Sunday, September 28, 2008

Curried Potatoes, Beach Birthday Getaways, Caramelized Onions, Cooking Show Wannabees

How does Sunday night always seem to arrive so quickly? This weekend was action packed, so action packed that all I can do is give a quick overview of the highlights.

First, there were curried potatoes on Saturday morning, inspired by my friend Nathan's father's recipe. I've been dreaming about these potatoes ever since I tried them at a party at Nathan's place last summer, and on Saturday I finally made them before spontaneously piling the sweetheart, the dogs, some sandwiches and a few cold beverages into the car to head to Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands for a little unplanned relaxing in the sunshine.

Sometimes it's good to head to a beautiful place when things are in flux, or when you really feel you ought to be doing something more productive. Sometimes it's good to realize that the most productive thing you can do is to take a time out and enjoy this beautiful earth with someone you love. And of course, it's essential to take your four-legged furry friends, especially when it happens to be the birthday of a certain dog you've loved for the last 12 years! Sometimes the most important thing to do is to just dig your toes into the sand and be grateful, and so that's just what we did.

Sunday's highlights were, and are:

1. The caramelized onions that are still slowly browning away on my stove as I type, nearly 3 hours from when I started them. I've been obsessed with making the perfect caramelized onions ever since I enjoyed some amazing ones at Cafe Biere last week, and after pouring over all my cookbooks, I've learned that a long, slow cooking process is key. And I'm happy to report that if you walked into our house right now, you'd be completely intoxicated by the aroma of these onions. I can't wait to enjoy them throughout the week!

2. Lastly, but not leastly, today I did a trial run today of my ten-minute film segment showing me making my roasted garlic chipotle hummus for the KTEH Cooks...with Garlic contest. And oh, my, my, did I ever learn a few things! It's funny - I have long dreamed of having my own cooking show. But as soon as I found myself in front of the camera with all my little bowls of ingredients, what would happen but that I would clam up and feel like a complete DORK???? It's what I like to call Red Light Syndrome when I am in the recording studio. I can sing perfectly when we're warming up and getting the levels just right, when it just feels like practicing. But as soon as the red "RECORDING" light goes on, I start choking like a frog. Yes, I'm going to have to find a way to overcome that. Suffice it to say that I'll probably do several tapings, and that we'll be eating a LOT of hummus around here this week! It's a good thing that my hummus recipe is SO DAMN GOOD!

Speaking of things that are so damn good, here is the recipe for curried potatoes. I adapted Mr. Moy's recipe in order to use what I had on hand. Mainly, I was lacking fenugreek, but by all means, use it if you've got it! I also added a little yellow curry powder to the mix. I hope you will enjoy these potatoes as much as we did!


First, parboil about a pound of potatoes. (I used organic potatoes that I picked up from the farmer's market this week. I'm not sure what kind they were, but they were medium size, with a skin lighter than that of russets. I left the skin on because the potatoes were organic, and because that's where many of the nutrients like to hang out, so I didn't want to miss out!)

Once cool, quarter and dice the potatoes and set aside.

Dice a medium sized onion and set aside.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick skillet on the stove and once shimmering, add about a half teaspoon of cumin seeds and a half teaspoon of poppyseeds (and add a half a teaspoon fenugreek if you've got it!). Stir for a few minutes and then add the onions and continue to stir over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are golden brown,

Next, add the potatoes, plus about a half teaspoon each of yellow curry powder and red chili powder, plus a light sprinkling of crushed red pepper, if you happen to like it on the spicy side.

Turn up the heat and stir occasionally, long enough so that the potatoes have time to brown a bit. This could take a good 20 minutes or so, depending on your stove.

Now add a little salt, a couple of cloves of crushed or minced garlic, and if you'd like, some chopped cilantro. Cook for a few more minutes.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, or a bit of ketchup, or not. Enjoy alone or with someone you love, and in any case, give thanks and enjoy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cafe Biere

Have I mentioned that I love beer, and that I also love a man who makes his own beer?

Well there, now I have, in case I hadn't. Yep, my man makes beer, and he's lovable for this and for so much more. It's a wonderful thing, having all this homemade, delicious beer in the house, despite the fact that it makes it tough for me to fit into all of my pants, but I can think of worse problems to have.

Sometimes though, you have to venture out into the world to enjoy beer made by others, and tonight, that's just what we did.

Part of the reason it was SUCH a treat is that we got to enjoy these beers within stumbling distance of our home! Yes! It's a new beer drinking establishment in our neighborhood! And it's GOOD! The beer selection is OVER THE TOP! And the food is quite delicious as well! This calls for many exclamation points!!! Ladies and gentlemen, if you live in the North Oakland or Emeryville area, then please wander on over to Cafe Biere on Adeline near 40th, and give these fine people your business, because:

1. They are nice, and passionate about what they do!
2. They have an incredible selection of beers from around the world, including LOTS of Belgian ales.
3. The food is great!
4. The atmosphere is cozy!

The flatbread with caramelized onions and goat cheese made me realize that I need to learn about the true art of caramelizing onions, cause mine, although still tasty, tend to end up rather on the crispy side. These were tender and rich and sweet, and the flavors of the goat cheese and onions and the light sprinkling of crushed red pepper were the perfect match to a glass of strong, hoppy ale.

The heirloom tomato and bread salad with arugula was loaded with gorgeous, juicy tomatoes that made me thank my lucky stars to be living in California during tomato season, and every bite was savored.

The only thing that would make me love this place even more would be if they had a wider selection of vegetarian options, but I'm not really complaining, because we left happy and satisfied. Long live Cafe Biere!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My New Friend, Liquid Smoke

It's nothing but busy, busy, busy around here. Isn't funny though, how I always manage to find time to read cooking blogs? A girl's gotta have her priorities. I don't even remember how I stumbled upon this blog recently, but as soon as I saw this recipe for Smokey Miso Tofu, I knew I had to try it. And try I did, today. And truly, it was the best tasting, best textured tofu dish that ever came out of my kitchen. I'm not going to post the recipe here, only the results, pictured above, because the recipe is perfectly explained and beautifully photographed on the aforementioned blog, known as Vegan Yumyum. Do check it out!

What I really need to share with you tonight is the fact that this recipe calls for an ingredient I've never used before: liquid smoke! Honestly, I didn't even know what it was until I just did a google search, and if you do your own search, you'll find there are quite a few articles and opinions about liquid smoke, which is basically composed of tiny smoke particles held in water vapor. The recipe for this tofu calls for a very sparing 1/4 teaspoon, but that's plenty. The end result (after combining the liquid smoke w/ miso, lemon juice, sugar, soy sauce and nutritional yeast), was savory, smokey, sweet, and ... kind of barbeque flavored, as you might imagine! I'm excited to experiment with using liquid smoke to make my own barbeque sauce. Just in time for the end of summer! Better late than never, eh?

In other news, I'm thrilled to have discovered that a recipe of mine which was recently entered in a cooking contest has made it past the first round of entries. And guess what? Now I need to film a ten minute segment of me cooking the recipe, which will be posted on the web site of a local PBS station. I just may fulfill that dream of having my own cooking show yet! Visitors to the site will vote to choose the best segments, and those winners will later appear live on television. Wish me luck! The segment will be posted for viewing (and voting!) some time in late October, so stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's Chili Cookoff Time again...

Greetings. It feels like it's been awhile since I've posted. I've been so busy I've barely been able to remember what day it is, and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight, at least not any time soon. But at least, the stuff keeping me busy is fun. It's fun in the kitchen, fun slinging the bass, fun strumming the guitar and fun crooning a tune to anyone who will listen, both in the physical world and in cyberspace.

Firstly, I'm excited to include this shameless plug. Check out this music player below. Just hit the triangular "play" button and let me serenade you while I tell you about the chili cookoff. And if you dig the music, just click on the "share" tab and you, too can spread the love on your blog or web site or just your merry little computer screen. Share it with someone you love, or if you don't like it, then share it with someone you don't love quite so much.

<a href="">Think Of Me by Val Esway</a>

And secondly, it's time for the Second Annual Koi Pond Chili Cookoff, which happens to be a benefit for the Mother Mary Ann Wright Foundation. If you live in the Bay area, then please show up with some loved ones, donate a few bucks to the Mother Mary Ann Wright Foundation, listen to some great music and eat some chili. Eat MY chili! And go one step further, and VOTE for my chili, but only if you love it, which you WILL! Last year I tied for second place in the carnivore category, but this year I've gone veggie and have refined the recipe even more. But don't come just to make me a winner! Come to raise money for a very worthy cause - the Mother Mary Ann Wright foundation feeds FOUR HUNDRED families a day in Oakland alone, and they do it with the help of you and I. If all of this wasn't reason enough, there will also be great music by the likes of Lucio Menegon, Karry Walker and Myles Boisen, and Dr. Abacus.

If you want to come, please drop me a line for the address and particulars. By the time you get in touch with me, I might even remember what day it is, and that the chili cookoff takes place on Saturday, Sept. 20th. But now, I've gotta rest my overloaded head, friends.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Half Price Wine is Mighty Fine

My cooking adventures have left something to be desired recently. I had very high hopes for this big pot of posole that I was working on. I've made this hominy stew before on numerous occasions, but always used canned hominy because I had no idea how to cook the dried stuff. And guess what? I still don't! There will be a longer post about this later, but for now, let's just say I was happy when my pal Sabine spontaneously called on Monday night and asked us to come meet her at Fellini Restaurant. For one, I'd been wanting the sweetheart to try their pizza, and for two, I remembered that all bottles of wine are only $12 on Monday nights at Fellini! In our case, the bottle we chose, a nice Malbec, would've been $28 dollars on the regular menu.

As you might imagine, the place was hoppin'. The wine was flowing. The company delightful. We ordered caesar salads with sides of anchovy and wow, did they ever pile on the anchovy, which we loved. And mostly, we loved the pizza too. The toppings of roasted garlic, artichokes, fresh tomatoes, basil and goat cheese (on two separate pizzas, mind you!) were heartily enjoyed. Several of us loved the chewy, dense and yet not too thick texture of the crust of the pizza, and I for one was in that camp. And I'd have no qualms about making this a Monday night tradition.

But what's a girl to do on Sundays? Well if you live near Oakland, you can always cozy up to the bar at Luka's Taproom, where the bottles of wine are half price on Sundays. I like their food, especially their belgian style fries w/ chipotle aioli.

I suppose you could also just be sensible and stay at home, eat your strange pot of posole and drink Two Buck Chuck, or just forgo the wine entirely, but where is the fun in that?!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

White Bean & Quinoa Veggie Burgers

So I've been fooling around with veggie burger recipes recently, and I think I finally hit the winner. These burgers have just the right consistency - substantial and hearty but not heavy. Also they're packed full of protein, not to mention flavor. It's great to make a batch, eat a few and freeze the rest to pull out and fry up for a quick lunch or dinner. The other good thing about this recipe is that it's a handy way to make your leftover beans and grains feel useful!

The recipe begins with cooked beans and cooked grains - I prefer cannellini beans, but I think black beans would be good too. Made from scratch is better than canned, but do what you gotta do! I've made these using brown rice, but I think quinoa is better - it's what adds a certain lightness to the texture. Also you can use pecans instead of walnuts, and you can vary your choice of fresh herbs. I just used what I had on hand. As always, use your creativity as you see fit, and enjoy!

Begin with a good sized bowl, and add to it:

2 1/2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained

Mash the beans with a wooden spoon until the consistency is partly smooth, and partly chunky. Now add to the beans:

2 cups cooked quinoa

Gently cook in a little olive oil:

1/2 cup diced shallot or onion

When the shallot or onion has cooled a bit, add it to the bowl with the beans and grains.

Also add:

3/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs - I used parsley and dill
1/2 cup breadcrumbs - I like to use Panko for this recipe
1/2 cup parmesan

Mix it all gently but thoroughly, and finally, add to this mixture:

1 egg, beaten

The egg will help the mixture hold together.

Now pull out some of the mixture and form it into a ball about the size of a small orange, and then flatten the ball into a patty. You should have enough to make 8 patties. Pour a light coating of olive oil into a non-stick or good cast iron skillet, heat the oil a bit, and add the patties to the pan. Cook over medium heat for about 4-6 minutes, and then flip and cook the other side. If you are really lucky, your wonderful sweetheart will be busy roasting potatoes to eat with the burgers, and then, it will be time to feast.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How 'Bout Them Apples?

Happiness is a big bowl of perfect apples, and so lately I've been very happy indeed. 

I stumbled upon these apples at the Berkeley Bowl last week, bought 2 of them and devoured them instantly upon returning home, and found myself rushing out the next day to stock up.

They were labeled "pesticide free, non-irrigated Macintosh apples from Watsonville, CA".  And for the life of me, I can't seem to remember the name of the farm, but I'll report back later this week when I go to buy another batch.

As far as I can tell, non-irrigated is the same as dry-farmed, wherein the fruits or vegetables are deprived of water at a certain point in the growing cycle, which makes for a very concentrated flavor.   And hey, it's good for the environment too!

These apples are everything I love in an apple - they're crisp and juicy and tart and sweet, the perfect snack on a blisteringly hot summer day.  If you're reading this and are lucky enough to live within close proximity to the Berkeley Bowl, hightail it over there and stock up!  I think you'll be glad you did.