Most of you know that I am a California transplant living in London. While I'm trying to love it, London has not yet found a special place in my heart. While it's a tourists heaven with museums, parks, theater, and shopping, as a resident it's gloomy, it's cold, it's a tax for this and a tax for that - but still nothing works properly, and nobody likes to smile. I spent the latter half of December at home in California and it was so nice to see the sun and visit some of my old stomping grounds.
First stop, the San Francisco Ferry Building. What other place in the world can you get Mexican, sushi, caviar, chocolate, beignets, coffee and burgers all under the same roof? Not to mention there's also a gourmet kitchen store, fresh oysters, hot pastrami sandwiches, organic produce, and a farmer's market!
Second stop, Fillmore Street for my favorite cup of Special Dutch hot chocolate at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. Probably not a true hot chocolate connoisseur's drink but it's a flavor that can't be recreated anywhere else.
Heading towards the water to Chestnut Street for some shopping and dinner with a dear friend at A16. A16 has been on my list of favorites since the night it opened and I've been a loyal fan ever since. There's something relaxed and cozy about the restaurant and the food. While they serve Italian food and wine, at its heart it is truly San Francisco. SF is a place unlike any other. Apart from its amazing location in the universe and in the great state of California it's people make it a wonderful town. The people are multicultural, friendly, well-versed with politics, the environment, food and sustainable living. It's a smart town, but not pretentious and snobby. It's down to earth, but not rough around the edges. The patrons you see at A16 are just that - its cool, but not too cool. It's Meatball Mondays, but Brunello wine. It's pizza, but finished with chocolate budino and vanilla semifreddo. For dinner I had a beet and potato salad with radicchio, pizza with fennel sausage, and a semifreddo with chestnut.
Since a part of my heart must be here in London with my significant other, I made an A16 inspired dinner. You can see A16's cookbook on my list to the right. These exact recipes are not in there. Savory cookbooks give me ideas, but rarely do I follow them to any degree.
For dinner tonight we had a roasted beet and potato salad with goat's cheese and a baked haddock with lemon and basil. These recipes are easy to make for two or one (scale up for more) and use the oven only.
ROASTED BEET AND POTATO SALAD WITH FRESH GOAT CHEESE
Peel and cut up two large beets and one large potato in a large dice. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and three medium garlic cloves (whole) and put them into a 400 Fahrenheit/ 200 Celsius oven. Bake for about 25 minutes till potato is throughly cooked and has formed a light brown crust. A few minutes before its done throw a handful of fresh walnuts over top to toast. As soon as the potatoes, beets, garlic and now walnuts come out of the oven transfer to a bowl and pour one heaping tablespoon of maple syrup over top. Squeeze 1/4 of a lime or lemon. Add bits of fresh goat cheese. Toss together with a handful of bitter mixed greens. Don't worry about leaving the garlic whole - they should be roasted and mild and have a bit of brown crust on them as well. The goat cheese will melt - creating the most delicious dressing for the salad.
BAKED HADDOCK WITH LEMON AND BASIL
Clean and skin haddock fillet (or any fish you like). Slice one lemon. Lay out a piece of aluminum foil and a piece of parchment over it. Spread lemon slices in two rows. Put fish on top of the lemon. Sprinkle a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Sprinkle whole basil leaves over top. Fold the parchment and foil over the fish and pinch the ends tight so no liquid is lost from the fish as its cooking. Place on baking sheet and bake in the same 400 Fahrenheit/ 200 Celsius oven for about 10 minutes or until fish is done. Serve as is in the parchment - there are delicious fish juices there that flavor the fish and keep it moist.
Tips: As soon as the beets and potatoes come out of the oven have the fish ready to go. By the time you assemble the salad and have a few sips of wine the fish should be ready. Clean up is a breeze with only one roasting pan, maybe two if you've lost some fish juice.
Basil Leaves - these were from the freezer! This summer I froze individual leaves and then put them in a plastic bag. This is a great way to save over-producing summer basil plants. Use in instances like this fish bake or stirring a few into pasta sauce during the winter months. Basil is also very easy to find in stores all year round.