Friday, July 4, 2008

Ultimate Ice Cream, Ultimate summer

Greetings comrades! Did you know that July is national ice cream month? I didn't either, and if you live in San Francisco like I do, you might not think about ice cream much in July. (Seriously, it's like January out there. I walked out the door into fog so thick I couldn't see the end of the block.) But, thanks to FoodBuzz, I had the opportunity get the scoop from cookbook author, food journalist, consultant, and "ultimate cook" Bruce Weinstein. In 1999, Weinstein and fellow author Mark Scarborough published The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, whose success spawned ten more "Ultimate" books, and he was just in town promoting National Ice Cream month and Real California Milk.

The whole idea is cheesy, but National Ice Cream month is a pretty big deal for California; Americans consume 25 pints of ice cream a year, and California's 2,000 dairy families supplied 133 million gallons in 2006. And in next few months, you'll start seeing a new seal on everything that comes from our "happy cows". What does this have to do with the Guerrilla Gourmet? Find out after the jump.

Dessert has always been something I shy away from making. For some reason, I hardly flinch at weird meat, big parties, hard work, or day-to-day baking, but cakes, cookies, and pastry somehow flummox me. Ice cream, on the other hand, is easy and cheap to make yourself and is an unlimited canvas for your creativity. I've made a couple of different ice creams with a secondhand ice cream maker (including a delicious Fernet Branca and creme de menthe concoction) and the endeavor pays for itself after a few pints.

So, why devote a few hundred pages to ice cream, sorbet, and granita? Well, as Bruce said, "Ice cream is the one thing everybody loves." The Ultimate Ice Cream Book includes over 500 recipes from Avocado to White Chocolate, but Bruce's favorite is still plain boring vanilla because "it's the best way to to taste the quality of the cream...there's not enough chocolate in the world to hide bad dairy." Speaking of bad dairy, one recipe that didn't make it into the book was garlic (sorry Gilroy). Apparently, it worked okay, but "tasted like you were licking a frozen entree."

Bruce was putting together recipes for the fourth of July, and local recipes for every city he visited. I got to try the "Cable Car-a-mel Sundae*", a scoop each of vanilla and dulce de leche ice cream, topped with real, warm caramel and salted roast peanuts. A simple-seeming combination, but very good. What's Guerrrilla: If you find an old school ice cream machine secondhand ice cream is a pretty inexpensive proposition. And it's good exercise too. What's Gourmet: Making ice cream into a "sundae" is more than squeezing syrup on top. Here you get creamy and cold from the ice cream, sweet and smooth from the carmel, and salty and crunchy from the peanuts. The salty peanuts here really make the silky flavor of the carmel pop.

If you ever want ice cream without a side of elbow grease, Bruce recommends the little, local shops. He suggests J Fosters in Avon, Connecticut (informally known as "Phineas Q. Butterfat's"), Bart's, all across Massachusetts, and Ciao Bella here in San Francisco. I would add Maggie Mudd and Mitchell's to that list.

Find The Ultimate Ice Cream Book at your local independent bookstore, or at Amazon, and find real California ice cream pretty much anywhere. Also look for Weinstein's next project, Pizza: Grill it, Bake it, Love it!, in December.

*I should note here that I have lived in the Bay Area for my whole life and in San Francisco for three years and I have only ridden a cable car once, when I was 12...
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Writings on the Wall

Ahhh, sweet summertime! There are few things that flatter the guerrilla chef more than playing with fire. Sure, for Schaefer and my dad this means they get to play with the Barbecue, but tonight I get to play with sparklers and watch giant explosions of color fill the sky (if the fog clears up that is!) For, in the words of a heroic president, today we celebrate our independence day! The celebration of the Fourth of July means a lot of different things to people, but for me, it is a holiday where we celebrate all those little things that we only get to do because of a lot of loud and uppity people uniting throughout the ages. For instance, I intend to ingest a fair amount of calories and probably some cheap beer today, and am incredibly grateful that I never have to worry about my government telling me that I can't! So, in honor of our rebellious forefathers, this weeks "Writings on the Wall" is centered on things that I'm happy to say are independent, free and especially rebellious!

Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
This is a really inspiring blog I recently found while searching for a Greek recipe. I think that Laurie’s struggle to eat well in Alaska is very similar to our own her in California. It has been very inspiring to read about her ability to transform the seemingly inedible, for instance spruce tips, into the delicious! Her adventurous spirit reminds me that our only limits are those which we create for ourself!

Cooking with fire, DIY Butter, 18 Reasons and Muppets in the kitchen after the jump.

Cooking with Fire: Campfire Meals made with Dutch ovens and foil
What a great collection of inexpensive easy meals for your next camping trip, day at the beach or picnic. We’ve enjoyed taking our Dutch oven out to the park a number of times, just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you have to eat just hot dogs and hamburgers!
Guerrilla Tip: These and these also make great additions to any camping “kitchen!”

How to make cultured butter
Nothing says rebel like proudly eating your fatty milk solids! And you get double guerrilla points for making those fatty milk solids in to sweet butter yourself!

18 Reasons

Art. Community. Food. Need I say more? This gallery on Guerrero street is bring the best of our neighborhood together. They will be filling their calendar in the next few weeks and we hope to attend some of the events. Hopefully we’ll see you there too!

Throwing Spoons – Culinary Musings of a Muppet Fan

Yet another blog I now love, that I recently found through the Royal Foodie Blogroll. I truly enjoy Martha’s conversational style of writing, and the way that she seems to invite her readers into her life and kitchen. Her recent recipe for Baked Beans is not to be missed, and the story of her family which she shares is both moving and beautiful!

Upper Photo, Left: Courtesy of
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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Shove it in your face!

Nothing too special this week, except that Tiffany will be leaving her job (and getting ready to start school) on Thursday! That means she'll have more time to hang out and pursue her quest for a better bagel. It also means that, with one less paycheck, we'll be getting more serious about the "Guerrilla" part of our little project. (Probably no more of ribs of beef or visits to fancy Moroccan joints.) We're also drinking Pabst most of this week. Anyway, here's what's up...

Monday: Tiffany's green chile corn chowder.
Tuesday: Risotto Pangratatto (that's "fried bread" in Italian) and the Flexitarian Menu's shredded brussels sprouts. Contadina pinot grigio.
Wednesday: Old favorite, clams with white beans and chorizo. Pacific Rim dry reisling.
Thursday: Pizza! Not sure what I want, but I'll probably copy something from the local fancy thin-crust joint, Gialina.
Friday: Fourth of July grilled fare "Chez Simons" with San Bruno's "safe and sane" fireworks for dessert.
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Risotto Pangratatto

In the days of the Risorgimento, a tattered band of Carbonari on the run from Austrian troops of the Holy Alliance stopped for the evening in the tiny village of Islamenta (just outside of Naples). The rebels, led by a very young Giuseppe Garibaldi, were afraid of being betrayed if they entered the village, so they stealthily approached a tiny house on the edge and asked for a meal and a place to sleep. The family that lived there was very poor, but they were patriots and burned with a fierce hatred of their oppressors. Though the mother of the family had some pasta, she had only a tiny wedge of Parmesan cheese to top it with. So, to season the pasta she combined anchovies, chiles, lemon, and some stale bread to make a crunchy, delicious "pangratatto" for the hungry rebels, who thanked her profusely. The rest of the story, after the jump...

Actually, this Bufordesque saga of the humble origins of an Italian specialty is a total lie. I came across this recipe in Cook with Jamie. Oliver just described it as "a recipe that can be made very cheaply, but when you're eating it you'd never believe that was the case." That's what the Guerrilla Gourmet is all about, but I felt had to make up my own story to distract from the fact that it's really just (delicious) fried bread.

Risotto Pangratatto

What's Guerrilla: This dish uses small amounts of very flavorful ingredients to create a satisfying meal out of almost nothing.
What's Gourmet: The bold flavor and texture of the crunchy pangratatto makes a lovely contrast to the smooth, creamy rice of the risotto.

"Plain" risotto.
Six anchovy fillets
Zest of a lemon.
Four little, dry, red chiles.
Four cloves garlic, peeled.
A chunk of stale bread the size of your fist.

If you have a blender**, roughly cube your bread, chuck it in with everything else, and blend until you have breadcrumbs. Then fry it all in a bit of olive oil until crispy and fragrant. Let drain on a paper towel, then toss a big handful on your risotto. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and a bit of chopped parsley to keep things from looking too grim.

**If you don't (we don't) cube your bread as small and dice up all your other ingredients. Fry the bread in olive oil until it just starts to brown, then add the other ingredients and keep going until everything is crisp and fragrant. (When I made this last night, I mashed the bread into uneven crumbs, added everything to the pan at once, and ended up burning the smaller pieces. Adding the anchovy stuff later in the game ensures that it doesn't burn before the larger chunks of bread finish browning.)

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A quick garden update

Dean Martin used to sing/slur a great lounge song back in the day, something about "I've got Juuunne in Jaaanuary..." Well the weather right now is pretty much the opposite, so here I am blogging inside. Growing vegetables in San Francisco is like caring for a bi-polar relative; I love this city, but for three days straight the sun beats down, wilting greens or sending them to seed, then the fog rolls in and smothers everything in a damp blanket. I took a survey today that asked me what the city could do to get more people to grow their own food. I suggested that they buy weather from Oakland. More on urban gardening (my own and others) after the jump!

I set out to do a simple update of what I'm growing and how it's doing, but ended up surfing the web and finding, among other things, that City Farmer, my favorite urban farming blog, has moved to a new website. I also learned that Garden for the Environment and the City of San Francisco's Department of Environment have teamed together to plant a large victory garden in front of City Hall starting in July. Their website is a bit confusing, but it looks like a cool project and I look forward to helping out.

On the home front, things are making the transition from spring to summer. Starting in late May, a heat wave started wilting the beets and Kohlrabi and sent the lettuce and Bok Choy to bolt. So we've used the fruits of our first harvest to make beet soup, kohlrabi gratin with greens, and plenty of stir fries and salads.

I've used the last week to rearrange things, pulling up the languishing onions and bolted greens, planting new lettuce in shadier corners of the yard (and building shade in places), and planting the sunnier spots with cumumbers, zucchini, and amaranth. I'm particularly interested in the amaranth, which was a staple crop of the Aztecs for centuries, produces both nutritious leaves and high-protein grain, and grows fast in hot sun. According to some of what I read on the internet, this weedy little reddish-green plant could pretty much end world hunger and bring about peace on Earth. So far it's just sitting in the dirt, not germinating. I've also been very excited to see the first tomatoes forming. They're still the size of a gumball (and just as hard) but I am eagerly looking forward to seeing them ripen in August.

I've also been thinking about next year. This season has already paid off pretty well, but it felt like a lot of work. A full week in February was devoted to clearing the yard, digging through soil, and building beds. Then another intense period of planting seeds and tending seedlings in March, and the recent flurry of activity in the beginning of June. I'm looking forward to a more consistent schedule next year. By staggering planting dates, planting slow-growing plants and fast-growing plants together, and focusing on the things that grow really well here, I should only have a few tasks to do every week and be able to harvest something every couple of days. I'm already scheming...
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