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A Season of Change: Truffled Gnocchi

Do you still get excited about getting the mail? I generally don’t. Increasingly, I find that friends send fewer handwritten cards (email and Facebook have become our de-facto communication channels–even when it comes to birthday and holiday wishes) and I just don’t find catalogs that exciting anymore. I rarely receive packages at home (I generally send them to my work), so my apartment mailbox is largely a deposit for junk mail. Except around the last week of every month, when I eagerly anticipate the arrival of Saveur. I try to savor it, and only flip through a few pages at a time, but often end up devouring the whole magazine in a matter of several hours.

There is something to be said about being able to curl up with a beautiful, glossy magazine filled with photographs and stories of food and travel. It takes me to Italy and Turkey, Greece and Israel. It makes me want to travel through food. Someone recently asked me where I find inspiration for cooking and the answer is: practically everywhere. I’m inspired by family and friends, fellow food bloggers, restaurants, travels, and favorite websites and magazines.

Today, Saveur captures me the way that National Geographic captured me when I was a kid. Instead of cutting out images of countries with safari packages, I fold over edges of food magazines like Saveur. Only these days, I don’t just dream: I set aside these folded pages, only to return to them and take action. Cooking is an actionable daydream.

As I have done many times before, I folded over this recipe for truffled gnocchi, provided by a restaurateur in Boston, seemingly ages ago. Yet when I saw chanterelles at my farmer’s market, a spark went off and I remembered the dish. I wanted something lighter than a cream sauce, and peas were no longer in season, so I added my own twist: a more earthy mushroom topping, atop delicately truffled potato gnocchi that were tender as could be.

These days, you may have noticed I’ve been posting a little less frequently than usual, but take note–it’s not because I’m any less inspired. We’re getting closer and closer to launching Turntable Kitchen, and I’m sitting on a lot of recipes that I am itching to share with you. But as we get into the final stages of development, we’re focusing on creating a site that we’ll be really proud to share with you. It’s a season for change.

Truffled Gnocchi and Chanterelles
gnocchi recipe adapted from Saveur, c/o Sportello restaurant in Boston
* serves four

2 large, unpeeled russet potatoes
1 1⁄4 cup of all-purpose flour
3⁄4 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of truffle oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups of chanterelles, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon of flat-leaf parsley, chopped finely
salt and ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 shallot, minced

Parmesan cheese, to serve

1. Boil the potatoes in a large pot of salted water until fork-tender (about 20 minutes). Drain and allow the potatoes to cool before peeling.
2. Mash the potatoes in a large bowl until smooth. Add the flour and salt, and work into a dough using your hands.
3. Make a well in the center and add the egg and truffle oil. Knead the dough using your hands until it just comes together. You don’t want to over-knead–it will make the gnocchi tougher. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and flour lightly.
5. Roll the gnocchi dough until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Use a knife or a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 1/2 inch wide strips. Use your hands to roll the strips into ropes.
6. Cut the ropes into 1 inch pieces. Press down gently on each piece with the back of a small fork to make light ridges on the surface. As you form the gnocchi, transfer them to the floured parchment sheet. Cover the sheet with a kitchen towl and place the gnocchi in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook them.
7. When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 3 minutes (until they have all risen to the surface). Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and set aside while you make the mushroom topping.
8. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for a couple of minutes.
9. Add the garlic and shallot, and saute for a few more minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and any liquid has mostly evaporated.
10. Add the gnocchi to the skillet, stirring to combine them with the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving platter and top with Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Musical Pairings: Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz + Truffled Gnocchi and Chanterelles

Kasey and I rarely back-away from recipes that feature hearty, complex flavors. In fact, many of my favorite recipes are luscious, earthy and rich. Kasey’s truffled gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms is a great example of this. It is a smooth, lush recipe with big flavors. And it pairs well with Sufjan Stevens’ latest epic – The Age of Adz. At one of his recent performances in Oakland, Stevens noted that The Age of Adz was an album about process. Previously celebrated primarily as an exceptional songwriter, for his latest work, Stevens abandoned his familiar tools, opting for a less structured form of craftsmanship that focused on development through sonic exploration and process-driven production. As a result, The Age of Adz is an artisanly blended hodge-podge of coarsely chopped IDM, Kid A-esque electronica, gospel, and folk that alluringly sparkles, bleeps, bloops, organically resonates, and hums in equal measures. More at Musical Pairings. — Matthew

Posted in chanterelles, Fall, food music blog, gnocchi, Musical Pairings, Saveur | 5 Comments

Breaking Routine: Poached Salmon Salad with Horseradish Dressing

As you may have noticed from my last post, I can be a creature of habit. I like my routine, and what’s wrong with that? What’s curious to me, however, is how this relates to my cooking. There are certain ingredients that seem to be a staple: shrimp, smoked paprika, basil, tomatoes, lemon, chicken, cinnamon, goat cheese. But every once in a while, I find myself veering off course with star anise, lavender, duck, amaranth flour, udon noodles. My favorite approach to food, however, is taking a routine ingredient (say, chicken), and throwing in an un-routine ingredient (say, lavender).

Such was the case with the poached salmon dish I’m going to share with you today. It comes from a lovely, lovely book called My Favorite Ingredients, by Skye Gyngell. Originally published in the UK (where Skye resides), it features recipes from the head chef at Petersham Nurseries Cafe in southwest London. What drew me to the book was the excellent arrangement of recipes–based not on part of the meal, or season, but rather, by a particular ingredient that elevates the dish. For example, sections include honey, asparagus, vinegar and citrus. I’ve been smitten ever since I received it. The recipes are inspired, unique (pickled pumpkin with burrata?! That one is on my to-do list) and the approach is so beautifully casual and laid back, it makes you feel like you’re out in the English countryside, enjoying a breeze and the changing of the seasons as you delicately arrange fresh ingredients on a plate.

The poached salmon recipe was included in the section called ‘leaves’ as it features watercress tossed with a bit of olive oil and salt. The salmon, gently poached, is topped with a dressing of olive oil, creme fraiche (or yogurt), horseradish, lime and tomatoes–giving it a delicate, yet pronounced flavor profile. While Skye’s recipe has the fish sit on a bed of rice, I chose to pan-fry some giant white beans, top them with the watercress salad, salmon and dressing. The various elements worked together beautifully – a deconstructed, yet fully constructed meal disguised as a salad.

I can’t wait to try and share more recipes from Skye’s book–it’s truly inspiring.

Poached Salmon Salad with Horseradish Dressing
adapted from a recipe in My Favorite Ingredients
*serves 2

2 fillets of wild salmon
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped roughly
a few sprigs of fresh tarragon
1-2 bay leaves
a few black peppercorns
salt and freshly-ground pepper
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lime
bunch of watercress (approximately two handfuls)

For the dressing:
1 tomato, diced
1/2 tablespoon of horseradish (I didn’t have freshly-grated on hand, but use it if you do)
zest and juice from 1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 cup of creme fraiche or yogurt (I used yogurt)
sea salt, to taste

1 cup of giant white beans, sauteed in olive oil until lightly golden (to serve)

1. Place the fillets in a shallow pan along with the vegetables, herbs, bay leaves and peppercorns. Cover with water and just bring it to a very light simmer. Turn off the heat immediately and let the fish cook as it cools.
2. Combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil with the lime juice and a bit of salt and pepper.
3. Once the salmon has cooled, remove it from the pan, place it on a plate, and brush it with the olive oil/lime mixture.
4. Make the dressing: combine the tomatoes with the horseradish, lime zest and juice, creme fraiche or yogurt, olive oil, and a bit of salt. Stir to combine.
5. Assemble the dish: wash and dry the watercress. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt.
6. Distribute the beans between two plates. Top with the watercress.
7. Remove the skin from the salmon fillets and flake the fish over the watercress.
8. Spoon the dressing over the entire dish.

Note: If you don’t have giant beans, you could swap in black or wild rice (as the original recipe recommends).

Musical Pairings: Menomena – Mines + Poached Salmon Salad with Horseradish Dressing

When I tried the delicious poached salmon salad with horseradish dressing that Kasey is featuring today, I knew this recipe had to pair with a band from the Pacific Northwest. This salad is fresh, it is big, and it is bold. And all of those adjectives apply equally to the 4th LP from Portland-based trio Menomena: Mines. But then, Mines is an album that can be described with a string of superlatives and adjectives that imply intricacy and largeness in scale — beautiful, vast, dense, complex and grand — for example. Nonetheless, although each of those descriptors are spot-on, they also don’t bring you any closer to understanding what the album sounds like or why Mines is one of the year’s best albums. But yes, let’s put that out there from the beginning: Mines is one of 2010’s best albums. Find the rest of the review and tracks at Musical Pairings. –Matthew

Posted in food music blog, horseradish, Musical Pairings, My Favorite Ingredients, Petersham Nurseries, salmon, watercress | 4 Comments

The ‘No’ Woman, Rediscovering Yes and Lavender Almonds

I used to be a woman of ‘yes.’ Not in the loose sort of way, mind you. But in a ‘sure, I’m free on Thursday night for this random Italian conversation group meeting that I saw advertised in my neighborhood coffee shop.’ When you spend your life moving, re-introducing yourself to new people and new places, learning new names and trying to make sure you can report on Facebook that you are ‘doing stuff,’ it’s easier to say yes. It helps to be single. It helps to have a partner in crime–great roommate or co-worker, or another yes-type compatriot. Being a woman of yes, I met a lot of interesting people–some of them have become my closest friends, others the topics of great stories. Growing up an only child, I rebelled the only way I knew how: by filling every single moment of my life surrounded by people and plans. I always had a sidekick, or two, or three.

But at some point, I started to become more of a ‘no’ woman. I said no to company softball games and impromptu dinner dates with casual acquaintances, started taking into account my bed time and commute time and taking more cabs home instead of braving the bus. It wasn’t that I was saying no to close friends or family, but I started to get…overwhelmed? I didn’t mind spending three consecutive nights at home, cooking, reading, writing, organizing photos. I didn’t mind blocking off an afternoon to go to the farmer’s market–maybe even by myself. And I sort of fell into a routine of no.

I made sure to make time for close friends and I continued to attend birthday parties and group get togethers around the holidays, but I no longer threw myself out there and go on a limb to meet new people. Perhaps it was a side effect of living somewhere for a long time, or just getting older. But in any case, I started to realize that beyond just prioritizing and creating a work/life balance for myself (which I still think is incredibly important), I started to get negative about the new. About throwing myself out there. Being uncomfortable. And so, slowly, I’ve started saying yes. It’s a great feeling.

It helps to get back into ‘yes’ when you surround yourself with great people. A variety of friends–both old and new. On a recent outing to a restaurant I absolutely adored (Local Mission Eatery), a few lady friends and I noshed on some lavender almonds that were beyond addictive. Crunchy, sweet, salty and smelling of intoxicating lavender, they burned in my mind until I tried making them at home. Beyond simple. Beyond delicious. I say ‘yes!’

Lavender Almonds
*inspired by Local Mission Eatery in San Francisco, recipe adapted from Veg SF

2 cups of raw almonds
2 teaspoons of dried lavender, ground finely using a mortar and pestle
2-3 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 tablespoon of good quality sea salt
1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and roast for about 12 minutes (until they’re fragrant and toasty).
2. Once the almonds cool slightly, toss them in a bowl with the sugar, crushed lavender, sea salt and olive oil. Add a bit more olive oil, if necessary. Don’t skimp on the sugar–the almonds should be cozily nestled in it. Add more sea salt, if you like a more pronounced salty/sweet flavor profile.

Musical Pairings: The Limiñanas – The Limiñanas + Lavender Almonds

The lavender almonds that Kasey is featuring today on eating/sf are floral, flavorful and refreshingly unique. They make me think of a light pre-dinner snack you might enjoy at an idyllic, rustic bistro found after a long drive into the countryside of Southern France. For this reason, I believe this recipe pairs well with the band selected for today’s pairing: The Limiñanas. The Limiñanas are a French band originating from Perpignan, France that cook up a sonically sexy stew of 1960’s Franco-cinematic scuzz-n-fuzz lined garage-rock. As you listen to their self-titled debut, you’ll catch hints hints of surf rock, Serge Gainsbourg styled yé-yé, Stereolab, and the Velvet Underground all blended together in the disaffected croons and beatnik-vibed chords that the trio slink out of the melodies they’ve crafted for the albums’ dozen tracks. Catch the rest of the review, and a track, at Musical Pairings‘ home. –Matthew

Posted in almonds, food music blog, lavender, Musical Pairings, snacks | 15 Comments

We’ve Got Some Big News, and We Want to Share it With You

I’ve been bursting at the seams for the last 2 months now and I can finally tell you why. When I first started writing here, sharing recipes, restaurant reviews and travel recommendations, I called my blog ‘eating/sf.’ I wrote sporadically and hardly imagined that more than 10 people would ever read the site. During this time, Matt and I were always cooking together while listening to music. When we started dating, I began discovering artists and bands I had never heard of before. He managed to pick just the right tunes for any occasion–a party, a romantic dinner, a family dinner, brunch. I was at the gym when I realized that something was missing from the blog–a huge part of my life: music.

And so, Matt started contributing Musical Pairings to accompany my recipes. His keen awareness of the music scene, and thoughtful reviews started attracting a whole new group of folks to the blog.Soon after, eating/sf had a partner blog: Musical Pairings.
It’s been a great, wonderful journey for us, but over the last year or so, we’ve been thinking that we’ve been outgrowing our old home (s)–especially after we had to unexpectedly transition Musical Pairings to WordPress, while eating/sf remained on Blogger. More and more, we felt that we needed a change. It felt somewhat appropriate, given our new beginnings: we got married, I changed my name, I started a new job, Matt started a new job.
And so, we’re moving eating/sf and Musical Pairings to a new home. You can still expect the same quality content– recipes, Musical Pairings, Single Servings and reviews–but wearing a different outfit. After a lot of brainstorming and sleepless nights, we’re also very excited to share with you our name: Turntable Kitchen–the marriage of eating/sf and Musical Pairings.
We’re still working on the site (but don’t worry, we’ll still be blogging here and at Musical Pairings leading up to the transition). To make sure you stay up to date with the launch and any news, please visit www.turntablekitchen.com and enter your email address–we promise we won’t share it with anyone and will only use it as a way to get in touch once we launch the new site.
Also, please start following our new Twitter account and Facebook page. We can’t wait to have you over to our new home!


Posted in food music blog, new beginnings, Turntable Kitchen | 9 Comments

Planes, The Life Below, Apple Butter

If I could fly on planes every day, I think I could genuinely write a book. I’d cover chapters above the clouds, land somewhere inspiring and be off again–just me and my notebooks. I’m not sure why, but thoughts just seem to be clearer when you are gliding miles and miles above the whole world as it continues to spin. I sometimes imagine myself sitting on a plane whenever I have a big decision to make: what would I do if I was flying right now? What terrifies some people frankly calms me. I love flying. I love sitting next to a window and looking above the clouds, peering over the life below (school yards, corn fields, mountains, grocery store parking lots, parks, roads). I think about the greatness of the life below and the distances we travel. Above the clouds, we are merely dolls, suspended. Waiting to get to our destination.

When I am flying, I am reminded of the many great things life has to offer: the changing of the seasons, steaming hot mugs of hot cocoa, the purity of love, exhilaration of success, the ability to dive headfirst into something that scares you and not question it, the value of pursuing a dream. And somehow, this brings me to apple butter. The kind that is velvety and creamy, rusty-colored and spiced. The kind you could eat with a spoon out of a jar, sitting in your pajamas and reading the New York Times on a cool and crisp morning.

I must admit, in the Fall, I mourn my summer fruit. I bite into peaches that aren’t quite as juicy and ripe–the last of the season. With a sigh, I turn to apples. I thought about apples a lot the last time I was on a plane for some reason. They are so wholesome and nutritious, fresh and full of life in their crispness. The thought of apples got me thinking about how much I love this time of year, how much there is to look forward to. In that brief period of time that I spent above the clouds, I realized how much greatness lies in a great apple. How much potential….For a great apple butter.

As it happens every year around this time, I receive bag-fuls of apples from my parents’ tree, and this time, instead of making apple sauce, I decided I would try a hand at apple butter. I pieced together a recipe with the help of the lovely Wendy (of Sunchowder’s Emporia Jams) and Kim Broyce’s recipe in her Good to the Grain (still obsessed…esp. now that I know she is so sweet on Twitter!). I used orange juice for my version and a few strips of lemon zest. As it bubbled away on the stove for several hours, my entire house was encased in the smell of Fall.

Apple Butter
greatly adapted from Good to the Grain and a recipe shared by Wendy of Sunchowder’s Emporia Jams
* makes about 4 jars-worth

about 4 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
2 long strips of lemon zest
3 cinnamon sticks
6 cloves
3-4 tablespoons of brown sugar
3 cups of orange juice

1. Place the cinnamon sticks, cloves and lemon zest in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie it into a little pouch.
2. Put the apples, the spice pouch and sugar into a large pot. Pour in the orange juice and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the temperature to a simmer, and cover. Simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove the spice pouch from the apples. If you like, put the lemon zest back in (you can blend it into the apple butter and it will give it a more pronounced citrusy flavor).
5. Uncover the pot and simmer for another hour to two hours, stirring occasionally (this will keep the butter from burning). If you feel that the mixture is getting dry, add in a little bit of water or orange juice. The apples will be reduced and the mixture will become more concentrated and rusty-colored.
6. Use a hand blender to blend the mixture to a creamy, smooth consistency.
7. Pour the apple butter into clean jars once it’s cooled a bit. Store in the refrigerator.

Musical Pairings: Washed Out – Life of Leisure + Apple Butter

Smooth. Luscious. Sweet, but not sugary. Kasey’s apple butter recipe is strides beyond store bought products. It features hints of cinnamon and subtle spice. It is a great way to hold onto the memories of summer for a little longer into the Fall and coming Winter. And in that way, it pairs perfectly with one of my favorite EPs from this year: Washed Out’s Life of Leisure. Read more at Musical Pairings‘ home. –Matthew

Posted in apple butter, apples, Fall, food music blog, Musical Pairings | 14 Comments

Brown Sugar Cake: Why You Should Commit

Can you ever really stop looking forward to cake? I mean, there’s a reason you get one on your birthday and your wedding day. Cake is a celebration. I like cake as much as the next person but only to the extent that it is good cake. There’s nothing worse than biting into a less-than-mediocre slice of cake (at least as far as desserts go). You know the kind that tastes like it came from a box, is either too moist or too dry and has no redeeming qualities or lasting memories?

When I was researching cake vendors for my wedding last year, I came across a few bakeries that prided themselves on making beautiful box cakes. As a lover of homemade desserts, I was quite horrified. Over my dead body would I serve cake to my guests out of a box. Horreur! You might think this makes me a cake snob but let me explain: a good cake doesn’t require many more ingredients that those that come in a box. Most cakes require very few, in fact: flour, sugar, spices, butter, eggs. And the bottom line is, no matter how basic the recipe, your cake will always taste better than something that came out of a box.

I don’t bake cakes very often, but when I do, I try to make them somewhat memorable. I tend to gravitate toward tarts or simple cakes (layer cakes are hardly my specialty). My perfect cake is homey, not typically frosted (or frosted lightly), aromatic, somewhat dense, and a good accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea. I love chocolate, but when it comes to cakes, I tend to prefer buttery, spiced cakes that have a good crumb to them.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been obsessed with Kim Broyce’s Good to the Grain (I’ve literally cooked through half the book), and this unassuming Muscovado Sugar Cake was one of the most recent things I’ve baked. I took a simpler approach to it, using regular brown sugar (light brown, at that), though next time I will definitely go out of my way to see what difference the Muscovado sugar would make. I whipped up some homemade whipped cream to go along with it (and a few sliced strawberries), and served it to guests visiting from the East Coast.

This cake was everything I love and more–the amaranth flour gave it a very unique aroma and flavor (a sweet grassiness), it was tender as could be (thanks to the addition of the homemade apple butter), and heavenly with a few dollops of whipped cream. Amaranth flour is pretty new to me, but pretty easy to find at whole food stores (I’ve used it to make biscuits, as well).

I realize it’s Monday and most of us are probably still wishing it was the weekend, so I thought I’d share some cake.

Brown Sugar Cake
adapted from Good to the Grain

1/2 cup of amaranth flour
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup of brown or muscovado sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 stick of unsalted butted, cold and cut into small cubes
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup of milk
2 tablespoons of apple butter
1 tablespoon of white sugar

*homemade whipped cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9-inch round cake pan.
2. Sift together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Add in the butter cubes and rub the dry mix with the butter using your fingers until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
3. Whisk the egg yolks with the milk and apple butter in a medium bowl.
4. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients until well-incorporated.
5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the egg whites until light and fluffy. Add a tablespoon of sugar and whip until the egg whites are glossy and hold peaks (though not stiff). Scrape in half of the egg whites into the batter, folding in gently. Add the rest of the egg whites until fully incorporated.
6. Transfer the batter into the pan, smoothing the top.
7. Bake for about 30- 35 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time, until the edges of the cake start to pull away from the pan and the top springs back lightly when you gently press down on it.
8. Serve the cake, sliced into wedges, with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream.

*To make homemade whipped cream: combine 1 cup of heavy whipping cream with about a tablespoon of sugar. Whisk vigorously for about a minute (until the mixture holds its peaks).

Musical Pairings: Blonde Redhead – Penny Sparkle + Brown Sugar Cake

Kasey recently prepared the recipe featured today on eating/sf – a brown sugar cake – to welcome some guests visiting from NYC. And as far as I could tell from the quickly empty, crumb-less plate that remained where the cake once stood: it proved to be very popular. And if you get an opportunity to try this cake, you’ll see why. It features subtle, but layered flavors that can be described as gently earthy-sweet. In other words, it is not a sugar bomb – instead it is slicker and sexier. And for that reason, it pairs well with Blonde Redhead‘s recent output: a band that has increasingly demonstrated that they know a thing or two about crafting layered, subtle sexiness. Indeed, their latest album, Penny Sparkle, is an album that whispers seductively in your ear. It is a sultry indie electro-pop album drenched in smooth atmospheric textures and clean, loosely draped melodies. More at Musical Pairings. –Matthew

Posted in amaranth flour, brown sugar, cake, food music blog, Musical Pairings, tea time, whipped cream | 7 Comments