Wednesday, June 29, 2005


It is fortunate indeed that Mario Batali's dad makes really good salumi, including Guanciale, and that his store is walking distance from the Seattle ferry terminal. Batali's new cookbook, Molto Italiano has a recipe for Spaghetti with Onions, Garlic and Guanciale. Since Debbie happened to pick up 1/2lb of guanciale last week, I decided to make it for dinner. It's a very simple recipe: slice the guanciale (I made it about like thick-cut bacon) and dice it. Cook it slowly with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of red pepper flakes for about 10 minutes, until it's starting to get cooked and render some fat.
Guanciale and Red Pepper Flakes
Then, add some thinly sliced garlic, and some onion sliced into half-moons about 1/4" thick. Batali calls for a small red onion. We had some fresh-dug Walla-Walla onions from the CSA last week, so I used those instead. That gets cooked for about 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and getting a bit brown.
Added Onions and Garlic
Meanwhile, cook a pound of spaghetti. I used Rustichella d'Abruzzo spaghetti. When it's just al dente, drain it and add it to the pan with the guanciale et. al. Add 1/2 cup graded Pecorino Romano cheese, and stir it over high heat, distributing everything evenly for about a minute, and serve garnished with a bit of parsley.
Spaghetti with Guanciale, Onions and Garlic
It was extremely good. Guanciale has a different flavor than pancetta--richer and meatier. It's also a little softer, with a different texture than pancetta.
Tonight, we couldn't figure out what to have for dinner, it was getting late, and we still had 1/2lb of Armandino Batali's pancetta in the fridge, along with some Broccoli Raab that we got from the CSA. So, I made penne (the pasta we happened to have around) with garlic, red pepper flakes, parmesan, and broccoli raab. It's basically the same as the above recipe but I added roughly-cut broccoli raab to the pan and sauteed it until it was tender, and then added the cooked penne and some parmesan cheese.
Penne with Pancetta, Garlic and Broccoli Raab
After dinner we made some gravlax with a king salmon that I bought at Pike Place today, but that's a story for another day, after it finishes curing.


Raclette is a nice thing to have on a cold day. We first had Raclette at our friend Judy's house in San Diego. Raclette is a cheese, a grill, and a way of cooking. The name is derived from the French racler, meaning to scrape. The idea is to heat up some cheese, and scrape it onto something.
In the classic Raclette, each person gets a plate with Raclette cheese, some sliced boiled potatoes, some gherkins, and maybe some meat such as ham.
Plate for Raclette
You put a piece of cheese in one of the little trays, and put it under the heating element of the grill, and get it nice and melty.
Melted Cheese
Then you scrape it on a slice of potato, and eat, and that's about all there is to it. The heating element is under the grill top, which can also be used for cooking things like vegetables. I often cook mushrooms on it, and then cover the grilled mushrooms with raclage.
The nice thing about Raclette is that it's interactive food, cooked around a shared device (ours, in the link above, has 8 trays, each of which comes with a little plastic scraper and a metal stand to hold the tray so that it doesn't burn the table) which a group can enjoy. We've had friends' kids over, and had to kick the kids off of the raclette in order to let the adults have a turn. The kids sort of like the raclette cheese and potato bit, but what they really like is making mini-pizzas: we get the Boboli pizza shells, some pizza sauce, some mozarella, and various other ingredients. We cut the pizza shells into raclette-sized pieces, and the kids can spend an hour just making little pizzas and cooking them.
I saw a raclette cookbook, which had lots of wacky suggestions and "recipes", but it seemed a little silly--just stick things in the tray that you want melted, and cook things on top that you want grilled, and go for it. Oh, and the gherkins are just for eating with it.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


We made our first tourist-trip (i.e. not a shopping trip) to Uwajimaya, across the street from King St. station, last night. It's a large asian supermarket with an amazing selection. Sometimes asian supermarkets can be a little, er, untidy, but everything at Uwajimaya looked pristine. My son and his friend visiting from San Diego had a great time wandering around. They bought a bag of dried anchovies (they like to snack on dried fish--go figure), but ended up leaving it somewhere later in the evening.

We had dinner at the Vietnamese stall at the food court. I think I'd skip the food court next time and go down the street for restaurant food. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't that good either, and none of the other stalls looked like they were much better. The deli counter with the sushi was pretty much closed by 7:45pm. Maybe we should try it at lunchtime instead.

We had "dessert" at the cafe in the basement of Elliot Bay Book Co.. I put it in quotes because it's all vegan, wheat-free, gluten-free, and truly awful. My son's chocolate cupcake tasted like a mixture of sawdust and Crisco. Bleah--there's no excuse for pastries like that. It is possible to make good wheat-free cake, but this wasn't it. Fortunately we were able to forget about our dessert and go upstairs to browse in a great bookstore.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The CSA Inspires Dinner

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is where you buy a share of a farm's produce, and you get some fresh, organic produce every week. Since we don't have a garden going yet, we joined the Persephone Farms CSA. This week, among other things we got some amazing Arugula.

On our honeymoon, we went to a basement wine bar in Florence. It had long wooden communal tables, and we sat next to a French woman who was a voice actress--she did French-language voiceovers for American TV shows played on French TV. Along with some carpaccio, we had a salad of arugula, prosciutto, shaved parmesan, and a vinagrette of balsamic vinegar.

Since we had such great arugula on hand, Debbie decided to make that salad the other night:
Making Salad
The arugula grown around here can get much larger than in California without becoming excessively peppery. Prosciutto (the real thing) and Parmesano Reggiano came from the T&C.
Arugula Salad

After the salad, Debbie made gnocchi with brown sage butter. Making the butter involves getting the butter to the brown and nutty stage without burning it. I think I'd need a lot of butter and sage to get this one right:

The wine we drank was a rosé from Navarro. It's a bit more fruity than some of the French rosés we like, but it was a very pleasant drink on a warm evening. The wine came as part of a box we got from Navarro's pre-release program. The UPS guy said that he'd delivered 7 pre-release program boxes on the island already that morning, so we're not alone in getting our Navarro fix twice a year.

Thanks for making a great dinner!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower
Originally uploaded by psmacleod.
I took this picture almost 18 years ago. It was taken handheld with a little 35mm rangefinder. Not much to do with food, I know,'s my blog and I'll do what I want.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Amber India Santana Row

Amber India usually makes the San Francisco Chronicle Top 100 list. I could never figure out why when I worked in Palo Alto, but that's because I only went for lunch. They had contracted the dreaded Indian Steam-Table Lunch Buffet disease, and I could never convince my co-workers to stay around long enough to order off the menu. As buffets go, it wasn't bad, but still, I try to avoid them. So recently I went to dinner at the Amber India branch in Santana Row, an upscale mall/mixed use development (fashioned as a "street" sort of like Downtown Disney or Citywalk) in San Jose. The space is very pleasant, with a ceiling of twinkling and shooting stars in the front of the room, a high ceiling, and generally tasteful decor and comfortable seating.

The food at dinnertime is interesting, sometimes innovative, and quite good. I've been by twice in the last few weeks. The first time was a couple of hours after I found out that my mother-in-law had died, so I had to cut my trip short and fly home the next day. I was kind of distracted, and one of my co-workers who came along started talking manically about work and office politics, so I barely noticed dinner, aside from noticing that it was tasty. Our meal included Goat Cheese Aloo Kebabs as an appetizer, some Malai Boti Kebabs (tandoori hunks of lamb), a very well made Vegetable Biryani, and a Duck dish that was really interesting.

Last night I went back myself, and had an appetizer of Tandoori Duck Rice Paper Rolls, which included strips of Tandoori Duck, carrots, and some other veggies rolled in a kind of rice paper with which I was unfamiliar--it was quite a bit thicker than the Vietnamese rice paper that we all know and love. The rolls were sitting in a thick, brown, sweet sauce, which might have been a bit too much sweetness, and the rolls really had to be eaten with a knife and fork because they were sitting in the gooey sauce.

For a main course I had Kashmiri Roganjosh, which is usually a very subtle curry sauce over cubes of lamb. In this case, the sauce was quite assertive, with ginger, saffron, and fennel. There were strips of julienned ginger on top. It was slightly but not unpleasantly hot. I had Naan and rice on the side. It was a very successful dish, with deep flavors.

For dessert I had an overly sweet kulfi with fig.

Overall, very good; some of the "innovative cuisine" is a bit over the top, and I wasn't enamored with the desserts. Service is pleasant and efficient, which is in my experience a rarity in Indian restaurants.

Next time I'm in San Jose I'll have to try the Santana Row outpost of Roland Passot's Left Bank, which I noticed when walking up the row after dinner.

Commuter Comforts Café

Were the baggage handlers at Seatac a little zippier, I might have made the ferry--I saw it from the viaduct. Fortunately, Commuter Comforts Café is open fairly late, so I got a glass of red wine and a mediocre but welcome piece of pie, and get to blog about it using Mobilisa's wireless.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Zuni Café

I have long considered it a gross oversight that I've never eaten at Zuni Café in San Francisco, so tonight after an amazing performance at Zellerbach hall, we had a late dinner at Zuni. I decided to stick with the Zuni "classics:" Cesar salad and a burger. The salad was very good. Lots of anchovy, lots of parmesan, crisp croutons, young romaine leaves all arranged horizontally. After that, I had the famous Zuni burger, which I've made at home from Judy Rogers's recipe in one of the SF Chron books but never eaten there. The secret is to take some good meat, cut it into strips, salt it with something like a tablespoon of salt, and leave it to marinate overnight. Then grind it and cook it. Obviously your meat needs to be fresh, and your grinder needs to be perfectly clean. The burger at the restaurant was really good, though I have to say mine was better, grilled on charcoal! Shoestring potatoes were great, but an extra $6, which makes it an almost-$18 burger and fries (yow!). For dessert I had a grapefruit and Campari granita, which was perfect after a fairly heavy meal.
We had a table right on the edge of the balcony, which was great for watching SF's beautiful people. All in all, a very pleasant dinner, though I have to say I'm not totally blown away or anything. It was good, but not transcendent. The burger at the Palace Kitchen might be a bit better.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Memorial Day BBQ

Well, this is a bit late in coming, but...we invited some friends over on the afternoon of Memorial Day. We were worried about the weather, but it turned out to be sunny with a few clouds, and quite warm in the late afternoon.

For starters, Debbie made a mix of Olives (two kinds), Almonds, Golden Raisins, toasted fennel seeds, with the juice and zest of an orange, and maybe something else I'm forgetting:
Party Mix
and some very lovely Romesco sauce. I roasted (after boiling first) some new Yukon Gold potatoes tossed with salt and pepper and olive oil, and some grilled vegetables (scallions and two kinds of squash) to serve with the Romesco.
New Potatoes with Romesco
I made a lot of potatoes, but they all got eaten.

Several of our guests brought some lovely side dishes, but I didn't manage to take pictures of them, because I was too busy grilling. I know, you call yourself a blogger?! I made a leg of lamb, some chicken, and a pack of Bruce Aidells's chicken apple sausage. The lamb and chicken soaked for about 18 hours in the same marinade from the César cookbook. The marinade was meant for chicken, but worked really well with lamb. Our neighbor Jil asked for the recipe, so I'll post it here.

First you need some Moruño spice. This recipe makes quite a bit, which I'm keeping in the pantry. If anyone needs some, drop by or give me a call!
1/2c cumin seed
1/4c coriander seed
1 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 Tbsp paprika
1/4c pimentón dulce
2tsp cayenne pepper
1/4c salt

Toast the cumin and coriander seed on a pan until lightly browned, around 5 minutes. Grind with the peppercorns in a mill. Add the rest of the spices and mix well.

Once you have the spice mix, the rest is easy:
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I used Spanish oil)
1 Tbsp Moruño spice
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

I ended up quadrupling that in order to marinate a butterflied (more or less) leg of lamb from the T&C and some chicken thighs from Costco. The lamb from the T&C is really good American lamb. I grilled the lamb on the Weber using the "indirect" method, i.e. the lamb in the center of the grill and the coals in racks on the side. I cooked the chicken (mostly skin side up to avoid burning the skin) over the coals on the side at the same time.

Since the chicken was done first, it got eaten really quickly. I cooked the lamb to an internal temperature of 135F, using my handy "probe" digital thermometer. Were it not for the fact that everyone was hovering around and looking carnivorous, I would have let the lamb rest for a while, but instead I carved it up immediately.

Other guests brought dessert. Jil made some really yummy cakes, Demi brought her famous mint brownies, and Rhodes and Jane brought a coconut cream pie from the Blackbird Bakery, which everyone except my kids liked. I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

We decided to serve some of that trendy "premium" box wine. We had Merlot from Washington Hills and Chardonnay from Black Box. For around 20 bucks you get 3L of wine, i.e. as much wine as four 750ml bottles, and it lasts up to a month! Our guests were definitely not winos, because we had a lot left. The good premium box wines are easily as good as a lot of bottles in the $10-$15 range. My only complaint is that Chardonnay seems to be the only white varietal available. The San Francisco Chronicle food section did a review of premium box wines last year.
Update: fennel, it was fennel!