Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review- Little Star Pizza in San Francisco

Pizza- it's an iconic American food, but Americans differ wildly in their preferences. Some like New York style thin-crust, some swear by Chicago deep-dish. Usually, I am in the thin-Italian-style camp, so I am wary of any deep-dish pizza. It's hard for me to take deep-dish seriously... it seems more like a lasagna than a pizza, with the toppings often overwhelming any semblance of a crust. I never particularly liked deep-dish, probably because my experience was limited to Pizza Hut and a few other unremarkable varieties.

However, Little Star pizza changed my mind. Little Star is a cute restaurant in the NOPA area of San Francisco which often has a line going out the door. It's fairly common for diners to wait over an hour for a table.
Although the pizza is still loaded with toppings and marinara sauce, the difference is in the execution and the ingredients. The pizza crust is a cornmeal crust which is crispy and hearty. The crust is topped with fresh mozzarella and marinara and toppings like spinach, sausage, and mushrooms. Everything is seasoned perfectly and as far as I'm concerned, it's a delicious, satisfying pie.

Aside from deep-dish pizza, Little Star also has a number of other standouts. There are a few appetizers, including caprese salad, garlic bread, and buffalo wings. The caprese salad was fresh and flavorful. The garlic bread was unique and DIY, with a creamy melty butter sauce to scrape onto your baguette and a clove of roasted garlic. I love roasted garlic; it's so buttery and the roasting gives the garlic a great nutty flavor! Also, Little Star has some thin crust pizzas which are pretty good too.

The atmosphere of Little Star is also fun. Families, couples, and groups all feel comfortable in this busy little restaurant with a small bar. It's not as loud as some of the other restaurants in the area, but it's not the place for an intimate dinner either. There is a jukebox in the corner with remixes like Bee Gees- How Deep is Your Dish?

Overall, I would count Little Star as a must-visit in San Francisco!

Friday, May 6, 2011

A spring dinner- Pork chops and sugar snap peas

I thought I would be very smart this finals period and make a lot of easy to heat comfort foods. I made an abundance of hearty soups, pastas, lasagna. This worked very well for the first week of finals. (No, that's not a typo. I have almost 3 weeks of a final period. Yup... that's law school for you.) However, one thing I didn't count on was the surprisingly gorgeous spring weather this month.

I love spring!! The sunny days slowly grow longer, the air feels fresh, and the mornings feel like a bright new start. Many of my favorite veggies and fruits come into season as well, which makes cooking healthy meals a lot easier.

I recently discovered sugar snap peas. They are basically amazing. If you don't like raw veggies (me) try these, you may be surprised. They have an amazing crunch and a sweet, pleasantly fresh flavor. They are really flavorful compared to other raw veggies like celery and broccoli. I was never one for crudites, but I could eat a bunch of sugar snap peas raw. Sugar snap peas are really cheap right now because they are in season; I got them for 1.50 a pound at the San Francisco Civic Center farmer's market. They are tasty with some dark toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds, or even just plain.

I wanted to try a new recipe that would be a little more adventurous. Yes, I know I'm in the middle of finals. But I need a break once in a while too! And I need a break from my frozen lasagnas. Time for something fresh and spring-like!

I made sugar snap peas with lemon zest, almonds, and mint. I've looked at a few recipes online and I kind of combined a bunch of them into my own recipe. It turned out well. The mint and lemon add zest and freshness... this is the perfect spring dish.

I paired the sugar snap peas with a great Giada recipe. Funny, I've had my Giada cookbook (Giada's Kitchen) for over 2 years, but I've never made anything from the book. I don't think I'm a cookbook type of person. I prefer to think of something I'm craving, look it up online, and make whatever I'm in the mood for. I find cookbooks a little too limited. But I was randomly flipping through the book for some ideas when I discovered this recipe. Pork chops with sweet onion marmellata- doesn't that sound fresh and delicious?

The marmellata took some time and I didn't have orange marmalade so I made some simple substitutions. It turned out great and I absolutely loved it!! It also gave me a chance to use my new Le Creuset dutch oven!! More about that later- I am not ready for a post on it yet, and I'm in no hurry to reveal my beautiful new baby. That will have to wait for another post, when I have time for a proper introduction!

Pork Chops with Sweet Onion Marmellata
Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis recipe here

Onion Marmellata:
· 1/4 cup olive oil
· 4 large onions, sliced into thin strips
· 1/2 cup orange juice
· orange zest from one orange
· 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
· 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
· 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
· 1 tablespoon sugar (or more to taste)

Pork Chops:
· 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
· 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
· 4 to pork chops


For the onion marmellata, place a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the onions. Stir to combine and cook until starting to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and cook over low heat for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes to scrape up any brown bits. The onions should be a soft, jam-like consistency and a deep mahogany color.

Meanwhile, for the pork chops, combine the rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Using your fingers, work all the ingredients together until well combined. Rub the herb mixture over the pork chops. Cover with plastic wrap and reserve in the refrigerator.

About 20 minutes before the onions are finished, remove the pork chops from the refrigerator. Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Grill the pork chops to medium, about 7 minutes a side depending on thickness. To serve, spoon the onion marmellata over the pork chops. Serve immediately.

Sugar Snap Peas
My own recipe! :) Serves two.

· sugar snap peas (about 2 lb)
· drizzle of olive oil
· 1 lemon
· handful of mint leaves, thinly chopped
· sliced almonds


1. Peel the ends and the string along the back of the sugar snap peas. (If they are young and fresh, this step may not be necessary.)

2. In a pot of boiling water, cook sugar snap peas for 2-3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl of ice water. After they are cool, drain them.

3. In another bowl, combine chopped mint, lemon juice, olive oil, sugar snap peas. Toss together. After plating the mixture, sprinkle some almonds and lemon zest on top. Serve.