Archive for May, 2012

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May 31, 2012: Vichychoisse

May 30, 2012

We are really between seasons for Vichychoisse, but I had such a craving for it I couldn’t resist making it today. Vichychoisse is a rich and creamy French soup, usually served cold but delicious hot as well, made from leeks, potatoes, cream, butter, stock and spices. I usually only make this dish for guests.

Vichychoisse

Ingredients:

  • 2 large Leeks (about 5C. after chopping)
  • 2.5 Lbs. White Potatoes (washed, skinned, and cubed)
  • 1 Qt. Stock (traditionally made with chicken, but I use veggie)
  • 1/2 Stick (4 Tblsp.) Butter         •1Pint Light Cream
  • Spices: 3/4C. Fresh Dill (woody ends removed); 1/4 Tsp. French Thyme; 1/2 Tsp. Tarragon; 1.5 Tblps. Sal de Mer; a grind of coarse black pepper

Leeks, a longer, milder form of onion are perfect in this dish (onions are too strong and will overpower the Vichychoisse) but they can be quite a dirty veggie. Chop off the greener parts of the leeks and the end roots. I give all these pieces a good soak in cold H2O, while separating the green parts and rubbing the dirt out. I save the green parts and roots for stock. I then coarsely dice the white parts, put them in a colander and soak them in new H2O. I finally run them under a stream of cold H2O. Only then will they be clean. Let drain in the colander. Add leeks to large soup pot with butter. Over medium heat, sauté leeks until they start to become soft. Add potatoes and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Add stock. Cover veggies with H2O if you don’t have enough stock. Add spices and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for about half hour or until veggies are quite soft. With immersion blender or, bit by bit, in a food processor, purée veggies and stock. Add cream and stir. Add milk to thin if necessary. Serve topped with fresh dill, with crackers or French bread and a white wine.

Much thanks to Regan for all the delicious French spices. Without them I would have never attempted this dish just for myself. The Vichychoisse was a delicious treat!

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May 28, 2012: Green Beans-Japanese Style

May 28, 2012

A very fast, simple and healthy Japanese-style recipe for green beans.

Prepare dressing: toast [in an dry iron or non-stick pan, over medium heat; stirring often] 1/4C. white sesame seeds and then grind with a mortar and pestle (or a surabachi if you have one.) Add 1 Tblsp. mirin+3 Tblsp. each broth (or dashi) and shoyu. Mix well.

Slice 1 (mild) red pepper thin.

Bring 1 Qt. H2O+1Tblsps. sal de mer to a boil. Wash and trim ends of your green beans and  add to the boiling H2O and cook for no more than two minutes. Drain in a colander.

Serve beans topped with pepper slices and dressing.

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May 22, 2012: Meditations on the Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo #2

May 22, 2012

“…when we consider how small, after all, the cup of human enjoyment is, how soon overflowed with tears, how easily drained to the dregs in our quenchless thirst for infinity..meanwhile let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness if things.”

“The Book of Tea” by Okakura Kakuzo in the chapter, “The Cup of Humanity”

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May 18, 2012: Katie’s Salad

May 18, 2012

Last weekend, I got a very nice visit from Teja and Katie. We had a very relaxing lunch and then Katie swam at the lake while Teja and I chatted on shore. Even ‘tho it was Mother’s Day weekend, and the weather was perfect, we had the whole lake to ourselves! Teja was kind enough to bring a bag of foodstuffs, computer stuff and Katie brought me an crocheted pot holder she had made by hand and also an apron with an image she had drawn on the front. Having not seen them both since Teja’s birthday, last month, I wanted to make them lunch for them. I made:

  • Baked Flounder in Lemon & Butter
  • As Good as it Gets” Noodle Salad
  • Asparagus & Carrot Salad with Walnut Dressing
  • Strawberries in Kefir and Ground Coriander

Katie, at nine-years old, is notoriously particular eater, and as such it is a challenge to get dishes just right for her. She ate everything but she absolutely loved the Asparagus and Carrot Salad with Walnut Dressing, so I thought I would dedicate it to her!

Katie’s Salad:

Wash, skin, and matchstick two carrots and put aside. Wash and then chop off the woody ends of a bunch of asparagus, and boil in 2 Qts. H2O for no more than 2 minutes. The final minute, throw in carrots. Strain and immediately immerse in cold H2O, with several changes of cold H2O until veggies are cool. Strain again and refrigerate (I served this dish cold, but it would make a very fine dish warm as well, just make the dressing beforehand, if serving warm.)

Walnut Dressing:

Toast 1/2C. walnuts. When cool add walnuts to a food processor along with 2 Tsp. each of white miso and shoyu and 2 Tblsps. each of mirin, olive oil, and rice vinegar. Blend until smooth-ish.

Top asparagus and carrots with dressing, two scallions sliced 1/4″ and thinly sliced mild red pepper.

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May 16, 2012: Truant

May 16, 2012

While I am pleased as punch to have an acceptable access to the entertainment technology that the 21st C. offers, I can’t help but think of how drastically different my life would have been if I had all the stuff we have today: internet, DVDs, UTube, video games, IPods, etc., in my youth. Sure, we had TV, but then it was only three channels, no remote, and I’d like to see you jockey for your favorite show competing with nine other family members on a single set! My parents were pretty cool. If we did our work during the week we were allowed Friday nights to watch our shows. Our family dubbed Friday as “Popcorn/Soda Night” because those snacks went along with our entertainment. I think this was pretty good parenting: we worked hard for our weekly reward, and thoroughly enjoyed the treat. Still, we are talking a couple of hours of TV during the whole week!

Filling the Void

So, without all the trimmings of the 21st C. how did kids from the 60’s entertain themselves? Well, for one thing…we got outside more than most kids these days seem to. The 60’s parenting norm was to chuck a child outside after school until dinner and then after, the kids hit  the books until bedtime. Sure, this tactic worked pretty well for the parent: they got a few hours to themselves preparing dinner and enjoying the obligatory pre-dinner cocktail so prevalent in the 60’s, but it also got the kids tons of exercise and forced us to socialize via outdoor games. In short, without distractions of the spoon-fed, electronic ilk, we were forced to use our imaginations, intelligence, and our bodies to make up for the entertainment shortfalls.

A Partner in Crime

My childhood friend was Johnny B. He was actually my closest child neighbor, living only two doors down. Slightly older than I was, we were friends since I (literally) could first remember. I once saw a super-8 that  Johnny’s parents took of him as a toddler and I, in baby carriage, meeting for the first time. Johnny was different from me in almost every way: physically, he was thick and bullish to my lithe smallness. Socially, he was extroverted and chaotic as a foil to my quiet thoughtfulness. What brought us together was our imaginations, art, and our habit for getting into trouble! And here…people who know me now, will think to themselves “When did Steve ever get into trouble?!!!” Well, folks, I got most of my trouble out-of-the-way very young, the worst being my altar-boy/cub-scout days. Much of this trouble was in Johnny B.’s company. I don’t want to lead you to believe that Johnny was the sole instigator in these events (it was about 50/50) or that we were “bad” in any real (criminal or evil) sense, it was just that the ideas that we came up with (at least to our minds) were just too good to not make a reality. This draw towards trouble gave us many adventures, including, but not limited to: firearms; first love; physical dares; courting; drinking; cruising; sports; pranks; pyrotechnics; camping; really strange home movies; injuries; hunting; brawls; sex, drugs, and rock and roll…and Mary Ann Semonelli’s missing bra.

Skipping School for a Really Lame Meal

…oh…and lest I forget…a single count of truancy! I think it was Johnny’s idea to skip school, but rebels without a clue that we were, we had no plan what exactly to do with our free day. Earlier that week, one of my sister’s had done a decent job making Shrimp Newberg, so to my mind at least, making this dish seemed like an interesting and somewhat exotic way to spend the day. I remember Johnny shrugging and I suspect now that he wished that he had spent a little more time on thinking the whole event through, but he finally acquiesced. Needless to say, my sister was a few years ahead of me, culinary-wise, and while I think I could do a bang-up Shrimp Newberg these days, back then it was waaaay out of my league. Oddly enough though, this dismal failure put me onto an early track to improving my culinary skills. I started paying closer attention to my sister’s culinary successes and how they attained them.

The Hunger of the High-School Heart

So, to my childhood friend: thank you for all the fun, adventures, imaginings, as well as the bumps and bruises to our bodies and hearts…and for all that time spent cruising. Here is a word that has forever left American social life…cruising. In those days before IChats and Facebook, socializing was done  out in the open, but perhaps with the same embarrassment and sad desperation that haunts todays teenagers. Cruising, in the 60-70’s was driving a car up and down the fast food strip of the local town. It sometimes led to taunts, races, occaisionally fights, and rarely…that teenage Holy Grail…the glimpse of that perfect babe, cruising just like you…to be (hopefully) met at the next party!

No one has quite captured the unique American social activity of cruising like David Wilcox, in his song “Saturday They’ll All Be Back Again

Johnny’s out cruising down the fast food strip
He rides his high-wheeler Ford
Down here every evening since the school let out
An ordinary man would be bored
Johnny’s got the hunger of the high school heart
And a tank full of minimum wage
So it’s six lights down, six lights back
Pacing like a lion in a cage…
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May 11, 2012: Asparagus with White Dressing

May 11, 2012

Oh…asparagus season is back and that makes me very happy! I would eat grilled asparagus, by itself any day, but couple it with a healthy, creamy, and nutty, white sauce and I’m in heaven!

Japanese White Dressing:

Drain 1 block of soft tofu (14oz.) on a slant board under pressure in a sink for about 15 minutes. Cut into 6 sections and put in a food processor. To the tofu add 2 Tblsps. toasted ground white sesame seeds; 1 Tblsp. white miso; 1 Tblsp. mirin; 1/2 Tsp. sal de mer; 1/4C. olive oil; and 3 Tblsp. of some combination of either: A. sake B. lemon juice C. rice vinegar [I did 2 Tblsp. lemon juice+1 Tblsp. sake] Blend dressing ingredients well in food processor and chill dressing.

Trim woody ends of a bunch of asparagus off (use woody ends for stock.) Wash asparagus, and drain. On a grill pan (OR an outside grill) coated with a thin layer of corn oil grill asparagus, turning often.

Pipe white dressing onto serving plate. Top with grilled asparagus. Give a grind of pepper and serve.

Mmmmm…I love all the asparagus dishes, but I will never tire of this one!

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May 09, 2012: Miguel’s Avocado Dressing

May 9, 2012

This is a recipe recommended by my friend Miguel, who lives in Japan and who is a very good cook (as well as an exceptional photographer.) Miguel suggests this is good on a green salad and that is easy to imagine. I had no greens, but I thought it was just perfect on a red cabbage salad, plus I like the color contrast.

Miguel Arboleda

Miguel’s Avocado Dressing:

Take one ripe avocado and remove pit and skin and mash pulp. Add 1 Tblsp. mayonnaise and 1 Tsp. each wasabi paste and lemon juice. Mix well. Immediately add to salad. Top with a sprinkling of anise seeds ground well in mortar and pestle or a kuribachi, if you have one. This dressing will oxidize very quickly and turn brown, so you want to make it just before you serve it.

Fatty avocado+mayo plus the tang of wasabi and an interesting finish of  anise. Delicious! Nice one, Miguel! Thanks!

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