a san francisco treat

A long long time ago, like practically right around the time I started writing this little blog, I posted a recipe about meatballs and a story about music, and how those things tie Chris and I together pretty succinctly. Coincidentally enough, I wrote that post right before we were about to head to California to do a little wine tasting, which is pretty much where we meet in the middle.

He usually picks the music, I pick the food, and we both pick the wine. Love it like that.

But a weekend or so ago, all we had to do was worry about the wine, which was easy because, well, we have a lot of it.

It’s one of those ideas that felt like it should have been something we thought of on our own, but we just aren’t the entrepreneurial type, as it turns out. We are certainly glad someone did. A San Francisco-based couple has a blog they call “Turntable Kitchen” where they pair food with music, and eventually they decided to take it another step and sell a monthly subscription to a dinner with music pairings. They send a record with a couple of songs, a link to a mixed CD they’ve made, and three recipes with a featured ingredient as well.

It’s genius. And again, why didn’t we think of the damn thing?!

For our first month’s dinner, we picked our ingredients on the way home from a hike around Mt Tam. It had been a nice, sunny day and we were ready for taking it easy. We grabbed our goods, grabbed showers, grabbed a bottle of wine from the cooler, and got our music listening/cook on.

For those of you who didn’t know, cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco. It has a subtle fennel flavor, and is loaded with tomatoes and practically overflowing with any kind of seafood you can imagine and truthfully, you can put whatever you damn well please into it.

It’s the perfect dish for taking it easy – you dump all of the sauce ingredients into the pot and let it simmer, you add your seafood, and you slurp it up over a nice glass or two of white wine. Meanwhile you can have some melt-in-your-mouth burrata on crostini and prepare the components for your dessert. Cioppino night is a laid-back, California type of night.

And the best part? you do it all while hanging out with the one you love – a day spent in the sun and amidst nature, and a night spent together in the kitchen, checking out some California tunes, which if I remember correctly, was a band called “NO”. But again, the music’s his deal, remember?

Cioppino
Adapted from Turntable Kitchen & Bon Appetit, December 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 1 hour, 30 minutes (45 active)

printable version

ingredients
3 T olive oil
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 1/2 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with juices
1 15 oz can of fish stock
1 c white wine (we adore Vermentino)
2 bay leaves
1 T fresh oregano
1 T fresh thyme
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (start with 1/2 t each and adjust as you see fit)
12 littleneck clams
12 mussels, cleaned and debearded
1/2 lb halibut, cut into 1″ pieces
1/2 lb bay scallops
1 lb large uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
sourdough bread, for serving

instructions
Heat oil in a large heavy pot (Dutch oven, if you have it) over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic, and green pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add diced tomatoes and juice, fish stock, wine, and spices (through salt). Mix together, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.
After the stew has simmered for about 45 minutes, add in the scallops, halibut, and shrimp. Once these start to turn opaque (3 minutes or so), stir in the clams and cover. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the mussels. Cook for 3-4 more minutes. Remove and discard of any clams/mussels that haven’t opened up at that point. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Ladle into 4 bowls and serve with nice crusty sourdough bread to carry that San Francisco treat all the way home.

Avocados in Paradise

Wherever Paradise is located, I’d love to go there someday. I think I could get used to lying on the beach, traversing mountains whenever I please, and climbing trees to knock down coconuts. I think I could be really happy watching the sun set from a warm pier with a cute little poodle or two at my side and a nice glass of really old Spanish wine in my hand.

I’m not sure if I’d really need a computer. Or a phone. And maybe I could even do without pork if I had endless coconuts, and seafood, and pretty pretty things to look at. Of course, there are tons of versions of Paradise, but that’s the one I have in mind today.

I’d have to make sure I’d have regular access to these two things: avocado and grapefruit. If grapefruits weren’t so dang messy, I’d delve into one at my desk every single day. But since they are, I settle for home-eating of said fruit. I used to eat these things like they were going outta style in the 80’s. My mom would cut them in half, give me and my brother each one half in a bowl, and sprinkle some sugar on top. Many of you might not have a clue about what a “grapefruit spoon” looks like, but we had a handful in my house – they’re like regular spoons, but somewhat pointy and serrated, so you can easily scoop out the fruit – genius! Sure, the juice always dripped into the bowl, but that was the best part – sugary grapefruit juice. Hells yes.

We didn’t consume avocado in my house. I was probably 25+ when I realized the awesomeness of guacamole, and avocado soup, and all sorts of other avocadocontaining lovelies. I don’t think they’d be very good with sugar on top, but otherwise I can imagine I’d eat an avocado most any way – even ice cream. And maybe plain while sitting at my desk.

If I did have both of those things in Paradise, I’m guessing I’d be alright eating this salad pretty much every day for the rest of my life. Okay, not every day, but at least a few times a week. Avocados are always tasty out West, and grapefruits are making their winter debut as we speak type. And when they’re both tossed around in, get this, more grapefruit (juice! vinaigrette!) it is really, really something.

The shrimp certainly don’t hurt the cause, either.

Of course, maybe your Paradise doesn’t have these things. Maybe your Paradise has chocolate and butter and bacon. Or cheeseburgers?! And cell phones and the internets. Yeah, those things are all good, too. For this month at least, this is what I crave. Next month is a whole other story.

Shrimp, Avocado, & Grapefruit Salad
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2011; serves 4

time commitment: ~45 minutes

ingredients
2 1/2 T olive oil, divided
1 lb peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1/2 t salt, divided
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 grapefruit
2 T chopped fresh tarragon
2 t brown sugar
1 t chopped shallots
6 c chopped romaine lettuce
1 peeled avocado, cut into 12 wedges

instructions
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 t oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle shrimp with 1/4 t salt and 1/8 t pepper. Add shrimp to pan; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done, stirring frequently. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Peel and section grapefruit over a bowl, reserving 3 tablespoons juice. Combine grapefruit juice, remaining 2 T oil, remaining 1/4 t salt, remaining 1/8 t pepper, tarragon, brown sugar, and shallots in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add lettuce; toss. Arrange 2 cups lettuce mixture on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with 3 avocado wedges; divide shrimp and grapefruit sections evenly among servings.