5 ways to use: coconut milk

Up until recently, I had zero use for coconut milk. I looked at the cans on grocery shelves and never gave it fighting chance.

And then I decided to make tacos, and the recipe called for almost a cup of it. And then I wondered what else I could do with the leftovers (not the tacos, those were eaten). I poured the remaining coconut milk into a deli container, and it sat in the refrigerator.

Somehow I found a variety of uses for it. And at less than $3 a can (or less than a dollar at some places), its hard not to give this ingredient a shot.
cold brew coffee: substitute regular milk with the coconut variety. I also use my French press to make cold brew at home (1/3 cup ground beans, 1 1/2 cups water, let sit for 12 hours, strain, and while drinking, wonder why you didn't try this before)
cornmeal pancakes: use in lieu of buttermilk - the pancakes (or even waffles) don't turn quite the same shade of golden brown, but taste just as good. I like to make a few extra 'cakes to reheat the next day for breakfast.
pork & black bean tacos: giving credit where credit is due, Food52 posted this twist on a favorite. I've also used ground beef and pinto beans. What to do with the remaining pineapple juice will be the topic for a future post.

breakfast quinoa: cook one part quinoa in one part water, one part coconut milk. Once fluffy and spooned into a bowl, pour over a little more coconut milk and top with some toasted almonds.

rice pudding: similar to the breakfast quinoa, use this as a substitute for the other liquids (heavy cream, whole milk, etc).

PS: what other ways to do you use coconut milk?

Il Fornaio + IMAF Chef's Cup

It was one of those nights when I wish I understood the Italian language beyond a few standard words. 

Earlier this summer, the IMAF Chef's Cup competition began in Italy with 12 Michelin starred chefs. Cooking demonstrations took place in Rome, Florence, Parma, Milan, Perugia, Venice and Viareggio; chefs prepared dishes inspired by works of art.

The IMAF Chef's Cup concluded at Il Fornaio with the competition narrowed to two competitors and close friends: Chef Rosanna Marziale of Le Colonne Restaurant in Caserta and Chef Stefano Cerveni of Le due Colombe in Corte Franca.
Glasses of Franciacorta prossecco and pieces of grana padano greeted a group of eager (and hungry) guests. After the aperitif hour, Rossella Canevari, the IMAFestival director and writer, introduced the competition and chefs.
Judges included Amy Sherman (Cooking with Amy), Chef Anthony Fossani, (America’s Cup), Liam Mayclem (KPIX CBS’s Foodie Chap), Mauro Cirilli (sommelier of Press Club San Francisco), and Chef Maurizio Mazzon (Il Fornaio). This panel had the tough job of evaluating the chefs' dishes.

The two chefs presented their art-inspired recipes during individual cooking demonstrations; Viola Buitoni served as the official translator. After each demonstration, the chefs presented their dishes to the judges while guests enjoyed each dish.
Chef Stefano Cerveni of Le prepares his dish (bread soup with quail and black truffles) during his cooking demonstration.
Chef Rosanna Marziale demonstrates her first course of spaghetti and San Marzano tomatoes stuffed inside a ball of mozzarella.
A winner is declared: Chef Stefano Cerveni wins the final stage of the competition.

Buona Tavola!

(many thanks to the ladies of Issima Public Relations for the opportunity to attend the event)

Strawberry Cornmeal Tart

Sometimes recipe inspiration comes on a walk home from the grocery store.

Not someone who usually buys premade things, I'd seen these cornmeal gluten free pizza crusts at the farmers market earlier in the day. The vendor selling these is situated next to one of three Blue Bottle coffee outposts, so its easy to check these crusts out while waiting. Seeing them for a second time at the grocery store made me immediately think "savory" with tomatoes and basil appearing everywhere. Bellwether's ricotta cheese went into my basket thinking the evening's dinner would be a vegetarian pizza.

On the walk home, I remembered the morning's Dirty Girl Farm strawberries, three day old mint, and thought "dessert"!

There really isn't a recipe, more like assembling and then a quick bake in the oven.

I cut a quarter of a cornmeal crust and spread some ricotta on it. Use more or less depending on how much you want. I could have used a little more. Thinly slice enough strawberries to cover the cheese, then crack some black pepper over the fruit. Slide onto a sheet pan and put into a preheated 425 degree oven (says so on the crust's package) and wait for 10-12 minutes. When the crust is golden brown and the berries are juicy, sprinkle some torn mint leaves.

I ate this before eating dinner.


Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb is a sign of spring. Living in the Bay Area, I've seen it for several weeks hanging out near the strawberries, its culinary partner. When I lived in Chicago, it was for sale for a mere week or maybe two if we were lucky; and in Boston, I don't think I ever saw it.

I was inspired to just cook it solo and have dolloped it with my morning yogurt and granola. It would pair with butter on bread or on a slice of cake or between shortcakes and whipped cream. Just go with it.

Rhubarb Compote

7.5 oz rhubarb or 2 meaty stalks, remove the ends
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 Valencia orange, juice & zest
scant 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Cut the rhubarb into 1/4" pieces. Place pieces in a bowl with the vanilla extract, orange zest and juice, and sugar. Toss with your hands and let the pieces hang out in the bowl while the oven warms up.

Pour the rhubarb into a baking dish and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve with plain yogurt, ice cream or crème fraiche. Or spoon on toast, scones, or, really, anything.

Black Bean + Sweet Potato Chili

The calendar says February which means cooking and eating heavy meats, stews, and braises. Meals meant for winter days. Or like my New England friends, staying indoors while the snow piles up outside.

In San Francisco, the weather isn't exactly frigid with snow on the ground. Looking for something still hearty, full of flavor, and that doesn't require an oven (my kitchen doesn't have one), this chili fits the bill. I also had (almost) every ingredient on the list and made substitutions for what came up missing. In lieu of jalapeno, use one chipotle in adobo (which is really smoked jalapeno in a can). And I didn't have celery or a red onion. My adaptation makes enough for two big meals with leftovers; the original serves eight to twelve.

Pro tips: Even though the chili is vegetarian, I added ground beef on a second go of this for Super Bowl supper, but chorizo or another spicy sausage would work just fine. After browning the meat, keep the fat in the pan, add a little more oil if needed, and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Make the chili in advance, and it gets better after a day.

Black Bean + Sweet Potato Chili
adapted from Aida Mollenkamp

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 small sweet potato, medium dice
1 (14 ounce) can cooked black beans, rinsed
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, and chopped
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
8 ounces water, chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
Avocado, optional, for garnish
Tortilla Chips, cooked white rice, or cooked quinoa, optional

Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add the sweet potatoes and cook until golden brown.

Stir in the black beans, garlic, chile powder, cumin, and jalapeno and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, water, and a pinch of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the liquid is slightly thickened, about half an hour.

Taste the chili and adjust for any seasonings.

Garnish with avocado chunks or tortilla chips or serve over rice, or quinoa. A sprinkle of chopped green onion, chopped cilantro, or squeeze of lime would be great flourishes.


Some recent snaps of places visited and things eaten in San Francisco.

Of course, there are plenty of things not included. The totopos (chips covered in red chile sauce, cilantro, cheese, and white onion) from Nopalito. The Josey Baker toast of the day from the Mill. The olive bread from Tartine.

Or the sunets at Ocean Beach - there are too many of those. But then there are many scenes that a camera can't capture because the landscape has just too much fog or too much sunshine or just meant for remembering. #SoSF.

my neighborhood breakfast & lunch spot, Cassava, a husband & wife owned happy place in outer Richmond. Their once a week pop dinners are so popular they've been sold out for months.

an americano + donut from Four Barrel on Valencia in the Mission

yogurt + pear + granola at brunch at Nopa

tomato, mozzarella, basil pizza from Pizza del Popolo - a pizza truck on wheels with a wood oven

my first ramen - Hapa Ramen's fried chicken version - Ferry Building on Tuesdays

beverages at Chocolate Lab by Recchiuti:  lillet + soda water + orange and a hot chocolate - liquid dessert

a map of San Francisco inside Trouble Coffee

a PBR, a Polaroid land camera, and a smartphone: Sunday instant camera walking tour by Photobooth

a Dynamo Donut

Kickstarter ForageSF Dinner

Late last week, I attended one of the thank you dinners for folks who contributed money to ForageSF's Kickstarter campaign. All the funds raised will help build a cooking co-working space called Forage Kitchen. Food makers of all kinds will use the incubator space to launch businesses or can or jam whatever is in season, but cooking classes, events, and parties will also take place in the building. The brainchild behind this project is Iso Rabins, a guy who hopes the space will be a model for other cities to create.

Below is the menu of the evening's dinner - thanks to Meghan for making this happen!

Radishes with Nasturtium Butter and Hand Harvested Jacobsen's Sea Salt (not pictured)
Porcini Bisque with House-made Creme Fraiche

Crispy Fried Lake Smelt with Tempura Fried North Bay Seabeans

(served family style)
Wild House-Smoked Local Salmon with Dry Farm Potatoes and a Fresh Horseradish, Creme Fraiche and Dill Dressing
Little Gem Salad with Pickled Sea Beans and Champagne Vinaigrette
(served family style)
Caja China Roasted Turkey: Chanterelle and Lobster Mushroom Stuffing with Wild Boar Gravy and Quick Braised Greens

Eucalyptus and Wild Huckleberry Popsicle

City by the Bay Scenes

Day five of San Francisco living. The sun shines a different shade of blue. Not to wax rhapsodic or pile on the romanticism, but the air is a bit different out here. The biggest adjustment is the time difference. Three hours. Football is the first thing to air today. Not a terrible thing, its just not something I'm used to, especially when a beer used to be involved. Now its coffee or tea.

Blue Bottle coffee + saffron vanilla snickerdoodle at the Linden kiosk; 101 Cookbooks just posted the cookie recipe

Fort Mason/Off the Grid food truck park/Fleet Week Airshow - the outdoor volume will return to normal tomorrow.
@theMillSF coffee shop in progress - want to try their thick slices of toast
produce from the Grove + Divisadero Sunday farmers market - fresh figs were $5 a pound & flower bouquets $4 a bunch.

Nopalito's red chile chips + lime + crema (along with the rest of their menu) is crave worthy. And very welcoming and friendly service to boot. Its dangerous and delicious to be living around the corner.

jump & the net will appear

above: picture of a favorite Boston cafe, 3 little figs.

Today is my first full day in San Francisco. The weather is warm, the sky is blue, and there are new sights and smells.

Main to-do for the day was hitting the grocery store. With all of my kitchen tools/pantry items in storage in Boston, its tough to think about what I need, what I can live without, and what could work.

Here's what I bought at the Haight Street Market, a friendly local store that offers a membership. The exact rules seem to be in a grey area, but a discount is much appreciated.

above: tortillas, tortilla chips, yogurt, milk, avocado, cheddar cheese, oats, granola, arugula/spinach mix, eggs, iced coffee

When you moved to a new city, what did you buy on your first grocery store run?

Sonoma County Farms

Two weekends ago I visited some farms in Sonoma County. Its rare to find farms in this area as most of the land is used to grow grapes. 

The Oak Hill Farm sits on 700 acres of land on the side of a mountain in Glen Ellen, CA. The farm grows fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Privately owned since the 1950's, Anne Teller (owner) chose to keep the farmland free of chemicals and other pesticides.

The 100 year old barn houses a store, open to the public to buy seasonal produce, flowers, and handmade wreaths. Oak Hill sells to restaurants, grocery stores, and at local farmer's markets.

In contrast to Oak Hill, the Bi-Rite Farm is a smaller working farm in the Carneros Valley. Across the street from gorgeous vineyards, the farm is home to several pigs, a greenhouse, a small shed for storage, and two plots of land.

Specialty and hard to find varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown. Bi-Rite employees (and excited customers) are encouraged to harvest and help out lead farmer and produce buyer, Simon.  The crops that come from this farm are sold in the market.

As a side note, one the of best parts about this day was stumbling upon the Fremont Diner. Top notch comfort food in the middle of farms and vineyards. They also grow their ingredients out back. 

That mini chicken sandwich can't be beat. You know a place is a winner when the lady working the register says she comes to eat dinner on her days off.