Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A New Leaf

It was the dizziness in the morning that alarmed me. And the sudden cravings for something sweet mid-afternoon that gave me a clue. When I went to the doctor, my blood pressure was 168/90.

I was scared. Bad cholestrol was higher than the good kind, and fasting blood glucose was high normal at 100, when it should be in the low 60s.

So now, the changes begin.

Instead of the occasional gym, one Pilates workout and two classes at Rhythm and Motion, it will be five classes, one gym session and Pilates workout for the unforeseeable future. I will walk with my workmates during lunchtime, and get my big ass out of the desk every hour to stretch and take a walk through the building I work.

Butter is verboten. And sob, no more pork with fat. Salt use down by half and white sugar and flour are tossed. Instead of blogging four hours, I will do something to organize my house better. Toss out old clothes, shoes and those fucking papers that have accumulated in my computer hutch.

A note to my family and friends - no, I'm not going to die. I'm going to manage myself better. I won't tell you how many pounds I want to lose, but I will tell you I have a long, hard slog.

But does this mean I will have no more gustatory pleasure in my future? Am I not going to cook anymore? Am I not going to share what comes from my ample table with others?

Hell. Fucking. No.

What I will do is make what I've got work. And use the pallette that fabulous and healthy food provides to make this new leaf work. So today's recipe is for ginger carrot soup.

6 big carrots, sliced
1/2 sweet maui onion sliced
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbs. grated ginger

Braise the carrots, onions and ginger in the broth until tender. Pour mixture in blender to puree, or use a hand blender to do the same thing. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, or blue cheese, or feta.

Now get your butt out there and walk for 30 minutes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Food that Makes a City Great

I've never been one to sprint to the latest trendy restaurant in this city. I live in a region so diverse and food-obsessed that its a constant, pleasurable process trying to figure out what you want to eat for lunch or dinner. Low $? High $$$? Chinese, fusion, Latin, European, American, pizza, shawerma, pozole or soup dumplings? By the time you've narrowed down your choices, your blood insulin levels go off the chart, you become delirious and head for the nearest Rite-Aid for a bag of chips and the rack with the latest edition of the SF Bay Guardian and its food review section.

It can stress you out.

UPDATED: I am grateful that I live in a region where its a veritable genie's lamp as far as food choices. And I have my preferences: tapas on Valencia Street (Ramblas is great for that), the Los Compadres taco truck at the Civic Center parking lot for their Lengua Super Tacos, perfect chicken congee and fresh-fried Chinese donuts at Hung Ling on Broadway, or the $9 worth of dim sum that you can pick up at the place near 6th and Clement that can easily feed a family of four. The fresh warm hand-made tamales by the women who manufacture their food products at La Cocina in the Mission District. The incredibly soft pan dulce at the Mexican panaderia run by Chinese bakers on Mission between 24th and 25th.

The entire list can read like the first chapters of a gustatory Genesis.

I love that my city does not mess around when it comes to food. Evidence the farmer's markets that occur weekly throughout the city. Now I am not going into which restaurant serves the best gnocchi, or who has the most unctuous uni, or whose pizza crust is the best (a topic of considerable controversy). And I don't care about who serves the best martini, fried olives or roast duck. That isn't my point. There are tons of writers who DO research and investigate that. I'm talking about MY San Francisco, and its a personal journey de cuisine.

I prefer the braised chicken feet at City View over everyone else's, but that doesn't mean I don't love Ton Kiang's scallion dumplings. Its just that there's a difference in approach to each at each site to merit frequenting both. And I always go to Mara's Italian Bakery on Columbus because on a cold rainy day, a latte and a slice of their almond cake makes you ache with pleasure from the soul. Hayes Street Grill's creme brulee is the absolute, while the hamburger with a crisp cold martini at Zuni Cafe provides an experience in pure satisfaction. And I happen to love the shaken beef at Sunflower (Vietnamese) Restaurant on Valencia Street, and willing to stand in line after an evening of theater to get my fix, along with a Vietnamese crepe and a Singha. A perfect Saturday night. And then there's the ritual weekday lunchtime trek to the Tenderloin where a perfect chicken biryani awaits.

There are thousands of personal journeys undertaken each day in this culinary hub. Its a small city, yes, with less than a million people. But it stands pretty well-balanced on its shaky seismic legs, has managed to re-build and transcend itself many times over, and still has room for the traditional and experimental.

When you're in a city at the very edge of your continent, there's nowhere to go but everywhere.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Babe-a-licious - A Love Note to My Boys

I dedicate this special recipe post to my boys Nikko, Jake, Addison and their pals. In an endeavor to help them improve their cooking skills and perhaps impress a few women while they're at it, I've set about to make this post a first of I hope many to help them become more than adept in the kitchen, perhaps inspiring actual meal prep from salad to dessert, instead of the meal in a microwave bag, cup o' noodles slag or the never-ending onslaught of carbs and cheese called le pizza.

Come on guys, its fun and its EASY to cook. Also--it saves you some much-needed bucks for the latest X-Box iteration of brain-fritzing.

Before I begin, there is only one credo in the kitchen that you must adhere to. Practice makes perfect.

For example, when it comes to doing anything having to do with eggs, practice makes perfect. Let's take a look at the audaciously rich sabayon (or as the Italians say: zabaglione). Egg yolks and Marsala whisked heavily OVER, not in, boiling water. It sounds easy enough, but here are words to the wise.

Watch. Your. Whisking. Practice, practice, practice.

Pre-assemble your ingredients, making sure your eggs are at room temperature before you begin. Separate yolks from white, and save whites for another use (omelettes come to mind), and pour yolks into large metal bowl (large enough to go OVER, not in, a pot of boiling water. Add marsala.

Whisk the shit out of it until the yolks-marsala are foamy AND form firm peaks. You are actually cooking the yolks while they are whisking. Just DON'T allow the bowl with the yolks to touch the boiling water. Once this portion of the sabayon is ready, take it off the heat. Set aside. It should pour off your whisk like a thick sauce. You're done.

Pour a half-pint container of whipping cream into a chilled bowl. Add 1/3 c. sugar. Whip the shit out this until the whipping cream is firm--close to butter but not quite. Fold the whipped cream into the fluffy egg yolks and combine, briefly. Serve immediately or you can serve the sabayon chilled. Pour over strawberries, cherries, berries, or any other fresh fruit.

Now go out there and thrill the babes.

Ingredient List
4 eggs, separated
1/3 c. marsala or other sweet liquor (amaretto, calvados, even kahlua if you want a coffee effect)
1/2 pint of whipping cream
1/3 c. sugar (for whipping cream)

The list above should cost you no more than $15 at Trader Joe's (especially if you go for their generic amaretto).

Final note: You need to proportionally increase the recipe volume if you have more mouths to feed. The above recipe feeds two generously as a sauce over fruit. If you want to increase it to make individual puddings, double the recipe. It translates and volumizes easily and well.