Mushroom Miso Soup

What a momentous weekend! I’m so inspired after seeing my sisters from around the globe march in unity, demonstrating that women’s rights are human rights. It’s the beginning and much work still needs to be done by all of us, but I’m ready to hit the ground running.

I spent Friday with three amazing women, having a food photo shoot/play date. Darcie, my collaborator last month on the 2016 Advent Calendar, headed up the project with delicious Chinese recipes inspired by her years in Shanghai. We’ll be sharing those in a future post, so check back with us for the Chinese New Year. Joining us were Robin & Sue, a talented food photographer/stylist team who live close enough that we can do this sort of thing with a nice frequency. I’ve worked in places where you always had to watch your back and it was just exhausting (and frankly, no way to live), so what a relief it is to have made a career where we can hang out and talk shop, build each other up, and collaborate rather than compete.

Instead of putting away all of my props and backgrounds after the shoot like a normal, tidier, person would, I kept them out to play a bit more over the weekend. It started with a couple of setups that didn’t quiiiite work out, but then I chose to photograph David Tanis’s Mushroom Miso Soup from the NY Times Cooking newsletter on Sunday, mainly because it sounded light and delicious and I wanted it for lunch.

It did not disappoint. I added shredded savoy cabbage and mustard greens to the pot to boost the nutrients and add a little bulk, and it made for a very satisfying meal. The broth was flavorful, but very subtle after three days of eating foods with a pungent punch. Next time, I’ll mellow out my diet a bit before indulging.

Spicy Mushroom Soup

It’s been some winter so far. Not content to bury us under successive blankets of snow, the heavens punished us yesterday for some undisclosed sin we’ve collectively committed by raining shards of ice on our heads. Knowing icy vengeance was coming our way, I made a pot of, well, I’m still not sure what to call this soup. It’s very, very loosely based on yuk gae jang, a mind-blowingly spicy Korean beef soup. It was a favorite of mine in my 20s, but the beef was always just a little too chewy for my taste, so I started tinkering with meatless versions sometime in my 30s and landed on this one in my 40s.

So you could say it’s been a long time coming. I’m not done with it yet, but it’s a dish that obviously can handle a fair amount of tweaking.

The secret ingredient in this bowl of bliss is gochujang, a fermented condiment heavy on the red pepper. Looking for an expiration date on the jar that’s been in my refrigerator for a couple of years (at least), I noticed a prominent ingredient was wheat, which I’m really avoiding in earnest these days. So I did what I always do — looked online for a gluten-free recipe, and found one right away. The ingredients were few, the time commitment was minimal and the rewards were great (it’s possibly more delicious than commercial-grade). I really can’t complain. Even though my Korean chili pepper was a little out of date and the gochujang wasn’t Insanity Pepper-hot, it still lit up the pot of soup like a torch.

As insurance against the weather, I added a hefty dash of chili flakes to the pot. You can see them swimming alone around the edges of the bowl, as if the vegetables were crowding together in the center for protection.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Spicy Mushroom Soup”

From the Market: Week 5

gluten-free

Right off the bat, I’ll admit that yes, I cheated a little here. Asparagus hasn’t been seen at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market for the past two weeks, but 1) I had a craving and 2) didn’t it make for a pretty — if slightly pornographic — shot?

Because I operate under the assumption that pretty much everything is better when topped with a fried or poached egg (especially the super-fresh ones we get from Nina), I went with a variation on a shaved asparagus salad from the pages of Food & Wine for Sunday’s lunch:

The ricotta salata I substituted for the Parmesan was creamy and subtle, but I think I’ll try the recipe as written next time for even more of a punch.

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Because I eat yogurt with fruit every weekday for breakfast, I like to change things up a little on weekends, so we had gluten-free pancakes before hitting the market Saturday morning. I’m still playing around with flour combinations for breads and pie crust, but this pancake recipe was perfect as written. (By the way, I have no plans to turn this into a blog about dietary restrictions, but if you’re looking into a gluten-free diet, I highly recommend the Gluten-Free Girl blog. It’s an amazing resource.)

But back to the pancakes. I cooked them in only about 1/2 teaspoon of butter each, but they were so rich-tasting and slightly sweet on their own that they only needed a dollop of the raspberry jam I picked up recently from B&B Jams to put them over the top.

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I didn’t really load up on fresh vegetables this weekend because I went overboard last week and still had quite a bit hanging around in my vegetable drawers. I’ve been on a leftover kick all week long, but only yesterday did I finally get around to using up the last bit of the smoked beef tongue (courtesy of Snoep Winkel Farm) I made last weekend. Of course, on that first day, we had it in tacos as we always do, but during the week it made appearances sliced on crackers with Dijon mustard or just nibbled out of hand straight from the cutting board.

But my plan for Saturday’s lunch included my latest favorite way to use leftover bits of meat and vegetables: Vietnamese bun, a refreshing salad served with cold rice noodles, and the perfect thing on a hot summer day.

This was made entirely with odds and ends from the refrigerator: Tatsoi, cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, radishes, green onions, basil and cilantro, all tossed with a sweet-sour-salty-spicy dressing, funky with fish sauce and garlic. And hit with a lot of Sriracha, naturally. I’ve found that if you get the sauce right (I used the one from this Vietnamese Chicken Salad), the rest of the salad just falls into place.

It’s been a migraine-y day for me, so I have nothing more to offer at the moment, but I’m hoping to get around to an apricot & goat’s milk frozen yogurt sometime this week. Hope you have a great one!

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market: Week 5”

Deeeeep breaths…

The Saints game is about to start. As such, I have no time nor the presence of mind to write a real post, so I’ll leave you with a few pictures and a promise to do better next weekend. I’ve been creatively moribund since the holidays, but hope it’ll pass soon.


Got my gris-gris going first thing this morning with shrimp & grits. I hope the spirits aren’t too upset that my coffee lacked chicory.


And since it’s old home day, why not have a little old-fashioned banana pudding with Nilla Wafers? (I’ve been playing with the recipe I got from my mom, who got it at her wedding shower, but it’s not quiiiiite there yet. Will post it once it is.)


And on the topic of comfort foods, all I wanted last weekend was graham crackers and milk.


OK, that’s not entirely true. These Szechuan noodles with shrimp really hit the spot.


How could they not?

Time for a beer, maybe some wings. Geaux Saints! No matter what happens tonight, nothing will ever beat this fan video or the run that inspired it:

Something old, something new


This isn’t your halmoni’s yuk gae jang.

I’ve been in love with Korean cooking for years, ever since I dated a Korean cowboy-type from Tulsa during my days of indentured servitude in grad school. He came from a family of amazing cooks and it really showed. Being me, I learned everything I could from him and then some, with the help of a basic, but now out-of-print cookbook.

The dishes that probably spring to mind when you think of Korean food are kimchi, savory-sweet bulgogi or my entry in the grilled-meats-that-can-make-you-weep contest galbee, but my favorite has always been yuk gae jang. It’s a beef soup so spicy with hot pepper paste it’ll turn your tongue inside-out. And I’m a fire eater, so you know, be careful if you order this in a restaurant.

Traditional versions of this soup still crop up in my kitchen from time to time, but over the years I’ve bastardized the recipe to make it more veg friendly. It’s meat-free, not vegetarian, but it’d be easy enough to substitute a mushroomy vegetable broth if you want to avoid animal products entirely.


Can you handle the heat?

I tweaked the basic recipe I last posted by making the stock with roasted meaty marrow bones to deepen the beef flavor. To increase the umami even more, I sautéed porcini mushrooms until they’d caramelized, then added them to the pot along with thinly sliced portobellos. It was just what I wanted that evening to warm my bones after the long greyhound hike, but was even better two days later when I stirred a couple of beaten eggs into the leftovers as they were reheating.

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But I’m always on the lookout for something new, as my overfilled bookmarks folder and Google docs will confirm. One of the more recent entries was a truly vegetarian option from 101 Cookbooks, Giant Chipotle White Beans. It was a last-minute decision, so I didn’t have time to soak any of my Rancho Gordo selections; instead, I cracked open the two cans of beans we had in the pantry — cannellinis and garbanzos. It wasn’t as weird as you’d think when all was said and done, but I’d probably stick to just cannellinis in the future.

But I’m here to testify about the sauce, which was the star of the show — beautifully balanced, smoky and deceptively rich, and dead simple to make. (I doubled the sauce recipe so I could use the other half on pizza later in the week and think that was one of my better food decisions in a while. Truly spectacular.) The beans were topped with some Bulgarian feta I’ve had marinating downstairs for a couple of months, and even with the canned bean melange, the dish was a home run. We nearly ate it all in one sitting, but just managed to save enough for me to bring to work as leftovers. Yes, leftovers. Holy schmoley, this was good stuff.

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Real Kitchens 101: Your weekend lagniappe.

Odds & ends

As you can see, I’ve been cooking. Oh, how I’ve been cooking. But there hasn’t been a lot to say about the food. I mean, we can all get behind a great roast chicken, but really, what more could I possibly tell you about it? Well, OK, just a word about this one, then we’ll move on…

I was craving another Zuni roast chicken for dinner during the week, but my way-back machine was in the shop and I couldn’t have one seasoned in time for that evening’s meal. So I did the next best thing; I used Thomas Keller’s method of seasoning and dry roasting a chicken in a 450-degree oven for an hour. (Thanks for the heads-up, Dietsch.) It’s very similar to the Zuni method, only it requires no advance planning. It’s also very similar to my grandma’s roast chicken: 500-degree oven for an hour, but she bastes it in butter whereas this one stayed completely dry, the better to crisp the skin, my darlings. It was a delicious bird, only not seasoned through the way it would have been if I’d started the project three days earlier. Live and learn.

One thing among many I’m grateful for is that my husband remains unmoved by chicken butt. Rufus and I go crazy for it, so there must be some primal instinct that Gil’s missing. Whatever — more for me. (What? You don’t really think I’d actually share this little morsel with a dog, do you? He got a few bites of chicken skin after we’d finished eating, which was all the reward he was getting. Did he help me lift the heavy cast iron pan into the oven? No. Did he help me make gravy from the salty pan drippings? No. He just napped cutely while I did all the hard work.)

Continue reading “Odds & ends”

The beet and the coconut

It’s not unusual to plan a meal around one ingredient, I think. You find a beautiful cut of grass-fed beef or see a flat of ruby red strawberries and the wheels start spinning as you think about the best way to highlight their natural beauty. This sort of thinking influenced a couple of our meals this week.

Usually when I buy beets, both root and green are destined for a salad inspired by an episode of Lidia’s Family Table — roasted beets, boiled greens, and sliced green apple are tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with hard goat cheese, and seasoned only with salt & pepper. It’s simple and delicious, especially when the produce is at its freshest and most vibrant.

But wanting something different last weekend and thinking (incorrectly) I was prepared to deal with a certain amount of frustration, I decided on a beet tart adapted from this one. The process involved me buying my first tart pan from a store that fascinates and repels me in equal measure — New York Cake & Baking Distribution, conveniently located across the street from my office. I’m attracted to its bare bones design and singularity of purpose; this isn’t a place you go for a comfortable shopping experience with easily navigable aisles or readily located merchandise. No, you go here for baking supplies (pretty much anything at all) at a good price. Period. I’m repelled only because I’m woefully ignorant about baking and expect to be given the bum’s rush when I walk in. Insecure much?

And, you know, there’s a reason for my insecurity — I’ve never once made a pie crust that hasn’t frustrated me to the point of tears. Part of the problem is a lack of counter space, but mostly it’s simple inexperience. Is the dough too dry? Is it too wet? I DON’T KNOW! I think the problem you see above was a too-dry crust, but couldn’t say. My quick fix was to jam bits of dough into the areas where it broke apart, figuring the filling would hide my mistakes from sight, if not taste.

But what a filling it was! While the beets were roasting, I threw in a whole head of garlic, too, which I later sautéed with a chopped onion and copious amounts of thyme. Just meditate on that for a minute.

And then I topped that layer with an egg, crème fraiche, and goat cheese cheese mixture before the roasted beets and even more cheese found their way to the tippy top of the tart.

It was a lot of work, I won’t lie, and I don’t really know if I’ll be preparing the crust again since I’m such a numskull with the pastry-making, but that filling definitely will be featured again in future meals, the layers alone or in some combination. For you see, it was DELICIOUS.

OK, it looks a little pizza-like, but warm from the oven with the sweet caramelized onions, garlic and beets sandwiching that creamy filling, mmmm…

We polished off about half of the tart on the spot, calling it dinner, and put the other half away for quick lunches later in the week.

The other (and probably the more surprising) ingredient I planned a meal around was … coconut juice. I picked it up on a whim at the grocery one day and couldn’t quite figure out what to do with it, so it languished in the pantry for a few weeks. Then I thought — hey, Thai! So I broke out my new rice cooker and set about making coconut rice with brown basmati and a mixture of coconut milk and strained coconut juice. I was on a roll!

To top the rice, I defrosted about a cup of sofrito from my stash, thinking the cilantro and culantro would be right at home with the coconut, and made a thick stew with the addition of lime-marinated shrimp, shrimp stock, hot pepper paste, and the rest of the coconut milk/juice. I topped it all with thinly sliced green onions and toasted sweetened coconut to balance the tartness from the lime and have to say I was pretty pleased with the outcome:

But I think it could’ve used more heat and possibly a little funky fish sauce to bring the whole thing together. I’ll try that variation next time and report back to you.

And it doesn’t have anything to do with this post, really, but because ’tis the season, I have to show you what I did with my garlic scapes last weekend instead of grilling them.

I made a chickpea dip inspired by Mark Bittman’s white bean dip with lemon zest. I could eat this everyday. I just whirled together some canned chickpeas (drained of squack), the zest of one lemon, the juice of the same, quite a few chopped garlic scapes and harissa. While the machine was running, I drizzled in some good-quality olive oil until the mixture turned creamy; I topped it with more lemon juice, olive oil, and another sprinkling of harissa before we dove in. Yum.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “The beet and the coconut”

Fuh.

I was very disappointed to read of Martha Stewart’s plan to fold Blueprint recently, despite my initial lukewarm feelings toward the magazine. Each issue managed to teach me a little something new and always inspired me with its eye candy and functional-yet-beautiful design. To say my sad goodbye, I had the bright idea to cook a recipe from the last issue and frame a post around it; since I’ve been on a bit of an Asian kick lately, the pho from the soup story sounded promising. I knew not to expect authenticity, but expected better than I got.

It all started so well, too. I made the beef stock a day early and it smelled heavenly — rich with chuck roast, bone marrow, star anise, and fish sauce. After looking forward to it all the next day, I got started as soon as I walked in the door.

While the noodles were boiling,

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I assembled the vegetables we’d use as garnish.

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When the noodles were ready, I drained and rinsed them in cold water, then added the thinly-sliced beef

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before pouring the boiling broth over, which immediately began to cook the meat.

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We sat down with our soup and veggies and a big bottle of sriracha and … I thought maybe I still had a cold. It tasted like absolutely nothing — hot water flavored with chili sauce. It was so lackluster, I only had a few bites before pushing it aside for some Triscuits and leftover peach sauce.

Feh.

Fuh.

My new wonton technique is unstoppable

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Happy 2008, everyone! Keeping with our tradition, Gil and I stayed in for a movie marathon last night rather than endure the crowds in the city and the loooong drive home. This year’s feature: The Lord of the Rings trilogy. (No, really, it was his idea. Something about the big screen HDTV, battle scenes, I dunno. I wasn’t going to argue.) We started late and only got up to about the 45-minute mark of The Two Towers, but it’s a rainy day, so I’m sure we’ll finish what we started before nightfall.

With hours of Middle Earth fun ahead of us, I wanted to make something festive for dinner that wouldn’t require too much time in the kitchen, and after my success with two recipes from Simple Chinese Cooking, I turned to its pages again for inspiration. The shrimp dumplings practically leaped off the page and demanded an audition, so I obliged, despite the potential for disaster — eviscerated dumplings churning in a pot of boiling water isn’t as appetizing as you might think. But Kylie Kwong’s step-by-step photo illustrations of dumpling assembly made the technique seem easy enough, and it really was.

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Oops, looks like a bit of shrimp got away from me there. We’ll just ignore that.

Didn’t affect the outcome, at least:

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Awww … they couldn’t be cuter if they were a pile of puppies frolicking on the cutting board. Hairier and much less sanitary, yes, but definitely not cuter.

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Wonton regiment 24 reporting for duty!

And you may find this hard to believe (I certainly did), but not one dumpling burst in the boiling water! That’s a success rate I haven’t come near with homemade ravioli, so I think there’s something to Ms. Kwong’s techniques. Hmmm, maybe I’ll start making “tortellini” instead — sneaky, sneaky.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Gil and I have to get back to our movie research; he has a theory that Ed Wood was resurrected to direct Orlando Bloom in this trilogy, and I’m having trouble disproving it.

Virtuous living

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After our gluttonous journey through south Louisiana, I wanted our first home-cooked meal to be fresh, light, healthy, and flavorful. As luck would have it, all of these conditions were met in the pages of Kylie Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking, a holiday gift from my mother-in-law. The size of this cookbook is the only downside I’ve found so far — it’s really more of a kitchen atlas than a useful cookbook in its current form. I lack counter space in my kitchen, so I had to copy the recipes I’d chosen to a notebook and cook from there. But in all other respects it’s a wonderful book — great recipes, clear instructions, gorgeous pictures, and handy step-by-step illustrations of some of the more difficult preparations. (Cutting a whole chicken the Chinese way and making wontons are two of my favorites.)

The dish pictured above is steamed cod with ginger and green onions. I’ve made steamed fish before, but this was far beyond the Cooking Light recipes I’ve used in the past. It’s a very refined dish elevated by the surprising element of hot peanut oil drizzled over the top just before serving; it finishes the dish with a roasted aroma and ever-so-slightly nutty flavor.

To accompany the fish, I decided on stir-fried Chinese cabbage with oyster sauce, also from the pages of Simple Chinese Cooking. The two dishes were linked by their use of Chinese cabbage, though this stir fry had much more delicate flavors and texture than the fish. They both paired nicely with a bottle of muscadet I’d chilled, and left us feeling satisfied and healthy, a combination we hadn’t experienced in over a week.

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