Thursday, January 28, 2010

East Bay Community Benefit to help Haiti at Oliveto Restaurant

Directly from Oliveto Restaurant:

East Bay Community Benefit to help Haiti at Oliveto Restaurant
Saturday, January 30, 2010 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Adelmise Warner, a St. Teresa School parent, recently asked us if we would host a fundraiser to benefit Haiti earthquake victims. We agreed, and immediately started fielding offers of donations from cafe regulars to pig farmers. We've been moved by the outpouring, and the event hasn't even happened yet!

There will be an auction, a silent auction, and a raffle.
Guest auctioneer will be Don Perata, and Jean Quan will also be on hand to help with the silent auction. Feature guest speakers include: Blaine Bookey, Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) Legal Fellow and Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) Development Director Walter Riley, prominent Civil Rights Attorney in Oakland and Chair of the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund in Berkeley.

There will be an ongoing slide show, Haitian music and great food, some of it donated by one of our farmers. Mark Pasternak of Devil's Gulch Ranch was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake on a humanitarian agricultural mission with his family. He's given part of one of his very fine, large hogs and Chef Canales will be making polpettoni.

Contributions for admission will be made to the American Red Cross (Bay Area), and will be for $25 - $300+.

Questions? Contact Adelmise Warner at 415-378-6613 or
RSVP by contacting Clare Nisbett at 510-547-5356 or

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Celebrate the New Year of Trees with Pomegranate Fish, Barley-Olive Tabbouleh and Carob Fruit Nut Bars

Tu B’Shevat, with its seder of fruits, nuts and wine to mark the New Year of Trees, is celebrated on January 30th this year. It’s a wonderful time to reflect on the bounty of produce we have year round in the Bay area. The custom at Tu B’Shevat is to eat the foods mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8 -- wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (since the honey mentioned is thought to be date syrup). Many also include carob and almonds, traditional foods of ancient Israel.

In my j. weekly column, I suggested not just sampling the foods in a seder but making a meal out of them. (Click here to see the article.)

Sweet and Sour Pomegranate Fish
Serves 4

Pomegranate molasses gives the fish a fruity tang. It can be found in gourmet, Jewish and Middle Eastern markets.

1½ pounds thin, mild white fish filets such as tilapia
1 Tbs. brown sugar
¼ cup pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbs. minced garlic
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
12 ounces baby spinach, steamed or sautéed
½ cup pomegranate seeds

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place filets in single layer in glass baking dish. Mix pomegranate molasses with brown sugar. Spread evenly on top of fish filets. Sprinkle zest, garlic, salt and pepper over fish. Cover dish with foil and cook in the oven for about 10-12 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Serve on top of cooked spinach. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Barley-Olive Tabbouleh
Serves 6-8

This was unbelievably tasty. I think I liked it better than the traditional bulgar or couscous tabbouleh (sometimes spelled tabbouli).

4 cups cooked pearl barley
4 oz. parsley, finely chopped
2 oz. mint, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
6 scallions (green onions), white and green parts, finely chopped
½ cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
1 cup diced tomato
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup white wine vinegar
Juice of large lemon

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Taste and correct seasonings.

Carob Fruit and Nut Bars
16 bars

These look like chocolate but have the malty fruitiness of carob. The recipe should work well with cocoa instead of carob if you prefer.

Oil or oil spray
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped black mission figs
½ cup chopped, pitted dates
½ cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup carob powder
½ cup flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or spray an 8-inch square baking pan. Combine raisins, figs, dates and almonds in a bowl. Mix with sugar. Set aside. Melt butter or margarine in a large glass bowl in microwave. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add carob, flour, and baking soda. Mix well until combined. Mixture will be very thick. Heat honey to make liquid if necessary. Mix in honey. Slowly stir in dried fruit, nut and sugar mixture until well combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes until center is set and springs back to touch. Allow to cool completely in pan on rack. Cut in 16 bars.

I've written about Tu B'Shevat before as part of a post about pomegranates (including how to seed and juice them). To see that post and another with recipes from other food bloggers, please click here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good Weather for Slow Cooking

I recently reviewed Laura Frankel’s Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes: 120 Holiday and Everyday Dishes Made Easy (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009) for my column at the j. newsweekly. You can read the article here.

Frankel, a restaurant chef, a working mother, an observant Jew and a devoted slow cooker user, has Ashkenazi, Middle Eastern and Sephardic recipes in the book, but most of the recipes are for contemporary dishes from around the world that are not particularly “Jewish,” such as cassoulet, tortilla soup, wild mushroom stroganoff, Szechwan chicken, tamales, key lime cheesecake and flan. She also has lots of subsidiary recipes, including spice mixes, sauces and accompaniments, which she uses to develop the dishes’ tantalizing and fresh-tasting flavors. But that means many of the recipes have extra preparation steps. Doing these steps in advance (such as the night before) would help keep the slow cooker prep time down in the morning when you are in a hurry to just plop the ingredients in the cooker or in the evening when you need to finish off the dish before serving, important criteria for me.

I do have one quibble. Frankel writes a lot about using the slow cooker for Shabbat luncheon meals, but most of the recipes cook in four to eight hours. I would have liked tips on how to start some of her other recipes on Friday afternoon to eat at Saturday lunch. Based on the back-of-the-jacket blurb “Your Slow Cooker: Not for Shabbat Only,” I assume she is writing for an audience that she feels already knows how to do this. Her emphasis definitely seems on using the slow cooker as just another kitchen preparation technique as opposed to only using it as a time-shifting convenience appliance.

The book has a chart showing which recipes are pareve, meat or dairy and the recipes give options on how to alter from one category to another when appropriate. There is also a section on Jewish holiday menus. I like the idea of using the slow cooker to have some of a holiday dinner cook unattended while I fuss with the rest.

Chick Pea and Lentil SoupServes Six

Here is a recipe adapted from Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes. I love soups made in the slow cooker and liked the Middle Eastern feel of the Chickpea and Lentil Soup.

2 Tbs. olive oil
3 medium carrots, diced small
3 celery stalks, diced small
1 large Spanish onion, diced small
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and diced small
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cup red or green lentils
1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with juice
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
3 Tbs. lemon juice
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish
Harissa or fresh salsa for garnish

Preheat a slow cooker to low. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté the carrots, celery, onion, fennel and garlic until lightly browned. Put the vegetables in the slow cooker insert. Add the lentils, check peas, crushed tomatoes with juice, coriander, cumin, lemon juice and stock. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 9 hours. Before serving adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve the soup with the garnishes.

The j. article also has a recipe for persimmon pudding made in a slow cooker.

For slow cooker recipes I've featured here on Blog Appetit, click here.

For slow cooker recipes elsewhere on the web, check out the blog A Year of Slow Cooking or this recipe for Hungarian pot roast from Kalyn's Kitchen.

note: Photo from
disclaimer: Cookbook was provided by the j. weekly, who received a promotional copy from the publisher.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu for Hope Winners Announced

Go to Chez Pim to see the winners of the annual Menu for Hope fundraiser to combat hunger.

This year food bloggers and supporters raised almost $79,000 for the World Hunger Food Programme. You can see the list of winners on Pim's site. Click here for her post. Jennifer Chan, I'm waiting for your email so I can get you your gift certificate!

Back to the Future (of Food Products) - Fancy Food Shows Prelimminary Report

In just a few minutes I'll be off for my second day at the Fancy Food Show.
Some quick impressions (admittedly I've only seen have of the exhibits so far, though)

Year of the Organic Munchie -- Natural, good for you, good for the environment treats seem to be big -- lots of nuts, crackers, seeds, bars, dried fruit, etc. I was joking that it seemed to be the year of sticks and twigs when I saw a product labeled "Twigs and Sticks." Bonus karma points for high fiber, organic, fair trade and gluten free. Following up on the munchie theme -- a big display for "Hippie Chips" with lots of tye-died adorned hippie chicks handing out samples.

Year of the Rain Forest -- Lots of products from the Amazon, South and Central America

Best thing I put in my mouth -- Pistachio oil ice cream and VoVo's chocolates (details to come)

A sign of the times: Appears that there are less exhibitors, sample sizes seem smaller, and so far I haven't seem many luxe foods.

Update for day two

I did the South Hall, and there were all the truffled pates, rich cheeses and chocolates of my dreams missing from yesterday's trek through the North Hall, which had an organic and health focus. They were yummy. (FYI -- if you walked every section of the North Hall you covered 1.3 miles. I did it twice.)

Two of my favorites today were the goat cheese macarons at Fabrice Delicacies and the roast pork porchetta at Petite Porchetta. Info and links to come.

If my first day was the Year of Natural Munchies, the theme of the second seemed to be the Year of the Pig. Lots of observations and comments on that to come.

I also attended the independent Food Fete media event which featured Sub Rosa's wonderfully mysterious saffron vodka and other lovely products. More on that later as well.

Special shout out to my food blogging friends An Open Cupboard, Wasabimon, Heat Eat Review, Cooking with Amy, Candy Blog, The Picky Eater and others I spotted at the Fancy Food show or the Food Fete. And special thanks to the glamourous, marvelous and generous food writer Marlena Spieler for letting me stalk her the past few days.

More later!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Coming Attractions: Tamale Party, Fancy Food Show

Since I made my tzimmes tamales a few weeks ago, I've been wanting to try making them again. A few friends came over to help form the roasted green pepper and cheese tamales and chicken mole tamales. As we filled and formed, wrapped, stuffed and tied, a kind of grace descended on us; the timeless connection of women working together in the kitchen from Chessy, age 9, to me, well, the oldest. Secrets were shared, stories told, connections made. Time (and the pile of tamales) grew. While eating the tamales was tasty, the time we spent making them was even more special. (to be continued ...)

Today is the first day of the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. I'll be attending it and related events over the next few days.

Look for my tamale party write up (with recipes for the fillings and a NEW posole recipe, too) and my dispatches about the food show.

In addition to the above, I have some other, new recipes to post as well as some of the items I promised here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bittersweet Chocolate Citrus Tart with Jasmine Tea Scented Whipped Cream

I rang the New Year in with friends and this bittersweet citrus chocolate tart from Alice Medrich's book Pure Desserts. The book should be called "Perfect Desserts" because that's what this tart was -- the dark bittersweet chocolate offset by the grapefruit and orange zest and the wonderful jasmine-scented whipped cream just adding to the wild party in my mouth. As wonderful as this tart was, it was the whipped cream that caused a sensation and started me thinking about other jasmine-infused desserts I might make.
I also found the same recipe on line at but uncredited to Medrich. I suspect it's her recipe leftover from an article she wrote and just uncredited in the archives.

The recipe really has three parts -- the tart crust (easy to make and just patted into place, no rolling out), the bittersweet chocolate filling (very straight forward, although she used a new-to-me technique to make sure the egg wasn't raw to avoid food-borne illness) and the wonderful jasmine tea-flavored whipped cream. Just leave enough time for the cream to steep and the tart to chill.

The ethereal cream was an amazement. I've never had anything quite so wonderful atop my chocolate dessert before. Use the best quality jasmine tea you can find (you only need a tablespoon, after all) Look for ones scented with real jasmine flowers, not oils. Medrich recommends steeping in the fridge for 8-12 hours. I didn't start enough ahead so I steeped it about four hours outside the fridge (it was a cold day). You can taste a bit of the cream to see if it has a slight, perfume, floral note to it before straining out the tea leaves. Did I mention the taste is ethereal?

Here's the recipe for Bittersweet Chocolate Citrus Tart with Jasmine Whipped Cream. (fyi -- I skipped the candied orange peel, the tart was perfect without it).

Alameda Jewish Chef Series -- and a Riddle -- What Looks Like Hummus, but Is Not? Plus a Pickle Pepper Tongue Pleaser

My January 9 column in the j. Bay area Jewish newsweekly was about a series of chef talks, demonstrations and tastings at Temple Israel in Alameda. Please click here to see the article, the chefs and schedule and contact info.

The article was accompanied by recipes adapted from Linda Hillel, a participant in the series and a former cooking teacher and recipe developer. The Miso-Tofu Tahini Spread recipe reflects not only her family’s Iraqi roots but the time they spent in Japan, where Hillel was raised, as well as her interest in soy foods. It has a rich, full, savory taste and would work well as a dip or sandwich spread. (But since it looks so much like hummus, you may want to warn potential eaters it isn't garbanzo beans; it does taste different.) The easy pickled-pepper recipe goes back generations and was a regular part of the family’s meals in both Baghdad and Tokyo.

Miso-Tofu Tahini Spread
Makes a generous 1½ cups

8 ounces firm tofu
1⁄3 cup tahini
2 Tbs. red miso
½ tsp. minced garlic
1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. za’atar
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

Rinse and drain the tofu. Break up the tofu into chunks as you place it in a food processor or blender. Add the tahini, miso, garlic, lemon juice, za’atar, and pepper. Purée until smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste. Stir in the parsley. Serve as a dip with chips, pita bread and vegetables, or spread in fresh pita bread with some chopped Vinegar-Pickled Peppers (see below).

Vinegar-Pickled Peppers
Makes about 32 pieces

2 cups white vinegar
3 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground cayenne pepper
2 whole dried red chile peppers
4 medium green bell peppers

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, cayenne, and chile peppers in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut the bell peppers into 3⁄4-inch strips. Trim the membranes. Taste the vinegar mixture for a balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy.
Adjust the seasonings to taste. Add the pepper strips, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the peppers are tender and have turned olive green. Set the pan aside and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer the peppers to a glass jar, cover with the liquid, put the lid on the jar and refrigerate. Once chilled, the pickles are ready to use as a condiment as is or can be chopped and added to tuna, egg or sardine salads. They will keep for several months in the refrigerator.


The newpaper version of my j. column shows off a new photo of me by Bonnie Burt. The online version still features the older "deer in the headlights" photo. Watch for the online make over!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

On the Menu

I've been busy playing with my sons who are home from college, so not a lot of posts lately, sorry.
Here's some recipes I've been working on for the blog, the Omer and the j. column:

There's lots more on the back burner as well. Please check back soon for updates on these and other food adventures.