Lemon Berry Scones

Right before our wedding, Nathan and I were invited to brunch at our friends Amar and Aliza’s house. Amar’s parents were in town and Auntie likes to treat us kids to dosas whenever she’s around. After (not) much consideration, we decided that even with a list of wedding to-dos staring at us, we of course could not resist the call of homemade dosas. I mean, a wedding is serious stuff but so are homemade dosas! So off we went … with a plate of scones in hand.

I love making scones. I love them not only because they’re tasty and delicious, but also because they’re easy, fast, way better when fresh and warm from the oven, and most importantly, the perfect baking project for us lazy people. Why? Because you actually want to mix as little as possible to ensure light, flaky, and tender scones. Oh, and they’re also the perfect thing to bring to parties because honestly, you don’t want a whole batch of them sitting at your house tempting you with their buttery goodness.

I’ve tried this recipe twice now and it’s worked out well both times. The first time was in the middle of blueberry season so I used fresh blueberries. This time, no blueberries were in sight at the store, so I experimented with chopped-up fresh strawberries and it still worked out quite well. Frozen berries should also work splendidly. I think in the winter, I might try this recipe again with dried berries to see if this is a recipe for all seasons.

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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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Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp

I have to admit that when I first saw this recipe, I was skeptical. I mean I’m all for simple and quick foods, but this? This looked beyond simple – so far beyond that I doubt it can be anything but meh.

But then I saw it mentioned again, not once but twice, by two of my favorite bloggers no less. Luisa over at The Wednesday Chef called it a ‘minor miracle’ (!) and all Molly over at Orangette would say was that it was so perfect she’s still thinking about it. Really, can just throwing broccoli and shrimp in the oven really be that good? The only way to know is, of course, to try it for myself.

The result? Well, let’s just say that I recommend some slight amendments to your schedule tomorrow: cancel your dinner plans, run by the market on your way home, make a giant pan of this, and proceed to laugh maniacally at how you must have cheated the cooking gods by making something so amazingly delicious in less than half an hour.

So yeah, it really is that good.

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Baumkuchen
Photo by Ben Rhau

One night last week, I sat at home wondering about wedding presents. It was the night before two of my friends were to be married at City Hall and I had no good ideas. The wedding was to be minimal and casual (both the bride and groom are from Germany and they are planning to have a more elaborate celebration back home later on), so good ol’ standbys like blenders and fancy plates just seemed wrong. In fact, the “reception” would just be a bunch of friends drinking at a bar, so imagine how out-of-place a gift of say, a giant silver serving platter would have been. Then suddenly, a brilliant idea!! I will bake them a cake!

Off I go, then, to search for some sort of German wedding cake recipe on the internet and that’s how I came upon Baumkuchen or to us Americans, “Tree Cake”. Apparently known as the “King of Cakes” (not to be confused with King Cake), this multi-layered cake is usually baked on this crazy, spit-like contraption that some professional bakeries have that result in a cylindrical cake with rings in it like a tree. While I might be an engineer, I’m also not about to fashion a spit in my kitchen and risk personal (and Nathan-al) injury. So thank goodness there’s a revised version where the layers are built vertically in a cake pan – even someone as clumsy as me can manage that!

This cake was so delicious and so much fun to make that I’m sure I’ll do it again sometime, for another special occasion. Except, next time, I won’t underestimate the amount of time this recipe takes and will start before 11pm. That is, unless I’m mentally prepared to stay up until 2am again.

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Citrus Tart

Part 2 of the saga that is the Sourdough Starter is forthcoming, I promise. But having just gotten back from a weekend of camping beneath redwoods and barrel tasting at wineries in Russian River Valley — I know, what a tough life I lead — I will instead tell you about one of my favorite dessert recipes. Besides, you probably need a break from looking at pictures with jars of foamy liquids anyway, no?

The combination of oranges and lemons in this tart makes it sweeter and less intensely acidic than a pure lemon tart (which I also love) and also gives the tart a pretty orange-y glow. Just make sure not to overcook the tart – it should still be quite jiggly in the middle when you take it out of the oven, since it’ll continue setting as it cools. The first couple of times I made this, I kept thinking it’s not done and ended up with a tart with a cracked top and dense overcooked filling. It wasn’t awful and we certainly gobbled it all up still, but if you’re a little more careful, you’ll be rewarded with a soft, custard-like filling that is much, much better.

ps: Check it out! I joined a Foodie Blogroll!

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Crab-Scented Risotto

A few weeks ago, a bunch of friends from work decided to get together for CrabFest 2008. A similar event was held in 2007 and it was such a success that people kept wondering when we would hold the 2008 version. If you remember though, we had a silly oil spill here that coincided with the usual start of crab season, so us crabby folks in the Bay Area have had to wait a while before we can feast on our local crawly friends, making us extra crabby. (Ha! Oh yes, I just went there.)

If you’ve never been to a crab-eating party, what I can tell you is that the aftermath is not pretty, no matter how delicious the crabs were (and ours were quite excellent). There are crab shells everywhere and you tend to find random bits of crab meat in your hair or on your clothes. The home of the host inevitably smells like crab for a few days afterwards and let’s just say there’s a reason you don’t see many advertisements for crab-scented home fragrance.

But wait, there’s a silver (red?) lining to this crabby cloud! If you manage to leave the party with a little pile of crab shells (I like to take 3-4 of the big body pieces since no one really chews on those), you can go home and make yourself a big pot of crab stock. On a lazy night, you can cook up some somen noodles, heat some stock up, add soy sauce to taste, and have yourself a bowl of crab noodle soup for dinner. On a not-so-lazy night, you can make a crab-scented risotto like this one. Of course, you can put actual crab meat in the risotto too – just stir in cooked crab meat at the end.

(ps: Did you spot my oh-so-subtle method to make you jealous in the photo above? Ooo! Look at us! We ate at a fancy restaurant!)

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stew2.jpg

With winter fog plus the added gloominess of a recent oil spill hanging over my lovely city, there’s really no better time for a hearty stew involving an animal of the land! If you know me, you’ll know that me eating beef is a pretty rare event – I generally abide by the principle that I’ll eat beef, or most meats, only when my body really craves it. Me cooking red meat at home is an even rarer occurrence. So, listen up! This is probably one of the only beef recipes you’ll get out of me!

After convincing Nathan that I do indeed want to make a beef stew (not chicken, not lamb), off I went to Drewes’ butcher shop a few blocks away to buy me some happy, sustainably-raised moo-cow. When I asked the guy working at the counter about the difference between the stew meat ($6.49/lb) and a whole chuck roast ($6.99), he said something about how they’re exactly the same thing but one’s cut up and the ‘gland taken out’ for my convenience. Now I don’t know much about cuts of meat so call me ignorant, but what’s a gland doing in a shoulder cut?

In any case, even though his whole explanation didn’t make much sense to me, I still went with the pre-cut stew meat, figuring that it shouldn’t really matter for a stew. Looking back and after doing some research online, however, I think I should have bought the whole roast – the logic is that when you buy the roast, you know exactly the cut you’re getting and not just scraps from various parts of the animal. You can also cut up chunks which are all about the same size, so everything cooks at the same rate. Oh well.

Originally, I had this grand vision of making a boeuf bourguignon, full of delicious red wine. But then I remembered that one of my main reasons for making a beef stew was to use up a bunch of our CSA carrots; boeuf bourguignon, while delicious-sounding, traditionally involves only onions, mushrooms, beef, wine, and bacon. Darn.

In the end, I made a red wine beef stew with carrots and green beans (can I call it boeuf bourguignon-esque?) and served it with some smashed potatoes and a gremolata mixed with some coarse sea salt. The gremolata idea was taken from reading one of Jamie Oliver’s recipes and I got to give him props – it really brightens up the whole dish. Good job, Mr. Naked Chef!

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