Thursday, December 20, 2007

Great Chritmas gift Idea

As you may have noticed it is the holidays and that traditionally means a time for giving(and recieving). I have traveled to India and Asia and have seen the result of not having enough food or what some people like to call starving(no laughing matter). As a food blogger i spend a lot of time talking about gluttony, and sometimes we forget that there are people out there who don't have the luxury of choosing a black or a white truffle. So for the holidays this year I think we should all think about a great charity; chez pim and "The Menu for Hope".

It's goal is to help cure hunger around the world, there website can give you a better idea of what they are about;

Besides helping all the people in need, they have really done a great job collecting prizes that people actually want. Here are some of my favorites;

EU31: A personal tour of elBulli kitchen laboratory at the new Alícia Institute, from Chez Pim

EU01: Edible Paris custom food itinerary from Rosa Jackson

UW37: Chris Cosentino (of The Next Iron Chef and Incanto) will take you to lunch on delectable bits at his favorite secret offal restaurant in San Francisco, plus a Lips and Assholes t-shirt from Offal Good (You gotta support San Francisco !!)

EU04: Paris Market Tour and Lunch for Two from umami

UC26: Moto - chef for a day from Moveable Feast *new

AP30: An eating tour of Bangkok with Austin Bush, Thai food expert and Lonely Planet writer plus a copy of the latest edition of Lonely Planet Bangkok Guide (valued at US$200) from Gut Feelings *new

EU40: Lunch for two at the Michelin 3 star l'Arpège in Paris courtesy of Alain Passard, via Chez Pim *new

UE18: A Fully Loaded Bookshelf of Cookbooks (Minus the Shelf) from Serious Eats

UW41: A full year's subscription to Gastronomica, can be shipped anywhere in the world *new

UW32: Very special package of English Afternoon Tea from June Taylor and Sam Breach at Becks and Posh (gotta support one of my favorite blogger, not to mention the great conversations you will have)

UC14: 8 oz. hand-crafted pancetta from Seriously Good

EU13: A big box of Swiss chocolates from just Hungry

AP07: A bag of the world's hottest chillies, homegrown in Nagaland, India from Rambling Spoon

UW36: 100 gift voucher to spend at The Fatted Calf's new Napa store from Becks and Posh( Come on San Francisco, you know you like the fatted calf)

UC28: Hot Doug's celebrity sausage from Moveable Feast *new (I'm a hot dog lover)

WB09: Make Custom Wine at Sonoma Grapemasters from Segue Cellars

UK07: Bottle of whisky from A Wee Bit of Cooking

UC27: A bottle of real Absinthe from Moveable Feast *new

AP23: 1 bottle of 18-year-old Chivas Regal Scotch Whisky Gold Signature (valued at US$95) from Gut Feelings *new
AP24: 12 bottles of 42 Below Vodka (valued at 12,000 baht) from Gut Feelings *new
AP25: 6 bottles of 42 Below Seven Tiki Rum (valued at 6000 baht) from Gut Feelings *new (free booze is always good)

The tickets are $10 and there are a ton of great prizes. So give the tickets as gifts or just get yourself some and hope for the best. Good luck and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

House rubbed rack of lamb with cardamom golden beet puree’, walnut shitake dirty rice and garnished with roasted rutabaga and celery.

I made this awesome dish last night. The lamb’s flavor was like a cross between bacon and sausage and the light tart beets really brightened up the flavor of the rice. I think you can leave off the rutabagas and the celery but I like the freshness the celery brings and the rutabagas, well hey, how often do you eat a rutabaga. I had the rice left over from the night before; I cooked it in a rice cooker with some dried seaweed I got from Rainbow grocery. If I were to do it again I would just make a sort of risotto instead of the “dirty rice”. The lamb is Australian lamb I got from Costco for 9.99 a lbs (the rack cost me $12 and change), the rutabagas. The beets and celery are all form the farmers market. I get most of my herbs and salts from Rainbow grocery.

If had to do it again I would boil a russet potato and mashed it with the beets to give them a silkier texture. I also would have added cream to the beets as apposed to whole milk. If my wife weren’t starving I would have thrown the rack under the broiler for 30 seconds per side to crisp up the outside. And last but not least I would have roasted the Veggies in a separate pan, they got a little greasy, but for the sake of fewer dishes, roasting in one pan turned out ok.

This dish serves two hungry people or three not so hungry people. Either way you will have roast veggies and beet purée left over. You can also save the beet boiling liquid and reduce it down farther and make a great vinegar syrup witch you can use for strawberries, over vanilla ice cream or as a sauce for steak, pork or lamb.

I really apologize but I don’t cook using measurements. If I had to guess I would say a pinch is half a tablespoon and a dash is a tablespoon. You are just going to have to make this dish yours and change the flavors to your liking.

For the spice rub
Pinch of fennel seeds. Crushed in a mortar or spice grinder.
Pinch of ground Mace
Big pinch of Hickory salt
Pinch of smoky salt
A sprinkle of garlic salt
A small pinch of hot paprika
Three small squirts of ketchup

Beet puree’
Four medium golden beats quartered
Water to cover beets and then some more
Three cloves of peeled garlic
Five cardamom pods
Half an onion quartered
A pinch of Chinese five spice
5 good dashes of Chinese black vinegar*
2 dashes of cider vinegar
1 bay leave
Salt and pepper

Jasmine or Basmati rice **
Dried seaweed
Dried shitake mushrooms
Two cloves of garlic
Walnut oil
Chicken broth
Diced Shallot
Diced sage
Salt and pepper

Roast veggies
Three Rutabagas quarter inch sliced
2 ribs celery cut into one-inch slices
Half onion sliced thin
Salt, pepper and olive oil

Rack of lamb cleaned up and frenched.

For the lamb

∑ Heat oven to 450
∑ Mix all herbs, salt and ketchup in bowel to form a dry paste
∑ Spread paste all over lamb and let sit until room tempter is reached.

For beet puree’
∑ Add all vinegars to pot
∑ Slightly crush cardamom pods and add to vinegar
∑ Add the rest of ingredients
∑ Add beets
∑ Add water to cover beets and then a little more
∑ Bring to boil

For rice
∑ Put rice and appropriate amount of water for rice in a rice cooker
∑ Add dried seaweed
∑ Cook until done

Put lamb, bone up on a rack, and then place in a baking dish. Spread the rutabaga and the celery around the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil. Place in 450-degree oven for 12-18 minutes or when a thermometer place in the lamb reads 145 degrees for rare.

Cook beets until a paring knife can be easily slid into it. Remove solids from pan and discard cardamom pod and bay leaf. Blend the solids in a food processor, add about and 1/8th cup of cooking liquid, more if you want it tangy. Add a little less than a tablespoon of butter and two dashes of milk; blend in a food processor until smooth. Add more butter or milk if you want it creamier

Heat some of the butter and some of the walnut oil in a saucepan, add diced shallot, cook until clear, about thirty seconds. Add crushed garlic and cook thirty more seconds. Add dried mushrooms to butter. Remove rice from rice cooker and add to shallot, garlic, and mushroom mixture, add small amount of chicken broth. Briefly mix and then cover to keep warm.

Remove lamb from oven and let stand, tented with tin foil for five minutes.
Turn oven to broil and return celery and rutabagas to the broiler and cook until edges brown.

Meanwhile place a large tablespoon full of beet puree’ on plate and spread out on plate.

Add diced sage to rice and stir in. Place a large spoonful of rice in center of the beet circle.

Remove veggies form broiler and place in circle on top of beet puree’, outside of the rice.

Cut the rack of lamb between the rib bones creating lamb chops. Place three chops on the plate in a circle

Garnish with parsley or a dash of paprika or some sliced chive.

I am not a pro recipe writer so I hope this made some sense. Like I said there are things I would do differently if I didn’t have left over rice and fresh mushrooms. I would have made this with fresh mushrooms and a proper rice dish but hey, I didn’t want to waist the rice.

*If Chinese black is unavailable use balsamic and cider. Just use less balsamic.

**I like jasmine rice but I had basmati on hand. If I were making risotto I would use aborio.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where I eat.

Everyone thinks there restaurants are the best. The truth of the matter is that 90% of the time people eat around their houses or near their work. Another good rule is that everyone thinks there restaurants are the best. I am no exception to this rule, whenever any asks me for recommendations I usually steer them to restaurants near my house (in the Castro) or where I hang out (mission). I usually eat at places I can walk to or place I am already familiar with. I have friends that are always eating out at new restaurants but for the time being I have been doing a ton of cooking at home, there for I have not been eating out that much. It is odd, I like new things but when it comes to eating I seem to be drawn towards cravings rather than trying new things. This is not to say that I don't eat at new restaurants but it seems like most of the time I go back to old favorites or places highly recommended. So here is a list of some of the places I like to eat and a few places I am yet to try but come highly recommended by close friends that I trust. They range from cheap and easy places to high-end eateries meant for special occasions.

Like I said most people don't travel to far from home to eat, So I live in the Castro, work in the mission and my wife works near Fillmore st. So most of my eating happens near those places. I am sure there are good places in other neighborhoods like the Marina and Polk ST. I just haven't found any worth mentioning.

DISCLAMER- this is not a “best of” list, these are just places I like. I don't need to justify why I eat there, I just do.

In no particular order;

Sunflower (both)- Vietnamese- There are two restaurants that share one kitchen. The food is clean and fresh and very cheap. I like the vermicelli with imperial roles and BBQ pork (like 6.95). My wife likes the Pho, shaken beef and lemon grass tofu. They also have one of the best lunch deals in town. (Mission)

2223-California cuisine- this is a good solid restaurant. Not revolutionary cuisine but it does recipes that you are familiar with, really well. Recently they have had some ups and downs, but it is still one of my go to restaurants. Great drinks and atmosphere. (Market, Castro)

China First-Chinese-This is great Chinese food. A lot of there specials are written in Chinese so I feel like I am missing out. This place is so cheap and has that authentic Chinese atmosphere. Great for large groups. Not classy but really good food. This and Tong Kiang are the only reason I go to the Richmond for food. (Richmond)

Tong Kiang- dim sum-Clean, white person (and Asian) person Dim sum. This restaurant is great for Dim sum, the regular food is O.K, but their dim sum is the reason to go. Other Dim Sum places have a better selection, but for some reason this place just does it right. No matter how many people you have in your party it will cost you between $20-$22 a person including tip. (Richmond)

Café Macaroni- Italian-I ate here for the first time about two weeks ago. I thought it was good solid Italian food. My chicken was over cooked but the sauce it came with was really fresh and tasted great. It is owned by a father daughter team and with real Italians in the kitchen, you can’t complain about authenticity. They also own the one across the street (temporarily closed). I haven’t found great Italian food in S.F, so this will have to do. (North Beach)

St. Frances soda fountan-Indi-rock diner-. The service is good, the food is O.K and a little pricy for a diner, but it seems that all diners in this town are pricy. You will wait for a table if you come here for brunch on the weekends and during peak lunch hours during the week. If you’re lucky you may see the Mythbuster team in here. Worth checking out. My brother swears by the burger. I eat the Reuben. Salad dressings leave a lot to be desired. (24th ST mission)

RNM-California Cuisine- I hear this place good, very highly recommended. Check it out. (Lower Haight)

Firefly- California Cuisine- This is a staple restaurant for a date or dinner with the parents. It is cozy and has a great warm atmosphere. All the food is great; I have never had a bad meal there. Sometimes they have prix-fix menu that is also a very good deal. (Noe Valley)

Hog island (farm and ferry building)-Oysters plus food- If you like oysters just go. You will leave the ferry building hungry but damn those oysters are good. The farm is a great way to spend the day but call first and reservations. (Embarcadero, Marshal)

Manora Thai- Thai food-Great lunch special never been there for dinner. Good food. (SOMA)

Osha- Thai food- great food, smaller portions but the food is really good.

Old Jerusalem- Middle eastern- best Middle Eastern food I have eaten in S.F. Atmosphere is O.K but the food makes up for it. I mean this is the real deal; I’m talking about that lightweight “truly Med” stuff. The portions are perfect for eating family style. (Mission near Caesar Chaves)

Zeitgeist- Grill food-Great burgers, I am sick of the home fries. The burgers are the only thing worth getting and they only come well done, but for some reason they taste great. (Mission)

Vallarta Taqueria-Taqueria- I think this is some of the best Mexican around, this is the real deal. A lot of Hispanic people eat here which to me is a good sign. The other day I was in for lunch and saw them boiling an entire Cow’ head it was a sight to be seen. Great tacos!
(24th ST, Mission)

Na'an and anything (chutney, curry and so on)-Indian- I have eaten at the one in the inner sunset and the on down town and the one in north beach. I can’t tell any of them apart even though the names are different. Most of them are good. The one in North beach is the best. They skimp a little on the meat but the sauce is very good. (All over the city)

Chow (park chow)- comfort food- Food is B-, but there is something for everyone. If you can’t make up your mind, go to Chow, you’ll leave satisfied. That’s all I’m going to say. (Church and market and inner sunset)

Blue- comfort food-good food, great portions, but needs better décor. Try the mac n'cheese. (Castro)

Boulevard- I still think this one of the best restaurants in San Francisco. I have eaten at almost all of the high-end restaurants in town and this one still holds up. They went through a spell about two years ago of putting two or three small entrée’s on a plate, like short ribs and monkfish on one plate. They just didn’t gel with each other. I have never had a bad meal there.

This isn’t a complete list of all the places I eat but it is a good start. If you ever find yourself in any of these neighborhoods, I highly recommend checking them out.