Archive for August, 2009

CAPONATA

Caponata

While caponata might not win any beauty contests with its brownish-red, slimy looking, chunky texture, I can assure you that there are few condiments in the Italian repertoire that are as rich, gutsy, and satisfying as this star of the Sicilian antipasti platter. Eggplant takes center stage in this marvelous dish, lending its unique texture as the backdrop for such bold, briny flavors as anchovies, capers, and olives. Served atop crostini or alongside provolone cheese in a panino, caponata has an intense, savory quality that can’t be beat.

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SPINACH PIE

Spinach Pie for Web

My mother stopped by the other day with a slice of spinach pie that was both too delicious and beautiful not to share. Growing up, my first exposure to greek spanikopita came from my sister when she prepared the bite-size appetizers for a Mediterranean potluck spread. Despite being a huge fan of the cartoon Popeye, as a child I was still not enamored with many food items packed to the brim with spinach. I must have been fooled by the flakey, golden-brown puff-pastry crust that afternoon, because before I knew it, I was reaching for one of the delicate triangles cooling on the counter. To this day, I can remember my surprise at how flavorful the moist, tender filling was beneath what seemed like hundreds of layers of brittle, buttery pastry. Somehow, someway the tart feta cheese and subtle hint of nutmeg had transformed the spinach into something not only palatable to my young taste-buds, but infinitely more appetizing.  Looking back, it was perhaps that first bite that ushered in what would become a personal mantra with my adventures in eating: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I’d like to think that it was that leap of faith that helped pave the way to what would eventually become the mantra in my life in food; don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

The version my mother brought by incorporates all the same authentic flavors of the original, only it’s delivered in a more substantial pie slice sized serving. Perfect as a main course, this riff on the original two-bite version eliminates the guilt associated with being the person that devour six to ten at a

time.

My mother stopped by the other day with a slice of spinach pie that was both too delicious and beautiful not to share. Growing up, my first exposure to Greek spanikopita came from my sister when she prepared the bite-size appetizers for a Mediterranean potluck spread. Despite being a huge fan of the cartoon Popeye, as a child I still wasn’t enamored with many food items packed to the brim with spinach. I must have been fooled by the flaky, golden-brown puff-pastry crust that afternoon, because before I knew it, I was reaching for one of the delicate triangles cooling on the counter. To this day, I can remember my surprise at how flavorful the moist, tender filling was beneath what seemed like hundreds of layers of brittle, buttery pastry. Somehow, someway the tart feta cheese and subtle hint of nutmeg had transformed the spinach into something not only palatable to my young taste-buds, but infinitely more appetizing.  Looking back, it was perhaps that first bite that ushered in what would become a personal mantra with my adventures in eating: don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

The version my mother brought by incorporates all the same authentic flavors of the original, only it’s delivered in a more substantial pie slice sized serving. Perfect as a main course, this riff on the original two-bite version eliminates the guilt associated with being the person that devours six to ten at a time.

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RESTORATIVE ASIAN SOUP

Restorative Asian Soup

I don’t quite know how it happened, but somehow I got a cold in the middle of August. While San Francisco isn’t exactly known for it’s sweltering summers, I found myself craving something that would warm me to the core and nourish me at the same time. Recalling the virtues of chicken noodle soup, I figured I would try my hand at creating a chinese-style broth infused with the healing qualities of garlic and ginger. So, with a batch of homemade chicken stock in the freezer and a handful of asian ingredients and cooking techniques, I set out to create a soup that would have me feeling healthy again in no time.

Drawing inspiration from Barbara Tropp’s iconic, China Moon Cookbook, I began by making a simple “infusion” that would serve as the backbone of my soup. The long, slow simmering of copious amounts of roasted garlic and other aromatics imbue the broth with a rich and savory quality while the basil stems thrown in during the last fifteen minutes of simmering add a beautiful floral finish. Once infused, the broth is good enough to eat by itself, but I was feeling a bit adventurous, and wanted to add some protein and vitamins. Using a technique called “velveting,” the marinated chicken breast is only partially cooked in simmering water before it is drained and finished in the soup. The pieces end up being juicy, extremely tender and pleasantly salty. Finished with some shiitake mushrooms, baby bok choy, spinach and a good pinch of Szechwan pepper-salt, I had a soup that is as delicious as it is healthy.

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FRENCH ONION DIP

Onion Dip

Growing up, my mother would only let me eat Kraft’s french onion dip from a tub on vacation. Later in life, while away at college, I would find that people didn’t just eat the stuff out of tubs, but mixed their own using sour cream and onion soup mix from a packet. Don’t get me wrong, both are good, but nothing compares to the overwhelming richness and depth of flavor that comes from the real thing — deeply, caramelized onions.

This stuff is just plain good. So good, in fact, that after making a fresh batch for a party the following day, my two former roommates devoured an entire bowl in one sitting. When brought to parties and potlucks and served alongside crudites or a bowl of sturdy, ridged potato chips, it has been known to disappear in minutes. My sister has even taken to slathering the stuff on turkey sandwiches for lunch; an application that certainly gained my seal of approval.  

Real, homemade onion dip is the kind of thing that catches the unsuspecting eater off-guard. Those expecting a mild, light hint of dehydrated onion among a sea of sour cream and mayonnaise are taken aback by this version’s astounding savory flavor. After all, this is just the type of dish that people don’t take the time to make from scratch. The word “time” is key in this instance as it does take quite a bit of it to coax the inherent sweetness from the onions. So, next time you have a few extra onions on-hand and are craving something ultra-indulgent, think about whipping up a real batch of onion dip.

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MOROCCAN STYLE ROASTED CHICKEN

Morrocan Chicken 2

I can’t say I blame most chefs when they say that they would choose a perfectly roasted chicken as their last meal on earth. There is something intoxicating about the aroma of well roasted bird with crackling crisp skin and juicy, tender meat. Maybe that’s why there’s a half mile long line at the farmer’s market waiting to get one of Thomas Odermatt’s now famous RoliRoti birds.  That being said, sometimes I want something a little different.

Recently, after purchasing a beautiful organic Rosie chicken from the supermarket, I looked into my rapidly aging spice drawer and realized that it was time to make use of some of them before it they lost all of their flavor. Knowing I wanted to roast the bird whole, I found a great recipe on Epicurious.com for a chicken roasted in a Moroccan style. With the key ingredient in the dish being the spice blend Ras Al-Honout, I turned to Marcus Samuelsson’s book The Soul of a New Cuisine for a recipe. An extremely heady, aromatic blend of cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, cardamom and cloves, the Ras Al-Hanout lends the dish a truly exotic and authentic quality, miles away in flavor from your typical weeknight roasted chicken dinner.

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