chive

I have fond memories of a cooking class we took in Chiang Mai, Thailand several years ago. The chef picked us up early in the morning from the hotel then off we went to a thrilling local market to buy the ingredients for the cooking class feast. I think there were about 16 of us divided into pairs. Each group, after a brief classroom training session, was directed to an open restaurant kitchen area to cook different Thai recipes with the produce we bought earlier. We all shared the prepared dishes at the end.

vegetarian Vietnamese Pho

vegetarian Vietnamese Pho

Steven and I made Tom Yum with coconut milk. Since then I learned to make the one with clear broth which is my favorite. I have been making my Thai inspired soups at home for while now. They’re very versatile: here’s one with fresh salmon, another more traditional style and a third with Dungeness crab. Mmmm!

me at a buzzing Chiang Mai market

me at a buzzing Chiang Mai market

our Thai chef instructor

our Thai chef instructor

ready to cook amazing Thai food

ready to cook amazing Thai food

slurping up my first ever homemade Thai Tom Yum soup

slurping up my first ever homemade Thai Tom Yum soup

I have not yet had the honor and pleasure of travelling to Vietnam, but I can’t wait! I love Vietnamese Pho, that brothy spicy clear soup that’s usually served with paper thin slices of steak and other cuts of meat. Since becoming pescatarian, I haven’t really had it in a while. It’s hard to find a good pesce-veggie pho alternative. Though we’re blessed in San Francisco with two places, The Loving Hut and The Golden Era, both of which make good vegan versions. However I wanted to make my own soup at home.

I read an inspiring article in the New York Times on vegetarian pho broth and a related post on the subject at Ellie May’s blog.

Like that Thai cooking class for Tom Yum, these stories demystified pho for me. It is completely easy to make provided that you have the correct ingredients. One funny thing about this is that I have never been a huge fun of cinnamon or star anise and these spices shine in the soup… go figure. I’ve already made it twice and will be returning to this recipe often I’ve a feeling. Pho broth has a tart, salty, smoky, slightly sweet, and earthy flavor that matches perfectly well with the fresh herbs added at the end. Love it!

vegetarian Vietnamese Pho

for the broth:

3 quarts water
1 small daikon radish, cut into chunks
3 carrots, cut into chunks
2 tbsp soy sauce
Kosher salt to taste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 large onion, quartered
1 shallot, halved
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
4 shiitake mushrooms
5 large cloves garlic, skin on, crushed
2 star anise pods
4 whole cloves
1 piece of good cinnamon (~3 inches)

for the solids:

Rice Noodles (~1 lb) – (pad Thai noodles)
Small pack of seitan strips soaked in 1 tsp soy sauce and 1 crushed fresh garlic clove
Field Roast cold cut sliced thinly
2 oz of Yuba cut into strips
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups fresh mung bean sprouts
Chives
Thai basil leaves
Mint leaves
Cilantro leaves
Lime cut into wedges
1 serrano chili pepper cut in rounds

condiments:

Hoisin sauce
Chili garlic sauce

preparing the broth

preparing the broth

Put first seven ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile place onion, shallot, garlic, ginger, mushroom, star anise, cloves and cinnamon in a skillet and toast until veggies begin to caramelize and everything becomes aromatic. Add toasted ingredients to the boiling broth, turn temperature down and simmer for 25 minutes. Discard solids.

roasting the onion, garlic, ginger and various spices

roasting the onion, garlic, ginger and various spices

While broth is cooking boil another pot of water, drop rice noodles in, remove from heat and let soak for about 15 minutes. Check every now and then for doneness. Noodles should not cook too long. Look for an al dente texture. Drain

Using the same skillet add olive oil followed by marinated seitan and cook for about 4 minutes then set aside.

To assemble the soup, place some noodles in the bottom of a bowl, add some mung bean sprouts, then ladle some piping hot broth over them. Top with a wedge of lime, some seitan, yuba, Field Roast cold cut slices, a few leaves of basil, mint and serve with more herbs and mung bean sprouts on the side.

Broth should be adjusted at the table with a dash of hoisin and chili garlic sauce.

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Polenta is a popular staple back home in Brazil. I grew up eating lots of it and never got bored. My mother cooked it on her fire wood stove in an iron pan. It had to cook forever! So she would use a wooden spoon to stir it occasionally while she prepared other delicious dishes at the same time. Wood fires are tricky and you can’t always get excellent temperature control. Occasionally the polenta would burn a bit at the bottom. That was the part I liked the most. That burned crust had a singular smoky flavor whose memory makes my mouth water. Mom didn’t like it, despite everyone praising it to the skies. She was a perfectionist in the kitchen.

shiitake mushroom polenta with truffle salt

shiitake mushroom polenta with truffle salt

my polenta and truffle salt--thanks for that Devaki!

my polenta and truffle salt--thanks for that Devaki!

My mother made her polenta in one of two ways. Both started with just corn, salt and water. For the first variation, she’d cover it with a nice tomato sauce. Alternatively, she’d let it harden then cut it into finger-sized pieces which she’d fry in hot oil. Sometimes day old polenta would appear for our breakfast too. Delish!

Yotam Ottolenghi in Plenty tells the story of his dad making polenta for him while growing up which reminded me of my own childhood. So this dish is in the spirit of Ottolenghi’s father and my mother. I’ve modified his recipe mostly because I didn’t have all the ingredients. And of course I made the polenta mom’s way (on an electric stove if you were wondering).

shiitake mushroom polenta with truffle salt

6½ cups vegetable broth*
2 cups yellow corn grits (I used organic Bob’s Red Mill)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup 6 month aged Manchego cheese, sliced thinly
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Kosher salt
2½ cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, halved with stems if soft enough
Truffle salt
3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped chives
3 cloves garlic, minced

*for the broth:

1 carrot
2 shallots
1 stalk celery

Begin by making the broth. Fill a pot with 8-10 cups of water, add celery, carrot and shallot, bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Discard solids.

Add 6 and ½ cups veggie broth to a heavy bottomed pan and bring it to a boil. Add salt, gradually stir in corn grits. Reduce temperature to medium low and cook for 30 minutes. You need to stir it frequently to prevent sticking. A whisk does this job fairly well.

Ten minutes before polenta is ready turn the broiler on and prepare the mushrooms. Heat a large skillet on high. I did mine in two batches. Add ½ of the olive oil. Once it becomes aromatic, toss in half of the mushrooms and sauté them until slightly caramelized on the cut side. Stir to cook evenly. In the last minute, add ½ of the garlic. Toss together with mushrooms and just cook long enough for raw aromas to dissipate. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. Repeat process with the second batch.

At this point polenta should be ready. Turn heat off. Add butter and Parmegiano-Reggiano. Stir. Add a bit more kosher salt if needed. Pour into a serving platter. Spread slices of Manchego cheese over the finished polenta. Broil the dish long enough for cheese to melt and become bubbly, about a minute or so. Remove from oven, top polenta with mushrooms and sprinkle with truffle salt. Return to the oven and broil for a couple of minutes more. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with chives and voilá!

{ 4 comments }

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

I got this huge and expensive slab of King salmon at our favorite fish market in the Mission the other day. I wanted to try my hand at poaching salmon in court bouillon. Recipes for court bouillon abound! In the end what I realized is that this is just a clear broth. You can basically make with any vegetable you find in your refrigerator, plus some acidic agent, such as white wine or lemon juice. You don’t have to go all Julia Child about it and spend the entire day slaving in the kitchen, though that is fine, too. In my case I used what was at hand for a fairly traditional broth, with the addition of a stalk of lemon grass, which gave this broth a bit of a South East Asian flare.

king salmon poaching in lemon grass court bouillon

king salmon poaching in lemon grass court bouillon

poached King salmon in lemon butter sauce

3 ½ lb slab king salmon, skin on but de-scaled

for court bouillon:

½ cups dry white wine
1 whole scallion
½ onion
1 stalk of lemon grass, smashed with a cleaver
Black pepper corns
Kosher salt
1 stalk of celery
Few strands of parsley
1 piece of fennel stalk
1 carrot

for lemon butter sauce:

1 stick butter
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbsp capers
4 tbsp chives chopped

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the salmon. Add all court bouillon ingredients to it, bring to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer for about 30 minutes. Discard vegetables. Let court bouillon cool down.

Lay salmon, skin-down, in a large pan so that it lies flat. Submerge with cooled court bouillon. Bring to a simmer and cook until done, about 10 to 15 minutes. If you choose to cut the salmon into smaller pieces before poaching, it may take as little as 3-5 minutes.

Using a large spatula carefully remove salmon from bath and place it on a serving platter. Keep warm.

Add butter and lemon juice to a saucepan on medium-high. Whisk until melted, remove from heat and add capers and 3 tbsp of chives. Mix well.

Sprinkle remaining chives over salmon and serve with lemon butter on the side.

Remember to keep the leftover broth and use it as a base for other soups. It is very aromatic.

On the night I served this, we had our friends Amie, Whitney, John, Chris and Valéria over for dinner. Amie and Whitney surprised us with a nice card, gift, some fruit tarts and a vegan chocolate cake celebrating our 3rd year wedding anniversary. It was a fun evening!

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Labneh is sort of a Lebanese version of sour cream or perhaps a very creamy cream cheese. Joumana uses it to great effect on her food blog. Look here, here and here for some excellent ideas. Hegui was so inspired that he bought a large container of labneh, mostly to snack on, it seems. I used it with this quick bread as I thought the tanginess would complement the pumpkin and herbs. You can use it like sour cream in most recipes that call for it. I wonder how Polish sour soup would taste with labneh? Mmmm.

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

This recipe comes from cooks.com, though I’ve modified it a bit. Aside from adding dollops of labneh, I used a bit less sugar, soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and more randomly mixed in herbs from our community garden plot. In mine, I used chives, mint and sage. You can add basil and cilantro, too. I thought about Italian parsley but decided that it would overpower everything else. Next time, I intend to top the loaves with jalapeño slices for a bit of heat.

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

my container of labneh, here spelled labne

savory pumpkin bread with garden herbs and labneh

2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup soy milk
1 cup mashed pumpkin (here it was kabocha)
2 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mixed fresh herbs
1 tsp per mini-loaf labneh

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat eggs then mix in liquid ingredients, pumpkin and herbs. In another bowl, blend dry ingredients. Then mix into wet. I used disposable mini-loaf pans to reduce mess. If you use a regular baking dish, grease liberally. Add batter to mini-loafs just over half full. Dollop labneh in center of each mini-loaf. Bake about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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I made this tasty and healthy dish from germinated red lentils. Hegui sprouted them from dried a few days before. Inspired by all the fresh herbs in our community garden plot, I used a mix of chive, mint, Italian parsley, sage and lemon thyme. Any combination might do. The kale stems are sort of optional. They add a nice green color. And of course we have a huge abundance of them with the success of the kale right now. What do you do with your leftover kale stems?

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

This sauté reminds me of a warm salad. Fragrant from the herbs and nutty, the lentils are a bit crunchy, too.

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

2 cups germinated red lentil sprouts
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup kale stems with some leaves, finely sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tbsp fresh herbs: chive, mint, Italian parsley, sage, thyme

Heat olive oil in medium skillet. Add onion. Sauté on medium until onion becomes translucent. Add kale stems and garlic. Sauté a bit more then add white wine, cover pan and allow to steam. Add sprouted red lentil and fold vegetables together. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and cook until lentils heat through. Mix in fresh herbs. Serve.

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I’ve always been curious about baking with puff pastry yet this is my first time: a puff pastry virgin no more!

Last week I saw a beautiful recipe on the cool blog, gourmet food, for asparagus tart with caprino de cabra that convinced me that is was about time for me to give it a try. The recipe uses lots of dairy. Aside from the filling, the puff pastry is loaded with butter. I was saving up, having eaten mostly vegan that week, so I splurged a bit with this one.

asparagus, fava and edamame tart

asparagus, fava and edamame tart

our weekend redwood forest retreat

our weekend redwood forest retreat

This was for a picnic lunch on our recent wine-tasting weekend trip to beautiful Sonoma County. We planned it around the spring wine pick-up at Williams Selyem. People are so excited about that winery. Several of our friends wanted to go with us but most of them bagged it when they learned that the event coincided with Mother’s Day. Chris was free, which was perfect. And we were extra lucky this time: our friends Devin and Jocelyn invited us to stay in their new cabin in the woods in Guerneville. (Unfortunately they couldn’t come themselves: a wedding in Southern California.) The cabin is nestled among so many stunning and remarkably tall redwood trees. The trees surrounding the house were enormous! I always feel like I’m inside a cathedral when I am among redwoods. Awesome.

asparagus, fava and edamame tart

¾ lb asparagus
½ cup fava beans, shelled, blanched and popped out of their inner shells
½ cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp flour
1 container frozen puffy pastry (14oz or ~400grams)
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
4tbsp sweet onions, chopped fine
3 tbsp parsley
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
4-5 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt
Crushed red pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
Chives for decoration

some key ingredients for asparagus, fava and edamame

some key ingredients for asparagus, fava and edamame

fresh asparagus and fava beans

fresh asparagus and fava beans

preparing the vegetables

preparing the vegetables

Defrost puffy pastry in the fridge for 20-24h. Bring to room temperature 3 hours before use.

Peel asparagus outer skin and discard then cut tips off and reserve for decorating the top of the pie. Using potato peeler, shave all spears thinly.

Using a saucepan, combine shaved asparagus, onion, olive oil, water and milk. Bring it close to a boil and cook for a couple minutes. Add edamame and fava. Continue cooking for another minute or so. Juices should be absorbed by the vegetables. Mine didn’t completely, so to thicken it, I dissolved a tablespoon of flour in 1 or 2 tablespoon of cold water and poured it over vegetables. Mix to incorporate. Remove from heat.

Add salt, peppers, cheese, parsley and egg yolks. Immediately mix to combine then let cool for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375F

Stretch puffy pastry in a rectangular Pyrex type glass baking dish leaving some dough along the edges. Pour vegetable mix over pastry. Attractively arrange asparagus tips on top. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes. Edges will turn into a golden color and become a bit flaky. Remove from oven. Let cool down completely.

Now get a good bottle of wine, some country bread and enjoy the spring.

{ 7 comments }

spaghetti with sea urchin

by Stevie on February 17, 2011

I came across this recipe ages ago in a really cool cookbook, Sweet Myrtle and Bitter Honey. It is about Sardinian food. Hegui and I saw the author, Efisio Farris, give an interview and cooking demonstration on some Martha Stewart show a few years ago. I immediately got the book, read through it, then got distracted. But that spaghetti with sea urchin roe idea has stuck with me.

spaghetti with sea urchin

spaghetti with sea urchin

I love uni, the Japanese name for sea urchin roe. The animals themselves are quite beautiful. Look here to see some. This very informative site describes in graphic detail sea urchin mating rituals and eating practices. Check it out with caution! They’re real partiers!! The roe are the egg sacks from, I guess, the female sea urchin. Weird.

I’ve never prepared these before but have enjoyed uni at Sanraku and Live Sushi. Efisio describes them as “elegant and sexy—a delicacy in every way” and I have to agree. Nevertheless, this is an acquired taste. They’ve a very creamy texture and flavor faintly of seawater. Very nice.

fresh sea urchin roe

fresh sea urchin roe

This dish is a snap to make though you need to get very fresh sea urchin roe. We were finally at Nijiya Market at the right time and got two tiny boxes of them. The original recipe calls for about a half-pound. I weighed mine once we got home. There was only about a quarter pound. Still, this dish was marvelous and full of that subtle creamy oceanic flavor that I associate with sea urchin.

spaghetti with sea urchin

1 lb spaghetti, prepared per package directions
¼ to ½ lb sea urchin roe
4 tbsps olive oil
4 cloves crushed garlic
1 small bunch of fresh chives, minced
salt and black pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk sea urchin, chive, salt, black pepper and half of the olive oil together. Set aside.

Heat remaining olive oil and garlic in a large skillet for a few minutes. Remove garlic. Toss with cooked spaghetti. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with sea urchin mixture. Serve.

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purslane feta pasta with fresh herbs

This recipe is a variation of spring onion, chive and feta pasta. I love the original. We have this dish at least once or twice a month. It’s very simple to make: you can whip it together in less than 20 minutes, all prep included.

This time around I added fresh oregano and purslane as I had them on hand. I love purslane and never seem to eat enough of it.

Purslane has a sweet and sour flavor. It has an enjoyably slippery texture in the mouth which makes it fun eating. I only see it for sale in the summer, so it must be a seasonal thing. I got mine at at the Alemany Farmers Market but I’ve seen it at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market as well as at the Mexican market in the Mission District, here in San Francisco.

purslane

purslane feta pasta with fresh herbs

1 medium bunch purslane, rinsed and roughly chopped, stems included
1 bunch fresh chives, rinsed and chopped fine
Leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh oregano
4 spring onions, rinsed with roots removed, green and white parts coarsely chopped
½ lb. good French sheep’s milk feta, cut into cubes
salt and black pepper to taste
½ cup olive oil
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
12 kalamata olives, pitted and cut in halves
1 package long pasta, cooked per package directions
¾ cup water from cooked pasta reserved

Throw everything into a large pasta dish while pasta cooks.

Cook pasta per package instructions. Drain, reserving some of the hot water.

Place hot pasta on top of all ingredients, followed by the hot water and toss to combine. The feta cheese will melt a bit getting a creamy texture. If necessary crush some of the cubes with the back of a spoon and toss with the juices at the bottom of the bowl. Let it sit for a couple of minutes for flavors to marry. Drizzle a bit more of extra virgin olive on top before serving. It’s delicious!

moody San Francisco skyline with the fog rolling across downtown

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spring onion, chive and feta pasta

June 27, 2009

This recipe is a variation of one I found in Marcella Hazan’s cookbook, “Marcella Cucina.” Hers calls for chive but no spring onion or olives. When I first tried making this in Astoria, I couldn’t find chive easily but spring onion was quite abundant. Spring onion alone is a little too oniony but chive alone […]

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