Archives for category: Miscellaneous

Scallops and AsparagusMy sweetie, Andrew, usually takes the role as dishwasher rather than cook in our kitchen. He rarely cooks, but when he does, its always awesome. I’ve been super busy the last few months and with the increased workload I haven’t been cooking as much as I usually do. In my culinary absence, he’s definitely stepped up his cooking game.

This past Sunday, while I was busy with a project, I asked Andrew to run to the store and grab something for dinner. Fully expecting him to return with pasta, I was super excited when came home with sea scallops, asparagus, fresh herbs, meyer lemons, and wine… I have such a great boyfriend.

More about the scallops in a minute, I just want to share with you the aforementioned project I’ve been slogging away at this year. I’m doing an Illustrated Bites art show!! I’m super excited to bring Illustrated Bites out of the internet and into the real world. The show is going to be at The Curiosity Shoppe starting April 13. I’m putting my sign painting skills to work to make hand painted recipes and food illustrations. There will also be a little screen printed work and an Illustrated Bites Zine.

If you’re in the Bay Area, I would love if you could make it to the opening on Friday, April 13th 6-9PM. If you can’t make it to the opening, the show will be open for 6 weeks.

Here is a little sneak peek of some of the works in progress:

painted signs EAT

More about the show later, back to those sweet sea critters:

When you’re buying scallops, buy either the larger sea scallops or the smaller bay scallops. Avoid the tiny calico scallops, which are most often too rubbery.  Also, try to buy scallops that are “dry,” meaning that they haven’t been soaked in phosphates.

This scallop dish is delicious and easy.  It pairs nicely with roast asparagus, tied together by the lemon but standing apart in texture and flavor. Both dishes are done in 15 minutes or less. This is a gourmet meal, literally in minutes.  So, if you’ve got a hot date you’re trying to impress, but not a ton of time… this would definitely be a good meal to go with.

Scallops

Sauteed Scallops:

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1TSP Minced garlic
  • 1-1.5 pound scallops (sea or bay)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 TBS minced fresh chives
  1. Heat your skillet over medium-high for 3 minutes, then add the oil &  garlic. After 30 seconds, add the scallops and cook on each side for 2 minutes. (Shorter for those under an inch across, slightly longer for those over one inch.)
  2. Season them with salt and pepper as they cook and remove them to a bowl as they finish.
  3. Add the lemon juice to the pan, and reduce the liquid to a glaze. (1-2 minutes)
  4. Return the scallops to the pan, add the chives, and stir to coat the scallop with the sauce.
  5. Remove from heat and serve immediately

Roast Asparagus:

  • 1.5-2 pounds of asparagus, with ends trimmed off.
  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • lemon wedges
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Place the asparagus in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Bake until the thick part of the stalk can be pierced with a knife. About 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with lemon wedges.

FUN FACT: Did you know that scallops swim? I didn’t either!! I always imagined scallops just sitting on the sea floor, inactive and passive. Not so! Those little suckers can go. They look like a Mario Brothers character, or a little Pac Man. It’s fun to watch, I can’t get enough of these underwater videos.

pumpkin pie  As much as I hate to admit it, autumn is here.  I realize that for most of the country, this summer was a particularly hot one and the cool weather is a relief. But here in the Bay Area, we hardly got a taste of summer. It’s not that I dislike fall, but I really miss the warm weather of the south. The weather here was foggy and cool June through September and the promised indian summer never came. Now, the rains have returned, which ends any hope of warm weather.

Since there’s no use fighting it, I decided to embrace the autumn weather by making my favorite seasonal dessert, pumpkin pie. If anything is going to get me exited about the fall, it’s pumpkin dishes. There’s something about the earthy sweetness of pumpkin that is just so comforting.

Before I get to the pie recipe, I wanted to share a few other things I’ve been working on and some ideas for the blog. I’ve been quite busy lately with sign painting, screen printing, and illustrating. I recently finished up my end  an exciting project with Justin “Scrappers” Morrison for the Maui Time. I’ll share more when the project is finished and in print but for now, here’s a little peek:

sketchesseek peek

Also, as some of you may know, I work as a sign painter in San Francisco at New Bohemia Signs.  I’ve wanted to incorporate more sign painting into Illustrated Bites for a long time. My new and exciting plan for doing that is to create food-related signs and do occasional give-aways here on the blog. In conjunction with that I’ll also be selling some signs online. This new project was inspired by a sign I recently  painted for my lovely friend, Emily.

chiffonade

So, yeah…I made a pumpkin pie AND it was awesome. I will admit that this pie was pretty labor intensive because I made it completely from scratch but it’s TOTALLY worth it. The good news is that this recipe made enough filling for a second pie, so it’s sort of a two for one deal.  My sweetie’s folks were in town and his mom helped me though the process, which made a world of  difference in the workload (Thanks Nancy!)  I highly recommend getting someone to lend a hand when you make this.

pumpkin

Step one: Pick up a pumpkin. I used a sweet pie pumpkin I bought at the Berkeley Farmer’s Market. Slice the pumpkin into wedges and scrape out the guts. Use a paring knife to cut the flesh away from the rind. Don’t worry if you leave some flesh on the rind, it’s pretty hard to get it all.

Step two: Steam the pumpkin. Put all the pumpkin flesh in a pot with about a half a cup of water. Turn the heat to medium and cover.

Step three: While the pumpkin is steaming, make the pie crust. It’s easiest if you have a food processor.

Crust Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse.  Add the butter and process until the butter and flour are blended.
  2. Place the mixture in a bowl and sprinkle in the ice water. Mix with a spoon and then gather into a ball. If it is too dry add a little more water; if it’s too wet, add a little flour.
  3. Wrap in plastic, flatten into a disk and freeze for ten minutes.

Step four: While the dough is in the freezer, puree the the steamed pumpkin. The pumpkin should be steamed until it’s soft, and easily  punctured with a fork. Puree throughly, until there are no lumps. It will be easiest to do this in small batches.

Step five: Take the dough out of the freezer and sprinkle the countertop with flour. Unwrap the dough and sprinkle with flour. Roll the dough with light pressure from the center out. Add flour as needed.

Step six: When the dough is about 10 inches in diameter transfer it to your pie plate. Press into the plate and tuck the excess edges into itself and pinch for the crust. Return to the freezer while the oven preheats.

Step seven: Preheat to 425 Degrees F. Find something to weigh down the crust while it bakes. I used a cast iron skillet but you could use tinfoil and a pile of dried beans or rice. Anything that will lie flat. Just make sure to butter the side that will be in contact with the pie crust.

Step eight: Puncture the bottom of the crust with the fork and put the weight on the crust. Bake  for 12 minutes. Then take it out of the oven and reduce heat to 350 degrees F then carefully remove the weight and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

pumpking

Pie Filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • pinch ground cloves
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups light cream or whole milk

Step nine:  Beat the eggs with the sugar, then add the spices and salt. Mix in the pumpkin and the milk. Warm this mixture in a sauce pan over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.  Get it hot but not boiling.

Step ten: Pour the mixture into the the crust and bake for 30-40 minutes until mixture shakes but is still moist. Cool on a rack and serve at room temperature.

Extra credit: Homemade Whipped Cream
I told you this was an intense recipe!

  • Half pint heavy whipping cream
  • 4 teaspoons powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the cream with a whisk until peaks form. Again, this is much easier with a partner to take turns with. When the cream is stiff, fold in the vanilla and powdered sugar. Viola! Whipped cream.

Phew, that’s a monster. Anyways, you’ll feel great once it’s done and it’s so delicious you’ll forget it took like, three hours. If you’re like me, as it cools down and the winter rains start, you’ll look for any excuse to spend an afternoon in a warm kitchen. I hope you enjoy. Please let me know if you tackle this beast, I want to hear all about it!

lobster

Dear wonderful reader,

It’s Monday night and I’m drunk. Not super drunk, just tipsy. I haven’t had dinner yet and beer always goes straight to my head when I haven’t eaten. There’s a pizza in the oven and It’s smelling pretty good… While I’m sitting here cruising the internet while dinner cooks, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want Illustrated Bites to be. All summer I’ve been distracted with illustration work and playing outside, so I haven’t done much cooking. The blog has definitely gone downhill in that time. At least, I feel like it has.

Time for confessions. I’m not an awesome cook. I think I’m better than most people my age but I’m still learning. I feel like I’ve been putting up a front, like I’m this amazing chef and you should listen to all my insight and knowledge. But I’m not!  In this way I feel like I haven’t been very connected to my blog and therefore not very motivated to do it. My writing has also been really guarded…so I’m just going to fucking cut that out (sorry, Mom!)

catfish

It’s time to get real, y’all. I’m 24, learning to be a real life grown up, an aspiring illustrator, and a budding chef. I like to cook,  I love to eat, and I love to draw. And this blog is now going to be more about all of those things, not just recipes. It’s going to be illustration, bites about life, illustrated food, eats and bites, and much more. But don’t worry,  there will still be recipes.

mussles

Whew, that said… let’s move on.

Love,

Heather Diane

p.s. If you’re wondering (and rightly so) what’s with all the fish; the topic of this post was originally going to be about which fish are the most sustainable and ecologically friendly to eat. But I had to get some things off my chest. However, I do think it is a really important topic and you should check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch. You can download guides specific to your region and easily search different seafood so you can make the best consumer choices.

If I had to sum up my favorite style of food  it would be rice with goop on top.  I know that isn’t an appetizing way of putting it. But think about it, rice with goop on top encompasses thai curries, indian food, lots of middle eastern dishes, beans with rice… Basically some of the best spicy & saucy dishes of the world come in the form of rice with goop on top. That being said, I don’t really know how to make many of these dishes. I’m a southern girl and I was raised on collards, fried chicken, and pulled pork. My mom made lots of spaghetti and cooked lots of vegetables but family dinners never strayed far from our southern roots. It wasn’t until I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago that I was even introduced to many of the ethnic foods that make the Bay Area food scene rock so hard. Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate some of these dishes into my small but growing repertoire of culinary know-how.

On a typical San Francisco summer night last week, typical being cold and foggy, I wanted something warm and spicy for dinner. I wanted rice with goop on top. I wanted some indian food.  I found a good looking recipe for Chana Masala on Smitten Kitchen and to my delight it turned out to be simple to make. I put my sweetie on vegetable chopping duty and I got together the necessary spices and it quickly came together. Best of all, it was damn good.

Ingredients I changed my recipe a little from the one on Smitten Kitchen, the main difference was that I used butter instead of oil, ginger powder instead of fresh ginger, and a little more salt.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger root powder
1 fresh, hot green chili pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped small
2/3 cup water
4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon (juiced)

Step one: Prepare all of your vegetables. Mince the onion, Chop the garlic, and chili pepper and get your tomatoes ready to go. Once everything is chopped and prepped, get your spices together. Gather the coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, cumin seeds, ginger powder, paprika and garam masala into a small cup or bowl. Prepping everything before hand makes cooking much easier and cuts down the probability that you’ll accidentally leave a spice out.

Step two: Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic for 5 minutes.

Step three: Turn the heat down to medium low and add the spices.

Step four: Cook the spiced onions for two minutes, then add the tomatoes, chickpeas and water.

Step five: Simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes. Then add the lemon juice and salt.

Serve over jasmine rice and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

kumquatI recently tasted kumquats for the first time. It was a deliciously intense experience. I became interested in trying kumquats after watching some moms give their little kids some to snack on. The moms were happily munching away at the fruit while the kids made the best sour faces I’ve ever seen and immediately spat them out. Their little faces were all puckered up, brows furrowed, eyes squinted tightly shut, and cheeks turned inward. It was hilarious and I knew I had to give kumquats a try.

After I bought some kumquats I had to do a little research to figure out how to eat them.  Turns out it’s pretty simple,  just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Kumquats are a citrus fruit about the size of a grape, so it’s not a big mouthful. But that tiny fruit packs a punch. The outer rind has a very delicate sweet flavor and the inside flesh is extremely tart. Together they balance out to a nice sweet-and-sour flavor.

The taste took some getting used to but I really began to love the extreme flavor. Plus, they have an amazingly refreshing aftertaste. I love trying out new fruits; if you haven’t experienced kumquats, give them a try sometime!

North Carolina with fork and spoonLiving in the Bay Area is amazing but I miss North Carolina. I was born and raised in North Carolina and moved to the Bay Area after college. The Bay Area has some of the best and most diverse food in the world, but to to remedy homesickness I make southern food. There’s nothing more comforting than fried chicken in my book.

I’m more of Southern chef now that I live in California than I ever was in NC. I never made cornbread or fried chicken when I was living in back home. (Granted, I didn’t do much cooking at all in college.) In NC, southern food is the norm; if anything, it’s harder to avoid than find. Here in the Bay Area it’s quite the opposite. Obviously, it’s not the South but there are a lot of us here! You would think it would be easier to find a good buttermilk biscuit in this town. Sheesh.

When I picked up my CSA box this week I was excited to see that collard greens were included. Then I noticed the potatoes and remember that I had some chicken in the fridge and I knew then what must be done… fried chicken, with collard greens, and mashed potatoes! Heck yes!

Fried Chicken

Did I mention I love fried chicken? Because I L-O-V-E fried chicken. After being a vegetarian for almost six years it was fried chicken that brought me back. I’m still learning how to fry chicken but I must say this was a pretty delicious attempt. The mash potatoes were creamy and soothing and the collards were the perfect complement. It tasted like home. My southern boy was happy too; he didn’t stop smiling the whole way through dinner.

What food reminds you of home?

A friend of mine recently turned me on to Kombucha, and man do I love it. Kombucha is a tangy, refreshing, and fizzy drink that is professed to be good for your health. There’s a myriad of claims about the drink: it’s supposed to be good for digestion, detoxify your body, and raise your energy levels. I’m not here to attest to any of those claims, but I do think it is an amazing beverage.

Kombucha BrewKombucha is fermented sweet tea that is cultured with a solid mat of yeast and bacteria known as a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or sometimes refereed to as the kombucha “mother.”  The Kombucha “mother” is a wonderfully icky thing that looks a lot like a jellyfish. The bacteria and yeast feed on the sugar and produce acid, so the final product is not sweet but tart.

There are several commercial brands of Kombucha on the market, but they’re pricey, usually $3.50-$5. After doing some reading on the subject, I decided to brew my own. Home-brewing Kombucha isn’t a complicated process. Once you acquire a scoby, all you need is sweet tea and some glassware. In my first batch, the Kombucha paid for itself. ($16 dollars of equipment for 7 bottles!)

Finding a scoby is a little tricky, I searched a few weeks before I found someone on craigslist to give me one (I traded a scoby for a painting.) You can order them online but I preferred to find one locally. Every time you brew a batch of Kombucha the “mother” culture forms a “daughter.” So after you finally hunt down a “mother” and begin brewing, you’ll end-up with more cultures than you can give away. The cultures propagate so quickly a friend of mine joked that he suspected Kombucha is actually an alien conspiracy to take over the world. (You really have to see these things, the scoby does look like a weird science experiement. My boyfriend doesn’t like to stand too close to the jar that’s brewing in our kitchen.)

If I haven’t scared you off,  here’s what you need to brew your own kombucha:

  1. Scoby or “mother”
  2. One gallon glass jar (Never use metal!)
  3. One gallon of good water
  4. Six tea bags: black, green, or white. (Don’t use the flavored stuff.)
  5. One cup sugar
  6. Cloth to cover the jar
  7. Bottles for the brewed Kombucha.

Here’s how ya’ do it: Make sure everything you use to brew and bottle is clean, clean clean!

How to do it

There are a vast number of tutorials and how-tos on the web, if you’re ready to brew. The Happy Herbalist has detailed the ins-and-outs of brewing. If you’re in the Bay Area, I’d be happy to share one my scobys with you! Just shoot me an email.

Have a great weekend everyone!

lacto fermentation

Back in the days before refrigeration and processed foods, folks preserved their vegetables through lacto-fermentation. Lacto-fermentation is a pickling process that uses beneficial bacteria to keep food from rotting. Believe or not you’re probably already acquainted with this process. Lactobacilli are used to make make yogurt and sauerkraut. Remember these guys from a few posts back?

lactobacilli

So it goes down like this:  you soak vegetables in salty water or you cover them with salt and this creates an ideal environment for lactobacilli. The lactobacilli do their thing, consuming sugars and producing lactic acid as a by product. This creates an acidic environment which kills off the bacteria that spoil food.  These bacteria are pretty good for you too; they help you digest the vegetable and promote a healthy flora in your intestines.

Lately, I’ve really been getting into lacto-fermentation. Since I’ve joined a CSA, I’ve had an abundance of veggies in my fridge and making pickles has helped me save them for later. This is essentially what our ancestors did whenever they had a harvest. So far, I’ve made diakon radish pickles, kimchi, preserved salted lemons, and yogurt.

veggies and milk

You can use this process to preserve any firm vegetable or fruit that doesn’t have too much water. So radishes and carrots are in; watermelon and tomatoes are out. You can add any spice you want, or throw in garlic and ginger if it strikes your fancy.

The kimchi and diakon radish pickles are wonderfully tasty. I’m really looking forward to trying the preserved salted lemons. They take a few weeks to ferment. I’ll let you know how they turn out!  In the meantime, if you want to make some for yourself here’s the basic guidelines:

Preserved Salted Lemons:

  1. Gather enough thin-skinned lemons to fill the jar you’re going to pickle in. (Citrus is ripe here in the Bay Area – I foraged the lemons I used from trees on my walk to work.)
  2. Wash the jar and clean the skins of the lemons.
  3. Quarter the lemons and liberally coat them in sea salt.
  4. Smash the lemons into the jar, sprinkle more salt between layers.
  5. When the jar is full, squeeze additional lemon juice into the jar to cover the slices.
  6. If you want to spice it up, add a cinnamon stick or a few peppercorns. Heck, why not both?
  7. Screw the lid on tight and sit in dark space for about a month.

preserved salted lemons

When it’s done, you eat the rind and use them like olives. Check out the Sprouted Kitchen’s beautiful post about preserved salted lemons. She has a more detailed how-to and links to recipes.  Happy Pickling!

 

eat well & drink beerHappy Thursday all! Eat well & drink beer!

P.S. I’ve been working on some patterns which will soon be screen printed on tea towels and other goodies. Here’s a sneak peek. Be on the lookout!

eat pattern

Eat Pattern

block of knives

This weekend my sweetie, Andrew, and I received a care package from his folks that included a great set of kitchen knives that he inherited from his Grandmother. I was considerably more excited about this new addition to our kitchen than he was. I proceeded to lay them out neatly on the living room floor to take in the gloriousness of our new knives. (Okay, so I’ve been looking at this blog too much). As I was admiring their beautiful walnut handles and gorgeous copper rivets, I realized I didn’t know what many of the knives were even for. When I asked Andrew what he thought they were for, he quickly answered back, “For cutting.”

Part of my motivation for writing Illustrated Bites is to push me to learn more about food and cooking. I have a strong working knowledge of cooking basics but I have a lot to learn. Not knowing anything about knives is one example of a gap in my culinary knowledge. I’m still working on stocking my kitchen since we moved into our new place in October.  This is my first “real” apartment and  its great to finally have my own kitchen, but its taking time to stock it with all the necessary implements. So far I’ve been making do with super cheap, super dangerous IKEA knives. Which, by the way, are dangerous not because they are sharp but because they bend like an S. I’m excited to share my new kitchen knives and what I’ve learned about them.organized knives

Carving Knife: The largest, curved knife is the carving knife. As its name implies, it is for carving slices of poultry or roasts.

Roast Knife: The second largest knife with a straight edge is a roast knife. At first I thought this was a bread knife, but the lack of a serrated edge lead me to investigate further. The roast knife is another form of carving knife and is intended to cut thin slices of meat from a meat roast.

Chef’s Knife: The chef’s knife is an all-purpose knife that is great for chopping. The curved blade allows you to rock the knife back and forth, which allow you to cut/dice at a quicker speed.

Fillet Knife: The Fillet knife has a long, thin, and flexible blade. It is most useful for cleaning fish.

Utility Knife: The Utility knife is a multipurpose knife that perfect for jobs that are too big for a paring knife but aren’t large enough to warrant at chef’s knife.

Boning Knife: This knife is used to remove the main bone from large cuts of meat like ham. The blade is rigid to prevent it from bending as it is being worked around the bone.

Paring Knife: The smallest knife is the paring knife. It is for peeling or small jobs such as chopping garlic. It’s also good  for intricate jobs like de-veining shrimp.

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