Saturday, February 28, 2009

CSA week 12 - Canistel-molasses custard pie

This is an adaption of this sweet potato pie recipe. Beyond just a straight substitution of the canistels for the sweet potatoes I baked the canistels for a half hour at 350 first. Last time I cooked canistels I was struck by how they changed their texture, lost a lot of sweetness and developed a richer more savory flavor. Then I just ate them but I think they'd make good ingredients after that processing too. I'm writing this as I cook and I can smell them baking now. The smell is more toasty than sugary which I suspect is a good sign.

The canistels, after baking, are just what I was looking for--the sweetness is mellowed and deepened with more complex flavors and the flesh has firmed up into something easier to work with. This is, I recognize, an odd unintuitive reaction but canistels are odd unintuitive fruit.

They went into the food processor with:

* 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
* 1/2 cup molasses
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1/4 teaspoon salt, and
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
I didn't remove the canistel's skin since a) that's really difficult at this point and b) the skins are pretty tasty, particulary the crispy edges.

The mix was too thick to blend well so I departed from the original recipe by adding 1 cup of milk and processing for several minutes to smooth it out before adding the 3 eggs. Those I just mixed in briefly. The end result still isn't perfectly smooth, but good enough for government work.
I used a store-bought frozen pie crust since I decline to slave over a homemade crust and waste it on this cockeyed experiment of a filling. The packaging said to not defrost and I'm taking its word on that. So, into a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes with foil around the edges and then 30 minutes with the foil off until a knife inserted halfway between the center and the edge comes out clean. And I mean totally clean. I pulled my pie out when there was still a few tiny drops of moisture on the knife and it's just barely set. It could have used another five minutes.

But despite that, it came out light and creamy. Some structural difficulties as you can see, but nothing a stint in the refrigerator couldn't cure. The molasses and spice flavors are strong, but you can identify the canistel if you concentrate and know what you're looking for. It's good, but I feel like if I were on Iron Chef they'd take points off for not highlighting the secret ingredient. Maybe light molasses or corn syrup would let it show through a little more. Or skip the pre-cooking although I'd be surprised to see the pie set successfully if you do. It's not excessively sweet; instead it has that complex bittersweet flavor you expect from molasses-based pies. If you like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like.

CSA week 12 wrap-up, week 13 start-up

There are a few things left to mention from last week. First, I did try the potato-tomato-green bean salad cold and it was very good indeed. The roasting change times I suggested are probably still a good idea, but the dressing just needed a dose of hot sauce to add a bit of bite. I should have known from the start that any dish involving mayonnaise is better chilled.

I also tried another variation on the shredded kale salad. This time I mixed the shredded, macerated kale with shredded lettuce and added thinly sliced onion, mushroom and radish, crispy bits of bacon and a poached egg. I intended to add capers too but I forgot. Even without, pretty tasty.

And finally, soft tacos are becoming my new go-to don't-really-feel-like-cooking dish. This time I simmered chunks of pork and a link of chorizo in a richly spiced broth, like I did the chicken for the taquitos. It'll be even easier next time since I saved the broth to re-use as a master sauce. My Chinese master sauce has been sitting unused in my refrigerator since I started it, but since tacos use the leftover avocado, radishes and cilantro I keep ending up with, I can see using this one more often.

That leaves me with most of the lettuce, a few beans and a bit of shredded kale leftover and three canistels that look about ready to use. I'm still not quite settled on exactly what I want to use them in. Probably a pie of some sort.

On to this week. The yukina savoy in the upper left corner. Maybe it's a little obvious, but it's been a while since I did a proper Chinese stir fry and yukina is particularly well suited for such. With a black bean sauce maybe.

I want to be less obvious with the kale and not braise them. Those big leaves are good for wrapping things in. Fish or chicken or, ooh, sticky rice! I'll have to get some twine.

For the carrots, I'm thinking of a Tuscan carrot top soup with either rice or potatoes. The recipe I googled up is a little different from the soup in newsletter and I'm thinking of maybe adding beans to make it a little heartier.

That leaves the avocado, tomatoes, cilantro and onion. That sounds like three quarters of a Mexican recipe. Exactly what I'll figure out later.

And, finally, the mint. I'm not a big fan. I'm heading back to Theine, my CSA drop-off point, for lunch and I think I'll take the mint with me and toss it in the extras bin.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Slow Food at Creek 28

Last night I attended a Slow Food Miami dinner at Creek 28 hotel and restaurant. There wasn't any particular event or special guest involved--just a highlight on local, seasonal and organic ingredients. The chef, Kira Volz, talked to us about how, in many big cities if you want local/seasonal/organic you've got a lot of choices, but here in Miami she's one of the few working in this area. She's even started a kitchen garden to ensure supplies. She thinks, and I agree, that we should have our pick of restaurants where the chefs think about the ingredients they're using.

If you'll pardon a tangent here, I'm a bit concerned about seeing local/seasonal/organic become trendy and so many chefs on the cooking shows I watch talking about it as if it constituted a style or a cuisine. It's not; it's just the basics. It seems to me that if you're a chef looking for the best ingredients to work with you're naturally led to either with traditional regional ingredients shipped halfway across the world daily or local/seasonal/organic. It makes sense that here in Miami we see a lot of chefs taking the first option and neglecting the second, but either way you're just describing your ingredients. Once you've done that, you need to have a style and a point of view--particularly if your style is something as nebulous as New American cuisine or, as Chef Volz, puts it "eclectic neighborhood dining". An unfocused menu isn't that big a deal, but if local/seasonal/organic is a style then it can go out of style as the fooderati move on to the next new hotness and that would be a shame. Honestly, this is a tangent; this rant was engendered more by the latest season of Top Chef than last night's dinner. You can look at the menu presented and decide for yourself if Chef Volz has anything interesting to say and/or if I have any idea what I'm talking about here.

Getting back to the meal, Chef Volz went on to introduce Margie Pikarsky from Bee Heaven Farms, familiar from her organization of the CSA I keep going on about, and Meghan Tanner, forager of produce at local farms and markets. Both ladies were recently profiled by Jacob Katel on the Short Order blog so I'll refer you over there for details.

Donna Reno then introduced a guest from Slow Food New York and possibly someone else from the Food Network. I didn't quite catch that last part as some rather rude folks at my table talked through it. Other, not rude people at my table included Holly Hickman, creator the quite interesting Sustainable Suppers podcast and website, and Rachel O'Kaine, organizer of these Slow Food events. I probably should have moved away to retain what small amount of journalistic integrity I've got here, but I had arrived early and picked the seat with the best lighting available and I wanted to make sure my pictures came out this time.

As it turns out, that didn't matter. We were seated out on the patio which was quite lovely, but after the speeches and the waitstaff taking our orders the rain that had been threatening all even began to fall in earnest and we all moved inside. The tables followed us, as the wait- and kitchen-staff including the chef brought them in--tablecloths, plates, stray napkins and all--and got us set up in the hotel lobby remarkably efficiently and smoothly and with little delay or trouble getting our orders right in serving the first course. Very impressive all the way around.

After we all got settled back in our seats and a bit of rather tasty bread had been passed around (and the rain had stopped, of course), it was time for the first course. We had the choices of filo-wrapped baked goat cheese with blueberries and honey or an heirloom tomato and green salad with more goat cheese and a meyer lemon vinaigrette. Here's a pic of Rachel's salad, but I went with the cheese.

The blueberries with as tart and firm as wild, but big enough to be domesticated; the honey was light and warm; the filo crisp. If it was filled with cream cheese this would have been a desert, but the slightly coarse, slightly savory taste of the goat cheese brought it back to the appetizer zone. It all tied together nicely, but the goat cheese could be a bit much over time and needed a powerful beverage to cleanse the palate. Unfortunately, I had chosen the red wine to go my main dish which would be entirely inappropriate for this appetizer so I had to make do with water.

Those aforementioned rude people at my table asked me to mention that their friend, allergic to cheese, was refused a special order of a cheeseless salad. They were quite indignant at this outrage and said that in all their time of eating at some of the best restaurants and touring some of the best kitchens in the world they had never encountered a chef so pretentious and inconsiderate. Seems to me that, under the circumstances, the staff had enough of a challenge just to get us served at all and no time to consider special orders which are out of line when at a special event with a pre-determined prix fixe menu such as this. As they had been throwing back the wine with some gusto, I think they were probably just impaired in judgment rather than natural full-time assholes so I'm trying not to judge them too harshly. There's your mention; happy?

So, on to the main dish which was a choice of grilled mahi mahi with sorrel crema, roasted potatoes and onion relish; braised rabbit with egg papparedelle; and pork chops with roasted root vegetables and sun dried tomato relish. Here's a shot of Rachel's pork chops, but I went with the rabbit. I didn't see the fish anywhere nearby so no pic of that.

The rabbit really wasn't what I expected from that brief description. I was thinking of hearty noodles tossed with falling-apart meat in a thick hearty (possibly tomato-based) gravy. Give me that description as a remit and that's what I would have made. It's certainly not the chef's fault that that's not what I got so I want to judge what she did prepare on its merits, but I've got to say if I knew what I was going to get I would have ordered the fish.

What I did get was hard to distinguish from something my mother used to prepare after making a big pot of chicken soup. She would shed the boiled-out meat, dice the mushy vegetables and add them back to the soup along with some egg noodles. I suppose this was probably rabbit soup and the noodles were fresh, but otherwise just about the same and I didn't care for it overmuch back then either. I'm not saying it was a bad dish--either Chef Volz's or my mom's--both are fine examples of what they're supposed to be. If I like my papparadelle thicker, my vegetables crisper and my meat retaining more character that's just me. Everyone else seemed happy enough with it. Donna Reno made a point of coming by the table to say she loved it. And who am I to say she shouldn't?

The wine, La Minota Pirorato D.O.C., was a big spicy red with lots of tannins and a long warm finish that would have been lovely with the dish I thought I was getting and not quite as good a match with what I actually got. Probably a good choice for the pork chops, though.

I forgot to mention earlier that Donna spoke a bit about future Slow Food Miami events and at this point in the evening Peter Rabino spoke about becoming a Slow Food Miami member and the non-dinner activities they do (which, in part, this evening was a fund raiser for, although I don't think anyone mentioned that). A much better job all around at branding than at previous events.

Finally, desert: lemon thyme ice cream over strawberries with cardamom shortbread cookies. I've attempted and failed to make lemon thyme ice cream myself.Although that failure was more because of the lavender I added than the lemon or thyme I was still quite curious to taste what Creek 28's kitchen would do with it. And I was impressed; they managed a nice balance between the herb and citrus notes without either or the combination becoming overwhelming. Must have taken a few tries to get that right. Of course, lemon, thyme and cream are all lovely with strawberries. As for the shortbread, I'm not much for the stuff so I'm not a good judge. Holly liked it quite a bit.

And that was that. Oh wait, one more thing. We each got as party favors Shea & Cedarwood organic soap nuggets from Verde, proprietor of which, Jennette Frances, was in attendance. Yes, that's a rustic lump of stanky soap. But stanky in a good way assuming you want your hands to smell like grandma's wardrobe.

So, overall, I think I liked this event and Creek 28 better in theory than in practice. Maybe it's just me. It's probably just me. Did any of you go? How did you like it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CSA week 12 - Potato, green bean and tomato salad

Apparently, this is a thing. Not so much of a thing that it has a special name or origin story or anything, but enough that when you search for "tomato potato green bean recipe" you get a few pages of it.

There's some small variation between the recipes--ratios and cooking methods mostly. A few include sausage and since I'm having this as a main dish I included that. I saw one that roasted the tomatoes and I thought I might try expanding that aspect out a bit.

So I preheated my oven to 300 degrees and quartered my three remaining plum tomatoes, took out a baking sheet, poured in a bit of olive oil, added some fresh thyme and rosemary and kosher salt, added the tomatoes and tossed everything about a little and put it in the oven for an hour and a half.

Meanwhile I cut up my remaining potatoes into similar-sized pieces (mostly quartered too), boiled them in a big pot of salted water until tender--about 8 minutes but I think I overcooked them a little. I tossed them with a bit more olive oil, herbs and salt, and added them to the pan--cut side down--with an hour left on the clock.

Next, I simmered a half pound of green beans in the selfsame big pot of salted water until al dente. Those went onto the pan with a half hour left on the clock.

Finally, I fried a quarter pound of relatively-thinly-sliced keilbalsa until crisp. I'd roast that too, but I want something crisp and I can't count on the potatoes in that overcrowded pan. I think there's some leeway in the choice of sausage so long as the other seasonings match. I'd use Italian sausage if I wasn't out of fresh basil.

After the full hour and a half, I extracted the tomatoes from the pan and transferred them to a bowl. Into the food processor went a garlic clove, a couple Tablespoons of mayo, a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and a teaspoon of German mustard. While that was blending I drizzled in a Tablespoon of olive oil from the pan. I tried anyway, but I don't have one of those mini-processor bowl inserts so it didn't work out. After the garlic clove got minced I just mixed everything by hand. Once that was smooth I added the tomatoes and pulsed a few times until still slightly chunky and added salt and pepper (and more vinegar) to taste. [While the roasting process I came up with on my own, this distinctive dressing is pretty close to the one from the June 2003 issue of Food and Wine magazine.]

So how is it? Not bad, but it could use work. The potatoes would be improved by another half hour of roasting and the green beans don't gain anything by their half hour. I'd rather have them plump and crisp than withered. And the dressing is wrong--mayo plus tomatoes plus vinegar equals French dressing. It hides the nice roasting the tomatoes got, too. Next time, I'll leave those whole and just dress it with a little vinegar added to the olive oil left in the pan.

I think this all might be better cold. I'll try the leftovers again tomorrow and let you know in the wrap-up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CSA week 11 - White tea/carambola/ginger sorbet

This is a simple sorbet so there's not much to the recipe. I brewed up two cups of strong white tea, mixed in 3/4 cup sugar, chopped and de-seeded one large carambola, grated a teaspoon of fresh ginger with my microplane, put it all in the blender with a Tablespoon of light rum and blended it smooth. Chilled, churned and ripened and here it is:

It's frozen a bit too solidly so it's crumbly, a little hard to scoop. The texture's a bit more Italian ice than a proper sorbet. I should have added more rum.

And the flavor is a bit too sweet--this would have worked better with a tart carambola--but I like the flavor. The fruit, the tea and the spice have merged into something new and unique but naggingly familiar too. It's somewhere in the root beer/cola neighborhood. That's it--it tastes like the root beer flavor of Bottle Caps candy. I think that's a vague resemblance plus the extra sweetness taking it into candy territory.

Mark Bittman has a recipe for broiling cornish hens with a glaze made of powdered red hots, which he created as a take off of Jean-Georges Vongerichten's squab with Jordan almonds. I'll bet poultry coated with ground root beer or cola Bottle Caps would work too. People do cook chicken in cola I'm told. I'm putting this on my to-do list. Not anywhere near the top of my to-do list, but it's going on there somewhere.

Monday, February 23, 2009

CSA week 12 - Jamaican callaloo patties

I apologize for the quality of the pictures this post. I left my camera at work so I had to fall back on using my cell phone's camera.

I'm surprised this idea for using callaloo hasn't come up earlier. It's kind of obvious and doesn't seem all that tough. But then I'm writing as I go along. We'll see just how difficult it turns out to be. I looked through a bunch of different recipes and am using bits from a few different ones here.

It's a three step process: make the dough, make the filling and then make the patties. Let's start with the dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup butter, cold
1/4 cup lard, cold (margarine and suet or shortening are more traditional, but I used what I've got)
1/3 - 1/2 cup cold water

1. In large bowl, combine flour, curry, turmeric and salt. Cut in fat until the mixture gets crumbly. Gradually mix in water until the mixture coheres enough to form a ball of dough. I found I used a little over 1/3 cup of water. Try not to work it too much so the gluten doesn't form.

2. Wrap the dough in plastic and put it in the refrigerator to rest and chill while you make the filling.

3/4 pound callaloo
a handful of Swiss chard stems saved from last week
1/2 large red onion, chopped (I don't think red is authentic but it's what I've got)
1 Tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 hot pepper, chopped (optional)
1/3 cup salt cod, soaked and drained (surprisingly not an authentic addition, but what else am I going to do with this stuff?)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup water

1. Wash callaloo and separate thick stems from leaves. Don't dry the leaves.

2. Roughly chop leaves and cut stems into 1/2 inch pieces.

3. Sauté onion, garlic and pepper in butter on medium high heat. When it becomes aromatic add the stems and maybe some cooking oil if you think it needs it and cook two minutes longer.

4. Add leaves, salt cod, water, a bit more cooking oil and stir. Turn down heat to medium low, cover and cook for 7 minutes. Thy to leave it a little undercooked since it's going to get baked later. Adjust seasoning, remove from pan leaving most of the liquid behind and set aside to cool.

5. Mash up the callaloo mixture to smooth it out a bit.

work surface
rolling pin (with tapered ends if you've got that sort)
small bowl
smaller bowl

0. Fill your smaller bowl with cold water. Or maybe with the liquid you left in the pan earlier.

1. Remove dough from refrigerator. Tear off a tangerine-sized piece and toss it in flour.

2. Place dough piece on work surface and roll out from center. Turn dough, work surface, pin or yourself 60 degrees around the circumference of the dough and roll again. Repeat until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick and your small bowl, upside down, can fit neatly in the center with excess on all sides. Slice off the excess, return it to the rest of the dough, and remove the bowl. This, I found, was not nearly as difficult as I expected.

3. Place a spoonful of filling on the top half of your dough circle. How much depends on how small your small bowl is. Dip your fingers in the cold water and run them around the outer edge of the dough circle until it starts feeling sticky. Fold the bottom half of the circle over the top half and press down around the edge until it sticks. You may have to stretch the dough a little if you used a lot of filling which seemed to work OK for me. Crimp all around the edge with a fork. Set aside.

4. Pull off another piece of dough. I tried to include some of the previously rolled dough in each new piece so the gluten that formed during rolling would be distributed in all of the patties, but I don't know if that was actually a good idea or not. Roll and fill until you're all out. I had enough filling and dough for 6 1/2 patties about the same size as the patties I used to buy in New York.

5. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown. Let cool slightly before eating.

That actually was pretty easy, didn't make too much of a mess considering and only took an hour or so of work all told. I'm really impressed by how light and flaky the crust turned out while still being sturdy enough not to burst during baking. I think this may be the first patty, or empeñada for that matter, I've ever had with a decent crust. I suppose that may have something to do with all that butter and lard.

The filling seems to have lost a little of its flavor, or maybe it's just too hot to let sit on the tongue long enough to taste. Spice it a bit more before filling or condimentize with a little jerk sauce when you're eating and you're set. As they cooled I got a bit more flavor but it's still not wowing me here. Not bad, but honestly, I prefer the beef patties.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

CSA week 12 - Brazilian shredded kale two ways

Turns out there is more you can do with kale than just chips and braises. The key, it seems, is to finely shred it. It seems like that ought to be obvious, but I've been looking around and I've only seen it in Brazilian recipes. Odd. Those few recipes that specified how to go about the shredding recommended doing a chiffinade: cut the stems out of the leaves, tightly roll up five or so and slice into 1/4 inch shreds.

At this point you've got two choices. You can make a salad by adding salt, lemon juice and olive oil and letting it rest until it wilts to tenderness (overnight is best I read. I have some resting now and I'll report back later.) before adding tomatoes, pine nuts and maybe shredded carrots, beets, etc. Or you can blanch the kale for a couple minutes and then stir fry until tender and slightly browned around the edges, toss with a little salt and serve.

That second step shrinks the kale down to under half its original volume so you'll want to use more than I did for a serving. (Pork chop is pictured for scale.) The result tastes like kale but for not as long since you don't have to chew it all day. It's not exactly melting away but it's certainly tender enough. It does need a little acid to finish it off. A spritz of citrus would be fine, but I used a few drops of balsamic and find the sweetness is a nice addition too. Maybe adding a little sugar earlier like I did with the Irish cabbage recipe would be a good idea?

OK, it's tomorrow now and time for the salad. I added a little sliced red onion and tomato as you can see. The kale's wilted down to half its volume and added its moisture to the dressing so it nicely coats the extra vegetables I added. The texture is not far from the stir fried kale, maybe a little more tender. It's got the slight crunch you get in seaweed salads. The flavor has lost most of its distinctive kaleness. It's still clearly a hearty green under the dressing, but there's very little bitterness. As someone not overly fond of lettuce salads, I've got to say that I'm liking this a lot. I wish I had made more.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

CSA week 11 wrap-up, week 12 start-up

Week 11 was an all or nothing week for me. Either I cooked something elaborate or I ate instant ramen and lousy frozen pizza. I don't know why I thought buying Kashi pizza was a good idea even if it was on sale. Of course it doesn't take good; tasting good isn't the point.

That means I've still got a whole lot of potatoes and radishes, an under-ripe avocado and a starfruit. The starfruit I have sorbet-related plans for, but otherwise I've got nothing much.

And that goes for this week's share, too. I'm just not feeling terribly inspired today so I'll keep this brief. That's callaloo in the upper left corner; I'm thinking of making a calalloo and shrimp soup with the pink shrimp I picked up at the farmer's market.

Below that is green beans. I haven't make Szechuan green beans in quite a while and few of the other preparations I've tried have been as good so I may well make that. Maybe crossing it with ma po tofu for a slightly different flavor profile.

The canistels will sit around this week waiting to ripen. I want to experiment with roasting them and then using them in a desert. Earlier I found broiling cut their sweetness and firmed them up and I'm curious if that's a reproducible effect. If so, that will make them a lot easier to work with.

Unless some bright ideas occur to me, which they might, I'll make kale chips, eat the strawberries (which you can't quite see above the kale) out of hand, and make a salad or two with the lettuce, tomatoes and some of those leftover radishes.

Like I said, no inspiration. Please feel free to post better ideas in the comments.

Friday, February 20, 2009

50% Whole Wheat Bread

This is another recipe from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads cookbook. You might remember that, a couple weeks ago, I made his basic 100% whole wheat sandwich bread which was fine for what it was, and made really good toast, but not really what I want out of a loaf of bread most of the time.

My standard loaf uses maybe 20% whole grains so 50%, made more palatable by Reinhart's techniques, may well be just as good and a bit more healthy too.

This recipe isn't too much different from the last one. There's a soaker:
227 grams whole wheat flour
4 grams salt
170 grams water
mixed, covered and let sit at room temperature overnight.

And there's a biga:
227 grams white bread flour
1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) yeast
142 grams water
mixed, lightly kneaded, and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, after the biga has warmed back up, they get mixed along with
28.5 grams whole wheat flour (I substituted rye and a little gluten flour)
5 grams salt
7 grams (2 1/4 teaspoons) yeast.

That's kneaded, let rise for an hour, stretched and folded (in lieu of punching down), formed into a loaf, let rise for another 45 minutes then baked. You can see in the picture that I managed to neatly pleat the parchment paper in the rising bowl which made moving it to the oven easier and a lot less likely to rip the dough if it sticks during the transfer from the concave to flat surfaces.

As usual, I baked in my big cast iron dutch oven, 30 minutes falling from 500 to 425 with the lid on and 20 minutes lid off. That got me to 210 degrees on the inside which is when I usually take my bread out the oven. This recipe says to take it out at 200 which I wanted to try, but I got there too late.

Crumb's looks pretty good and you can see how lovely that crust is. The texture in the mouth is a good soft chew like a standard rustic loaf, too, so all that soaking did the job of tenderizing the flour. If you hold your nose you wouldn't guess this was more than 10 or 20% whole grain. The smell is the giveaway, though, it's strongly whole wheat which is a little disconcerting. The flavor is good compromise; a little too straightforwardly hearty for the complex flavors that you get in a really good mostly-white-flour loaf, but very bready, unlike the wheaty flavor of the 100% loaf. It doesn't have the allure of a great rustic loaf that causes me to compulsively eat plain slices, but it's just the thing with a bit of strongly flavored cheese that would overwhelm a lighter loaf. Probably really good with a winter stew, too. I don't think this is going to be my go-to recipe, but I could see making this again.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

CSA week 11 - Thai braised cabbage

I said yesterday that I wanted to add fish sauce to the New Irish braised cabbage so today I did. I wanted to make it a proper main dish so there was actually a bit more to it than that.

I started by steaming a couple of Chinese sausages and marinating four extra large shrimp in a mixture of fish sauce, lime juice, sambal oelek and cilantro. Normally, I'd add ginger and sugar but those are all already there in the cabbage so I left them out.

Once the sausage was cooked (about 15 minutes), I sliced them up along with a red hot pepper, a bit of shallot I had left over, a couple cloves of garlic and some more cilantro.

I heated up some oil in a wok, added the pepper and shallot, stir fried until they turned fragrant and added the sausage. That got a minute before I added the shrimp, holding back the marinade. That got another minute before I added most of the cabbage (about half of what I made yesterday), the marinade and a bit more fish sauce.

That I cooked for a couple minutes longer trying to boil away all that liquid. I didn't quite manage it, but I did cook it down quite a bit. I finished it off with the rest of the cilantro and some ground roasted peanuts. If I was smart I would have held those off to garnish each serving so I could get a beauty shot, but I mixed them in while it was all still in the wok instead. Ah well.

Not the prettiest of dishes, but I think it turned out well. I didn't measure the fish sauce so I got a bit lucky that I did successfully manage to balance the ginger and the sweetness of the browned cabbage without overwhelming either. That new more whole combination acts as the background with the bits of chili, shrimp and sausage to the fore in different amounts in each bite. So there are a variety of interesting flavors and textures going on, but the cabbage and ginger aren't lost at all just now they're part of the team instead of just sitting out there on their own.

I'm starting to make a habit out of salvaging screwed up recipes. I'm going to have to create a tag for that.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

CSA week 11 - Braised cabbage and turnips Anna Livia

I'm making two side dishes from The New Irish Table today. No main dish as I'm making plenty of both. That's despite the fact that both would clearly go well with pork. Maybe with the leftovers.

I'm making these by the book so I'll just give you the recipes straight:

Braised cabbage

2 Tablespoon sunflower oil [I'm pretty sure high-smoke-point cooking oil is the point here and any will do.]
4 shallots, finely diced
1 head savoy or napa cabbage [or whatever we've got], shredded
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy saucepan, heat the sunflower oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, cabbage, horseradish, garlic, and ginger and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the cabbage starts to wilt.

Stir in the sugar and cook to caramelize the cabbage lightly.

Add the vinegar and lemon juice and stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Turnips Anna Livia

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Dubliner or white Cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
pinch of ground nutmeg [which I forgot]
1 1/2 to 2 pounds white turnips, peeled and finely sliced [I only had 1 1/4 pounds of turnips so I added one potato. Also I don't have all day so I didn't bother peeling them.]
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled [I presume they'd say Irish bacon if they meant that. And Irish bacon doesn't crumble well, does it?]
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate with some of the melted butter.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, cheese, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary and nutmeg.

Arrange a single layer of the largest turnip slices in a concentric circle in the bottom and up the sides of the plate. [I don't think I'm doing it quite right.] Sprinkle some of the flour mixture and some of the bacon over the turnips. Drizzle with butter. Repeat, layering, ending with a layer of turnips. Pour cream over top.

Place the plate on a baking sheet. Spray a 9-inch square of aluminum foil with butter-flavored cooking spray [who has that? I rubbed the foil with a knob of butter.] and place, butter-side down on top of the turnips.

Place a heavy 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet or pie plate on top and press firmly. Fill the pan with pie weights or dried beans [or, as I did, pile more cast iron on top] and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the bottom and sides are golden brown. (Check after 35 minutes and, if not browning, remove the foil and continue baking until the top is golden brown.) [That's two different indications of doneness. The sides did appear to be browning a little at 35 minutes, but not the top. I wanted a brown top so I removed the foil and kept baking.] [I got a good bit of smoke and some not so pleasant odors while this was cooking, but I think that's just my cast iron pans seasoning. I oil them and heat them on the stovetop after using them, but it's not the same. This experience will be good for them.]

Remove from the oven. With a spatula, loosen the cake around the edges. Let cool for 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate [Some small sticking problems there.] and cut into wedges. Garnish with minced thyme and serve.

The cabbage is nice enough, but it tastes of candied ginger. I like candied ginger, sure, but browned cabbage is good on its own and that ought to be more central than the ginger. I didn't even use a full Tablespoon of it and it's dominating the dish.

The turnips are pretty good too. Not quite soft like Potatoes Anna would be. A bit chewier and with a hints of turnip character standing up against all that butter, bacon and cream. The crispy golden brown outer slices are, of course, the highlight, but it's mildly tasty and hearty throughout.

That ginger is still bugging me, though. I want to add some fish sauce to balance out the spicy sweetness. What with this and Todd English's wacky caponata I'm drawing my line right here. Adding ginger to most European dishes is a fusion too far and I will not stand for it. OK, I'm not going to campaign against it or anything, but I'm leaving it out next time.