Friday, January 25, 2008

Las Vegas Bound

I'm off to do my "day job" at my semi-annual trade show in Las Vegas.
Watch this space for a write up of all the tasty doings I somehow always manage to do after work is through.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I'm in a Magazine!

A few months ago a reader left me a comment to get in touch. She enjoyed my blog and wondered if I would like to write for a British food magazine. The result is in this month's issue of Olive Magazine, a food magazine published by the BBC.

Olive is available in the U.S., and it is one of my favorite reads, especially for its food travel articles. You can read more about my affection for British food magazines here. You can find Olive in the magazine sections of some larger chain and independent book stores.

The above is a photograph of the pdf I was sent. I participated in a series called "Eat Like a Local" and contributed the write up of my memories of cioppino, the recipe and and photos of the dish and San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. (My son took the photo of me buying the crab.) My article appears on page 111 of the January 2008 issue. (The January issue should still be available here in the States, although the website now features the February issue.)

It was a learning experience having to convert recipe measurements to metric and required some retesting to make sure everything would turn out okay. There were just a few minor word and recipe changes, for example the quantity of the chopped fennel fronds. I had specified 1 tsp. Olive's version advised readers to reserve the all fronds from the fennel and use them without giving a measurement. I'm hoping fennel is sold with very little frond attached in Great Britain!

It was also a learning experience to develop the recipe, writing and photos and send them off and not have final control over them. Everything had to be clear without being in the context of a personal blog. I had some severe word limitations, even for the recipe, and worked hard to make it all work within that context.

Many bloggers have that day dream of someone reading their posts and offering them a chance to write for a wider audience. Mine came true thanks to Olive Magazine.

Olive does not have a link to my recipe, however my Provencal Fish Soup offers some of the same tastes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


In San Francisco from January 15th to the 31st?

Then check out the specially priced "dine around" menus at participating restaurants and enjoy a three-course lunch for $21.95 or a dinner for $31.95.

Click here for a list of restaurants from A (A-16) to Z (Zingari).
You can also select by cuisine or neighborhood and make a reservation directly from the site.

Just visiting? Try a meal (or two) at the Waterfront, Forbes Island (a manmade floating island), Sutro's at the Cliff House or Scoma's at Fisherman's Wharf for a meal with a view. There are a lot of quality favorites, ethnic choices, a few new eateries and more on the list. Check it out!

Also if you are just visiting, check out Blog Appetit Does San Francisco. It's a new blog to help people explore S.F. and the Bay area.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Go For the Bronze: Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup with Butternut Squash

I almost never make just a little soup. I usually make enough to feed us for a week. My husband calls this stockpile of soup "liquid gold." I was thinking about that as I made this week's soup, the color of which is more bronze than gold. No matter what the color, though, this soup is golden when it comes to its rounded, sweet and sour taste combined with the squash and cabbage.

The taste profile for this soup was influenced by a pumpkin and onion side dish I had recently. The ingredient choice was influenced by what I had in my fridge and pantry (a butternut squash leftover from my brief fling with Planet Organics and a beautiful Italian cabbage that seduced me with it's pale lavender-green leaves at the farmer's market. (To be honest, while the cabbage was fantastic in the soup, I should have saved it for a preparation that would have showed off its colors. Plain green cabbage or a savoy cabbage will work fine in the recipe.)

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup with Butternut Squash

Serves 8

2 tbs olive oil
1 cup of chopped onions
2 minced garlic cloves
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash (cut into about 1/2" cubes)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground dried thyme
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for later
4 cups good quality or homemade chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
Bay leaf
6 cups chopped green or savoy cabbage leaves
1 15 oz can tomatoes, chopped with juices (I used Italian San Marzano tomatoes)
2 tbs tomato paste
1-2 cups water
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tbs sugar

In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until beginning to soften, add garlic and saute until just beginning to become golden. Add celery, carrots and squash and saute until squash cubes have begun to caramelize. Add red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme and black pepper and saute a minute or two until the seasonings' aromas are released.

Add stock and bay leaf. Cover pot, bring to a simmer and lower heat to keep soup simmering. Add cabbage. Simmer until cabbage has begun to soften. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well. Add 1 to 2 cups of water until soup is at desired thickness. Cover and simmer until vegetables are softened. Taste soup and add salt and more pepper to taste. Let simmer a bit until seasoning is incorporated, then add balsamic vinegar and sugar. Mix thoroughly, let simmer a minute or two and taste. If the soup should be sweeter, add a bit more sugar. If it needs more sour punch, add more vinegar. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Serve with optional topping (see below) if desired.

Polenta-Cheese Soup Crouton Rounds

Oil a baking tray. Slice a prepared polenta tube or log into 8 (or however many you need) 1/4" slices. Brush tops of slices with olive oil. Bake in a 350 degree oven until just toasted. Remove tray from oven. Set oven to broil. Sprinkle grated cheese over polenta rounds. Put under broiler (watching carefully) until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Float one on top of each bowl of soup, or serve on side.

Note: Use vegan cheese or skip cheese entirely for vegan option.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year's Revelations

To catch you all up ....

Birthday celebrations continued Friday night with dinner with Mr. Blog Appetit and the Future Pastry Chef at A Cote in the Rockridge district of Oakland, CA. The restaurant is one of my favorites, with some of the best fries (which we had) and mussels (which we skipped this time) around. It is also accessible by BART and in a great neighborhood for exploring.

I started out with a cocktail from the restaurant's very creative list. I chose one made with figuon, a fortified wine with figs, vanilla, and herbal and citrus flavors in it, mixed with lemon juice and vodka. I found it an intriguing and very satisfying and will be buying a bottle of my own as soon as I can.

For dinner, the FPC had chicken saltimbocca which I wasn't overly impressed by. Mr. BA had the short ribs, which I didn't try, with potato-turnip puree, which I did taste and totally approved of. I had the seared scallops, which I swooned over. They were warm and juicy inside, crusty and caramelized on the outside with the zing of black pepper throughout. I was less enamoured of the sides, especially an overly sweet beet risotto as well as a side of golden beets. (Note, the scallops were only $16, but there were also only three nice sized ones to a serving.)

Saturday night we had dinner with our ethnic food buddies, Mona and Vishu. We went to a Pakistani place with the most incredible food. I hope to do a whole post on Kabana (in Berkeley on University at San Pablo) sometime soon. If you are a fan of authentic Indo-Pakistani food, and don't mind a wait or the lack of ambiance in this almost a hole-in-the wall restaurant, I can't recommend it enough.

Sunday night, it was downtown (in downtown Berkeley, right near the BART station). Most of my friends had the halibut, which they loved, but Gary (aka Mr. BA) and I jumped at the chance to have fresh grilled sardines, which were very good. I especially liked the side of pumpkin and onions in what seemed to be an Italian sweet-sour saauce. The real hit of the evening for me was the artichoke. Served slightly fried (alla Romana), stuffed with garlic aoili and on a bed of Meyer lemon dressed greens, it was a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. The slice of prosciutto ham underneath it all didn't really seem incorporated into the dish but it was very tasty.

Monday night was New Year's Eve. We were no longer officially celebrating my birthday, but we partied on. I brought a tortilla espana to our event with a surprising ingredient -- Potato Chips. (A surprise in that it seems unusual and a surprise in that it worked so well.) More on that next time!
Just a note: I don't do restaurant reviews for a variety of reasons. The main one is that I feel you need to have several visits and try many things and I don't usually meet my own criteria for that. I do write about my individual experiences, however, so please take into account these are just my opinions based on my limited exposure and not formal restaurant reviews.

About the photos: Scallop with beet risotto at A Cote and grilled sardines with pumpkin at downtown.