Archive | June, 2010

“otsu” ginger sesame soba

30 Jun

Living in San Francisco, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to sweat through a shirt in the stifling summer heat. Thankfully this weekend I traded in the crummy June fog for the blue skies and rolling vined hills of wine country, not to mention 96-degree temps… Pulsing swollen mosquito bites… Hands singed on a hot steering wheel… Fleeting notions of removing one’s sweaty bra…

There are few things that will cool a body’s internal temperature down on stifling days like those. A cold shower, iced tea and “Otsu” Cold Soba Salad.

Grated ginger and Japanese pepper powder add heat to a soy vinaigrette that’s emulsified with sesame oil. Tossed into a chilled bowl of soba noodles, fried tofu, cilantro and scallions, the combo of cool, spicy, crunchy and smooth is enough to trick the body back into perfect equilibrium.

“Otsu” Cold Soba Salad
Adapted from Pomelo restaurant

Serves 4

Ginger-sesame dressing:
* zest of 1 lemon
* 1 1/2 oz. cleaned ginger, thinly sliced
* 1 T. granulated sugar
* 3/4 t. cayenne (I used Nanami Togarashi Japanese Pepper instead)
* 3/4 t. salt (I skipped the salt)
* 1 T. fresh lemon juice
* 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 2 T. canola oil (I used olive)
* 2 T. pure sesame oil

Soba Noodle Salad:
* 1 package (9-10 oz.) soba noodles, cooked and rinsed in cold running water
* 1 block firm tofu, cut to 1/2″ cubes
* 2 T. canola oil
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
* 3 scallions, green and white part, cleaned and thinly sliced
* 1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise then cut across into thin half-moons
* Sprinkle sesame seeds + cilantro sprigs for garnish

In a food processor, combine lemon zest, ginger, sugar, cayenne, and salt and process to a smooth puree; add lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Blend well. Slowly add canola oil and sesame oil until well combined.

Add tofu to a large non-stick skillet without any oil and toss over high heat until all water has evaporated; add canola oil, reduce heat to medium-high and fry, tossing frequently until tofu is firm and bouncy; beware of possible splattering; drain over paper towels; in a large mixing bowl combine drained soba noodles, cilantro, scallions, cucumber and 2-3 oz dressing, toss well; arrange salad in center of large plate and top with fried tofu. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro sprigs.

mangia! mangia!

29 Jun

I remember when Food Network first came on the air in the early 90’s. We used to love watching this terrible show called How To Boil Water hosted by a comedian who just happened to be a single bachelor who needed to be taught literally how to boil a pot of water. His sidekick was a tight-wad female chef instructor completely incapable of understanding humor. There was a sick pleasure we’d derive from watching the poor guy cock up things as simple as spaghetti with jarred tomato sauce.

On the other side of the spectrum, we learned the historic context and proper French technique for hollandaise from the intrepid David Rosengarten and his TV show, Taste. Long before Bravo existed, Rosengarten was rocking a stark all-white, green screened set — he was clearly ahead of his time in all aspects. Rosengarten was my first exposure to someone who was unabashedly obsessed with food and the study of it. “Life is a matter of taste,” Rosengarten would declare at the end of each episode.

Though Taste is long gone (not sure why Food Network doesn’t bring back the reruns, or hello, can we get this on Netflix?), Rosengarten has forged on in his gastronomic odyssey with the revival of the Rosengarten Report, a subscription only culinary e-zine (!!!?!!) that costs $60/year for 12 online issues. While I am intrigued to read “The Growing Phenomenon of Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil: Why It’s Much Better When It’s Young, and Where to Find the Very Best New Oils of Harvest 2009,” I’d rather save my 60-bucks for actually purchasing good olive oil.

In my reminiscing about Taste, I came across the above video made recently by Rosengarten. In it, he takes us on a journey to formulate the perfect old-school Italian red sauce (his secret: a roasted, then fried eggplant blended into the classic tomato/garlic mix).

I made my own variation with some leftover fresh tomato sauce, and it was every bit as delicious as he says. Watch the video for the recipe!

a year in food

28 Jun

52 weeks ago, a couple of trailblazing cooks launched a website called food52. The first of its kind, food52’s aim was to create a completely crowd-sourced cookbook within the span of a year.

Each week, the internet universe was invited to submit their best recipe for the proposed ingredient, dish or theme — for example Your Best Beets, Your Best Caesar Salad, or Your Best Use of Lemon, Thyme and a Grill. Amanda and Merrill (of NYT fame) would then shuffle through the entries, test them, and post two finalists for readers to vote on. All winning recipes will soon be published as a hardback cookbook.

As you can imagine, I’ve been quietly stalking this website all year trying out recipes here and there. I just love it when people figure out neat ways to adapt technology to make the old new again. Some of my most cherished cookbooks (I own over thirty) are spiral bound, single print run collections put together by a bunch of moms for a school or church fundraiser. The magic of food52 is that it captures this sense of “community’s best” on a grand and gourmet scale.

Of the dishes I’ve tried out over the past year, I think this simple recipe for Your Best Broccoli was an unexpectedly delicious surprise. Try it! Don’t worry, it tastes a million times better than my sad photo.

Roasted Bagna Cauda Broccoli

* 1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
* 3 tablespoons butter
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 anchovy fillets
* a splash of white wine
* a big squeeze of lemon, preferably Meyer
* Parmesan cheese, for dusting
* 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
* salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 425. Arrange broccoli florets on a Silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20-25 minutes and remove.

In a small skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and anchovy and saute for about three minutes. Add wine and lemon and allow to reduce for a minute or two. Season with black pepper if desired.

Meantime, in another small skillet over medium heat, toast almonds until they are lightly browned, taking care not to burn them.

Drizzle sauce and sprinkle almonds and parmesan cheese over broccoli, then serve. Or, dip the broccoli in the sauce at the table.


25 Jun

The other day I noticed the neighbor’s cat walking along the top of a fence. He ventured out for a bit and discovered a pole leaning against the fence on the other side. He paused, peering down at the pole for a good minute or two, then turned around and walked back.

Curiosity killed the cat? Not today.

guava chiffon cake

21 Jun

There are few things in life more satisfying than baking the perfect layered cake: Climbing a mountain. Cold beer on a hot day. The fact that I have not been able to master the perfect layered cake is not so much a bane, but a blindfolded chase… like a game of marco polo where I am flapping my spatula wildly at no one in particular. Of course, I could just go to pastry school or try what I am sure is a “fool-proof” recipe from Alton Brown.

I’ll have none of that, thank you very much. No, instead I had my sights set on the famed Guava Chiffon Cake from Dee Lite Bakery in Hawaii. It’s a ridiculously girly cake with light-as-air pink guava infused chiffon layers, whipped cream frosting and a generous slathering of guava topping. Dee Lite’s recipe has been kept under lock and key since 1959, so even my advanced internet scouring turned up nothing but botched attempts and recipes with a clear thumbs down.

I decided to frankenstein three recipes together: 1) modified Filipino Pandan Chiffon Cake recipe, 2) Stabilized Whipped Cream Icing recipe, and 3) Guava Gel recipe. I baked the cakes in two 8″ rounds, frosted the middle with both whipped cream and guava gel, then frosted the exterior with more whipped cream and the rest of the guava gel topping.

We blazed up the cake for Bubby’s birthday. And yes, I served it on a pizza stone with wax paper on top. Someone remarked that it looked like a giant spicy tuna roll.

The verdict: Great guava flavor, light and airy frosting (didn’t melt!), but the cake was a bit more dense than the original at Dee Lite. I also probably could have tried a little harder on the presentation front and trimmed the brown off the cakes before stacking, plus a piping kit would have been nice! In sum, I’d give myself a spatula on the back for this attempt, but the quest to bake the perfect layered cake will continue on.

guava chiffon cake

* 1 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 1/3 cups cake flour, unsifted
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 5 egg yolks
* 2 eggs
* 3/4 cup guava juice concentrate, thawed, undiluted
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil
* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 2-3 drops red food coloring
* 5 egg whites
* 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Adjust rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in 5 egg yolks, 2 whole eggs, guava juice, oil and vanilla extract until the batter is just smooth.

In a standing mixer, beat egg whites until foamy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until the whites are very thick and stiff, just short of dry, 5 to 7 minutes.

With large rubber spatula, fold a third of the whites into the batter until no streaks remain. Fold in the rest of the whites.

Pour the batter into two ungreased 8″ round pans lined with parchment paper. Tap the pan against the counter five times to break up any air pockets.

Bake in a 325F oven for Bake 35-40 minutes or until a thin skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately turn the cake upside down to cool. Let cake hang until completely cold, about 2 hours.

To unmold, turn pan upright. Run frosting spatula or thin knife around pan’s circumference between cake and pan wall, always pressing against the pan.

stabilized whipped cream icing

* 2 teaspoons gelatin
* 4 teaspoons cold water
* 1 cup heavy whipping cream
* 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chill mixing bowl and beaters for at least 15 minutes before using. Place water in a small microwave-safe bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over water and allow to soften 5 minutes.

Dissolve gelatin by microwaving for 2 minutes, stirring after every minute. Remove from microwave and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes; gelatin must be liquid but not warm when added to cream.

Remove bowl and beaters from refrigerator and pour in cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat together just until beater marks begin to show distinctly.

Add gelatin mixture to cream, pouring in a steady stream while beating constantly. Beat until stiff peaks form. Use immediately.

guava gel

* 2 C Guava juice
* 1/2 C Sugar
* 1/4 C Cornstarch

In a medium sauce pan, bring the 2 cups guava juice and sugar to a boil. Make a paste out of the cornstarch and a small amount of water. Remove guava juice from heat and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Return to heat and bring back to a boil and boil for one minute. Cool in refrigerator.

carrots with bacon, rosemary and honey

20 Jun

In my ideal world, Sundays revolve around the preparation of a huge meal, preferably consumed outdoors in the leisurely company of family. This Sunday got me feeling particularly sentimental, today being Father’s Day. “Everyone else” (at least according to my Facebook news feed) was busy having the ‘best father’s day, ever’ prancing about in parks and on serene shorelines. For the rest of us, there’s comfort in a great Sunday supper of a perfectly cooked steak with dressed-up side of carrots.

carrots with bacon, rosemary and honey
a brilliant sidedish adapted from Epicurious

* 2 slices bacon, diced
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 pound carrots (about 4 large), peeled, cut into diagonal chunks
* Coarse kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
* 1 tablespoon honey

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon until almost browned. Add carrots. Sprinkle with coarse kosher salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to brown at edges, about 12 minutes.

Add butter, rosemary, and honey to vegetables. Toss over medium heat until heated through and vegetables are glazed, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if desired.