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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

There are few things I love more than farmers markets. Getting lost among stands of fresh produce, cheese, bread, flowers, and tasting everything along the way is my perfect morning. Here are some pictures from the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

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There is nothing quite like being in wine country. As my first visit back since living in San Francisco as a child, I can say is was a bit of a different experience. Lucky for me, my aunt, uncle and cousins live in San Francisco, and as soon as they found out I was visiting, planned a trip to Sonoma.

Visiting Sonoma is not all about the wine… but most of it is! After a delicious lunch at Cornerstone we headed to the Jacuzzi Family Vineyard. Jacuzzi made his fortune by, yep you guessed it, inventing the jacuzzi. He turned his fortune into a  beautiful vineyard with an Italian feel. Walk inside and you’ve escaped to Tuscany.  We enjoyed their daily olive oil and balsamic vinegar tastings, dipping cubes of bread into every flavor imaginable (my favorite combination being blood orange olive oil and white balsamic vinegar) . I love balsamic vinegar just about as much as I love goat cheese, and I was in heaven.

After we had tasted every olive oil and vinegar in the shop, my aunt Kerry and I headed to wine cellar. We tasted some great wines and bought a few bottles of Bianco Di Sei Sorelle (wine of six sisters) and a bottle of Rosso Di Sette Fratelli (wine of seven brothers), representing all of Jacuzzi’s children.

We headed back to San francisco later that afternoon and enjoyed our purchases with homemade spaghetti and meatballs, I’m sure Jacuzzi would have been proud!

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Last night, my mom and I made my absolute favorite dinner: Pan seared panko scallops, risotto and a colorful salad.

Risotto has been my favorite meal to make for years. Last night, I chose to try the Barefoot Contessa Spring Risotto recipe I found on the Food Network. Instead of adding butter right before serving to make the consistency creamy and delicious, Ina Garten uses mascarpone cheese. The second I read that in her recipe, I knew that was a brilliant idea.

We started the risotto by sauteing leeks and fennel in both olive oil and butter until tender.

Then we added the arborio and dry white wine into the leek and fennel mixture, stirring until the wine was almost completely absorbed. Then comes the tedious part… we added the chicken stock, 2 ladles at a time, waited until it dissolved, and repeated the process for 25-30 minutes.

After 15 minutes, we added the pea and asparagus. When the risotto was finished, we folded the lemon juice and mascarpone into the dish and topped it with lemon zest and chives.

In the midst of cooking the risotto, we pan seared the scallops. Before coating with panko breadcrumbs, we gave them a flour and egg bath to help hold the panko. We pan seared them until golden brown and finished them in the oven.

To complete the dinner, we put together a fresh salad with romaine, avocado, crumbled roquefort cheese, tomato and croutons with a homemade vinaigrette.

This is the perfect Sunday night dinner and can be a blast to prepare with friends or family. Enjoy!

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Thai’s are not accustomed to cold weather. During the two-week “winter” in December, the temperature drops no lower than 60 degrees.

Sean and I traveled to Nan, seven hours north east of Chiang Mai, in hopes of signing up for a three day/two night trek. March and April are the hottest months in Thailand, temperatures well into the 90’s and high humidity; you can imagine why we would plan to be in the coolest part of the country.

In the late afternoon on Wednesday, Nan welcomed us with below 50 degree weather and freezing rain. We checked into a guesthouse and decided to wait out the weather, hoping to make it on a trek the next day. The freezing rain continued for three days straight, never stopping, and only getting colder. Restaurants and food stalls closed up shop. For the first two days, we  hardly left the guesthouse, spending our time playing backgammon, eating cashews, and drinking red wine.

We were starving by dinner time and decided to make one last attempt to find a real meal. We stumbled across Just Jazz, a small restaurant, no more than ten tables, with an extensive Thai and Western menu. We placed our order, curry for me and lasagna for Sean. We both could tell that this meal would help turn around our dreary days in Nan.

The food was unbelievably good. The lasagna was creamy, the cheese and béchamel sauce oozing from the layers of pasta, and the curry was homemade, thick and rich. We ended up joining a party of regulars; two brits and a guy originally from Boston. As a St. Patty’s Day celebration, one of the regulars ordered the Chef’s Gourmet Beef Burger for the group to split. It was by far the best burger I have had in Thailand. Using local beef, the chef creates a flavorful, melt-in-your-mouth patty, using almost no fat. She then top the burger with home-cured bacon, spicy pickles and melted parmesan cheese.

The five of us sat around the table for hours, sharing various dishes from the menu and drinking whiskey. One of the chef’s realized that I wasn’t drinking whiskey and brought me a complimentary glass of red wine.

In a town with few restaurants and no Western options, Just Jazz is an absolute gem. The quality of the ingredients and the time and care that goes into each dish is not something you will find anywhere else in Nan. We had such a good time that we decided to push our bus back and enjoy brunch the next morning. As it turns out, the bus was full and we ended up eating dinner there as well and sampled some of the Thai dishes. Unsurprisingly,  they were delicious!

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Last spring, Sean and I woke up Saturday morning and decided to make a not-so-typical breakfast. We headed to Treasure Island in the pouring rain, picked out our ingredients, and came home ready for a feast.  On the menu: Bacon wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and pesto scrambled eggs on ciabatta.

The key to the bacon wrapped dates is to make sure your dates are not pre-pitted and big enough to stuff. I would recommend medjool dates. The first step is to slice them lengthwise until you hit the pit. Open the date, take out the pit, and spread a good amount of goat cheese into the crevice, then close the date. Wrap one piece of bacon around the date, using a toothpick to help secure the package. Cook in a skillet over medium-high heat until the bacon begins to get crispy. Take off the heat and set on a paper towel to soak up any extra bacon grease. If you want to taste test bacon wrapped dates before trying to make them on your own, check out a Spanish or tapas restaurant, they are bound to have them on the menu!

 

Now, it is time to start your scrambled eggs. In a bowl mix 4 eggs, a splash of milk, a pinch of salt and pepper, and about a tablespoon of cream cheese. I learned this trick from a friend’s Italian mom after having the best homemade scrambled eggs on the planet. The cream cheese helps make the eggs fluffy and creamy. Beat the mixture and add the pesto. Cook the scrambled eggs on medium heat. While eggs are cooking, cut a ciabatta bun in half, butter, and lightly toast. Now it is time to prepare the sandwich. Spread some extra pesto on one side of the bun and spoon on the scrambled eggs. I like to add a slice of ripe tomato and a few slices of avocado; Sean also likes to add another piece of bacon.  For those who like a little heat, dash a bit of Tabasco on your eggs and enjoy.

If you are getting sick of the traditional eggs and pancakes, these two recipes will makes for an upscale and delicious Sunday morning brunch.

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It is somewhat of a young tradition that I make Sean dessert for Valentine’s Day. I knew last year’s homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream cake would be a hard act to follow. I racked my brain and searched the Internet for no-bake recipes, as our one room apartment did not come equipped with an oven, but couldn’t find the perfect recipe. Then I remembered making bananas foster at the Chopping Block in Chicago last year. It was one of the best dessert’s either of us has had and could not be easier to make.  To say the least, it was a huge hit and the total prep and cooking time was not more than 10 minutes.

Start off by melting 1/4 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Once completely melted, add 2/3 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2 tsp. vanilla extract and 3 tbs. rum (I substituted with Whiskey because drinkable rum is hard to find in Thailand). Stir until mixture is bubbling. The sauce should be a dark, rich brown color, almost like chocolate (picture below). At this point, taste the sauce and add ingredients according to personal taste, like another splash of rum for good luck!

Add 3 quartered bananas and 1/4 cup chopped walnuts (I substituted cashews; again, Thailand doesn’t have walnuts). Stir the mixture for a minute or two, just until the bananas and nuts are coated with the sauce and the bananas are still firm. Serve a spoonful into a bowl and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Pair this dish with a great bottle of red wine and I promise, your special someone will be very satisfied this Valentine’s Day.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great picture of the final outcome. I had a little issue with using half melted ice cream. Here is a picture of what bananas foster should look like. But I will tell you that even if the presentation isn’t spot on, you will still produce a deliciously mouthwatering dessert.

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Recently, I have found myself day-dreaming about foods and dishes from home that I have not been able to find in Thailand. For starters, my Chicago refrigerator was never in short supply of cheese (especially goat cheese), avocados and at least one bottle of Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc. To say that these three staples from my Chicago life are sparse in Thailand would be an understatement.  White wine is bought at the local 7-11 (you have a choice between two equally mediocre bottles) and we have to drive on our motorbike 10km just to buy a block of cheddar cheese, spending an arm and a leg for both.

Recently, I have had a craving for a recipe I found in Cooking Light Magazine last summer: Crunchy Shrimp with Toasted Couscous and Ginger-Orange Sauce. I made this dish for my parents one night last June and lets just say there were no leftovers. I even made the dish again the next night.

Picture taken from CookingLight.com

The textures and bold flavors of this dish are really what make it a homerun. The panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) encrusted shrimp or chicken and the toasted almonds add a crunch to the “melt in your mouth” citrus-infused couscous. The layer of watercress gives the dish a fresh yet peppery taste that is countered by the sweet orange ginger sauce.  This dish has it all, and to top it off, it’s healthy.

If you are like me and can find an excuse to add goat cheese to just about anything, a few crumbs sprinkled on top adds a creamy component that is absolutely delicious with the citrus dressing and tempura shrimp.

Tip: When breading meat or seafood, I prefer to use panko breadcrumbs, trust me, the end result will taste better. If you are having trouble with the tempura breading crumbling off into the pan, coat the meat or seafood in flour, salt and pepper before the egg wash, it helps everything stick together.

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