Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate Mint Crinkles

I love chocolate cookies! That's just a statement of fact. I especially love fudgey chocolate cookies that are crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside like the corner piece of a bath of brownies. When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. Plus with the cracked top and powdered sugar, these cookies look like they've had a dusting of snow!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lobster Rerun: Holiday Recipes

It's holiday baking time again! Nothing like the warmth of the kitchen mixed with Christmas songs and movies to ease you into holiday mood. We're only a week away from Christmas and treats are expected when I show up at my family's house! Here are some of my favorites from last year that I shared with you - I put them in order of difficulty in case you want to try one this year!

Peppermint Bark 
This recipe is way too simple and delicious NOT to try! Just melt a bunch of chocolate, add mint extract, and crushed candy canes! A crowd pleaser for sure.

Chocolate Mint Ganache Cupcakes (and Cream Cheese Frosting)
The assembly might take some time but these cupcakes filled with a ganache surprise are extra decadent topped with a yummy cream cheese frosting.

Fleur de Sel Caramels
These nuggets of buttery caramel goodness are addictive especially with the salty topping. The hardest part of this recipe is paying full attention to the sugar carmelizing and waiting for it to get to the exact temperature. If you have the patience to do this right, the reward is well worth it :)

What's your favorite holiday treat? Are you trying any new recipes this year? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Good Eats SF: Izakaya Sozai

Just when you think you can't eat any more food, here's some good eats I had on a recent trip to San Francisco!

In the mood for some Japanese small plates and ramen? Then head to Izakaya Sozai!

My sister introduced me to this place, saying it's one of her "go to" restaurants that she takes her San Francisco guests. And now I know why. Sozai is a tiny restaurant of maybe 10 tables and bar seating open to the kitchen. By my sister's recommendation, our eating plan was (every good meal starts out with a plan doesn't it?) a few izakaya (or small plates) followed by a steaming bowl of their house special ritsu tonkotsu ramen. We kept an eye out on the menu for any starred (*) items which were considered house specialties.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Good Eats SF: Tony's Pizza Napoletana

On my last trip to California, my San Francisco born and bred friend mentioned he heard somewhere that the "best pizza in the U.S." was at Tony's. He didn't believe it and looking at two New Yorkers (me and the hubs), he knew that we didn't believe it either. So we did some research. While USA Today doesn't claim it to be the "best" it does call it "the most unique and comprehensive pizzeria in the nation, if not the world". Ok, pretty credible source so why not check it out?

Not sure what to expect, we were all surprised and impressed by the menu which was divided into several sections boasting pizza specialties from different regions (Napoletana, Califorina, Classic American (New York style), Roma, Sicilian, Detroit, Classic Italian, even St. Louis) which each has its own type of oven and temperature (gas, electric, wood, coal)! Very cool.

We ordered two pizzas for the four of us. First, Tony's award winning Margherita (according to the USA Today review, he's the first American ever to win the title of World Champion Pizza Maker at the World Pizza Cup in Naples 2007). The menu states that only 73 Margherita pizzas are made each day in a 900 degree wood-fired oven.

The Margherita had a thin fluffy crust with a smokey flavor. Tomatoey but not too much marinara sauce and perfectly placed fresh mozzarella bites topped the pizza. It was a win for Tony's and for our stomachs.

Next up, we tried a coal-fired white pizza with garlic and clams. Another win! This white pizza had garlicky clam bites cooked into the cheese along with some very juicy whole clams with shells on top. Like bonus bites of clammy goodness.

There were so many other pizzas I would have liked to try on this extensive menu. I wonder if they all would be as tasty as the Margherita and White pizzas we had. Oh well, save something for the next trip.

If you're in the North Beach area or are interested in getting your Sicilian pizza next to your Cali style, check out Tony's!

Which type of pizza would you try?

Tony's Pizza Napoletana
In North Beach
1570 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 835-9888

Monday, December 5, 2011

Simply San Marzano?

What is my obsession with marinara sauces? Previously, I made a tasty tomato sauce using a Bon Appetit recipe and techniques which promised and delivered a better pasta experience. But if you read the recipe it requires a food processor and I just don't want to spend the time to clean it after. For this recipe, I tried a  simpler using slightly different and fewer ingredients:
Serves 4
1 - 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
2 table spoons of good olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely diced (kinda garlicky so scale down if you don't like garlic)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
accidental amount of sea salt (helpful, yes? maybe...1 teaspoon)
a few grinds of black pepper
chopped fresh basil (optional)
1 lb of fresh linguine

In a nut shell, San Marzano tomatoes are regulated heirloom tomatoes from San Marzano, Italy. The tomatoes have a sweeter less acidic flavors compared to Roma tomatoes which is what we usually find in "canned tomatoes". San Marzano canned tomatoes have their own special regulatory stamp of authenticity which of course makes them more expensive. Read the wiki here.

I don't know for sure if these tomatoes made this sauce so tasty or if it's the rest of the recipe. Either way, give it a try. San Marzanos run about $2 more than your normal can of tomatoes (which in my store is about $1.99). I did notice that the tomatoes seemed to be a brighter red and the juice it was sitting in seemed thicker than my normal can of tomatoes. Onto the recipe:

Heat up the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced garlic, allowing it to sizzle until quite fragrant. Add pinch of red pepper flakes. Don't let the garlic burn / turn brown because then it'll be bitter.

Pour in full can of tomatoes. Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (about two 2" squirts if you're using a tube). Stir sauce and use the spoon to start mashing down the whole tomatoes. Allow sauce to simmer over medium low heat for ~ 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. I threw in a couple basil leaves toward the last 15 minutes that I later removed before serving.

Halfway through the cooking time, take a careful taste of the sauce. Add salt as needed. Or accidentally drop a chunk of salt into the sauce like I did, try to scoop it out, not find it, and then realize after that actually that was the right amount of salt. So really use your taste buds here to figure out what that amount is. I'm guessing 1.5 teaspoons.
Meanwhile cook the fresh pasta per the directions on the package and drain, set aside. Fresh pasta has such a different texture, if you haven't tried it you should! I haven't eaten much until recently and I really like it! There's more bounce to the bite. Some call that "toothsome." I call it yummy. The pasta  I bought suggested 3-5 minutes. I did 4, I probably would have been better at 3. Don't forget to reserve about a 1/2 cup of pasta water toward the end of the cooking time.

When sauce is done, remove from heat. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water to loosen it and spoon over fresh pasta. Twirl to incorporate. Add fresh chopped basil.
I can't tell you how much I love a bowl of carbs. The sauce was pretty tasty - I noticed that it's not as tart as using regular tomatoes and the flavor seemed deeper somehow. Next time I'll make a batch and freeze them in little Ziplocs for individual weeknight sized portions.

What's your favorite tomato sauce recipe?