Salsa-touille

Bright beautiful vegetables! ...and Steve can't spell.

In less than a week we will be enjoying the sun, food, wine, culture, and everything else Spain has to offer. It will be our first visit to Spain and our second trip to Europe and we can’t wait. It has been an extremely foggy summer in San Francisco’s Sunset District and we are in dire need of some rays. Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and San Sebastian spread over 15 days. In preparation, Jason has been taking a beginning immersion Spanish class at Casa Hispana. Though his Spanish language skills are in their developmental stage, he’ll be doing a much better job with communicating than he did on last year’s trip to Paris. His French speaking skills were so pathetic that even the baristas at Starbucks couldn’t understand his simple request for coffee. Cafe con leche is our typical morning brew so we’ll at least get started on the right foot when we land in Madrid.

Susan and Jason at the Ferry Building's Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Thanks for all the help, Susan.

For the last ten years or so, Jason has been making a ratatouille (French) or pisto (Spanish), which is basically a summer veggie stew, that seems to get better and better with each batch. Neither one of us is a big fan of zucchini, summer squash, or eggplant, but when they are roasted and then stewed with onions, tomatoes, roasted peppers, garlic, thyme and lots and lots of olive oil it becomes the best thing in the world to eat. This year, with thoughts of Spain ever on our mind, an idea was hatched to combine the best that pisto has to offer with the spiciness of Mexican salsa.

As far as we know, there is not a salsa or other dish that combines all the vegetables mentioned above with the spicy peppers of Mexico. We imagine it must be because of a feud centuries ago that forbade adding squash or zucchini to salsa. We’re probably completely wrong, but since we’re gringos who are essentially biologically mutts we figure we can add just about anything to our salsa without upsetting any familial laws.

We describe it as Old World meets New World salsa or, in this particular case, a salsa-touille. We hope you try our recipe and let us know what you think.

Salsa-touille Recipe

1 small to medium globe or Italian eggplant, cut into 1/2” thick “steaks”
1 lb summer squash or zucchini, cut into 1/4” planks
1/2 lb red onions, cut into quarters or eighths depending on the size of the onion(s)
2 1/2 lbs firm tomatoes, roasted, skin on (dry farmed preferred)
1 head of garlic, roasted, skin on
1 jalapeños, with or without seeds, or more if you like it spicy
1 red bell peppers
1 small pepper from a can of Chipotle peppers in adobo
sea salt to taste
3 tbsp lime juice

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Place eggplant, squash, onions, tomatoes, and garlic on the two baking sheets. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, rotate and roast for another 10-20 minutes or until slightly -medium toasted. At the 20 minute mark the garlic may be toasted enough to come out of the oven. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

If you have a gas-burning stove you can roast the jalapeños and bell peppers on the stovetop over the open flames of the burners. If you cook with an electric stove, roast the peppers under the broiler, turning regularly until completely charred. Once the peppers are charred, wrap them in one or two paper towels and cover the wrapped peppers with a bowl for 5-10 minutes. Take off the bowl and gently wipe off the charred skins . Do not rinse under water. It’s OK, if there is a little charred skin left on the peppers. Cut off the tops of the peppers and discard the seeds and ribs for a more mild salsa. Include the seeds and ribs for one with more heat.

Once all the vegetables are cool, rough chop or tear apart with your hands and add them to a food processor with the chipotle pepper. Pulse 3 – 4 times then add salt and lime (or vinegar). Process for approximately 10-20 seconds or until an even , slightly chunky consistency is achieved.

Venison Steak (& Eggs) Bercy –Entrecôte Bercy

[A little 1962 trivia: On January 21, 1962, snow fell in San Francisco and accumulated 3 inches!]

Steak Bercy

We were gifted a delightful little Chamberlain Calendar of French Cooking, dated 1962, and decided to cook all 54 of its recipes this year. If you’re unfamiliar with the mother/daughter duo of Narcisse and Narcissa Chamberlain, you’ve missed some of the finest food writing in a generation. They published a mountain of recipe books as well as calendars, diaries and annuals that covered a wide range of cookery including American, French and Italian. The recipes deserve our attention and we’ll be sharing them with you in the weeks and months to come. We’re a few recipes behind, but will soon be catching up in the following weeks. Think, Julie and Julia only a bit more simplistic and with a more realistic timetable.

The first recipe in the 1962 calendar made good use of a package of beautiful deer steaks and introduced us to an old (but new to us) classic – sauce Bercy. Now, sauce Bercy is a white wine sauce and one that might accompany either fish or steak. There are variations depending on the meat to be embellished, but the base recipe is essentially the same – a reduction of white wine flavored with shallot and finished with butter and fresh parsley. When serving sauce Bercy with fish, you add a little fish stock to the wine before reducing it. In the case of the Chamberlain ladies’ simplified version of sauce Bercy, the wine and shallots are reduced before you add lemon juice and butter off the heat. The sauce is strained and then finished with a seasoning of salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoons of fresh, finely chopped parsley. Spooned over simply grilled steak that has been cooked rare, this sauce combines with the natural juices of the meat to make one incredibly tasty dish.

Homemade potato chips

For dinner, we served the venison steak Bercy with a side of beautifully baked potato “chips” that we sliced paper-thin on a mandolin and then layered with fresh parsley leaves between them and a drizzle of olive oil. With just a sprinkle of salt, these simple yet elegant potatoes were the perfect accompaniment to the tangy Bercy sauce.

Preparing the poached eggs and sauce

We grilled more steaks than two guys should eat and with more than a half a bottle of white wine in the fridge leftover we decided to do a little experimenting by poaching eggs in white wine. For brunch the following day, using the same technique as our eggs poached in Champagne, we cooked the eggs first, removed them and added shallots to the remaining white wine then quickly reduced the liquid and followed the rest of the sauce Bercy recipe. The combination of rare deer steak with creamy egg yolks was a wonderful treat. Why can’t restaurants in San Francisco be more creative with their Eggs Benedict? We suggest that if you do try this wonderful sauce and steak you grill up a couple extra ones for brunch the next day. Steak and eggs has never tasted so good.

Steak and eggs

Steak Bercy
[Adapted from The Chamberlain Calendar of French Cooking, For Engagements, 1962]

1 big steak of your choice (enough for 2 people)
1 cup dry white wine
¼ cup shallots, finely minced
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely minced
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Grill the steak according to taste, which the Chamberlain’s hope is rare.

To prepare the sauce, simmer shallots and wine until the mixture is reduced to about 1/3 cup. Off heat, stir in butter and lemon juice. Strain the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley. Reheat but don’t let it come to a boil.

Once steak is cooked, place it on a hot platter and pour sauce Bercy over. Slice steak and plate, spooning the mixture of juices and sauce over the individual servings.