Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review -- With Lots of Recipes and No Angst

This round up is all about the flavor, honey. No explanations or analysis here. You want to read about Blog Appetit's growth and development? We've got that here. Scroll to the bottom to see my favorite of 2009.

These recipes are the ones that stand out in my mind and make my mouth water just thinking about them.

January: These Spanish Stuffed Peppers with Smoked Paprika Tomato Sauce were the first recipe I tweeted. I was all atwitter about the combination of tastes and textures. I couldn't wait to have the leftovers the next day for lunch. While this recipe was made with turkey, I also gave vegetarian options.

February: I love gremolata, that raw garlic, parsley and lemon zest topping traditional for osso bucco. Here I use it on top of an earthy root vegetable stew with gremolata. The meal stands out in my mind not just for its taste but because my husband and I shopped the farmer's market for its ingredients and it was our Valentine's Day dinner.

March: A new pot inspired a new soup: Sweet and Sour Onion Soup, which combined two of my favorite soup concepts into one. The story behind the pot and the soup began begins with my husband snagging a well-loved, used five-quart red enameled cast iron French (i.e. Dutch) oven at a local estate sale for just $18.

April: I wrote a lot about my trip to Buenos Aires. The submarino was a drink I had there. Unbelievably easy, unbelievably good. Take a glass of warm, frothy milk. Submerge a few ounces of good quality chocolate in it. Stir. Drink.

May: Thy of Wandering Spoon taught a class at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center in the famed Vietnamese sizzling crepes called Banh Xeo with loads of fresh seasonal greens and dipping sauce. The results were delicious. I post her recipe here. You can see a slide show of the class here.

June: I'm torn between the wonderful Not Your Grandmother's Beet Borscht and Gary's Granola, but I'm going with my husband's granola recipe, it is truly the best. His recipe is constantly evolving. Don't tell him, but I sometimes swipe a handful for a snack.

July: I began writing my Jewish food column and kicked it off with some recipes for Israeli-styled grilled food. While the chicken and lamb kabob recipes were great, it was the pomegranate molasses bbq sauce that made me, and several others, swoon. So easy, so delicious, so versatile.

August: August was a lazy month. I really didn't write a recipe for this but gave more of a how to, but BBQ Chicken Salad with BBQ vinaigrette was finger licking good, anyway. I also didn't take a photo. Bad Blog Appetit.

September: I probably got more positive feedback from my Cranberried Chicken recipe than any other I've written for the blog or for my Jewish cooking column. It's easy, tasty and very festive. Unfortunately, I don't have the recipe on my blog, you'll have to click the link to it's home on the j. Jewish newsweekly. Luckily, another recipe I wrote that month also pushes my flavor buttons. My Hunger Challenge Cassoulet (which costs about $1-$1.50 a serving) was part of my week's worth of menus for eating on $4 a day or less in support of San Francisco Food Bank's Hunger Challenge.

October: This pumpkin pie with dates in filo crust was all treat and no trick this Halloween.

November: The hands down favorite from this month is my Balkan-inspired Lemon and Egg Sauce Moussaka. The zing of the citrus, the richness of the lamb, the creaminess of the egg sauce and the earthiness of the eggplant combine to make an unforgettable dish.

December: No contest -- from the moment I thought of the concept of a Jewish-Mexican tamale all I wanted to eat was tzimmes tamales. And once you've tried them, I think you'll be similarly obsessed. It's a rich beef and dried fruit stew with a chipolte kick wrapped in a schmaltz (chicken-fat) -based tamale dough. Bring on Christmukkah.

My personal favorite best recipe for 2009, that's a tough one, since I only post recipes I really like. The finalists are the moussaka, the tamales and the pomegranate molasses bbq sauce. The bbq sauce also wins Miss Congeniality for its simplicity. If I had to pick I guess it would be the tamales, but I could change my mind, that moussaka was awfully good ...

2009 in Review -- With Lots of Angst and Explanation but without Recipes

This has been an interesting year for Blog Appetit and myself as a food writer and blogger and recipe developer.
First, I stopped "lurking" on my own site and felt comfortable enough to share actual photos of myself on Blog Appetit, but more importantly I worked hard to develop a voice and a vision for Blog Appetit as kind of an "urban ethnic" resource. The blog focus became "cooking local, eating global" and I strived to have my posts reflect that when I could. I also began refining the voice the blog has into one that is part reportorial and part commentator.

Good examples of my developing this are the posts on my visit to Tombstone, AZ, and my piece on the sociologist studying Jewish delis (both with recipes, of course). I have more posts like that planned. They are more time consuming to write so for now they remain the "blue plate specials" of Blog Appetit.

I've also been working on my photography. I am using larger photos with most posts and I'm trying hard to not have posts without photos. I like to use one or two photos that have some narrative to them and really tell the story. I am taking more time composing and planning the photos and feel like overall the quality of the photos has improved. This is something I am continuing to improve. My vow is no more glop in a pot shot from on top (if I can help it)!
My participation in BlogHerFood 09 was a turning point in making these changes.

Several forces have shaped my blog posts and recipes this year. I began writing a twice-a-month cooking column for the j., a Jewish newsweekly in the San Francisco Bay area. This has been an immensely satisfying experience. Because of this commitment, I've been exploring more facets of "Jewish" food and the blog reflects that. I've also been exploring a lot of Asian food through my work with the Oakland Asian Cultural Center and the classes I've taken there, and I think you see some of the flavors and techniques I've been exploring there. Another factor has been my participation in the San Francisco Food Bank's Hunger Challenge. The experience of eating on about $4 a day was a powerful one.

On a personal level, I became an empty nester, which meant I could cook with mushrooms with abandon. (We had a strong anti-mushroom force at the dinner table.) Not having children at home also influenced the kinds of food I made, resulting in much less baking and more complex flavors. I thought I would find additional time to develop recipes and post, but found that I just worked more hours instead.

Well, enough reflection, on to the recipes. Click here to see the list of my favorite Blog Appetit recipes for 2009.
Photo of me by Bonnie Burt, filmmaker, artist, jewlery designer and good friend

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tzimmes Tamales -- New World Meets Old -- Merging Holiday Food Traditions

For a recent cooking column in the j. , the Jewish newsweekly of the Bay area, I highlighted how intermarried families also merge their holiday food traditions and wrote about Building Jewish Bridges, a program for Jewish intermarried in the San Francisco area headed by Dawn Kepler. BJB offers a variety of programming and workshops to help couples navigate the differences and compromises in a two-religion household. The site also has a wealth of clear explanations of Jewish holidays and traditions for anyone, intermarried or not, who needs a brush up on Judaism.

Dawn was able to give me some examples of families that had successfully merged food traditions and I was enthralled by the idea of a Mexican grandmother making "non-pork" tamales ( a Christmas eve staple) for her Jewish grandchildren for Chanukah. That inspired my tzimmes tamales. Replacing the lard with the chicken fat gave the tamale dough a lot of flavor and helped give the finished tamale a lighter taste. Beef tzimmes (sometimes spelled tsimmes) is a traditional Eastern European stewed dish. Adding the peppers also gives it a bit of a twist as well. To read my full article, click here. Below are the recipes.

Beef Tzimmes with a Kick
Serves 6, or 4 if also making tamales

The chipotle pepper gives the stew a nice tingle without much burn. Remove the seeds if you want the taste without much heat.

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
3 pounds of chuck steak or roast cut into 2” cubes
2 cups thinly sliced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 carrots sliced into ½ inch rounds
1 large sweet potato cut into 1” cubes, divided
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 chopped chipotle pepper packed in adobo sauce (from a can, reserve remainder for another use)
½ cup dried apricots
½ cup pitted, dried prunes
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbs. tomato paste

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Brown the meat and set aside. Add onions and sauté until light brown. Add garlic and carrots, sauté for a few minutes. Add half of the sweet potatoes, the salt and pepper and the chipotle pepper. Sauté until vegetables have begun to color. Add the meat, apricots, prunes, chicken stock and tomato paste. Stir up any brown bits that may be on the bottom of the pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover, lower heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add remaining sweet potatoes. Continue simmering, covered, and stirring occasionally for another two to three hours or until the meat is falling apart tender. Taste and correct seasoning if needed. (Note: Sometimes the meat needs less time to be truly tender, sometimes it needs much more.)

Tzimmes Tamales
Makes 12 Tamales

Tamale making is often a time to have friends or families over to help stuff and wrap the tamales. While extra hands help, the recipe below can be managed by one person without much trouble. I adapted the tamale-making process from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen cookbook.

8 ounce package dried corn husks
1 ¾ cups masa harina (look for the type labeled for tamales)
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. of hot water
5 ounces chilled schmaltz (chicken fat) or vegetable shortening
1 tsp. baking powder
About 1 ¼ cups chicken stock
¾ tsp. salt
2 cups chopped solids from Beef Tzimmes with a Kick recipe above
Salsa, for serving

Put the corn husks in a large pot. Add water to cover. Bring to boil. Let stand for about an hour, keeping the husks submerged by putting a plate on top of them. Separate out 12 unbroken husks to wrap the tamales in. Tear one of the remaining husks into 12 long ¼” “strings” to tie the tamales. Separate and keep the rest to line the steamer.

Make the batter by mixing the masa harina and hot water together. Set aside to let cool. Beat the schmaltz or shortening and baking powder in the bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the prepared masa mixture in three batches, mixing well with each one. With the mixer going, add in a ½ cup of the chicken broth until combined and then add ¼ cup of chicken broth at a time as needed until the masa mixture is soft but still holds its shape. Mix in the salt, tasting and adding more if necessary.

Spread a corn husk open in front of you with the pointed, narrow side at the bottom. Wipe dry with a paper towel. Place ¼ cup of the masa mixture about ¾ of an inch from the top of the husk. Spread it into about a 4” square, being sure to leave a ¾” margin on each side and at least 1 ½ inches from the bottom point. Place 2 Tbs. of the chopped tzimmes filling down the center of the masa. Next pick up the two long sides and push them together, making the batter enclose the meat filling. Roll both flaps in the same direction around the tamale. Flip the stuffed husk so the seam side faces you and fold the pointy end of the husk up to close off the bottom. Secure it by using a torn husk strip to tie it together. Repeat to make remaining tamales.

Prepare or improvise a steamer at least 4” deep. Put several inches of water in the pan underneath. Line the steamer with 2/3 of the remaining corn husks. Place tamales inside the steamer with open (top) sides up. They should be packed in so they are standing up. Place a bowl or some crumpled foil to the steamer basket to help the tamales stay upright if needed. Top with remaining corn husks and cover. Bring to and keep water at boiling. Add water as needed and steam for about 1 ¼ hours or until the husk peels away easily. Let tamales firm up for a few minutes before serving with salsa.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Bulbs ...

or maybe Christmas lillies since onions and garlic are in the lilly family.

More Followers

I just wanted to acknowledge some new and relatively new followers.
Thanks for choosing to spend time with Blog Appetit!

The Flowering Cactus
Sherdian Shu
Miss Melanie

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One More Night to Light the Lights

Chanukah Curious -- Read all about how to play dreidel, make latkes and some history on my annual (C)Hanuk(k)ah wrapup here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu for Hope VI -- Help the World Food Programme and a Chance to Publish Your Own Cookbook

Update: Menu for Hope extended to December 31.

Every year, Food Bloggers from all over the world join together for a fundraising campaign. We call it 'Menu for Hope'. For the past three years, we've raised nearly $250K in support of the UN World Food Programme. (As of 12/27, we've raised more than $53,000 for the programme this year and there is still time to participate. )

From Pim the Menu for Hope organizer: "This year, Menu for Hope ... is highlighting the new initiative Purchase for Progress (P4P). P4P enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to WFP’s global operation, helping farmers improves their practices and putting more cash directly into their pockets in return for their crops."

The way this fundraiser works is that you make a donation and get to choose a bid item for every $10 donated. At the end of the drive, a "winner" is selected from those who have selected that particular bid item and the offering is yours.

The bid item Blog Appetit will be offering is a $50 gift certificate to At you can create you own cookbook (or photo or other book) with the site's free software. Depending on the number of photos, size, binding, cover and paper, the gift certificate should be enough for you to buy one or more copies of your own book. Then you can direct others to so they can purchase copies of your new book! (Alternatively, you can use the gift certificate to buy others books from the site.)

As an added bonus, I will be glad to help copy edit your new book. I'm an ex-newspaper copy editor and have taken classes in copyediting cookbooks. That's something the winner of this bid item can work out with me.

The bid item number for this donation is UW10. You'll need this number when you go to the donation site (see below).

Here's the list of bid items from West of the Mississippi food bloggers at Gluten-Free Girl, the West Coast coordinator. Here is the master list of bid items from Chez Pim, the founder and organizer of Menu for Hope.

Here's the rules from Pim:

To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle, here's what you need to do:
1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list. (Note: background on all this is at The bid list is here.)
2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.
3. Please specify which bid item you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item, and please use the bid item code.
Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02 - 2xEU01, 3xEU02. 4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
Check back on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18 for the results of the raffle.

Please be sure to come back later tonight for the updated post.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What's Cooking

I've been in the kitchen cooking up beef tzimmes (a veggie and dried fruit-based stew), tzimmes tamales and planning on making a new version of my apple cider vinegar chicken and trying some new recipes including a samosa pie and sweet potato torte. Watch for the various postings.
I've also had some things published in the j. and elsewhere I'll post links, to. Just have been busy this time of year.

More later plus some Chanukah (Hanukkah) info.

Thanks for stopping by. I'm on my way to a Tibetan cooking class this morning!
Oh, and I'll post today or tomorrow with info on my Menu for Hope prize.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Asian Cooking Classes in Oakland Chinatown

The wonderful Oakland Asian Cultural Center is once again sponsoring a series of workshops on Asian cooking. Sign up for Tibetan, Filipino and/or Mongolian workshops on Dec. 12, 13 and 19 by calling OACC program director April Kim at 510.637.0462. Class size is limited to 15 participants.

The workshops go from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. are completely hands on and include lunch. You learn a recipe or two and get exposed to a culture and immigrant experience. Classes are affordable, just $5to $30 each (sliding scale).

For more information, please go to the OACC website.

The December 12 Tibetan workshop will be focused on a traditional fermented cheese soup, churu. The December 13 Filipino workshop focuses on arroz caldo, a traditional comfort food.
The December 19th Mongolian food class centers on buuz, wheat dumplings. That class is already sold out, but you can be put on the waiting list by calling April.

To see some of the slide shows, recipes and other info I've posted about the OACC's series of Asian food workshops, please click here. I will be attending all three workshops. Hope to see you there.
About the photo: Tools of the trade from a previous class on Vietnamese crepes