Saturday, March 31, 2012

Recipe (Re)creation: Dark Chocolate Muffins with Fleur de Sel

These muffins aren't a restaurant (re)creation, but I could resist posting them anyways!  They are the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  The muffins themselves are not overly sweet, so they aren't too indulgent and can easily be eaten for breakfast, a snack, or dessert.  They are particularly good served warm and paired with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato.  I based the recipe on this version, but I omitted the espresso, used decadent Valrhona cocoa powder and added fleur de sel on top for a fun twist.  Absolute heaven!

Makes 12 muffins


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (Valrhona is best)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chip
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Fleur de sel (optional)


-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, grease a muffin tin (or insert paper muffin cups).

-Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, sugar and 3/4 cup of chocolate chips together in a large bowl.

-In a smaller bowl, whisk together the milk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla extract.

-Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and combine.

-Scoop the batter into the muffin tins equally and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top.

-Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the muffins have risen and cooked through.

-Serve warm and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

Mmmm mmmm good.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Flavors of the Month- March

  • Poco Dolce Burnt Caramel Tiles- These bittersweet chocolate tiles are made locally and have a burnt caramel toffee center and a sprinkling of grey sea salt on the top.  Simply divine.  I would eat one daily if they weren't so expensive...
  • Prima Table- Sign up (or request a membership) and get exclusive access to all the best tables each evening.  Its basically a streamlined version of opentable and presents you with the best tables that night at the time you want to dine.  Genuis.
  • Sofia Coppola Champagne Cans- I love these little champagne cans.  We ordered them in bulk for our wedding and we are still working through them.  I throw them in my purse if we are heading to the beach or packing a picnic.  So much classier and tastier than beer and they are the perfect little roadie (straw and all).
  • Taste Nirvana Coconut Water- This is hands-down my favorite coconut water.  I love the one with pulp in it but you can buy it without pulp if that's not your thing.  Its chock-full of healthy fiber, electrolytes, potassium and iron and is only 75 calories for all that goodness. Get on-board.
  • Le Soleil Restaurant- This yummy vietnamese restaurant just reopened in the Inner Richmond a few weeks ago.  The menu and the restaurant itself both got a major facelift and everything looks and tastes superb.  The turmeric crepe and luc lac "shaking beef" come highly recommended.  Open for lunch and dinner.  Call for reservations.  
  • Off The Grid- As of last Friday, Off The Grid is back at Fort Mason Center and is now hosting over 30 food trucks, a beer garden, and a larger overall space. For those of you who haven't heard of it, its like a farmer's market of bay area food trucks, but its at night and you can wander around and sample all your favorites with a beer or glass of wine in hand.  It will be open every Friday from 5pm-10pm.  If you haven't been yet and live in SF, its a must (especially on a warm night).
* Please email if you have recommendations for the next edition of flavors of the month

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Restaurant (Re)creation: Zuni's Roasted Chicken + Bread Salad

Zuni Cafe is a San Francisco institution and their roasted chicken is hands-down the most popular item on the menu.  The dish serves two and takes about an hour to an hour an a half to arrive, but it is fabulous and definitely worth the wait.  This recipe is based on an adapted version of the original from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers.  The original recipe is wonderful, but very wordy and time-consuming.  This adaptation should save some time, and if done right, should be equally mouthwatering and enjoyable. You can serve the chicken with the bread salad recipe below or you can swap it out and serve it with the brussels sprout and butternut squash panzanella salad from my prior post.  Either will be delicious.  Let me know how it turns out ; )

Serves 2-4

Ingredients for chicken:

  • 1 small chicken (2 3/4 to 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 4 tender sprigs of Thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • A little water

Ingredients for bread salad:

  • 8 ounces torn peasant-style bread (crusts removed)
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon dried currents, soaked in 1 tbsp each of red wine vinegar & warm water
  • 2 tablepsoons pine nuts
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions
  • 2 handfuls of arugula


Day 1

-Remove and discard the lump of fat inside the chicken.  Wash the chicken and dry thoroughly.

-Gently slide a finger under the skin of each breast and create two small pockets.  Do the same under the skin of each thigh.  Stick a sprig of thyme in each of the 4 pockets.

-Season both sides of the chicken thoroughly with salt and pepper.

-Cover the chicken and put it in the refrigerator overnight (seasoning the chicken a day before makes it more flavorful and moist- its worth it).

Day 2

-Preheat oven to 475 F.  Place a 10 to 12-inch skillet with an all-metal handle over medium heat on the stove.  Wipe the chicken dry and place in the skillet, breast side up (the pan should sizzle).

-Next, place the the skillet in the oven and let it brown for about 30 minutes.  The skin should begin to blister.

-Meanwhile, toss torn bread pieces (about 2-inch chunks) in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lightly coating them.  Place them in a baking dish in the oven on a rack below the chicken and cook for about 10 minutes, or until brown, then remove from heat. (If you want to toast your pine nuts, you can place the pine nuts in the with the torn bread chunks, but watch them closely because they burn quickly.) 

-Turn the bird over and roast for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the bird.  Then flip back over so the breast side is up and recrisp for another 5-10 minutes.

-Remove the chicken from the oven once it is crisp and browned.

-Turn off the oven and set the chicken on a plate to cool.  Pour the fat from the skillet, leaving the lean drippings behind.  Add about a tablespoon of water to the drippings and warm them over medium heat to soften any hard drippings.

-Combine 1/4 cup of olive oil with white wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.  Toss half of this vinaigrette with the torn bread in a medium sized bowl.

-Meanwhile, heat some olive oil over medium-low heat in a small skillet and add the garlic and scallion slivers.  Stir constantly until softened, but not browned.  Remove from heat and toss with the bread.  You can add the drained currants and the pine nuts to the bread salad at this time as well.

-Place the bread salad in an oven-safe dish and warm in the oven while you finish preparing the chicken.

-While the bread salad is warming, tear the chicken into pieces, some large and some small.  Make sure to include the crispy pieces of skin (its the best part).

-Remove the bread salad from the oven and place on a platter over a handful or two of arugula.  Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette and a spoonful or two of pan drippings over the salad, mixing well.  Top the bread salad with crispy pieces of chicken.


Zuni Cafe
1658 Market Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 552-2522

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Libation (Re)creation: The Tres (Agaves) Margarita

Tres (formerly Tres Agaves) can be quite the scene on a Friday or Saturday night.  You can always rely on their margaritas to take your night from good to epic and you rarely have a hangover the next day.  The key to their recipe is agave nectar.  Their margarita is very similar to the award-winning version at Tommy's Mexican Restaurantwhich also uses agave nectar.  Neither restaurant uses Cointreau, Triple Sec, or any gross mixes- just limes, tequila, and agave nectar.  Agave is light and not as caloric or sweet as straight sugar, which certainly helps your head (and waistline) the next day. You can make these margaritas with any type of decent 100% agave tequila but I prefer it with Partida Añejo tequila.  For the rim, you can use any coarse salt but I am partial to a chili salt called Tajin Clásico that I bought when I was in México.   Either way you serve them, they are guaranteed to be delicious, refreshing, and serious crowd-pleasers.  Olé

Makes: 1 solid Margarita


  • 2 oz 100% Agave Tequila (blanco or añejo)
  • 2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz agave nectar
  • Kosher or Chili Salt (for rim)
  • Ice cubes


Pour tequila, lime juice & agave nectar in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Moisten the outer rim of your glass with lime juice and lightly coat with salt.

Pour the margarita in your salt-rimmed glass over ice.

Enjoy responsibly ; )

130 Townsend Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 227-0500

Monday, March 5, 2012

Restaurant (Re)creation: Beretta's Eggplant Caponatina

This antipasto is a MUST when dining at Beretta.  It is tangy, light, and nutty and is the perfect appetizer to share while you are waiting for your main.  They offer the option of adding burrata, which just makes the dish all that more amazing.  I found the actual restaurant recipe online in a 7x7 article and just made a few tweaks.  Rather than frying the eggplant, I roasted it to lighten the dish a bit.  I also topped the caponatina with burrata (a must) and a little squeeze of lemon.  Other than that, you can thank Chef Ruggero Gadaldi for this beautiful creation.  Plus, it was featured in 7x7's 100 Things To Try Before You Die- so you can check one more dish off your list.

Serves 4-6 (as an appetizer)


  • 4 medium sized Japanese eggplants
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1/2 basket cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green olives
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh burrata (optional)
  • 1/2 lemon wedge, squeezed
  • Olive oil, for roasting
  • Salt & pepper 


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, peel eggplants, leaving some stripes and cut into 1 inch cubes.

Toss with olive oil and season with salt a pepper.

Roast the eggplant cubes on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, cut celery into 1/3 inch cubes and cook in boiling water for two minutes.

Remove celery, strain it, and let it cool.

Toss the eggplant, celery, tomatoes, capers, olives, and pine nuts together with with white balsamic vinegar.

Top with fresh burrata and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with toasted bread or simply eat it on its own!


1199 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 695-1199