Thursday, October 31, 2013

Food Porn: San Francisco - Part 2

This is the third part in a three-part series showing off all the wonderful food I had the opportunity to eat while on vacation.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I couldn't pack all of the amazing food in San Francisco into just one post. So this post will cover the food I ate in a special San Francisco version of Sunday family dinner. But on a Tuesday. And without all of the usual suspects.

But first, since it is Halloween and I love a good pun, I present to you my alter ego, Ghoulia Child. Straight from the Castro District. An expert at knife play, but I've been a bit frightened to try too many of her recipes. Beef Bourguignon has been my only attempt...and it wasn't even her recipe. I digress. Happy Halloween to all. Now on to more food porn!

I've often blogged about my regular Sunday family dinners in DC and one of our core family members, the illustrious Jon Wright, recently moved to San Francisco. We decided to have our own family dinner while I was in town, opting to eat in the Mission District where I was staying. There were so many options, but we elected to try out a place called Grub. They had me at "build your own mac and cheese."

Most of our regular dinner parties include some sort of kale dish. Fried, baked, mixed with other vegetables, it's become a staple. So when we saw crispy kale with brown sugar on the menu, we had to try it.  Here is Jon partaking of these giant pieces of kale. They definitely held up to the name of "dinosaur kale." By far the T-Rex of kale chips.

For the main dish, we elected for the make-your-own mac and cheese, with truffle oil, bacon and caramelized onions. This was one of the more tame mix and match options. We could have gone crazy and opted for fennel with chipotle BBQ pork, or grilled corn with Maine lobster. The possibilities were endless.

We also ordered the braised lamb, which included mint couscous and caramelized root vegetables. I've become a recent fan of well cooked lamb dishes, something that I never really had much of in my formative years. But a well seasoned lamb shank medallion? Sign me up!

I know I've mentioned this before, but I'm not a big dessert person. But sometimes I'm surprised by my desire for something sweet. This was one of those occasions. And when I saw this description for one particular dessert, I just had to order it. And it was worth it. While I don't remember all of the gory details of what comprised this dish, it had pumpkin cheesecake with caramel, and pretzel brittle and I'm sure fairy dust or something magical because it was awesome. And here it is. A sweet ending to a trio of food porn posts.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Food Porn: San Francisco (Part 1)

This is the second part in a three-part series showing off all the wonderful food I had the opportunity to eat while on vacation.

As mentioned in my post last week, I had a 9-day vacation scheduled in October, right around the time the government went kaput. I spent the first few days in Arizona, but after, I traveled to San Francisco. I ate so much in San Francisco, and the food is just so good, that this warrants two posts on the food porn of San Francisco. After looking at what I ate over the course of 3 1/2 days, you too may feel much like I did by the end of it...kind of like these sea lions.

I arrived on a Sunday and proceeded to have a great meal at the hotel I was staying in with my sister-in-law for the first two nights of my stay. I don't have photos of that great meal because my phone died, and it's just as well, really, because this blog just can't handle any more food goodness than I'm already posting.

On my second day, my first stop was to visit the Mission District, where I would be staying (and let's be real, EATING, for the second half of my visit. This dynamic and colorful neighborhood is full of great food and artwork. I was given one recommendation by several get a pork carnitas taco from La Taqueria. The neighborhood is full of these types of eateries, but this one is listed among the best bargains. I'll
give them that...this meaty treat was only $3 and kept me full for a few hours until I made the next stop on my food tour de force (after walking several miles): the Ghirardelli chocolate store at Fisherman's Wharf.

This beauty on the right is a sea salt caramel ice cream sundae. The name pretty much says it all, but to top it off, there was actual caramel grain sea salt on top of the whipped cream, which while over the top, was ridiculously wonderful. I definitely ate the whole thing. And I enjoyed every single bite of it.

During much of my trip, I tried to try as many places to eat as possible, opting for small appetizers and snacks in many cases. I received so many recommendations from so many people both before the trip, and during my excursions from people I met along the way. I was rarely steered wrong.

Two recommendations that were particularly awesome were these chile lime wings at an upscale Korean food place in the Mission District and the illustrious desserts at "Hot Cookie" a Castro neighborhood sweet spot where you can get all sorts of sexy shaped cookies, or if you're not feeling as adventurous, a basic toffee chocolate chip cookie, which was my poison for that night.

While I was in San Francisco, I also had the opportunity to meet up with one of my Sunday family dinner companions who recently left DC to move to San Francisco...but that's a post for later this week.


Until then...have your hot cookie and eat it too.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Food Porn: Arizona

This will be the first in a three-part series showing off all the wonderful food I had the opportunity to eat while on vacation.

About a week into the furlough, I headed out west for a previously scheduled vacation. My first stop was to Arizona where I had grand plans of seeing the Grand Canyon before heading to Scottsdale for the wedding of an old friend from high school. Due to the powers that be in the government, the Grand Canyon portion was not possible, but I did get to spend some more time in Sedona, which was absolutely gorgeous. It was great to get away from the madness of DC, though the conversation often found its way back to what was happening back home, be it from chance encounters with tourists who had recently come back from DC or for the countless numbers of people invading Sedona during the week, since their dreams of a Grand Canyon experience had also been cut short.

While in Sedona, I ate a lot of Southwestern food. And by that, I mean a ton of tacos. This trend continued in San Francisco, but the best were in Sedona. My first night there, I managed to squeeze into a spot at the bar of Elote, a very popular restaurant slightly set apart from the tourist traps of the main drag. It had a pretty solid reputation on TripAdvisor, so I decided to give it a go. I started off with the signature elote, a Mexican corn and cheese dish, which they served as a dip here. I've made something similar to this before on the blog, and have had it at Estadio, but this was by far the best. I of course washed it down with a margarita.

Next up was the pork carnitas. This dish was slow-roasted pork shoulder with a tomato sauce and served with guacamole and rice with beans. While it sounds simple, the flavor was just amazing. The meat was so tender, it just fell through the prongs of the fork. The picture really doesn't do it justice. Looking back, I'm kicking myself for not buying the cookbook from this restaurant...I'm sure it's amazing.

The next day I continued to eat more tacos, but not without lunchtime beer samples from the Oak Creek Brewery. Now that's what I call a power lunch.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Steamed Green Beans with Lemon-Mint Dressing

I've been MIA for awhile. This is mainly due to my Western vacation, where I ate my way through Arizona and San Francisco. I'll be blogging about all those wonderful foods later this week, but here's something to tide you over in the meantime. This simple side dish I made a few weeks before I left and has a great flavor, without the mint overpowering anything.

But happy am I to receive my newest issue of Cooking Light? Pretty damn happy. I don't always mention it on here, but most of what I cook is straight from this magazine, with the occasional modification. I'm a big fan of the holiday double issue and you damn well better believe I'm going to be making that sweet potato and bacon soup on the cover...



Steamed Green Beans with Lemon-Mint Dressing (serves 4 as a side dish)

  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 2 TB finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 TB minced shallots
  • 2 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Steam green beans 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain.

Combine mint and remaining ingredients in a large bowl, and stir with a whisk. Add green beans to bowl, and toss to coat.

I found these to be best warm, but I think they could be good chilled.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chicken Cordon Bleu

In my continuing efforts to use food in my refrigerator, I found that I had all the necessary ingredients to make my very simple chicken cordon bleu. This is something I've been making for over 10 years and probably the most complex part of the recipe is rolling everything together in a way that it sticks together, rolled, in a toothpick in order to bake.

This process has become easier in recent years since Perdue started to sell very thin chicken breasts, I think usually used for scappoline or some other similar dish, but they work really well when you roll anything into chicken. Unfortunately, this type wasn't available and since I was working my way through the fridge, I thought this was a good a time as any to take out some of my frustration over the government shutdown by taking a mallet to the chicken to flatten it out.

Chicken Cordon Bleu (serves 4)

  • 1 lb chicken breasts, pounded thin and flat.
  • Deli ham, thinly sliced
  • Deli swiss cheese, thinly slice
  • Dijon mustard
  • Italian breadcrumbs
  • Toothpicks

****You'll notice that I didn't give very specific amounts to the above ingredients, because this is really easy to just eyeball. But as a rule of thumb, you'll use one slice of ham and one slice of cheese for each flat breast. I used very small breasts, so the cheese and ham kind of spill out into the pan and get crispy. But that's how I like it!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Take flat piece of chicken and spread dijon mustard on top of it, just enough to lightly coat the chicken. Then, place one piece of cheese and one piece of ham on top of the chicken. Gently roll the chicken lengthwise until it becomes ball and stick with a toothpick to secure. Lightly dust with breadcrumbs.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. I like to serve with brown rice and green beans.

Friday, October 4, 2013

That's the (Turkish) rub...

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that I'm on furlough. I've been trying to make the most of my time by going through closets, donating clothes, getting organized, amongst other trivial cost-free activities to bide my time until I either go back to work or go on vacation next week. I have a funny feeling that the vacation will happen before a resolution is reached.

My productivity has also translated into the cooking arena. I went through some old magazines for recipes, tearing out select recipes and placing them in a binder. I hope to try some of them out this winter and as always, I'll post the recipes here.

But a girl's gotta eat. So this week I've been going through the stockpile of meat in my freezer from recent farmers' market trips and coming up with simple meals to cook that don't require me to go to the grocery store. Earlier this week, I took some pork chops and tried out some of these great meat rubs that my friend Sam gifted me when he moved to London. He had picked up the spices on a trip to Turkey. I've already used the fish rub several times, but the meat rubs would be a new endeavor. To be honest, I think one is not meant for meat, but they weren't yeah, one is an odd purple color. But they both tasted great.

I always underestimate a simple spice rub for meats. I have so many spices that I should do these more often. What are your favorite spice rub combos?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese

I should never make mac and cheese. Ever. Because I'll eat all of it. ALL OF IT. In two meals, at best. Even this light recipe falls into that category. It's very creamy and you almost forget that it doesn't contain heavy cream or full-fat cheese. So it's still dangerous, but not in a heart-attack inducing way.

Two-Cheese Mac and Cheese (serves me...just kidding, should serve 4-6 people)

  • 10 oz. large elbow macaroni
  • 2 TB canola oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock, divided
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 8 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 oz.extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Set aside.

Preheat broiler to high.

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat.

Add garlic to pan; cook 3 minutes or until garlic is fragrant, stirring frequently (do not brown).

Stir in 1 cup stock; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute.

Combine remaining 1 1/4 cups stock, milk, and flour; stir with a whisk until flour dissolves. Add milk mixture to garlic mixture, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook 5 minutes or until mixture begins to thicken.

Remove milk mixture from heat; add cream cheese, stirring until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper. Add cooked pasta to milk mixture, tossing to coat. Let stand 5 minutes.

Pour pasta mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle cheddar and breadcrumbs evenly over pasta mixture. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown. Let stand 5 minutes.