Monday, May 31, 2010

Flowering Kale & Garlic Scape Stir Fry ... a Bit of Gossip ... and my 99th Post


I know, I know. The 99th post is not a generally accepted blogging milestone worthy of fireworks and giveaways. I have two points to offer in my defense. First, I am very bad at math and somehow I got it into my head that this was in fact my 100th post. But then I added it all up again just before I started writing it and it turns out ... not so much.  

Secondly, I had a fabulous idea for my 100th post all set, but then it didn't work out, and as it turns out it wouldn't have worked no matter what. But I get ahead of myself. It's like this: I recently landed a gig as the online food and drink editor for a local publication - hooray! As part of my job, I have the *clears throat* exhausting job of going to events and tasting things and eating free dinners and sipping free drinks  from time to time.  Serendipitously (or so I thought)  the Anthony Bourdain/Eric Ripert show was coming to town and it hit me: Aha! I will take something - an apron, say - and have them sign it, and give it away for my 100th post.  Pretty cool, huh?

Well. Did I mention that I just got this job? Too late, apparently, to be able to snag two press tickets to the event. Sigh. But before you despair of the incredible giveaway that might-have-been, let me console you with this: I heard it through the grapevine that Bourdain's entourage formed an impenetrable wall around him, and no one could get close. Ripert, meanwhile, though engaging and polite enough, performed an eat-and-run disappearing act after the show.  Although this scheme didn't work out, rest assured I'm hard at work thinking of something for my blogoversary in July! 

Meanwhile,  I give you a stir fry. Though really there's nothing heavy and "fry-ish" about it. And it's more a method than a recipe; a perfect way to use whatever healthy veg is in season. All you have to do is remember to keep a variety of textures and colors in the dish, and it will turn out beautifully.

I used flowering kale - a purple, cabbage-y variety of kale - regular purple kale, and garlic scapes.  I simply sauteed then in peanut oil until the kale wilted and the scapes were crunchy and bright, and then set this aside. Meanwhile, I cooked day-old jasmine rice (I read somewhere that it's important the rice is a day old so it doesn't get sticky) in a combo of  sesame and peanut oil, soy sauce, a bit - not too much! - of oyster sauce, and white pepper. I simultaneously scrambled 3 eggs in another  skillet, and broke them up into chunks, folding them into the rice. I added the vegetables back in to the rice/egg mixture, tossed it all together, garnished it with some green onions, and I had a healthy and light weeknight meal.

The perfect dish to celebrate a 99th post, yes? 

Flowering Kale & Garlic Scape Stir Fry on Foodista

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mtuza wa Samaki: Kenyan Curried Fish, for World Africa Day

It's all about the hot peppers ...

... and of course, the fish

When Casey of  Eating,  Gardening, and Living in Bulgaria challenged food bloggers to cook an African dish to highlight the incredible culinary diversity of the continent in honor of World Africa Day, I was eager to participate.  After all, African cuisine - particularly the hot and spicy variety - is one of my very favorite things in the world. (I have the sweat-inducing and curiously addicting West African pepper soup at Sumah's carryout in Washington, DC to thank for it. )

Of course, saying "African cuisine" is a gross oversimplification.  Each region and country has its own signature ingredients, spices, and cooking techniques.  Ethiopian, Senegalese, Tunisian, Ghanaian, Kenyan, South African - these cuisines, and many more I didn't list,  are as different from one another as French is  from Viennese.  I hope that more and more people begin to discover the depth and breadth of flavors this continent has to offer.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Piece of Cake: Baking & Pastry Arts Semester One Recap

Almond Cake

Poppy Seed Bundt Cake with Cardamom Streusel

At long last, my first semester as a culinary student is over. For our practical final (there was also a written one)  we had to make a pate sucree, lemon curd, and French meringue. In other words, a lemon meringue tart.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pizza or Focaccia? Crispy Purple Kale, Feta, Red Onion, Black Olive & Garlic on Some Seriously Good Crust (Whatever it Is)

 I seem to be having a hard time naming things lately. Take this dish. Is it a pizza? Is it focaccia? Plain old bread? And if it is pizza, is it Sicilian? Chicago-style? Deep dish? Sigh. I'm not sure.  Maybe I'll call it a fopizza.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

International Dumpling Incident: Spinat Knödel mit Gorgonzola Sauce

International Dumplings Incident Party

Can you guess what time is is, kids? That's right, it's  International Incident time, a monthly (ish) event in which  food bloggers from around the world come together and create their own version of a dish based on a theme. After our last two successful parties - gnocchi and pizza pie - this month's Incident is all about dumplings. (To check out my compatriots' creations, please visit our party host, Penny aka Jeroxie.)

As much fun as I had with pizza, I've really been looking forward to this one because I've been wanting an excuse to recreate the hearty, rib-sticking dish I had at the Cafe Phönixhof in Vienna: rich and cheesy spinat knödel (spinach dumplings) mit gorgonzola sauce.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rustic, But Not Humble: Caramelized Onion & Emmental Galette

To be honest, I am not 100% sure that this savory bundle of gooey cheese and sweet onions, encased in a flavorful herbed crust,  can properly be called a galette. Some say that a galette is a round, flat cake, which this is not; others define it as a free-form tart, which this clearly is. But, to paraphrase Shakespeare,  a rustic tart by any other name would taste as good.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Healthy Snack Feast, For Spring ... and a Friend

 Spring Snack Spread ...

Cucumber "Sandwiches"

Avocado Stuffed with a Red Onion & Caper Salmon Salad

Blanched Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Hazelnuts & White Truffle Oil

I have a close friend, B, who can't eat anything.  Don't misunderstand: It's not that he won't eat certain foods or that he's picky - the poor guy has major digestive issues, and an unbelievable array of things are strictly off limits in his diet.  As you can imagine, having him over for drinks and a bite can be a bit tricky. Usually, our pre-get together conversations go something like this:

Me: How about chick peas? I can make chick pea flat bread!
B: Nope. No chick peas.
Me: Sorghum flour! It has no gluten.
B: Sorry. No grains of any kind.
Me: Ok ... polenta?
B: Sorry. ... No corn. 
Me: (in a small voice): Mozzarella?
B: (sighing) Only aged cheeses ...

And so it goes. But rather than look at this as a problem, I've decided to embrace it as a challenge, and figure out ways to treat my friend to surprising, flavorful morsels and still stick within the parameters of his  restrictive diet. He seemed really happy with this little feast I put together, and the best part is - it didn't seem like there was any sacrifice involved. 

To solve the whole no grains issue, I decided to make cute little cucumber "sandwiches." I sliced the cukes very thin, and salted and drained them so they wouldn't be too watery. Half my sandwiches were a watercress and harissa mayonnaise (organic!); the other half were a leek and morel mushroom cheese with tomato.  These were crisp and refreshing - perfect for a warm evening on the deck.

It turns out that cabbage is really good for certain digestive issues, and Brussels sprouts - which I love -  happen to be in the cabbage family. I first got inspired by a Brussels sprouts slaw I saw on Top Chef Masters, but I couldn't find the recipe anywhere.  I hunted around online and ended up making my own version out of several I found. To make this, blanch some baby Brussels sprouts in salted water, and shock them in cold water immediately after draining them. Next, cut them into little ribbons and pat them dry. Toss in toasted hazelnuts, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, a squeeze of Meyer lemon, and a drizzle of white truffle oil. Just keep adding until it tastes right, and top with shaved Manchego cheese.  This was a hit! The truffle oil imparted a real woodsy depth of flavor, and the crunch of the nuts gave the salad a fun texture.

Finally, to get that "ladies who lunch" vibe going, I decided to make a salmon salad and serve it in avocado halves. I used canned wild-caught Pacific salmon, organic mayo, capers, red onion, a squeeze of Meyer lemon, and salt and pepper. Again, this is one of those dishes you just keep mixing until it tastes the way you want. Don't forget to put a little acid on your avocados so they don't turn brown and yucky!
Grains or no grains, this was a filling - yet somehow light - meal. The lesson here? If you,  a friend, or family member has dietary issues, don't give up and settle for bland, sad foods. With a little imagination, there's always something flavorful you can whip up. Believe me - it will be appreciated!