Thursday, August 30, 2007

Katsu Curry

The Japanese love their curry. I have to say, I love their curry too. Usually sold in pre-made pasty blocks, the most popular brands are S&B and Vermont. I prefer the S&B brand. It has a stronger curry flavor and the hot variety tends to be a bit spicier than the other brands. I also love tonkatsu. Panko coated pork cutlets fried golden brown with a savory soy and onion sauce. Katsu curry is probably one of my favorite all time comfort foods. I order it nearly once a week for lunch from a Japanese restaurant called Hana, which happens to be right around the corner from work. They may not be the best place for sushi but they make a mean katsu curry. When I was in culinary school I was lucky to have a great Japanese chef as one of my teachers. He was also a world champion ice carver. He carved a ten foot tall samurai standing on a wave that was so life-like it was scary. I learned a lot about Japanese cuisine from him. He had us learn almost every Japanese term that could relate to food. I probably memorized about 400 Japanese words and phrases for his tests and learned to cook over 200 Japanese dishes in my relatively short but intense time under his watch. One of the dishes he taught me to make would become one of favorites. Here's my recipe for it.

Katsu Curry
4 thinly cut pork cutlets, about 4 oz each
1 egg, beaten
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
canola oil, for frying

1 lb yukon gold potatoes, quartered
1 onion, sliced
1 block of Japanese curry, follow brand instructions
water, as needed
steamed white rice

In a large pot over medium high heat saute the onions in a little oil for about 3-4 minutes. Add the potatoes and saute a few minutes more. Add the curry paste and stir until fragrant and somewhat dissolved. Then add the right amount of water according to the curry instructions (4-6 cups). Lower the heat to medium low and make sure the curry dissolved in the water.

Meanwhile in a skillet filled 3/4 of the way with canola oil over medium high heat you will fry the pork. First dip the pork cutlets into the egg and then coat with the panko. Shake to remove excess breading and fry 2-3 minutes each side, until golden brown. Place pork a plate lined with a paper towel to remove the grease.

After simmering about 10-15 minutes the potatoes should be soft and the curry sauce should have thickened. Spoon some rice on a plate. Cover with curry, onions, and potatoes. Slice a pork cutlet on the bias and place on top of the curry. I hope you like as much as I do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Esquites, sort of.

Esquites is a popular Mexican snack made of corn, lime juice, chilies, and butter. I decided to do my take on the delicious treat. I made Poached Organic Corn with Fresh Lime Juice, Arbol Chili Powder, and Queso Cotija. It's an easy snack to make and after eating it you'll never want corn any other way (okay, maybe that's not true but it's very delicious). In Central Mexico you can get esquites from street venders where they serve them in little cups with all of the delicious juice at the bottom. I love it the traditional way but I also like the idea of keeping the corn on the cob. There is something really satisfying about eating the little golden nuggets still attached. Especially since I haven't worn braces in 20 years and I can now eat corn without it getting painfully stuck in my teeth. If you decide you'd rather take the corn off the cob, it would work just as well.

4 fresh ears of corn, leaves pulled back, silks removed
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp arbol chili powder, dried chili de arbol ground in a spice grinder
2 limes, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, cut in half, seeded
1/2 cup queso cotija, crumbled (parmesan will work)
8 cups water

In a large shallow pan bring the water to a boil. Add the butter and the jalapeno. Once the butter is melted submerge the corn in the water. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the corn from the water. Coat the corn with lime juice, a few sprinkles of chili powder, and crumbled queso cotija. Eat it while it's hot.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not just an omelette.

Golden Queen Heirloom Tomato Tortilla with Organic Banana Peppers and Beecher's Flagship Cheese. No, not the Mexican variety of tortilla. In Spain a tortilla is basically an omelette or frittata. It's a pretty typical Spanish tapas dish consisting of eggs and sometimes potatoes and peppers. I buy my eggs from a local farmer (I should ask him his name but for now, we call him the egg guy) at my farmers market. These are from organic, true free range chickens. He doesn't just walk them on a treadmill every once in a while. Once I bought some of his eggs and he told me that they might have a floral quality to them because his chickens just ransacked and ate all of his wife's rose garden. I didn't notice any difference in the eggs, but that made me happy knowing they they're actually running around all over the place causing poultry havoc. These amazing eggs truly are the tastiest I've ever had. I decided to saute some banana peppers in a little butter and top it of with one of my favorite local cheeses, Beechers Flagship. It's a white cheddar style cheese with a good tang and sharpness to it. A simple dish for breakfast, or perhaps you next tapas party.

8 eggs, cracked and whisked in a bowl
2 golden queen heirloom tomatoes, sliced (any sweet, flavorful tomato will work)
2 medium banana peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Beechers Flagship cheese, shredded (you can also use a sharp white cheddar)
1 Tbsp butter
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. In a large non-stick saute pan over medium high heat saute the peppers and garlic in butter until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes in an even layer to the pan. Season the eggs with salt and pepper and pour them over the tomatoes and peppers making sure you move the pan around so the eggs surround everything. Cook for about 6 minutes so the bottom browns. Sprinkle on an even layer of cheese and place in the oven. Bake for about 6 minutes or until the eggs set and the cheese starts to brown. Remove, cut into quarters, and serve.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Steelhead Diner

I love good old classic comfort food. Most of my favorite restaurants are more down and dirty (no not as in actual filth, just good simple food). While I do enjoy a good haute cuisine meal once in a while, it's the authentic regional food with no pretensions that I usually crave. The only problem is that I also love good atmosphere and strong drinks and there always seems to be a shortage of one or the other. Steelhead Diner doesn't have that problem. Stainless steel diner counters face both the semi-open kitchen and the shiny modern bar or if you prefer more intimate seating, the tables are comfy but elegant. They also have a outdoor patio which is really nice for the summer. Large windows with a lovely view of the Puget Sound and a swell not over-trendy indie rock soundtrack (Apparently I'm not the only one left in Seattle that still likes Modest Mouse) round out the relaxed feel of the place. The waitstaff was very friendly and knowledgeable. We all know how bad service can make or break a place. No one even seemed to be annoyed when an old man dropped a bottle of wine that shattered all over the floor. I would have been at least giving the evil eye. Oh, and the cocktails were inventive and delicious. I had a drink called The Seattelite which consisted of gin, sparkling wine, and grapefruit juice (give or take) and was served in an ice coated martini glass. It was great and I like little details like the frozen glass.

What about the food you ask? How does local, mostly organic, upscale diner fare that changes daily based on what's fresh and in season sound? It sounds great to me and I wasn't disappointed. This is not your ordinary burgers and fries joint. Appetizers such as Caviar Pie, Heirloom Beet Tartare, Salumi's Air Cured Bresaola will not be found on your typical diner menu. Neither will entrees such as Grilled Gulf Shrimp a'la Genovese or Grilled Dry Aged Washington Beef N.Y. Strip. They do a good job on taking diner classics and making them interesting and I love the fact that you can get Kasu Marinated Cod with a side order of poutine. That's probably not a choice I would make but it's nice that they have such a wide variety of dishes yet manage to keep the menu cohesive.

The sandwiches and sides are the items that scream diner to me. I had the "Rich Boy", Steelhead's twist on the poorboy sandwich with local Uli's hot sausage and Crystal hot sauce aioli. It came on baguette and was served with a giant mound of fries. The sandwich was moist, messy, and spicy and I loved it. It's such a simple sandwich but Uli's sausage needs no help. K had the S.R.F. American Wagyu Beef Burger. It was extremely juicy and cooked perfectly medium rare. Although I wasn't a fan of the fact that it was served on baguette it was a damn fine burger. Served with a mound of fries as well and topped with mushrooms, onions, and delicious Beechers Flagship cheese. The frites by the way were awesome. Perfectly cooked Belgium style fries with a good amount of saltiness.

To finish out lunch we had to get an order of Poutine (no we didn't eat ten pounds of potatoes, we saved the fries from our sandwiches for a later snack). Yes I have a weakness for this beautiful and rugged Canadian dish. Gravy and cheese curds on frites. Steelhead's poutine is one of the best that I've had in the States. Perhaps it could have used a little more gravy but other than that the flavors were perfect and using Beecher's curds makes it all the more special. We left pleasantly full and sleepy. Steelhead Diner delivers on all it's promises and smartly lifts diner food miles above typical American slop stop status. I will definitely return.
Steelhead Diner

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Salmon is the Pacific Northwest.

I remember the first time I'd had wild Pacific king salmon. It was one of the most flavorful fishes I had ever eaten. Fatty and juicy, it was almost like eating a steak. Since then I've eaten my fare share of salmon. From sockeye and coho to the smaller pink or chum as it's sometimes called. In my opinion, you won't find it done better east of the Cascade Mountains. Seattelites are very proud of their salmon. New York has pizza. Seattle has salmon. Always eat where and what the locals are eating and you'll rarely have a bad meal.

The other day at the farmers market I bought a beautiful fresh fillet of sockeye from Loki Fish and made Rosemary Honey Glazed Sockeye Salmon with Sundried Tomatoes and a Lentil, Bacon, and Shitake Mushroom Ragout. The sweetness of the salmon worked perfectly with the salty earthiness of the lentils. I was also happy that I got to tryout my new porcelain baking dish. This is a easy dish to make and I felt that It did my lovely fillet of salmon justice.

Rosemary Honey Glazed Sockeye Salmon with Sundried Tomatoes
1 lb sockeye salmon fillet, skinned and de-boned
1/2 cup honey (I use local organic blackberry honey)
2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, reconstituted in warm water for 15 minutes, chopped
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Heat oven to 425F degrees. Mix together all of the ingredients except for the salmon to make the glaze. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow baking pan and brush 1/2 of the glaze over the fillet. Roast for 4 minutes. Brush on the rest of the glaze and sprinkle the sundried tomatoes over the top. Roast for another 4 minutes or until just barely cooked through. Cut into single portions and serve.

Lentil, Bacon, and Shitake Mushroom Ragout.
2 cups dried lentils
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1/2 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced
3 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 cup loosely packed arugula
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Rinse the lentils. Cover the lentils with the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes or until lentils are soft but still intact. In a saute pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate and drain all but 1 Tbsp of bacon grease. Saute the garlic and shallots in the bacon fat for 2 minutes and add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are soft 3-4 minutes. Return the bacon to the pan and add the lentils. Season with salt and pepper and add the arugula. Toss to mix and serve with the salmon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sandwich Cubano.

As I've said before, nothing beats a good Cuban sandwich. That delicious citrus marinaded pork with the salty ham and melted swiss cheese mingling with the sour dill pickle and buttery bread. Best thing on the planet in my opinion! In a few months I'll be visiting my folks in Miami and you can bet your butt that I'll be eating my fair share of these bad-boys before I come back. I have a restaurant quality Cuban sandwich press from which, perhaps one day, I will serve the city of Seattle with these beautiful sandwiches. But until that day comes you'll just have to come over for lunch or dinner and I'll be happy to share my favorite food with you. See you then!!! Oh yeah, here's my recipe from a while back. Sandwich Cubano

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Soup is good food.

Ginger Dashi Udon Soup with Tofu and Spinach. When I was younger I used to love canned soup. Now I can't stand the stuff. It tastes like a big bowl of mushy salt water. It's far too easy to make a good soup from scratch. Besides, I don't see Cambells making this flavor anytime soon. I make stocks and keep them in the freezer for days like this. If you don't have the time to make your own stocks there are some decent ready-made stocks at the market. Dashi is a pretty easy stock to make. All you need is dried kombu (seaweed), dried bonito (fish flake), and water. There are some instant dashi mixes that work pretty well but nothing beats the real deal. To make this dish I defrosted some dashi and threw in a few slices of ginger and let it simmer. In the meantime I boiled my udon noodles until just about done and added them to the broth. I then added some of my favorite local Thanh Son tofu and fresh spinach. To finish I stirred in a little bit of soy sauce and topped with scallions and fried shallots. Go make your own Dashi and put it in the freezer. The next time you crave miso soup you won't have to go out for sushi, you can make it yourself.


3 oz dry bonito
4" piece of kombu, most of white powder brushed off
1 gal cold water

Add kombu to the cold water and bring to a simmer. Remove the kombu before it boils. Add the bonito to the water and bring it back to a near boil. Turn off the heat and let it sit for 15-20 minutes skimming the scum from the top. Strain and freeze in one cup portions. Easy.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What came first? The chicken or the egg.

That's a question I'll probably never learn the answer to. All I know is that they're both delicious. I love eggs. Fried, scrambled, poached, deviled, shirred, however you can cook it, I'll eat it. Nothing beats a good hard-cooked egg. Notice I didn't say hardboiled? The egg should never boil. One crack in that smooth shell and your hard-cooked egg will just have to live the rest of it's short un-life as a poached egg.

As a kid my mother would make me eggs for breakfast almost all the time. I never liked cereal or pancakes or any of the sweet morning foods. I liked eggs, cheese, sausage, and bacon. That's what I wanted for breakfast everyday. Sometimes when I was staying with my grandparents, my grandfather would scramble up some eggs with pork brains and they were tasty. It's true. A 10 year old kid wanting to eat pork brains over Count Chocula. That pretty much sums me up as the weirdo I am today. Anyways, I love eggs. Want to know how to cook the perfect hard-cooked egg? All you have to do is put some eggs in a pot with cold water. Bring the water up to hard simmer (hard-simmered eggs?) and them pull the pan off the heat. Set a timer for 11 minutes. Then shock the eggs in ice water. Crack them open and I promise they will be perfectly cooked. Not a grey piece of yolk in sight.

Hard-cooked Eggs on a Toasted English Muffin with Porcini Butter and Murray River Flake Salt. I toasted some English muffins, put on a few slices of porcini butter, layed on a sliced hard-cooked egg, and topped with crushed fresh black pepper and a sprinkle of Murray River flake salt. The mushroom butter goes well with the eggs and the salt is from the Australian Alps imparting a nice mild salty finish.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spam Musubi

Don't be frightened. Spam sushi is delicious. Hawaii has a pretty unique cuisine. Part Polynesian, part Asian, and part 50's American. It's the only place you will find a beautiful banana steamed fillet of mahimahi with a side of macaroni salad. I love Hawaiian food. Some of my favorite foods come from Hawaii. Loco Moco is a guilty breakfast treat that I will stop whatever I'm doing for just a taste. It's basically a hamburger patty on a mound of white rice, topped with gravy and a fried egg. Oh, and there's pork lau lau which is pork that is marinaded and then steamed off wrapped in taro leaves. I could eat that everynight and be happy. My favorite of the bunch is Spam musubi. Introduced to Hawaii during World War II by U.S. troops, Spam became a popular treat to the locals especially due to the fact that it didn't need refrigeration. It's basically just a pressed block of pork shoulder and ham. Everyone I have ever had the pleasure of feeding Spam musubi have become addicted to the treat despite their initial reluctance. Try it. You'll really, really like it.

Spam Musubi

2 cups short grain sushi/sticky rice
1 Tbsp sake
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups water

3 sheets of sushi nori, cut into 2" long strips
1 (12oz) can Spam
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp chili garlic paste
1 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
peanut oil, for frying

Slice the Spam into 1/2" slices. Mix together the soy sauce, sugar, chili garlic, and teriyaki sauce. Marinate the spam in the mixture for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

In the meantime, to make the sushi rice, rinse the rice until the water becomes clear. Put the rice, water, and sake in a rice cooker. Let it sit for 20 minutes and then turn the rice cooker on. When the rice cooker turns off let the rice sit for 10 minutes covered. In a small pan mix together the vinegar, sugar, and salt and heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove the rice to a large bowl and mix in the vinegar mixture until well incorporated. Let the rice cool to room temperature.

In a large frying pan over medium high heat add 1 Tbsp peanut oil. Remove the Spam from the marinade and fry the Spam until golden on both sides (about 2 minutes a side). On a clean surface set aside a bowl of cool water. Lay down a strip of nori. Center a slice of Spam on top so that the nori is laying underneath and coming out evenly on both sides. Dip your hands into the cool water and grab about 3-4 Tbsp of rice. Mold the rice into a compacted oval shape. Place on top of the Spam slice and pat it down, smoothing out the edges so it resembles the shape of the Spam. Pull up the sides of the nori so that they overlap and gently pull them tight pressing them together. If they don't stick together just dab your finger in water and touch the nori to seal.

You can serve them with a little soy sauce, or wasabi, or just eat them as is. A great portable snack. Enjoy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Most important meal of the day.

Fried Eggs on Steamed Sticky Rice with Kimchi and Portuguese Sausage. I love a good hearty savory breakfast. Fried eggs on steamed white rice has to be one of the best things ever. Okay, maybe bacon and eggs is the best thing ever but coming in a close second was today's breakfast. Two fried eggs on top of a bowl of steamed white rice with super spicy kimchi and salty sweet mini Portuguese sausages topped with cap jempol (Indonesian hot sauce) and green onion. I could have had another bowl of this amazing breakfast but my stomach said no more. I wish I had time every morning to eat like this.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cascadia Lounge

Last night we went with friends to chef Kerry Sear's Cascadia Lounge for drinks and appetizers. It was an extremely crowded happy hour with a little bit of a frantic feel to it. At first we weren't sure if we were welcome as we were shoved to a walkway and seemed to be in the way of the bussers and waitstaff. However, minutes later we were given a table and we got a tiny bit more comfortable. K and I were in the mood for cocktails that we wouldn't normally have at home so she opted for a blackberry margarita and I decided to get their signature cocktail, the Alpine Martini. My drink consisted of citron vodka with a sweet douglas fir snowball. The drinks were actually pretty fun. The douglas fir had a slightly citrus scent that went well with the vodka and K's margarita was tart and refreshing. I usually go for a straight up Bombay Sapphire martini or Makers on the rocks but it's fun to rock your own boat sometimes.

Cascadia Lounge is known for their mini hanger steak burgers. You can get them topped with the usual suspects but if you're feeling semi-adventurous you can have them topped with black truffle butter, fried penn cove oysters, or even barbecued lobster. We ordered a couple of basic ones with Vermont cheddar and a few more exciting ones with black truffle butter and barbecued lobster. We also ordered a bucket of Kerry's so-called famous fried calamari with chipotle pepper dip. The food was worth the hectic atmosphere. The burgers were perfectly cooked little gems of medium rare ground hanger steak on the type of little soft buns that you get at a southern Krystal Burger. The ones topped with truffle butter were deliciously rich and melt in your mouth. I think truffles are one of the best thing ever to be dug up by pigs. Okay, maybe they're the only things ever dug up by pigs but I truly love the beautiful fungus. Next up was the lobster burger. The barbecued lobster was well worth the few extra bucks. Succulent and juicy with a little bit of tang from the barbecue sauce. Those cute little burgers were the perfect cocktail snack. The calamari lived up to it's famous tag and did not dissappoint. Quickly fried in a light batter with a smokey and spicy hollandaise-like sauce. They were definitely some of the best fried calamari I've ever had. And let me tell you, in Miami where I grew up, you can get some of the best fried calamari you will ever eat. So all in all, Cascadia was a good time with delicious food and drinks. I'm glad we didn't have to hang out in the dish pit to enjoy it. I forgot my camera so the photos are from the Cascadia website.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Wedding Feast

Last Saturday, K and I went to watch our friends Rod and Shannon get hitched. The wedding was held about 100 miles north of Seattle on a beautiful farm near Mount Vernon. We got all dolled up and went out to brave the blistering heat. Larkspur Farm was truly amazing. Old creaky farmhouses with beautiful flower gardens, surrounded by corn fields. It was like a nice version of Children Of The Corn, with no Malaki in sight. The ceremony was nice and K even almost cried, but I was thinking about all the amazing food Rod promised me (I know, I'm so sentimental). They had the wedding catered by a local couple who used a lot of local ingredients. Oysters straight out of the nearby bay. Organic vegetables from nearby farms. Even ice cream from a delicious Bellingham ice cream joint. Food always excites me. Don't get me wrong, I was very happy for my pals. I hope they live a long, happy life together but I was also very excited about a delicious (and free) meal.

So everything we ate was very tasty. No inedible batches in the bunch. Instead of a sit down type of meal, they decided to do a four course "cocktail party" meal, where the wait-staff walked around with trays of food. People could just pick and choose what they wanted, which I thought was a pretty great idea. That way people could mingle and not miss out on a snack. Always one to dissect a meal, here's my interpretation:

Round One
Belgian endive with ricotta salata, grilled watermelon and pickled golden melon salad. This was a nice little salad with a pretty mild flavor. I liked the crispness of the endive with the salty, sweet, and sour combination of the melons and the cheese. A nice little amuse to start off the meal.

Raw oysters on the half shell with champagne mignonette. There is nothing more delicious than raw Washington oysters. The mignonette was good although some people didn't care for the diced carrot. I kinda liked the texture contrast but would have also like some without.

Goat cheese croquettes with sweet plum dipping sauce These little guys were one of my favorites of the meal. Light and crunchy on the outside, super gooey and delicious on the inside. They went well with the tart and sweet plum sauce. A great appetizer.

Round Two
Tuiles two ways: With dill mascarpone and smoked salmon or with avocado mousse and fresh crab. The tuiles were slightly molar extracting but tasted great. I was a bigger fan of the smoked salmon with mascarpone. I think the crab got a little lost in the avocado but was tasty none the less.

Roasted red and golden beets with fried chickpeas and fresh herbs. I could picture eating this at an upscale ball-game. I really liked the fried chickpeas. The beets were nicely roasted and sweet, but maybe a little dry. This had the appeal of eating something like popcorn. A good little snack.

Spice-rubbed grilled chicken skewers served with onion-lavender marmalade. Grilling chicken breast for a large number of people is a hard thing to do. The meat tends to dry out quickly. The chicken had a nice smokey flavor and the onion lavender marmalade was fantastic but the meat was a little dry.

Round Three
Local, organic field greens with arugula, grilled nectarines, parmigiano-reggiano and toasted walnut croutons tossed with balsamic vinaigrette A good basic salad of local greens. I liked the walnut parmesan crouton and the vinaigrette was light and refreshing.

Santa Maria style BBQ- seasoned tri-tip steak petite sourdough sandwich with sungold tomato relish and sweet potato fries. This was a delicious sandwich. The steak just melts in your mouth and I liked the little relish. I'm not big on sweet potato but the fries were actually pretty good.

Petite chocolate milkshakes with Mallard Super chocolate ice cream. I had never had Bellingham's Ballard Super ice cream before. It is so rich and delicious and I don't even really like ice cream that much. K wanted about ten more of these. A pretty cool idea for dessert.

Individual peach-blackberry tartlets with sweet whipped cream. The tartlet shells were made of yummy shortbread and the fruit and cream inside were simple and refreshing.

Usually when you go to a wedding the food is slightly scary and the company sometimes even scarier. It was fun to have a great meal, meet nice people, and see my two friends get married. There was no drama and everyone made it home in one piece.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tofu is delicious. It's true.

I hate it when people cringe at the word tofu. How could you hate something so amazing and versatile. It can be cooked so many ways and with so many flavors. I always tell people, if they don't like tofu then they probably haven't had it properly prepared yet. I've been on a bit of fried food kick lately. Not to say that I haven't been eating healthy. When done correctly, fried food shouldn't be greasy. Everything in moderation I say.
Last night I made Mabo Tofu for dinner. It's A traditional Chinese dish that usually consists of tofu and pork in a spicy, peppery sauce. I decided to make it using my favorite locally made Thanh Son fried tofu instead of the soft tofu it's usually made with. I also decided I didn't feel like eating meat last night so I opted to go porkless. Instead I used some organic red onions and thai hot peppers.
I also wanted some greens and I had a beautiful bunch of gai-lan (Chinese spinach-although it's nothing like spinach). I steamed it and finished it off in a garlic black bean sauce. The gai-lan, mabo tofu, and some steamed sticky rice made a delicious dinner.
I went shopping this week at Uwajimaya (my local Asian mega-grocery store) and I went a little tofu crazy. I have so much tofu in my refrigerator right now I'll probably be eating it for the next two weeks. That's okay though, there are a million things I could make and I never get tired of delicious things.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Everybody likes a fried wonton.

Perhaps you have noticed that I cook a lot of Asian inspired dishes. What's a French Cuban like me doing cooking things like black chicken or Peking duck? Seattle is a mecca for Asian food and I have spent nearly a third of my life here, so I suppose it has crept it's way into my cooking style. Give me some gyoza and arroz con pollo and I'll eat them both. I've taken a little bit of every place I've lived to create my style of cooking. I think the more of the world that you experience, the better cook you will be. There is still a whole lot of world to see out there and a whole lot of new food to taste.

The other night I made Fried Longanisa and Arugula Ravioli with a Lau Pork and Ponzu Sauce. I used wontons to make the ravioli and stuffed them with chopped Filipino sausage and fresh greens. After frying the ravioli I made a sauce using lau pork which I steamed off in taro leaves and then shredded, and finished off with chilies, ponzu, and soy sauce. Ponzu is a Japanese citrus based sauce that has a lovely sourness and goes well with soy and pork. The lau pork is a pain to make so I'll give you the recipe with just a simple ponzu/soy sauce and you can add the pork if you have the time.

1 package of wonton skins
1 lb longanisa sausage, rough chopped
1 cup packed arugula, washed
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp cap jempol (or you could use sriracha)
2 scallions, chopped
1 egg
canola oil for frying

Place the sausage, arugula, soy, hot sauce, scallions, and egg in a food processor and pulse until throughly mixed and chopped into a fine crumbly mixture. Take one wonton sheet and place it on a dry surface. Place a 1/2 Tbsp of the mixture in the center of the wonton. Lightly dampen the outer edge of the wonton with water and place another wonton sheet over the top. Press down the edges and make sure it's sealed. Place on a tray and do it again until you run out of sausage mixture or wonton sheets. In a semi-shallow frying pan fill up with canola oil 3/4 of the way. Bring the oil up to 375F degrees and deep fry the ravioli about 1-2 minutes each side until golden brown. Remove from the oil to a plate lined with paper towels. Serve with ponzu/soy sauce.

1/4 cup ponzu
1/2 soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 red jalapeno pepper, sliced thin

Heat all ingredients in a pan until honey dissolves. Bring to a boil and turn off the the heat. Serve drizzled on the wontons or on the side.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The noble frankfurter.

Leave it to us Americans to take something delicious and turn it into something scary in the name of profit. Take the frankfurter or hot dog for example. This tasty soft pork (now pork and/or beef) sausage was invented in the late 1400s in the city of Frankfurt, Germany. It was hearty sausage made of quality ingredients. Brought to Coney Island, New York around 1870 where it was first introduced as a sandwich. The modern hot dog was born. As corporations grew, convenience and profit started to take precedent over beautiful ingredients and pride in one's product. That's not to say you can't get a good dog anymore. There are plenty of butchers and companies that care about their products. Just don't buy the mass produced junk, read package labels, and take the time to talk to your butcher.

Over the years, different regions of the country have created their own style for serving a hot dog. New york is the classic one. Boiled dogs (affectionately called dirty water dogs) on a soft bun topped with mustard (sometimes ketchup), sauerkraut, onions (maybe relish). Then you have your Chicago style dog which is almost a salad on a bun. Chicago dogs are generally topped with tomato, onion, pickle, relish, hot peppers, mustard, and celery salt. Here in Seattle, we have own style of hot dog in which the sausage is grilled and then laid inside a toasted sourdough bun. It's then topped with cream cheese, mustard, mayo, onions, hot sauce, and sometimes sauerkraut. I know what you're thinking, but trust me. I was skeptical at first but it's truly delicious. Everybody has their own style. How do you eat your hot dog?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Eat your greens.

My little Capitol Hill neighborhood farmers market is so amazing. It may not be the biggest or the best one in Seattle but it's mine, and I am proud to be part of it's community. There is nothing better than being able to meet the farmers that grow your food. They are like proud parents selling you their children (okay, I guess that's weird). I get really excited when I come across ingredients that I've never seen before. A few days ago at my farmer's market I came across a bright green head of what I thought was cauliflower. I asked the farmer what it was and she said Romanesco. Romanesco is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. It has a peppery flavor and more of a cauliflower like texture. I had to buy a head and try it.

Then I bought some beautiful Naan from the Gypsy Baker, a girl who makes great persian flatbreads. In addition to the naan she bakes great focaccia and these lovely "pizza" breads with sun dried tomatoes and Nicoise olives. Right across from her is Full Circle Farms which has the most tender mix of salad greens I've ever had. Organic red leaf, mizuna, boston, frisee, and raddichio. I know that a few Seattle organic restaurants use Full Circle's greens exclusively for their salads. I also know that nothing ruins a salad like bad greens so buying from such a reputable farmer that takes pride in it's product doesn't hurt.

So with all of my bounty I scored from the market I decided to make Full Circle Farm Greens with Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Grapefruit Supremes, Pumpkin Seeds, and a Walnut Rioja Viniagrette and also Grilled Naan Points with Roasted Romesco Spread. I have had roasted cauliflower spread before so I knew the romanesco would be great. It was very tasty. For the spread just quarter the romanesco and roast with a small shallot and a few garlic cloves (wrapped in foil) at 400F degrees for about 30 -40 minutes until tender. Pulse in the food processor with a little salt and pepper and a little fresh farmers cheese. Spread onto your favorite bread or crackers and you're all set.