Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Years!

Have a wonderful new years! If I ever leave work, and stop eating jelly beans, then I am going to go out and celebrate!! Happy 2009 and au revoir 2008!


Christmas dinner was delicious. My mom cooked a ton of food. I made some roasted carrots and brussel sprouts. We also had salad, beef, and cheese grits. Everyone came over, we all had some wine and a nice evening. Santa would have been proud.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


John and I finally got to go on our much anticipated date. We don't manage to go and eat out a lot just the two of us, we're always so busy on the weekends and on the weekdays if we aren't busy we usually just want to go home and crash, so this was a real treat. Ok, we aren't that busy on the weekends, we tend to go out with our friends and sort of bypass any official dinner. And John has to spend time with his other great love, football, these days, so sometimes I fall to the wayside. Fortunately football season is almost over- YAY! I had been nagging him (his word) about taking me on a "real date" and he finally did. He even called the restaurant ahead of time! I was so impressed with him. We chose to go to Beretta, a restaurant that was opened this year in the Mission, and I knew that it was meant to be as soon as we arrived because we found a parking spot instantly! It was amazing (for those who don't live in San Francisco, this NEVER happens). And then we walked into the restaurant and instantly got a table (Beretta does not take reservations). I thought this was a wonderfully auspicious start. Unfortunately I have to admit that the food did not keep in line with what started out to be a very lucky evening.

John and I started our meal with the warm radicchio and escarole with pancetta tesa. I was excited for a warm salad on this very chilly evening, but felt that the Italian bitter greens were simply too bitter. Unfortunately this became what I considered the theme of the meal. I like bitter greens, I feel as though they are a very "adult" taste but one that I have gotten used to. But this salad was cringe worthy bitter.
We followed it up with the bruschetta with crescenza and broccoli rabe. Once again I was attacked with the bitter greens. Crescenza is a very soft and lovely italian like cream cheese. I actually had one bite, realized that the taste of the cheese was completely hidden by the pungent broccoli rabe flavor, and so I ate it off so I could eat the cheesy toast on its own. Sadly, I know that this was not the chef's intention, but why would you place such a strong vegetable on top of such a mild cheese? I couldn't understand it. John agreed as well. I told him to eat the broccoli rabe first and he thanked me for the tip.

Our main courses arrived shortly after and I will give a preview and say that things went up from the starters. John ordered the saffron risotto with osso buco. The risotto was cooked nicely and the osso buco was perfectly flaky and tender. I may have had a few more bites that he would have liked because of this fact. I was surprised that I liked the osso buco on top of the risotto, when he ordered it I thought it would be too rich, but the flavors were not overbearing whatsoever.

My pizza came at the same time and I was excited about the smells that were emanating from the pan. It was the Funghi misti, tomato, fontina and thyme pizza. Beretta is apparently known for their pizzas and they make up a large chunk of the menu, and I can see why. When I lived in Florence, Italy when I was in college I might say I was addicted to the fresh very thin crust pizzas that are in so many restaurants. They are meant to be eaten with a knife and fork because they tomato sauce there is very thin and liquidy, therefore the pizza cannot stand up on its own in the center. This had that sweet and light tomato sauce that I adore in Florence, and I am excited to go back and try some more of them.
I wanted to absolutely love Beretta. I was so excited about going there and I used to really like the Last Supper Club, its previous incarnation. Unfortunately some of the dishes missed for me, but I think I would be willing to give it another shot in the future. I think the heirloom tomato and pesto pizza might redeem it for me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Trader Joe's Pad Thai

A while ago I bought this box of pad thai at Trader Joe's. I figure that it was the perfect thing to bring to work to eat and I love pad thai, so what could be better? Well, this could be better. It looked a bit odd from the get go, the noodles were all smooshed and vacuum packed and the sauce came in a silver space age looking package. Sexy food this was not. I believe I would give them a D on packaging. The cute blue box was nice, but it should be about the food.

I emptied both packets into the redeeming blue box, mix it up and separated the sad white noodles and stuck it in the nuker for the 2 specified minutes. Doo doo doo, wait wait wait. Ok, I removed the box and instantly burned my hand on the steam coming out of the top of the box, an auspicious start. First taste: meh. It just wasn't very good. The noodles were fine, I was actually surprised at the consistency. But the sauce was just bad. It tasted fake. I sort of felt like I was eating a version of pad thai that looks like pad thai but actually has not one ingredient that is actually found in pad thai. It was quite odd. And I was quite disappointed for this was my lunch and it was like a was a little bit cheated. I usually love Trader Joe's food. I use their tomato sauce all the time which is both cheap and fresh tasting. But I thing that Trader Ming should take some lessons from Trader Giotto and Trader Jose, for they are doing a better job supporting their culinary cultures than poor Ming.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Dinner Date at Beretta

OOoh, am I excited. John and I are going to Beretta for dinner tonight and I have been dying to go there. I was originally bummed when I heard that the Last Supper Club was closing down, I always liked that restaurant and I have had some really lovely evenings there. But the Beretta replaced it and started getting stellar reviews. Check out what Michael Bauer says in the Chronicle:
I am just so excited about having a nice dinner with John. We cook at home mostly and rarely go out just the two of us, so this will be a treat. I'll take pictures and update tomorrow for everyone!
Here's the menu, what would you order?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Split Pea Soup- Forever

I made a crap load of soup last night. Seriously. I made so much. It is sort of ridiculous. I don't even know what to do with it all! And I bet you I have at least 10 servings still in my fridge at home. And I froze some. And I sent some with John to work. I have some in my fridge at work. This is getting crazy. Here's how it all started.
In the spirit of the recession and my own pathetic checkbook, I decided to make a ton of soup and feed myself and John for the week. Unfortunately I always forget that I don't want to eat the same thing every day for lunch and dinner. That's a lot of split peas! And don't get me wrong, I love the things, but already I feel like I am turning a bit green.
I went to the store last night and got groceries for the week. $67. Not bad, not good, but what can i say, there are certain things that I won't pay less for. Like I am not going to buy the cheapo eggs, I like my organic, free-range Judy's eggs. Hopefully the chickens will thank me one day. And I am addicted to string cheese, I just love the stuff. It doesn't run cheap either.
Earlier in the day I sat on the couch and read through a bunch of cookbooks and decided to go with an old favorite- Ina Garten's Split Pea Soup. I've made this many times and directly recall that it makes a lot, so I considered halving the recipe. But then I decided I wanted enough to freeze and for lunches, so I went with it. 6 large (mine were HUGE) carrots, 6 new potatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, 16 cups of chicken broth, two pounds of split peas, this was a hefty soup! I also decided to throw in some brown rice during the cooking, I thought this could add a little more texture and nutrition. What I didn't count on was how much more liquid I had to add, as the rice soaked up a lot of it. The good thing is that the rice worked! It added a really great texture to the soup that wouldn't have been there without it. So I am officially adding it to the recipe, but perhaps only using 1.5 pounds of lentils now.
To top off my endless pot of soup I made Ina's parmesan croutons. This is no more then thinly slicing a baguette, I bought a sourdough one, and laying it on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, some salt and pepper, and grated parmesan and you're done! Well, after 10 or so minutes in a 400 degree oven. These are delicious with the soup. My other little crispy treat was prosciutto. I stuck some slices in the oven with the croutons so they would be nice and crispy.
My bowl ended up quite pretty if you ask me! Lovely thick and chunky soup, prosciutto bits, crisp parmesan bread and some chopped parsley. It is delicious, but do I really have to eat it for a week?

Romaine Spears with Blue Cheese and Cherry Tomatoes

For the past few months I have been compiling a cookbook. No, not one that I have actually written (although I always tweak my recipes and I do make sure that I take notes on this) but I have been taking all those scraps of paper with recipes scrawled on them, recipe print outs, and the stack of about 30 issues of Food & Wine, Gourmet, and Bon Appetit and transcribed or pasted them into a large binder. I will talk more about this soon, maybe when the project is complete, but it seems endless. Technically I suppose it could last forever, as there will always be a new issue coming out and it seems that recipes are endless. But it has been really fun so far and a lot less expensive than buying all the cookbooks I want. I dove into my new book the other night and decided I would make a delicious romaine and blue cheese salad. This was a lighter take on blue cheese, it has an oil and vinegar vinaigrette mixed with chunks of bleu. Delicious!
I took my romaine spears and artfully (ha!) placed them on two plates. Then I followed the recipes to make the vinaigrette, white wine vinegar, olive oil, shallot, garlic, a smidge of anchovy paste (right? I know!), salt and tons of fresh cracked pepper, and a large chunk of blue cheese crumbled. You can't really get better than that! The actual recipe called for red onion and no tomatoes, but I had shallots and I thought that the tomatoes would add color, sweetness, more vitamins. I poured the dressing all over the spears, then added on the tomatoes and some chopped shallots. It was delicious!
The garlic, pepper, and cheese really gave it a bite. Actually I was pleased with my addition of cherry tomatoes because the tartness really helped mellow and cut those stronger flavors. This was originally going to be our starter for dinner, but after making these and eating them, John and I were completely full! Glad I didn't go ahead and make the planned meal. I simply pushed it to the next day.
Also, this is a wonderful dish but I wouldn't make it for a first date! Garlic, onions, and pungent cheese is best for two people know each other quite well. In my opinion.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Thanksgiving- A Pictorial

I figure that since a picture is worth a thousand words, I would let my photos do the talking. Here goes!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Pumpkin Turkey

My grandmother, Tutu, gave my mom a "turkey" for Thanksgiving. I think it is the funniest thing ever. Behold the Almighty Pumpkin Turkey. Oh, and getting those posts in there was HARD WORK! Here's another image in case the first wasn't enough. Mom with her creation. I think he's cute!

My Muni Hell- An Non-Cooking But Funny Story

This is not food related but funny nonetheless. I take the Muni to work every morning. This means that I typically arrive to work late, annoyed, flustered, or all of the above. There is a book being written in San Francisco with Muni stories and I decided to submit mine. Here it is!

A few months ago I was waiting to ride the 5-Fulton to work. I have the pleasure of living near the Western Addition so there are always lots of interesting characters hanging out on the bus. I was waiting at the crowded bus stop and I saw this seemingly crazy older woman muttering to herself. Oh wonderful, another loon to share the bus with. We all pile on the bus and it is crowded. The 5 is usually packed in the mornings, but this morning it was so crowded you literally could not move an inch. I had to find a space for my feet and hold tight. I was near the front of the bus standing facing the people that were seated. This is always awkward because it close quarters, but you sort of hold your breath and deal. Next to me was a small, young Asian woman who looked dressed for work, and the crazy old bird from outside comes and sits down right in front of her.
There we are, moving along, when all of a sudden the old coot yells very loudly “Bitch, if you don’t get your pussy out of my face I am gonna slap the shit out of you.”
The bus goes silent, everyone is shocked, the poor woman sort of whispers “I can’t really move right now, there’s no place to go.”
Then from across the bus you hear “sheesh, somebody always gotta cause trouble.” Crazy then yells at her “when this bitch gets her pussy out of my face I am gonna slap the shit out of who said that.” And again she yells again at the poor lady next to me “you heard me bitch, I will slap the shit out of you if you don’t move your pussy.”
At this point we are all shocked. I was ready to call it a day and go home, but only after being evil and thinking, thank God that’s not me. I am so glad it was someone else. After that we stopped at VanNess which always loosens the bus up a bit so the poor victim of this whole thing could move farther down the bus where her pussy could be in peace. I have seen and heard a lot of things on the Muni but this was probably the most shocking. Perhaps because I also wouldn’t have put it past this woman to stand up and start slapping people. It’s hard when you get to work and you already feel exhausted from the trip there!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Carrot Pudding- A Thanksgiving Treat

I was asked to make Carrot Pudding for this year's Thanksgiving and I was happy to oblige! My mom gave me the recipe (and bought the ingredients, score!) and I went to work. I began by dicing the clean and trimmed carrots and then simmering them for about 20 minutes. Easy enough, right? While they simmered I hung out and chatted with my mom and cleaned even more carrots that eventually went into her Turkey Soup. My mother raves about her turkey soup every year but I have to be honest, I don't love the stuff. I'm not sure why, maybe it's never salty enough for me? (I am a salt fiend). And I love barley, one of the main ingredients, so it really doesn't make too much sense. Oh well.
After straining the carrots I allowed them to cool for a while and then pureed them in the Cuisinart with some onion until they were smooth as silk. Or as pureed carrots. This is the part of the recipe that would hold me back fro making it too often. Too many dirty dishes! You have the original sauce pan which simmers the carrots, then the Cuisinart, then you have to take out the electric egg beaters to beat the butter with the spices, and add the carrot. Following all that you place it in a baking dish. That is a lot of wreckage in the kitchen just for carrot pudding. I made it at my mom's house so it wasn't as bad, her kitchen is quite large and she has a dishwasher. But in my apartment I have limited counter space, so who knows if I'll make it again. There's a picture with the butter and all the spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, sugar, flour etc (I just spelled that "flower" a second ago, wow!) Beat that up, add the carrots and then beat in milk and eggs. It's an orangey goopy mess! But it gets good after you bake it for 1 hour. Basically this is a total Holiday recipe because it takes forever to cook. I don't have an hour of prep and an hour of baking time when I make dinner after work. Well if I did there would be some grumpy and hungry campers. But the finished product was delicious. It's just sweet enough and savory enough, and the carrots are so good. We've never been a sweet potato family so I think that this took the place. It looks like it could be sweet potatoes at least! It was finished off by the next day, partially by me. I even liked it cold. But I like everything cold and out of the container, one of those bad habits. I don't know why I can't just sit down and heat up a plate. It all tastes better from the serving bowl.

Black Tie Pasta- Nah, Just Bowties

Dinner was a mish mash of leftovers and pantry items that I am still trying to get rid of. I had extra chicken from the enormous chicken breasts I made the other night and I also had zucchini and a large tomato I needed to use. So I made a delicious pasta that John and I were both really impressed with. While I was heating up the water and cooking the farfalle I cubed up some mozzarella that needed to be used and placed it in a large bowl. I added one clove of minced garlic, the tomato cubed, lots of grated Parmesan, and a large spoonful of pesto sauce. After I drained the pasta I added it to the bowl along with some of the cooking water to lube everything up. As I tossed it together all the mozzarella melted and the pesto coated the noodles. This was so delicious. Definitely something I plan on doing again. Plus I love a no cook pasta sauce, makes life so much easier.
Once again I also tried to find a balance with my plate. I had a ton of zucchini and less chicken and pasta. I didn't actually finish everything on my plate! I wrapped it up for lunch the next day. I took the leftover zucchini but John snatched up the pasta. Lucky boy!

More Turkey Burgers

Upon john's request, I made more turkey burgers the other day. These were pretty similar to the original ones I made. I added basil, shallot, garlic, one egg, some breadcrumbs, spinach, and grill seasoning to the meat and then mixed it all up. Toast some whole wheat bread, lay on some pepper jack and we were done. These are John's absolute favorites and I like them too. They're healthy, fast, and not very expensive. I am thinking about making a Thanksgiving burger next, maybe some sage in there and cranberry sauce. Hmmm, yum. Ooh, and melted gruyere! I could even cube it and add it to the actual burgers. Now I am excited!