“Calling all Foodies!...”
This coming Friday, June 5th, Food Network superstar Alton Brown will be appearing via live webcast from the gorgeous Monterey Bay Aquarium in northern California. The live event is one of many celebrations taking place around the world for World Oceans Day, which is actually on June 8th. The webcast will air on Friday at 1200 (noon) PDT, which is 1900 (7pm) GMT/UTC.
Chef Brown is a staunch supporter of the MBA’s Seafood Watch Guides, which have been promoted several times on this site, and he’ll be discussing some of the recipes he prepares at home using the Guides. The Seafood Watch program provides regional guides to making sustainable and mercury-free choices of fish and seafood. The guides are available online, as hard copy, and for your mobile phone or iPod. And the Monterey Bay Aquarium partners with similar programs in other countries that provide guides for their citizens.
The broadcasters are soliciting questions now for Chef Brown to answer during the webcast, so if you have a question you’d like to see answered on the live webcast, you still have time to register and submit your question.
To watch the webcast, you have to register (just name and an email address) before noon Pacific Daylight Time with the Aquarium, and they will send you a link to the webcast so you can access it when it goes live. You can register here.
Chef Brown will be appearing with MBA founder Julie Packard so if you have questions about the Aquarium, Seafood Watch, or any of the Aquarium’s other programs, she is accepting questions as well.
This will be a nice kick-off to the weekend to get us in the mindset for World Oceans Day, and perhaps find some inspiration for menu ideas, too!
After months of searching in vain for fresh calamansi in every grocery that has crossed our path (no, Dorothy, you’re not in Hawaii any more), we’ve finally found a reliable source for this unique and essential lime... a tree of our own! We named her Chloë. She’s already in flower and has a few fruit peeking out here and there so we should be ready for those calamansi margaritas again by summer.
Chloë was a real find because last fall when we first started looking for a tree, we didn’t see ANY citrus at the garden centers or nurseries at all. We learned there was a quarantine on all citrus coming out of Florida, which would be the natural source of citrus plants for the East Coast. Chloë is a California gal, so she’ll need a good bit of TLC after her long trip. She’ll stay outdoors while the weather is good — she needs lots of full sunlight to keep us in limes — but we’ll bring her in when it starts to get chilly again.
Chloë is our third calamansi tree. We also had potted calamansi both times we lived in Germany. We were surprised to find calamansi trees when we first moved there, but they were exported from Tuscany. Calamansi are more than ornamentals — their limes are a wonderful substitute for other citrus in marinades, beverages, and seasonings. Sadly, we had to re-home our trees each time we returned to the States, but we’re counting on Chloë being with us for a long while.
If you’re looking for calamansi trees at a nursery or garden center, or for limes at an ethnic market (unless it’s a Filipino grocery), you might have to ask for it by its more widely recognized name, Calamondin.
But Chloë wasn’t the only new resident to join our household from the garden center, we picked up 1500 (yes, that’s fifteen hundred!) pest control managers there, too. They’re already on the job and we hope that they’ll keep the aphids, mites, mealy bugs (and whatever else is eating our basil) out of the planters and tomato beds. And they’re cute, too, aren’t they? With this little army of ladybugs and a spray bottle of pepper soap (I still have to make some), we’re hoping to win the battle against the other bugs without any pesticides.
This is the first time we’ve tried “recruiting” friendly insects in our cause so this will be an interesting venture. The garden center sells bagged ladybugs — 1500 for less than $10.00 (the notes on the bag say that 1800 are actually bagged to account for some mortality in transit). The directions say to release most of the ladybugs at dusk, then to repeat the process with a second wave a week later. We were told to keep the second wave in the fridge and they will go dormant again until next week.
We just released the advance guard last night (that’s them in the top photos), so I’m curious to see how many survive the first night and how many actually stick around where they’re released.
And remember, not all ladybugs are “ladies.” Remember Francis in “A Bug’s Life” by Pixar Studios?
The unbeatable flavor of the calamansi lime is essential to these recipes:
Tequila & Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak (aka Margarita Steak), and
"Rim of Fire" Paella
Also cruise on over and see what Marvin at Burnt Lumpia is making with calamansi, including an infused vodka, and candied peels.
Who doesn’t like fried noodles, right?! We love them all: pancit, bami goreng, chow mein — you fry it, we’ll probably eat it. But this is my hands-down favorite — Yakisoba made with Okinawa soba noodles. You’re thinking, “Those don’t look like buckwheat noodles — soba noodles are made of buckwheat.” True, in most cases “soba” refers to noodles made with at least 30% buckwheat, but Okinawan noodle manufacturers received special dispensation from the Japan soba-growers’ association to continue to use the term “Okinawa soba” (although these noodles have 0% buckwheat) because the term was so closely tied to the island group’s history and culture.
Okinawa soba is slightly yellow in color and flattened in the middle, betraying its ancestry from the Chinese egg noodle. It is also thicker and has a chewy bite that distinguishes it from the more common ramen noodles which are used to make yakisoba in other parts of Japan. Until we lived in Hawaii, I used to make yakisoba using Chinese egg noodles, ramen noodles, or even leftover spaghetti noodles. But having had access to locally made Okinawa-style soba for 3 years on Oahu I knew it was going to be painful to be without it and have to make do with other noodles again. Happily, I don’t have to yet.
In our 9 months here, we’ve found 2 Japanese grocers in the area and they both carry the same Okinawan soba made by Sun Noodles in Honolulu that we used to buy on Oahu! *and the crowd shouts with joy!* Of course, here the noodles are in the frozen section of the market instead of the chilled section as they were in Hawaii — but c’mon they got here and that’s the important thing. A slight drop in quality is expected, as the freezing and thawing leave the noodles a bit softer after cooking so they don’t have quite the chewiness of the fresh — but again I’m not complaining, just stating a fact. You can find Sun Noodles brand Okinawa Soba, as well as many other Japanese fresh, frozen and dry goods at: Maruichi, Second Floor, Talbott Center, 1049 Rockville Pike (near the point where Rt. 355 merges with Veirs Mill Road), Rockville, MD; and Daruma, 6931-E Arlington Rd., Bethesda, MD. These are both small retailers specializing in Japanese products that the larger pan-Asian markets in the area don’t usually carry. Now if I can only convince one of them to carry Hawaiian-style Portuguese sausage, too, we’ll be REALLY happy.
Of course, you could also prepare Okinawa soba as a soup, the package includes a dehydrated soup base. In truth, we make the hot noodle soup more often than the yakisoba. But sometimes you just have to get that fried noodle fix, and this is how we do it...
Serves 2 as an entree, more if part of a multi-course meal
(If you can’t find Okinawa soba, the best substitute are Chinese egg noodles which are much easier to find fresh or chilled around the country)
1 TBL oil
4 oz/ 113g pork shoulder or thinly sliced pork belly (latter available at Korean grocers)
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/4 medium cabbage, cut into 2” square pieces
1 small carrot, peeled and thinly sliced or julienned
* (optional) 1 piece of flat kamaboko, thinly sliced into strips
1/2 tsp sea salt
3-4 TBL yakisoba sauce or tonkatsu sauce (or in a pinch, Worcestershire sauce)
* (optional) 3 dried shiitake mushrooms, re-hydrated and sliced thinly
(or Braised Shiitake Mushrooms)
1 TBL oil
14-16oz/ 400-450g Okinawa soba noodles (the Sun Noodles package is 14.7oz.), thawed if frozen
1/4 cup/ 60ml water
beni-shoga (red pickled ginger), for garnish
ao nori (powdered seaweed) or fumi furikake (combination of ao nori and sesame seeds), for garnish
Slice pork shoulder or belly into small strips.
Heat wok over high heat and add oil, onions and pork. Stir fry together until onions just start to become translucent, about 2 minutes. Add cabbage, carrots and salt (and kamaboko, if using). Stir to combine and drizzle with 1 TBL. yakisoba or tonkatsu sauce, and mix well. Add mushrooms, if using, and fry together for 3 minutes.
Move all contents of wok up the sides of the wok, leaving a large space in the center. Add oil and soba noodles directly to center of wok, and stir to coat noodles with oil. Push vegetables and meats over the top of noodles, pour water over all, and cover wok for 2-3 minutes or until it stops steaming.
Add 2 TBL yakisoba or tonkatsu sauce, and using 2 wooden spoons or large chopsticks, combine noodles and vegetable mixture so that everything is evenly distributed and sauce has a chance to cook through. Taste and add salt or last TBL. of sauce as needed.
Garnish with pickled ginger and nori, as desired.
Pomai at Tasty Island has a completely different way to make Yakisoba with these same noodles — he uses the soup base that come in the package to season the fried noodles, check out his step by step pictorial on his site.
Want more tastes from Okinawa? Try
Rafute (Long-cooked Seasoned Pork Belly)
Abura Miso (Sake-Seasoned Miso Paste with Rafute)
Kombu (Kelp & Pork Soup/Stew)
In Germany, we were fortunate to sample many, many rhubarb cakes (Rhabarberkuchen), most of them at the Kuchentheken, or Counters-with-Yummy-Cakes (my own translation), at Volksmarches we attended around the country. (Volksmarches are organized walks through woods, fields and towns in 5K, 10K and 20K loops for walkers, and 42K loops for bikers and marathoners. But I digress… ) At the Kuchentheken, you can get a generous slice of cake and strong cup of coffee for about 2 Euros — an incredible deal, and a welcome one after a long walk. At this time of year, when rhubarb is in high season, you can find at the Kuchentheken (and in the bakeries in town, to a lesser degree) an astounding varieties of homemade cakes, tortes and pies (but all called Kuchen) starring rhubarb. Of course, I tried any new variation we came across — there are rhubarb cakes with meringue toppings and ones with glazes, cakes with streusel and ones coated with nuts, cakes with custard filling and ones filled with sponge cake. German cakes, like many Japanese cakes, would be considered under-sweetened by American standards, but T and I prefer less-sweet sweets so these were perfect. Most of the rhubarb cake variations had no fruit other than rhubarb.
I learned to love the distinct flavor of naked rhubarb. I experimented with recipes for stews and even a savory bread pudding with rhubarb, but making a cake was never a priority because there were so many to try from all these accomplished home bakers during the season! But it’s been 4 years since we moved from Germany, and now that we’re again seeing lots of beautiful fresh rhubarb in the markets (something we didn’t see as much on Oahu), it’s reminded me that I can’t just look up the nearest Volksmarch to get my fix of homemade rhubarb cake/pie. I’ll finally have to make one myself.
Searching through dozens of recipes on German websites, I’ve narrowed it down to 4 recipes with different styles of “rhubarb cake” to try. This is the first because it was always my favorite — it has a yeasted “batter,” streusel topping, and naked fruit. In truth, it’s more bread than cake, but with a very airy and moist crumb reminiscent of Panettone, the Italian fruited bread-cake. Had a piece (okay, I had 2) after dinner last night, and there’s a slice with my name on it for my morning coffee today... mmmmmm....
RHABARBERKUCHEN MIT STREUSELN (Streusel Rhubarb Cake)
Adapted from DasKochRezept.de
For 6-8 servings
For the Dough:
4½ tsp. active dry yeast (or 35g fresh yeast)
(about 2 packets of dry yeast)
⅔ cup/ 160 ml lukewarm milk
5 cups/ 500g unbleached flour (used unbleached white whole wheat from King Arthur, which is why the bread is so dark)
6½ TBL/ 60g butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup/80g raw sugar (or ⅔ cup regular sugar)
⅓ cup/ 80ml milk
Grated peel from ½ lemon
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten together
1 tsp. sea salt
Dissolve yeast in warm milk with 1 TBL. of flour taken from the measured flour, and mix well. Set aside for 10 minutes to activate yeast.
Meanwhile, combine remaining flour, butter, sugar, milk, grated lemon peel, eggs, and salt. Once yeast is bubbling, add to dry ingredients with remaining milk and knead together to make a smooth dough. Cover and let rise until doubled — it took about an hour in my cool but humid kitchen. Meanwhile, prep the fruit and streusel.
For the Filling:
1lb./ 450g rhubarb
2 TBL. raw sugar
1 TBL. butter, cut into small dice
Wash, dry, and cut the rhubarb into 1” pieces. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle sugar over. Let rest until needed..
Preheat oven to 350F/ 180C.
Butter an 8” springform pan. Punch down the risen dough, and lay it out in the pan to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. (Confession: I could not locate my springform pan (although I know I’ve seen it since we moved in), so I used 2 non-traditional ceramic pans, one rectangular and one round. With exceedingly generous amounts of butter to coat the pans, the cake lifted out beautifully after cooling.)
For the Streusel:
½ cup/ 60g raw sugar (or ⅓ cup regular sugar)
¾ cup/ 75g unbleached flour
½ cup/ 40g old-fashioned oatmeal (this is my own addition, to add some crunch; the original recipe uses another ¼ cup flour instead)
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 TBL/ 60g butter, melted
Combine all ingredients for Streusel, and mix well until large crumbs form.
Dot cake dough with diced butter, then put rhubarb and any accumulated juices in the bowl over the dough. Top with streusel and let rest for 10 minutes. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 35 minutes. If streusel starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil.
Remove from oven and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. A nice dollop of sweetened creme fraiche or drained yogurt would compliment this nicely.
And now for your musical entertainment while you enjoy your rhubarb delicacy...
(Nope, this isn’t John Cleese. You can find that song here.)
Serendipity is when you have a dozen dried figs that have been soaking for 2 weeks in brandy and looking for a worthy cause, and then you find a lamb shoulder already butterflied and ready for stuffing on sale at the butcher counter!
Makes about 4 cups stuffing
12 dried figs, soaked overnight (or 2 weeks) in 2 cups brandy
4 slices stale whole wheat bread, torn into 6-8 pieces each
2 TBL olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp rosemary leaves
1 tsp oregano
sea salt and ground black pepper
3 TBL minced fresh parsley
additional brandy or water as needed
Rough chop the dried figs and return to the soaking liquid, along with the torn bread.
Heat small pan over medium high heat. When heated through, add oil and onions, and reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, rosemary and oregano, and stir through to combine. Cook together 2-3 minutes, or until you can smell the garlic and herbs.
Remove from heat and add to the figs and bread. Season with sea salt and ground black pepper, and add parsley. With your hands or a wooden spoon, combine the ingredients thoroughly. If mixture is a little dry, drizzle brandy or water over until it just holds together. Set aside until needed.
Serves 4 persons
2.5 lb/ 1kg lamb shoulder, butterflied
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 cups Fig Stuffing (above)
kitchen twine or metal roasting skewers
Lay butterflied lamb roast on work surface. Season well and fill center with about 2 cups stuffing. Bring ends of lamb to center and secure with kitchen twine or metal skewers. Season outside of roast. Place remaining stuffing in an oiled baking dish, drizzle with about 2 TBL of water or broth, and cover with foil (I also place a piece of wax paper or parchment between food and foil).
Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.
Heat large skillet over high heat. Add olive oil, and lay roast in pan with open side of roast down. Brown well — the meat will release from the pan when sufficiently browned, about 2 full minutes. Brown all sides well.
Place browned roast in an oiled oven-proof pan, and into pre-heated oven. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 325F/162C for remainder of cooking time — it took about 40 minutes more for this 2.5lb roast to reach medium doneness (160F/70C on an instant-read thermometer) at the center. See the American Lamb Council’s time and temperature recommendations for roasting lamb.
(Start gravy by browning mushrooms while the roast is in the oven)
Place leftover dressing in oven for the last 30 minutes of roasting time. Remove lamb to serving platter and allow to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Meanwhile, finish the gravy from the pan drippings.
MUSHROOM & PORT WINE GRAVY
1 lb. cremini (aka baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 TBL olive oil
1 TBL/ 15g unsalted butter, in small dice
1/2 cup/ 120ml water
1/2 cup/ 120ml red wine
1/2 cup/ 120 ml port wine
1 TBL soy sauce
4 TBL/ 60g unsalted butter
1/2 tsp oregano
sea salt and ground black pepper
1 TBL. flour mixed with 1 TBL. olive oil
Heat wok or large skillet over high heat. Add oil and sliced mushrooms, and spread in pan so they don’t crowd. Gently press mushrooms against pan to brown one side. Turn mushrooms to brown other side. Remove from heat and add butter pieces. Swirl to melt butter. Remove to gravy boat and set aside.
After removing roast from pan, add water, wine and port to pan and gently scrape up all the browned bits (except rosemary leaves, remove any stray leaves — they can be very bitter). If your roasting pan is stainless steel or other stove-top safe material, it helps to gently heat the pan on the stove to get every delicious browned bit.
Remove all the contents of the roasting pan to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Season well, and add soy sauce and oregano. Reduce heat and add flour-oil mixture, stirring well to incorporate the flour. Simmer until the mixture begins to thicken, then add browned mushrooms and any accumulated liquid in bowl. Cook another 2 minutes to heat mushrooms through, then remove to gravy boat and serve with roast.
Roast lamb with gravy pictured here with steamed fingerling potatoes and Roasted Belgian Endive.
Roasted Belgian endive is one of those dishes that is infinitely more nuanced and addictive than its name first implies. Both sweet and savory, and meltingly tender, this works equally well as a vegetarian entree served on top of mashed potatoes, or as a side dish with roast chicken. We used to live in a place where this vegetable was grown so it was abundant and cheap, and graced our dinner table a couple of times a month, at least. Now it is more of a treat, both in price and in availability — when he sees it on the table, T usually exclaims, “Roasted endives — is it my birthday?!”
If you know Belgian endive as a raw vegetable, you know it has a bitter edge. Some people seek out that edgy bite, many others shy away from it. But once baked this way, Belgian endive mellows, allowing the underlying sweetness of the raw vegetable to come through. It is assembled from a few common pantry staples, so when you spot this delectable vegetable in your market, you know you can put this together without searching out a lot of other ingredients. To make this dish, look for large spears that are creamy white, tinged with pale yellow at the tips.
ROASTED BELGIAN ENDIVE
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 slice of whole wheat bread
2 TBL fresh grated parmesan
1kg/2.2 Belgian endive
sea salt (optional)
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup (120ml) vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup (60ml) very dry white wine or water
2 TBL. + olive oil
Tear bread slice into smaller pieces and place in the small bowl of a food processor with the parmesan. Process briefly to make coarse bread crumbs. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350F/180C.
Cut endive lengthwise in half, and lay with the cut side up in a baking dish that will hold all the tightly -packed cut vegetable halves. The endive will shrink as it bakes, so it’s okay to squeeze them in together even if they look uncomfortably tight in the dish, just keep the flat side facing up. Season with a few grinds of fresh pepper and salt (we usually omit the salt — the saltiness of the parmesan is enough for us). Pour broth and wine over and around endive. Scatter bread crumb mixture to cover the vegetable, then drizzle with olive oil to moisten the bread crumbs (you may need more than 2 TBL.)
Cover with a sheet of wax or parchment paper, then aluminum foil. Bake in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, then remove foil and parchment, and continue roasting until vegetable becomes translucent and softens, and crust is golden brown, about another 10-15 minutes.
Today is a day the U.S. sets aside to remember and honor the men and women who have died in defense of our young country throughout her history. Later today President Obama will lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National Cemetery at Arlington. But 145 years ago President Lincoln was present at the dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania — the site of one of the bloodiest battles of our civil war. His brief remarks on that day still resonate and best capture the feeling of this day.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ‘all men are created equal’
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow, this ground -- The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.
It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
(Transcript of the Hay Draft of the Gettysburg Address, from the exhibit at the Library of Congress)
Haiku is a cat’s cat... a feline who did things on her own terms, in her own good time. But when she turned her attention to something, she did it with great gusto and clamored to be the center of attention.
Haiku was already an adult cat about 4 years old when she and Laika came to live with us from the Tierheim Kaiserslautern in 1997. They were littermates but never did get along — they simply tolerated each other and vied constantly for primary attention from their human housemates. When 2-year-old Kiowea joined the househould in 2007, shortly after Laika died, he tried for months to befriend his 14-year-old housemate. Kio soon learned to just give Haiku her space. Or else.
Haiku was clearly the Alpha Cat, getting first pick of prime viewing spots wherever she found herself, whether it was a new home, a vacation rental or hotel; helping herself to treats and her feline mates’ water and food; even hogging catnip toys to use as a pillow in the sun.
She had the soul of an adventurer and the cunning of the most accomplished secret agent — on the rare days this indoor cat was allowed outdoors, she would innocently sniff around the areas she knew she was allowed to go, nibbling on grass as she went. But as soon as she sensed the human eye was distracted, she made a bee-line for the hole in the fence or the open gate. If she got away, she wandered around until she got tired or bored then sat in one place, confident that someone was looking for her, until she was found.
Here she is “high” on fresh snipped oregano (which she liked as much as catnip) that she stole from my herb basket. She also loved the smell of new leather, freshly washed hair, and (true to her contrariness) smelly feet!
This past Friday evening, this fiercely independent spirit again did things just her way. After a long leisurely day of napping, she woke to request (loudly! of course) her evening dinner and polished it off with relish, then went to check out her two favorite lookout spots at the front and back windows. Apparently satisfied, she then snuck into our bedroom closet — a place she knew she was not supposed to be — and took her final journey in peace and quiet.
There is a cold place at the foot of my bed now, and a sense of disbelief that a small 7lb. creature could leave such a big hole in a home and a heart. But we let her go knowing that she lived a full life in her 16-17 years — she traveled from her home in Germany to vacations in France, and to new homes in Boston and Oahu and now D.C.; she harassed, cajoled, bossed around and charmed her housemates, visiting family & friends, veterinarians, and caregivers throughout her reign; and she was always loved.
Haiku in her favorite sunspot on Oahu
This unique noodle dish is usually an instant favorite with anyone who tries it for the first time. The slightly sweet sesame flavor is familiar enough to encourage new tasters to keep eating, despite the unusual texture of the sweet potato noodles. The noodles, called Harusame in Japanese, look like the more ubiquitous bean thread noodles, but are much thicker and retain a chewy mouthfeel even when fully cooked. When combined with slivers of tender beef, shiitake and cloud ear mushrooms, spinach or other greens (we’ve used watercress and bok choy as well), carrots, and garlic, and fried in dark toasted sesame oil, chap chae makes a wonderful and absolutely luscious dish that is equally good at room temperature as it is warm. It is perfect picnic food (maybe for next year’s Hanami?) and a welcome and “exotic” addition to any buffet.
I don’t claim this is an authentic Korean recipe. It is adapted from a recipe by Chef Ken Hom which we originally tried 11 years ago.
One caveat: If harusame noodles are refrigerated after cooking, the noodles harden and become unpalatable — but they are easily restored if you sprinkle them with water and re-heat thoroughly in microwave, preferably on 75% power for about 1 minute. You may want to stir the noodles halfway through the re-heating time and return to microwave. You can also re-fry or steam the chap chae to return the noodles to their soft and chewy goodness.
KOREAN-STYLE FRIED SWEET POTATO NOODLES (Chap Chae)
Evolved from a recipe by Ken Hom
Serves 4-6 persons when served alone.
2 TBL. sesame oil
pinch of sea salt
½ tsp. raw sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp. soy sauce
4-6 oz. beef sirloin, thinly sliced into thin strips
(Look in Japanese, Korean or other Asian markets for meats already sliced for sukiyaki or shabu shabu)
Combine beef, with marinade ingredients. Allow to marinate at least 45 minutes, and up to 2 hours.
3 TBL. soy sauce
½ cup toasted sesame oil
3 tsp. raw sugar
Combine all ingredients for Cooking Sauce, stirring to dissolve most of the sugar. Set aside.
2 TBL. oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch long julienne
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water for 40 minutes
2 whole pieces black fungus (aka wood ear or mok yee), soaked in water 1 hour
1 pound baby spinach, watercress, or trimmed baby bok choy (photos show bok choy)
3 TBL. sesame oil
1 tsp. raw sugar
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Freshly ground black pepper
Toasted sesame seeds
1 lb. dried sweet potato starch noodles, harusame
Place the dried noodles in a large bowl or non-aluminum pot with water to cover. Allow them to rehydrate for about 1 hour. Do not drain until just before cooking.
Remove shiitake from soaking water, squeeze dry and remove stem. Cut caps into thin strips — you may want to cut individual slices in half lengthwise, depending on how thick the caps are and your personal preference. (Note: If you already have Seasoned Braised Shiitake Caps, you can use them here for an especially flavorful addition to this entree)
Remove black fungus from its soaking liquid (It will have quadrupled in size!). Cut out hard center point. Julienne.
Over medium high heat, heat 2 TBL. oil in a wok or large skillet. Add garlic, sea salt to taste, and marinated beef, and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add carrots and two fungi along with Cooking Sauce, increase heat to high and stir together for another 2 minutes. Add spinach or other greens and continue stir-frying until greens just wilt, about 1 minute more. Transfer to serving plate, keeping any juices or liquid that may be in skillet.
In the same wok or skillet, without cleaning, add last 3 TBL sesame oil and 1 tsp raw sugar, and turn heat down to medium high. Add soaked and drained harusame (some water clinging to the noodles is okay, it will help the noodles cook), and stir well to coat with oil. Continue stirring and frying until the noodles start to become translucent and to soften, about 3-5 minutes.
Return stir-fried vegetables and meat to the skillet, along with all accumulated liquid in plate. Stir all ingredients through, and cook until noodles soften completely, about 4-5 minutes more. If noodles look dry, drizzle sesame oil around edges of wok and stir through. Continue stir-frying until noodles are cooked evenly through. Test for noodle doneness: texture becomes chewy and color changes from opaque to slightly transparent.
Add half the scallions and stir through. Remove from heat, sprinkle with 2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds and mix through. Return to serving plate, garnish with more sesame seeds and remaining scallions.
You can enjoy these noodles on their own or make it part of a multi-course meal. When we have this for dinner, I like to have a bowl of plain white rice and a side of kimchi, while T skips the rice completely (but never the kimchi).
This has become our salad of choice lately — a simple chopped salad enhanced with tangy sheep’s milk feta and olives. If you’re BBQ-ing this weekend, this is your salad — it goes equally well with grilled or roasted meats as it does with pastas. And it can also turn pasta shapes (farfalle, rotini, even tortellini) into a cool and summery pasta salad that is perfect for picnicking and dining al fresco. You can also put this on top of baby greens for a combo salad — no extra dressing necessary. We recommend having a nice crusty bread handy, too, as the dressing that pools at the bottom of your bowl is a peppery amalgam of tomato juices, feta, peperoncini, olive oil and vinegar that just begs to be sopped up!
With tiny bite-size tomatoes from Trader Joe’s and that lovely Greek sheep’s milk feta from Costco, this comes together in a snap. The olives we use for this salad will vary depending on what is open in the pantry — there are kalamatas in this photo, but tonight’s version has tiny green olives called Perdignon (Goya brand, but bottled in Spain). Go with the flow — this is one of those recipes that is accepting of whatever goodies your pantry has in store. This is usually what goes in ours...
Serves 4-6 persons
1 large Japanese/English cucumber, about 1 lb/455g
1lb/455g grape, pear, cherry or other bite-size tomatoes
3.5 oz/100g sheep’s milk feta
10-20 kalamata or other olives
3-5 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves removed from stems
5-8 mild peperoncini (pickled peppers)
3-5 grinds of the peppermill
1-2 jiggers of red wine vinegar
drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Wash and pare cucumber. Cut lengthwise into quarters and remove seedy core. Dice into 1/2” cubes. Add to salad bowl.
Wash and dry tomatoes. Halve any tomatoes that are larger than a mouthful. Add to salad bowl.
Crumble feta into salad bowl, add olives and fresh oregano leaves. With kitchen shears, snip peperoncini directly into salad, allowing liquid in the center of the peppers to drizzle over salad.
Grind pepper over salad, then drizzle vinegar and oil over all. Mix well, and let sit at room temperature while you finish preparing dinner.
(Salt is usually not necessary because the feta, peperoncini and olives provide quite a bit of saltiness. But if you’re using different ingredients, you may want to taste for salt, too)
This is ready to serve immediately but I like the leftovers even better, so this is a great do-ahead salad to bring to a potluck or include in a buffet.
Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, Everyone!
Although I grew up on a tropical island surrounded by the ocean, I thought of the ocean more as a place to have barbeques NEXT TO, rather than a source for actual recreation. Sad, I know, but I guess we take for granted what is closest to us. As an adult I finally discovered the ocean and learned to appreciate it for its own sake, thanks to the miracle of SCUBA.
Now I am an avid supporter of the oceans, and am particularly happy to share with everyone the glad news that after 15 years as an unofficial global celebration, World Oceans Day received official recognition in 2009! June 8th has been designated World Oceans Day, and this year’s theme is “One Ocean, One Climate, One Future.”
Even if we don’t live near the ocean, it affects our lives every day. More than 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean, which functions to provide most of the oxygen in our air, and to regulate our weather and climate. More important, the ocean has long held a strong pull on the human imagination — feeding our curiosity, our need for adventure, our collective soul.
A majority of our fellow inhabitants on the planet live in the ocean, and whether we think of them as furry mascots, feared predators, or simply food, they need our help in keeping their homes, nurseries and and feeding grounds safe.
If we are lucky enough to live near the shore, there is no better source of recreation than the oceans, whether by swimming, fishing, diving, snorkeling, surfing, boating or just relaxing on the beach.
To promote the first official celebration of World Oceans Day, the Ocean Project has initiated the “Wear Blue and Tell Two” campaign, encouraging people worldwide to wear blue on June 8th, and to learn and share 2 facts about the ocean with others in your circle.
To learn some new facts about the worlds’ oceans to pass along, you might want to visit one of these websites that focus on news, education, and conservation of the oceans:
* NOAA Ocean Services: the key U.S. federal website for all things that affect the ocean and navigable waters. There is an entire division with educational resources for teachers and parents, including lesson plans and games. Also check out the two audio podcasts updated bi-weekly: Making Waves features the topical news stories affecting the oceans and ocean research; and Diving Deeper features in-depth interviews with scientists and researchers whose work touches on the oceans.
* The Monterey Bay Aquarium: features not only information about this gorgeous aquarium in California, but also the ever popular Seafood Watch guides that provide up-to-date listings of safe (from mercury) and sustainable fish and seafood choices. the Seafood Watch guides are available for each region in the U.S.: West Coast, Hawaii, Central, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Southwest. For a list of seafood guides for other countries, check out this post from last summer.
* The Ocean Project: advocates for ocean conservation and public education, including the “Wear Blue” campaign.
* Oceana: a global advocacy and environmental non-profit. You can also visit one of Oceana’s international sites in Europe and South America (in Spanish) to learn how you can support legislation in your country to protect the world’s oceans or just how to get the word out about World Oceans Day.
And speaking of getting the word out... To raise awareness of this first official World Oceans Day, the famous marine-themed fashion brand, Nautica(tm), has designed a special woven-rope Wavemaker wristband for the event. Similar to the plastic bands that support cancer, AIDS, and other important causes, this stylish rope band will immediately identify you as a supporter of the oceans.
I’ve just ordered a bunch of these bands, and am waiting for them to arrive. In the meantime, I’m offering to send one these attractive wristbands to the first 12 bloggers who help to spread the word about World Oceans Day!
To qualify for a wristband, please follow these instructions:
1) Between today, May 21st, and Friday, May 29th, post a blog about World Oceans Day (WOD 2009)and link to the Ocean Project announcement here. Mention the theme is “One Ocean, One Climate, One Future.”
1a) **Optional** Include the banner above or download one from the Ocean Project site here.
2) Mention 2 facts about the ocean.
3) Link back to this post.
4) After your post is “live,” leave a comment below with a link to your post about WOD 2009. Please include your email address on the form (it will not be public) so I can contact you if you qualify. I will visit your site as soon as possible and contact you soon after to let you know if you’re one of the first 12 to post correctly.
The wristbands are due to arrive here in 2 weeks, and I will mail them out to the winners as soon as they arrive. If you are a winner, the wristband may not reach you in time for World Oceans Day this year, but you’ll be a trendsetter this summer and ahead of the game for next year! ; )
Thanks for your interest in the oceans, and for helping to spread the word about World Oceans Day!
Remember to Wear Blue and Tell Two!
This is a long-overdue post for a recipe request I received by email in December. (Sorry it took so long, Barb!)
And what is this strange-looking paste that someone would actually request a recipe for it? It’s an Okinawan specialty known as Abura miso (AH-boo-rah, which means “fatty”). Why “fatty” — because, Silly Rabbit, it has pork belly. Or to be more precise, it has Rafute, which is the lovely and decadent seasoned pork belly which was featured here last summer (photo below).
So if you can possibly spare a couple of slices of rafute, you can preserve it in miso and create a wonderful condiment in doing so. Miso paste is cooked long and slow over gentle heat with generous doses of sake, grated ginger and ginger juice, and just a touch of sugar. The goal is to concentrate the sake and have it absorbed into the miso paste. In the last 20 minutes, the prepared rafute is added with yet more sake, and cooked together until the sake is again absorbed into the paste. Properly stored, abura miso has kept in our fridge for months (but it usually is eaten lo-o-ong before then).
For grating the ginger for this dish, I recommend using a Japanese ceramic grater, Oroshi, like the one in the photo. Yes, it IS a single-use gadget, but this is one of those tools that just does the job better than anything else and so I do find room for it in the kitchen. In this case, it pulverizes the ginger so it naturally forms a wet paste rather than shreds, which can be unpleasant if left in this condiment. For making ginger juice, too, this oroshi can’t be beat — you can see in the photo that the liquid pools in the “moat” around the teeth of the grater, and that there are marked grooves in the teeth to carry the juice to the “moat” and a spout on one end to pour off the juice.
Whether eaten alone with hot rice, or mixed with a raw egg over REALLY hot rice (the egg will soft-set from the heat of the rice), used to fill savory pancakes, or made into musubi (rice balls), Abura Miso is a genuine Okinawan treat.
For Barb M. in San Antonio, TX.
Makes 3 cups
2 cups (360g) awase miso (blended light and medium misos)
1 and1/2 cups (355ml) sake, plus optional 1/4 cup
2 TBL. aji-mirin (seasoned cooking sake)
1-2 tsp raw sugar (if using granulated white sugar, use less)
2-3 tsp grated ginger and all accumulated juices
2 slices prepared rafute
Combine miso paste, sake, mirin, sugar and ginger in a medium saucepan, and place over medium high heat. Mixture will be very loose, and will drop very easily from a spoon. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to bubble, about 6-8 minutes, then immediately turn heat down to low.
Continue simmering and stirring until the mixture starts to darken in color, and to thicken, about 40-50 minutes depending on how wide the saucepan is. The goal is to concentrate the sake flavor and incorporate it into the miso paste. The longer the process takes, the more intense the sake flavor will be without burning the miso. This process will feel familiar to anyone who has made a brown roux for gumbo or etouffe — stir, stir, watch carefully, stir, fiddle with the heat to get it just right, stir again.
Meanwhile, prepare the rafute.
Remove the rafute from wherever you hid it to hide it from greedy family members, and dice it into 1/4-inch cubes (this is easier to do if the rafute is cold). Bring to room temperature by heating in microwave for 20 seconds at highest temperature. Don’t microwave too long or the skin of the rafute will pop and resemble fried pork rinds — you will lose the silken texture that is so important to abura miso.
When the miso has thickened to the point where it now drops rather reluctantly from a spoon, add the diced rafute, and optional additional 1/4 cup sake, stir well to incorporate new ingredients. Continue the stirring vigil for another 20-30 minutes to heat rafute thoroughly and to remove the raw taste of newly added sake.
Taste. It should have a prominent sake flavor, mellowed by cooking and ginger, and very lightly sweetened. I usually don’t add any salt because the miso paste contains a lot of salt, but depending on the brand and type of miso used, you may wish to add salt too. It will look very similar to canned pumpkin in color. But compared to the plain miso, you will notice the abura miso has a sheen — some might even say, a glow.
We most often use abura miso to season musubi, seen here (it’s hidden in the center, trust me).
I’ve had a love affair with eggplant, or aubergines, for as long as I can remember. And when I think of eggplant I’m thinking first of the slender, long Japanese eggplant like the ones in this photo, since those are what I grew up with. In Hawaii, we found locally grown eggplant all year round — what a blessing that was!
In her book, A Taste of Persia, Najmieh K. Batmanglij, shares her love for eggplant tied to a memory of frying them with her mother to make a luscious aromatic stew, called Khoresh in Farsi. This slim volume introduces the reader to the most popular dishes of the rich Persian repetoire, including 13 recipes for various khoreshes. I can’t recommend it highly enough, although it can be challenging to find some of the more unusual ingredients called for in the recipes. But well worth the hunt.
This particular khoresh recipe drew me in because it utilizes eggplants that are fried whole, then added to the stew with the stem end intact. It makes for quite a dramatic presentation on your plate. After frying, he eggplant may be peeled or left unpeeled, depending on the diameter of the vegetable. The eggplant used in these photos were nearly pencil-thin and about 10” long — it is a variety I’ve most often seen used to make the Philippine vegetable stew known as Pinakbet. Since the eggplant were so small, the skin softens and becomes meltingly tender, even when fried, so the eggplant were left unpeeled.
Eggplant and lamb have a natural affinity for each other, and although Ms. Batmanglij allows that other meats may be substituted for lamb in her khoresh recipes I hope you try this one with lamb. You will love it!
LAMB KHORESH WITH EGGPLANT
From A Taste of Persia by Najmieh K. Batmanglij
Serves 4 persons
5 TBL unsalted butter or ghee
3 small onions, thinly sliced (used 1 large)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 lb/455g fairly lean lamb, beef or boneless, skinless chicken, cut into thin strips
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/ tsp saffron threads, soaked in 4 TBL hot water
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
3 cups/483g fresh or canned pureed tomatoes
1 cup unripe grapes or 4 TBL fresh lime juice (used lime juice)
2lbs/900g long Japanese eggplants, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4” strips
(I used ultra-thin baby eggplants)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 TBL oil
1 small tomato
Heat 3 TBL of butter or ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and stir-fry 5-8 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and meat, and fry for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Add salt, pepper, saffron water, and turmeric. Add tomato puree and unripe grapes or lime juice, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare eggplant and pre-heat the oven.
Peel eggplant and slice them lengthwise into quarters if they are large. Brush each side with egg whites to reduce oil needed for frying.
Heat remaining 2 TBL of butter or ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Fry eggplant until golden brown on each side, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
In the same skillet you fried the eggplant, heat 1 TBL of oil over medium heat and saute the tomato whole.
Transfer meat to oven-proof casserole, and arrange eggplant and tomato on top. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove cover and bake 15 minutes longer.
Taste and adjust seasoning for balance of salt and sourness (add lime juice).
Serve with saffron steamed or plain basmati rice. We also added a yogurt salad.
Visit Ms. Batmanglij’s site for a preview of and more recipes from this book.
Three simple ingredients take an average Sunday roast chicken to new and exotic heights: sage, preserved lemon, and garlic. Taking flavor cues from the classic Italian sage chicken, this roast is infused with an intensely flavored paste of preserved lemon rind and garlic, as well as fresh sage leaves placed in strategic locations under the skin. What could be simpler?
The preserved lemon lends a deep citrus flavor even after long cooking and marries beautifully with the fresh sage. There’s a reason this combination of lemon, garlic and sage has remained a stand-by in so many kitchens!
Make the paste: In the small bowl of a food processor or blender, mince together 3-6 cloves of garlic with 4-6 preserved lemon rinds (to equal one lemon; roughly chop the rinds), several grinds of fresh black pepper, about 2 TBL. olive oil, and 2-3 tsp. of liquid from the jar of preserved lemons (which contains a lot of salt already). Taste paste and correct seasoning. You should have almost 1 cup of paste, enough for a 5-6lb. bird.
Rinse and pat dry the whole chicken, and carefully lift skin to separate it from meat without tearing. Put 1 TBL of paste inside chicken cavity, and spread around interior wall of the bird. Take 1 TBL. of paste at a time and place under skin around joints between leg and thigh, under thighs, and between leg and breast. As an optional step, you can take a small paring knife and make small slits, especially in and around he thick breast meat and fill the slits with lemon-garlic paste. When paste if used up, place 6-10 cleaned fresh sage leaves under skin over the thigh and breast sections.
Lightly oil chicken skin and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Then bake in pre-heated oven until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh and not touching bone registers 180F/83C. When cooked, the chicken skin becomes almost translucent and the pattern of he sage leaves beneath can be seen. The Thanksgiving turkey never had it so good!
Serve with your favorite potato mash or pasta, or as we did with a couscous pilaf with dried fruit, minced veggies and pine nuts.
More Recipes with Preserved Lemons:
How to Make Preserved Lemons
Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Olives
Lamb Shanks with Preserved Lemons and Gremolata
Chicken with Preserved Lemons & Figs
Preserved Lemon & Almond Polenta Torta (dessert)
When I have time, I really enjoy combing the aisles of grocery marts for new ingredients, and there has been quite a treasure trove of things to discover around our new home. Case in point, these dumpling-type noodles made with pumpkin that we found in a freezer at the Korean Korner in Wheaton, MD. The package pictured here comes complete with noodles, powdered soup base, dehydrated vegetables, and pepper garnish, and the soup will serve 2 people if supplemented with additional veggies in the soup, or as pictured below, with a small side dish like gyoza.
The first time we tried this, I made the soup as directed on the package. The soup broth was not so memorable, but we loved the noodles — chewy, dense and very satisfying like the dumplings in a “Chicken and Dumplings” dish we tried while on the road in Pennsylvania last November.
The noodles don’t actually taste like pumpkin or kabocha. But even without the promised flavor, the texture won us over and we now use it in place of dumpling type noodles for gravy-laden dishes. For less than $2 a package, it’s a great short-cut to toothsome dumplings, pictured here with pounded chicken breasts in a Pennsylvania Red Wine and Port Sauce.
Last spring I was shooting envy spears at everyone harvesting wild greens and herbs all over the planet. This year I get to join in the hunt since we’ve already identified 2 wild things growing right in our neighborhood. One is something I grew up with and knew well; the other I was introduced to last year while reading about everyone else’s fun in the wilds. First up is a familiar and long-missed favorite: Mugwort. Another time we’ll look at: Spruce Tips.
What we’re still hunting: Wild leeks, aka Ramps, aka Bärlauch. Does anyone have any leads on where we might find some???... Anyone??...
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, right side of above illustration) grows to be a tall shrub, and is a member of the chrysanthemum family. You get a hint of that relation from a close look at its leaves, which do look like the edible chrysanthemum leaves known as shingiku (Chrysanthemum coronarium). The mugwort featured in this article is common in Europe and North America, and is closely related to 2 varieties that enjoy much more fame and notoriety — the Japanese mugwort (Artemisia princeps), also known as Yomogi (click for photo); and Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, left side of above illustration).
Yomogi is widely used in Japan and other Asian countries as an herb to flavor rice cakes, porridges, cookies, and as a vegetable in soups and stir-fries. And in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the fuzz on the underside of the leaves is collected and used in heat treatments along acupuncture points, a process called moxibustion. Wormwood, as hinted in its Latin name, is the key ingredient in the infamous liqueur known as Absinthe. More on these at another time.
The common mugwort is not what the Japanese would recognize as Yomogi — its Japanese cousin has smaller leaves, more lobe-shaped than pointed. But for the purposes of this article I will use the Japanese name because that is what I know it as, and I will use it in the same ways its Asian cousin is used in Japan, namely as an herb for flavoring.
At this time of year, yomogi is quite prolific here, as it is in Europe. In both continents it is most often viewed as a weed — even a noxious weed since it is quite invasive once established. But yomogi also enjoys a long history of medicinal (both to ease digestive ailments and to purge parasites) and ritual (to keep evil spirits away) use. In Germany (where it is known as Beifuss), we found it most often in wooded areas and near river banks; and here (eastern U.S.) the wooded park near our home is nearly overrun by patches of it along most of the footpaths and open fields. While still young, the strong bitter flavor that is most prized in yomogi has not fully developed, and the flavor is still very fresh, and almost minty tasting, with only a hint of the bitterness that will develop with sun and time.
Yomogi and its cousins are immediately recognizable by the silvery, slightly fuzzy undersides of their leaves, and their distinctive aroma when the leaves are bruised. Even when I’m not “harvesting” yomogi per se, I will snap a few stems if I pass a shrub, keeping them in my pocket and gently crushing the leaves for a whiff when I’m starting to feel tired or when I’m on public transit.
Last weekend I took a basket to harvest a small batch of American yomogi from the park. Of course, when harvesting near a footpath or well-travelled path, go as far from the path as you can! Getting away from the path may keep you away from areas visited by pooches making their rounds, but there are other wild animals that don’t necessarily follow the path so you still want to wash your harvest well. I normally wash store-bought produce in a vinegar wash and 2-3 rinses, but for these I did 2 vinegar rinses and 2 fresh water rinses. (BTW, rinses after the vinegar wash are recycled to water the outdoor plants or to flush toilets — conservation tips I learned from living through the California drought in the 1980s.)
Once the yomogi was washed and dried, I made something I’ve been craving a very long time: Okayu. Okayu is simply a rice porridge, but my mother always made it with yomogi, so in my mind okayu must be scented with fresh yomogi leaves. Okayu was something my mom made for us when we weren’t feeling well, or when our stomachs were out of sorts, such as arriving home after a long plane ride (10 hours from the West Coast to Guam via Japan or Hawaii, for instance).
Strangely, we never did find fresh yomogi, either in markets or as a potted herb, while we were in Hawaii. With the large Japanese, Korean and Chinese populations (all which use yomogi in some way), I thought it would be easy to find in the Islands. Nope. So this was the first real okayu I’ve had since we lived in Germany. It was so-o-o good. Especially after being sick for most of March and April (and just getting another diagnosis of yet another infection this week).
Now that I have a ready supply of yomogi, I know there will be a lot of okayu in the near future. But I’m also going to try for the first time to make my own Kusamochi since fresh Japanese pastries are no longer a retail option, and yomogi pasta for the summer. I hope you will join me for those adventures, too!
Serves 4 persons (or 2 greedy people)
3/4 cup medium grain rice
1/4 cup short-grain glutinous rice
7 cups of water (or half broth, half water)
1 slice fresh ginger
3 handfuls cleaned and dried yomogi leaves
Wash rices separately by gently rubbing grains in water until milky, then draining. Rinse repeatedly until water runs clear. Set aside.
Bring water and ginger to boil over high heat in a large 3 qt/L saucepan. Stir in washed rices and bring back to a boil. When boiling, turn heat down to medium high and cook with cover slightly ajar over pot to allow some steam to escape, but keep the mixture at a slow boil. Cook for about 40-45 minutes or until mixture has thickened but is still soupy, stirring occasionally to keep rice from sticking.
Just before adding to porridge, roughly chop yomogi leaves and immediately add them to the pot. (Don’t cut leaves too early or the volatile oils and their glorious aroma will be lost by the time the leaves are added to the porridge.) Stir leaves through, cover and cook another 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.
Serve in deep soup bowl, with side of Umeboshi, Japanese pickled plum.
We’re still catching up with recipes and photos from Hawaiii, so here is one for the current mango season there. This recipe for a mango and sake sauce for fish was created after we were visited by an enterprising tween-ager last spring who was selling ice-cold peeled, ripe pirie mangoes door-to-door for $4.00 per bag!! We bought 2 — I wanted to buy his whole stash but that seemed too greedy. Each bag weighed in at almost 2 lbs. each of pure mango! It’s hard to imagine such decadence now when the closest thing we can find to the silken mango-iness of tree-ripe piries are the champagne mangoes from Mexico at $1.99 per mango! *sob*
The mango was cooked down into a puree with just a touch of water (no sugar) to keep the fruit from sticking to the pan, then they were ready for use in baking and cooking. Sure, there was a mango bread or two, but I wanted to use them in a savory dish too. A jigger or two (probably two) of sake, a knob of butter, a pinch of sea salt and white pepper were added to some of the puree to create this sauce. The cod itself was seasoned with sea salt and a fish curry powder from Singapore, but any curry powder (Jamaican, Japanese, Malaysian, Indonesian, South Asian) with a bit of turmeric to lend a touch of bitterness to balance the sweetness of the mangoes will work.
The fish was then pan-fried and plated, and the mango-sake sauce napped before serving (in truth, this was too generously napped — probably half this amount would make a better presentation but it was very good! ). This was made with Alaskan cod but any flaky white fish would do — halibut, haddock, even tilapia.
Those are not black sesame seeds, but onion seeds, or kalonji, over the mango sauce. Kalonji are a staple of Middle Eastern and South Asian/Indian baking and cooking, and add a nice bit of tang as well as color. On Oahu you will find kalonji at India Market on S. Beretania near UH, and maybe in the bulk spice drawers at Down-to-Earth (??); here in the D.C. area we often see aisles of Indian spices and dry goods in the larger Korean supermarkets, such as H-Mart, but there’s also a market in Hyattsville called Patel Bros. that has quite an extensive assortment of South Asian fresh, dry and frozen goods.
I meant to do this recipe again during the second wave of mango season on Oahu last year so I could measure out the ingredients, but we were caught up in the re-location frenzy at the time. I hope the photo is enough to get you started playing with your ingredients at home.
The fish is plated with watercress mashed potatoes (Flash-cooked Watercress + Mashed Potatoes) and a homemade shiso-flavored rakkyo (pickled scallions).
If you’re somewhere in the world where it’s mango season now, please have one for me!!
More fun with mangoes.....
Double Mango Wholewheat Quickbread
Double Mango Yeast Bread
Mango-stuffed French Toast
Since we landed here in north metro D.C., we’ve been awed by the availability of dry and frozen goods from Latin America. It almost makes up for the dearth of the Japanese goods that we got so used to having around in Hawaii. Almost.
Anyway, as the pantry shelves have filled with wonderful herbs and spices, beans, and drinkables from south of our borders, I’ve been combing the library and Web for the best ways to use them. I’ve had one cookbook on my shelf for almost 10 years called “Bistro Latino” that has gotten little use, but that is already changing. There is a recipe there for Carapulcra, a spicy Peruvian stew made with pork, chicken and dried potatoes in a chipotle-peanut sauce. I’m not a huge fan of cooking with peanuts, so this recipe never really caught my imagination until I repeatedly found dried potatoes on grocery shelves everywhere around here.
In Peruvian cooking, Chuño are “potatoes naturally freeze-dried by the extremely cold, dry air of the Andean highlands.” (BL, p.10 ) I love potatoes so the idea of shelf-stable potatoes was particularly appealing. (That disaster-preparedness streak still runs deep, even decades after leaving earthquake-typhoon-power-outage-for-months-prone Guam!)
At the time I made this dish last December, we had dried **diced yellow potatoes (papa seca amarilla)** on hand, and that’s what I used in the carapulcra recipe. Since then, I’ve also seen whole dried yellow and purple potatoes, and I think I will try those in this dish next time.
Despite my doubts about peanuts, I did like this dish, especially the combination of savory nuts and spicy chipotle.
** The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled the Goya brand of these potatoes (which is what we used) in February of this year. The recall was for undeclared preservatives -- i.e., sulfites -- that can cause a severe allergic reaction in asthmatics and others with sulfite allergies. Neither of us is allergic, so thankfully we were not affected but please be aware of this issue if you have a sulfite allergy.
(adapted from Bistro Latino by Rafael Palomino)
For 4 persons
2 TBL olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
1 lb/455g pork shoulder, cut into 1” dice
1 lb/455g boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1” dice
2L chicken broth, preferably low-sodium
1 cup/225ml water
small bunch of cilantro stems (leaves picked and reserved), minced
8 oz. dried diced yellow potatoes (or whole dried potatoes), rinsed well
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
6 TBL peanut butter (we used smooth only because we don’t keep chunky peanut butter around)
reserved cilantro leaves, divided for cooking and garnish
Heat 2 TBL oil in large dutch oven over medium high heat, and cook half of garlic until it is fragrant. Add pork and brown well, about 6 minutes Remove to small dish to hold, and return pot to stove. Heat remaining 2 TBL oil and garlic, and brown chicken, about 4 minutes. Remove to dish with pork, and return pot to stove again.
Increase heat to high, and add small amount of broth to pot, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan. Add full amount of broth, then water, cilantro pieces and dried potatoes. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until potatoes begin to re-hydrate — for the small diced potatoes, this took about 20 minutes, but for the whole potatoes it must take at least twice that amount of time (40 minutes).
Meanwhile, mix together minced chipotle and peanut butter.
Add browned meats and any accumulated juices in dish to pot, along with chile and peanut butter paste. Taste and season with sea salt and ground black pepper as needed. Cover and simmer another 40 minutes, or until stew starts to thicken. Stir in 3/4 of cilantro leaves in the last 10 minutes, and cover again to finish. Garnish serving bowls with more cilantro.
Chef Palomino did not make any serving suggestions, so we had these with thick corn tortillas called arepas (purchased). And although it is not traditional — and perhaps Verboten in Peru — we indulged in a practice we learned in an Oaxacan (Mexican) restaurant of adding fresh ingredients to stews. In this case we topped our bowls with radishes, green onion and avocado cubes — the juicy freshness of veggies is a great contrast to the deep layered flavors of this, and most, long-simmered dishes.
“Hey, Dad, where’s your garlic press?”
“What? What are you looking for?”
“The garlic press — you said you have one.”
“Yeah, I have a garlic press,” he said, and without a further word he reached for his 8” chef’s knife, placed the flat side of the knife over the garlic cloves on the cutting board, and gave the knife a whack with his palm. The garlic cleanly slipped away from their papery skins, slightly bruised and fragrant. “There!” Dad said. “The Philippine garlic press.”
Ask anyone who’s known me for more than a month of Sundays, and they’ll tell you: I do like kitchen gadgets. I have more than my share of the odd, the old, and the trendy. But deep in my heart I’m still my father’s daughter and I have a hard time throwing away gadgets, and feel guilty about having things like that garlic press that have only one purpose, taking up valuable drawer and cupboard space. With this inherited neurosis, I’m always delighted to find new uses for things that are sitting around my kitchen.
One item that often does double duty around here is the large coffee filter cone I tote around with me when I travel. This hard plastic filter holder has been with me since those storied college days, and now when we’re home it’s often used to drain plain yogurt to make thickened yogurt to use in raitas, salads, shrikand, or to substitute for sour cream and even whipped cream.
Chinese soup spoons make wonderful scoops to measure out dry ingredients, such as flour, sugar, rice, etc. Especially when baking and when converting recipes between U.S. and metric systems, it is important to scoop dry ingredients — especially flour — into your measuring cup rather than to dip your measuring cup into the flour and treat it as a scoop. The latter method will often pack the flour and give you more flour than you realize.
And these flat-botomed spoons have the added benefit of eliminating the need for a knife to level off your measurements. Just pour to fill the measuring cup until slightly mounded, then level off with the bottom of the spoon.
This last trick always gets a breathy “Cool!” rating from people with whom I share this tip. In fact, I use the pastry cutter more often for this task than for its intended purpose of cutting in butter with flour.
Meet the ultimate hard-boiled egg chopper! It slices, it dices, it makes perfect chopped eggs for your egg salad sandwiches, potato-egg salads, or anything that requires a fine chop. And it does it in literally 20 seconds. Chop the egg in the same bowl you will make the salad, and you won’t have to wash up a cutting board too. But do wash the cutter as soon as you’re done with the chopping and it will clean up very quickly and easily. If you wait until your sandwich is done, you’ll have a bit of a challenge.
Of course, even after all this time, the “Philipping garlic press” is still the only one I have.
Please help me overcome my neurosis about single-purpose gadgets — Do you have a clever use for your kitchen gadgets to share? Laurie at Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska taught me to use a meat pounder to bruise often woody ginger — a great tip I use when making Ginger Tea or using large pieces to make soups or broths. I’d really love to hear what unusual uses you have for your stuff, too!
It’s sunny and warm today...YAY!! The last time it was this nice, I found myself at the Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, and came across this goose by the side of the brook that runs along the east side of the Gardens.
It may not have been a golden egg she was guarding, but I’m sure it was precious to her!
This is another testament to the wisdom “Simple is best” — Ginger Scallion Fish. It was a standard order at our favorite neighborhood restaurant in Ewa Beach, and it was only when it started to dawn on me that we would be leaving the island that an urgency rose to deconstruct the recipe. I believe flounder was the fish used at the restaurant, but at home we like it best with tilapia. Both fish are considered Good choices under the Seafood Watch guides, though you do need to look for country of origin and make sure the tilapia is from a safe source, too. This is tilapia sold flash frozen from Taiwan.
This is my own method that duplicates the flavor of our restaurant favorite — it provides the flavor of the key seasonings in layers and just heats the soy sauce enough to bring out its flavor without “cooking” it, which would change the final flavor.
I know it seems out of character for me to specify “no substitutes” for more than one ingredient in a recipe since this site is predicated on the belief that cooking should be fun and dictated in part by what you have available. But please try this recipe as is before playing with the ingredients because with this dish, the end result really is more than the sum of its parts.
GINGER SCALLION FISH
For 2 persons as part of a multi-course meal
1 knob or finger of ginger
4-5 stalks of scallions
12-14 oz. (340-400g) flat fish filets, such as tilapia, flounder, or sole
finely ground white pepper (do not substitute black pepper)
2 TBL. peanut oil (no substitutes)
2 tsp. soy sauce, preferably soy sauce labelled specifically for seafood (Chinese sources)
Peel ginger and halve. Julienne half of the knob into fine slivers, and set aside. With the other half, slice in larger pieces (these are for steaming)
Wash and trim scallions. Cut each stalk into 2-inch pieces, then thinly slice lengthwise into fine slivers. Slice remaining stalks into 2-inch pieces, then halve again once lengthwise(these are for steaming).
Prepare a large pot or wok for steaming, adding about 1-1/2 inches of water, and placing a metal rack or bamboo steamer above the water line. Bring water to a boil over high heat while you prepare fish.
Rinse fish filet and pat dry. Lay filet on a non-metallic plate or a piece of waxed paper on the steamer. Sprinkle with sea salt, then scatter larger pieces of ginger and scallion over filet. Carefully place in steamer, and cover, turning heat down to medium high. Steam undisturbed for at least 7 minutes, then check fish for doneness — it should flake at the thickest part. If not done, add some hot water to the pot, and steam for another 2-3 minutes and check again.
Meanwhile heat a small skillet over medium high heat. Add peanut oil, and heat until just beginning to smoke.
Remove ginger and scallion pieces, and place fish on a serving plate. Sprinkle with finely ground white pepper, and fresh julienned ginger and scallions.
Drizzle soy sauce over fish, then immediately top with sizzling peanut oil.
Serve as part of a multi-course meal with rice. Suggestions for accompanying dishes: Stuffed Shiitake Medaillons, Watercress Dumplings, Flash-cooked Watercress or Mustard Cabbage.
I know this might seem a little heavy for a spring meal, but we’ve had over a week of cloudy damp weather and somehow a homemade Mac n’ Cheese just hit the spot last week. With colorful corkscrew pasta we found at our local co-op and a good hunk of extra sharp Vermont cheddar, the humble nursery dish takes an elegant turn (pun intended).
Although this recipe includes Tabasco, it isn’t spicy at all so don’t let the hot sauce scare you away if you’re not a fan of spicy foods. The Tabasco just balances the heavy creaminess of all the dairy — you don’t actually taste it in the finished dish. Without it, you’ll think to yourself, “this is kinda flat,” and you’ll want something to round out the flavor.
The slight bitterness and acidity of flash-cooked rapini with garlic was a perfect counterpoint to the rich cheesiness of this entree.
CORKSCREWS WITH EXTRA SHARP VERMONT (aka Mac n’ Cheese)
Serves 4-5 persons
6 TBL butter
6 TBL flour
3 1/2 cups low-fat milk
3/4 cup half-n-half
* 2 TBL heavy cream
(optional: If you’re using whole milk, you don’t need the extra cream — I added it to keep my sauce from splitting since we use low-fat milk at home)
1 lb. extra sharp Vermont cheddar, grated
2 tsp. Tabasco, or your favorite hot sauce
sea salt and finely ground white pepper
1 lb. corkscrew pasta, cooked just past al dente (softer than normal) and drained well
Preheat oven (we used our over-size toaster oven) to 350F.
Butter generously a 3 qt/L casserole (Auflauform).
Make a roux: Melt butter over medium low heat in a stainless steel pan that is large enough to hold all the pasta too. Add flour and stir to incorporate flour. When mixture starts to foam, add 1/2 cup milk and stir well until flour mixture absorbs liquid.
Increase heat to medium, and add another 1/2 cup milk, and stir until combined again. Continue adding milk in 1/2 cups, stirring well after each addition — don’t be tempted to add the milk all at once or you will be chasing after lumps!
When all milk has been added, add half-n-half and heavy cream (if using). Allow to cook until sauce begins to thicken, about 5-8 minutes depending on your stove and saucepan. Keep aside 1 cup of grated cheese, and add the rest to the sauce by handfuls, stirring well to melt cheese between each addition. Add Tabasco and sea salt and ground white pepper. Taste, and correct seasoning.
When all cheese has melted, add cooked corkscrews, and stir to coat pasta. Immediately tip half into prepared baking dish, scatter 1/2 cup reserved grated cheddar over, and fill with remaining pasta. Gently push pasta so most are below the sauce. Scatter last 1/2 cup of cheese over top, and put in pre-heated oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until top is just browned (our smaller oven got to the topping before I could cover it with foil and it is a little too brown).
Serve with your favorite salad with a nice acidic dressing — or as shown here with a vegetable with a bitter edge such as rapini, arugula, escarole or watercress.
Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon (Trader Joe’s Two-Buck Chuck, now Three-Plus Chuck) compliments this well — and your heart will thank you, too.
Buying in bulk is a great way to save money, PROVIDED you actually use all the stuff you buy before it takes a turn. With stable items that are frozen, canned or otherwise shelf-stable, this isn’t generally a problem. But what about fresh produce?
Two of our favorite items from the warehouse store, Costco, are the fresh bagged spinach and the sweet peppers. Thing is, both come in 4 lb.quantities which is a lot for one household to use quickly unless you’re expecting a crowd. The photos above show the full quantities of each item after their vinegar washes.
For the spinach, the biggest problem is simply space. That volume of spinach just won’t fit in the fridge in our kitchen. We don’t eat a lot of raw spinach, though T. will occasionally make a spinach salad. The rest will be flash-cooked so it’s ready to use in a variety of dishes: omelets, dressed in sesame or garlic dressing as a side dish, added to pan-fried noodle dishes, topping for ramen or soba, filling for a pie or lasagne. One of the most time-consuming chores when using fresh greens of any kind is washing it, so by doing the whole quantity at once you’ve saved yourself valuable prep time for the rest of the week. My 16” wok will fit one colander-ful of cleaned spinach so it takes 3 turns on the wok to cook all the spinach, but with only 5 minutes cooking for each panful. Drain the cooked spinach, pressing lightly to remove as much water as possible, cool, and store.
Most importantly, valuable fridge real estate is preserved when those 3 colanders of fresh spinach now fit in 2 flat quart-size containers that stack neatly. Cooked spinach will also keep a bit longer than fresh, but I would still use it up in 4-5 days. After 2 days, I make it a point to re-heat the spinach thoroughly either in whatever it is cooked with or to the point of steaming in the microwave if used as a side dish or topping for noodle soups.
The sweet peppers we love for their wonderful sweetness, and they’re great for snacking on just by themselves. But with their rich colors, they’re also a welcome addition to stir-fries, stews, fajitas, omelets, and just about anything that would benefit from their color and sweetness. We probably use about half the peppers fresh, then I clean and trim the remaining peppers, vacuum seal them and freeze until needed. Most are cut into strips, but I like to leave a small quantity in halves so I have the option to do other things with them — cut into chunks for stews, or leave in halves and stuff for baking. When we have a filling leftover from making potstickers, gyoza, or even last year’s fried olive delights (remember those?.... so good...), pepper halves make perfect vessels for baking off the leftovers and treating yourself to a nice light lunch or an appetizer.
So whether you’re shopping at a warehouse store, or your local grocery is having a too-good-to-resist sale on your favorite produce, or your CSA box comes with loads of veggies you don’t plan to use right away, set aside an hour or two to prep them the more delicate, perishable ones right away, even if you’re not certain what you will do them later. Knowing you have them on hand and ready-to-use, will make it more likely that you will find creative ways to add them into your week-day meal planning or last-minute brain-storming.
Happy Cooking, Everyone! And remember, “Cook food, but serve Love.”
If you’ve visited this site before, you may have noticed I have a fondness for briny or pickled things. So one of the reasons I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans was less about Mardi Gras and more about the New Orleans famed Muffuletta sandwich at Central Grocery. (I don’t want to know what this says about my psyche...)
Muffuletta is basically a type of sub or hero sandwich made with Italian deli meats, a particular type of bread, and provolone and mozzarella cheeses — but the thing that is said to set the Muffuletta apart from mere mortal sandwiches is the olive salad which is part filling, part condiment. The salad is a conglomeration of olives, pepperoncini, pickled onions, capers, veggies and assorted seasonings. Once assembled, the sandwich is wrapped and allowed to rest so the salad has a chance to permeate the bread and meats with its oily goodness and create a delicious mess. My kind of sandwich!
Anyway, earlier this year while searching the Web for something entirely different, I repeatedly came across references to Muffulettas — maybe a dozen times in one search session. As I understood it, this was a sign from the universe that I could no longer wait to visit New Orleans to sample a Muffuletta, I’d just have to make one here.
First I read a couple of dozen recipes for that key ingredient, the olive salad, and used as a starting point the one that had the highest ratings or most positive comments from others who have actually had a Muffuletta from Central Grocery. After gathering everything in the rather lengthy and pricey list of ingredients (except the bread — I did not find the right bread, and used a ciabatta instead), I realized it might be more cost effective to buy a ticket to New Orleans instead! Just kidding. Sort of.
So once the salad was made and allowed to sit overnight, I couldn’t wait to assemble the actual sandwich. Some writers were very particular about the actual order of layering the meats and cheese, something I respect because I know that can affect the final flavor. I followed this order: bread, mozzarella, provolone, ham, mortadella, genoa salami, olive salad; then dutifully wrapped my sandwich in plastic and let it sit for a couple of hours.
All in all, it was a delicious creation. And, as promised, a very messy sandwich. Was it as good as I had built it up in my mind? After 20 years of imagining and lusting after this sandwich, there’s really no way it could be. But it was worth trying, and if I do find myself in New Orleans in the future, I will still find my way to Central Grocery for the Real Thing. Despite the Bad News (see below).
The olive salad, though, is useful in many other things and I will definitely make it again. It would make a great pizza topping all by itself, and is an instant gourmet flavor boost to any tuna or chicken salad with mayo for sandwiches and wraps, or mix with macaroni or tortellini for a picnic pasta salad. Whether you decide to go for the Muffuletta or not, this olive salad is a handy fridge staple to have on hand especially with the summer picnic season just ahead.
MUFFULETTA OLIVE SALAD
(based on jenn’s Real N'awlins Muffuletta)
1/2 cup pitted green olives, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup pickled cauliflower florets and carrots (giardiniera)
2 TBL capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped pepperoncini (pickled peppers)
2 TBL chopped marinated cocktail onions
1/2 tsp raw sugar
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive container, and allow to marinate at least overnight.
The Bad News: This recipe came from allrecipes.com which has the added feature of providing nutritional information for the recipes on the site, which is a very Good thing. The bad news about the Muffuletta, though, is that one serving size (which is 1/8 of jenn’s full recipe) has a whopping 973 calories, 556 of which are from fat. But that isn’t even the worst of it — are you sitting down? — it also has 3,242mg of sodium in one serving. The sandwich in the photo above is probably just shy of 2 servings...
Another handy pickle to have in the fridge: Indian Spiced Cauliflower, Daikon & Carrot Pickle
Research has also shown that both monkeys and dogs have an innate sense of “fairness” — both species stop co-operating with their human counterparts when they see that they are not being rewarded for performing a task but another “colleague” consistently receives a reward for performing the same task. (Listen to the full NPR story about how the monkeys could distinguish levels of fairness and how the dogs “tested” the researchers!)
And while we don’t have any empirical evidence to document this, we can attest that cats also have any innate sense of fairness! When Haiku gets soft canned food (she’s old now and has a hard time chewing) and he only gets dry catfood for sensitive tummies (which he has), Kiowea will glower at Haiku, then throw us humans a look that could kill (“J’accuse!!”) before stalking off under the dining table where no one can pet him and becoming “deaf.” Good thing is, cats don’t seem to hold a grudge.
On a completely different level, there is also evidence of animal “gourmet” behavior. Two examples are particularly striking. The first involves a tribe of macaques (monkey-like primates) isolated in far northern Japan on the island of Koshima who have learned to season their food. Over the course of several years in the 1950s, researchers studying the tribe were tracking how behavior is learned and passed through generations. They marveled at how quickly the entire tribe learned from one ingenious female, nicknamed Imo (which means “sweet potato”), to wash sweet potatoes in a stream rather than trying to brush off the dirt with their hands. Within a few yearss, all but the most stubborn older members had copied Imo’s behavior and were washing their potatoes in fresh water before eating. But what took the researchers by surprise was that some individuals decided they liked the sweet potatoes even better when they were “salted” — the macaques would eat by the shore and repeatedly dip the potatoes in seawater before each bite (see photo)! This behavior, too, was quickly picked up by the rest of the tribe.
My mother used to give our German Shepherd, Max, the largest beef bone she could find for his “birthday” every year. First, though, she would briefly roast it and season it lightly with salt. I chided her once for doing this, “He’s a dog, Mom. You don’t have to season his food!” “But he likes it that way,” she said. Now I wonder, “maybe she was right...”
Below is an excerpt from a program featuring the famed naturalist David Attenborough visiting with the Koshima macaque tribe and offering them sweet potatoes.
The second example is the commune of organic mushroom farmers known as leaf-cutter ants. That’s right: They’re organic farmers who cultivate mushrooms to feed to their colony! The ants don’t eat the leaves they harvest and bring back to their colony, instead workers chew the leaves to fertilize a mushroom farm, and the ants eat the mushrooms. Not only that, they’ve been organic farmers for millions of years.
The following story includes footage of the leaf harvesters, the mushroom farm, and new findings about how these clever farmers control mold with antibiotics!
One John Joseph actually went by the Italian version of this name, Giovanni Giuseppe, as he was born in that faraway land and had come to the U.S. as a young boy; we met Gio last year in Remembrances of Caponatas Past. The other John Joseph was of Irish descent and here we’ll call him JD. Both men enjoyed being in the kitchen, but were very different kinds of cooks. Gio picked up a pot of his mama’s homemade ragu every week to use for his bachelor meals, most of which featured this ragu. (Hey, with homemade ragu, how can you go wrong?!) JD was more of an experimental cook, who thrived on innovation in the kitchen as well as the workshop. One of his signature original (he swears) dishes was a quick saute of zucchini that requires only the most basic pantry staples, yet produces an addictively tasty and easy vegetable side dish. I’ve been making JD’s saute for over 20 years now and everyone who tries it, wants the recipe and is amazed how simple it is to prepare. This is perfect both for quick weekday meals and for serving in your best dishes to guests.
JD’S ZUCCHINI SAUTE
For 2 persons
Plan on 1 medium-sized zucchini per person, and this recipe easily doubles and triples
2 medium zucchini, about 1 lb/455g
1 TBL olive oil
1 medium to large clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp *dried basil
1/2 tsp *dried oregano
1/8 tsp *dried thyme
(* Someone once asked me why I don’t use fresh herbs for this, and the simple answer is that JD used dried herbs, and out of habit I do too with this particular recipe even when we have a garden full of basil, oregano and thyme...)
1-2 TBL unsalted butter
4-5 drops soy sauce, about 1/4 tsp (See Hint for controlling soy sauce drops below)
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Wash zucchini well, trim ends and slice to about 1/4” thickness.
In wok, or large skillet, heat oil and garlic over medium high heat until garlic is fragrant. Add sliced zucchini, and saute until zucchini just begin to become translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add dried herbs and butter, and stir to melt butter and distribute herbs. Continue cooking until zucchini almost reach desired doneness — we prefer them to be slightly translucent but not completely limp, about 5 minutes for 2 zucchini (longer cooking if making larger quantities). Sprinkle soy sauce over, and stir well, cook for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat and correct seasoning. The soy sauce has to “cook” a little to achieve the right flavor but you don’t want it to scorch.
Serve with your favorite pasta or roast chicken.
If you have any leftovers, add with leftover spaghetti or diced potatoes, and eggs to make a great frittata for lunch the next day!
Hint for controlling shoyu when pouring or dribbling: If you have one of these soy sauce servers (at most Asian markets, they are less than $2 filled, then you re-fill them when empty), it’s easy to control the amount of soy sauce you add when pouring or drizzling drops of soy sauce as you cook. Simply place your finger over one opening as you tilt the bottle to pour. By quickly lifting your finger from the opening, you allow either a stream of liquid or just a few drops through, depending on how long your finger is off the opening. By also keeping the angle of the bottle tilt shallow, you can literally control the liquid drop by drop!
Venison? I know what you’re thinking: “But game is something you eat in Autumn, during hunting season!” Yes, this is true, if you’re a hunter. I am not. Neither is T. Lucky for us, both T’s parents hunt during all the different seasons in their area, and we count ourselves darn lucky they wanted to share some of their bounty with us!
In March, we had a very short visit from T’s parents, aka The Snowbirds, who were on their way down from Maine to Florida for boating, seashell collecting and other sun-filled activities that did not involve SNOW. They gifted us with venison tenderloin, roast, ground meat, and seasoned ground sausage. Mom Snowbird suggested we try the sausage meat in a spaghetti sauce, which we did. The first time I simply browned the sausage and added a commercial bottled sauce, but the seasonings in the sausage were still too mild for my taste — and the game flavor really dominated the sauce. It was good, but I wanted the game to blend in with the sauce, not sit on top of it. So the second time, I monkeyed around with the sausage and sauce — as I am wont to do — adding fresh garlic, red wine, and some decidedly non-traditional ingredients. Then it simmered for at least an hour. The deep rich flavors of the game paired perfectly with the earthy flavors of whole wheat pasta — this a combination that we will use again.
When they’re not sun-seeking in Florida or hunting in the Fall, the Snowbirds really enjoy the “Good Life in Maine”: boating, swimming, fishing, riding his and hers ATV’s (All-Terrain Vehicles), and generally just hanging out around gorgeous Lake Nicatous where they have a summer cabin. For a peek at what the “Good Life” really is, visit Mom’s website at Maine Musings.
Thanks, Mom & Dad, for choosing to stay with us despite the sparse accommodations. And thanks for bringing me such fun “toys” to play with, too! Next year, we hope you come when it’s warmer here — maybe for the Cherry Blossom Festival!
VENISON BOLOGNESE (WITH A PUNCH)
Serves 4 persons
2TBL + 3TBL olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb/ 455g fresh cremini mushrooms, aka baby bellas, sliced
1 lb/ 1/2kg ground venison
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
sea salt to taste
1 tsp. raw sugar
1 tsp. dried oregano (or 1 TBL minced fresh)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 sprig fresh)
1 TBL soy sauce
(*optional: The Punch) 1 TBL kochu jang (Korean red pepper paste)
(in truth, the only reason I put this in was because I was taking a photo of it for Kochujang Chicken post and didn’t want to look for a container to put it away!! If you’d like to add some Punch or Pfiff to your sauce without kochu jang, substitute a scant TBL of crushed red pepper, or a dose of your favorite hot sauce)
1 bottle of your favorite commercial bottled sauce ( about 24-26 oz/ 680-730 ml)
1/2 - 1 cup dry red wine (used Barefoot Zinfandel)
1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti, cooked al dente
Parmesan cheese, fresh grated for serving
Heat 2 TBL olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add sliced mushrooms and gently press mushrooms against pan to sear them, then stir-fry mushrooms over high heat until browned and dry. (Note: If heat in pan is not high enough, mushrooms will start to lose water and become mushy — they will not brown.) Remove mushrooms to clean bowl and season with sea salt.
Return pan to medium high heat and add remaining 3 TBL olive oil, and garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 20 seconds. (I found the extra oil was necessary because venison is naturally very lean and tends to stick to the pan.) Add ground venison, and brown well, seasoning generously with sea salt and ground black pepper.
Once meat is thoroughly browned, sprinkle with sugar, oregano, thyme, and soy sauce. Cook together about 3-4 minutes, until the aroma of the herbs and spices fill the kitchen. Add kochu jang, if using, and bottled or homemade sauce, and stir well to combine. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add red wine, stir well, and reduce heat to medium low or low (just simmering) and cover again. Allow to simmer for 40 minutes.
Serve over whole wheat pasta, and grate fresh parmesan generously over the top. Finish off the Zinfandel.
Suggested vegetable pairing: JD’s Zucchini Saute (next recipe), mirrors some of the herb notes in this sauce, but adds a buttery counterpoint.
We haven’t acquired a new grill since we re-located to D.C., but with warmer weather on the way, I have noticed T. hanging out by the grill displays when we’re supposed to be picking up potting soil and plants...
As I look over grill recipes, the ones that keep rising to the top are our favorite flavors from Hawaii that we now miss so much. This one for Kochujang Chicken is actually the last one we made before we gave up our gas grill on Oahu. Literally. We made this chicken as part of the lunch for the moving crew who were packing up all our household goods and furniture. After they were done, we offered to let them take anything that we didn’t plan to take with us, including the grill. One of the crew took us up on it and the grill found a good home!
Kochu Jang (also spelled Gochujang) is a wonderful Korean condiment that has found many uses in our home. It’s a thick paste made with medium hot peppers, garlic and other spices and glutinous rice powder. It’s a great shortcut to adding layers of flavor to soups, marinades, and sauces. This sweet-spicy marinade will give you a juicy, flavorful chicken with familiar yet exotic notes.
The Korean red pepper used in Kochu Jang, and also found dried as a flakes, is a mild to medium heat pepper with a sweetness to them. They are more similar to Aleppo pepper than to what is called “crushed red pepper” or to cayenne pepper powder in the U.S. Substitute 3/4 amount of Aleppo pepper for Korean red pepper powder called for in the recipe below. If neither is available, omit the dried peppers — the marinade will still be spicy from the Kochu Jang.
This recipe is my own. Most recipes call for the chicken to be cooked in a sauce, but I wanted something that was marinated and cooked dry, either on a grill or oven. Kochujang Chicken was also part of the Korean-theme meal we shared with friends in January when we also had Bulgogi Letttuce Wraps and Watercress Dumplings. For that meal, the chicken was simply baked instead of grilled.
For 4-6 persons
This recipe easily doubles and triples for large BBQs. Allow to marinate overnight for best flavor.
2 lbs./1kg chicken thighs, with or without bones
2 TBL kochu jang
1-2 tsp Korean red pepper flakes
2 TBL soy sauce
2 TBL raw sugar
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp sesame oil
2 TBL sake or mirin
Combine marinade and stir well to dissolve sugar. Place chicken in non-metal bowl or plastic zippered bag, pour marinade over chicken, and massage marinade into meat. Place in refrigerator at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight, and up to 2 days.
One hour before grilling (or baking), remove from fridge. Prepare grill or pre-heat oven to 350F (180C).
Remove chicken from marinade and lightly pat dry. Oil grill or baking pan. Grill/Bake until juices near bone run clear, about 40 minutes.
Serve with rice, kimchee and/or other pickles, and vegetables such as Choi Sum, Watercress or Mustard Greens.
T. with his beloved grill on Oahu for the last time...
This quick starter was devised as a way to finish the extra filling we had after making Watercress Dumplings. It is inspired by one of my favorite dim sum entrees, stuffed shiitake mushrooms. In this case, I re-hydrated dried shiitake mushrooms, and filled them with the meat filling we already had, surrounded them with broth and sake, and baked them for 25 minutes. Before serving, they were glazed with a spicy hoisin mixture and sprinkled with green onions. Voila! An easy first course or appetizer, or even a light lunch or dinner when paired with rice and a light soup such as miso soup.
STUFFED SHIITAKE MEDAILLONS
Serves 4 persons as a first course, 2 as a main course
10 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated (For directions, see Braised Shiitake Mushrooms)
1/4 Quantity of Watercress-Pork Filling for Dumplings
2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup sake
2 stalks scallions, washed and trimmed and sliced
3 TBL hoisin sauce
1-2 tsp sriracha (Thai hot red pepper sauce, preferably the Huy Foo Foods brand from Rosemead, CA — look for the rooster)
1 tsp mirin (seasoned sake)
1/2 tsp raw sugar
Combine hoisin, sriracha, mirin and sugar. Set aside.
Pre-heat oven or toaster oven to 350F.
Gently squeeze shiitake dry and trim stems. Fill mushroom caps with 1-2 tsp of Dumpling Filling, depending on size of cap. Place caps in 2 qt/L baking dish, or other oven-proof dish that will snugly hold all the caps in a single layer. Brush filling with sesame oil. Pour broth and sake around caps, if needed add water or other liquid so that it comes half way up the caps. Bake in pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes or until filling is cooked through.
Brush or spoon hoisin mixture over filling, and return to oven for 3-5 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with green onions before serving.
Costi prepared his mother's recipe for this sauce with only 5 ingredients: zucchini, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt and fresh eggs. I’ve made this dish regularly since I learned it from him, but I also include a touch of garlic as a personal preference (but Costi would not approve). In this instance, I’ve also added asparagus because it was also seasonal and its flavors would marry well with the other ingredients.
The method is simple: thinly sliced zucchini are gently sauteed in copious amounts of olive oil until translucent, then the hot cooked pasta is heated through with the vegetable. Off the flame, beaten eggs are added and gently stirred through to combine. And when I say "copious amounts of olive oil," I mean enough to make most people faint at the thought of it — when I helped Costi make this dish for a dinner party thrown by our host family in London, he used almost a liter of oil for an 8-person serving! The hostess almost had a heart attack watching him devastate a prized bottle of olive oil she had brought back with her from their family’s last trip to Italy.
I cut back a bit on the amount of olive oil here, but this is about as far down as you can take it and still retain the creaminess of the original. I rationalize the amount of oil in this dish by thinking that 1) olive oil is at least a monounsaturated oil, approved by the American Heart Association for reducing bad cholesterol, and 2) we have this only once a year.
The freshness of the eggs is especially important in this dish, because the eggs are just barely cooked so they retain their creamy texture and do not “set” or scramble. I actually prepared this last spring when we were still on Oahu and zucchini, asparagus, and eggs were all local and fresh. When buying “farm fresh” eggs at the farm or market, let the proprietor know that you plan to use the eggs in a semi-cooked state and ask for the freshest they have on hand. Until I can find all these again in our new local area, I’ll wait and continue to dream of our next taste…
FETTUCCINE WITH SPRING VEGETABLES IN EGG “CUSTARD” SAUCE
Serves 4 persons
This dish contains semi-cooked eggs and, even when using the freshest eggs possible, should not be consumed by pregnant women, young children, the elderly or anyone with a compromised or weakened immune system (including those who are taking or have recently taken a course of antibiotics) without first consulting your physician.
1 lb. fresh or dried fettuccine, or other flat pasta
½ lb. zucchini
1 lb. asparagus spears
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cup olive oil (not a typo)
sea salt to taste
fresh grated Parmesan, about ½ cup, plus extra for the table
4 large very fresh eggs, preferably organic and without antibiotics
Bring water to boil for pasta. Warm pasta bowls/plates. (See hints for warming plates below.)
Wash and dry the zucchini and asparagus well, preferably in a vinegar wash. (See original Gai Choy post about cleaning vegetables to remove pesticides, wax and dirt and a link to an NPR story about cleaning vegetables.)
Slice the zucchini cross-wise on the diagonal. Using a vegetable peeler, slice the asparagus lengthwise into thin strips or ribbons.
Wash eggs well, and dry. Beat eggs together with ¼ cup oil. Set aside.
In a skillet or wok large enough to hold both the sauce and pasta, heat ½ cup olive oil and garlic over medium heat until garlic becomes fragrant. Add another ½ cup oil and zucchini, and stir gently to coat vegetable with oil. As zucchini absorbs oil, add another ¼ cup and allow vegetable to absorb new amount. Continue cooking until zucchini just starts to become translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta (remember to salt the water just before adding your pasta).
Add asparagus ribbons, salt to taste (but remember that the Parmesan will add saltiness too), and combine to coat asparagus with oil. Continue to cook until asparagus just becomes bright green, about 4-5 minutes. Add Parmesan and stir.
Drain pasta, but do not rinse, and add hot pasta directly to skillet with the vegetables, and stir through to combine. Immediately pour beaten eggs over everything, and stir well but gently. Cover for 5 minutes.
Serve in warmed pasta bowls, garnished with extra Parmesan if desired. (If you don’t always warm your pasta bowl or plate — *guilty!* — this is one dish where you really want to take that extra step.)
With a garlicky bruschetta and glasses of Pinot Grigio or Soave, you’re set for a spring fling al fresco! Happy Spring!
Hints for Warming Bowls/Plates:
* If you’re making garlic bread, put your plates in the oven as it’s pre-heating. Remove them from the oven to put in the garlic bread, and keep covered with a clean towel. Or if you’re like us and use a toaster oven for this task, put the stacked plates on top of the toaster oven while making your garlic bread — if you have 4 or more plates, you may have to rotate the plates around to get them all warm.
* Bring a kettle of water to a boil, and pour ½ cup into each bowl just before serving. Set aside for 1 minute, pour off water and dry.
* Find your warming tray and put it to use! We have one that uses 2 votive candles to keep serving dishes warm at the table, but it can pull double duty here by warming your pasta bowls while you are preparing the meal.
* In the microwave, place a 1/4 cup or so of water in each bowl, stack them and place in microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, depending on your oven. Remove water and dry.
The weather here in metro D.C. has been quite chaotic lately — swinging between the mid 40s and high 80s. Lots of rain, too. I understand now where the expression, “April showers bring May flowers” comes from! And although today is the first day of May, it is the second of 4 days of promised rain. So to remind myself that rain is a good thing, and that the gardens and blooms are happy to see the showers, even if I’m not, here is my tribute to all things in bloom and coming alive everywhere.
This post is dedicated to my SIL, Tra, who is just home after a too-long stay in the hospital. Tra reminds me of these cherry blossoms — she looks delicate and fragile, but she returns after every bitter winter as resilient, beautiful and signalling hope to everyone who sees her. Stay well, Tra!
In April, the sakura, or cherry blossoms, around the Tidal Basin were every bit as stunning as I had always dreamed they were...
This year we took off in the early morning with only spam musubi and oatmeal cookies on hand, but next year I’d like to follow fellow blogger Biggie’s lead and prepare a proper Hanami, or blossom-viewing picnic. Check out the grill and other goodies her guests enjoyed under the cherry trees in San Francisco!