Monday, October 25, 2010

Fresh Filo Adventure in the East Bay

My friend Anna Mindess has a wonderful new blog all about ethnic food adventures east of San Francisco Bay.  East Bay Ethnic Eats is a tasty read no matter where you live.  Anna is a wonderful writer but doesn't "do" recipes, so I offered to supply one for her post on handmade filo dough (Oakland's Oasis Market).
You can read about how this wonderful dough is made here and see my baklava recipe there. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A New Take on an Old Testament Menu: Quick Steak Kabobs, Barley Cakes and Yogurt and Honey

An Old Testament (Torah) bible passage inspires a hospitable menu of quick steak kabobs, barley cakes and yogurt and honey. The barley cakes are wheat free; the yogurt is dairy free. 

A man sits under some trees and spies three strangers and begs of them to partake of his hospitality. He asks his wife to quickly make some cakes out of the choicest flour, he tells his servant to kill a calf and prepare its meat and he brings his guests refreshing curds to eat.

It is this passage in this week’s Torah portion from Genesis (Bereshit 18:1-22:24), known as Parshat Vayera, that is the basis of the mitzvot of hachnasat orchim, or welcoming guests. Abraham’s actions are even more remarkable in that G-d has appeared before him and he must turn away to offer the strangers succor.

This portion fascinated me for several reasons. The first was the importance of the act of hospitality. The second was practical. Killing and butchering a calf doesn’t seem like my idea of a quick meal these days. The third was historical. What kind of cakes would Sarah have made with her choice flour? How would the meat be prepared to cook quickly?

Based on this parshat, I’ve put together a menu that reflects some of the above. The recipes are all relatively quick to make. The cakes Sarah made were probably a form of flat breads or quick breads made of barley flour. Cutting the beef into small cubes reduces cooking time. As for serving curds with meat, the laws of kasruth now prohibit that, but a dessert of non-dairy vanilla yogurt drizzled with honey and sprinkled with chopped dates and nuts would be just as satisfying.

A version of this post first appeared in the j. weekly.  Here's the link to the column there.

Quick Steak Kabobs
Serves 4-6

If desired make additional marinade and use it to marinate sliced zucchini or other vegetables for the grill. Serve the kabobs with quick-cooking couscous and the barley cakes.

Note: If using bamboo or wood skewers, soak in water for a half hour before using.

½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. ground red (cayenne) pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ - 2 pounds beef steak, cut into 1” cubes
¼ cup chopped parsley

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl combine the oil, juice, black pepper, salt, oregano, red pepper and garlic. Stir well. Reserve ¼ cup of marinade. Combine the steak cubes with the remainder and toss well. Use immediately, or if desired, cover and marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.)

Preheat broiler or grill. Thread the steak on 4-6 skewers. Place under broiler or on medium high grill, basting with the reserved marinade and turning occasionally until cooked to desired doneness. Serve on or off the skewers. Sprinkle with parsley.

Barley Flour Cakes
Barley cakes in the pan
Makes 8 small flat breads

These round quick breads have an earthy, satisfying taste. Barley flour is available in many natural food stores and on line.

2 cups barley flour
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. olive oil
¾ cup of warm water (90-100 degrees)
2 Tbs. vegetable oil plus additional as needed

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Drizzle in olive oil and water, mixing continually. Continue to mix (or use hands) until a dough forms. Working with your hands, knead the dough in the bowl for 2 minutes until smooth. Cover with damp cloth and let rest 30 minutes.

Separate dough into 8 balls then flatten and pat each into a rough disk about 2-2 ½ inches in diameter and about ¼ to ½ inch thick.

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy fry pan over medium high heat. Fry cakes 1-2 minutes on each side, adding additional oil as needed, until lightly browned on both sides and cooked through.

Yogurt and Honey
Serves 4

Because of Jewish dietary laws, this recipe uses non-dairy yogurt, but  if you'd like substitute regular yogurt.  To keep it vegan, use the non-dairy and drizzle with maple or date syrup instead of the honey.

3 cups non-dairy vanilla yogurt (soy milk or coconut milk for example)
¼ cup honey
¼ cup chopped dates
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ cup chopped mint

Place about ¾ of a cup of yogurt in each serving dish. Drizzle each serving with the honey, sprinkle with ¼ of the dates and chopped nuts and scatter ¼ of the mint over top.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Boo Appetit -- Pumpkin and Other Goodies for the Season

We like our fright with a bit of delight over here at Blog Appetit, so here's a round up of pumpkin and other Halloween appropriate food. From pumpkin pies to pumpkin-based main courses to caramel and candied apples, we have lots of options for a spooktacular holiday.

This tamale-stuffed pumpkin would work well for Day of the Dead parties as well as for Halloween repasts.   I used some of Primavera's wonderful gourmet tamales, but you could use any kind of cheese or, better yet, cheese and chile, tamale.

Blog Appetit offers up several kinds of pumpkin pies for your eating pleasure.  Try this low-fat pumpkin pie variation for all the traditional treat with a bit less of the tricks.  For something a bit different, try this pumpkin and date filo tart.  It's super easy to make, is non-dairy and is deliciously different than the traditional pumpkin pie.  That tart is shown at left.  These pumpkin mini-tarts use individual ginger snaps for their crusts and a petite and neat to eat.

I used butternut squash when I made this sweet-and-sour cabbage soup, but pumpkin would work just as well.  In fact you can use pumpkin pretty much interchangeably with butternut squash in most recipes.  Want to learn more about how to select and prepare pumpkins, go to pumpkin boot camp and learn the basics.

I've made a lot of sautes using pumpkin or butternut squash.  One saute was inspired by what I could find in the farmer's market one winter day.  This Moroccan inspired chicken, chickpeas and pumpkin dish (pictured) is great served over couscous.  I also have a killer chipotle, pumpkin and turkey chili you should try.

My husband and kids think a caramel apple rules, while an old-fashioned candied apple makes me drool.  Unfortunately, most of you agree caramel apples are best.  In an informal poll I hosted on Blog Appetit, caramel apples were the clear winner.  The caramel apple at left was made according to the directions on the back of a package of Kraft's caramels.   My devilishly good candied apples feature the a bit of cinnamon heat from the candies used to give the coating its color and taste.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Oven-Roasted Garlic Fries that Won the Division for the San Francisco Giants

Well, maybe these oven-roasted garlic fries didn't WIN the series for the San Francisco Giants, but they had to help.  A riff on the garlic fries served at the Giants' AT&T Park, they were a special request when my guys watched the final game of the National League West division playoffs.  All I know is that my fries were a hit and the Giants won.  Guess I'll be making this again for the upcoming league championship series as well.

(Oh, and the garlic fries are probably the main reason I love going to AT&T Park. I even get them when I go to hear the San Francisco Opera's free simulcast every year.)

Oven-Roasted Garlic Fries
Serves 4

These fries could be called twice-cooked garlic fries.  The double cooking gives them a crunchy crust and rustic appeal.  Not a garlic fan?  Skip the garlic (and parsley if you want), the fries will be almost as good.
I leave the peels on the potatoes because we enjoy how the bits and pieces that separate get nice and crunchy. (And speeds preparation time).  Feel free to use peeled potatoes if you prefer.

Go Garlic Fries! Noah at
AT&T Park a few years ago
4-5 medium large russet or Idaho potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil, plus additional for baking pans
Salt to taste
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Scrub the potatoes, but do not peel.  Slice each potato in half so you have two long sections.  Slice each of those sections into four long pieces.  Boil in salted boiling water until almost tender. Drain well.  Don't worry if the potatoes have lost a bit of their shape or the skins have separated.  Oil 2 large baking pans or trays.  Put 1/2 cup of olive oil in a large bowl, add some salt if desired, and toss with cooked potato. Spread the coated potatoes out in a single layer on the baking trays.  Bake in a preheated 475 degree oven, turning occasionally until the potatoes are browned and crisp. (This can take anywhere from 30-50 minutes, so keep a close eye on them.)  Remove from oven and while still very hot toss with salt to taste, minced garlic and chopped parsley.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It's My Blog-o-versary and I'll Get a New Domain Name if I Want To!

Yes, it's been five years since Blog Appetit was launched with its first post (Testing.Testing.).  Some things haven't changed, like my commitment to original recipes, food education, celebrating locally sourced food, attempting to grow as a writer and recipe developer, trying to improve my photos, exploring new cuisines, trying to put ethnic food in a cultural or at least personal context and promoting food justice.

Other things have changed a lot.  My first blog description was Food Views, Muse and News You Can Use (or something like that), replaced by Read. Think. Eat.  I like to think I got it right on the third try:  Cooking Local. Eating Global. (If you don't  know what I'm referring to, it's the line that appears right below the words Blog Appetit in the header.)

Another big change is that as of today, I'm publishing at my own custom domain.  The new web address is If you link to me over at, don't worry, everything should refer.  (Please note that since it took me hours and hours today to get this set up right and there have been random glitches, so there is always a chance the domain could end up off line a bit as everything gets jiggered into place.  If that happens, check back on the blogspot address until the snafu is corrected.) Just found a glitch -- my blog search isn't functioning correctly yet.

Another part of my blog-o-versary celebration is the beginning of a special project about how families and individuals from around the U.S. and elsewhere celebrate Shabbat.  If you would like to participate in that, please read this post for more information.

Oh, and a special shout out to my friends from Blogher Food 2010 (particularly Copykat) who convinced me to take a deep breath and get my own domain.

Here's a few of my favorite blog posts.  Give them a read and let me know what you think.  Thanks for clicking in for these past five years.  I look forward to many more.

A trip back in time in Tombstone AZ and a buffalo burger recipe
The food of Jewish Shanghai and a sweet and sour fish recipe
Jewish delis -- they weren't just about the food -- and a chopped liver recipe

Photo by Bonnie Burt

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Some Advice for Food Writers and Bloggers from Will Write for Food's Dianne Jacob

Dianne Jacob, food writing teacher, coach and author, was at San Francisco's Book Passage recently to talk about the new, second edition of her guidebook for food writers: Will Write for Food.

The new edition is subtitled "The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More" and is fully updated. It includes information on blogging, electronic publishing and other topics that weren't very mainstream five years ago when the book was first published. Jacob said other topics needed an updating since technology and the changing nature of food media have affected the market for food writing. 

Here are some points Jacob made at her talk and during the question and answer session afterward.

Restaurant reviewing has changed because of sites such as Yelp and Chowhound that allow the customer to review and rate his or her experience.  It also widens the kinds of restaurants reviewed since the sites are not just for the trendy or upscale establishments.

The reach of blogging can be amazing.  In one year of writing her blog, she said the number of page views her food writing blog gets is higher than the circulation of a print magazine she once edited.

Jacob at 9.28.10 talk at Book Passage
Freelance writing has changed.   There is less demand since many of the traditional sources such as magazines have declined and those that have survived are selling fewer ads so they have fewer pages for editorial.  Another trend is to shorter stories.  There is also pressure on bloggers to contribute posts and even articles for the "exposure" rather than for pay, which drives down freelance rates.

"You can't just want to write a cookbook, you need to have a national platform," Jacob says.  While publishers were always interested in cookbook authors that had a built in audience, now it is almost obligatory.  A successful blog is one way to build that platform.  "You have to become a somebody before you write the book."

Cookbook authors need to know how to promote their own work.  "Publishers are insisting you are in charge of sales of your book," Jacob says.

The bar has been raised for food bloggers.  It not just about the food.  In addition to strong writing and good recipes, you need to be a photographer, marketer as well as understand a host of technical issues.

Print writers have to increase their visibility.  Create a blog if you don't already have one.  If you have a cookbook out, your blog should mirror that.
For more on this topic, check out Jacob's Will Write for Food blog and her website.  Going to BlogHer Food 2010? Jacob will be moderating the panel on storytelling.

Photo credit of book cover: Amazon

Friday, October 01, 2010

Dine Out for Meals on Wheels and Help Feed Bay Area Seniors

Meals on Wheels organizations from the seven Bay area counties have teamed up with more than 80 partner restaurants to stage the first annual “Bay Area Dine Out for Meals on Wheels” on Tuesday, November 9th.  A portion of that evening’s proceeds from participating restaurants will be donated to local Meals on Wheels organizations which are providing nearly three million meals each year to more than 8,500 seniors in daily need of a hot, nutritious meal, a wellness check and companionship.

Restaurants throughout San Francisco and Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Solano counties are participating.  Go to to see the complete list of participating restaurants.  Use that link to also directly donate to Meals on Wheels or request that your favorite restaurant participate in the event. (The site also offers links to the participating restaurants so you can check out menus and hours.)

Among the list of participating restaurants is a number in San Francisco and Alameda County that I have been to and enjoy.  In San Francisco, these include the Grand Cafe, Gaylord's and The Elite Cafe.  You can see the other participating SF restaurants here.  In Alameda County, I've eaten at Ajanta, Dopo, Italian Colors and Speisekammer.  You can see the complete list here. There are plenty of  of other offerings throughout the Bay area.
For more information, call (888) 716-3669 and or email

If you know someone who would benefit from being a Meals on Wheels client in the Bay area or elsewhere in the U.S. or would like to support your local area Meals on Wheels, please click here to find an agency near you.

Graphic credit:  Dine Out Now