Peruvian Ceviche with Alaskan Cod

One of the hardest ingredients to find these days is good fresh fish, especially fresh fish that is sustainably caught.  Even some of the best speciality grocery stores in San Francisco carry fish that just looks and tastes lackluster — and it’s hard to blame them, given that most of the fish we eat spends days in transit after being caught in some far-off destination.  Until recently, the best resource I found was, an amazing online fish reseller that will pack your fish on ice and send it anywhere in the US for overnight delivery the day you order it.  But I wanted to know where they sourced their fish, and it was an amazing surprise when I found that, according to the FAQ on their website, they get their fish from Royal Hawaiian Seafood, a San Francisco seafood distributor that also sells to many of the fish markets and restaurants in the Bay Area.

Three things about Royal Hawaiian seafood make it my new favourite discovery: 1) they sell to the public, out of the same warehouse that ships the ilovebluesea packages; 2) they are 100% committed to sustainably-sourced, ecologically responsible fishing practices; and 3) most remarkably, their location is 100 yards from my apartment in SF.  Needless to say, I’m there almost every week now.  If you live in San Francisco, this should literally be the only place you go for fresh seafood (get there before their trucks go out at 11am on any weekday for the best selection).  It’s not cheap, but it is SO worth it.  Make sure to ask if you can tour the warehouse — you will be blown away by the scale of their operation and the massive selection of fish, oysters and shellfish from all over the world.

Anyway, now that I’ve given away my best secret, here is a recipe for a classic Peruvian-style ceviche that I served as the first course to a birthday feast we cooked up for my friend Zoe’s birthday (additional courses posted above).  Royal Hawaiian had some super-fresh wild caught Alaskan True Cod, which is what I used, but you can use any fresh fish you find for this recipe, or even shrimp or scallops.


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Southwestern Fire Chili con Carne

Winter is coming...

It’s late October, and it’s starting to feel like winter is around the corner, for better or for worse.  I actually look forward to this time of year, for three reasons: (1) skiing; (2) sweaters, and (3) soup.  To kick off the cold-weather season, I decided to cook up a pot of spicy fire chili, made with a few varieties of fresh hot peppers.  This is an old standby comfort-food recipe for me, and (like most recipes) it can be modified easily according to your taste.  For this batch, I decided to use ground turkey, but you could very easily do this same recipe as a vegetarian, beef, or chicken chili.

Another way to easily modify the recipe is mixing up the peppers to suit your spiciness tolerance.  My jalapeno tree is cranking out ridiculously hot ripe red peppers right now, so I used a few of those.  My brother grew a huge batch of habanero peppers, so I used one of those as well.  He also sent me some ghost peppers and scottish bonnets, but I wanted this chili to actually be edible so I reserved those for another use (actually, a hot sauce, which I made last weekend and is absurdly good — recipe to come upon request).

Garnish with cilantro and cheese, and serve with your choice of tortilla chips, tortillas, crusty bread, or (my favorite) grilled cheese sandwiches.  This is also great on top of Spanish rice or yellow rice.

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Classic French Onion Soup

French onion soup, the classic comfort food.

On a cold, gloomy day there really is nothing better than a bowl of rich, fragrant french onion soup.  Thankfully, we live in San Francisco, so we have plenty of opportunities, even in the middle of summer, to enjoy this delightful treat.  And it couldn’t be easier to make — one of the simplest dishes to prepare, using simple ingredients and simple techniques.

The recipe below is a fairly traditional preparation, although note that if you wanted to make this dish in the true French style, you would make your own compound stock from scratch — a hugely labor intensive process.  In any case, the key to this soup is using good quality stock, so if you can make your own, it will really shine through.  If not, try to buy the stock from the frozen section of your specialty grocery store (whole foods has some good ones), rather than the wax boxes or the cans.  Its a bit more expensive, but it makes a world of difference.

Also, note that you can use any combination of beef stock or chicken stock and red wine or white wine, depending on your mood.  The traditional beef stock with red wine makes a very rich, decadent broth, great for a cold winter day.  If you’re in the mood for a lighter broth, perhaps on a warmer day, you can use chicken stock with white wine.  My favorite is a nice pinot noir with a combination of both beef and chicken stock — the result is a well-balanced, not-too-rich broth that still fills me up.



5-6 big sweet onions (Spanish or vidalia both work well)
half a stick of butter (optional, could be replaced with olive oil, or a combination of both)
1-2 cups red wine
2 cups good quality beef stock
2 cups good quality chicken stock
choice of fresh herbs (the only essential herb is thyme, but a bouquet garni with bay, rosemary, sage and thyme is great)
loaf of country-style bread (batard, french baguette)
cheese combination of your choice (the classic is gruyere or fontina, but provolone is my favorite)
salt and pepper

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The World’s Best Carnitas (plus Guacamole)

Carnitas tacos. The best in the world.

I love carnitas.  I love making carnitas.  Specifically, I love making the best carnitas in the entire world.  Hayley loves it too.

Honestly, this doesn’t even compare to the pork you find in 95% of taquerias — even some of the best taquerias in the Mission manage to screw this up somehow, which is sad because its really not difficult.  It just takes a couple of extra steps, and the resulting product is ENTIRELY worth the effort.

The basic idea is braising big chunks of pork shoulder (or pork butt, a misleading name for a part of the shoulder) in a mixture of spices and liquid, and then pulling apart the meat with a fork and crisping it under the broiler.  Traditionally, you would braise the pork in lard, but this isn’t the 1950′s, so we’re going to skip the lard and use a braising liquid of our own creation.

The absolute key step that produces perfect little pieces of succulent, tender pork that are caramelized and crispy on the outside is the last step.  Apparently, this is the step that many restaurants skip, which completely boggles my mind.  After the pork has braised for a few hours, and most of the liquid has cooked off, we shred the chunks into bite-size pieces and return them to the oven in a roasting pan.  Under the broiler, the tender pieces of meat will quickly brown on the outside, producing an incredible mouth-watering texture.

Since the meat is so amazingly good by itself, the presentation is simple.  A classic combination would be a roasted tomatillo salsa, onions and carnitas on corn tortillas.  Hayley and I are both big on guacamole (bonus recipe included!), so we do guacamole, hot salsa, tomatoes and cilantro on flour tortillas.  Other possible toppings include sour cream and black beans.


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Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Currants

Morrocan Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Prunes

Wikipedia defines a tagine, or tajine, as a “slow-cooked stew braised at low temperatures, resulting in tender meat with aromatic vegetables and sauce.”  Wow… let’s do this.

I first experienced the glory of tagine at Cafe Mogador, in Mahattan’s East Village, thanks to the amazing tour-guiding skills of our close friend Zoe, an East Village native (who also apparently used to live with the owner).  Mogador’s menu presents an array of Moroccan cuisine, including vibrant cous-cous dishes, platters of succulent grilled meat, and delicious North African dips.  But the centerpiece of their menu is the selection of tagines, which marry either chicken or lamb with your choice of sauce.  The sauce options rotate from time to time, but I was faced with a number of mouth-watering combinations such as apricots and prunes, or chickpeas, raisins and onions, or lemon and olives.  Upon Zoe’s recommendation, we went with the lamb tagine and an apricot prune sauce.  Amazing.

Of course, ever since I had my first tagine at Mogador, I’ve been dreaming up ways to cook my own.  Over time I’ve pieced together bits and pieces of a few different recipes and experiments and settled on the following.  Keep in mind, as always, that the list of ingredients below is just one possible combination among many, and I encourage you to try different ideas using the basic techniques I describe.  Some other possible additions include olives, quinces, apples, pears, raisins, prunes, dates, nuts, lemons, other citrus fruits, etc.

The best part of this recipe is the layering of flavors.  As you will see, the dish is built up one ingredient at a time, resulting in a final product with a rich, deep flavor and myriad subtleties.

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Zuni Roast Chicken and Bread Salad

Zuni Roast Chicken with Bread Salad

Ever since I started learning to cook with Ben in Philly a few years ago, I’ve been trying to perfect the art of cooking chicken.  One of the reasons I keep coming back is the wonderful versatility of the elegant bird.  You can roast it, grill it, pan fry it, bake it, boil it, broil it or stir-fry it, and better yet, it virtually sucks up the flavors of the dish you’re making, whether it be spicy or salty, savory or sweet.  In fact, many of my all-time favorite culinary creations have been based on this ubiquitous poultry.  But, since one of the trickiest things to make is the perfect roast chicken, I think its fitting that my inaugural post here on #food relates to the sacred art.

Judy Rodgers, the chef at Zuni Cafe and an inspiration for more than a few of my cooking adventures, says that there are 3 keys to making roast chicken.  First, the bird should be small — 2.5 to 3 lbs.  It goes without saying that the bird should be fresh and free-range, not one of those hormone-pumped chickens from the supermarket.  Second, the bird will benefit from at least a day of salt brine, which is the trick to making a super juicy, succulent roast.  Lastly, cook it hot — like 475 – 500 degrees hot.  About 45 minutes is all you need for a 3 pound bird.

The bread salad that goes along with this dish is an amazing pairing with the roast chicken.  You can cook the chicken by itself and serve it with anything else, but I recommend trying this whole recipe at least once.  Judy Rodgers spends about 5 pages in her cookbook explaining the ins-and-outs of this dish, so I’ll summarize for the sake of our collective sanity.  As always, measurements are approximate — use your senses and judgment.

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