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.

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let’s go fishing: 3 fish recipes

13 Sep

The older I get, the more nostalgic I tend to be about days gone by. Especially when it comes to TV.

I’m finding myself a little misty-eyed as I watch this old episode of Fishing Tales with Mike Sakamoto, a super local Hawaiian fishing show and favorite of my grandpa’s in the ’80s. Grandpa would whistle happily along to the “Let’s Go Fishing” theme song as he was in the kitchen cooking dinner–at times preparing fish that he had caught himself fishing that day.

I don’t pretend to be as talented of a fish cook as my grandpa, but I do like to experiment with a “fresh catch” from the Berkeley Bowl now and then. Here are three of my latest endeavors: 1) Classic Misoyaki Butterfish, 2) Baked Sockeye Salmon with Capers, 3) Lazy Ono (wahoo) with Scorched Tomatoes.

1. Misoyaki Butterfish is a no-brainer. You’ll see this served at many restaurants these days as Miso Black Cod. I can’t say I really care which fish it is, I just love any fatty oily white fish marinated overnight in miso, sake and sugar, broiled until lusciously caramelized. Your chopsticks will slide elegantly between each flaky layer of fish, right into your mouth. The secret is to wipe off all of the marinate before you cook it, otherwise caramelization will not occur!

2. I found this recipe for Baked Sockeye Salmon with Capers on Epicurious–it was all an elaborate excuse to utilize my new iPad in the kitchen. I had purchased two lovely vibrant pink filets of wild sockeye salmon from Berkeley Bowl and dug through my pantry to cobble together a recipe. While not the most gourmet recipe, you can’t really mess up impeccably fresh salmon with a bit of garlic, evoo, and capers.

3. I was tired and hungry after work one evening, when I happened upon Trader Joe’s frozen Hawaiian Ono (wahoo) steaks. I improvised a quick pan sear, then scorched some grape tomatoes in the crusty pan. I buttered up the pan juices and poured the lot of buttery brine over my pasta. Happiness!

1. misoyaki butterfish
japanese comfort food at its best

* 1-2 lbs filets of butterfish (makes enough marinade for 2 lbs, but I made just 1 lb for 2 people and really slathered it on)
* 3/4 cup white shiro miso
* 2 T red miso (optional or use more white)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup sake
* 1/4 cup mirin
* 1 tsp soy sauce

Combine miring, sake, and sugar in a small pot. Bring to a simmer stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 2-3 minutes, until all the alcohol burns off. Remove from heat, and add soy sauce to stop boiling. Slowly add the miso and mix until sauce is creamy. Do not ever boil miso. Once the sauce is cool, coat all sides of your fish and place into a glass baking dish or ziploc bag. Marinate for at least 24 hours for thin filets, or 2-3 days for thicker black cod steaks.

Preheat oven to 450-degrees. Wipe the marinate completely off of the fish (this is important to achieve caramelization, and bake 5-8 minutes. When fish seems almost cooked, broil for an additional 2-3 minutes until well caramelized. Serves 2-4.

2. baked sockeye salmon with capers
salty, briny, garlicy
* 2 lbs wild sockeye salmon filets
* 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 2 tablespoons capers
* 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
* salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°.

Wash the fish in cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Coat a baking dish with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Lay the salmon down in the pan, skin side facing down. Distribute the capers and garlic slices between the filets. Sprinkle with a liberal quantity of salt and black pepper. Pour the remaining olive oil over the fish. Put the dish in the preheated oven and cook for 16 minutes. Let it stand for a few minutes before serving. Serves 4.

3. lazy ono with scorched tomatoes
simple evening din din from trader joes into your belly

* 1 or 2 ono (wahoo) steaks about 1/2 inch thick
* large handful of grape tomatoes
* olive oil
* knob of butter
* salt and pepper
* cooked pasta

Drizzle olive oil all over the ono steak, then sprinkle on salt and fresh cracked pepper on both sides.

Preheat a pan on med-high and cook the steaks 4 to 5 minutes each side. Ono is a quick cooking fish, so be sure not to over cook it! Once the ono is cooked, remove and plate it with the cooked pasta.

Add grape tomatoes to the pan you cooked the fish in, and roll the tomatoes around until they’re scorched on all sides. I like to squish a few of them to create a juice that deglazes the fish crusties in the pan–rub the brown fond with a spatula until mixed with the tomato juices. When the tomatoes are soft, add a knob of butter. Once melted, pour everything over your fish and pasta. Serves 1.

not so healthy turkey spinach meatloaf (hint: bacon)

8 Sep

I had all the best intentions. I was going to make a healthy version of meatloaf. J and I had watched this Chow video on Roku with the recipe for what promised to be the most delicious meatloaf, ever. A meatloaf infused with spinach and swathed in bacon for the moistest log of meat you’d ever seen.

I took a risk. Instead of using the prescribed combination of ground beef, pork, and veal, I selected turkey (*gasp*). Meatloaf, no. Foulloaf, maybe? J was bugging me to cook more healthy meat, so this was our compromise: turkey wrapped in bacon.

Though a bit tedious (you gotta get out a blender), this recipe produced a luscious loaf even with my substitution of turkey. I also like that you pat the mixture into a loaf pan instead free forming it.

The turkey oozed a layer of fatty scum that enveloped the beautiful slices of bacon preventing them from becoming golden brown–that was pretty much the only downside. The bacon flavor still penetrated as I hoped it would. I also opted for a pre-made Trader Joe’s organic pomodoro sauce and it blended right in as if I had made it be scratch, too. Definitely delicious, but it’ll be real meat next time.

spinach meatloaf
from the new new york times cookbook, via chow + foul

* 1 (10-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
* 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey (or a combination of veal, beef, and pork if you prefer)
* 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
* 1 medium garlic clove, minced
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
* 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* 1/2 cup small-dice celery
* 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves
* 1/4 cup whole milk
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
* 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 3 bacon slices
* Tomato sauce, warmed, for serving

Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Rinse the spinach well in cold water and drain. Place in a large frying pan, cover, and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. (It is not necessary to add liquid; the spinach will cook in the water clinging to the leaves.)

Transfer the spinach to a colander and douse with cold water to chill. Drain and press with your hands to extract most of the moisture. Coarsely chop the spinach.

Place the meat in a large bowl, followed by the chopped spinach, breadcrumbs, garlic, measured salt and pepper, and nutmeg (no need to mix yet); set aside.

Place the celery, parsley, and milk in a blender and blend until puréed. Add to the meat mixture.

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat until foaming. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Add to the meat mixture.

Add the eggs to the meat mixture and, using clean hands, mix everything until evenly combined (don’t squeeze or overwork the mixture). If desired, test for seasoning by forming a small patty and cooking it in the small skillet over medium heat until no longer pink inside. Taste the patty and add more salt and pepper to the meat mixture as needed. Repeat the seasoning test as needed.

Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, spread to the edges, and smooth out the top. Cover the meatloaf with the bacon slices, laying them lengthwise and side by side.

Bake in the oven until just cooked through, turning the pan 180 degrees halfway through, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Pour off the excess fat and let the meatloaf stand for 20 minutes before slicing. If you choose, serve with tomato sauce.

more of that other white meat: pork loin and pomegranate

10 Aug

If you know me, you’re probably familiar with my disdain for chicken. The only white meat I’ll eat is oinkin’ delicious swine — so there.

Pork loin is pretty much the leanest, healthiest cut that can come from a pig, and therefore it’s often cooked to dry chewy oblivion. In case that happens (as it often happens to me), nothing masks your booboo better than a delightfully complex sauce. It must be the Frenchwomen in me.

pork loin and pomegranate sauce
from the pages of gourmet magazine, cause i’m fancy sometimes

* 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
* 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
* 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 pork tenderloins (each about 3/4 pound)
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 cup plain pomegranate juice
* 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
* 1 tablespoon water
* 1 to 2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Stir together cumin, coriander, pepper, cinnamon, and salt in a shallow bowl. Pat tenderloins dry and dredge in spice mixture until evenly coated.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Reduce heat to moderate and cook pork, turning occasionally, until meat is browned on all sides and thermometer inserted diagonally into center of each tenderloin registers 145°F, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pork with tongs to a cutting board (reserve skillet) and let stand 10 minutes.

While pork stands, pour off and discard any fat from skillet, then add pomegranate juice to skillet and boil over moderately high heat until reduced to about 2/3 cup, about 3 minutes (if side of skillet begins to scorch, reduce heat to moderate). Stir together cornstarch and water and whisk into juice, then boil sauce until thickened slightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and add Sherry vinegar to taste, then swirl in butter until incorporated. Pour sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and skim off any fat. Season with salt. Slice pork and serve with sauce.

how not to make flan

1 Aug

I don’t know how to make flan.
I still don’t know how to make flan.

But, this recipe is super easy, and it came out pretty well—it’s worth a shot if you have a passion for custard.

Fail 1: I opted to stir the caramel as it was bubbling… I don’t know why I did it, I know how to make caramel! At any rate, it thickened out of control, and I poured it off into a hot baking pan. After a moment of indecision, I poured my custard into the hot baking pan on top of the custard—no curdles to be seen—and foiled tight.

Fail 2: I think I left my pan in the oven slightly longer than recommended (blame it on the wine), so the outer ring of my flan was a bit bubbly and scrambled egg-like. The center was creamy and the caramel was dark and delicious. The trickiest thing was deciding on the doneness of the caramel, and if it would be okay to pour the custard right over the hot caramel.

At unveil, the flan clung to the pan and a small section ripped out upon inversion. Luckily, the deluge of caramel sauce that followed handily masked the botch…flan-tastic!

really easy flan
don’t flan-it-up (like me)

* 1 cup white sugar
* 3 eggs
* 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
* 1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt sugar until liquefied and golden in color. Carefully pour hot syrup into a 9 inch round glass baking dish, turning the dish to evenly coat the bottom and sides. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs. Beat in condensed milk, evaporated milk and vanilla until smooth. Pour egg mixture into baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake in preheated oven 60 minutes. Let cool completely. To serve, carefully invert on serving plate with edges when completely cool. Serves 8.

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.