I am so blessed to live in San Francisco and have access to some of the best food on this planet. This post is part love letter and part thank you letter to the farmers, purveyors, chefs and vendors who do what they do so that I can do what I do. When I am in my kitchen and working with these amazing ingredients, I am not just thinking about what I am cooking or for whom I am cooking, I am also thinking about those of you who brought this food to my kitchen. I am thanking you for the care and time you take to grow and produce excellent food. You are my heroes. (In the future I intend to do individual posts about my favorite butcher shop, farms, vintners, cheese shop, pasta makers etc. But for now, you can click on the links below and check them out for yourself.)
Yesterday I was walking home from work and thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner. I was also thinking about the great food I had eaten while in Italy. And then I thought about the steak I had in Florence, and I had my meal figured out. I had a gorgeous top sirloin from my local butcher, 4505 Meats, and a simple sear on the grill with arugula and Parmigiano was the way to go.
For the first course, I knew I wanted to do a starch of some sort, and that I wanted it to be quick. It wouldn’t take long to the cook the steak and I had an appointment after dinner, so I didn’t want to spend more than 30 minutes in the kitchen. I grabbed my jar of flour + water pepper rigatoni that I got at Salumeria. I had about a cup of dried pasta left, which was the perfect amount for dinner plus enough for leftovers for lunch the next day. I put some water on to boil and then looked in my fridge for what to add to it. I grabbed a handful of Mariquita Farm sugar snap peas and sliced them on the bias about 1/4 inch thick. I put them in a bowl and grated 1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese (from Cheese Plus) over the top. When the pasta was done, I tossed it in with the peas and cheese, and added an ounce or two of pasta water to help create a little sauce. I loved the combination of the spiciness of the pasta, the sweetness of the peas and the creamy saltiness of the cheese. It was light, extremely flavorful and a great start to the meal.
Next, I quickly seared the sirloin on a grill pan. I like mine rare, and when you buy quality meat from a great butcher like 4505 Meats you know that you are getting meat that is sustainably and humanely grown, tastes incredible and is safe to eat rare. Then I tossed some Mariquita arugula with a squeeze of Meyer lemon and Montemaggiore’s amazing 2012 Olio Nuovo. I shaved some Parm and hit the whole dish with a little salt and pepper. The sirloin practically melted in my mouth and the peppery arugula and salty Parm perfectly matched the brightness of the Meyer lemon and the Olio Nuovo. It was a very hot day in San Francisco, and a quick and simple dish like this saves the kitchen from getting too hot and keeps the meal light so I don’t feel weighed down.
For dessert I opted for my favorite spring/summer dish. I serve my strawberry rhubarb sauce atop vanilla ice cream that is mixed with Batter Bakery Lavender Sea Salt shortbread cookies. The strawberry rhubarb flavor is elevated by the subtlety of the lavender and salt. And who doesn’t love crunchy cookies mixed in with their ice cream?
To make the sauce, I take a pound of Happy Quail Farms rhubarb and dice it. Then I add 3 cups of sliced strawberries, which I got from Catalan Farms this week. I put them in a sauce pan and put it on medium heat. I start by adding 2/3 cup sugar and let the fruit cook down, stirring occasionally to prevent any burning. After about 30 minutes, I take a taste and add more sugar if needed. But if your strawberries are as sweet as those from Catalan or Mariquita, you won’t need to add any more sugar. I cook the fruit for another 30-40 minutes until the rhubarb has melted and there are only little chunks left to the strawberries.
In the past, I would leave the sauce slightly chunky. However, this time, I was using rhubarb that I had frozen last summer and I wasn’t happy with the texture. So I put the sauce in my Vitamix and holy cow did that take this great sauce and make it AMAZING. As my friend said, “this sauce is sensual.” There is something so sexy about the mouthfeel. Its smooth and velvety texture combined with the sweet-tart flavor just makes you stop and savor what is happening in your mouth. And you can’t help but start to dream about what else or where else you would want to drizzle this sauce. It is giving me ideas about my next date . . .