Recipe: Greek-Style Fried Rice

Greek Fried Rice

Greek Fried Rice

Like Chinese fried rice, except it’s Greek! Needed a quick carbohydrate to go with squid on the grill, and found a container of leftover takeout. The net effect is close to the pilaf I could have made from scratch with more time and better planning. Serves 8.

1 quart container leftover rice (if you’ve got a pint container, divide everything in half)
1/4 c olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 green onions, sliced into 1/2 inch batons OR 1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 c chopped mint leaves (optional; if you don’t have any use more oregano)
1/2 t dried oregano
zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 c)
1 t salt (unless the rice is already salted)

Method: Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and green onions/onion. Saute briefly then add oregano and chopped mint. Saute just until mint is wilted then add the rice and stir vigorously so the oil is evenly distributed. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and salt and toss again. Cover and cook on low heat a few minutes until heated through.

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Recipe: Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)



This is a good way to use up over-ripe late season tomatoes, stale sourdough bread and whatever else you might have on hand. Serves 6.

Ingredients (basic):
1 lb or so stale sourdough bread, Italian or other sturdy white loaf
1 lb or so tomatoes, coarsely chopped (be sure to reserve the juice)
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 t salt
1/4 c olive oil
4 t red wine vinegar
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped (traditional, but optional to me)
Some chopped or crumbled tart cheese like feta (optional)
A handful of marinated vegetables from the DeLallio counter at the store (optional)
Whatever else you may have lying around (optional)

Method: cut the bread into 1 inch squares and soak in water till crustiness is gone (maybe 20 minutes if the bread is really hard and stale). Squeeze out as much water as you can and place in a bowl with the chopped tomatoes. Let it set a bit to absorb some juice, or just toss with the other ingredients. Allow to macerate a bit before serving. Tastes at least as good the next day.

PRO TIP: if your initial taste is a bit bland, try more salt and vinegar and/or lemon juice. There’s a lot of liquid so it’s important to get its flavor balance right.

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The difference between home cooks and professional chefs

Tomato Production Setup

My tomato peeling production setup

The other day I got pressed into service on a canning operation. My job was to peel 25 pounds of tomatoes and pass them on to be made into sauce. This required the set-up you see here: a pot of boiling water to loosen the skins, a pot of cool water to bring them back to handling temperature, a place for the discarded skins and a slotted spoon to make the transfers.

I had been told I didn’t need to worry about the stems but quickly discovered this particular batch of Romas was a bit woody. So when is the best time to cut out the stem-ends? If you do it after peeling the tomato falls apart. So, it needs to be done before they go in the boiling water bath. This is the kind of production-line decision that is made by professional cooks dozens of times a day and is why they are different than even the most accomplished home cooks.

You can do a job very well, but if it’s one-off there’s no guarantee that you will be able to repeat with identical results. I can reliably cook steaks because I once worked in a steakhouse. But I have no such experience with deep frying so my results are more experimental. I expect it’s the same for most of us. In particular, it’s why there’s such a difference between home and professional bakers. You can’t be assured of consistent baguettes until you have made dozens or hundreds of them day after day.

This is not to slight home cooks. It’s fun to experiment and discover new things. But predictability is nice, and if I’m paying for the meal I insist on it.

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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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