The CSA Experience: Part 2

Whole leeks

These are the leeks that came with my CSA box last week

The first installment of my CSA series covered quite a bit of ground about what the CSA concept is all about, and a bit about the company I chose for my own home-delivered organic produce:  Albert & Eve.

Let me now tell you what and how much was in my first box, which arrived last Thursday. There’s a photo of the contents here.

1 huge romaine lettuce
2 bunches of rainbow carrots
1 large broccoli
5 massive leeks — so long I had trouble fitting them in the fridge
2 bunches red bohr kale
1 bag fresh fava beans (about 15)
3 medium artichokes

It all came in minimal packaging: a paper bag with the odd inner bag or two, one plastic.
Everything was fresh as can be and looked and smelled great.

Now, here’s where you have to plan a little based on shelf life.  Artichokes and broccoli can hang around for a good week.  The lettuce was already slated for a family-sized Mexican entree salad for that same night — and a lunch salad the next day for my son — so I had to think about leeks, kale, carrots and favas.

The favas and carrots were in quantities fit for one side or one snack each for the four of us. The kale could make a meal if I used both bunches, or two sides, if I used one at a time. The tremendous leeks would serve as the base for two meals:  one using the tender parts, another using the tougher end greens.

First up on the chopping block:  leeks.  If you haven’t hung with many leeks in your life, they’re related to onions and garlic, but are much milder.  They look like really big scallions.  Only the white and light green parts are eaten and the rest is used for stock.

They’re popular in the UK — especially Wales, and often show up in soups.

I decided on a leek and feta scramble.  With preserved lemon, which I always have in spades because my lemon trees are good to me.

A little sumac, too.  Sumac is a tart spice made from dried berries — very popular in the Middle East.  It’s generally sprinkled on top of finished dishes.

Feta, sumac and preserved lemon on wooden board

Feta shards, sumac and chopped preserved lemon for the scramble

A recipe accompanies this post, but the idea is to chop the tender part of the leeks, saute until soft, add whisked eggs and cook so that you have large, soft curds, adding the feta and seasonings at various stages.

Please purchase blocks of sheep’s milk, or sheep’s/goat’s milk feta — in brine, if you can — and not the cheap, tasteless, pre-crumbled stuff so popular these days.  Good feta should be salty and tangy with real mouthfeel.  If you buy fat-free feta, well, you’re going to be sorry.  When dishes have only a few ingredients, you need them to be the best they can be. Just sayin’ — don’t mean to be preachy, but better to have a little real feta in there rather than lots of the cardboard kind.

Pastured eggs would be a good choice here, too.  They taste like eggs used to taste, because the hens producing them roam around and eat bugs and worms and whatever else they like to peck at in addition to their feed.  If you can’t afford them for general use, spring for them when you’re making a scramble or some fried eggs.  You’ll really enjoy the taste of their deep yellow yolks.

Leeks cut in half

OK, leek prep.

Once you trim and liberate the tender from the tough, as in the photo above, store the latter back in the crisper.

Then clean the leeks by cutting them lengthwise all the way through from about a half-inch from the bottom.  Then make a similar cut between your original cut, which will ribbon the leaks, allowing you to clean nooks and crannies as you flagellate them in a sink full of water.

Then you can dry them off and chop away.

cut leeks

Then saute slowly until soft.

sauteed leeks

Then add everything else in stages.  I sometimes add the cheese along with the seasonings, as I did here, but generally I add it as indicated in the recipe — right at the end.  This time around the cheese was on the dry side, so no worries about it releasing too much brine during extended cooking.

Leek and feta scramble being cooked in a large cast iron panWe were so happy about the soft, mildly-oniony scramble that I neglected to photograph the finished product — which we consumed with a side of good toasted bread, which is all you need.  The addition of the sumac and lemon added a whisper of citrusy tartness to the salty, creamy, funky feta backbone.

Trust me, it looked good, too.

Tune in next time for favas.

Leek, Feta & Preserved Lemon Scramble
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Soft scrambled eggs with leek, feta, preserved lemon and sumac.
Author:
Recipe type: Brunch
Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 4 to 5 leeks, chopped (the white and very pale green parts only)
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, or more, if your leeks are large
  • 2 tablespoons butter, or more, if your leeks are large
  • 10 eggs
  • ½ pound feta cheese, broken into medium shards
  • 2 tablespoons preserved lemon, finely chopped (If you can't find jarred Morrocan preserved lemon, just chop a quarter of a lemon finely, mix with a ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, and store in fridge overnight)
  • ½ teaspoon sumac
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper
Method
  1. Add canola oil and butter to a large, heavy skillet over medium flame
  2. When hot, add leeks and turn flame down to low
  3. Add a little salt
  4. Saute leeks until nice and soft
  5. Whisk eggs with a little water (water will help soften them), the lemon and the ground pepper
  6. Add egg mixture to pan over leeks
  7. At short intervals, pull eggs from the bottom of the pan with a spatula to form large curds
  8. When eggs are still quite runny, gently mix in feta
  9. Keep pulling up the eggs gently until the feta is very soft
  10. Remove scramble to serving platter and sprinkle with sumac
  11. Serve with good toasted bread
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The CSA Experience: Part 1

IMG_2783

First Essential Organic Veg box from Albert & Eve

I finally bit the bullet and ordered a semi-weekly home-delivered organic produce box.  AKA a “CSA box,” with the CSA referring to community-supported, or community-shared, agriculture.

Not only will this encourage the fam to eat more veggies, it will almost ensure that we do.  No way I’m going to throw food out.

It will also serve as the muse for a multi-part series here, which may be helpful to readers who want real life information about CSAs before taking the plunge.

Choosing a first CSA in the SF Bay Area is no easy task.  Ask 20 people, get 20 opinions. Look on the Web, get another 20,000.

I went with Albert & Eve.  After considerable research.  They have a loyal client base and support local, small-scale farms.  They also offer home delivery.  Not all CSA entities do.  With some you have to select a local pick-up point.

I just want stuff to show up on my porch — no car, no parking, no schlepping.

How does a CSA actually work?

I’ll get to the nitty-gritty of CSAs as I write this series but, in a nutshell, one can subscribe to single-farm CSAs or co-ops, or get their produce from a middleman-type organization, which either partners with farms or purchases fruit and veg outright for distribution to subscribers.  There are numerous types of arrangements.

I was looking for a small operation offering local organic produce (we’ll get into what “local” means in the next installment, but know that this term can be a slippery-slope) with  solid agricultural values.  Albert & Eve fits the bill.  The company (it’s not a farm, but a distributor, though the term doesn’t do justice) partners with Agricultural & Land Based Association (ALBA), really does source locally, and offers eggs and a few other select goodies.

They also allow you to choose what you want from among what they believe they will have available.  Because this is seasonal eating, it doesn’t mean you can ask for peaches instead of apples in January, but it does mean you can tell them “enough, already!” with the leeks and to send you more fennel instead.  Provided they have it.  Again, this is not stuff cranked out in a factory.  You have to be flexible.

There are some huge, corporate-type CSAs around here.  I didn’t want that.  I like the personal touch.  I want to know the people behind the operation.  I want to count to them.

Organics and cost

Now, organic produce ain’t cheap no matter how you buy it.  A CSA subscription, however, allows you to get the freshest local organic produce delivered to your door — or a drop-off point — at a very reasonable price.  Depending upon the CSA, you’re looking at about $20 to $35 per box in the SF Bay Area, which provides 3 or 4 people with vegetables and fruit for a week.  If you take just veggies, as I have, you’ll be able to throw in a couple vegetable main courses along with sides.

I’m paying $33.20 per box, which arrives in a paper bag, in fact, so there is no dealing with boxes.  The price includes the cost of their Essential Organic Veg Box, and the surcharge for feeding more people, which means they give you extra of each item.  The box officially contains 6 types of vegetables, but I got 7 this time.

Many CSAs offer small and large boxes, so you can choose based on your needs.  Some offer more flexibility that others.  Do your research.

If you buy cheap conventional produce at Safeway, CSA subscription prices may bring on sticker-shock.  Perhaps you’ll realize, by and by, that it’s worth the extra. Organic produce involves no chemicals or synthetics.  It’s not genetically modified. Sure there are studies claiming that conventional produce is “just as safe” as organic.  For me, though,  it’s about common sense.  If you offer me an artichoke from a plant treated with Supracide 25 WP, and one from an organically-grown plant, I’ll take the one without the chemicals, please.  Wouldn’t you?

Tips and things to think about if you go CSA

Make sure you have a salad spinner on stand-by.  A good one.  Why?  Now and then the leafy greens that arrive may contain harmless critters, and the only way to get them off is a good bath.  That’s where the spinner comes is.  You’ll need to get the water off very well, and nothing does it better.

The other things you’ll need on stand-by are creativity and a sense of humor.

You can’t boil every turnip.  You wouldn’t steam every artichoke.  You shouldn’t bury all your kale under braised pork shoulder.  I do that now and again, but I have a pescatarian in the house, so mostly I can’t.

I’ll be developing new and interesting vegetable recipes to deal with items that might otherwise wear out their welcome — and still may, for all I know.  I guess I’ll find out how many leeks my brood can handle in one season.

In the next installment I’ll tell you all about this week’s box, pictured above, and my evil plans for it.

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Curry fish balls: A Hong Kong snack on the run

 

Curry fish balls and coconut juice from Hong Kong Snack House in Richmond CA

Curry fish balls and coconut juice from Hong Kong Snack House

 If you find yourself running around in the El Cerrito area and are in need of a substantial snack, hop on over to Hong Kong Snack House in Pacific East Mall (3288 Pierce).  The mall is in that section of Richmond that juts into the Albany side of ‘Cerrito to the west by the bay. 

Pretend you’re going to Costco and head west on Central, only turn left onto Pierce at the intersection from hell — by the two gas stations.  The mall will be to your left as you travel south on Pierce.

This little stall shop carries lots of good eats, and the propietors are nice as can be.  There are pandan leaf waffles, egg puffs, Vietnamese sandwiches (bánh mì), crepes, shumai, spring rolls, fish balls, rice rolls and all kinds of tropical drinks.

I always get the curry fish balls and fresh coconut juice.  You get 5 big curry fish balls on a stick for $1.95.  Buy 3 and you get 1 free, which is what I do.  I eat two skewers in the car and give Matthew the other 2. 

The fresh coconut juice is to die for — especially in the summer, when it’s particularly cooling and refreshing.  It’s not cheap, running upwards of $4, but worth it. 

I don’t know how the coconut juice at Hong Kong Snack House is concocted.  It’s a little thick and very creamy with just the right amount of sweetness.

It’s not coconut milk, which comes from grated coconut.  It’s not coconut water, the liquid inside a young coconut.  It’s not coconut cream, which is more or less a thicker coconut milk, and it’s not cream of coconut, the sweetened stuff one uses for a piña colada. 

It’s as if the best of all of these coconut products were whipped together in a blender.   

If you don’t want to have your snack in your car, park yourself on one of the benches in the mall.  Hong Kong Snack House has only one or two tables, and they’re often full.

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Mushy Peas, Please!

Mushy peas side dish in red earthenware saucepan
Mushy peas, a British standard, is overlooked here in the US.

Comforting and easy to make, the dish works well as a side to something crispy, like fish & chips (surprise!) or fried chicken.

While the authentic version is made from marrowfat peas — mature and field-dried — this one uses plain old frozen peas, offers savory oomph via chicken stock and white onion, and is easily altered to suit your liking.

You’ll be sorry if you use canned peas.  While this dish is no misnomer, you’ll want some texture.

Mushy Peas
2 pounds frozen peas (not the little fancy ones)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup roughly chopped white onion, rinsed (this removes some of the sharpness)
1 tablespoon sugar
Couple dashes white pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt (depending upon saltiness of stock)
5 young mint leaves — no stems!!!
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or a few fine gratings of whole nutmeg)

1).  Simmer all except butter, cream, nutmeg and mint shreds over low heat, covered, until peas are soft.
2).  Drain liquids into cup and drink later.  Why waste?
3).  Blend butter and cream into peas using an immersion blender, but leave peas reasonably chunky.
4).  Heat through over low heat, if needed.
5).  Check seasoning.
6).  Serve topped with a few mint shreds.

Note:  If you want to serve this as pea soup, leave the liquids in.  You may need to add a little more stock to thin out the soup.  See how it goes.  RPWXM2H8ZUF7

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Grocery Outlet: A must for the serious cook

Three bottles of La Tourangelle Roasted Hazelnut Oil from Grocery Outlet in Berkeley.

Some of my friends laugh when I tell them about Grocery Outlet (2001 Fourth Street, Berkeley).  They think it’s downmarket. Fine with me, because that gives me, and other serious food people, less competition for the all the high-end and otherwise wonderful products a person can find there.

Case in point:  La Tourangelle Roasted Hazelnut Oil for $3.99 a bottle last Tuesday.  I kid you not.  This stuff is upwards of $15 a bottle elsewhere.

They had about 15 bottles, total, and I took 3.  I wanted to take more but I didn’t want to be greedy.  I later saw two yuppies with 3 bottles each, and then a couple of people in line behind me saw the oil in my cart, asked where I got it, and then made a mad dash and brought back 3 bottles apiece.  That pretty much took care of the stock on that product.

Now, I have gotten many serious bargains at Grocery Outlet, but this was the best I ever did.

If you know your products you cannot go wrong.  Look at everything in every aisle to get an idea of the place, and then come back at regular intervals so you know what they tend to have and what’s fleeting.

They carry store brands from around the US, and numerous Canadian and European products, too, like Sandstede Westphalian ham from Deutschland that’s sold under the bizarre name of “Black Forest Prosciutto” on our shores.  Prosciutto is cured only.  American-style Black Forest ham is more like pedestrian deli ham than anything they’d be eating in the Black Forest.  Westphalian schinken (ham), on the other hand,  is both cured and lightly smoked.  Kind of an assertive, dry, slightly-smoky prosciutto.   It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing and not so easy to find.  When it’s $1.99 here (for 3.5 ounces) I and the other Germans in the ‘hood clean them out.

You may see huge bags of grated cheese of middling quality next to a small carton of 4-year-old Cheddar or Vintage Gouda.

I’m not gonna tell you anything else.

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Two products I avoid at Costco and why

I buy a significant amount of my “stuff” at Costco, but now and then I do come up with a problem product.  Not often, but once every few years.

Here are two products I won’t buy:

Kirkland brand Environmentally Friendly Liquid Dish Soap.  It works fine, but I can’t find a decent way to dispense it.  It does not come with a refillable bottle, and perhaps here’s why:  no matter how large the hole on whatever dispenser bottle I use, it gets hopelessly clogged within a few days.  I have tried numerous dispenser bottles, and I always find myself having to jam a wooden skewer into the hole to unclog it.  Really annoying.  While I could make the hole in a bottle huge, I would wind up wasting product, which is not, you know, environmentally friendly.

Men’s black Adidas ankle socks.  Nice socks, but if you have a light carpet, you will have sock fuzz all over your house and will be vacuuming every day.  I have never seen worse fuzz from any other black socks.  You have been warned.

While we’re on the subject, I bought a Plantronics Explorer 395 Bluetooth headset at Costco that I have never been able to pair with my phone.  Not Costco’s fault as I should have brought it right back to the store.  Costco is great about returns, but can’t help with customer stupidity.

 

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Bye, Bye, Holidays — and a Crazy Stuffing Recipe for Next Year

Marker drawing of retro White Castle burger stand

The holidays are over. Although I have several marzipan pigs and some cranberry sparklers hanging around, everything else is a memory. The turkey. The New York strip roast. Many cheeses. The creamed spinach and Yorkshire pudding. God knows how many cookies. All gone.

My final holiday act will be to tell you about a twisted Thanksgiving recipe.

While perusing the coupon insert in my local newspaper ’round November, I caught the words “stuffing” and “White Castle” in the same glance. “No,” I thought. “It can’t be.” It was. A stuffing recipe calling for 10 broken up White Castle hamburgers.

The recipe includes celery, spices and chicken broth and is cooked in the cavity of the bird. It was the 1991 White Castle Cook-off winner.

You know about White Castle, right? If you grew up in the New York metropolitan area or another city the company set up shop, you know it isn’t just about boxes of frozen burgers at supermarkets. Or a Harold and Kumar movie.

White Castle was the first fast food burger chain in the US. It opened its inaugural stand in Wichita, Kansas in 1921. The company is still family-owned, according to its website, and continues to crank out small, malleable — they’re “steam-grilled” — and distinctively potent and addictive hamburgers. Lest you think the product is “less than,” know that these people served their billionth hamburger in 1961.

Nowadays the company calls its basic, cheeseless burger “The Original Slider.”

The frozen supermarket jobs didn’t come on the scene until 1987. Brilliant idea, really. A frozen White Castle burger is the one food in the universe that’s just about as good microwaved as served hot off the line.

Still, White Castle burger stuffing pushes the boundaries of product-driven recipe development to a place few may wish to venture.

Consider Philadelphia Cream Cheese cookbooks. While you can add Philadelphia Cream Cheese to just about any dish to its benefit or at least without causing harm, White Castle hamburgers are a whole other ball game.

The mere mention of this brand — synonymous in my house with “belly bomb” — tends to evoke strong feelings in the initiated. My parents used to go to the White Castle in Bayside, Queens, when they dated in the 1950s. They’d eat 25 oniony burgers between them — bringing to life the old White Castle slogan, “Buy ’em by the sack.”

As a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, they took me to the same White Castle — and it’s still there. Until 1972, when the company discontinued curbside service, we’d eat in the Cutlass Supreme, courtesy of the carhops.

It’s difficult to describe the White Castle hamburger experience. Because they’re small, you can eat quite a few. Because they’re savory, it’s hard to stop. When you’ve had one slider too many things start to unravel without warning. It’s like drinking tequila. One goes from partying hearty to collapsing on a pile of coats in a strange bedroom in seconds.

The stuffing, well, I may have to give it a try next year just for insanity of it.

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Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek

Prime Ribeye steak at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Prime Ribeye at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Prime beef is about the only thing that’ll get me on a freeway, over a bridge or through a tunnel — even as a passenger. So, it was with alternating visions of rare ribeye and my lifeless body being pried off SR 24 that I sat in our Honda Civic as it barrelled through the Caldecott Tunnel toward Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek recently.

Hubby Steve and I were treated to a phenomonal media dinner there.

Fleming’s is a smallish, upscale national brand with some 65 locations. It’s owned by OSI Restaurants, which also owns Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Grill, Bonefish Grill and Roy’s.

Because it was early in the week and early in the evening, parking was a breeze. Fleming’s offers valet service, however, so you don’t ever have to worry about it.

It’s a comfy, dimly lit fine steakhouse. Not manly, but lots of wood and a rich color scheme.

Hanging bowl lighting fixtures of an impressive diameter cast a burnished glow over the large dining room as we were warmly greeted and escorted to a plush corner booth near the semi-open kitchen.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA -- interior

Interior of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Our server, Erin, introduced herself, menued us and pointed out the chardonnay-feta and sun-dried tomato butters that came with the warm bread she hooked us up with right off the bat. Steve ordered iced tea and I asked for a glass of wine along the lines of a Sangiovese, which turned out to be a nicely bodied, mildly acidic, berry-noted Spanish red: Palacios Remondo Rioja Vendimia 2009.

Fleming’s offers 100 wines by the glass — handy for those of us who eat with people who don’t drink wine.

We liked the chardonnay-feta spread. The mellow funk and mild bite of feta is always nice with bread and wine.

Steven waiting for his meal at Fleming's Steakhouse in Walnut Creek, CA

Steven at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

We stretched out in our roomy booth and took in the space, enjoying the vibe and quiet, friendly service. The music was pleasant and unobtrusive. We were seriously relaxed.

Fine steakhouses are big comfort all the way. In old movies men like Robert Mitchum took women to steakhouses. “Let’s go for a juicy steak,” they’d say. They always got the girl.

After conferring with Erin, who helped us choose menu items that would give us a good overview in one meal, we went with a small plate, a salad, two steaks, two sides and a dessert. We were going to order one steak but thought it best to try two different cuts. The truth is I wanted my own steak. I don’t eat steak very often. You know how it is.

Lobster Tempura at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Lobster Tempura at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

The small-plate-cum-appetizer we selected was Lobster Tempura ($23.50). Four little lobster tails partially attached to their shells were lightly coated and flash-fried. They were sweet, tender and moist. A little jicama and apple salad and a soy-ginger dipping sauce with a toasted sesame oil backdrop accompanied the nice presentation.

This plate o’tails plus a side would make a lovely meal for a person who doesn’t want steak.

Lobster Tempura at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Lobster Tempura at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

I don’t mean to go on and on, but I’ve had numerous ill-conceived and poorly executed lobster concoctions and approach this kind of dish with the assumption that it’s going to be a waste of lobster. This, however, was spot on. A simple preparation done perfectly.

The Wedge salad ($9.50) arrived next — on a chilled plate with a chilled fork. A section of crisp iceberg lettuce was enrobed in a rich blue cheese dressing and then topped with slivers of red onion, whole grape tomatoes and extra crumbled blue cheese.

A classic steakhouse wedge salad is, in my opinion, one of the greats — and Fleming’s’ take was excellent. Hearty iceberg lettuce, with all its nooks and crannies, served as the backbone. Each addition offered unique sweetness and contrasting texture. Acidity, deep and slightly funky creaminess, sweetness, crunch, bite — they were all there.

Never had a wedge salad? It may not seem like much, but it defines that old saw about something being more than the sum of its parts.

Wedge salad at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Wedge salad at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Then the steaks came. Steve’s Prime Ribeye ($42.95) and my Bone-in New York ($48.95), a special that night, arrived sizzling and rare. Truly rare. Not rare plus five degrees.

Bone-in New York Steak at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Bone-in New York steak at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

The ribeye was deeply flavored, silky and tender as buttah. The New York had a little chew, as it should, great beefy flavor, and its ring of fat was nicely crisped-up — courtesy of Fleming’s’ 1600 deg. F. broiler.

They were big, too. My New York was 20 ounces.

Fleming’s beef is USDA Prime — the top of the grading heap. It’s corn-fed and “aged up to four weeks,” according to their website. Ribeye in particular benefits from the significant marbling that defines Prime grade and bumps it into that never-never land of steak fabulousness.

Rare New York Steak at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Rare New York steak at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Steaks at Fleming’s are seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper and finished with butter. Sauces are available, gratis. We tried all four: Béarnaise, peppercorn, chimichurri and Madeira.

Steak sauces at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Steak sauces at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

A great steak wants no sauce, but go with the Madeira, if you insist.

Sides are an à la Carte proposition at a steakhouse, and each is usually enough for two — though it’s good to order both the house potatoes, which are generally scalloped, and the house creamed spinach. They’re almost always signature dishes.

We ordered both.

Right after our steaks touched down, two casseroles arrived hot and bubbling over — each with copious amounts of melted cheese on top.

The creamed spinach ($8.50) was the bomb. No kidding. The Fleming’s Potatoes ($8.95), which had a jalapeño kick, were very good, but we fought over the spinach. It was deeply savory and übercreamy — by far the most decadent spinach I ever ate. I’m still trying to recreate it.

Creamed Spinach and Fleming's Potatoes at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Creamed Spinach and Fleming's Potatoes at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

We shared a slice of Turtle Pie ($8.50), which was loaded with walnuts. Although it looked as if it would make our teeth scream, the bitter chocolate notes provided balance. Once slice is enough for a party of four après steak and sides.

Turtle Pie at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Turtle Pie at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, CA

Erin, who made our meal something special, packed up the leftovers, and we slowly extricated ourselves from our plush coccoon.

We’re definitely going back. For a couple of ex-New Yorkers who hate to drive, that says something.

Berry the Akita looking at the bone from the leftover steak

Guess who got to work on the bone?

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Silicone and Garlic: Just Say No

Silicone bakware clipped to a clothes line so that the smell of garlic is removed

Silicone bakeware used for garlic confit hangs on a line so the smell of garlic eventually wears out

Don’t let this happen to you.

I made garlic confit and used some of my silicone bakeware to freeze it. Bad idea. It all smells like garlic, and my only option is to hang it out in the elements for a couple of weeks to salvage it. A few days and the garlic is still prominent.

I may have to dedicate this ware to garlic.

Note to self: Buy old school ice cube trays.

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New Costco Product: Hot Smoked Norwegian Salmon

Package of smoked salmon from sant barbara smokehouse

Oak Roasted Salmon from Santa Barbara Smokehouse

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, but I wanted to quickly give you the skinny on a new product I’ve seen at the Richmond (CA) Costco my last few visits.

This is a chunk of hot smoked, oak roasted Norweigan salmon from the Santa Barbara Smokehouse, an outfit actually located in Santa Barbara. They smoke their stuff over open wood fires, old school.

Costco had this on sample a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe how good it was. Normally I stay away from hot smoked salmon because I find it too dry.

This one is tender, silky, fatty, salty and not too sweet — übersweetness being another of my kvetches when it comes to hot smoked salmon.

The back of the package of smoked salmon from Santa Barbara Smokehouse

Oak Roasted Salmon from Santa Barbara Smokehouse (back view)

I should have realized from the get-go that this was made from farmed Atlantic salmon. Farmed salmon is fattier than wild salmon. Since I don’t buy farmed salmon unless it’s sustainable, I’ll hold off buying this again until I find out what the deal is.  The company’s website consists of only a placeholder right now.  UPDATE on 1/29/13:  I have not seen this particular brand for quiet some time, but Costco still carries roughly the same product regularly. Note also that Santa Barbara Smokehouse’s website indicates that their salmon is “sustainably harvested.”

We had this with some crusty bread and it was a big hit. The skin had been left on, which helps keep the product moist and tastes good in its own right. Berry, our companion Akita, was all over it.

It’s $11.59 per pound, but our 1.2 pound section fed four people.

All you need is plenty of good bread and wine.

Oak Roasted Salmon from Santa Barbara Smokehouse - ready to serve

Oak Roasted Salmon from Santa Barbara Smokehouse being served

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