Two years ago, while visiting San Francisco for a wedding, Ben and I discovered the Primavera Mexican stand at the Saturday Ferry Building farmers’ market. I have not stopped dreaming about the guajillo-chile chilaquiles since. Yesterday, for breakfast, after waiting in line for 30 minutes, Ben and I savored this dish again, washing it all down with a watermelon-lime agua fresca. We didn’t eat again until dinner.
Anyway, I assure you this is not a comprehensive showing of everything we’ve been eating the past few days during our drive from L.A. to San Francisco. Two of the best meals — dinner at Burma Superstar last night with five friends and breakfast at Tartine this morning — in fact, have not been photo-documented at all. I am overwhelmed by all of the good food we are finding in San Francisco, including a home-cooked meal prepared by friends beginning with Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, starring a lentil and grape salad and ending with thinly sliced melon drizzled with freshly grated ginger. (So yummy!) The tea leaf salad (allegedly seasoned with one million spices) at the Burmese restaurant and everything we sampled this morning at Tartine — a frangipane croissant, a morning bun and a slice of ham quiche — also top the list of particularly memorable bites.
Red Snapper tacos and a red snapper sandwich at the Sea Shanty in Cayucos (located just north of San Luis Obispo).
Cocktails and a cheese plate at Nepenthe in Big Sur.
Last night at 10:30 p.m., Ben and I finally dined at Pizzeria Mozza, the Nancy Silverton-Mario Batali-Joseph Bastianich pizza joint in Hollywood.
To start, we shared one order of fried squash blossoms — one order of delicately battered, ricotta-filled, piping-hot blossoms. Unbelievably tasty. For pizzas, we ordered the Ipswich clam (clams, oregano, pecorino and Parmigiano) and the Margherita (tomato, mozzarella and basil.) These wood-fired pizzas, I hate to admit, rival Bar’s, my absolute favorite spot on earth to eat pizza. (I’ve never been to Italy.) Two Amy’s in northwest Washington D.C. is a close second. Pizzeria Mozza, if I lived closer and if I didn’t need to make a reservation a month in advance, would surely be third. I loved everything about this place.
Well, nearly everything. Last year, shortly after Pizzeria Mozza opened, NY Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni gave it rave reviews, lauding in particular the butterscotch budino. The Times even provided the recipe. Ben took one bite and put his spoon down, declaring it cloyingly sweet. I agreed and then polished off the rest. No seriously, this dessert does not deserve the hype it has received. The little rosemary-pine nut short bread cookies provided on the side would have been the perfect finale to this long-anticipated dinner.
A recipe for s’mores I believe is unnecessary. This recipe for margaritas, however, I must share with you.
Over the weekend, during a little trip to Half Moon Lake, Wisconsin to visit Ben’s family and friends, a classic, summer deluge left eight of us housebound. Not to worry. Within minutes, Tom and Liz Bennett had whipped up this concoction and delivered it in festive glasses to all the guests. With the fridge fully stocked with back-up pitchers, the storm and afternoon passed in no time.
Simple, tasty and lethal, the Bennetts’ margarita is a must try:
Bennetts’ Margarita The original recipe calls for one can of each of the listed ingredients, but the Bennetts have tweaked the recipe slightly for taste. The recipe below, I considered perfection, but feel free to adjust according to taste.
3/4 of a 12-oz can limeade (the frozen can of concentrate) 1 beer, such as Corona tequila Sprite salt for the glasses if desired
1. Place the limeade and beer in a pitcher. Discard (or reserve for another use) the remaining limeade. Fill the can halfway with tequila and add to the pitcher. Fill the can with Sprite and add to the pitcher. Stir. Taste. Adjust as needed. Pour into salted, ice-filled glasses.
So, I thought I’d give a brief update on my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day escapades. This batch is my third, and I experimented with using nearly 50-percent whole-wheat flour. The dough rose just as beautifully as the 100-percent all-purpose flour batches, and held up just the same in the fridge during the week in which it was stored.
And, on a whim, I decided to use the Jim Lahey-Mark Bittman No-Knead Bread method of cooking — in a pre-heated, covered ceramic pot. Success! After 30 minutes in my Emile Henry dutch oven, the bread emerged with a crispy, golden crust. Since I don’t have a pizza stone, cooking in a pot is my best bet if I want to achieve the steam-injected-oven effect, which produces that professional-bakery crust. I have to say, however, that the bread tastes just as delicious when baked in a buttered Pyrex bowl — it doesn’t have the same crust, but the flavor is just the same, and the method is truly no-fuss.
I have decided I sound too freaky to speak on camera.
And so, I present to you a silent film: Fish en Papillote:
(The video seems to stall a bit at 1:18. Just help it along by scrolling past that point.)
Yesterday, 2,438 miles away from me, two very good friends resolved to make fish en papillote for their Sunday night dinner. I tried to explain the process to them via a series of emailed pictures, but I have yet to hear if they were any help. I hope this video might assist them in the future.
In any case, en papillote is currently my favorite way to prepare fish. These parchment packages are magical. How so? Let me tell you:
1. When cooked en papillote, a fish fillet retains its heat to the last bite. I love fish, but it’s tricky to cook — so easily overcooked — and it cools down quickly. These packages somehow manage to keep the fish fillets hot without drying them out one bit. And by keeping the fish piping hot, the en papillote method helps you eat more slowly, allowing you to savor your dinner, which I appreciate. I tend to eat very quickly. Like its a race or something.
2. Because I like to eat cake for breakfast these days, fish en papillote makes for a very healthy finish to the day. Seriously, not even a splash of olive oil or a dab of butter is used when assembling the packages. These added fats are truly unnecessary because all of the juices from the fish and the vegetables combine to make a nice little sauce. Served with a simple salad and homemade bread, fish en papillote makes a wonderful summer meal.
3. The packets can be prepared ahead of time — perfect for entertaining. I know summer is prime barbecue season, but it’s OK to give the grill a rest every now and then. You can still eat your en papillotes outside. (Warning: Because of the lemon juice and the salt, these packets should not be assembled for more than two or three hours ahead of time — I prepared them and stored them in the fridge for two hours when I made them for my parents last weekend.)
4. This recipe is so versatile. Although I’ve only experimented with sea bass and halibut, I suspect many fish species would take well to this preparation. Please let me know if you find success with any other varieties. Here, I’ve used Mexican sea bass because I can find it fresh at my Sunday farmers’ market.
Fill the packages with whatever you like: squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, scallions, herbs, etc.
The package keeps all of the juices inside, creating a steaming hot, tender, flaky package of goodness.
Ta-da! Perfectly cooked fish every time. Seriously, this recipe is foolproof.
Fish en Papillote Serves 4
4 18×13-inch (approximately) pieces parchment paper about 16 leaves Swiss chard, washed and dried 4 6-oz fish fillets, I buy the Mexican sea bass from my farmers’ market, but any fish will do kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 4 tablespoons chopped shallots 2 tablespoons caper 2 lemons, quartered ½ cup Nicoise or Kalamata olives, pitted 1 cup cherry tomatoes 1 cup sliced zucchini sliced basil, parsley or tarragon
1. Preheat the oven to 500ºF.
2. Lay one sheet of parchment paper on the counter and fold it in half lengthwise just to make a crease. Open the parchment paper. Place about four leaves of Swiss chard in the center of the parchment paper just below the centerfold. Top with fish fillet. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with shallots and capers. Squeeze half a lemon on top and tuck lemon half next to fish. Sprinkle olives and tomatoes around fish.
3. Fold top half of paper over bottom half and begin folding tightly from the center to one of the sides. Go back to the center and fold tightly in the opposite direction. (See video for more assistance.)
4. Repeat with each fish. Place packages on a cookie sheet and cook about 10 minutes. (Estimate about 10 minutes per inch — if the fillets are a little bit thicker than one inch, add 1 or 2 minutes.)
After reading the ingredient list, looking over the some-what complicated instructions, and spotting the calorie content per serving (so unnecessarily provided at the end of the recipe), I had that feeling I often get when I’m shopping for clothes — that I hope nothing fits so that I don’t have to buy anything.
Unfortunately, all of my negative energy did not help produce an inedible, underwhelming, unmemorable cake. Quite the contrary. This cake is incredibly delicious and irresistible. I wake up every morning thinking about it — thus far, the cake has gotten better and better with each passing day.
I’ve had this LA Times Culinary SOS recipe recipe tacked to my fridge for the past two weeks. I have to admit, I had serious doubts. I am so often disappointed with the recipes that call for a pound of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs, etc.— it’s the recipes with yogurt and applesauce and olive oil that are so pleasantly surprising — both delicious and light or relatively light at least. Now, I’m sure some of you magicians out there could cut some of the butter or sugar in this recipe without compromising the flavor, but I encourage you to try the recipe once as is. I omitted the chocolate chips, which are unnecessary given that the recipe calls for the making of a cocoa syrup, which imparts a wonderful chocolate flavor.
Buttercake Bakery’s Marble Cake
Total time: 1½ hours Servings 12 to 16
2½ cups sugar, divided ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ¼ cup light corn syrup (I used brown rice syrup) 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided 2 2/3 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon kosher salt 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temperature is ideal) 4 eggs 1 cup milk 1 cup chocolate chips (optional — I did not use them. This cake really doesn’t need them.) powdered sugar for dusting
1. In a small saucepan, whisk together ½ cup of the sugar, the cocoa powder and syrup with ½ cup hot water. Bring just to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add ½ teaspoon of vanilla off the heat and set aside.
2. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and lightly flour a 12-cup bundt pan. (I never flour anymore — it always burns for me. I coated the bundt pan with cooking spray.)
3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), cream the butter with the remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated, then whisk in the remaining vanilla.
4. Whisk about a third of the flour mixture into the batter, then a third of the milk. Continue whisking in the flour mixture and milk, alternately and a little at a time, until everything is added and the batter is light and smooth.
5. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. (I really think the chocolate chips are unncessary, but that’s your call.) Divide the batter into thirds. Pour a third of the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
6. Whisk the chocolate syrup with another third of batter, then pour this into the bundt pan. Pour the remaining third of batter over this, lightly swirl the batters with a wooden skewer or knife to give a “marble” effect and place the pan in the oven.
7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back lightly when touched, about an hour. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the cooled cake onto a serving platter and dust lightly with powdered sugar.
I’m sort of embarrassed about posting this video, but after I shot it, I couldn’t resist. I sound like such a freak. I’m pretty sure I don’t sound like that normally.
Anyway, I happened to be preparing tinga, which I’ve described before, and thought it might be a good opportunity to talk about stock. I know the thought of making stock from scratch can feel like a lot of work. But making stock really is as simple as throwing chickens in a pot, covering them with water, and letting them simmer for a few hours. Additions such as onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, etc., of course, enhance the flavor of the stock, but if you don’t have them or don’t feel like adding them, it doesn’t matter. The gelatinous stock shown in the video was prepared with nothing more than chickens and water.
Let me tell you about this dish. I learned how to make it from a woman named Patricia who I worked with at Fork back in Philadelphia. Patricia often prepared tinga — chicken stewed with onions, tomatoes and chipotle in adobo sauce — for the “family meal” and served it with rice or soft tortillas. It’s incredibly delicious over crispy tortillas, too, served with a poached egg on top.
This recipe calls for one chicken, but it can be easily doubled. (Tinga freezes well — I have quarts of it ready to be thawed at a moment’s notice.) You also can make chicken stock with the carcass: After you pull off all of the meat, put the remaining bones back in the poaching liquid and let the mixture simmer for another couple of hours.
Chicken, pulled from its bones after simmering in water for about an hour. Cilantro, soaking to remove dirt. Chicken carcasses in water ready to be simmered. Fat, scraped from a quart of chicken stock after sitting in the refrigerator overnight.
Stock, fat removed, ready to be frozen.
Homemade Chicken Stock
Note: As I mentioned above, making stock is as simple as throwing chickens in a pot, covering them with water, and letting them simmer for a few hours. Additions such as onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, etc., of course, enhance the flavor of the stock, but if you don’t have them or don’t feel like adding them, it doesn’t matter.
These days, I simply remove the legs with their bones from a whole chicken (to be used for one meal) as well as the breasts (to be used for another meal) and throw the two wings and remaining carcass into the stock pot. (Watch the video here for help breaking down a chicken.) I cover these bones/meat with water and let simmer for about 2.5 hours without any additions (carrots, celery, etc.), and I get about 1.5 qts of really flavorful stock.
The below recipe is what my mother does, but truly, you don’t have to be so fussy.
3 lbs chicken, such as a whole chicken or wings or legs or just bones
2 stalks celery
1/2 tsp. whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 onion, cut in half, studded with 4 cloves total (2 in each half)
1. Place chicken or chicken bones into a large pot. Add remaining ingredients. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat so that the water is gently simmering. Scoop off and discard any scum that bubbles up at the surface. Let simmer for about 2 hours.
2. Place a colander over a large bowl. Pour contents of stock pot through the colander. Discard all of these pieces once they have cooled. Transfer stock to storage containers and place in the fridge overnight or until completely chilled and fat has formed a solid layer at the top of the container. Scoop off this fat and discard. Freeze stock or store in fridge for at least a week.
Mexican Tinga Serves 8
1 3-4 lb. chicken 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 white onion, sliced 1 small can chipotles in adobo sauce 1½ cups canned crushed tomatoes 2 cups chicken stock, low-sodium or homemade kosher salt to taste 1 bunch cilantro
1. Place chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat so the water just simmers, and cook for 45 minutes. Turn off heat and transfer chicken to a large bowl to cool. When chicken is completely cool, remove the meat from the skin and bones, and place in a clean bowl. (Place bones and skin in a pot, cover with water, and let simmer for several hours. Strain, and transfer the stock to plastic storage containers. Refrigerate overnight. The following day, scrape off the fat and discard. Freeze stock.)
2. In a medium-sized soup pot add the oil and place over medium heat. Sauté the onion over medium heat until slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add 3 of the chipotles and 1 tablespoon of the sauce from the small can of chipotles (or, if you like spice, add the whole can as I did).
3. Stir for one minute until the onions are nicely coated in sauce, then add the tomatoes and chicken stock. Season with a pinch of salt, then add the chicken meat to the pot, breaking up the big chunks as you add the meat.
4. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer mixture very gently for 30 minutes. Coarsely chop the cilantro, add to the pot and stir to incorporate. Taste mixture, add more salt if necessary. Can be made a day ahead. To reheat, simmer mixture very slowly adding chicken stock if liquid becomes too thick.
Onions and chipotles cooking before the chicken, stock and tomatoes are added.
Hi everyone. Happy Fourth. Just a quick post here. I made this tart, as you may recall, once last summer. This year’s version, made with squash entirely from my garden, is far more special.
I must admit, however, this recipe could be improved, namely because it calls for puff pastry. I don’t want to diss puff pastry or anything, but i’m just not wild about its taste. In a pinch, its great — it saved me this passed Monday when I needed to whip something up for a potluck. If I had more time, however, I might have experimented with a different base. The thin pizza dough, I don’t think would have held up too well for a potluck. A thicker pizza dough might work. Or a savory galette dough. Or the buttery cornmeal crust used in the heirloom tomato tart. I definitely want to try something other than puff pastry because everything else about the tart is great, from the ricotta-parsley spread to the caramelized onions to the blanched squash rounds to the barely melted feta crumbled on top at the last moments of baking.
Also, the pictures here show a tart that has been made with one-third of one sheet of puff pastry. The box I bought came with two units of puff pastry, and I used one and two-thirds for the potluck tart. I had left over ingredients and so made a mini tart, which I ate for breakfast on Tuesday.
First, you must blind bake the tart shell. I have a stash of beans I use over and over again for this purpose. Then, you whisk together ricotta, parsley, an egg, and salt and pepper, and spread it across the bottom. Then, you top the cheese spread with a layer of caramelized onions. Then, you top the onions with blanched squash rounds. You bake it for 15-20 minutes. Brush it with butter. Bake it again. And you sprinkle on the feta and parsley at the very end. Summer Squash Tart with Ricotta and Feta Serves 6
1 10” x 13” sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed parchment paper pie weights or dried beans wrapped in plastic 1 tablespoon of olive oil 1 small onion, thinly sliced kosher salt and pepper to taste 2 lbs. mix of zucchini and yellow squash ½ cup fresh ricotta 1 egg, lightly beaten 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped 1 tablespoon butter, melted ¼ cup feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place pastry on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. With a paring knife, gently score (being careful not to go all the way through) the pastry about one inch from the edge on all sides. Prick bottom of pastry all over with a fork, line center area only with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. Remove weights and parchment paper.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion. Season with salt and pepper and let sauté until slightly caramelized about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat to cool.
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Cut the squash crosswise into ¼ – inch thick rounds. Add to the pot of boiling water, cook for 30 – 60 seconds, drain and let dry on a paper-towel lined cookie tray.
In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread onto puff pastry. Top with the onions. Arrange squash pieces in overlapping rows until tart is filled. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with butter and return to the oven for five minutes longer. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle with feta, and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
So far, the best part about having a garden has been the smells. Every time I pass by those cinder blocks, I brush my hand over the basil leaves or the tomato vines or the oregano plant, and in just that quick motion, the smells from the leaves get trapped in my palms — it’s amazing. In one second I smell as though I’ve been toiling in the weeds for hours.
I suppose once my garden actually begins producing food consistently, however, eating will become more rewarding than smelling. Thus far, we have eaten a fair amount of zucchini and a ton of Swiss chard. The tomatoes, both the cherry and the heirloom, as you can see, have finally started growing. So have the hot peppers. Soon, just as we had hoped, Ben and I will be able whip up pico de gallo at a moment’s notice. Except that we are currently out of cilantro. Our two plants, unfortunately, took a terrible turn.
Also, until I see the tomatoes turn red, I will not be completely excited. Two summers ago, back in Philadelphia, our two tomato plants produced hundreds of tomatoes but they never turned red. I’ve never prepared so many fried green tomatoes in my life. Which are delicious, but not what I want to eat every night for dinner, you know?
I’m really liking my Sunday morning routine. I get up a little before Ben, find something to bake, and whip it up, or at least have it in the oven, before Ben wakes up. This tradition is now in its fourth week running, and this Sunday I’m planning on making a recipe for a marbled coffee cake printed in the culinary SOS column of the LA Times food section two weeks ago. The recipe is based on Buttercake Bakery’s moist butter bundt cake. I can hardly wait to try it. Maybe I’ll use that cathedral bundt pan I have failed to use for three years now.
Anyway, about this plum cake. This recipe appeared in a Martha Stewart Living issue last summer, and I have had it filed in the back of my mind ever since. Last Saturday morning, when Ben and I found ourselves in San Diego at the City Heights farmers’ market, I found the perfect reason to make this cake: baskets of plums — filled with at least 20 or so — selling for $4. We picked up some peaches, avocados and two red snapper fillets as well before heading home. The plums — sweet and juicy — however, turned out to be the prized purchase. I used ten in this cake, but plenty remained for Ben and me to snack on all week. I ate the last one this morning.
Bette Aaronson, the woman to whom this recipe is credited, has been making this recipe for more than 30 years. I can understand why. It takes only minutes to prepare; it’s delectable; it’s elegant; and it’s versatile: Apricots, nectarines and peaches, it has been noted, can be used in place of the plums. I’m guessing then that pluots, plumcots and apriums would also make acceptable substitutes. I can’t believe Martha didn’t make that clear. Also, I have halved the recipe — I thought a 9-inch cake for each Ben and me seemed a little excessive — but the original recipe, if you care to see, can be found online: Open-Face Plum Cake.
Open-Face Plum Cake Adapted from a recipe printed in a summer 2007 Martha Stewart Living For the recipe doubled, which was how it was printed, visit the Martha Stewart Living Web Site.
Yield = 1 9-inch cake, serves 10
¾ cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 3/8 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon ¼ cup whole milk 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 small egg or ½ a large egg 6-10 plums depending on the size, halved and pitted 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pans
Confectioners’ sugar for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter a nine-inch round cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the 3/8 cup sugar, milk, oil and egg. Fold into the flour mixture.
2. Pour batter into pan. Arrange plums, cut side up over batter.
3. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar and sprinkle over the plums. Dot with butter. Bake until tops are dark golden, plums are soft and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool.