Monday, December 21, 2009

Tofu pot-stickers

For our last night in Berkeley before taking the train to Oregon for Christmas, we made tofu wonton. The filling consisted of medium-soft tofu, diced fresh green shallots, grated fresh (frozen) ginger, grated fresh (frozen) lemon grass, a touch of soy sauce, and a little corn starch. We cooked them by frying on one side in canola-plus-sesame oil and then pouring boiling water over them to cook the other side. Very tasty.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pan-cooked rockfish with creamy potato gratin and chanterelles

Wash and slice potatoes, and layer in a buttered glass pan. Salt the potatoes and cover with cream. Bake on in a pre-heated oven 40 minutes.

Wash and chop chanterelle mushrooms, and chop many cloves of garlic. Saute the mushrooms and garlic on low heat, covered, with lots of butter and some salt. After five minutes or so, the mushrooms should have reduced and released their liquid. Carefully remove the mushrooms from the pan and set them in an oven-safe bowl, and keep warm in the oven; save the mushroom juices in the pan.

Place the rockfish in the saute pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and add salt and more cream. Cover and let cook five minutes, then flip the fish to cook the other sides another five minutes.

Plate in the kitchen: potatoes, then fish, then mushrooms. Serve with a good white wine, and celebrate your best friend's admission to law school.

The very last of the beans

We harvested the very last batch of broad beans on the 13th of December, and pulled out the vines to make space for our fava seedlings. Most were dry enough to save in a jar, but some were still fresh and white, and so we made our favorite bean dip. Boil fresh beans twenty minutes or so, with a stick of rosemary in the pot. Meanwhile, peel and pound in the mortar and pestle many cloves of garlic, along with the leaves from a stick of rosemary. To aid with the pounding, add salt, and once the garlic is a paste, mix in good olive oil to help it pour out. When the beans are softened, drain them and remove the boiled rosemary twig. In a medium bowl, whisk together beans and the garlic-and-rosemary paste, until the beans have mostly mashed.


For the filling of the dumplings, we deveined and then minced shrimp, and mixed it with maitake mushrooms, scallions, soy sauce, ginger, and corn starch. We made the dumplings with wonton wrappers, dotting each with a frozen edamame bean; the rest of the edamame we mixed briefly boiled and then mixed with sesame seeds and a touch of soy sauce.

Heat a mix of sesame and canola oil in a non-stick pan, and begin to fry the dumplings. Then pour in boiling water to about half the height of the dumplings, cover, and cook ten minutes or so.

Serve with a dipping sauce, your pick. We used a mix of soy sauce, maple syrup, and rice vinegar.

Billi Bi with fresh bread

Cook onions in wine and butter. Meanwhile, steam open mussels. Add shellfish broth to the onions, and take the mussels from their shells and add to the soup; also add cream, salt, and curry powder. Garnish with chives.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pizza with shrimp, sweet peppers, and tapenade

Squid-ink spaghetti with crab, fennel, and shallot

Chef Freitag, on Iron Chef, for a crab-themed episode against Bobby Flay, made a simple pasta dish: homemade spaghetti, fennel, leeks, and crab. We decided to do her one better.

Begin by making squid-ink pasta. We used three cups semolina, some salt, one oz squid ink, and three eggs. Don't worry that the pasta starts out gray and cement-looking; it will darken with time. Roll out the spaghetti in a pasta press. Squid ink smells fishy, so it goes very well with crab. It's totally water-soluble, but will get all over your hands.

Next clean and shell one cooked crab. Coarsely chop one bulb of fennel, washed, and one bunch spring shallots. Saute the vegetables in olive oil and salt.

Start a large pot of well-salted water boiling before beginning to saute the veggies. When the veggies have softened and the water is roiling, add the crab to the veggies and the pasta to the water, stirring the pasta to break up the clumps. Cook the pasta two minutes, until it floats, drain well, and toss with the sauce. Serve with grated romano.

Hippie food

Soak black eyed peas over night, in at least three times as much water, and in a pot that can sustain that much water in a vigorous boil. An hour before dinner, bring the beans to a boil, with the lid almost covering but letting some of the air escape.

Also a full hour before you want to eat, combine one part wheat berry with two parts well-salted water, add a dab of butter, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer, covered. Cook on low 1 hr, checking occasionally, until the water has almost entirely cooked off. If you leave it covered, it will hold its heat at least another 30 minutes, if not another hour, so feel free to make the grains well in advance.

Wash one head each of collard greens and rapini greens, and strip the leafy part off the stems. Cut the leaves into thin strips. Wash also a bunch of mixed young braising greens. In a medium or large pot, saute one onion, coarsely chopped, in lots of butter, and add minced garlic, salt, curry powder, and mustard powder. Add the greens, cover, and cook on low — the water clinging to the greens from washing should be enough to steam them. Cook an hour, checking occasionally.

Twenty minutes before serving, chop a bunch of fresh shallots, and saute in butter. Add salt, clove, and mustard powder, and then the drain beans. Saute the flavors together.

Serve all three dishes hot.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vegetarian mushroom-onion soup and fresh bread

Start the bread (flour, water, salt, yeast) first, of course, as it will need to rise. Shape the bread into baguettes, and roll in a mixture of poppy and caraway seeds. Bake 20-30 minutes, and let cool at least 10 before slicing open.

For the soup, we sauteed sliced onions with garlic, salt, and butter, and then added wine and water and brought everything to a boil with bay leaf and a tasty dried wild mushroom mix I received as a birthday present. After cooking the soup until the mushrooms were tender, we transferred it into oven-safe bowls, and covered the soup liberally with a mix of grated cheeses, including mostly mozzarella, which browns wonderfully. We broiled the soup until the cheese had browned, let the bowls cool slightly, and served the soup with the very fresh bread. If we had started the bread a bit earlier, we would have done the even more traditional thing of floating a slice of bread in each bowl before adding the cheese and broiling.

Tuna with sweet potatoes and broccoli

Preheat the oven, and slice sweet potatoes. Set the potatoes on an oiled lasanga pan, sprinkle with paprika, cumin, ginger, and salt, turn them over, and season again. Bake until tender. Meanwhile, rub garlic, butter, and ginger over a small pan. Place tuna filets, toro-side up, on the pan, and cook under the broiler ten minutes. Steam broccoli along with its greens, and pour over it garlic mashed with olive oil, ginger, and salt.

Pasta with tomatoes, arugula, and ricotta salata; mussels

The mussels were delicious, served without a sauce. The pasta was cooked well, and the cheese (ricotta salata mixed in, podda classico grated on top) was very good. But even Farmers' Market tomatoes are disappointing in December, and the arugula, which I tossed into the boiling pasta water for the last minute (a nice trick for adding braising greens to pasta) lost its flavor.

Fasolada me spanaki and Greek salad

Fasolada, or Greek bean soup, is wonderful on a cold night, and can be made completely vegan. Prepare as you would any other vegetable soup: saute aromatics, add liquid, add veggies. In this case, the important parts are: lots and lots of olive oil, plenty of thyme, cooked white beans, and spinach or other cooking greens.

For the salad, we used a mesclun from Happy Boy, and added raw red onion, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and a lemon-juice dressing.

Garnish both soup and salad with extra feta. For a nice presentation, arrange the feta bowl with extra olives, and cover liberally with olive oil.

Crab bisque

Begin by preparing a mirepoix: wash and chop leeks, celery, carrots, and garlic, and cook covered over medium with lots of butter. Meanwhile, wash and shell one cooked crab, saving the shells (as well as the celery and leek trimmings) for a later soup stock. When the mirepoix has mostly cooked, add white wine, some shellfish stock or water, lots of cream, salt, and the crab. Bring everything briefly to a boil, let cool slightly, and serve with a crusty seeded sourdough bread.