Month: May 2008

Spring morel dinner at Castagna

Ah, Castagna. Our preferred fancy date-night place. They had a special morel dinner last night (the last in a three-part series), and we had to partake. Usually our steak-frites-and-pear-martini place (well, Scott usually gets a Manhattan since he’s not a homosexual), it was kind of […]

Cherry galettes with black pepper-Kirschwasser glaze

Is there any better taste of summer than sweet bing cherries? You’re giving me that look, aren’t you. The “It’s not summer yet, Heather, not in your neck of the woods. Fuck you smilin’ about?” look. Okay, sigh, I bought off-season produce from California. Sue […]

Crab soba with maitake and pea shoots

This is from last Monday’s dinner, but I wanted to go ahead and share it since I feel another wave of good cooking juju coming on and I don’t want it to get buried. This was the last of the pea shoots, the last Persian cucumber, some nice buckwheat soba, a half pound of lump Dungeness crab meat and a maitake mushroom the size of my head. This recipe serves four generously.

Prepare the sauce by combining a splash of shoyu (soy sauce), sake or rice wine, and rice vinegar; a dribble of sesame oil and a glug of mirin; 2 or 3 tbsp of grated ginger and a minced clove of garlic, a couple sprinkles of black sesame seeds and shichimi (nanami togarashi). I didn’t have any left, or I’da added a tsp of yuzu marmalade.

This time I stripped the leaves off the pea shoots and chopped the stems. Blanch in the boiling water with a whole package (8 oz) soba. Slice the cucumber and a scallion thinly and add to the sauce. Break up the maitake into bite-sized pieces and saute until softened in a little light oil (or sesame). Add to the sauce, and ad the crab. Stir very gently (don’t break up that crab). When the soba and pea shoots are cooked (after ~5 minutes), drain and rinse in cold water until they are lukewarm-cool. Strain and toss with sauce/crab/veg mixture. Top with a sprinkle of your favorite furikake (rice seasoning) and shichimi. If you have it, a little grated daikon and wasabi root would be excellent.

Enjoy on a hot day with a cold glass of Kirin or other crisp lager. Ittadakimasu!

Pappardelle al ragù di capriolo (pappardelle with venison ragout)

I’m such a slave to the weather. Two days of rain and it’s practically autumn, as far as I’m concerned. And after seeing the cover of last month’s Saveur around the house for the past 8 weeks, I’ve had carnivorous yearning for a hearty Bolognese. […]

Artichoke heart risotto with nettle-pumpkin seed pesto

I always talk about how I am a whore for good-looking produce, and how I am completely powerless against the imp god of Ambitious Cooking (okay, I made him up, but I implore any one of you to tell me you aren’t his bitch, too). […]

Shrimp rolls with baby heirloom lettuces and refrigerator pickles, or The Odyssey

I have done it. I have created the perfect sandwich. BEHOLD MY CREATION! It is the way, the truth and the light. With an ice-cold Czech pilsner, salt and vinegar potato chips and some quick pickled radishes and Persian cukes, this sandwich is a religious experience. Praise the sandwich! Amen.

Let me tell you more about why this sandwich puts the other sandwich to a blushing shame.

Could it be the homemade mayonnaise, achingly sculpted from free-range organic eggs, white wine vinegar and olive oil from the teats of vestal virgins? Perhaps.

Is it the fresh bronze fennel fronds and parsley flowers plucked directly from my garden’s nether regions (and fresh tarragon and thyme from the uh, store) minced powder-fine with sweet shallot? Could be. Heirloom bunte forellenschuss lettuce and rocket, harvested at the tenderest infancy? Oh yes, that too.

Maybe it’s the pain au levain, with its shattery exterior and gossamer interior, baked fresh atop an ancient megalith. Okay, the stone isn’t really ancient, but it does have cool black stains from a calzone that exploded once.

Vernal sugar snap peas, luscious wild gulf prawn meat, and the mineral serenity of celery join forces in a sandwich fit for gods and heroes, to be supped in the lazy twilight that follows epic battles and lovemaking.

And refrigerator pickles. You, pickle of impatience. Pickle of haste. Quickle.

You are hewn from delicate Persian cucumbers, translucent radishes and hairline slivers of shallot. Your three vinegars are white wine, for elegance; white balsamic, for eloquence; and apple cider, for spunk. You are spiced with the seed of coriander, black mustard, caraway, fennel and celery. You are the salt of the earth (err… of the sea, actually).

O, shrimp roll and refrigerator pickle, for whom I wax majestic: I breathe unto you creation! Now go! Fulfill your destiny and become my dinner. Circle of life and whatnot.

Chrysanthemum salad with poached egg and warm bacon vinaigrette

In the spirit of gilding the (voodoo)lily, I thought I’d take the classic Salade Lyonnaise and take it in a different direction. Instead of the traditional frisée, I used crysanthemum leaves, which are slightly less bitter and impart a green, herbal note to balance the […]

Wild prawn and cod paella with smoked sturgeon and heirloom tomatoes

I craved the lusty sunshine aroma of saffron and of smoky pimentón. I had fresh peppers and flatleaf parsley, a nubile pink brandywine tomato and a bag of rice. I didn’t have any bivalves around, and even though it’s practically not a paella without mussels […]

Garlicky pork noodles with pea shoots

Since I used up all the produce that had been festering in my crisper, of course I had to make another run to Fubonn for some Chinese vegetables. This week, I found some beautiful, verdant pea shoots (dou miao) and some other things that will surface as the week progresses. The pea shoots include the leaves (and the leafy stipules), the tendrils, and the stems. The leaves wilt down like any leafy green vegetable, but the stems and tendrils stay toothsome, a bit like celery. I think if they had been cooked within a day or two of being picked, they would’ve been more succulent.

Even though this dish does have pork, it is very lean, very thinly-sliced, center-cut loin. Can you believe they had whole loins for $15 instead of $40? Normally I don’t bargain-shop meat, but I couldn’t pass this up. My buddy Norm at Eat or Die grew up on a farm in Small Town, USA, and can’t figure out how a farmer can stay in business with those prices (government subsidies, that’s how). I shrugged off the guilt and butchered it into 20 really nice chops. The two ends went into tonight’s dinner.

After all the red meat, I wanted something fresh, garlicky and spicy, and crunchy, but noodly. So I made a quick marinade with splashes of good, dark soy sauce (laochou; a nice thick soy sauce), rice wine and white wine vinegar, and a glug of dark sesame oil; a couple heaping spoonfuls of sambal oelek, oyster sauce and hoisin sauce; 4 or 5 large cloves of garlic, smashed and minced; 2 heaping spoonfuls of grated ginger; a dash of my homemade seven-spice and 5 or 6 cracks of black pepper; a spoonful of sugar and corn starch, and a fat pinch of MSG. Yes, I keep a sack of MSG in my kitchen. It’s 100% pure umami!

Marinate the pork for at least 15 minutes (I was really hungry). Blanch the pea shoots to soften them up a bit. Stir fry the pork with a little sliced onion and cloud ear fungus until sticky (like 5 minutes), then add the sauce and pea shoots and toss to coat. Toss with cooked noodles of your choosing (I used fettucine, because it’s what I had) and sliced scallion. This would also be delicious as a vegetarian dish with tofu and shitakes. I included the cloud ear fungus for crunch, and because I keep a jar of them in my kitchen. Soak them in the cooking pasta water to soften.

I have more ideas for the other half of the pea shoots, so stay tuned!

Braised short ribs and thank-yous

Did I mention that I went in with a coworker on a metric tonne of beef? Well, it was really just like half a grass-fed/finished beeve (yes I learned that term from Michael Pollan) from Mt. Vernon, WA. But the point is I have all […]