Thursday, April 29, 2010

CSA week 20 - Beet, dandelion and potato gratin

I think this is officially the last of the CSA dishes for this year. Well, I've got some turnips left, but two weeks after the last delivery is probably a good place to stop counting. I think I'll do a full wrap-up post for the year some time this weekend after I've thought it over for a bit.

I was hoping to do something with the dandelion greens separately--a Sephardic soup--but I wasn't able to find the Spanish-style corned beef or kosher chorizo to do it up right.

I think the dandelion greens will have a good home here. I found a few beet gratin recipes that used mustard greens and dandelion is a fair approximation.

I'm using potatoes as well in emulation of a recipe by Chef Lance Barto from the restaurant Strings in Denver. When I found his recipe I liked how he layered the two separately for a two-tone effect. And since I've got a few extra potatoes in the pantry to get rid of, why not give it a try?

As isn't unusual with semi-improvised recipes, this didn't work out perfectly and there are lots of possibilities for improvements. I'm just going to tell you what I did instead of writing up some imaginary version; you can adjust as you see fit.

1 bunch dandelion greens
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 handful parsley, cleaned and chopped
3 medium beets, peeled and thinly sliced
3 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups cream
1 cup milk
6 ounces goat cheese
3 ounces Parmesan cheese
salt, pepper and fines herbes to taste (or tarragon and chervil if you don't have a fines herbes blend)
good quality mild red wine vinegar

Step zero, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

I blanched the dandelion greens in boiling water for 3 minutes. Let them cool, then chopped roughly. Then I heated the oil in a medium pan over medium high heat, added the garlic and greens and cooked until aromatic and tender. Moved them to a bowl, let cool and mixed with the parsley.

Nex I heated up the cream and milk in the same medium pot I blanched the greens in. While it was heating I added the goat cheese, forcing it through a slotted spoon to break it up. And I used my microplane to finely grate in 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese. I also added the salt, pepper and herbs at this point. Vigorous stirring and a couple minutes of simmering dissolved most of the cheese but it was still a bit lumpy.

Then I layered the beets on the bottom of the baking dish. My slices were very thin so I got five layers or so out of it.

The dandelion mixture went on next. And the potatoes over that.

I poured the cheese mixture over top, shook and tapped to get out air bubbles and lifted up the edges a bit to get it to seep down through the strata.

45 minutes at 350 degrees with foil over top then I removed the foil, forgot to check the potato for doneness, grated on more Parmesan and topped with a layer of panko bread crumbs. Then back into the oven for another 8 minutes to get it browned and crispy on top. That didn't do the trick but 2-3 more minutes under the broil did.

After 10 minutes of resting, it was time to slice out a piece. The potatoes and beets were a little underdone so back into the oven for 15 minutes. No real change so back for another 20. I'd recommend baking at 400 degrees to try to speed things up if you make this.

OK, after all that baking, I'm really hungry and it's finally ready.
The sauce didn't thicken up much, though. Not enough cheese dissolved in it and nothing absorbant in the solids. I should have added a few eggs in there. The liquid sauce carries the red tint around too so that screws up the cool presentation I was hoping for. Well, it's sort of there. A smaller, deeper pan would have emphasized it more.

Visual aesthetics aside, it tastes great. The potato is pretty much filler, but the combination of the softly sweet beets and salty creamy cheese sauce accented by the garlicy greens and toasty crisp topping is pretty fabulous. A few drops of vinegar adds a tang that brings out the beets flavor and cuts through the fattiness. I can see why so many beet and goat cheese recipes use it. It's a very nice added touch.

The flavors were best a bit before the potato got to the texture I wanted so, if you're going to try making it, best to leave it a little al dente. Also beware the dreaded pink drips of irrevocable staining.

This needs a little more work, but it's definitely in the right neighborhood and good enough to be worth perfecting. I wonder how replacing the potatoes with turnips or radishes would work.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

CSA week 20 - Suwa bhaji

Dill with garam masala. Garam masala with dill. I've got to say I'm a little skeptical about how this is going to turn out. But it isn't some avant garde experiment; this is a traditional north Indian dish. Search for dill bhaji or dill curry and you'll get lots of variations. And I'm not one to doubt the collective wisdom of a cuisine so I'm going to give it a try. OK, here goes nothing (but a perfectly good bunch of dill).

1 Tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 hot chili, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 CSA-sized bunch of dill (the original recipe I based this on called for 4 bunches and I don't know how large a bunch of dill is in north India. But the CSA gave us quite a lot of dill so I figure I'm probably in the ballpark.), cleaned and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garam masala (there's a good bit of variation in the three garam masala spice blends on sale at Whole Foods. I picked the one with the most pepper since "garam" means hot. If yours is less spicy or is just faded since you don't use it too often, you might want to add more than the 1/2 teaspoon of pepper called for to compensate.)
salt to taste (probably more than you think you need since the potato just soaks salt up)
1/3 to 1/2 cup water

1. Heat the oil in a large pan or dutch oven over medium high heat. When it's shimmery add the cumin and garlic. After a few seconds, when they've become fragrant, add the onion and chili. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion becomes translucent and lightly browned.

2. Add the potato and cook, stirring frequently, until the potatoes get a little browned. Turn up the heat if necessary.

3. Add the dill stems, cook briefly and then add the leaves. Cook briefly to wilt. Add the salt, cayenne, garam masala and the water. Mix thoroughly, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Turn down the heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender and the sauce has cooked down and thickened.

Serve with rice or if you're rather less tired than I am, phulkas. Some chutney or yogurt or something would probably not be bad either. I actually bought both and then forgot to use them. Whoops.

And that looks...kind of odd. And it tastes...not bad. Takes a little getting used to, tasting the dill against the cumin, but the sweet heat of the spice against the particular taste of the dill works. It helps that cooking the dill tones down the grassy aromatic edge and lets it play better with the other flavors as a vegetable. I'm halfway through the serving and now I'm starting to actually like it. Then I hit a little raw dill (I reused the bowl) and I'm not liking it so much any more. OK, so, not a revelation, but interesting. I'll try adding those forgotten condiments when I have the leftovers and put some notes in the comments to tell you how it went.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Midnight Cobaya dinner at Sakaya Kitchen

I had hoped to get this post up yesterday, but I forgot to bring my notes to work and had little downtime to do the write up anyway. In the meantime, Frod has posted his coverage of the dinner which rather blows mine away in its detail. Please go read that for an accurate description of the dishes and the events and come back here for what I thought about it.
Saturday night, or quite early Sunday morning rather, forty or so Cobaya folks gathered at Sakaya Kitchen for a midnight meal.

The chef, Richard Hales, offered two appetizers off his regular menu, created five new dishes for the occasion and sent us off with a cookies made by his wife.

I haven't been, but I'm told that Sakaya's daytime incarnation is something of a fast food joint. This full-house (the tables you see pushed together here had to be pulled back apart to add place settings to accomodate the crowd) multi-course banquet-style event was quite a departure. That makes the deft operation of both the kitchen and the waitstaff (who were all putting in overtime after a full day's work) all the more remarkable. Kudos and sizable tips deserved all the way around.

Here's the menu; click to blow it up to legibility.

First up were Filipino egg rolls, a.k.a. lumpia, filled with shrimp, pork, green beans and, no doubt, a few more things. I think I detected some cabbage in there. Chef Hales said that this is a variation on his grandmother (the titular "Papa")'s recipe. It was pretty popular at least at my end of the table and I did like them myself, but I thought, although the wrapper was light and crisp, it was also overly greasy and the filling was a bit flat without the vinegar sauce to perk it up. Take this in the context that I judge all lumpia against fabulous ones made by the grandmother of a bandmate back when I lived in San Diego and nothing matches up against the glorified memory of a grandmother's cooking even if it isn't your own.

Next up, a pork bun that Chef Hales insists he did not rip off from Momofuko. Well, steam engines happen at steam engine time so pork buns must happen at pork bun time too. This particular one, he explained, is a 40-hour bun from the time it takes to cure the pork, make the pickles and all four sauces involved in-house. He said that brought his fine dining background to build flavors in this dish and I think you could see that in the fine balance of surprisingly subtle opposing flavors. The pork wasn't nearly as bold as the pork belly we'd have later and that let the sweet sauce and sour pickle stand out against it. You could even get hints of the ginger scallion sauce. Lots of different textures working together in there too.

The first of the original dishes was garlic shrimp over chive flower soba noodles. Frod has a link to the rather interesting Laughing Bird farm where the shrimp came from if you're interested. As for the dish itself, the shrimp were flavorful and sweet, enhanced but not swamped by the garlic butter. The sweetness was couterpointed nicely by the pungent and slightly bitter scallion and chive sauce on the al dente noodles. To my mind it needed a touch more salt to make the flavors pop, but otherwise a lovely dish that suckered us into filling up on carbs before three more main-course-sized dishes came our way.

Next up, a bucket of crisp-fried sweetbreads and beautifully glazed crunchy frogs legs. And a couple cucumber flowers too. The folks at my corner of the room were a bit trepedatious, but both components were very accessible. The sweetbreads had just a slight gaminess to them and a creamy texture. The spicy/sweet sauce on the frogs legs also worked well with the sweetbreads (which Chef Hales said was the prompt to put them together in this dish). Under that sauce, the frogs legs weren't notably froggy, just meaty, but that was just fine by me. Getting the meat off the bones was a messy endeavor, but I found that you could eat the smaller pieces whole. I kind of liked the crunch that added too.

Next course, a quail over Chinese broccoli with tsitsaron (a.k.a. chicarone). The quail was beautifully flavored on its own from the marinade and grill, but paired with the sweet vinegary sauce and the fresh flavor of the broccoli, it moved up to another level. The tsitsaron were nice enough, but they got mushy in the sauce and didn't really add anything to the other two components. I understand the desire to add some pork to any given greens, but this dish didn't need it. They didn't detract either, though, so this was still my favorite dish of the night.

This next dish is just cruel to give to customers who are already stuffed over-full. I can't eat another bite, but how am I supposed to resist this? That's pork belly over coconut rice with crispy bone marrow and roasted baby carrots. The pork belly was more a slab of meat than the melting fat you might be imagining, although that aspect was more than amply taken care of by the marrow. The intense meaty/salty/fatty of those two (and the sweetness of the Vietnamese-style caramel sauce) was cut by the cool creaminess of the rice. It's hard to see in my somewhat over-exposed picture but the rice was so full of coconut cream it was almost rice pudding. The carrots were more than a little overdone, but I always go for the crispy dried out bits when I've got roasted root vegetables so I didn't mind at all. The crunchiness was good with the other textures. I liked the dish, but it was a bit difficult to handle with the utensils available and really heavy for this late in the meal.

Nearly done. Next is an oyster pajeon. The pancake seemed less eggy than more traditional Korean pajeon's I've had, plus less stuffed with add ins, with the oyster raw on top instead of cooked in. This is a classic combination for a reason; a lovely little bite that I still couldn't finish.

And finally, we were given paper bags with chocolate chocolate chip cookies, made by the Chef's wife, to take home. I neglected to get a picture, I'm afraid. This sort of cookie's not really my thing so I'm going to withold judgement. Perhaps someone will say something about it in the comments.

Of the various Slow Food, Cobaya and other such dinner events I've been to in Miami, this was undoubtedly my favorite. None of the others meals combined this level of creativity with sustained yumminess, beautiful presentation and impeccable service. Oh, and the understated but pervasive local, sustainable, etc. aspect was important too. I suppose the general excess of it all goes a little against that ethos, but what the heck, too much of so many good things is hard to get upset about.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Five-spice vanilla ice cream

I made two batches of ice cream for a going-away party at work yesterday. My freezer is still packed full so I had to bring my churn in, make them there and serve them soft. It's kind of a pain to haul the equipment around, but it also let me simplify the recipes because I don't have to worry about the texture once they ripen up in the freezer. In this case, that just meant I didn't bother with the corn starch. To be honest, I'm not sure how much effect the corn starch has on the final texture, but I do know that leaving it out takes all of the cooking out of the recipes. If there's a step to skip, that's the one.

The original plan was to keep it simple--just make vanilla and strawberry--but inspiration struck and what was I supposed to do other than follow my muse?

For the strawberry, the results were fine, but not as interesting as I hoped. That recipe was:
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
1 pint strawberries
2/3 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese
Hershey's strawberry syrup to taste.

I would have prefered to use real strawberry syrup, but I haven't got any left. The hope there was to boost the complexity of the strawberry flavors by including both cooked and raw (or in this case artificial and real) versions. I was also hoping the coconut milk would add some extra interest. Nope, it just tasted like strawberry ice cream. Nothing wrong with that I suppose; people liked it.

The mutated vanilla ice cream, though, was pretty fabulous. That's the root beer float flavor in the title. That recipe was:
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup cream
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese
1 Tablespoon vanilla paste
1 pinch salt
1 big pinch five spice powder

Five spice powder, if you don't have it memorized or a bottle nearby to check, is made of cinnamon, fennel, cloves, star anise and white pepper. I just did a search and found a handful of recipes that pair it with vanilla for sweet applications including some ice creams, but I think I'm the only one to also use condensed milk which really made this recipe really work well. Other than the pepper, the spices in five spice all have sweet uses. Marrying them with the vanilla the caramel notes from the condensed milk and the cream comes up with something pretty close to a root beer float--accessibly tasty but hard to pin down and with an interesting burn in the aftertaste. A lot of the odder flavors I make are interesting novelties, but this one's a keeper. You've got all those ingredients in the house; try it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

CSA week 20 - Shrimp and celery escabeche

This is a recipe from Saveur that I found when I was looking around for pickled celery variations. The call it "Shrimp and Pickled Celery" which not only misplaces the "pickled" (since the shrimp is pickled too), but undersells the dish. The shrimp is cooked first so this is an escabeche, which is substantially more interesting than a straight pickle. That's why I chose to make it; I may not have done anything to prove it in the last year, but escabeche variations still intrigue me.

Other than halving it, and using most of a head of celery instead of two celery hearts, I didn't make any changes to their recipe. On their site, instead of reposting recipes from elsewhere, they just have a short description and a link. It would be rude for me rewrite their recipe here instead, I think. Here's the link for the full recipe, but it's pretty simple, really.

Throw together a bunch of herbs and spices with sugar and vinegar. Simmer to dissolve everything and cool.

Simmer the celery in flavored water. Remove to the brine. Poach the shrimp in the same water, cool, peel, clean, mix with the celery and let sit to pickle.

They give the range of soaking the shrimp and celery in the pickling brine for one hour to overnight. I found that even a few hours wasn't enough; it needed a full day. That may have been because there wasn't quite enough brine to cover everything so I added enough of the cooking liquid to get everything to float.

First off, let me recommend sticking with the original recipe's recommendation of using celery hearts instead of whole stalks. The outer stalks stay tough and stringy despite the simmer and soak. The heart and the leafy ends get nicely tender, though, and soak up some nice flavor from the brine and a little from the shrimp too. A good bit of celery flavor remains, though, so this is legitimately a celery dish. I wouldn't consider shrimp and celery an obvious pairing, but it's not uncommon. There's defnitely a synergy with the two together with the shrimp taking the edge off the celery's flavor and the celery underlaying the shrimp's light sweetness. Here, I think the sweet/tart/salty of the brine and dressing helps bring them together. I'm quite liking the dish, but it's best in small doses. Some appetizers you can make a meal of; this one's just too pickly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

CSA week 20 - vleeta

Next stop on our callaloo world tour is Greece! And, as I warned you on Saturday, the recipe isn't terribly exciting. Typical Greek really: boil to death and dress with lemon and olive oil. Maybe add some onion and red pepper for little pizazz. Serve next to a slab of under-seasoned meat and maybe some orzo.

The results are, well, not bad really. It doesn't improve in flavor with overcooking like green beans do, but it certainly stands up better than spinach would have in the same situation. There's some small hint of callaloo's character left in there, both in flavor and texture and I do think lemon and olive oil are good accompaniments. I suppose it would be a decent option for someone who doesn't really care for the stuff. I do, myself, so I'm a bit disappointed. This did seem a particularly tender bunch; maybe that's why it didn't hold up as well as I hoped it would. So things go. Next time I get my hands on callaloo, I've got an Indonesian recipe to try.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

CSA week 19 wrap-up, week 20 start-up

Sorry I didn't have a third recipe to post about this week. I actually had a dinner salad one night; good for me (or maybe not considering how much bacon was involved), but not so great for the blog. I also made an oyster mushroom/spring onion sauce for a pork loin that turned out o.k., but wasn't really interesting enough to write up. And the green beans were a side dish with some middling fried chicken and biscuits.

I'm holding on to the beets and a leftover turnip and adding this week's share of both to the stockpile. It's not so much that I don't know what to do with them than it is that they keep. We're going to be in a local fresh vegetable drought pretty soon. I was thinking of pickling one or the other, but they keep just fine without any preparation so I'm just going to hold on to them until a really good idea presents itself. The beet/goat cheese gratin will probably be first out of the gate some time next week.

I would like to pickle something, though, and am a bit frustrated that we didn't get anything this week that really lends itself to that application. There are a few pickled celery recipes out there but they don't sound particularly appealing. But it's not like I've got any better ideas for the celery so I might go for it anyway.

I haven't got a great idea for the dandelion greens either, I have to admit. I've been looking around at recipes and, whereever in the world they come from, they're about the same: blanch, sauté and dress in local flavors. Hmm...there are some soup recipes too. Maybe I'll go that way.

The calalloo I've got one more international alias for that I've been holding on to waiting for another bunch to arrive in the share. The recipe is nothing special, really, but the origin is interestingly unexpected.

Of the herbs, the only one I feel obliged to do something with is the dill. I've just learned that Indian cuisine uses dill as a vegetable, not an herb. I haven't had time to pick out a specific recipe yet, but I'm quite curious to try something from that tradition.

Everything else, I'm not worried about using. I might come up with a honey-centric ice cream, though.

Oh, hey, as long as I've got you here, I want to let you know that I'm going to be on a panel discussion by food bloggers at the Fairchild Food and Garden Festival at 3 o'clock next Saturday. Come out and see me make an ass out of myself. Should be fun.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CSA week 19 - Baked fish in hoja santa tomatillo sauce

This is a recipe from Victoria Challancin, the owner of the Flavors of the Sun International Cooking School. It's pretty simple and I made it even simpler because, after making the sauce, I didn't have leaves left to wrap the fish too. Also, I didn't have enough fish so I used some shrimp.

1 share hoja santa leaves, I didn't count. Six? Around that.
6 ounces tomatillos, husked, cleaned and quartered
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 hot chile, seeded or not to your taste I used a seeded jalapeño.
1/6 cup water
salt to taste

0. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Boil a pot of water. Blanch the hoja santa leaves for 30 seconds. Cool immediately to stop the cooking. Strip out the tough stems and roughly chop.

2. Add everything to a food processor and process until fairly smooth. I found I got little chunks floating in a watery sauce so you might want to keep on blending for a while longer.

3. Place seafood in a baking dish. This makes enough sauce for a couple fillets. Cover with sauce. I didn't, but you might want to cover the dish with foil to try to keep the fish moist. Bake until fish is cooked through, 10-15 minutes.

Serve with tortillas or possibly rice. I made tacos because why not?

Hmm...The sauce is slightly spicy, brightly acid from the not-quite-ripe tomatillos (a squeeze of lime takes the unpleasant edge off the tartness), aromatically herbal, rooty and slightly chemical--unmistakably hoja santa. Nothing transformative here, but the hoja santa flavor, a bit much on its own, works better as a balanced element of the gestalt of the sauce. It goes pretty well with the fish, less well with the shrimp (which were kind of funky today. Maybe from overcooking; maybe I just got a bad batch?) and really well with the tortillas. I'm going to try using hoja santa in a corn salad next time I get some or maybe in tamales...Hold on a second, I just added some chipotle to the sauce and the smokiness is great base for the hoja santa's flavors. That's definitely the way I'm going next time around. Just add a little to this sauce and you'll be happy, I'm promise.

Monday, April 12, 2010

CSA week 18 - Zucchini caldo de camaron seco

This is a bit of an improvisation. I was shopping for a Javanese dried shrimp and zucchini dish and not finding the Mexican dried shrimp where it was supposed to be at Whole Foods when I started wondering just what Mexican dried shrimp were used for.

If you trust Google, they're used for caldo de camaron seco--dried shrimp broth--mostly. Well, if zucchini works with dried shrimp and coconut milk, it might work with dried shrimp and chilies too. [I gave in and took the trip to Lucky Asian Mart I was hoping to avoid to get the ingredients.] Seemed worth a try anyway. I didn't follow any of the caldo de camaron seco recipes exactly even before adding the zucchini and I didn't really measure anything either; here's an approximation of what I came up with.

1/2 pound dried hominy
1 medium tomato and 1 handful grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 not too hot dried peppers
1 chipotle pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 ounces by weight dried shrimp
4 cups water
1/2 large zucchini, diced

0. Soak the hominy 8 hours or overnight. Or quick soak it by boiling it for 5 minutes and then soaking for 3-4 hours.

1. Soak the peppers for 10 minutes to slightly soften. Remove stems and seeds. Cut or tear into small pieces.

2. Process the shrimp into a fine powder.

3.Blend the tomato and garlic. Add peppers and blend until very smooth. Press through a strainer to make sure. Add a little salt and taste. Add chili powder and/or hot sauce if the flavor isn't quite to your liking.

4. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. When shimmery add the onion and carrot. Cook until the onion becomes translucent, then add the chili tomato mixture. Turn heat down to medium low and fry 10 minutes, scraping up the sauce if it sticks. [This is a typical Mexican technique. Interesting, no? Aren't Thai curry pastes treated similarly?]

5. Add the dried shrimp, hominy and water. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer for 50 minutes. Add zucchini and cook for 10 minutes more.

Top with diced white onion, a squeeze of lime and a drizzle of olive oil.

The ground shrimp has hydrated a bit and now has a meaty chew to it but in grainy sludgy form. It reminds of something, but I can't quite pin it down. Maybe somewhere between ground meat in chili and strands of overpicked crab in chowder. It's about as enticing as that sounds, but its not bad once you get used to it.

The broth itself is an earthy blend of the the fruitiness of the chilies and tomato and the salty minerally tang of the shrimp. That's pretty tasty. Kind of weird, but tasty.

The hominy could be softer; I should have cooked it a bit longer. And the zucchini could be firmer; I should have cooked it a bit less. [I adjusted the cooking time for the zucchini in the recipe above, but I'm not sure how to deal with the hominy. Follow the instructions on the package if you've got a package with instructions, I guess.] Still, their flavors come through nicely and do work well with the flavor of the broth.

Like the soup from a couple days ago, I think this one is going to work better tomorrow after the flavors have blended. I'll bet the textures will have improved too. ...

OK, it's tomorrow. The hominy and zucchini haven't changed so no improvement in the texture, but the flavors have melded nicely. Still, it's missing something and I'm pretty sure that something is pork. The flavor would fit in really nicely and the broth is so much like chili that I'm missing chunks of meat. I've got some pork in the freezer; maybe I'll give it a shot. I'll report in later...

Now it's the day after tomorrow. I've added some ground pork and, as long as I was at it, more zucchini and some red bell pepper. Now it tastes like a strangely shrimp-tinged chili. It was a much more interestingly distinctive dish before. Ah well; win some, lose some.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

CSA week 18 wrap-up, week 19 start-up

I don't feel like I cooked as much as I wanted to this week, but looking back at last week's start-up post, beyond a few scraps, all that's left is a fair bit of zucchini and I'll be using most of that in tonight's dinner.

I guess the only thing I cooked that I didn't post about was a stir fry with the bag of Asian greens. I didn't read the label and didn't realize it was a braising blend so it didn't turn out so hot. Let's just move on to this week.

I'm thinking I'd like to try making a beet and goat cheese gratin. I did a quick search and found that there are few recipes for such a thing out there so it's not a completely wacky notion. I don't think I'm going to get out to a farmer's market to pick up any local goat cheese for a couple weeks, though, so I'm just going to tuck the beets into the back of the refrigerator for now.

There aren't enough green beans here to make a full dish. I'll just probably steam them up as a side dish with a chunk of meat.

If I didn't have a blog to write, I'd go the same route with the mushrooms. As it is, I'll have to go out and buy some more mushrooms so I'll have enough to work with. No idea just what I'll be making yet, though.

I already used most of the sprouts, along with some more of the zucchini, on a pizza for lunch. It's a pretty presentation and a pretty good flavor combination along with Spanish chorizo. As you probably guessed from the nicely squared off corners, that is a doctored up frozen pizza. They were half price.

The onions I suspect will end up with the mushrooms. If not, they'll make a pretty good fritatta I'd think.

The lettuce I took only because of the grape tomatoes. That's the start of a decent salad. I don't know if I'll actually do it, but at least I've got a plan.

Finally, I picked pack of hoja santa out of the extras bin since I missed it when I was out of town a couple weeks back. Nobody reported on their blogs about successfully using it so I'm a bit trepidatious. I did some looking around and the recipe that caught my eye was a pozole verde. Unfortunately, I found it only after I started soaking my hominy for the zucchini soup I'm making tonight so that's out. I'll probably just try it with fish in the traditional manner. Best to stick with tradition for the first time, I figure.

Friday, April 9, 2010

CSA week 18 - Gulai kacang udang

a.k.a. Sumatran shrimp and green beans

I think this is the first dish I've made with green beans and coconut milk. First one that I've blogged about anyway. It struck me as an odd combination, but I do recall seeing green beans as part of a lot of coconut-milk-based curries. Googling turns up Thai dishes with them paired along with some Malaysian and some Caribbean ones too. I'll have to put those on the to-do list when I get some more beans.

This particular recipe, according to The Indonesian Kitchen cookbook, is a typical Sumatran dish in that it's hot and acid without sweetness to balance as you'd find in a lot of other Indonesian cooking. I don't think it was quite as challenging as advertised, though.

1 14 oz can coconut milk
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 stalk lemon grass, crushed and/or slit open
1 teaspoon salt
1 salam leaf
1 small piece of laos
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, sliced
1 fresh hot chili pepper, sliced and crushed
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 pound string beans, cleaned and broken into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small tomato, diced

0. Brine the shrimp and the string beans.[Don't skip brining the shrimp. They cook too fast to take on any flavor from the sauce (or add any either). The original recipe called for simmering the shrimp for a full ten minutes which would solve that problem but create a worse one if you ask me.]

1. Mix everything but the beans, shrimp and tomato into a pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil.

2. Add the green beans and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato and cook for 5-10 minutes more until the tomato has started breaking down and the green beans are tender. Add the shrimp and cook 1-3 minutes until cooked through.

Fish out the lemongrass, salam leaf and laos. Serve hot or warm over rice, garnished with crispy fried onion (or shallot or garlic), sweet soy sauce and chili-garlic sambal.

I couldn't get a good picture in the bowl since the sauce drained down into the rice. Here it is finished but still in the pot.

The sauce is richly flavored, spicy, creamy and fragrant with lemongrass and laos. A very nice complement to the shrimp, too. But the green beans are a spash of khaki against all that color. Blah in and of themselves and they don't really connect with the flavors in the sauce. Really disappointing. I should have brined them too maybe. I bet it'll be better tomorrow when the flavors have blended a bit.
OK, it's tomorrow and the dish is substantially better. Both the beans and the shrimp have absorbed a bit of flavor and the sauce has picked up a bit of depth too. Also, I hit it with a big shot of sriracha which did it no harm. I can now recommend this dish; just make it ahead and reheat.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

CSA week 18 - Momofuku scallion noodles with roasted cauliflower and quick-pickled zucchini

Momofuku is such a hot restaurant and cookbook right now and this recipe so easy, it's all over the cooking blogosphere. Oddly, nobody really tries to describe what it tastes like. I suppose it seems like it should be obvious--ginger and scallion--but like the Chinatown scallion sauce this is a refined version of (which I talk about a bit at the bottom of this post) there is a profound synergy here that has an electrifying effect on whatever food you use it with. You can read the chef raving about it here, but there's no reason not to just try it for yourself.

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Noodles

1 1/4 cups thinly sliced scallions, greens and whites
1/4 cup peeled and finely minced fresh ginger
1 fluid ounce grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/3 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 pound ramen noodles
Momofuku roasted cauliflower
Momofuku quick-pickled zucchini

1. Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy sauce, vinegar and salt. Let sit for 15-20 minutes.

2. Cook noodles. Drain and toss with sauce. Top with cauliflower, zucchini and your protein of choice (I seared a handful of bay scallops). It's important to dress the noodles well. I found that the dish improved as a dug down into the bowl and got to where the sauce had dripped down.

Momofuku roasted cauliflower
[I just did a little more reading and found that the Momofuku cookbook just uses a simple pan-roasted cauliflower without the dressing. This works too.]

1 small head cauliflower
1 drizzle peanut oil
2 Tablespoons Thai-style fish sauce
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small medium-hot pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon cilantro stems, finely minced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons mint leaves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon shichimi togarashi [so-called Japanese seven-spice powder although it's mostly not spices. It's citrus peel, ground chilis, Szechuan pepper, sesame, poppy and sometimes hemp seeds and powdered nori]
[The stand-alone cauliflower recipe calls for toasting the shichimi togarashi onto puffed rice. I figured that would get soggy mixed into the noodles so I just added it to the marinade.]

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cauliflower into florets. Toss cauliflower with the oil and spread on a baking sheet without crowding. Put in over and roast for 30 minutes, stirring once. Check doneness; the cauliflower should be tender and spotted with brown bits.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and lime. Stir until sugar is dissolved adding a little water if necessary. Add garlic, pepper, cilantro, mint and shichimi togarashi. Add a little more water if there isn't enough liquid to moisten everything.

3. When cauliflower is done, cool briefly and dump into the large bowl. Toss to coat and let drain as there should be excess dressing.

Momofuku quick-pickled zucchini
[The recipe originally called for cucumber, but zucchini is close enough and closer to hand.]

1 cup zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Toss zucchini in sugar and salt. Let stand 5-10 minutes.

Like I said up top, the scallion and ginger merge into something more than the sum of the parts. It's fresh, sharp, a little tangy, a little salty. It's just gorgeous and it actually brings out the best of the noodles flavor rather than just using it as a vehicle. The zucchini doesn't add a lot, just some textural interest, really. It's interesting on its own but it's slight bite (surprisingly tart given the lack of vinegar) can't stand up to the sauce's intensity. The cauliflower on the other hand are sweet and earthy with a nice crunch to them. A really good combination of flavors and textures, really easy and using a lot of CSA vegetables I had on hand. Winner all around.

Monday, April 5, 2010

CSA week 18 - Chard and turnip gratin

Not the most complicated or unusual recipe to start the week with, but I encountered some trouble getting the ingredients I need for the other recipes I've got planned so it's the only one I've got ready to go. Also, the only other chard and turnip gratin recipe Google finds is a substandard one I made last year. As far as I can tell nobody's been looking for such a thing, but if anyone does, I want them to find something better.

I started by putting together the mise en place for the gratin assembly and preheating the oven to 375 degrees. And finding an 8-inch cast iron pan.

The chard needs to be blanched a bit. Our small bunch was particularly young and tender so I simmered the stems for a minute, added the leaves, and simmered for one minute more. Then I rinsed them in cold water to stop the cooking, squeezed out the liquid and chopped them fairly finely. I mixed that with chopped parsley and shallots, thyme and salt.

For the cheese, I mixed about even amounts of Kilaree, a young Irish cheddar and Havarti.

And I sliced, paper thin, three medium turnips.

Here's the first layer; Isn't it pretty?

That's a slightly overlapping single layer of turnip, a scattering of the chard mixture, a scattering of cheese and two Tablespoons of chicken stock and two Tablespoons of cream.

I think I got four layers before running out of chard. I topped with the last of the turnip and a layer of mixed Parmesan and bread crumbs and then covered it with foil.

40 minutes at 375 degrees foil on, 20 minutes foil off and a few minutes under the broiler and here it is:

The cooking brings out the turnip's sweetness which balances with the slight bitterness of the chard and the rich salty cheese for a nicely balanced combination of flavors. There's even a little toastiness from the topping. The turnip still has a little firmness to it, the chard a little chew and the top crisped up nicely. I went a little heavy on the stock so it's a little watery, but otherwise it's really very nice indeed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

CSA week 18 start-up

Now then, where were we?

An exceptionally full box this week even without the lettuce and celery that I left behind. My first thought looking at it was that I want to do some pickling. Partially that's because we're getting to the end of the season. Also, I'm all out of storage containers and my freezer is packed full. Pickling is a good way to bypass that problem.

I'd like to take another shot at pickling the green beans, but I found an interesting Sumatran green bean recipe I think I might make instead. I've got a Javanese zucchini recipe to go with it, but I think I've got enough for that and to pickle some. That means my other pickle jar will be filled with either cauliflower or turnips. It depends on the best alternative use I find for one or the other.

A turnip and chard gratin sounds pretty good. Probably use up most of the parsley in that too. I could see going with that. I wonder what cheese would best suit...

There's enough scallions here that I want to make at least one scallion-centric recipe despite the troubles I've had finding a good one in the past. I defintely wouldn't mind making scallion sausage rolls again but I'm going to look for something that would make a better blog post.

The Asian mix I think I'd like to use in a simple stir fry or maybe a soup. I don't recall seeing Asian greens soups. I wonder why. I should look into it.