Tofu Bahn Mi

Tofu Bahn Mi

Probably the most loved lunch I ever made at Good Eggs.  Even former tofu haters requested it!  Crispy fried tofu, aioli, sweet lemongrass sauce, five herb pesto, pickled carrots and Fifth Crow Farm cilantro.

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I've been doing a pretty terrible job of updating my blog.  Eeks!  Busy, busy, busy.  Please check out what I've been doing on my instagram feed.  Find me @vanessa.altman.siegel  It's much more current...  

Chicken pot pie with celery root and rosemary for Good Eggs lunch. Photo by Annie Svigals

Chicken pot pie with celery root and rosemary for Good Eggs lunch. Photo by Annie Svigals


Quick Pozole

This winter we had a ridiculous amount of cabbage at Good Eggs, so I was constantly trying to creatively incorporate it.  Pozole is usually an all day affair made with a long-simmered pork stock made from meaty bones and hominy corn that takes ages to cook.  For this quick version soak dried hominy overnight and cook it off the next day like beans, and pressure-cook chunks of pork shoulder until tender for about 40 minutes.  Toss white onions and rehydrated ancho chiles in a the blender,  and then strain that mixture into a chicken stock fortified with the skimmed pork braising liquid, for a rich broth.  Make fresh corn chips while everything is cooking by cutting soft corn tortillas into strips and frying them.  Then add the pork and hominy back into the broth, simmer and season, and garnish with cilantro, radish, lime, queso fresco, Mexican oregano and of course, shredded raw cabbage.  Re-reading this it sounds a bit complicated, but it's not - it has a few simple parts and takes a couple of hours to create a crunchy, spicy, creamy, tangy, savory and salad-y complete meal in a bowl.  TASTY.  

Great photo by Stacey Ladenburger

Great photo by Stacey Ladenburger

Carrot Jam

I've been meaning to write about this interesting and delicious jam for months now.  I was obsessed with it this winter, in part because we had a fabulous carrot season with some of the sweetest, juiciest, crunchiest carrots I've  ever tasted - especially heirloom varieties like Nantes.  So, naturally, I wanted to cook carrots them all the time and venture beyond roasting, glazing, raw and slaw.   This recipe is adapted from Putting Food By, a classic preserving and canning book originally published in 1973.   Simply dollop the jam atop Bellwether cow ricotta (which is kind of cheating, because Bellwether ricotta makes EVERYTHING delicious), a great chewy bread like Josey Baker or Tartine, and a crack of black pepper.  Serve for breakfast, brunch, lunch or even as an hors d'oeuvres. Seriously, could not stop eating it.   

1. Shred about 4# peeled carrots.  
2. Add 4 C sugar, 1 C lemon juice, lemon zest, a pinch of salt, and a sachet filled with 3 cinnamon sticks and 12 cloves.  Refrigerate overnight.
3. The next day, add 1/2 C of water and a pinch of nutmeg.  Cook on medium until carrots have a jammy consistency.  Cool, and remove sachet.  

carrot jam.vanessaaltman-siegel


I've recently been revisiting chicken with lemons and olives, a dish from my childhood,  inspired by lemons dangling in backyards all over the Bay Area. Ok, I realize this is not a bolt of culinary genius - I probably share this taste memory with millions of others. It's a classic, and for good reason: a prime example of transforming a few humble ingredients into a balanced, interesting chicken dish that improves with a couple of days.  Rich, briny, brothy, comforting and tart.  In our family we called it "Aisha's Chicken" after my Algerian aunt who taught my mother the recipe.  My mom made it a lot because it's easy.  It's still her dinner party go-to: 30 years later!  I haven't seen Aisha in over 20 years - I barely remember her - but her legacy lives on, and I've made this dish for hundreds.  Food is amazing that way.  Anyways, I've refined Aisha's a bit and had fun using lemons in many incarnations:  thrice blanched, julienned peel; minced, preserved lemon; and juice at the end.  If you don't feel like doing that, just slice fresh lemons thin and chuck them in the pot with the chicken, peel and all, at the end.  Serve with couscous.  Or rice.  I like toasted Israeli couscous pilaf, but any grain is good.  This recipe is nowhere near exact, but this dish is hard to mess up. 

Chicken with Lemons and Olives
1# Chicken legs
1/2" knob of ginger, minced
1/2 large onion, minced
a couple of garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 preserved lemon, peel only
a couple of lemons, peel removed with as little white pith as possible, blanched three times to remove bitterness, and julienned
Chicken stock
Green pitted olives, preferably Israeli, halved
Parsley, cilantro to garnish

Season with salt and pepper and sear the chicken in a dutch oven or large pot.  Set chicken aside. 
Add garlic, onions, ginger and a little salt to pot, sweat covered on low, until translucent. Scrape up the chickeny bits on the bottom of pot.
Tuck chicken back into the onions, add enough stock to come almost all the way up. 
Bring to boil, and back down to simmer.
Cook chicken 45 minutes or until meat falls off the bone, but is still tender.
Removed chicken and reduce sauce until thick-ish.
Add preserved lemon - go slow and add more to taste as it can be overwhelmingly astringent.
Add olives, too.  Return chicken to pot and cook for ten more minutes. 
Take off the heat to let flavors mingle, and add julienned peel to taste, and salt and pepper. 
Finish with lemon juice right before serving, and chopped herbs. 


I was hired as a consultant to help open a restaurant in Delhi, India, and I returned last week.  Phew!  Busy, crowded, colorful, filthy, magical, opulent, impoverished, frustrating and fantastic.  I ate cashews and sweet rice, curries, coconuts and chilis off a palm leaf in Southern India.   Perfumed kebabs, sacks of spices, Kashmiri morels, silver-leafed sweets, masala and lime, grooms on white horses and honking, honking, honking, honking in Delhi.  I researched Indian organics, a blossoming scene, spoke to chefs and front of the house managers, studied spices and produce, surveyed the restaurant space and ate, ate, and ate some more. 
It's difficult to choose but here are a few of my favorite, though un-food-related, pictures of a couple quiet moments in an otherwise insanely hectic country. 


Salt Baked Shrimp with Wild Fennel

Wild fennel season is winding down in San Francisco.  Wild fennel is such an easy forage - it's an invasive plant found in vacant lots, highway hillsides (but watch for polluted areas), fields, and there's a ton along the coast in Pacifica.  There are plenty of uses for wild fennel that foraging sites get into, like drying for seeds, etc.  Stuffing a whole fish with wild fennel fronds, orange and ginger and roasting it on the campfire is another one of my favorite uses.  But for this dish, I pick the flowers and put them in a clean paper bag.  Then I simply cut the flower clusters with scissors, and toss with the cooked shrimp. The shrimp get dotted with fresh pollen flavor and anise fragrance, and it makes a stunning platter.   The picture below gives you some idea.   
These are wild Louisiana white shrimp - sweet meat with thin shells.  We salt-baked about two hundred for lunch, rinsed them with hot water so they're not too salty, and then garnished with fennel flowers, the loose fennel pollen from that paper foraging bag, and homemade garlic oil.
Most bright flavored oils will do fine on this dish: citrus, herb, or whatever. It's really easy to make flavored oils: buzz a neutral (like grapeseed) oil or light olive oil and a flavoring agent (say lemon peel, blanched chive, etc.) in a blender, let steep for a while, strain through a damp cheesecloth.  Or bring oil and flavor (chili powder or shrimp shells or garlic or whatever) to a low simmer, take off the heat before it burns, steep until cool, strain.  Put in a squeeze bottle and make a gorgeous plate.   We used garlic oil in this dish only because it was the byproduct of garlic confit.  We poached garlic cloves in olive oil, and the gooey, caramelized cloves were incorporated into an orzo salad with lots of lemon, french feta, roasted zucchini and dill, that we served alongside the shrimp.

Salt Baked Shrimp with Wild Fennel
However many high quality American shrimp, heads removed, shells on, de-veined if you feel like doing the work.
Salt.  Kosher or rock, and a lot of it. 
Wild Fennel flowers, picked from a pollution and dog-pee free environment (well, as close as you can get...).  Wash and pick over for bugs.
Flavored olive oil (experiment with the directions above or buy it).

Heat the oven to 425.  Line a sheet tray or cast-iron pan with 1/4-1/2" Kosher or rock salt  and place in the oven until the salt is almost smoking hot. 
When it's hot, lay the shrimp down in one layer and bake until the shrimp are opaque and cooked through, about five - eight minutes.
Rinse the shrimp quickly with hot water (or they will be too salty), drizzle with oil, platter with fennel flowers. 


Green Tomato Recipes

I'm in Maine, it's August 16th, and most of the tomatoes in the garden are still green.  No worries.  Nothing beats a perfectly ripe, sweet red summer tomato, but  the green ones are proving to be a refreshing change and equally delicious.  Pick ones that are really green - when they have hints of red they are more sour.  The green tomato salsa verde below could be eaten as a soup too - it's so good it can stand alone.  Here are two simple recipes:

Grilled swordfish with green tomato salsa verde 
serves 6
4 large green tomatoes, quartered
1 small onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Mixed handful of herbs: parsley, lemon mint, cilantro, basil (this is what was in the garden but most herbs will substitute well), washed, rough chopped
1 lime, one half juiced, the other half sliced into wedges for serving
4 pounds swordfish, seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled

Throw the green tomatoes in a pan will olive oil and the garlic.  Cook on low, covered, until they begin to break down, then add the onion and continue to cook until they are all soft.  Transfer to a blender, buzz until liquified (remember to release the heat!), add the herbs, buzz until mixed.  Season with salt, pepper and lime.  Slather on grilled swordfish.  Or any white fish.  Or chicken.  Or eat alone as a soup. 

Frittata with green tomato, herbs and 10 minute homemade créme fraiche
10 eggs, lightly beaten
2 large green tomatoes, diced
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 small onion, small dice
Handful of mixed herbs: chives, basil, parsley, tarragon, dill. Chopped, some reserved for garnigh
1.5 C whipping cream
2 tsp white vinegar

Put the whipping cream in a bowl, stir in vinegar.  Taste: if it's too tart add a little more cream.  Let stand at room temperature while you're cooking everything else.  It will thicken and you'll have creme fraiche soon!
Set oven to 350.  Sweat the onions in butter in a pan, and swirl the butter around so all sides of the pan are coated.  Mix the tomatoes, s/p, baking soda, herbs (reserve a little for garnish) into the beaten eggs.  When the onions are translucent, add the egg mixture.  Cook until eggs are set on the bottom, then transfer into the oven and cook until set all the way through, about 15 minutes.  Once set, turn broiler on high and carefully brown the top.  Remove from oven, let rest 5 minutes, then invert out of the pan onto a plate.  Carefully flip it back right side up onto a cutting board.  Cut into 6 or 8 pieces, garnish with remaining herbs, creme fraiche, and maybe squash blossoms if you have some in the garden. 


Green tomatoes, yum! 

Green tomatoes, yum! 

Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Squash blossoms are a classic filling for quesadillas.  I make mine with homemade tortillas from La Palma on 24th st.  I mix queso fresco and monterey jack cheeses - the queso fresco adds sweet creaminess and the jack adds gooey meltiness and sharpness.  I also add roasted, sliced poblanos for spice and smokiness, pickled red onion for acid and crunch, and epazote (if you're not familiar, epazote is a common Mexican herb that tastes like a cross between mint oregano.  It is often cooked with beans because it's said to reduce flatulence).  Sauté the quesadillas until brown and crispy on both sides and serve with whatever condiment you like.  I love a simple salsa verde made by grilling tomatillos, onion and garlic until soft, then buzzing with cilantro. 

Squash blossom quesadillas before the poblano, pickled red onion and epazote.  Photo by my sous chef at Good Eggs Tracy Tingle. 

Squash blossom quesadillas before the poblano, pickled red onion and epazote.  Photo by my sous chef at Good Eggs Tracy Tingle. 

Photos That Didn't Make It

Photographer Patricia Chang and I shot some gorgeous photos of crispy chicken with wild alliums, grilled onions, favas, cherries, strawberries, and foraged mustard flowers.  They didn't quite fit into the site layout, but I wanted to include them somewhere...


Crispy Herbs

This is a really cool garnish or interesting addition to salads.  It's quick and stores for ages in an airtight container. This picture is carrot greens, but any herb will work. 

Stretch a piece of micro-wave safe plastic (not PVC) wrap tightly over a microwave safe plate.
Brush the plastic with a thin layer of oil, or with cooking spray
Place the individual herb leaves on the plate, spaced out. 
Brush a little oil over the herbs.
Microwave on medium heat, 800 W, about four minutes.
Transfer to a paper towel and season.

Crispy fried carrot greens

Crispy fried carrot greens

Why do I love being a chef?

I was just asked this question on an application for a TV cooking show.  I was only given one line.  OMG I could go on forever!
Creativity.  Athleticism.  The connection food gives me to nature.  The way food connects people: EVERYONE has taste memories, and they are wildly different and interesting and equally important.  Regardless of socioeconomic background, ethnicity, age, culture, religion, hometown, city, or region, every person brings something to learn to the table (literally).  In culinary school in New York City, a fellow student from Trinidad told me about the different varieties of mangoes he ate as a kid.  Being from the Northeast US, I found this fascinating. Later,  in a taxi with my grandmother I said,  "Did you know there are ten different types of mangoes?"   Our Pakistani cab driver whipped around, "Oh no!" he said, "There are hundreds and hundreds!"
I've seen a multi, multi-millionaire in a mansion, dressed in flannel pajamas.  Her diamonds were on the dresser, plane was in the hangar and couture dresses waited in the closet.  She was makeup-less, looked ordinary and fragile.  One of the microwaves beeped and she removed a steaming bowl of $2 instant tapioca pudding.  She dug in.  A simple taste reminded her of a less-than-privileged childhood, and she was totally, completely satisfied. 

Green Strawberries

I've eaten pickled green strawberries a couple of times recently: at Duende in Oakland, accompanying cured goat with juicy green almonds, and at Bar Tartine on a stylish, eccentric cheesecake.  I served my green strawberries with pan-roasted chicken and a sweet/spicy sauce made from guajillos, first season cherries, and prunes.  The green strawberries add a satisfying chewy texture, an extra dash of acid, and are a fun, pretty addition to the plate.  Green strawberries will eventually turn red off the vine, but never get sweet, so pickle soon after picking.  Quick pickling is really fast and easy.  It should be an addition to any cook's repertoire.  The basics are:
Bring equal parts vinegar, sugar and water to a boil.  Pour over ingredients.  So,
1/4 C Vinegar (any vinegar is fine but remember colored vinegar will dye whatever you're pickling.  White wine or champagne is good).
1/4 C Sugar
1/4 C Water
Dash of salt
Bring to a boil, pour over onions, radishes, green strawberries, carrots, or whatever veggies or fruit or seeds catch your imagination. Make sure they're submerged and let cool in the brine.  Done! 
I often fill a tea ball or sachet with bay leaf, peppercorn, mustard seed, coriander seed, fennel seed, star anise or other spices before I bring the brine to a boil for extra flavor.  Experiment and see what you like. 

Strawberries in the garden at my work

Strawberries in the garden at my work

Sand Dabs

Sand Dabs are a California treat.  They are very sweet, firm-fleshed little Spring fish, almost always sold whole.  They just started popping up in markets.  The problem is they are super bony.  I toss them in a little cornmeal/flour dredge, and pan fry them in a little butter and high heat oil.  The filets peel off the bone quite easily once they are cooked, but there are still some tiny bones you need to watch for.  Really good ones almost remind me of crabmeat.  I served my clients pan-fried Sand Dabs with pickled strawberries from Swanton, pickled mustard seeds, Bloomsdale spinach, favas, pencil asparagus, crispy potatoes and a sweet and tart rhubarb 'BBQ' sauce (but they really only need a little lemon).  Wanted to get a picture of the final dish - it was really beautiful with the colors and bounty of Spring -but didn't have time before it needed to get to the table!

Sand Dabs

Sand Dabs

Matzah balls! Passover this year...

I like to keep matzah ball soup simple with a full-tasting infused chicken broth, and light but toothsome, basic but flavorful, and smaller-sized matzah balls. Garnish with dill, and perhaps some thin-sliced small raw carrots for texture.  Infusing broth is a technique I learned from Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine -  steep aromatics in stock in the same manner you would tea or coffee in hot water.  He uses a french press, and adds the flavorings right before serving, steeping for only three minutes so as not to develop bitterness - just like tea.   My seder soup was for 24 people though, so I filled a tea ball with star anise, toasted garlic cloves, and peppercorns, and dropped it in the pot of basic salted chicken stock to infuse for about 1/2 hour.  You can totally use other aromatics though - I like to make an hors d'ouevre of chicken soup shooters infused with lemongrass and galangal, mini matzah balls, and flecks of cilantro and thai basil.  

Matzah Balls
Makes 40 smallish matzo balls
2 cups matzo meal
8 eggs, lightly beaten
8 tablespoons duck fat
8 tablespoons seltzer
2 large garlic cloves, grated on a rasp

Mix everything together, let rest at room temp for ½ hr.
Form into walnut size balls.
Cook covered in boiling, salted water or chix stock for ½ hr or until cooked through.  

Make a double chicken stock (ask me how). Fortify with sachet of star anise, peppercorns, toasted garlic. Infuse at the end for 30 minutes or until flavorful.

Matzo Meal (Obviously)

Matzo Meal (Obviously)