Recipe: Steak American Pharoah

American Pharoah

Steak American Pharoah

Here’s my contribution toward the excess caused by the arrival of the Triple Crown winner to run in this weekend’s Travers Stakes. It was inspired by some ripe stone fruit and a tub of duck fat that was in danger of being discarded. Oddly but deliciously, the sweetness of the fruit and the decadent gaminess of steak combine to produce a taste reminiscent of foie gras.

Steaks frying in duck fat

I used an aged Delmonico and a ribeye for this little experiment

Duck fat
Ripe peaches or nectarines
Some really nice steak

Method: heat a generous amount of duck fat in a cast iron skillet–about 1/4 inch deep. Split and stone the fruit then cook the halves, open side down, until nicely caramelized. Reserve on paper towels. Salt and pepper the steak and fry each side to your preferred tenderness, hopefully no more than medium rare. Drain the steak on paper towels, transfer to serving plates, place a fruit half on top, rest a few minutes then serve.

Fried Nectarines

Luscious fried nectarines

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Recipe: Ultimate Blender Gazpacho

Ultimate Gazpacho

Ultimate Gazpacho

I love this “salad in a cup” and I have to say my easy blender version is the best I’ve found. It’s worth investing in some good sherry vinegar, which you can find here. 8 servings.

1 pound good red tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
½ medium bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 medium white onion, coarsely chopped
6 T sherry vinegar, OR 5 T red wine vinegar and 1 T balsamic vinegar
4 c good tomato juice (I used Campbells which was the only brand in my store; it has scored well in various taste tests)
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t Tabasco sauce

Method: Dump everything except the tomato juice into a blender. Add 2 c tomato juice and pulse until ingredients are finely chopped but not liquefied. There should still be a significant amount of roughage in the gazpacho. Pour into a 64-oz container; add the remaining tomato juice to the blender and pulse to capture any remaining scraps of vegetable, then pour into the container and shake to blend. Chill 4 hours before serving.

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Recipe: Grilled Shishito Peppers

Grilled Shishito Peppers

Grilled shishito peppers

I did not realize until I found this article that shishitos and padrons are two different varieties. Both have just enough heat to be interesting. Shishitos are pointy and slim while padrons are more bell-shaped. Shishitos are also much easier to find, and I’m told they are often at a good price at Trader Joe’s. Serves 4 as a bar snack along with other munchies.

6 oz. shishito or padron peppers
Olive oil

Method: wash the peppers and toss them with a bit of olive oil, then sauté or grill on a perforated sheet until nicely blackened but not burned. Salt generously before serving.

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Recipe: Boiled Okra

Boiled Okra

Boiled okra. Not the prettiest picture, but apparently the rest was thrown out before I could make a nice composition.

This is the basic way we cook okra down south, and it’s pretty hard core. It produces the notorious sliminess which is loved by southerners and reviled by anyone north of the Mason-Dixon line. Try to buy younger, smaller pieces because they get very woody as they grow. Serves 4 southerners or 150 northerners.

1 lb okra

Method: Trim the stem end of the okra and cut into bite-size pieces if you like. Cook in well-salted boiling water until tender, maybe 10-15 minutes. Drain and serve with a pat of butter.

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My San Francisco food rotation

Based on the interest in my review of Middle’terranea, I thought I’d share a bit more about how I eat when I’m in San Francisco—a city I visit usually on my own, for business but with some downtime, several times a year.

I always try to visit at least one new and interesting place that takes some advance planning and logistics. This time it was the fascinating Middle Eastern pop-up; previous experiences have included Kin Khao, State Bird Provisions and Bar Tartine. (All these places can be found on Yelp.) San Francisco’s an intense restaurant town so it’s unlikely you are going to get into places of this caliber without some kind of advance planning though some take walk-ins at the bar.

Then, for lunch:

  • Take out dim sum from Wing Lee (Clement Street) or Good Mon Kook (Chinatown)
  • Pho at Golden Flower in Chinatown
  • Thai Beef Noodle Soup at King’s Thai Cuisine between 7th and 8th on Clement St (the location is still listed as King of Thai Noodles on Yelp, but it’s changed its name) or King of Thai Noodles in Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Banh mi from Saigon Sandwich on Larkin to take on the flight home, usually a special combo for lunch and a roast pork to be eaten somewhere over the Midwest
  • Two cheeseburgers with extra onions, mustard instead of sauce and pickles from In ‘n’ Out at Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Spicy Prawn lunch from Taiwan on Clement Street (the dish was disappointing on my last visit, but the owner assures me that was an off day and I must try again)

And here are some places I visit for things to cook or eat in the room:

  • Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market for Acme Bread, fresh vegetables and to say hello to my friends at Frog Hollow Farm
  • Trader Joe for basic foodstuffs
  • Safeway for craft beer at good prices
  • Tartine Bakery or Josey Baker for a baked treat

Ok, I’m hungry and ready to go back!

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A wonderful meal at San Francisco’s Middle’terranea

First course at Middleterranea

Limonata popsicle with a bit of white peach on top; sadly, this was the only photo I got due to a camera problem.

We don’t generally review specific restaurants on Burnt My Fingers, but will make an exception for an inspiring meal last week at Middle’terranea in San Francisco, a pop-up produced by famed local chef Michael Mina and featuring the work of Adam Sobel of RN74. This menu only lasts until mid-October when the restaurant switches to another concept, so if you’re anywhere close to SF go there now.

The flavors were intense yet balanced with a generous amount of salt. Two specifics I will remember and attempt to replicate were the dried cherries in the hummus (tartness a perfect counterpoint to the richness of the other ingredients) and the “toasted farro” in one of the salads which turns out (I asked Adam about this) to be farro grains (but he says this will work for any grain) that are cooked in an seasoned broth with garlic and herbs, dehydrated then reconstituted in hot oil.

I ate all of what follows. Look at the number of dishes and the complexity and you would agree the price might have been $90 or $135, but in fact it was $45. I also had the wine pairings at $30 which was not as good a value with mostly readily available, middle of the road choices; a broader selection of beers might have been a better choice with this spicy food.

Frozen Limonata and Olive Oil-Drizzled Tenbrick White Peach; Sea Salt and Basil Buds

Warm Yogurt Flat Bread with Za’atar-Cured Salmon
Red Onion Labneh, Shave Ciogga Beet, Fried Zucchini Chips

Lovage, Watercress and Mint Salad, Toasted Pistachios, Persian Cucumbers, Heirloom Melons and Olive Oil-Soaked Haloumi

Brokaw Avocado with Pickled Hot Peppers and Summer Vegetables; Fried Walnuts, Katafi, Schug

Heirloom Tomatoes and Shaved Green Onions, Crunchy Farro, Toasted Sesame, Coriander Blossom, Tahina, Spicy Lime Dressing

Fried Cauliflower and Crispy Chicken Skin Hummus, Roasted Garlic, Dried Cherries and Fresh Marjoram

Harissa-Marinated Whole Roasted Chicken

Roasted Baby Eggplant and Sow-Cooked Cherry Tomatoes, Sumac, Sesame, Pine Nuts, Oregano

Moroccan Sweet Corn, Chermoula Yoghurt, Feta, Cayenne Pepper, Orange Zest, Mint, Green Onions

Smashed and Fried Fingerling Potatoes, Garlic Aioli, Smoked Paprika, Matbucha

Toasted Sesame Mango Tarta, Frozen Greek Yoghurt, Preserved Lime, Cardamom Honey

The restaurant occupies the former Chez Claude space at 2120 Greenwich, corner of Fillmore in the Cow Hollow District. Reservations (very scarce) can be made at where you purchase a ticket in advance; walk-ins are also accommodated at the bar. Middle’terranea is open Wednesday-Saturday from 5:30 to 10:00 pm.

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Recipe: Amy Halloran’s Ambassador Pancakes


Pancakes made with whole rye flour and cornmeal

Amy Halloran is author of The New Bread Basket, a passionate book about the benefits of locally-grown grains (including why they taste so much better than mass-market flour brands). To demonstrate how much tastier fresh-ground local grains can be, she makes a version of these pancakes. It’s brilliant ambassadorship because they’re created right before your eyes, and who can resist an offer of hot flapjacks? These rye/cornmeal pancakes are her current favorites, though the recipe is infinitely variable. Amy prepares the mix in advance, then scoops out a cup to make approximately 10 5-inch pancakes.

Ingredients for mix:
2 c whole rye flour (preferably local and fresh-ground)*
2 c cornmeal (preferably local and fresh-ground)*
1 T plus 1 t baking powder, preferably Rumford
1 t baking soda
1 ½ t salt
2 t sugar (optional)**

Method: mix all ingredients and blend with a whisk.

Ingredients for pancakes:
1 c pancake mix
1-2 eggs
3/4 c milk***
1 T yoghurt***

Method: Beat eggs and mix in other liquid ingredients. In another bowl, make a well in the dry pancake mix and pour in the liquid ingredients. Mix with a spoon until most (but not all) lumps are absorbed; the batter does not need a smooth consistency. Cook on a griddle over medium heat with lots of butter (since the pancakes themselves have no fat). Serve with maple syrup or your favorite pancake topping.

* You can substitute 4 c whole wheat pastry flour for the dry ingredients, or experiment with your own blend.
** Because the base recipe has no sugar, it can be used with sweet or savory accompaniments. But if you’re having for breakfast with syrup, I’d add the sugar.
*** Or use 3/4 whole buttermilk.

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Recipe: Mexican-Style Pickled Vegetables (Escabeche)


Escabeche heavy on the carrots (because I had a lot of carrots)

In better California burrito places you always find a container of escabeche alongside the various salsas. Jalapeños and other vegetables (carrots, onions, maybe some cauliflower) are sweated in a bit of oil then simmered with spices and vinegar. I started with this recipe, which in turn credits Diana Kennedy, but made extensive modifications. Proportions are extremely variable and should be guided by what’s on hand, though you always need a few peppers for the heat. Makes 2 quarts.

2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch disks
3 large jalapeños, stems removed, cut lengthwise into sixths, pith and some seeds removed
2 large white onions, peeled and cut into rings
1 head of garlic (approximately 12 cloves), peeled
Cauliflower florets (optional)
1/3 olive oil or vegetable oil
2-4 bay leaves
1 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried thyme
1/4 t dried oregano
1 T sugar
1 T Kosher salt
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water

Method: Heat the oil to medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add vegetables and sautée gently until onions are just starting to wilt, about 10 minutes. Add spices and liquid and bring to a simmer; turn off heat. Pickles are done when the jalapeños have turned from a bright to a dull green. Serve with Mexican entrées. Lasts several weeks in the refrigerator, or can using your preferred method.

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The five most popular recipes on Burnt My Fingers (2015 Edition)

I usually do this on our anniversary in September, but am feeling summer laziness so it becomes a fill-in post right now in late July. Anyway, with thousands of clicks apiece, these five are so far ahead that nothing’s likely to change in the next two months.

1. Vincent’s Garlic Cole Slaw. It warms my heart that so many people have found this authentic Dallas recipe (instead of a few well-meaning lookalikes on the web) and put it to good use. Garlicky and so good with barbecue or, its original purpose, accompanying Greek-style seafood. UPDATE: I just got word that Vincent’s is closing its last restaurant in Plano, TX as of August 1 so this recipe is sadly timely.

2. Fried Calamari Chinese Style. This is the right way to eat calamari, with fried peppers mixed among the squid. No tartar or (shudder) marinara sauce needed…. just a generous quantity of available lemon slices.

3. The Colonel’s Three-Bean Salad. YUM Foods’ decline is likely due not to their troubles in China, but to discontinuing this addictive yet healthy side. It keeps well and doesn’t breed salmonella like potato salad, so it’s great for camping/picnics.

4. General Tso’s Shrimp with Garlic Sauce. This recipe truly is home-grown on Burnt My Fingers, and it’s the best rendition I’ve tried of a favorite dish. Be sure to have generous amounts of rice available to sop up the delicious gravy.

5. Chinese Tripe Stew. Really? Is it possible that offal is making a comeback? I would have to say so, since this otherwise simple and stick-to-the-ribs prep requires hunting out a Chinese spice packet in an Asian grocery. Thanks to my friend Chen for the original recipe, which I rendered with only minor tweaks.

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Where to eat in Saratoga Springs during the racing season

The 147th season of the Saratoga Race Course began last week, and my town is choked with tourists. It’s fun to observe the passing crowd with their big hats, limos and cigars, but it can also be very difficult to get a meal. Here are a few suggestions from a local. I haven’t included links because they are readily available from the touristic websites, and when you explore you might find other options you want to explore.

1. Make a reservation at 15 Church (original restaurant or patio) as soon as your travel plans are decided. This is by far the best restaurant in town and wildly popular, but with sufficient advance notice you may be able to score a table. If you do, you’ll be treated with courtesy and an excellent meal instead of being rushed through. The recently opened patio is a more casual place that’s very loud and even more popular than the sedate original, which I prefer.

2. If you’re going to the races at lunchtime, remember that you’re allowed to bring in food and a cooler full of beer and beverages in non-glass containers. I recommend an Italian Mix from Roma Imports, a vegan buffet box from Four Seasons, or a sandwich and a carton of gazpacho from Putnam Market. All these places are very crowded from about 11 to 12:45 with people trying to get to the track, so go early, phone in your order, or miss the first post and pick up your sandwich around 1. Get the beer at EBI on Excelsior… cans only, remember.

3. Take at least a couple of your evening meals as picnics in Congress or Spa Park instead of waiting on line for restaurants. Any of the above lunch suggestions are good, and since we’re not going to let the food sit around I would add a Comfort Burger or Mac and Cheese from Comfort Kitchen (note that they close at 7) or a bucket of take-out chicken from Hattie’s Chicken Shack in the Wilton Mall.

4. For breakfast, have at least one meal (or take out a box of pastries) from Mrs. London’s. You can also get an excellent diner-style breakfast at Triangle Diner or Compton, two locals-only places that are remarkably free of high rollers (though you may have to wait in line with the working stiffs).

Most (not all) of the above places are right downtown, so don’t even think about driving. Leave your car where it is and walk to the track (it’s about a mile). The exercise will do you good after eating all that food.

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