2014 Solstice Party Menu and Reflections

We had a much bigger crowd planned this year – expecting up to 70 people. I think we got about 60 in the end.

Cheese straws – staple of our parties – this year with trader joe 6-year aged cheddar and some of their four cheese blend (parmesan, asiago, fontina and I forget) plus cayenne. Came out beautifully. Best ever maybe.

Roast almonds – three flavors – lemon/rosemary.chilli, barbecue and tamari. Grace made them so I have little insight but she used Mark Bittman’s recipe from How to cook everything.

GF crackers for the cheeses – I made them – cup GF flour, tablespoon olive oil, enough water to bind a dough. Not entirely successful and the trick is to add more water and make them looser I think- more a smear than something to roll out. Sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds.

Beet chips – a new one. Mandolin beets as evenly as you can. toss with olive oil and salt and set out completely separated one by one on parchment and roast until starting to dry. These were GREAT.

Usual crudite stuff. Tried making a sauce from premade beet hummus mixed with the ottolenghi tahini sauce (see below) which was great.

olives, cheese plate – normal

drink – we made a nice champagne cocktail. drop about 1/4 teaspoon of muscovado sugar in bottom of a champagne flat (NOT flute) and add a couple of drops of bitters. splash (1/2 jigger) armagnac and fill up with champagne – it was very good.

roast lamb – pretty standard – smeared with rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper crushed together in the mortar

vegetarian patties – we had a lot of vegetarians coming so I wnated something substantial for them. I slightly overcooked 4 cups of quinoa, seperately sauteed onions and jalapeno. Mixed together with a cup of almond butter, whole bunch of parsley finely chopped (stalks as well). Red pepper very finely diced. 12 colves garlid inced. 2 cups flaxseed meal. Teaspoon real liquid smoke (natural hickory made by bubbling hickory smoke through water). 1 cup GF flour. Mic all together and let sit so flaxseed meal can get a bit slimy and bind. Then heated up some skillets with oil and made into 2-inch patties about 1/2 inch thick and cook dark brown on each side. sprinkle with more slat if needed (I did). Serve with ottolenghi tahini sauce. These came out great. Very protein rich and ‘meaty’

Ottolenghi tahini sauce. 1 cup tahini, 2/3 cup water, 1/3 cup lemon juice, six garlic cloves, 2 tsp salt. Blend. adjust seasoning. THis was FANTASTIC! And went with just about everything. I actually made close to three batches.

pork tenderloin with green tomato chutney. Sous vide pork in a marinade of lots of garlic and oregano. Keep as needed and then sear outsides in skillet. Slice into rounds and top each one with chutney. Can’t give recipe for chutney – made it a month ago and it has so much stuff in it that I can’t tell.

Flank steak, endive and horseradish. Sous vide flank steak 24 hours with miso, garlic, pepper. Sear. slice thin and serve on endive spears with a dab of horseradish sauce. Horseradish sauce. Grate a whole root as finely as you can, mix into 2 cups sour cream. Salt a little to taste. Also fantastic.

Carnitas tacos with pickled onion.

Slow cooked 2 pork shoulders (boneless) on grill or 5 hours or so (rubbed with a standard rub). Shredded it. In large pot sweated onion, garlic, jalapenos, cumin. then added pork, can of crushed tomatoes got it all hot and tipped onto large baking sheet and roasted again at 500 until top getting dark brown and crispy. Turn and keep going until turned side also brown and crispy. Reshred into bowl. Black beans made with cumin, garlic, jalapeno, bay leaves. Rice. Pickled red onion made the day before- finely sliced onion, fill container, mix apple cider vinegar (2.5 cups with 4 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp salt) and store in fridge. tacos made of little rice, beans, carnitas and pickled onion. Should have also had cilantro and a spicy salsa – but didn’t – next time.

Roast root vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, parsnip, beets)

Baked fried chicken with cilantro sauce. Made the chicken pieces smaller – a mistake – better bigger and then cut them up

ice cream sandwiches. Bought TJ GF gingersnaps. Made cinnamon sour cream ice cream. made custard from double cream, 4 egg yolks. Tons of cinnamon (5 tsps?). Some sugar. stirred in 2 cups sour cream. Froze. These were FANTASTIC!!!!


Grace made 2 pies – pumpkin and cranberry with streusel. Both superb.

An aide memoire for our Solstice Party

Just need to remember what the food and menu was for the future

roasted lemon, rosemary, chili almonds – next time do in oven fully and make sure sauce is thick to coat

cheese straws – worked great to make ahead and store dough in fridge and cut and cook a couple of hours ahead

spinach dip for crudite – wilted spinach and onions blended with creme fraiche – needs more salty and something spicy for next time – too bland

Sous vide roast beef lettuce wraps with horseradish. Excellent. Next time make sure the chuck has any extra sinewy bits cut out – OR sous vide 24 hours instead of 12. Cut horseradish with creme fraiche. Butter lettuce better than the oak leaf

baked fried chicken and cilantro sauce – awesome – cashew meal and cornmeal for crumb worked well but breadcrumbs still better

pork carnitas – made a week ahead and frozen and then reheated until starting to brown again was the best

spicy black beans – too spicy but diluted well with tomato and canned beans

curry winter squash sou – heat from tiny amount of ghost chili was great

roast root veg – not so good – too crowded and steamed more than roasted

roast lamb – marinated for 24 hours in lemon, garlic, rosemary was excellent but slightly over cooked it

rice with tons of crispy shallot – great

truffles with pecan-maple – excellent – toast pecans, crush. heat with maple syrup until it starts to caramelize on them, then fold into truffle mix

ice cream sandwiches – ginger cookies and lemon ice cream – great – next time something softer – oat cookies or even gingerbread?

drink – cava with pomegranate seeds and pomegranate syrup – delicious but people still preferred plain drinks

Simple Shakshuka Supper

Inspired by David Lebovitz’ fantastic Shakshuka, I set out to make a simple supper tonight. First I put on some basic polenta (boild 2 cups water, as boils add big pinch salt and 1/2 cup polenta and then turn down low and stir throughout the rest of the cooking).

I took an iron skillet and added two tablespoons of olive oil – set on high heat. Drop in generous sprinkle of red chili flakes. Dice half an onion and toss in along with 1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds. As onions start to soften add pinch of cayenne and 1/4 tsp smoked paprika. keep stirring and add 2 cups of frozen roasted heirloom tomatoes (or a can of tinned tomatoes if you haven’t got what I used). add a pinch of salt and stir in as tomatoes cook down. add 1/2 cup red wine. Turn down to simmer. Add a little water if necessary to keep it a little runny as the polenta cooks. When polenta is ready (still a bit runny) turn it off and crank up the heat on the skillet and crack two eggs into the middle. Baste with tomato sauce a couple of times then turn down again and simmer for 1-2 minutes until whites are set but yolks are still a little runny. Serve over polenta with a little crumbled feta on top.

The red wine I think serves to deal with both the honey and the vinegar in the original and I think simplifying the spices is actually good as well. Having great tomatoes certainly helped. This was absolutely scrumptious.

Guest Chef – The Restaurant

My last real post on this blog was back in August of 2008(!) That would be criminal if I had really had time to keep up, but I just haven’t. And I still don’t. But this piece of nes is just too much fun and too worthwhile for me not to write again.

A couple of close friends – one a chef and one a developer – are launching a completely fantastic new restaurant – and completely fantastic new idea. It opens this weekend on College Ave in Oakland in the Rockridge area and the reason it is so exciting? It is really over 20 new restaurants, ever changing, in one.

It is called The Guest Chef and the idea is that the restaurant has a new chef every two weeks. Why is that interesting? Because YOU could be the chef (or you could if you can show you have the chops to give it a shot). The restaurant is going to give anyone who has the culinary background to give it a real shot take over and run it as their restaurant for two weeks.

How does it work? Anyone (ex-chefs, aspiring chefs, food bloggers, anyone who has always thought they COULD but has never been sure, etc.) can apply for a slot running the restaurant. The chef (and team) supplies the food and most of the culinary labor. The restaurant supplies equipment, space, a restaurant, drinks, bar staff, a dishwasher, a licensed food service helper. Proceeds get split (percentage of food and all the bar proceeds to the restaurant, the rest to the chef team).

Given all the people who have always really wanted to try doing this, this is a great idea. The aspiring chef and friends and family are going to supply a core clientele from which to build every two weeks. People are going to drop in to see if they can make a find. And chefs who have struggled to get the chance to run a restaurant or who want to test a concept or who just want two weeks of fun all get a chance to show their skills.

The opening weekend (Nov 4, 5, 6) is a benefit held by several of the top chefs of
the Oakland Fire Department with proceeds going to The Burn Foundation and
Oakland Firefighters Random Acts. The restaurant is at 5337 College Ave in the Rockridge District of Oakland.

You can find out more at theguestchef.net

WordPress Spam

Apologies for the site near death. I got hit with a SQL injection hack and had to take the site all the way down and have been slowly bringing it back to life.

It looks like Paper Chef is starting up again and I am going to get back to helping run it. Go take a look.

Recipe Search Much Improved

I spent a little time working on the multi-site recipe search and fixing some bugs and cleaning it up and trying to improve the way it gives you results so that the recipes presented are a little higher quality and there is a little less junk in there. And I succeeded!

So take a look – enter three ingredients in the boxes in the recipe search on the right hand side and see what you get!

What is interesting about this search? Well, it is searching across multiple sites and filtering the results based on the ingredients list. It uses searches from Google, Yahoo, and several other recipe sites and then uses Yahoo Pipes to filter, sort and otherwise clean up the results to give you a page of links to recipes that come from all over.

Migration basically finished

The recipe search is working again – remember this runs across LOTS of sites (between twenty and thirty) – try it in the right hand sidebar. Images are reloaded and connected. Despite the time it took it was actually a pretty painless migration even though I know there are broken links from an SEO perspective – I did not 100% exactly mirror the old URLs. But that is OK. The traffic will return – such as it was.

Migration in Process

I’m currently migrating Tomatilla! to WordPress on a new host – so not everything is working yet (mostly images and the super amazing recipe search). Bear with me – we’ll get there…


This little list has been idling around the food blogger world for a few weeks. I decided to take a look and I am sad to say that I have eaten 90 of these and know for a fact that I will never hit 100 since I have no intention of eating fugu and I’d probably skip the kaolin too – although I may have eaten it and never known since it IS an additive. For the record I have not eaten crocodile, vodka jell-o shots, phaal, fugu, poutine, kaolin, durian, pocky, three-star tasting menu and maybe epoisses (that one is a maybe since I would assume I have eaten some but I might not have). I have eaten the rest – yes, even roadkill, insects and a big mac meal.

I have to say that if I were to make a list like this it would be very different. It might be time to resurrect the much more interesting list of 50 things every foodie should do at least once.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (this is a very famous amazingly stinky cheese)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O shot
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal (apparantly the hottest kind of curry made in india – noticably hotter than vindaloo)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Single malt whisky
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi (japanese pickled plum)
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine (Canadian dish – basically french fries topped with cheese curds and smothered in brown gravy)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (basically food grade clay)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu (distilled sorghum drink – chinese)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (some kind of japanese crackery snack stick)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
100. Snake

Foodproof Launches

Some friends of mine have launched a new food community site called Foodproof. What does that mean? This is a real social community with membership and blogs, forums, videos, recipes, cross connections and a lot more – and everyone gets access to everything in clever ways so you can make the site what you want it to be. I like the forums, the videos and just the general ambience.

Note this is a site for everyone – it is specifically NOT just for foodies – so expect that not everyone will be so sophisticated as to know how to rustle up their own buckwheat blinis with passionfruit and durian cream.

Anyway – do me and yourself a favor and go take a look.