Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fagioli al Fiasco (Beans in a Flask)

There is a old method of cooking beans that traditional comes from the Tuscan region of Italy. Beans are cooked in either a earthenware pot or glass bottle which is embedded in hot ashes of the fireplace or wood burning ovens. The beans need to cook for many hours at this low temperature, simply seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and maybe fresh sage leaves. I have a Pyrex glass flask designed for this purpose and use it sometimes to cook small quantities of beans.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cuban cigars

There is a whole mystique with Cuban cigars, they are said to be the best in the world? maybe they are or maybe its just that having a illegal product makes them special? I think Cuban cigars are no better then those from other Countries, Its like saying French wine is the best. That said if someone were to give me a Cuban I would not turn them down. Today which is less then a week from Halloween and a very warm and sunny day makes sitting outside with a cool drink and cigar a perfect way to relax. I fired up my Cohiba cigar and watched the slowly setting sun. It gave me time to think about the the silly ban of Cuban products and when that can all change some day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lucca Italian Delicatessen, San Francisco

Lucca on Chestnut Street

Domestic and Imported Canned Foods
Huge Variety of Cheese from around the World

The #2 Combo on Sourdough with a View
San Francisco does not have as many delicatessen's as New York city 0r maybe Chicago but the few that are here are very good. The best two Italian deli's in the city are Molinari at 373 Columbus Ave in North Beach and Lucca at 2120 Chestnut Street in the Marina district. Since I was in the Marina area, lucca was the best choice to get a few custom made sandwiches for a Saturday lunch by the bay. These sandwiches are made to order with many choices of quality meats, cheese and local baked breads. Also available are lots of side salads and a huge selection of good bottled drinks. I really like both delicatessens but you must also go to Molinari, the smell of all the amazing foods hits you first as you walk in the front door and then you are forced to walk past the long counter with endless food choices with dozens of cured meats hanging from the ceiling. They also make and sell fresh pastas and ravioli.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stripe Bass Dinner

Freshly Cut Fillets

Smoking Hot Cast Iron Seared

Pan Seared Stripe Bass with Citrus Relish

I chose to use a fresh whole stripe bass tonight and I wanted to simply pan sear it with a light citrus sauce. When ever possible I like to cut fillets from a whole fish because its the best way to make sure the fish is fresh and I also like to keep the skin on because not only does it look good it becomes crisp. With these fresh fillets the only prep work to do ahead of time is to caramelize yellow onions as a base for the fish. The sauce is simply made from segments of lemon and orange, lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, capers, fresh cracked pepper, chopped garlic and parsley. To cook the fish, a cast iron pan is heated till smoking and the fillets are seared skin side down with a splash of oil till brown and crispy, then flipped over and cooked till done. placed on a bed of the warm onions with a briny spoonful of sauce placed on top. I love to serve fish simply this way.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Stormy Night Comfort Food

Chicken Stew with Creamy Polenta

Tonight with the first major storm of the winter rolling in from the cold ocean, I felt like a big warm bowl of soft and creamy polenta served along side a rich tomato and chicken stew. Some foods are better the next day like the chicken stew I made last night which was simply reheated and served with the polenta. I don't know how bad the storm will be but I am happy now with my dinner.

Chicken and Tomato Stew
3 skinless Chicken thighs
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1/2 Yellow onion, sliced
3 Roma tomatoes, medium dice
Pinch of Oregano (fresh or dried)
Splash of Red Wine
Splash of Olive oil
Kosher salt/Black Pepper to taste

1. Brown the seasoned chicken in hot olive oil.
2. Add the sliced onions, garlic, oregano and tomatoes, cook till soft.
3. Add the wine and cover pan, simmer till tender (about 45 min)
Add some water if necessary to prevent from burning.

Creamy Polenta
1/2 cup Polenta
3 cups salted water or seasoned chicken stock
a good Pinch of Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Bring the water or stock to a boil, turn heat down.
2. Slowly add the polenta while stirring to prevent lumps from forming.
3. Continue to stir on low temperature till cooked (about 15-20min)
4. Add the Parmeasan cheese and serve along with the stew.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oktoberfest Party in the Wine Country

Pouring Wine in my glass and others

Grilling Sausage over a Log Fire

Amazing Tomato Dip with Bread

The First of Many Bottles

This weekend I attended my friends annual Oktoberfest party on his Napa mountain top property. Like most of the people in the valley, my friend grows his own grapes to make wine which gave this Oktoberfest a whole different feel with wine being the dominate drink. In fact most of the people present are in the wine business and when they arrived there were lots of bottles in there arms. I appointed myself to help pour wine at the bar and what amazing wines they were, every varietal with vintages dating back to 1971 through the eighties and into the nineties. I happened to be in the right place to try them all. One of the cool features of the property's big outdoor entertaining space was a massive stone barbecue pit with huge adjustable racks for cooking just about anything you want. Tonight's menu was simple grilled sausages and other German style foods like sauerkraut and potatoes. One of the highlights on the menu was a large glass jar filled with heirloom tomatoes in plenty of good olive oil, which was excellent served with bread. It was a fun party and I can't wait till it happens again next year.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The end of Gourmet Magazine

I just heard that the publisher Conde Nast is ending Gourmet Magazine after a long 70 year run. The publisher sites poor readership and more importantly falling ad revenue for the cut. Decades ago it was the only magazine for curious and adventurous cooks, now there are much more broader and specialized choices. I grew up reading and looking through the magazines and also recreating recipes that interested me, the more sophisticated cuisines featured helped inspire me away from common everyday food and helped me learn of all the foods of the world. I have to admit that recently its not my first choice when buying a magazine and I became bothered by its many ads, but it helped shape me be the chef I am today, thank you Gourmet Magazine.