glass jar for times like this - you definitely don't want to pour it down your drain!). remove bacon from pan, draining any excess fat and set aside.
bring the same pan back to medium heat. add 1 tbs of olive oil and then corn kernels. saute for about 4 minutes and add thyme leaves. cook for another minute or two and then remove kernels from pan and set aside in the same bowl with the bacon.
still using the same pan, heat over medium-high heat. pour entire bowl of shrimp into pan including marinating liquids. toss and cook until both sides are pink, about 6 to 8 minutes. when the shrimp is cooked through, bring heat down to medium and simmer shrimp in the marinating liquid so that it begins to thicken into a sauce for another 2 minutes. remove from pan and let cool.
make vinaigrette by mixing together vinegar and lemon juice and slowly whisking in the olive oil. toss with other ingredients and finish with fresh ground pepper.
as a child, i could never resist a grilled cheese. the bite into the crisp buttery crust and then the oozing cheesy goodness . . . it didn't get much better than that. luckily, in my wiser older years, i've learned to graduate beyond the radioactive orange kraft slices between two pieces of white wonder bread and have upgraded to the most delicious version of this childhood favorite. for any of you living in san francisco, you've probably heard of the hog island oyster company. while i've only made it to the farm in point reyes for the fresh oysters, the bar version in the ferry plaza offers according to many the most amazing grilled cheese, which isn't surprising when the three cheeses come from its dairy goddess neighbor, cowgirl creamery, and the bread comes from acme bakery, just right down the plaza.
last weekend, i decided to recreate their sandwich at home and hear what all the rage was about. on my saturday trip to the ferry plaza farmer's market, i stopped by cowgirl and asked for the three cheeses in the hog island grilled cheese, enough for four. i was given a mezzo secco, a cave aged gruyere and cowgirl's own fromage blanc. my second and last stop to complete the best adult grilled cheese ever was at acme bread for a piece of their herb slab.
when i finally got home to my kitchen, i ended up making an open face melt, topped with some tender oyster mushrooms dug up from my produce bin. very adult, eh?
hog island grilled cheese with sauted mushrooms
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 lb. oyster mushrooms, sliced thinly
2 tbs. sherry
1 tsp. thyme leaves
salt & pepper
1 herb slab
2 tbs. butter
8 oz. fromage blanc
1/2 lb. cave aged gruyere
1/2 lb. mezzo secco
heat up medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat. add olive oil, then shallot and garlic. heat for about 30 seconds before adding oyster mushrooms. saute for 2 minutes and add sherry. saute for another minute until mushrooms are completely softened. toss with thyme leaves and season to taste with salt & pepper.
slice herb slabs into 4 even pieces. cute each piece in half, to have two slices per sandwich. butter the crust on each slice of bread. spread the fromage blanc evenly on each slice of bread. then layer evenly with gruyere and mezzo secco. grill for about a minute over a grill pan, over medium heat and then place in an oven under a low broil for about 5 to 7 minutes until cheese starts to boil.
garnish with thyme and indulge like a child even if you're all grown up now. i won't tell.
for any of us who have ever chased after an ice cream truck as a kid, you know how much you look forward to the hot hot heat of summer and all the ice cream cones that come with the season. even at the ripe age of 26, i know that it would only take a few rings by the ice cream man for me to revert back to the behavior of a four year old, screaming and chasing his truck down the street. could you blame me though? it is the ice cream man, he who holds a truck-sized freezer of sweet sweet goodness.
luckily, the ice cream truck doesn't come around too often or i'd still be quite the chubster trying to shed that stubborn baby (i.e., ice cream) fat. so these days when i'm not chasing down the ice cream truck, i can be found instead in my kitchen putting my ice cream maker to work. i have to admit, i'm still quite the amateur ice cream churner (or rather watching my ice cream maker churn and knowing when to shut the damn thing off). i've had some disasters that more resemble ice rock than ice cream but i've also had a few successes.
i'm still getting rave reviews for my avocado ice cream (think sweet guac) and most recently, i've been practicing making a recipe for meyer lemon creme fraiche ice cream from my most talented pastry chef friend markell lewis. i've had lemon ice cream at both nopa and zuni cafe, dining institutions in san franciso, and they just couldn't compare to markell's version. the creme fraiche adds a creamy + tangy dimension that i've never tasted in ice cream before. i couldn't resist borrowing it for the base of a blueberry ice cream i wanted to make. from my previous ice rock disasters, i realized i did not need to churn for a full twenty minutes (despite the cuisinart directions telling me to do so). i decided that this time twelve minutes was going to be my magic number. the resulting ice cream was deliciously creamy, vibrantly violet, and tangily sweet. and i have to admit it was better than anything i could get from the ice cream man . . . but i still could use the chasing for some exercise after all that ice cream.
my next ice cream experiment: vanilla marscapone ice cream anyone? stay tuned.
*if you are a veteran ice cream churner, please share some of your tips and recipes. i'm a long way from getting it right.
blueberry creme fraiche ice cream
makes close to 2 quarts of sweet sweet tangy goodness
1 pint blueberries
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons sugar
6 egg yolks
1.5 cup half and half
1 cup sugar
1.5 cup cream
1 cup creme fraiche
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt
combine blueberries, water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the blueberries completely soften. remove from heat and push through a food mill (using the coarsest disc) to make a blueberry jam-like sauce. place in a bowl and set aside.
whisk together egg yolks.
heat half and half with 1 cup sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. when the mixture is hot, ladle one spoonful into the egg yolks and slowly whisk the warmed egg yolks into the half and half. cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula. the mixture is ready when it's thick enough to cover the back of a spoon. take the pot immediately off the heat at this point or else the eggs will cook too much and become curdly (if this does happen, it can be rescued with a hand blender but does change the consistency of the ice cream). strain the mixture through a sieve and add the cream.
add blueberry "jam" and creme fraiche to the creme anglaise base. flavor with vanilla and salt. stir and chill the fridge for at least 2 hours.
churn in ice cream maker for 12 minutes. pour into a tightly sealed container and freeze overnight.
anyone that has spent any time in hong kong knows that jook (also known as congee) is a cantonese classic for breakfast and brunch. like i said, i never grew up eating oatmeal, but you'd often find a steaming hot bowl of jook cooked by grandma or my mom at the breakfast table. jook is served all over china, because it's essentially peasant food. it stretches a cup of rice to a substantial meal for a family of four. at it's plainest, jook is just rice porridge, watered down rice. it can be dressed up a little with some soy sauce or black vinegar or a lot with some braised meats. my favorite version of jook (and perhaps the most classic) is made with lean pork loin and two kinds of eggs: thousand year old preserved and salted. and i can't have jook without it's most important accompaniment, dough sticks - deep fried goodness at it's tastiest.
pork jook with thousand year old preserved eggs & salted eggs
serves 4 to 6
1 lb. lean pork loin
lots of salt
12 cups of water
1 cup of rice
3 thousand year old preserved eggs (pictured below and found in any asian grocers)
2 salted eggs
1 handful of cilantro or 2 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 dough stick, toasted and sliced into 1/2 inch thick pieces (can also be found at any asian grocers)
red or black vinegar, soy sauce, freshly ground pepper for seasoning
heavily salt 1 lb. of lean pork loin, and when i say heavily, i mean heavily. give the pork plenty of time to absorb the seasoning, anywhere from two hours to overnight. when pork has been marinated, place salted pork loin into a stockpot or a dutch oven and cover with twelve cups of water. bring to a boil and then lower heat keeping the water at a simmer. cook pork slowly at a simmer for forty-five minutes and then remove from water. set aside and let cool.
pour in one cup of rice and bring water back to a boil. lower heat to keep water at a heavy simmer. cook rice for two to two and a half hours. when it's ready the rice will start to break up and become incredibly soft and creamy.
while the rice is cooking, slice up pork and eggs. for the pork, use a fork to break up cooled piece of pork. the pork should fall apart, like a piece of braised meat.
once the rice is the right consistency, add shredded pork and eggs. garnish with cilantro, dough stick pieces and then season to your liking with soy sauce, vinegar and/or freshly grounded pepper.
eat piping hot!