Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Like pink pearls.. beautiful pink oyster mushrooms

I always absentmindedly check out the mushroom stand in the San Francisco farmer's market. The "Mushroom Guy." I love the Mushroom Guy(s). They are always jolly and helpful. Today, they taught me that "shiitake" is pronounce "shi-yee-ta-ke." He told me Americans are always truncating Japanese words.

I don't often buy anything from them, but today something at their stand caught my eye. While these mushrooms are dubbed "oyster" mushrooms for their taste, their color is that of a lustrous pink pearl. As a part-time girly girl, I am a sucker for anything pink.

I bought a bag of the pink 'shrooms with a creamy pasta in mind. Once, I made a great bechamel and mushroom lasagna, so I decided to adapt that into a pasta for the oyster mushrooms as well. I came up with a simple bechamel sauce, flavored with onion and garlic, to pair with the mushrooms.

The verdict: these mushrooms are pungent!! I can't recall the last time I had normal white-colored oyster mushrooms, so I can't really compare with absolute certainty. But these seem way more pungent than any mushroom I've ever had. They were described by the Mushroom Guy as "woodsy." That was an understatement, to say the least. They were gamy, tangy, and somewhat stinky in a wild-tasting, almost fermented way. It was definitely an interesting experience, but not sure if I would pick the mushroom again.

The pasta was delicious. I'd try this dish again. Perhaps I'll try chanterelles or shiitakes next time.

Pasta with pink oyster mushrooms
Serves 2

  • 1 carton of pink oyster mushrooms
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 6 tbsp of butter
  • 2 tbsp of flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 2 portions of whole wheat spaghetti or linguine, cooked (I used spaghetti, but linguine would probably be better for picking up the cream sauce.)
  • 1/2 a lemon (optional)
  • chives or parsley to garnish (optional)
  1. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a shallow, wide pan on medium. Saute diced onions until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the mushrooms and saute just until cooked. Remove and set aside.
  3. Heat the milk in a bowl until just warm (~20 seconds at a time, stirring to make sure it does not burn.)
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the original pan. Add the minced garlic, saute for a minute.
  5. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter. Stir everything until well-mixed.
  6. Add the milk. Whisk until well-mixed and creamy. Bring to a boil and then cook for ten minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add the mushrooms back into the mixture. Add the cooked spaghetti. Mix, taste, and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Squeeze 1/2 a lemon over the top, if desired, for a fresh, punchy taste. (I like how it cuts through the cream. And I am a big lemon fan, of course!)
  8. Chop some parsley or chives, garnish, and serve.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day! And.. Freshly-Baked Green Onion Bread

Yes, the title is a little random.. but isn't that what leap day is all about? Every four years, Westerners take all the extra minutes and hours that have accumulated, and stash it all together into one extra day. One extra day... one free day of rent! One extra day you have to go to work! (I guess it all evens out in the end.)

It was the same with this bread. I wanted to try the no-knead bread that everyone has been trying out. But instead of making the bread from the original no-knead recipe, by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery (here), I decided to toss in some diced green onions.

Adding a stalk of diced green onions to the dry ingredients

Waiting for the dough to rise

So beautiful! I baked it in my oval 3.5 qt Le Creuset dutch oven

Light, airy crumb... Crisp, crunchy exterior

Try adding some green onion to your no-knead next time. Mashed garlic, sesame seeds... anything random will do. Or lump them all together!

Happy Leap Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mashed potatoes are easy, potato pancakes are even easier

Whenever I make mashed potatoes, I get a really funny reaction. Most of my friends are not that experienced with cooking. So when I buy a bunch of potatoes to make mashed potatoes, my friends ask me, "You're making mashed potatoes? Not from a box?" and they seem really impressed. I insist that mashed potatoes from scratch are insanely easy, and probably 100x healthier for you. Nobody believes me. Ever.

Today is the day I prove my friends wrong. Real mashed potatoes do require a little extra elbow grease, but it's hardly demanding. It's also much tastier than dehydrated potato flakes (check the side of the box- it really says that.) Mashed potatoes are a simple, make-ahead side dish. They go well with just about any protein dish, from hearty meat stews to fried chicken. I love to serve a big heaping pile of mashed potatoes on the side. As my friend said, "It just feels like Thanksgiving."

Garlic and Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4

  • 3 lbs of Yukon gold potatoes (about .5-1 lb per person)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper

  1. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Boil in a large pot of lightly salted water until the potatoes fall apart when poked with a fork.
  2. Drain the potatoes. Mash with a whisk, large fork, spoon, anything that makes sense (or a potato masher, if you have one.) Leave them somewhat chunky if you prefer.
  3. Add the butter and garlic, stir to combine. Add the milk slowly until the mashed potatoes are creamy. Add the cheese and mix until incorporated. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  4. When they are finished, cover and set aside. If you are serving them later, then just reheat them in the microwave and add a little butter or milk if it dries out.

Now, if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, you can make potato latkes for breakfast! My motto is to never let things go to waste. I am not sure how authentic these are, as most latkes I've eaten seem to have more of a hash brown texture. But it's simple and tasty so I'm sure my Jewish friends won't begrudge me this one.

Leftover Mashed Potato Latkes

  • 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 egg
  • oil
  • garlic powder, to taste
  • pepper
  • sour cream or greek yogurt (optional)
  • chives (optional)
  1. In a bowl, mix the mashed potatoes and egg. Add some salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  2. Heat a good amount of oil in a large flat pan on high heat. (you don't want the latkes to stick, so make sure the pan is well-coated.)
  3. When the pan is hot, spoon about 2 tbsp of batter into the pan. Spread it out into a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Let it cook for a minute or so, until brown. Turn it over and cook on the other side. Remove from pan.
  4. Top with greek yogurt, sour cream, chives, apple sauce, or whatever tickles your fancy. Serve!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Butternut squash soup

I have an ongoing love affair with butternut squash. It's nutty, fragrant, and sweet.

I was a little worried about attempting a blended soup. About a year ago, I tried making a blended tomato and brie soup. Yeah... that was not a successful venture, to put it lightly. I ended up with a funky-smelling tomato sauce.

I was relieved when this soup came together surprisingly easily. It took less than an hour, thanks to some store-bought ingredients. I used Trader Joe's cubed butternut squash and whatever vegetables I had on hand.

I didn't really use a recipe but made up one based on a few recipes I've seen online. I mixed baby carrots, butternut squash, and some potatoes I had on hand.

This soup was soooooo good. It was creamy, even without the addition of cream (I ended up adding just a little, but I don't think it made that much of a difference.) It's very flavorful; the spices are not too noticeable but they serve to bring out the natural flavors of the squash.

saute vegetables in butter and olive oil

add the stock to cover the vegetables and simmer until tender

Blend, and eat!

Butternut Squash Soup

  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 2 lbs of cubed butternut squash, or 2 bags of Trader Joe's pre-cubed butternut squash
  • 2 small potatoes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 carton chicken stock
  • cumin
  • curry powder
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  1. Melt the butter and oil in a dutch oven or other large pan. (I used 3 1/2 qt.)
  2. Saute the onions until soft on medium heat. Add the vegetables and saute for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock to cover the vegetables. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, curry powder to taste. (You can experiment with others as well... I added a little fresh sage.)
  4. Simmer on low heat, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork-tender.
  5. Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add the heavy cream for extra richness if you desire. Serve!

**Serving suggestions: some people like a little sour cream on top. I like serving it with crostini and some melted parmesan on top.

***This soup also freezes well. I freeze individual servings for later.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Simple recipes

Have you hosted events and dinner parties? If you have, you know they can be very stressful. If you plan an overambitious menu, you may spend more time than you like in the kitchen.

For dessert, it's best to make something ahead of time. If you simply don't have time or you didn't plan ahead, this dessert is a great last-minute option. It only takes a few minutes to prepare, it's full of flavor, and everyone likes ice cream! The rosemary-infused honey is delightful and fragrant. I'm sure it would go well with a number of dishes if you have extra.

Ice cream with figs and rosemary-infused honey

  • vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary, plus more for garnishing
  • figs
In a small saucepan, heat the honey and rosemary on low. Stir over the heat occasionally for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand for an additional 10 minutes. When it is cool, drizzle over ice cream and halved figs. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary if desired.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

San Francisco Food Destinations

Whenever my friends visit San Francisco, they always want to EAT. Sure, we do other things too- see the sights, visit museums, check out live music venues, bar hop... but the common thread is food! Perhaps I just take it for granted, but San Francisco is definitely a food destination.

By food-touring San Francisco, not only do you get a chance to eat some good food, but you also can experience the culture of the area. Every neighborhood has its distinctive style and people, so be sure to schedule a wide variety of destinations in your tour. I like to bring people to the tried and true places, but also take advantage of the opportunity to try new places as well.

Some of my favorite food destinations in SF:

Tartine Bakery
Mission/Dolores Park
Tartine is one of those must-visit places. If I were to open a bakery, it would be very similar to Tartine. It is quintessentially French (although the portion sizes seem a bit more American at times-- they are huge!!) Fun fact: their puff pastry for the croissants take about two days to make! There is nearly always a line, but don't let that deter you because the line moves relatively quickly. Everything is executed well and the tables outside are great for people-watching. Or you can grab your food to go and eat at Dolores Park nearby.

Favorite items:
Banana Cream Tart
Chocolate Croissant

Smitten Ice Cream
Hayes Valley
I know many will disagree but I favor this place over BiRite Creamery and Humphrey Slocombe. BiRite is a little too mainstream for me and Humphrey Slocombe a little too out-there. Smitten is the happy medium for me. This little pop-up type store doesn't have any seating, but on a nice day it's very pleasant to sit outside on the benches of the park surrounding this place. The ingredients are very fresh and some are quite unique (Chocolate with jalapenos?). Plus, it's so fun to see them make my ice cream to order with liquid nitrogen, so satisfying for the kid in me.

Favorite items:
Vanilla with Cocoa Nib Pralines

Pizzetta 211
This is an underrated pizza place in the city. With only a handful of tables inside and two tables outside, the atmosphere is very intimate and adorable. This would be a perfect date place. The pizza is thin crust, just the way I like it. There are traditional pizzas, like tomato basil mozzarella, but the restaurant also branches out into more unusual combinations as well. The menu changes weekly but some items stay the same.

Favorite items:
Farm Egg, Bacon, Corn, Cherry Tomato, Chipotle Creme Fraiche
Rosemary, Fiore Sardo Cheese, Pine Nuts

More to come!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

One Ingredient Berry Ice Cream

Being a single girl in my twenties, I realize I have the luxury of eating whatever I want, no matter how crazy. I don't have a family to cook for, so if I don't feel like cooking a proper meal, I don't have to.

In San Francisco, we've finally been getting the summer promised to us. We've had weather up to mid-70, which is pretty much as good as it gets for SF summers. Finally, I no longer have to curse my iPhone weather app when I wake up every morning...

Today, I decided to try a spin on the "one ingredient ice cream" that has been taking over the blogosphere. Thekitchn made a post about making ice cream by blending frozen bananas. Personally, when I read the post on thekitchn and reddit, I really didn't think much of it. I've been eating frozen bananas since I was a kid precisely because the texture is exactly like ice cream. I've just been too lazy to blend them!

My take on the phenomenon disqualifies it from being "one ingredient." But it's still tasty, easy, and relatively healthy as long as you don't eat tons of bananas. I winged the measurements, but I would say I used two parts bananas to 1 part of each berry. I added just enough liquid to allow my crappy blender to process the solid frozen fruit.

Berry Banana Sorbet

Mix diced frozen banana, blueberries, and strawberries in a blender. (I prepared the frozen banana by myself, frozen berries are from Trader Joe's.) Add a little milk or orange juice. Blend until smooth, serve immediately by itself or with some granola.

A big bowl of berry banana sorbet and some Kashi... perfect summer lunch. Enjoy!