Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Swapper Profile: Christina Tunnah + Chicken Liver Apple & Bourbon Pâté Recipe

I'm so happy to introduce Christina Tunnah for our next swapper profile. Christina is a rare thing. As both a former boss and a close friend, I've known her a fair few years and can always count on her. And she has two of the best things in a friend...she makes me think, and she makes me laugh. Christina is also a phenomenal cook (her dinner parties are to die-for with the perfect balance of casual fun and amazing food), inveterate world traveler, and avid hiker. She is a SF Swappers veteran, having attended as regularly as her work travel schedule allows since the very first swap. You've undoubtedly shared a good giggle with her at the swaps, and if not some of Christina's past swap items have included Sorrel + Arugula Pesto, Wild Mushroom Relish, Shepherds Pie, Salmon Empanadillos, Kimchi, and produce from her garden. Now you know who I'm talking about, right? Right. So read on for her knock-out chicken liver pâté recipe and more.

Name: Christina Margarita Tunnah

Christina living la vida local in Peru
Home (+ hometown swap): Born in London, England, Berkeley is my home, and San Francisco is my swap town.

How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago? I've been swapping with the SF Swappers since Aimee and Stephanie launched it over a year ago. 

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice? I made Chicken Liver Apple & Bourbon Pâté, and a plum pomegranate tarragon jam.  Usually what is in season in my back yard inspires a recipe. The apple tree, tarragon and bumper plums inspired this last swap’s bootie.

Fresh sage in Christina's garden
What’s your favorite thing about swapping? Tasting the creativity of others and in the potluck pre-swap hour, I get a lot of cooking tips for other dishes.

Who or what most influences your cooking? My mum is a fabulous and curious cook. Growing up in wartime Spain and spending any summers on the family farm, she taught me not to waste any part of the animal or pantry. When we first moved to the States she’d send me off to school with a thermos of paella or coq au vin which solicited “yucks” and horrible teasing from my PBJ class mates. We also lived and traveled in a lot of places as a kid, so I was introduced to many foods since infancy.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool? My Sabatier knife set, a Christmas gift from my brother over 15 years ago.

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession? Persian mint. It’s a fecund little plant so it makes its way into my breakfast yoghurt, tea, cucumber salsa, homemade ice cream, and cocktails.

Biggest food surprise? That East Bay (Oakland and Berkeley) is finally getting the respect it deserves for having great restaurants.

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be? Roast chicken with roast potatoes and parsnips. It’s my happy place.

When I'm not in the kitchen I'm… yard sale hunting, traveling, gardening, and hiking.

Favorite local food experience: Lalime’s, Meal Ticket brunches, Jong Ga House Korean (on Grand Avenue)

Recipe by Christina:

Does it get better than homemade pâté and
fresh bread? Yes, add wine!
Chicken Liver Apple & Bourbon Pâté

I’m a bit of a slappa in the kitchen so the measurements are approximate:

1lb of chicken liver
1 1/2 stick of unsalted butter
Chopped onion (medium)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 apples (crisp tart variety), cubed
Fresh sage, chopped
2 Tb bourbon or brandy
2 Tb heavy cream (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Melt ¾ stick of butter in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté till sweated being careful not to burn butter or caramelize onion. Add apple and cook till softened. Add garlic and sage, cook for 2-3 minutes. Put aside in bowl. 

Using the same skillet, melt remaining butter and add chicken livers and cook until only slightly pink color remains in center. Add back the onion mixture. Salt & ground pepper to taste and add bourbon. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Blend in batches until smooth. Add optional heavy cream and/or a few more cuts of butter until a smooth consistency. Poor into serving bowls to set. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cooking The Breakfast Book, Chapter 4: Four-Grain Toasted Cereal with Bananas and Pecans

It doesn't get more basic than cereal. Domesticated some 12,000 years ago, these grains are truly a human staple. So the idea of taking a selection of whole grains and mixing them with my own hands into a breakfast cereal really appealed, and it was this toasted blend that grabbed my eye for Chapter 4 of our Cook the Book project.

Shopping for the ingredients in the bulk section at Rainbow proved more interesting than I would have expected too. There are an astonishing number of grains you can buy there  things I'd maybe heard the name of, but wouldn't know the first thing about preparing. (Teff or kamut anyone?) So the 20 minutes I spent perusing was some good nerdy fun.

Four-Grain Toasted Cereal with Bananas and Pecans
Adapted from from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham

1 cup each of the following flakes: oats (rolled), rye, barley, wheat
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/2 cup safflower oil
Sea salt to taste
1 cup broken pecans
Banana to taste

Preheat the oven to 300°. Toss the flakes by hand in a large bowl until mixed. Add the sugar, nutmeg and oil in a small saucepan and stir constantly on medium heat until the sugar dissolves.*

Pour the mixture over the flakes and stir until each flake is well coated. Spread in an even layer on a large baking sheet. I recommend using a Silpat or similar baking mat. 

Bake for 25-35 minutes until slightly golden, turning the flakes every 10 minutes with a spatula to cook evenly. Don't overbake the cereal.

If your flakes are slightly sticky when you first remove them from the oven, they will crisp up when they cool. 

Add salt to taste and serve with sliced banana and your milk of choice.

Store in an airtight container.

* Cooking notes: Pay close attention while you heat the sugar and oil! If, like me, your attention strays and you are not very vigilant in your stirring, you may end up with a burnt caramel mess before you know it.

I thought this cereal was tasty and had a well-rounded flavor from the mix of grains, but I'll definitely look to make a more complexly flavored granola next time.

Hungry for more? Have a look at the cereals my blog partners came up with for this round below:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Canning Whole Fruit - Cook It! July Resolution: Plums in Syrup with Rosemary

Plums are one of those fruits you can almost always bank on getting free. Folks who have plum trees are continually looking for friends to take the abundance off their hands. I usually get a good haul in from a couple trees at my parents' place, but was away during plum harvest season this summer so was happy when the plums I'd been ogling in the yard in Eugene were ready by the time we left town.

So whole plums in syrup seemed the obvious choice for the July Cook It! project.

Plums in Syrup with Rosemary
Yields one quart-sized jar

1½ - 2 lbs whole plums, depending on size of fruit
2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1 piece of fresh rosemary, washed

While you heat up your water bath canner, place water and sugar into a non-reactive pot and stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil and cook while stirring for one minute.

Wash the plums and prick each one 3-4 times with a skewer or toothpick. Place the plums in your hot jar, packing them as tightly as possible. They will shrink once you add the hot liquid and process them, so squeeze as many in as you can.

Place the sprig of fresh rosemary down one side of the jar, and pour the hot simple syrup over the plums, leaving ½" headspace.

Wipe the rim with a clean, damp dish towel, placing the lid on top and screwing down the band to fingertip tightness.

Process for 25 minutes and let cool on a wire rack. Over time the rosemary will infuse the syrup and plums with more flavor, so keep this jar on the shelf for at least a month or two before opening. 

Use the flavorful plums to top ice cream or cake-like desserts. The extra syrup provides the perfect hint of fruity and herbal flavor for cocktails.

Note: If you are using thin-skinned plums, they may burst inside the jar when you process them. While this isn't the most attractive outcome, there's always a silver lining: when you open the jar, you can quickly cook them down in the syrup to make plum rosemary compote! (Just don't forget to remove the pits.)

Plums in Syrup with Rosemary on Punk Domestics

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Cooking The Breakfast Book, Chapter 3: Custard-Filled Cornbread

Marion Cunningham is right. This recipe is pure magic. It's indulgent and rich and comforting, so I especially recommend making it on a cold day, or if you've got a case of the blues. It will both make you warm and bring a smile to your face. 

When I was deciding what to eat this with, sausages were the first thing that came to mind. Then I remembered that there is a menu section in the back of the book. Indeed, this is the recommended menu featuring this recipe: Fresh Peaches and Berries, Custard-Filled Cornbread and Breakfast Sausage. Thanks for making it all so easy Marion.

I think I prefer a more savory cornbread, so this was just a smidgen too sweet for me. Next time (oh yes, there will be a next time) I'll reduce the sugar.

Pouring in the cream

Fresh from the oven

First peek of the surprise inside

Magical filling

Perfect combination of crispy and smooth

Luscious creaminess in every bite

Custard-Filled Cornbread
Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Serves 8

2 eggs
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8" square baking dish and place it in the oven to get hot while you make the batter.

Crack your eggs into a large mixing bowl and add the melted butter. Beat until well blended and then add the sugar, salt, milk and vinegar, continuing to beat well. 

In a separate bowl stir together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and baking soda and add it into the egg mixture. Mix it only long enough to remove lumps and the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the heated dish and follow immediately by pouring the cream into the center of the batter. Do not stir! Bake for an hour or until lightly browned. 

Serve while warm.

A most accurate recipe intro

Now go take a virtual bite of the Quick Breads made by my fellow Cook-the-Bookers: