March 2011

taquería cancun

Posted on March 16, 2011

I love mexican food. Like my mother, I could probably eat it everyday. Limited access to great mexican food is just one of the reasons living outside of California borders on torture for me. The Mission District in San Francisco offers a myriad of taquería options, but not all super burritos are created equal. Jordan and I have done the legwork and our favorite taquería is Taquería Cancun (2288 Mission Street, between 18th and 19th).

Last Saturday we enjoyed awesome burritos in the company of awesome friends. Our recommendation: go for the super burrito or super taco “al pastor” ($6, $3). What does al pastor entail you may wonder? How can this meat be so delicious? Well, al pastor means that slices of pork are marinated in chilis and vinegar and then are cooked shawarma-style with a pineapple on top. I have to say that love the image of a pile of meat roasting on a spit with a pineapple on top almost as much as I love a super burrito al pastor!

Our friend Jeff took our recommendation and got the super burrito al pastor, another friend went with the chicken burrito and another went vegetarian. None were disappointed.

After we finished our burritos we took a stroll through the neighborhood.

Afterwards we grabbed soft-serve ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery. I happen to think soft serve pairs magnificently with burritos. The perfect end to a perfect day in the Mission.


baking therapy: homemade graham crackers

Posted on March 16, 2011

Our good friend Jeff made these homemade graham crackers from Smitten Kitchen and brought them oven for us the other weekend. They were so good that Jordan and I ate the entire bag of them in a few hours. I decided to try to recreate the magic on Sunday.

Sadly, my grahams did not turn out nearly as perfect as Jeff’s. I overcooked one batch and undercooked the other. While the undercooked batch was still tasty, they lacked the satisfying graham cracker crunch we all know and love. Still, I’d recommend the recipe, because when these turn out well they blow store bought graham crackers out of the water!

Visit Deb’s recipe here and follow her advice, since I can’t yet stand behind mine.

Homemade Graham Crackers, in photos


carnitas tacos

Posted on March 15, 2011

It is no secret that we love pork. It is also no secret that we love braised meats. You can imagine how much we enjoy carnitas. Luckily for us, Jordan makes mean carnitas and I’m here to share his secrets with you.

(Later this week, we’ll mention another amazing mexican pork dish and where you can get the best of it in San Francisco. Hint: pineapple).

Because they are braised, pork carnitas are inherently easy – just sear and then cook low and slow. The only caveat: you have to be home for a few hours to monitor the oven and make sure the apartment doesn’t burn down.

Pork Carnitas Tacos

2 lbs pork shoulder
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest of an orange – the secret ingredient
2 cups broth
salt, pepper, chili flake
Diced onion, cilantro and salsa and corn tortillas for serving

Preheat an oven to 275 degrees. Season the meat with salt and pepper. Put some oil a dutch oven or other heavy pan and heat over medium high heat. Sear all sides of the pork shoulder and set aside. Saute the onions, carrot, celery and garlic until softened. Add the pork, orange zest and chili flake and fill the dish with about 2 cups of broth. You want the broth to go half way up the chunk of meat.

Place the meat in the oven. And let it slowly cook for 3 – 4 hours, flipping the meat half way through to ensure even cooking. After the meat is fork tender, remove it from the liquid and shred using two forks. Meanwhile, pour 1 cup of the braising liquid into a smaller sauce pan and reduce, until slightly thickened. Pour some of the braising liquid into the carnitas until they are moistened.

Serve these heavenly carnitas in hot corn tortillas with cilantro, onion and salsa. We also made a salad of jicama, radish and lettuce with a lime vinegarette to go along with the tacos.


strawberry lemonade sorbet

Posted on March 14, 2011

What do you do when life (aka my CSA fruit box at work) gives you lemons? Make lemon sorbet! What do you do when those lemons don’t yeild nearly enough juice to make sorbet? Steal a bag of frozen strawberries from your neighbor and make strawberry lemonade sorbet!

Strawberry Lemonade Sorbet
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 lb frozen strawberries, defrosted
zest of 4 lemons
8 lemons, juiced

Over low heat, heat sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved completely. Zest four of the lemons into a bowl. Juice the lemons into the same bowl. In a food processor, puree the strawberries until smooth. Add the strawberry puree to the lemon juice and zest. Add the simple syrup. Chill this mixture until cold.

Pour the strawberry lemonade mixture into your ice cream maker. Churn until it has a sorbet-y texture and lightens in color. Pour into a tupper and freeze until firm, or until you are ready to serve it. Garnish with mint.

I loved this sorbet! It was so summery and tart. Jordan would have preferred to cut its tartness with some vanilla ice cream, which isn’t a bad idea.


our csa from eatwell farms

Posted on March 14, 2011

As we described a few weeks ago, Jordan and I joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) group. We’ve been enjoying our boxes of super seasonal and fresh produce and trying new recipes like mussels with clams and fennelun wok and leek and tomato chowder with dover fillets. Our farm is Eatwell Farms and I want to share the beautiful produce we just picked up!

This week we received: navel oranges, pomelo, dandelion greens, winter green mix, green garlic, savoy cabbage, leeks, celeriac, carrots,  pink lady apples and eggs.

How cute are these eggs!

Stay tuned for a delicious celeriac and leek gratin recipe.


baking therapy: homemade cheez its

Posted on March 10, 2011

I love cheese, I love cheese on crackers, I love cheesy crackers. Cheez-its, Goldfish crackers, Flaming Hot Cheetos, yummm. BUT, we are trying to stay away from processed foods, which means no cheez crackers for Emily.

That is until I found a recipe for cheese straws (made with real cheese, butter and flour!) on Smitten Kitchen. I made these sharp cheddar cheese crackers last night and boy do they fill my cheesy cracker void. They actually taste more like cheddar than cheddar, if you can believe it. Even Jordan, who is not a processed cheese cracker aficionado like me really enjoyed them.

Homemade Cheez Its, adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Cheese Straws

1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar, grated (about 6 0z)
3/4 cup flour
4 T butter, softened and cut into cubes
1/2 t salt
1/4 t crushed red pepper (although paprika or ground red pepper may give a more even distribution)
1 T milk

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor,  process cheese, flour, butter, salt and red pepper until it resembles coarse sand. Add milk and process until dough forms a ball. About 15 seconds.

Take out the cheesy ball and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. If you’d like to make cheese straws, roll it until it is 1/4 inch thick and cut into straws. If you’d like to make cheez-its, roll the dough until it is 1/8 inch thick and cut into squares. Poke the squares with the tines of a fork.

Transfer straws or squares onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees, until lightly browned. Cool on a rack and devour!


mussels and clams with fennel

Posted on March 8, 2011

Jordan and I enjoyed a romantic night in last Saturday. We had high hopes to cook something new and elaborate with lots of steps, but when we got to the store we decided instead on mussels and clams. We cooked them simply in a base of vegetable broth, tomato, fennel and garlic and ate them with a loaf of crusty Acme sourdough.

The best part about this meal (other than the fact that it is totally delicious) is that it only takes about 30 minutes to prepare, but looks much more impressive.

Mussels and Clams with Fennel, Tomato and Green Garlic

1 lb mussels, rinsed
1/2 lb clams, rinsed
Vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 8 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 medium bulb of fennel, sliced
2 stalks green garlic, sliced
Salt, pepper, chili flake

Slice the green garlic and fennel. Heat a little olive in sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Toss in the garlic and fennel. Saute for a few minutes. Add the can of tomatoes and the sauce, a little salt, pepper and a small pinch of chili flake. Saute for a few minutes and add the white wine and enough broth for a saucy consistency. Toss the shellfish in and cover with a lid. Cook for about 5 – 8 minutes. They are done when they open up. Pour into a dish, garnish with parsley or fennel fronds, squeeze a little lemon over the top and enjoy with hunks of crusty bread.

We also made a salad with arrugula, apple and fennel fronds to balance out the meal. It was delightful, quick and only made one pot dirty … leaving me plenty of time and dishes to make cinnamon rolls from scratch.


baking therapy: cinnamon rolls

Posted on March 7, 2011

On Saturday night at about 8 pm I decided that I had to have cinnamon rolls. My sweet Jordan humors these moods of mine, but also tempers them with a little reason: perhaps I should not try to make and eat cinnamon rolls on Saturday night, but instead have them for breakfast on Sunday. Making the dough, plus 2 hours for the dough to rise, plus baking time … point taken. I also wisely decided that I should not eat a dozen cinnamon rolls myself, and invited a few lovely friends over for Sunday brunch.

These cinnamon rolls are awesome – gooey and cinnamony with a little tang from the cream cheese frosting.  And the best part is you can make them almost entirely ahead of time, which means you sleep in and have homemade cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven. You really can’t ask for more on a Sunday morning.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, by Alton Brown

For the dough:
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
6 T butter, melted
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
4 cups flour
1 packet instant dry yeast
1 1/4 t kosher salt

In a stand mixer, whisk eggs, sugar, butter and buttermilk to combine. Add two cups of the flour, yeast and salt and mix. Switch out the whisk for the dough hook and add another 1 1/4 cup of flour. Knead on low for 5 minutes. Touch the dough – it should be smooth and soft but not sticky. If it is sticky, add a bit more flour. My dough did not need additional flour, but yours might. Knead for another 5 minutes on low.  Knead the dough with your hands for 30 seconds and place in a lightly oiled bowl to rise. Lightly oil the top and cover with a towel.

Now for the rising. The dough should rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size. If you live in an old, poorly insulated apartment like I do there is probably not an appropriately warm place for your dough to rise. And if you’ve never made a yeast dough in said apartment, you will most likely have a panic attack when after two hours of quiet counter sitting your dough has not risen and you already have 4 confirmed breakfast guests. So you don’t experience a similar panic and wasted time, I recommend you place your dough in the oven, fill a dish below it with boiling water and close the door. Replace the hot water every 30 minutes or so and your dough will rise beautifully.

For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 T cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 T butter, melted

Once your dough has doubled in size, lightly flour a counter and butter a baking dish. Roll the dough into a 12 by 18 inch rectangle. Spread the melted butter on all but the top 1 inch. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt mixture on all but the top 1 inch. Roll the dough, starting with the edge closest to you and pinch the edge to seal. Turn it over so the seam is face down on the counter and cut into 12 pieces. Place the pieces in a buttered baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge.

The next morning about an hour before your guest arrive, take the rolls out of fridge, remove the plastic wrap and place in an off oven with a pan of boiling water to rise again. After about 30 minutes they should look delightfully poofy.

Remove the rolls and water from the oven. Preheat the oven to 35o degrees. Cook the rolls for about 30 minutes, until they are lightly browned on top. Frost with cream cheese frosting once you take them out of the oven.

For the frosting:
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
3 T milk
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the milk and powdered sugar and mix to combine. Spread over the hot cinnamon rolls and serve.

Like I said before, these rolls are good. They are everything you want out of a cinnamon roll and, despite involving yeast and rising, are pretty easy to make. But, I think what these rolls have really taught me is that the pan of hot water trick is one to live by.


the spaghetti and meatballs that saved my life

Posted on March 3, 2011

There is a lot to be said about good comfort food, but today I’m just going to say one thing. A plate of spaghetti and meatballs saved our livelihood.

To elaborate: I had a bad day at work. I had to run errands for work after I left the office. It was raining. I had a headache. I was supremely grumpy. But, I got home and sat down to a plate of spaghetti that was so comforting, so delicious, so soothing that upon eating it my plans to not return to work the next day (or ever) magically disappeared. Thank you spaghetti and meatballs (and Jordan) for preserving my sanity and my paycheck!

And just one culinary note: A mixture of ground beef and ground pork is essential for a heart-healing meatball. And don’t skimp and buy the 5% super-lean stuff – 20% fat is where it’s at.


queso chronicles: brie and blue

Posted on March 2, 2011

Here we have two delightful cheeses that are both reasonably priced and crowd-pleasing.  One is a triple-cream brie (I’m really sorry, but I forgot which it was exactly, but you really can’t go wrong with anything that starts its name with ‘triple-cream’).  This cheese is so creamy and buttery it almost doesn’t count as cheese.  Typically, I’m not one for brie because of how mild it is, but while this one lacks in flavor it makes up for it with texture.  A great mild cheese for spreading on bread (which Emily always wants to do for some reason).

The second is one of my personal favorites: gorgonzola dolce.  This creamy blue is mild and sweet with a bit of nuttiness.  If your don’t like blue cheese you should give this one a shot; I characterized it as an “entry-level blue.”

Of course we couldn’t have these cheese by themselves, so as you can see they are accompanied by a very nice prosciutto americano by La Quercia and a sopressata by  Fra’mani.


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