Friday, July 31, 2009

Lunch of Champions -- and a Pickled Radishes and Carrots Recipe

My second j. article came out today. I guessed wrong again and supplied the Bay area Jewish newsweekly with one too many recipes for the space. (When will I learn?)

The column was on what the organizers of the San Francisco Maccabi games were feeding the 1,500 visiting athletes for lunch. Among the offerings was a taco bar which inspired my Smoky Chipotle Turkey Taco Filling with Roasted Onions and Cherry Tomatoes. The recipes are posted here.

But I also created a wonderful fresh pickle to serve as a taco topping -- Pickled Radishes and Carrots. It also makes a zippy accompaniment to other foods as well.

Pickled Radishes and Carrots
Serves 6-8

1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup thinly sliced red radishes
1 fresh jalapeño, sliced (optional)
White vinegar

Cook the carrots in water to cover until just beginning to soften. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Put carrot and radish slices in glass bowl or jar. Add jalapeño if using. Mix well. Cover with vinegar (or use half vinegar, half water for milder pickle). Store leftover pickles in the vinegar mixture in the refrigerator.

See below for the recipes that were printed in the j. -- smoke chipolte turkey filling (with poached turkey directions) and  roasted onions and cherry tomatoes.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can It -- Food Drive at Julie & Julia Movie Opening in Oakland

Alameda County Community Food Bank Food Drive at Piedmont Cinemas for Julie & Julia Opening

The corporate powers behind the new movie Julie & Julia are trying to tie into the blogging phenomenon that shaped the success of Julie Powell's blog and subsequent book about the personal and culinary growth she experienced by cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. (There is a natural synergy, it shows they are social media savvy and it helps create a lot of buzz for them. Oh, and it's probably a heck of a lot cheaper than traditional advertising.

They really needn't bother, the blogging and food world (even those with issues about Powell and/or the blog and/or the book) have done it on their own -- everything from Julie/Julia commemorative dinners and dinner parties to philosophical discussions about the place of Julia Child and/or Julie Powell in today's food world. (FYI -- the link is to Julie's current blog, the one the book is based on seems near on to impossible to find now -- if you know the link, please leave a comment below.) The movie is also based on the excellent memoir of Child's years in France, My Life in France.

My contribution to all this hoopla was very personal. The joy of cooking both Julia and Julie experienced left me wondering about those for whom eating is more of an elemental existence and for whom hunger is an unfortunate fact of life. I couldn't believe that with all the corporate, blogging and other tie-ins, I had not seen anything like this. I did what I had to do. I emailed. I emailed the food bank, I emailed local theaters and then I followed up. In the end, the movie theater and the food bank worked it out and there will be a barrel for collecting non-perishable food at the Piedmont Cinemas for the Julie & Julia August 7th opening and for the week beyond.

It would have been nice to try to get more of a fundraiser and a wider campaign, but I'm happy that at least the people going in and out of that one theater in Oakland CA will see the barrel, maybe make a donation, and become more aware of the growing hunger in our communities even while they celebrate the unique accomplishments of Julie & Julia.

I encourage you to donate food or cash equivalent to the cost of your movie ticket to your local food bank. (You can find your local agency here.) Thanks.

About the photo: donations from the barrels at Alameda County Community Food Bank, circa 2/2006

I haven't written much about the wondrous Julia Child, but do here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Scream for (Free) Ice Cream

Here's a shameless plug straight from the company's email:

Free Ciao Bella Gelato now through Friday at various Bay area locations, including two in Oakland. Locations are here. Not in the San Francisco Bay area? Various other sampling spots in the Northeast are also listed.

Ciao Bella is looking to hand out a million single serve samples of their newest flavors of gelato and sorbet -- blood orange sorbet, mango sorbet, lemon sorbet, Tahitian vanilla gelato, or chocolate hazelnut gelato. Help them reach their goal.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Boys and Grills and a Red Wine Marinade for Flank Steak

Even though I'm the bbq chef of the family, my husband and youngest son are very involved in any grilling process around the Blog Appetit homestead. So when my 23-year-old gas grill (which I swear was being held together by decades of blackened grease) finally was declared N.G., my guys were involved in selecting and purchasing the new grill.

I don't know why I was surprised, but grills have changed a bit since we last went shopping for one. No more lava rock, now it's flavor enhancer bar technology and lots of unnecessary (to me) bells and whistles (side burners, timers, beer bottle openers, etc.) The on-line comments about the Sears grill we selected warned us to pay for assembly. I was glad we did once the behemoth was delivered and I got a looksee at the instructions.

I went for a nice big grill to cook on (ironically when I'm weeks away from being an empty nester I finally have a grill big enough for the four of us), four burners with independent controls and a temperature gauge (which I originally thought was unnecessary, but I find I like having it) that is relatively easy to wheel about and which was fairly reasonably priced, especially since we got it on sale.

My first meal with the new grill was the za'atar chicken dish (with pomegranate molasses bbq sauce), from this post. (I liked it so much, I made it a second time, this time with a whole cut up chicken, not just thighs.) My second was grilled flank steak.

I was busy in the office, so I gave Noah directions and he put the meat in the marinade for me.
It's a simple and delicious red wine marinade.

Red Wine Marinade for Flank Steak

Amounts will vary depending on the size of your steak and dish to marinate it in.

1 part olive oil (we used 1/2 cup)
2 parts dry red wine (1 cup) - doesn't have to be the best quality but something that is at least drinkable
garlic, roughly chopped (4 cloves)
A couple of pinches of French Provencal seasoning (or use dried oregano and basil)
Freshly ground pepper (maybe a teaspoon)
Salt (maybe a half teaspoon)

Place all ingredients in a glass baking or other non-reactive dish large enough to accommodate your flank steak. Mix well. Place steak in marinade. Prick all over with fork. Turn. Prick other side. Let steak sit in marinade until ready to grill or broil, flipping occasionally. Marinate at room temperature for about an hour or in the fridge for about 4-6 hours.

Baste meat occasionally with leftover marinade as it cooks.

Cook to desired doneness. Let rest 10-20 minutes before serving so it reabsorbs it juices. (Note: Steak will keep cooking while it sits, so pull it from the fire just a bit less cooked than you would like to serve it.) Slice in thin strips AGAINST the grain and serve.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cincinnati Chili by the Bay

This is another in my series of famous (or at least regionally famous) dishes that probably should be considered creative interpretations or reasonable facsimiles of the original. Similar to my Don't Call it Bouillabaisse and Don't Call it Cassoulet, this dish recreates my taste memories of eating the more authentic dish. I actually ate this in Cincinnati, Ohio, but is not an exact replica. Like those other dishes, it is also an attempt to stay out of the factional fray of differing devotees of what exactly is "authentic."

I read about Cincinnati chili long before I ever tasted it. It is a Greek/Middle Eastern inspired meat sauce with strong cinnamon flavor on top of spaghetti (two way), eaten with shredded yellow cheddar cheese (three-way), onions (four-way) or beans (five way). To me, five-way is the only and best way. It is standard to top your chili with oyster crackers, which don't add into the count.

Five-way chili is an inspirational dish. Many a newspaper article and blog post has been written about it. Some seek to recreate the taste of their favorite Cincinnati chili parlor's offering, others seek to replicate the restaurant's chili down to quasi-chemical analysis.

I've only had the original twice -- once on my drive across country to move to the Bay area in California, the other when my public relations department bet one in Cincinnati on the outcome of a sporting event a few years later. If our team won, they got crab. If we won, we got the chili. No one else in the department knew what to do with the frozen bricks of chili packed on dry ice that arrived in tribute to our team's prowess. I hadn't been part of the original bet but they let me participate since I was the only one who knew how to serve it. Chili on top of spaghetti is not exactly standard here in California.

I've collected Cincinnati chili recipes ever since, but never made it until a friend's husband was feted with a potluck to celebrate his 40th anniversary of coming to America. Since his first 20 years here were spent in Cincinnati I thought it was time to tackle the five-way on my own turf.

Cincinnati Chili by the Bay
Serves About 10-12

This chili is spicy, but not hot, redolent with cinnamon, allspice, cardamon, cloves and cumin which give the dish a rich, deep, exotic flavor. Don't expect the usual Tex-Mex brash heat and punch, it's not here. This recipe is an distillation of many recipes I've read in cookbooks and the internet as well as background histories of the dish, plus my own remembrances and preferences. One way many devotees differ is if you should brown the meat and onions first or not. Most of the more traditional recipes didn't, so I didn't. Don't be intimidated by the long list of spices, despite the length of the recipe, it is very easy to put together. This is a big batch of chili since I was making it for a crowd. You could reduce the recipe or freeze leftovers if this is more than you need for one meal.

2 cups beef stock or broth
2 1/2 cups water
3 large onions, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate
5 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3 pounds lean ground beef
2 bay leaves
6 ounce can of tomato paste
8 ounce can of plain tomato sauce
2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt, or more or less to taste

Put the broth and water in a large heavy soup or stock pot over medium high heat, add onion, garlic, chocolate, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamon, cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper. Mix well. Add ground meat, using a spoon to break up any clumps of meat and mixing well with spices. Bring to just boiling. Lower heat to a simmer, add bay leaves, tomato paste, tomato sauce and vinegar. Return to simmer, cooking covered and stirring occasionally for an hour and a half. Uncover and taste, add salt as desired. Simmer uncovered until the chili is very thick and all the flavors have melded, about 30 minutes (or longer if needed, the chili should not be runny at all). Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve hot with spaghetti and toppings (see below).

To serve: Have spaghetti, shredded cheddar, chopped onions, kidney beans and oyster crackers available. Serve the chili on top of the spaghetti and let diners add their choice of toppings. Being a Californian, I wouldn't think a sprinkling of chopped parsley and a side of fresh, crusty sourdough bread would be amiss either, but that would be your call.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Buenos Aires Photo of the Day - A Magnetic Experience

I found these appealing magnets at a design store in a delightful mall next to the Recoleta Cemetery. This is a sample of about half the magnets. They are designed to be a used as a shopping list but I like them as a graphic element in my kitchen.
This is a good example of the kind of souvenir I like on my trips -- something you can put out or on and use. Food themes or cooking utensils are even better.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Israel on the Grill -- My First Column for the j. and a Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Sauce Recipe

My first column for the j., a Jewish newsweekly in the Bay area with a circulation of 48,000, was published today. I focused on Israeli-style grilled bbq with recipes for a za'atar-marinated chicken and vegetables and cumin-scented ground lamb kebabs.

You can read the column and see those recipes here. Since it was my first, I think I overestimated the space I was allowed since the third recipe (for a pomegranate molasses bbq sauce) didn't make the cut. The sauce provided a wonderful sweet-sour tang when drizzled over the kebabs and chicken.

It is such a wonderful recipe (and was very popular, dinner guests were even eating it on their fruit salads) that I thought I would post it here.

A special thank you goes to Shelly Butcher of An Open Cupboard, who gave me a lot of background on Israeli grilling traditions and recipes.

Pomegranate Molasses BBQ Sauce
Makes about ½ cup

½ cup pomegranate molasses
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Mix well. Heat, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Do not allow to boil. Pour into container or serving bowl and cool. Mixture will thicken as it cools. Serve with grilled meats and vegetables.
Update: For your convenience -- here are the other recipes mentioned in the post.

Herb Grilled Chicken and Vegetables
Serves 4

1 cup olive oil

1⁄4 cup lemon juice

1⁄8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1⁄8 tsp. ground black pepper

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. za’atar seasoning mix (or 1 Tbs. ground oregano, 1⁄8 tsp. of cumin and 1⁄2 tsp. sesame seeds)

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1⁄2 cup diced onion

4 zucchinis, each sliced lengthwise into 2 pieces

1 red onion cut into thick slices

2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded and each cut into fourths

8 small or 4 large chicken thighs on the bone (about 2 lbs.)

Combine oil, lemon juice, peppers, salt, za’atar, garlic and onion. Mix well. Marinate the vegetables in half of the marinade and the chicken in the other half. Marinate for about an hour, and then grill over a medium hot fire. Baste as needed with marinades, turning occasionally until vegetables are browned and soft and the chicken is cooked through with meat just turning opaque at the bone.

Lamb Kebabs
Serves 4

1 lb. ground lamb

2 cloves garlic, minced

1⁄4 cup minced onion

1⁄4 cup minced fresh parsley

1⁄4 cup minced fresh cilantro

1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin

1⁄4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

1⁄4 tsp. salt

Mix all the ingredients well. Handling as lightly as possible, shape into 8 “sausage” shapes approximately 11⁄2 by 31⁄2 inches, or make 8 small patties. (Note: Traditionally these kebabs would be threaded on wide, flat metal skewers. I’ve adapted the recipe to cook them directly on the grill grate instead, but if you have the skewers, mold the meat into the sausage shape around them and cook as directed.)

Grill over a medium hot fire flipping occasionally until kebabs begin to feel firm and offer some resistance when touched. Cut into one to check for desired doneness. Grill longer if needed.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A Very Different Kind of Blog Post - Noah's Surgery

My 18-year-old son, Noah, aka the Future Architect, is scheduled for open heart surgery tomorrow. It is to correct a congenital defect. I wanted to write something moving and forceful and reflect back on his first surgery when he was five months old, but I find I can't. Maybe when the fear has unclutched my heart I can be poetic and insightful and meaningful. Now I just dread the days to come until we come out the other side of this unavoidable life experience. The doctors, not unkindly, tell us replacing a pulmonary valve is routine. To them, of course, not us.

Noah has been brave, proud, scared and determined. I want to shout, scream and rant at the fates. But the fates that gave him holes in his heart and a constricted pulmonary artery (which lead to the enlarged right ventricle that prompts tomorrow's repair) also gave him more heart than anyone else I know. He is thoughtful, emphatic, caring, kind, full of community spirit and what we Jews call "ruach" which is difficult to define in English, but something like a caring spirit that suffuses all his actions. Not to say he can't be a know it all or thoughtless teenager, but those are just passing irritants with him, not his true soul.

There is a lot more I want to write about this experience and maybe I will.
But for now, thanks in advance for your kind prayers and good thoughts.
UPDATE: Noah's surgery on Thursday went well and he continues to improve. A big thank you to the doctors and nurses at Children's Hospital, Oakland.
UPDATE2: Noah came home Sunday. He is doing well.
UPDATE3 (8.24.09): We just dropped him off at college. He's still has a few weeks left of taking it easy, but he's doing great.