Author Archive

Canned Man Food

Cook it for now, can it for later.

I am not a sports fan. I had a brief flirtation with the excitement of professional sports last October when my home team won the World Series, but by and large sporting events just don’t make my radar. But there’s some kind of big football event coming up, I hear?

I don’t know thing one about football, other than that it’s a great incentive to break out the hearty, bold man foods. And my favorite man food is pulled pork.

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East Meets West: Yuzu kosho on Christmas Eve

Yuzu Recipe

On my mother’s side, my family is entirely Italian-American, and each year on Christmas Eve we would observe the Feast of the Seven Fishes. No fewer than seven fish dishes would be prepared, in groaningly large quantities, and laid out on a large table for dinner. Among the dishes there was always baccalà, salt cod reconstituted and baked with tomatoes and raisins; a tremendous bowl of cooked and chilled shrimp, popular with the kids; and spaghetti all’aglio e olio ai alici, spaghetti tossed in a simple sauce of olive oil with browned garlic and anchovies.

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Rany’s Tomato-Meyer Lemon Chutney

Tomato Lemon Chutney

Back in August, I was tapped to be a pickle judge at the Eat Real Fest in Oakland, CA. The festival was a bacchanalia of all things foodie: Squadrons of street carts, tremendous walls of spigots spewing microbrews, live demos of everything from butter to butchery.  The judging came as part of a series of contests for urban homesteaders. Homemade goods were judged in several categories: Home brewing, kombucha, jam making and pickles.

Among the highlights of the things we tasted were some peppery nasturtium capers and a pickled fig that made our eyes roll. But the one that haunted me most was a bright, complex tomato-lemon chutney. The flavors were simple and clean, yet somehow more than the sum of their parts. It came in second to the nasturtium capers, but it was a close race for sure.

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Homemade Holiday Liqueur: Pompelmocello

Grapefruit peel steeps in 151-proof alcohol for 10 days, then is strained out before the liqueur is diluted with simple syrup.

Homemade liqueurs are the ultimate gifts that keep giving. They continue to mellow and improve over time, and always trigger fond memories of the gifter when the recipient takes a little post-prandial tipple.

I’ve been making whatevercellos for years now. Limoncello is the most famous, of course, made from large, pungent lemons from Italy’s southern region, but almost any citrus will do. I prefer stronger fruit, and grapefruit is my favorite. (Pompelmo is Italian for grapefruit, hence my fauxtalian name for the liqueur.) Bergamots and citron also work very well; meyer lemons I find to be too mild in flavor. I prefer to grate the rind as opposed to just zest as I like a slightly bitter edge. I also dial down the sweetness of the syrup just a bit.

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Cranberryless Sauce

The classic log shape.

Even non-foodies are passionate about their Thanksgiving foods. Would you prefer white meat or dark? Do you call it stuffing or dressing? Is ambrosia salad actually food? But the one T-day element that cleaves the world neatly in two is cranberry sauce. In one corner you have the folks who like the gelatinous log embossed with the ridges from the can; in the other you have devotees of a chunky sauce or relish made with fresh cranberries, often with citrus and/or nuts. It’s not a topic people are ambivalent about.

I was curious where affinities lie, so I asked about 1,700 of my closest friends. The results were surprising, with an overwhelming show of support for chunky cranberry sauce. The log didn’t stand a chance.

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Hooked on Heat: Apple Habanero Jelly

Apple Habanero Jelly from Sean Timberlake. Spread on the heat.

I’m not really sure when it happened. At some point in my life I became hooked on heat. It was probably some gateway drug, over-the-counter stuff like Tabasco. A dash on some eggs, and then on a slice of pizza. I craved new sensations: Sriracha, chile verde, South Indian curries. My growing tolerance drove me to hotter and hotter peppers to chase that pony. Capsaicin truly is an addiction, as irrepressible as heroin, only more delicious.

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Pear Butter for Chilly Autumn Mornings

Pear Butter Oatmeal with Pear Butter and Pepitas

Autumn’s been asserting itself in San Francisco. After a few weeks of Indian summer, full of sun and occasionally blazing heat, the mornings now break cool and grey, swathed under a scarf of silvery fog.

On these chilly mornings, I find a strange comfort in the blandness of oatmeal and plain black tea, but I also see no harm in punctuating such monasticism with a little punch of flavor. I favor a dollop or two of pear butter plus a scattering of pepitas for crunch.

Once I’ve filled my belly with warming oatmeal, cradling my tea in my hands, the morning’s veil is lifted, and I’m ready to embrace the day.

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Zucchine Sott’Olio

Zucchini Preserved in Oil with Hot Peppers, Garlic, and Mint Zucchini Preserved in Oil with Hot Peppers, Garlic, and Mint

I recently had the pleasure of lunching at the Oakland home of Rosetta Costantino. Rosetta’s been teaching how to cook the foods of her native Calabria for years, and her extensive knowledge of this much overlooked regional cuisine is now lovingly and gorgeously documented in a new book.

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Fig Jam with Fennel Pollen

Fig jam with fennel pollen, yogurt cheese, pickled figs.

Abundance is the mother of preservation. My friend Amy found herself in possession of a very large quantity of figs, more than any rational human could possibly manage to consume, so I happily took a few flats off her hands. Fig jam, after all, is my absolute favorite.

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Canning Tomatoes: Many (Dirty) Hands Make Light Work

Finished Tomato Sauce A little effort today means fresh tomatoes for months to come.

The end of summer means that once again my husband and I, along with a couple of friends, are undertaking a major tomato canning extravaganza. We work together to stock all of our shelves with jars of tomato-y goodness for the year to come, methodically processing the fresh tomatoes from firm, whole fruit to bubbling red jars of liquid summer.

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