Thursday, July 12, 2007

heat wave denial food

Yes it has been hot. I'm not sure if I have any readers, but if I do they are probably in the Northeast, so they know we are having a heatwave. Although I don't have air conditioning, or even much in the way of air circulation; and despite my tendency for developing heat and dehydration-related migraines; I seemed to ignore the heat as far as cooking was concerned. Some would call it stupid. I call it stupid. But the food was pretty good.
After breaking a toe last week I kept it simple for a few days, only eating things with some pesto I had made on the first day, ATB(Anno Toe Breaking). It was good pesto, a real trooper, especially in the potato and wax bean salad I dressed with it.
But then I realized I was out of ingredients so I limped up to the greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza on Saturday, which led to these things:

Saturday Dinner: P'ajon Party

Squid and Garlic Scape P'ajon with Cucumber Salad and Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce.
As you know, I love pancakes, and probably eat too many of them. But you may not know that I love pretty much every international pancake variation(and not just Rooty-Tooty Fresh and Fruity) especially savory Asian pancakes. I had been wanting p'ajon, the vegetable and sometimes seafood rice flour pancakes of Korean cuisine. I have never attempted to make them, but they seemed easy enough, and Bittman's take on them in The Best Recipes in the World is a good jumping off point. Plus I had some squid, and I thought that the garlic scapes I had might be a good thing to throw in too(I also added a few minced broccoli leaves).
They were good, but because I didn't have any glutinous rice flour, I used Browned(not brown) Rice Flour, a Vietnamese product which is exactly what it says it is. It was a little too strongly browned, and made the pancakes slightly burnt tasting. I should have used more all-purpose flour-to-BRF. Next time. I ate it with a lightly-dressed vinegar and cucumber salad and sweetened soy sauce.

Sunday Breakfast: BEC, ATB

Bacon, Egg and Cheese with Fried Tomato.
Wicklow bacon, Tello's eggs, Cato Corner Dutch Farmstead cheese, and somebody's tomato on the last two July 4th hamburger rolls. Yum.

Sunday Dinner: Surprisingly Un-Mucilaginous Salad

Warm Okra Salad with Tomatoes, Shallots, Marjoram
Okra cooked in an almost dry cast-iron pan until browned in places, golden cherry tomatoes and sauteed shallots; with fresh marjoram and apple cider vinegar. Local okra is really good. This came from Maxwell's at the GAP Greenmarket.

Monday Dinner: First-time Artichokes

Cut Egg Pasta with Artichokes and Basil
This is the best pasta I have made yet. Perfect texture. Cut into large-ish diamonds. With a sauce of chopped baby artichokes, shallots, butter and olive oil; plus some pecorino romano and African Blue Basil on top. I had never cooked an artichoke before, much less eaten a locally grown one. If you have the opportunity, please take it.

Tuesday Breakfast: Pancake Heaven

Yellow Cornmeal Pancakes with Fresh Peaches and the Last of the Homemade Butter
Just good. I will put up a recipe once I figure out the proportions I used. Cornmeal, Unbleached Pastry Flour, Evaporated Cane Juice, Salt, Egg, Baking Soda. With a peach sliced and sprinkled with a little sugar then left to sit for 15 minutes or so. Great peach.

Tuesday Process: Dumbest Idea Yet.

Duck Confit

Tuesday was the high point of the heat wave. Heat Index around 105. Watermelon? Pasta Salad? No. Duck Confit. Late Monday night I trimmed the two ducklegs I had in the freezer and rubbed them with a mix of salt, long pepper, bay leaves, and marjoram. I rendered down the trimmed fat and threw it into the fridge.
Tuesday around 3 I preheated the oven and put the ducklegs(cleaned of most of the salt mixture) and some shallots in a ceramic baking dish, and poured the duck fat and a little lard over the duck, making up the difference to cover with grapeseed oil. Four hours later I had duck confit, easily one of the most delicious things in all existence. I removed the legs and wrapped them up in tin foil, and poured the fat/oil in to a jar to save for the next confiting(or for some intense sauteing). Yow.

Then I made...

Tuesday Dinner: No Idea Whatsoever

Broccoli with Lardons, Shallots, Shishito Pepper, Agrodolce and a Poached Egg
I don't know where this came from. Sauteed broccoli, shallots, crisp bacon chunks, with an agrodolce(Italian style vinegar-based sweet and sour sauce) made in the pan. With a poached egg and some pink salt on top.

Wednesday Breakfast: Patience is Rewarded

Crepes with Duck Confit, Dutch Farmstead Cheese and Yellow Tomato Sauce
Excellent. Traditional crepe batter, shredded duck confit, cheese. Threw some yellow cherry tomatoes into boiling water for a few minutes, then zipped them, plus a shallot and marjoram, with the immersion blender. Recipe to come soon.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness

I broke my toe. It wouldn't bother me so much if market day wasn't coming up so soon. But for now I'm just staying off of my foot. Now for the rundown.

Sunday Dinner: Lots of Vegetables

Tomato and Avocado Squash Terrine with Mint Gelée,Olive Oil and Pomegranate Molasses; Bulghur, Lollo Rossa Lettuce and Basil with Pistachios and Sumac
Avocado squash is like a denser, sweeter, drier zucchini. I threw the squash slices into a hot cast-iron pan for a minute to soften them up. I hadn't planned on the mint gelée, and it probably wasn't necessary. But it was interesting, and I had to try making it at least once. But it was good, and the salad too.

Rocambole Garlic, Garlic Scape and Spinach Soup with a Poached Egg, Chickpea Flour Dumpling, Sheep's Milk Yogurt.

This was good. Rocambole is one of the varieties of hardneck garlic. This garlic comes from Keith Stewart's farm, where a friend of mine is now working. It is the best garlic I have ever had. Great texture, some sweetness, just enough heat. It was perfect in this. And I poached the egg in the soup, which was an added bonus. The little dumpling was made of chickpea flour, more of the sheep yogurt and egg white. I browned it in butter and then finished it in the soup.
And I ate the rest of the semifreddo with some of the stewed sour cherries. It was even better than the raspberries.

Monday Breakfast: Pan de Maiz y Flor de Calabaza

Cornmeal Oven Pancake with Squash Flowers and Shallots. This was delicious. I was hoping I could make something that wasn't a pancake, but I couldn't help it. Plus it had lard in it.

Monday Dinner: Real Sesame Noodles

Soba with Sesame Butter, Wax Beans, Shallots, Shishito Peppers, Sesame Seeds and Ground Peanuts. I don't think I have ever had sesame noodles that were truly sesame noodles. I can understand. Peanut butter is more readily available for one thing, and a slightly more accessible taste than a ton of sesame paste. But I liked it.

Tuesday Breakfast: Butter, Pancakes, and a Revelation

Random Ingredient Cakes. Ground Rolled Oats, Whole Wheat, Barley Malt, Raisin Puree, Nutmeg, and the Buttermilk from...

the butter that I made. I saw the bottle of heavy cream in the fridge. So I decided to make butter. It was so much easier than I thought it would be, and I thought that it would be pretty easy. I used just a bowl and a whisk, and it all went very quickly. I think it may have been related to the fact I was listening to a White House press conference and channeling my aggression into the whisking. But man was it good on the pancakes. I made approximately 3 Tbsps, and I still have a little piece. And now I know.
Also I am in the early stages of development on a new feature, the Random Pancake Generator. More to come.

Wednesday All-American Dinner: Off The Grid.
It was the Fourth of July, so I had to eat a hamburger. And I had some NY State Grass-Fed Ground Beef in the freezer.

I made the hamburger buns from a mishmash of advice from recipes I found online, but used lard instead of margarine, because margarine is gross. The burgers were seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked on a grillpan. The potato chips were russets fried in canola and grapeseed oil with sea salt, somked paprika, cayenne, and a little sugar. Lollo Rossa lettuce, tomato, grilled Shishito peppers. They were handsdown the best burgers I have ever eaten. Ever. And not just because of the labor involved. The meat had a nice amount of fat, they were packed very loosely, the texture of the bun was great, and it had character(without going in the direction of sweetness like those brioche buns so many hamburger joints are using). Fantastic. No condiments. Roommate Mike said they were the best he had ever eaten as well.
Plus many Rolling Rocks and fireworks.

Thursday: Broke Toe Pesto

I needed something simple that wouldn't require too much standing. So I made pesto before the basil went bad. Here it is with some farmer's maccaroni and grated avocado squash. Whaddya want from me?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Everybody's Gotta Eat

I really have to get back to updating more often. I'm forgetting the details. AND I'm going to try to write recipes more.

Wednesday Dinner: Right Dish, Wrong Season

Pork Meatballs with Red Spinach, Thumbelina Carrots and Coconut Milk; Sticky Rice. Not sure what brought this on, but it was completely wrong for the weather. Fish sauce, shallots, can't recall what else. Good though.

Thursday Breakfast: There Was Still Bacon in the Fridge

Coconut Milk Crepes filled with Coconut Jam; Sheep Yogurt; Jowl Bacon. These crepes were problematic. I was a little too liberal with the coconut milk, but I didn't want to use another egg. But they ended up crispy around the edges and very tender in the middle(to the point that a few of them fell apart a little). But man o man, they were good. Some wheat germ for a little added character. And that coconut jam is really good. I think it's just cooked-down coconut milk and palm sugar. Just don't put in the refrigerator if you ever want to get it out of the jar. I learned that lesson with the last jar. Available at better Asian markets(or not-so-great ones as long as they carry Filipino products).

Thursday Dinner: Raw Food

It was hot, and I had learned my lesson the night before. So I made some completely uncooked food. I don't know how I feel about raw food diets. I think eating some raw food is good for you, but everything? Some vegetables taste much better slightly cooked. Raw shell peas? chalky. And no poached eggs? That's not a life. Who wants to live until their 100 anyway?

So I made two things. First, the soup above. Tomato, zucchini, green bell pepper, olive oil, sumac, sherry vinegar, a couple of hedge mustard seeds.

Then a salad. The most powerful salad I have ever eaten. Raw chiogga beets, 2 cloves raw garlic, arugula, cider vinegar. Sinus-clearing to say the least.

Friday Dinner: Fancy Snobby New Ingredients Day Dinner.

Poached Purple Thumbelina Carrots wrapped in a Shiso leaf, Carrot Syrup, Sesame Oil, Sumac, Sea Salt.

Seared Sea Scallops, Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, Lollo Rossa Lettuce with Hedge Mustard Dressing, Blackened Shishito Peppers, Hawaiian pink salt.
The difference between seafood bought from a local one-boat operation and from some huge trawler halfway around the world may be totally mental, but I'll be damned if it doesn't taste better. Best sea scallops I ever had. Sweet, perfect texture. I mean, I cooked them pretty well too. But the quality cannot be mistaken.

Also, I made sharbat-e albalu. Iranian sour-cherry syrup. I had it once, but never really thought about making myself. But then I read a little essay about it in the NY Timed Dining Section and saw it included a recipe. And then I saw sour cherries at the Greenmarket. So I made some. And I added vanilla, which is traditional but was not in the recipe. It is really good. And I also have a jar of sour cherries in syrup, which I will have to find a use for.
Sharbat-e Albalu
1.5 lbs of sour cherries, stemmed and washed.
2.5 cups of sugar
juice of one lime
1.75 cups of water
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Combine sugar, lime juice and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, wrap cherries in a double-layer of cheesecloth and tie securely. When syrup boils, gently lower cherries into the pan. Cover, turn burner to low, and cook for 25 minutes. Lift cherries out of the syrup, holding above the pan to allow syrup to drain out. Set cherries aside to cool. When cherries and syrup have cooled, put cherries in the bottom of a clean jar and pour syrup on top. I ended up with enough syrup for two quart jars, so I put the cherries in one jar and left the other only syrup. Mix 1 part syrup with 3-4 parts water or seltzer. You could also put it on ice cream or yogurt or make a cocktail with it if you want.

Pranzo di Sabato
Saturday Dinner
I was inspired, or bored, or both. But whatever it was, I spent three hours making myself dinner. It was the most Italian dinner I have made in a long time. So I have translated the dishes into Italian. I hope I was accurate.

Fagiolini al Pesto e Fiori di Zucchine con Purè di Pisella
Wax Beans with Basil Pesto and Fried Zucchini Flowers with Pea Puree
I am not the biggest fan of wax beans. I guess the name is in reference to the color, but usually it seems to describe the taste as well. But the specimens from Yuno's Farm were so beautiful I gave them a try. And they taste as good as they look, or at least have some flavor which is normally lacking from wax beans. And green beans and pesto is one of my favorite things, so I thought I'd try it with the wax beans. The pesto was basil, almonds, pecorino romano, olive oil.
The pea puree from the ravioli of last week was so good I wanted to use it again. I found squash blossoms(9 for $3!) at the Greenmarket. Really simple batter(olive oil, milk, flour, salt, seltzer). I burned the roof of my mouth eating the first one directly out of the pan, but it was worth it.

Orecchiette con Polpettine, Pomodoro e Menta
Orecchiette with Meatballs, Tomatoes and Mint
I made orecchiette for the first time. Supposedly there is a trick you do with the tip of a knife to shape them into shells. I do not know the trick. The only description I could find(in The Silver Spoon) was to "drag them, one at a time, slowly over the counter using the tip of a knife to form small shells." I'm sorry, but that is not terribly descriptive. But I think I figured it out on the last few. And I made them with an egg dough, which is not typical. The meatballs were pork, pecorino, cayenne, salt, and black pepper, made very small(approx. 3/4" in dia.) and browned in butter. Sauteed shallots and sliced tomatoes, Kentucky Colonel Mint(from Keith's Farm, very strong), sea salt and olive oil. The orecchiette could have been more consistent in thickness, but the texture and taste were good.

Semifreddo di Yogurt della Capra
Goat Yogurt Semifreddo
I bought some goat's milk yogurt from Saxelby Cheesemongers that comes from my favorite goat dairy upstate, Stone and Thistle Farm. Anne said it was pretty tangy(she had previously recommended the 3-Corner Field Farm Sheep Yogurt over it, which is very good) so I thought I would give it a try. I have been in a frozen yogurt mood of late, but due to my ailing ice cream maker that was out of the question. And I had never made a semifreddo before, so I tried it. And it is good. Be aware that this will use a lot of bowls. This makes enough for two people. I exhibited unnatural self-control and only ate half. I will eat the rest tonight.
Goat Yogurt Semifreddo
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup heavy cream, chilled
1/2 cup goat yogurt(or sheep or cow)
1/8 cup of sugar(superfine if you have it)
In one bowl, whisk the egg white to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whisk the cream to stiff peaks. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolk and sugar until pale and sorta fluffy. Add the yogurt to this until well-combined, but gently. Gently fold in the egg white, then the whipped cream. Line a small bowl with plastic wrap(16 oz or so, or souffle dish or mold or whatever. I used a little pyrex bowl that made for a nice dome shape). Gently pour or spoon the mixture in to the lined bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze. Seven or eight hours is a good idea. remove the semifreddo from the freezer 30 minutes before you want to eat it. I ate it with pureed raspberries, but the sharbat-e albalu might be nice. I will try tonight.

Sunday Breakfast: Pancakes Again

Whole wheat, wheat germ, almond flour, corn meal, with Grade B maple syrup from beautiful West Glover, VT .
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