September 2015

waterfall beef salad

I feel like I should write something, but I’m not really sure what I want to write about. Ann Lamott says that the only way forward in this situation is to write a shitty first draft that embarrasses me so much that I pray I don’t get hit by a bus (and die a second death of embarrassment) before I can edit it. So I’m writing.

She says it might help to think of writing about a short scene, a scene that can be viewed through a one-inch picture frame. Hummm.

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I’m not sure it’s helping. I’m staring at a water pitcher on my kitchen table, thinking it looks a bit like a penguin and wondering if I can turn that into something interesting. I’m thinking about how my brain is tired from answering customer support tickets and that perhaps I’ve used up all of my daily allotment of words there. Or maybe I’ve got nothin’ because this dish was Jordan’s idea, he cooked it and I’m really just the messenger.

So, waterfall beef salad. I don’t know much about it other than they serve it at a few of the Thai places in our neighborhood and it is tasty. Lime juice + fish sauce + toasted rice = winning combination. I also know that it’s nice on these hot summer-turning-into-fall days that global warming has been sending our way lately. 85°+ F is hot. And San Francisco has turned us into wimps.

Now I’m going to spare you the rest of this shitty first draft and just give you the recipe. It really is good though, honestly.

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Waterfall Beef Salad
8 oz of rib eye steak or for a more economical option, 8 oz of 80/20 ground beef (I go easy on meat portions, 3-4oz per person. Smaller portions means we can buy better quality)
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
several green onions, sliced
a handful of cilantro, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced (optional)
a few tablespoons toasted rice powder (instructions below)
cooked white rice for serving

For the dressing
2-3 limes, juiced
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 shallot, diced
1/2 – 1 hot pepper sliced very thinly (we used dried thai chili, but any hot chili will do. Use caution it will get spicy)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Cook about a cup of white rice in your life-saving rice cooker or in a pot on the stove. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. The longer the dressing can sit, the better. If you’re using steak, season your beef on both sides.

Put two tablespoons of uncooked white rice in a dry pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the rice is toasted. Let the rice cool slightly and then grind into a powder using a blender or food processor. You want a very fine powder. Toasted rice power adds a really wonderful nutty flavor to the dish, and even though it adds a bit of extra work, I would not skip it.

Assemble your salad fixins. Slice your romaine, green onions, cilantro and bell pepper. Toss together in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When your pan is quite hot, put in your steak. Cook for a few minutes on the first side, and flip and cook for a few more minutes. How long you cook your steak depends on how thick your steak is—such genius tips on this blog! Ours was about 1/2 inch thick and cooked in about 3 minutes per side. If you’re not sure, use a thermometer. It should read 140° F.

If you’re using ground beef instead, cook it in a pan over medium heat, but use a spatula to move your meat around, making sure it cooks evenly throughout. As it’s cooking, season it with a little salt.

Let your steak rest.  Meanwhile toss your salad with the dressing. Top with the steak (or the cooked ground beef) and toasted rice powder. Serve the salad over rice, making sure to pour a little extra dressing from the bowl over the steak, salad and rice. That sour-spicy rice, it’s the best part.

lyon

They say that Lyon has the best food in France and has produced some of the greatest chefs of all time, and we wouldn’t dare disagree. Almost unavoidably, our short stay in Lyon was decidedly food-focused.

Lyon is beautiful, each street more charming than the one before it. Two rivers run through the city, which provide the star-struck tourist plenty of photographic opportunities. There are cathedrals, parks, gardens, museums, and so many food shops. We mostly walked and ate, which really is a wonderful way to pass a few days I f you can arrange it.

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And now to the notes. What to do/eat if you find yourself in Lyon!

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Les Halles de Paul Bocuse. Where Barcelona’s Boquería was loud and wild,  Les Halles de Paul Bocuse is calm and refined. All of the food is exquisitely displayed, impeccably crafted and absolutely delicious. After wandering around for an hour or two admiring everything on display, we chose some bread, an assortment of cheeses, foie gras paté, fruit and a passionfruit tartlet for dessert. The phrase “Je ne parle pas français, mais j’aime le fromage” will get you quite far in these circumstances, I found. We took everything to Parc de la Tete d’Or, a large park about a 20 minute walk away, and had the most perfect picnic.

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Le Bouchon des Filles. A bouchon is a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant.  Historically, the bouchon was run by the women of the family—a big departure from the male-dominated haute cuisine—and typically served the secondary or offal cuts of meat. The dishes are hearty, the atmosphere homey, and you leave positively stuffed.  The typical bouchon dishes we tried at Le Bouchon des Filles were lentil salad, herring with pickled vegetables, beef tongue, blood sausage and crawfish canelle. It’s a marathon. The waitress offered to let us take a walk before we had our dessert course. It’s probably advisable.

Le Bistrot du Potager. The busy, drop-in bistrot next to Potager’s much more high-end, 16 seat restaurant. If it’s summer, you’ll probably sit outside, sharing a bench with some lovely french women who the waitress will have insisted stand up so you could scoot into the last two available outdoor seats. Like many menus in France, the menu was handwritten on a chalkboard. We could barely read it, and so we guessed. Good news: It’s hard to go wrong even if you guess. We ended up with a charcuterie plate including mortadella, speck, chorizo and at least two other types of cured sausage, a salad of haricot vert, peaches and herbs, baked salmon with creme fraiche, piment and arrgula, and probably a few other things I cannot quite remember. Fresh, seasonal and a lovely contrast to dinner the night before at the bouchon.

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C. Reynon Charcuterie. The master of charcuterie, at least according to Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud. Have you noticed the theme of Lyon? Charcuterie. If you’re a tourist and it’s tragically not practical to buy an entire hunk of cured meat, you can ask them to cut you a few slices to take to go. Have it with some rosé back at your rented apartment and feel very great about your life.

Terre Adélice Glace. More ice cream! Jordan chose salted caramel, I chose fresh mint. I enjoyed this place because they have a wide variety of both classic and modern flavors and it wasn’t too sweet. What’s more enjoyable than walking along the river eating an ice cream in France on a warm summer night? Probably nothing.

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So Lyon. Go there! Such wonderful food, not many tourists, great weather, beautiful streets—everything any reasonable, food-loving human wants out of France. And we barely scratched the surface.

 

marseille

I wanted to go to Marseille because Julia Child lived there. Julia and Paul lived near the Old Port in Marseille in the 1950s, and I figured since we were going to France and my Julia Child pilgrimage was well underway already, we may as well check it out.

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Well. Marseille is weird town. The moment you arrive you can feel that it’s past it’s prime, and maybe that prime was a few hundred years ago. There are a few blocks of touristy restaurants and shops near the Old Port that are quite busy, an ancient fort turned history museum, two cathedrals and a tiny public beach. It’s sleepy and a little grimy, but the color of the water is enough to make a visit worth it.

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The water in this part of the Mediterranean is the most unbelievable turquoise, so blue it can hardly be captured on film. The landscape is harsh and beautiful. The sun beats down fiercely on limestone cliffs covered in scrubby little plants giving life their best shot. I imagine the people of Marseille are doing the same.

We stayed for just two days, and I don’t have many recommendations, mostly just photos. If you do visit, take a boat tour of the calanques— the small coves where the limestone cliffs meet the sea. And wear a lot of sunscreen.

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Ps. Don’t bother with the bouillabaisse. Touristy spots just don’t do it justice. Make Julia’s when you get home.

Pps. Trattoria Marco was actually dang good pasta. Gnocchi make my heart sing.