Monday, January 21, 2013

Garlic, Oil and Chili Linguini Fini


Sometimes the simple dishes with the fewest ingredients are the hardest to make. Take linguini fini cacio e pepe for example, proof that something amazing can be made simply from linguini fini, olive oil, butter, pecorino, salt, and pepper.

I first had spaghetti aglio olio e peperoncino in Rome. In this simple and quick dish, garlic and chilis are infused in olive oil and then gently tossed with linguini fini or spaghetti. I like to add capers and lemon zest but the traditional version is all about the garlic and chilli.

You can top it with finely grated parmesan or pecorino but it is just as wonderful in its traditional form without the cheese.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bhindi sabzi (Bhinda nu shaak or Indian spiced okra)

One of my absolute favorite Indian dishes is bhinda nu shaak, or okra cooked with Indian spices, tomato, and ginger.  I would always ask my mom to make okra for me when I would go home form college.  In fact, this okra sabzi and tomato rice is the very first meal I cooked for the love of my life! He said it was amazing, but he always says that about my cooking, even when I know a dish is an epic fail.

Many people tell me that they have an aversion to okra due to its slimy texture. If you are one of those people, I'll let you in on a little secret:  okra becomes sticky and stringy when wet.  So when you wash okra, make sure it is thoroughly dry before slicing.

Okra reduces quite a bit once cooked, about 1/3 of the original amount, so keep that in mind when planning a meal.

I prefer a dry version of the dish as opposed to a gravy, so I like to cook the onion, ginger, tomato mixture until it is dry before adding the okra. If you prefer a wetter sabzi with more gravy, add the tomatoes after the okra has cooked for a few minutes.

Serve hot with roti and yogurt.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Reflection of the Past Two Years Through Wine

    We just got back from a wonderful wine-filled weekend getaway to Yountville in Napa. We kicked the weekend off with an amazing visit to Nickle and Nickle Winery, a sister winery of Far Niente that specializes in 13 single vineyard cabernet sauvignon wines.

    At Nickle and Nickle, we tasted four beautiful 2009 single vineyard cabs from Rutherford (C.C. Ranch Vineyard), Stags Leap (Copper Streak Vineyard), Yountville (State Ranch Vineyard), and Oakville (Kelham Vineyard).

    Then we went to Silver Oak where we tasted a delicious 2008 Alexander Valley cab, a 2007 Napa Valley cab, and a 2003 Alexander Valley cab.

    This weekend's wine adventures reminded me of a photo I took while packing up the old apartment in November 2012.  I snapped a photo of the collection of wine bottles we've enjoyed over the last two years with the super cool panorama feature on the iPhone 5 (clearly I am still trying to figure out to use it).  Each one of these wonderful bottles is associated with a beautiful memory of time spent with family and friends, a special occasion, or a memorable dinner at home.

    Below is a list of some of our most favorite and memorable wines over the last two years with brief tasting notes (listed in order as pictured):
    Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 - rich with complex dark fruit, blackberry, and spices on the palette; lush, velvet mouth feel, supple and full-bodied, long finish

    Franck Bonville Champagne Blanc de blancs Grand Cru - good acidity, notes of citrus, green apple, and toast on the palette, smooth

    Ridge Vineyards Santa Cruz Mountains Red - red fruit, earth, and spice on the palette, big acidity, flat

    Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Dry Creek Zinfandel 2007 - rich, black fruit, blueberry, cloves, soft warm spices, and heavy oak on the palette, full-bodied, long finish, my favorite Ridge Zin

    Ridge Vineyards Geyserville Sonoma Zinfandel 2008 - beautiful nose, cherry and warm spices on the palette, medium to full bodied spicy long finish

    Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys Sonoma Zinfandel Blend 2009 - high acidity, bright red fruit, oak spice, and pepper on the palette, long finish

    Ridge Vineyards Paso Robles Zinfandel 2010 - dark fruit, floral, pepper, supple and lush, spicy finish

    Far Niente Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - blackberry, cherry, toasted oak, and tobacco on the palette, big tannins, big and full-bodied, incredibly long finish

    Cain Concept The Benchland Napa Valley Red Wine 2007- rich, juicy dark red fruit, chocolate, and hint of coffee on the palette, velvety, supple with exceptional mouth feel

    Cade Napa Cuvee 2008 - dark cherry, blueberry, well-integrated oak, and minerality on the palette, medium to full bodied

    Rochioli Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir 2010 - well-balanced acidity, berries, bright cherry, violets, cola, and good oak on the palette, long and silky finish

    Rochioli Russian River Valley Valdiguie Pinot Noir 2010 - silky, violet nose, and cherry on the palette, easy to drink, well-integrated oak and tart finish

    Rochioli Russian River Valley Estate Chardonnay 2009 (pictured at end of post) - rich, apple, subtle spice, and crisp acidity, medium-bodied with an incredible long finish

    Spiaggia Wall Vineyard Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 - complex and rich, dark cherry, chocolate, and toasted oak on the palette, big tannins

    Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Weir 2008 - black cherry, minerality, and toasted oak on the palette, good tannins

    Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Allen 2008 - bright strawberry, wild berry, violets, mushroom, and toasted oak on the palette, silky texture and long finish

    Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Hirsch 2008 - cherry, cola, coffee, and mushrooms on the palette, mature tanins, long silky finish

    Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Precious Mountain 2008 - rich dark red fruit, balanced acidity, anise and warm spices on the palette, juicy tannins, silky long finish

    Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Peay Vineyard 2008 - wild berry, violets, and toasted oak on the palette, rich tannins, long silky finish

    Williams Seylem Pinot Noir Hirsch 2009 - wild berry, spice, and coffee on the palette, round tannins, juicy acidity, long finish

    Dom Perignon Vintage 2000 - floral, apricot, and toast on the palette, crisp with tiny, soft and effervescent bubbles
    While reflecting on these amazing wines, two things come to mind:  First, I'm reminded of a quote from the movie Sideways: Maya advises Miles not to be overly fussy about when he will drink a particularly special bottle of wine and says, "the day you open a '61 Cheval Blanc, that's the special occasion." Best advice ever.

    Second, we spend a lot of money on wine!

    Thursday, January 3, 2013

    My 2012: A Plate and Pour Reflection


    2012 has been a wonderful, exciting year for Plate and Pour! It's a great time to reflect on the incredible culinary experiences of 2012 and just for fun, take a look back at 2011 highlights (clearly memorable if I still recall the experiences a year later)!

    Some of 2012 culinary highlights, in approximately chronological order:
    • Celebrated a special birthday at Peter Merriman's in Maui, Hawaii after surviving the road to Hana
    • Honored Dad's 70th birthday at Slanted Door and Greens in SF and took Dad to Napa for the first time
    • Spent a wonderful weekend at The Clement Monterey complete with a romantic dinner at il  vecchio and superb lunch at Paprika Cafe
    • Celebrated with the birthday boy at Tacolicious- Mezcal tasting flights for all!
    • Explored the culinary delights of Point Reyes Station over a lovely meal at Osteria Stellina after a visit to the quaint lighthouse
    • Hosted a baby shower brunch for a dear friend expecting a girl
    • Dined at the bar at Cyrus after a day of kayaking in the Russian River in Healdsburg, Sonoma County only to dine at Solbar in Calistoga the next day
    • Experienced an exquisite celebratory meal at Acquerello, complete with a terrific cheese cart
    • Injected a new level of foodie-ness to outdoor activities while hiking in Yosemite and camping in Big Basin
    • Picnicked and camped in the fig orchards at Capay Valley farms, the home of our stellar CSA box
    • Took a phenomenal pasta making class at Flour + Water with Francesca Tori from Bologna, Italy and Executive Chef Thomas McNaughton
    • Had memorable dinners at outstanding San Francisco restaurants like Central Kitchen, Local Mission Eatery, Locanda, Park Tavern, Bar Agricole, Prospect, and Farina
    • Enjoyed many delicious dinners and cocktails at Coco500 and brunches at Nopalito; spent many afternoons drinking beer under the sun at Biergarten
    • Tasted a 100 point Oregon Pinot Noir, Auteur, with friends for New Year's Eve

    Just for fun, here's a look back at the best culinary moments of 2011:
    • Took an incredible trip to Sonoma with my favorite wine buddy, Craig, where we visited Ferrari Carano and Ridge and spent hours basking in the sun on the balcony at Sbriagia
    • Spent a perfect romantic weekend in Napa at my favorite hotel and spa in Yountville; dined at Ad Hoc, sipped Dom Perignon by the fire, brunched at Redd, and attended a food and wine pairing at Etude
    • Attended a fantastic cocktail making class at Beretta with Ryan Fitzgerald
    • Sipped fabulous local wines at the San Francisco Vintners Market
    • Experienced an unforgettable dining experience at The French Laundry followed by a personal tour of the legendary kitchen
    • Celebrated a beautiful marriage of two friends alongside Lake Tahoe against a spectacular backdrop of mountains and cooked Martha's mac and cheese for the wedding reception
    • Went on a culinary adventure in Santa Barbara which involved standing in line for tacos at Julia Child's beloved La Super-Rica Taqueria, sunbathing on the beach, and a picturesque brunch at Vineyard House Restaurant
    • Went on a spur of the moment weekend getaway to Santa Cruz and Carmel where we had a lovely, romantic dinner on the patio at Cassanova
    • Indulged in gastronomic feasts in Istanbul
    • Celebrated a very special anniversary at Gary Danko
    • Sipped fabulous wine with Bob Cabral, Wine Enthusiast Magazine's Winemaker of the Year for 2011, at Williams Selyem's Fall Pick up Weekend
    • Hosted a Diwali dinner party for a crowd
    • Spent Thanksgiving at a house in Napa with family complete with tastings at Far Niente, Cade, Williams Seylem, Miner, Plumpjack, and dinner at Neela's
    • Experienced gastro-camping in Big Sur in the dead of winter
    • Enjoyed wonderful dinners at Frances, A16, SPQR, Zuni Cafe, Range, Delfina, Azzia, and Foreign Cinema
    Thank you all for joining me on my culinary journey for all these years! Cheers to new adventures and happy cooking in 2013!

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    Post Holiday Cleanse: 10 Day Raw Menu and Recipes

    Happy New Year! It's a new year filled with hope and charged by dreams.  May 2013 be filled with love, happiness, and good health!

    After indulging on rich foods over the holidays, sometimes it is nice to give your body a break by eating lighter and substituting fresh fruits and vegetables for processed foods, dairy, and meats  

    Below is a 10 day raw menu that I created and followed back in June after a busy few months at work with repeated late nights (i.e., dinner ordered in at the office) that left my body feeling out of sync, tired, heavy, and slow.  The menu is designed to kickstart a healthy, more energetic new year!

    At this point, I was drinking lattes and/or espresso several times a day and it seemed unimaginable that I could survive just by drinking a cup of black tea once in the morning.  I still remember the first time I drink coffee, aside from mocha frappacinos, which were wildly popular during high school:  I was taking freshman microeconomics, a class designed to weed out two-thirds of the students who signed up for it, leaving only the "survivors" to pursue a major in economics.  My recitation/TA session for the class was scheduled at the ungodly hour of 9am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. As it was common for me to stay up until 4am doing problem sets, I found it nearly impossible to stay awake in the early morning recitation. And so it began:  on my way to class, I stepped into the long line at the coffee shop along the infinite corridor and waited my turn to order a coffee. I repeated this the next morning and the next, and a year later, I purchased my first Mr. Coffee for my dorm room.  After college, I discovered espresso and lattes and my torrid love affair with coffee intensified.  Former roommates, boyfriends of the past, and my family were well aware of my addiction to coffee and feared what would happen in the absence of a morning coffee.  Yes, it really was that bad.

    For what it's worth, after the 10 day cleanse, I had so much more energy; I felt lighter and healthier, and most importantly, I was able to successfully give up coffee for the ten days... and have continued to abstain from coffee for the past six months.  I drink a single cup of black tea in the morning and take no other caffeine the rest of the day. 

    Anyway, below is a menu for a 10 day raw cleanse and short recipes. I recommend starting each morning with a large glass of hot water with lemon and after dinner, sipping chamomile tea with lemon or peppermint tea. 

    I'm not big on smoothies, and thus the menu focuses on flavor-packed raw dishes. I created this menu in June, so many of the recipes may seem out of season in the dead of winter. I've added a few more seasonally appropriate ideas at the end of the list  

    It is pretty time consuming to prepare raw dishes, but it is absolutely worth the effort! If you don't do the cleanse for 10 days, at least try to introduce more raw food into your diet in this post holiday period. Your body will thank you!

    Disclaimer:  these recipes include condiments, such as oils, vinegars, soy sauce, and Dijon as well as ground spices like cumin, so for you raw purists out there, this 10 day menu isn't 100% raw.  

    DAY ONE: 

    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch: Zucchini ribbons with garden pesto.  Shave zucchini into ribbons (lengthwise) using a vegetable peeler or mandoline. Blend basil, flat-leafed parsley, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and lemon zest to make garden pesto. Toss together. Pesto will keep in the refrigerator with a layer of olive oil drizzled on top.

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: Red cabbage and carrot salad. Combine finely minced red cabbage and shredded carrot in a large bowl. Make vinaigrette with sherry vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon, garlic, and olive oil.  Toss well. Top with finely chopped flat-leafed parsley, dill, and chives. For a crunch, add almond slivers. 

    After dinner: Chamomile tea with lemon

    DAY TWO:

    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch: Avocado and greens with carrot ginger dressing. Blend carrot, ginger, shallot soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, canola or grapeseed oil, water, and lime juice to make dressing. Pour dressing on top of torn butter lettuce and avocado slices. Thinly sliced red onion optional. Click here for full recipe

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: 1. Savory tomatoes. Halve cherry tomatoes and set in bowl. Drizzle with soy sauce and a splash or two of dark sesame oil. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro and basil.
    2. Asian coleslaw. Shred napa cabbage and radish. Blend peanut, lime juice, green chili, cilantro, and olive oil. Toss well.

    After dinner: Chamomile tea with lemon


    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    LunchGuacamole and sprout lettuce wraps. Mash avocados with finely chopped onion, garlic, tomato, jalapeno, and lime.  Place guacamole on a leaf of butter lettuce, top with sprouts, and roll.  Click here for guacamole recipe

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: Sprouted moong bean salad. Toss sprouted moong with shredded carrot, shredded turnip, finely chopped tomato, minced scallion or red onion, and finely chopped cilantro. Drizzle with lemon juice. Green chili and ground cumin optional. Click here for step by step instructions on how to sprout moong beans at home

    After dinner: Chamomile tea with lemon


    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch: Fennel and apple salad. Thinly slice fennel and green apple. Toss with vinaigrette of white wine vinegar or cider vinegar, Dijon, and olive oil. Garnish with finely chopped flat-leafed parsley.

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: 1. Carrot salad. Shred carrot, mince jalapeno, and finely chop cilantro. Toss together, and drizzle with lime juice, olive oil, and ground cumin.
    2. Tomato and peach salad. Slice good tomatoes and peaches into halves and quarter each half. Toss with thinly sliced red onion, mint, lemon juice, and olive oil.  For a crunch, add walnutsClick here for full recipe

    After dinner: Peppermint tea


    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch: Radish, jicama, and mango salad. Slice radish into wedges and dice jicama; combine with diced unripened mango, lime juice, finely chopped mint and cilantro.

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner:  Greek salad. Chop tomato, cucumber, bell pepper (red and green), and red onion.  Combine with red wine vinegar (or lemon juice) and olive oil. Top with finely chopped flat leaf parsley and dried oregano. Chopped Kalamta olives optional.

    After dinner: Peppermint tea

    DAY SIX: 

    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch: Southwestern salad. Combine fresh corn (or frozen if not in season) with chopped red and green bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, and green chili.  Drizzle with lime juice and olive oil (may not need). Season with ground cumin and chili powder.

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: Thai salad.  Finely chop red cabbage and shred carrot. Combine with minced ginger, garlic, scallion, and green chili.  Toss with dressing of soy sauce, seasame oil, rice wine vinegar.  Garnish with finely chopped cilantro, mint, and basil and peanuts.  Click here for full recipe

    After dinner: Peppermint tea


    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch: Panzanella minus the bread. Chop zucchini or cucumber, tomato, and bell pepper and combine with thinly sliced red onion and torn basil. Toss with vinaigrette of smashed garlic, champagne vinegar, Dijon, olive oil. Click here for full recipe

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: Raw kale salad.  Prepare Tuscan kale by removing tough stems, halving, and chopping into 3/4" ribbons.  Massage with olive oil until tender. Mix lemon juice, smashed garlic paste, and crushed red pepper and then toss with kale. Combine with avocado and walnuts.  Sliced radish and freshly shucked corn optional.  Click here for full recipe

    After dinner: Chamomile tea with lemon

    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch:  Fennel, grapefruit, and arugula salad. Shave fennel with a mandoline or vegetable peeler into paper thin slices and combine with baby arugula and grapefruit wedges. Make dressing of lemon juice, Dijon, olive oil, and finely chopped shallot. Toss well. Add avocado if desired.

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: Indian-spiced sprouted moong bean salad. Toss sprouted moong with finely chopped tomato, minced green chili, minced red onion, and finely chopped cilantro. Drizzle with lemon juice and season with ground cumin, ground coriander, and red cayenne pepper. Click here for step by step instructions on how to sprout moong beans at home

    After dinner: Peppermint tea


    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch: Shaved asparagus with almonds. Using a vegetable peeler, shave asparagus into thin ribbons. Toss with olive oil and add a couple drops of really good balsamic vinegar (traditional/concentrated if you have it)Top with almond slivers.  Or instead of balsamic, use lemon juice and lemon zest.

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: Raw tomato sauce over zucchini ribbons.  Gather a pound of exceptional tomatoes. Grate some tomatoes, coarsely chop the rest. Combine with slivered garlic, lemon juice, and chopped basil and let sit.  Shave zucchini into ribbons (lengthwise) using a vegetable peeler or mandoline.  Toss with raw tomato sauce and let stand for 10 minutes. Top with pine nuts. If sauce is too liquidy, drain some of the liquid before tossing with the zucchini ribbons. Alternatively, use smashed garlic clove instead of slivered garlic and fish out clove before tossing with zucchini to avoid strong raw garlic. Click here for full recipe

    After dinner: Chamomile tea with lemon

    DAY TEN:
    Morning: 500ml hot water with 1/2 lemon juiced

    Mid morning: fruit

    Lunch: Cucumber salad. Thinly slice cucumber and red onion.  Toss with salt and let sit for an hour. Rinse and dry, and then toss with cider vinegar, Dijon, and crushed red pepper.  Optional: garnish with finely chopped dill. 

    Afternoon: fruit and nuts

    Dinner: 1. Artichoke salad. Thinly slice Jerusalem artichoke and combine with shallot or thinly sliced red onion. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice.  Sprinkle with ground cumin. Finely chopped mint is optional.
    2. Green bean salad. Chop green beans into 1" pieces.  Whisk miso, minced shallot, rice vinegar, grapeseed oil, and sesame oil together. Toss with green beans. Let sit for 15 minutes. Garnish with almond slivers. Or instead of shallot use green scallions. 

    After dinner: Peppermint tea


    1. Beet and arugula salad.  Peel and grate raw beets and combine with baby arugula.  Toss with vinaigrette of sherry vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon. Minced shallot would be nice too. Top with pepitas.

    2. Mushroom, parsley, and thyme salad. Slice mushrooms paper thin and combine with minced shallot and finely chopped parsley and thyme. Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, and soy sauce. 

    3. Butternut squash salad. Peel, seed, and grate butternut squash. Combine with raisins and minced ginger. Whisk together grapeseed oil or vegetable oil and sherry vinegar. Toss well.

    4. Shaved Brussel sprouts.  Thinly shave Brussel sprouts on a mandoline. Combine lemon juice, Dijon or whole grain mustard, and olive oil. Honey is optional. Toss together, add thinly sliced red onion or minced shallot.
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