Archive for January, 2015

Phasing In & Out (but not In-N-Out)

This blog has done a lot of growing up over the past years. The transition from “.blogspot” to “.net” was perhaps the first milestone. The style switch from ‘lemme-show-you-ALL-the-pictures-I-just-took’ to a more refined approach to food documentation, another. Yet again, my brief foray into organic farming threw the blog a curveball, introducing a whole new section of the oft-overused idiom, “food for thought.”

Recently, The Pantry Raid transcended from being just another mess of recipes and photos to become a *real* food blog. That’s right folks, we’ve got a recipe index! For you, my loyal recipe skimmers and food porn fiends, this means that your scrolling days are over. You can now easily find exactly what you want, where and when you want it.

For me, this meant reliving the memories of each and every recipe I’ve ever posted here. I’m a firm believer that food is one of the best ways to make memories. Taste is so fleeting – once the food is gone, it’s gone. But it’s also infinite, for the aftertaste of your experience (the food, whom you were with, where you made it, what you talked about) sticks in your brain like the most stubborn Skittle plastered to your molar.

So, as I looked back at all the meals I’ve shared, recipes I’ve adapted, pictures I’ve taken, and people I’ve met, I was impressed to see that certain themes emerged. Food has been my proclaimed passion for five years now, but that passion has taken on many forms. In case you’re curious, here they are:

Gimme Some Suga’

When The Pantry Raid began, I knew little more than the recipes I’d made from books I’d read or made under the watchful eye of my parents and grandparents. I knew I liked food and I had a feeling it was important. But, in order to start my journey, I had to begin with my favorite ingredient: refined white sugar (can you see where this is going?). The first phase was a scattered mix of stolen-from-the-internet baked goods recipes (no one had yet told me about calories) and stolen-from-my-family meals that looked pretty through my camera lens. These edible training wheels are funny to think about, considering my current (and probably temporary) food philosophy.

banana dana bread

Bon Appétitification

The obvious next step of my foray into comestibles was a magazine subscription. When Bon Appétit first arrived in my mailbox (thank, Mom!), my eyes widened. Here was a collection of stories and recipes that were totally doable, not counting the frequent grocery story runs for obscure ingredients. I dog-eared the pages like it was my job and lapped up all the knowledge I could from the Prep School section. My adapted Bon Appétit recipes, like the Nam Pla Pork Chop and the Strawberry Basil Granita were the foundation for my being comfortable with cooking. I inserted myself into the Bon Appétit world, taking on its persona as my own, and hence, totally jumped the gun on adulthood at the tender age of 19. If I were gonna get anywhere near a can of beans, it was only to throw together Cast Iron Linguiça & Cannellini Stew, damnit!

My recipes boasted lengthy ingredient lists and time consuming steps, probably with the goal of impressing my readers and friends just as much as myself. Is my Only Child showing?

The roasted chicken was huge. My success here meant that I was no longer a copycat or fair weather cook. Roasting a chicken takes skill, I thought, and the fact that I could do it symbolized my transition from able-to-follow-directions to a real life cook.

nam pla pork chop

“Health”y

With this confidence came a sense of duty. I began to realize the power of food, not only as a memory maker and an expression of love, but as a form of sustenance. My recipes began featuring words like Omega 3, protein-packed, and superfood. I touted the benefits of each, though I admittedly was only sharing what I’d just learned, not imparting age-old knowledge from my mental Rolodex. The recipes from this phase reflect my personal shift to becoming a more conscious consumer. I’d yet to consider where my food came from and how that affected me, but I felt a deeper connection with my food, as a way to make myself feel good, not just satiated.

ogunquit maine

Californication

The second I moved to San Francisco, things started happening. First of all, I was intimidated as hell. In Boston, I knew more about food than anyone in my circle. I was abreast of the trends, the healthy options, and the best burger in town. Though, here I was a rookie. I didn’t even know that there were multiple types of kale, for goodness sake! I’d never thought about the benefits of eating organic, or remotely considered that meat might not be an excellent choice.

What had begun as an unfounded desire to be healthy became a fascination and an unquenchable curiosity about where food comes from and what goes into its production.

My first Chez Pannise experience was extraordinary – here was a damn fancy restaurant that served the most simple, yet exquisite, dishes. As a guest, I didn’t feel gypped – for one, because I wasn’t paying – but mostly because the quality was so evident in the simplicity of the food. I realized that delicious food doesn’t have to be a robust combination of flavors. It need only be made of a few select ingredients of the highest caliber.

The shift to simple “California Cuisine” certainly made things easier. I stopped religiously reading Bon Appétit in favor of visiting farmers’ markets and grocery stores to pick out what looked best – and only then translating it into something of which Alice Waters would be proud.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

In Too Deep

In the wise words of Phil Dunphy, I wanna go back. I wanna go back to the days of Farmer’s Frittatas and Hurried Curry. To the times when the most complicated question I’d ask myself in the grocery store was “chicken or pork?” I want to go back to loving Trader Joe’s more than anything and finding no greater pleasure than cracking open a bag of salt & vinegar chips.

But, alas, I’m in too deep. I’ve learned about GMOs, pesticides, monocropping, and the impact of the industrialization of farming on our climate, our population, and on our health. I’ve learned about animal husbandry, animal slaughter (both “humane” and inhumane), the insane amount of materials and money that goes into making meat. I’ve observed our national, and even global, addiction to meat and processed foods, while witnessing our unwavering indifference towards all of it. I’ve planted, read, raised, listened, and killed – all to learn more about where my food comes from.

flipjack ranch

What I’m left with is a lot of confusion. I can’t eat anything without wondering where it came from, who suffered to cause my momentary pleasure, how it’s affecting my body, and the impact that my food choices have on the environment. The answer is that, short of homesteading, which is entirely unfeasible for the majority of the population, there’s no way to be 100% “good.” I can choose to abstain from meat, but what about the raspberries grown in Watsonville and picked by hunched over, underpaid, and overworked immigrants? I can choose to eat meat that I can trace back to an ethically run family farm, but what about the fact that most animals have to be shipped (and, hence, traumatized) to a slaughterhouse if the farmer wants to sell commercially? I can choose to eat only organic, but what about my favorite restaurant that definitely doesn’t give a shit?

I’m grappling now with a heightened awareness and an ongoing philosophy that food is a vehicle for storytelling and memory making. Should I abstain from the garlic roast chicken I was practically raised on at Versailles in LA? How about Sticky Fingers at my all time favorite – B-Star? To me, the answer is “no”. Food is a nostalgia and pleasure trigger. Sure, I can enjoy organic veggies day in and day out, but so much of my food experiences are built around non-organic, non-local, non-traceable food. So, I’m currently struggling to strike a balance between awareness and happiness. It makes me sad that I’ll never enjoy a steak the way I used to. But I guess that’s just growing up.

My recent recipes have, and continue to be more conscious, more vegetarian, and more simple. The phase I’m in now feels unfaltering and permanent, though I’d bet that I’d have said the same thing back in the day when Bon Appétit was my bible.

Spicy Crunchy Cauliflower

spicy crunchy cauliflower

When I left San Francisco for my WWOOFing adventure, I didn’t know when or if I’d be returning. That sounds more ominous than it actually was, but at the time it felt just as ominous as it sounded. I was a recent college grad – jobless, homeless (in reality, I had a lot of homes), and freaked the heck out about my undetermined future.

But, as they tend to do, things worked themselves out and I found myself a wonderful job smack dab in the middle of San Francisco. That took care of the job part; now how about the home part? Luckily enough, my Illinois-based grandmother had decided to spend the winter in San Francisco and sublet a charming flat in Noe Valley. Guess how many bedrooms. Two! It was smooth sailing.

The past couple months have been exceptional. Our place is a 15-minute bike ride to work and a mere two blocks from the Mission. Plus, I get to live with my grandmother, which is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me. Now I know that not all grandmothers are alike, so I can’t exactly advise that if you ever have the chance to live with your grandmother, you should take it. But I can say with confidence that if you ever have the chance to live with my grandmother, you’d be a fool to walk away.

If there’s one thing she and I have in common, it’s a love of food. Even more so, it’s a love of cooking it. Where I’m usually winging it in the kitchen, Savta (grandmother in Hebrew) knows every trick in the book. Together, we’ve played around with cake, kale, salmon, and now – you guessed it – cauliflower.

organic cauliflower

A couple weeks ago, my dad was in town for the holidays. Being the pizza aficionado that he is, it only seemed right to taste test one of SF’s beloved ‘za spots. Pizzeria Delfina is right in the neighborhood – just a few steep hills away. In addition to the carbonara pizza (wow!) and burrata (double wow), we ordered a side of their famed cauliflower. In the past, cauliflower never really crossed my mind as something I would want to eat. It never occurred to me that this cabbage-y thing was anything special. But, per the waiter’s recommendation, I obliged.

whole foods cauliflower

Good thing, too. This cauliflower was charred and crunchy, spicy and rich. The flavors and textures were better than most Brussels sprouts I’ve eaten, which is saying a lot because b-sprouts are my main squeeze. Here was a wholesome veggie-forward side that rivaled the pizza as the favorite dish of the night.

delfina cauliflower recipe

I might have ordered seconds if not for the burrata that swooped in and captivated my attention.

Much like the Schoolhouse Kale Salad, I finished that meal knowing I’d have to recreate it. A simple Google search led me right to the recipe, but we didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand, so, instead, we created a simplified, though similarly prize worthy rendition.

pizzeria delfina cauliflower

By pan-frying the cauliflower, the outside gets brown and crispy while the inside stays tender and creamy. Sautéing it with the spicy pepper infuses a slight tinge of heat – just the right amount so you taste it, but not so much that your lips go numb.

sauteed cauliflower recipe

Though we served it as a side (along with a whole pan-grilled Branzino), this could easily hold its own as a main course, or even beneath a soft poached egg.

spicy cauliflower easy

I’m telling you, cauliflower is the new Brussels sprout. Delfina is on to something, and Savta and I are following.

the pantry raid

Ingredients (serves 2-4)

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • 1 2-inch calabrese or other hot pepper, seeds removed and sliced into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Few pinches Parmesan cheese
  1. Rinse the cauliflower and cut florets from one another. Halve or quarter them, depending on size. Each piece should be no longer than 1.5 inches. Small bits will fall off, which is desired.
  2. In a medium frying pan, heat ½ an inch of olive oil until just bubbling. Add the cauliflower and a pinch of salt to the hot oil and sauté for 5 minutes, until pieces are starting to get browned. Keep the heat high.
  3. Add garlic and pepper and sauté until most of the cauliflower is charred and the insides are tender but not mushy.
  4. Place in a serving bowl and top with fresh Parmesan cheese. Serve piping hot.

Schoolhouse Kale Salad

schoolhouse kale salad

The first time I visited The Albion Schoolhouse, I slept in the principal’s office. No – this is not the beginning of some fetish-y erotica…sorry Tinder stalkers. On the contrary, The Albion Schoolhouse is a 1921 school-turned-vacation-rental recently purchased by two of the coolest women I know. My aunts – Rabbi Sydney Mintz and documentary filmmaker Justine Shapiro – bought the Albion Schoolhouse this summer, and our lives haven’t been the same since.

albion schoolhouse

The Schoolhouse is one of those places where stories are made. Walking through the colossal front doors and into the library/stage room, you’re overcome with the sense that this place is more than plaster and windows and floor – its energy is inviting as you are beckoned in to make your own memories within its walls.

the albion schoolhouse

This summer, Sydney and Justine convinced me to play hooky from work and join them for a long weekend in Mendocino, where The Schoolhouse is located. We spent the weekend arranging and re-arranging furniture, attending the Mendo Music Festival, curling up in front of the enormous blazing fire, and speculating on all of the iterations that the space could embody.

Since then, the Principals – Justine and Sydney, have been hard at work getting the place in tip-top shape. From the Wolf range to the roof to the piping and beyond – this house has been keeping my aunts plenty busy. Today, you can book your vacation on VRBO, learn about the house’s history on The Albion Schoolhouse’s website, and stay up to date on the official Facebook page.

mendocino event rentals

As beautiful as the place looks online, the real magic happens when you see it in person. Hence, Justine and Sydney decided to play show and tell and invited their friends and colleagues to join them for a party worthy of The Albion Schoolhouse.

albion school mendocino

In true wacky ASH form, this was a pajama party. Two hundred of San Francisco’s finest caravanned up the California coast and filed between those giant front doors dressed in flannel, silk, lace and fleece. The night was a memorable one, despite the constant flow of Moscow Mules and local wine. Between the passed hand-dipped corn dogs and the, uh, entertaining(?) talent show, we all piled into the master bedroom-turned-dining hall for a feast like no other.

sienna mintz

Hard at work or…

When they said there would be kale salad the likes of which I’ve never before tasted, I scoffed. Salad is rarely the centerpiece of a dinner party. It’s kind of like the thing before the thing; an inferior prelude before the big shebang arrives. Well, this salad was the big shebang. That’s not to say that the mulligatawny stew that followed wasn’t also a wow dish, but dammit if I’ll ever look at kale the same way again.

organic lacinato kale

The salad was shiny with lemon juice. The kale was macerated just so – not too soggy nor too hearty. The slight kick of fresh garlic and rich Parmesan flavor were subtle, but there. Everyone was shocked; jaws dropped as they fought over the leftovers and licked the serving bowls. This wasn’t just a good salad. This was something that I wanted to eat every single day for the rest of my life.

The Schoolhouse salad stuck with me. That certain je ne sais quoi was seared into my taste buds for good, leaving me jonesing for more. Back in San Francisco, I had no choice but to do everything in my power to replicate it.

parmesan cheese

What I came up with was pretty darn close. It was a game of improv, in which I did my best to transport myself back to that unforgettable Albion night and channel the balance of flavors in the schoolhouse salad.

The good news is that, as far as salads go, this is as easy as it gets. (That is, aside from buying a Chicken Caesar Salad at Starbucks, which is criminal.) The ingredients are few and it’s a “set it and forget it” dish that you can prepare long before the guests arrive. Plus, it’s a three-in-one. The stems left behind after you strip the kale (which sounds like sneakers on a basketball court) can be sautéed with garlic and butter for a delicious snack. And, the excess green lemon juice/olive oil stuff, left after massaging the kale, makes a great simple dressing for a crunchy romaine salad the next day.

Both salad and kale get a facelift in this recipe. Believe me, you’ll never think of either the same way again. Extra points if you make it while staying at The Albion Schoolhouse!

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 8 cups Lacinato kale
  • 1 large lemon
  • Olive oil drizzle
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  1. Rinse and de-stem the kale. Pinch the base of each leaf, and pull the stem through, releasing it from the leafy parts.
  2. Slice kale into small strips.
  3. In a bowl large enough to fit all the kale, combine greens, lemon, and little olive oil. Use your hands to macerate the kale, squeezing it like it’s a stress ball. Do this until it almost looks like mush.
  4. Mix in garlic and Parmesan cheese. Set aside for at least 30 minutes or, at most, one day. Serve at room temperature.
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