food

Our friend John prepared this dish for us long ago. Completely delighted, I meant to ask for the recipe but kept forgetting. The southeast Asian mix of fresh garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili pepper is divine.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

Recently I was craving it so I decided to take the risk of making/mixing my own sauce. I may have made it a bit Japanese with the addition of mirin and rice vinegar for an extra bit of sweetness and tartness. You know rice just goes so well with these two flavors, right?

Another thing I find makes me eat with gusto is atypical use of cucumber, here served in a warm dish. I grew up eating cucumbers only in salads so enjoying them any other way is incredible. The cukes were warm but still crunchy. I think Persian or Japanese cucumbers work best for this dish.

southeast Asian-style shrimp and Persian cucumber with rice

1½ cups rice (Thai Jasmine, Basmati or Spanish)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lb wild caught shelled and deveined medium sized shrimp
6 Persian cucumbers
sea salt
1 clove of garlic
Chili pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

sauce:

juice of 5 large limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic
1 green or red chili pepper seeds partially removed
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin
2 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves

Heat olive oil in a large pan, add rice and a sprinkle of salt. Toss to coat rice with oil. Add 2 and ½ cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce temperature to low, cover pan and cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft and water absorbed. Removed from heat and keep it covered for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut a ¼ inch top of the cucumber and rub cut sides together for good luck and good flavor. This will create a bit of a gooey slime that you should rinse away in cold water. Cut cucumber into ½ inch disks and soak in cold water. Repeat process for remainder.

Turn oven on to broil. Rinse and pat dry shrimp. Toss with juice of ½ lime, salt, chili flakes and one garlic clove that has been crushed. Spread shrimp loosely on a large baking sheet then broil for about 5 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let rest. For a delicious charred flavor and lovely grill marks use your outdoor grill.

To make the sauce, put garlic, sugar and pepper in a mortar and grind ingredients to a paste. Transfer to a bowl. Add lemon juice, mirin, fish sauce, soy sauce and cilantro. Toss to combine. This sauce should be salty, sweet, sour, and pungent with a spicy kick. Taste and adjust flavor with more of any of the ingredients. If you find my mix to strong you can dilute it with a bit of cold water. You should have around ¾ to 1 cup of sauce.

Drain cucumber slices and pat dry on a dish towel.

Mix rice, cucumber, shrimp and shrimp juices carefully not to break the rice too much. Drizzle most of the sauce over and carefully give it another toss. Taste and add more sauce if needed.

This is a delightful, simple, and chock full of flavor meal.

{ 4 comments }

I really enjoy using ingredients that have sour flavors: lemons and limes, tamarind, tomatoes, berries and, as always, wine vinegar make me happy. I never tried sorrel until a couple of years ago when my friend John prepared a French fish dish with this delightfully sour veggie. I think he just steamed the fish and served it on a bed of sautéed sorrel. Yumm, just the thought of sorrel makes my mouth water.

warm carrot salad with sorrel

warm carrot salad with sorrel

I harvested this sorrel from a garden in my neighborhood, so it is extremely fresh and I know all about where it was grown. It is always exciting to eat things that have not had to travel too much to your table. The carrots are organically grown from Capay Farm. They produce the most delicious Nantes carrots. Any time I go to the Alemany market I make sure I get plenty of them. Normally I eat them raw as a snack, but this last time I exaggerated on the amount we purchased. They were on sale: buy two bunches, get the third one free. Who can resist a good deal like that?

One disadvantage with sorrel is that it discolors very fast when you cook it, so don’t be discouraged by a grayish green look here. The wonderful sour flavor surely makes up for the loss of the vibrant green.

warm carrot salad with sorrel

1 bunch Nantes carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Black pepper
Sea salt
2 cups sorrel leaves, julienned

Add carrots, 2 tbsp of olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt to a pan over high heat. Cook until it sizzles and garlic becomes aromatic but not brown. Add few drops of water and cook for few minutes until carrots are tender but still a bit crunchy. Remove from pan and transfer to a serving bowl. Let cool down for a couple of minutes. Add julienned sorrel, the remainder of the olive oil adjust flavors with more salt and black pepper.

{ 1 comment }

vegetable paella

by Heguiberto on July 10, 2013

Yottam Ottolenghi’s Plenty attacks again! His vegetable paella is divine. It is full of color and flavors. If pilaf and paella have the same linguistic root, then I think this vegetable paella must be either an early progenitor of both or perhaps the modern trans-national child of the pair, as it not only uses saffron threads, but also turmeric and chili powders common to Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines: incredible! And then there’s the sherry… Wow.

vegetable paella

vegetable paella

Yotam recommends using Calasparra rice but to be honest I have never heard of it before, so couldn’t even begin to think of where to find it. At any given time my rice pantry will always have few different varieties, so I made do with what I had. My choice was Thai jasmine rice. I selected this kind because I’ve made successful paella before with it. He also recommends using freshly shelled fava beans which would have been great but I was not able to find them in the market. Instead I substituted them for a fresh frozen shelled bag of edamame.

This dish is vegetarian and vegan. So flavorful, your meat eating loved ones will enjoy it too.

vegetable paella

6 tbsp olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion sliced thinly
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 yellow pepper cut into strips
½ fennel bulb cut into thin strips
4 garlic cloves crushed
2 fresh bay leaves
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp chili powder (cayenne)
¾ cup sherry
1 container of saffron threads (0.020oz)
2 cups Thai Jasmine rice
3 ½ cups vegetable stock – hot
thin half-moon-shaped lemon slices
4 tbsp julienned sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
8 halves of grilled artichokes, preserved in oil, drained
¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1 pint of mixed small heirloom tomatoes, halved
~ 2tbsp chopped parsley
Kosher salt

You need a paella pan or a similar large shallow pan for the dish. On high heat, add olive oil followed by the onions and cook until translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add sweet peppers and fennel and continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Peppers and fennel will soften a bit but still hold their crunch.

Mix in turmeric, bay leaves, paprika. Add rice and mix it again so rice gets some coloring. Stir in saffron and sherry, continue to cook long enough for the sherry juices to be absorbed/evaporated. Add vegetable stock, and kosher salt to taste, lower the temperature and cook for about 18 minutes. Liquid will be almost fully absorbed by the rice. To prevent the rice from breaking refrain from stirring while cooking. Turn off the heat.

Tuck in olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, lemon slices, then sprinkle with parsley. Let rest, covered, for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid, drizzle with some extra virgin oil and serve.

{ 6 comments }

This recipe was adapted from Plenty by Yottam Otholenghi. I remain a huge fan his book. We’ve prepared many of his recipes, often more than once: a total success at home, as you can see here: Ottolenghi’s roasted eggplant, sambal okra, and chickpeas with chard. Mmmm!

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

This is another yummy recipe. It is decadent as it is loaded with dairy, but I think it’s a-okay to indulge every now and then. The watery crunchiness of the endive combined with the creamy texture of this sauce is divine!

Funny thing is that I made this salad right after we came back from France. Could we be suffering from dairy deprivation so soon?

endive with Point Reyes blue cheese and crème fraîche

3 heads white endive, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
1 head red endive, leaves separated, rinsed and dried
a small portion of micro greens, rinsed and dried
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup walnuts, slightly toasted, with sprinkle of salt, cooled to room temperature
Kosher salt to taste
whole leaves of Iceberg lettuce
1 cup crème fraîche
2 tbsp water
~4 tbsp crumbled Point Reyes Monterrey blue cheese

In a bowl whisk together crème fraîche, water, blue cheese, some salt and pepper. Taste it and adjust flavor adding more of any of the ingredients. It should have a somewhat runny texture; taste savory, with that punchy flavor that you expect from a good blue cheese. Toss the sauce with the endive. To serve, pile seasoned endive over iceberg lettuce leaf cups on individual dishes, top with micro greens and toasted walnuts.

{ 1 comment }

Steven’s co-worker owns a rental property in the Central Valley. The small apartment building sits on a big chunk of land which her husband planted with fruit trees. A few months ago she gave us bags and bags of citrus. Now that we’re nearly in summer, we’ve entered the stone fruit season. Thus far, she’s given us some cherries, plums, apricots. I don’t even know if cherries qualify as stone fruit. Are they berries? Anyway over the past week we got two bags of sour plums from her garden. The first batch I devoured in no time after dinner. Yum! The second one Steven wanted me to bake into something. So, ta-da: sour plum upside-down cake.

sour plum upside-down cake

sour plum upside-down cake

Sour plums tend to be a little sweet in the middle but sour near the skin and close to the pit. I love taking a bite of a plum and tasting all these flavors. Well with this cake, despite the sugar caramel coating the bottom of the pan, the sour flavor came out in FULL! We loved it: perfect with some tea or a cuppa coffee. We ate this entire cake in a couple of days for breakfast.

sour plum upside-down cake

~2 lbs sour plums, skin on, pitted
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup soy or almond milk
½ cup canola oil
2 tbsp butter
Cast iron pan (12 inches diameter, 2 inches deep)

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Add one cup of sugar along with one tablespoon of water to cast iron pan over medium heat on your stovetop. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar melts and acquires a nice caramel color. If some sugar sticks to the wooden spoon scrape it off and let it melt until all lumps are gone. Spread the caramel all over the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat to cool down if caramel starts to burn. You just want a caramel color, not a smoking ruin. Cooking to long will make the flavor bitter. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

In a bowl, put remainder of the sugar, then eggs, salt and vanilla. Whisk it to combine. Add oil, soy milk, flour and whisk it again to combine. Lastly incorporate baking powder into the batter.

At this point, although still warm your caramel may be hardened and stuck to the bottom of the cast iron pan. Worry not! Spread the butter until all melted over caramel and sides of the pan. Add sour plum, along with juices if any and spread the fruit evenly over the bottom of the pan. Gently top with the batter. Bake about 35 minutes. Check for doneness via inserting a tooth pick in the center. If it comes out clean then baking is done, if not then you know what you have to do.

{ 1 comment }

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables and whenever I see a new recipe for it I just want to try it right away. This recipe is featured in the March 2013 edition of Saveur Magazine. A few years ago Steven’s colleague at work lent him a wonderful cookbook, “Pei Mei’s Chinese Cookbook Volume 1.” That book had an excellent recipe for Sichuan Eggplant.

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

He made it once and we were hooked. I’d say we have this dish at least once a month. It is so flavorful with black bean sauce, ginger, sesame oil, scallions and other delicious ingredients—and eggplant, of course: sweet, savory, sour and lots of umami flavor.

I would say that this recipe is actually a variation on Steven’s version. Both are Sichuanese style using very similar ingredients. In Steven’s recipe he cooks the diced eggplant in a hot pan, just tossing it around until they are done, so the oil absorbed is very little. This recipe calls for deep frying the eggplant, which I did, despite the guilty feeling. To prevent the eggplant from absorbing too much oil they suggest soaking it in ice water first. I’m not sure if that helped much, but it hardly mattered, as the dish itself had such a lovely delicate flavor, you could hardly tell.

vegetarian Sichuan fried and braised eggplant

4 Japanese eggplants
2 cups chopped Chinese chives
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh ginger paste (I used fresh ginger that I ground with a fine micropane)
2 tbsp Chinese chili bean sauce (Toban Djan)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1½ tsp sugar

Quarter the eggplant lengthwise. Make incisions in a lozenge pattern in the flesh without piecing the skin. Soak pieces in salted cold/ice water for 5-10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Fry in hot oil (350F) for about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and lay eggplant pieces on paper towels.

Drain all but two tablespoons of frying oil from pan. Add garlic, ginger and cook for a minute just until raw aromas disappear. Add Chinese chives and continue cooking for another minute or so to wilt. Add chili bean sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Continue cooking to warm through. Add eggplant, one cup of hot water, black vinegar and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Drizzle with sesame oil, transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle some Chinese chives over and serve with some rice cooked in the Brazilian way.

{ 4 comments }

My default winter squash is either kabocha or butternut. I rarely buy acorn but they were so fresh when I spotted them last week at the Alemany Farmers Market that I couldn’t resist. Plus it was a bargain: organically grown and it cost me less than a couple of bucks!

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

I borrowed the idea of baking and stuffing it with rice from Martha, though stuffed acorn squash is really a classic. You can check out her recipe here.

Because acorn squash is already a bit sweet I altered the way I made the rice stuffing so it would be more on the savory side with a bit of heat. For that I used sundried tomatoes, black pepper and cumin.

basmati and wild rice stuffed acorn squash

1 medium sized skin on acorn squash, halved and cleaned
½ cup wild rice, rinsed
1 cup basmati rice, rinsed
1 tsp tellicherry peppercorns
½ tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
¼ cup chopped white onion
3 tbsp chopped sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt to taste
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Set oven temperature to 350F.

Sprinkle some salt over inner part of acorn squash halves. Rub one tablespoon olive oil over skin and flesh. Place acorn squash in a shallow baking tray flesh side down. Wrap aluminum foil around it and bake for about one hour. Test for doneness via piercing the skin with a fork. It should slide in easily otherwise bake it for a little longer.

Place wild rice in a pressure cooker, add 2 cups of water and a sprinkle of salt, cover the pan and cook on high temperature until it starts whistling. Once it does, turn temperature down to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let the pan rest until pressure is gone. Drain rice if any water remains in the pan. Alternatively you can just cook it on the stove top. That will take about an hour or so. Watch while it cooks because water evaporates very fast.

In large sauce pan add two tablespoons of olive oil followed by chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add cumin, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns. Stir around for a minute, just long enough for the garlic to cook and the spices to release their flavors. Add basmati rice, salt, and 1¾ cups water. Toss to combine. Bring temperature to high, and when rice starts to boil, reduce temperature to low and cook covered for about 15-20 minutes until water has been absorbed. Add cooked wild rice, sundried tomato and finish it with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cover and let it rest for another 5-10 minutes for flavors to marry.

Remove squash halves from the oven. Slice off a bit of the bottom of each half so they lay flat on a plate. Sprinkle the inside of each acorn half with a bit of salt and pepper. Fill each with the rice mix and serve decorated with some rosemary.

{ 6 comments }

The first time that I had this soup was with my glamorous friend, Euriele. At the time we both worked together in Palo Alto. One day we just took a long lunch break and feasted on an authentic Korean meal with multiple courses: kimchi soup, pickled cucumber, bean sprout, rice cooked with beans, Napa cabbage kimchi, Korean seafood pancake, seaweed salad and other items I don’t recall right now. There were so many! The centerpiece of the lunch was the spicy soup served piping hot in a stoneware pot. You cracked a fresh egg over the soup and watched it cook while at the same time you waited for the soup to cool down enough to eat. I love spicy food. That said, some Korean dishes are not for beginners when it comes to chili pepper intensity. This soup is an exciting and hot example.

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

To make my kimchi jiigae, I used the rest of the Napa cabbage kimichiI had prepared the previous week.

This recipe was adapted from this you tube video. The video uses meat, so I changed it here. If you’re vegetarian then no need to watch it :)

spicy kimchi soup aka Kimchi Jiigae

1lb silken tofu (extra soft type) chopped into 1x1x1 inch thick pieces
5 cups chopped kimchi and juices
1tsp sugar
1tbsp Korean Gochugaru hot pepper paste
1tbsp Gochugaru pepper flakes
½ cup red onion chopped
3 whole scallions chopped
Water to cover the chopped kimchi by two inches
Toasted sesame oil
½ head iceberg lettuce cut into large wedges

Place chopped kimchi and juices in a large sauce pan with onions, scallions, gochugaru peppers, sugar and water. Bring everything to a boil, cook on high for about 10 minutes, reduce temperature to medium and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Add tofu towards the last 10 minutes.

Place a wedge of iceberg in each bowl. Add a couple of ladles of the soup, and drizzle with some toasted sesame oil. Serve with a side of rice.

{ 3 comments }

cardoon with garlic, caper, green olive and anchovy

January 24, 2013

Okay. They say cardoon’s flavor and texture resembles artichokes. I like artichokes, a lot. But as everyone knows, they’re technically difficult to prepare. So many sharp rough leaves to remove before you get to the flavorful choke. Well, in that sense, cardoon isn’t too different, either. Cardoons don’t grow chokes. Instead you have to remove […]

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spaghetti with salt cod and tomato sauce

January 21, 2013

Pasta à la Romana has been a Friday ritual at home ever since our friend Kristen taught us how to make it a few years ago. We enjoy it so much that we’ve even posted the recipe twice on the WC for your pleasure. Last week I de-salted a large gorgeous piece of cod. The […]

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