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Jesse A

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    Oakland, CA

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  1. I'll be in Turin with two friends in late October for Slow Food's Terra Madre conference, and we have a few days to travel beforehand. I'm wondering if anyone can recommend a nice agriturismo in Piedmont, maybe in the Langhe? We're grad students and thus on a budget, so are looking for authenticity and good food but not luxury. We don't need a place with a swimming pool, tv, internet, etc. Ideal would be simple accomodations (and thus inexpensive!) with good, traditional food. We'd love somewhere that is a working farm first and an inn second. Last year, I stayed at Agriturismo Serafina on the Amalfi coast and it was wonderful - 50 euro per day for room plus breakfast and dinner; the place was operated by a family that had farmed the land for six generations, and everything we were served - meat, oil, wine, fruit, vegetables - was grown or produced on the premises. So, any recommendations?
  2. I just picked up 3 whole striped bass, about 1 1/3 lbs each. I'm planning on stuffing or topping them with a mixture of toasted almonds, black olives, orange zest, fennel and saffron. So, what's the best cooking method for these fish? Roasted? At what temp, and should I wrap them in foil to keep moist or leave them uncovered to crisp the skin? Should I stuff them w/ the aromatics, or chop/mix them with olive oil to make a sauce to spoon on after cooking? Cook the fennel first or leave it raw?
  3. I just put up my first batch of preserved Meyers in quite some time - last batch was probably 2 years ago. After three or four days, I noticed that pressure was building inside the jar, pushing the "clicker" button on the lid upwards. I unscrewed the lid slightly to release the pressure, and a brief fizz of small bubbles came to the surface. They're on day 12 now, and they're continuing to gas up like that - every time I unscrew the lid to release the pressure, the gas builds up again within 4 days or so. Did I screw up? Are my lemons okay, or should I toss them and start again? I think they smell okay... although as I said, it's been quite a while, so I don't remember exactly how they should smell.
  4. In about three weeks I'll be moving to Rio de Janeiro for about a year. After living in the Bay Area most of my life, I'll be leaving our mediterranean climate for the tropics, and I need to learn how to cook with a whole new set of ingredients and pantry staples. I'm an experienced home cook, but my cooking really relies on the amazing fresh produce and meat that's available here in the Bay Area; also, my pantry is typically stocked with high-quality imported olive oil, anchovies, wine vinegars, whole spices, plus a lot of asian cooking staples like oyster sauce, fish sauce, curry pastes, tamarind pulp, palm sugar, etc. I imagine that I could find most of this stuff in Rio if I really searched, but it would probably be pretty pricey. I'd love to learn to cook great, interesting food using the local bounty in Rio. Where do I start? Can anyone recommend a good Brazilian cookbook or website that will help kick-start my inspiration for cooking with the palette of flavors available in Brazil? By the way, I speak portuguese, so a portuguese-language cookbook would be okay, although I'd probably have to learn a lot of cooking jargon. 'Brigado!
  5. It's the method given in a Vietnamese cookbook for use in savory dishes. I'm don't really have any experience with caramel-making, but I suppose there isn't really a difference. You'll have to pardon my ignorance. I'm going to try again tonight -- I'm going to try make sure that there are no sugar granules stuck to the side before I start, and I'll add a tablespoon of honey or corn syrup. Wish me luck!
  6. I attempted to make Vietnamese caramel syrup (for use in savory dishes) from a recipe in a Vietnamese cookbook, and it was a total disaster. Hopefully someone can explain what happened and how to do it right. The recipe says to put 1/4 cup of water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil without stirring over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is a deep brown and the bubbles become sluggish. Well, after 10-15 minutes the mixture was nowhere near brown. Maybe a slight golden tinge, but no more. So I kept simmering. After maybe 20 minutes, small clumps of crystals began to form, and at 25 minutes, the entire bubbling surface of the mixture was covered with crystallized clumps (still nowhere near a caramel brown color). I figured I should just procede with the recipe as instructed, removing the pan from the heat and slowly pouring in 1/4 cup hot water, then returning to the heat and stirring constantly over med-high heat until the caramel is dissolved. That's what the recipe said, anyway. I whisked for a few minutes as the mixture thickened up considerably, although the clumps of crystals never really fully dissolved. After five minutes or so, I added one teaspoon lemon juice (as instructed by the recipe) and took the pan off the heat to cool. Within a couple minutes, the entire mixture had seized up into a rock-hard block in the bottom of the saucepan that I had to pry out using a metal spatula as a chisel. Any ideas on what happened and how to do it right next time?
  7. For those of us without access to prepared/nixtamalized posole or enough time to do it ourselves, what's the volume conversion from dried to canned hominy? For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of prepared dried hominy, how much of the canned stuff would I use?
  8. I just returned from a fantastic week in Oaxaca (Go there now! There are no tourists and the city is tranquil and beaufitul). One of our favorite tastes of the city was the aromatic and spicy black bean puree used with tlayudas, quesadillas, huevos, and just about anything else. Does anyone know how to make this bean paste? I'm guessing it includes onion, garlic, herbs (maybe hoja de aguacate?), and perhaps dried chiles -- maybe the smoky pasilla de Oaxaca (I brought a ton of these back with me)? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  9. Jesse A

    Oaxaca Dining

    It seems that things have calmed down, so we've changed our plans and the girlfriend and I will be going to Oaxaca in mid-January. There's a lot of overwhelming information about eating in Oaxaca out there, so can anyone provide (or point me towards) a simple, straightforward guide to the best eats in Oaxaca? We'll have about four days in the city, and our main interest is rustic, traditional food, although we'd certainly try some "nueva cocina" (if that's the right term) if folks think it's worth doing. Street food as well. To give a sense of our budget... US$20-30 per person (not incl. drinks) for a meal would definitely be a splurge, although we could do it once or twice during the trip. So, break it down -- where do we need to eat, and what do we need to try?
  10. Just got this cookbook for Hanukkah and I couldn't find a thread on it, so I thought I'd start one for folks to discuss their favorite recipes and experiences cooking through this classic tome. I started out last night with penne in tuna sauce with tomatoes. Utterly simple and delicious, although 12 ounces of imported tuna packed in olive oil cost a whopping $20. Minced garlic, olive oil and canned tomatoes simmered for 25 minutes or so, then stir in tuna, a pat of butter, and black pepper. Toss with pasta and a bit of chopped parsley. Somehow, the butter and olive oil emulsify with the tomatoes to create a silky, creamy vehicle to bind the tuna with the pasta. Far greater than the sum of its parts. Alongside the pasta, we had broccoli sauteed with garlic and parsley. All in all, a ridiculously quick, easy, and delicious weeknight dinner. So, where to go from here? I know the ragu and the chicken with two lemons have been discussed at length; but what are some other gems in this book?
  11. This sounds right up my alley. Can you elaborate on the shallot vinaigrette? Is this just vinaigrette with finely diced shallots in it? ← Yup. I finely dice shallots, macerate them in the vinegar with salt and pepper for 10 or 15 minutes, whisk in olive oil, and drizzle over the toasts. I tend to make the vinaigrette a little on the sharp side since the avocados are so buttery. Enjoy, and let us know what you think.
  12. When I get absolutely perfect avocados from Will Brokaw at the Berkeley Farmer's Market, this is what I do: Slice avocado thinly, but not too thinly. Toast or grill slices of good country bread (I use Acme Levain). Arrance avocado slices on top. Drizzle with just enough balsamic (or sherry) shallot vinaigrette. Garnish with cilantro. Or parsley, or whatever appropriate herbs are on hand. This is far, far greater than the sum of its parts, with the crunchy bread, the rich avocado, the sharp bite of the vinaigrette, and the little bits of shalloty sweetness. Maybe my favorite summer snack. I think I got this idea from a cookbook at some point, but I have no idea where.
  13. That would be an adverse result. What was I thinking? I'll try it in the 5 1/2 quart LC. My main worry is that with the same amount of meat and liquid in a smaller pot, the braising liquid would be too high. Am I right to guess that I don't want liquid more than halfway up the meat? Edited to add: Can anyone recommend a good side dish/salad/accompaniment from the slow med book to go with the lamb shanks? Something that requires minimal last-minute preparation would be great.
  14. I've been slowly cooking my way through this book since I got it as a hannukah gift. We got some gorgeous asparagus last week from our wonderful CSA, Full Belly Farm, and made the pan-grilled asparagus and oyster mushrooms with pancetta/garlic puree. First of all, lightly charring the asparagus on a hot iron skillet gave it a delicious, smoky, grilled taste. As an apartment resident with no outdoor space, this is a great "grilling" technique to have in the arsenal. The finished dish was delicious -- the pancetta/garlic puree gave the mushrooms an incredibly rich, unctous quality. I do have a few questions for the rest of you. First, I have a good amount of this pancetta/garlic puree left in the fridge. Ms. Wolfert recommends using to flavor soups and beans. I'm making a bean soup tonight with some beautiful cranberry beans that have been sitting in the cupboard for a while -- seems like a good opportunity to use up this delicious stuff. However, won't the puree, which is basically cooked garlic pureed with raw pancetta and rendered duck fat, break when I add it to the bean soup? Will the duck and pancetta fat end up floating on the surface of the soup? Also, should I add it early in cooking to flavor the beans, or stir it in at the end? Will the salt in the puree make the beans tough if I add it too early? Also, I'm planning on making the fall-apart lamb shanks for my mom's birthday next week (she appreciates great food and loves lamb, but is too intimidated to cook it herself). The recipe recommends in a 7-quart enameled cast iron casserole. I have access to two 5 1/2 qt. LC french ovens, but nothing bigger. Would it work to put half the lamb in each casserole and braise them side by side? Also, the recipe serves six, but there are only three of us. Perhaps I could halve the recipe? I know that can often have mixed results for more involved, complex, multi-part recipes like this one. Any advice?
  15. Jesse A

    Coconut Milk

    Chaokoh is great - lots of thick coconut cream floating on top of the water, which is necessary for making curries (you first fry the curry paste in the cream, then add the water.) Chaodoc, in my experience, is a terrible product. The cans I've tried have been greasy/oily, and homogenized, making it impossible to separate the coconut cream. It also lacks the strong, rich coconut cream of Chaokoh and other good brands. I've found that Mae Ploy (larger 19 oz cans) is the creamiest of all, so I tend to use it for desserts and other dishes where I want a very rich, creamy coconut sauce.
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