August 31, 2005
Avinadav cooks in Toronto
We planned months ahead for the great feast and great it was. Avinadav shopped downtown for goat yogurt, the best tahina he could find, tomatoes, and cactus fruit. We met him at the fishmonger he considers best and Elaine took us to Longo's for a grand suburban produce experience. Once home, everyone pitched in as we wanted to learn how to make some of these wonderful dishes. Here is the menu and here is what Avinadav actually made, the dinner, including a few extras not on the menu!
August 18, 2005
Durian, an amazing fruit, is the subject of a piece in this week's Village Voice. Check it out!
This stinky fruit is an acquired taste and quite addictive. Everyone has stories about it. You can find durian in Chinatown, usually flown in frozen from Thailand, also in the freezer case and as ice cream, a filling for cookies, or candy flavor.
August 13, 2005
Cat Littler Cake
Hope your summer has been going well. Bet this week was rowdy compared to all the nice peace and quiet you've had there prior...
AF insisted I make this recipe (my brother emailed it to me a year or two ago) for our vet, who has provided very outstanding cat care for 8+ years for us in here in Brooklyn. An interesting cake most appropriate as a thank you for our vet, huh? We are delivering it tomorrow a.m. to his office, with paper plates so everyone can try it!!!
August 12, 2005
Cold beet borsht
Dinner last night with Mark and Greta, Piotr, Maya, and Doris. I brought the pedometer and the beet borsht, my way. I peeled beautiful fresh beets from the Greenmarket and put them through my Champion juicer, about 5 medium beets (about 2 cups of juice). Then, I chilled the raw juice in the freezer, along with 1.5 quarts of buttermilk, and 3 hardboiled eggs. Meanwhile, I peeled a big kirby cucumber and scrubbed 3 big crisp radishes, before slicing them in a small julienne on my trusty mandoline. When ready to serve, mix the beet juice and buttermilk (you can experiment by adding more or less of each), a little lemon juice, a little salt and pepper. Some like to add diced sour pickles. Sometimes I add a little horseradish. Greta encouraged me to keep it simple so the flavor the beets would shine.
Ladle the borsht into bowls. Add a little cucumber and radish to each bowl. Gently place the egg in the borsht--shallow soup bowls are nice because the egg does not sink, so you can see the bright white and yellow of the egg against the ruby pink of the borsht--and prinkle with chopped fresh dill and snipped chives. Chives were nowhere to be found, so I used scallions. It was gorgeous! And, to top things off, Piotr recited the passage on chłodnik from Mickiewicz by heart.
August 11, 2005
Eve asked about purslane (Portulaca oleracea). I use it in salad. Just wash, pinch into manageable lengths the way you would watercress, stems and all. The stems are succulent, tart, and edible, even when thick. You can pickle the stems, a old tradition. Pickled Purslane Stems: 1 cup white vinegar. 2 cups of cold water, ¼ cup salt, ½ teaspoon alum. Place on the bottom of each of two pint jars flower of dill, clove of garlic, and a small red pepper. Pack jars with fat tender purslane stems, not too tight. Fill jars with liquid and seal. Store in a dark place for one month before using. Do not leave for too long. Some recipes call for apple cider vinegar.
Or add purslane to potato salad. The farmer from whom I bought purslane at the Greenmarket said that the Mexican women who pick for him much prefer gathering purslane, which grows wild and is considered a weed, to harvesting the greens he actually plants. He said they love purslane, which they call vergolaga. Add to omelets, cook like you would spinch or watercress, add to soups and stews, or roll up in a tortilla.
I first encountered purslane in Jerusalem at Eucalyptus, famous for its traditional Jerusalem cuisine. The Iraqi chef-owner, Moshe Basson, gathers wild greens and herbs from the hills around the city, precisely the foods that sustained Jerusalemites during times of siege.
Alexandra and Jewls
Dog days of summer, so named for the sultry weather this time of year, when Sirius, the “dog star,” is in sync with the sun and thought by the ancients to make the sun even hotter. Pilates at 8:00 am yesterday and off to the Greenmarket so Diana and I could chat along the way. Alexandra and Jewls came by at 4:30, with three perfect Italian cheeses, a baguette, Italian honey, and crisp little fennel rings--and Alexandra's wonderful catalogue for the exhibition Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture. After a session on electronic research techniques for Alexandra's new book project, a cultural history of modern Japan--Jewls is her able assistant, working from Las Vegas, of all places--we feasted on the bounty of the summer harvest. We finished the meal with Turkish delight--I love all things rubbery--and rooibus tea, my personal favorite.
- Corn and peaches: The ripe New Jersey peaches at the Greenmarket were the most delicious I can ever remember eating. Perfectly ripe, oh so intensely peachy in flavor, and dripping with juice. The corn is at its best now too. And, one farmer grows shiso, my all time favorite herb, also known as beefsteak leaf and perilla and encountered in many a sushi restaurant. The leaves may be green or purple--the green is more aromatic. I cut the kernels from the cob and gave them a quick heat through with a little water, drained the kernels (and saved the liquid for soup), cooled them, and tossed together the kernels, thin peach wedges, shiso (roll a few leaves up and thinly slice into shreds), minced shallots, and freshly squeezed lime juice.
- Red, yellow, green tomatoes: Sliced these beautiful tomatoes, including the hard green ones, and simply arranged them on a bright yellow platter. Those who wished could drizzle olive oil on them and add sea salt and pepper.
- Green beans: The flat kind, trimmed (just the stem end, not the tips), cut into 1" lengths, quickly cooked in boiling water till just tender, drained, cooled, and dressed with capers, my preserved lemons (in a small dice), and dark fresh dill.
- Carola potatoes: These were wonderful! I bought small ones, scrubbed them, put them whole with their skins into cold water. Bring to slow boil, cook till firm, but not hard when pierced with a sharp knive, drain, and leave in pot, covered, on warm burner to firm up. I served them with chopped fresh mint, which Max loves. Carolas are a yellow waxy potato, sweet and flavorful, excellent texture, from Germany.
- Julienne of carrots, 4 kinds: Love those carrots in all colors, orange, rose, purple, and yellow, so I just scrubbed them, made a fine julienne on my trusty mandeline, and dressed them with fresh lemon juice, nothing else.
August 09, 2005
Chatpati Channa Chaat
What I like about Chatpati Channa Chaat is that you soak, drain, and sprout the little Indian chick peas with their dark skins before cooking them. I tasted them sprouted and they would make a fine salad raw. If you want to follow the recipe, which says to cook them, then give them the briefest of cooking, just to take away the raw edge, a matter of minutes. I did not have green chili, so left it out--turned out that the salad was spicy enough without them--and there was no need for any oil. The salad stays fresher without oil, especially in hot weather. I also added fresh chopped coriander.
I also liked that the recipe calls for Chat Masala, which is a whole story unto itself. Here are two recipes: Chat Masala #1, Chat Masala #2. Suffice it to say that Chat Masala contains several ingredients that intrigue me, first among them black salt, which deserved and got its own entry, asafoetida (hing) and amchoor (dried mango powder), and the garam masala that I had made myself. Some recipes call for ajwain and fennel.
Turns out Chat Masala is a little ayurvedic essay--the black salt, ajwain, and asafoetida are all digestive aids. And, once I found myself there I was inspired by Lara's paean to bhel puri. I will try it with organic puffed grains and flakes (amaranth, spelt, rice, millet, corn, rice), based on this recipe. The image of bhel puri is from Beck's & Posh, Sam Breach's food blog. While you can see all the puffed and crispy tidbits very nicely, apparently this bhel puri fell short of the ideal because it lacked sufficient fresh ingredients.
Chaat, Indian snacks, are a salad lover's dream, especially (but not exclusively) bean salads. Moong bean chat tomorrow. Nice variations include lime juice, diced boiled potatoes, diced carrot, and grated coconut.
Black salt, also known as saindhav, kala namak, or sanchal, is harvested on land, around volcanoes, though some say it was formed by ancient seas that dried up. It is harvested in Central India though I have found a Pakistani company that sells this salt. It starts out black but turns pink when it is crushed. It is the essential sulfurous ingredient in Chat Masala, along with other ingredients (ajwain, fennel, asafoetida) prized for their ayuredic properties, particulary as digestives.
An absolutely fascinating ingredient. I bought it months ago, after finding it in a recipe I can no longer find, but thinking it just might come in handy. As I was looking for bean salads, I discovered the world of chat and within that world a mini-universe of chat masala.
Found some interesting historical information in a translation of "The Hou Hanshu, the official history of the Later (or ‘Eastern’) Han Dynasty (25-221 CE), [which] was compiled by Fan Ye, who died in 445 CE." This document notes that black salt was found in the kingdom of Tianzhu (Northwestern) India:
heiyan 黑鹽 [hei-yen] = literally: “black salt.” “Black salt,” or vida, is still used in Indian cooking today. It is first mentioned in the two great Indian epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata where it was prohibited from being used in ceremonies for the ancestors. Charaka, who is said to have been the personal physician of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka, and is famous as the “father of Indian medicine,” included it in his list of five types of salt – Achaya (1994), pp. 37, 86.
Black salt is produced by fusing rock salt with Indian Gooseberry, the astringent fruit of an Indian tree Phyllanthus emblica, which is also used for tanning and making inks. It is employed in Indian medicine as a tonic, aperient or laxative. Monier-Williams (1899), p. 962.
Also of interest is the information kindly sent to me as a personal communication by John Moffett, Librarian, East Asian History of Science Library, Needham Research Institute, on 7th September 1999:
“I have not been able to find hei yan in modern Chinese herbals, but here is what I have got. As usual, Laufer’s Sino-Iranica is the most informative (Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, Publication 201, 1919), p. 511:
“The Pei hu lu distinguishes red, purple, black, blue, and yellow salts.... Black salt (hei yen) was a product of the country Ts’ao (Jaguda) north of the Ts’un lin [Sui shu, ch. 83 p.8]. It is likewise attributed to Southern India [Tang Shu, Cj. 221 A, p. 10b]. These coloured salts may have been impure salt of minerals of a different origin.”
The Han yu da ci dian, vol. 11 p. 1341 merely says it is a “salt used in medicine,” and quotes the Li Xiaobo zhuan in the Bei Shi, “... black salt treats abdominal distention and fullness of qi....” It does not look as if anyone has otherwise identified it as a specific mineral...”
And, finally, the inclusion of “black salt” as a tribute item:
“Black Salt” came as tribute in the joint mission of Turgäch, Chāch, Kish, Māimargh, and Kapiśa in 746 (along with “red salt”), and in 751 and 753 also came from Khwārizm, south of the Oxus .... The identity of this substance is not known.” Schafer (1963), p. 217.
In addition to its virtues as a tasty ingredient and digestive, it "is a common ingredient in jinx-removing spells. One common spell calls for sprinkling black salt on the property line separating you from an irritating neighbor." Here is a nice drink.
Jal Jeera — Indian cumin lemonade
3 cups of ice water
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mint leave paste
2 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon kala namak
pinch of sugar
½ teaspoon cilantro (coriander) paste
½ teaspoon dry mango powder (amchur)
Mix well and served chilled with ice and garnished with mint leaves.
On black salt as an ingredient in Chat Masala, see earlier entry on the Chatpati Channa Chaat served at today's studio lunch.
Studio summer lunch
It's hot. Threats of thundershowers, humid, only in the 70s this morning, but about 87F in the loft. Writing this with a patch over my left eye. Just back from the eye doctor, who removed foreign bodies from my cornea, after about four days of discomfort and discombobulation about the cause and solution to the misery. So, it's a one-eyed affair for the next 24 hours.
Lunch today for the team, Max, Anthony, Giovanni, and Dolly, who is from Ecuador.
- Potato salad: Red bliss potatoes, medium to smallish in size. Trick is to put them in a pot of cold water, cover, bring to a slow boil, and check in on them after about 20 minutes. Do not overcook--you can tell you've gone too far if the skins start to split--so pierce periodically with a sharply pointed knife to check the centers. They are done when firm, but not hard. Drain the potatoes and let cool, which will also firm them up, before dicing them skins and all. Dress with fresh chopped dill, thinly sliced red onion, capers, juice from the capers, and diced salted lemons (my very own).
- Eggplant caviar: Grilled a big fresh eggplant (sliced in half) along with a big fleshy green pepper (seeded and sliced in quarters in the length) on my Hamilton Beach grill--dry, with nothing added. I would love to prepare over an open gas flame, but alas my fate is an electric stove. Avinadav says look for an eggplant that is light in weight relative to its size, which means it has less water, fewer seeds, and is less likely to be bitter. When everything is soft, remove from grill. Let sit till cool enough to handle. Then, use a big spoon to scrape the eggplant from the skin. Drain liquid from the peppers. Don't bother trying to peel them. Put everything on a wooden board and using a nice big chef's knife, chop away till you have a mixture the consistency of caviar. The flavors are lovely as is. I add nothing else.
- Black eye pea salad: Summer is the time for bean and grain salads. Yesterday, I soaked a cup of organic black eye peas overnight, drained them, and cooked them in fresh cold water briefly, till they were just cooked through. They cook very quickly and you do not want them to become mushy and fall apart. Drain them well, let cool, and dress with diced Spanish onion and bright green very fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped, diced salted lemons (my own), and fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
- Chatpati Channa Chaat: As I was noodling around looking for bean and grain salads (I've soaked and cooked soft wheat berries and sprouted mung beans they will be the basis for the next salads), I came across one that calls for channa, which is the smallish Indian chick pea with the rusty brown skin, famous for its perfect glycemic index and celebrated by diabetics. I also have another kind of channa, with a green skin, which I am eager to try. This is such a fascinating dish (and the world of chat more generally), I'll give it an entry of its own. That's where you will also find recipes for Chat masala, the seasoning, which includes black salt, which earned its own entry.
- Green salad: Simple salad today, just romaine, red leaf, arugula, and purslane, with sliced red onion, ripe avocado, and Anthony's dressing, a proper vinaigrette, with Dijon mustard.
August 05, 2005
Max is back
Max is back! After five weeks in New Zealand and Australia. I headed off to the Greenmarket this morning at 7:00 am. Suprised that some stands were not up and running by as late as 8:15. But did manage to get glorious corn, which I knew Max would love, and fabulous tomatoes, the first apples of the season, perfect apricots, and some plums. Grilled eggplant and green peppers and chopped them up to make a nice spread. Boiled flat green beans and tossed them with my salted lemons, capers, and parsley.
Lots of greens: purslane, arugula, two kinds of lettuce, flat leaf parsley and dill. Will get chives and scallions. Otherwise, I'm set with carrots, radishes, cucumber, and summer squash. Oh, need potatoes and onions. Ate my down to the bare shelves of the fridge, so was pretty much out of everything.
Will make chłodnik and take it to Mark and Greta on Thursday.