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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

Friday
Jul052013

The Cast Iron Skillet, a must have for every home chef

Remember that old pan that your mother or grandmother used all the time, the old black cast iron one that you dismissed as old fashioned, and eschewed for that Teflon non stick "convenient" one?  Well it turns out that your grandmother was right all along, modern does not always translate to best and technology is sometimes best served by hearkening back to things that worked-and in the case of cast iron, worked great!  

   Cast iron pans have been used for centuries and have stood the test of time.  They are hands down the best cookware for heat retention, durability and if seasoned properly, are as non-stick as the best non-stick skillets on the market.  I use almost every day, a cast iron skillet that I "borrowed" from my mom years ago that she used to cook me breakfast before she sent me off to school.  That pan is over 50 years old and it just gets better with age.  It is no surprise that cast iron is undergoing a re-discovery, and are being produced new, as well as refurbished because when something is unsurpassed its reputation precedes it doesn't it?  

   What makes a cast iron skillet such an essential item for a home chef?  Heat.  If for instance you want to grill a perfect steak on top of the stove, you must achieve an intense even heat that would destroy many other pans. Its the sear that makes the steak, and you must achieve a certain heat to get that certain sear.  Or your steak will flop.  A stainless steel skillet will achieve that heat, however, the meat will flash sear onto it and stick.  And its not an even deep heat, its a sharp heat that burns.  Controlling heat with stainless is very difficult.  Cast iron creates a deep, reliable, intense, even heat that will not stick if the pan's been seasoned correctly.  There is nothing better then ahi tuna seared to perfection for one minute on each side on a hot, hot, hot, cast iron pan.  Also, they can be used to roast a chicken in the oven and can withstand an oven temp of 500 degrees!  That my friends, is heat and durability.  Plus, lets face it, you look cool, like you know what you're doing, when you have friends over and they see you cooking with that black, aged, cast iron skillet.  Now of course I have other pans.  I have a high quality non-stick pan dedicated for certain fish and for omelets.  And of course, stainless steel, for sautéing and sauces.  But more and more I'm finding my 'go to' pan is my mom's old cast iron skillet.  And I've bought a bigger one that I got refurbished at an antique store for baking chicken and other larger jobs.  

   Cast iron skillets must be cared for properly and seasoned.  They should never be washed in water and of course never in the dishwasher!  Please no!  I season mine with olive oil which I apply and then wipe off with a paper towel.  After use I simply pour the remaining oil out and wipe the pan clean.  That's it.  If you buy a new one it can take a long time to season and as a matter of fact, it will continue to age for years.  And since I mentioned years, I am reminded of where cast iron comes from, and the romance and magic that it brings to mind.  In a distant time before our Sun and Earth existed, there was an immense star that exploded.  The reason it exploded is complicated but suffice it to say that it was running out of fuel and kept creating new fuel to burn.  New elements.  The last element it created was iron, and the energy to burn iron was greater then the energy derived.  So it collapsed and in the explosion, iron was shot out into the universe.That iron, forged in the depths of that star, was part of the dust cloud that eventually coalesced to form our solar system.  And that, faithful readers, is where all the iron in the entire universe comes from-the death of a star.  And that includes the iron in my mother's old trusty cast iron skillet!  As well as other things like the iron in our bodies, etc, but that's another story for another time.  Right now our story is the cast iron skillet, and in this tiny snippet of history, you can see its venerable linage and mystique.  

   So for the home chef, use what the chef's in the world's finest restaurants use, cast iron!  After all, when it comes to cooking, they know what works.  Do yourself and your guests or family a favor and get a cast iron skillet, it will reward you many times over for years and years!

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!