Friday, August 31, 2012

Progress! Yes!

Continued progress when it comes to checking off my recipe list! Last night I used this recipe ( -- also from The Chew, coincidentally...maybe even the same episode, I can't remember). As per usual, I took this as more of a source of inspiration than a set-in-stone recipe. As my dad always says, "A recipe is just a guide." 
I love the combo of melon with prosciutto, and that appealed to me more than the salami that Batali calls for did. Then, when I was at grocery store, I was on kind of a tight budget, so I opted for ham (thinking that I could use some when I make quiche later in the week as well) instead of prosciutto. The ham was okay, but next time I'll be sure to splurge on the good stuff -- prosciutto being, after all, the king of meats.
So, I ended up using not quite half the cantaloupe that I picked up at the farmers' market Sunday (I was purposely scaling back on the recipe because I knew I didn't need eight servings, yet at the same time wanted to make a meal -- not just a side -- from this), sliced thin, and three slices of "carver" deli ham. I opted to use both the juice and zest of half a lime, just to further enhance the limey goodness, and topped everything off with a drizzle of olive oil, some cracked black pepper, some parm, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Batali's recipe didn't call for salt -- I think because the salami would have more than enough -- but since I was using a different meat, I added some -- for the better, it turned out.
Also, I omitted the greens the Batali calls for. Why cover up delicious meats and melon with yucky green stuff? (Mostly joking). I just figured that I had enough going on already without adding another element.
The result? A hearty salad that was the perfect size for two (I also had a baked potato to help round out dinner). There was such a cacophony of flavors! Most worked, although I didn't feel like something was slightly off. The melon was delicious (it helped that it was perfectly ripe and fresh from the farmers' market last Sunday). The issue might have simply been ham versus prosciutto versus salami. I might try the recipe again sometime with these other meats.
On an entirely separate topic -- I am on the look out for some locally roasted coffee beans. If anyone has any suggestions, tweet me @Allie3601. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rustic tomato pizza; a new challenge

I have a terrible habit of accumulating recipes – either torn out of magazines or links saved in an ever-growing Evernote list – and then letting them languish, unused. So, I have initiated a couple ways to help this problem, including a new challenge! For starters, I have been building a custom recipe book comprised mostly of all these magazine pages. I selected a very pretty binder (made from recycled paper) and have been slowly organized the recipes into categories – Appetizers, Breakfast, Chicken, Dessert, Drinks, Other Meats, Salads and Soups, Seafood, Veggies and Sides, and “Everything Else.” It’s kind of funny to see what recipes have caught my eye over the years (because there are at least four years of pages here to deal with). So many of them are similar or stick to a similar theme – desserts featuring fruit, tons of seafood recipes, and a lot of comfort food ones, too (I found at least four different ones for roast chicken). Anyway, that’s an ongoing project, but so far I am quite pleased with the results.

On to the challenge – I am going to *try* and make at least one of these recipes each week, and then post a blog about it – starting now! Yesterday I made a tomato pizza that was a riff on this recipe that I saw on The Chew last week: When I saw Michael Symon make this I thought it looked delicious and immediately bookmarked the recipe. Here’s the catch – I don’t currently own a tart pan. Mine tragically broke during the move and I have yet to replace it. At the same time, I thought a regular pie plate would be too deep and then the tart wouldn’t really turn out right. Inspiration struck! I decided to make a simple pizza dough. I used the thin crust recipe from the trusty red plaid Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer, first with the paddle and then the dough hook, and the crust came together in a flash. Plus, bonus, the recipes actually makes two crusts, so I froze one for later.

I treated the tomatoes the same way Symon calls for, except I used rosemary from my garden instead of thyme. What was extra exciting is that I used two tomatoes from my tomato plant – the first two usable ones I have been able to harvest! And guess what? They were completely delicious. I supplemented them with a few gorgeous heirloom tomatoes from the farmers’ market.

From there, I basically followed the recipe exactly, just substituting my pizza crust from the pie crust. I blind baked the crust for the called for time, topped it, and baked again until everything was hot and the cheese with getting nice and melty. The crust came out great – nice and crispy with a good texture. Pre-roasting the tomatoes, like the recipe calls for, ensures that they get caramelized, and therefore really helps brings out the sweetness in them. Finally, creamy ricotta helps bring everything together. There was a nice balance of flavors – sweet and salty, a little acidic, and savory from the rosemary – and textures – crispy and crunchy and creamy. The picture doesn’t do it justice (although aren’t the tomatoes drool-worthy?). A win!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Another winey weekend

Last Saturday some friends and I took a day trip up to Napa Valley for some fine wine and fine food. It was a great day -- the weather was gorgeous -- about 90 degrees, which is usually a little too warm for me, but it was dry, with a slight breeze, making it pretty ideal. We hit a total of three wineries. I'd hoped to fit in one more, but three ended up being pretty good -- we all got to enjoy the wine without anyone over doing it.

My roommate planned the trip -- she belongs to a local wine club and had several tasting passes (re: the tastings were free!). Our first stop was Sterling Vineyards ( This place was unique -- rather than just walking up to the bar ad selecting some wines to taste, the tasting was integrated with a tour of the facilities. We began with a very scenic tram ride up the mountain to the winery and the tasting room. Once we got off the tram, we were greeted with our first wine to try -- and so it went. There was a self-guided tour with various stopping points to taste the wine. I particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay here -- usually a wine that's a bit too sweet for me, but theirs just tasted like fruit and butter. Yum. The Merlot also had a nice woody hint to it. As someone who very decisively prefers white wine, that's saying something.

Provenance Vineyards ( were next. I don't remember much about the wine here -- it just wasn't that special, I guess -- but the venue was gorgeous -- like an old barn. It was very idyllic.

Our last winery was the day was Beaulieu Vineyard ( The tasting room is kind of hidden and was surprisingly busy when we got there fifteen minutes before they closed. Here was the only place I actually purchased any wine to take home -- one bottle, a Muscat, that has a strong apricot taste. Its very light and refreshing. As I mentioned, I'm a big fan of white wine -- its mostly a temperature thing (I like my drinks nice and cold and light, rather than rich and heavy like a red). Most of the wine tastings focused on reds -- Cab especially -- which I understand, as these tend to be the most popular wines, but I was a little disappointed.

After the tastings, we headed to downtown Napa. I should mention, one of the favorite things about the trip was seeing all these famous restaurants that I've heard so much about. "Oh look, there's NapaStyle and Bottega! We're in Yountville -- the French Laundry is here!" and so on. It was very exciting. Anyway, we explored Napa a little (and I had the most fabulous Nutella latte -- seriously one of the best coffees of my life) before heading to Grace's Table for dinner. It had been my task to pick a dinner spot and this was my choice -- and it ended up being a great one! We ate a ton of fresh, seasonal food in a fun yet elegant atmosphere and didn't completely break the bank. Service was a little slow, that was minor enough. Everything we ate was just delicious.

Oh oh oh! And later today, the brother and I are heading up to Mill Valley for the afternoon. We're going to have lunch at Toast (where I've already been once with the roommate, on the Fourth of July when we went to Muir Woods) -- super yummy, not too expensive, and a great atmosphere -- plus they have beignets, awesome pancakes, and a wide variety of Benedicts, which are Alex's favorite. They even have a pulled pork version. After lunch, we might poke around town for a little while and check out some antique shops -- Alex will tolerate this as long as they have records to browse through -- before heading over to Tyler Florence's shop -- something to check off the wish list! Yay! And then we're heading home and watching all six Star Wars movies. True story.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Today's random thought

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." -- Virginia Woolf

I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A little je ne sais quoi

Whenever anyone asks me what my favorite cuisine is, I automatically answer “French.” Truth be told, I’ve never really thought about it much before.  But in honor of what would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday, I decided to really ponder the question.

I think I cook dinner pretty often – 2-3 times a week, plus maybe a baked good thrown in there – although admittedly not as often as I’d like. When it comes to making dinner, I tend to go for “American” food – or at least, Americanized versions of other cuisines. This is probably because a) I usually have these ingredients on hand or else they’ve very easy to come by, and b) these types of dishes tend to be fairly easy and not too time consuming. However, when it comes to eating out, I almost always go French (go French or go home!). Liaison in Berkeley has been one of my favorite meals in California so far. My favorite New Orleans dinner destinations are French-inspired (Mr. B’s Bistro, the Court of the Two Sisters, and Irene’s, to name but a few) – although of course, that is mostly attributed to the French (i.e. Creole) influences in the area.

I figured out why I tend to gravitate to these restaurants – it is not only that this is my favorite cuisine to eat (which it is), but I simply adore the philosophy of French cuisine, much of which Julia brought to America. I am 100 percent behind the French tendency to shop daily, eat locally and seasonally, indulge in butter and wine—but appropriately – and linger over a long meal. I love the way the French think about food, and I think it’s very similar to how I think about it. Food should always be delicious, of course, but it is also about the pleasure of eating and the importance of sharing a meal with those you love. My dad taught me that. I don’t think he learned it from Julia, but he might as well have, because she taught millions of others that same thing.

To (slightly) switch gears, I do want to briefly discuss baking – something that I do cook “French” more often than not. Crepes (Julia’s recipe, always), Dutch babies (a.k.a. puffed pancakes and the French version, clafoutis), profiteroles – all are intrinsically French. There is just something about French baking that draws me in.

And, and Monday night, to participate in #CookforJulia I made croquet madams for the first time – yummy! – and watched Julie and Julia. Bliss.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Suggestions Welcome

So, here's my "Bay Area Restaurant Wishlist," along with some random little notes. Many of these establishments are nationally known or that I've read about in Food and Wine or Tasting Table, others are just places I've passed that looked good.

French Laundry -- reservation line opens exactly at 10 a.m.
La Torque
Tyler Florence's shop (not really a restaurant but a must-do anyway)
NapaStyle -- ditto to above (
wine tastings!
Ad Hoc
Bottega Napa Valley

SF proper:
Baker and Banker
Pesce (in Russian Hill area)
Craftsman and Wolves
Sons and Daughters
Wayfare Tavern

East Bay:
Chez Panisse
La Note

Jack London Square:
Il Pescatore 
Miss Pearl's