salad


Zuni Cafe Caesar Salad

About two years ago, one of my favorite food writers Michael Ruhlman wrote a very entertaining rant on Chicken Caesar Salads… which led him to introduce the Chicken Fried Pork Belly Caesar… which then led him to challenge Chris Cosentino, chef of Incanto here in SF, to put the dish on the Incanto menu … which actually led to the development of an even more ridiculous version (as in ridiculously awesome) of the Caesar Salad by Chris Cosentino himself. If you haven’t seen it before, I suggest checking out this series of posts – if you’re not drooling by the end, then I regret to inform you that you must be a robot.

I will tell you right now that I’m not trying to one-up either of those guys by topping the salad with something even more ridiculous (fried bone marrow? Is that even possible??). But I will tell you about a basic Caesar Salad recipe so amazingly good that also happens to be amazingly simple and requires no frying of any kind. Don’t get me wrong, I love pork bellies and pretty much all things Chris Cosentino cooks (seriosuly, Nathan and I went to his restaurant three times in the span of six months). But thanks to Judy Rodgers and her Zuni Cafe cookbook, here’s a Caesar Salad so delicious and flavorful that you won’t even need to think about garnishing it with crazy proteins.

(Note that the dressing here uses raw eggs, so depending on your personal feelings on raw egg consumption, you may want to use pasteurized eggs. In full disclosure, I have not tried this dressing with pastuerized eggs, so if you do, please leave a comment and let me know if it works out!)

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You may have noticed that when you mention ‘summer’ to us San Franciscans, we like nothing more than to complain about how our summers are freezing. Woe to us who have to live with foggy, misty days and frigid, windy nights! This summer, though, we’ve been getting more than our fair share of sweaty summer days so we (at least, I) haven’t been complaining as much. At first glance, it’s pretty awesome to not have to bundle up in sweaters in the middle of July and actually be able to wear those cute summer skirts hiding in the closet. But then when you realize the randomly hot and dry weather is literally burning up our state, being able to wear cute summer skirts hardly seems worth it.

Honestly, who needs really hot weather when there are plenty of other signs of summer around us? I’m talking, of course, about those summer fruits and vegetables! These days, even a salad quickly turns into a hugely colorful affair, because who can resist throwing in handfuls of sweet corn, green beans, and radishes? And I, for one, cannot bear to let our apartment be tomato-free even for a day. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the giant piles of berries, peaches, and apricots practically begging to be eaten! Speaking of which, I need to finish this entry stat because there’s a bowl of Royal Blenheim apricots calling my name.

This bread salad (call it ‘Panzanella’ to impress your friends or if you’re Alex Trebek) is one of the simplest, easiest, and summer-iest salads ever. And the extra good news? It lets you use that stale half-loaf of bread that’s been hanging out in your kitchen for days!

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

Since Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday (how can I not love a day all about cooking, eating, and hanging out??), I always get very excited when the end of November rolls around. With most of my friends being foodies also, the last few Thanksgivings have ended up being cooking marathons, when we try out as many cool recipes as possible.

This year, however, I celebrated a quieter Thanksgiving with my sister. With just the two of us, I vetoed the idea of buying a turkey (much to her dismay) and instead we made Zuni Cafe’s Roasted Chicken instead. That recipe is truly amazing! Ok, so you do need to plan ahead and salt the chicken (use the term “dry brine” to impress your friends) two days in advance, but the resulting product is more than worth it. Juicy, flavorful, with a super-crispy skin – basically, everything you want your roast chicken to be.

As for sides, we went with a spinach salad with persimmons+blue cheese+candied walnuts (recipe follows), some beautiful golden-crusted brussel sprouts a la Heidi of 101 Cookbooks (although we did put in less cheese, opting for a lighter side dish since we had so much chicken to deal with), and a chestnut and wild mushroom stuffing a la Jardinière (to which we added a bit of sausage).

(Unfortunately, I had high hopes for the chestnuts in the stuffing and while the dish tasted great, the chestnuts didn’t really add much so I would probably skip the chestnuts next time. As long as you have a good selection of wild mushrooms – we combined cheap non-wild creminis with dried porcinis and a couple of chantrelles – the stuffing will taste amazing anyway.)

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This weekend was one of Nathan’s ex-roommate’s birthday and to celebrate, there was to be a picnic in the park. Dolores Park, you ask? Golden Gate park, perhaps? Nope, Laurie Meadows Park in San Mateo. Despite the somewhat random location (i.e. no one attending actually lives in San Mateo), LM park turned out to be a cute little park with plenty of flat grassy space – great for picnics, picnicking doggies, and picnicky activities like throwing a frisbee around. Since it was a potluck, I decided to whip out one of the easiest picnicking recipes I know, courtesy of Jamie Oliver, the “Naked Chef”:

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