Affogato

AffogatoAffogato ‘bout it
Valentine ’s Day is a pretty low key affair in my house. Not that I wouldn’t be thrilled if my main squeeze bucked tradition and went all out. It would be great and I would be completely surprised but I have learned after almost 20 years together that the old adage about aging dogs and new tricks is true. To be fair, I am not looking for a grotesque “Hallmark Store just threw up” type of display. I don’t need five dozen roses. I’m always up for a nice dinner (but you have to fight the crowds). I’d be totally happy with a book and an hour or two of uninterrupted silence and solitude. Throw in a hot bath and I’ve hit Nirvana…

However, one dude in my house is putting in some work this Valentine’s Day. One of my 14-year-old sons was very adamant about getting his girlfriend (Did I really just type that? Girlfriend? Yikes!) a gift and I have to give him credit, he did it because he wanted to not because he was pressured. AND, he did it all on his own with no help from me except for the use of my Amazon Prime account. He’s planning to present his gift and spend the evening with her on Thursday which means he will be missing out on our Annual Valentine’s Day Ice Cream Sundae fest. I sense he isn’t all that broken up about it. Can’t imagine why…

I’ve decided I’m gonna change things up and get a little crazy this year. The others can do their mountain of ice cream with sprinkles and fudge and nuts and whipped cream. This year I’m going to make one of my all-time favorite desserts, Affogato. If you’ve never heard of it, Affogato is basically vanilla gelato with a shot of espresso poured over it. It’s absolutely simple and incredibly tasty. It’s even better if you use a vanilla chocolate chip gelato and then sprinkle more chocolate chips on top…yum! Of course, you can use whatever gelato you want—coconut would be really good. Or maybe something boozy. You can never go wrong with boozy…especially with a little of your favorite poured on top…Bailey’s anyone?

A quick search online can yield a number of yummy Affogato possibilities…

Affogato
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Gung Bo Chicken

Gung Bo ChickenChinese Legend
I like my Chinese food spicy, which is a good thing because most of the different regions of China come with their own brand of mouth-numbing heat. If I had to pick my favorite I’d probably go Sichuan over, say, Hunan or Cantonese. But, that’s mainly because it is what I have been exposed to the most. Plus you can never go wrong with a Sichuan Hot Pot.

I have written before about my personal challenges with Chinese cooking. It’s like I have a mental block when it comes to cooking with a wok. This is why, when I am craving Chinese food, I will generally leave it in the hands of the experts and order take-out. There have been a number of favorite establishments over the years that have helped me sooth my spicy cravings. And, there are a couple I frequent currently—but there is only one that remains head and shoulders above the rest.

Back in the dark ages, WAY before my husband and I started dating, our group of friends frequently dined at Emeryville’s Public Market. It was the perfect place for a large group to meet and eat because you could satisfy everyone’s appetite. You could get anything you wanted. Ginormous burritos? Yep. Afghani cuisine? Check. Noodle Bowls? Check. Hofbrau? Of course. Nine times out of ten, though, I found myself in the long line at The Crispy Fry for their Gung Bo Chicken, extra spicy. It was the perfect dish of spicy and saucy served over a huge mound of steamed rice. It was the ideal ending to a hard day of work or the best answer to a hard night of partying. And if the craving struck mid-week for lunch? You knew you had to get there early ‘cause the line started forming the minute the doors opened to the market.

When they remodeled the Public Market and the Crispy Fry ultimately closed, I was distraught. I have been searching for a replacement that is just as good ever since but have not had much luck. So, I have been forced to face my demons and try to do it myself. It’s been a process though I have had some success. This recipe for Gung Bo Chicken comes close but I am quickly coming to the conclusion that nothing could ever take the place of The Fry.

Gung Bo Chicken
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 3 to 4 servings
Read more…

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

Bacon Cheeseburger PastaSuper Sized
In case you haven’t quite figured it out yet, food is a big deal in my family. If there is any event going on the chances are real good that I am planning some sort of food celebration to go with it.

And, there are a few specific days that my family has determined to be caloric free-for-alls. New Years’ day is one. Super Bowl Sunday is another.

As a general rule, I tend to base my Super Bowl nosh around the two teams competing that year. Not gonna lie but I’m pretty sick of the Patriots and their clam chowder. So I am going to call an audible and go in a different direction.

A week or so ago I was flipping through one of my many magazines in search of something to feed a crowd and came across a recipe for a Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta. I have to admit I was intrigued. I mean, it sounds good in theory but has the potential to be kinda gross.

My son, who happened to be sitting on the couch with me at the time, had a very different reaction. Apparently, the idea of cheese, ground beef and bacon mixed together with pasta is a fourteen-year-old boy’s idea of food nirvana. (He’s all about the meat and carbs.) He’s so excited, in fact, that he has been conducting daily check-ins with me to make sure that I am still going to make this for Super Bowl Sunday. And, I have repeatedly assured him I will. You would think this is life or death…

I am skeptical. Granted, not everything has to be haute cuisine—and people have been eating cheeseburger mac for decades. I am probably more afraid of the fact that I will love it and crave it for the rest of my days…much like an actual cheeseburger.

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Home Made Croissants

Home Made CroissantsCroissant Crazy
Over the years, my sister and I have taken a lot of cooking classes. So many, in fact, that there isn’t a whole lot out there that we haven’t taken. By no means have we mastered the art of cooking. Far from it! But, you do reach a point that, unless it is something very specific, you can pick up any recipe and produce a better than average result. There was one thing that both of us were fairly intent on learning—and that is how to make croissants. Or, to be more specific, the laminated dough used to make croissants and other flaky goodness.

I’ve always been a fan of a really good croissant. I mean what’s not to love? You just can’t go wrong with flakey buttery pastry, with or without filling, fresh from the oven. Am I right?

This particular drive to learn the art of croissant was born out of an obsession with the orange morning buns that are produced by our favorite bakery in Tahoe City, CA. I can’t even with these morning buns. No trip to the lake is complete without these for breakfast at least once but they’re up there and we’re down here. We had to figure out a way to recreate them but to do that we needed to learn the basics.

This was how we found ourselves spending a lovely Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago learning to make croissants. It was great. It was challenging. And I have found that having an industrial grade sheeter would make the folding process so much easier but, alas, that is not an option.

To be frank, croissants are not a thing you make on a whim. They are a project that requires hours. It is something you do as much for the process as for the end result. It is a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday when you have absolutely nothing going on.

This weekend for me is one of those rare weekends where we will not be running around shuttling kids here and there and my plan is to make a batch of croissants just to make sure I can do it without the instructor there. Should be interesting…

For those adventurous spirits out there below is a great recipe for those who are willing to give it a shot. For the rest, there is definitely something to be said for letting someone else do the work and grabbing a dozen or so from your favorite bakery.

Home Made Croissants
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yields about 2 dozen Read more…

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade

Winter Fancy Food Show 2019News from the SF Fancy Food Show
The Fancy Food Show was held this week at the newly renovated Moscone Center. And, I can honestly say it was the most fun I’ve had at the show in a number of years. It was considerably larger with more vendors than had been there previously (which is not surprising). You can always tell how well the economy is doing by the number of vendors packing the pavilions. I can’t really say that there was one obvious overall theme to what I saw at the show, what I can say is that this was a year of innovation and exploration.

In shows past, certain categories have dominated the landscape. Last year you couldn’t take a step without running into vendors with jerky or meat sticks. It was jerky here, jerky there, jerky everywhere. Before the jerky, we navigated the very crowded category of coconut water and vitamin water craze. And don’t get me started on the chocolate years…Yes, there really is such a thing as too much chocolate. This year there was no dominant item. Variety was everywhere. If I had to sum it up in three words they would be: Innovative, multi-cultural, and female.

I chose Innovative because there were plenty of vendors who took a good product and made it better. For example, there was one company that proved that peanut butter is not just for the lunch box crowd. Their Spicy Thai Peanut butter was fantastic and would be great thinned out and used with chicken or directly into a salad dressing. Another company was not happy to simply produce great honey. Instead, they decided to combine the health benefits of honey with other ingredients like turmeric, black garlic, and calendula for great tasting honey that not only improves your health but ups your cheese plate game. Finally, there’s the beverage from Japan that looks like beer and tastes like beer but has no calories, sugars, carbs etc. It’s basically water and it’s all natural—blew my mind.

Last year the influence of Korean cooking was everywhere. This year the flavor doors to the rest of Asia have been thrown open. We tasted a fresh lemongrass paste made by a local vendor that was heaven. (Look for that on our shelves soon.)

One of the items in the “New and Exciting” section was a puffed water lily seed snack that you would swear was popcorn—but with more protein, less fat and fewer calories. Copper Cow Coffee offers coffee addicts the intense coffee flavor and sweet indulgence of organic sustainable grown Vietnamese coffee but in a portable single-serve pour-over set. And they are women-owned…

This brings me to my last word: female. There were a lot more booths promoting the products produced by women-owned businesses. Now, it may have seemed like more because those businesses were making it a point to let people know that they were owned by women. And, that’s fine by me. The fact that being a women-owned business is being presented as a positive thing is what makes it great. One such business is Muddle & Wilde which produces elegant citrus-based drink mixers that can be combined with your favorite liquor or added to sparkling water for a refreshing soda. They are fantastic!

As I sit here pouring over the stack of sales sheets and informational brochures that I collected, I feel energized and excited about what’s to come in the food industry this year. We’ll try to keep you up to date when something we loved from the show arrives. Until then, I have this recipe on my mind as I think about that lemongrass paste….

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade
Adapted from Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking
Read more…