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Showing posts with label San Francisco. Show all posts
Showing posts with label San Francisco. Show all posts

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic-Parsley Toasts

Cioppino is said to have originated among fishermen who made their dinners out of the fish and shellfish they couldn't sell in the morning. Although it has evolved into a pricey item on upscale menus, at heart cioppino is comfort food.

Traditionally cioppino features fresh crab, reflecting the origin of the dish in San Francisco where Dungeness crabs are plentiful. When crab isn't available or affordable, shrimp works just as well. Clams and mussels are essential to the dish, as are cubes of fish fillets. Flounder sole, tilapia, salmon, or halibut all work well.

Find a reliable supplier of seafood. To ensure we're getting the freshest ingredients, we buy our clams and mussels from Carlsbad Aqua Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market (Wednesday and Sunday) and our flounder sole from Tropical Seafood at the Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market (Sunday).

Tomatoes
are as important to making cioppino as is good quality seafood. If the tomatoes are roasted, the soup has a beautiful sweetness edged with the tomato's natural acidity.

One of the helpful aspects of this dish is that many of the elements can be prepared ahead and frozen for later use. I pick up overly ripe tomatoes at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market when they're discounted. I'll buy several pounds, roast them, freezing some whole in an air tight container and turning the rest into tomato sauce, which I also freeze.

The clams and mussels can be cooked, taken out of their shells, and frozen. If the meat is submerged in the broth, there's no danger of freezer burn. The fish fillets can be cut into 1/2" squares, tossed in olive oil, and frozen in a Ziploc bag. That way all the essential parts of the cioppino are waiting in the freezer whenever you want a taste treat.

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes

While serving cioppino with shellfish in the shell is more picturesque, my vote is to take the clams, mussels, and crab out of their shells so eating the dish is easier.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes plus 45-60 minutes for the tomatoes

Ingredients

6 large ripe tomatoes, washed
8 cloves garlic, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems
1/2 pound mushrooms--shiitake or brown--washed, thinly sliced
1 pound Dungeness crab legs, cooked, washed, cut into 1" pieces or 1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, cut into 1" pieces
2 pounds butter or little neck clams, washed
2 pounds mussels, washed, beards removed
1 pound fish fillet--sole, salmon, tilapia, or halibut--washed, cut into 1/2" cubes
Olive oil
Black pepper

Method

Roasting the Tomatoes

Remove the remnants of the stem at the top of the tomato and discard. Put the tomatoes on a Silpat or aluminum foil sheet on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.

Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl, reserving all the liquid on the bottom of the baking tray. When cooled to the touch, remove the skins and discard. With your fingers, tear the tomatoes into small pieces. Set aside.

Parsley-Garlic Toasts

To make the parsley-garlic toasts, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, seasoned with half the garlic and parsley. Make two slices for each person. Saute the bread on each side until lightly browned.

Cioppino

In a large stock pot, drizzle olive oil on the bottom, heat on a low flame, saute the remaining garlic and parsley until softened. Add 1/4 cup water, the clams and mussels, turn the flame to high, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove all the clams and mussels that have opened. If any are still closed, put the cover back on and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Any clams and mussels that still haven't opened at that point should be discarded.

Slowly pour the broth into a large bowl. Discard any grit remaining in the stock pot. Return the pot to the stove, drizzle more olive oil, and saute the mushrooms over a low flame until lightly browned. Add the broth and roasted tomato pulp and sauce. Simmer 15 minutes.

Add the fish fillets, stir well, and cook 5 minutes. Add the crab or shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add the mussels and clams, stirring them into the broth, being careful not to break apart the fish fillets. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Place 1 slice of garlic-parsley toast on the bottom of each bowl, add the cioppino, then place the 2nd slice on top.

Variations

Instead of garlic cloves in the cioppino saute, use 1 whole green garlic, outer skin of the bulb and root end removed, white and green parts thinly sliced

Add 1 cup cubes of cooked, peeled potato, preferably Yukon Gold or fingerlings, unpeeled and quartered

Add kernels from 1 grilled corn on the cob

Substitute cilantro for the parsley

Saute thin rounds of Italian sausage or chorizo, add to the broth

Use 1/4 cup white instead of water

Saturday, July 19, 2008

From Los Angeles to UC Davis with a Stop at San Francisco's Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market

On our way to UC Davis for our son Michael's freshman orientation, we first went to San Francisco. Taking I-5 we drove straight up the Central Valley with its seemingly endless miles of rich farmland, passing truck after truck filled to overflowing with California's bounty: tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, squash, lettuce, onions... Like most Californians we love being on a road trip but nowadays we don't have the luxury of time so we usually fly when we travel. For this trip we had set aside five days and we relished a rare opportunity to get in the car and hit the road.
In San Francisco we stayed with Michelle's cousin Marii, her husband Ron, and their daughter Claire. Their house is in the Marina so we could take walks along the Bay within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. Ron is a great cook and we decided that one night he, Michelle, and I would cook dinner for Michael, Marii, and Claire.
Saturday morning, while Michael slept in, we went to the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market to prep the meal.

The last time I shopped at the market I was working for San Francisco based DotComix, a web animation site that imploded when the internet bubble popped in 2000. At that time, the farmers' market was across the street from the Ferry in a small parking lot. Now the market encircles the Ferry building and fills the Plaza on the southern end, giving the shoppers a clear view of the Bay Bridge.

For an appetizer Ron was going to barbeque skewers of Wagyu beef he'd ordered on-line from ADiRECT Foods. The night before we'd eaten at a neighborhood Japanese-fusion restaurant called Umami. We talked a lot about what created that extra flavor ("umami") that is neither sweet, bitter, sour, salty but something more. We knew using mushrooms was one way to create that extra flavor. At the market he found fresh morels that he wanted to try with the beef. For our part Michelle and I wanted to keep dinner as summer-friendly as possible so we focused on buying ingredients we could grill and use for salads. Dessert would be a Banana-Chocolate Chip Walnut Cake I'd made at home.

There were stand-outs at the market: large bunches of watercress from White Crane Springs Ranch, peaches and nectarines from Frog Hollow Farm, and Ella Bella Farm's broccoli di cicco (sprouted broccoli). We also bought corn, tomatoes, arugula, and Italian parsley. The market is such a treat. Even if you didn't need to shop, walking through the crowds and enjoying the visual experience of the waterfront setting is more than enough reason to come to the market.

Ironically we would have missed one of the best parts of the market if the forest fires weren't raging in California and Nevada. We were just about finished shopping when we were surprised to see our friends Val and Florence. They live a block away from us in LA. Florence is one of the most accomplished cooks I know. There was no one better to give us tips about the market. They were two days into a week-long vacation in Reno when the forest fires came close enough that they had to leave, as Val put it, "because it was raining ash." Having traveled frequently to San Francisco, Florence knew where to buy the best peaches--Frog Hollow Farm--and which vendors had the best prepared food.

We hadn't planned to eat at the market because we were on our way to Sausalito to have lunch with friends, but Florence insisted that we couldn't leave without sampling her favorites. Luckily there were four of us to share. There was lox, cream cheese and a slice of thick-cut tomato on sourdough bread topped with red onions and lavender sea salt from Cap'n Mike's Holy Smoked Salmon, toastadas de ceviche with shrimp and avocado from Primavera, and RoliRoti's porchetta sandwich, the crispy pork sliced to order by chef-owner Thomas Odermatt. Florence told us that the porchetta sandwich was just like the ones she loved in Rome. For us the porchetta sandwich was a highlight of our trip. With napkins in hand and our stomachs full, we thanked Florence and Val for their much-appreciated advice.

Claire had patiently endured our extra time at the market. We owed it to her to finish shopping quickly. While she ate a breakfast muffin from Downtown Bakery, I picked up a chicken from the Golden Gate Meat Company and a piece of Capricious cheese from Achadinha Cheese Company.

Later that afternoon Ron, Michelle, and I cooked our dinner, which included grilled chicken, sausages, and vegetables; a summer drink of white rum, mint, and limes that combines the best of a Mojito and a Caipirinha; Ron's skewers of Wagyu beef and morels were amazing, the morels' earthiness perfectly complimented the meat's buttery sweetness; chopped liver and egg salad; grilled lavash; arugula and carrot salad; chopped salad; watercress with grated Capricious cheese; and the banana chocolate chip walnut cake.
We had a wonderfully leisurely dinner with time to catch up about family, tell jokes, and talk about favorite movies. As a reward for my helping cook dinner, Claire made me a drawing in recognition of my "hard work and generosity." Appreciation is a great gift for anyone who cooks.

Of all the dishes we made, what Marii liked best was the chopped salad with grilled vegetables and Italian parsley. There will be more about the rest of the dinner in subsequent posts, but I wanted to start with Marii's favorite dish.

Summer's Best Chopped Salad

A salad with an infinite number of variations.

Yield 4 servings
Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

2 bunches Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems)
1 large avocado (peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped)
4 carrots (washed, peeled, cut into 1/4" thick, 2" long slabs)
2 scallions (washed, ends trimmed)
4 ears of corn (husks and silks removed, washed)
1/2 pound broccoli (washed, ends trimmed, stems peeled, florets cut into 1/4" thick, 2" long slabs; if using sprouted broccoli grill whole)
1/2 pound string beans (washed, ends trimmed)
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Put the chopped parsley and avocado into a large mixing bowl. Heat a barbecue grill. Drizzle olive oil on the vegetables, season with sea salt and pepper. Grill 5-10 minutes until lightly brown. If you don't have a grill, you can accomplish a similar result in a 350 degree oven. Turn frequently in either case so the vegetables don't burn. Remove and let cool.

Reduce the balsamic vinegar in a saucepan on a low flame until you have a quarter of the original volume. The vinegar will become sweet.

Finely chop the grilled vegetables, add to the parsley, drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic, season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Toss well and transfer to a salad bowl.

Variations

Keep the salad vegetarian and grill any vegetable you enjoy, like squash, asparagus, onions or mushrooms, chop, and add to the salad.
Add grilled meats like Italian sausage or chicken or shellfish like shrimp, lobster and crab.

Add cheese such as crumbled feta, finely chopped comte, mozzarella, Swiss or cheddar.
Add chopped olives.
Add chopped salami.
Add chopped grilled eggplant.

Add chopped artichoke bottoms.

Add chopped hardboiled eggs.

Add homemade croutons.

Add chopped roasted beets.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

From Father to Son: A Dinner Menu

I enjoy cooking so much, I was happy when my older son Frank asked if I could help him plan a dinner he was going to cook for a friend.

The best meal is one that starts with great ingredients, which means shopping at farmers' markets and specialty shops. Supermarkets are fine for household supplies but only a few--like Gelson's, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fairway Market, Canyon Market--carry quality produce and meat.

Since Frank will be in San Francisco for the weekend, I suggest he and his friend go to the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market Saturday morning. Located on the Embarcadero at Market, he'll find premium vegetables, fruits, cheeses, olives, freshly baked breads, desserts, and flowers. The market is open from 8:00am until 2:00pm. If they go early they'll avoid the lunch-time crowds.

While they walk around the market enjoying the cool breezes off the Bay, they can pick up snacks from Hog Island Oyster Company, a muffin from the Downtown Bakery, or sample cheeses from Andante Dairy. The market is definitely an eat-as-you-shop kind of place.

Because I know Frank won't want to spend more time in the kitchen than necessary, the menu I'm suggesting relies on quick-and-easy techniques. And since I know he understands the importance of cleaning as he cooks--a meal is so much more pleasurable if the kitchen is clean when the cooking is finished--I've tried to minimize the number of pots and pans required.

Appetizers

Serve a plate of 2-3 cheeses, ones that contrast with each other. A Triple Cream (soft) for example and a Comte (firm). Tasting cheeses at the market is a good way to find the ones you like. Olives, fresh fruit, a baguette, and wine all go well with a cheese.

Putting together the appetizer plate will take only a few minutes. Frank and his friend can snack on the appetizers while he prepares dinner.

Salad

For a salad something simple: fresh arugula tossed with crushed roasted hazelnuts and dressed with olive oil and reduced balsamic dressing, seasoned with a little sea salt and pepper.

Or a tomato and avocado salad with a touch of olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper.

Pasta with Mushrooms and Parmesan Cheese

Yield 2 servings
Time 15 minutes

Ziti or penne takes about 10 minutes to cook in salted, boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. A cup of the pasta water is a key ingredient. When the pasta is strained, put a heat-proof container under the strainer and capture a cup of pasta water.

Ingredients

1/2 box of De Cecco pasta (ziti or penne)
1/2 pound mushrooms, brown or shiitake (washed, dried, thinly sliced longitudinally)
2 garlic cloves (peeled, finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, leaves only, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon sweet butter (unsalted)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup pasta water
1 tablespoon Kosher salt for the pasta water
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Boil 4 quarts of water with the Kosher salt, add the pasta, stir and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir every couple of minutes to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Cook until al dente. Strain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, return the pasta to the pot, drizzle with olive oil, stir well, and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In a frying pan, sauté the garlic, mushrooms, and parsley until lightly browned, add the butter and pasta water and simmer, reducing the liquid by half, then add the pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

Variations

Add to the sauté, quartered cherry tomatoes and roughly chopped up spinach leaves.

Sauté fresh corn kernels ( 1/4 cup) and shallots (1 tablespoon) with the mushrooms and parsley.

Chicken Fillets with Parsley-Bacon Topping

Yield 2 servings
Time 10 minutes

Buy either chicken tenders--which are pricey--or skinless, boneless breasts and cut them the long way so each breast makes two 1/2" thick fillets.

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts (washed, cut into 1/2" thick fillets) or 4 chicken tenders (washed)
2 slices of bacon (finely chopped)
1/4 cup Italian parsley (washed, finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (peeled, finely chopped)
1/2 avocado (peeled, roughly chopped)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Season the breasts with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Pour a little olive oil into a frying pan and sauté the bacon and parsley on a low flame. Use a fork to break up the pieces and cook until lightly browned. Remove and drain on a paper towel.

Drizzle olive oil into the frying pan and season with sea salt and pepper. Get the pan hot on a medium flame. Add the chicken. The fillets cook quickly because they are thin. Lightly brown on each side.

Top with the sautéd bacon-parsley bits and garnish with chopped avocado on the side.

Salt Steamed Broccoli or Spinach

Yield 2 servings
Time 10 minutes (broccoli) or 5 minutes (spinach)

Ingredients

1 bunch broccoli or spinach
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil

Method

Wash the broccoli and cut off the florets. If you're using spinach, wash well to get rid of the grit, remove the stems and discard. Put a steamer in a pot, add the water and salt, bring to a boil, add the broccoli florets or spinach, and cover. Steam the broccoli for 10 minutes or the spinach for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a plate and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with the chicken.

Dessert

Good fruit is available now at the farmers' market: cherries, apricots, early grapes, pluots, cantaloupe, and lots of berries. A plate of fresh fruit and a small cake from the farmers' market would make a delicious dessert. Or, with very little effort, baked pluots and apricots, coupled with ice cream or yogurt, make a beautiful finish to a meal.

Baked Pluots and Apricots

Yield 2 servings
Time
30 minutes

Ingredients

2 apricots
2 pluots or plums (washed, cut in half, pits removed)
Raw sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the halved apricots and pluots on a sheet of aluminum foil on a baking sheet, dust with raw sugar, and bake for 30 minutes until softened.

Serve with ice cream or yogurt.