Savory

Summer Soup

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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…)

Avant tout, on mange

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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…)

A Salad to Make Your Heart Skip a Beet

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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?

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A Soup-erior Weeknight Meal

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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…)

Say Cheese. Say It!

_MG_6285I finally accepted that I feel at home in the East Bay when I first went to Homeroom in Oakland, CA. A restaurant dedicated entirely to macaroni and cheese? With pitchers of cider on tap? Yes, please. I’m sorry, have I died? Give me, like, 20 minutes to finish off this caramelized onion-swirled, green pea-studded bowl of bliss and then we can check in with St. Peter.

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This Little Piggy…

_MG_6317Pork loin is a cut from the top of the rib cage; it yields a tender, lean meat and, like other cuts of pork, goes very well with both sweet, fruity sauces and herb-rich rubs. While many have a relatively uneasy relationship with pork – or abstain from it entirely – we have always prized the cheap-and-easy option for dinner. It requires only minimal prep and the succulent results pair well with a variety of side dishes. An ever-present necessity in our lives, it can feed a group effortlessly and looks reasonably fancy for dinner parties or visits from the in-laws.

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This is How We Roll

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Sushi is a powerful food. It is memorable for most home cooks, not just because it involves an expansive amount of prep work but because it is so often done in the company of friends. Roommates, sisters, husbands, girlfriends–everyone has a story, whether it’s a tempura disaster, exploding rolls, a particularly exquisite fillet of tuna, or hysterical laughter around the table as someone puts a little too much wasabi in her mouth. Some of my best college memories revolve around the process of making it or eating it: that night we thought five rolls wouldn’t be enough for two, so we made a sixth; the New Year’s a significant other and I nearly burned down the house trying to make tempura; weeknights at the hole-in-the-wall on Telegraph Ave. (more…)

We Don’t Serve Lettuce and Tomato…

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Baseball season is here again. We’re here again–walking en masse from BART along the Embarcadero, sliding into plastic seats with sloshing beers in hand, chanting and singing and shouting, ogling Buster Posey, wrapping scarves tighter as the San Francisco summer rolls over the hill. One of us has been a Giants fan since childhood, from bundling up to brave the winds of Candlestick Park to drinking irresponsibly after the World Series win in 2010 to afternoons with the game on while First We Eat makes magic in the kitchen. The other one of us was a decade or two late to the party, but adores the culture, the energy, the anticipation, and the ballpark nachos just as much.

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A Pesto that Walnut Fail

Pasta is alternately a cruel temptation, a comfort, an easy out, a delight… It’s hot., but can easily be served cold. It’s enormously versatile. It requires, at least, water and a splash of butter, maybe a bit of cheese and some pepper; but pasta will also support a hearty ragù, delicate greens, tart tomatoes, and spiced mussels. Most importantly it’s stuffed with carbs. The process of making pasta, which we won’t explore at the moment but which is – don’t you worry – on its way eventually, is one of those pleasurably meditative tasks we love: labor-intensive and ultimately rewarding. In the case of an impromptu dinner with friends, we prefer the quick-and-dirty Trader Joe’s 9-minute organic spaghetti version (see previous references to modern womanhood, viz. working hard for the money). Whether you made your own or, more likely, pulled a half-opened package from the top shelf of your pantry, this quick pesto and juicy garlic grilled shrimp will satisfy your guests’ appetites.

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Holy Mole

cincodemayoWe hope you all had a happy Cinco de Mayo, amigos!  Yep, I just said that. Once a holiday to honor the ideals of freedom and democracy in the first years of the Civil War and celebrated by Mexican-Americans to commemorate an unlikely victory in a fight to end occupation, the celebration of Cinco de Mayo has been seized enthusiastically by margarita-happy gringos. This isn’t to say that the original or true meaning of the holiday has been lost. Uniquely American in origin, the day is now a widely-embraced celebration of Mexican heritage. In a state that was formed from Mexican territory and in which 30% of the population identifies as Mexican-American, it’s accompanied by a very visible display of pride. For the two of us, it also means an excuse to make an elaborate feast.  (more…)