Wednesday, August 24, 2011

From Scratch

You may have realized that I love making things from scratch. In this vein, the trickier and more complicated, the better. I just read a another blog's post about preserving your own lemons and I am definitely going to look into this come the height of Meyer lemon season. Because you know how I love a Meyer lemon...

In the meantime, I thought I'd start with something a little simpler. 

I picked up a nice little packet of vanilla beans (only $8!) when I was traveling in Minnesota for work a couple of weeks ago. I had the good fortune of staying in a hotel right next to the Midtown Exchange, which was pretty much my version of heaven - markets of all diffrent cuisines, with take out and eat-in options as well as grocery items to take home. Love, love, love. I had an absolute feast for dinner one night (yea!) while working in the hotel room (boo): a wonderful roasted red pepper and boquerones salad from Sonora Grill; some black bean hummus and gluten free preztels for dipping from the Produce Exchange; and some more delicious things I can't remember. 

The next morning, on my way out of town, I stopped back over at the Exchange for coffee from Mapps and a breakfast treat - a savory leek tart - from The Salty Tart (how can you not love that name?). The Salty Tart also had these lovely little packets of five - yes, five! - vanilla beans for a mere $8. (The three vanilla beans I bought at Eataly in NY were $13, but I guess that's the price you pay to keep Mario Batali in orange crocs...)

Clearly, I needed to make some vanilla extract. 

After searching for recipes, I finally settled on this easy one from a great food blog, Chocolate & Zucchini.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
Take 3 vanilla beans and split them. 

Get out your favorite (flavorless) vodka. I'm loyal to Tito's (an Austin original!)

Put one cup of vodka and the split vanilla beans in a sterilized container. 
I like this flask from Sur La Table.

Shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture. 
Now put the bottle in a cool, dark place and wait 8 weeks. 
Go ahead and shake it every week or whenever you remember.

Patience is a virtue. 
I'll report back in mid-October with the results. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Dog Days are (Not) Over

There was a rumor circulating in my office today that it's going to be 90 degrees tomorrow in San Francisco. 

90 is a big deal here in the land of completely temperate weather. Even just thinking about it put me in a late summer mood. 

So despite the fact that the city is currently shrouded in fog and it's 54 degrees out, I made one of my favorite summer salads for dinner. It didn't hurt that I had a little watermelon in the fridge from last Wednesday's farm box. 

The recipe for this is adapted a thousand times over. The first time I ever had a version of it was at a restaurant I can't for the life of me remember the name of. It was somewhere in Atlanta. It was September and I was down there for a video shoot. The video vendor took us out for dinner and I simply could not pass up what was to me then a crazy combination of watermelon, ricotta salata, and mint. I've loved it ever since. 

Tonight I decided I wanted to go the feta route, so mixed up the ingredients once again. Here's the basic framework:
(Ugh, did I just say that? Too much time thinking about work these days!)

Kate's Summer Watermelon Salad


Watermelon, peeled and cut into 1/2"-1" cubes
Herb(s), torn or chiffonade: I find mint or basil to be my favorites but anything leafy (i.e. not rosemary or thyme) could work. Tonight I used mint
Cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes: Feta and ricotta salata are two of my favorites, feta being tonight's choice. You could also try a crumbly aged goat cheese. The cheese should be creamy, salty, and be a bit tangy
Extras: olives (I used black oil cured but if those are too aggressive for you, try kalamata), blanched toasted almonds I skipped the almonds tonight)
Dressing, whisked to combine: extra virgin olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, pepper

Mix everything in a bowl. 
Love summer. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cooking Light

Mom, Doug & Sandy visited me last week which means I'm coming off a massive food binge. The peak of said binge was lunch on Friday: I ate the fried chicken on brioche, with bacon, blue cheese, egg, avocado, & sundried tomato vinaigrette at Citizen Cake. For serious.

Fried chicken
Blue cheese
Sundried tomato vinaigrette

Damn, that is one good sandwich. 

If it doesn't kill you by clogging your arteries, you surely will die of ecstasy upon eating it, I promise. And I ate the entire thing.

Well, I'm sure it will shock you to find out that my jeans were just a smidge too tight this morning and as much as I'd like to blame that on their being freshly laundered, I think we all know what's going on here. I'm sure the two huge pieces of pizza and the chocolate croissant I had yesterday that capped off 5 days of eating out for almost every meal, drinking at lunch and dinner (and sometimes in between) and barely working out the whole time had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Needless to say, it's been a day of light eating. 

That said, I haven't cooked at home in days, and I've been really itching to make something delicious and use what was left of last week's farm box delivery. I knew there was a rather large bag of summer squash in my fridge and was determined to put it to good use. Some trolling of Epicurious led to this recipe, which inspired the below. I did a terrible job taking pictures tonight because I was much more into the joy of actually cooking than I was into the joy of documenting it. Sorry!

Kate's Summer Salad

Makes uh...maybe 4 servings? I don't know. I have at least enough remaining for a couple of lunches. So it makes that much.

2 large summer squash or 6 small ones, trimmed and sliced lengthwise
1 red pepper, cored and quartered
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined if you're into that
2 tablespoons pesto, divided 
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
juice of one small lemon
1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium-sized heirloom tomato, cored and chopped
Salt and pepper


1. Heat a grill (or in my case, grill pan) so it's good and hot and smoky.

2. Turn on the fan that blows on your overly sensitive smoke detector and open some windows.  

Oh wait, that's just at my place? Nevermind...onto step 3.

3. Make the dressing: combine 1 tablespoon pesto, juice of half the lemon, vinegar, and salt and pepper, in a small bowl. Set aside.

4. Combine the shrimp, 1 tablespoon pesto, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl. Toss to coat. Set aside.

5. In a medium bowl, combine the summer squash, red pepper, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Grill the veggies until tender but not mushy. I think this took about 12 minutes in my grill pan. Chop the veggies and add back to the medium bowl along with the dressing. Toss to coat.

6. Turn the heat to medium low and grill the shrimp for about 90 seconds on each side. Add to the veggie bowl along with the chickpeas and heirloom tomato. 

7. Season with salt and pepper. It might need the rest of the lemon juice, so have a little taste and then possibly throw that in as well. I did.

Serve over arugula for a salad or stuff in a pita pocket (again, with arugula) for a sandwich. 
Tastes delicious alongside some pinot grigio. 

What? Wine's good for you. 

Plus, I said I was eating light, not going on a cleanse.