If You’re Going to San Francisco…

…dine at one of these great restaurants!

I spent a week in San Francisco recently for work, and had the pleasure of dining out at many of the area’s establishments. Below is a quick review of places and dishes I recommend.

Marlowe: cute neighborhood restaurant (in my sister’s ‘hood) with better-than-average neighborhood restaurant food.  Burrata, little gem salad, burger w/ fries + horseradish aioli, chocolate creme pie.

Osha Thai: honestly some of the best Thai food I have ever had (sorry, Opart Thai… but you’re still my Chicago one and only). Thai samosa, salmon rolls (NO cilantro aioli), papaya salad, chicken panang curry.

Monk’s Kettle: my sister and I hit this hipster restaurant in the Mission District in hot pursuit of what one craft beer enthusiast has told me is supposedly the best beer in the country – Pliny the Elder. It is one of the more mellow IPAs I have had, and it certainly went along well with our choice of dishes – old school pretzel knot + cheddar fondue, fresh ground burger + onion jam + aged white cheddar + hop salt fries, half chicken under a brick, carrot cake.

Pliny the Elder

Pliny the Elder

Zero Zero: A happening pizza joint that was just down the street from my hotel. Fried brussels sprouts + pancetta + asian pear + parsley, Grant pizza (speck + sautéed red onions + mozzarella + grana padano + cracked black pepper), Fillmore pizza (hen of the woods mushrooms + leeks + mozzarella + parmesan + pecorino + fontina + garlic + thyme).

Mi Pueblo: We stopped by this Mexican grocer (not your average corner store, my friends, this place was HUGE) on an innovation ideas tour for work. Tacos de pollo sin cilantro con arroz.

Wo Hing General Store: My colleagues and I stopped here for a feast after a long day of work. Honey-thai chili grilled chicken skewers, daikon rice cake, housemade wheat noodles + pork shoulder + green cabbage + preserved radish, fried mixed mushroom eggrolls, shanghai dumpling.

I’ll probably be going back at least once to San Francisco before the summer, so any additional recommendations are welcome! I’ve already been told I will be de-friended if I don’t visit Burma SuperStar, so that is definitely on the list.

Baking

As one is prone to do, I baked a few times over the holidays. Some good, some bad.

 Coconut Chocolate Cookie Bars

I seriously don’t even like coconut, and these are seriously my favorite Christmas cookies ever. Well, we always eat them as Christmas cookies at my house… but there isn’t anything terribly Christmas-y about them, so I think they are a sure bet any time of year. And SO easy and delicious!

The old-school handwritten recipe from my mom's cookbook

The old-school handwritten recipe from my mom’s cookbook

Pour 1/2 cup melted butter in bottom of 13 x 9 x 2 pan. Then add, in this order: 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs; 1 cup walnuts; 1 cup (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips; 1 1/3 cup shredded coconut; 15 oz (1 can) sweetened condensed milk (we use Eagle Brand). Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes and cut into bars. 

photo

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Welp, these cookies were officially my first Pinterest Fail. I didn’t even take a picture of mine because they were so hideous. I couldn’t get most of them up off the pan even though I had greased it pretty good first. The parts I could actually get off the pan tasted decent,  but I certainly didn’t want to bring these shredded bits to a cookie exchange or, for that matter, allow them to be seen anywhere in public. If you decide to try your hand at these, I have two tips. 1) use parchment paper on your cookie sheet… under no circumstances should you allow these sticky suckers to touch the actual pan. 2) do NOT, as the recipe says, PRESS the caramels into the cookies. When you press them, they touch the pan and, after baking, act as a glue between your cookie and the pan. I would suggest gingerly laying the caramel pieces on top of the cookies if you hope to ever pry them loose.

Focaccia Rolls 

My first foray into bread baking was a success! These rolls are a time investment, in that you have to get started on them the day before you want to eat them because the dough needs to rise for quite awhile. Other than that, they are simple and require few ingredients. But I followed the directions exactly, and the rolls were delicious (albeit not perfect round circles like the ones in the picture)! They were made even more delicious when my cooking partner in crime, M, and I served them alongside a New Year’s Eve dinner spread of: butter lettuce under homemade herb and buttermilk dressing (okay, fancy ranch); short ribs on a bed of Parmesan risotto; buttered green beans; chocolate tarts with homemade whipped cream; Veuve Cliquot.

Dragon’s Breath Chili

It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. I just haven’t been blogging about it. But, as you can see from my previous post, I have resolved in 2013 to blog more, so today I bring you the recipe for “Dragon’s Breath Chili.” I must let you know from the get-go that this is a recipe from the Food Network’s Guy Fieri. Apparently, this dude can be pretty polarizing. Everyone is, of course, entitled to his or her own opinion. But I happen to think he is harmless, and when it comes to comfort food, he knows what’s up.

There are lots of ingredients in this chili. It is not an inexpensive or slap-together recipe by any means, but it makes some of the most flavorful and tasty chili I have ever had! I think it could make a believer out of any Guy Fieri hater out there…

Ingredients:

chili ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons bacon grease, or canola oil - I used bacon grease… I always save the grease whenever I make bacon and save it in a glass jar in the fridge. It lends extra flavor to any soup or sauce you are making when you use it in place of oil!
2 red bell peppers, diced (about 2 cups)
2 jalapenos, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
3 Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, chopped
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, chopped
2 yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)
1 head garlic, minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 pound boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 pounds ground beef, coarse grind
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
2 teaspoons granulated onion
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons hot paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup tomato paste
12 ounces lager beer
1 cup chicken stock - I have just been introduced to the wonders of Better Than Bouillon, and I highly recommend it! It will save you tons of money and tastes the exact same, in my opinion!)
2 (15.5-ounce) cans pinto beans, with juice
2 (15.5-ounce) cans kidney beans, with juice
Crusty bread, for serving
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Cheddar - always better when you shred your own as opposed to buying pre-shredded (a tip I learned from The Pioneer Woman)

How-To:

First, roast your Anaheim and poblano chiles. I find that this is easiest done when you have a gas stove and can roast them over the open flames! Once they are blackened, throw them in a paper bag and seal it tight. Let the peppers steam for 15 minutes or so, and then you can peel off the charred skins and chop them up.

chili peppers

In large stock pot over high heat, add butter and bacon grease. Add bell pepper, jalapeno, chiles and onion and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute longer.

chili pretty

aren’t all the peppers pretty??

Add chuck and brown. Add ground beef and sausage to brown and stir gently, trying not to break up the ground beef too much. Cook until meat is nicely browned and cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add in granulated onions, granulated garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute.

All the dry spices mixed together - it was at least a 1/2 cup of spices!

All the dry spices mixed together – it was at least a 1/2 cup of spices!

Add in tomato sauce and paste and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in beer and chicken stock. Add beans, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours.

What would I do without my Le Creuset Dutch oven?

What would I do without my Le Creuset Dutch oven?

Serve in bowls and garnish with green onions and shredded cheddar. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

chili finished

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with family, friends, or both!  I traveled home to St. Louis to spend the day with my extended family – all 27 of them.  Multiple appetizers, 2 turkeys, a plate full of food, many glasses of wine and a few brookies (brownies + cookies… I will post on these another time once I come out of my sugar coma) later, I am stuffed and happy!

(Pictured: green beans, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, turkey + gravy, humita (Mexican corn casserole), dressing, and cranberry sauce, all on my mom’s stylish 1970s china.)

2 Weeknight Dinners

Well it appears that being bored and unemployed made me quite productive here on this blog, while being employed and traveling relatively often has caused me a) not to really cook that often and b) not blog about it.

That is all hopefully about to change since I figured out how to blog from my phone and fortunately have a 3 hour round-trip commute in which to do it. I work in food so by definition I need to be blogging about it, right?!

However, nothing too terribly exciting has been going on in my kitchen, however, (oh PS, I moved into my own place and am settling in nicely) but recently I slapped together a couple of quick weeknight dinners I thought I’d share.

Salmon and Roasted Potato Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 package arugula
1/2 lb small roasting potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1/2 lb salmon steak
Cucumber
Cherry tomatoes
2-3 green onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Dijon mustard
Vinegar – I used white balsamic but you could use red or white wine, regular balsamic, etc.
Salt and pepper

How-To:

I had leftover salmon and potatoes from the night before (and I didn’t even make the salmon, it was from a froo froo corner market already prepared).

But here is what you do if you are starting from scratch (and it is painless enough):

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast 10 minutes.

Toss potatoes, and push to sides of sheet; place salmon in center, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until potatoes are tender and salmon is opaque throughout, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer salmon to a plate; break into large pieces with a fork.

Dice your cucumber, halve your cherry tomatoes, and slice the green parts of your green onions. (As an aside, I saw a tip on Pinterest where if you are only using the greens of green onions, put the white parts in a cup of water in a window and the greens will regrow. Then this was confirmed by Cook’s Illustrated but they said the greens are only good one more time after that. I guess I’ll find out!). Throw the lettuce and veg in a bowl and top with the cooled salmon and potatoes.

For the dressing: (another aside, I keep an empty small jar around from jam or something to make dressing in – just dump everything in and shake it up) mix 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 2 Tbs vinegar, 1 Tb EVOO and a pinch of salt and pepper. Dress the salad, toss and serve!

Apple, Brie and Fig Grilled Cheese

Serves 2

Ingredients:

4 pieces rustic bread
1 wedge of brie – there will be enough left over for snacking
1 honeycrisp apple, sliced thin
Fig spread
Butter

How-To:

Butter the 4 pieces of bread and place two, butter side down, in a pan over medium-low heat (the trick to grilled cheese is low and slow).  Add apple slices…

… and then add the brie.

Spread the fig spread on the other side of the remaining two buttered slices of bread and place on top, fig side down.  Grill on one side for about 5 minutes, and then flip and cook for 5 minutes more.  Cut in half and serve with a greens salad… and eat the sandwich so fast you forget to take a picture of it for your blog because you are starving because all you’ve eaten all night is candy and beer.

sopa de albondigas (that’s mexican meatball soup to all you gringos)

Whenever I have a bunch of leftover rice from getting takeout I always make this soup.  It’s fairly easy, comes together quickly and is delicious!

Ingredients

Soup

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 red onion, diced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
2-3 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 quart chicken broth or stock
2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
tomato paste
oregano
cumin
hot sauce
salt
pepper
1 cup frozen corn (or fresh if you have it!)
~2 cups cooked rice (or however much you have leftover)
juice of 1 lime

Meatballs

1 lb lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons bread crumbs (I used panko)
1 egg
oregano
cumin
salt
pepper

For Serving

Avocado, diced
Mexican cheese blend
Lime wedges
Tortilla chips

How-To

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the diced onion and one of the diced jalapenos and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent (~5 minutes).

Add the zucchini, a palm full of cumin and half a palm full of oregano.  Cook until the zucchini has softened (~3 minutes).

Add the broth/stock, cans of tomatoes (don’t drain!), and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce.  This is also where I like to add some tomato paste, because it gives the soup a nice color.  I tend to use the kind that comes in a tube that you can keep in the refrigerator.  I don’t like the kind that comes in a can because it always goes to waste in my opinion… but I have heard of people freezing leftover tomato paste in ice cube trays and then plunking a tomato ice cube into soups, sauces, etc.  Bring the soup to a bubble.  Cook for 15 minutes or so until it has thickened up.

Meanwhile, make the meatballs.  In a bowl, combine the ground beef, garlic, remaining diced jalapeno, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper (like maybe a half a palm full each, or to taste). Mix it all up with your hands until the mixture is combined.  Now you want to make 24 meatballs, and this is how I do it: separate the mixture in half, then into 4 sections, and then into 8 hopefully equal-ish sections.  From each 8th, make 3 meatballs about 1 inch in diameter.

Add the meatballs one-by-one gently into the soup pot.  Simmer until the meatballs are done, about 10 minutes.  Halfway through that 10 minutes, go ahead and toss in the frozen corn and the cooked rice.  When the meatballs are cooked through (feel free to sacrifice one for tasting purposes), squeeze in the juice of 1 lime and then make sure to taste the broth and see if needs more hot sauce, salt, cumin, etc.

Serve the soup in big bowls and sprinkle on some shredded cheese, crumbled tortilla chips (fancy kinds are best, like from the Whole Foods bakery), chopped avocado, and serve with lime wedges.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

I spent this past Labor Day weekend in St. Louis with family. My cousin has an annual party that I have never been able to make it to, having been all the way out on the East Coast, so now that I am within driving distance I finally made the trip! One of her friends brought this jalapeno popper dip which was, to quote Guy Fieri, “out of bounds.” So my mom and I tried to recreate it the next day. I have to say, our version was not nearly as addictive as the dip at the party (but perhaps that had something to do with being ~6 beers deep and drungry (that’s drunk + hungry) at the party and sober at home).  But it was good nonetheless, so here you go!

Ingredients

~4 jalapenos, depending on your preferred level of heat
~3 cloves garlic, depending on your love of garlic
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, room temp
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1  cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 stick butter, melted
Tortilla chips, for serving

How-To

Preheat oven to 375 F. De-stem, seed and vein your jalapenos (but reserve some of the seeds if you really like heat, and add them to the food processor).  Pulverize the jalapenos, garlic cloves, and the can of green chilies in a food processor, and then dump the mixture into a bowl.  Add the cream cheese, mayo, and Mexican cheese and mix it all up. Spread the dip into a greased 2-quart casserole. In another bowl, mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter. Sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the dip and bake for about 20 minutes. You want the top to get browned and the dip to be heated through and bubble gently on the edges. Don’t overcook it or else the mayonnaise will separate and you will have a grease puddle in your dip. Serve with tortilla chips (I like Tostitos Scoops).

Here’s a pic of how ours turned out (how awesome is my mom’s 70s cookware, by the way?)

This will be a great dip to serve now that it’s football season!  Go… Bears? Rams? Redskins? Ravens? Guess I need to figure that part out sooner rather than later…

DC Shout Out

Recently, an awesome restaurant from my old ‘hood, DC, was named by Bon Appetit as one of the 10 best new restaurants in America.  I was lucky enough to visit Little Serow earlier this summer when a friend, D, and I had a DC “staycation” and visited Little Serow one evening and Wolfgang Puck’s The Source the next.  D and I had an awesome meal at Little Serow, but we made sure to get there on the early side (like, literally 5:30 pm) so we would be able to get a table in a timely manner.  You see, Little Serow does not take reservations and it is a tiny little place.  Surely this recognition from Bon Appetit won’t help matters when it comes to consistently long lines at the restaurant… so I bid you good luck should you be trying to visit anytime in the near future.  The menu is set, both in terms of price ($45) and dishes; you just show up and eat!  Seriously, everything we ate was awesome, with the exception of me needing to extract a few leaves of the devil’s herb, or what some of you may call cilantro, from a few dishes.  And I can’t remember what any of it was called… but I can tell you it was delicious and hot, HOT, HOT!  Like… to the point where we had to stop conversation because our tongues were on fire and needed to be doused every few seconds in water, and I’m no slouch when it comes to spicy food.  It was HOT to the point of… shall we say… needing to be very very close to a bathroom the next morning.  If you are having trouble understanding my meaning, please refer to the video below, a dramatic reading of a Yelp review on an Indian restaurant which offers very similar side-effects.