Thursday, July 7, 2011

Family Dinner

A few months ago, I moved into a new apartment in the Inner Richmond neighborhood in San Francisco. It's a spacious three bedroom, 2.5 bath, with a huge kitchen, dining room and living room. We also have a nice backyard and a garage. It's the ideal space for entertaining and dinner parties. I forgot how wonderful it is to have a dining room! We've decorated it with various wine-related items (like this awesome poster that my friend gave me and I had framed), as well as a corner bookshelf where we keep glassware and cookbooks. It might be my favorite room in the apartment (other than my private bathroom).

So naturally, we've instigated "family dinners" which we tend to have every other Wednesday. I usually do the cooking, with the help of my roommates, and we invite a few friends over for wining and dining. Last night we made an Asian inspired meal, and all dishes were things that I had never made before! An Asian Virgin, if you will.

Miso Soup
(makes 5 servings)

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 sheet of shredded nori (seaweed)
  • 1 block of tofu, cubed in 1-inch pieces
  • heaping 1/3 cup of white miso paste
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • Simmer vegetable broth and water
  • add seaweed and cook for 5 minutes, let simmer
  • lower heat and add the rest of the ingredients, letting the miso disolve. Cook for about 5 minutes on lowest heat
  • Serve and enjoy!

Broccoli with Anchovy Paste, Garlic, Lemon and Breadcrumbs
(serves 4-5)

  • 2 broccoli heads
  • 2 TB anchovy paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. Once water is boiled, add broccoli florets and cook for 2-3 minutes
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet
  • Add chopped garlic and anchovy paste, stir
  • Drain broccoli and add to skillet
  • Stir to coat with olive oil mixture and add lemon juice.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to a baking dish
  • Top with breadcrumbs and bake for 5-10 minutes, or until crumbs have crisped
  • Serve and enjoy!

Miso Sriracha Glazed Salmon (from The Sriracha Cookbook)
(serves 6)

  • 3 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup white miso paste
  • 3 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 6-oz salmon fillets, about 1 inch thick
  • Steamed rice, to serve
  • Sliced green onions, for garnish (optional)


  • Preheat the broiler. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and set aside.
  • In a small nonreactive mixing bowl, combine the oil, brown sugar, soy sauce, miso paste, Sriracha and garlic.
  • Place the salmon on the prepared baking sheet, and baste with the Sriracha mixture. Broil 6 inches from the flame, basting the fish once more after 2-3 minutes. Broil for a total of about 10 minutes, depending on the efficiency of your broiler. Watch the fish carefully while you cook. The basting liquid is prone to smoking (or burning) because of the sugar in it.
  • Serve over steamed rice, and garnish with green onions.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yummies: Volume 9

I hate to begin my blog posts with an apology for how I have not posted in a while, but, well there it is. I have some good excuses, though: I recently moved to a new apartment; I got a new, very busy job; and I've been doing some traveling. Okay, so those aren't really good excuses. But the point is, I'm back in the game.

This past Sunday my new roommate and I decided to venture to my old 'hood to get some necessities at the Farmer's Market. The original intent was to go and buy more ground lamb for the kofta that I was making that night (which turned out awesome, by the way, and I highly recommend this recipe from But once I got there, I just had to pick up some yummies from all my favorite stands, including spinach Fettuccine from Home Maid Ravioli.

Spinach Pasta with Shrimp, Tomato, Pepper and Scallions
Makes 4 servings

  • 4 cups Fresh-made spinach pasta (Fettuccine, Linguine or Spaghetti)
  • 1 lb of large shrimp (you can purchase pealed and deveined to save time, but I recommend buying it with the shell on and pealing yourself because the flavor is better)
  • 1 TB of olive oil
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Campari tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • bundle of scallions (don't use ends)
  • 1/2 cup cheap white wine (i.e. Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)
  • bunch of basil
  • S&P to taste, and red pepper flakes (if preferred)

  • Boil a large pot of water (do NOT use salt or olive oil in the water)
  • Once water is boiling, add pasta and return to medium hear.
  • Cook for about 7 minutes, or until pasta is desired tenderness
  • Drain and place back into pot.
  • Peal and devein shrimp, if needed
  • Cut shrimp in half to form bite size pieces
  • chop red pepper, scallions and garlic into bite size pieces
  • heat 1 TB of olive oil in large skillet
  • add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, then add peppers and scallions. Saute for 4-5 minutes
  • add shrimp and saute until pink (about 2 minutes)
  • add 1/2 cup white wine and saute until wine thickens and sauce forms (about 4 minutes)
  • season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
  • add fresh basil
  • Pour over pasta and serve with Parmesan cheese

  • For the white wine, you can use cheap wine that has been open and sitting in the fridge for a while. I used Yellow Tail Sauvignon Blanc that my roommate opened a week ago and didn't drink.
  • When you open white wine and leave it in the fridge for too long, don't dump it in a drain. Keep it in the fridge and use it for cooking - it will last a while!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

History of a Wine Snob

This post is dedicated to my dear friend, Julie. Without her, I would have forgotten that I still had blog followers (or, at least one).

I suppose it's taken me so long to post because I've been very busy with a new job marketing one of my lifelong passions: wine. I say lifelong because it began in the womb. Yes, that's right. My mother indulged in a glass of white wine every now and then when she was pregnant with me. And I turned out just fine, right? My father helped facilitate my budding passion for wine when I was a young girl. At dinner time, he would pour me a wine glass full of water, with a splash of wine. I called it "wine with water" - though it was really more like watered down juice. As I got older, he poured less water and more wine. By the time I was sixteen or seventeen, I was allowed a small glass of wine at dinner with my family. This method not only built my astounding tolerance for alcohol, but it made me appreciate wine for the luxury that it is.

I'd like to thank my father for building my level of taste by spoiling me with his astounding collection of wines that he has been building for the last forty years or so. He has an impressive library from my 1985 birth year; which, fortunately for me, was one of the greatest years of wine production in history. My brother is insistent that '88 was better, so we often have dueling tastings and this Christmas we battled these two Cheateau Margaux.

In college, I didn't have my father around to serve bottles of expensive and delicious wine. But I knew the difference between good wine and bad wine, and I had a few favorites that were in the $10-$15 range at the local grocery store. I wouldn't be caught dead drinking out of a bag of Franzia (in fact, the thought of it makes me cringe). And I can count the number of times on my hand that I've had a glass of Charles Shaw, or "two buck chuck" as most of you refer to it. I've never understood the purchase of Charles Shaw. Why would you go to Trader Joe's and pay $2.o0 for a bottle of not so good wine when you can pay $5.00 for a bottle of great Nero D'avola! Trust me, it's worth the extra $3.00. Sometimes I would go out to the frat houses with a four pack of mini bottles of wine. It was sort of a trademark.

My senior year of college I visited my friend in San Francisco and we took a trip to her house in St. Helena. We tasted at Duckhorn, St. Supery, Cakebread, Napa Wine Company and Domaine Chandon. I still remember my first sip of Duckhorn Merlot in their beautiful tasting room overlooking the vines. It remains to be my favorite California wine, and I'm currently aging a bottle in the safety of my dad's cellar.

That day in Napa, I decided that I needed to live in the Bay Area so that I could be close to this mecca of wine and develop a career around it. Fast forward four years; here I am living in San Francisco, a city I lovingly call home, and working at a fun and exciting wine company. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yummies: Volume 8

I was somewhat delirious when I made my Sunday trip to the Farmers Market this past weekend. I had just experienced a major sinus attack and I wanted to be in and out of there as quickly as possible. In my delirium, I purchased an eggplant, a pint of cherry tomatoes, a head of kale, an onion, two carrots and a red pepper. I stopped at my local health food store on the way home to acquire some proteins for the week and I picked up a quinoa-polenta log, feta cheese, and some chicken-sausage - amongst some other snacking items. When I got home I just put everything away and forgot about it for a couple of days, until I had to make a meal for myself last night. Not remembering the last time I prepared eggplant, and kale being somewhat of a new addition to my Nor Cal diet, I was racking my brain for a tasty meal that incorporated my produce and wouldn't take too long to prepare. (Side note: Most of the brain-racking happened during my after work swim. I tend to get most of my culinary inspiration during workouts, probably because I can't wait to eat). So I made a quick decision to buy some tomato sauce on my way home from the pool, hoping that my purchase would somehow bring everything together. I knew I wanted to use the oven in some way so that I could multi-task while I prepared dinner. Just whip something together, throw it in the over, shower, eat and watch Glee. And that's exactly what I did.

Polenta Eggplant Saucy Deliciousness
Makes 4 servings

  • polenta log (like the one pictured above)
  • two large tomatoes (I used cherry, but larger ones are easier to layer)
  • one large eggplant
  • one head of kale
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • two Tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

  • preheat the over at 375 degrees
  • drizzle 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a 9x13 glass baking dish
  • slice the polenta log into circular discs and lay across the dish
  • top with sliced tomato
  • top with sliced eggplant
  • drizzle 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over the eggplant slices
  • rip up the kale into smaller pieces and blanket over the eggplant
  • cover in tomato sauce
  • top with feta cheese, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
  • place in the top shelf in the over and bake for 30 minutes, or until sauce is bubbling and the cheese is starting to brown or melt
  • let cool for a few minutes and serve

  • if you want to make a smaller portion, cut the recipe in half and use a round glass pie dish
  • if you have leftovers, it makes for great lunch heated up for two minutes in the microwave

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Franco is Ralston

On Friday I went to see 127 Hours with my boyfriend. I knew he would be one of few people that would see it with me, considering the plot and inevitably gory conclusion. When I first heard about the movie based on Aron Ralston's incredible true story, I was very eager to see Danny Boyle's interpretation of the story; and it was just as moving as I hoped it would be.

In the first scene of the film, Aron (James Franco) prepares himself for a seemingly routine trip to Blue John Canyon, Utah. He quickly moves around his apartment collecting various items (Gatorade, about a liter of water, oranges, burritos, climbing gear, a multi-tool knife, a video camera and a digital camera) as his answering machine plays a message from his sister, who is irritated that she hasn't heard from Aron in what seems like anywhere from a few days to a few months. As the first act progresses, our impression of Aron is an adventurous and somewhat quirky outdoors man. He moves eagerly with an air of experience, acting as though he grew up in these canyons. He knows the history of the area and the ins and outs of all the crevices. I found myself becoming envious of someone who could be so brave and sure, willing to take risks and go off on his own adventure, seemingly without any obligations to his friends and family. This envy quickly turned into concern in the second act of the film when Aron finds himself trapped in a canyon after a rock falls and pins his arm.

As he's stuck there for five days, he toils through the emotions of panic, pain, regret, sorrow, delirium, bravery and determination. Throughout the film, Boyle inserts sequences of Aron's memories, delusions and premonitions - everything that goes through the mind of a person who is determined to live but prepared to die. The combination of Franco's incredible acting and Boyle's artful direction accurately and eloquently depicts the most harrowing story of survival that I have ever encountered.

If you haven't heard the rest of the story, I recommend reading this. Not to ruin the ending of the movie, but he amputates his own arm. It's really not all that unbearable to watch if you don't squirm at the sight of blood; and honestly, it has to be a little gory for it to be an accurate portrayal of Ralston's experience. But it's all worth watching for the last five minutes of the film, where I found myself so moved by the sight of his freedom that I was sobbing uncontrollably. I can only imagine how Aron felt.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Will the real Mark Zuckerberg please stand up?

Last week I read The Rumpus' Elissa Bassist's "review" (or rather, mockery) of the film, The Social Network. You may have heard of the film by David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin (that guy from Entourage) about the Harvard student who creates an online social network that rises to fame overnight; also known as Facebook - which you have probably heard of unless you have been trapped in a mine for the last five years.

I have to admit, the movie is pretty damn entertaining; even if Bassist is totally spot-on that the film is loaded with testosterone and belittles the woman's role in social revolution: "Women are there to blow the dick, excite the dick, but not wield the dick." Much of the film consists of hot, oversexed Asian women throwing themselves at Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and his fellow entrepenuers, including one scene in a bathroom stall where Jesse's character's pants drop to the floor and his date gets down on her knees (don't get too excited guys, all you see are her stilettos and his jeans around his ankles). Later in the film, there is another scene in which two young girls are taking rips from a five-foot bong while men sit "wired in" at computers, building what is to become the most successful website of our generation.

Sorkin paints a picture of a sex-obsessed asshole who uses his vast computer knowledge to make something "cool" - even if it means stealing ideas from other programmers, comparing his ex-girlfriend to a farm animal, shamelessly pushing his best friend out of their company and showing up to an investors meeting in a bathrobe and slippers. The Mark Zuckerberg that viewers experience in The Social Network is cold, arrogant and somewhat aloof.

I've never met Mark Zuckerberg, but I have a lot of friends who work with him at Facebook who say he's nothing like the guy that Sorkin depicts in the film. I read the article in New Yorker that was written a couple of weeks ago, which I felt was a pretty non-biased description of Zuckerberg and the evolution of his success. In one sense, he's just a nerdy guy who's made some lucky business decisions. On the other hand, he's one of the youngest billionaires in the world and you don't just get there by being lucky. He has a vision of what he wants Facebook to become:
"Zuckerberg imagines Facebook as, eventually, a layer underneath almost every electronic device. You’ll turn on your TV, and you’ll see that fourteen of your Facebook friends are watching “Entourage,” and that your parents taped “60 Minutes” for you. You’ll buy a brand-new phone, and you’ll just enter your credentials. All your friends—and perhaps directions to all the places you and they have visited recently—will be right there."
While I might not agree with the idea of doing things solely because your friends are doing them, I think he makes a valid point in that people are attracted to the same things that their friends are - why else would we be friends with them?

I think back to the days in my freshman dorm room at Washington University in St. Louis when my friend's older brother (a senior at Princeton) urged us to join, as our school was the twelfth university to be added to the exclusive network. We were in the middle of finals and the only thing we could concentrate on was this silly website where you could add friends and see their photo, interests and what classes they were taking. There was no messaging, no walls, no photos... nothing that Facebook has today - except for the Poke, which I still use every so often when I am trying to remind people what Facebook used to be. Don't get me wrong; I love where it's taken us and I'm excited to see where it's going. My generation is defined by communication, and I believe that Facebook is the most efficient means of online communication. That is, for people that use it as regularly as I do.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Yummies: Volume 7

Last night I really felt like cooking something, but I hadn't been to the grocery store or farmers market this past weekend so I wasn't sure what resources were available to me. After a glance in my fridge and pantry, I realized that I had enough vegetables (that, frankly, needed to be consumed that night or they would start rotting) and starches to make some kind of pasta. But pasta wasn't enough work for me; I needed something more involved. I started chopping vegetables and figured it would come to me once I started cooking. I started sauteing, and my roommate walked in the kitchen and asked me what I was making for dinner. "I'm not exactly sure," I said. "Just cooking everything I have." Oh," she said, "everything but the kitchen sink!"

Kitchen Sink Risotto

  • an assortment of vegetables (i.e. mushroom, bell pepper (any color, but green or purple is best), onion, zucchini, scallions, spinach, squash, etc.)
  • two garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
  • orzo (wheat or regular, but I prefer wheat)
  • Israeli cous cous (optional)
  • 1/4 cup black olives (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  • heat a pot of water to boil, with a little bit of kosher salt
  • chop garlic and add to olive oil, saute for a couple of minutes before it gets brown
  • chop all vegetables into small, bite size pieces
  • add the harder vegetables first (pepper, zucchini) and saute for a few minutes
  • start adding the softer vegetables (onion, mushroom, scallion) and saute
  • add the spinach and saute for a minute before it wilts too much
  • if using black olives, chop them and add with the spinach
  • by now, your water is probably boiling so add the orzo (and/or Israeli cous cous) and a teaspoon of olive oil - let it boil for only about 4 minutes, just to soften it up a bit but not so it's fully cooked
  • add 2/3 cup of chicken or vegetable broth to the vegetables and lower the heat to let it simmer
  • strain the orzo, then add to the skillet with vegetables
  • add the remaining broth, and cover over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the orzo is cooked and the broth has absorbed
  • add salt and pepper to taste, and Parmesan cheese.
  • stir to mix, and serve hot!
  • When using wheat pasta, it takes a bit longer to cook. This is why you soften it up a little bit first in the boiling water. If you're using regular pasta, then you can just add it dry to the vegetable mixture with all of the broth at once.
  • Israeli cous cous is a great orzo substitute - or supplement. I used both because I had a little bit of both and I wanted to make a larger serving. You can find Israeli cous cous in the ethnic section of most grocery stores.
  • The black olives make the taste a little more Mediterranean, and they go great with the spinach and zucchini.
  • The vegetables can be freshly bought, or they can be on their last legs - as long as they're ripe and in good shape them throw them in!