Monday, November 24, 2014

Jammin': Dried Porcinis, Black Garlic

Just playing with some new ingredients: dried porcinis and black garlic. Okay, so I've worked with dried porcinis a couple times before, but these ones that I bought from my local coop's bulk section were just stunningly fragrant and savory--worlds apart from the packaged Lucinda's stuff I'd used before.

I just soaked the sliced, dried porcinis in water to rehydrate, and then stir-fried them with garlic, bok choy, and a little salt and pepper. Fantastic!

As for the black garlic, it is super tasty stuff. Fruity, savory, and earthy all at once. There were recipe cards for a black garlic vinaigrette at the store, so I just made that and doused a salted slab of salmon with it and steamed the fish. I then spooned some more uncooked vinaigrette on the fish afterward to get the fresh, stronger taste of the uncooked vinaigrette in the dish. Also great!

This was also the second time I've microwave steamed a slab of salmon (by which I mean about a 1.5 pound filet), and it's just about the easiest way to cook fish--and comes out perfectly. You basically just need to put your fish in a microwave save dish, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and then microwave on high for about 4 minutes per pound of fish (mine is a 1000W microwave, so take that into account, too, if you try it). Depending on your dish, there could be more process after microwaving, or maybe you only need to add your seasoning before microwaving, but the fish itself is cooked (flakes easily, not overdone or dried out) after a couple minutes with the push of a button.

Dried Porcini Bok Choy Stir Fry

1 oz dried porcinis, soaked in water for 30+ minutes
1 lb. bok choy, stems cut off, leaves separated
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
2 TBS peanut or vegetable oil
  1. Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until the oil flows quickly over the surface. Add porcinies and stir-fry until lightly browning.
  2. Add garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper and stir-fry until garlic is starting to brown.
  3. Turn up heat to high and add bok choy and a couple tablespoons of water, which will create steam to cook the leaves. Continue stir-frying until the bok choy has wilted and is a vibrant green color. Season lightly with a little more salt and add small dashes of water as needed, when the pan dries up, to continue cooking the bok choy if it's not yet done.
  4. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Black Garlic Vinaigrette
adapted from Obis One's recipe card

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup red wine or sherry vinegar
1 TBS shallot, minced (not having any on hand, I used yellow onion, soaked in gold water for 30 minutes to remove some of its harshness)
6 black garlic cloves, minced
1/2 TBS salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (not having any on hand, I used korean chili powder)
1 tsp thyme leaves

The original recipe just has you throw whole cloves in the food processor, but given the dense, gumminess of the black garlic, it just ended up stick to the blades and being pushed around, taking a long time to process. It's be much simpler just to mince by hand before combining with the other ingredients.
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until emulsified.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Karasumi/Wu Yu Zi: Salted Mullet Roe

Here's an interesting one: karasumi 唐墨, or wu yu zi 烏魚子, salted mullet (a type of fish) roe in Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine, respectively. Apparently very similar to the Mediterranean botargo, which is also salted typically mullet roe. What makes this intriguing to me is that the Taiwanese link raises questions as to the food's origins.

One might think that Japanese and Taiwanese cuisine share this dish due to cultural exchange in one direction or another during the Japanese colonization of Taiwan. Apparently, though, mullet fishing in Taiwan can be traced back to when Taiwan was a Dutch colony! (Back in the 17th century) So maybe the dish was introduced to Japan via Taiwan. Or maybe there was independent development of the dish. Or maybe something else complicated.

The botargo link is intriguing also, due to the Dutch-Taiwan link, except that Holland is far from the Mediterranean. And then again, there's a whole lot of salt curing in a variety of foods in many different cuisines.

I dug this all up because I recently came across an excellent karasumi daikon dish at a yakitori place in the South Bay, which reminded me of how my (Taiwanese) grandmother used to often serve karasumi/wu yu zi as part of meals when I was a wee 'un.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

WIP: Simple Allergy Friendly Buckwheat Crêpes

(WIP = Work in Progress), but in general these allergy friendly buckwheat crepes worked out pretty well. There is no dairy or wheat or nuts of any kind (since coconut or other tree nut-based ingredients are often part of dairy- and wheat-free foods) in the batter--but there is egg. The recipe is very simple, with just buckwheat flour, egg, water, and a pinch of salt. They're probably more brittle than if you include dairy in the batter, but otherwise they function as crepe skins and have a nice flavor to them. And really, I think you could probably do the same thing with other flours, or a mix a flours. You could probably even put in a pinch of xanthan gum or guar gum if you wanted it to be a little more flexible a crepe skin. Again, work in progress; I'll be playing with it from time to time.

Huh, look at that--turns out buckwheat crepes are a food with some history in France, generally savory and called "galettes". And looking a little further, it seems that actually, if you work the batter a lot, buckwheat will gelatinize. ...maybe I will get a stand mixer one day after all. There was a time, before I sussed out my dairy and wheat issues, that I wanted one in order to explore hand-pulled noodles and pastries. Of course, I shelved all that (and saved myself the money) when I figured out that they caused my system problems. Anyway, between this and the pistou discussed in my previous post, it seems that French cuisine has more to offer me than I knew--not that you ever really see these parts of it in the U.S. Though, there is a cafe serving galettes in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Pictured above, I made a savory crepe and a sweet crepe for breakfast this morning. For the savory one, I filled it with some of the scallop sautéed kale from the previous night, along with some pear/teardrop tomatoes. For the sweet, I filled it with bananas and local alfalfa honey. Both were really delicious! If I were just making sweet ones, then I'd think about incorporating cinnamon or other things like lemon zest into the batter possibly. And for the savory, maybe other spices, if I wanted to be elaborate. The simplicity and speed with which you can mix up the basic batter is really appealing to me, though.

What's that? My banana crepe looks funny to you? (It's okay, banana crepe, I thought you were delicious.) Well, yeah, the relative brittleness of the crepe meant that when I messed up my flipping technique, the crepe ended up breaking, so I had two half moons instead of a full moon.

[Technique note:] I think next time I'll just flip once and use the originally-top side (now bottom side after the flip) as the outside of the crepe; it's smoother and looks a little nicer than the wrinkled surface of the originally-bottom side--at least at the heat I was cooking at this time.

Simple Allergy Friendly Buckwheat Crepes
makes batter for 2 crepes

50g (about 1/2 cup) buckwheat flour
100g water
1 egg
pinch of salt
  1. Thoroughly whisk together ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup for ease of pouring.
  2. Heat vegetable oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat until oil flows quickly over the surface. Pour half the batter into the skillet and tilt the pan around to allow the batter to cover the surface in a thin layer. Cook until bubbles have appeared around the surface and the crepe has set (about a minute). Slide a metal spatula underneath the crepe to release it and flip to briefly cook the other side.
  3. Add your filling, fold, and plate, or remove crepe from pan and fill afterward.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Jammin': Pesto Seared Scallops and Kale

David Chang once said that it's easy to cook delicious food with high quality ingredients. What's challenging is to make delicious food with low quality ingredients.* And definitely, I find that the better your ingredients, the less you have to do to make things taste great. Here in Sacramento,** the produce is so much fresher than in D.C.,*** and I'm continually pleasantly surprised at how flavorful everything I make seems to come out, even with very simple preparation. Well, I'm sure I'll get used to it soon, and come to expect it, ha.

*Sorry, I can't find a link to the quote--it was several years ago.
**Wow, this is now my fourth cross-country move, not to mention a trans-Pacific move and back.
***Which stands for District of Columbia, and not David Chang, despite its being his hometown.

Pictured above is a seared scallop dish I made, with a simple parsley pesto* and sautéed kale. The scallops and produce came from one of the local farmers markets. I was particularly impressed with the savory flavor of the scallop deglazing, which went fantastically with the sautéed kale.

*I don't add nuts or cheese to my pestos due to reactions. But, interestingly enough, it looks like my nut- and cheese-less variations of pestos are like pistou from Provencal, France. Looks like I'm really going to have to write that blog post I said I would previously, about similar pastes in different culinary traditions.

This is still a work in progress (isn't everything?)--so, like posting a sketch. I haven't actually tried making seared scallops before (they're expensive), so there are more variations I'd want to try in terms of technique, like not cooking the seared scallops in the sauce in order to keep the surface crisp. But in case you're interested, I'm posting what I did below.

Pesto Seared Scallops with Sautéed Kale
Serves 2

½ lb. large scallops, defrosted, patted dry
¼ cup white wine vinegar
parsley pesto (recipe below—makes more than is needed for this recipe, so you can save extra for other uses)

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped (about 6 cups, loose)

vegetable oil

  1. Season scallops with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Heat oil in a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the oil flows quickly over the surface of the pan. Add scallops to the pan in a single, uncrowded layer. Let them cook undisturbed until browned and crisp on the bottom, about 1 to 1.5 minutes. Flip scallops and cook on other side until similarly browned.
  3. While the scallops are searing on their second side, add small dollops of pesto to the tops of each scallop. Once the second side is done, turn down the heat to medium-low and flip the scallops again so that the pesto’ed side is down. Add white wine vinegar and deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits and mix with the vinegar and pesto. Cook for another minute, spooning the sauce in the pan over the scallops. Remove scallops from pan and set aside, leaving the sauce in the pan.
  4. Turn heat back up to medium. Add chopped kale to the pan and toss until it wilts and is a vibrant green color. You may have to do this in two batches. With the second batch, add a little more pesto and white wine vinegar to the pan so that the kale is seasoned and has some steam to wilt it. Once wilted, toss all the kale together. Divide kale into individually portioned bowls or plates, top with scallops and serve immediately. If desired, serve with freshly steamed rice with scallop and kale cooking sauces spooned over the rice.

Simple Parsley Pesto

1 cup parsley (loose, not packed), chopped
8 cloves garlic
½ - 1 tsp salt (if 1 tsp, the pesto will be too salty to just eat spread directly on a filet of fish, but great to use as a seasoning paste while cooking a dish)
1 tsp Korean chili powder (if you use a different kind of chili powder, you may want to reduce the quantity since Korean chilies are mild, unless you want more heat)
extra virgin olive oil, enough to form a paste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process in bursts, scraping down sides and adding olive oil as needed, until paste is formed.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cooking Efficiently

Bittman raises an excellent tip about cooking efficiently in this recent article of his.

Many of you (ha, as if there are even "many" of you reading my blog!) probably already do this, but essentially the point is that although recipes (mine included) often list ingredients out with the preparation notes incorporated into the list rather than narrating out the prep work in the steps, when you're actually doing the cooking, it's most efficient to do the prep of various ingredients as you go along rather than doing all the peeling, cutting, etc. beforehand and then executing the steps all at once (an exception to this is if the cooking takes place very quickly and you wouldn't have time to do any prep between steps, like with high heat stir-fries).

For example, you might slice onions and set them to sweat or brown in the pan while you prep other ingredients because it takes several minutes for the onions to get to the point where you want to add the next ingredients to the pan. Especially when you're just cooking for yourself, you can be more flexible about the timing and results, meaning you can be more free-flowing in your prep and cooking, and ultimately more efficient in getting your meal on the table, time-wise at least.

Anyway, hopefully that's helpful to you if you don't already do it. I will add, though, that it's much easier when you've got more familiarity with cooking and don't need to rely on recipes very closely.