March 2011

oven ribs and buttermilk biscuits

Posted on March 31, 2011

We love pork. Pork spare ribs are an amazingly delicious and yet affordable cut. Sadly, we do not have a barbecue. Or a smoker. But, we do have an oven and some ingenuity! This recipe is for all you barbecueless, smokerless apartment dwellers out there … introducing Jordan’s oven ribs!

These ribs are delicious and versatile. This time around we kept them super simple to let the pork flavor shine (and test our new technique), but this low and slow recipe is adaptable to all kinds of flavors. Next time we are going for a more traditional BBQ flavor with a brown sugar, ketchup, chili, mustard and vinegar glaze. I cannot wait!

Jordan’s Oven Ribs
1 rack of pork spare ribs
1/2 onion, sliced thin
1/2 lemon, sliced thin
1/2 cup broth
salt, pepper

Preheat an oven to 250 degrees. Salt the ribs. Make a packet out of tin foil. Cover the bottom with the onion slices, then layer on the lemon slices. Top with the ribs. Pour in the broth and cover with another piece of foil. Seal tightly. Put on on baking sheet and bake low and slow for 4 – 5 hours, until the meat is tender and falling of the bone.

Once the ribs are tender, remove them from the packet and cover loosely with foil. Pour the rib juice from the packet into a sauce pan. Puree. Reduce over medium high heat and taste for seasoning. Heat the broiler. Brush the sauce onto the ribs and broil for a few minutes until brown and caramelized to mimic the grill effect. Enjoy with cabbage slaw and buttermilk biscuits.

Buttermilk Biscuits, from Ad Hoc at Home

I halved this recipe and made 10 two-inch biscuits. These are best right out of the oven so plan to pull them out just before broiling your ribs.

1 cup cake flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 T kosher salt
1/2 T baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 stick butter, cut into cubes and chilled
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 T melted butter, for brushing after they come out of the oven

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the butter cubes and pulse until the pieces of butter are the size of small peas. Pour mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the buttermilk, stirring just to incorporate. The dough will not form a solid mass – this is what makes the biscuits so delightful and flaky.

Pour the dough onto a lightly floured counter and pat into a rectangle. Cut the biscuits using a round cutter or cut into squares if you don’t have an adorable cutter. Gather the dough scraps and cut the remaining biscuits. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 – 18 minutes. When they come out of the oven, brush them with the melted butter and enjoy!

What’s not to love about ribs and biscuits!

-Emily

pork happy hour at the fatted calf

Posted on March 30, 2011

The Fatted Calf is an amazing artisanal charcuterie based in Napa, CA. They also have a store in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco where you can purchase their delicious sausages, salamis, pates, confits and freshly-butchered, humanely-raised meats.

The Hayes Valley store (320 Fell St) hosts a Pork Happy Hour every Wednesday from 5:30 pm – 7 pm. The best part: they expertly butcher a whole hog right in front of your amazed eyes!!! Other great parts: free beer and snacks, custom cuts of meat, samples of their delicious wares and general pork-lover merriment.

If you are in the area on a Wednesday, check out the Pork Happy Hour. It doesn’t disappoint. And if you can’t make it out on a Wednesday, visit some other time and enjoy access to some mind-blowing charcuterie!

(Seriously, how awesome is that!)

-Emily

celeriac and leek gratin

Posted on March 29, 2011

One of my favorite things about this time of year is all the wonderful root vegetables that are available, and I think the best way to utilize them is to make a gratin.  You can make a gratin with just about anything, but today’s awesomely cheesy preparation includes celeriac (a.k.a. celery root), some yukon gold potatoes, leeks, and gruyere.  Assembly is very simple and if you have a nifty Japanese mandolin, the dish practically makes itself.

A note on quantities: I’ve found that one medium celery root, two potatoes, and two leeks filled an eight inch round casserole that was about 4 inches high, but this recipe can easily be adjusted to fit whatever size or shape dish you have.

First, peel the potatoes and celeriac and cut them into very thin slices (imagine a thick potato chip) and cut the leeks into similarly thin rings.  Wash the leeks in a bowl of water to remove the grit.  Then, butter up a casserole or, if you have one, an au gratin dish and begin layering.  Just make a thin layer of each vegetable and sprinkle with salt and pepper; you can put some parmesan if you like, I did … of course.  Then repeat until you’ve used up all your ingredients.  Last, pour about a cup of cream over the top and plenty of grated gruyere.  I had some homemade breadcrumbs lying around, so I through those on too, but that’s optional.  Bake with the lid on at 375 until the vegetables are tender (I stick a fork in and if there’s no resistance, it’s done).  Broil to get the top brown and serve after it’s had a chance to cool for a few minutes.

Conclusions: What’s not to love?  This is a rich, satisfying dish, perfect for these rainy San Francisco days we’ve been having.  Also, the nerd in me loves how evenly the vegetables cook because they’re sliced to the same thickness; the mandolin makes this impressive dish so easy to throw together.  Go get one and make this dish!  You won’t regret it!

-Jordan

P.S.  I haven’t specified what all this mandolin business is about.  I know that there are these products out there that cost $50-150 and look completely impractical, but Japanese mandolins are much simpler and more cost effective.  Specifically, the Benriner brand is great and the best price you can get is from Jon at Japanese Knife Imports. They’re only $20 there (compared to at least $30 from other stores) and he sells the replacement blades.  I take knives and such very seriously and I can tell you, these things are sharp.  Enjoy!

over the (long) weekend

Posted on March 29, 2011

Lots and lots of cooking, eating and drinking this weekend. I even took Monday off to prolong the festivities … Jordan is on Spring Break after all. We’ll delve into the details over the next few days, but here is a sneak peak. Yep, this is another photo-procrastination post!

Ribs and biscuits

Homemade bread

Brunch with the neighbors

Anchor Brewery Tour

Wow, we eat a lot of carbs.

-Emily

baked potato soup

Posted on March 24, 2011

I like the idea of baked potatoes, but the dish in practice is really a let down. The first few cheesy, bacony, oniony bites are delicious and then it just tastes like dry diet food. Bummer.

Thankfully, Deb from Smitten Kitchen feels similarly. I followed her recipe for baked potato soup and it was awesome. This recipe combines all of the great flavors of a baked potato but skirts around all the boring parts. Perfect!

Baked Potato Soup

2 T butter
2 leeks, halved and sliced then rinsed of their grit
1 head garlic
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 bay leaves
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/3 cup sour cream
Salt, pepper
Bacon, green onions, cheddar cheese, sour cream for toppings

Halve the leeks and then thinly slice them. Rinse them of their grit. Cut the top 1/3 off the entire garlic head. Squeeze the cloves out of the top 1/3 and mince them. Peal the thin wispy layers off the bottom 2/3 of the garlic and set aside. Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for 5 minutes, until softened. Add minced garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add the broth, bay leaves, and head of garlic. Cook over medium heat for 40 minutes or until the  garlic head is soft.

Add the cubed potatoes. Cook for another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Remove the garlic and bay leaves. Puree the soup for a minute or two with an immersion blender. I left some potato chunks, but you can puree it as smooth as you’d like. Add the sour cream and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Top with your favorite baked potato toppings and enjoy!

-Emily

shrimp tacos

Posted on March 23, 2011

I’ve already ranted about my love of mexican food so I’ll spare you all those details. Here is another taco recipe, and it is even easier than the carnitas tacos from last week.

Shrimp Tacos

1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange
1 clove garlic, grated
1 T olive oil
Salt, chili flake
Tortillas, radishes, salsa, cilantro and sour cream for serving

Clean the shrimp. In a small bowl mix the citrus juices, garlic, olive oil, salt and a dash of chili flake. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Let marinate for 15 minutes. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Toss in the shrimp  and cook until they are just pink, about 3 minutes per side. Pour the shrimp into a bowl. Wipe out the skillet and heat the corn tortillas until they just start to brown on each side. While these are warming, pop the tails off of the shrimp.

Put a few shrimp in a tortilla and add your desired toppings. I went for all of the condiments I described above. It was delicious, and only took about 25 minutes to prepare. Take that Rachel Ray.

-Emily

sf underground market

Posted on March 21, 2011

Jordan and I attended the afternoon portion of last month’s Underground Market and it was great! Delicious samples, lots of great vendors, tons of people really excited about fresh, local, handmade food! If you’re in the area, check it out this Saturday! We’re planning on attending the evening portion this time.

SF Underground Market, hosted by ForageSF

Saturday March 26th

11am-4pm : Take-homeables and gifts

6pm-2 am: Hot food, Music

Location: Public Works, 161 Erie St

Admission: $5, $10 after 11 pm

“The SF Underground Market is a venue where you can taste and purchase the food that is being produced in backyards and home kitchens in the Bay Area.

To sell at a farmers market, you need to produce your wares in a commercial kitchen. This is an impossible expense for many of us, so the underground farmers market is about helping to get some exposure for all of our fellow producers without the cash for a commercial kitchen. These are veterans, people who’ve been making their products for years, but only able to share them with friends. We thought we’d give them a venue to share with the whole SF food community.

A market, and a live show, all rolled into one. Think a farmers market, but at night, with music and drinks.”

If you are interested in attending, be sure to sign up here. If you are interested in becoming a vendor, click here.

girls’ night

Posted on March 18, 2011

Jordan stays late working hard in the psych lab on Thursday nights. I get together with my cousin Katie and my neighbor/new favorite person Robin. We make cocktails and dinner and have a grand old time just us girls, Willow and Honey included.

This Thursday, Robin took the reigns and made a delicious barley and mushroom risotto. I made a salad with arrugula, baby spinach, blood orange and candied nuts. Today, I’ll share my recipe for candied nuts that are perfect in just about any salad.  This recipe was inspired by incredible green beans that my friend Katie Norton made for me while we were in college. (Katie is now a pastry chef in D.C. and you can visit her blog here). Oh how I wish she could attend our girls’ nights!

Candied Walnuts, great for salads or as a ice cream topping
1/2 – 3/4 cup walnuts
2 T butter
1/2 cup sugar, white or brown
2 t worcestershire sauce
a dash of paprika
a dash of salt

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar. Melt the sugar, stirring occasionally until it becomes carmel in color. Add the paprika, salt and worcestershire sauce. Stir. Turn off the heat and add the nuts. Stir to coat. Pour the nuts onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. As they cool, you can break them into appropriately sized pieces. Toss with salad and enjoy!

-Emily

meet kiwi kombucha

Posted on March 17, 2011

Let me introduce you to Kiwi, my first foray into fermenting. Kiwi is my kombucha starter, also know as a mother. I started brewing my first batch of kombucha about 3 weeks ago.

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that supposedly has significant health benefits because of the live active cultures that it contains. I’d never tried it until my friend Noah introduced me to the beverage about a month ago. Noah is also a home-brewer. While I can’t say much about the health benefits, I can say that I find kombucha pretty tasty. It is bubbly, sour, a little vinegary and very refreshing. And since I am pretty into doing things from scratch, I decided why not brew my own.

The first step was aquiring a mother. My friend Noah said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that hippies all over Berkely just give their mothers away. Logically I turned to Craigslist. I found a girl in my neighborhood who was offering kombucha starters free to a good home. I hopped over to her house with my 1 gallon glass jar (purchased from Sur Le Table for $11 if you’re in the market) and she gave me a mother and about 12 oz of starter liquid from her previous batch.

Note: The kombucha mother is freaky looking creature. It is pinky orange and gelatinous. It is very similar to the washed-up jelly fish that you see when you’re walking on the beach. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

When I got back home, I brewed a large batch of strong tea. The ratio should be about 90% new tea to 10% kombucha starter liquid. To the tea I added 1 cup of white sugar. The kombucha bacteria feed on the sugar during the fermentation proccess. Then I let the tea cool overnight to room temperature.

The next morning I poured this sweetened tea mixture into my glass jar with the kombucha mother and starter liquid inside. Then I covered the jar with cheesecloth – it is important that the mother can breath – and put the jar in my hall closet to let my little bacteria cultures get down to business.

Kiwi had been hanging out in my dark closet for about a two and half weeks. After about one week, the brew started to smell less like tea and more like kombucha. Kiwi also seriously grew inside that jar. She now looks like a membrane tornado! (Wow, that sounds gross. But it is really cool, I swear).

It can take anywhere from 1 week to 3 weeks to brew a batch of kombucha. After about one week, I began dipping a spoon into the brew and tasting. I tried it every 3 days, until it had reached my desired kombucha strength and effervescence. Jordan was scared – the kombucha mother just got freakier looking as it grew – and he finally tried my brew for the first time last night. Once it reached the desired level of fermentyness, I poured most of the kombucha into bottles to refrigerate, leaving enough liquid to start another batch. I think my next batch will be a mixture of green and black tea.

My first experiment with fermentation was a success! Jordan says now it’s his turn to ferment – I think this means home-brewed beer is in our futures.

And a final note: this kombucha is strong in flavor – much stronger than the store-bought varieties. If you like the strong, natural flavor of kombucha, home-brewing is for you! And if you prefer a more mild flavor, cut the kombucha with some juice, soda water or ginger ale.

-Emily

grilled cheese and tomato soup

Posted on March 16, 2011

Yesterday was rainy here in San Francisco. I trudged home from work dreading taking Willow for her evening walk. (She hates the rain and actually pouts when we take her out in it). Fortunately, my friend Robin and her pup Honey met us for our walk, which temporarily distracted Willow from her usual pouting. As we walked awkwardly with umbrellas in one hand and dogs in the other, we discussed dinner. We were both rocking all-American classics that night – meatloaf for Robin and tomato soup for Jordan and me. It was on the Leavenworth hill, soaked from the rain, in the company of grumpy pups, that we decided tomato soup and grilled cheese is the perfect rainy day meal. And, after cooking and eating it, I can confirm that indeed it was.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese, especially for rainy days

For the soup:
2 16 oz cans of whole or crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetable broth
3 T sugar
2 T red wine vinegar
salt, pepper, chili flake, a bay leaf, thyme

In a dutch oven, saute the vegetables in a little olive oil. When they start to become tender, add the tomatoes, a pinch of each of the spices, salt, sugar, vinegar and broth. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Puree the soup using and immersion blender or food processor. Taste, season with salt and pepper, and let simmer until ready to serve. We served it with a little creme fraiche on top.

For the sandwiches:
1 T butter, for the pan
1/2 cup cheese, grated (we used goat cheddar)
4 slices of bread (or 10 slices if the only bread they had at your up-the-hill-market was a baguette, but you decide to make a go of it for experiment’s sake)

When your soup is finished and simmering, place a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Toss in the butter. Make the sandwiches and place them in the pan. Cover with a lid to melt the cheese. When they are golden brown on one side, flip and cook the other side. Serve hot and gooey.

Our tiny sandwiches were quite delicious, but because of the bread to cheese ratio, they lacked the gooey cheese factor one expects in a grilled cheese. While they paired well with the soup, they would not satisfy a grilled cheese craving.

-Emily

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