Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Smoked Pork Shank with White Beans

It's late, very late, and I'm packing for my return to San Francisco after six wonderful days in New York. The video shoot went well, and we finished an amazing seven video recipes in 48 hours.

This video recipe for smoked pork shank braised with white beans was filmed before I left, but due to my busy schedule, I wasn't able to finish editing and upload until today.

I'll add the ingredients and any other pertinent info that comes to mind when I get back home. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Slice of Life

The rain finally stopped this afternoon, so I went for a nice long walk through the City. I was traveling through Little Italy when I happened upon Lombardi's.

I have seen this on countless food and history channel shows, as it claims to be the "original" NYC pizzeria.

I have received dozens of pizza recommendations from viewers and twitter followers, but since I was standing right there (and hungry) I decided to grab a small pepperoni and take care of dinner and br
eakfast with one twenty-dollar bill.

The super-heated coal-fired oven gave the impossibly thin crust a great crisp, chewy texture that is the hallmark of New York's famous pies. It was delicious, but I won't call it the "best" yet, since I still have a couple days to sample.

Tomorrow I start a "seven video recipes in 48 hours" job in Brooklyn, which I've heard, from more than one person, is home to the best pizza anywhere. We shall see. By the way, on the same street as Lombardi's I saw "Rice to Riches," a place that just serves rice pudding. Dozens of kinds of rice pudding, and that's it.

I may have to check it out before I leave, and report back. Stay

Friday, September 25, 2009

Coming Soon: Cream of Cauliflower with Blue Cheese Fritters

I can't post this video recipe until I return from New York next week, but trust me, it will be worth the wait. This may have been the best soup I've ever made (and maybe, ever eaten!). Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blogging from 39,000 Feet

I'm on Virgin Airlines Flight 12, about 45 minutes away from landing in NYC. I heading to the Big Apple to do some filming for and as luck would have it, this weekend is the company's annual guide event. Not sure when or what I'll be posting, but whatever it is, I promise to offer it at the same low prices you're used to!

The Virgin planes have wireless internet, so I decided to do a quick post, complete with close-up of my fat head with some old guy in the background. This is my first time on Virgin (get it?), and I'm loving the leather seats and personal TV in the headrest. Anyway, gotta go, here comes the attendant and I'm going to try and score some extra pretzels. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homemade Maple Nut Granola – Crispy, Crunchy, Crumbly and Cheap!

This short and not-too-sweet granola video recipe is a sort of test run for another video I'm going to be shooting for when I'm in New York City this week (details tomorrow). Granola is amazingly simple to make, and significantly cheaper than those "gourmet" varieties sold at the local health food store.

Besides rolled oats and some type of sweetener, there really are no rules for granola. Here I've added a nice trio of crunch and texture with almonds, pumpkin seeds (that I call sunflower seeds in the video for some reason!), and coconut.

Dried fruit is also a common ingredient, with raisins being the most common, but you know me, and my love (borderline fetish) for curr
ants, so I used those. This recipe is also very light in regards to the sugar. Some granola recipes are closer to candy than cereal, and call for making heavy syrups with which to soak the dry ingredients.I prefer a looser, crumbly, barely-sweet granola, but if you do want yours a bit sticker, simply double the maple syrup called for below. Also, as I mention in the video, if you don't already have a silicon baking mat, making this recipe would be the perfect excuse to get one -- they are so incredibly useful, you won't regret it.

This type of granola makes a great cereal, and I would think you parents out there could turn this into a fun project to make with the kids. The fresh fruit and yogurt parfait you see at the end of the clip is perfect for kids of all ages, and really makes a great breakfast or snack. And yes, I did steal the idea from McDonald's. Enjoy!

Ingredients: (this can easily be doubled)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped or slivered almonds
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup shredded coconut

1/3 cup dried currants or raisins
Bake at 250 degrees F. for 1 hour (or until golden brown), stirring every 15 minutes.

View the complete recipe

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

24, 24, 24: The "Found on Foodbuzz" 24-Item Tasting Menu

This three-part video blog chronicles an epic, 24-item tasting menu, done for Foodbuzz's "24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blog Posts" global “live blogging” event. The story behind this is…well, why don’t I let my friends at Foodbuzz explain.

"The idea for the "24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs," was born out of our goal in wanting to create a global "blogging" event that would celebrate the scope, diversity and quality of our Featured Publisher Community. The "24, 24, 24" captures the cultural diversity and unique local perspective of our Featured Publishers: it's real food, experienced by real people shared real-time."

I'd planned for my "Found on Foodbuzz" menu to be inspired by mindlessly surfing the site - looking at photos, scanning restaurant reviews, browsing blog posts, and reading recipes. I wanted the meal to be an edible steam of culinary consciousness.

The deliciously diabolical feature of Foodbuzz, is the way you are teased and tempted to go from one piece of content to another - a photo takes you to a blog post, which takes you to a recipe, where you see a foodie's profile picture that you can't help click on, because it looks like bacon.

In no time, I had a notepad full of apps, mains, sides, and sauces. Clearly, seven courses weren't going to be enough. The menu quickly expanded to nine courses, then 12, and then I realized…Foodbuzz had taken control. My "24, 24, 24" menu was going to be 24 courses, and I was powerless to stop it.

So, without further adieu, I present my 24-item tasting menu, divided into three easily digested parts. The videos were shot over the course of the six-hour meal. Enjoy!The Beginning: Items 1 to 8
One: Caviar on Pringles
Is this the first time caviar has ever be
en paired with Pringles? Maybe. At the risk of seeming immodest, I think the footage of Nora tasting caviar for the first time is priceless.
Two: Tuna Poke
This diced
sushi-grade Ahi tuna was dressed lightly with ginger juice, Sambal chili sauce, minced green onion, and a spot of soy sauce. As I spooned the glistening jewels of fish on to the crisp fried wontons, I wondered why I like poke so much more than tartar.

Seared Tuna
A Nicoise-inspired tuna, featuring one of the kitchen's sexiest sights - the rare, ruby-red center of the loin, framed by seared, cumin and pepper flecked crust. It was really nice with the "just tender" green beans, which held the fragrant meat above a dark and delicious black olive tapanade.
Four: Tuna Stuffed Tomato
I've never understood the tuna stuffed tomato. Why stuff, when you can just throw som
e tomato wedges in a tuna salad and tuck in? That being said, I can’t imagine this would have been quite the same. The tuna trimmings from the last two courses were slowly poached in warm olive oil, spiked with capers, garlic, and salt. When cool, the tuna was stuffed into small dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes from Wild Boar Farms. These were sublime.

Five: Smoked Salmon and Fried Capers
This smoked salmon, purchased at Whole Foods, bore the name of Chicago celebrity chef, Charlie Trotter. It had a great texture, with a nice balance of sweet citrus flavors. The fried capers were a perfect foil to the salmon's rich, oily, goodness.
Six: Shrimp Cocktail on Tomato Ice
This may have been my favorite course. The sweet wild shrimp, buttery avocado, and homemade cocktail sauce, hot with horseradish, all sit
ting on an intensely flavored tomato ice. I was stunned at how beautiful the frozen, freshly squeezed cherry tomato juice looked. It was a color that can only be created with food.
Seven: Seared Salmon on Dill Cucumbers, and Smoked Paprika Oil
I loved the contrast of hot, seared salmon resting on cold, diced cucumber salad. The dressing, made from just two ingredients, yogurt and fresh dill, rewarded my self-control.

Eight: Butter Lettuce Salad with Sweet Herb Dressing
Sometimes you need a break from the ubiquitous baby mixed greens, and what better way than a head of soft, sweet butter lettuce?

The Middle: Items 9 to 16Nine: Chicken Wonton Soup
I know I fold them like tortellini, but who ca
res? The memory of that gingery chopped chicken, encased in tender, translucent wonton skins, bathed in the rich homemade chicken broth, is still so vivid.

Ten: Grilled Quail with Cherry Tomatoes and Curry Oil
Yogurt really is a magical marinade. Combined with an aromatic blend of curry spices, it made the sweet, delicate meat of the quail come alive.

Eleven: Chicken Ballantine with Dijon Cream

I couldn't decide what stuffing to use, so I decided to not use one; and it was spectacular. Salt, pepper, and fresh garden herbs were the reason this chicken tasted like…chicken. Also, I promise to show the butcher-tie used to truss this chicken. That remind
s me, isn’t the Folsom Street Fair happening soon? (Preceding joke intended for Bay Area readers only)Twelve: Duck Confit with Arugula, Green Lentils and Berry Gastrique
I've done the gastrique recipe in several videos, and it has to be the easiest, most delicious sauce for game ever.

Thirteen: Wild Boar Sausage with Mission Figs and Balsamic Reduction
It really is surprising how differently wild and domestic pork tastes. The flavor of this saus
age was so much bigger - it almost has a Pate quality to it. I say let the pigs roam free.

Fourteen: Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Pickled Peppers and Shallots
A quick pickle using sweet peppers made a beautiful base for the mild, tender
pork. It was topped with caramelized shallots to balance the acidity. It was delicious, but as I ate, I thought how great the cold sandwich was going to be.

Fifteen: Pork Shoulder with White Bean
Puree and Sage Jus
When you get to heaven, you and your God sit down on beanbag chairs, and eat slow-roasted pork shoulder. This includes everyone, even vegans.

Sixteen: French Onion Soup
Forget about muffin tops, what if we opened a store that just sold the top of the French onion soup? Now, what would we call it? The cave-aged Gruyere cheese, browned over soup-soaked bread, is unlike anything else in the world.

The End: Items 17 to 24Seventeen: Baby Romaine with Anchovy Citronette
Why is every salad that has romaine lettuce called a
Caesar? And why are there so many ways to spell Cesar? If you've never made a citronette, check out the video recipe here.

Eighteen: Beef Tenderloin with Melted Leeks and Wild Mushrooms

This incredibly tender cut of beef gets no respect from the Ribeye crowd. They say it's too mild, to soft, to delicate. Well, for pairing with melted leeks and chanterelles, I say it's the perfect cut.

Nineteen: Dry-Aged Coulotte Steak with Potato Gratin and Tarragon Reduction
I love potato gratin so much, that I sometimes decide which entrée to order based on what meat is being served with it
. This course was an experiment with the home "dry-aging" of steak. It was proclaimed a success by all present.Twenty: Braised Beef Short Ribs scented with Chocolate and Cinnamon
You have to taste this before you say it's "too weird." The spices do strange and wonderful things to the sticky beef, and you should be take advantage.
Twenty-one: Selles-sur-Cher Goat Cheese with Frog Hollow Peach
As much as I love this funky fromage, it was almost an afterthought once we tasted the impossibly sweet and juicy "Autumn Fire" peach from Fog Hollow Farms.
Twenty-two: Manchego Cheese and Membrillo
This course is an edible tribute to the expression, "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts." This is two great ingredients combining to make magic. I've also done a fantastic quesadilla using this combo.

Twenty-three: Flourless Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Ice Cream
I was concerned that after 22 courses this would be too decadent a dessert. I was wrong.

Twenty-four: A Single Macadamia Nut
Could you eat just one?

I think this 24-item menu may be some kind of world's record for a video blog. If anyone wants to check with Guinness for me, I would really appreciate it. Tomorrow, I will attempt to link this post to previous video recipes for techniques used on this menu. If you want to see something demo'd from this menu, please let me know!

If you want to check out the other 23 bloggers that took part, you can find links to their "24, 24, 24" meals here. A very special thanks to Ryan, and the entire Foodbuzz team, for imagining and organizing such a unique event! It was an unbelievable experience, and I am so glad I got to participate. It was weeks of planning, two-days of cooking, six-hours of eating, and an almost all-night editing session to complete, but I can honesty say I enjoyed every minute.

An extra special thanks to my wife Michele. Without all her hard work I could not have pulled this off. Also, thanks to Tony and Nora for their help, and for sharing in this memorable meal.

Random Facts and Figures

  • Approximately 45 Foodbuzz pages were perused in the planning of this meal.
  • The menu was changed 7 times before this final version.
  • 58 unique ingredients were purchased at 12 different San Francisco markets.
  • Incredibly, bacon was not used anywhere in this menu. How was that possible?
  • The misenplace took 18 hours of prep, over the course of four days.
  • No fingers or hands were harmed in the making of this meal.
  • The combined running time for these three videos is 18:04. This was edited down from 41 minutes of raw footage.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Making Gremolata and Defending Curly Parsley

I mentioned gremolata at the end of the recently posted Fresh Corn and Shelling Bean Ragout video recipe, and here it is. This sharp, fresh, and very green Italian condiment is the perfect garnish to those rich, stick-to-your-ribs recipes that dominate fall and winter menus.

I not only used this batch of gremolata to top the shelling beans, but it will also make an appearance on a fabulous smoked pork shank and white bean dish I'm posting soon. As you'll see, this is an ultra-simple recipe, and one that makes so many great foods even better.

When I went out to the garden to harvest some parsley, I was faced with one of the drawbacks of my super-busy month of travel and events… unnoticed, my parsley had gone to seed, and there weren't enough leaves to do the recipe with.

Time was very short, so I ran out to the corner market, which only had bunches of curly parsley. The horror. I'm sure you've heard me making fun of chefs that still garnish plates with curly parsley on videos in the past, and in general I always use the flat leaf Italian variety. But, I have to admit, ridiculous garnishing aside, it was fine.

I do prefer the somewhat stronger flavor of Italian parsley, but once minced fine, as in this recipe, the much-maligned curly leaf does an admirable job. Besides, I realize there is still a segment of the population whose only parsley purchasing choice is the curly, and so this goes out to all of you. Enjoy!

Ingredients (adjust to your tastes!):
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 large garlic clove, crushed fine
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste (optional)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Garage Sale'ing for Fun and Profit

Instead of filming some fabulous food, I'm on the streets of San Francisco arguing the true value of a 17 year-old Frugal Gourmet cookbook! That's right, we're doing a garage sale this weekend! Good times.

Hope you're having a great weekend. The weather here in San Francisco is simply spectacular, and the folks walking by are in moods to match. If people would start buying our old junk, the day would be complete!

I'll be back tomorrow with another video recipe, so stay tuned.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cool Beans! Fresh Corn and Shelling Bean Ragout a la Ramblas

At a recent dinner at Ramblas in San Francisco, Michele and I enjoyed an incredibly simple, yet deeply flavorful shelling bean ragout. Ramblas is our favorite Spanish restaurant in the City, and the big, meaty beans were stewed with corn, citrus, and currants.

In fact, I was so impressed with this dish I swore to myself the next time I saw fresh shelling beans, I would attempt something similar. A week later I was shopping in Berkeley and saw a beautiful pile of cranberry beans (another common name for shelling beans).

I was so happy, and my mouth watered thinking back to that great crock of beans. I'm sure as I stuffed them into the bag, I had one of those deranged smiles that had on-lookers wondering, "What the hell is wrong with that guy."

As you watch this video, I can understand if the combination of ingredients seems a little strange, but trust me, this is a fantastic vegetable dish. It's my new favorite side dish, which is funny since I can't seem to wait for the main course to eat it.

At the end of the video, I garnish the dish with a spoon of something called gremolata. I've already filmed this for another recipe, which isn't live yet, so you will get to see that made, but for now here's all you need to know. Gremolata is simply fresh parsley minced with some raw garlic and lemon zest, moistened with a little olive oil.

This sharp, raw green sauce, along with a little more freshly zested lemon takes a great bean dish and turns it into something spectacular. Enjoy!

Ingredients (these amounts are complete guesses):
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves sliced garlic
1 cup shelling beans
1 cup fresh corn
2 tbsp dried currants
chicken broth as needed (about 1 1/2 cups total, maybe, possibly)
1/4 cup diced fresh ripe tomato
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp fresh lemon zest
To garnish:
gremolata (see description in post)
lemon zest

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Epic Dinner at the Foodbuzz Community Table

Last night at Epic Roasthouse, I attended the San Francisco stop of the Foodbuzz Community Table sponsored by Visa Signature. Foodbuzz has been holding these events across the country, bringing together select Visa Signature cardholders and local food bloggers for an evening of fine food and drink.

We were treated to a great meal by Chef Jan Birnbaum, which I captured in all its flash-lit glory, as you can see. If you've never dined at a large table of food bloggers before, here's the drill.

The servers bring the plates to the table. The bloggers commiserate with each other over the fact that while the room is beautifully lit, it's too dark to get any decent shots (at least for the photographically-challenged).

Then, as the food cools and sauces
congeal, plates are photographed, passed around so others can photograph, tilted for better angles, and eventually returned to the rightful owner.

Finally, a good ten minutes into the meal, forks and knifes finally go to work. After two or three bites, as is the custom, small bites are exchanged all around the table so everyone can say they tasted everything.

I ordered the cedar plank smoked wild king salmon, which came with baby
butterball potatoes, sicilian olives, butter pears, and piperade of sweet onions and late summer peppers.

It was very good, but I looked with envy at the other tw
o entrée choices nearby. Thanks to Alexa, one of our hosts from Foodbuzz, I got to taste her "Steak-n-Cake," a beef filet with spicy crab cake, dungeness crabmeat hollandaise, and ragout of summer tomatoes. It was really good (although I have to admit, the dish did annoy me only because I was upset I've never thought of the name Steak-n-Cake!)

The other main course choice was a very sexy looking wood fired rotisserie pork rack chop with asparagus flan, roasted chanterelle mushrooms, and a smoky, gingered ham hock sauce. The pork could not have been cooked more perfectly.

After a brief meeting of the minds, I offered a small bite of my salmon to Doug Collister, Executive Vice President of Foodbuzz, who promptly returned with a bread plate containing a marvelously constructed sample of pork.

One way you can tell a true foodie, is by how they put together a taste. You just don't hack off a piece of whatever and pass it over. The bite must have a little bit of each component on the plate to give a true sense for the soul of the dish.

Not only had Doug (aka DACFresh on twitter) served up the right mix of meat, sauce and chanterelle, he had included a perfectly sized piece of crispy pork skin. This simple act of culinary consideration was the highlight of my evening.

The salad course was an iceberg wedge with shaved rad
ish, creamy gorgonzola crouton, and something called "rustic garlic." I forgot to ask the server what that meant, so it remains a mystery. Rustic garlic? Do you know?

Dessert brought a delicious, but not too decadent duo of warm chocolate banana cake with caramel sea salt ice cream and a bread pudding with ricotta and fresh peaches. I've decided that every dessert should be served with caramel sea salt ice cream.

In addition to all this great food, there was of course wine. I had some pink, some white, and some red, and enjoyed all three colors very much (sorry, but I'm always so involved with the food and conversation that I'm usually oblivious to the wine pairings, and this meal was no exception).

The meal came to a graceful and satisfying end as we sipped hot coffee, traded twitter handles, and made dubious promises to check out each other's blogs. Thanks to Alexa and Doug from Foodbuzz, Visa Signature, and the Epic Roasthouse for such a great meal!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cooking Grass-Fed Beef: Episode 4 – Beef Shanks Braised in Three-Onion Broth

This video recipe for Beef Shanks Braised in Three Onion Broth is the fourth in a series of videos I'm doing that focus on cooking various cuts of grass-fed beef.

beautiful beef shanks came from Steve Normanton, and were everything you want a braised shank to be -- moist, tender, sticky, and comforting.

As I looked around for ideas on how to do these grass-fed beef shanks, I kn
ew I was going to slowly braise them (really the only way to go), but I couldn't decide what exactly to braise them in. So many options, so little time.

I saw a few recipes that called for the shanks to be cooked in a broth made from instant onion soup packets. As much as the thought of taking these wonderfully wholesome, all-natural, grass-fed shanks and sticking them in a sodium-packed, MSG-laced, artificially flavored and colored, dry soup mix repulsed me, the idea of cooking them in a French onion soup sounded pretty good.

It was better than pretty good -- it was fantastic! The collagen-rich shanks broke down beautifully and the combination of those succulent chucks of meat, sweet melted onions, buttery marrow, and rich aromatic sauce over the soft polenta, made for a very impressive bowl of food.

As I mention in the video, beef shanks are like a two-for-one deal. Not only do you get the marvelous meat, but you also get one marrowbone per shank! If you've never had beef marrow before, do yourself a favor and get some beef shanks and make this recipe.

Thanks to Steve Normanton as usual for providing such great beef to work with. By the way, those of you who want to cook with grass-fed beef, but don't like it medium-rare, should give this beef shank recipe a try -- it's basically impossible for the dish not to be delicious. Enjoy!

2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 beef shanks (about 1 1/2-inch thick)
3 large onions
1 bay leave
6 springs thyme
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 sprigs rosemary
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cups beef broth
chives to garnish

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Your Next Meal Could Be Your Last... Enjoy!

I'm all for food safety, but this video from New Mexico State University takes a good idea a bit too far. Maybe I'm just bitter they've now ruined two of my favorite Queen songs, but I'm not sure the "they might kill you" chorus is the best approach.

The Youtube page where I found this video states, "The animations were produced at New Mexico State University as part of USDA CSREES National Integrated Food Safety Initiative Project Number CD-D-FST-7057-CG." After watching, I said to myself, "That was sooo USDA CSREES National Integrated Food Safety Initiative Project Number CD-D-FST-7057-CG!"

Salmonella Photo (c) Flickr user Nutloaf

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grilled Halibut Steaks with Corn and White Chanterelles – Finally, a More Fashionable "Surf and Turf"

Excuse me for generalizing, but whenever I hear the term, "surf and turf," I think of a small bland filet mignon sitting next to a small dry lobster tail. For me this combination epitomizes dusty, dated faux gourmet food -- the polyester leisure suit of classic American cuisine.

Inspired by the aforementioned cliché, I just posted another interpretation of "surf and turf" -- grilled halibut steaks with corn and chanterelles. This grilled halibut steaks video recipe features the mild, meaty fish on an earthy, turfy, subtly sweet chanterelle mushroom and corn base.

I think seafood and mushrooms are really great together, and when you add the smokiness from the grill, you have yourself a great autumn meal. Speaking of a smoky grill, it was raining the day I filmed this, so you're not going to get much of a grilling lesson, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

Chanterelle mushrooms should be available this time of year at your nearest farmer's market, but if you can't find them you can substitute regular brown mushrooms and still have a delicious, modern "surf and turf." By the way, green beans almondine sold separately. Enjoy!

2 big halibut steaks
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 cups sliced chanterelle mushrooms, or other fresh mushrooms
1/3 cup diced roasted red pepper or 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
1 cup fresh corn kernels (may sub. frozen corn if need be)
1/2 cup water
1 lemon, juiced
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp minced fresh tarragon
micro greens for garnish
lemon wedges

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Coming Soon: Tonight's Grilled Halibut Dinner in Video Form

Hot Soup

Michele and I stopped for some Korean food on the way home from a thoroughly enjoyable trip to Berkeley Bowl. Sahn Maru, in Oakland, CA, is one restaurant that will never have a customer send back a bowl of soup for not being hot enough!

Directly below, you'll see the iPhone video I took of our spicy soft tofu soup. My phone was off at the time, so this was after it had cooled for a minute! It was the hottest soup I've ever been served.

When I posted to YouTube, I was amused to see that many others had filmed this same soupy scene, so I gathered a small collection. There is something mesmerizing about watching this soup boil in the cast iron pots. Below these, I've posted a video recipe for how to make this super-delicious soup! (you just need to find the pots!)

How to Make Korean Soft Tofu Soup (aka Stew)

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Lazy Man's Upside Down Barbecue Meatloaf

As I've mentioned in a previous post, Michele and I have been working on a San Francisco-style barbecue sauce, called SFQ. It's quite an unusual, but still familiar BBQ sauce that features hints of chocolate, coffee, and red wine vinegar.

It's not quite ready for sale yet (but will be for Christmas, hint, hint), but I've been playing around with it in various recipes, and this meatloaf video shows one such experiment.

When I've done "barbecue meatloaf" before, I've simply used the standard spoon the glaze on the top of the loaf and bake it method. This time I wanted to line the loaf pan with some of the sauce, press the meat in, and let it roast in the goodness.

I was envisioning a beautiful, glossy finish when I turned it on to the serving platter. As you'll see, it wasn't quite as aesthetically pleasing as I had hoped (it was ugly). But hey, this is quick and dirty, fast and half-assed, home cooking. It may not have looked good, but it tasted fine!

When you factor in the almost complete absence of prep work, the results can't be described as anything other than successful. The rich, aromatic barbecue sauce permeated the meatloaf more deeply than if it had simply been baked on top.

Of course, if you do have the time and energy, this same upside down barbecue glaze method would work so nicely on a more involved meatloaf recipe with the traditional sautéed diced aromatic vegetables. Either way, it's just dinner. Enjoy!

1 3/4 - 2 pounds ground beef (very cold)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery salt
pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp chipotle
1 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
1 tsp onion powder (not salt)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Susie Q's Santa Maria-Style Salsa (You can call it the ketchup of Santa Maria-style BBQ, but please don't)

We got to see and sample so many great recipes on our recent trip down to California's Santa Maria Valley, but my favorite may have been this Santa Maria-style salsa recipe.

recipe was demonstrated for me by Susan Righetti, (also known as Susie Q on her website, where she sells local artisan food products). She is an authority on the local cuisine of California's central coast, and hosted us for a fantastic day of cooking and eating.

In addition to this great salsa, she also made a batch of Santa Maria-style pinquito beans, and her husband Paul showed me the real way to do a barbecued tri-tip (on a custom-made barbecue pit in the middle of the house!) I will be posting both those videos as soon as I can.

Susan joked about the Santa Maria-style salsa being, "the ketchup of Santa Maria-style BBQ," since it's always served along side the area's famous barbecued beef.

We had some version of this sauce at just about every meal (including breakfast), and it really did make the smoky meat even more delicious. Some places make a smooth version that's used as a sauce, others make a very chunky style, as seen here, which is eaten more like a side dish salad.

She had a big beautiful bowl of ripe tomatoes which she could have used in this video, but she said that canned tomatoes also work, and since most of you won't have regular access to big beautiful bowls of ripe tomatoes, I had her use the canned ones in the demo.

Susan has a website called Susie Q's Brand where she sells a large variety of local Santa Maria food products, including the magical red oak wood chips. If you are interested in learning more, or want to check out her stuff, here is the link. Enjoy!

(this is for a half batch of the large bowl you see in the video - about 6 cups)
1 can 28-oz whole tomatoes
1 can 7-oz diced green chilies
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (may substitute garlic powder to taste)
2 tbsp chopped parsley (may also substitute or add fresh cilantro)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

*Note: Susie used a shake of her Santa Maria Seasoning, which I have broken down into salt, pepper, etc., here. You can see what's in her blend on the Susie Q's website.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sun Gold Penne Pasta - A Delicious Antidote for Your Overgrown Bush

Most cherry tomato gardeners have a love/hate relationship with the plant. You love that the plant grows into such a huge bush with minimal effort, and by the end of summer is producing handful, after handful of the small, sweet fruit.

That's also what causes the inevitable feelings of guilt and shame as so much of th
e crop goes to waste. You can only give away so much before people start making excuses. In an attempt to give you one more recipe to use up some of those tomatoes, I present this penne pasta featuring a simple, but surprisingly flavorful sauce.

I used mostly Sun Gold tomatoes, which are my favorite variety -- so incredibly sweet; they're like eating little balls of sunshine. When turned into a quick puree with some garlic and fresh herb, they make a fast and very tasty pasta sauce that may help put a little dent in your bumper crop.

The best ways to eat cherry tomatoes are as follows: First, plucked warm off the vine and eaten raw standing in front of the plant. Next best is raw, in some sort of salad. Third best is made into a sauce as I've done here.

Of course, by this time of the year you are so over the first two options that even though this is only the third best way to enjoy them, it will seem even better that the best two ways... I mean, do the math.

Anyway, I hope you give this pasta a try, and remember, this is suppose to be an extremely simple pasta -- perfect for enjoying the sunny goodness of the tomatoes, so resist the temptation to complicate things by adding lots of "stuff." Enjoy!

2 cups Sun Gold cherry tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves sliced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
14-oz dry penne pasta, cooked
salt to taste
1/2 cup grated real Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Coming Soon: Penne with Fresh Golden Cherry Tomato Sauce

I just finished filming a shockingly simple, but super flavorful penne pasta with fresh sun gold cherry tomato sauce. I should have this edited and uploaded late tomorrow sometime. Stay tuned!

Happy Labor Day… only 109 shopping days until Christmas!

Is summer really gone already? I'm too busy for prolonged paradoxical pondering, but how can all those extra-long days go by so fast? It seems like I was just writing my Memorial Day post.

If you are a regular reader, you know what a crazy, travel-filled season this was for me. The blog's traffic has grown steadily, and I appreciate all the visits, comments, and contributions!

So, even though you may be feeling a little melancholy, remember, we are entering the prime time of the year for cooking and eating. I hope you'll visit this blog often for ideas on filling your fall and holiday tables with lots of delicious food.

Yes, the days will get shorter, sunflowers will go to seed, lawns will be garnished with a scattering of crunchy leaves, and some joker will tell you how many shopping days until Christmas -- but it's all right, we're having braised short ribs and root vegetables for dinner!

Finally, here’s to all the dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and other hospitality workers that celebrate Labor Day by working as hard as ever. Don’t feel too sorry for them, it's a labor of love, and besides, they’ll catch up after work. Enjoy!

Apple photo (c) Flickr user Elaron

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Help Solve the Greatest Mystery in the History of Food Service

Last Tuesday I boarded an Alaska Airlines flight for LAX. After about 15 minutes, the flight attendants began the customary snack and beverage service.

I knew I would soon be enjoying a nice cold beverage of my choice, but I was curious what dry, salty snack would be paired with it.

As the attendant got closer, I figured out the little green and gold foil bags contained mini pretzels.

I like pretzels, both mini and regular size, so I watched anxiously as the row in front of us was served -- each person being systematically handed a drink and a bag of crunchies.

Finally it was my turn, and I answered "water" when asked what was my pleasure. Then came a moment so confounding, so perplexing that I still lay awake at night a week later, searching for an explanation! As I was handed my drink, four bags of pretzels were placed on my tray table. Four bags.

Why was I given four bags of pretzels when, as far as I could tell, all of the flyers in front of me had only been given one? The two people to the right of me got only one, as did the three across the aisle.

I had said nothing to attendant, except, "water," nor had anything been said to me. Why in the world would I be so randomly rewarded with three bonus bags? I don't even have a decent theory. It is so utterly mystifying that I am turning to you for help.

As stunned and bewildered as I was, I took my iPhone out of my pocket and snapped this photo, exactly as they had landed. I now stare at it for hours searching for a reason. Why was I given those extra bags? Why? What is your theory? Please help, I'm going insane!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Pretty Piece of Pork – Garlic-Studded, Herb-Rubbed and Perfectly Miscooked

One of the best things about understanding the best ways to cook something is the freedom to ignore them. This incredible garlic-studded, herb-rubbed, roasted pork shoulder recipe is a great example of how you can be rewarded for doing something "the wrong" way.

For cooking pork shoulder, I usually preach slowly roasting, covered, using low heat and long cooking times. The results are moist, falling apart, fork-tender succulence. Here, I wanted to play with textures a bit.

My plan was a bowl of simply prepared white beans, topped with a garlicky, crisp-edged, firm, pleasantly chewy pork, which would be then be topped with a sharp, vinegared cherry tomato and baby romaine chiffonade salad.

I wanted to concentrate the flavors of the pork and make up for any loss of moisture by pairing it with the soft beans and juicy greens. So, I cooked the pork uncovered and at a higher temperature than usual. After chilling overnight, I sliced it into thick steaks and browned them well, in olive oil.

The cold, sour salad was a perfect condiment for the rich meat and every bite of this garlic-scented pork was a joy. I hope you give the recipe a try -- I think this would make for a wonderful, end-of-summer meal. Enjoy!

3 1/2 lb pork shoulder roast
6 cloves garlic, halved
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
1 tsp dried rosemary
cayenne to taste
cooked white beans
handful of baby romaine
handful of cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Santa Maria Strawberry Salmon

This somewhat rough around the edges, but hopefully entertaining video recipe was shot at the Historic Santa Maria Inn on our recent culinary field trip to the central coast.

This stars Chef Alex Araizaga making a very unique almond-crusted salmon recipe featuring a sauce using the area's famous strawberries.

As you'll see, I don’t have the proper A/V gear to do a great remote video, but I wanted to film the chef making one of his signature dishes, and I'm glad I did. It was surprisingly good -- I don't mean that is an insulting way, as if I didn’t expect him to do a good job, it's just I have never been a fan of fruit sauces with seafood, and would have never expected to enjoy a salmon filet on a strawberry sauce, but I did! It really was enjoyable.

I've posted a home cook-friendly version on my American Foods site on, so you can check that out for the ingredients and procedure, which I tweaked ever so slightly from the one you see here.

Thanks to Chef Alex for a great demo (and breakfast afterward!), and also thanks to the Santa Maria Inn for letting me shoot in their busy kitchen. Enjoy!

For a written version of the Almond-Crusted Salmon with Strawberry Sauce recipe, please click here.