Making a Hash of It

hashI honestly can’t figure out how the expression “making a hash” of something, which has a negative connotation and means to mess things up, is related to that delicious solution to leftover meat (or almost any protein) — the culinary hash.

I had a sandwich at Assemble, one of three restaurants that is walking distance from my house, and the Tri-Tip in it was too rare for me. Or maybe I don’t like the taste of whatever is being fed to the trendy cows these days, because lately beef tastes odd to me. At any rate, I saved the beef — and the giant slices of red radish that they used instead of a pickle or whatever in the sandwich — and sliced them both up with some tiny potatoes that I had parboiled beforehand. I fried the whole thing up and presto — lovely hash.

I associate hash with my Dad, whose cooking philosophy was basically, “Fry it up with some potatoes.” No matter what it was. Or maybe I associate hash with him because of red flannel hash, the hash that includes a bit of cooked beet with the potatoes, beef (and typically onions — I’m just too lazy to chop onions in the morning), turning the whole thing red. He was a big wearer of flannel shirts, even in summer time.

I think hash, like my parents, is a New England thing (via Britain) and there’s no more comforting meal.

Assembling Hash(For the record, Assemble has astonishing desserts — memorably good — and amazing pot pies on the menu. Their fries are pretty epic too.)

Standard Hash Recipe

Ingredients:

Leftover beef, corned beef, salmon, chicken or whatever you’ve got (already cooked — the exception to this would be tofu which can cook along with the potatoes)
Potatoes, preferably Yukon gold or a small, tasty varietyOil or butter for frying
Onions — finely chopped (about half as much by volume as you have potato)

Parboil your potatoes which means boil them until you can pierce them easily with a fork but drain them and cool them down before they start to fall apart or the skin gets loose.  Cool and cut them into bite-sized pieces.

hash close upHeat oil — or butter if you are being traditional — in a good, no-stick skillet and brown your onions, keeping the heat low so that they are allowed to caramelize. Just before all of the onions are soft and clear, add the meat and potatoes. Cook on a medium heat, avoiding stirring, to allow the potatoes to get crispy on both sides.

You can crack an egg on top at the end and let it cook on one side (also traditional) or garnish with plain yoghurt and avocado as I have.

 

 

Posted in Breakfast, Cooking with leftovers, Family recipes | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sanctuary Bistro Opens Friday!

Sanctuary ceilingI have written before about my friends Barry the Vegan Chef and Jennifer the Teacher and Amazing Organizer. In my post, Some of My Best Friends are Vegans, I mentioned their Kickstarter campaign to open a restaurant as an offshoot of their gluten-free and vegan catering business.

Tonight, I attended the soft opening of that restaurant — dubbed Sanctuary Bistro — and it is everything I had hoped and more. Even though they have vowed to keep a low environmental profile by recycling much of what was already in the space (formerly a beloved Berkeley sushi spot), the touches they have added make the new place elegant yet friendly. There was already a fun, community vibe going (with many well-behaved small children in attendance) and lots of local wines and beers being poured.

They brew and tap their own kombucha!IMG_0964

Of course the food is amazing — especially Barry’s killer desserts. I had the soup of the day, a mushroom chowder, followed by the fried soca cakes and then the pan-seared tofu with garlic roast potatoes.

Delicious.

sanctuary soupsanctuary soca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10487396_253255868196935_3879308611549967384_nHurry up and make a reservation today, unless you want these adorable children on the left to starve (plus Jenn and Barry’s three rescue dogs and two rescue cats).

Doesn’t look as if they are on Open Table yet, but you can find all of their contact information here: http://www.sanctuarybistro.com/about/contact/.

Their official opening is this Friday, August 1st but I will consider the place really open when the ice cream freezer arrives and they start serving Bananas Foster.

Posted in Gluten-free, Reviews, Vegan | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Eggs of the Devil

eggsMy Aunt and Uncle’s first date hinged on deviled eggs. I am unclear on the story and somewhat puzzled how they ended up married (going on 50-something years) because apparently, my Aunt-to-be put the deviled eggs on the bottom of the picnic basket. My Uncle, from whom I inherited my natural fussiness about such things, flipped out and pointed out that the eggs were being crushed. And yet, they got married! Before Internet-dating, you had to eat squished eggs — and like it. A simpler, happier time.

According to the food timeline blog, deviled eggs originated in Ancient Rome, along with other less important innovations such as cement and indoor plumbing. Here’s a link to a recipe, if you want to make your eggs like the Romans. Warning: It involves rancid fish guts.

Eggs from Pompeii in the British Museum

Eggs from Pompeii in the British Museum

Like so many of my blog posts, there’s nothing particularly novel about my take on deviled eggs, but I do have a few things up my sleeve. I boil my eggs gently for five minutes and then leave them on the stove with the heat turned off and the lid on for another five. To quickly remove their shells, run the hot eggs under cold water. Conversely, if you have cold hard boiled eggs in the fridge, run them under warm water to remove their shells.

Tip 2: Make way more eggs that you think you will need. Unless you are a lot more dexterous than I am (and you probably are), there will be wipe outs when you remove the yolk from the whites. Wipe outs can be eaten as you go (in good news) but you will need loads of deviled eggs, so boil more than you think you need. I have never  brought a single egg home from a party I brought them too — even at parties where there were multiple plates of deviled eggs.

My final tip? I use liquid mustard instead of mustard powder so you need less mayo. I like that seedy French mustard. You also don’t need salt if you use moist mustard unless you like your eggs super salty.

deviled eggsDeviled Eggs

Seven to ten eggs or more — hard boiled (see above)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon mustard
Capers for garnish (if desired)
Paprika to dust

Slice your eggs on the long end and pop out the yolks. Mix the yolks with mayo and mustard. Put a rounded teaspoon of the mixture back into the halved whites. Garnish with capers or parsley, as desired. Dust with paprika.

Yield: Theoretically, twice as many deviled eggs as you boiled.

This happens

This happens

 

Posted in Lactose-free, Snack | Tagged | 2 Comments

Fancy Food Show: Candy Edition

petit-carre-michel-augustinHere are the top 5 trends from the Winter Fancy Food Show:

  • Sriracha. Wasn’t that big a while ago?
  • Weird chips (like pasta chips or sprouted wheat)
  • Stuff with mint
  • Low-sugar, nasty sounding drinks (though what I mostly saw was coconut water which tastes fine)
  • Fancy condiments with things added such as herbs. I guess the guys with the “Creamy nuts” dressing would fall into this category!

Well, I don’t think I need to tell you that I tasted none of the above. I did have a cup of tea (technically from the “low sugar” drinks category) but I studiously avoided samples of anything that sounded too healthy — like quinoa chips (see above). You have limited calories at an event like this if you want to stay mobile and not have to be rolled out of the Moscone Center. emerging_square_400x266

I tried to mostly sample candy (you have to pick your battles!). The candy that tends to show up at this kind of event (not counting Ghirardelli who has to come because they are local) usually has an angle — i.e., environmentally-friendly, super old school, or organic.

Here’s what I loved:

MIcheletaugustinMichel et Augustin gave me a killer cookie square with chocolate on top. It tasted totally unexpected. The cookie wasn’t dry and the chocolate was soft instead of hard. It was delicious though I gathered from their website they are all about social justice and organic ingredients and being “cheeky” — thus their slogan which I believe translates into “Troublemakers of Snacking” or some such.

jellybeanplanetJelly Bean Planet makes natural jelly beans in Ireland. I am normally not a fan of high-end jelly beans. Give me the generic bag from CVS every time. I make an exception for these beans. I didn’t realize that organically-flavored jelly beans could be this good. I just wish I could get some around here without having to order a fortune’s worth online!

chocolate-barshammondsmitchellHammond’s Candies is the old-fashioned candy maker of the bunch. They have been making these caramel wrapped marshmallow surprises in Denver since right after the Great War. Or maybe it was the other war…You can read all about it on their website. Is their caramel extraordinary? Not really. I think I like their packaging most. They have a handsome, pinstriped look to their candy bars that screams to me “appetizing!” Another thing I learned about these shows? They tape the candy bars to their booth so you can’t steal them. I got a caramel or two though.

Remember the woodruff hard candy from Germany that regulates your period? The joke is on me with that one. Icandy meistert was tasty and now I wish I could get a whole bag of it — in case it really works. Again – Candy Meister requires you to order such large amounts. From Canada. According to their website, the only place in the US that sells it is in Portland and I bet they don’t carry the woodruff sweets. Why am I so obsessed with medicinal candy? Don’t answer that.

palacechocolatecafeI rounded off my busy day at the show with a stop at the relatively new Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop in the Palace Hotel. They always give you free samples there, no questions asked. It may not be the best chocolate on earth (though it’s getting better — less wax than in  my childhood) but they are a hometown favorite and the people who work there are awfully nice.

Posted in Candy, Chocolate, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My Personal Awards from the Winter Fancy Food Show

Some of my haul

Some of my haul

I attended the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last week. For those of you who have never heard of it, this is a trade show for people who make or import specialty food stuffs to peddle their wares to grocery store chains, restaurants, retailers, and other professionals in the food industry. I had no real business there, other than a love of food — “fancy” and otherwise. More on that in a later post.

For now, here were some of my favorites from the show:

Award for Food I Ate First Upon Getting Home
Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle. Salted caramel was the flavor they were handingSGBB-Product-Page-SC-2013-e1367515813606 out samples of. Oh. My. God. I had been avoiding this product in Safeway for the past few months. As I told the people at the show, I just knew I would take the bag to bed with me and eat the whole thing. While it didn’t end up in bed, it was eaten first and fast. Brittle implies crunchy, which it’s not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious. I see on their website that Weight Watchers recommends them which I think is funny. It’s not exactly a health food though it could be argued that it has a relatively low calories-and-fat-to-deliciousness ratio. Some dairy, alas, but not brimming with it at least.

barneybutterAward for Most Generous Vendor (and best nut butter by a long shot) goes to Barney Butter. This is my absolute favorite almond butter and I have tried them all, including the make-your-own almond butter machines at health food stores. The man at the booth was either touched by my emphatic praise for his product or eager to get me away from his booth so he could sell to real reps. He gave me a giant jar of my preferred butter (crunchy) and coupons for three more free 16 ounce jars.

Most Generous Country with Free Food: Japan
The booths were partly arranged by country, with some of the bigger players like Italy and Germany boasting their own pavilions. Japan had a big presence, preparing sushi, hand sandwiches (OK, they were basically hot pockets), and handing out samples of everything from the cutest cheese cracker you have ever seen to candies, both strange and tasty. Unlike the understandably suspicious Europeans (why is this woman with no badge trying to acquire free food?), the Japanese were only too happy to hand over whatever they had. Note to the Japanese vendor selling the salad dressing called “Creamy nuts,” I tried to warn you.

candy-meister_green_woodruff_leaves_german_candyWeirdest Flavor of Candy
This award goes to woodruff, which I kept trying to assure the nice German man who represented the candy company is NOT a thing in English. He urged me to Wikipedia it. (A verb in German, apparently.) Guess what? Wikipedia refers you to the Latin name for this tiny white flower that grows in European forests. To be fair to woodruff (aka Galium odoratum) it tasted really nice. As I walked away from the booth, the guy called after me that the candy in my mouth helps to regulate your period. A young, attractive man. I have never dated a German. Now I know why.

Isigny butter and creamMy Hero
Benoit, from Isigny Sainte-Mere, purveyors of the best cheeses, butter, and cream in the world. He was the reason I was able to peruse the fancy foods of the world and he was recently featured in a short piece in the New Yorker called “The Cheese Stands Alone.” You can’t read the whole thing without a subscription, but the gist is that the FDA forced him to destroy some beautiful aged mimolette. This is a crime. Mimolette is one of the most versatile and succulent of cheeses, fabulous as a snack, amazing as an ingredient in recipes. Benoit had a big ball of it with him at the show and he kept handing me pieces off of it. You know I am lala mimolettectose-incapable. I am equally unable to refuse mimolette, the true Queen of Cheeses. I haven’t been able to find a photo that does justice to the vivid orange hue of this gorgeous cheese but I will keep trying.

Posted in Brownies, Candy, French food, Reviews | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Applesauce in the Oven

100_9091When your apples are too far gone for pie, make applesauce.

And when you are too lazy to make applesauce, make oven applesauce.

I did see that the Barefoot Contessa had a recipe for applesauce in the oven, but I was actually too lazy to even follow it. Plus, she used butter. Which I can’t. And is that even necessary?

So I basically cut up my old apples with my exciting new apple slicing tool (see below), made sure all of the seeds were out, and covered them with liquid and baked. The side benefit I hadn’t anticipated? Oven roasted apples caramelize and take on a whole new, richer, deeper flavor.

apple slicerDepending on the juice content of the apples you use and how much liquid you decide to add, you can either eat them fresh out of the oven with a little bit of yogurt or run them through the blender with a little bit of added liquid and make the darkest, most satisfying applesauce you have ever tasted. Either way, no peeling (the peels soften to the point of non-existence during cooking) and the best-smelling kitchen of your life.

Note to realtors: Nobody can bake cookies every weekend without developing a gut. Throw some old apples in a big pot of water and add a couple of cinnamon sticks and a squirt of lemon juice and set in a 200 degree oven for 3 hours. Instant homey smell without the calories.applesauce in the oven

My writing group met this weekend for our annual round-up of writing goals. I was sincerely proud of what other people had accomplished but discouraged by my own lack of progress. The Middle Grade Gothic novel I wrote is much improved after dozens of drafts but to what end?

eric amber passage of armsAnd some selfish library patron is still reading (or hoarding) the Eric Ambler book I want to read next. Ambler is the guy who either invented or honed the modern spy novel (depending who you ask) and his writing is simply amazing. Although I probably shouldn’t be telling anyone else if I ever want to get my book.

I think I cook because it’s something I can finish — and enjoy — and share with others. Unlike most of what I write.

Applesauce in the Oven (adapted from Ina Garten)

Apples — doesn’t matter what kind or how many
Maple syrup or brown sugar to taste
A pinch or more of salt
Liquid including at least something acidic, such as orange or lemon juice
Cinnamon and maybe even other spices (I used my favorite pumpkin pie spice mix — and I used a whole lot of it)

Preheat your oven to about 300 if you are using a big oven-safe stew pot such as I have pictured above. Another time I used a casserole dish and cooked the apples at 200 degrees until they were fork-soft for twice as long.

Cut the apples open and remove the cores and seeds, cutting away rotten spots. That’s it. No peeling.

Cover the apples with liquid. You can use anything from cider to wine to orange juice or some combination of whatever you have on hand. Make sure to include at least one acidic juice. I bet a dash of cider vinegar would work well if you are completely out of citrus.

Add sweetener if desired. The Barefoot Contessa and others recommend brown sugar but I wanted a lower glycemic index so I added a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup instead.  For the version pictured above, I used two cinnamon sticks which I fished out afterwards, rinsed, and reused to mull cider. Later, when the holidays were done, I just used a whole bunch of pumpkin pie spice in my baked apple sauce. Both alternatives smell great while cooking.

Bake your apple mess until the apples are soft and liquid. This can take 1 to 2 hours but what’s the rush? The whole house will be infused with a dreamy, apples-and-cinnamon scent that evokes the joy of pie.

I put half in the blender after one batch because my mother doesn’t like chunks in her apple sauce but I like mine al dente, fresh out of the oven, served with a drizzle of yogurt or a a slice of cherry cake.

roasted apples and cherry cake

Posted in Baking, Baking with fruit, Cooking with leftovers, Vegan, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

When Only Bread Baked by a Cranky Frenchman Will Do

Savor: S.F. Sourdough breads; Nov'12; sillosWe are spoiled rotten when it comes to bread around here. I can afford to refuse to eat anyone’s baguette but the Cheeseboard’s (all crust!), insist on Acme’s whole wheat loaf for sandwiches (s0 sweet, so dense), and prefer Semifreddi’s Challah to any other.

Some members of my family have a thing about La Farine’s morning buns even though there are several stiff competitors for Best Morning Bun.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that I forgot all about La Bedaine when it came to buying bread, even though the owner/baker had been nice enough to conduct a puff pastry class I attended. (Read about it here.)

Acme Whole Wheat loaf

Acme Whole Wheat loaf

I shouldn’t have. It turns out that this tiny bakery provides something you can’t get at any of those other places — loaves baked by an actual Frenchman who understands the Gallic way of shopkeeping (smiling at strangers means you are simple to the French — vive the cultural difference). And La Bedaine’s bread tastes like I remember bread tasting in France, with a variety of textures and flavors, redolent of the oven, even days later.

photo credit Rita C./Yelp

photo credit Rita C./Yelp

 

Many people patronize La Bedaine exclusively for their sandwiches or their elegant sous-vide entrées that can be reheated in moments in your home or the pastries (bien sur) but I’m hooked on their pain au levain — an entirely different experience than anyone else’s.

I’m also pretty excited about the La Bedaine baguette, even though unlike the Cheeseboard’s crust-only confection, this bread has an inside as well.

All that is left...

All that is left…

New Year, new tastes, right?

Posted in Bread, French food, Reviews | Tagged , , | 2 Comments