Redo weekend

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Sometimes it’s a good idea to revisit old favorites. I’ve been really blah with overtones of meh lately about pretty much everything including preparing meals. Like Milli Vanilli, I’ll blame it on the rain, but that doesn’t make the prospect of cooking any more exciting. So what’s a girl to do when her hair is permanently frizzy, she hasn’t seen the sun in days and can’t be bothered to update her cooking blog? Declare a Redo Weekend!

The day started with an update to the cornmeal blueberry pancakes I first tried last summer. With so many gorgeous berries at the market right now, it seemed a shame to limit the pancakes to blueberries, so I halved the batch and did a strawberry version as well. Couldn’t decide which I liked more, so I just alternated them on the plate and doused the stack with maple syrup.

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Cut to two hours later.

After waking from my sugar coma, I got to work on another old favorite: tongue tacos and refried beans. Mmmmm-hmmmm. I’d picked up a three-pound behemoth at the Snoep Winkle Farm booth a week earlier and it had been weighing heavily on my mind. I tweaked the old recipe pretty heavily, doubling the beer in the braising liquid and adding hefty amounts of toasted cumin and coriander seeds.

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After braising, I set the tongue aside to cool. Then came the peeling, which didn’t skeeve me out nearly as much this time around.

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It still wasn’t pleasant, mind you, but my toes didn’t curl at all. PROGRESS!

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While my hands were still covered in tongue juices (am I not the most enchanting creature ever?), I shredded the meat before cooking it down a second time with onions, additional spices and even more beer.

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The tongue tasted heavily of beef as you’d expect, but turned silky and tender in a way no other cut can. We had the tacos with and without salsa because, again, it was too hard to decide which way was better.

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No picture of the refried beans because I’m just not that good of a photographer, but they were creamy and delicious. I used borlotti beans (an odd choice, I’ll admit) from Rancho Gordo cooked in the usual way — onions, garlic, cumin, beer, beef broth, salt & pepper — until they were soft, then fried them with some bacon fat and onion, mashing them down as they simmered. It might be too soon for another Redo Weekend, but I’m really tempted to do this again for the 4th.

Inspiration has been peeking around the corners for me this week, so I hope to have something new for you soon. But in the meantime, enjoy the weekend and try a redo if you need to.

A GOOP apologist

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In the late 90s, when the first anti-Gwyneth Paltrow backlash was in the news gossip pages, one of my contrarian friends made the conscious decision to become a Paltrow supporter. If something negative came up (and working at a sports magazine with grizzled black-hearted former newspapermen, it did), he’d extol her virtues, her beauty, her cerebral screen presence — basically, anything he could do to get under a detractor’s skin.

Now that the second wave of backlash has come around, I think I might just find myself taking on his old role. Like many people, I signed up for the GOOP newsletter looking for a laugh, but something odd happened — I didn’t always delete them. In fact, I’ve kept nearly every recipe sent from the beginning. (I make no such claim about the lifestyle or shopping tips, but this is a food blog after all.) And let’s be honest — who among us wouldn’t want to be in her position, culinarily speaking? She’s buds with Batali hisownself and probably picked up a thing or two traveling through Spain with him. So when she speaks (and mentions him in the newsletter), I listen.

Last week’s menu featured a few dishes from a meal she had at his home — a meal to which Emeril was invited, btw. Yes, the eyes do roll, but damn, this meal sounded pretty fabulous. And it didn’t disappoint, even with a few changes made to the menu. The chicken dish pictured above is a Spanish affair, complete with thinly sliced onions, lemons and fennel sautéed together with white wine and pimenton, then roasted in the oven. As if all of that weren’t enough, the whole cloves of garlic that baked and softened in the broth were absolute heaven and force me to apologize here and now to anyone who happened to be next to me at the gym yesterday. (I confess to being agnostic about preserved lemons, so when I ran out a few months ago, I didn’t bother restocking. The pomegranate pips were another story. There were none to be found in the few markets I visited, so they were a necessary deletion, but sorely missed.)

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Blood oranges. Mmmm. They’re one of my favorite things about this time of year. We’re all just barely hanging in there, waiting for a Spring that seems to retreat the closer we march to it, but at least these beauties bring a dash of color and verve to the last gray days of winter.

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The fennel and blood orange salad recipe offered with the chicken was incredibly simple to make and tasted fresh, light and healthy. Because the oranges aren’t terribly acidic, I added a splash of white balsamic to the mix to brighten up the flavors a bit. I’d imagine some thinly sliced red onion would be very good in here, too.

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The flatbreads were a bit problematic. My kitchen was a little too cold, so the dough didn’t rise in time to have them with our meal. That’s ok, though. I made them later, and we snacked on them with agave nectar all afternoon; they worked just as well for dessert.

So I don’t know where you stand on GOOP, but I’d heartily recommend the newsletter if you’re looking for a few (mostly healthy) ideas for dinner. And if you don’t enjoy that, you can join in the schadenfreude, I suppose.

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.

Peas

This weekend, Gil and I made a quick and early excursion to the farmers’ market (Rufus overheats easily), but still managed to return home with bags bursting from the beautiful fruits and vegetables and pickles and pies and herbs on display. I was unable to resist much, so I’ll be doing a lot of cooking (for one) this week before the greens wilt and strawberries turn to mush.

The very first things I put to use from our haul were sugar snap peas and asparagus. I sautéed them lightly in butter and olive oil with garlic and reconstituted morels, then steamed them till tender with a little of the morel liquid. I topped the vegetables with chives and thyme from my herb garden and was very happy, indeed, until I had the bright idea to serve it with red snapper fresh from the freezer. And quelle surprise! the fish wasn’t so great, but it’s finally convinced me of the need to find a good fish market in the area. If anyone out there knows of a good one in Passaic or Bergen county, let me know.

Because I have real trouble letting anything go to waste, it was a happy day when I saw a recipe for chilled pea pod soup at Chocolate & Zucchini. I plan to make this until the market runs out of snap peas; it was light, delicious, and refreshing, especially topped with a spoonful of crème fraiche and more chives from my herb garden. Yum.