Maybe it was due to all the hiking and swimming the week before Labor Day or maybe it was because eating in restaurants was a rare treat for me, but I still count the sandwich I ate in a no-name diner in Weaverville as one of the best I've ever had. It was a club sandwich, California-style. Piled in between two halves of a toasted croissant were avocado slices, alfalfa sprouts, and thick slices of tomato layered over mayonnaise. And bacon and turkey. In my memory, the meats were more like seasoning agents. Still, I couldn't stop eating it. Call it nostalgia for Labor Days past, but I've been thinking about recreating that Weaverville sandwich. Yet I rarely buy sprouts because they don't last long in the refrigerator. And then I found a workaround.Read More
"How are you going to write a recipe for tea leaf salad?"
This was the first question people asked me when I told them I was writing the Burma Superstar cookbook. It was a good one, too: tea leaf salad is the restaurant's most popular dish, but the key ingredient, laphet (fermented tea leaves), is hard to find outside of Burmese restaurants. It's actually hard to find this salad (or Burmese restaurants, for that matter), outside of the Bay Area. When friends come to town looking for food that they can't find back home, a Burmese meal is often on the list. And nearly every meal at a Bay Area Burmese restaurant starts with tea leaf salad. But it still remains one of the most mysterious ingredients in Burmese cooking. Where was it really from?Read More
While the details of how Burma Superstar came to be--a family took over a Chinese restaurant in the Inner Richmond, added Burmese dishes, changed the name, and later sold it to Desmond--is unique to the restaurant, the larger story is not. Like a lot of restaurants in diverse cities, it's a place that introduced new dishes and flavors to people outside of the community. It's part of the story of how immigration has made San Francisco a much more dynamic place to eRead More
While working on the Burma Superstar cookbook, I drank traditional milk tea, learned about edible tea, and visited countless temples. I also met a restaurant manager in Yangon who loved the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Domino's pizza. The lesson: identity and sense of place is fluid, it will continue to be, and that's OK.Read More
Jerusalem is one of those rare books that inspires both so-called foodie people and more casual cooks. Several months ago, I overheard two women at Book Passage in the San Francisco Ferry Building talking about how much they liked the book. Part of it is all the vibrant photography--it really makes you want to eat more vegetables.Read More
Many of the recipes in Cookie Love require rolling short dough out into a rectangle. I am decently proficient with a rolling pin, but I'm always looking for ways to make the rolling process faster and less fussy. Sometimes you want to spot-treat a too-thick area that's too small to warrant a whole rolling pin, for example. Mindy Segal had a solution for me : She introduced me to the pastry roller.
A simple contraption that looks like a small paint roller, a pastry roller is excellent for flattening out small sections of dough. If a side is just a tad too thick, running the roller lightly over the surface smoothes it out. I found one at Sur La Table and it ran me all of $12.
How to use it:
A pastry/dough roller makes it easy to flatten shortbread into a pan, a handy trick when making any kind of layered bar cookies. The pictures below show how to smooth a layer of graham cracker shortbread that will become the base of a bar cookie. First press the shortbread into the base of the pan as well as you can with your fingers. Then cover the surface with a piece of plastic wrap. Pass the roller over the shortbread to smooth out the bumps on the surface. Finally, peel off the plastic wrap.
Most of 2015 had me deciphering Burmese food for the Burma Superstar Cookbook. And while I’ve enjoyed honing my wok skills, I’ve missed baking. Over the holidays (which now feels like forever ago), I tackled a project I’ve always wanted to do—make a yule log. It was actually a lot of fun—it worked! I also found my new favorite tart crust recipe. The holiday baking reminded me that there have been baking projects I’ve wanted to tackle…. but still haven’t. But there's no time like the present.
Here’s what’s on my list:
No-Knead Bread, from My Bread. When Mark Bittman wrote up Jim Lahey’s way to making artisan-bakery bread at home way back in 2006, Lahey’s bread blew up the Internet. Lahey’s book, which came out in 2009, goes into greater detail about the method he uses. You don’t really knead the bread, and you bake it in a Dutch oven. On New Year’s Day, our family friend Gordon threw down a hearty feast, which included homemade rye. It was a beautiful loaf. And the recipe? From Lahey’s book. This year, I’ll finally give the method a try.
Sfogliatelle from Southern Italian Desserts. When I worked with Nate Appleman on the recipes for the A16 cookbook, I told him that the most amazing thing I ate in Naples was sfogliatelle. Could we make it? He said no. It’s not possible outside of Italy. Of course that’s bogus. East Bay resident Rosetta Costantino has a recipe in her book, which also came out in 2013.
English Muffins from The Model Bakery Cookbook. That cover hooked me in 2013, when the book came out. It basically acts like a teaser, as if Karen Mitchell and Sarah Mitchell Hansen (along with cookbook author and writer Rick Rodgers) are saying to us: “If you make 1 thing from this book, make the English muffins.” This year, I’ll make it happen.
Alegrías, from My Sweet Mexico. The translation that author Fany Gerson provided in her book, which came out in 2010, is “Amaranth Happiness Candy.” She says this is one of the oldest candies in Mexico, a bar of amaranth seeds stuck together with sugar or honey. When I was a kid visiting relatives in Mexico, I always ate these up. They tasted like sweetened healthy cereal—in the best way possible. This year, it’s time to try making them myself.
Digestive Biscuits, from British Baking. I read that the popularity of The Great British Bake-off has boosted sales of baked goods in that country. It’s a nice trend story that counters the anti-carb bandwagoners. This cookbook, which came out in 2011 by Oliver Peyton (who owns the Peyton and Byrne bakeries in London), has many classics, like treacle tart. But what I most want to make are the digestive biscuits. Oat-y, graham-y, these have always been one of my favorite British cookies/biscuits.