Monday, July 26, 2010

Cooking under a camera

I am a moovie star now! My dear friends I. and V. started experimenting with online videos, and the last time we had dinner at my place, they filmed the two simplest operations - making a salad:

and grilling vegetables:

I am all too excited about the results (I guess I. and V. put a lot of work into post-processing), so I've put the videos on my two blogs and on my website, and I already imagine all possible cooking shows that we can film: making sausages? fresh pasta? boiling crabs? oysters Rockefeller? Turkish coffee? boiling eggs? boiling water?

I just cook, and the friends get to do all the post-processing.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bacon wrapped chicken livers

It's a grilled heart attack: you wrap chicken livers (high cholesterol) in bacon (sodium, fat), carefully thread them on scewers and grill.

Anything missing? Yep, sugar. So grill some sweet corn alongside the livers, and add to the salad. To offset the pure evil, I used tomatoes and a little parsley in the salad too.

Grilled corn and tomato salad
Serves 2

2 corn cobs
1 tsp olive oil
2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt, pepper
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil

Carefully peel back the husks off the corn; remove silk, rub the corn with olive oil; pull the husks ove the corn, secure with kitchen twine.
Preheat the gas grill to 400 degrees.
Grill the corn intil tender (10-20 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the corn), turning ocassionally.
Remove the charred thread and husks. Hold the corn with a paper towel upright on a cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut off the kernels.

Combine corn cernels and tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl whisk together mustard, vinegar, and olive oil, dress the salad.
Bacon wrapped chicken livers
serves 2
10 chicken livers, about 1 lb, trimmed of fat and connective tissue
5 thin bacon slices
salt, pepper
1 tsp chopped thyme leaves

Preheat the gas grill to 400 degrees. Season chicken livers with salt, pepper, and thyme (easy on salt, bacon will add saltiness). Slice the bacon in half. Wrap each chicken liver in a half-slice of bacon; carefully thread the wrapped livers on scewers. Carefully transfer scewers to the hot grill (the livers are slippery and will try to slide off the scewers - don't let them; as soon as they are somewhat cooked, they will stay put). Don't touch the scewers for the next two minutes. then turn and cook 2-3 minutes on the other side, until bacon is crisp and the livers are firm, cooked through, but still pink inside.

Remove from scewers; serve with the corn-tomato salad.
Pure bliss. Don't tell your cardiologist.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A weekend of grilling in the parks

The Pacific coast weather is predictably insane. For two days this weekend my friends and I tried to go to the beach, and ended up grilling in the park instead. The weather forecast was great. Since one of the guys is a pilot, just before as we were getting ready to laeve, he would look up the real-time weather on the pilot's website. Both days, just as we were getting ready to leave, the fog was coming in over the beaches. So we had to go to some inland park instead - did we have a choice? Inland, the weather was glorious.

On Saturday, it was Edgewood Park in San Carlos. Since I was very tired after promoting my Personal Chef service all morning at a Mimosa-heavy networking event , M. had to take care of all the food. Her special is tuna poke, made with a poke mix that she gets in a secret Japanese store. There is pink seaweed, salt, and spices in the mix. I don't like it when she makes it according to the recipe, one package per pound of tuna; it comes out too salty and spicy. This time she seasoned 1.5 lb tuna with that one package - and it was perfect!

M. also brought wakame salad, to go with the poke, and shitake mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and a huge bag of baby bok choy that we rubbed with olive oil and grilled.

There had to be adventures, of course: First, we forgot salt, and the guys had to run back to the supermarket while we were placing the unsalted vegetables on the grill. Second, in the background of the mushroom picture you can see Martin the dog. He is illegal. Dogs are not allowed in the park. But it's a very small print on the very bottom of the park website, so we didn't realize it until a ranger kicked Martin (and his seriously pissed-off owner) out of the park.

On Sunday, I had recovered from doing business and was ready to go to the ocean. The pilot guy checked the pilot's info, and the fog was coming in all over the cost. We had to go grill in Coyote Point park in San Mateo. Martin was not coming.

This time R. and I were getting the groceries, and the other guys were bringing the charcoal, plates, forks and napkins. We stopped at Belmont farmers market 10 minutes before close, and got wonderful heirloom tomatoes, small delicate Japanese eggplants, mixed squashes and spring onions. We also got a two-pound seabass steak, a large slice of cooked octopus, enoki mushrooms, ripe mangos, and Thai basil in Marina market.

Then we got a picnic table, and sat and waited. And waited. Watched the sailboats and kite surfers on the bay, and colorful international parties around us in the picnic area. And waited. I borrowed a plate from the Russian party to our left and started preparing the vegetables.

Finally, our people came. They brought salt, fancy glasses, new grilling tools, and Mai Tai mix, but forgot plates, so they had to drive back to a supermarket. Just as they came back, I found out that we are out of paper towels. So we had to borrow some paper napkins from a Mexican party to our right.

The octopus looks like a scary sea monster, but it makes a tasty grilled snack, has strong aroma of the sea, and is smoky and chewy.

The sea bass we seasoned with salt (forgot the pepper, sure), brushed with olive oil, and grilled for about 7 minutes each side; served with a salsa made of mangoes, spring onions, red bell peppers, and Thai basil.

Enoki mushrooms grill beautifully if you keep the root attached while cooking. The root keeps them from separating and falling through the grill. Cut the root off before serving.

Grilled eggplant and squashes didn't last long enough to get photographed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer is for tomatoes

These heirloom "ugly" tomatoes are absolutely irresistable; each variety has it's own flavor character, and they add all the colors of the summer to the plate.
During the last hour of the farmers market they go on sale for $2/pound. I think I got too many again...

Mixed with arugula, chevril, bittercress, and basil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and good olive oil, and topped with roasted pine nuts, they almost make a complete dinner on a hot evening.

No, I didn't go vegetarian, I'm still holding. I did grill a small flat iron steak almost as an afterthought. It was delicious too, but not nearly as good looking as the salad.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

French Kiss party at de Young Museum

De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park is hosting an impressionist exibition from Musee d'Orsay that runs through the summer, and tonight, for the French national holiday, Bastille Day celebration, the museum had a "French Kiss" party, with food, wine, music, performances, and access to the exibition.

I went to the party for the impressionists - I miss d'Orsay badly, last time I went there was 5 year ago, and I don't know when I'll have a chance to go again, - and to meet a friend. Guess what? My friend got sick and called me at the last moment to tell me she's not coming!
So I was left on my own with food, wine, music, performances, and the impressionists. For different reasons, I couldn't take pictures of the paintings and the music. I don't know why I never thought to take a picture of the go-go dancers or the wonderful mime who went through the crowd and interacted with everyone she saw in mimics and gesture, or of the Pernod bar. May be because I'm a food blogger. So all you get here is pictures of food.
After sampling a few mini-quiches and crudites, I got to the dessert station, and was about to take a picture and leave tasting for later, when the Maître d' went by and said: "If you only try one dessert tonight, make it the coffee bean truffle." I took one right away. It was heaven. (That's the darkest ones in the photo)

20 minutes later all the coffee bean truffles were gone. I sampled the cocoa and pistachio truffles later, they were good, but not even close to the amazing coffe bean.

There were a few people I know at the party. It appears that all the same people go to the same places.

J., a beatiful sunny kid of my friend's friend, who hikes, skies, and is generally one of us, and whom I just meet at a party last weekend, was there with her buddies.

I didn't know that Maxx, one of my dear salsa dancing partners, works for Marin French Cheese Company, but there he was, slicing the cheeses for tasting. His was one of the busiest tables at the party, but we were still able to chat about favorite bands and clubs, while he served the cheeses.

My salsa dancing crowd is one of the best foodie crowds so far.

I've already met a bread baker and a cheesemonger on the dance floor.

Now, I cannot wait to dance with a winemaker.

Happy Bastille day!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Raw fish for a summer day: tuna and opah poke

I planned to make this Hawaiian dish for friends who just came back from Maui, but they got a flu on the plane and couldn't come over for dinner. So it was just the two of us who enjoyed it, but we loved every bite (except those few sinewy pieces that the fishmonger put on the bottom of the bag - they shouldn't do it at $15/lb, but they do!) I got sashimi-grade ahi tuna and opah from Santa Rosa Seafood stall at the farmers market this morning.
Ahi and opah poke
Serves two
3/4 lb sashimi-grade ahi tuna, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 lb sashimi-grade opah, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 red onion, minced
1 small bunch chives, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Japanese toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Mirin rice wine
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp white sesame seeds
1/2 tsp black sesame seeds
Salt, pepper to taste
Combine the fish with the onion, chives, and the oils, season with soy sauce, Mirin, red pepper, sesame seeds, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Serve over a salad of mixed greens (I used arugula, bitter cress, and chervil) and avocado.
Chalone Sauvignon Blanc.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Celebrating the US national holiday by totally disrespecting the rim of the plate

Happy 4th (and 3rd, and 5th) to everyone! I was told that in other parts of California the last few days were cold and foggy. Not here. It was a lovely weekend, sunny and hot, just as a 4th of July weekend should be.

Our friend Y. was busy sailing to see the fireworks and was not making it for dinner on 4th, so we had him over on 3rd. I got a 3-pound New York roast at half price at Safeway; after trimmimg all the extra fat and slicing it really thick, I got three serious steaks out of it. Seasoned with salt and pepper, brushed with grapeseed oil, grilled at 450 degrees to medium-rear, about 4 minutes aech side, let rest for a few minutes, and served with herb-lemon butter.

Sliced and grilled assorted summer squashes from the farmers market. The "very sweet" corn from Safeway turned out very tender, but not nearly as sweet as advertised. I pulled off the husks carefully, brushed the cobs with olive oil and sea salt, replaced the husks, and grilled over indirect heat.

For our 4th of July family grill, I marinated thick slices of pork tenderloin in red wine with sage, thyme, a lot of red onion slices, and some olive oil, for pork kabobs.
It was a very hot day, and while the meat was marinating, we went to China Camp park on the Bay, to catch some breeze, and to see what other people are grilling. One of the parties was placing bacon-wrapped sausages on the grill. The light went on in my head. Double pork! This is what we should eat! And with my kabobs, it'll make it a triple!

On the way home we picked up Adelis Italian sausages and a pound of bacon. Wrapped each sausage in a strip of bacon and grilled slowly to perfection, together with the kabobs and summer squashes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer Is Now

I've been asking "When summer?" all these long cold and rainy months, and finally the answer is "Now." The temperatures are in the 90ieth, the car AC stopped working, there are so many people you cannot see the water in the community pool, and so many sailboats you cannot see the water in the Bay, and it's summer market again!!!

No need to cook. Just fire up the gas grill, let it heat up to 450 degrees, stay back. Brush the tenderloin tip and sliced Japanese eggplant with olive oil seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, grill 2-3 minutes on each side. The eggplant just needs the grill marks and a little smoky flavor; it's so tender that it cooks in no time at all.

Boil "little people" funny shaped Finn potatoes until they almost fall apart. Slice the vine-ripened supersweet tomatoes and Persian cucumbers with their eadible crunchy skins, dress with salt, pepper, and olive oil - they don't need any enhancements. After the steak has rested a few minutes, slice it, and put dab of lemon-herb butter on it, or just use mustard.

Chill the Pinot, pour, and serve.

I was amazed when I came to Belmont farmers market last Sunday, and the first thing I saw was ... FIGS! Figs? Figs. In the end of June. I remember how I waited and waited for them till the end of August last year. And these farmers from Central Califirnia didn't understand why I jumped so high at the sight of them: "Why? Actually, we are a week behind, it's been a cold year." There is no picture, I was shopping for my cooking gig for my client and friend, and had to run. I'll get some for myself, and photograph them, the next time.

Other highlights of the summer market: cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches (Galaxy peaches are wonderful!). Summer squashes are in. Fava beans and asparagus are out. Green peas are still holding, but they won't last. The first sighting of bell peppers. Heirloom tomatoes.

I'll keep you posted.