Monday, June 28, 2010

Living the Rich Life.

As I stepped off my private jet, I walked over to my Aston Martin V8 Vantage and realized I didn't feel much like driving so I had my chauffeur pull up the Rolls.  We pulled up to my lovely 18th century French castle and I looked around for K, whom was sitting in the Japanese garden having tea.  I pulled out a thick roll of $100 dollar bills and my lighter, lighting the money on fire.  We laughed and laughed.  "I love to burn money, because I am so filthy rich."  I said.

Okay, and then I woke up.  No we are not rich.  If I was that rich I'd donate a lot of it to charities or I'd buy everyone in the world a Coney Island hot dog with all the fixins cause I'm classy like that.  But alas, K and I get by just fine and as for the way we eat, sometimes I feel pretty rich.  You don't have to be wealthy to eat well.  Some people spend their money on going out to the club, or gas for their stupid gas guzzling Hummer. (btw, Hummer drivers are selfish, ignorant, f**kwads).  We spend our money on pretty clothes and yummy food.

Caviar is an interesting thing.  One of the most expensive foods in the world.  Calling it salted fish eggs doesn't quite have the allure as the word caviar but essentially that's what it is.  There are four types of "true" caviar and they only come from a dwindling population of wild sturgeon in the Capsian sea.  In order from rarest down are: beluga, sterlet, osetra, and sevruga caviars.  Sadly, due to overfishing, it is no longer responsible to be buy true Caspian caviar.  People still want their luxurious fish eggs and more local, sustainable "caviars" are appearing on the market.  Salmon roe has become pretty popular (the Japanese and Russians having been eating it forever) and Idaho trout roe and Montana whitefish are delicious and affordable substitutes for the wild sturgeon eggs.

A few places such as the Mote Marine Aquaculture Park in South Florida are trying to help create a more sustainable (farmed) sturgeon that will be not only harvested for caviar but for the tasty fish itself.  I'm sure a lot of caviar purists would detest American farmed caviar but eventually they'll have no choice (not necessarily American but definitely farmed) if wild sturgeon over-farming practices aren't dealt with.

Caviar feels very much like a special occasion treat to me.  Kind of like Champagne & truffles.  Last week, my lovely wife K proposed to me to get re-married for our tenth anniversary next year.  She slipped a beautiful 1930s deco diamond ring on my finger and I turned bright pink and teary with happiness.  To celebrate I purchased some beautiful, sustainable Golden Whitefish Caviar, harvested from the west side of the Great Lakes.  The eggs are buttery and clean tasting with a beautiful golden apricot color.  I also had some beautiful Smoked Coho Salmon from local Loki Fishery & homemade crème fraîche.  I made some lovely Yukon gold potato blini, adapted from an awesome Thomas Keller recipe, and popped open a bottle of our favorite Spanish cava (sparkling wine).  It was an incredibly romantic and luxurious celebration.  Here's the thing, your date never has to know that you didn't spend a fortune but you'll impress the hell out of anyone with a spread like this.  While I was sitting there eating "caviar" and drinking "champagne", with a gorgeous ring on my finger and the most beautiful girl ever next to me, I felt like the richest princess in the world.   

Buy sustainable caviar from here:
Seattle Caviar Company
Dean & Deluca

Yukon Gold Potato Blini
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (or red bliss potatoes)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons crème fraîche, at room temperature
2 Tbsp garlic chives, minced (regular chives will work)
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the potatoes until fork tender.  Drain potatoes and return them to the pot.   Quickly mix the flour into the warm potatoes, then whisk in 2 1/2 tablespoons crème fraîche. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until the batter is smooth.  Add more crème fraîche if needed.

Holding the whisk with some of the batter over the bowl, the batter should fall in a thick stream but hold its shape. If it is too thick, add a little more crème fraîche. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Spoon between 1 and 1 1/2 teaspoons of batter onto the skillet for each blini. Cook until the bottoms are browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Then flip them and cook the second side, about 1 to 2 minutes. The blini should be evenly browned with a small ring of white around the edges. Transfer the blini to a small baking sheet and keep warm.  Wipe the skillet with a paper towel between batches. Serve the blini as soon as possible with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, and caviar.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

We are proud.

Happy gay pride weekend everyone.  Here are some food suggestions for a lovely pride:

Who doesn't love hot dogs and oysters?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stick to your ribs.

Being raised in the South I never understood the concept of the "boneless" ribs.  Ribs were meant to be eaten off the bone, to remind you that you are indeed snacking on an animal.  They should be slow cooked and slathered with barbecue sauce.  Served up with a side of potato salad or coleslaw and a nice cold glass of purple Cool-aid (or as we called it, purple drink) to wash it all down.  After escaping my small Southern town trappings as a pre-teen, thankfully I've since seen a little more of the world and managed to be exposed to other cultures.  Even though I was definitely a fish out of water being a Cuban, French Canadian, Chinese transgender girl in the middle of rural Georgia, I had a pretty okay childhood.  I am glad that the good parts of the South (such as the food, the hospitality, and the appreciation of history) rubbed off on me.  It's easy to get stuck, thinking you know what's what.  The way things ought to be.  It's a large world, look around and you just might change your mind about a thing or three.

The other day I purchased the most meaty, delicious Thundering Hooves boneless, beef short ribs from my favorite new butcher Rain Shadow Meats.  I marinated them in some kecap manis, soy, garlic, ginger, Indonesian chili paste, and fresh coriander for a few hours.  In the meantime I cleaned my kitchen, "window" shopped pretty dresses on the internet, breezed through a cookbook or two, drank a few cocktails, and oh yeah, cut up my mirepoix (that's French for, getting all your ingredients cut up and ready).

Soba noodles are probably one of my favorite noodles.  There are made of buckwheat flour and have a bit of chewy texture to them.  They are perfect when tossed with a little soy sauce and sesame  oil.  Sometimes when I go to Uwajimaya in the International District (Seattle's version of Chinatown) I will stand there and stare at the immense noodle selection for an hour while drooling on myself.  I don't know what half of them are and I can't read any of the packages but I know I want to eat all of them.  I am a sucker for Asian packaging.  Put a cute character on the package and I will buy it.  "Hey look, there's a giant laughing panda punching a dolphin in the head with a handful of noodles."  "I bet they're delicious!"  "Oh look at those!  That Jet Jaguar robot is shooting udon noodles out of his ass into that happy kids mouth.  Delicious!"  Yes, I want them all.

Sesame Soba Noodles with Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs

For the beef:
1 lb. boneless beef short ribs
2 green onions, sliced on the bias
3 cloves garlic, minced
2" piece of ginger, minced
1/2 bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp kecap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce)
2 tsp cap jempol (Indonesian chili sauce), you can sub chili garlic paste or Sriracha

Mix together all of the ingredients and marinate the ribs for at least 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 250.  Over medium heat in a saute pan sear the beef quickly (if you don't have proper ventilation you will choke so open a window).  Add the marinade and cook 2 more minutes.  Put the beef in the oven and braise for 2 hours or until meat is falling apart.  When the beef is done remove from the oven and let it rest covered with foil.

For the noodles:
1 package (12.5 oz) of soba noodles
2 celery stalks, sliced on a bias
2 green onions, sliced on a bias
1/2 bunch or fresh coriander, chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
2-3 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the noodles according to their package.  In the meantime, saute the celery and green onions in a little peanut oil until soft.  Set aside.  Mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, and vinegar.  Toss with the finished noodles.  Thinly slice or shred the beef and toss with the celery, onion, fresh coriander and noodles.  Plate and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How to pose your meatloaf.

Food photography is a funny thing.  You spend all this time preparing something delicious only to let it sit there and get cold while you set up the perfect picture.  The problem is, food isn't always pretty.  Sure, someone who is a amazing photographer can probably coax some beauty out of a pile of scrambled eggs or a puddle of gravy.  I aspire to be that person one day.  I want to create pretty landscapes of mashed potato mountains and a sea of split pea soup.  While I lack decent lighting and a fancy camera, I do pretty okay with what I have.  I take a lot of food pictures and not all of them are winners.  That doesn't mean that the food failed.  No, as a matter of fact I sometimes take pictures of really delicious food that is pretty unappetizing to look at.  Granted I am extremely hard on myself.  I am not trained in the art of posing a pretty meatloaf for the perfect picture but I am learning.  I am a classically trained chef.  As much as I want to take the prettiest pictures, the thing that matters to me most is how does the food taste?  As for how it looks through the lens, as long as the food doesn't get cold, I'm happy to primp a chicken leg for a pretty picture.  As the saying goes, you eat with your eyes before your mouth.  Creepy literal images aside, my food usually looks tasty.  Now I just have to translate that into a photograph. 

Here are a couple pictures of food that may not win any beauty pageants but they sure tasted delicious.

Grilled Mad Hatcher Farms Chicken with Indonesian Celery Rice Cakes and Soy Sesame Jus

 The organic WA raised chicken was glazed with kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), grilled to get a crust and then finished in the oven.  The celery cakes are made with sliced celery, cooked jasmine rice, fresh ginger and garlic, cilantro, soy, eggs to bind, and cap jempol (Indonesian chili sauce).  Soy, sesame oil, and chili garlic paste were added to the chicken dripping for the sauce

Scrambled Eggs with Dungeness Crab, Heirloom Brandywine Tomatoes, and Fresh Thyme

Dog Mountain Farm free range chicken eggs scrambled with fresh, local dungeness crab meat, tossed with sweet, diced heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs.  Drizzled with a yogurt based herb pistou. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Get a load of the curves on those chickpeas!

Listen up boys and girls. Sometimes you have to have something besides delicious meat on your plate. I know, it sounds crazy but it's true. Allow me stereotype for a minute. Most intelligent women and "enlightened" folks know this already so if you belong to one of those groups feel free to skip ahead to the recipe. But you tough, power lawnmower drivin', Maxim reading types might want to read on.  I know you're a little confused right now. Before you punch the walls of your wood-paneled man cave, think about it. See that poster of UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture on your wall? How do you think he got so big and scary? Yup, he ate lots of salads and vegetables, and drank lots and lots of GNC Muscle Milk (ever see that stuff? really creepy, like breast milk in a can). You want to be big and strong like that don't you? Sure you do. So here's the thing. I'm not saying you have to go out and start eating wild dandelion greens with tofu (although that could be delicious). No, what I'm saying is try adding a bit of vegetables and grains to your meals. Eating healthier might make you a little less puffy and perhaps you'll no longer have to beat your chest when someone weaker than you walks by. Smarter eating breeds smarter people. Eat some vegetables and read a book.  It'll make you a nicer person.  Now on to the food!

Okay, now that that's over with here's a recipe for a salad that will convert the meatiest of meat eaters. It's a Curried Couscous and Chickpea Salad with Fresh Mint.

1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup canned chick-peas (rinsed and drained)
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tspn cumin
kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 sprigs fresh mint, chiffonade
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous (uncooked)

In a large pot, cook onion, celery and garlic in the olive oil over medium low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chickpeas and spices and continue to cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add broth, increase heat and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover, remove from heat and let sit for 8 minutes. Fluff with a fork and toss in the mint. Serve immediately.

You could even add shrimp or chicken if you can't deal with it being meatless.  Try it, you'll like it.