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Moroccan Dinner Party

10 Feb

Inspired by a recent vacation in Morocco, we made dinner for a group of friends (and, as with Iceland, ended up going a bit overboard with food).

Beets with cumin, carrot and orange blossom salad, pepper-tomato jam, eggplant zaalouk:


Fresh baked semolina bread:


Pastilla / B’stilla (savory pastry pigeon pie with egg and almond and cinnamon– in this case made with chicken thighs for convenience):

Lamb, olive, cardoon, and preserved lemon tagine with homemade couscous:



Good food, friends, cheer (and leftovers).

Icelandic Cocktail Party

21 Feb

We threw a cocktail party / trip slideshow inspired by the food and drink of our trip to Iceland, squeezing about a dozen people into my tiny apartment.


It started as an excuse to share the Brennivin (somewhat harsh icelandic schnapps with caraway), Lava Smoked Imperial Stout, and a cocktail centered around Birkir, the excellent birch-branch-infused liquer we’d carried back in our luggage (Birkir + lemon juice + simple syrup + soda water).

And then the planning spiraled a bit out of control, as tends to happen with dinner parties– we decided we needed to make individual-serving-size appetizers based on various combinations we’d seen in Iceland (lamb + rutabaga, arctic char + fennel + apple + dill, salmon + horseradish + cheese). Fortunately we were able to find char in one of the bay area fish markets.


We tried a few ways of cooking rutabaga and ended up boiling and then deep-frying thick chips of it to layer carrot puree, lamb, fried onions, and salt on:


The salmon (house-cured gravlax — raw salmon packed in sugar and salt and dill and let sit) with cheese, pickles, onions, dill on rye. This was all inspired by a dish at the “Unnamed Pizza Place” in Reykjavik operated by the Dill team that in retrospect I think was a substitution– the menu said it was salmon and fennel, but the first night we went there it came with cottage cheese and pickles and horseradish instead, which ended up being a great combination.


Parnsip puree, arctic char (pan fried in butter), salmon roe, fennel (pickled and fresh), dill:


A dessert hannah created visually inspired by the snow-covered lava boulders– Icelandic Skyr + dry chocolate cookies (almost sables) + a licorice caramel.


More of the spread, before people showed up:


All surrounded by souvenirs (lava, wool, volcanic ash) and a slide show of some memorable trip photos:

IMG_20141231_132028809_HDR IMG_20141223_140606601 DSC04263 DSC04446 (1)

Japanese Food Dinner Party

26 May

A few weeks ago I had friends over for some Japanese food (sushi rolls, as well as various dishes focused on a few simple ingredients, inspired by Japanese Farm Food).





Boiled Edamame with Hickory-smoked Salt (from The Meadow)

Smashed Cucumber Pickles: Japanese cucumbers roughly crushed with a dowel and torn into irregular chunks, mixed with a whole stalk of sliced green garlic, sea salt, and a little ginger, and sealed in a ziploc bag in the fridge for two hours before dinner. Really good– one of my favorite new kinds of pickle.

Turnips and Leaves Pickled in Salt: sliced Tokyo turnips along with the freshest leaves, salt, young ginger, dry red chile (a little), an entire Meyer lemon’s worth of zest (in lieu of yuzu), and salt, also refrigerated in a bag for two hours, then rinsed in water to cut down on the salt.

Snap Peas: Fried sliced young ginger and red chiles in sesame oil, then added the snap peas for just three minutes, until they started to turn bright green. A bit oily but still quite good.

Fried Shishito Peppers: no recipe needed…

Cured Salmon Roe: Fresh salmon roe, rinsed several times until the water ran clear (very gently to avoid breaking them), mixed with a little sea salt, another meyer lemon’s worth of zest and juice, then let sit for a few hours. Served on top of a seared slab of salmon, topped with a little lemon-infused flake salt.

and of course, the team-effort sushi rolls: Dry sushi rice rinsed and drained 8 times until the water ran clear,  boiled with a strip of kombu, spread out on a board and drizzled with rice vinegar while vigorously fanning to rapidly cool it. Then rolled up in nori with some mix of maguro, toro, hamachi, salmon, shiso leaf, avocado, cucumber, and pickled ginger. With fresh-grated real wasabi root (a rare find, at Nijiya).

Great food and company, one of the best evenings in a while.

Korean BBQ, camping

29 Jul

For a camping trip with a few friends, I decreed “no burgers, no sausages”, and a very loose theme of “Korean BBQ”.

I don’t think I’d ever cooked Korean food before, but the general idea of marinated, grilled, thin-sliced meat and lots of banchan (side dishes, most of which could be made ahead of time) seemed feasible for camping, and a break from the ordinary.

I bought a nice large marbled ribeye steak and sliced it thinly  against the grain (following an online suggestion to pre-freeze it for an hour to aid with slicing thin helped):

Based on a quick recipe lookup on my phone the night before (while running around getting ready), I made a marinade of soy sauce (tamari, diluted 1:1 in water), sesame oil, sesame seeds, lots of crushed garlic, and minced fresh ginger, and ended up soaking the ribeye for about 24 hours before grilling it. The next morning I decided to add tri tip so we had more meat, and sliced that (a bit thicker), and marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and black pepper for about 12 hours.

That evening, on the grill at the camp site.

Served with lettuce leaves to wrap it, as well as a bean sprout salad (a package of bean sprouts boiled for about 4 minutes on a gas camping stove, then drained and mixed with minced raw garlic, green onions, chili flakes, and sesame seeds). A good refreshing counterpart to the meat (though I could have also cooked the garlic a bit).

Also on the side: spicy cucumber fresh pickles (cucumbers soaked for 2 days in the fridge in a mix of white vinegar, seasoned rice vinegar, a little water and salt, and sriracha: sort of a half-assed pickle not carefully set up to ferment or preserve, just for flavor), and some excellent spicy pickled broccolini that someone else brought, as well as kimchee. The nori sheets worked to wrap beef once the lettuce ran out.

For dessert: grilled pineapple, and grilled nectarines with creme fraiche (another excellent set of contributions from a friend):

Overall, this was a successful dinner. I thought the marinated ribeye turned out really well, but the tri tip ended up a bit too salty (I should have diluted the soy sauce, or had something to balance it like sugar?)– but some people preferred the salty tri tip. I’ll have to try variants again in the future.

Oh, not shown: a delicious marinated pork belly that someone else butchered and brought.

Side note: we packed the food, beer, ice, cooking tools, and so on in and out by bike. Shown below is a bike-mounted cooler. Just because…

Turkish(ish) dinner party

28 Feb

I had a box of turkish delight and some turkish tea from Istanbul, so that seemed like a good theme for a dinner party… while trying to shoehorn in whatever vegetables I got in the CSA. A range of vegetarian mezzes:

  • Kalamata olives (greek, I know)
  • Watermelon radish pickles (three days in rice vinegar, a little sugar, meyer lemon, and mustard seed — it turned the brine red). This isn’t at all Turkish, I just had so many pounds of radish to deal with… and I’d planned to put some powdered sumac on it to have it fill the raw-onions-with-sumac appetizer role in many turkish meals, but forgot.
  • Turkish black tea (5 minutes in a french press, served in the specific fluted glasses and saucers they use in Turkey, which I’d impulsively picked up in the airport).
  • Anchovies, from a can
  • Homemade whole wheat lavash bread, based on an arbitrarily chosen internet recipe but quite successful (1 packet yeast proofed in 1/2 cup lukewarm water, then 3/4 cup more water added, and this added to 2 cups white-whole-wheat flour w/ 1 tsp salt, mixed into sticky dough, kneaded (more flour needed), coated heavily in olive oil and set to rise in a warm place for an hour, punched down, rolled thin, some sesame seeds sifted on top, then cooked on a medium-heat griddle for a few minutes on each side). There was a surprisingly big difference between the perfect fresh-off-the-stove lavash and even the 30-minutes-off-the-stove texture and taste (it became chewy and tough).
  • Roasted parsnips (30-40 minutes at 425F in olive oil, salt, black pepper, turning once) mixed with lots of fresh mint
  • Cacik (pronounced something like  jay-juhk): Greek yogurt diluted with perhaps 25% water to thin it out, cucumber, fresh mint, coarse salt, olive oil
  • An attempt at Kısır (pronounced kih-sish), a Turkish salad in the same vein as tabouleh: 2 Tbsp tomato paste and a Nora chili mixed into 2 1/2 cups of hot water, poured over 2 cups dry bulgur to soak for 15+ minutes, then olive oil, a Tbsp pomegranate syrup (strong), lime juice, and a whole bunch of minced fresh parsley added, and served over sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Plus lots of black pepper. While some people said this was their favorite, I thought it was missing something, and maybe the bulgur should have been further cooked and chilled? Hmm.
  • “Harem’s Delight” brand Turkish Delight, pomegranate flavored.

And of course, a few fine beers: Upright Flora Rustica (with spring yarrow and calendula — floral, interesting, and pretty good this time, not gone-bad like the last bottle), Allagash Hugh Malone Belgian IPA (slightly fruity, huge head, an interesting hop taste that I couldn’t place, nice [edit: more info from the Allagash web site]), and a saved bottle of Almanac summer blackberry ale from a friend (a bit more acidic and less blackberry-distinctive than it was originally, unfortunately).


(procrastinating cleanup)

Thanksgiving Food

24 Nov


 Picking lettuce for a light lunch:
Dinner (I made squash with crispy sage butter, and brussels sprouts with bacon and sauteed onions):

Apple pie*, later:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope your food and family or friends afternoons treat you well.

* Which included my first time making pie crust in quite a while, and perhaps my first-ever lattice top? Ahh, delicious geometry. I used a basic dough recipe modified to use 1/5th whole wheat flour, and 50/50 shortening and butter.

Deviled Eggs, Pickled Fennel, Kale, Squash w/ Sage Butter

11 Nov

CSA Week Two, a recent trip to City Beer, and a friend visiting from Boston inspired another little dinner party:

Deviled eggs (perhaps the best variant I’ve made: hard boiled eggs, the yolks mashed with quite a bit of olive oil (and no mayo!) and a little mustard, salt, and pepper, sprinkled with smoked paprika, and topped with crispy-fried capers, a crowning touch inspired by this printer & piemaker post).

Salami (Olli Napoli, smoked pork with red wide– fine but not remarkable, I probably wouldn’t buy it again).

Lightly-pickled fennel (two days earlier I boiled a mix of 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water, with a few tsp of mustard seed, 1 tsp salt, and maybe 1/2 tsp coriander seed, then poured the hot liquid over a jar of sliced fennel and refrigerated it). I wasn’t sure anyone else would like it but we ate the whole pint.

Kale (minced shallots cooked in sesame oil over medium heat for 10 minutes until crisping. In parallel, kale boiled/steamed in about an inch of water for 8 minutes, rinsed in cold water and drained, then added to the skillet with the shallots for a few minutes).

Carrots brushed with olive oil and roasted for about 20 minutes at 400F.

Squash: a butternut squash and an acorn squash, each cut in half and brushed with olive oil and baked at 400F face down for about 40 minutes, until soft. I actually did this two nights before, scooped out the squash, and put it in the fridge, reheating it the night of the dinner. With a little salt and pepper and sage brown butter drizzled over it right before serving (5 Tbsp of butter melted over medium heat with maybe 1/4 cup of chopped fresh sage for 5-10 minutes). Quite good, and easy.

And the meal only took about an hour to make (not counting the prep a few days before).

Beer included Upright Brewing’s Six (a slightly malty rye beer, which I continue to love), La Fin Du Monde (a belgian-style tripel / golden ale), Upright Flora Rustica (from a Portland trip, saison-style but slightly vegetative and strange, in a good way), and La Trappe Dubbel. And Corona, but we won’t talk about that.

Beer-Centric Dinner Party

8 Aug

This is the first time I’ve made a dinner for friends with courses each paired with / inspired by a specific beer. Some of them worked well together, some didn’t, but it was a good evening overall.

Appetizers: a slightly bitter, slightly floral beer (Upright Flora Rustica) with a collection of snacks: bread, cheese (Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam), radishes, fresh-pickled fennel (an interesting concept), Boccalone orange-fennel salami and pepper salami, salted almonds, and three kinds of pickled carrots (carrots pickled for a week with dill, vinegar, and salt, carrot quick pickles (overnight with lots of vinegar, mustard seed, cloves), and some Happy Girl spicy carrot pickles I bought).

The most vinegar-heavy pickles overwhelmed the beer (and the beer didn’t have the same hint of jalapeno it did when I’d had it on tap in Portland), but the rest of the food seemed to go reasonably well with it, especially the fennel salami and pickled fennel.

My favorite course: a salad of mixed greens + roasted stonefruit (peaches and black plums, still warm) + a little fresh mint + a ricotta that didn’t turn out the way I expected (I tried to make it with 1 pint whole milk, 1 pint heavy cream, 1 tsp salt: brought to a boil, 3 Tbsp lemon juice added, then simmered to curdle.. but it never fully curdled (did the cream interfere somehow? were the lemons not acidic enough?), so it ended up soft and creamy) + a dressing of balsamic vinegar reduced with agave syrup. We were still drinking the Flora Rustica, which worked quite well with the fruit.

Black bean soup generally based on the Cooks Illustrated New Best Recipe version: dry beans and a diced onion boiled for a few hours with a ham hock and bay leaves and a little beer until beans were soft, the ham hock and bay leaves removed and the meat from the hock shredded and returned to the pot, then a separately-sauteed sofrito (onions, garlic, red bell pepper, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle flakes, salt) added to the pot for about 20 minutes. I made this the night before and reheated it the day of the dinner. Cilantro and lime juice added just as it was served.

This was paired with Upright Billy the Mountain, which turned out to be a rather… challenging beer– a very tart and woody barrel-aged old ale, about 9% alcohol but not at all sweet like a barleywine. Whew. Interesting, but I’m not sure I’d do that again.

Pre-dessert: my second attempt at fresh ricotta (simple: 1 qt whole milk + 1 tsp salt, brought to a light boil, then 1.5 Tbsp white vinegar added, simmered a few minutes until the curds separated, strained for an hour in cheesecloth): bright, fresh, and sweet, with a nice texture. Served with Pannepot 2010, a delicious slightly sweet / musky / lightly spiced ale I’d had in Belgium but had never seen in the US until I came across it at City Beer Store (apparently they get it very occasionally). A good combination.

Official dessert– honey lavender ice cream from Bi-Rite, paired with Russian River Supplication (a sour ale fermented with brit and lots of cherries). The Supplication was actually not as acidic or difficult as the Billy the Mountain, and while strong, worked well with the ice cream (especially, a bit of ice cream after each sip of beer).

Then as our post-dinner digestif/nightcap/whatever: some Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast (an oatmeal stout brewed with coffee).

Success! Time to go lay down and do the final clean-up tomorrow.