Monday, May 22, 2017

A Kitchen in London

Gary and I are in London for a month enjoying the international restaurants, food,stalls, street markets, and famed eating spots, but what we really like (some of the time) is coming home to our apartment rental and cooking dinner.

The stores and supermarkets here don't have some of the range of produce I'm used to but they have a lot, usually impeccably fresh and beautiful.  The markets are also full of intriguing local and international groceries and the dairy, oh, my goodness, the dairy, it's wonderful.  There is one whole refrigerator filled with varieties of clotted cream, marscopone and creme friache (full or low fat, French or English style).

Pictured above is a whole eggplant (aubergine), cut in half and scooped out.  The eggplant boats (shells) were partially baked then filled with a sautéed mixture of ground beef (mince) and chopped onions, garlic, bell pepper (capsicums) and eggplant innards. The mix was seasoned with cinnamon, cumin, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and sautéed in olive oil. The eggplant was baked until the top was browned and the eggplant shells cooked through. It was topped with hummus and chopped cilantro (coriander). I served it with couscous, a vacation standby since it is so versatile and quick cooking and can be made without a pot.

Cooking at a vacation rental can be tricky from lack of ingriendents and or equipment, but I like to treat it as my personal reality show and see how creative I can get with minimal effort. This dinner was a winner on both counts.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SF Chinatown Bakery Sign


Painted on the closed gate of a venerable bakery in San Francisco's Chinatown, this is the first of what I hope will be a series of food-related signage photographs featured on Blog Appetit. These food signs have always fascinated me and I look forward to sharing them and their stories with you.

The Eastern Bakery at 720 Grant Avenue had been a Chinatown institution well before I arrived in the Bay area in 1979.  They are known for their moon cakes, but also, as the gate advises, serve breakfast, lunch and food to go. Try their custard tarts and steamed savory buns, as well.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Savory Bites and California Mandelbrot for Purim

Pepper jelly makes these more of an appetizer than a dessert.
Purim has many food traditions associated with it.  Among them is the custom of giving friends and relatives a gift basket of food known as mishloach manot.  The giver is ensuring the recipient has enough food for a Purim feast.  Another Purim tradition is to donate to the poor, and some have combined the two traditions into food drives and donations to food banks.

The recipes below were designed to be made for a Purim basket, or even just made ahead for a Purim party.  The crispy Lemon-Olive Oil Mandelbrot cookies stand up to a dunking in tea or even a bit of sweet wine. Be sure to label the Spicy Hamantaschen Bites, an appetizer twist on the traditional Purim cookie, so your recipient knows this treat has some heat.

Hamantaschen are said to resemble the evil Haman's hat and are usually filled with jam, prune butter or poppy seeds. Filled or "hidden" foods are also a  Purim tradition since there is so many secrets in the Purim story. For more on the Purim story and a recipe for the sweeter, traditional hamantaschen, see my post here.

California Mandelbrot with Lemon and Olive Oil
Makes about 24

Oil spray
2 eggs
2/3 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. lemon oil
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 Tbs. grated, minced lemon zest
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 2/3 cup flour, plus extra
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup blanched, sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Use spray to grease two baking sheets.   In a mixer bowl, combine eggs and sugar on high speed until pale yellow and thickened.  Stir in lemon oil, almond extract, lemon zest and olive oil.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the egg and sugar mixture in three batches, making sure each batch is combined before adding the next.  Beat at medium speed until smooth, stir in the almonds (dough will be stiff).  Sprinkle flour on work surface.  Dough will be sticky so oil or wet hands.  Shape dough into two loaves, each about 10” long, 1 ½” wide and 1” tall.  Using spatula if needed, transfer to center of prepared pans.  Pat back into shape.

Bake 25 minutes or until golden and top crust has small cracks.  Let cool slightly.  Transfer loaves to cutting board and cut into 3/4" slices.  Lay slices flat side down on pans, return to hot oven and bake 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.  Mandelbrot will crisp as it cools.

Spicy Hamantaschen Bites
Makes 22-24

2 cups flour, plus extra
2 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 lb. margarine or butter (1 stick), at room temperature and cut in small pieces
2 eggs, beaten
About 1/4 cup strained jalapeño or other pepper jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and pepper in large bowl.  With a pastry blender or two forks, cut in margarine until about the size of lentils.  Mix in eggs. Mix until it forms a ball, using hands to knead together if needed. Sprinkle flour on work surface and roll out dough 1/4“ thick.  Cut into circles with a round cookie cutter or small glass about 2 ½” to 2 ¾” in diameter.  Gather scraps and reroll them and cut out additional circles.


Fill the center of each circle with 1/2 tsp. jelly.  (Do not overfill.) Push up 3 sides to form triangles, firmly pinching so the cookies will maintain their shape during baking.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Remove cookies and cool on rack.

----------------
This article first appeared in a slightly different form in the J, the Jewish News of Northern California.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Strawberries Down Under Are Tops -- Cooloolah Berries



There is a little dirt road that goes inland from the Sunshine Coast and it's there you can find your strawberry bliss. Cooloolah Berries is more than a family farm, it is also a mission for better strawberries and and a fulfilling lifestyle in Wolvi (Gympie).

Kim Watson and her husband Jason had been growing berries for commercial sale part time when the price dipped about 60 cents a punnet (basket) less than they cost to grow and harvest. The pair decided to buy their own farm and sell the best berries they could retail grown naturally and not treated with anti-ripening agents. 

And the berries are amazing. We visited the farm towards the very end of the growing season and bought a basket of Albion-variety strawberries. The berries were deep red with little or no white shoulder, a nice texture and deliciously sweet with a hint of acid. They lasted us for three days and we wished we could have had more, but by that time we were far south.

Visit Kim and family (she is also raising a crop of boys) during the Australian spring for berries (including pick your own) or come any time to sample her homemade scones, jams, ice creams and sorbets or other treats.

Sundays they often offer alfresco paella feasts.  We weren't lucky enough to be there for their Sunday cookout, but Kim says her paella is full of chicken and chorizo and Watsons have been known to take their giant paella pans and cooking rings on the road for special events. 

I don't have a new strawberry recipe for you from Kim, but here are a few favorites of mine: ice cream, strudel and soup!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Regards from Down Under -- Food Photos from Australia -- Rain Forest Ice Cream

Guess the flavors of these ice creams from fruits grown in the rain forest
The first in an occasional set of updates from my current adventure. 

Shown are tropical ice creams from fruit grown in the orchards of the Daintree Ice Cream Company, located in the rain forest on Daintree Island, Australia. 

Shown are Davidson's Plum, pink and a bit tart, Brown Sapote, fruity and chocolate-like, and Wattleseed, a bit like tiramisu underneath was coconut

I'll add links later, but wow, some of the best ice cream ever. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Falooda! An Indian Treat on Devon Avenue -- Chicago Food Photo

Falooda is a thin, sweet noodle added to frozen desserts and drinks. I first had it in a Persian rose ice cream here in the states. I next had it as a sundae in Jaipur, India, served with ice cream and rose syrup. Today's was from a snack stand on West Devon Avenue in Chicago, which is part of an area becoming known as the International Marketplace because of the wide range of food stuffs and international restaurants and stores. 

The area around Devon and Western avenues is heavily Indian and Pakistani, but as we walked along we saw Middle Eastern, Near Eastern, Georgian, Eastern Eurporean, kosher, and Latin American influences.  The Indo-Pakistani offerings ranged from curries and kebabs to Indo-Chinese food (spicy and saucy) to vegetarian dosas (rice flour crepes) as well as snack foods such as samosas (filled pastries), chaat (assorted snacks) to the falooda.  This one had the noodles, flavored jellies, a kind of tapioca pudding, mango ice cream, a few whole almonds, and syrup. It was rich, satisfying, more than enough for the two of us and cost just $2.99.

Devon Avenue is also home to Indian and Pakistani clothing and fabric stores (think saris and other traditional outfits), jewelry stores, housewares stores and religious items dealers.  There are also a far number of dollar and value-priced merchants as well as food markets and restaurants.  

One important note: Some of the clothing stores and a few of the restaurants and other stores are closed on Tuesday, but if that is the only day you can go there are still an overwhelming number of places to check out.

It is accessible by bus or by taking the Red Line train to Loyala and catching the 155 bus.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Donut You Know -- Chicago Food Photo Feature


Mr. Blog Appetit and I are spending the month in May in Chicago so I thought I would post an occasional food photo here to share some of the Midwest bounty we are enjoying. 

Today's offering is a Stan's Donut lemon pistachio glazed donut. I was pleasantly surprised that the donut itself and not just the glaze was flavored with lemon zest. 

Chicago is more than a bit donut obsessed, with donut stand(s) near most "L" (subway and elevated train) stations. A frequent sight during the packed rush hour is commuters trying to maintain their balance while avoiding getting their boxes of donuts crushed. 



Monday, January 18, 2016

At the Winter Fancy Food Show

This is my second day at the San Francisco Winter Fancy Food Show after a gap of a few years. It's larger and busier than ever and loud, colorful and tasty.

I'm posting this with Blogger mobile for iPhone so I am not writing a full report here due to technical limitations, but some highlights:

Cultured non-diary cheese from Miyoko 

Full leaf tea in a bag from Silk Road Teas

Smoked soy sauce from Igeta (not yet available in the USA)

Roland Foods seasonings and sauces (unfortunately mostly food service)

More as I explore further and get home to a real keyboard. In the meantime as a sign on one display says: It's raining chocolate.