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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sockeye or King Salmon?

Both wild Sockeye and wild King salmon are in the market now, and available fresh and will be until late September or early October. Both types of wild Pacific salmon are a true delicacy, and very healthy. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and low in omega-6 and saturated fats. But King salmon is sometimes as much as twice the price of Sockeye. So which variety should you choose? 

In Northern California most of the King salmon comes from California, Oregon and Alaska. The local King salmon is exceptionally rich and has a creamy texture. It has a mild flavor, and is almost slightly sweet. But it’s the buttery texture that makes it so prized. It’s the richest in fat. 

Sockeye salmon often comes from Alaska. It’s generally less expensive than King salmon, because it’s harvested at a smaller size and takes less time to grow. It’s also very rich, but has a more intense flavor and firmer texture. 

While both fish are delicious and can be used interchangeably in recipes, I seared two pieces to compare them side by side.  Looking at the raw pieces you can see the King salmon is paler and thicker, the Sockeye brighter orange, almost red, and thinner. 

For me, King salmon was truly king and worth the higher price. The Sockeye has a deeper red color, and a stronger, almost nutty flavor. But if you cook the King gently, you’ll achieve a custard like consistency that is unparalleled. 

Both are delicious seared, but I would recommend using Sockeye if you want to make gravlax. It’s color, flavor and texture hold up well to the salt and sugar marinade. 

The King is best served very simply to highlight it’s delicate flavor and luxurious texture. I made a compound butter with white miso, honey and orange zest that complemented the fish beautifully. 

Friday July 25th, 2014, King salmon will be on sale at Whole Foods for just $11.99 per pound. Enjoy it! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Whole Foods, they supplied portions of King salmon, I purchased Sockeye salmon for this taste test.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Make way for Éclairs!

Cupcakes are cute and affordable and remind many people of their childhood birthday parties, but they were never a favorite of mine. That’s not to say I don’t have a favorite pastry from childhood. I do. It’s the éclair. 

Growing up I always scoured the bakery case for chocolate éclairs  The crunchy eggy pastry, the creamy filling and chocolate glaze were much more appealing than any sugar cookie or cupcake. Their appeal has not diminished and In recent years I’ve had some very memorable éclairs including a massive one at Cake Love in Washington DC and delicate skinny ones glazed with matcha and black sesame at Sarahau Aoki in Tokyo.

Though the oblong pastry made from pate a choux and filled with pastry cream and originally called the Petite Duchesse has been around since the 1800's, according to some reports I read last year (from David Lebovitz, The Independent and even the Financial Times) éclairs have become quite trendy in Europe recently. They certainly haven’t hit critical mass here yet. But perhaps that’s about to change.

Last week I got a chance to meet the James Beard award-winning pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini as he kicked off his “Éclair Diaries” a motorcycle adventure to find inspiration for 8 new éclairs for the Le Meridien hotels. As part of the program, each hotel will offer modern versions of three signature éclair flavors – coffee, chocolate and vanilla in addition to one locally inspired flavor created by Iuzzini.

In San Francisco he shared his coffee cardamom éclair topped with bits of edible gold leaf, crunchy chocolate balls and nibs and a bit of flaky salt. The coffee cardamom eclair recipe will be in his upcoming cookbook. After his kickoff at the Le Meridien he was heading out to visit bakeries including Craftsman and Wolves as well as local farmers markets and a distillery and to forage with Chef Daniel Patterson, all to get his creative juices flowing. What will the San Francisco éclair be? We will just have to wait to find out.

With different fillings and toppings, there might be infinite variations of the eclair. Much like, you know, cupcakes. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gift Ideas for Father’s Day

Nespresso Pixie
While in Italy I noticed Nespresso boutiques everywhere. Nespresso machines use little pods of coffee that come in many different varieties and the stores are a convenient place to try them out or buy coffee. The machine I know best is the Pixie. It has a 16 bar pressure pump, is ready to brew in about 30 seconds and easily makes both espresso and lungo style coffee at the push of a button. It also takes very little room. The dimensions are just 12.83-Inch length by 4.33-Inch width by 9-1/4-Inch height. 

 If you want to make a cappuccino, you’ll need to purchase an optional Aeroccino milk frother which would also make a good gift.  Both are very stylish machines and just imagine, your dad will think about you every single day when he makes coffee! You can find some models for under $200 on Amazonbut if you purchase it from Nespresso for $229 you’ll get a $75 credit for coffee. 

ThermoWorks ChefAlarm
I am a huge fan of the Thermopen which I use daily. It’s the best thermometer ever. But for dad, I think the ChefAlarm is great idea. It has a temperature probe that attaches to an alarm that has a plethora of features.

Not only is it backlit and easy to read, it has count down and count up timers, adjusts for both high and low temperaures as well as minimum and maximum temperatures, an adjustable volume setting for the alarm and an optional extra needle probe for thin cuts. Because it is designed for commercial kitchens it's also splash proof. It’s less expensive than the Thermopen, but has lots of whistles and bells. $59.99

Burnt Chocolate Truffles from Recchiuti
Recently I received a box of Recchiuti chocolates as a thank you. I think I had forgotten how good they are. It was fun choosing the different flavors from the guide and savoring each bite. But one of the confections that Recchiuti is most known for, are burnt caramel truffles. These rich little squares aren’t really burnt, but cooked until the darker notes are stronger than the sweet ones.

While perhaps not the traditional Father’s Day gift, why not? Recchiuti has long supported the nonprofit Creativity Explored with a selection that features a design by an artist, this time James Miles has created Whimsical Cyclists which definitely has a manly feel about it. A box of 9 is $27

Kermit Lynch Vin de Pays de Vaucluse 
This is my new favorite house red wine and one I plan on sharing with my dad. It's an easy wine to pair with food but just as enjoyable on its own. I first tried it with some sausages and grilled vegetables.

It’s a blend from the Southern Rhone and is mostly grenache, syrah, merlot and just a touch of marselan. A medium body juicy wine, it has limestone minerality, lots of red fruit like raspberries as well as violet and licorice and a bit of leather.

It is not an expensive or fancy wine, but will show dad your good taste and eye for value, $12.99 at Whole Foods Market wine department.

This post includes some Amazon affiliate links