Friday, May 31, 2013

Spring Tasting Menu at AQ..... or as I would like to call it- Eating a beautiful Fairy Garden

Preface: Blogger format is doing weird things and sort of.... smooshing my long pictures into squares....which is the worst because this is a primarily picture post. Hopefully it looks ok on your screens this was the most beautiful food I've ever eaten.

This post is looooooong over due and I think the main reason I have put it off is frankly because trying to describe this meal is one of the most overwhelming things I've ever considered doing. As part of my birthday celebrations I planned a fancy culinary date with myself. Dinner and a Show. Infamous food.... personality Anthony Bourdain and Esteemed Michelin Starred Chef Eric Ripert have taken their unique friendship on the road with a show of sorts "Good vs Evil" in which they discuss their views on the many facets of today's food culture along with other funny life experiences etc. When I saw that it would be in SF the week after my birthday I bought a ticket right away. I wasn't sure this was really the type of thing I could drag anyone else along for (the tickets weren't really cheap) so it became a fancy date night with myself. If I was going to have a proper culinary evening I needed to start it out with a unique dining experience. To my delight AQ restaurant is just a few walkable blocks from the Orpheum theater. Win win!

Situated in a busy but not entirely savory part of the city, walking up to it AQ doesn't seem overly distinct however as soon as you approach and cross the threshold you have entered their world. The decor is adamantly seasonal letting you know that it is indeed spring time. High ceilings, white walls (where there isn't brick) add a lightness and various vegetation both live and cut greet you everywhere you look. Even the bathrooms are beautiful.

The open kitchen surrounded by "chef's table" seats is a show in and of it's self. I'm immediately struck by how YOUNG the staff appears. Fresh faced American culinary school grads to be sure. And with food this exacting they would have to be. The two Garde Mangers couldn't have been a day over 21, at the oldest perhaps the Chef for the evening and his Sous.... neither of them could have been over 30. Dining alone I couldn't have asked for a better seat than right at the edge of the plating station where all the action was going down. AQ's plates are by far some of the most beautiful I have ever witnessed along with the most precisely plated. We are talking tiny flowers placed with tweezers precise people.
My place is set with the dinner and beverage menus but I don't need to look. I've already done my research and thanks in part to my co workers generous gift certificate birthday gift I'm going whole hog and doing the Tasting Menu along with Beverage pairings. Here is where I have to apologize. In my lolly gagging they have changed their tasting menu (as they often do) and I didn't save the exact menu. So some Items may be a bit haphazardly labelled from the best of my memory. Never the less the pictures are beautiful!

The Amuse Bouche: Asparagus Milk "Cloud" with pistachio
First Course: Veal with veal fat and mint "snow" melted with a veal consumme
Second Course: Roasted Beet in Consumme
Third Course (my favorite visually): Strawberry & Watermelon Gazpacho with Sashimi
Fourth Course (my favorite flavor-wise): Beef Tongue with Soft Boiled Egg & Tarragon Cake
Fifth Course: Skate Wing
Sixth Course: Pork Belly
Palate Cleanser before Dessert: Chilled Watermelon consumme With  White Chocolate
Dessert: Chocolate Cake with Lavender Ice Cream, Crisp honeycomb, & Candied Walnuts
To go into great detail on all the flavors and textures would honestly be next to impossible. This full sensory experience was next to overwhelming. Like traipsing through "A Mid Summer Nights Dream" with your eyes and your palate this was a distinctive experience I don't think I'll soon top. The Beverage pairings were exacting and obscure (and I'd embarrass myself trying to type them out to you unfortunately... I could have used a written guide the servers rattled them off pretty quickly).

I was glad by the time I was done that I had arrived a little early for my reservation, my meal took almost 2 hours. Sated and enthused I walked the few blocks to the Orpheum fully of food adventure excitement. The boys did not disappoint with their witty repartee. I couldn't help but tweet a few Bourdain Zingers that stood out such as "Martha- she will shank a bitch" "Cigarettes, why god made salt" and "If their are 5 things I'm proud of one of the was writing a part for Emeril on TV where he could say F@#$" and lastly that an iteration of Tuna Tartare makes him sad. Eric Ripert would like to die the death of an Ortolan Bird.... Fattened up and drowning in cognac. And he enjoys a late night snack of Chorizo.

I hope the excitement of this whole evening stays with me a long time... and that I can somehow budget another tasting dinner at AQ another season soon!

Strawberry Rhubarb Gallette and Foodie Laziness

I hated pie as a child. Ok that's probably an exaggeration but it just did not float my boat. The gelatinous texture of the processed fruit contained in the crust which, unless my grandma made it, was probably underwhelming just could never match up to say cake or other confections. The only pie I loved as a child was my grandma's Pumpkin Pie with fresh cinnamon spiked whipped cream. A family favorite was Strawberry Rhubarb which we had regularly when visiting my grandparents out in Sebastopol (hippy wine country for you who are not familiar). Again as long as my Grandma made it, fresh out of the oven, it passed muster with my young taste buds. As I've gotten older I've gotten.... let's say more "comfortable" with pies, but it wasn't until I started making Gallette's that I started to love them. As you have probably read in a couple of my earlier posts a Gallette is essentially a flat pie. The crust is rolled out on a baking sheet, the filling spread decoratively in a single layer in the center and the edges rustically folded up to hold it all together. I've always been a fan of good crust and what I realized I like most about the gallette vs a standard pie is that the fruit filling gets tender but not slimy. Because it is open to the heat radiating through the oven and in a single layer the juices and sugar don't form the thick syrup (at least not as much, some depends on your fruit of choice). Now that summer is upon us it felt like time for some strawberry rhubarb goodness and so last night for my own pleasure I crafted a strawberry rhubarb Gallette.

Deciding to make this brought out a little bit of the, let's call it grocery snob, in me. I was first thinking about making it Tuesday and I thought for convenience I'd swing by the Lucky's across the street. WRONG. They weren't selling rhubarb. I wasn't aware this was an exotic ingredient. Rhubarb requires cold temperatures to grow and mature so by the end of Spring we should have plenty in stores. Apparently not. As I strolled around Lucky's  trying to buy a few other things I realized how much my opinions on some ingredient purchases have changed over the years.

Last night I went to Whole Foods where I found the rhubarb I needed and decided to indulge in some off the beaten path Ice Cream to compliment my baking. Three Twins has all kinds of wonderful flavors but my current favorite is Dad's Cardamom.
Simple yet exotic the spicy almost (but not quite) orangezesty essence of Cardamom flavors give this  ice cream a grown up flair. Playing off the sweet tart strawberry rhubarb and the lavender sugar that I laced through out the fruit and crust this dessert was exquisitely rustic and charming. And just the tiniest bit food snobby.

Strawberry Rhubarb Gallette


  • 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 Tablespoon white sugar (lavender sugar if you are feeling fancy)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 7 Tablespoons cold butter cut in small chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons (or as needed) cold water
  • Milk or egg wash for edge of crust, 1 Tblsp Turbinado sugar for decoration if desired

Fruit Topping:

  • 2 Medium/Large Stalks of Rhubarb cut in 1/4 in slices
  • 1/2 Pint of Fresh Strawberries hulled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup white sugar (lavender sugar if you are feeling fancy)

In a medium bowl whisk together flours, sugar, & salt. With your fingers smoosh chunks of cold butter into the dry mix until it resembles a coarse meal (with this ratio of butter to dry ingredients it may even being to come together in a ball). 1 Tablespoon at a time add in cold water until the dough forms a ball. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or up to a day).

While your dough is chilling slice your strawberries and rhubarb and combine in a bowl with the sugar, set aside letting the fruit macerate in it's own liquids extracted by the sugar.

Preheat oven to 350 F

Once the dough is chilled let it rest (8-10 min) on a piece of parchment paper large enough to roll it out on that has been floured. Top with another piece of parchment paper to save on mess and begin to roll out your dough into a rustic circle patching cracks as needed with pieces of dough from the edge. Roll to about an 1/8 of an inch thickness (close to a 14 inch diameter). Transfer your bottom parchment piece with the dough circle to a baking sheet, preferably one with an edge should you have an juice leakage. Top with your fruit, being sure to leave the extra juices created in the bowl, leaving a 2 inch border around the edge. Once all of your fruit is arranged (mine came out in a sort of double layer which was good with such small pieces) fold the edges over with the help of the parchment paper (mine always end up in a sort octagon shape) brush crust edge with milk or egg wash and sprinkle with the coarse turbinado sugar for decoration. Transfer baking sheet into the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Once it is out of the oven I like to let it rest for just a couple minutes while the fruit juices settle and thicken then serve warm or at room temp with your favorite mild ice cream ( I suggest the Three Twins Cardamom!!)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

SPQR Cook the Book Class with San Francisco Cooking School

Bright orange awnings welcome as you enter the pristine work space of the San Francisco Cooking Schools showcase Kitchen. Windows encompass the front walls right on the busy corner of Van Ness & Turk just steps away from the iconic Civic Center building giving the passerby the opportunity to perchance see some culinary marvels at work. Tonight's class will be learning recipes from the city's own SPQR restaurant's cook book. A gorgeous tome filled with not only appealing recipes but also information on regional wines and illumination on the areas that inspired the dishes, which may also inspire you to hop on the first plane you can catch to Italy!
As the class trickles in to the space we are greeted enthusiastically by the staff and welcomed to take a seat at one of two long tables set with dinner ware, an apron embroidered with the school's emblem, and our recipes which we are encouraged to peruse. Tonight's class will be preparing:

Scallop Crudo with Sunchokes
Chilled Asparagus Soup with Lemon Yogurt
Spring Vignarola Salad
Fontina & Mushroom Tortellini
Pork Milanese
Chocolate Torta with Vanilla Mascarpone

Leading the charge tonight is Amanda Haas who was the recipe tester as the book was in production and knows hands on how to make these formidable delicacies approachable to our mostly untrained crowd. We are an eager and eclectic bunch excited to get to work! I have already eyed the Asparagus soup and quickly shoot up my hand to volunteer when it comes up for selection. It's a popular choice but I luck out and get to work on it. The most hands are needed for the tortellini which will have pasta made from scratch along with filling. Once the recipes are all assigned we get to work! 
After reading over the recipe with my accomplished partner she is pulled away to assist on the dessert where her expertise will come in handy. This leaves me on my own but I'm excited to tackle this recipe. After assessing all the ingredients that have been laid out for me and finding anything else I need I get to work! As I'm chopping Asparagus, Yellow Onion, Leek, & Spring Garlic to be sauteed I glance around the room at everyone else hard at work. The station next to mine is preparing the Scallop crudo and Amanda is demonstrating how to use a small kitchen torch to get a lovely caramelized sear on the outside of the chilled seasoned scollops to get an additional layer of flavor.
On my other side the pasta station is hard at work. Having made pasta before I can empathize with the delicate balance they are working to attain. The recipe in the book calls for very little moisture in the form of egg or water and they are working to get the dough to come together just right.

The first steps in my recipe include blanching the Asparagus Tips (as an edible garnish for the end product) and the spinach & parsley that will add depth to the soup. Our culinary assistant Lauren, who is nearing graduation from the school's professional program, gets me set up at the large range at the back with a boiling pot of well salted water and I haul over my prep and ice bath.
The stove top is beginning to get crowded as everyone is hard at work, one team toasting seasonings another preparing a simple syrup. We all graciously move around one another trying not to get in anyone's way as we concentrate hard on our tasks at hand. At moments people comment how we feel a little like we are on a competition show! But obviously the stakes are null other than all enjoying a fabulous meal.

After I have my blanched elements finished I move on to saute my aromatics (onion, leek, & spring garlic) and the chopped stalks of the asparagus.
While all those ingredients are softening over a medium low heat I get to take a peek at a new preparation for pickling. A scientific wonder when you vacuum seal your cabbage et all in a bag with your pickling liquid (sugar, water, wine, vinegar, salt, & spices) rather than taking hours (or overnight as preferred) the vegetable slaw pickles almost instantly!

My onions, leeks, spring garlic, & asparagus have softened so I turn off the heat and add in the heavy cream and my blanch spinach & parsley. A few good stirs and we are ready to blend the soup! Lauren to the rescue again as she sets me up to blend my soup and gives me an effective method to strain it so that it is silky smooth.

All set up in an ice bath the soup is chilling and it's on to the Lemon yogurt topping! This is my first time working with gelatin and I'm amazed by how easy it was. After letting it soak for a few minutes in ice water it is malleable but not sticky (like I anticipated) you can squeeze the excess water out with your hands and then it seamlessly dissolves into the warmed cream. Once this is room temperature it is whisked into the yogurt & lemon juice mixture and in our case poured into a canister that imparts Co2 into the mix and dispenses it like whipped cream. At a perfect stopping point, I'm able to grab a glass of wine and enjoy the Scallop Crudo appetizer that has just finished plating!
The Scallops are sliced thin and they're tender and fresh, all the many components of the dish adding excitement to each bite. The firm and starchy Sunchoke gives the scallop a back bone, the agrodulce sweet & tangy, the almonds toasty and crunchy.

After this quick respite I'm ready to get my dish plated up! Into cappuccino cups with straight sides I ladle my now chilled soup, the yogurt has set up wonderfully (with an extra dose of Co2) and I get to squirt each with a beautiful little dollop, I place one perfectly blanched aspargus tip and a small spoon full of bright orange fish roe on top of each and voila!
I'm so proud of my work as I can tell are all of my classmates. We all worked hard to create this beautiful meal together and the camaraderie is evident in the room. Everyone presents their dishes so we can all dig in!
The excitement isn't over just yet however, as we are finishing eating Matt Accarrino, Executive Chef of SPQR and author of the recipes we have cooked, has stopped by to say hi! Amanda introduces him and they talk about working on the book together and Matt gives us a sneak peak into his exacting work ethic. A scientist and an artist Matt talks about constantly looking for ways to "change the paradigm" in the kitchen. He walks us through pasta making describing how the level of force that the machine you are using (or your hands if you are needing and rolling) directly effects the need for moisture in your dough. With the strength of industrial machines practically no moisture is needed, with your standard kitchen aid a little more. He also gives us a lesson in the many thickening and binding ingredients out there that the regular home chef may never realize exist but can transform your kitchen. Gracious and genuine it is a pleasure spending this time learning from him and listening to him talk about the craft which he is so passionate about.
The class with Matt
Overall none of us could have asked for more from this evening. The chance to work in this beautiful space with such an amiable and eager to teach staff and enjoying a beautiful meal prepared with love by new friends. What more could you ask for! I am already looking forward to my next chance to take a class at the San Francisco Cooking School!
Matt took the time to sign each of our books after class

Chilled Asparagus Soup with Meyer Lemon Yogurt

From SPQR Modern Italian Food and Wine: Matthew Accarrino

Serves 4-6

Asparagus Soup

1 pound, 12 ounces asparagus
kosher salt
4 cups Spinach or nettles
2 cups Italian Parsley
extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, white and light green part only, sliced thinly crosswise
2 stalks spring garlic, minced
3 cups heavy cream
black pepper

Meyer Lemon Yogurt

1 sheet gelatin
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt

extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon for zesting
kosher salt
1 oz fish roe of your choice

To Make the soup:
Prepare an ice bath. Trim the tips and ends off the asparagus stalks, discarding the ends and reserving the tips. Slice the remaining stalks into 1/2 inch thick disks. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch the asparagus tips (not the stalks) until al dente 1 to 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the tips and plunge into the ice bath. Chill completely. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

In the same pot, blanch the spinach and parsley until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the greens and plunge into the ice bath lined with a mesh strainer. When cold, remove them from the ice bath and squeeze out the excess water.

Heat a film of oil in a wide pot over medium-low heat. Gently sweat onion, leek, & spring garlic, taking care not to caramelize them, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in asparagus stalks and cook until softened. Turn off heat and pour in the cream and add the blanched greens. Season with salt and pepper. In a blender, puree the soup until smooth. Be patient- it will take a few minutes. With a rubber spatula, push the puree through a fine mesh strainer, extracting as much liquid as possible. Chill the strained soup over an ice bath. (If the soup seems thick, add a couple of tablespoons water or cream.) Once cold, taste the soup and season with salt if needed. You should have about 6 cups. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To Make the yogurt:
Soak gelatin sheet in ice water for about 2 minutes or until softened. In a small pot, bring the cream to a simmer and remove from heat. Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatin and dissolve in the cream. Let cool to room temperature. In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Whisk in the cream and refrigerate until ready to serve. If using a canister, pour in the yogurt and charge the canister; shake well and refrigerate.

Pour the soup into 4 to 6 chilled bowls. In a bowl, dress the asparagus tips with olive oil and grated lemon zest. Season with a pinch of salt and toss until evenly coated. Place a small pile of dressed asparagus into the center of the bowls. Float a dollop of yogurt on top, then garnish with a spoonful of roe.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. I can't wait to make it again! For all the recipes we made along with MANY MANY other wonderful thing buy the SPQR cookbook HERE!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Strawberry Shortcake

With April just around the corner Spring is peeking out and beckoning us to EAT STRAWBERRIES! As a Northern Californian I am pretty blessed to be able to find strawberries year round at my local stores, but nothing beats those coming in early Spring and Summer. The next time you pass by a roadside stand stop and buy a pint or two! And then make this deliciously easy take on Strawberry Shortcake for your family & friends.

I filmed a demo of this recipe with my friends over at When Creativity Knocks this weekend and the video will be posted here as well when it is all pretty & edited!!!

1 Pint fresh Strawberries washed & sliced (hulls removed)
2 Tablespoons Packed Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons high quality Balsamic Vinegar

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 tablespoon milk or cream for brushing biscuits 
Turbinado (raw or coarse) Sugar for sprinkling 
(this is a sweeter adaptation of the buttermilk biscuit recipe I use)
6 oz Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tablespoon Powdered Sugar


I love pound cake as much as the next girl but with the wonderful syrup created by the juicy strawberries, vinegar, & brown sugar in this recipe I want a little bit sturdier base for my Strawberry Shortcake. I have adapted a slightly sweeter version of my buttermilk biscuits for this recipe. You can form them in rustic blobs by pulling equal sized pieces off of the rolled dough or if you want a more uniform look roll your dough out and use a round cookie cutter.

Makes between 6-8 servings

In a medium bowl combine cleaned and sliced Strawberries, Vinegar, & Brown Sugar. Give this a gentle stir to evenly coat the strawberries and set aside (can be made up to 12 hours in advance giving the natural syrup time to meld, if you are preparing it further in advance than 1 hour refrigerate)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until a dough just forms (dough will be moist).
Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently 6 times. At this point either roll out your dough to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out rounds or just pulled off small handfuls and place on your parchment paper lined baking sheet with the rugged side up (I like a nice rustic look), arranging them 2 inches apart, brush tops with milk or cream and sprinkle with Turbinado (raw coarse) sugar. Bake until pale golden, 12 to 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature. 
While biscuits are cooling and strawberries are syruping pour your heavy whipping cream into a medium/large glass or plastic mixing bowl with high sides. Add in powdered sugar (you can add more if you want it to be sweeter, since the strawberries will be sweet I like to contrast with a less sweet cream) With your hand mixer on high beat for 5- 8 minutes until the cream is standing in stiff peaks (if you pull the mixer from the bowl whipped cream will extend from the beaters without dripping and the mixture will be thick). You can also make this just as easily in a standing mixer!

To plate layer first a biscuit then strawberries and top with a dollop of your fresh whipped cream! Drizzle a little of the natural syrup from the bowl of strawberries if you wish!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spiced up Snacks! Baked Kale Chips with chili oil & Seasoned Roasted Nuts

I'm always on the look out for new snacks and nibbles to make for myself or for friends when we're enjoying a glass of wine. After enjoying Brussel Sprout chips at a restaurant I was OBSESSED with making those for awhile (you can read about them HERE). Not long after that I kept seeing features for Kale chips. Baked low and slow the firm leafy kale crisps up and has a wonderful crunchy texture and earthy nutty flavor. High in vitamin C, K, & A, Iron, Calcium, & Antioxidants there are tons of healthy benefits to working kale into your rotation. For me the texture is a little firm for salads so I liked this alternative to munch down a whole bunch in one sitting (especially because they are less than half the calories of the same amount of other snack foods).

Now mixed nuts might not be low calorie but they are still a great source of pick me up protein and these seasoned nuts are TO DIE FOR! Probably one of the most addicting things I have ever made I now have to have them in the house at all times. I actually first made the recipe for a Holiday party I catered for family friends and the nuts went almost as quickly as the appetizers! I have tweaked the proportions of ingredients a little from the original recipe (which can be found on Epicurious posted by Melissa Clark in November 2007) to fit my personal tastes and what I think works best (there was some trial and error the first time I made them after the party).

Both of these recipes are super simple!

Baked Kale Chips with chili oil:


6-8 Full Lacinato Kale Leaves (or about 1/3 of a bag of chopped kale available at Trader Joe's)
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tablespoon Chili Oil (this will have heat you can use less if you want just a dash of flavor)
Sea Salt to taste (you will probably need less than you think)


Pre heat oven to 275* F

Dry any moisture off of the kale leaves gently with kitchen towels. Tear into your preferred chip sized pieces and arrange evenly on a baking sheet. Exclude the ribs. If you are using the pre chopped bagged kale remove rib pieces.
In a small bowl combine olive oil and chili oil. Stir together so they combine evenly
Drizzle over the kale on the baking sheet tossing lightly with your hands until the leaves are well coated

Sprinkle lightly with salt (far too often I over salt, start with just a 1/4 teaspoon, if you need more you can add later after they bake)

Bake for 10 minutes at 275*, pull them out and toss with a spatula so they bake evenly, put them back in the oven to bake for 10 more minutes.
They are now ready to enjoy! Nice and crispy with a great satisfying flavor!

Seasoned Roasted Nuts:

8 Tablespoons (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter
1/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt (sea salt)
3 Tablespoons chopped Fresh Rosemary (I subbed dried and it is still good but the essential oils really come through if you can use fresh it is a marked difference)
3 teaspoons chopped Fresh Thyme
1 teaspoon dried chipotle or cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 lb Raw Walnut halves & pieces
1/2 lb Raw Pecan halves
1/2 lb Raw Almonds
(you can substitute in another favorite nut if you prefer, cashews are a great option)


Preheat oven to 375* F
Line a large baking sheet with sides with aluminum foil
In a medium sauce pan over moderately low heat melt the butter and stir in seasonings.

In a large bowl mix together all of your raw nuts
Once butter and seasoning are well combined drizzle half the mixture over the nuts. Stir to coat. Drizzle the other half of the mixture and stir again. Arrange the nuts in an even layer on your foil lined baking sheet and put in your preheated oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, pull out of the oven and stir to make sure that the nuts are baking and being coated evenly, (I take the sheet all the way out of the oven so I don't have any nuts jump ship and burn on the bottom of the oven) Return to the oven for 10 more minutes, pull out and toss again, return for the last 10 (30 minutes total) when you remove the baking sheet at the end stir the nuts one last time then let cool & dry on the counter for 30minutes. They are ready to enjoy! Keep any that you aren't eating that day in a well sealed container so they stay fresh.

 These flavorful snacks will keep you satisfied and are a great pairing for wine and cocktails for your next party or as an after work snack to pep up your day!

Saturday, March 2, 2013


I have made it to the finals for the Whole Foods & Cook Taste Eat 365 coconut milk recipe contest! I'm currently in 5th place in the voting please VOTE NOW and help me reach this exciting goal!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Coconut Milk Flan with Ancho Chile Caramel

I'm always looking for new ways to challenge my creativity in the kitchen. It is so much fun to take a simple concept and elevate it with new flavors and dimensions. Recently Whole Foods partnered with Cook Taste Eat, a recipe website focused on helping home cooks create inventive meals with their fabulously produced demo videos, to put forth a challenge for food bloggers: create an appetizer or dessert using Whole Food 365 brand Coconut Milk with a Cinco de Mayo theme.

My first instinct was to do an appetizer because that is usually my forte. However the more I mulled over concepts and flavor profiles the perfect answer came to me- Flan! Awhile back I learned a technique to make caramel with coconut milk base and coconut milk is also the perfect texture to include in a custard. With the key ingredient doing double duty how could this recipe not be a winner! Of course I couldn't just settle there so I took the caramel up yet another level adding some spice and flavor of Ancho Chile to make this the most unique flan ever to grace your Cinco de Mayo table.

This recipe makes 8 servings in 7 oz Ramekins 
Prep time: 1 hour 
Bake Time: 1 hour 
Cool time: 1 hour (can be made the day before and cooled overnight)
  (Total 3 hours)


1 Can Whole Foods 365 brand Coconut Milk (13.5 ozs)
1 Dried Ancho Chile, rough chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground Chipotle pepper
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Agave Syrup
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 Can Whole Foods 365 brand Coconut Milk (13.5 ozs)
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk (14 ozs)
3 Eggs


In a medium saucepan over high heat bring 1 can of Coconut Milk to a boil
As soon as it begins to boil remove from heat and stir in rough chopped dried Ancho Chile, loose seeds included, stem and pod removed

Cover and let steep for 10 minutes so the chile can impart flavor into the Coconut milk
After 10 minutes strain a 3/4 cup of the coconut milk for use now, set aside the remaining liquid continuing to steep and gain more flavor
Add the 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle pepper to the reserve liquid that is steeping
In a medium saucepan over low/medium heat (3 out of 10 if 10 is high heat) whisk together the strained 3/4 cup of Coconut milk, cup of sugar, Agave syrup, & salt.
Simmer, gently stirring occasionally, until the caramel reaches the soft ball stage (235* F, should take between 25 minutes to half an hour)
Strain the reserved Coconut milk and stir gently into the caramel
Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the caramel reaches the hard ball stage (another 30 minutes or so)
While caramel continues to simmer preheat oven to 350* F
Arrange your ramekins on a baking sheet with at least a 1/2 inch lip or edge (you don't want your ramekins sliding off!)

In a large mixing bowl beat eggs, once beaten add your second can of coconut milk & can of sweetened condensed milk
Caramel should be reaching the hard ball stage at this point. Remove from heat and pour into a glass pouring measuring cup for ease
Evenly distribute the caramel amongst your ramekins arranged on the baking sheet. Turn each ramekin in your hands coating the sides with the caramel
Pour in custard mix filling to the inside lip of each ramekin
Cover the whole sheet with Aluminum foil and transfer to your preheated oven to bake for 1 hour
After baking for one hour remove from the oven and remove tin foil allowing to cool at room temperature for 30 minutes then transfer to the fridge for another 30 minutes (you can make this the day prior and refrigerate over night, in this instance you will want to allow the flan to come to room temp before serving, you may even choose to microwave it for 30 seconds so caramel warms and it is easier to plate)
To serve slide a knife around the edge of the ramekin, invert a small plate over the top of the ramekin and holding both sides flip it over and give it a good couple shakes loosening the flan and allowing it to land caramel side up on the plate! Spread any of the caramel remaining in the ramekin over your flan. Enjoy!

Eating this dish you will get a wonderful warmth from the chile in the caramel, the tropical sweetness of the coconut milk in the custard, and that homey texture we all love. Forewarning this dessert is very sweet! If you prefer an option to lessen the sweetness you can add 1 Tablespoon of lime zest to your custard mix. This lends a very unique flavor to the dish and is a fun variation! In tests the preference was split straight down the middle so try it both ways and let me know what you like best.

The most enjoyable part of the recipe testing process is always sharing with family and friends. Gathering their input and introducing them to new flavors and techniques is what motivates me to keep challenging myself!

 In exchange for writing this blog and tweeting a link to this blog, I received an entry into the Food Blogger to Media Star Promotion. For the Official Rules, visit