Monday, June 24, 2013

Street Food Lunch--June Cook the Book

This month Cook the Book parent bloggers Ohbriggsy and Meg over at Grow and Resist gave us the inspiration to dive into Street Food by Susan Feniger. J.K. and I Love street food, hence our attendance at the SF Street Food Festival every year. When I picked up the book from the library this month and paged through it, I discovered a wide variety of cooking styles with great pictures to distract you. As always, I was instantly attracted to a few recipes, but postponed making them for a bit. I admire how some bloggers start cooking day 1 from the book, but it always takes me a while to decide what to make.

One recipe did catch my eye, something I thought would be perfect to take along and trade at the SF Food Swap. It was easy to get down to business and make some "Earl Grey Tea Dust" inspired by Ginger Dust (p209) I also made "Rooibos Dust" and the real deal using ginger as well. I also made Heirloom Tomatoes with Garlic and Balsamic Vinagrette (p48) as my swap potluck dish. It was a hit!

Potluck Gold!

Earl Grey Dust

Both of these recipes were simple and adaptable. In fact I felt that way about all the dishes I made from Street Food this month. It would be easy to change up the recipes I cooked to accommodate what was on hand in the pantry. However, it was more fun to plan lunch and shop for the "special" ingredients. Stephanie, J. K. and I set the date, and decided on the menu.

 When I went to buy the cactus paddles, I couldn't resist getting Mexican cheeses and sour cream as well!
Welcome to Lunch!
Cook the Book Menu:
Cactus Rellenos with Corn Salad and Arbol Chili Salsa
toppings of Mexican sour cream, avocado, pickled jicama
Canton Ginger Kick Cocktails (with ginger syrup)
Danish Black Licorice and Cherry Biscotti with Buttermilk Koldskal

Ready to eat!
The recipe for Cactus Rellenos was my choice for lunch because I have wondered what/how people cook them ever since I moved to SF and saw them for sale in the Mission at the produce bodegas. During our lunch, Stephanie said that many people use them as a vegetable. They cook them the same as peppers or squash. Considering you have to scrape all the pointy stuff off to use them I'll just keep on eating peppers instead, but now I feel ready to face the cowboy trail, able to live off the desert land (as long as I have a sharp knife to clean the spines off my food-although I bet they'd burn off if I had fire).

I made the Corn Salad the day before, I thought the dressing would meld with the corn overnight. However, when I tasted it after tossing them together it was simply delicious. It was just as tasty the next day, but I think this dressing could make any veggie salad a hit!

Corn Salad- corn with a dressing of cilantro, salt, oil, onion, and lemon juice
I picked up the dried A chilis the morning of the meal when I biked over to the mission to grab the cactus paddles. That was also when I spied the Monterey Jack and Mexican Sour Cream. They even had a bag of already "shredded" Cojita cheese. Score! I roasted the tomatoes over the open flame instead of under the broiler, I think that it uses less energy that way. Now you're cooking with gas! I took 90% of the seeds out of the chili's. It had the perfect tiny bit of heat for our trio, but if you're into the spicy, just leave in the majority of the seeds in order to burn up your taste buds. This effortless salsa also made it on the short list for swap ideas. I mean, I have Plenty of dried chilis left for another batch. They're chili'in in the freezer right now.

A nice flavorful salsa, a tiny bit spicy.
Full disclosure: I have been craving Jalapeno Poppers for a while now. They've just been on my mind. Not enough to go someplace fast food and Pay for them, but enough that I think they influenced my recipe choice this month. Because as Stephanie pointed out at lunch, "You can't go wrong when something is stuffed with cheese and fried." Such truth. I appreciated learning a new way to fry as well, first rolling the relleno in flour then immersing it into beaten eggs. It wasn't even that messy since I rolled all the rellenos in the flour first, then dipped those in the eggs to fry as needed. The main difference between my interpretation and Susan's recipe is that I didn't make "sandwiches" from the cactus. I kindof tried to "roll" them. Which ended up meaning they were smaller in size and in the end, I think that was good, because they were painless to dip in the egg batter and also cooked faster.
Fry little Rellenos, Fry!

Golden cactus "poppers". Just what I was wanting.
I also made a cocktail to go along with our meal. It's a pretty strong drink! Since I didn't have any ice made, we ended up adding water so we would all be sitting in our chairs by the end of the meal (instead of under the table). This cocktail used the Ginger syrup, and I think it would be nice with Ginger Dust as well.

The force is strong in this cocktail.
Money shot! Cactus Rellenos with Corn Salad and Arbol Chili Salsa (p70-73)
Plus, of course, Dessert. Brought to us by the letters J and K. You can learn about the Licorice and Cherry Biscotti with Buttermilk Koldskal (p180-181) here. Suffice to say the soup could be a great summer meal starter, totally refreshing. Plus the biscotti (even though they weren't Matzo toffee) were pretty darn tasty with or without licorice.

That's a lot of dipping sauce!


* Angela *REALLY* lobbied for J.K. to make matzo candy, starting asap when Angela saw the recipe in the cookbook. But since she swapped for pretzel toffee at the food swap it became less as urgent. Plus J.K. made her some biscottis w/o licorice, phew.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lunch With Beth / Doc's of the Bay

Off The Grid has a new "Burger Pod" on Sacramento Street, in a small parking lot just off Montgomery. Beth and I were having lunch on a Tuesday, and I had a BOGO from Chinook Book for Doc's of the Bay, so we decided to give it a try.

A large sign marks the spot, which you would probably walk right past without it.
This view is from inside the narrow lot.
Order on the other side of the truck.
Our Friendly Server

These blank Polaroids displayed on the side of the truck
reminded us of the dented floppy disks
that used to be displayed in every
word processing center we worked in.

The menu is short but really, you don't need anything else.

It was almost 2:00, so there were only a few cookies left.
There's no seating in the lot, so we walked up to Clay Street to eat at Empire Park, a cozy little space with tables, shaded benches and a bird bath. One day we saw a bird in there, but unfortunately he took off before I could get a picture. I guess he didn't like being watched in his bath.

The food was so good that we forgot to take pictures until we were halfway through our lunch. But since we didn't have a knife, this way we can show what the insides of the sandwiches look like. The burgers come with a side of Doc's famous homemade ketchup, a definite plus.

Beth chose the Classic Burger, and I decided on the Black Bean Burger. And of course we had to try the Double Whammy, a combo of fries and fried green beans. I'm not a vegetarian; I just don't like hamburger. Or chicken very often. I would happily eat the Black Bean Burger again, but next time I'll try the pulled pork. And we definitely recommend the Double Whammy.

Beth's Burger

J.K.'s Black Bean Burger, which was packed with
the Double Whammy. We shared–honest!
This was a great lunch. We'll do it again, even without a discount.

Cook The Book June Dessert-- Biscotti with Chilled Cherry Soup

Despite the two-step process, biscotti are easy to make.  For this recipe (page 80 of Susan Feniger's Street Food) beat your butter, sugar and salt until fluffy.

Sift your dry ingredients together, and mix in the chopped dried cherries. The directions tell you to mix everything else in together, but the cherries are very sticky and will distribute better if you mix them with the flour and baking powder.  Angela doesn't like licorice, so I omitted the anise seed and kneaded the chopped licorice in later, after dividing the dough, so I could bake some "plain" cherry biscotti for her.

As you can see, the chopped cherries thoroughly coated themselves with flour.

Dry Ingredients
Dry Ingredients with Cherries
Dry Ingredients Plus Wet Ingredients.
Place your dough on a lightly floured board and divide into three equal pieces. A scale helps here, but you don't have to be exact.


Notice the dough on the right doesn't have any licorice.
Roll your dough into one inch diameter logs and bake.

Cut into 1/4 inch slices and bake again.

Making the cold cherry soup is very easy. Just remove the pits from two cups of cherries. This can be kind of messy if you have a primitive cherry pitter like mine.Wear gloves or rinse your hands frequently–I learned this the hard way.

Put the cherries, milk, lemon juice and sugar in a blender and puree. The recipe calls for buttermilk and lemon juice, but that seemed to me like overdoing the acidity, so I used regular milk.

I made this the night before, so I waited until we were ready for dessert to mix the cherry gloop into the sour cream. It had separated a little overnight, but was mixed back together after I carried it to Angela's house for lunch. It was a pretty good dessert, considering that there wasn't a speck of chocolate in it. I thought about adding chocolate chips, but they just don't go with the licorice.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Afternoon Tea at Charles Chocolates

Sun, friends and Afternoon Tea. What a great combination. J.K. and I caught up with our friend Robbie at Charles Chocolates last Monday. Afternoon Tea at Charles? But of course! Chuck Siegel was happy to chat with us about the inspiration behind his (daughter's) idea to offer a lovely Afternoon Tea service on Sundays and Mondays every week. We should all be grateful that his wife is British and his daughter is overseas at school and they both appreciate that America deserves all the opportunities it can get to relax and enjoy a cuppa with friends. Plus real, fresh, housemade clotted cream!

When we arrived at the patio, it was a bit windy. Chuck and co graciously moved our picnic table out into the sun and we perused the tea menu. The teas are provided by local gem Samovar, and they are delish. (No surprise there.) We got a variety and shared the pots. Your server is very good about bringing more water whenever you need a top off. Angela picked a lovely Organic Ryokucha Green Tea with Matcha powder that had everyone at the table daydreaming about summer picnics due to its fresh green flavor (and our picnic table furniture). J.K. branched out with Organic Blood Orange Pu-Erh Tea which has the fruity flavor she and Angela love combined with the earthiness of pu-erh. Robbie chose Organic Maiden's Ecstacy Pu-Erh Tea which featured the strongest tea flavor (besides PG Tips) that you can pick from the tea lineup. There is a wide variety on the short list of teas, so everyone should find something that speaks to what they're craving.

Ryokucha Green in the background and Blood Orange Pu-erh up front.

Beautiful Blood Orange in the cup.
Angela tried a bit of cream in her green tea, but everyone agreed these teas were better straight up.
Dark and delightful, it's the Maiden's Ecstasy in our pot.
Your afternoon tea is presented on a simple wood serving slab, from scones to desserts. Everything is sourced and made with care and attention. Chuck even partnered with Straus Creamery to come up with a recipe to make their own Clotted Cream! Lemon curd and Strawberry Jam round out your trio of scone condiments.

Afternoon tea all in a row, no tiered tray needed!
We started with Valrhona Chocolate Chunk Scones, a Red and Yellow Raspberry Ricotta Custard Cake Slice and Cheddar Sesame Shortbread (made with Cabot's Clothbound Cheddar). The menu suggests you pair the tartness of the lemon curd with the sweet of the cake, but as Afternoon Tea aficionadas we mixed and matched all three condiments with scone, cake and shortbread.

A chocolate chunk scone, Custard Cake slice, and Shortbread cookie with sides.
Right now they are serving three sandwiches as part of their afternoon tea menu. An Organic Egg Salad sammie with watercress as well as 4505 Meats Chicken Confit with hazelnut asparagus. The Gravlax Sandwich features healthy slices of salmon on Tartine dark rye with homemade creme fraiche. Tea Time has a hunch that the sandwiches will be seasonal, so fingers crossed that asparagus season stretches out a little bit longer.

L to R Egg Salad, Chicken Confit, Salmon sammies.
Of course the desserts and chocolates are made in the cafe and factory, right across from the patio. This "mini" macaron with its lovely dusting of cocoa powder has a filling of light mocha ganache. The tart (also available "to go" from the cafe) is made with Valrhona Chocolate and Fleur de Sel caramel. Supposedly this tart is also "mini," however Tea Time is suspicious that Chuck is using the word "mini" instead of the more bulky label of "serving one chocoholic". You also get 3 truffles from the Charles Chocolates family. At this visit they were all tea infused.

Dessert! including tea infused truffles. They used  Ryokucha, Jasmine and Pu-erh.
Tart! Lovely light crust with sun-warmed gooey middle.
Charles Chocolates is making lemons into everything but lemonade! All parts are used, from the zest (in chocolates) to the juice (in your lemon curd). Many business owners are inspired to be and use local in San Francisco, but Charles is taking it one step further by planning for the community too. Stay tuned for the patio to sport a small dog run and herb garden. Not only will you be able to gather with friends, family and neighbors at the chocolate factory, but Fido can come visit too. Chuck is excited about the future he has planned, and we are too!

If you're looking for a special father's day event, you can rush to see if there are reservations available for Charles Chocolates Father's Day Tea with its special menu featuring bourbon chocolates and every Dad's favorite meat–Bacon.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Food Swap/Street Food

It's time to swap again! Plus this month I am actually going to record what I make from Susan Feniger's Street Food before the dog days of the month. I chose to make the Heirloom Tomato Salad for the potluck, plus I adapted the Ginger Dust recipe . (I also made Lavender Sugar and Rosemary Salt, but no recipe is really needed for these flavored items.)

I was vacillating about what to make for the potluck until I looked through this month's cook the book selection. In fact, I was still torn, Beet salad v. Tomato salad, but Tomato salad won for several reasons. I just saw my first heirlooms of the season this past week, plus this recipe is super simple with only a few ingredients. Additionally it has the twist of Black Garlic (just found this website!) which is new to me. I'm still on the hunt for the Black Garlic, since the three Asian food stores I visited didn't have it for sale. Instead I did as she suggested in the recipe and blended the cooked garlic with the balsamic vinegar. This is a nice summer recipe, light and fresh. If you tossed in some mozzarella, you'd have a version of Insalata Caprese. I made it the day before and the juice from the tomatoes watered down the dressing, so next time I would take them separately and then toss it together before serving.

Up close and personal salad.

Sideways Salad.
 I chose to make the Ginger Dust as a swap item because I thought it would pair nicely with my homemade sugar and salt. The recipe for Ginger Dust is also very simple, and it seems that I could replace the ginger with a different herb or spice to create a similar "dust." Which is what I ended up doing, since I didn't have any ground ginger in the house. Oops. Instead of ginger, I used Earl Grey Tea. People at the swap asked me what I would suggest to use it on, and they gave me ideas! Truthfully, I use the flavored sugars for baking or stirring into drinks, but they would also be a great meat or tofu dry rub. Of course you can also add them to any dish you're cooking instead of a plain salt/sugar. This Dust has sugar and salt with lime zest, so you can't let it sit on the shelf, and you should use it within a week. J.K. just gave me a bottle of ground ginger, so I'll make the original recipe and post the results. Stay tuned.

Earl Grey Dust. Next time I would pair this with orange zest instead of lime.
Lavender Sugar, Rosemary Salt, Earl Grey Dust
J.K.'s madelines, chocolate dipped, of course!
I took home a treasure trove of goodies again from this swap, and scored lots of desserts from the potluck table as well. I'm already thinking about what to make for the August Swap! Maybe I'll finally make beer bread. Or I was also thinking about chocolates, or maybe soup–a chilled soup. Lots of time to ponder, so if you're a swapper and have a request, let me know!