Fresh Homemade Pasta

Fresh Homemade PastaKeep Calm And Cook On
When you have been in business for 118 years you see a lot of things. When our store first opened in 1902, we were the only supply option for the people who had “country homes” in Piedmont. The situation changed dramatically in 1906 when people escaping the destruction of the earthquake crossed the bay to Oakland and they all needed groceries. But we survived that and will get through this too. We survived the depression and two world wars. We’ve survived fires and even more earthquakes. And we weathered the uncertain times after the 9/11 attacks. This time will be no different and we will do it because of our people.

To say we broke some records in the last week would be an incredible understatement. Through it all, our amazing employees have remained steadfast and dedicated to the community they serve. Some even volunteering to come in on their day off to help keep whatever stock we had on the shelves. It was exhausting and stressful but their commitment to our neighbors is awe-inspiring. And, I am personally humbled and beyond grateful to work with this extraordinary group of people.

I would also like to thank our surrounding community for making it easy to serve you in these past days. Through all the hysteria of long lines and empty shelves, our community remained patient and calm—even when we had technical difficulties with our pin pads. Every person who came through our check stands made it a point to thank our checkers and baggers for being there to help. Their gratitude and support made it that much easier to get through those crazy shifts.

Now we focus on learning our new normal. Here at the store, we have new business hours. We have signs posted all over the store but in case you missed it, they are listed on our website.

We will be closed tomorrow March 19th to give our staff a rest and to get the store cleaned and stocked. We will be open again on Friday at our normal time of 9 AM. We are hoping to be able to fill all of those holes I mentioned as we should be getting a big truckload in on Thursday…but we can’t be certain. The vendor warehouses are just as depleted as we are so we may not get everything we requested. We ask for your patience with us as well as them.

Since we don’t know for sure what will arrive on the truck, right now is the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill like, say, making your own pasta. Making fresh pasta is not really as difficult as you might believe. It requires only a few ingredients. Though, I will concede that flour could be an issue. (Cross your fingers for Thursday). If you are lucky to have all the ingredients, give it a shot. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect the first time around. Keep in mind that Italians have been making pasta for centuries without fancy equipment. Just elbow grease and time—which is something we have a lot more of right now. Clean wire hangers are great for drying your pasta. Give it a try or better yet make it a family activity to get people off the screens.

Let’s everyone just take a deep breath. Remember we’re in this together and we’ll get through this. Hopefully while learning new skills and, frankly, eating pretty well… Read more…

Lamb Shanks Osso Buco

Lamb Shanks Osso BucoFall Foodie
The recent cooler weather has put me in the mood to do some actual cooking. There is something about the fog rolling in and the leaves floating to the ground that makes me want to pull my Dutch oven out and do some serious braising. This is how I found myself with a big pile of vegetables and some beautiful lamb shanks.

If you have never had lamb shanks you are missing out. These slow-cooked beauties will melt in your mouth when prepared correctly. And, they are relatively inexpensive. The one drawback is that they do take some time to cook. So, this would definitely be a weekend meal. However, if you have an Instant Pot, you could make this magic in a much shorter amount of time.

There are two recipes I generally use for making lamb shanks. The first one has a lighter Provençal flavor and is made with small white beans. The lamb shanks melt away from the bone and the beans soak up the flavor of the lamb and the vegetables they are cooked with. The second recipe is probably my favorite of the two and has more of a traditional Osso Buco flavor. It’s fantastic when served with a creamy risotto or a serving of nutty farro on the side or for the truly decadent, mashed potatoes…and it’s even better the next day!

If you’re feeling in the braising mood this weekend, give this a try.

Lamb Shanks Osso Buco
Yields 4 to 6 servings Read more…

Amy’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

Amy’s Spaghetti and MeatballsSmiling Is My Favorite
Because it is the week before Christmas, you will have no problem finding Christmas-themed shows or movies available on your television. In some cases, they are streaming 24/7. Some folks are not a fan of this annual occurrence. Personally, I am okay with it.

There are a lot of good holiday movies out there (some not so good ones too…), and everyone has their favorite. People like my brother-in-law, are fans of the classics. For him, it’s not Christmas unless he is schnuggy on the sofa with warm Gingies watching It’s A Wonderful Life. For others it’s not Christmas unless Hans Gruber is falling off of Nakatomi Tower in Die Hard. Nothing says the holidays like blowing stuff up. Although, lately it seems that nothing says the holidays like StarWars.

For my father, nothing says the holidays like mischief. My dad loves little kids, and this time of year it is turned up a notch. Dad just gets a kick out of kids. It makes no difference if he is related to the child or not. If there is a little kid within range, Dad is going to interact with them. And, if said child is “up to something” so much the better, in his eyes. For that reason, while it may not be his actual favorite holiday movie, I always associate the movie Home Alone with my Dad. Here’s why.

Years ago, my parents were in town to pick me up from college, and for whatever reason Home Alone was the only thing on TV. (Don’t ask me why it was on in June, but it was.) While watching the movie, Dad was laughing so hard he had tears rolling down his face, and we were concerned about his oxygen intake. It got so out of hand that my mother and I were more entertained watching him watch the movie, than actually watching the movie. So, right or wrong, I will always think of Home Alone and Dad when I think of holiday movies.

If I had to choose my favorite, it would be Elf. Though I do enjoy a good A Christmas Story marathon, Elf is a must-watch to get into the Christmas spirit (other than singing loud for all to hear, and having a tickle fight). I have seen this movie hundreds of times and it never fails to make me laugh. The one-liners sustain me through the year.

Last night some friends of ours had a Buddy The Elf themed party, and it was great. While we didn’t make snow angels or snuggle, we did manage to eat the four basic food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn and maple syrup. And, of course, there was spaghetti…

Amy’s Spaghetti and Meatballs
Yield 6  servings
I usually double the recipe for the meatballs when I make them, because I like my meatballs the size of tennis balls. If you prefer to make them smaller than that, just go with a single recipe. Read more…

Favorite Marinara Sauce

Favorite Marinara SauceKids in the Kitchen

Over the weekend, I hosted a few 4th and 5th graders for my Beyond Chicken Nuggets cooking class. I had auctioned it off during our school’s Spring fundraiser.

I believe in the If you teach a man to fish… philosophy. I figure if you teach kids to cook from an early age, not only will they never starve once they are out in the cold, cruel world, but they might actually eat better in the process.

My goal was to introduce this group to some easy recipes that are out of the ordinary, and perhaps a little more adventurous for the elementary school palette.

First up was Paella. In every culture around the world, there is at least one dish that consists of chicken and rice—think of chicken and rice as global comfort food. The only difference is how you spice it, and in some cases how you cook it.

I chose to go with the Spanish version, mainly because it’s something that I make on the regular. And also, it is easy for the kids to throw together—with supervision, of course.

And we also tried to make cream puffs, which are usually not too complicated. But in this case were an epic fail. My guess is we were too focused on our other dishes, so we weren’t patient enough with the puffs. They tasted fine, but they didn’t puff up. So, I sent everyone home with a jar of pastry cream and a spoon…

By far the biggest success of the afternoon was the handmade pasta. All of the kids made their own, from scratch, with very little help from me. And it turned out beautifully.

Fresh pasta may sound daunting, but it’s easy enough that you may never buy dried pasta again. And the flavor difference is incredible! If you want to give it a try yourself, here is a good tutorial.

As for the sauce? The simpler the better, if you ask me. We ate the pasta my daughter made with a fresh tomato and basil cream sauce. But, you can never go wrong however, with my favorite Marinara sauce.

Favorite Marinara Sauce
Using fresh herbs makes all the difference in this quick and easy marinara.
Serves 6 Read more…

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta

Tomato Bruschetta Tomato Snob

I love tomatoes, but this love is not unconditional. In my mind, there is nothing worse than a watery, bland tomato. As a card-carrying food snob, I require full tomato flavor—which means that for most of the year, I don’t eat tomatoes. Frankly, an out-of-season tomato doesn’t taste as good.

Now that it’s July, things are lookin’ up.

In an effort to capitalize on the very best tomatoes possible, I planted some in my garden. However, I planted them late, so I’m not sure how well they’ll do. The fruit on the vine is taunting me, but they are not quite ready. So, I continue to wait. Meanwhile, the heirloom tomatoes in the market are fantastic, and I am able to get my fix while I wait for my plants to start producing.

Because home-grown, summertime tomatoes have so much flavor on their own, I like to serve them simply sliced up with a little vinaigrette, or on a toasted slice of French bread–bruschetta style. Throw on some fresh mozzarella and you have a tasty light lunch. I have been known to add goat cheese (or Bellwhether Farms Frommage Blanc for people with a goat cheese aversion).

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta
I use this as my base recipe, and improvise. Read more…