A reprieve, already

After using half the remaining cabbage for lunch along with a sesame noodle sauce that has been sitting in my refrigerator for at least a month

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And the remaining tofu in an acorn noodle salad (there are plenty of the acorn noodles left, unfortunately they aren’t that good–not terribly flavorful and a jellylike, sticky texture, the opposite of what I’m usually looking for in a noodle.)

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I was happy to try Umami Burger for dinner. I expected not to like it, as it seemed a bit gimmicky and was located in the Marina (or Cow Hollow), but it was delicious. The default medium rare patty was beefy, the toasted, buttered bun was outstanding, the parmesan tuille worked better than I expected, and I even enjoyed the umami ketchup, and I’m a ketchup/catsup hater. The two whole shitake mushrooms were a bit distracting, if it is purely for umami powdered shitake would be better, or for overall texture thinly slicing and distributing the shitake over the burger would work better. A terrible picture, but all in all a good burger (though it was $11 for just the burger).

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I’m always set up for a basic Thai green curry

The chayote in the fridge should have been used a couple weeks ago, but there’s no time like the present. A Thai curry using curry paste is easy and quick to throw together, so I like to keep the ingredients around–at a minimum: coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, and limes. Luckily I still had some cilantro and mint garnish from the nam Kao I picked up at Chai Thai Noodles after my home inspection.

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Just cook the curry paste in a bit of oil (I use coconut), add a couple tablespoons of the coconut cream floating on top of the coconut milk, and cook until the oils separate. I’ve found it is too difficult to get the coconut milk to crack with most commercial coconut milks (and all coconut creams I’ve picked up in the US contain stabilizers) so the oil plus coconut solids plus curry paste is a decent substitute. After the mixture appears oily, add any long-cooking vegetables or meats, in this case the chayote. Cook for a couple minutes, then add remainder of coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice (I was lucky enough to have some makruts in the bottom of the drawer, so I added zest and juice.) and a pinch of sugar. Cook until vegetables are nearly done, taste and adjust salt (fish sauce), acidity, and sweet (I’m a sweet hater, and my end result never approaches sweet, but I do find it is always better and more rounded with a bit of sugar (or palm sugar or agave syrup). Add quick cooking vegetables, like carrot slices and cook until done. I ended up not adding the tofu, though it was open and would work, as I’m rationing it for a time I’m even hungrier, after all, this has appetite-suppressing coconut milk.
Served over jasmine rich, of which I have a couple servings under 10 pounds and will certainly prevent me from going hungry during this experiment.

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Breakfast is easy (if you’ve prepared nga yoke thee achin)

 

 

 

My usual quick breakfast of toast and almond butter hampered by my current breadless, almond-butterless state required a few substitutions, but resulted in a bit tastier, though less healthy than the original.

The stash:

Sesame bread, chunky natural peanut butter, and a tiny remnant of the excellent tart-sweet chile-garlic sauce (nga yoke thee achin) from Naomi Duguid’s Burma: Rivers of Flavor

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I just microwaved the hard, separated peanut butter in the chili-garlic sauce for 20 seconds so I could combine and spread, and toasted the split sesame bread.

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Worst first

Well, it is Winter, but one of the things I’ve liked best about Northern California is access to local fresh produce throughout the year (and not sweating in the summer). Unfortunately, since I’ve banned myself from buying any groceries for a month I’ll have to live like a pioneer family who forgot to do all their canning and who’s root cellar burned in a horrible fire. In my case, this means I will use whatever survived the confines of my refrigerator after 10 days of neglect, preceded by the usual avoiding buying too much produce because I knew I’d be gone for some time.

So, day 1 of project buy nothing involves using up the vegetables that are almost rotten, in this case a blackening cauliflower remnant. I also had a giant sesame bread from Happy Golden Bowl, which I had intended to bring back to my family to add a Sichuan touch to our traditional Chinese take-out Christmas Eve dinner, but my usual poor planning interfered.

I decided to do a Sichuan style sauce with the eggplant to serve on the bread with added peanuts for protein and because I’ve had a bag of unroasted peanuts sitting around forever. Add some cleaned up remnants of the cilantro and scallions that are about to go off and a decent meal is made.

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  • 1/3 head cauliflower
  • 1/3 cup peanuts
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cayenne peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • garlic oil
  • sichuan peppercorn oil
  • 1 t soy sauce
  • 1 scant T soaked fermented black beans
  • 1 T Shaoxing wine
  • 3 T chicken stock

Heat garlic oil (or just oil) over medium high heat. If peanuts aren’t roasted, add to pan and cook until they start to color. Chop cauliflower finely. Add cauliflower, peppers, fermented black beans, and shallot to pan and fry until the cauliflower browns, then add crushed garlic. Fry until fragrant and add soy, wine, and stock. Cook until mostly evaporated, but some sauce remains. Toast sesame bread and serve over the top.

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Pretty good for the bottom of the crisper.

And now for something a bit different

Well, it has been a while, but I might as well get back on the internet, since I have a lot of work and responsibilities to avoid. I just came back from visiting my family over the Xmas holiday with an offer pending on a cute California bungalow in Oakland and a big, messy, lived in apartment. Thoughts of handing nearly all my money over as a downpayment and having to pack all my stuff up to move have forced me to do something I should have done a long time ago–rely solely on the food items I’ve hoarded until they run out or a month, whichever is longer (I’m betting on the month). I’ll save money and space for the next month making for an easier move physically and financially. I don’t think it will be too much of a sacrifice for the first week, but I am considering allowing a $2/week vegetable budget since I started fairly deep in the hole on fresh vegetables, as I just returned after 10 day away. Maybe I’ll just allow foraging (which does include my winter garden). And I will be allowed meals out for social reasons, but not convenience. 

And so, in print, is my plan to turn my life into a Chopped + Hoarders show.

It’s Springtime for Salmon, if you can get it

The most refreshing, balanced salad as a meal I've ever tasted.

I hear it’s been hot across the rest of the country, but in the Bay Area it just warmed up a bit this Sunday. And in warm weather, it is hard to eat anything but a salad or a sorbet (though it wasn’t, actually, all that warm here. Nobody has air conditioning–it’s a bit of a disaster if it gets above 85 F, but even so it always cools down at night. Okay, no more bragging, but there must be some reason for the astronomical property values.)

This is a springtime riff on a healthy salad I’ve been making from my grad-school days. It’s based on a traditional Italian salad of white beans sauteed in olive oil and garlic, with olive oil-cured tuna, parsley, onions, and lemon juice. I often swap ingredients based on what I have on hand, or to create different flavor profiles, but the basis of the recipe remains–beans plus cured fish plus herbs/greens plus aromatics in a lemon/olive oil dressing. It is my favorite healthy lunch. I usually eat it on toast or on greens as a salad. I was actually inspired to make this by the salmon at the Farmer’s Market. This is the first year since I’ve moved to the Bay Area that salmon stocks were healthy enough for the department of fish and game to allow a salmon season, so I grabbed some when I had the chance. That plus these adorable red onion scallions and mini spring lettuces from the market made me think of my go-to lunch. Peas from the garden round it out, and fingerling potatoes make up for the carbs I’m missing from the dried beans.
Though I haven’t yet adopted any sous-vide cooking devices, or even a true vacuum sealer (my cheapo variety Seal-a meal present couldn’t last the 6 years since I’d gotten it, and is now made up of a vacuum device not held together by brittle, broken plastic parts), but I do recommend the “sous-vide” (cooking, in a water bath, at the ultimate temperature you want the product to obtain) technique in many cases, especially salmon. I find 50 C to be the perfect temperature. I came upon this after reading an aside in Thomas Keller’s Under pressure that “salmon cooked to 120 F (48.9 C) tends to be moist and slightly tacky), wheras salmon cooked to 123 F (50.6 C) is  slightly firmer and no longer tacky.” So much like Barbara Lee, my congresswoman, 50 C works for me.

Raw Pacific Salmon

50 C Salmon:

    1. Heat a large pot of water to 50 C (122 F), or if you have a sous-vide water bath, set the temp on that. This is near the temperature of hot tap water. Also, bring a couple cups of water to a boil in case adjustments of waterbath temperature are needed.
    2. Make enough 5% brine to cover salmon. For 1 liter, add 3/4 cup table salt to 1 L cool tap water.
    3. Place salmon in 5% brine for 10 minutes. This helps season the salmon and reduces the amount of albumin (white goo) on the surface of the cooked salmon.
    4. Lightly pepper the surface of the salmon. Feel free to add other herbs at this stage, but start with small quantities, as they tend to taste more concentrated than they would with other cooking methods.
    5. Add olive oil and salmon to a Ziploc or other sealable bag. Squeeze out air and seal.
    6. Place bagged salmon in water bath. Swirl and check temperature. Add boiled water if necessary to bring temperature back up to 50 C.
    7. Set timer for 15 minutes. Check on water temperature occasionally, adding more hot water to keep temp at 50 C.
    8. Remove at 15 minutes and serve, or refrigerate without opening for use in future recipes.

Salmon cooked to 50 C.

Springtime Salad:

    1. Bring potatoes to a boil in heavily salted water. Boil for 20-25 minutes or until tender.
    2. Blanch snow peas. I do so by placing them in a strainer and placing it over the boiling potatoes for 1.5-2 minutes. I like them fairly crisp.
    3. Chop scallions thinly. I use the bottom half and save the rest of the green parts for another recipe. I don’t mean just the white portion–I like a mix of crunchiness and herbiness for this salad.
    4. Chop dill and parsley (or other herbs) finely. Tail and cut snow peas into 1cm lengths or so.
    5. Combine scallions, herbs, snow peas, olive oil, and salmon in large bowl and mix to combine. 50 C salmon will break up while mixing, so no need to work too hard flaking it, though very firmly cooked salmon may need to be flaked. In any case, make sure you remove any remaining bones before mixing. Remove skin if still present.
    6. Cut fingerling potatoes into slices while still warm–a serrated knife works best.
    7. Add potatoes to bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix.
    8. Add the juice of one lemon, remix, and taste for salt and pepper. I like to add plenty of each. You can also adjust the amount of herbs, olive oil, and lemon at this point.
    9. Serve in lettuce cups, or atop chopped lettuce.

      Seriously delicious

Lemongrass grilled chicken

A great marinade for Vietnamese or Western grilled meals.

This is one of my favorite grilled dishes from my favorite Vietnamese recipe blog. The original recipe is for pork, but I’ve used the marinade with chicken thighs, beef, and shrimp and all were great.
I’ve been a fan of Viet Work Kitchen for quite some time. One of the recipes that has made my regular rotation is the marinade for lemongrass pork that I use more frequently than called for. I started making it because I wanted to make great bánh mì (sandwich) and bun (cold noodle salad). The grilled pork works wonderfully for either application, but I can’t resist the flavor and caramelization of the marinade on several other meats and dishes.
Shown is lemongrass chicken with grilled asparagus (same marinade, though simple olive oil and garlic works as well) and garlic fried rice (I’ll post a recipe sometime) and a 60 C egg. All around a great meal, and one I’ll make many variations of in the future.

1 lb chicken thighs (or other grillable meat)

For marinade:

1 T brown sugar
1 T  garlic
1 T shallot
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and chopped (~3 tablespoons)
1/4 t black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 1/2 T fish sauce
1 T oil

Blend marinade ingredients in blender or food processor until texture is relatively smooth. Add meat to marinade and refrigerate overnight. Grill, preferably on a charcoal grill at medium – high heat. Remove when cooked through and caramelized.

And a confession: there was no meatless Monday this Monday, as I had a 4th of July BBQ and while I did BBQ plenty of vegetables and some tofu, I BBQed even more meat, including this lemongrass chicken and some more mu ping skewers.