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I use to think I knew what a good cup of coffee tasted like–then I met Robby.   I must admit I am not the most patient person and I use to just throw a random amount of coffee in the french press, fill it with water and let it sit until I was ready.  Not anymore.  I promise if you follow the steps below you will learn the secrets to making the perfect cup of (french press) coffee! 

When Lizzie mentioned writing a post about coffee I was super excited that I not only got to talk about coffee, but also to make and drink it along the way. I am a stickler for quality and I feel as though what a lot of people consider as a great cup of coffee may not actually be as good as it can be.  One of the more interesting things I’ve heard is that you can’t make great coffee better on its way from seed to cup, but you can only make it worse. 

There are many opinions on methods, techniques, and taste….but for today I’ve chosen to focus on the French Press method. This is an inexpensive, relatively easy way to bring out more from your coffee and enjoy a different spin on your morning (or afternoon) cup. 

The coffee I am using is a personal favorite of mine: fairly traded Organic Guatemalan Medium roasted by Equal Exchange.  Typically, a lighter roasted coffee allows for you to taste more of the not-so-subtle differences in the bean instead of a more “roasty” flavor. 

 

1.)    First, bring about 4 and a half cups of water to a boil. While you’re doing this, you can grind your coffee. If your grinder does not have a designated French Press setting, you’ll want a bit coarser of a grind for a French press than you would use for a drip brew. This is best done using a burr grinder, but if you don’t have one you can make due with a mill grinder. 

 

The general standard is 1-2 tablesoons of coffee for every 6 oz of water. For this entry- I am using a 32 ounce French press (a common home-use size) and 60 grams of coffee- but at home I would use 9-10 level tablespoons/scoops depending on your preference. 

2.)    After you’ve got the ground coffee in the French press and let the boiling water cool for 3-5 minutes (coffee should be brewed at 195-205 degrees F, boiling is 212).  Start a timer and introduce the water to the coffee evenly, filling it a little under a third full. Wait one minute as the coffee absorbs the water, blooms and lets off some of the gases. 

 

3.)    At one minute, fill the French press, stir the mixture and place the top on. Press the plunger down about an inch, so that all of the coffee is now submerged. Now wait three additional minutes. 

 

4.)    At 4:00, plunge the coffee, slowly but steadily and that’s it, your coffee is all done. After serving, you may want to wait a few minutes as your coffee will still be quite hot, but otherwise ENJOY! 

Perfection!

Thanks for the post Robby! 

What is your favorite roast of coffee?  How do you like your coffee–milk, cream, sugar etc? 

[Lizzie]

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The following post is brought to you by my wonderful co-worker Jon.  Thank you for taking the time to write such a great post Jon–next time you should invite me over for dinner!

Over the weekend I had 7 friends over, mostly from my UCLA days, who now live in LA, New York, and Boston. With my 2 roommates, a 10-person dinner meant I needed to make a balanced meal with big time flavors, fresh ingredients, and a variety of proteins (and not to mention a whipped up vegetarian pasta dish for one person).

A friend of mine, who recently moved back to California after graduating from Harvard Law, loved spending his last weeks taking a variety of family and friends, including me, to Toro, where we frequented the fantastic Paella. Eating it so much made me realize that the ingredients, although plentiful, are neither too exotic or unique that I couldn’t try it at home.

So with about 2 hours from prep to table, I decided on the following dinner menu (with the help of some crème fraiche, fresh fruit, and a Petsi’s Fruit Cobbler)

  • Arugula and Heirloom Cherry Tomato on Toasted Baguette
  • Pear Goat Cheese Walnut and Cranberry Mixed Greens with Balsamic Vinegar
  • Two 1.5lb Steamed Maine Lobsters
  • Paella

 

The Arugula

The Arugula Heirloom Tomato recipe came from a botched attempt at making pesto, but is such a great balance of bitter Arugula with salt and the juicy tomatoes on crisp toast.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bag of TJ’s Arugula
  • Half of a box of TJ Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes (regular works fine)
  • A good amount of salt (to cut the bitter taste of Arugula)
  • Olive Oil

The key to this is to chop the Arugula finely so that you get a pesto-like texture. Mix in a heavy hand of olive oil as well, a heavy hand of salt to taste, and halved tomatoes. Serve on toasted baguette. Feel free to add some garlic powder (I like the powder because it dissolves easier without changing the texture of the dish).

The Salad

A really great texture salad that has sweet and salty profiles – I literally can eat this with every meal.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 bag of TJ’s Sorrento Mix (Baby Spinach and Arugula)
  • 1 shotglass of chopped walnuts
  • 1 shotglass of dried cranberry
  • 1 Bosc Pear
  • 2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil to taste

 

The key is to find sweet Bosc Pears and chop them, not too finely, so that you can really get that surprise sweet texture in the salad. The goat cheese adds a great element to counter the crunchy pear. Adding walnuts and cranberry just gives a good sweet and salty mix that finishes it all off. Add balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing just enough to add moisture to the salad, but trust me, the flavor is already bursting.

The Lobsters

Just steam ‘em and crack them for your guests to take apart with your hands.

The Paella

I used a hybrid recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, Epicurious, and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and came up with this version. Because Saffron is pretty expensive, I decided to substitute a combination of Paprika and Tumeric, which I think worked pretty well except I could have used more, as some of the rice in the bottom center of the skillet tasted more like Spanish rice. Some other take aways: I wish I had a larger pan, I went with a 10” cast iron skillet; for the amount of people I was cooking for, a traditional 14” paella pan, or just a larger cast iron would have made the flavor spread out a lot better. I also would have added frozen peas and corn, but the pan just would have exploded with too much stuff. Thinking back, I also wished I had seasoned the shrimp a bit more, but one could also do a sauté with garlic on the side then top the paella.  To avoid crispy rice mixed in, you could also cook the whole thing with a lid (like a dutch oven), or just cover it in foil.

What you’ll need:

  • 2.5 cups of long grain white rice (or paella rice if you can find it)
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • ¼ teaspoon of tumeric (don’t be afraid to add more)
  • ¼ teaspoon of paprika (don’t be afraid to add more)
  • 2 Bell Peppers (Red or Orange)
  • 1 whole garlic cove (diced and crushed)
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 yellow onion
  • Half box of TJ’s Cremini Mushrooms (chopped)
  • 1.5 lbs of Chicken Thighs
  • 1lb of chorizo or Portuguese sausage (any spicy sausage will work) sliced
  • 1 lb of de veined skin on tiger shrimp
  • Chopped Parsley
  • 2 lemons

 

Trim & cut the chicken thighs into thirds, add olive oil, salt and pepper, oregano, rosemary, crushed garlic, and some paprika. Brown the chicken in a pan, drain the fat, and set aside. In the skillet / paella pan, add butter, olive oil, the shallots, onion, chorizo, and mushroom and cook until the mushrooms are translucent. Add the bell peppers and sautee (adding oil as needed) until most of the liquid is almost burned off. In a separate pot, simmer 4 cups (2 cans) of chicken broth and the tumeric / paprika mixture, keeping it warm. Add the rice slowly into the skillet with the veggie mixture and brown the rice briefly, adding the chicken into the mixture and lowering the heat. When the rice is browned add the broth mixture until the rice is submerged and bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees, while adding the broth mixture whenever the paella looks dry DO NOT STIR, this is NOT a risotto. At this point, the rice should be crisp on the tops, but almost done underneath.

At this point, take out the paella, check that the rice is almost done under the crisp outer layer, and stir everything up. Flatten out the paella again, and add the shrimp on top (or mixed if you prefer). Bake for another 10 minutes or so, or until the rice is done. The key is to really add your seafood, whether it be shrimp or mussels, at the very end because they tend to cook VERY quickly. Like I said, in hindsight I wish I had marinated or dry rubbed the shrimp, or even possibly cooked the shrimp separately in a garlic sauce and served them on top of the paella when it was done.

Sprinkle chopped parsley and a heavy dose of squeezed lemon for garnish. Dig in and enjoy. Best with prosecco or sparkling white wine, preferably served in a Porron.

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WCWWC is proud to introduce our first guest blogger!  Miriam and I have been friends for 14 years.  Not only is Miriam a wonderful friend she is also a wonderful cook and knows how to throw some great parties.  She is especially well-known for her dessert and wine party she host annually.  Now that she lives in San Francisco I am really going to miss that party!  Without further ado I present to you Miriam’s Lemon Cake!

As a full-time graduate student who is new to San Francisco, I anxiously anticipated my first west coast summer break.  Although I was already breaking grounds on the hiking and biking trails outside the city, I was still ready for the months of summer freedom.  Like those from the Northeast, I regard summer as a sacred time of year—when you can strip off layers, head to the beach, bake some lobsters, and truly enjoy the fresh air.  I had been warned by locals that I shouldn’t get my hopes up and be ready for a chilly season—but instead of my usual northeast sunshine, all I have gotten is rain. 

Waking up to my 4th day of summer vacation and a heavy and steady downpour I stumbled into the kitchen to face a bowl of 9 beautiful ripe lemons from my dad’s tree in Carmel, CA.  He had dropped them off on the way to the airport and I had been contemplating all week how to create something that did them justice.  Earlier in the week while on a date with a high-end chef, I proposed him my dilemma.  He had suggested I salt them and refrigerate them for the zest in a few months for seafood or chicken—although it sounded like a delicious idea, they were so ripe that I wanted to find something in order to use them as a whole (juice included).  My roommate suggested a lemon cake and it sounded like a perfect idea to guest blog for L&C.

Although friends who have seen me work in the kitchen know I struggle with following recipes, I was inspired by this  Ina Garten recipe.  However, I modified her recipe for a somewhat healthier and more citrus version, trying to avoid pure white sugar.  My baking was all done by hand with a whisk but can be modified depending on your preference.

I started with bowl of 9 ride and beautiful lemons

When life throws you lemons...

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Cream together:

1 stick of butter

1 cup of apple sauce

2 cups of Organic agave nectar

Add 3 large eggs into the sugar mixture as you continue to mix with a whisk

Add 1 1/2 cups fresh lemon zest (about 5 large lemons that will be juiced later)

Set aside for a moment

In a second bowl combine:

3 cups of white all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

In a third bowl combine:

1 cup fresh lemon juice (using your lemons)

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup low-fat milk

Next, combine the flour mixture and lemon juice mixture into your first bowl—alternating between the two.  Keep mixing and your mixture should be smooth and thick.

Grease two 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans and divide mixture between them.  My cakes took approximately 1 hour to bake but check on them after 45 minutes. 

While cakes are baking, combine ½ cup agave nectar with 1 cup lemon juice in a small pan to create lemon syrup.  Pour syrup over cakes when they have cooled for about 10-15 minutes.

Let cakes cool for another half hour.

Optional: I decided to go ahead with the glaze but if you are looking to cut down on sugar, skip this and enjoy your cakes plain!  Another idea is to glaze only one cake and leave the other with just the syrup.

Lemon Glaze:

In a small bowl combine 1 cup confectionary sugar and 3 tablespoons lemon juice.  Mix until you have a thick glaze and pour a thin layer over cakes.

Enjoy!

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