Thursday, August 25, 2005

Tournedos of beef with prosciutto and artichoke hearts

When I visit a new city, I often like to buy a cookbook as a souvenir. This cookbook can have only a handful of recipes, or a hundred; it can have pictures, or not; it can be by a famous chef or a collection of housewives. The only rule is that it be recipes from that city (or country).

One of my first days in San Francisco, one of the ladies I'll live with next year, the delightful Miss Julie, took me to a used bookstore where we promptly kneeled on the floor reading cookbooks. After flipping through every one with "California" or "San Francisco" anywhere on the front cover, I finally selected what is thus far proving itself to be a very useful cookbook, the only one I have with me right now since I drove cross-country without a single cookbok (shocking, isn't it?). Anyway, this cookbook is called: A Taste of San Francisco. Published by The San Francisco Symphony, it is a collection of recipes from the best restaurants of the Bay Area. What's interesting is that each restaurant has about three recipes--a starter, main dish and dessert--so you can make, say, a Chez Panisse meal one night.

The first recipe I decided to make from this book (even though I changed a few things as is my way) was based on one from The Blue Fox, since closed. I tweaked the recipe a fair amount, as I always do, and what follows is my version. I'm sure the original is delicious as well.

Tournedos of beef with prosciutto and artichoke hearts

.70 lb Beef Tenderloin
1/2 tablespoon Capers
Oil for skillet
1/2 bunch Scallions, chopped
3 slices Prosciutto, cut into strips
4 Artichoke Hearts, quartered

1/2 + 1/4 cup Chicken Broth
Several stalks Cilantro, chopped
Salt and Black Pepper

Cut Beef into 1" cubes. Soak Capers in a small bowl of cold water to rinse off brine or salt from jar.

Heat Oil in medium skillet so it coats bottom. Saute Beef, turning frequently, until browned. If you like your meat pink inside, transfer to a plate and keep warm, otherwise continue cooking a little longer. (You can also cut the meat into smaller pieces and then cook it for shorter.) Once Meat is removed from pan, add Scallions and Prosciutto to pan. Fry quickly over high heat, then add Artichoke Hearts, Stock, drained Capers, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until liquid in the pan has thickened to a pan sauce.

Return Beef to pan, add Cilantro, Black Pepper and Salt, if needed (keep in mind--Capers and Prosciutto are quite salty in their own right). Mix everything together and serve.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Moules grilles sur un lit d'onions

Because we were traveling and didn't have internet access, I was unable to participate in Blog appetit #4: Moules et Onions. Or, rather, I came up with and made a dish the night before leaving New York, but never got around to writing it up. Today, I was making a desperate attempt to organize the pictures on my computer and stumbled across this one.

When I think of summer food, I always think of two things: the beachy smell of salt air and barbecue. This is probably because I spent many of my summers growing up in Long Beach, Long Island, visiting my maternal grandparents, aunt, uncles and cousins. Very often we would spend a day at the beach and then head over to my aunt and uncle's for barbecue. Of course, our barbecues always consisted of hamburgers, hot dogs and hunks of chicken, with occasional grilled red peppers, portabello mushrooms or onions. Nothing gourmet, but the whole family was together and enjoying ourselves and that was the most important thing.

Before I left New York, the weather was sticky and I would have given anything to head out to the beach for a day. Since that was impossible, I decided to bring the beach to me. Seafood, especially fresh mussels, always smell like the ocean to me, with their salty freshness. I had recently read about grilling them and was curious about the taste, but I had no grill. Instead, I broiled them for a few minutes and served them on a bed of sweet onions. The result? A light, painless, refreshing summer meal.

Moules grilles sur un lit d'onions

Moules grilles

2 pounds Mussels
Juice of 1 Lemon

Pre-heat broiler. Clean Mussels, under cold water, being sure to remove all barnacles from the surface. Discard any with cracked shells or that do not close even when tapped. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place Mussels on top, with as much space between them as possible. Broil for 5-8 minutes, until all are opened. Carefully (the shells will be very hot!) remove meat from shells and place on Onion Salad. Squeeze generous amounts of Lemon Juice on top.

Onion Salad

1 Sweet Onion
Salt and Pepper
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1/2 teaspoon Honey

Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

L'annee qui vient

There are changes happening in the life of this blog, changes that must be accepted and dealt with. After my three wonderful weeks in New York, I am on my way back to Southern California from where I will lead a bi-coastal life for one year and one year only as I write two theses and the Boy lives in New York. In SoCal, I will live with two fabulous ladies, who will eat and drink alongside me as we investigate what the LA area has to offer. We will cook and we will eat out. We will go to markets and support each other on our quests to learn about (and delight in!) California wines. And I will record many of these discoveries here, in this blog.

After this year I hope to return to New York and stop all this wandering. But until then, hang in there. We'll get through this and my poor blog can stop going through identity crises as we realize just what it is about.

I have spent the past week in San Francisco, after driving cross-country, before I caravan down to Southern California with one of the ladies I will live with in a week. San Francisco is a dream and I'm so glad to finally get to know this delicious city. Perhaps some day I'll even come back for longer? Ah, but then my blog might be confused.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hermione's Egg Custard Pie

As usual, Harry was spending the summer with the Weasleys at the Burrow. Hermione had joined them all for the weekend and they were hungry and anxious for a snack. Unfortunately, however, Mrs. Weasley was not at home and Harry, Ron and Hermione were not yet allowed to use magic outside of Hogwarts. They asked Mr. Weasley to make them a snack with magic, but he had another idea. He had just discovered a cache of muggle kitchen supplies and wanted to try them out--an electric egg beater, a stove, a refrigerator and an oven. He brought the appliances in and turned to Harry and Hermione for help.

Luckily, Hermione knew her family's recipe for egg custard pie by heart. Better yet, it used all four tools. She divided up the recipe and gave everyone a job. But no one knew how to make a pie crust! So Mr. Weasley created one with magic.

After several extra eggs flew onto the floor (Mr. Weasley wasn't used to cracking them by hand and refused to use magic to help him), they finally got the pie into the oven and then into the refrigerator to chill. And when Mrs. Weasley came home and they all tasted it together, even she was impressed by how good it was!

Update: Jeanne has posted a specatcular round-up! Check it out!

Hermione's Egg Custard Pie

1 flakey Pie Crust (created by magic or otherwise)
4 Large Eggs + 1 Yolk
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 cups Milk

Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Brush Pie crust with Egg Yolk and put in oven for 10 minutes. If preparing the custard takes more time to make, keep crust in oven for longer; it should be warm when you pour the custard in.

Beat Eggs with an electric mixer until frothy. Add Salt, Sugar and Vanilla Extract and mix until well-combined. Heat Milk on stove until simmering. Pour it into Egg mixture and mix. Pour the new mixture into the warm Pie Crust and place it in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, until center of pie has a gelatin-like consistency. It will harden more as it chills.

Let Pie cool, then chill in refrigerator. Serve chilled.