Friday, August 12, 2011

In the Kitchen/En La Cocina

A while back I mentioned how much I loved volunteering in Chicago and that I was hoping to find a place here in SF to volunteer my time, well I found a couple of places that sparked my interest and had the opportunity to work with one of them this past week.  La Cocina is an organization with a mission "to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities."  Each year they host the San Francisco Street Food Festival that showcases these food vendors doing what they love.
In order to promote the festival, La Cocina held a media dinner last Friday at Fort Mason where people from the media got to try a bunch of the foods from various La Cocina vendors set up at Off the Grid and during cocktail hour and a sit down dinner.  As a volunteer I helped set up the dinner and bar as well as walk around Off the Grid answering questions and directing people towards the participating food vendors.  Here are the OTG vendors that participated and what they sampled:

Azalina's Malaysian served Penang Curry Bomb: spicy coconut chicken curry with blueberry cucumber pickles in a green onion bun.  I was fortunate enough to try this and it was insanely good!

Chaac Mool served Conchinita Pibil.  I was able to try this and had lunch from their truck at Dolores Park this past weekend, yum!

Creme Brulee Cart served their "Yes Please" which was a Nutella creme brulee with balsamic strawberries, yes I ate this and yes I loved it.

Curry Up Now sampled their Tiki Masala Burrito

El Huarche Loco dished up Mini Huarches Alambre: sandal-shaped masa cakes filled with refried beans, lightly fried and served with beet, peppers, bacon and cheese.  These were little boats of Mexican delight!

Kung Fu Tacos sampled Pork Belly Tacos: braised pork belly over a bed of Jasmine rice topped with pickled mustard greens.

Namu gave out Korean Tacos: chopped marinated Korean style short ribs, kimchee remoulade, pickled daikon and kimchee salsa, seasoned rice on nori and toasted Korean seaweed shell.  I did have the opportunity to try this and it was a refreshing twist on tacos.

Onigilly served up 2 different dishes, Mini Onigilly Spicy Shrimp Onigilly: brown rice and cooked shrimp with tobiko dressed in house made spicy aioli wrapped with seaweed.  Hijiki Onigilly (vegan): brown rice and hijiki with shredded carrots cooked with house made sweet soy sauce wrapped in seaweed.

I was only able to stay for the first half of this event but I believe the night was a success and I really enjoyed working with the La Cocina staff and vendors.  I will be volunteering at the festival as well which is going on Saturday, August 20th from 11am-7pm.  I encourage you to come out and support these vendors and try some amazing food! If you can't make it to the festival check out La Cocina's website where you an order food, find out more information about the individual vendors, and sign up for classes and events.

Watching these vendors whip up their creations was very inspiring, who knows maybe one day there will be an Enjoyable Me truck : )

So besides volunteering with "the kitchen," I've also been spending some time in the kitchen cooking up eats.  In this case, the eats are 3 flavors of whole wheat crackers.  As my nutrition and health education classes continue I am constantly being exposed to a variety of wonderful sources for recipes and inspiration, one of the staples in my program is Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.  I got a new toy a couple months ago but with the vacation and all I almost forgot about it, almost.  I'm totally okay with and in touch with my inner food geek, this thing makes me giddy and I'm not afraid to tell the world!
Thank you Amazon for continuing to stock my shelves with all of the unnecessary items that I dream of : )  This adorable German letter stamp set allows me to customize my baked goods, from now on we will only be eating goods with my name on it. 

So I needed to find something to try this gadget out on but I wasn't in the mood for cookies, that's when I came across Sally's recipe for Whole Grain Crackers and the kitchen became my playground.  Unfortunately, I didn't read the recipe ahead of time and found out that the flour needs to be soaked with yogurt overnight, so I had to wait.  I am VERY impatient, ask Wren what it's like to put up a Christmas tree with me.  I'll have half the decorations on before he has it bolted in the stand, true story.  Here is my version of whole wheat crackers, three ways.

Whole Wheat Crackers
Adapted from Sally Fallon's recipe
-2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
-1 cup plain yogurt
-2 tsp salt
-1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-8 tbsp butter, melted
-6 tsp seasonings: I used 2 tsp of each flax seeds, Italian herbs, Parmesan cheese (you can choose any spices or herbs that you fancy)

Combine flour and yogurt in a bowl, cover, and let sit in a warm place for 12-24 hours.  
 In a food processor mix soaked flour, salt, baking powder and butter until thoroughly combined.  Add in your desired seasoning and pulse a few more times. 
Roll the dough out on a floured surface, the thinner the better (about 1/8 of an inch) I was too hot and tired and ended up with overly thick crackers.
Cut the dough into your desired shapes, feel free to get crazy and use fun cookie cutters.  Yep, that's my version of crazy.
I may be short but I'm no keebler elf so don't expect perfectly square crackers coming out of this kitchen.
Place the crackers on a buttered cookie sheet (or use a silpat mat) and lightly brush them with the remaining melted butter.  Bake at 250 degrees until golden brown.
These crunchy snacks are perfect for dipping in hummus, topped with cheese or with a spread of sweet jalapeno.  They would make a fun activity to do with kids and if you pack them in their lunches they can brag to all of their friends that they made them! 

I know they get the Lexi stamp of approval given that she ate the entire plate of them (spices included) that was left on the counter.

Happy snacking!

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