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.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Food As Sex Or Drugs

Interesting article on the New Republic about what foods get analogized with sex and what foods with drugs.

Just wanna say, I don't think I've ever analogized a food with either sex or drugs, and plan never to do so. You're welcome.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Will's Spicy Chicken Soup


Spicy beef noodle soup (niu rou mian) is a staple of Taiwanese cuisine, but I generally avoid cooking with beef for environmental and health reasons. However, this chicken version I made was a resounding success--so much so that I don't mind not making the beef version!

[Ugg, lost a lot of the red spectrum from the photo when converting to web use. Yes, I did convert to sRGB format first.]

I think a couple things contributed to the soup's deliciousness. One is that I used a whole chicken, so the bones and skin all contributed to the soup's full flavor (though I removed them once cooked). The other thing is that I used a pressure cooker, which I find retains more of the nuances of flavor in whatever you're cooking.

The young mustard greens I tossed in also paired wonderfully with the spicy savory soup. I think you want to avoid older mustard greens, though, as their flavor can be overpowering. The soup works great with a starch tossed in, too, whether noodles, rice, or dumplings.

See below for my recipe. You may not have yellow rock sugar in your pantry, but I'd recommend getting it from a Chinese or other Asian grocery since its flavor is clearer or brighter than white or brown sugar. As Andrea Nguyen puts it in the context of making pho, yellow rock sugar "rounds out all the rough edges and brings the flavors together. Many Viet cooks in the past used granulated sugar and the flavor is just sweet and flat."


Will’s Spicy Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken, giblets, kidneys, and excess fat removed
salt (~1 TBS)

1 pod black cardamom
2 pods (16 points) star anise
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

1-inch of ginger, sliced into coins
4 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar
1 TBS (gluten-free) soy sauce or tamari
2 TBS spicy douban jiang (spicy broad bean sauce)
2 quarts water

additions to the soup to taste
parboiled or steamed bok choy, young mustard greens, or other leafy greens
chopped scallions and/or cilantro
noodles of any sort (rice, cellophane, wheat)
steamed rice

  1. Place chicken in pressure cooker pot. Rub salt under the skin of the chicken all over the breasts and thighs, and onto the back of the chicken.
  2. Place cardamom, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns in a disposable tea pouch (this makes it easy to remove them after cooking, but isn’t necessary) and add into pot along with ginger and garlic. Add rock sugar, soy sauce or tamari, spicy douban jiang, and water to the pot. Water should just cover chicken. 
  3. Pressure cook on high for 30 minutes. Allow for natural pressure release. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker, bring to a low boil and simmer for an hour, adding more water as needed.) Chicken should be fall-off-the-bone done. Strip the meat from the bones and shred. Discard the bones, skin (if desired), spices, ginger, and garlic.
  4. Serve in individually portioned bowls with greens, rice or noodles, and garnish.