Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pack a Lunch! Cookbooks

It’s back to school and that means bag lunches. Or maybe like me, you don’t have school age kids, but still want to start packing lunch to take to work. It’s easy to get in a rut, but these three cookbooks offer many ways to jazz up your lunchbox. 

The Banh Mi Handbook is the latest book from Andrea Nguyen. In the past she has written about Vietnamese food, dumplings and tofu, perhaps convincing you to make your own. But I had to wonder, when I can get a terrific banh mi sandwich for just a couple bucks, would I want to make my own? The answer is YES because Nguyen goes well beyond what you might find at a Vietnamese sandwich shop. 

What I absolutely love the most about this book in addition to the versatility is the focus on ease and simplicity. There are lots of shortcuts and no shame if you choose to buy bread or mayonnaise or doctor some liverwurst to make a tasty pate. The book offers the basics and traditional recipes for fixings like carrot and daikon pickles, headcheese terrine and Chinese barbecue pork but also offers tons of non-traditional options too to keep things interesting. Go vegetarian with coconut curry tofu or an edamame pate. I know I’ll be making the warm sardine and tomato sauce sandwich and the oven fried chicken katsu. These are sandwiches that will make your mouth water! 

Mason Jar Salads, a slim volume of lunch and breakfast worthy recipes includes why-didn’t-I think-of-that ideas that are perfect for when you want to bring something delicious from home. The book includes smoothies, soups, dips and more. But salads are the main event and author Julia Mirabella comes up with very creative layered ones like spinach, blueberry and blue cheese, or barley and zucchini salad and even a layered cobb salad. Dressing layered on the bottom of the jar keeps everything from getting soggy and makes shaking the new tossing. So smart! This book will give your lunch a jolt.

A traditional Japanese lunch is bento, or box lunch. As someone who loves variety, I go crazy for bento boxes, especially the ones they sell at railway stations in Japan. They often contain 5 or 6 small nibbles like flavored rice balls, pickles, salads and all kinds of meats and vegetables. They might look complicated but they don’t have to be. That’s the message behind Effortless Bento. This book shows you how to make ahead over 300 items so you can create a tasty and exciting lunch in no time. The full color pictures really help to show how a few items come together to make a meal. There are single dish bentos too like dry curry bento. 

As long as you have access to a refrigerator, you can make all kinds of delectable vegetable and meat dishes, many can even be frozen ahead of time. The one caveat about this book is that the recipes are Asian, though not all Japanese, some do require a trip to an Asian market for specialty ingredients like burdock, dried shrimp or lotus root. But plenty of recipes use only 3-5 very basic ingredients.

Disclaimer: These books were provided as review copies and this post includes affiliate links. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Peach Ketchup Recipe & Ball Brand Giveaway!

I can, can you? Sure you can! Canning is not hard to do at all, especially if you pick a really easy project like canning fruit. This year I received a box of luscious peaches from Washington state. They were perfectly ripe, but a bit crushed in spots due to poor handling in transit. Instead of canning slices or halves, I used the fruit—some perfect and some not so perfect—to make peach ketchup! 

Peach ketchup is a lovely peachy color, but it tastes very much like tomato ketchup. Taste it before you can it, and adjust the spices and sugar to suit yourself. Use really great tasting fruit, it should not be brown or overripe, but if it is soft in spots, that's ok. Use the tangy sweet and sour ketchup just as you would regular tomato ketchup. It’s particularly great on potatoes. 

As in years past I am proud to be a  “Canbassador” for the Washington State Fruit Commission and to tell you about the Can-It-Forward event, sponsored by Ball Brand. 

Check out this site for a live webcast of canning demonstrations with chefs, as well as recipes and tips 

A go-to resource for canning and freezing stone fruits, offering how-to-tips, recipes, health information, customizable canning jar labels and more

Here are more of my picks for great canning resources:

A community site with recipes and tutorials for canning, preserving, cheese making, foraging, drying and dehydrating and pretty much anything that is culinary DIY 

This is kind of the “bible” for learning how to safely preserve food at home, there’s even a self study course 

This year Ball Brand is offering one lucky reader a fabulous prize package of:

·   New Limited Edition Spring Green Heritage Collection Jars, these limited edition jars commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the Ball brothers’ “Perfection” Jar and come in a beautiful green tint.  These are being produced only in 2014 and are available in both pint and quart varieties.  (Pint retail value: $9.99 per case/ Quart retail value $12.99 per case)
·   Fresh Herb Keeper is an ingenious container to keep herbs fresh for up to two weeks. (Retail value: $12.99)
·   Dry Herb Jars are a perfectly-sized solution for storing your dried herbs. Great for storing seasonings, spices and rubs too! Stackable, low-profile design makes pantry or drawer storage more efficient than old, mis-matched containers. (Retail value: $4.99)
·   Frozen Herb Starters preserve your fresh seasonings in ready to use cubes filled with butter, oil or other liquid for easy and flavorful meal starters. (Retail value: $11.99)
·   5 Blade Herb Scissors  with stainless steel blades to gently cut and evenly slice herbs like basil, parsley and cilantro. (Retail value: $9.99)
·   Ball Blue Book with 125 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving, this book provides information on equipment, instructions for the preserving method and recipes! (Retail value: $6.49) 
Leave ONE comment telling me what you'd most like to can or preserve and I will choose a winner at random on Wednesday August 20th, 2014. In order to win you must have a US mailing address and you must include your email in the field where it is requested (it will not be publishes and no one will see it but me). 

Peach Ketchup 
Makes 8 1/2 pint jars

5 lbs fresh ripe peaches, pitted and peeled and cut into chunks*
2 - 3 cups brown sugar (start with 2 cups and add more to taste)
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 Tablespoon kosher salt 

In a large pot, bring peaches, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, seasonings to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer about until peaches are very soft about 15 minutes. 

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to a blender or food processor. Process until pureed and return the peach puree to the pot. Gently simmer and reduce for hour and mixture is thickened. 

Transfer peach ketchup to hot sterilized canning jars. Wipe rims and seal with clean lids and rings. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath or according to manufacturers' instructions. Let cool to room temperature and store. Open jars should be stored in the refrigerator, just like tomato ketchup. 

*To peel the peaches you can score, blanch, and shock the fruit, but I find a very sharp vegetable peeler also works great and is much less bother. 


Disclaimer: My thanks to Washington State Fruit Commission for the fruit and Ball Brand for the canning and preserving supplies. 

Friday, August 08, 2014

Highlights from the American Craft Council San Francisco Show

I went to the American Craft Council San Francisco Show to check out the craft food and beer, but I was blown away by the quality of the exhibition this year. There are very inspiring and beautiful things for your kitchen or dining room. This is a great place to look for a gift, a centerpiece, kitchen design element or functional kitchen tool. It runs all weekend, August 9 and 10, 2014 at Fort Mason, San Francisco. 

Here are some highlights:

I have two terrific  pepper grinders but I would trade them both for one of these stunning ones from Kermode Woodturnings. Jerry Kermode also makes a companion salt grinder, wood topped cork bottle stoppers and rolling pins.  His bowls of all sizes are also drop dead gorgeous. 

I’ve long admired these almost art nouveau or American craft porcelain pieces from Lynne Meade Porcelain. They are wheel thrown and then hand carved, and are inspired by shapes found in the natural world, often sea forms or plants. 

Many woodworkers make cutting boards, but the puzzle trivet boards from David Levy of Hardwood Creations are quite unusual and wonderful in that you can arrange them in a myriad of shapes. 

I was drawn to the handcrafted cherry wood spoons from Jonathan’s Spoons, but also spatulas, pie servers and the particularly lovely tea strainers.  

Robert Woldow of ArtsCraft Seattle fuses glass to make bold and eye-catching dishes, platters and bowls. Everyone who walking into this booth was drawn to a different piece with a different shape or set of colors.

Jewel like Italian inspired glass pieces from Peter Vizzusi or Magic Sands Glass are radiant and sparkly. I particularly like the ones with metallic swirls and ribbons.  

I was impressed by the lovely earthy color palette and natural designs to these luminous pieces from Natura Designs long before I even spoke to the artist, who is coincidentally a beekeeper. He makes them from an organic resin of  beeswax and embeds natural specimens like twigs or seed pods to create unique designs. 

This year the American Craft Council San Francisco Show is featuring a marketplace and taproom where you can find members of the Good Food Merchants Guild and San Francisco Brewers Guild offering speciality food and craft beer.  Participating Good Food Merchants Guild members include Vivid Foods, Sweet Dragon Baking Company, Rancho Llano Seco, Mead & Mead’s Maple Syrup, and Two Valleys Olive Oil. Over the weekend participating San Francisco Brewers Guild members include local microbreweries Anchor Brewing Co., Headlands Brewing Co., Magnolia Brewing Co. and Speakeasy Ales & Lagers. Be sure to head to the back of the hall and up the stairs to check it out. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Interview with Suvir Saran, Eat Drink SF

Suvir Saran and Azalina Eusope at the San Francisco Street Food Festival, 2012 
Eat Drink SF is a showcase for local chefs of San Francisco with events throughout the weekend of August 1-3, 2014. One chef giving a demo this Sunday is Suvir Saran, who is moving downtown and opening a restaurant in all likelihood before the end of the year. Experiencing Saran’s passion and enthusiasm for food, cooking, and life in San Francisco is reason enough to attend. 

What will you be serving at the event? 
I will be doing a demo, corn and shrimp curry, not a tasting but a sneak preview of what will be on the menu. It’s so easy, clean, delicious and seasonal; it’s everything good food should be. Come ready to be teased! Life is food and food is life. I’ll talk about my journey. 

I’ve seen you at the CIA Worlds of Flavor and the San Francisco Street Food Festival. Do you attend or participate in a lot of events? 
I’m a little selective, I used to go a lot to the bigger events, but it’s chefs doing everything they shouldn’t do. It’s my mission to get people to enjoy food and open their palates to the food of the world. When an opportunity to teach presents itself, I’m happy to do it. That’s what’s dear to my heart. It’s about honest interactions. I want to really connect with people.

How is the restaurant coming along? How did you choose San Francisco?
It’s coming along. It will probably open early Winter. It’s a very ambitious project. I’m hoping it’s my new anchor in life. It’s a bold move. I wanted to do something connected to a farm, but I’ve realized NY is not the place that gives you 12 months of magic. SF was a logical choice. I love the produce, it’s honest.

My grandparents lived in the Marina and we went to the farmer’s market back in the 80’s. I loved the peaches, and they had a Meyer lemon tree. I felt comfortable in SF and never had to hide who I was. I gave NYC 20 years and in San Francisco I hope to spend the next 20 years.

What are your plans for the restaurant?
We take possession of the apartment on August 1st and I will have many months to experiment. I’ll have to create new partnerships, work with farmers, new relationships. We may have farms growing things just for us. 

I don’t follow trends and I don’t have chef friends. They all talk together and there is too little variation. I talk differently and dress differently and I cook differently. We will have a wood fired oven but no traditional pizza with mozzarella. I come with the baggage of India where we are greedy for flavor. 

What foods are you enjoying this Summer? 
The other day I was pickling, making Hindu pickles. 90% of my friends are Jewish and I love pickles. 

In India we make onion and tomato masala and add spices coriander, cumin, turmeric and garlic and then cook until jammy. The peas are cooked in that. You eat them whole like edamame. That takes me back to my childhood. There’s an art form to making it and eating it. 

Before that dal, served with green beans, rice and potatoes. Cooking for dummies is what I do best. We eat a lot of pasta, depending on what vegetables are coming out of the garden we add those to a marinara sauce with lots of herbs, it’s a recipe from my most recent book, Masala Farm.