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?

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

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

printable version

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

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.

Millions of Peaches…Well, Just 4

grilled peaches
Oh my. I realized I forgot to talk about dessert from Saturday. Remember – it’s been a long week and I haven’t been thinking quite as clearly as usual. But still – you thought it was just pork chops and chile rellenos? Meh – you have no faith.. I mean, not that I made pie or oreos or baklava (yep – post coming soon!), but I did make a tasty treat. I can’t invite guests over and leave them without dessert – that’s just bad press. And it’s not nice. I’m nice. Most of the time.

Way before dinner on Saturday, my buddy Jennifer and I were at Green City Market. I didn’t have anything exciting to purchase, but could probably go just to gawk, hoping to run into a famous chef and/or sample all of the peaches and plums, most any weekend. She, on the other hand, had a mission: blueberries. Oh, and the Floriole Bakery scones. Damn they’re good. Blueberry this time. You remember those strawberry scones I made from my blogger buddy‘s site? Mmmmm….. I want to make them with blueberries now, and think I just might with some of those frozen berries from the other weekend. But this isn’t about blueberries. It is about fruit though. Peaches, if you were wondering. Millions of ’em. [Although FYI: I did pick up some lovely green zebras too. Stay tuned!]

grilled peaches

Ok no. Not millions. Although they did have millions at the market – near ’bout. Who knew peaches came in so many flavors! We’d been waiting for those Michigan peaches at the market for a while. I’ve already packed some away in a jar for safekeeping, but I was feelin’ the need for some fresh ones. Some grilled fresh ones. To follow protocol, we first made a bee line to the scones and then wandered around comparing peaches & berries (and prices, of course – gots to find the bargains!) until we decided on Ellis Farms for her berries and my peaches. Of course, Jennifer had some stock in the peaches too, since she was going to partake in their after-dinner glory.

I think people really started grilling like mad this year. I’ve seen a lot of posts about grilled fruit, especially grilled peaches. And although we grill a decent amount of things, I’m afraid my peaches have never really made it to the grill – they made it in my belly though, which is all that matters. But to stick with the grilling theme of the night, I figured why not join in on the fun? And I just happened to have some mascarpone cheese in the fridge. What? You guys don’t keep that stuff hanging around?! Oh snap… Ok – me neither. I had it for Battle Fig but ended up cutting corners and using made-in-baking-class-(frozen)-eclair-shells for another recipe. It was for the best – these peaches were begging to have some of that cheese slapped on them, and otherwise I honestly would not have had that stuff in the fridge.

peaches with mascarpone

I’ve seen a decent amount of grilled peach recipes, from blog posts to cooking magazines and even on NPR. For whatever reason, I didn’t feel like using any of them. I think the premise is pretty simple and you can sorta make whatever you want, but if you choose to use a recipe, you might consider using this one because well, quite frankly, it’s delicious. De-li-cious. yes.

peaches half-eaten

Grilled Peaches w/ Mascarpone & Thyme-Balsamic Sauce
Original recipe; serves 4

Grilling peaches brings out the lovely sweetness of the fruits which pairs perfectly with the slightly sweetened mascarpone cheese for a great taste all on its’ own. But try the sauce with it for an added tanginess. The thyme infusion adds another level of flavor that makes the dessert unique and special. I’m sure this same recipe would be great with figs or other fruits, and I’m sure you could also substitute the thyme with other herbs, like rosemary or my favorite, basil.

4 fresh peaches, washed, halved and cored (peel only if you want – I don’t)
evoo for brushing peaches
1/2 c mascarpone cheese
2 T honey
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2-3 T brown sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme plus some for garnish

Brush peaches with oil. Preheat grill to med-hi. While grill is preheating, prepare cheese and syrup. Mix mascarpone and honey together in small bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and thyme springs and let reduce for about 10 minutes, until thick and syrup-y consistency. Remove from heat and let cool somewhat.

Grill peaces for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Add a dollop of cheese mixture into each cored out peach half and drizzle with syrup. Eat peaches in their entirety and then lick syrup from plate. Don’t worry – it’s in the recipe – so you can do it 🙂