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September 09, 2004

Thinking food out loud

The year has begun and we look forward to visitors from New Zealand and gatherings of colleagues and friends. What will I cook? With maximum food restrictions: vegan, no wheat, low-fat (except for the accordian potatoes), no dairy, and gout friendly. Let me think out loud (inspired in part by Nigella Lawson):
Beets 2 ways: Grated raw beets (long, very thin threads, like bean thread, with dill dressing. Put dill, without stems, through blender, and add to beets with juice of 1 lemon and 2 tbsp olive oil. Heat mustard seeds in nonstick pan (I use cast iron) and add to beets with chopped flat leaf parsley and additional chopped dill. And/or: peel small beets and slice very thinly on mandoline, steam still just cooked but still crisp, cool, and dress with Lebanese pomegranate molasses (Iranian variety is thinner and sweeter). Garnish with: shavings of red onion and shiso, tarragon, dill, mint, holy basil or fresh coriander. Alternative dressing: lemon, sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds. Option: carrots (orange, red, and yellow) instead of beets.
Edamame hummus and/or red kidney bean puree Armenian style and/or Bulgarian eggplant-red pepper puree with baked corn chips.
Malaysian peanuts: roasted, salted, in the shell and with a tiny crisp nut.
Pumpkin salad: Roast cubed orange winter squash (kabosha is ideal) in oil till done, but still very firm. Toss with 1 cup chickpeas (I germinate them before cooking) and finely shredded coriander or mint. Dressing: Heat 1/4 c red wine vinegar, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1/2 c oil (I generally leave out the oil), 1 tsp sugar, salt and pepper and soak 1/2 c/. sun-dried tomatoes in the mixture. When tomatoes are rehydrated, blend mixture coarsley in blender.
Roasted red onion wedges: Toss onions in oil, balsamic, dried sour cherries or cranberries (in which case decrease sugar and add balsamic), brown sugar, and bay leaves. Roast 30-40 minutes.
Watermelon salad : Toss small red onion thinly sliced, in half moons, juice of 2-4 limes, 1.5 kilo watermelon, 250 g feta, lots of pulled flat leaf parsley, lots of chopped fresh mint, 100 g pitted black olives, black pepper.
Slivered almond parsley salad: just what it sound like
Accordian potato: Slice small long potatoes at 1/4 inch intervals, across the width, but not all the way to the bottom. Do this by placing the potato in a soup spoon and slicing it while it is in the spoon. Saute cut side down in butter and oil in a hot pan, turn, spoon fat over the slices, salt, and backe 40-70 minutes, depending on quantity and size of the pan. Best to spread out in a large pan. Option: roast with garlic cloves and whole heads of garlic and sprigs of fresh rosemary.
Imam bayaldi (The Sultan Fainted): Elizabeth David's recipe for stuffed eggplant, always a winner.
Live/jade salad: barely germinated mung, lentil, and chick peas, purslane, diced green pepper, onion, lime, diced green tomato, diced daikon, grated fresh ginger, thinly sliced shiso (perilla leaves).
Other possibilities: heirloom tomatoes, chayote, Chinese broccoli with garlic and sesame oil, lotus root, yard beans with besan dumplings, black rice, radish salad (thinly sliced, 4 varieties), if corn still around and peaches not, a corn and mango salad, dressed with lime.
Dessert: Something very apple and pear--lots of varieties, with or without eggs, dairy, and wheat. Looking for hypoallergenic options that work well for a crowd. Maybe a compote: bosch pears stewed in red wine, with rosemary with a sweet biscuit of some kind. My great standby is Brenda's German apple cake, 18th century New York carrot cake, and new recipes for a parsnip cake, pear and ginger upsidedown cake, cashew and rosemary biscotti. Pears with blue cheese, apples with Coach Farm's prize winning green peppercorn goat pyramid.
Leafy salad: mixed lettuce, sorrel, purslane, sunflower sprouts, radish sprouts, onion, dressed with ginger juice, rice wine, mirin, oil. try following Josh DeChellis recipe for the dressing in NYTimes 9/9/04. Here it is:

September 8, 2004
Straight From the Rabbit's Mouth
I've never liked salad dressing because I love the flavors of different lettuces too much," Josh DeChellis said, slicing two tomatoes into eighths with a chef's knife. "So many dressings mask the salad."
Mr. DeChellis had just arrived by skateboard at Sumile in the West Village, where he is chef, bearing snow peas, English peas, pea sprouts, and an impressive mix of local leaves from the Union Square Greenmarket. He was making Sumile's house salad: julienned snow peas, lettuces and sprouts. This he would toss with his solution to the loud dressing problem, a refined radish-based "water," inspired by an early memory of a white rabbit eating a path through his mother's garden in Clinton, N.J.
"Instead of weighing the lettuces down with dressing," he said, "I coat them with what might grow near them in the garden: radishes, peas and tomatoes."
A very Alice-in-Wonderland air hovers over this dressing, which includes the essences of four vegetables and one herb. "The tomato water is for acidity, so underripe ones are fine," he said, liquefying two in a blender. He then strained the juice.
Mr. DeChellis sliced the green tops from a bunch of scallions and cut them into two-inch lengths. They went into a sauté pan slicked with hot grapeseed oil. "You're not sautéeing these, just breaking them down a bit," he said.
He tossed the snow peas in lightly salted boiling water: "I cook them until they're easy to chew, but still snappy," he said. With a slotted spoon, he transferred the snow peas to an ice bath. He returned the water they had blanched in to a boil and added a cup of shelled fresh peas.
"Standard frozen peas are fine, and generally better than fresh except for these few weeks out of the year," he said.
He stripped the leaves from three lush sprigs of tarragon, threw them in the water and cut the flame. Again employing a slotted spoon, he removed the peas and the tarragon, reserving the cooking water, which had taken on the slightly anise aroma of the herb. He puréed the peas and tarragon with a splash of the cooking water in the blender, and passed them through his fine mesh sieve. He then pulsed the scallions and oil into an oily, chunky purée.
He assembled his greens, providing a running commentary on each:
• "I hate frisée — talk about an overwhelming texture. But sorrel is an awesome way to add brightness, almost a citrus flavor, to salad without dousing it in lemon juice."
• "Purslane I love because it's small, yet meaty," he said. "It's just about balancing."
• "Radish sprouts are spicy, they'll amplify the daikon flavor, but always taste before you add — these are downright hot."
He added julienned snow peas and torn basil leaves to the bowl. "Don't chop your herbs, tear them by hand," he said. "They have got to have an impact."
He produced a maroon-colored myoga, a variety of ginger sold in Asian markets for about $2 a bulb. It crunched like celery but was understated and sweet, without ginger's heat.
"Myoga's so expensive," Mr. DeChellis said, slicing the bulb thinly and reserving it for garnish. "But it's way worth it, dude."
To finish the dressing, he ground the thick top of a peeled daikon radish against a microplane grater. "As you grate it, really rip it apart and let the water come out," he said. "This is the base of the dressing, and gives it just the right amount of body."
When he had one-third of a cup of radish water and pulp in the bowl, Mr. DeChellis added spoonfuls from his palette of small bowls: tomato water, pea-tarragon purée, scallion purée. Before every addition, he tasted the dressing. "See what it needs," he said. "You've got all these great elements to work with, and you're in total control."
He added a spoonful of brine from a tub of ginger-pickled shallots, one of the salad's garnishes.
"I love having these pickled shallots around," he said. "I throw them in everything — beef tartare, fish tartare — and they're so easy. You take standard shallot, slice it really thin and marinate it in ginger juice, rice vinegar and mirin."
He smacked spoonfuls of the dressing against the side of the bowl, and with his hand nudged the salad into the bowl as he turned it, so that the greens took on the lightest glaze. He mounded the salad in a fluffy pyramid on a plate and dropped a few of the pickled shallots and the myoga slices on top: a salad fit for the king of rabbits.
It tasted like summer, like the smell of tomato stems, the bite of a raw radish and the air after hot rain. It was the most painstakingly prepared green salad we had ever eaten.
But it was way worth it. Dude.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Posted by BKG at September 9, 2004 11:27 AM


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