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green bean, corn, tomato and farro salad

28 Jul

green_bean_saladHow’s your summer going? Mine was seeming rather BLAH until a new farmer’s market set up shop on the blustery blocks of my hood. What can I say, it just makes me feel super San Franciscan to traipse over with my reusable shopping bags and Square purchase seasonal organic veggies and free range meats from my local farmers, and see photos of the goats whom I am to thank for my afternoon cheese snack. And, so what if I want to wash it all down with a mason jar of fresh El Diablo juice?!

I was summoned for a baby dinner and offered to bring a salad. Here was the scene:

baby_hi_five

You know, babies just hanging out. Giving toe-fives and sucking breast. Even the bundt cakes were for babies or something:

mini_bundt_cakesAs it happened, I had nabbed a bag of crisp green beans and a few ears of corn from the farmers market, which inspired a toothsome salad packed with the flavors of the season.

green bean, corn, tomato and farro salad
summer haul done right

2 lbs of green beans, trimmed and cut into the bite sizes
3 ears of corn, cut from the cob
2 large tomatoes or a few small ones
1 cup of farro
handful of cilantro
handful of basil
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 c. champagne vinegar
1/3 c. good olive oil
1 tsp. dijon mustard

Cook the farro and cool. Blanch the green beans for a couple minutes and plunge into an ice bath; drain. Blanch the corn for a minute and plunge into an ice bath; drain.

Toss green beans, corn and farro together in large bowl. Chop the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces and add to bowl. Chop the cilantro and basil roughly, then add to the bowl.

To make the dressing, smash garlic cloves and place into a small mixing bowl. Add vinegar, olive oil, mustard, lots of salt and pepper and whisk until emulsified.

30 minutes prior to serving, pour the dressing over salad and mix well. Serves 8.

kale salad with apples and pecorino

24 Jul

20111227-100214.jpg

Yikes! Just found this draft on my iPad WordPress app from a year ago! Still seems legit, so enjoy…

My grandma is really into wearing “batwing” sweaters, which are immensely popular right now (she’s been wearing them since the 80’s when they were last trendy). Like fashion, what’s old is always new again in gastronomy. Brussels sprouts are on every menu, anchovies are back on pizzas, and kale salad is the new arugula salad.

I was turned on to this particular recipe around Memorial Day, when my friend B, a New Yorker, prepared this on our annual girls weekend in Big Sur. We had procured beautiful salmon steaks, sweet summer corn, artichokes, and bunches of kale from a farmer’s stand. B had been obsessively making this Kale Salad recipe on Food52 for several months and was convinced we’d love it, too.

We hated it! I may have likened eating her raw kale leaf concoction to chewing leathery cardboard. Raw kale…seriously?!

It wasn’t until September that I noticed a pre-packaged, pre-dressed kale salad being sold at Berkeley Bowl and decided to give my leathery friend another taste. Dressed like an Asian slaw with red cabbage, carrots, sesame seeds and a rice vinaigrette, this kale salad was far less intimidating and absolutely delicious.

The difference? This salad had been sitting on the shelf fully dressed for several hours and the acid in the dressing had broken down the tough kale leaves into a palatable texture similar to a thin cabbage leaf — crispy and fresh, yet perfectly infused with dressing.

Inspired by my discovery, I retried B’s salad and let it sit for several hours before nibbling. One bite, and my prejudice against raw kale changed forever. The salad was even great the next day!

kale salad with apples and pecorino
warning: this WILL leave you with suboptimal breath

* 5 cups curly kale, torn into small pieces, thick stems removed
* 2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the bias
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
* juice of 1/2 of a lemon
* salt & pepper
* 1 apple
* 1/4 cup hazelnuts, chopped and toasted (I left these out)
* 1/4 cup pecorino romano or parmesan, shaved

In a large bowl, combine the kale, onions, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands to really blend the dressing and rub it into the greens. Let the salad sit while you prepare the rest.

Core the apple. Thinly slice from stem to end. Add the apples to the salad and gently fold together so they don’t break in half. Taste and adjust seasonings. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts and cheese shavings.

ottolenghi’s soba noodles with eggplant and mango

10 Oct


Lately I’ve noticed more and more of my friends and their kids have grown allergies to certain kinds of food: dairy, gluten, nuts, fruit, chocolate (sad!), etc. I don’t know if science has improved allowing us to identify specific allergies, or if it’s a result of over processing our food to the point where our bodies begin to reject everything. Thankfully, the only thing I’m sure my body doesn’t agree with is Indian food, but that’s another story.

So when it comes to potluck parties, I always try to bring a dish everyone can enjoy sans epipen. With a vegetarian on the guest list, I turned to my newest cookbook acquisition, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, famous in the UK for his gourmet food-to-go shops and vegetarian column in The Guardian.

I’m a huge eggplant fan. Any Asian variety will do–I just cannot stand the standard American-Italian fatties that are chock-full of hard seeds. I scooped up a giant bag of six Chinese eggplants on the discount shelf of the Chinese grocery store. 3-bucks…SCORE! I also found ripe mangos (you definitely need ripe ones for the sweetness) in the discount bin for a buck. Old school Chinese!

I let this baby sit and marinate in its juices for the 2 hours as directed and wow, did the flavor intensify! The noodles got a little mushy too, so I’d say an hour max.

soba noodles with eggplant and mango
vegetarian brits make great asian food? yes.

* 1/2 cup rice vinegar
* 3 T sugar
* 1/2 t salt
* 2 garlic cloves
* 1/2 fresh red chile, finely chopped
* 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
* grated zest and juice of 1 lime
* 1 cup sunflower oil
* 2 eggplants, cut into 3/4-inch dice
* 8 to 9 oz soba noodles
* 1 large ripe mango, cut into 1/4-inch thick strips
* 1 and 2/3 cups basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some use Thai basil, but much less of it)
* 2 and 1/2 cups cilantro leaves, chopped
* 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chili and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

chawanmushi: savory japanese custard

25 Jul

My Chinese grandma always made delicate, silky, steamed egg custard in a large ramen bowl that she would swirl a spoonful of oyster sauce over before serving. We’d scoop a jiggly portion onto our rice to eat alongside our meal.

The Japanese have their own version called chawanmushi, which is served in individual lidded cups at the conclusion of a meal. Traditionally, each cup of custard contains a piece of shrimp, chicken, ginko nut, and vegetable such as mushroom or snow pea.

Recently, J and I decided to try our hand at a mushroom chawanmushi as part of our Shabu Sunday ritual. Since we were boiling a large pot of water for our shabu shabu, we steamed the chawanmushi in the same pot beforehand.

Unlike the Chinese-style steamed custard, chawanmushi uses dashi stock and sake instead of chicken broth, plus a little soy sauce and sugar.

The secret to making any great custard is proper cooking. For steamed eggs, you want to put your heatproof dish in at a high boil, then a couple minutes later, turn it down to low—or completely turn it off, as my grandma does—and let it slowly cook for the majority of the cooking time.

Traditionalists will also tell you to gently whisk the eggs with a pair of chopsticks in a figure-8 pattern for an hour, so no bubbles form, but I tend to believe a quick pour through a fine mesh sieve and a skim with a spoon does just as well. When you add mushrooms as we did, you can hardly tell where any bubbles form on the surface.

Our first time around, our chawanmushi came our flawlessly. Silky, delicate heavenly spoonfuls of custard and perfectly plump mushrooms. Like sunshine in a cup!
chawanmushi: savory japanese custard
sunshine in a cup

* 3 eggs
* 2 cup dashi soup stock
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 tsp soy sauce
* 1 tsp sugar
* 1 tsp sake
* 1/2 cup enoki mushrooms or 4 shiitake mushrooms, stem removed and thinly sliced

Lightly beat eggs in a large bowl. Try not to bubble the eggs. Mix cool dashi soup stock, soy sauce, salt, sake, and sugar in another bowl. Add the dashi mixture in the egg mixture gradually. Strain the egg mixture.

Put mushrooms in four chawanmushi cups. Fill each cup to 3/4 full with the egg mixture. Cover the cups.

Preheat a steamer on high heat. Carefully place cups in the steamer and steam on high heat for three minutes. Turn down the heat to low and steam for about 10-15 minutes or until custard is set. Serves 4.

mom’s spicy gobo

18 Jul

One of my favorite questions to ask: “If you had to eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

I’ve heard a range of answers, but most Asians, including myself, agree the only logical answer is Japanese food: sushi, ramen, izakaya, bento boxes, yakitori, donburi, chawanmushi, shabu shabu, curry, mochi, green tea ice cream… the variety is immense and the favors range from homey to refined.

Of the many Japanese munchies I love, spicy gobo (also known as burdock root), is a toothsome side dish–perfectly salty, a little crunchy and spicy to boot. I love it as a vegetable side for any Japanese-inspired meal.

Gobo is a fibrous root vegetable that tastes like a very earthy potato. You’ll find it in the grocery store in 1-2 foot lengths with a brown hairy exterior. You need peel it and slice it into matchsticks for this stir-fried recipe. You can also cut it into thicker diagonal disks for cooking in stews like Kabocha, Pork & Gobo Stew. Either way, gobo is delicious, healthy, and Japanese(!), so you should try it.

mom’s spicy gobo
root-toot-toot!

1/2 lb. gobo root (peeled, silvered and soaked in water for 15 mins)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon dried shrimp, soaked to soften then drained
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
dash of black pepper
1 large carrot, julienned (optional)

Sauté shrimp in oil on high heat in a large skillet.
Drain the gobo and add to pan with shrimp. Stir fry for about two minutes, then add all other ingredients and cook over medium heat until the liquid is absorbed. Test gobo — it should be firm, but comfortably chewable. Serve as a side dish for two.

momofuku’s tomato tofu caprese salad

16 Jul

I love eating garnishes. Growing up, we often ate dinner at Zippy’s—a popular diner chain in Hawaii. Typically, I’d order the “Broasted Chicken” kid’s plate (don’t ask my why they call it ‘Broasted,’ it’s just fried) and my grandparents would order spaghetti or a mushroom burger upgraded to the “complete meal,” which included a drink and Jello or pudding.

I coveted the adult “complete meal,” especially for its grown-up adornments – a dark green curly-leafed parsley bush accenting each plate or pickle spear and black olive duo tossed wayside a burger. In my most annoying kid voice, I’d shriek, “can I have that?!”

As an adult dining at high-end sushi joints, I adore sashimi of mild, white fish nestled on a delicate shiso leaf. Unlike the plastic grass comb in a cheap bento box, shiso leaves are a prized garnish – thin like tissue, but intense in flavor. This bright green leaf with a jagged edge is sold for upwards of $0.50 per leaf at specialty grocery stores like Berkeley Bowl. The Japanese use it namely to garnish sashimi and sushi, though also pickled with ume. Shiso’s tomato-meets-mint flavor is uniquely pungent, and somewhat of an acquired taste.

Recently, I went to see Momofuku’s David Chang at the launch party of his new food magazine published by the McSweeney’s gang. Lucky Peach is a wonderful ode to literarily inclined rebel chefs turned author/tv personalities. In a transcribed conversation between Chang, Anthony Bourdain, and Wiley Du Fray, the three ridicule the non-talent of simplistic, local-ingredient focused menus—an assertation they can back up with their own cuisine successes.

For example, Momofuku’s Tofu, Tomato, and Shiso Salad—an Asian twist on Capri’s famed tomato, mozzarella and Basil combination. Brilliant! I don’t need much of a reason to go buy shiso in the first place, so this recipe was the perfect excuse. Instead of cherry tomatoes, I used sweet heirlooms and the very best locally-made medium-firm tofu. The result? An airy salad, sweet, salty and acidic with the soy vinaigrette. Perfect for a summer meal.

momofuku’s tomato tofu caprese salad
a salad that meets my high garnishing standards

One 12-ounce block silken tofu, drained
2 pints (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds) mixed cherry tomatoes (I opted for normal heirlooms)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon usukuchi (light soy sauce – I used regular)
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 shiso leaves, stacked atop one another, rolled into a tight cigar, and thinly sliced crosswise

I didn’t bother to cut the tofu nicely, but if you want to:
With your knife blade parallel to the cutting board, cut the block of tofu in half. Using a 2- to 2 1/2-inch ring mold (or a narrow straight-sided glass), cut cylinders of tofu out of each slab. Carefully turn each cylinder on its side and slice in half, yielding 8 rounds of tofu. Save the tofu scraps for another use.

I also skipped skinning the tomatoes, but if you want to:
Bring a large saucepan of salted water into a boil. Prepare an ice batch in a large mixing bowl. Cut a tiny X or slash into the bottom of about two-thirds of the tomatoes. Drop them, in batches, into the boiling water, and after 10 seconds, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the ice bath to cool. Slip the skin off the blanched tomatoes, put them in a bowl, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining cherry tomatoes in half.

Stir together the vinegar, soy sauce and sesame and grapeseed oils in a large mixing bowl. Add all the tomatoes and toss to coat.

To serve, place 2 slices of tofu in each of four shallow serving bowls, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Top each portion with about a cup of dressed tomatoes, season with a pinch of salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper, and garnish, generously with the shiso chiffonade. I went the stacked route (see pic). Serves 4.

japchae: yummy korean noodles

13 Apr

Whenever I start a new job, my biggest concern is food. Feeding times. Snacks. Packing lunches. How my hours will affect weeknight dinner plans. What can I say, I’m a primate and I gotta EAT!

As an adieu to the fancy weeknight cooking I’ve become accustomed to working from home for the past year, I whipped up one fabulous weeknight “last supper” — Chinese-style steamed halibut, sauteed pea shoots, sukjunamul, and a Korean-style noodle dish called japchae.

This kind of Chinese-Korean hodgepodge meal is my favorite, probably because I am a hodgepodge of these ethnicities myself. Add a couple sides of kimchi or sashimi, and you’ll find me clapping with excitement.

I had never attempted japchae before, but it seemed pretty straightforward — sweet potato noodles, veggies, and some beef. I happened to have a scattering of leftover veggies and beef from Shabu Sunday (a new tradition), so this recipe also helped clean out the fridge!

japchae: korean noodles
chewy happy food

* 8 ounces sweet potato noodles
* 1/2 bunch spinach (about 4 ounces), rinsed and trimmed
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 6 ounces beef rib-eye, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick strips
* 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
* 1/4 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
* 4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
* 1 carrot, julienned
* 3 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths, whites halved and separated
* 1/4 cup sugar (I used agave nectar to avoid dissolving issues)
* Toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Cook the sweet potato noodles in a large pot of boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Be sure not to overcook the noodles, or they will lose their chewy texture. If you like, cut the noodles with scissors into 6- to 7-inch lengths for easier eating.

Blanch the spinach in boiling water. Rinse immediately under cold water, squeeze the water from the leaves and form into a ball, and then cut the ball in half. Combine the spinach, half the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of the sesame oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Set aside to let the flavors soak in.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, the remaining garlic, 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce, and 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Stir-fry until the beef is cooked, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, mushrooms, and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the green onions and stir-fry for another minute. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the noodles, beef mixture, spinach, remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, and the sugar. Serve warm, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Serves 4 to 5 as a side dish. Adapted from Quick and Easy Korean Cooking.