So it's Fall! We are going to be a little cliche here and embrace all. the. pumpkin.
Traditional pumpkin spices include ginger, so when I came across the Minimalist Baker's Pumpkin Sage Biscuits in my search for something "Fall" and "Halloween", (not something that is commonly linked to caviar), they just begged to be matched with our naturally infused Ginger Whitefish Roe.
These delicious, flaky biscuits would definitely be welcomed at an autumnal brunch or dinner or a classy Halloween themed gathering. They are easy to make and the subtle pumpkin and sage flavors pair so beautifully with the Ginger Whitefish Roe's pleasant sharpness.
Move over, Pumpkin Spiced Latte. You've been replaced.
Pumpkin Sage Biscuits with Creme Fraiche & Ginger Whitefish Roe (serves 8)
adapted from the Minimalist Baker to be non-vegan
3/4 cup unsweetened buttermilk
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (you can also use a 2:1 mix of unbleached all-purpose & whole-wheat pastry or whole white wheat)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp sea salt
pinch each ground cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter + more for topping
1/4 cup pumpkin puree (canned, or from a roasted pumpkin)
up to 3 Tbsp fresh sage, roughly chopped or torn (or sub 1 tsp dry sage)
creme fraiche and Tsar Nicoulai Ginger Infused Whitefish Roe for topping
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
2. Measure buttermilk in a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl then whisk in pumpkin puree.
3. Mix flour(s), salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if using) in a large bowl.
4. Add cold butter and use a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers to combine until small pieces remain and it looks like wet sand. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t get too warm. Add chopped sage and mix once more.
5. Using a wooden spoon, stir gently while pouring in the buttermilk-pumpkin mixture 1/4 cup at a time. You may not need all of it. Stir until just slightly combined – it will be a little sticky, but not too much.
6. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, dust the top with a bit of flour and then very gently turn the dough over on itself a couple times – hardly kneading.
7. Form into a 1-inch thick disc, handling as little as possible.
8. Use a 1-inch thick dough cutter or a similar-shaped object with sharp edges and push straight down through the dough, then slightly twist. Repeat and place biscuits on a baking sheet in two rows making sure they just touch – this will help them rise uniformly. Gently reform the dough and cut out one or two more biscuits – you should have 7-9 depending on the size of your cutter.
9. Brush the tops with a bit more melted butter and gently press a small divot in the center using your thumb. This will also help them rise evenly, so the middle won’t form a dome.
10. Bake for 13-17 minutes or until fluffy and golden brown. These take a little longer to bake than traditional biscuits because the pumpkin adds extra moisture.
11. Garnish the top with creme fraiche and a generous spoonful of Ginger Infused Whitefish Roe. You can also halve the biscuits and garnish each open faced half.
I am pretty sure I have mentioned that growing up my parents threw a lot of dinner parties with interesting people. Russian circus performers, Georgian dancers, boisterous family friends - people from all over the world. My mother's meals during these loud and hilarious evenings never disappointed. She is known for her culinary talents and my parents are both revered for their endless hospitality.
Usually an impressive and thoughtful plated dessert finished the meal. It was my job to help my mom plate them and then I got to bring them out to the guests. This was always my favorite part. As I would carry out the dishes, the warmth and laughter swirling around the room would be chased by a chorus of "oooohs" and "aaaaaahs". Nowadays, if I can, I try to throw in a plated dessert when we host our own guests at our home. The little girl in me still can't get enough of that moment, making each person feel special.
Many times the dessert was a panna cotta. My mother played around with flavors and accompaniments. It was only recently that I realized panna cotta can be savory too. Somewhere I came across the idea of a cauliflower panna cotta and it felt like a fitting dish to top with some Tsar Nicoulai Caviar. Some of our signature bites top creamy vegetable soups and purees with caviar so the pairing isn't an outrageous concept. My mom also happened to be in town at the time of this experiment so it was a no brainer!
The basic steps to panna cotta are warming and flavoring cream (sometimes with milk), adding some gelatin and letting it cool in a ramekin or mold. Here we are adding in pureed cauliflower with the cream. You can also add a small amount of Parmesan cheese to the warm cauliflower+cream mixture to add a layer of complexity.
Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Select Caviar (6 servings in 8oz ramekins)
adapted from Lunds & Byerlys
1 pound cauliflower, stems removed, cut into florets
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1.5 cups cold water
1 package unflavored gelatin (like Knox)
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
A few teaspoons of grated Parmesan cheese, optional
1 ounce jar of Tsar Nicoulai Select Caviar
1. Place cauliflower florets in a saucepan with butter and water. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Add cream and cook an additional 20-30 minutes or until cauliflower has softened.
2. Puree cauliflower and some of the cooking liquid in a food processor until smooth. Strain the puree.
2. Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon of cold water and let soften 2 minutes. Warm half of puree in same saucepan and add the gelatin. Stir 2 minutes. Add remaining puree and combine. If using, add Parmesan cheese. Season with salt to taste.
3. Divide among 6 (8-ounce) ramekins. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
4. To unmold, run the tip of a knife around the circumference of the panna cotta and place ramekin in a shallow pan of hot water 20-30 seconds. Unmold onto serving plate. Alternatively, you can leave it in the ramekin.
NOTE: I also played around with different dishes to serve the panna cotta (without unmolding). One was a pretty tea cup. I also tried small shot glasses and yogurt jars which end up more like hors d'oeuvres.
5. Top with about 1 teaspoon of caviar depending on your panna cotta shape and size.
Even in California the perfectly summery days can become numbered. On the East Coast the humidity isn't always welcome, but by the end of summer we are desperately trying to hold on to it - putting in a last ditch effort for one more glorious weekend by a beach, butter slicked fingers, cracking open whatever seafood. Then come the drips of watermelon juice or melting popsicle down our arms. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, but as summer ends, I cling to the sunny, sticky, thick days so fiercely.
This dish turned in to a sort of ode to summer vegetables as we draw closer to a season change. The farmer's markets are always full of shiny yellow summer squash and deep green zucchini so I picked those up for a take on the Tsar Nicoulai Truffle Infused Whitefish Roe Luxe Signature Bite. I diced those, leaving them a bit big. I also cut up some mushrooms, diced some onions and halved bright and juicy cheery tomatoes. The amounts don't really matter because the leftover vegetables make their own great side dish or topping for toasty crusty bread, but I would grab about two each of medium sized zucchini and squash.
I like the taste of caramelized soft onions so I sauteed them first in some hot oil over medium heat. Once the onions were translucent, I tossed in the mushrooms. When the liquid from the mushrooms began to evaporate, I added in the zucchini and squash. I didn't want any of the other vegetables (besides the onions) to get too mushy. Crisp-tender is what I was going for with slightly browned edges. The tomatoes went in last until they were just a bit scorched and letting out their sweet and tart juices.
While all the veggies are cooking, prepare whatever pasta you like - enough servings for however many people you are treating to this bright and filling dish.
I used linguine and composed the plate by making a tall pile of pasta, which I tossed in a little olive oil and salt, in the middle and bordered with the colorful vegetable mix. Garnish with fresh parsley and top with Tsar Nicoulai Truffle Infused Whitefish Roe.
If you use something like penne, I think it would be best to toss the vegetables and pasta together, then add dollops of truffle caviar on top. You can also make this signature bite quick by purchasing a cold pasta salad (preferably no mayo dressing) and adding the roe on top. Make it extra summery by grilling your vegetables before chopping them up and tossing them with the pasta. The possibilities are plenty.
Our flavored roes are infused with all natural ingredients. The Truffle is earthy and rich and can add a level of sophistication to the simplest of dishes. You can also use it for cheese platters or serve simply with unsalted chips.
Enjoy the rest of summer, my friends.
On a recent trip to San Francisco, Tsar Nicoulai's Graphic Designer, Xenia Maximow, and I snuck away for a late lunch at Leo's Oyster Bar on Sacramento Street. We channeled the parking gods to score us a spot nearby and strolled the rest of the way. I grew up thirty minutes away and spent summers taking the train in just to aimlessly walk these streets. In the shade it was freezing, in the sun it was hot. I teased my blazer like a school girl crush, pulling it on and off, unable to decide if I really wanted it or not. That's weather in Northern California.
The tall, golden striped doors of Leo's shimmered in the sunshine. Hidden behind them waited a different world separate from the one outside. A different place. A different time. Suddenly we weren't in San Francisco, but Hawaii - or Havana, I've heard people say. In the 50s or 60s. Bearded bartenders making hip cocktails bring the past and the present trends together. Bungalow is the word that pops up for me and Xenia as we try to place the ambiance. Printed palm leaves spread across the walls and live greens hang from the ceiling, stretching themselves to welcome us in. Flutters of gold detail whisper hello.
It's the feel of the mid-century modern place that sets it apart from the rest of the seafood joints saturating San Francisco according to Chef de Cuisine Riley Harris. He sits with us around our green lacquered table surrounded by bamboo bistro chairs to chat with us for a bit about Leo's and the magic that happens here. "It's like Mad Men," he says. Perhaps the Tikki Bar episode if there was one.
Lunch has already slowed down, but you can still feel the buzz. Harris tells us it's the dinner rush that's most exciting. It sounds like the team here is close and enjoys getting lost in the hustle together. They are friends outside of work too. I'm instantly envious and want to be a part of it, holding back from asking for some kind of application or an invitation to hang out with them. Instead, we ask about Harris and his background.
Harris grew up in Virginia. He spent time in Paris and the South of France cooking in esteemed establishments like Passard's L'Arpege. He's worked with Mina Group and at Daniel Patterson's Coi to name a few. He also helped open Leo's sister restaurant, Petite Marlowe, a wine bar and oysterette. I'm not that old (I tell myself) and I must have at least 5 years on him so I find his long list of culinary accomplishments and connections impressive. His outstretched hand reveals a tattoo. I admire the fork and spoon on his forearm. It's a tribute to the first chef he ever worked with, who gifted him the silverware and recently passed away.
We're curious if Leo's chooses other sustainable seafood for their menu in addition to Tsar Nicoulai. Harris says despite not always being able to be hyper-seasonal, he makes an effort in choosing fish from the Bay Area when he can or other places not too far away. His choices that come from longer distances are usually at least upheld to sustainable practices. He also enjoys making dishes that celebrate less utilized fish. "I want to have these products in the future," he adds, which is why he supports sustainable sources.
After our chat we get to the main reason we came to Leo's. To sample some of their dishes featuring Tsar Nicoulai Caviar. To start, Harris sent out two bites. A beet blini with creme fraiche and caviar slicked with some truffle oil make a classic more modern - once again bringing the past into the present in true Leo's style. Along side the blini was smoked tuna dip playfully wrapped in a togarashi cracker, topped with roe and chive blossoms. This tiny bite has some serious flavor.
Before our salads arrived, we asked to also try the Salmon Tartare with salmon roe and capers in pastry. A hefty and fresh starter marrying delicate fish with grainy mustard and herbs that give way to a satisfying pop of roe. To finish, we enjoyed the Tea Leaf Salad with Ahi Tuna Carpaccio and the Leo's Louie topped with a combination of King Crab and Rock Shrimp. The later two dishes were fresh, light, but filling and a perfect end to a delicious lunch.
I often daydream of going back in time and here at Leo's it feels like you can. Except you get to take the current trends of fun pairings and daring chefs and bearded bartenders with you. Which is kind of the best of both worlds.
To make a reservation at Leo's call 415-872-9982 or click here.
Leo's Oyster Bar
568 Sacramento St
San Francisco, CA 94111
I mentioned last year
how breakfast in bed, or just breakfast in quiet, is a perfect Mother's Day gift for a mom. My daughter asks almost every day for pancakes. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, that's what she wants. And I can't blame her. I think a nice, filling and fun breakfast is what I want for Mother's Day too.
A friend of mine sent me the recipe for Dorie Greenspan's Smoked Salmon Waffles
and I thought this would be a perfect place for a garnish of Tsar Nicoulai Caviar. It's also a fabulous dish for a mom to savor (in peace) on her special day.
The last time I used our waffle iron was to make my husband a waffle breakfast in bed a zillion years ago. I was happy to dust it off again for this. I hope we continue to use it some more (hint, hint - like for a Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed, perhaps).
I left out the scallions in the recipe, but basically you mix up a delicious sauce with lemon juice, dill, capers, sour cream, salt and pepper. The waffle batter is savory including dill, red onions, and chopped smoked salmon. It's easy for a dad to make with the kids, but impressive enough to feel extravagant and special. Especially since it's topped with more salmon and caviar!
Sometimes potatoes and blini can get boring, so having something cheerful and whimsical to top with caviar is fun.
I used our Reserve Caviar
for this, but almost any will work. In fact, our gift sets
are on sale now for Mother's Day (until May 15th), so you could present Mom with a few and let her decide. Use code 4MOM when you shop online for 20% off any of the sets.
Life is a beautiful, important journey and each one starts with a mom. So cheers to all of the moms out there - present, past and future.
Now, go hug or call your mom if you can.