While I do cook at home, writing and developing recipes there happens rarely since I do it full time at work. But I'd still like to share some of my recent published recipes here, hope you try them out!
The best part of developing a story / recipe is seeing it published with beautiful photos. Love the work our photographer Chris Rochelle did and I'm really happy with how these ice cream bars turned out.
Teaching people how to cook always amazes me because no two classes are ever the same: different menus, different ingredients, different tastes, different personalities, different skill levels, always interesting.
When people email me about what kind of classes I teach, I always respond that I teach whatever you want to cook and eat. Although I'm trained in classical French cuisine, my years as a recipe tester with both Cook's Illustrated and now with CHOW.com have given me the opportunity to explore all kinds of cuisines and recipes. The only thing people tend to forget is that these lessons have to be in San Francisco Bay Area, sorry Boston! (not unless you'd like to foot the bill for me to travel to where you are!)
Here are some menus from a few recent private cooking classes in people's homes, they were yummy and fun!
Braised Pork Chops and Fennel sweet onions, vermouth, crème fraîche, lemon, served with baguette
Sautéed Green Beans and Bacon shallots, parsley vinaigrette
Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart brandied whipped cream
Asparagus à la Vinaigrette lemon zest, toasted almonds, garlic
While my favorite crabs are definitely Dungeness, soft-shell crabs come in a close second. In fact, I believe I had a small addiction when living in Boston. Unfortunately, they are more of an East Coast delicacy and I didn't expect to see them much here. But as luck would have it, the Berkeley Bowl had them a few weeks ago, and live!
They were on the smallish side, so we bought 4, two for the each of us. Here they are all lined up to be cleaned. It's always best to get them live and to clean them yourself for freshness, but if you are using them immediately, sometimes your fishmonger will do it for you.
To clean them, first you flip them over and pull the tab at the bottom (called the apron) out. Cut off with a pair of scissors.
Then you flip them back over and cut off the face. While it sounds gruesome, it needs to be done. Then gently lift up one side of the shell and you'll see the lungs, which are long and stringy. Cut off and repeat on the other side of the shell.
Rinse and dry thoroughly with paper towels, and your crabs are ready to be cooked!
My favorite cooking method is to fry them until crispy, served on a soft bun with tartar sauce and juicy ripe summer tomato slices. However, a salad is also a great accompaniment, as the crab is rich and juicy but begging for some acidity.
Soak in milk, then dredge them in a mixture of flour and cornmeal (for crunch). Fry in a nonstick pan - easy cleanup and less likelihood of the flour coming off and burning on the bottom of the pan. You can't be stingy with the oil here or your crab won't be crisp!
That night, we served our crabs with a green salad and fresh corn pancakes. Summer on a plate!
Crispy Soft-Shell Crabs Serves 2
2 - 4 soft-shell crabs (depending on size), cleaned 1/2 cup milk 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 1/3 cornmeal Salt & pepper to taste 1/4 cup vegetable oil 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
Place milk in a shallow bowl and place crabs in the milk while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Combine flour and cornmeal in another shallow bowl. Season heavily with salt and pepper.
Heat vegetable oil and butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Dip one crab in flour mixture and coat on both sides, pressing to make a thick crust. Immediately place in hot oil and repeat with other crabs.
Cook 2 - 3 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown. Place crabs on paper-towel lined dish to drain. Serve immediately
More sweet than tart, covered in a beautiful blue skin, blueberries are packed full of antioxidants. Fortunately, they are addictingly tasty too! Blueberries have started appearing at the farmer's markets here in San Francisco within the last month and are plump and juicy. It's been a lot of fun to snack on them or to figure out what recipes they can go into.
For pancakes and during the winter, we prefer the little ones from Maine - no bigger than a small pea but with little bursts of flavor and sweetness. For snacking out of hand, the bigger the better! When challenged to come up with a recipe featuring blueberries for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council, I had a lot of fun (as did my impromptu tasters) coming up with a recipe that was just as delicious for breakfast as it is for tea or for dessert. Best of all, it combines two great ingredients: blueberries and brown butter.
Brown butter is one of those fun mysteries because of the transformation in flavor that it goes through. I've only started to play around with brown butter in my baking; previously, I mainly used it in French recipes like sole meunière.
For my cake, you start with browning 10 Tablespoons of butter. Some things learned along the way: brown the butter in a regular skillet, as you can see the browning action and know when to stop much easier than in a dark nonstick pan. Another is to brown slowly and gently while keeping a close eye on it, as you have to remember that it continues to brown even after you take it off the heat. Lastly, immediately scrape the brown butter into another container, or else the solids which contain all the flavor stick to the bottom of the pan and don't end up in your cake batter! (Don't listen to the people who tell you to strain it!)
Next up was a streusel topping. As much as I love a thick, crumbly layer of streusel on top of a cake, I kept it to a thin layer so that it didn't overwhelm the blueberries in the cake.
This is one of the cakes that has multiple parts but only takes a few minutes to actually mix together. It's quite a thick batter, so you don't really have to worry about the blueberries sinking. You can just fold them in gently at the end and they distribute themselves quite nicely. I like the tiny Maine blueberries in this cake, but of course, go with what's fresh and what you like. If you can't get fresh ones, don't be afraid of frozen ones, as they work just as well and are just as nutritious. You don't even have to defrost them, just fold them right in.
And the delicious result? You decide:
A crisp, crackly top covers a thick, moist cake studded with blueberries. The brown butter adds a subtle nutty accent and more depth of flavor, the milk keeps the cake tender, and you get hits of sweetness from the swirls of blueberries. Trust me, it's hard to wait until this cake has cooled before diving in. We've had it for breakfast, for dessert, and even by stolen forkfuls throughout the day when we thought no one was looking. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Brown Butter Blueberry Streusel Cake Makes one 9" cake
Streusel Topping: 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar 2 Tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon Pinch salt 2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
Cake: 5 ounces (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 cup granulated sugar 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs 1/4 cup milk 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (I prefer the little Maine ones)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan and dust with flour, set aside.
Brown the butter: melt in a medium skillet over medium heat and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 5 - 7 minutes). Swirl the pan occasionally to move the solids around, and you are looking for the solids at the bottom of the pan to turn a golden brown color.Remove from the flame, scrape into a heatproof bowl and let cool.
Combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt for streusel topping in a medium bowl.Add butter pieces and rub butter pieces between fingers until topping pieces are about the size of large peas (or you can use a pastry cutter).Set aside.
For cake, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
Turn mixer on to low.Slowly pour in egg mixture and mix until all dry ingredients are just moistened.
Slowly pour in cooled browned butter and beat over medium speed until smooth.Remove bowl from mixer and gently fold in blueberries by hand with a plastic spatula.
Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with streusel topping and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 35 – 40 minutes, or a tester comes out clean.Let cool at least 20 minutes before serving.
Tapioca pudding wasn't a dessert I was given as a child. Instead, we had it Chinese-style, served in a dessert soup, usually red bean (blech) or with coconut milk and taro (yum). When I finally tasted a cold, thick tapioca pudding, I was hooked. Creamy and comforting, not too sweet.
At our first dinner party as a married couple last week, we stuck to our philosophy of cooking as much as possible beforehand so that we actually spend time with our guests. I knew it was time to try out making tapioca pudding, but with my own twist.
Instead of cooking it in just milk, I used coconut milk for more depth of flavor and a piece of ginger for spiciness. The tapioca came from a bulk bin, so I have no idea if I was supposed to soak it beforehand (I didn't). It was a hit at the party and I loved how I could basically pair any fruit in season with it, last week being the first of the summer peaches!
Coconut-Ginger Tapioca Serves 4 - 6
1/2 cup small pearl tapioca (not instant) 1 (13-14 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk 2 cups milk 1 thick slice ginger 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup granulated sugar Fresh fruit as garnish (mango, pineapple, kiwi all work well)
Combine tapioca, coconut milk, milk, ginger, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula.
Once to a boil, lower heat and simmer, slowly pouring in sugar. Simmer, stirring constantly, until tapioca is cooked and clear all the way through, about 30 minutes.
Serve warm or let cool. If pudding is too thick, thin with additional milk. Serve garnished with fresh fruit.