chezpei.com

Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Soy Milk Biscuits

Soy milk biscuits were the result of a small kitchen emergency this morning. I ran out of milk, yogurt, AND toast! An intense craving for carbs this morning led to this take on more traditional drop biscuits. I won't lie; it's not as good as buttermilk or even regular milk biscuits. It has a slight soy milk flavor, but the texture is fluffy and if you're not planning to eat biscuits plain you probably won't notice the flavor difference at all.


For 8 drop biscuits:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons very cold butter, cut into small cubes 
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar for sweet biscuits 
  • 3/4 cup soy milk 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Dump in the cut butter, and press the flour into the butter with your fingers. Working quickly, press the flour into the butter until you have no large pieces. Some of the butter will disappear into the flour. Other pieces will look like flakes (kind of like rolled oats), some will stay pea sized. Just make sure you don't have any large chunks.

Pour the soy milk into the mixture, stirring as you go with a spatula or your fingers. Working quickly, fold everything together until the mixture just barely holds together and there are no floury lumps. Small patches of flour are fine. Using a spoon, drop onto a nonstick or lightly floured baking sheet, then bake for 20 minutes or until golden around the edges and top. As with most baked goods, don't start checking the oven until you can smell something! Before the kitchen starts to smell good, you're just letting heat escape from the oven if you check it again and again.

Cool until you can handle the biscuits, and eat with your favorite toppings!
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Banana Bread

Bread made from bananas: it's good for the soul.. It's a simple quickbread, but a really good banana bread is hard to find. I've been tweaking my recipe for years and always get great feedback from friends who try it. I have to admit, though, Sugar Cafe was a wake up call for me because their banana bread is the only one I've tasted that is clearly superior to homemade. Still, one can't pay $2 for a muffin every day. Here's a tweaked, one bowl, no fuss, no stand mixer version of the Chez Pei classic.


1/2 cup olive oil, any type
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 dash each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or cardamom
3 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped

Whisk together the oil and sugar until well combined. Let this sit while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees, mash up your bananas, and toast the nuts. Lightly grease a loaf pan.

Take your sugar and oil mixture and whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients, folding as you go. While you still have a few patches of dry flour left, add the bananas and nuts and fold gently just until you don't see any more dry flour. Pour into prepared loaf pan, and put in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Because ovens vary, I would say start checking at the 40 minute mark and remove as soon as a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This is a very moist bread, and you don't want to dry it out!

Let cool in the pan for five or ten minutes until it's cool enough to handle, then flip the loaf out onto a rack to cool. I like thick slices served with a cup of milk or tea; it's a great breakfast or snack!

And for those keeping track, yes, that's my kitchen wall, and it's beautiful sage green! Three cheers for being close to done.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Brenda's French Soul Food Cafe

We got done with errands a full half hour before having to return our Zipcar today, so J suggested we grab a quick breakfast to go (and get me my morning coffee). 


What, oh what could be in this greasy paper bag?




YUMMINESS, that's what!!! We'd been to (and liked) Brenda's in the Tenderloin, but neither of us had had their crawfish beignets until today. Three softball-sized beignets and a large cafe au lait set us back about $10, but it was very much worth it. The beignets were cooked to order and given to me too hot to eat, and they were filled with a cheesy, slightly spicy mixture of sauce and crawfish. The dough was fluffy but with just a little chewiness, and about one and a half of one was more than enough breakfast for me. We haven't been to Brenda's in awhile, but our quick trip there has me eager to return for more.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Sugar Cafe

Ever since it opened, Sugar Cafe has easily been the cutest cafe on the block. Hip, chic. and new, it is an internet cafe by day and a bar/lounge by night. What's really great though is that they roast their own coffee, and it's always been gosh darned good.


Lately, I've been going to Sugar Cafe to kill time while the contractors finish my apartment. I discovered that in addition to a good cup of joe, Sugar Cafe makes really good food! I've photographed here a slice of ginger cake and three muffins. The cake was moist and intensely gingery, and the muffins are generously sized. Last week I had a banana nut muffin topped with walnuts and a crunchy meringue/streusel, and it was exceptional. I might even way it's the best banana bread I've ever tasted! I liked it so much I bought a box of assorted muffins for my workers today. When the going gets tough, the tough bribe their contractors. After all, little sugar never slowed any project down!


Another day, I had a cheesy vegetable scramble because I needed to spend an entire morning at the cafe. I was very pleasantly surprised. Despite the cool vibe, Sugar Cafe serves some seriously homey grub! Maybe I just haven't cooked in too long, but it was so refreshing to eat a plate of food that tasted like home cooking rather than restaurant fare. Whoever cooks at Sugar Cafe is probably not a chef, but his/her friends probably love coming over for dinner.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Brunch at Home

It was tempting to loll the day away at home, but we promised ourselves we wouldn't let another weekend pass without hitting the gym. So after one extra large egg white omelet and some garlicky haricot verts, we're off to pump some iron!

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Butler & the Chef

Well, I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I hate driving. This is how I know I've become a true transplant. No one from Los Angeles hates driving; only people from San Francisco brag about their carlessness. But after three days of driving around the Bay Area, I was ready to return my rental car. This morning (don't ask) I ended up on Treasure Island after I took a wrong turn onto 3rd Street and ended up on the Bay Bridge.

Always one to turn lemons into lemonade, I hopped out of the car and took some photos of San Francisco in the fog. Treasure Island really does have a lovely view of the city.

After getting safely back into the city I had breakfast at The Butler & the Chef. I had a buckwheat crepe filled with smoked salmon and creme fraiche, with a side of very fresh baby spinach. It was a lovely meal, and I had enough left over for lunch. If you want a cozy French breakfast in a quiet, lesser known part of town, this is a great spot to keep in mind.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Breakfast Sandwich

I've woken up starving every single day this week. So far I've tried to keep things under control with oatmeal or yogurt in the morning, but today I said to hell with it and made myself a breakfast sandwich.

Guacamole, lightly fried ham, and an egg over easy in all its gooey glory. What's scary is that I felt full after eating half of this monster, and ten minutes later I was hungry enough to eat the rest of it. Oh well, at least it's cool enough today to go for a run.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

Martinez, CA

J and I took an unprecedented road trip way out into the East Bay today. Our end point was Martinez, CA. Specifically, we found ourselves in Martinez's very cute downtown neighborhood. It reminded us both of Claremont, where we went to college.

We had breakfast at Victoria's Cafe, a no frills neighborhood diner that looks like it's been there for fifty years. It's popular with the locals, from old retired ladies to police officers on a break. J made the winning choice of the meal with his linguica and eggs. This was one fo the best linguicas I've ever tasted: very smokey, not too salty, with just a touch of sweetness to it so the sausage charred nicely.

I had the chicken fried steak because I can never resist chicken fried steak. This was a fine rendition, as were the hash browns and eggs over easy. Solid, all-American breakfast food at a decent price. Sometimes it's fun to get out of the city.

Right across the street was Gateau Elegant, pretty much the opposite of down home cheap eats. I had a slice of princess cake, which had some of the better princess cake custard I've tasted to date. However, I found the marzipan a little thick, though it gets points for not being hard or grainy.

I wandered around a little afterwards and fell in love with Martinez's antique shops. I've been in a lot of (insert "crappy") antique shops in my day, but the ones in Martinez are exactly what you see on television when they tell you chic vintage gems can be yours for the having if you know where to look. There were a ton of amazing things in every shop, in great condition for decent prices. I even found a Wedgeworth stove, which is one of those nostalgia items every avid home cook dreams about refurbishing one day. Look how cute it is! It was priced a little under $500 but had "make offer" stickers all over it. If only.

Vintage Wedgeworths have a cult following because of their adorable exterior design, because they're built out of solid materials, and because they have two stoves and two broilers. The writing inside the door is a cute touch from the past. It tells clueless new cooks how long to cook common dishes at what temperatures! Precious.

I'd never seen this stove before, but I liked the colors. The compartments are all kooky. It reminds me of a cartoon stove. If I ever find an apartment to buy, I'm so going back to Martinez to accessorize. The stores were literally teeming with vintage Pyrex, English china, copper and tin baking pans in fun shapes, and cute little pieces of furniture.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Honey Cardamom Banana Bread

Not to brag, but over the years I've become famous (in the inner circle, at least) for creating a top notch banana bread recipe. What really makes the compliments meaningful to me is that the recipe has been passed on and tried by a lot of people, with huge success. I can fiddle with a lot of things and make them taste good, but being able to pass a recipe to someone and have him/her get great results without my watching? That makes me proud!

Not to be a tease, but after years of success with the old recipe I decided today to mix things up with an easier, more portable, healthier, nuttier and more heavily spiced version of the old favorite. It turned out very light and fluffy, so give it a try!

for 10 large muffins, or 12-14 cupcake sized muffins.
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with liners.

Sift together all the dry ingredients in a medium or large bowl and set aside. In a mixing cup, combine the honey, olive oil, and eggs. To create less of a mess, I use one measuring cup, measure half a cup of honey, then pour in olive oil until the entire mixture measures one cup, and then add the two eggs and whisk it all in the same cup. I know, so smart (eyeroll).

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, then whisk together starting from the center and slowly incorporating the dry ingredients into the mix. Add the bananas and walnuts and mix to combine.

Fill the muffin tins to about half full if you want your muffins to look like mine, and 3/4th full if you want a taller muffin. Bake for 25-40 minutes until the tops are browned and slightly cracked, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. NOTE: my times may be different from yours based on how large your muffin tins are and how much you fill them. Start checking on your muffins every 5 minutes after the 15 minute mark.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dynamo Doughnuts

Vroom vroom! On this cloudy summer morning, a Hybrid Prius and I zipped around town running errands, buying supplies for the coming week's dinners as well as for a bridal shower this weekend (Congrats, N!)

My first stop was the Civic Center farmers' market, where I loaded up on a lot of great seasonal fruit. Photos to come! Then I zipped down to the mission for meat and vegetables, stopped by Trader Joe's for pantry supplies and dairy, and paid a visit to the Fabric Outlet in SOMA before making it home just in time to return the car.

I did take a break to stop by Dyamo for a fluffy, fresh doughnut. Today they had bacon maple, which is simply genius. It's barely sweet, with a nice savory kick from pieces of chewy, crispy bacon. I like the idea of a savory doughnut, and this comes pretty darn close.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Bacon and Oxtail Soup

Mmmm...there's nothing like a plate of bacon on a Sunday morning.

We had to clear the fridge and fortify ourselves for a day of apartment hunting, so I fried up the better part of a pack of Niman Ranch bacon and the two of us went to town. Bacon really is a magical food.

We washed it down with leftover oxtail soup. Soup is always better the next day, and this was actually best almost a day and a half after I made it. Oxtail soup is high on my list of favorite soups because of the balance of sweet vegetables, fall-apart beef chunks, and the rich gelatinous soup. Here's a short recipe:
  • 1 oxtail, about 3 pounds. The butcher will slice it into chunks for you
  • 1/2 to 1 bulb garlic, peeled and slightly chopped
  • 1 very large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 3 stems celery, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1-12 oz. can tomatoes (you can pick sliced, diced, or crushed)
  • 1-6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, or a few sprigs fresh
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
Rinse off the oxtail and put in a gallon of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Stir and skim regularly, until no skum boils to the surface. Simmer for 2 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to stick with a fork but not yet falling off the bone. Add all the vegetables and herbs, bring back to a boil, add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for at least another hour. There's really no way to overcook this, and you can leave the cover on or off the pot depending if you want a more watery soup or a thicker stew. If you like, add pasta in the last ten minutes to make this a one pot meal.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Easiest Egg Sandwich

Some of the best breakfasts are the simplest. My go-to breakfasts take 5 minutes in the morning and tend towards the soft, warm, and carb/protein packed.

For an easy egg sandwich, throw a piece of toast into the toaster. Then turn the flame on high on a nonstick pot. The better the nonstick pot, the better your eggs. I am lucky enough to have a pot that's new enough it still doesn't need any butter or oil for egg frying. Scramble two eggs, pour them into the pan, turn the flame down to medium, and stir the eggs gently with a rubber spatula. Continue stirring as the egg cooks, scraping the cooked bits off the bottom and swirling the pan to let the raw parts fill in the spaces. Feel free to work slowly; good scrambled eggs don't need to be made at the lightening speeds of your neighborhood line chef (for one, your stove isn't as hot as his griddle). When the eggs are almost cooked through, salt and pepper them and pour onto your now warmed toast.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Homemade Yogurt

One of the things I try to eat every day is yogurt. I just can't say enough about how much better it makes me feel. Some lean protein in the morning really helps stave off hunger, and the bacteria in yogurt help digestion. Of course, none of this applies if you're eating something like strawberry Yoplait out of a plastic carton, since it's packed with sugar, preservatives, and stabilizers.

My yogurt of choice these days is homemade. I have gotten to the point where my yogurt regenerates indefinitely, but when I first started making it I needed to by a new jar of storebought yogurt every few batches because the yogurt stopped thickening. Practice makes perfect; here's a basic recipe:
  • 1/4 cup or one storebought container of good plain yogurt with live, active cultures (I love Saint Benoit here in the Bay Area, but I have had luck with Fage and Stonyfield)
  • 1 quart milk (you can use soy milk, but the resulting soy yogurt will not be able to produce future batches)
Heat the milk over a medium flame until it is bubbling around the corners. Do not let it come to a full boil or froth over. Set the pot in an ice bath, or on a cold windowsill, and cool until comfortable to touch. Use a clean thermometer or washed hands, please. Stir a little cooled milk into the starter yogurt to thin it out, then pour the yogurt back into the milk and stir well. Pour into containers that have been cleaned with soap and very hot water. I like to use glass containers because it's a little easier to see how thick the yogurt is getting. I also always make one small container of yogurt that isn't opened until I make my next batch, so I always have a clean starter.

Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a cloth, and set in a very warm place. An oven with a pilot light is perfect, or you can preheat your oven to about 100 degrees and then turn it off when you put the yogurt in. Depending on how healthy your yogurt is, it should multiply and thicken the milk in 8-12 hours. Start checking it with a clean knife after 7 hours. Place the yogurt in the fridge when it's a little softer than you want it, because it will thicken slightly as it cools.

See? Cool, creamy, and refreshing. My favorite thing about homemade yogurt is that it is much less sour than storebought. Whereas I usually think plain yogurt needs some honey or jam, I can eat homemade straight of of the jar. But that doesn't mean I don't usually add some granola and homemade raspberry preserves. That, and paying under $2 a quart for organic isn't too shabby!

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