Saturday, August 21, 2010

Monthly micro-batch: white peach sangria sorbet

When I moved to CA, Paul and I merged our kitchens. As a result I have an ice cream maker. I don't even like ice cream, but I thought it would be fun to do micro-batches (yielding less than 4 cups) of ice cream or sorbet with flavors of the season. In August, the farmers' markets here are overflowing with big, beautiful peaches, so something peachy and summery seemed like a good idea.

This recipe makes a refreshing summer treat. You can also use this as a tasty replacement for ice in white sangria or can be served with a little bubbly and fresh fruit.


  • 2 big, ripe white peaches
  • 1 C dry white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
  • 2 T sugar
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon

Cut up the peaches and remove any brown spots.

Mix the peaches with the rest of the ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to almost a boil then remove and let cool.

When cooled to room temperature, put all the ingredients in the blender and blend till smooth. Typical directions tell you to cool the mixture for a few hours in the fridge. I like to go against conventional wisdom, so I just put the warm mixture in the ice cream maker. It took longer to freeze, but it didn't break the machine.

If you like your sorbet a little soft, serve immediately. Put in the freezer in an airtight container if you'd like it to get harder or if you have any leftovers. You may need to microwave the leftovers for a few seconds to be able to serve them. Or you can eat it straight from the container :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Radicchio salad with lemon panna cotta

A few months ago, I had the most amazing and surprising salad from Ten Tables. Fresh radicchio, simply dressed, and served atop a rich lemon panna cotta. Huh? Isn't panna cotta dessert? Yes, it has a light creaminess that also works well against the slight spicy, bitterness of radicchio. When I found radicchio at my local farmers' market, I had to give it a whirl. Having been a few months since I had tasted this treat, I couldn't remember the cheese and nuts that were mixed in the salad. Since both radicchio and panna cotta are staples in Italian cooking, I went with a smooth, nutty piave and sweet roasted pine nuts to balance the whole meal.


  • 1 C half and half
  • 1/2 packet gelatin
  • 2 T sugar
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 1 small head radicchio
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 T grated piave
  • 2 oz shaved piave
  • 1/4 C roasted pine nuts
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Hint: Do yourself a favor and make the panna cotta the day before. It keeps just fine for a few days and if you don't use it for this, you can always top it with fresh berries for a light dessert.

Warm the half and half, sugar, and lemon zest over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, hydrate the gelatin in a few tablespoons of cold water. Mix the lemon juice from half the lemon into the gelatin. Whisk the gelatin mixture into the cream mixture. Pour into two lightly greased small containers (I used the pint tubs that you get olives and stuff in from Whole Foods). Allow to solidify in the fridge.

In salad bowl, mix the olive oil, remaining lemon juice, grated cheese, and salt and pepper. The cheese will help is make a more saucy dressing.

Slice the radicchio into cole slaw-sized slivers. And shave the piave. One helpful hint I learned from Giada, is to use a vegetable peeler to shave cheese. Works like a charm.

Try to ease the panna cotta onto a salad plate. You can kinda see that I didn't have the best of luck with that. But just get it basically back together and don't stress too much about how it looks since it's going to be covered up anyway.

Toss the rest of the ingredients in the dressing and serve on top of the panna cotta. It can be a bit of a challenge, but try to get the perfect bite that includes a little bit of all the ingredients. It's worth the effort.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Tastecation: Florence

Sure, Florence is known for some of the best works of art and is considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, but walk around the streets of Florence and you'll quickly realize that they're famous for their leather. And where there's leather, there are cows. And where there are cows there is food rich with different parts of said cows.

In Rome, I saw herds of sheep, so wasn't surprised to be surrounded by pecorino. Although Tuscany is knows for its Tuscano pecorino as well, I was happy to see fresh mozzarella on my antipasto plate at Osteria All' Antico Mercato (although I'm pretty sure it was bufala moz, not cow moz).

One of the most famous meals to get in Florence is the bistecca alla florentina (which traditionally comes from the Chianina cattle raised in Chiana Valley).

I'm afraid this author and traveler did not have enough room in my stomach for the experience of the immense plate of savory cow flesh that is bistecca. Instead, I opted for a more reasonable dish at Pizzeria Ristorante il Teatro - tagliata, which is a much smaller cut of meat, grilled and served with a ton of fresh arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Needless to say, I enjoyed it. But perhaps that was because of the wonderful service that came with it.

Florentines are not only friendly, they are historically efficient when it comes to the use of ingredients. When times were tough, the rich ate tripe and the poor used the water in which the tripe was boiled. And when salt was out of reach to most people, they made bread without it. To this day, you will get fairly flavorless bread at most Florentine restaurants. At Alla Vecchia Bettola I enjoyed two creative dishes made from food that many of us would just throw away.

The first came with the standard salamis and prosciutto of the meat antipasto - beef liver pate. I am not a huge fan of beef liver, which typically makes me gag a little when I try to swallow it. But somehow, the combinations of the liver with other meats and spices was quite delicious.

The second dish, ribollita, starts with day old bread with cannelleni beans, tomatoes, and kale. Now this was delicious by itself; a true expression of peasant food at its best. But after I ate a few bites, the waiter kindly motioned to the olive oil and pepper on my table, which, once on top, took the flavor to an almost godly level.

Mmmm. On that note, I'm gonna go try to turn some leftovers into a divine delicacy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pasta all’Amatriciana

On a tastecation in Rome, I fell in love with the simple sauces of the region that utilize ingredients grown nearby. One of these was Bucatini all'Amatriciana which originated in the town of Amatrice. Like many recipes, it started with a bit of pasta and ended with whatever common people had in their homes. I'm not Italian, but I'm really into this way of cooking.

As it so happened the other day, I had tried out Lucca Ravioli in my new neighborhood and had gotten pancetta, pecorino romano, and fresh fettucini. All I needed were some roma tomatoes from the corner market and I was ready for some tasty pasta.

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 lb guanciale, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 5 roma tomatoes, blanched and crushed
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 - 1/2 C grated pecorino romano
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 lb fresh pasta
Sauté the guanciale in the olive oil over medium high heat. I had pancetta on hand, so I used this instead, cutting it into small pieces before cooking.

While the meat is cooking, blanche the tomatoes. Remove the tomatoes from the water and reserve the water for the pasta. 

When the meat is crunchy, remove from the pan and add the garlic. Sauté the garlic till translucent then add the blanched and crushed tomatoes all at once. If you don't have good, fresh tomatoes or if you're in a hurry, simply use canned tomatoes. Add the vinegar and pepper and watch as it bubbles down. The sauce will pick up the flavor of the meat and the balsamic vinegar will add a bit of sweetness.

Add the pasta to the boiling water. When the pasta has returned to a boil, spoon about 1-2 C of the pasta water into your sauce. It's pretty important to use good pasta here so that the water will be nice and starchy, making a thick gravy.

Drain the pasta and add the cheese to the sauce. Stir until the cheese melts. Then add the pasta to the sauce and mix well. Top with the crispy meat. Optionally, sprinkle with cracked pepper and Italian parsley.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tastecation: Rome

I went to Rome because of the rich history and figured when in Rome... eat as the Romans do. Smart choice.

What really appealed to me about Rome was the amount of layering of everything in the city, almost like an artichoke, where each yummy layer yields an even yummier layer beneath. There are thousands of years of history in Rome, ranging from brutal to beautiful, one generation layered on top of the next.

The Romans have a lot of pride in this history. What is wonderful is not only that they try to preserve it, but they try to do so in an authentic way. While on a bike tour, I noticed that you could tell where they had fixed some of the ancient buildings because they used entirely different building materials. I asked my guide if he preferred this way or if he thought they should have tried to make it look like the original. Basically, he told me that he liked the former because it was more honest.

And that's what most impressed me about the food in Rome. Unlike French cooking (which is delicious in its own rite), the food in Rome didn't consist of fancy sauces. The food couldn't hide - it had to be good enough to sit on a plate by itself. Therefore, I had dishes made of the freshest ingredients, mixed simply and quickly. In one word, it was honest.

In this vein, I tasted food like amatriciana and carbanara, which start with good pasta and to that is added very simple ingredients.

Of course, the ingredients are typically pretty local. While the city is very touristy and restaurants have to cater to tourist expectations, they do try to celebrate the food of their region and the dishes that have come from that food. In Rome, that included cheeses and tomatoes, all with roma somewhere in the name.

Near the center of the city, you can find traditional shops. Here, you can find tasty wines, cured meats, and fresh pasta that are made and served by people who have been doing this their whole lives.

On another bike tour that took us out of the ancient center of the city out along the Appian Way, we stopped at what used to be a beautiful villa but had become a sheep farm. Inside, the owner had created her own cheese cave. She served us the freshest pecorino I've ever tasted as her sheep watched in the distance.

Within this layered city are layers of daily food production that we would normally associate with country living.

How civilized!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Simple arugula and peach salad with fresh lemon dressing

My first full day in San Francisco and, of course, I had to start investigating the local food scene. You can't get more local than your own back yard. I don't mean this in a metaphoric sense - we actually have a gorgeous lemon tree in our backyard, which is AWESOME because of how much I use lemons.

So I decided to grab a few more California grown and made items to make my first meal in San Francisco.


  • 1/4 lb baby arugula
  • 1/2 white peach
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil (preferable Italian as its spiciness works well with arugula)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/8 lb Mt Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery (any soft, creamy rind cheese will work)
  • Chunk from a fresh baguette

In a salad bowl, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cut the peach into crouton-sized chunks. Add the arugula to the bowl and toss. Add the peach chunks and toss. Serve with the cheese sliced and the chunk of bread.