I took this fennel photo earlier this summer when I was momentarily engrossed in the art of refrigerator pickles. I prefer those to traditional canning methods that cook the crunchiness, therefore, the freshness out of vegetables. I’ve been toying with the idea of brines and fermentation… so there’s a possibility of krauts this winter?
I don’t have the time or energy to brine yet becayse this week has been quite unpredictable, but I sneaked away from the craziness to compile this list of my favorites things online – it’s a way to gleam inspiration for the mundane existence I would otherwise live…
+ I might be baking an apple pie a week, but I still dream of apple cakes and bread.
San Francisco is pretty fabulous, but fresh dragon fruits and dragons are the likes of tropical fairy tales. This fairy tale began with an exiting email about Phan Farms last month, and I have been stalking their farm stand since I got over the shock.
The last time I had fresh, local dragon fruits was in 2010 during a long trip to Mexico. I ate rare fruits by the bucket – enough to meet my daily water quota. Literally, it was so easy to find yourself by a fruit stand with a cup of freshly chopped fruit with chili or by a smoothie stand with a pureed blend of fruit and oatmeal. I miss this aspect of tropical living…
Dragon fruits are not particularly strange tasting, but their appearance is stunning. The edible part is white with black seeds and has a comparable taste and texture to very ripe kiwis. They are never sour but tend to be bland if it is not ripe enough, so pick a soft fruit with even, brightly colored skin. Color spots might mean over-ripened fruit, but I’ve never had one I disliked.
My favorite way to serve dragon fruit is in halves with spoons… they are soft and delicate so peeling/cutting is a waste of energy. For $20, I was able to procure five dragon fruits for a small celebration. We sat around with our own halves and talked about our dragon fruit experiences in Vietnam, while I brainstormed various alcohol pairings for a tropical cocktail. It’s bound to happen.
They are only available another week, so get to UN Plaza before I do!!!
My leafy friends are usually the likes of chard, kale, and spinach and they wrap me in fronds of comfort - a hermitic sanctuary brimming with gustatory habits and occasional visitors with weird names and even weirder textures.
For a quick moment my roost of repose was filled with saluyot. I bought it from a farm stand whose advertisement of ‘okra greens’ enticed me with a bizarre mucilaginous vision; I didn’t know what the chimera looked or tasted like but surely it would be slimy.
Neither of us knew what to do with each other, so for a large portion of two days we exchanged curious glimpses and posed wordless questions. Even when I did decide the fate of those serrated leaves, there was an inquisitive,yet peaceful pause wherein the storm of intent hurdled me towards dumplings unfamiliar.
I began the saluyot de-stemming two hours before it was finished. Obviously, I had much more than anyone should have for a small experiment so the experiment ballooned… avalanched even. By the time I added shiitakes I had enough for 24 gyozas, a miserable number if the experiment proved unsuccessful.
Words will fail me here, but I shall try to describe the Thing I created. I’ve had plenty of vegetable dumplings. I’ve have plenty of mushroom dumplings. I’ve also been fed pork dumplings ages ago. This lies somewhere between all those: scallions lent the fillings a rare crunch, shiitakes made a fatty presence infused with a healthy dose of soy sauce, and saluyots bounded everything together in an eerie way that vegetables ought not to do. I fed my boyfriend a handful and he said it tasted like pork dumplings, a big exaggeration but the dumplings certainly possessed an indescribably flesh-like quality. It was rather bizarre.
If you are curious, try this recipe and visit the uncanny valley of sticky saluyot dumplings. I also have a dozen in my freezer… come visit?
Saluyot and Shiitake Gyozas
If you look up saluyot, you’ll quickly discover that it is a cochorous, or jute. The stems and branches are much too tough to eat but make an affordable natural fiber, which is spun into coarse thread of admirable strength. Only the mallow leaves are eaten. They have a mucus-like juice that is noticeable when raw or cooked. Saluyot is an old world vegetable that is eaten for its anti-aging properties.
4 generous cups of coarsely chopped saluyot leaves (spinach or chard things would work great without slime)
1 c. shiitake, thinly sliced
2 TB finely chopped ginger
2 TB finely chopped garlic
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB mirin
2 TB sake
2 TB corn starch
1 egg (optional)
1 pt. soy sauce
1 pt. rice wine vinegar
a dash of hot sauce
a dash of sesame oil
+ Using about 1TB of oil, cook saluyot until tender. Allow to cool and squeeze out as much liquid from the saluyot as you can.
+ In a skillet with some oil, cook shiitakes with garlic and ginger until tender. Add soy sauce, mirin, and sake and stir to mix. Allow seasoned shiitake to cook for about another two minutes on low heat.
+ In a bowl, combine mushrooms, saluyot, scallions, egg and corn starch. Fill each gyoza wrapper with a teaspoon of this filling – it will be a little runny and sticky. Here is a nice photo tutorial on how to fold gyozas.I keep my work surface clean by wiping after each wrap with plenty of paper towels. Keep a clean, wet towel over the wrappers to prevent them from drying.
+ To cook, brush lightly with oil and steam in a bamboo vegetable steamer until the wrappers are transparent – about 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of your wrappers. Another method is to fry them until golden in a tablespoon of hot oil, adding a scant 1/3 -1/2 cup of water to steam them in the same pan for an additional 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Today is Parking Day, meaning I will be biking around San Francisco in search of temporary parklets. I’ll be taking photos, but you can check out my point and shoot at the same event two years ago on my Flickr account. I’ve been a more active participant in the past but I’ve been too busy cooking and eating to notice that September was creeping on so quickly. What a sneaky month!
Here is this week’s list of delicious links full of tomatoes’ last hurrah, fun food finds, and San Francisco events:
+ The photo above is a gentle reminder to roast/dry your tomatoes before it’s too late. I got 5lbs of cherry tomatoes to add to my small collection. I’m also making tomato sauce this weekend (I use oregano instead of thyme… also none of that carrot stuff).
+ I like it when engineers and robots get together to make eating more fun. Take this automated popcorn machine for example. When you say ‘pop’, it shoots popcorn into your mouth by locating where the word came from in the room. Fun!!!
I haven’t found a single soul who objects to eating these classic snickerdoodle cookies – sweet, chewy, buttery, and full of cinnamon goodness, they disappear so quickly you’ll be glad you made 5 dozens.
After many complex baking recipes, this classic cookie is a refreshing change of pace. The hunt for the perfect snickerdoodle is still on, but I really like the taste of this particular recipe. If you look closely, you will notice that they did not have those characteristic cracks… not that their lack of cracks has led to disappointed cookie eaters, but I really like the science of particulars and the science of snickerdoodles include cracks. I believe it’s because I forgot to flatten them out from their ball shapes into disks. ..
After a discussion with the roommates, I was told that I should try the Betty Crocker recipe so that’s next on my test list (I’ll try anything once). I’ve had 3 out of 12 roommates tell me these are their favorite childhood cookies which makes my warehouse the perfect testing ground for snickerdoodle experiments. They ate 2.5 dozens in one evening so I need to get to making more ASAP.
Snickerdoodles, Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking
2 3/4 c. flour
1/2 ts. salt
2 ts. baking soda
1 c. butter @room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 ts. vanilla
Cinnamon Sugar Coating
1/3 c. sugar
2 ts. ground cinnamon
+ Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
+ Using a hand mixer, beat butter in a bowl until softly whipped. Add sugar to the butter and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, and whisk. Add vanilla extract, scraping down the sides, and mix until well combined. Add flour mixture to the butter and beat until the dough is smooth. Cover the bowl and allow to cool completely for about 2 hours.
+ Preheat oven to 400 °F .
+ Using a melon baller or small spoon, scrape out dough and roll into 1″ round balls. Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar and place on cookie sheet about 2″ apart. Flatten dough balls with the bottom of a glass bowl or drinking glass.
+ Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to cookie sheets. They should be very soft. Serve with tea or milk.
The grape harvest is an exciting time of year in northern California so I am once again revisiting Tuscany for another culinary inspiration. I found this dish, grape focaccia, while perusing Nigel Slater’s new book, Ripe, which horrified me from the first few pages: pheasant with apples, blood sausage with apples, guinea fowl with sausage and apple… let’s just say that it took a few chapters before I was convinced Nigel was capable of writing recipes for the vegetarian in me. Don’t get me wrong, I think meat tastes great, but I don’t eat it so after 310 pages, I was glad to have found this focaccia recipe, and it’s a great one.
The best part about this classic harvest bread is that it can be subtly adjusted for a more savory flavor. Here, Nigel uses sugar to make a sweet caramelized grape crust, but I have also seen grape focaccia with rosemary and fennel toppings. I’m sure they are all amazing.
My first focaccia attempt earlier this summer was a recipe from a lovely book, which I have otherwise found many treasures… but a whole grain focaccia as a basal effort? I should know better than to start running before I learn to crawl. Working focaccia dough is like quicksand, the more you struggle, the more you sink. This was a hard lesson for me after some sticky, disastrous attempts until I tried the stretch and fold method for kneading bread. Don’t get me wrong, I love kneading bread and all of its glorious exercises but sometimes, it’s worth abandoning for the sake of sanity.
+ Mix yeast and sugar in warm water (115°F) and allow to sit for five minutes until it begins to bubble a bit. In a large bowl, mix salt and flour together and stir in yeast water once yeast is finished activating.
+ Allow folded dough to sit for 45 minutes and repeat stretch and fold. Allow to sit another 45 minutes, but on the last dough stretch, fold in half of the grapes and allow dough to rise until doubled in size.
+ Preheat oven to 425°F. Top dough with olive oil, the remaining grapes, and place into the oven to bake for about 35 minutes. Once finished, dust the top of the focaccia with powdered sugar. Serve with butter.
This Wednesday I saw an old, fragile man pulling a well-organized cart full of personal items – useless things that people like you or I may not hold onto, but had the same cared-for tenderness to them as treasured books, safety blankets, or collected cups. I felt my eyes curiously lingering on a tidy pile of magazines and newspapers wrapped neatly with old twine. As I watched this man my heart began to wither, because I could tell by now he was homeless and well-groomed despite his life on the streets. Still holding onto his cart of valuables, this gentleman slowly, hopefully walked over to the trash bin and examined the discarded pizza box sitting on it, gently lifting its lid to see if there was something left, perhaps a morsel of food to stave the hunger that he carries with the bravest ounce of dignity that could be expected for a struggling person sleeping on sidewalks in a city full of decadence.
I’m not one to dote on memories of the homeless that I see on the streets of my neighborhood, there are so many and I avoid them due to the guilt of my own privileged existence. To say that this particular experience left me sad is an understatement, but I couldn’t bear watching the tidy homeless man any longer so I walked away as fast as my short legs could carry me: I needed to forget what I just witnessed in order to buy my fruits and vegetables, the same ones used to make luxurious food on this blog.
I still regret walking away without much ado. That same evening I finished reading MFK Fischer’s The Gastronomical Me, which ended on a quaint but sad story about unrequited love…. Fischer, in her wise words ended the book with this:
Jaunito would be free again, as much as anyone can be who was once known hunger and gone unfed…
When I read this my youthful silliness made me tearful at my own callousness to the hungers shrouding this city; I spend each day mourning my own “terrible” existence, drunk from seeking culinary opiates to my own superficial hungers, avian fantasies, and meaningful big ideas. I turned on some music because it softens up my emotions like a familiar tenderizer, and I began to humble myself with ideas of nourishment, the kind that my heart seeks when hungry, not just pretty baked things with sugar and fruit, but a filler that doesn’t starve my inner soul of empathy. As much as I think I am contributing to the joys of those around me the truth is, most of us are hopelessly helpless when it comes to the pains and sufferings that others have to endure on a daily basis. I’ve known hunger but with each revelation, I find that my pains are just flesh wounds – temporary inconveniences.
I hope that you find some minor joys when you read my blog, look at the photos, and perhaps even make some of the food. As for me, I dream of having an open and free kitchen in this godforsaken city to feed those in hunger.
On a lighter note, here are some of my favorite delicious links on the web this week:
+ I used to read 101Cookbooks religiously. I made nearly every recipe, and followed every passionate adventure from Heidi’s kitchen until my own cookbook collection eclipsed my devotion. Just the other day, I was thrilled to see this beautiful dish. I might have to give her rosy yogurt thing a chance, despite my aversion to yogurt things.
+ Consider me shocked when I saw this: Cornbread Waffles. I don’t think I need more reasons to get a waffle iron.
+ I usually don’t make cakes, but I could get used to the idea of this beautiful one: apple and walnut cake from Desserts for Breakfast.
I have a new food mantra: eat fruit, rare ones. To an outsider my fruit hunt might appear to be wild compulsion, but I am restrained even when I do buy the occasional fruit treasure at the market – usually no more than one pound or a small sampling of three. More often than not, the Asian vendors are surprised when I flood them with typical American questions about their fruits, but I’m no longer embarrassed about my ignorance and just ask away… because it’s important to know if you can eat the skin or not!
These apple-looking melons were almost hidden when I saw an old Asian lady pawing at them last Sunday. When I asked the vendor whether the skin was edible, the old lady wildly gesticulated that one was not to eat the skin, perhaps doing so might upset the gods. I can’t even describe her motions because at the time I was trying to suppress laughter for fear of coming across disrespectful. Honestly though, it was just cute, funny, and definitely helpful. When I’m old I think I will be the cranky kind of old lady and not the helpful kind with the charitable hand motions.
Anyways, the vendor called these Taiwan Melons, but I’ve yet to find confirmation on the internet and no one I know have seen them before. They are shaped like apples but when you cut them open, they have the color and texture of round cucumbers, but very sweet in comparison. I remove the seeds and eat them in thin slices, leaving as little skin as possible. I think it might be easier to peel them first? When selecting, choose the more yellow melons as they are sweeter.
Nothing makes me feel more rabbit-like than a bowl of lettuce, poorly dressed and carelessly presented. Sadly, I could feed an entire colony of rabbits with all of the uninspiring salads I’ve been served. Their usual lack of nutrition makes me dislike them even more when offered as the ‘vegetarian option’. Cake is a vegetarian option.
I got particularly distressed when I had a long, hot Georgia summer of CSA boxes loaded with lettuce. This prompted a salad making frenzy that enabled me to grow out of my silly exasperation and embrace their raw, crunchy temperament. I still don’t order lettuce-y salads in restaurants but I make them a few times a week in the hopes of clearing out the fridge.
Making salads can be extremely rewarding once the craft of it gets into your bones. It’s a chance to paint with texture. Naturally you’d want to work with only local, seasonal, and fresh ingredients, but aside from the obvious factors, I think they are about as fun as anything improvisational gets.
This shaved cauliflower salad was inspired by Nigel Slater’s Fennel and Green Bean Salad in his epic vegetable book, Tender. I’ve made significant changes to the original, but I still liken this to his because I can’t stop putting green beans in my salad since. Also, I can’t live without cauliflower – when these cruciferous vegetables are shaved, they are subtle and delightful; a perfect backdrop for tomatoes, green beans, parsley, and toasted almonds.
2 c. shaved cauliflower
1 c. green beans, blanched for 3 mins and cooled in ice water
1. cherry tomatoes
1 c. loosely packed parsley leaves
1/4 c. toasted, sliced almonds
1 egg yolk
1 TB sherry vinegar
1 TB lemon juice
1 TB dijon mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
3 TB finely grated parmesan
+ Whisk dressing ingredients together well and toss half of the dressing with shaved cauliflower, blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, and parsley. Top with almonds. Drizzle additional dressing on top right before serving.
So… it’s already September. I don’t recall having any particular predilection towards the month of September, but this coming season, Autumn beckons all sort of scents and sentiments: apple pies, cider, Appalachia, burning fires, caramel. Apple pies, for all of their patriotic and nostalgic qualities, do live up to every bit of nostalgia when made right. I’d sooner have blueberry pies but apple pie are “pleasant”. When baking, their scent warms the house and makes me think of all sorts of cozy things like fuzzy blankets, hot tea, and heavy books, which provides a stark contrast to the insanity of 6th street outside my window. Subsequently, my list of delicious links for the week has a wee bit of apples, a teapot, and a few books, of course.
+ I get a lot of requests for apple pies so I dutifully make them with a happy heart, and I almost always use this recipe. It’s nearly flawless. I add a glaze of 1 pt egg yolk and 1 pt heavy cream and top it off with some raw sugar.