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Braised Lamb Shanks (Kokkinisto me Manestra)

Recipe courtesy of Kokkari

Lamb is a staple in any Greek household and this recipe will make you fall in love if you aren’t already.  You can make this a day ahead which helps the spices mellow and flavors improve.  It’s a very hearty dish perfect for a night when you’re craving comfort food and something to warm your tummy.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Spice Mix

  • 1 tablespoon each ground allspice, ground toasted cumin, ground nutmeg, Spanish smoked sweet paprika and garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 6 lambs shanks, 1 1/2 pounds each
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, cut across stem end to expose cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup Italian tomato paste
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • Chunk of myzithra or ricotta salata cheese for serving

In a small bowl, combine the spice mix ingredients.  Rub the shanks all over with the spice mix, coating them evenly.  (You can cover and refrigerate them for up to 24 hours.)  Preheat the oven to 350ªF.  Season the shanks well with salt and pepper.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat.  Working in batches, sear the shanks on all sides until well browned, about 5 minutes per shank.  Transfer to a platter.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits.  Raise the heat to high and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and herbs.

Return the shanks to the pot, meaty end down.  They will fit snuggly.  Add water to come halfway up the sides of the shanks.  Bring to a simmer and stir in 2 teaspoons salt and several grinds of pepper.  Cover tightly and bake until the meat is fork-tender and pulls away from the bone, about 2 1/2 hours.  Let cool in the pot, then refrigerate overnight if desired.

Skim all surface fat.  If refrigerated, reheat the shanks over medium heat.  Discard the bay leaves and herb sprigs.  Remove the garlic, and when it is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves back into the post.  Set aside and keep the shanks warm.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the orzo until al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and return to the same pot.  Add about 1 1/2 cups of broth from the lamb shanks and stir well.  Divide the orzo among 6 shallow bowls.  Top each portion with a lamb shank, then spoon some of the juices over the lamb.  On the large holes of a box grater, grate myzithra to taste over the lamb and orzo.

Serve immediately.

Blue Barn Gourmet – San Francisco, CA

I’m not even exaggerating when I say this is one of my favorite salads.  And I miss it everyday.  The Tostada Salad (minus the cheddar cheese) at Blue Barn on Chestnut in San Francisco is perfect.  There’s tons of texture and the dressing is to die for…light, spicy…it perfectly compliments all the fresh ingredients in the bowl.  I always forget to add a protein (I’m too focused on the actual salad) but I’d love to try some grilled garlic shrimp or chopped chicken on it.  The salads are huge so one option is to get it to go undressed, that way you can save half for leftovers.  Once upon a time I used to order sandwiches – Turkey was my go to – but now I’m totally devoted to the salads.  With 8 different types of grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu, you can’t go wrong:)  Prices may seem a little high to some but it’s worth it!  And you won’t leave hungry so that’s a plus.

I have a little obsession with cookbooks.  Not only do I love using them to cook with but I also love reading them front to back.  I have a lot of people ask me what my go to cookbooks are.  Honestly, there isn’t just one but, below are some of my favorite and most used cookbooks and ones that I feel round out my library pretty well…

Tyler Florence Family Meal – I got this cookbook at a wedding shower and have been in love with it ever since.  I’m a huge fan of Tyler Florence’s restaurants – Wayfare Tavern, Rotisserie & Wine and El Paseo and have found that all of the recipes I’ve tried at home aren’t as complicated as one might expect.  His signature Popovers were definitely a hit at Christmas this year!

Greek Cooking In An American Kitchen – Hands down my favorite cookbook for many reasons.  First of all, I’m Greek and I grew up with this cookbook in my home.  It comes from St. Demetrios Church where I grew up going and now live a few blocks from.  You can buy it directly from them for $25 (bring a check book).  Be sure to check out the Greek Festival they throw every fall.  It’ll really make you want the cookbook even more:)

Williams-Sonoma Cooking For Friends – This cookbook is unlike any other I have.  One of the things I love most about it is that for certain ingredients, they show you 3-4 different ways to cook/prepare them.  For example: Savory Tarts Four Ways – Greek-Style Tomato & Feta Tart, Plum & Goat Cheese Tart, Pear & Gorgonzola Tart and Leek, Pancetta & Gruyére Tart.  It’s a good one I swear!

Cristina’s of Sun Valley – While I lived out my ski bum dreams in Sun Valley about 10 yrs ago my roommate and childhood friend worked at Cristina’s and I was lucky enough to have goodies brought home to me on a consistent basis.  I have been a fan of Cristina’s Italian food for a long time now and I love that I can make it in my own home for friends and family.

I’ve recently added (and have been gifted) a few new books to my collection that I’m dying to cook with.  Here are a few of them:

Good Fish – Written by a local Seattleite, this cookbook provides endless sustainable seafood recipes from the Pacific Coast.  I love seafood and am always looking for new recipes…especially ones that don’t require the BBQ since I don’t have much patience for our coal Webber:)

Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors – One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco…this used to be my stomping ground whenever I had a Greek food craving.  It’s upscale and more modern than most Greek spots but the food is memorable and so well executed.

Simply Truffles – My sweet sister-in-law (who knows me well) gave me this cookbook for Christmas.  Trouble…because I’m a truffle addict and this will just give me endless ideas and cost me a pretty penny to try them all.  I’m in!

Bottega – One of my go to spots in Yountville, CA, this oversized cookbook is full of stunning photos and recipes that define California Cuisine…something I miss.  The Parmesan Dip I blogged about is from his other book Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking which I love so I have no doubts that this cookbook will win me over too.

Tacolicious – San Francisco, CA

It seems like ever since I moved from SF that new restaurants have been popping up like crazy which makes it even harder for me to decide where to eat when I go back to visit.  Tacolicious in the Marina is new to me and I finally got the chance to try it out.  Located on Chestnut close to Fillmore it’s such a cute spot.  Not huge inside but there are great windows facing the street that slide open on a nice day.  All in all it’s a great location and the decor couldn’t be more perfect.

I loved everything I tried!  And if I were to go back I’d love to try the Aztec Chicken Soup, Shrimp a la Diabla, Rock Cod Taco, and the Traditional Churros with Mexican Hot Chocolate…um…yes please!

Grilled Squid Veracruz – tomato-caper sauce, olives, garbanzo beans, cilantro

Marina Girl Salad – romaine, avocado, cucumber, radishes, pumpkin seeds, cotija cheese & added grilled shrimp

Shot-and-a-Beer Braised Chicken Taco…DE-LISH!

Joe Jack’s Fish Shack – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

My dad and his wife have a home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where we’re lucky enough to go visit from time to time.  I always get my Mexican food fix while down there but I also indulge in all the fresh seafood.  One of my favorites spots is Joe Jack’s Fish Shack.  Chef Joe Jack moved from San Francisco (previous owner and chef of Luna Park…another old favorite of mine in SF) to PV and opened the Fish Shack in 2005 in hopes of showcasing traditional seafood (and Mexican comfort food) at the same time creating a great vibe.  The best spot in house is on the exposed roof deck.  You don’t have to worry about rain that often in PV which is nice.

My all time favorite dish (that I think about quite often) is the Whole Pacific Red Snapper.  It’s covered with roasted chilies, garlic and lime and couldn’t be more tasty.  I LOVE it!!!  Their ceviche is also amazing…so fresh and full of flavor.  Talking about it makes me want to fly down there just to have this:)

Scala’s Bistro – San Francisco, CA

I definitely have favorite breakfast spots in SF but this one is new to me and a place I would love to go back to…if not for breakfast, for lunch or dinner.  Executive Chef Jen Biesty is a former Top Chef contestant as well as her pastry chef, Tim Nugent.

One of my favorite breakfast items is chilaquiles.  Tortilla chips smothered in tomatillo sauce, ranchero sauce and créme fraiche baked to perfection.  This particular recipe has two poached eggs on top and was exactly what I was hoping for!  Yummmm!

Tacko – San Francisco, CA

While on a quick trip to SF my husband and I took some time one afternoon to walk around the Marina, our old neighborhood, and stumbled upon Tacko.  I immediately noticed that the menu mentioned “Nick’s Way” which for those who are familiar with SF know is from Nick’s Crispy Tacos up on Polk Street…an old favorite of ours.

Long story short, it turns out “Nick” and his business partner split ways and this is Nick’s new place.  It’s definitely a nicer environment for a food establishment.  I think anything beats eating inside a nightclub during the day:)  The food was excellent…so much so that we went two days in a row.  On a nice day the front windows slide open and like any place in the Marina, there’s always great people watching.

I recommend the Pollo Taco Nick’s Way and my husband would most definitely tell anyone to get the California Burrito (a burrito with french fries in it).  As a past San Diego resident, this burrito is hard to come by outside of SD so he will eat any one he comes upon and this one passed the test.

Grilled corn and black bean taco salad with chickenThe lobster roll…a little pricey but very tasty!

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