18 June 2012

Figs and Bacon

The farmer's market at the Ferry Building in SF is an oddity; both a large tourist draw as well as a favorite of locals. Unlike the Powell-Hyde/Powell-Mason cable car lines, Fisherman's Wharf, and Alcatraz, the number of tourists at the market Saturday morning is likely less than locals. In addition to finding the rare and elusive mingling of tourists and locals (see also "Dolores Park" and "Alamo Square"), one can usually find meal inspiration. Sitting on a bench with E, drinking morning inspiration, she mentioned making pasta dough was really easy and we decided to add it to the "cook sometime" list. Otherwise, our goal was some fruit with which to make sorbet and something for dinner.
We rambled through the market, looking for tasty things. My wonderful discovery last week of tiny brussels was not to be repeated, though E spied some lavender to pretty up my place with. We also impulse-purchased some figs; I thought on a whim, but E had something in mind for them. Having completed a loop, we decided the lavender would go great with blueberry so off I went to get a basket. I also asked the mushroom man for some recommendations as I've been attempting to convince my taste buds of them; he suggested a variety I can't remember the name of for a pasta primavera. A meal had formed - pasta primavera with homemade noodles.
Now, as is often the case, I was mistaken on the matter of a pasta primavera. E suggested we add carrots and peas; I replied that, no, the dish was just deconstructed mushroom sauce. It wasn't until this morning, several days after devouring the meal, I discovered my error. According to the great settler of debates, Wikipedia most decidedly decided in E's favor - carrots and peas are in. Oh well, oh well. It was still good, though not the star of the meal. That would be these figs:
Warmed figs, with bacon, garlic, rosemary, and lavender topped with the smallest amount of goat cheese. This is based on a recipe from The Herbal Kitchen that E had been eyeing for quite some time and even, apparently, planned for the figs from the get-go. An aside on this book: I have yet to make anything less than excellent from it; these are simple, restaurant-worthy dishes in home kitchen-worthy preps. The figs, though, the figs! I would gladly eat these again, then have even more of them after. Most of the prep can be done an hour or more in advance of eating them, at which point they need only five minutes in a warmed oven, making them perfect for lightening a cooking load.
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Warm Figs With Bacon and Goat Cheese
Makes enough for 2 people to devour, but scales well
3 ripe figs
2 pieces bacon
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
rosemary (fresh is better)
lavender (fresh is better)
goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Cook bacon in a pan, rendering the fat out and crisping it. When the bacon is crisped, remove and pat dry. Pour of some, but not all, of the bacon grease - keep roughly a tablespoon or so, enough to lightly coat the pan. Add the minced garlic and herbs to the pan, cooking for a few minutes until the garlic is slightly browned; remove from heat. Dice the garlic into small pieces, eating some, then add back to the pan with garlic and mix. Slice each fig in half and, using a spoon or thumb, create a depression in the center of each. Spoon some of the mixture into each of the figs. Five minutes before you want to eat them, add a tiny dollop of goat cheese to each and place in oven for five minutes. Eat immediately.
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Homemade Pasta
Serves 2
1 egg
twice as much semolina flour as egg, by weight
tsp olive oil
pinch salt

First, a note: don't use 100% semolina flour, as we did. 50/50 semolina/all-purpose is probably better. In a small bowl, mix the salt and flour together. Form a divot in the middle. Break the egg yolk with your finger, mix it around a little, then put it in the divot with the tsp olive oil. Mix, lightly, by hand to incorporate the ingredients. It should form a nice dough. Knead, flouring as necessary, for 10 minutes. Place in a bowl and cover to let the gluten rest for 30 minutes.

Prepare a pot of water to boil, with a little salt. Lightly dust a work surface in semolina flour and pull out the rolling pin. Roll the pasta into a thin sheet. No, thinner than that. As thin as you can manage, and then some. Really thin. Doing this by hand is hard. Once rolled, cut into desired shape. Boil for a few minutes, until done. Eat at once.

11 June 2012

Cooking one-handed

A bit of a bike accident (entirely my fault, entirely avoidable) led to a rather sudden meeting between my left hand/forearm/elbow and the pavement. While everything heals up, I can use the fingers but not the palm. This makes cooking difficult but, it turns out, not impossible. Lovely weather was had Saturday, mostly wasted on my inability to do fun things like bike or run or climb and my nerdy desire to see Prometheus in the middle of the day. Sunday, magically, was nicer and less painful - a trip to the farmer's market near me was proposed and quickly ratified. The result, later that day:
Before that, however, was a simple picnic in the park with a hunk of bread (not made by me, sadly), some lovely artichoke spread, and a bag of cherry tomatoes. Also spied, and subsequently purchased at the market, were two peculiar items: small brussels and purple green beans. It turns out brussels season just began, again, if Wikipedia is to be trusted. Be prepared for many meals containing them, as I load up on the tiny, delicious ones instead of the late-season large varieties that don't cook properly. The purple green beans, as seen in the photo above, lose their color when cooked at high heat and turn green. This creates a nice effect if you are lazy cooking them, and overcook one side but undercook the other. But, yes, a dual-recipe today.
Blackened Miso-Butter Brussels and Dijon Green Beans
(more of a guideline than a recipe)

early-season brussels (smaller than, say, ping-pong balls)
unsalted butter
red miso paste

green (or purple) beans
seeded-style dijon mustard
chinese five-spice

For the brussels: preheat oven to 400. Wash the brussels and slice each in half, top to bottom. In a small dish, combine equal parts miso and butter and mix. You can add a splash of, say, vinegar or sherry if you wish, but it isn't necessary. Heat a cast-iron pan, large enough to fit all your sprouts, over medium. Spread a bit of the miso butter on the face of each brussels half and place them, face down, in the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the faces have begun to crisp up. Transfer to the oven to finish, another 10 minutes, or until they have reached the desired softness.

For the green (or purple) beans: pluck the tough stems off the end of each and wash them. Heat a bit of oil in a pan over medium-low and add the beans, tossing frequently. After they have some heat, but aren't cooked, add salt (not too much) and a generous dash of chinese five-spice, toss, then add enough seeded-style dijon to lightly coat them. Serve them immediately, before they have completely cooked.

05 June 2012

Chile Lime Yuba, Jiaozi, Others

Since the last post, I've intended to do more cooking with chemicals. It hasn't happened, really. One experiment in making some form of ice cream (hemp milk, xantham, versawhip) was met with success but  that isn't exactly impressive; ice cream is fairly trivial to make (though it is nice to not need a machine to do it). In the mean time, most of my meals have been simple ingredients with involving preps. For instance, I made a yuba stir-fry that involved making steamed buns, cleaning a rather lot of mushrooms and snap peas, carmelizing onions, and using a mortar to grind a sauce from jalapeno and basil. Yet the end result was just interesting; maybe something to work on, but nothing extraordinary. In fact, what I've described is basically the recipe if you add some lime to the sauce and some soy sauce to the stir fry.
For recipes that I can give, there were some definitely delicious dishes cooked in the past weeks. For instance, this mujaddara from food52 was phenomenal and simple. Cooking the rice in the oven was something I had never considered though it now makes perfect sense. The trick to really good sushi rice is ensuring it cooks by steaming, not boiling. Putting it in the oven is like the too-lazy-to-buy-a-rice-cooker man's solution to this problem. We topped it with oven-roasted carrots and broccoli, a dish that E has been knocking out of the park lately.
Another is a repeat iteration of "peas with horseradish", from Momofuku. That is it, really. Oh, it is from Momofuku so you have to add some butter. But, yeah, that is it. Heat some butter in a cast iron. Add some sugar peas, or snap peas, or really any pea that cooks quickly until you think it is done. When it is, sprinkle on some salt, shave some fresh horseradish on, toss it, plate it, and shave a little more horseradish. Consume, quickly. The flavor on this one diminishes quickly.
And, finally, a glorious dish: jiaozi (or, chinese dumplings). E kicked ass on this one, basing the recipe on the first hit on Google (note for later: searching for ethnic food recipes by their ethnic names yields better dishes). We subbed "Gimme Lean"-brand vegan ground beef substitute for the real thing and used store-bought wrappers. It took a while, considering how cramped my steamer became. One batch was boiled; I wouldn't recommend that - steam these puppies. They are awesome.