Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Cool ideas and links – coworking, cooking and more

Posted by shannonclark on April 4, 2011

I have been slow to blog in the past few months so my goal for April is starting today (April 4th) to post at least one blog post to one of my blogs at least 5-6 times a week. Besides my personal blog here the other places I likely will be blogging include Slow Brand and the blog for wwbll my new startup venture.

Cool ideas and links for today:

  • New office space for startups in SOMA- Storetek Building – this looks to be a very nice new space, not the best of locations (but not the worst), no idea what the price of rent in the space will be or how many startups will be there but it is good to hear about another large space and venue possibility in SF
  • Speaking of new venue spaces – Cookhouse SF recently opened here in SF. It is a brilliant business (one that I had thoughts about myself a while back) – it is a fully outfitted serious kitchen and entertaining space located in North Beach here in SF where you can rent the space by the house, get help stocking the kitchen if you need it, and cook for (or with) your guests and entertain in style. A perfect business for an urban environment where many people do not have big kitchens or space for a dinner party for 24 friends. They offer rates by the hour, auctions for busy times around the holidays and a membership program which offers discounts to events and other benefits. One link to them I read today mentioned that they may also be offering a co-working space/wifi cafe, something I will have to follow closely but in general I love this whole idea and will be following this carefully (and fully expect to host a dinner party there sometime later in 2011)

I have spent the day at the Data 2.0 Conference here in SF. Which has had a bunch of interesting announcements and product launches amongst great keynotes and panel discussions. Two in particular stood out as services and applications which I will be using in the future.

  • 3taps.com which is a venture from one of the early investors in Twitter is now live and the founder gave a great talk and presentation on stage. They are a service which is taking lots of websites with postings of some kind and by considering that they are facts and thus can be considered public domain knowledge (which I suspect may lead them to some legal challenges which I hope they eventually win) are aggregating postings from sites such as EBay, Craigslist and many other places across the web. Turning these into a firehouse of near realtime updates. As a demonstration of their capabilities they have created an iPhone app Craiggers which offers search across multiple geographies of all of Craigslist, something which the actual website does not allow you to do. They have also launched a self-branded app 3Taps which offers full access to all of the datasets they are collecting. Both are very cool and I’ve installed them on my iPhone today.
  • Twitter and MediaShift got up on stage after lunch to announce the launch of Datasift which offers curated and filtered access, on demand to the full Twitter firehouse (as well as other data but that last bit wasn’t mentioned on stage today). Exceptionally cool and looks to be something I’ll be using as soon as later this week.

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How to make chicken soup – part 1, the shopping and my recipe

Posted by shannonclark on December 24, 2008

Today I am making Chicken Soup, entirely from scratch. This post is my first post on what I am going to be doing, as well as how I prepared to make soup. I’ll post this, then later add a bunch of photos as well as a second post (or two) about the final results.

But first as I would argue in every case when it comes to food, it all starts with what you put into the food you are making. Yesterday I spent much of the day shopping for the three+ meals I will be cooking over the next two days. First a few dishes I’m bringing to a party this evening (for Jewish friends and other refugees from Xmas) and then on the 25th a brunch and likely dinner I’m hosting also for friends for whom the 25th is a day off work when most things are closed.

For my soup I shopped at three places this evening.

First, my butchers, in my case Drewes Bros Butchers which is reputed to be the oldest continuously open butcher’s shop in all of California, now owned by the fourth family to own it, it is an amazing neighborhood institution and bastion of really amazing food (and service). There I purchased a whole, free-range roasting chicken as well as two very full bags of chicken backs & necks. The parts will go into making the stock, the whole chicken into the completed soup.

Second, to my local neighborhood produce market, another amazing local institution and literally a corner store. There I bought bunches of celery, large (and baby) carrots, fresh Thyme, and onions (sweet and yellow) which will all play a part in the final soup.

And third, before I went to see the movie Milk this evening I stopped by another neighborhood institution, Cliff’s Variety where I purchased a conical sieve to use while making the stock.

To make the stock my plan is to take the chicken backs and necks out and place them into a roasting pan and roast them until a bit browned. I will also roast a few carrots roughly cut, celery, and a roughly cut whole yellow onion. When these are a bit softened I’ll put them in a lot of water which I will let boil. I’ll then deglaze the roasting pan and pour those juices into the pot as well. For spices I’ll add fairly course sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, fresh thyme, a few very high quality bay leaves, and probably a few cloves of fresh garlic.

I will let this simmer until the meat is falling off the bones, the bones are separating, and the vegetables are quite fully cooked.

Then I will pour this mixture through the conical strainer into containers and will seal those containers and place the stock into the fridge.

Next I will take the whole roasting chicken, rub it with butter, sea salt and fresh pepper and will roast it. Probably with some of the fresh Thyme in the inside cavity. As the chicken roasts (I’ll occasionally check on it and baste it if it looks necessary) I will also dice into bit size portions some organic carrots from the farmer’s market, celery, a few sweet onions, and will also use the baby carrots I bought. These I will roast (for about half the time as the chicken) – tossing them in a little bit of olive oil (extra virgin) and sea salt.

When the chicken is done and the vegetables are roasted (but still slightly hard – i.e. not entirely soft) I will take the chicken out and let it rest. Then I will carve the chicken (skin included) into small, bite sized portions, though I may leave some bones (legs, wings).

For the final soup I will skim off any fat from the cooled stock, heat the stock and then add the vegetables and let that simmer for a while, then I will add the chicken and taste (it may still need salt or other spices). For the final touch, just before serving I will stir in a few just cracked organic, cage free eggs into the piping hot soup, stirring as I do so to create egg drop soup.

I hope the result will be fairly tasty. It should, deliberately, be relatively mild, though the carmelization as a result of roasting (both of the bones for the stock and the whole chicken) should add layers to the flavor. I’m cooking for about 10-15 people later tonight so I suspect there may not be a lot of leftovers.

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My dinner party menu for tomorrow

Posted by shannonclark on December 24, 2007

And yes, I know tomorrow is a holiday for many (i.e. Christmas) which we did celebrate growing up (my father is Catholic) however my mom is Jewish and I am an atheist. So Dec 25th is no longer a religious holiday, and only somewhat of a cultural holiday for me.

But, it is a good excuse for a party – and in my circle of friends I have many friends who are also not celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday (or even in many cases as a cultural one). Of course there is a tradition of Jews eating out at Chinese restaurants around Christmas but as an alternative to that, I’m having a non-holiday themed dinner party.

Here is the menu, I’ll try to take some photos tomorrow (and today as I’m preparing).

Appetizers

Fresh sourdough and Pumpkin Quark. Quark is a German dish, a dairy product but something like yogurt – very tasty. I’ll also have some cheeses and have asked others to bring additional appetizers

Main courses

Roast, free-range, boneless leg of lamb. Rubbed with mint, garlic, sea salt, fresh pepper and other spices. Served with homemade mint sauce (organic apple vinegar, fresh mint, sugar & salt to taste).

Roast, Duroc pork loin. Rubbed with a dry rub of spices (cloves, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and more). Duroc is a type of pig prized for the quality of the meat. Very juicy, full of flavor and not at all your typical supermarket, too lean pork.

Panko crusted white fish (a very thin, fatty local white fish) with light spices quickly fried. Served over wilted beet greens & salad mix with a slightly sweet & spicy dressing)

Pear, goat cheese and arugala raviolis served with fresh ripe pears and a gorgonzola cream sauce. Pasta is fresh made and purchased from the Farmers Market on Saturday.

Side Dishes

Oven roasted carrots and golden beets w/sea salt

Roasted Brussels sprouts w/rice vinegar dressing

brown rice w/dried cranberries and zante currants. The brown rice is a local rice I purchased at the Farmers Market and is amazingly flavorful

Drinks

With the meal I will serve two red wines, a local CA Syrah and a Pinot Noir. Both are from small vineyards with production of <450 cases of each wine. One is a 2001 and the other a 2004.

For the non-drinkers I have a couple of bottles of non-alcoholic sparkling juices, cranberry-blueberry juice, and ice tea

With dessert I have a local eggnog from Mitchells Ice Cream and will make Blue Bottle coffee.

Dessert

simple custard pies – homemade pie crusts, farmer’s eggs, organic whole milk, sugar

homemade apple pie – apples of three varieties (all organic), spices, homemade pie crusts

Both ala mode if people want

almond “sandies” cookies (if I have time and get the recipe right)

and for those who want it, a selection of phenomenal hot chocolates – spicy or a Oaxacan variety.

And some people may also bring other desserts.

So that’s the planned menu, as I continue cooking, cleaning and prepping this evening the menu may change yet again. Almost everything is not from a specific recipe (other than the desserts), nearly every ingredient I’m going to be using is organic, mostly local to CA, and minimally processed. I expect up to 12 (small chance of close to 15 people) tomorrow with a variety of food restrictions from vegetarian to pescatarian (eats fish) to eats nearly everything.

Of my recent dinners, this will end up being the most expensive – in no small part due to the wine and meats. But assuming we have 12 people it will still be less than $25/person (including drinks) and that includes purchases of staples which I will have for many future meals as well (I bought a gallon of rice vinegar for example). The meats I’m using are all extremely high quality and purchased from my local neighborhood butcher – who pretty much only sells organic, free range meat products (and most are also local). Most of the rest of the ingredients were purchased at my local produce market, or at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, with a few additional purchases at Rainbow Co-op a vegetarian co-op grocery story which has extremely high quality foods (but is usually hard for me to shop at since I don’t have a car).

All told, this is how I celebrate holidays – feeding friends, eating great, local, food, prepared simply but with a lot of care and attention. We may watch some films, listen to music, and play games as well, but mostly the celebration for me is in the cooking, in the preparing of a feast for my friends old & new. In 2008 I anticipate having a dinner at my place at least once a month, probably more than once in many months.

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Cooking simple dishes

Posted by shannonclark on December 10, 2007

For lunch today I had a salad which I prepared at home. Everything in the salad I purchased at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market this past Saturday, all directly from the farmers and everything was local and organic. I started with a base of mixed greens, then added some baby potatoes which I boiled until tender (checked with a fork) and then cut in half. I then sliced a few small purple onions – not the type which are bulb shaped but a variety that is closer to what people call “green onions”. To top off the salad I had a piece of duck confit which I had purchased from a local charcuterie at the market. I finished the duck confit by heating it until crisp in a cast iron pan on my stove top, I then shredded it and gave the shredded pieces a few minutes to crisp up even further.

For the dressing I took an old small jar (which had once held artichoke hearts) and added balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and some dried basil. I then close the top and shook the dressing until it stayed on the sides of the jar (I typically use about 1 part olive oil for every 1 part vinegar and add olive oil as needed to get the right texture).

And I finished by tossing the salad so that every piece of lettuce and potatoes was dressed.

Very simple, but also very satisfying, quick to make and extremely tasty. If I had had something else to go with it, also more than enough for two people. All for a total cost of about $10 or less.

Last night I was at a friend’s dinner party down the Peninsula, the party was a BBQ so there was plenty of meat dishes but as I looked over what was on the menu I noticed we didn’t have many vegetables at all (okay, no vegetables at all actually). So I asked if I could make something with ingredients he had around his kitchen – and he said “sure”.

So I made a couple of quick dishes.

First, a very, very simple dish of mashed potatoes. He had a couple of pounds of baby red potatoes, I simply put them into two large pots on the stove in water so all the potatoes were covered and let them cook on a medium temperature until tender.  As the potatoes cooked I diced up a medium yellow onion into fine cubes and sauteed the onions in extra virgin olive oil. I added some pre-chopped garlic to the onions near the very end and I only lightly turned the onions, just enough to avoid burning.

When the potatoes were finished I mostly drained them and dumped them into a large glass bowl. Some of the water they had boiled with stayed which was fine. I then added a half of a stick of butter, salt and fresh pepper. I let the butter melt a bit and started smashing the potatoes. I then added the onions and garlic and finished mashing.

Since he did not have a large fork or a potato masher I used two table knives to slice the potatoes (skins and all) going at various angles to end up with well mashed potatoes, this is where having cooked the potatoes correctly and fully really paid off.

As I was mashing the potatoes I had a second dish cooking as well, while I was waiting for the other parts to finish I had thinly sliced a couple of zucchinis. I sliced them into very thin (a couple of mm) circles and then sauteed them in the same pan as I had sauteed the onions, adding just a bit more olive oil back to them. I also lightly salted them and ground a little bit of fresh black pepper on them.

I sauteed them until they were mostly tender and the thinest pieces were almost translucent. I served this dish in a simple, shallow white bowl.

Neither dish lasted very long at all at the party – they were both long eaten before any of the BBQ meats were ready.

So I also made a simple dressing to go with some salad greens someone had brought. For the dressing I found a large old jar w/lid. Added balsamic, extra virgin olive oil, salt, fresh pepper, some dried basil and a couple of spoonfuls of brown mustard. Again, I closed the lid and shook until the dressing stuck to the sides. The up and down shaking emulsifies the oil and vinegar – more simply and quickly than any other technique I had seen or tried.

So that was my simple cooking for the past few days – nothing very complicated – but also apparently from the compliments I got appreciated.

My philosophy of cooking is to start with the best ingredients I can get and to then do about the bare minimum needed to them to bring out their flavors. I try to use fresh, local, seasonal ingredients as much as possible (for which I love living in California) and at least when cooking at home I also care a great deal about the freshness and quality of the spices, olive oils, vinegars and the like which I use while cooking. Most of my spices are from The Spice House in Chicago which is, by far, my favorite place to buy spices – and one of the things I most miss from my old neighborhood in Chicago (I lived just a block away from their Chicago store and could run down the street to get just about any spice I might ever need).

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Thanks and my first pumpkin pie

Posted by shannonclark on November 23, 2007

Well first that I made myself entirely from scratch that is.

Thanksgiving Dinner is done, guests showed up and a great time was had, we ate well, rested, had some pie & coffee, then played some card games between rounds of washing dishes.

I’ll post photos of the pie shortly but a few thoughts on the pie and on the meal.

First a bit of a negative, my pie crust was missing something – somehow it didn’t entirely come together (some bits did, but others didn’t fully cook) so, as one of my guests commented, guess that means I have to experiment a bit more… (and I think buy a few more kitchen gadget – I think I really do need a small food processor which would likely solve some of the issues with my pie dough)

On the other hand, the pie filling was very tasty. I kept the spicing very mild (cinnamon,  vanilla, and a hint of powdered cloves) which meant that flavor of the pumpkin was strong. These were fresh pumpkins which I baked and pureed by hand last night, so the texture was also not smooth and dense but natural and yes, lumpy in places. The recipe I used involved eggs and milk (i.e. custard) and rather unique but very cool effect occurred – the pie was in three layers – a top layer of pumpkin, a middle layer of custard, and the crust. I didn’t intend on this effect and something tells me I may never be able to duplicate it again (but since I rather like it, I think I will keep trying).

But I need to do more work on the pie crusts. Something in my process resulted in dough that didn’t set as I expected it to – even with my pre-baking (I wonder if I didn’t pre-bake them long enough? that’s the first thing I will try – also I think I need a better surface to roll out the dough upon)

I was generally fairly pleased with the rest of the meal, my current run of luck with poultry kept up – my turkey was very juicy, very flavorful and not overcooked. The skin was crispy and very tasty, the dark and white meat were both extremely good. And I should note I didn’t do anything very fancy – I stuffed the bird with a very simple stuffing (which I should note was the only dish essentially completely eaten up by my guests) and I rubbed a very simple dry rub then a light layer of very good olive oil. I cooked the bird with a minimal amount of vegetable broth (about 2 cups) and basted it regularly and checked the temperature.

I started the bird on its back and on a large, very serious roasting rack. I then rotated the bird after about 2 hours of cooking (all told the bird took 4 hours and 45 minutes to cook, which for a 16 lb bird is almost exactly right).

I probably checked the bird a bit too often and as I was roasting vegetables on the upper rack of my oven, I did have to open the oven every 30 mins or so. But in the end that doesn’t seem to have hurt the bird at all.

We also did let the bird rest for a good amount of time before carving, so I think that also help in keeping the bird juicy.

Of my side dishes, my roasted yams and parsnips were okay but got no comments (I think some could have been done a bit longer), but the carrots and the Brussels sprouts were both popular – and the phrase “These Brussels sprouts are very good” was in fact said (and then noted as not being something she ever expected to say and could only remember saying once before at my last dinner party).

So overall I am very pleased with my Thanksgiving and thankful for my friends here in San Francisco, online, and in cities across the world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(photos will be posted soon…)

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Preparing for a simple, local Thanksgiving

Posted by shannonclark on November 21, 2007

I love to cook. Not so much just for myself, but for others – friends old and new. My family was all about shared meals, growing up we ate at least dinner together as a family almost every single night (my father traveled a lot but my mom, sister and I would always eat dinner together). Not “eat dinner together in front of the TV” as is the case for so many families today, but an actual multiple course, family style meal usually around our small kitchen table. Nothing too fancy, but almost always a salad and/or side of vegetables, some form of starch and a main course.

And around this table we talked about our days – my sister and I about our school work and activities, my father and mother about their work – problems they were working on, ideas they had had. During these conversations the discussion was never just one sided – it was always a discussion with even my sister and I being asked for our opinions, thoughts and ideas.

It is a bit hard to explain – and perhaps (okay almost certainly) not a typical family conversational style. We were (and are) a family of intellectuals. My father was a tenured college professor – but then left that soon after my sister was born (I’m the oldest, she’s 3 years younger) and joined industry. However he retains much of the air of a college professor – he’s published a ton of journal articles (more in fact than many professors) and a couple of text books and technical books. My mom had a long career as an independent computer consultant and programmer, she also taught computer science at some local colleges as we grew up (I learned flowcharting by doing the homework she assigned her classes – this was in the 1980’s keep in mind)  I should note that while my father has a PhD (Chemical Engineering – and yes, he is very much the engineer – albeit one who also can very seriously write quite well) my mom “just” has a college degree, she did some graduate work but never got a graduate degree, instead she started working as a computer programmer right out of college. She hadn’t studied CS in college (but then in the mid-1960’s not many people did) but she worked on a great number of interesting projects. Wrote the systems for a major railroad to manage and track their trains (before I was born in the early 1970’s) and most of the system to run a university around the time I was born in the mid-1970’s).

Often our family dinners and the conversations they started would last for hours.

So, as a result, I love to cook – and I love to have people gather around my table. However while I was living in Chicago I lived in a very small, fairly cramped 1 bedroom apartment – I had a few dinner parties but only a very few. Then when I first moved here to the Bay Area we had nearly no furniture in the apartment in Berkeley.

However that is no longer the case – in my current apartment in Noe Valley I have a dining table which was custom made for me – a 7′ birdseye, curly redwood table with matching 7′ long benches made from a locally harvested redwood (which was either condemned or fell due to natural causes). The wood was air dried by the mill from which I purchased it for a year before they made it into the table for me. A truly magnificent table. Plus I have a desk from a different redwood which I can add to extend the table to nearly 12′ – giving me a table (and in a room large enough) where I can easily have 13-14 people for dinner.

So later this week I will be cooking a simple, local Thanksgiving dinner. My personal style of cooking is very much local and seasonal. I buy ingredients which are fresh and for the most part seasonal and then prepare them with generally simple preparations to bring out their flavors – trying to use only the best possible spices and other items (olive oils etc).

For Thursday here is my current planned menu (there is probably still room for a few more, if you are reading this and in the bay area, contact me, I’d love to meet you):

A 16 1/2 lb free range, Willie Bird heritage turkey. Probably simply prepared with sea salt & pepper, stuffed and roasted for 4+ hours (basting it frequently as needed). I may add a few additional spices to the rub.

Stuffing of fresh Acme sourdough cubed with sauteed onions and organic celery w/a light amount of spices.

(an additional side dish of stuffing prepared outside of the bird w/vegetable broth for any vegetarian guests)

fresh, simple cranberry sauce (water, sugar, cranberries)

roasted seasonal vegetables – local yams, parsnips, turnips, carrots roasted with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt

roasted halved Brussells Sprouts w/light asian chili dressing (Thai chilies & rice vinegar)

made from scratch pumpkin pie (roasted myself pumpkins, made from scratch pie crust)

And that may be it – I might add some additional dishes and I’ll be prepared to make a main course for any vegetarians who join us for dinner. I might also make from from scratch current scones. And I plan on having a variety of great teas and locally roasted coffee to serve with dessert.

But that’s the main menu. Very simple (almost too simple perhaps) dishes with only a few ingredients in each, almost everything from farms less than 100 miles from San Francisco or made fresh here in the city.

I know that many people make very elaborate dishes for the holidays – stuffings with meat, nuts and more. But to my tastes what says a special occasion for me is very simple dishes done just right – with ingredients that are full of flavor.

And, of course, we’ll save the complicated stuff for the conversations!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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