May 30, 2010 § 1 Comment
This morning I sat down with this list of 250 things to do in San Francisco before you die and realized it is epically hard to not eat in this city. I mean, have pumpkin ravioli at L’Osteria, buy a heap of cheap avocados at Casa Lucas, and grab a Vietnamese sandwich from Saigon Sandwiches?
These are just three of the many, many items of the list that have to do with eating. So instead of checking out all these bakeries and restaurants and groceries that 7×7 has decided are necessities for San Franciscans, I decided to revisit some of the places that I remember from my childhood.
When I was younger, the Ferry Plaza farmers’ market didn’t exist. Rather a smaller, more intimate market existed in a parking lot in the Embarcadero. We used to go every Saturday morning fairly early. My mom would shop for produce and I’d buy a couple small items, always the same.
Honey straws, in a multitude of flavors though my favorites were watermelon and root beer, and cinnamon twists from the Noe Valley Bakery stand. Now the farmers’ market has moved to the Ferry Building and with this move, it has become a must-see for many tourists. Navigating the crowds can be annoying, but it is hard to find this much food in one spot in the city.
Even as farmers’ markets spring up in every neighborhood of San Francisco, I’m still clinging to the original. Which, I guess, isn’t really the original anymore.
May 27, 2010 § 1 Comment
I really suspect you’re tired of hearing about whole grain flours by now. Rye, corn, barley, it all starts to sound the same after awhile. Your eyes start to a glaze over and you start to think, oh no we’re descending into San Francisco hippie territory again. Next thing you know, I’ll be telling you to cook everything by sunlight on the roof. But I swear that day hasn’t some yet. And I swear this really isn’t my fault. In fact, these multigrain flatbreads were actually my brother’s idea. His 13-year-old, just barely teenage boy and still clinging to his picky-eater notions, idea.
We started making these on a weekend afternoon, right as my mother decided she was making whole wheat bread. We set up two simultaneous stations in the kitchen for the baking, the two doughs came together at the same time, and then I was given the task of kneading them. Whenever the opportunity arises, I love working dough with my hands. Like shortbread? I mix the butter in with my hands. But working with yeast gives a whole new level of fun to playing with dough. The dough almost rises in your hands, giving gentle resistance to every push into the countertop. It slowly absorbs the heavy dusting of flour you put down to prevent sticking, becoming more and more sticky until you throw down more flour. Finally, when the dough almost seems to be bursting and can take no more flour, it develops a glossy texture. A quick dusting of olive oil and you leave it to rise. It’s like abandoning a child in a playground. Except when you finally come back, it’s big and puffy without a trace of tears. And then you throw it in a pan and fry it.
Kim Boyce’s flatbread is left to rise twice. The first time for two hours, the second time covered in a towel for 1 ½ hours. Once fully risen, you divide the dough into 8 equal parts and roll them out to about a 9-10 inch diameter. Lightly paint on some olive oil and sprinkle with the spices (fresh or ground) of your choice before throwing in the pan, oil side down. Repeat this process on the other side while the dough circle bubbles.
The original recipe uses amaranth flour. But both the brother, who shies away from strange new foods, and the mother, who has bought far too many new flours for me in the past week, weighed in and we decided to go with a mixture of white, whole wheat and corn flours. We used Stonehouse California Extra Garlic Oil, one of those oils you can pick up at the wonderful bread and olive oil tasting station in the Ferry Building, some variations of chili and curry powders and paprika alongside fresh rosemary and a quick pinch of sea salt.
Eat them plain straight off the skillet or later with something like hummus. Or these would make a great accompaniment to a salad — green or quinoa, you decide how much of a hippie you are.
May 23, 2010 § Leave a Comment
I just pulled a batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven but those are going to have to wait another day. I returned from Victoria, Canada the other day from a brief visit with my grandparents. They just bought a condo in Victoria, in addition to their house by the mountains, and the past couple days have been filled with the logistics of setting up a new home as well as a couple afternoon getaways. The trip included the obligatory trip downtown to Roger’s chocolates, where we picked up a couple boxes of dark chocolate mints and a bag of chocolate-covered English toffee for me to bring back to San Francisco. Soft maple sugar candies also found their way into my carry-on. I was that kid sitting in the coffee shop eating the sugar cubes meant to go in grown-up coffee and I still firmly believe I could go days on sugar alone. Maple sugar is even better than cane sugar, as it has a melt-in-your-mouth translucency and comes in the pretty shapes of maples leaves and acorns.
We also spent an afternoon at the James Bay Tea Room, which is a small white cottage on the outskirts of downtown. With a pot of the house tea — orange pekoe — we got scones with jam and whipped cream, mini quiches, butter-raisin and lemon tarts, and triangle egg and tuna sandwiches. The tea service was slightly spoiled by the fact that the sugar came out of a large jar and the strawberry jam out of plastic packaging.
While the tea was satisfactory, it did not live up to expectations. Last summer, we went to the Point Ellice Tea House, which is further out of downtown, which was much better. While Point Ellice didn’t have authentic Devonshire cream (Grandpa was adamant that authentic cream is thick enough to be cut with a knife), it offered a full array of sweets, including lemon loaf and trifle, and savories like tomato soup and cucumber sandwiches. A lovely afternoon.
I had another lovely experience last night at 18 Reasons, which is a small storefront run by Bi-Rite Market on Guerrero in San Francisco. The non-profit runs a series of events about food and art for the community, including presentations by local food producers. Last night, it held a potluck dinner with Kim Boyce, author of Good to the Grain. Every attendee made and brought a recipe from the book and we sat around a long wooden table enjoying the wide array of baked goods. Good to the Grain is all about baking with other grains besides white flour, including whole-wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat and spelt among others. The food table concentrated mostly on sweet rather than savory and boasted ginger-peach muffins, olive oil rosemary cake with chocolate chips, quinoa cookies, whole wheat chocolate chip cookies and my own contribution, summer peach pie.
This was my first time making a pie with a real pie crust. I’ve made my fair share of tarts, as well as a pumpkin pie, but never real pastry dough. Everyone said the pie turned out beautifully and we were instructed during introductions that we were not allowed to apologize for whatever we brought, but next time I will be careful to ensure the crust is sealed on the edges as some of the peach juices seeped out.
I won’t give you the recipe for the pie but rather instruct you to go buy Kim’s book. The photos are beautiful and I’ve already made several of the recipes which turned out wonderfully. If you’ve never cooked with other grains before, you should definitely try it out. Even the simple switch to whole wheat flour lends a new dimension to whatever you are baking. I won’t say anything more about whole wheat flour now, as it might spoil my next post!
May 17, 2010 § Leave a Comment
My neighborhood has been transformed in the past twenty years from a drug-infested slum to quite a happening little village-like neighborhood. The New York Times recently wrote an article about the Bernal Heights transformation, which you can read here. First came Liberty Bakery, where I spent a good amount of my childhood.
Starting when I was just a little girl, I would go to Liberty Bakery and take a seat at the counter to watch the bakers make bread and banana-cream pie. I grew up at that counter, double-dipping my croissant in homemade strawberry jam and eating the scraps of strawberry shortcake offered to me by Cathi, the owner who recently died of cancer. The Bakery started with a restaurant up front that serves amazing vegetable and chicken pot pies and Caesar salads. But my favorite was always the rosemary rolls that came to the table piping hot from the Bakery out back. I would spread them thickly with butter, which would melt all over my hands and the paper table-covering. The waiters would give me crayons with which to draw on the tabletop and they all knew my name. When I would come into the restaurant years later, they still cooed over how much I had grown.
But, when I walked up to the main street with my mother this morning to grab coffee, some things had changed again. For instance, a new grocery has opened, with sushi, deli, bakery and knife-sharpening stations as well as some organic produce. It’s like a one stop, small town store with several different vendors, all who keep their own stations and their own hours. I’m tempted to say it’s a very cute idea. The other change is a new bakery that has opened up called the Sandbox. My mother mentioned that she had wondered how the Sandbox was going to do with business as the neighborhood already has one bakery. But since Cathi’s death, Liberty Bakery’s new owners have fired all the old staff and, rumor has it, started baking ready-made croissants to sell instead of the rustic, if not entirely authentic, croissants that I loved as a child. So the Sandbox has really found its niche. It offers plenty of pastries — brioche, pain au chocolat —, cookies, scones and Japanese inspired buns. We ordered lattés and shared a raspberry-lemon marmalade bun. We also picked up a brioche for my brother and a maple apple-bacon scone to go.
I’m not sure I liked the large pieces of bacon in the scone but it was a new and interesting combination for a breakfast treat. Maybe the owners of Sandbox don’t know my name yet, but they will soon enough.
So while Bernal Heights is always changing, there will always be some things that remain constant. The local Bank of America manager will always say hello to my mother on the street. I will always be able to find a cute bakery within walking distance. Oh and Progressive Grounds will always sell me my falafel wraps for movies from FourStar Video (fingers crossed they don’t go out of business).
And then there’s the another thing that hasn’t changed since I was last at home. My brother still loves all things lemon and has compiled a baking to-do list for me that consists of, you guessed it, all things lemon. Here is the first batch of them:
Lemon Poppyseed Muffins
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan
For the Muffins:
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
For the Icing:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Center a rack in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of lemon strong.
Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended.
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough –a few lumps are better than over-mixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.
Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Cool the muffins completely on the rack before icing them.
Directions for icing
Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. Then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely.
May 16, 2010 § 2 Comments
Last night, I came home to discover that my little 13-year-old brother now makes lasagna. He likes cooking rather than baking, and chopping rather than mixing. He will wax poetical on the wonders of soy sauce and sesame oil, but rarely likes flavors other than cinnamon sugar and chocolate chip when it comes to baked goods. But my brother poking and prodding at things with a measuring cup is one of the staples of my home kitchen.
You could say that, in terms of food, my brother had a different childhood than me. The only times I ever got to eat a donut were early in the morning before a swim meet (counter to the whole healthy breakfast before the big day reasoning, I know). Soda was reserved for airplanes and sickness, and the occasional fancy restaurant. When I wanted Oreos, I got Newman’ Os, which were really just not the same. And a special treat at the checkout counter was a big, pink frosted vegan cookie, which I actually still think is pretty good. But by the time my brother came around, the fact that I was old enough to make grocery trip runs and buy lunch at school meant that he got a greater degree of freedom in determining his diet. And now that means cupboards fully stocked with Cheetos, Frosted Flakes and Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Pop Tarts. Talk about unfair.
But, back to the kitchen. This morning, we put Norah Jones on the kitchen speakers (another staple of the home kitchen) and gave homemade Pop Tarts a shot. Cinnamon-Brown Sugar variety of course. Admittedly, these are missing the icing. But these Pop Tarts are also wonderfully flaky and perfectly shaped (miniature size!), if I do say do myself. The brother says they could use a bit more filling, promptly covering the tops with cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar) and Dad says they’re “fine,” but that is all a fairly usual reaction to anything in this house. A certain someone says the baked good in question needs more sugar and a certain someone else says they’re OK before eating half the tray of them.
The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve also seen a Pop Tarts recipe in Bon Appetit recently that you may want to give a shot. Bon Appetit’s Pop Tarts are of the strawberry variety. Smitten Kitchen offers many flavor suggestions, including sweet jam or Nutella fillings as well as a savory variety using pesto and olive tapenade.
Homemade Pop Tarts
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pats
1 large egg
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) milk
1 additional large egg (to brush on pastry)
Cinnamon Filling (enough for 9 tarts)
1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, to taste
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg, to brush on pastry before filling
To make cinnamon filling: Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, and flour.
Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Work in the butter with your fingers, pastry blender or food processor until pea-sized lumps of butter are still visible, and the mixture holds together when you squeeze it. If you’ve used a food processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Whisk the first egg and milk together and stir them into the dough, mixing just until everything is cohesive, kneading briefly on a well-floured counter if necessary.
Divide the dough in half (approximately 8 1/4 ounces each), shape each half into a smooth rectangle, about 3×5 inches. You can roll this out immediately (see Warm Kitchen note below) or wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Assemble the tarts: If the dough has been chilled, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to soften and become workable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Place one piece on a lightly floured work surface, and roll it into a rectangle about 1/8″ thick, large enough that you can trim it to an even 9″ x 12″. [You can use a 9" x 13" pan, laid on top, as guidance.] Repeat with the second piece of dough. Set trimmings aside. Cut each piece of dough into thirds – you’ll form nine 3″ x 4″ rectangles.
Beat the additional egg and brush it over the entire surface of the first dough. This will be the “inside” of the tart; the egg is to help glue the lid on. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling into the center of each rectangle, keeping a bare 1/2-inch perimeter around it. Place a second rectangle of dough atop the first, using your fingertips to press firmly around the pocket of filling, sealing the dough well on all sides. Press the tines of a fork all around the edge of the rectangle. Repeat with remaining tarts.
Gently place the tarts on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Prick the top of each tart multiple times with a fork; you want to make sure steam can escape, or the tarts will become billowy pillows rather than flat toaster pastries. Refrigerate the tarts (they don’t need to be covered) for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 350°F.
Bake the tarts: Remove the tarts form the fridge, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re a light golden brown. Cool in pan on rack.
*I made a miniature version of these. The dimensions of mine were approximately 2 inch x 3 inch.*