I love to cook.  More than that, I love to eat.  So its very easy to make the jump of combining the two loves into one big fat delicious LOVE.  Here you will find some great recipes for dishes like Steamed Mussels, Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic, Pumpkin Soup, Roasted Fennel with Anchovies and Sambucca, Blueberry Pancakes.  You get the picture, good stuff!  You can post a recipe too and together we can be chefs of the city (or the country if that is where you live).  Also, I'll be telling you about some of my favorite restaurants around town.  So enjoy!   


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Urban Food

Thursday
Jul042013

Domaine Tempier Bandol- and delicious garlic aioli!

Do you like garlic?  Well, do mice like cheese?  Do bees like honey?  Well, actually they MAKE honey, but you get the picture.  EVERYBODY loves garlic!  As a matter of fact, I don't trust someone who doesn't, there's something wrong there.  So, in the interest of 'spreading the wealth' as it were, I'v decided to show you how to make a garlic aioli, which is a French mayonnaise.  If you make it right, its so good you have a strong chance of becoming addicted. And this delicious aioli is the perfect accompaniment to this most sublime rosé, Domaine Tempier Bandol!

   Its fresh, its garlicky, its salty and its tangy.  Like many things of fragile beauty, it only lasts a few days.  But oh what a few days!  You spread it on a crusty baguette, or crisp raw veggies.  Or you can slather it on cooked broccoli, slop it on scrambled eggs or put a dollop on steamed asparagus.  I"v put it on grilled Pacific salmon.  And you serve it with a crisp rosé or a French Chablis.

    1 1/2 cups canola oil

    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    3 large cloves garlic

    sea salt

    2 egg yokes

    1 lemon, halved

    2 to 3 tablespoons water

    Combine the oils in a 2 cup measure and set aside.  

    Crush together the garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in a mortar with a pestle until the garlic is completely turned into a paste.  You keep scraping down the sides of the mortar as you mash with a soft rubber spatula or some such implement you may have on hand.  Scrape the resulting paste into a large ceramic bowl, add the egg yokes and a pinch of salt and whisk.  Using a ceramic bowl is really helpful because you want sturdiness.  And you want a narrow bottom, not a broad one.  Also, make sure its room temp or even a bit warm.  NOT COLD, NOT HOT.  

    While whisking constantly, begin adding the blended oils 1 drop at a time.  This is time consuming and you don't have to be EXACT, but try, and you will find your own method of accomplishing this.  I put the oil in a shot glass and drip it down.  After adding 1 to 2 tablespoons oil, the mixture will become very stiff.  Whisking constantly, blend in 1 tablespoon of the water.  This will thin it out a bit.  Then resume adding the oil drop by drop until the mixture again becomes stiff.  Don't be obsessive about this, but do take your time.  

    Whisk in the juice of 1/2 lemon.  When the mixture smothes out, resume adding oil, this time in a thin stream.  Yes, it will become stiff again.  YOU'RE ALMOST DONE, HANG IN THERE.  Now you whisk in 1 more tablespoon water and add the remaining oil in a thin stream while whisking constantly.  

     Taste it and add salt as needed.  It should taste more garlicky than lemony and it should be looser than mayonnaise.  But if you like a bit more lemon, go ahead.  If its too thin you can add a bit more water.  Refrigerate.  It will last for about 3 days.   

     If, in the early stages the aioli turns thin and grainy, it means the emulsion has 'broken'.  Set it aside and place another egg yolk in a clean, deep bowl.  Start whisking and add the broken aioli drop by drop until you have restored the emulsion.  But this probably won't happen.  Its never happened to me.  

      Its a bit hard to make, and takes a bit of time but the effort is WELL worth it!  It really is sooo good!

      I must give credit where credit is due.  I found this recipe at The Wine Country, my favorite wine store in Signal Hill-  http://thewinecountry.com/  And BTW, you might be able to order a bottle of Domaine Tempier there IF there's any available.  Go for it!!

Friday
Jun142013

Red, Red, Wine!

This is a new wine I have recently discovered, a Temprinillo, which is a spicy red wine from Spain.  Coming in at under $13, its a real bargain! Great flavor and a great price.  

Monday
Apr152013

True Blood.....red...juice!

   Remember when you were little and your parents told you to eat your vegetables?  And then there was the food pyramid that said everyone needed to eat 7 helpings of vegetables every day?  And for most of us, that was totally unacceptable, as well as impossible.  Well gentle readers, there is a way you can do that, and make it delicious, as well as extracting all the vitamins and minerals at once!  Its called juicing!

   70 percent of all the nutrients in a fruit or vegetable is contained in its juice.  Juicing is the extraction of these vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants by means of a juicer.  That is not to say that man can live by juice alone-in the case of vegetables and fruits, its also the fiber that is beneficial.  However, I'm going to assume you're going to eat your apple as a snack and that awesome steamed or grilled asparagus with your filet at dinner.  But that's not going to get you to your 7 is it?  Not even close.  Juicing will.  

   The benefits of fresh juice are legion.  Beets contain large amounts of magnesium, calcium, and niacin-all beneficial to the heart.  Kale contains vitamins K, A, C and more iron than spinach.  Carrots are good for the eyes.  At least that's what my mother told me and she was never wrong.  And it turns out that science backs her in this as well.  Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the liver. Vitamin A is transformed in the retina, to rhodopsin, which is a purple pigment necessary for night vision.  Great for the Urban night in the city or for desert warfare!  Beta-carotene has also been shown to protect against macular degeneration and cataracts.  But seriously, all fresh vegetables and fruits fight cancer, digestive and heart disorders and make a person feel just great thank you!  

   Since I live in a big city I have become passionate about juicing.  The reason being is that there are so many pollutants in the air and stress from daily living.  All these things sap energy and clog the body.  Since I started making fresh juice, I have found those negative effects from the dark side of urban living, alleviated.  A glass of fresh juice for me in the afternoon, gives me new energy, new vigor, and it just feels good knowing you are doing something good for your body that tastes great as well!  

   The juicer I use is the Breville BJE200XL.  Which sounds like a foreign sports car.  And I suppose it could be the sports car of juicers!  Its small but powerful.  It has a 700 watt motor that turns at 14,000 rpm, which is very fast.  It has a 3" chute that allows 4 carrots, or a small apple or beet, or whole cucumber. Actually the motor is so powerful that it begins to juice as soon as the chosen fruit or vegetable is inserted before the plunger is even deployed!  

   When looking for a juicer, a few things need to be considered.  First, application.  How many people will need to be served?  In my case, its only me and an occasional guest, so the Breville Juice Fountain is the juicer of choice.  Second, I find the large opening allows for faster time from raw vegetable to cup.  Power falls in this category as well.  And last is ease of cleaning.  You want something that you can use and then take apart quickly, rinse, wash and have done with it.  

   There are many excellent juicers on the market, but the best one, seriously, is the one you're going to use!  Who would not want something that is so good for you, tastes great, is easy to prepare and gives back so much energy?  Its the original energy drink.  Go get a juicer.  Trust me, you will thank me and your mother!  

                                     A quick 'pick me up' juice:

4 large carrots

1 small beet with greens

3 large kale leaves

3 large strawberries

1" slice of fresh ginger or a dash of ginger spice

 

   Process, pour into a large cup, add 3 cubes of ice and enjoy the elixir of the gods!

 

 




Tuesday
Mar262013

Red Sauce over Penne Pasta!

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm, so good!

Friday
Mar152013

Braised Lamb Shanks, Urban Style!

There is something especially satisfying about a savory hot plate of braised lamb or Osso Bucco on a cool night washed down with a fine red.  Braising is the slow cooking in the oven or on top of the stove of rather tough cuts of meat like shanks or short ribs.  Partially covered in an aromatic broth along with vegetables like potatoes, carrots, fennel and garlic, braising is classic French or Italian country fare.

   Braising is the ultimate cool weather cooking style and really consists of 6 steps.  Once you understand the simple techniques, you will come out with restaurant quality delicious dinners that will make your friends think you're a culinary genius!  Step 1 is searing your meat, step 2 is sauté your mirepoix (which is a combination of garlic, onion, herbs and aromatics) in oil.  Step 3 is the deglazing of the pot with wine, 4 is braising the meat in the mixture.  Actually its 4 steps, but 5 and 6 are reducing the sauce after the meat is 'pull from the bone' tender, and skimming the fat off the sauce, putting the meat back in, warming and serving.  Sounds complicated but ITS NOT!  Trust me.  

   Now braised lamb shanks with fennel is an incredibly delicious braise and the fennel adds that European country kitchen touch that is just so deeply satisfying.  Very similar to Osso Bucco, the lamb simply adds a bit of, well, lamb taste.  And I would say that even for those who claim they don't like lamb will love this because of the infusion of fennel, garlic and the secret ingredient, anchovies.  

                                                        Ingredients:

1/2 tsp. fennel seeds

2 lamb shanks

4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves

2 anchovy fillets either packed in oil or salt packed

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme chopped 

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup white wine 

1 cup chicken stock or broth

1 bay leaves

2 fennel bulbs

6 small red potatoes cut in half

2 large carrots cut in 1" chunks

1/2 cup green olives

                                                            Method:

   Preheat oven to 325.  Toast fennel seeds, cool, grind or crush in mortar and pestle.  

   Salt and pepper shanks on both sides. Put oil large Dutch oven or cast iron pot.  Brown on both sides. Set aside.  Add more oil, reduce heat.  Add fennel seeds, anchovy fillets, thyme, garlic and tomato paste, stir until fragrant.

   Add wine or vermouth and deglaze pan, scraping up the brownings and stir.  Reduce about 3 minutes.  add chicken stock or broth and bay leaves.  Place shanks back into pot.  Cover the pot and braise for about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven and turn shanks over.  Add fennel that has been cut into 1" wedges and potatoes and cut carrots.  Add olives.  

   Arrange vegetables around the lamb shanks.  Don't worry if some aren't submerged in the broth, they will cook nevertheless.  Return to oven and braise for another 45 minutes.  Remove vegetables.  Check meat to make sure if it is fork tender.  If not, place back into oven without veggies.  

   Now this dish can be made the day before.  As a matter of fact, it could very well taste better the next day!  

   Serve with a French Bordereaux or a Napa red.  Enjoy.  Impress your friends or family!  Mastering this simple dish will put you on your way to creating restaurant quality bistro dishes that you will swear tastes just as good as any fine eating establishment anywhere!  Bon Appetito!