Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Savory Lamb Chops with Cherry Reduction

Oftentimes when I cook or eat a dish, I'm flooded with memories. It's what I particularly like about food - the tastes and smells whisk me back to little moments in life that otherwise might have been forgotten. I associate food with people and places. A bite of sushi at lunch might bring back memories of a fantastic night out on the town with friends at a high end sushi restaurant. Eating pho anytime and any place reminds me of a particularly meaningful conversation I had with my brother over a bowl of noodles. Frozen yogurt is late night rushes to 21 Choices with my best friend in college.

I remember the moment when my little crush on food (who doesn't enjoy good food in general) turned into this head-over-heels lifelong love. We cooked lamb chops. Delicious lamb chops. In college. We thought we were superstars because who cooks lamb chops in college? At that point in my life, I don't think I had ever even had a lamb chop - it was just some pricey item on a menu that I could never even really afford. It was that first juicy, savory yummilicious bite that made me realize "Hey, you can actually cook something you see in a restaurant" that I fell in love. I've used that lamb chop recipe over and over since then and each time, it brings me back to that life altering view on food.

Fast forward to today - my life seems to revolve around food. I think the only way it could possibly revolve around food more is if I were to work in some sort of food industry (what? you have a food job for me?). I read food blogs and food magazine as if it were my job. My free time is spent planning my next meal. My list of restaurants and recipes to try could probably reach from here to the moon. Vacations are planned completely for and around food and restaurants. And that's just the start. It's an all consuming type of love that we've got going on here. Borderline obsession.

So, what about you? Do you have a particularly vivid food memory of something that would otherwise be forgettable? Do you have a foodie defining moment?

Back to the lamb chops - we wanted to try a dish that used savory from our Mystery Box. On our little cheatsheet, it said savory was similar to rosemary, which is almost synonymous with lamb in my mind, so lamb it was. Then,somewhere between the cheese and dressing aisles, it occurred to me to use some of the 10 pounds of farm fresh cherries we bought. A bite of finished dish and I was reliving that defining moment in life while creating new memories at the same time.

Savory Lamp Chops with Cherry Wine Reduction

I apologize for the lack of measurements. Everything here can really be done to taste, and honestly, you can't screw it up. If you don't have savory, try rosemary.

Lamb chops, French cut
Savory, chopped
Olive Oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Red wine

Sprinkle lamb chops on both sides with salt, pepper, and savory.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add lamb chops to hot skillet. Cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side. Remove lamb chops from pan and set aside.

Deglaze pan with red wine. Add cherries. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour sauce and cherries over lamb chops.

Serve with roasted savory potatoes.

Lamb chop link love:
Rosemary Crusted Rack of Lamb with Wild Rice Ragout, Asparagus and Red Wine Reduction from Not Eat Out in New York
Lamb chops to try if you are short on time from Simply Recipes
Grilled lamb chops from Project Foodie
Balsamic Vinegar-Glazed Lamb Chops from Cooking with the Single Guy

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mystery Thursdays - Piccino

A funny thing happened during our Mystery Thursdays pickup -

I'm just getting into this blogging thing of my own, but I've been reading food blogs for quite some time. I remember one of the first food blogs I started reading, 101 Cookbooks, and being quite inspired by how fresh, quick and healthy the food looked and the fantastic photography on the site. From there, I started adding more and more food blogs to my Google Reader and now, I'm probably sharing so many food articles from so many different blogs that my friends are (silently) screaming, "Enough already with the food!" (Or maybe you guys are just drooling too much on your keyboard that you've short circuited your computer?)

Last Thursday's pickup was a bit on the crazy side - T picked me up from the airport (flying home from the client site) and we dashed over to Piccino. Granted, it was a short flight, but after working until 9 or 10 each night, I'd seen better days. We noticed some people video taping people picking up their boxes, but didn't think too much of it. Mystery box, avocados and cherries in hand, we headed back to the car and were approached by the video people. They asked if we knew what we were going to cook with our newly acquired bounty and if we minded being interviewed. Frazzled, tired and hungry, the last thing I wanted to do was be video recorded (it brings back horrible memories of Communications class having to watch yourself on video in front of the entire class after embaressing yourself presenting in the first place), but I was pretty sure T would take the opportunity. I think they picked up more on my state of mind than T's eagerness to talk and left us alone.

Bummer. Because then I recognized her as Heidi from 101 Cookbooks. Ok, so I was a little star struck and regretting we hadn't said anything. After all, at least a part of this blog's existence can be attributed to her and her blog. (Speaking of star struck, we saw Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs at the bar on Thursday. So maybe Dirty Jobs isn't quite the tv show you want to talk about on a food blog. But, the Discovery Channel is ranked up there with the Food Network in my mind, so sorry readers!).

I digress - We ended up making a fabulous meal with our Mystery Box ingredients, which I'll have to post later this week, and had we given it any thought before we picked up the box, we would have had a nice little blurb for the camera.

Since the last Mystery Thursday, I've been asked a good number of times, "So what'd you get in your mystery box this week, ChuThis?" Granted, I've only actually bought a Mystery box a few times now, but it REALLY excites me to see friends and family getting into the fresh, local vegetables idea, or at least curious enough to ask me about it. And, I'm in the middle of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I'm sure I'll wholeheartedly recommend to everyone who asks.

So, to answer your question, this is what we received at Piccinio:

(Click on photo to see larger size)

In addition, our Mystery Box also contained Little Gem Lettuces, Genovese Basil, Gallegan Kale, Cauliflower, Cilantro, and English Peas. Plus, our 10 pounds of cherries, which disappeared faster than I could acquire a cherry pitter to make cherry pie.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy (Belated) Father's Day - Grilled Trout

Having used the grill at every opportunity over the past week, we've made a lot of steaks, chicken and shrimp - foods I feel like get the most play time on the grill. And as great as a grilled steak is, sometimes you just need a little diversity. While we were at Safeway debating between beef or chicken and not neither really appealing, I finally turned around and marched into the seafood section and was delighted to find a couple of trout.

Why hadn't I thought of this before? Granted the fish weren't the freshest things around and they certainly didn''t look like these fish my dad caught, but they turned out wonderfully. I feel like grilled fish just doesn't get enough credit even though it's so quick and simple. Perhaps people are afraid that the fish is too delicate, but as long as you have a clean grill, you shouldn't have any problems. Just resist the temptation to poke or play with the fish on the grill - hard to do, I know :P

Looking back at my childhood, some of my most vivid memories of Daddy time were fishing. When we were younger, of course "fishing' at the duck ponds down the street usually consisted of my Dad casting the fishing pole (perhaps we would put a hand on the pole to think that we were casting), then quickly running off to play in the dirt or to feed the stale bread to the ducks to pass the time until the bright red and white bobber disappeared and he would call out that we had a bite. We'd quickly run over and help reel in the fish, then repeat the process. Sometimes we'd pass the time playing with the minnows in the bucket, hide out in the shade on one of the benches, or mess with the fish that we had already caught. Eventually, as we grew older, we were able to cast our own fishing poles, had developed the patience to cast-reel-cast-reel-cast, and learned to appreciate the peacefulness of waiting for the fish to bite. We mainly caught crappie and catfish at these local duck ponds that were just a fifteen minute walk away, but once a year, we'd drive to another town about 20 minutes away when they stocked a lake with tons of Rainbow Trout and come back having maxed out our fish limit.

Once back at home and after having de-fished ourselves to my non-fish loving Mom's content, I vividly remember Dad cooking up the rainbow trout with a bit of butter, Tony Chachere's seasoning, and lemon. Quite effortless, really (once you got past the gutting and cleaning the first part that to this day, I prefer to avoid) and the fish always came out so tender and tasty.

So when it came to grilling the fish, I prepared the fish based on those memories. I mixed some olive oil, Tony Chacher's and some chopped garlic together and let the fish marinate for a few minutes. Dinner was ready after the trout spent a few short minutes on the grill. It was a delicious meal that could have been better only if I had caught the fish with my Dad (and of course had him clean them for me :P).

Happy (belated) Father's Day, Dad.

love, ChuThis

Grilled Trout
Serves 2

This is so simple that you don't even really need a recipe. You could certainly play around and use different combinations of spices to your heart's content.

2 small trout about 6-8 inches long, cleaned and head removed
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Cajun seasoning (I like Tony Chachere's)
Olive oil
2 lemon slices

Heat grill to medium high (about 350). Mix garlic, cajun seasoning, and olive oil in a small bowl. Brush generously over fish. Place fish on hot grill. After about 2 minutes, flip fish and cook on other side for another two minutes. Remove from grill and enjoy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mystery Thursdays - Globe

As much as I'd love to deny it, I'm a procrastinator. Of course, I believe it's because I work best under pressure and where is the pressure if you don't wait until the very last minute? Tomorrow is yet another Mystery Thursday (from Marquita Farm) and I still haven't posted any photos or recipes from the last Mystery Thursday...two weeks ago! I suppose if I did this in true procrastinator fashion, I'd be writing this at the wee hours of Thursday morning or from the airport - so, see Mom, I'm not a total procrastinator!

Speaking of Mom - my parents flew out at the end of May to help with the move, see the new place and celebrate my birthday. I was excited to take my Mom (who has heard plenty about my farm fresh vegetables) to Mystery Thursday at Globe, who happened to have a Marquita Farm Mystery Dinner featuring ingredients from the Mystery boxes . Marquita Farm alternates the delivery locations between the different restaurants that buy from them; the list of restaurants is rather extensive and some of the best dining in San Francisco.

Located near the Financial District, Globe offers seasonal cuisine in a laid back atmosphere. It reminded me a tad of Scott Howard (my previously favorite restaurant on the border of the Financial District and North Beach), but the prices were higher and the atmosphere a bit louder. Service was nothing stellar, but I can't find any faults in particular to point out. Foodwise, my mom did have the hand-cut egg pasta with calamari bolognese, minced calamari replacing the typical beef. It was interesting enough that we've contemplated giving the dish a whirl at home. Surprise, surprise - I ordered the following prix fixe menu to get some ideas of how to use the vegetables at home.

- Local halibut ceviche, avocados, fava beans and cilantro
- Spinach fettuccini, caramelized cauliflower, shallots and breadcrumbs
- Zinfandel braised beef cheeks over collard greens, baby carrots and peas
- Buckwheat strawberry galette with buttermilk ice cream

The next day at home, my dad and I opened the mystery box to find a ton of my favorite vegetables - fava beans, cauliflower, cilantro, baby carrots, scallions, bacon avocados, English peas, spinach, salad mix, collard greens, and purple Sicilian artichokes.
(Click on photo to see larger size)

I'm like a kid on Christmas Eve over the next delivery - my buddy T and I are splitting a mystery box, 10 pounds of cherries and a 5 pound bag of avocados!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bye Bye Safeway/Costco - Rotisserie Chicken

3 irish men + 1 large truck + 1 rickety elevator/4 flights of stairs + 2 more flights of stairs + FOUR hours + 1 old apartment + 1 shiny new (to me) condo = money very well spent.

As of June 1, I am officially moved out of the apartment and into my new place. I deliberately said "into" and not "settled into" because I have one very empty living room that could lead a second life as a mini ballroom dance floor and boxes galore. I'll give you one guess as to which room in the condo is completely unpacked and furnished (over furnished at that)...yes, my kitchen. Granted, I still need to buy some more glasses, flatware, dishware and miscellaneous spices, but as of yesterday, I successfully had guests over for dinner cooked in my new kitchen. Actually patio would be a little more correct. May I present the newest addition to the ChuThis collection - my shiny Weber Genesis grill:

Isn't it pretty? I feel like a new proud parent. (Note: picture is snagged from, not my actual grill)

And like a new proud parent, I was eager to show it off. Yesterday, we used the grill with the new gadget:

(Note: picture is from

Costco and Safeway - I'm sorry, but I will no longer be purchasing your lovely Rotisserie chickens (unless absolutely pressed for a cheap, last minute dinner) since I can now make them even better myself.

I need to learn to truss a chicken properly when I have more time and when I don't have 4 hungry guys waiting to eat. I'm sure I wasted a large amount of propane while I fussed with attempting to follow a video that taught me how to truss a chicken (hitting the replay button with a your elbow due to chicken covered hands is not my idea of fun). In the end out of pure frustration and hunger, we tied the chicken up using any means possible just to get it on the grill and cooking. Would a proper trussing have made any real difference? Based on the fact that the chicken was gone before I had time to snap a picture, I'd say no.

The recipe that follows has measurements, but I'd caution you to really create it by taste. I used the "little bit of this, little more of this, and a little more of that" method, so as I recollect my memory of yesterday, I'm really just guessing. Besides, I'm sure just as many of you like more/less salt/garlic/pepper.

In the end, the rotisserie chicken turned out great - juicy and flavorful. Take away the trouble with trussing the chicken and this would have been next to effortless, something that might be worth trying at a BBQ party down the road.

Rotisserie Chicken
Serves 4-5 people

1 3-4 lb. whole chicken
1/2 C Butter
2 t Paprika
2 t Garlic Powder
1 t Salt
1 t Freshly Ground Pepper

1. Pre-heat grill without rotisserie rod.
2. Truss chicken (or tie it up any way possible to keep everything held tightly together).
3. Impale chicken on rotisserie rod (I'm sure there is a technical or just plain nicer term; however, I got too hung up on how barbaric I felt putting the chicken on that huge skewer)
4. Melt butter in a small bowl. Mix in paprika, garlic powder, salt and ground pepper to taste.
5. Place rotisserie rod with chicken on grill with a aluminum pan underneath to catch the drippings. At this point, you should have the front and back burner on low with the middle turned off. The temperature should be approximately 350.
6. Baste chicken with sauce. Cook for approximately 1.5 hours. Baste chicken with sauce and drippings every 25 minutes or so.
7. Remove chicken from grill when temperature reaches 160. Let sit for 10 minutes. Cut and serve.