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Delicious Northern California…

14 Aug

Lip-smacking, finger-licking, shirt-staining delicious.

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This was my backyard for a week. Deep in the Sierra Mountains, along the Yuba River.

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There were swimming holes and waterfalls…

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…and “Mountain Men.”

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We went swimming everyday. So many delicious (and freezing cold!) rivers and lakes.

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Check out this tiny baby snake found mid-hike. Woah nature!

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I also spent a few days in Sonoma County, and checked out 2 fairs: the Sonoma County Fair and the Gravenstein Apple Fair.

I saw lots of livestock (including alpacas and miniature horses), but these baby pigs were my favorite. Floppy ears get me every time.

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Whenever I am in the area, I must grab a few scones and a hunk of cheesy bread from Wild Flour Bread Bakery in Freestone. The Gravenstein apple cheddar scone hit the spot for me this trip. And the fougasse bread is always packed with a few cheeses and some aromatic vegetables. The loaf is best warmed and gooey.

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I didn’t know a latte this big could exist. The lavender latte from Taylor Maid was a real treat. Ooo tummy.

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Food was growing everywhere I turned–there were sunflowers and grapevines, bushes of wild blackberries and strawberries, apple trees and pear trees, even some avocados and figs. But nothing screamed mid-August to me like the fresh basil from the yard, with plump, juicy tomatoes. Gosh, good tomatoes are SO good.

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Summer is almost over. Do something delicious.

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Easy DIY Recipe: Homemade Vegetable Stock

13 Mar

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For the last month or so, I have been saving my vegetable scraps in the freezer with a plan to make my very own VEGETABLE STOCK!!!

All of the carrot tops and parsnip nubs, the onion peels and fennel fronds that I normally would discard/compost are actually quality components of an unctuous stock. Thrown into a pot with a little water and good simmer on the stove, and I had my own preservative-free stock ready in an hour’s time (hands-off time!).

I froze my stock in ice cube trays, noting that 6 cubes is the equivalent of about half a cup of stock. Now I have flavor at my hands, ready-to-go whenever I am in a pinch. I see risotto in my future…

Here’s to getting one more bang for my buck.

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Homemade Vegetable Stock

via vegetarianventures

4-5 cups vegetable scraps (you can use them right from the freezer)

flavoring (bay leaf, Parmesan cheese rinds, herbs, salt, peppercorns…)

garlic (if you don’t already have scraps of garlic in your frozen veggie bag)

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover with cold water (just enough so all the veggies are covered). Bring water to a boil and let simmer for an hour (don’t let it simmer for much more or it starts to lose flavor.

Strain the vegetable mixture and discard the scraps. Let cool completely and either use right away or freeze/refrigerate in quantities that will suit you best (ice cube trays was a genius idea, I also did some in pint size containers).

Store in fridge for up to 5 days and in freezer for up to 3 months.

Guimauve, Homemade Marshmallows (no recipe)

7 Mar

“Marshmallows are a strange confection: familiar to most everyone, but nonetheless a mystery. We’ve all eaten them around campfires, slurped them from cups of cocoa, or plucked them, hot and gooey, from the top of a sweet potato casserole. But until I tried to make them myself, I had no clue–not the faintest–what they were made of…”
-Molly Wizenberg, food blogger at Orangette, quoted from Bon Appetit 

Below I will show you, picture-by-picture, the process of making marshmallows, or as the French call them, guimauve. At work we make big batches of these pillow-soft confections to serve with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. I snapped a few photos at work one day just to highlight how interesting the process of making marshmallows can be. I apologize for any jargon that may sound confusing to you. I will try my best to explain 😉

Gelatin Sheets Gettin’ Bloomed; in other words, gelatin sheets get soaked in ice water for a few minutes to soften. In the photo above they are set on a paper towel to dry off a bit.

The Sugar Syrup: Boilin’ Sugar n’ Water with a Splash of Honey; you carefully watch the mixture boil, wait until you see slow forming big bubbles, and then you know it is time to add the gelatin

Quickly Quickly Everything in the Mixer: Egg whites get beaten/whipped to a white meringue

Glossy Pants: Hot (ish) Sugar Syrup Slowly Gets Added In, and then everything gets whisked at high speed for a good long time until nice and glossy, and the mixture has cooled down a bit

Oooo Yeaaaa. Time to add Vanilla Bean (p.s. you can experiment with all sorts of flavors at this point in the process i.e. strawberry marshmallows during summer, lavender marshmallows, coffee marshmallows…)

Spread It Out: The guimauve gets spread into a saran-lined tray and left to form a “skin” on top. The “skin” is just a layer of chewy sheen that develops from the evaporation of water and the coagulation of proteins (egg whites) working together after being denatured in the KitchenAid Mixer. Science. Crazy stuff.

Give the top of the guimauve a little dose of potato starch (or corn starch) and a flip.

Wait for the “skin” to form on the other side and give it another coating of starch.

Slice Through Into Strips. Make sure the knife is clean (have a wet towel and a dry towel for efficient wiping and drying) [peep Chef Geoff’s hands]

Oooo Baby Look At That Mountain Of Marshmallow. I want to jump in!

Wrap It Up And Label. When ready to cut, use a scissors and cut the strips into cubes. Coat each side with potato or corn starch so everything stays soft and smooth around the edges.

Drop Into Homemade Hot Chocolate, Kick Your Feet Up, And Enjoy!

Cheeseboard Pizza

5 Mar


Oh Cheeseboard Pizza how I miss you. That thin and perfectly toasted dough, those gorgeous browned cheesy bits, fresh corn, lime, chile, and a garlic olive oil drizzle. Just $2.50 for the most perfect slice of pizza. And they give you a little sample sliver, too.

Sure, living in New York, I see pizza joints all over town. But none have wooed me like Berkeley’s Cheeseboard. Open 5 days a week (closed Sun/Mon) and cooperatively run and owned, this place is a win. Did I mention the live music?!

I’m kind of in love with the Cheeseboard Collective shop next door, too. The ginger cookies, any variety of the cheesy breads, and those corn cherry scones just kill me! And the cheeses, oh the cheeses. They will let you sample cheese on cheese on cheese until you find your perfect match.

I have many memories at Cheeseboard Pizza, sitting on the median lawn in the middle of the street (technically it is illegal to sit on the median, but everyone does it), soaking up the sun and enjoying a slice or two. There is usually a long line, but it moves very fast and offers some great people-watching. The pizzas are always vegetarian and the menu changes daily (check the website for the week’s pizza listing).

Boy oh boy do I miss the food in the Bay Area.

Please excuse my while I wipe the drool running down my chin.


The Cheeseboard Collective

On Shattuck Ave. at Vine St.

Berkeley, CA

Smooch Cafe. Fort Greene, Brooklyn, NY

23 Feb

Smooch.

This Fort Greene cafe was featured in HBO’s Bored to Death (at least in season 1) as the cafe where all of the yoga moms go to grab a coffee and a pick-me-up snack and chat. I had to check it out, just to say I was there. Alas, every time I find myself in the area, I feel compelled to stop in at Smooch for a sandwich.

Quaintly located on the corner of Dekalb and Carleton and just a few steps away from Fort Greene Park, Smooch is a great location to meet up with a friend on a beautiful day. I always see “regulars” eating there, making this the neighborhood spot.

They make good strong Americanos.

The sandwiches are absolutely fantastic. My favorite combo consists of some form of: Grilled Bread. Tofu. Cheese. Tons of Veggie Love.

The egg dishes are healthy and cooked to perfection.

You may have to wait patiently for your food to arrive, but they cook it right there in front of you, so you know it is fresh. At least there’s a lot of people-watching to keep your mind entertained while you wait. And the cozy couches and pillows, and small tables and stools allow you to find a comfortable nook to situate yourself. If you are looking for something grab-and-go, you could order one of the homemade cookies, muffins, or granola to hold you over.

Some of the menu items read: “the vegan temptress,” “the mysterious WTF,” “the ‘cry me a rivera diego cos I just dumped my cheating ex’ mouthful of satisfaction,” and “the frisky fergus ‘we remember who’s your daddy’ scrambled pesto eggs.” Too fun!

Nearby, you may find yourself wandering into a cute bookstore, checking out more of the neighborhood restaurants and ice cream spots, going for a jaunt in the park or foraging at the weekend flea and farmer’s markets, or swooning over the brownstones and magnificent mansions in Clinton Hill. And around Halloween time, look out for a dog costume contest on the block. Oh, Brooklyn…