Contrary to what many of our posts may lead you to believe, the San Francisco Bay Area is a place where people really care and put thought into their diets. In addition to promoting our general health and well-being, you will commonly see and hear words like vegetarian, vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free, and paleo while dining out or during a trip to the local grocery. Luckily for the folks that fall into any of those categories, most restaurants and grocery stores in the area are now catering to an array of diets and food allergies.
As summer draws to a close and bids us goodbye with a last fiery embrace, we turn to the kitchen with a muted enthusiasm. Our last chance for grilling is passing us by! Did we take advantage of this summer? we ask ourselves with a bittersweet regret. Did we spend enough time relishing the warmth of sunshine, enjoying the childlike sense of freedom which has not quite faded? Now, in the final flare of warm weather after so many months of fog and fitful sun, we try to capture the summery spirit before fall wraps her chilly arms around us. This recipe, shared with us by a friend, is a wonderful way to take advantage of the Indian summer. Grilling tofu and fresh, plump zucchini in the backyard while a breeze rustles the leaves of the magnolia tree is the very essence of the season. The result, a fusion of flavors and cuisines, fits our palate perfectly and does justice to the variety of options available to us in this wonderful place we call home. Whatever can be said about its weather, the Bay Area provides a wealth of culinary options that dazzle and delight, no matter what the season. We took advantage of the fresh produce and local products to construct this mouth-watering sandwich, which embodies the soul of a California summer and celebrates its final encore. (more…)
“Hot churros! Get your hot churrrros!” shouts the hot churro man. It’s an ice-cold June evening in AT&T Park, and you want both the churro man and his hot churros to keep you warm. Alas, the churros are obscenely expensive, probably not terribly hot, and the churro guy is not going to get your come-ons when there are 15 glaring baseball fans standing between the two of you. The only solution? Make your own at home! (more…)
In the simmering heat of New Orleans, one would think the last thing on my mind would be a hot, thick stew. One would be wrong. Wandering the sun-bleached graves of New Orleans’s past, bouncing past brass bands at every corner along Jackson Square, sipping boozy drinks that under any other circumstances would be considered crimes against humanity – it ignites a fever in you, a fever for spice and history and flavor and community. Gumbo is a kind of talisman in Louisiana. Born of a conflict of cultures, of poverty and slavery and the rough need of the oppressed, gumbo is the perfect comfort food. Everyone (and everyone’s mother) has his or her own version, so the flavor has the ability to transport you to a place of security and tender nostalgia. The meal requires attention and, traditionally, the contributions of several people, making it a manifestation of the kind of community that supports its members in both spiritual and material ways. When everyone brings something – spicy andouille, chicken, fatty slices of bacon – the result is rich in flavor and meaning. (more…)
I think the true key to achieving impressive feats – whether it’s hosting a five-course dinner party, formulating an experiment that produces publishable results, or completing a full marathon – is a healthy dose of naive enthusiasm. We were on Food52 looking for something else entirely when a picture caught our eye: golden-brown caramels, topped with toasted pepitas and fleur de sel. Hey, those look good, we said, let’s make them tonight. And so, with no prior planning we embarked into the unknown. There was a brief moment of clarity on the way home – I have a historic success rate of 50% when it comes to caramels – but then the enthusiasm flared and I forgot all about the disasters potentially awaiting us in the kitchen. (more…)
Soup in summer? What is this madness?! How could one possible use a stove in this blazing 60-degree heat? Ah yes, Berkeley in the summer: a landscape of wafting fog and lukewarm afternoon sun. When we saw the most recent Food 52 contest (Your Best Summer Soup) we were not attracted by chilled soups and recipes for gazpacho. Inspired by the extremely fall-like weather we’re experiencing rather than withering heat, we decided to stir up a something light and flavorful that could simmer away on the stove while we whipped up a bright, herbal pistou. (more…)
It was in my first week in France – I had already toured the Louvre, ordered a sandwich consisting primarily of butter and saucisson, and missed the TGV by this point – that a friend of mine in the study abroad program invited me to dinner with some other Americans and a few of their French friends (these particular Americans had already been in Bordeaux for a semester and were now infinitely more worldly than I). This group of youths was headed to L’Entrecote, one of a number of restaurants featuring the most divine menu: a single dish, steak, served with matchstick fries and a butter-based sauce rich and decadent enough to bring tears to one’s eyes. We arrived in the softly-lit, wood-paneled dining room and I sat, wide-eyed, trying to dive into the conversation around me while simultaneously committing to memory the sparkle of our wine glasses and the musical burble of French conversation and the particular Frenchness of our salad course, tossed greens with rich walnuts and vinaigrette. We ordered wine for the table – I was only 20 at the time, so this was a rare and marvelous novelty – and directed the waitstaff to prepare our steaks, from a nose-wrinkling bien cuit to my bloody saignant. The sauce, a scrupulously-preserved family secret, was poured over our platter of meat and we used fries to sop up every last bit in an unapologetic show of gluttony. The meat, tender and juicy, paired beautifully the thyme and (reportedly) chicken liver base of the sauce. I drank rather more wine than I was used to and felt that this was without a doubt the pinnacle of existence. (more…)
Baking a birthday cake for a friend is a meaningful gesture. I was greeted at work on my birthday with a flamboyantly decorated desk and a sweet cake baked by the other half of First We Eat (the lady without a sweet tooth, nonetheless!). When our coworkers birthday rolled around, we wanted to surprise her with a pretty treat. What better than a recipe that takes advantage of the abundance of blueberries in boxes, in barrels, in crates at our local markets? We hurried to Monterey Market (our favorite source by far of fresh produce in the East Bay) and scooped up as many as we could. (literally: we were looking at a mountainous pile of blueberries with a plastic scoop). Returning home with our plunder, we began to build this lemony cake. (more…)
I have waited for this day. The day when I get to open up, to reveal my truest, deepest inner self. I tend to rhapsodize about comfort food, butter, cheese, fried pastries; my posts focus on sweetness, fattiness, richness. But in my heart of hearts, I would be happy eating salad for every meal for the rest of my life. Yep, I love salad. I love its versatility; I love the endless combinations of ingredients and textures; I revel in the freshness of the greens, the crispness of the vegetables, the earthiness of nuts, mushrooms, beets. I’ve looked forward to this post, but I have dreaded it in equal measure. How do I convey the magic, the delight of salad? How do I convey my allegiance to the clan of Salad Lovers without alienating the (much larger) population of Salad Loathers, all the while attempting to convert the Salad Apathetic?
When it comes to cooking magazines, I am ravenous. I pore through the pages, reading every article, evaluating every recipe, putting together multi-page shopping lists in my head. By the end of the issue I am overwhelmed by ideas and I very quickly lose the will to enter my kitchen, much less commit to any one meal. In the end I usually find myself at Trader Joe’s without a list of ingredients and return home, defeated, with nothing but some romaine lettuce and carrots for an exceedingly unambitious salad. In light of this confession, you can probably imagine my wonder and admiration when my best friend arrived at work one fine morning and mentioned off-hand that she made a pork and mustard green soup the previous night: “you know, the one on the cover of Bon Appetit”. In fact, I did know, and I suspected it was just as delicious as it looked. Turns out it’s even better. (more…)