One day last week, the temperature hit a high of 87° — the kind of heat-wave that sends San Franciscans screaming from our un-air-conditioned homes straight to the nearest mall or cinema. Just two days later, the overnight low was 49°; close the windows, crank up the furnace.
Combine the wacky weather with the unsettling haze from dozens of wildfires, and you’ve got a recipe for doldrums. We cooked at home 4 nights last week, but it felt like work every time. The meal we’d planned as our One Local Summer supper — glazed lamb spareribs — turned out odd and ugly, completely unworthy of photographs, much less a post.
Luckily, we had an ace in the hole planned for mid-week. Our meat CSA has given us a surplus of ground beef. Throw it in a skillet with a hunk of Fatted Calf chorizo, a couple of the season’s first peppers from Happy Quail, a jar of homemade tomato sauce, and some local onions and garlic: Voilá, instant Sloppy Joes. Paired with a side of bacon-lashed coleslaw, we had ourselves a perfectly fabulous — and 100%-local — quick summer meal. Not glamorous, but definitely delicious.
San Francisco Sloppy Joes
1 pound Mexican-style chorizo
1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 whole Anaheim chiles, fresh or canned (or other mild green chiles)
2 cups tomato sauce
1 T ground red chile, or more to taste
salt and pepper
shredded cheddar cheese and diced raw onion for garnish, if desired
If using fresh chiles, roast over an open flame or under the broiler, turning to cook all sides until black and blistered. Place charred chiles in a paper bag and roll the top tightly to steam; set aside. If using canned chiles, drain and rinse two large whole chiles and set aside.
Saute the chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat until browned. Remove the meat from the pan to a large bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet. Saute the beef in the chorizo fat, breaking up large chunks. When mostly cooked, add the onion and garlic and cook a minute or two until translucent. Return the beef to the pan, and add the tomato sauce and red chile. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer.
If using fresh chiles, peel the charred skins off the steamed chiles; do not rinse. Cut the chiles (canned or roasted) into 1/2-inch pieces, and stir into the simmering meat mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to a spoonable thickness.
Serve over toasted hamburger buns, garnished with shredded cheese and/or raw onions.
A couple years ago, I decided my cookbook addiction had gotten out of hand, so I put myself on a strict “diet”: No new cookbooks unless I’d tried them out first and fallen in love. If I checked out a book from the library and it sat on the counter for 3 weeks without piquing my curiosity, back it went… without being added to the permanent collection.
The new process works remarkably well: I think we’ve added maybe six cookbooks to our stacks in the last three years — when I used to order half a dozen at once without even blinking — and all of them are in heavy rotation on the main cookbook shelf, not languishing away unloved.
Sometimes it’s hard to get my hands on a book for a test-drive; I must’ve waited 8 months on the reserve list for a copy of From My Home to Yours. (And no, much as I thought I had to have it, it didn’t make the cut. I’m just not much of a baker anymore.) Sometimes I have to borrow books from far away via interlibrary loan; luckily, I can do it all online, and pick up my loot at the library near my office when the mood strikes.
One book, though, I couldn’t find anywhere. Not only did the San Francisco Public Library system not have a copy of Cooking Outside the Box — a pretty rare thing, even with newer books — but no library in all of California has a circulating copy. Nobody had even blogged it, so I had no idea if it was any good. I decided to suck it up and buy a copy, rationalizing that $16 was pretty safe bet when it came to a cookbook aimed so squarely at my demographic: Easy, seasonal, organic.
Turns out, my hunch was right. The book — written by the founder of Abel & Cole, Britain’s top organic produce-box service — breaks down into four seasons’ worth of inspiration. His precious measurements are a bit loosey-goosey for my taste (How much is a “1/3 of a mug” of bacon?) and the often-vague directions will be confusing if you’re not an adept cook. Although the recipes offer both metric and American measures, you need to be the sort of cook who’s charmed, not frustrated, by British-isms like: “Your neighbour has stuffed surplus courgettes through your letterbox.” (Happily, I am.)
But all in all, every recipe I’ve made from the book has turned out just wonderfully, despite the lack of hand-holding. They’re mostly quite simple preparations, but usually include one perfectly fabulous tweak. Like bacon… in cole slaw. God love that British ingenuity.
Abel & Coleslaw
- adapted from Cooking Outside the Box
1/2 head cabbage, shredded fine
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 to 4 strips of bacon, fried until crispy and chopped
1/3 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
1 tsp cider vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix the mayo and vinegar together in a large bowl. Add the vegetables and bacon, and stir well to combine; taste and adjust seasonings as needed. If time permits, chill 30 minutes before serving.
You may remember from last month’s MxMo post that something like 17 recipes from our local bars and restaurants are included in Food & Wine Cocktails 2008 — a feat unmatched by any region’s mixologists, including the much-larger contingent from New York City. Soon after the book hit the streets, a gaggle of Bay Area food bloggers were talking about how remarkably lucky we are to live in a region with so many talented bartenders. One thing led to another, and soon people were plotting an exhaustive tour of the featured establishments.
Now, anyone who’s been party to a brilliant idea hatched in the midst of an alcohol-fueled afternoon knows what usually becomes of these grand plans: Nothing. As soon as the sober light of reality hits, you realize that getting a dozen-plus people to agree on schedules, venues, and pacing is just too much drama for a simple cocktail.
But obviously, you don’t know Jen.
Our supremely organized friend sat down with her trusty spreadsheet in one hand and a copy of the cocktail compendium in the other and plotted out an agenda that takes us to a different F&W-mentioned bar each week of the summer. Because of the logistics of getting our mostly San Francisco-based crew to far-flung destinations like Napa or even the East Bay, Jen left some drinks off the formal agenda as an extra-credit exercise for completists to tackle at their leisure.
Circulating the schedule to a crew of cocktail-savvy bloggers and other social butterflies, Jen kept the schedule-jockeying to a minimum with one simple idea: “We’ll be gathering here at the appointed time. Come if you can; we’ll see you next week if you can’t.” Brilliant, no?
And by god, it seems to be working. A quick call to the bar a day or two before gives us reasonable assurance that they’ll have any special ingredients on hand. People come early, leave late, wander in and out during the evening. A good time is had by all, and we manage to have a sociable drink or two before wandering off in various directions in search of supper.
And if the published cocktail at this week’s destination turned out to be… well, perhaps we’ll just say “seasonally inappropriate”? At least we had a wonderful time with some of our favorite blog-friends, enjoying some unseasonably warm weather in one of the coziest bars in The City. And hey, there’s always next week.
I don’t know about you, but when I’ve had a bad meal or any other below-scratch culinary experience, my natural instinct is to go for a do-over at a tried-and-true spot where we know we won’t be disappointed. Looking over Jen’s list, we realized that some of the far-flung omissions weren’t so far-flung after all, at least to those of us blessed with a car and a FasTrak transponder. And, really, it doesn’t take much of an excuse to get Cameron and me across the bay to Forbidden Island; the opportunity to taste a Fog Cutter made by the man whose license plate spells out the name of this Trader Vic tiki classic was more than sufficient.
- Martin Cate, Forbidden Island
From Food & Wine Cocktails 2008
1-1/2 oz white rum
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz brandy
2 oz fresh orange juice
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz orgeat
1/2 oz Amontillado sherry
Shake all ingredients except the sherry, and stain into an ice-filled highball glass. Carefully pour the sherry on top, and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Here we are at the first week of summer, and I still haven’t rolled out the Locavore Pantry page I promised you months ago. But despite my best intentions, WordPress is making the formatting way too difficult — and I want this to be a resource you can actually use, not just a mish-mash of names and locations.
In the meantime, don’t forget that there’s another great resource to help with your One Local Summer and other local-eating challenges: The Bay Area Local Food Guide. We swooned over last year’s version, and I’m sure the 2008 edition will be even bigger and better.
If you want to be among the first to get your hands on a copy, join CAFF this Thursday evening,
July JUNE 26, at the launch party out at Fort Mason Center. Your $30 ticket (click to purchase) gets you admission to the soirée, including plentiful food and wine tastings from some of the better-known guide participants — Chez Panisse, Serpentine, Murray Circle, Bi-Rite Creamery, Acme, Fra’Mani among many others — plus a local-food panel moderated by Bill Fujimoto of the legendary Monterey Market, and a delicious dessert.
Come out and meet some of the area’s best farmers, restaurateurs, vintners, and food artisans all in one place, ready to answer your questions and provide samples of their favorite offerings.
One day last week, I looked up from my work and was stunned to see it was nearly 2:30 in the afternoon. The day had screamed away from me, and — not surprisingly — I was ravenous.
Local food choices near my office are pretty bleak, so I try to eat pescitarian when I can’t determine the source of my lunchtime chow. It’s an easy choice to make, since the mall near my office is home to one of the Bay Area’s only outposts of Rubio’s, a SoCal chain of Baja-style joints. Their #1 combo plate — two fish tacos and a side of frijoles — makes a reliable lunch in a pinch.
Usually, that is.
Unfortunately, the tacos I got that afternoon were pretty bad: The tortillas were falling apart, and the fish was smelly and dark. I pulled the offending meat out and ate my tacos veggie style, resolving to remember to bring my lunch the next day.
Rather than put me off, the whole experience just made me crave fish tacos — real ones, good ones — all the more. So come Saturday, we stopped by Shogun Fish at the Ferry Plaza farmers market and picked up a nice fillet of black rockfish caught off the Mendocino coast. I figured we’d be out of luck for local cabbage, but we found a gorgeous head over at Tierra‘s stand, where we also picked up a bag of super-smoky chipotles. Add in a pack of Rancho Gordo tortillas and a tub of Primavera salsa, and we were good to go.
Even if you think you don’t like seafood, a Baja-style fish taco is pretty easy to love. There’s not really anything mysterious about them: Batter-fried fish, wrapped in a corn tortilla, topped with shredded cabbage, salsa, and creamy white sauce.
To drink? Well, there isn’t a much better local alternative that good old Anchor Steam, brewed about 2 miles from our house. We used it in the fish batter, too, along with Guisto‘s flour, Stonehouse olive oil, and a Marin Sun Farms egg white. The traditional salsa blanca combines equal parts Clover Organic sour cream and home-made mayonnaise (from the same local eggs and oil), spiced up with the Tierra chipotles.
The result: My favorite kind of summertime food — good ingredients, simply prepared.
Baja-Style Crispy Fish Tacos
adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook
1 large fillet of firm, white fish (about 12 ounces)
scant 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1T olive oil
up to 6oz beer, as needed
1 egg white
oil, for frying
- white sauce:
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1 or 2 chipotle chiles (canned or dry)
- to serve:
1/4 head of cabbage, shredded fine
prepared salsa or taco sauce
cilantro sprigs, if desired
Mix the flour with oil, then thin it with beer to the consistency of thick paint. Season with salt and pepper, and leave at room temperature for at least an hour while you prep your other ingredients.
Cut your fish into 1-1/2-inch strips, against the grain of the fillet. Season with salt and pepper on both sides, and set aside.
For the white sauce, combine the mayo and the sour cream. If using dry chipotles, soak them in hot water for 15-20 minutes until soft, then chop to a fine paste with kosher salt. For canned chipotles, a simple mashing will do. Add the chipotle paste, to taste, to the sour cream-mayo mixture; season with salt as needed.
Heat oil in a deep-sided kettle or dutch oven to 350°.
Whip the egg white until frothy, then fold into the rested fish batter. Dip the fish pieces in the batter, shaking off any excess, and gently lower them into the hot oil. (You may need to work in multiple batches to avoid crowding the pan; be careful not to allow the oil temperature to drop.) When golden brown, remove from the oil with a spider or slotted spoon. Place the fish on a wire rack over old newspaper while you fry the remaining pieces.
To serve, place a piece of fish in the center of a tortilla; top with white sauce, salsa, cilantro, and shredded cabbage as desired.
I had a funny conversation last week with a co-worker about the definition of summer. She contended — not entirely without justification — that summer starts on the solstice (June 20) and ends on the equinox (September 22).
With all due respect to the astronomically inclined, the gap between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the time that seems most summery to me. Spring’s icons — asparagus, artichokes, peas — are on their way out with the end of the school-year, and tomatoes, peaches, and blackberries are bursting into full swing. By the end of the month, we’ll have local corn at the market… a taste of deep summer if there ever was one.
Our One Local Summer meal this week included some old local favorites: a roast Hoffman Farms chicken with herb butter rubbed under the skin, a bottle of Le Printemps rose. We said goodbye to this year’s baby artichokes with a simple Tuscan-style preparation from Molto Italiano, and we tossed together a simple orzo-and-garbanzo side, studded with Laura Chenel chevre. Everything but the salt and pepper came from within our local foodshed, and a few bits — the herbs and the citrus — came from our own garden.
While the chicken roasted, we staved off our hunger with this riff on a recipe we’d seen in Food & Wine a few months back. Truthfully, this recipe isn’t the most summery combination — you could make it all year ’round, and we loved it so much that I’m sure we will. But being able to pop a few slices of well-oiled artisan bread on the grill at a moment’s notice is another sure sign of summer at our house.
Bruschetta with Ricotta and Salami
- adapted from Food & Wine, April 2008
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
3T extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
6 thick slices of peasant-style bread (about 1/2-inch thick)
1 clove garlic, whole
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 small red onion, sliced thin
2T balsamic vinegar
3oz spicy salami (hot sopressata, Spanish chorizo, etc.), sliced thin
1T chopped parsley
2 cups of frisee, tender white and light-green leaves only
Put the ricotta in a fine sieve or a cheesecloth-lined colander, and set the strainer over a bowl. Cover the whole setup with a towel or parchment, and place in the fridge overnight.
The next day, discard the liquid in the bowl. Wipe out the bowl, and combine the ricotta and 1T olive oil; season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the red onion slices with the vinegar and set aside.
Preheat a grill or broiler. Brush both sides of each bread slice with olive oil and grill until toasted. Rub the grilled toasts with the whole garlic clove, and set aside. Drain the vinegar from the onions.
Heat the remaining 2T oil in a medium skillet over low heat. Add the sausage, minced garlic, and parsley, and cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
Spread the seasoned ricotta on the toasts, then top with the warm sausage mixture. Garnish with the frisee and pickled onions.
If you follow San Francisco’s cocktail scene even half-heartedly, it’d have been hard to miss the news about Beretta, heir to the old Last Supper Club space on Valencia. Even before its much-anticipated opening, this spot was generating plenty of buzz — much of it due to a bartender roster that reads like a Who’s Who of San Francisco mixologists.
Beretta’s culinary pedigree isn’t too shabby either, and our first dinner there was quite promising. A short list of risotto options — the one we tried, with porcini and Barbera, was homely but delicious — follows a litany of pizzas that could give Gialina or Pizzeria Delfina a run for their money with a few simple tweaks.
A dozen-plus antipasto options included delicious grilled asparagus served with olivata and soft-boiled egg quarters, and a spot-on plate of Monterey sardines in soar. Although portions are modest, this is definitely not dainty “small plates” food. They’re just the thing if you like being able to order a starter without ruining your appetite, and at $5 a pop you can always order two if you’re ravenous. Better still, they’re the perfect size for snacking at the bar while sipping one of Beretta’s well-crafted cocktails.
And yes, it’s all locavore-friendly: The menu boasts of food that’s “always fresh, seasonal, and sourced from local farmers”. Word ’round my office water-cooler is Beretta’s weekend brunch is a crowd-free glory all unto itself — and what better place to nurse a hangover?
Because, really, you might just be tempted overindulge when you see Beretta’s lengthy cocktail menu. Unlike the truncated drink offerings at many restaurants, this list offers a little something for every palate, and all drinks are priced at a reasonable $9. Over the course of the evening, we sampled a fantastic Gin & It made with Vya sweet vermouth and Tanqueray 10, plus an eye-opening Air Mail and pleasantly brisk an Agricole Mule.
One other drink we tried — the Monte Carlo — bears more than a passing resemblance to an old favorite, the Oh Henry, minus the ginger ale. Lest a fruity liqueur trick you into thinking this is a tame tipple, remember that Benedictine is 86 proof… stiffer than some bourbons! So, I suggest you do as the Beretta barkeeps do and serve it in a dainty Nick-and-Nora glass.
It’s not often we discover a worthy bourbon drink that’s escaped our notice — we’re great fans of America’s brown liquor, and we’ve even been known to put it in our food. So it seems only fitting to share our discovery as part of the June edition of Mixology Monday: Bourbon, hosted by SeanMike at Scofflaw’s Den.
1-1/2 oz bourbon or rye
1/2 oz Benedictine
2 dashes aromatic bitters
Stir with ice, strain into a small cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange.
A small sample of previous Drink of the Week entries featuring bourbon:
1/25/08: Horse’s Neck with a Kick
10/12/07: Whiskey Sour
9/14/07: Fashionably Lillet
7/27/07: Mint Julep
The weekend before last, I noticed a sign hanging from our favorite asparagus stand: “Last week at the market!” Stunned, I quickly grabbed a bunch of fat spears, as though somehow I could prolong the inevitable if I only moved fast enough. I laughed at myself as I paid the farmer, then sighed every time I opened the bag to put something else in: the… last… asparagus. It’s just impossible to believe that this quintessential spring vegetable is already done.
Truthfully, I’ve eaten my fair share of asparagus this spring: Baptized in butter and lemon juice, wrapped in pancetta and roasted, kissed by the smoky love of the grill, shaved raw and stacked with Parmesan shards, pureed into an ethereal chilled soup, topped with a poached egg and sprinkled with buttery breadcrumbs. Truly, my love of sparrow grass knows no bounds; I think nothing of eating it every time I see it on a menu.
But no matter how often I indulge, I’m never ready to see asparagus go. Given my obsession, you’d think — any reasonable person would — that I’d have run home from the market and enjoyed my haul before the dew was dried from its tips. But no, I’m a miser: I squirreled it away, wanting to prolong my personal asparagus season as long as possible.
Maybe I was in denial that the end was near. What other plausible explanation can there be for the fate of that prized bunch of the season’s last spears? Dear readers, forgive me: I left them in the produce drawer all week. Completely and utterly forgot about them, until the weekly fridge-cleanout exposed my error.
All’s well that ends well, though. Less-than-perfect asparagus gets a new lease on life when whizzed into a savory spring pesto, which in turn makes a more-than-perfect dinner for the inaugural week of One Local Summer. This summertime locavore challenge asks participants to cook a weekly meal from 100% local sources. A stunning 136 participants representing 30 states are joining the festivities, hosted by Farm to Philly with West Coast recaps from a familiar face: Laura at Urban Hennery.
Even between challenges, we’ve still been eating locally as much as we can — nearly every meal we cook at home is made from 85-95% locally grown or locally produced foods. But since One Local Summer only asks us to document one meal a week, we’re going to be stricter on ourselves than we have been in the past. We’ll source everything (even proteins) from within 100 miles, and our only exceptions will be salt and spices. Herbs, oils, sweeteners, even beverages will all come from our immediate foodshed.
But back to the pesto: You might think that a meal made from over-exposed produce and a few pantry staples might taste like a thrown-together mess, but in all honesty nothing could be further from the truth. A judicious removal of all fibrous or discolored bits, followed by a brightening blanch in well-salted water cures a lot of ills when it comes to green veggies. It was our favorite meal of the week, and then some: Cameron and I fought over the leftovers, a sure sign of a recipe that’s bound for heavy rotation — I only wish we’d discovered it sooner.
Along with the neglected Zuckerman asparagus, our pesto contained a good lashing of Bariani’s sumptuous olive oil, a blizzard of Vella dry Jack cheese, sweet blanched almonds from Alfieri Farms, and beautiful young garlic — not quite green, but with still-supple skins and a glorious round flavor — from Green Gulch Farm. Served over Eduardo’s locally made penne, these bright flavors balanced perfectly with the earthy, smoldering notes of Fatted Calf‘s coiled Basque sausage and a fruity bottle of Souverain sauvignon blanc.
A fitting farewell to spring if I do say so myself.
Penne with Asparagus Pesto
1 bunch asparagus (about 1/2 pound before trimming)
8 oz dry penne pasta
1/4 cup blanched almond slivers
2 medium garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce freshly grated Dry Jack (about 1/3 cup), plus more for garnish
Fill a Dutch oven or other large pot with water. Salt well, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare an ice-water bath in a medium bowl.
Snap the woody ends from the asparagus. Cut the stalks into 2-inch lengths, keeping the tips separate. When the water comes to a boil, blanch the stem pieces until they turn bright green and tender, then remove them to the ice bath using a slotted spoon. Repeat with the tips, which should take about half as long. Keep the pot boiling for the pasta while you drain the chilled asparagus well and blot it dry.
In a food processor, pulse the almonds, garlic, and salt until minced, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the asparagus and oil, pulsing until the mixture is coarsely chopped — you’re not going for a smooth purée here. Remove the blade from the work bowl, and add the grated cheese. Stir until combined, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
In the same pot of boiling water, cook the penne until al dente. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta. Return the empty pot to the stove over low heat, add the pesto to the pot, then add the drained penne and enough pasta water to create a sauce. Toss well to coat. Taste and season again with salt and pepper as needed.
Serve in shallow bowls, with more grated cheese sprinkled on top.
About 6 weeks ago, I dedicated my Black-Bottom Pie post — our entry in the “A Taste of Yellow” cancer-awareness event — to two special blog-friends:
…to our hostess Barbara, in her ongoing efforts to remain cancer-free, and to our friend Briana. Many of you know her blog, Figs with Bri, where she posted Wednesday about her recent setback: breast cancer has metastasized to her lungs. Since then, her site’s gone dark and her email account is offline. We’re keeping Bri and her husband Marc in our thoughts and prayers, and hoping for the very best.
Since then, there’s been a lot of news.
The best news of all is that Briana’s site — Figs with Bri — is back online. (The outage had nothing to do with her illness, although the timing certainly could have been better.) More good news: Barbara’s LiveStrong Day event was so successful that she had to split the roundup into two parts!
Unfortunately, all the news wasn’t so uniformly sunny. The results of the PET scan that Bri mentioned in her pre-crash post showed that her breast cancer had spread to her lungs, lymph nodes, and several areas in her bones. Classified as Stage IV cancer, Bri’s prognosis is definitely challenging, but it’s a challenge that she and her family are rallying to meet.
Some names you surely recognize — Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi, Shankari of Stream of Consciousness, Manisha of Indian Food Rocks and Garrett of Vanilla Garlic — have put their hearts and brains together to build a fundraiser page to help Bri’s family defray the cost of her treatment. If you’re touched by Bri’s story, you can simply donate out of the goodness of your heart. Or — much like Menu For Hope — you can buy a raffle ticket for a chance to win some pretty fabulous prizes (which are in turn being donated by dozens of Bri’s blogosphere pals).
To raise awareness of the fundraiser, this month’s edition of Click!, the food-photography contest, is dedicated to Bri. And, just like Barbara’s LiveStrong Day event, the theme is — appropriately enough — Yellow, the color of hope.
One of the very first posts I ever remember reading on Figs with Bri was Briana’s luscious-looking Meyer lemon curd with an adorable smiling lemon-face on Marc’s homemade label. A quick glance at the recipe left me stunned: How did I not know that making lemon curd was so simple? Why had I been forking out a small ransom for store-bought curd, when I literally had the best ingredients right in my own back yard? With both a lemon tree and a bergamot tree in our little orchard, this was a recipe I needed. You can bet I bookmarked it.
As luck would have it, our bergamot tree took its sweet time ripening this year, so by the time I was ready to make citrus curd, Bri’s site was down. I ended up cobbling together a recipe from a few different sources, sad that I’d never printed out the post that I’d so admired before it disappeared. Checking back with Bri’s page now — the one that made me drool, then laugh, then smack my forehead — I realize that my version’s not so far from the inspirational source. When I spread it on a slice of freshly toasted Acme pain de mie in the morning, I’m reminded of the sunny day I made it, and of the strong-hearted woman who inspires me.
Fresh Citrus Curd
1/2 cup fresh citrus juice
2 tsp finely grated citrus zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
6T unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Add the butter and cook over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold the marks of the whisk.
Carefully pour the curd into a sterilized jar and cool to room temperature (about 1 hour). Curd can be stored in the refrigerator for at least a week.
Oh, hi — are you still here? Dang, sorry about that. We’ve done the metaphorical equivalent of falling asleep at the WordPress dashboard, and yet you kept coming by. That’s so sweet.
But enough navel-gazing: We’re back! We’ve got a great few posts in the hopper, including a brand new eat-local challenge for the summer. First, though, I think we’re definitely overdue for a drink.
One of the cool things that happened before our spring slump kicked in was Cocktail Week: Seven whole days devoted to well-made libations, visits from cocktail illuminiati, and some of the city’s best restaurants offering multi-course meals with inventive cocktail pairings. (Imagine eight pork dishes — including two delicious desserts — with seven different American-whiskey cocktails: Foodie hotspot Orson hosted this Bourbon & Bacon extravaganza, and I dream of it still.)
Another night, the folks at CUESA hosted a Farmers Market Cocktails tasting in the arcade of the legendary Ferry Building. At the mercy of one of those unseasonably hot days we get each May, a few hundred cocktail fans packed under the archways like a tin of tipsy sardines. Happily, we ran into many of our local blog buddies, which made for fabulous chit-chat as we sampled and sweltered.
Sadly, although I love fresh-fruit cocktails, Cocktail Week falls at possibly the worst time of the year for that sort of thing. Specialty citrus is pretty much gone, stone fruits are weeks away, and there’s not much on hand but some early-season strawberries and underripe cherries. As a result, I was not captivated by many of the drinks we tasted at the event, despite their being created by some of the best bartenders in town.
The best sip of the evening was the official drink of San Francisco Cocktail Week 2008: The Soirée. It features both green Chartreuse and St-Germain elderflower liqueur — two of my favorite ingredients — woven together with the muskiness of silver tequila, a sour punch of lemon, and the whispered spice of a Latin-inspired tincture. It sounds like the sort of crazy mess you might expect from a collaboration of a trio of star bartenders… but it’s actually delicious. (Of course, it didn’t hurt that the version we sampled that night was shaken up by one of our favorite mixologists.)
The chile-cinnamon-cocoa tincture — definitely not optional — requires a little effort, but the ingredients can be found in any decently stocked bulk foods department. With a quick shopping trip, a few minutes of prep, and a little patient steeping, you can throw your own Soirée whenever the mood strikes.
1.5 ounces silver tequila
1/2 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1/2 ounce green Chartreuse
1/2 ounce lemon juice
2 dashes mole tincture
Mint, for garnish
Shake all ingredients with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprig of mint.
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3-1/2 T cacao nibs
1/4 red bell pepper, minced
1 dried very hot chile (such as de arbol)
5oz silver tequila
Place all the ingredients into a jelly jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the jar twice daily for four days then strain the mixture, first through a sieve, then through a coffee filter before bottling.