19 November 2012

Plenty More Cooking

My schedule returned to normal, my stomach the same, and the arrival of "fall" in SF all lead to one thing: more cooking. The latest edition of Lucky Peach arrived last week and has proved excellent so far. While the recipes are not exactly basic, the lot seem less chef-ified than past issues. For a cooking night with E, we made a modified eggplant, soba, and mango dish from Plenty and a very heavily modified "vegetables stuffed with fish paste" from Lucky Peach - I used chicken sausage instead of fish paste.
The eggplant dish was excellent, as everything else from the book - cilantro, lime, onion, and red pepper provide the base, and the mango livens it up a notch. However: the slight modifications to the eggplant recipe, entirely my own doing, are not ones I would recommend. It asks for fried eggplant; please do so. The chewiness of baked eggplant was not the best. Also, the dish is intended to be cold. We, as hungry diners, ate it warm instead. The leftovers, having marinated in the liquids for some time, had more body.

Later in the week, E requested yams. For some reason, I decided the yam bruschetta would be a grand idea. It, as we discovered, is. We deviated from the bruschetta template by a large margin, so I may offend some with the name. Don't let that stop you from cooking this dish; tomato, yam, and a strong cheese create a winning combo. The yam baked until it is almost creamy and stacked with carmelized onions is a dream to bite into.
Yam Bruschetta
Serves 2-3 as dinner/4-6 as appetizer (depending on yam size)
1 medium-ish yam, sliced into thin rectangles
bread (we used a home-made pita-ish dough)
2-4 small heirloom tomatoes
1 yellow onion, cut as you would for a sandwich
watercress stems, cut slightly shorter than the bread
a strong, hard cheese (we used a goat gouda)
olive oil
Preheat oven to 425. Prepare the yam by slicing in, then lightly tossing in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and potentially more seasonings. E was in charge of this part and I only remember cinnamon. Definitely something else. Put on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put in the oven.

Cut the onion into strips and put in a small pan over medium-low - the onion should completely cover the bottom and then some. Sprinkle with a little salt and carmelize slowly while you go about the rest of prep; after 10-15 minutes, stir every 5 minutes so they cook evenly and don't burn.

Slice your bread, tomatoes, cheese, and watercress. When the yams are soft so that a fork could spread them on bread, 40 minutes or so, remove from the oven (but don't shut it off). The onion should also be nice and sweet at this point.
Assemble the bruschetta - brush each piece of bread with a small amount of olive oil, then place a yam slice, a tomato slice, a few strands of onion, and a hint of cheese on top. Finish with 4-6 watercress stems and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper.

Cook in the 425 degree oven for 10+ minutes until the tomato has started to give off liquid, the cheese has begun to melt, and some onion/green tips have blackened. Let them cool for at least a few minutes, lest you burn your mouth on the tomato.

12 November 2012

Socca That Shouldn't, But Does, Work

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I actually posted. Then, I went to Beijing for a few weeks, got back to a stomach bug for a week, and have generally been busy. I ate really a rather large variety of food in Beijing; E along as my translator made things much easier. We still did guess our way through a few menu items as the characters used for describing food aren't exactly the most descriptive. For instance, my "noodles tomatoes and egg with <unrecognized characters> extra" that we were excited for? <unrecognized characters> just meant "a size bigger". Hrm. But, yes, chuan is delicious (as is all Uyghur food we had), I really like zhōu (congee/rice porrige/jook/etc), and there were some surprisingly good tofu skin/peanut dishes.

And really a lot more to talk about, but this post is not about that. It is about a dinner that, by all accounts, should have been an interesting experiment and nothing more but was, in reality, simply delicious. I have been cooking a lot from Plenty (another reason for the lack of recipes) and have enjoyed everything from it so far. It had a recipe for socca - chickpea flour pancakes - topped with onion and tomato. I took the recipe as an inspiration, ran it through parts of Japan and China, and came up with this.
Socca, with green onion inside, topped with mâche (lamb's lettuce), and a mushroom/tomato saute. The China part is, somewhat obviously, the green onions in the socca - like scallion cakes but much lighter. The Japan part isn't so obvious from a photo, but from a bite it would be obvious. The saute was seasoned with a combination of sake, (fake) wasabi, and brown sugar. Sesame oil could, probably, have helped a great deal. Delicious, though, most definitely delicious. If I see Italian/Japanese fusion places in the future, I won't be quite so stunned.
Socca (By Way of Asia)
Serves 2
This recipe is an approximation, and not a final product. Consider it a place to get started; much could be improved in the dish. For instance, a sauce, aioli, or dip could be of great benefit. As could some spices.

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp minced green onion

1 "box" mushrooms (8oz, I think)
2/3 "box" cherry tomatoes (???oz)
1/4 cup-ish sake
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp (give or take) wasabi
a bit of mâche

Mix the socca batter - combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk. Clean the mushrooms and dry them, then slice them. Sweat the mushrooms with a dash of salt in a frying pan over medium heat for about five minutes. While the mushrooms are sweating, begin cutting cherry tomatoes in half. When the mushrooms have reduced by a bit and are tasty, prepare to multi-task.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and prepare a parchment-lined baking sheet. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat with a bottom the size you would like your socca (think slightly larger than tacos). While doing the rest of the saute prep, you should be cooking socca: put a dash of oil in the pan and add ~1/4 cup of batter, spreading it evenly over the bottom. After 1-2 minutes, it should have bubbles and the top should have begun to set a little. Flip and cook for another minute.

In the downtime of cooking socca, add the sake, brown sugar, and wasabi to the mushrooms and reduce for several minutes. Then add the tomatoes, cook for five minutes, and add salt and pepper to taste. All the while, you should be making socca - I got 6 pancakes from the recipe, which is a good amount to aim for.

The saute should finish before the socca, which is good as you want it to cool slightly. When all the socca are done, put a bed of mâche on each one, then top with saute. Place in the oven for 5-10 minutes to warm. Serve and eat immediately, as they will cool quickly. Warmed plates may help. Eating with your hands may be a good idea, as E thought the dish was close enough to a taco to be eaten like one.

Hell, maybe add some guacamole.