Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tomatillo Tagine and Cous-Wa

An unexpected crop of tomatillos + a jar of preserved limes made during the enthusiasm of summer = north african with south american ingredients.

The Tagine part:

2 onions, sliced
6 tomatillos, chopped
1 clove crushed garlic
2 frozen chicken tenders, cut up
1 large russet potato, in 1 inch cubes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coriander seed, ground
a generous shake each paprika and turmeric-it adds color
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
the fleshy part of 1/4 of a preserved lime plus about 1/4 tsp of the skin, minced very fine
hot pepper flakes optional
broth concentrate & water
kalamata olives or some olive mix you like.
olive oil for browning the onions

Brown the onions, tomatillos and garlic in a heavy saucepan. If it has a heatproof lid, you can do the traditional thing and finish the recipe in the oven, but I just did mine on the stovetop, so that's how my directions will go. When the onions are browned and the tomatillos are mush, add the chicken and the spices and lime. Cook until the chicken is almost done, then add the broth concentrate and potato, and add enough water to almost cover everything. Cook until the potatoes are done and you start to get some browning in the bottom of the pan. If it looks too watery, leave the lid off so it can cook down into a nice thick gravy. When you're about 5 minutes from done, add a handful of olives.

the Cous-Wa part:

And what is cous-wa? Another of Pete's recipes. His originally had basil and yellow peppers, I had no basil left, but tarragon and thyme make a good substitute.

1/2 c couscous
1/2 c quinoa
1/4 c diced bell pepper
1/4 c green beans -I used frozen
2 or 3 scallions, chopped
a dab of broth concentrate
olive oil
1 tsp mixed tarragon & thyme, minced finely
pine nuts-damn these are expensive these days! How long does it take to grow a frikkin' pine tree?!?!?

Brown the scallions and bell peppers in a bit of oil in a saucepan big enough to cook the grains in. When the onions are brown, add about 1 1/2 cups of water and a bit of broth concentrate. Bring to a boil, add the quinoa and cover. When the quinoa is almost done (it'll take about 10 minutes) check to make sure there's still about a half cup of liquid. Add a bit if necessary, put in the couscous & herbs, stir well and cover. Turn the heat off. The couscous will steam up in about 5 minutes and you can toss it up with a handful of pine nuts just before serving.

Garnish with mint for authenticity -hah- or parsley if that's what you got.

I am not a big fan of either couscous of quinoa by themselves. Too many dumbell college hippy recipes, I think. Curiously enough, combining the two made a very appealing dish. The quinoa makes up for the lack of textural character in the couscous, and the couscous ameliorates the peculiar musty flavor of the quinoa to a level that is piquant rather than obnoxious. Sometimes I remember that food like this has only been possible in the last 1/2 century, and then only for a very few of us. I feel lucky indeed.

Bacon Peach Galette with Arugula and Other Stuff

This is based on Josh & Annette's giant gallette which they brought to the picnic back in august. Here's Josh's original recipe; I became re-enamored of bacon after buying some to go in my bean milk the other week.

My recipe:
3 small onions, julienned
3 large peaches, cut into slices
4 or 5 pieces of bacon, I used Nieman Ranch dry-cured
1 T mixed rosemary & thyme, minced
pinch of salt
a handful of arugula
about 4 oz. of some type of nutty semi-hard cheese, cut into thin slices. I used a stinky old piece of abondance and a few chips of sheep's-milk gouda. Muenster, pepper jack, ossau-iraty, or some types of mellow blue cheese would also be good picks, as would some good parmesan.

1 recipe of pastry for a 2 crust pie, I used this one, but of course, I used butter rather than shortening.

Have your crust made up before you start the filling. I made mine the night before, which I think I will not do again if I'm not trying to save time. Refrigeration makes the dough harder to deal with. Just my opinion.

A word about the peaches. I had some sort of disappointing ones. If you get some with bitter skins, peel 'em first!

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cook the bacon until it's crispy, then pour off all but about 2 T of fat. Chop the bacon roughly and reserve.

Caramelize the onions in the fat on medium-high heat. Stir sometimes to prevent burning. Browning is good, burning no. A pinch of salt helps, also Josh suggested a pinch of sugar of you want to jazz up the caramelization process. I got pretty good results without the sugar, I imagine it depends on the onions somewhat.

When the onions are mostly transparent with lots of gooey brown stuff, throw in the herbs, bacon and peaches. You don't really want to cook the peaches so much as just get them hot through. When everything is thoroughly hot, check for salt, and remove from heat.

Roll the dough out into a circle about 14 " across. It really helps to roll it on a big sheet of parchment, that gives you something to handle it by when you're trying to get it on and off the baking tray. Or, as I did, use a pastry cloth for rolling, then flop it onto a bit of tinfoil. Pour half the filling onto the crust, lay on a handful of arugula, most of the cheese, the other half the filling, a few more sprigs of arugula and the rest of the cheese. Loosely fold up the crust and slop on an eggwash if you want it to look like the picture.

My pie took a good half hour to cook. I think Josh's times are because he uses a convection oven which will speed things up a lot. I might turn the heat up to 425 or 450 to get it browner at the end.

If you can stand to, let it get cool before serving, so the filling doesn't all just ooze out.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ready for Fall!

I got my hat, bring on the cold weather. Image quality of most of the pics is crap, but they still rank as my new, uncontested, favorite self portraits. They show my true dippy-ass nature. And my cool as hell new hat. More pictures on my flickr photostream.

And of course, the pattern.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yup, Still Asian

I checked.

You can go to the trouble of making this yourself, or do what I do- go to trader joe's and buy a carton of the organic unsweetened soy milk. That's all it is.

I have many thoughts about this dish. Dad used to make "bean milk" from scratch when I was a kid, and sometimes tofu. I didn't like it. Soybeans have a strong earthy taste, and I only started to enjoy earthy flavors as an adult.

I think that in the late '70s and early '80s, there was no really good source of tofu and soymilk in Michigan, and dad always had a swath of mad scientist in his personality anyway so it suited him to make it himself from time to time. Family legend has it that dad was the guy who taught the first reliable hippy outfit in Ann Arbor how to make decent tofu to sell at the food co-op, but there is no evidence for this that I know of.

The procedure for making soymilk is to take your dry soybeans and soak them overnight to 24 hours in about a double volume of water. The beans puff up a lot, which you'll have noticed if you've ever cooked any other kind of dry bean. Then you put the raw beans in a blender with enough water to cover them in the pitcher and grind them as fine as possible. It takes a long time, is really noisy, and makes a mess. The finer the bean particles get, the better. Once the beans are all ground up, strain the slurry through a cloth bag (dad used an old t-shirt) and reserve the liquid; that's the soymilk. Throw away the mass of gunk left over. I don't know what the ideal proportion of water to bean is, alas. Also, I can't remember if you grind the beans in the soaking water, or throw it away and use fresh. Probably the latter.

You have to cook the soymilk before eating it of course. Bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and let it get some skins on it from condensation. The skins are a key part of the whole bean milk experience. To serve, put it in large bowls and throw in any of the usual chinese flavored things, according to taste: green onion, bacon bits (not chinese I know, but that's what was in it at my house) cilantro, spicy pickled radish, sesame oil, fresh grated ginger, szechuan pepper-salt, soysauce, hot chili pepper sauce or slices. Good for breakfast.

Supposedly, this should be served with chinese beignets. I never liked them, but I do appreciate their authentic chinesey-ness.

Also, you need to drink green tea with this. I always forget that I like green tea. Don't fool around with any bagged crap though. Get the real stuff. I've been hoarding some excellent green tea for a while, it has a sweet, floral, grassy taste to it. Very zen, makes me feel extra oriental, as if the bean milk wouldn't do it. Here's what real green tea should look like. Sorry, I have no brand names to give out, I have no idea what this is. It came out a mylar bag given to my sister by some of dad's minions before I moved to NYC. Which tells you that it keeps really well.

So, how do you get tofu out of bean milk? You need to curdle it, then strain and press the curds, again with your cloth bag/t-shirt aparatus. The way to curdle it is, you throw in some magnesium sulphate. Yeah, that's what I said. A very dilute solution, of course, but I swear that's what dad used. I told that to a guy I had a crush on in college, and he was repulsed. He said something like 'ohmigod! Thats the the stuff my mom puts on her feet!'

Hey, I'm asian. What do you want?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Vacation Is Too Short

I am reconciled to the tomatillos.

Avocado Tomatillo Soup

2 avocados
1/2 lb tomatillos, husked & rinsed
1 jalapeno
small bunch of scallions
1 t grated fresh ginger
1 t minced fresh parsley & mint
1 celery rib
1/2 large bell pepper. I used green.
2 cups stock
about 1/2 cup greek yogurt
some salt
some oil

Dice up the peppers, (both kinds), celery, tomatillos and scallions, including most of the green parts. Reserve a couple bits of scallion and bell pepper for garnish later, if you like.

Put the diced ingredients in a heavy pan with the oil, ginger, herbs, and a dash of salt, and fry at a moderately high heat until you get some browning in the pan. They'll cook down quite a lot.

Add the stock and boil, covered, until the tomatillos have dissolved. Takes about 20 minutes. Check for salt; if it's real bland add some more, but the stock concentrate I used was pretty salty, so I didn't need any.

Cool it somewhat, then puree the soup with the avocado and greek yogurt. I leave the bumps in everything, but if you wanted a finer texture, you could puree the soup and strain it before adding the avocado and yogurt.

Some things to know: I got this out of a vegetarian cookbook, which called for vegetable stock, and 4 cups of it too. I wanted a more substantial texture and intense flavor, so I cut down the liquid. It also said to chill the soup, but it's pretty tasty warm (I was hungry).

I garnished the soup with another dab of yogurt and some crushed chili paste. And I added a few chunks of avocado in at the end, I need my food to have texture.

I love having time to goof around.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm Asian, Part 2

I remember dad making some stuff like this, also liking an iteration of it while living in Taiwan. It's supposed to be a side dish, I think, but it makes a good snack.

Tofu, whatever style you like most for just eating, cubed

In a small bowl, mix the following, all minced pretty small-

thousand-year-old egg (peedan)
several types of hot pepper, both red and green
green onion, chives are what I had
enough soysauce, vinegar, and sesame oil to cover the other ingredients

muddle everything together and pour over the tofu.

also good in addition or as substitutes are: grated ginger, fresh crushed garlic, chili sauce or sriracha, oyster flavored sauce, char siu, finely minced yellow onion, asian style pickles...

you get the idea.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm Asian! What D'you Want!?!

"If you want to be Chinese, you have to eat the nasty stuff."
So says Chow Yun Fat's character to the neophyte, in the movie The Corruptor. Well, in that case Mr. Chow, I got my bona-fides right here. The thing that divides the white from the yellow is not a line, it's a preserved duck egg. One of these stinky little green and brown babies and you'll have enough gosh-darned authentic chinese kung-fu to whoop the ass out of a whole reel full of John Woo villains. No hair on the chest though. Chinese guys don't do that. I guess we're more closely related to whales and manatees than everyone else.

Moving on.

Sushi rice rolls with some fishy seasoning mix I got at Fubonn, served with fresh young coconut and preserved duck egg, aka "peedan." I do wish I'd had some pickled ginger though.

Take a cup of sushi rice and rinse it well. Drain, add about 1 3/4 c. water back to the pot and cook as you would ordinary rice. When it's done, mix 2 T cider or rice vinegar with a dash of salt and a heaping teaspoon of brown sugar, then toss it gently into the rice using a fork so you don't make the rice grains just turn into mush. Let it cool enough to handle, and roll about a cup in a sheet of toasted nori. Slice the roll with a wet knife (keeps the blade from sticking) and dunk the ends of the rolls in the seasoning mix.

Here's what I used. It's crunchy, fishy, sweet and salty. I am having a hard time not eating it straight out of the can.

Thats about it. I had a hangover yesterday, so I got a young coconut at the grocery store- coconut water has lots of potassium in it. The texture of the coconut meat is kinda weird, a little fleshy or something, but it's got nothing on peedan. I think the ones I got were a bit dehydrated, the yolks should be runny.

But what do they taste like? Um...sulphur? Rubber? Like something somebody dared you to eat? They're chemically cooked in lye... And the package declares, not at all reassuringly, that they are "lead free"- Gosh, I hope so.

And one last reason to love the preserved duck egg: 110% of your daily cholesterol intake.

Um, yes. I know, it's not a John Woo movie. Stupid joke. Sigh.