Monthly Archives: October 2005

A Second Helping of Digital Dish – calling all food bloggers for entries

OK – although I am deeply in the hole from producing the first Digital Dish, it was and is a labor of love, not one of profit. In addition, since I have a somewhat more than regular full time job, I need to get myself going well in advance. So I am going to go ahead and ASSUME that I will be in a position to bring out a second edition of Digital Dish, covering another set of five seasons of the freshest recipes and writing from food blogs around the world. If you don’t know what I am talking about, then please check the site out.

So, I am asking for food bloggers to let me know via the email at the publishing company contact page, or in other words, at i n f o @ p r e s s f o r c h a n g e . c o m if they are interested in being considered for inclusion. Don’t send submissions – just let me know that you are interested and the URL to your blog. Please don’t nominate other people – instead let them know about it and make the decision for themselves! But do please feel free to link here or spread the word other ways.

Also, if you would like to order the book, please do it either right here or at one of the other blogs that is in the book that has a link on their page. All the authors get more money that way.

I have my own list of over 500 food blogs that I find interesting that I will invite personally over the next couple of months. This time around I expect to include over 100 food blogs with fewer contributions from each blog.

OK – let’s see where the adventure takes us this time!

Paper Chef Update – #12 coming up!

Time to kick things off for another month. This will be the twelfth Paper Chef. Hard to believe that it has been a whole year…and next month we’ll have to have a special anniversary edition…

I am getting immersed in a new job and so once again I am turning it all over to this month’s judges – Chopper Dave and Mrs Deedop at Belly Timber. So after reading this, head over there to find out what is going on…

In fact I think I am going to change the way the whole process works. Anyone who judges is now welcome to run the whole show as well as judge. But if they don’t want to manage the ingredient list etc. then I will still do that part.

As a reminder, here are the ‘rules and regulations,’ which I prefer to think of as something akin to the pirate code of Captain Jack Sparrow and thus ‘more like guidelines.’

For absolutely only the fun of it and for no other reason whatsoever, the Paper Chef challenges each and every one of you reading this to let loose your culinary imagination and make up a dish of your own. Loosely based on the ideas of the Iron Chef, fond TV favorite in the US and Japan, and on the British show Ready, Steady, Cook! (fond favorite in the UK), the Paper Chef is all about creativity and constraint, challenge and cooking.

About a week before the event opens, I post an ingredient list from previous events here at Tomatilla! Older ingredients fall off the list, as does anything that actually got used in an event. Those ingredients are ‘banned’ for a month just to prevent the choices being cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and cream and chocolate and…you get the idea. Any reader of the blog here or at the IMBB forum can nominate a new ingredient (one only please) and it can be anything within the bounds of good taste (both kinds). Three ingredients are chosen at random from the final list and the host (usually me but not always) picks one more ingredient that is topical or seasonal or that suits our whimsy. Then you get a weekend (Friday Noon to Monday Noon) to make up a recipe, cook it and post the recipe to your blog. Then post a comment here or send an email to owenl1998 at yahoo dot com to be included in a roundup. The previous month’s winner gets to be judge (and is ineligble that month) and gives out whatever kinds of awards they like.

I’ve had lots of questions about things like photographs. Photographs are NOT necessary to take part. Nor is having you own blog – I’ll be happy to post a recipe for you if you want. However, it is clear that having a nice photograph will help influence the judges – if they see it looking good it is a lot easier to imagine it tasting looking good…

It is also absolutely OK to substitute if you just cannot find an ingredient or if you or someone who will eat the dish has an allergy – just try to substitute with something close to the original to remain in the spirit of the occasion.< The times are always the first Friday of the month, Noon PST until the following Monday Noon PST. However we aren’t sticklers for timekeeping here – a little late and any excuse will do. A LOT late and you’ll have to have a really good and creative one to do with cats pushing bowls off counters or the like. Past event roundups and winners are here: Paper Chef #1: Cilantro, Ginger, Almonds and Winter Squash

The winner was Curried Chicken and Squash Soup with Meyer Lemon.

Paper Chef #2: Potatoes, Savoy Cabbage, Chicken and Lemon

The winner was Lemon Chicken Egg Rolls with Citrus Dipping Sauce.

Paper Chef #3: Wheat Flour, Cinnamon, Creme Fraiche and Oranges

The winner was Very Posh Cheese and Biscuits.

Paper Chef #4: Eggplant, chocolate, stale bread and pomegranate.

The winner was Cocoa-Pomegranate Roast Chicken with Eggplant Stuffing.

Paper Chef #5: Prosciutto, sherry vinegar, green garlic and goat cheese.

The winner was Garlic chive and Goat’s Cheese Ravioli with Sherry Vinegar Reduction and Prosciutto Shards.

Paper Chef #6: Ricotta, strawberries, almond paste and white chocolate.
The winner was Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Ricotta-White Chocolate Gelato and Scented Madeleines.

Paper Chef #7: Buttermilk, Dates, Honey and Eggs.

The winner was Feta Souffle with Walnuts, Dates and Feisty Greens.

Paper Chef#8: Cheddar cheese, olives, spinach and either potatoes OR cream, not both.

The winner was Warm Spinach, Cremini, and Kalamata Salad with Creamy White Cheddar Dressing.

Paper Chef #9: Chilli, Peach, Flowers and Something Local.
The winner was a Stuffed Pork Loin.
Paper Chef #10: New Orleans version with beer, tomato, sausage and shrimp.

The winner was Stephen‘s Beer-Boiled Shrimp Po’ Boy.

Paper Chef #11: Autumn edition with duck, pears, ginger and nut butter.

The winner was Belly Timber with Ravioli dell’autunno with Sliced Anna Kiwi, Duck Soup with Chicken, Pistachio Ginger Flavor and Nutty* Duck risotto with Ginger and Caramelized Pear.

Eating out: Boulevard, One Market, Boulette’s Larder, Chow

I don’t go out to eat very often, but recently as I switched into a new job and both celebrated and took a quick break, I got to eat out a little more than normal.

First, the benchmark breakfast. I took one of my daughters out to breakfast at the local edition of Chow. Unfortunately it has gone steadily downhill since it started here and the menu gets more and more abbreviated. I realise that this is in part adapting to the small c conservative tastes in our twee suburb, but the underlying quality has also gone down. I had a really rather lame corned beef hash topped with an undercooked poached egg. They forgot the toast. The coffee was lukewarm. Blah.

Around the same time we went to Boulevard with friends for a big deal birthday. We had an amazingly good bottle of plain ol’ country French red before we went out and then a very different plain ol’ country French red at Boulevard. Dinner was very very very good. Appetizer was a trio of ravioli – a wild mushroom one, a squash and goat cheese one and a truly outstanding pheasant one. Main course for me was a nice piece of Kobe beef. Boulevard handled it just right – any more or less cooked and it would have failed. But the real deal meal was the smoked pork. A very good meal that lived up to my expectations (Boulevard is a favorite of mine – consistency is one of their hallmarks and I love them for it).

Then I went into SF for an overnight with Jan and we ate at One Market. Mostly because they had tables at the time we wanted. But One Market exceeded expectations. I decided going in to do something we NEVER do – n ot worry about the money. We had cocktails/aperitifs. Jan had her usual G&T and I had a Manhattan. I would have preferred the G&T but they did the drinks RIGHT. It makes such a huge difference to actually prepare drinks like that right…

Then we had the six course tasting menu. We started with an extra – an oyster in a buttery cream suace with little mignonettes and topped with a touch of caviar. Warm and creamy and excellent. Then the tomato soup. This may have stolen the whole show. Pure melted warm summer afternnon tomato with every spoonful highlighting a slightly different taste from around the garden. Garlic and basil and maybe some fennel and smooth creme fraiche and a bite of hot and bitter pepper, etc. The third item was the least good – and it was still great – a squash blossom and parmesan risotto. I would have preferred a plate of just the crispy squash blossoms I think. Then we had what really was the best dish. Halibut with something. Can’t remember the something but I’ll probably remember the halibut for years. Next – bay scallop wrapped in pancetta on lentils. Absolutely perfect – the lentils matched up to the scallop and pancetta and that’s saying something. Next the strangest item. A piece of seared duck breast on duck confit on piled bitter greens and mushrooms in a huckleberry port reduction. A wild and rich taste sensation. We got our choice from the whole dessert menu – I had the cinnamon apple tartlet and Jan the chocolate cakey thing. Both excellent. Then coffee. Lots of talking. Best meal in quite some time. Service a little spotty – we clearly got the brand new waiter and boy was he nervous! But nothing wrong with it.

Finally brunch the next day at Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building. We had already gotten the legendary blue bottle coffee but I got a french press anyway. Jan had the pick of the items: poached eggs on a bed of fava, borlotti, lentil and some other bean with broccoli rabe. It was fantastic. I had a beef tongue hash and eggs scrambled with spinach and onion. The eggs were great but the hash was disappointing – just like Chow (see above). Best hash in memory is at the big Irish bar on Geary near first Ave – not Ireland’s 31, but the other one (Pat O’Shea’s Mad Hatter?) But I make a pretty mean hash…

Anyway, there’s your dining out update…

Lamb – It’s the other red meat…

We eat a lot of lamb at our house. Partly because it is so very very good. And partly because it is now cheaper than beef (if you don’t buy meat at major chain supermarkets). We do most of our shopping from two sources. The CSA box from Terra Firma Farms arrives weekly loaded with fruit and vegetable goodness. Then we get just about everything else at Trader Joe’s. At the moment, butterflied leg of lamb at the Trader is $4.79 per pound. The cheapest beef cut there is kosher stew meat at $5.49. They do have several forms of ground beef for less (including a wonderful grass-fed ground angus beef that is very good) but ground isn’t really the same.

Lowest price pork is a pork loin roast that comes in at the same price ($4.79). Now that is for Nieman Ranch pork which is top notch, but all the same…

Chicken is of course noticeably cheaper, but man cannot live by organic chicken alone – well he can and for that matter he doesn’t need the lamb either. But having been a vegetarian for over ten years, I am know an unapologetic omnivore.

Anyway, we tend to get three or four cuts of meat per week and then stretch them and/or have some vegetarian meals. This week besides the usual chicken I got a small butterflied leg of lamb and one of those pork roasts. The pork may get mentioned later. For now it is still in the refrigerator. However, temperatures have finally turned here in the Bay Area and although it is still reaching 80 where we are during the day, by evening it is as low as 55 or so! Obviously time for more hearty autumnal fare.

I roasted some delicata squash from my organic box earlier in the day (cut them in half, remove seeds, rub cut-open face in pan of bacon grease from breakfast and sprinkle with a little kosher salt and set in baking tray and then roast for about 80 minutes at 400 degrees).

And then I thought about the lamb. I didn’t really want to do a full on roast and I wasn’t sure how the family would adjust to a stew, especially given that I wouldn’t have time to make polenta to go with it. So I made a braise of sorts.

Braised Lamb

I made a dredging mixture of a cup of flour, two teaspoons kosher salt, two teaspoons herbs de provence, four teaspoons ground cumin, one teaspoon creole seasoning and then some dried lemon peel and a few shakes of peppery things I had. Then I unrolled the lamb, trimmed off all the fat I could and rubbed the dredge gently onto the surface. Meantime in my pot most similar to a dutch oven I heated two tablespoons of olive oil. I dropped the lamb in and browned it on both sides – about seven minutes per side. I peeled and quartered three onions and dropped them into the edges of the pot while this was going on as well as about half a pound of carrots and five cloves of garlic cut in half.

Then I went out into the garden and grabbed a big sprig of rosemary (essentially a weed her in the Bay Area) and broke it into small sprigs and scattered them around the pot. I preheated the oven to 325 degrees and poured a cup of beer and a cup of chicken stock into the pot with the lamb so that about a third of the meat was covered. Then I covered the pot and stuck it in the oven and left it to cook for three and a half hours (which is quite a lot longer than necessary). I turned the meat over about half way through and it was already soft and falling apart a little. Then for the last hour I turned the oven down to 225 and uncovered the pot. That way the upper surface got a little dried and crunchy.

This was a fantastic lamb – lots of lunch/sandwich leftovers and everyone really liked it. Very easy too despite the long cooking time.

Paper Chef Results

The judges have returned from seclusion (actually they returned several days ago but I’ve been travelling – and eating things like poached English Sole with Cavallo Negro and Chanterelles). See all the entries and get the results here.

No duck = no Paper Chef

Well, it really is a good thing that Stephen is hosting Paper Chef this time around. It is hard for me to believe that my energy level and interest in cooking is so very, very low. I think the series of breaks (both physical and metaphysical) coming up are much needed.

I didn’t end up cooking a single new thing this weekend although I did think about the Paper Chef duck/pear/nut butter/ginger challenge. I was going to try roasting the duck on high heat in a nut butter, ginger, garlic, soy paste with roasted pears and bitter greens. But instead I went to one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco, Boulevard, for an old friend’s birthday on Saturday and then enjoyed a roast chicken picnic al fresco at the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda while watching a (truly) fantastic production of The Tempest by the California Shakespeare Festival.

So I’m sorry but no duck. Things will be quiet around here for the next few weeks. I am transitioning to a new job which is really exciting. I am taking a much too short break to go wander up the North Coast and walk through redwoods along the shore. Hopefully it will rain (I LIKE rain).

Coming up is NANOWRIMO which the rest of my family usually enter – which in turn means I won’t have a single conversation with them for the month of November.

But I like November more than October. Her in California, October is when we get hot days and cold nights and it gets drier and drier as the Sun tries desperately to stave off the clouds from the coast. I am waiting for the clouds. By November the Sun has lost. The rain comes. The cold comes.

Last few days to nominate ingredients for the Paper Chef

As mentioned in a previous post, I am NOT hosting Paper Chef this month. Instead, last month’s winner, Stephen, is hosting and nominations are currently open. Stephen is also actively seeking worldwide judges to join him in judging. So you have two opportunities to take part even before the final ingredients are announced and cooking begins!