May 31, 2012
We recently took a long Memorial Day weekend trip to San Diego. (Is it still a weekend trip if it’s 6 days? Probably not.) As per usual for our vacations, dining was quite a large feature of the trip. Pictures of the dining however, were not. So I’ll mention some of the highlights of our dining, interspersed with completely un-food-related photos of the San Diego area.
Over the years it became apparent that we had a bit of a problem with our pre-vacation research on breakfast restaurants. We would barely get up in time to make it before the changeover to lunch, be too tired and hungry to find a place in time, and end up having to eat lunch instead. So on this trip, I really outdid myself, and found at least 10 restaurants serving breakfast to put on the spreadsheet I made before we left. (Yes, I’m an engineer. Yes, I’m one of those geeks who researches and takes documentation on vacation). Needless to say, we had some of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had on vacation, since we actually planned ahead!
Our first breakfast was at Cafe 222, downtown. I have a thing for pumpkin waffles, so it went without saying that we would get the Pumpkin Waffle for one dish. Spiced like pumpkin pie, it was quite tasty, but not quite as crisp as it could have been. The other item we got was the Eggs Italia Scramble, with tomatoes, goat cheese and pesto, also quite yummy. The space was small, but bright, and our waiter was wonderful. A nice start to the vacation!
Our second breakfast was cafe chloe, in the East Village. This was a really cute place, but the service was rather slow. It wasn’t clear if this was because we were stuck up in the tiny two-table ‘Loft’, or just because the kitchen wasn’t able to keep up. Our first item, the whole wheat pancakes with tart cherry syrup & applewood smoked bacon was excellent. The tart cherry went perfectly with the more robust taste of the whole wheat pancakes. The eggs & piperade – peppers, onions & prosciutto was a bit less spectacular, seemingly missing some essential ingredient to make it more special. To be fair, this was Memorial Day weekend, so they may have been busier than normal.
We did a few quick coffee and granola, yogurt, fruit, or pastry breakfast stops, which while yummy, weren’t really blog-worthy. Our last proper breakfast meal was at The Mission in East Village. We at lunch at The Mission in Pacific Beach earlier in the week, and both locations had a great, funky urban vibe, with local art on the walls. The breakfast plates were huge! We got a gigantic stack (not labelled as such, or we would have opted for a slightly lesser stack) of Strawberry Granola Pancakes. They were perfectly cooked, and wonderful when lovingly drowned in syrup. (Clearly I have a pancake/waffle thing. I never have them at home, so I tend to overindulge in them when we go on vacation). We also got the Soy Chorizo & Eggs, which was another large plate of deliciousness. The soy chorizo was nice and spicy, scrambled with eggs, and included black beans, cheese, flour tortillas and chipotle crema.
Lunch at the Mission Beach location was just as wonderful. We ordered the Tamales Verde, which was fresh and filling, with slightly citrusy tasting tamales, black beans, rice, and roasted salsa verde. We also had the Grilled Chicken Soft Tacos, also very fresh and featuring ginger sesame chicken, black beans, cheese, rice, avocado and sour cream. We loved both meals at the Mission, and I highly recommend it.
We also had some great dinners in San Diego, but my notetaking on this trip was sadly lacking, and after returning home it became apparent that half of what we ordered was nightly specials, which are not on the online menus. So I’ll only mention specifics for one place — but it was my favorite dinner by far. It was at Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill, which is another very funkily decorated place – sort of ‘new modern’, with lots of dark woods, but the space didn’t feel dark because of all the great lighting. We had a completely divine foraged-mushroom pizza with taleggio cheese, braised leeks and truffle oil. I really didn’t want to share that one, it was so delicious. We also had a very lovely spicy shrimp puttanesca angel hair with olive, caper and tomato. I would definitely recommend Cucina Urbana. Other places where we had great dinners were Jsix in the Hotel Solamar in the Gaslamp District, Bankers Hill in, non-surprisingly, Bankers Hill, and Top of the Market, which is downtown.
May 19, 2012
I recently subscribed to bon appétit magazine, and was delighted with a picture of stacked slices of French Yogurt Cake in last month’s issue. It was so pretty, and I love quick breads so much, I immediately decided I wanted to make it.
I looked at the recipe, which was billed as a healthier version of pound cake. With full-fat Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup vegetable oil, each slice would be about 184 calories with 7 grams of fat. That’s a bit steep for me for something I eat during the week (as opposed to my weekend dinner splurge), so I decided to make some adjustments, decreasing it to about 120 calories and 3.4 grams of fat per slice.
I made three rounds of this bread, since it seemed to disappear rather quickly, even with just the two of us eating it. The first round wasn’t quite moist enough, so I added a bit of orange juice in the second round. That was slightly better, but not quite it, so for the third round I used applesauce instead, and deemed that the winner.
Instead of using whole milk Greek yogurt, I used low-fat Greek yogurt. I also decreased the amount of oil used, and substituted olive oil for vegetable oil. (Olive oil actually goes quite well with sweet foods, and in this application you really can’t taste it, anyway). Applesauce made up for the decreased oil. Only using one egg yolk saved a bit more fat.
The other big adjustment was using a 3:1 ratio of erythritol to sugar. Erythritol can have a cooling effect, which I definitely notice in my banana breads, but I didn’t notice at all in this bread. It’s up to you if you want to substitute erythritol for some of the sugar. But three-quarters of a cup of erythritol has about 112 calories, as opposed to 552 calories for the same amount of sugar, so I like using it.
I also tried different citrus each time. The first time I used lemon, the second time orange, and the third time grapefruit. Each one was great in its own way. My husband and I decided that the lemon was the best, and I think that the grapefruit (ruby-red) was my second favorite. I think I’ll probably try lime next, just to try it out.
This probably sounds weird, but one of the most enjoyable things about making this bread is seeing the sugar (erythritol) mixed with the citrus zest. It’s so radiant and sparkly. (Ooh, shiny!)
Adapted from a recipe for French Yogurt Cake in bon appétit
Luscious Low-fat* Citrus Bread
makes 1 loaf – 12 slices
recipe for ~ 5400 ft altitude**
nonstick vegetable oil spray
1+1/2 c White Whole Wheat flour + extra for dusting the pan
2 tsp less 1/8 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 c erythritol and/or sugar (I use 3/4 c erythritol and 1/4 c sugar)
1 to 2 Tbsp lemon, orange, or grapefruit zest
1 c plain low-fat Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp lemon-flavored olive oil***
1 whole egg + 1 egg white
2 Tbsp applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a standard-sized loaf pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour to coat the sides and bottom. Get rid of any excess flour by turning it upside-down and tapping the bottom or sides.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, combine the erythritol/sugar with the citrus zest with your fingers until the sugar is moist. Then add the yogurt, olive oil, eggs, applesauce, and vanilla, and combine well.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix just enough to absorb all the dry ingredients.
Pour into the loaf pan, and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
* Low-fat is 3 grams of fat per serving or less. My calculations for this is 3.4 grams per slice – so if you round down, it is indeed, low-fat. Close enough.
** For lower altitudes: use a full 2 tsp baking powder
*** Just use a little more zest if you’re using regular olive oil instead of lemon
Now that the Boulder Farmers’ Market has started again, I’ve begun looking for new vegetables I haven’t cooked with before. A couple weeks ago I came upon pea tendrils at the Cure Farm stand. They look like a wild bunch of greens with a lot of little thin tendrils mixed in.
I also looked at the link from The Yellow House to a recipe for Creamy, Luscious Scrambled Eggs on The Kitchn, and decided I’d try the low temperature, longer cooking time method for making scrambled eggs. I intended to put the pea tendrils in the scrambled eggs as in the recipe on The Yellow House, but ended up using a lot more pea tendrils than the recipe called for, so I ended up putting them on the side. The result was quite good, but the next week, I added shiitake mushrooms, and THAT was awesome!
I followed the recipe on the Yellow House for the garlicky pea tendrils, but used 2-3 times more pea tendrils, twice the garlic, and decreased the olive oil from 2 Tablespoons to 1 teaspoon. Before serving the sautéed pea tendrils, I put them on a cutting board, and cut the bunch into about 3 inch segments for easier eating (although long tendrils would have been amusing to try to eat).
I sautéed the mushrooms in 1 tsp of olive oil until they had released most of their moisture.
For the eggs, I used 2 whole eggs, plus 4 egg whites, just a bit of milk (maybe 2-3 Tbsp?), and some salt and pepper. I scrambled the eggs in a non-stick pan with 1 tsp of melted butter, and once they were just about as done as I wanted them, I stirred in the mushrooms plus about 3/4 oz of finely grated pecorino romano.
Something about this combination just resonates with me. The eggs are nice, warm, and comforting (with a touch of sophistication with the mushrooms and pecorino romano), and the bright green pea tendrils are so fresh and springy tasting. Scrambled eggs for dinner? Why not?!
I recently looked back at the dishes I’ve posted on my blog that I’m most proud of, and they all seem to have one thing in common. They’re all made in a skillet (or at least all the ingredients end up in a skillet), with chopped and sautéed vegetables. Some have meat of some kind, some have grains, and some are in a soup or stew base, but they all seem to have the chopped, one-dish motif. To be fair, there’s a lot of color variation amongst them, but there’s definitely a theme going.
Well, why stop there?! Here’s another chopped-ingredient skillet dish I make fairly often. It’s pretty quick and simple to make, very filling, and wonderful tasting. I use some great red pepper chicken sausage when I make it, but you could use any kind of sausage that would work with paprika. I get my Hot Smoked Spanish Paprika from The Savory Spice Shop. You could use smoked paprika and some cayenne if you don’t have the hot smoked variety of paprika.
Red Pepper Chicken Sausage and Potatoes with Hot Smoked Paprika
1+1/2 lb fingerling or new potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 pre-cooked sausage links (I use red pepper chicken sausage), cut into quarters lengthwise, then sliced into about 1/3 inch pieces
2-4 spring onions (or 1/2 small yellow onion), chopped
3-4 stalks green garlic, chopped (or 3 cloves garlic, minced)
1 large bunch of spinach, stemmed, and torn into 3-4 inch pieces
1+1/3 c chicken stock
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp hot smoked paprika
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
Cook the potatoes until tender, either on the stove top or in the microwave, then drain and set aside. While the potatoes are cooking, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Sauté the pepper and onion until tender (if using spring garlic, add it a few minutes after the pepper), then add the garlic, and sauté for about 30 seconds longer. Add the sausage and cook another few minutes. Add the chicken stock, paprika, and salt, and stir well to distribute the spices. Then add the potatoes and combine well. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook, stirring frequently, until the stock reduces to a thick sauce, coating the rest of the ingredients. Add the spinach, and ‘fold’ it in until it is wilted, but still bright green.