Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rescuing The Rutabaga

It has always seemed tragic to us that the sweet and earthy rutabaga has been relegated to the dustbin of modern American cookery.  It is one of those cheap, humble, durable vegetables that doesn't glitter on the shelves at the market but shines for the patient cook, honest and unpretentious like your oldest friend.

In this dish: Farro with Spice-Roasted Rutabagas, Bean Broth, and Smokey Arugula Salad, the rutabagas get a good dose of rosemary, aleppo pepper, and garlic powder and after a short while in a hot oven, they're crispy on the outside with a spice-crust and like butter on the inside.  The foundation, the anchor is farro - one of our favorite grains - both chewy and toothsome, and it was cooked with lots of garlic.   Carrots roasted whole along with arugula and radish all tossed with a smoked paprika and honey vinaigrette form the crown.   

And about that unassuming broth you see ringing the bowl: one of the most beautiful things in the culinary universe is the liquid you get after cooking a big pot of beans.  You could throw the beans away - not that we would ever do that - and it would still have been worth cooking them. This broth, or bean liquor, is hauntingly sweet and redolent of garlic and herbs and the slight starchiness thrown from the cannellini  beans makes it taste rich somehow, though it's essentially fatless and vegetarian.  So we spiked this lucky leftover with fresh lemon juice, drizzled on a little olive oil, and poof: the dish was tied together. 

A healthy study in textures and so darn satisfying to eat, this is what we mean when we tell people our style is "vegetable-driven".

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bread and Sweet Music

Luckily for all who know him, Jeff slowly, over the course of his life, developed a healthy obsession with all things bread.  In a way that must be somewhat unusual, he studied all the bread making books, made his own sourdough starter, and before you could say "sour raisin rye" he was making things that look like this!  Often this is shocking to people because producing true artisan style bread in the home kitchen seems to be a difficult task indeed.  This is why obsession can be a good thing......just look at those results.

We both worked in a bread bakery in Vermont, which really helped us nail down the tricky "shaping" aspect of making beautiful bread.  It was a pretty awesome experience, with lovely almost ritualistic rhythms in the day.  Mixing the dough, shaping the loaves, firing the wood ovens, and the most exciting....loading and unloading the cavernous brick hearth.  The final step?  Standing over the bread, fully baked and piping hot, and listening to them crackle.  Seriously, they snap and crackle as the interior air bubbles cool and contract pulling the harder crunchy crust inwardly enough to actually fissure.  Sweet, sweet music.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Nothing Satisfies quite like an Ice Cream Cone.

I feel like we shouldn't even mention the Bi Rite Creamery in the Dolores Park neighborhood because judging by the length of the line around the block it is possible that everyone on the planet (or maybe the Bay Area) already knows.  They must know about the artisan small batch charm and the local and organic focus.  I'm sure they know about the swoon inducing array of fabulous flavors.  Our favorites include mint chip, ritual roasters coffee toffee, salted caramel, and something we can't remember exactly but had provocative hints in the title like "malted, cookie bits, vanilla...."  You probably get the idea!

This place is a must see, taste and smell.  It is gang busters on the weekends and in the evenings, so if you can sneak away from the desk or maybe call in sick, weekdays are a great time to visit.  If you are like us the decision can be somewhat torturous, but in a good way.  Not like choosing between having your teeth cleaned or doing your taxes, more like choosing which slice of heaven you want to experience today.  Hint:  a wicked good place to start--coffee toffee on top of mexican chocolate in a cone.

If you can pull yourself away from the ice cream, not as easy as you might think, the fresh fruit popsicles are to die for.  They always have 1 or 2 flavors showcasing the week's hot ticket at the farmer's markets.  Last week there were 2:  pluot and melon.  We have also seen concord grape recently.  If you go there, let us know!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Shrimp? Romesco? YUM!

To be honest, this is a dish we made several months ago.....the details may be a bit fuzzy at this point.  I looked for any notes we may have made about this but nothing turned up.  Let's get to it anyway!

We have some well spiced shrimp here, certainly smoked paprika, chipotle powder, and probably some Penzey's spice blend or another.  These beauties are resting on a romesco sauce, something Jeff has been talking about for years.  There are some grilled asparagus, saffron scented brown rice and the green sauce (if we remember correctly) is a fava bean puree.  We made a lucky discovery this year at Whole Foods:  Frozen fava beans already shelled and skinned and ready to be put into anything.  A fava puree with its silky texture is pure pleasure, especially when you weren't the person working on them for an hour!

This dinner smacks of healthiness while still holding its own on the flavor and texture front.  It fits squarely in the middle of our food philosphy:  Excellent, beautiful, real food where flavor is not sacrificed in the pursuit of clean eating.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A beauty of a Raw dish

This one is high on WOW factor.  This recipe is straight from Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein and their collaboration RAW, a real showcase for top of the line, raw food.  Having seen a photo of this in their book, we knew it must be done.  There were challenges built in, to be sure, but we triumphed in the end!

The main players here are beets.  Red, golden and chioggia (candy striped) beets were used.  A few of our other ingredients were substituted.  It has rings of hearts of palm and daikon radish.  The trickiest part of making this as gorgeous as Charlie and Roxanne's version was slicing the beets in a fashion that allowed them to be curled into those cone shapes.  I think they recommend a veggie peeler, we may have had better luck slicing by hand.  

Under all those lovely raw vegetables there are 2 circles of sauce, one a date puree, the other a cranberry puree.....the outer ring of this dish is a bright and spicy jalepeno vinaigrette.  This really was fun and maybe I didn't mention it before, but it was delicious, too.  Well worth the effort!

A spring delight

This dish was created on a night when there seemed to be nothing coming together mentally that said "perfect" to us.  The only thing that was certain was the fact that there were morels in the fridge from the Marin Farmer's Market and they were begging to be used.  We hadn't shopped for anything to go with them but a plan did crystallize.  

The idea sprung from staples, this is the stuff that is always on hand:  eggs, milk or cream, cheese, bread....even if it is not the freshest!  In what felt like no time we were tossing together a morel brioche bread pudding with blue cheese.  This inspiration almost had to be divine and the flavor smacked of heaven itself.  Fresh morels with cream and could this go wrong?
The plate was gorgeous.  We also had some other beauties from the market.  Multi colored carrots, asparagus were sauteed and piled up beside the bread pudding and some arugula flowers topped it all off.  Another dirty secret?  Truffle oil, oh yes.