Sunday, November 30, 2014

thanksgiving at the house of prime rib

This Thanksgiving Brendan and I went to the House of Prime Rib for our 'fix'.  As many of you know, it is one of our favorite restaurants, and although it is not something to eat everyday, it is at least a couple times a year indulgence and worth every darn fat gram and calorie.

Let me explain.  This temple of old school deliciousness located at 1906 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco was established in 1949 and has been turning out near exacting meals ever since.  Specially selected cuts of beef, salt packed and roasted off to perfection are served with warm loaves of sourdough bread, a house salad tossed (well, spun) table side, creamed spinach, baked potatoes with all the toppings, Yorkshire pudding and pan au jus---all for one reasonable price!  If you have the room, finish with the creme brulee.  This year, Brendan I are giving thanks for many things---but included in that is an enduring friendship with wonderful time shared at a landmark restaurant that also continues to stand the test of time.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

easy and delicious pico de gallo

I love pico de gallo (salsa fresca) and I used to purchase it till I discovered how easy and delicious it is to make at home.  It is a healthy and light go-to condiment that can be used with egg, chicken and pork dishes or just as a snack. This recipe is inspired by a recipe by the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  I tweaked it just a little and changed up the quantity more suited for me--when I run out, I just make a new batch!  You can have the fresh salsa fix any time-- the ingredients are readily available all year long.

4-5 Roma tomatoes, diced  (Romas are key because they are firm and hold up well)
1 med yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper chopped very fine
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp of white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp + fine sea salt
Several turns of fresh cracked pepper

Mix together, taste for salt, cover and chill.  Good immediately--terrific the next day!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

perfect butter lettuce salad

I think I have the perfect little French salad--much like the perfect little black dress, it goes with everything, is always appropriate and never goes out of style--such is the classic butter lettuce salad.

I had my first taste of this simply creation several years ago at Cafe de la Presse in San Francisco.  So simple as to be deceiving in the flavors, I was determined to recreate it at home and I did.  But of course, over time, other salads from Caesar to arugula to frisee came and went until I was watching one of my favorite chefs, Geoffrey Zakarian talk about butter lettuce as the superior lettuce for both salad and a variety of dishes from burgers to Asian minced lettuce cups--and voila!  My perfect little French salad is back!  Thankfully, it was never really gone for long.

1 head of live butter lettuce (on the roots). Chopped, bagged butter lettuce doesn't work.
Separate leaves, wash and place dry leaves in a bowl.
Splash with small amount of sherry or white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. (Less than a tbsp or so of each--you can always add more.)
Add small amount of very finely snipped chive. Chervil and parsley may also be used (classic fines herbes blend).  Top with fresh black pepper and a dash of Maldon sea salt.  Toss lightly and serve.

For an extra touch, add toasted/chopped hazelnuts sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

delicious dining at ziryab in san francisco

Don't wait, don't hesitate--make a date to visit Ziryab at 528 Divisadero Street, SF. This charming neighborhood Mediterranean/Moroccan bar and grill is intimate, alive, energetic and delicious.  The gracious owner Salim Nasser makes everyone feel like a special guest and chef Khalid El Mourabit watches every dish served with an eye for detail.  What works is the great blend of flavors and cultures that span the Mediterranean from Morocco to Greece.  Highlights include the maza sampler with labneh yogurt drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon and the crispy calamari with a preserved lemon aioli, to the grilled lamb meatballs with house made sheep yogurt and the marinated chicken skewers served with roasted garlic and greens--wonderful.  If you have room, the desserts will amaze.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

coit tower and its historic murals restored

On my need to do list was a visit to the newly renovated Coit Tower which re-opened on May 14th after being closed for 6 months.  Memorial Day was the perfect day to make the 200+ step climb up the hill to the top of Filbert Street where you meet up with the elegant Coit Tower Stairs, engraved with patrons names. Some of the repairs included peeling lead based paint, a new roof and of course restoration of the 27 murals--some controversial--created by 25 of California's leading artists of the 1930's (most from the California School of Fine Arts) that reflect life in California during the Depression era:  Landscapes, farm workers, industries and vibrant city life.  In addition to this rich art, most of the deco fixtures have been preserved as well.  For $7 ride the elevator to the top to experience the amazing views.  For more information on this amazing landmark read Coit Tower San Francisco:  Its History and Art by Masha Zakheim, daughter of one of the Tower's artists, Bernard Zakheim.

Friday, April 25, 2014

homemade ricotta cheese

I made my own cheese last weekend.  No really, I made delicious ricotta cheese and it couldn't have been easier!  I saw it in the April 2014 Bon Appetit, the recipe inspired by the house made cheese served at Rich Table in San Francisco.  Here is the simple recipe--give it a try, and add your own touch--I could see it mixed with fresh herbs, dill, nuts, chives or even drizzled with honey.  Toss with pasta and olive oil, put it in desserts--the possibilities are endless.  Enjoy!

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp (or more to taste) kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or distilled white vinegar

In a heavy pot, bring the milk, cream and salt just to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice or vinegar. Stir gently till mixture starts to curdle.  Let stand for 5 minutes.

Pour mixture over 2 layers of cheesecloth set in a fine mesh sieve placed over a medium bowl .  Refrigerate for 20 minutes till spreadable or several hours for a firmer cheese.  Cover and chill cheese for up to 3 days.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

the treasure island flea in san francisco

I just recently had my first visit to Treasure Island--well the Treasure Island Flea to be precise.  I know, how is that possible during all the years I have lived in San Francisco that I had not made it to Treasure Island?  Well it might be that I had no particular reason to go until I heard about the flea that takes place the last weekend of each month.  The flea, located at the beautifully landscaped address of 1 Avenue of the Palms, utilizes the only historic building left from the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair.  The building is complete with original lighting, wood paneling, deco curves and a mural featuring a timeline of historic events.  Check out this YouTube video of the original 1939 World's Fair.  The view of the San Francisco skyline from this perspective is not to be missed--it's spectacular!   Booth space for the flea is available both indoor and outside,  music and drink abound plus some of the best food trucks around.  Admission is $3 and parking is free.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

the valley of amazement and a recipe for pork wontons

To celebrate Amy Tan's latest book, The Valley of Amazement, I prepared some homemade Chinese food for the book group. The book is a non-stop read, spanning three generations of women whose lives and stories of love and loss intertwine from China to San Francisco and back. I prepared  my own version of cashew chicken, marinated thigh meat tossed with thinly sliced baby zucchini and onion, beef chow fun made with pappardelle and thinly sliced bok choy, and of course a hit at every party, crispy pork wontons.  You might think 48 pieces is more than enough, but guess what, ever bite disappears!

Pork Wonton Recipe:

1 lb fresh ground pork
1/3 cup chopped green onion
5-6 oz of water chestnuts, drained
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. corn starch
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic chili paste
½ tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
1 package wonton skins

In a small food processor, blend water chestnuts  and green onion till rough paste. In a mixing bowl, add all the other ingredients except the egg and oil.  Add the green onion mixture and mix well.  Cook a small piece of the meat mixture in the microwave to taste for seasoning—and add if needed.

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or foil—spray with non-stick spray.  Lay out a wonton wrapper, moisten 2 sides with beaten egg, add tsp of pork filling, fold over, seal well and pull points of wonton up into a little U.  Place on cookie sheet and repeat.  Recipe will make 45-50 wontons.  You can cook them immediately or the wontons can be covered with foil and frozen on cookie sheets till ready to use.  Fry in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot in oil heated to 350 degrees till golden brown and serve with favorite sauces (hot mustard, sweet and sour sauce, garlic chili sauce, etc.)

To stack cookie sheets in a small freezer, use a couple of small bowls as risers.
 Frozen wontons go from the freezer directly into the fryer with no problem.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

recipe for peruvian beans

There is something very comforting about a pot of warm beans.  There are lots of great canned beans out there and I certainly use them--but when I discovered how simple and easy it is to make a batch of beans--ready for an instant snack, burrito, taco or side dish, I was hooked.  The Peruvian beans are very tasty, but this recipe works for pinto beans and white beans as well.  Try them all!
12-16 oz. Peruvian beans
1 yellow onion, very small dice
6 garlic gloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper

Rinse the beans in cold water, to remove any dirt or shell.  Place beans, onion and garlic in a large 4-5 quart heavy pot or Dutch oven.  Add the olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper and cover with water—approx. 4 inches over the top of the beans. Stir to combine.   Bring to a boil, then lower temperature to a simmer and cover.  Cook for approx. 2 hours, checking frequently that all the water does not evaporate--add water if necessary—otherwise beans will stick and burn (you want them to be saucy). When done, taste for salt and add as needed.

Beans will be saucy and soft.   For a delicious bite, drizzle with melted butter and wrap in warm flour tortillas or drain, rough smash and saute to create refried beans for your favorite dish.