Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Almond "Brittle"

The "brittle" is in quote marks because it's not actually hard and brittle, but more crispety-crunchety. *cough* [Side note: Instead of typing "cough", I repeatedly typed "gough" then "gouge". I don't know why.]

The crispier, less hard/brittle quality is achieved by throwing in a pinch of bakig soda into a pretty straight-forward brittler recipe... Which is just hardened, caramelized sugar.

WHOA, hold on there, cowboy.

I just looked up some peanut brittle recipes to check that my assertion was correct, only to find that many already contain baking soda! I am totally shocked. Well, why the hell are they so brittle and hard then? Sheesh.

I guess there is no secret recipe to give away here then. My version was a modification of something I had previously posted about, where you basically add toasted slivered almonds.

One of the interesting things we had at Gordon Ramsay was something off the dessert tray called "honeycomb". It was this rich deep golden colored crunchy, sugarly confection with all sorts of holes in it, much like a honeycomb. I believe that is exactly like the recipe I posted, except with the addition of honey for flavoring. I loved the novelty of finding something so low-brow (IMO) at a high-brow place, but I supposed I shouldn't have been so surprised as GR often extolls the virtues of getting food that people already like (like home-y stuff) and making it well. Another delightful item was cotton candy. It was just cotton candy. Fun! :D

In actuality, I think I prefer the plain sugar version of the brittle. And it's better when it's pressed out into uber-thin leaves.

Lakeshore/Grand Restaurants

Wow, things are really happening out here. In addition to the much-touted and much-awaited Trader Joe's hitting our main street sometime this year, we are seeing a whole new crop of kick-ass restaurants in the area.

Last night, we went to the newly-opened Flavors of India, where we had a kick-ass (pardon the repeat), albeit slow, meal. We were warned about the backed-up kitchen though, so we knew we were in for a wait, but we still wanted to give it a try. It seemed like they were working out their first week kinks, so that wasn't a problem for me.

Having just finished the leftovers from last night, I'd have to say I'm extremely happy about its opening! We had veggie pakoras, lamb chole, and a chicken dish (I don't remember quite which one we got), garlic nann, onion kulcha, and a mango lassi.

I don't really know Indian food that well, so there's that. But I do know when things taste in balance and when bread has a good chew and when meat is tender and flavorful. And last night's dinner was all of those things and more. The reviews of the other location in Rockridge seem to indicate that they serve Northern Indian cuisine. The menu indicated that every dish was cooked to order and the vegan and kid-friendly dishes were marked clearly. The service was nice but you can tell the waitstaff was nervous, probably because they are all new to the restaurant (I don't know if anyone came over from the Rockridge location), and I'm sure they will get their groove on soon.

While searching around on Yelp for a review for this restaurant, I also found rave reviews of Neecha Thai, which is located on Grand Ave, where Cafe Pirawan used to be. It is an upscale (I can't tell how upscale) Thai restaurant, a branch of a well-loved one in San Francisco. Between this restaurant, Flavors of India, and L'amyx Tea Bar, it seems like the best candidates for the area are all branches of proven establishments. I don't know how I feel about that. Well, at least these are all local joints.

Another restaurant that recently opened in Grand Ave strip is Cafe DiBartolo. By "recently opened", what I actually mean is, "has been around for two years but I never even noticed because I'm oblivious like that". ... Well, ok then. I'll have to try it, as the reviews are pretty good.

Lakeshore has one additional new restaurant opening "soon" (I have no idea when): Vine, which bills itself as a wine bar and tapas lounge. I sure like tapas. I think it's because I'm Korean and always want a lot of little dishes around me when I eat. Just for my leftovers, I used one plate and two bowls! I don't know. I'm just like that.

Yet another eagerly-awaited restaurant will be coming next year:
Russell Moore—a chef and buyer for Chez Panisse—and partner Allison Hopelain will open a restaurant at 3917 Grand Avenue [map] in Janary 2008.

A few Grand Lake neighbors met with Russell and Allison on February 26 to hear the couple’s plans.

Although we’ll have to wait until early 2008 for the food, what we learned is that they intend for the restaurant to be warm, inviting, and affordable, serving good healthy meals to food lovers in both our and surrounding neighborhoods. They plan to procure their produce and meats as locally as possible.
- From Grand Lake Guardian.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New dishes

Today, I made two things I had never made before:
  • Thai Basil Eggplant & Jasmin Rice
  • Almond "Brittle"
I had bought eggplant, some chili peppers, garlic, onion, and basil from the farmer's market on Saturday, so the eggplant dish was definitely going to make itself known this week. Since I work from home on Tuesdays, today was the day.

I cut up the eggplant into 1.5" inch chunks, salted them, and let them sit on a rack for about half an hour. I rinsed off the salt, patted the chunks dry, then popped them under the broiler for about 5 minutes.

I heated up the wok, threw on some soy bean oil, then sauteed some sliced onions until softened but not fully cooked. I took them out of the wok and put aside. I did the same thing with the eggplant. Exciting.

Back in the empty wok, I heated up some more oil (on a lower flame than before) and threw in several cloves of minced garlic, two chopped up chili peppers, and about 5 of those fiery little dried red peppers that sometimes come in Chinese dishes. After about 30 seconds to a minute, I dumped in the eggplant and onions.

I cooked them all together for a bit, then threw in the sauce, which consisted of about 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce, 2 tablespoons (loosely packed) brown sugar, and 3/4 cup water, and let things simmer under the eggplant felt done.

I poured on a mixture of cornstarch (2 tsp) and cold water (1/4 cup) and stirred over heat to thicken.

I turned off the heat, threw in some basil leaves, some chiffonaded, some ripped, some whole, and tossed. Seppo and I dug in with some jasmin rice which I made in the rice cooker.

Next time, I'd like to add bell peppers, chili peppers which are hotter (the ones I used were very mild and fruity, and not hot at all), and use real Thai basil. Maybe also add more soy sauce and some fried tofu. Yum.

Almond brittle coming soon.