Another extremely wonderful supper club event! This time our theme was “Rock the Casbah!” which guaranteed that all of us had The Clash stuck in heads the entire previous week. And we got to eat a lot of amazing Moroccan food.
Some friends recently gifted us with a bag of fresh Thai bird chiles. They’re amazingly hot! We can only manage about two in a stir-fry (and even that gives everyone in the kitchen a sneezing fit), so it didn’t look like we’d make it through the bag before they started to spoil, which would have been a terrible shame. One afternoon when I was spending some time in the kitchen I threw together a batch of nam pla prik to use some of them up.
Easiest recipe in the world, as long as you wear rubber gloves. Take about half a cup of stemmed bird chiles and finely chop them. Scrape them, seeds and all, into a clean jar. Pour fish sauce over to cover. Keep in the fridge indefinitely, adding more chiles or fish sauce as necessary to keep the sauce going. Use as a condiment for anything that needs a little extra salt or spice.
I just ate a lot of this dribbled over steamed broccoli with a squeeze of lime. More than a little heat, especially if you get the seeds, but so very good.
This was dinner last night: Chilean sea bass* in a sour orange beurre blanc, potatoes and sweet potatoes roasted in olive oil, and sauteed cabbage. The cabbage was actually a slaw left over from our shrimp tacos the previous night, marinated in lime juice and serrano chiles, but tossed in a hot wok it was really delicious, especially with the beurre blanc.
This was my first time making beurre blanc, and I didn’t even realize that’s what I was doing until I was halfway through it. I was following a recipe in Moro East and wasn’t quite sure if it was working correctly, so I referred to James Peterson’s Sauces and saw that I was basically approaching it the right way, just with some unusual seasonings. The recipe uses Seville oranges, but allows substituting a mix of lemon and orange juice if you can’t get them. I combined the juices in a small pan, added a bay leaf, some thyme, finely grated orange zest and a sprinkle of cinnamon, heated it all to a simmer, and whisked in an improbable amount of butter. The sauce wasn’t particularly thick, but it didn’t break, and it had a wonderful tart orange flavor that went gorgeously with the fish and cabbage and sweet potatoes. Not an every day sort of sauce, but nice to know how to do.
*Yes, I realize Chilean sea bass is not the best choice, as it’s been red-listed by sustainable seafood advocates. I have bought it maybe twice in my life, both times from a local family-owned fish market that primarily sells only their own catch. But the Moro recipe specifically called for sea bass and I wanted to see what it was like (and it was, in fact, wonderful). As Rob DeBorde says in Fish on a First-Name Basis, “if the darn thing didn’t taste so good, we wouldn’t have to fret over eating it. Stupid fish.”
Posting that chicken chiffon pie really took a lot out of me, but I think I’m in recovery. Now we can move on to better, and yummier, things. Like horseradish cream.
I just discovered this easy sauce on Friday – I had gotten a tenderloin out of the freezer for dinner, and was trying to figure out what to cook alongside. I pulled out Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques, which is helpfully arranged both by season and by menu, and found a suggestion of roasted beets with horseradish creme fraiche. We bought some enormous beets recently at the farmer’s market, so that was an easy call, and the sauce sounded fantastic. I walked down to the co-op and picked up a container of creme fraiche. I’ve made this myself in the past, but it takes time to culture so this time I took the easy route. And all I had to do was stir in a heaping spoonful of prepared horseradish and some salt and pepper (Goin adds a few other seasonings, but it didn’t seem necessary). It was SO GOOD with the beets, which we cubed and roasted in olive oil and herbed salt, as well as the steak and the steamed broccolini. And it was good the next morning with latkes, and eaten cold that night stirred into leftover beets. And the tiny bit that’s left is fated to be drizzled over tonight’s beef stew with barley and mushrooms. I’m looking forward to it.
I’m not feeling very verbose today, but I want to get this post up while I’m thinking about it. What am I thinking about? Pot beans with chimichurri. I’m not sure why I stumbled across this combination, but it was wonderful and we’ve eaten all the leftovers and now I’m going to have to make it again very soon.
I used speckled Vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo, soaked in salt water, then rinsed and cooked with onions and garlic fried in bacon fat. The beans had a soft texture and nice flavor, and kept their pretty spots much better than I expected. They were good by themselves, but with a drizzle of chimichurri on top – woof! It was incredible. I ate a whole bowl of just beans and sauce for lunch yesterday, with a piece of good sourdough bread.
The chimichurri I made this time was a bit different than the one I described back in February. I used a recipe from Francis Mallmann’s amazing book Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way, which goes like this:
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1 cup fresh parsley
- 1 cup fresh oregano
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 head garlic, broken apart and peeled
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil Continue reading
A while back I wrote about tofu with broccoli and peanut sauce. One of our favorite easy weeknight meals, it has evolved through various permutations, and I really like where it is right now. We’ve actually eaten it twice in the last two weeks – partly because Jon is still on meds that don’t allow alcohol, so we’ve been having a lot of things that go with Oolong tea, but also because it’s really, really good.
My current approach is to sear cubes of silken tofu in peanut oil until hot and crispy on the outside, piling it onto bowls of brown rice with steamed broccoli (we do still make it with buckwheat soba occasionally, but it gets extra gooey – brown rice is easier to mix). Over this goes my new favorite peanut sauce, which I found in Deborah Madison’s book on tofu. It’s easy to mix up from pantry ingredients (as long as you keep Chinese black vinegar in your pantry), which makes it a great emergency recipe. We always have a few boxes of silken tofu on hand these days for just these occasions.
I can’t really explain why this combination of flavors is so good, but you’ll have to take my word for it. Everything gets combined in the bowl, creating a rich, salty-sour-hot amalgam of good things. Try it!
adapted from This Can’t Be Tofu! by Deborah Madison
- 1/2 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter (I use Adams)
- 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
- 3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1-2 Tbsp Sambal Oelek or other hot chili sauce
- hot water
Mix together the peanut butter, garlic, soy, vinegar, sugar and hot sauce until combined. Add hot water until it reaches the consistency you want. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
We have rather a lot of beef in our downstairs freezer, thanks to the half a cow we buy every couple of years, so any time the urge for steak strikes we tend to go with it. It’s a wonderful excuse to make chimichurri sauce, a traditional Argentinian concoction of parsley, lemon, hot pepper and olive oil. And as it turns out, it’s even better on roasted mushrooms than it is on beef. A little bit spooned into an omelet was a good move as well. Actually, I’m not sure what it wouldn’t be good on.
We looked through quite a few books looking for different chimichurri recipes. Some use lemon juice, some use vinegar. Some are just parsley, but many add oregano as well. All versions are good – you could basically make up your own depending on the ingredients at hand. We just tried a version out of one of our street food cookbooks, and it turned out spectacular. It was very liquidy, though – not a problem as long as everything on your plate tastes good with chimichurri sauce, because it’s all going to get souped up together. You could probably thicken it up by adding a lot more chopped fresh herb and folding it in at the end.
Someday I’m going to find a spot in my tiny yard to grow tomatillos. A big, gangly, tangled green jungle so we can have as much green salsa as we could possibly want. In the meantime, we just keep buying big bags of them at the farmer’s market – at least until the farmers run out.
When I first discovered tomatillos, I was annoyed at their stickiness and not really sure what to do with them. Now I rather enjoy the process of peeling off the papery husks and rinsing off the gummy coating. Like shelling beans, it can be a contemplative activity. And if you do a few extra pounds while you’re at it, you can toss the cleaned tomatillos into a bag and put them in the freezer for later.
And as for what to do with them, my favorite recipe (so far) is Rick Bayless’ Roasted Tomatillo & Serrano Salsa, from his book Mexican Kitchen. It’s not that different from a traditional salsa verde, where you generally boil the tomatillos and puree them with onion. But in this version, you use the broiler to give the tomatillos and peppers some char before blending and simmering. See below for the recipe, it’s a good one.
It was the asparagus’ fault. Last weekend Jon went to the farmer’s market by himself (it was my Saturday to work) and picked up some unusually beautiful Eastern Washington asparagus. Then he found some really attractive sockeye steaks. It all looked so good, but it needed a little something extra…I decided it was about time I made another attempt at homemade mayonnaise.
I’d been scared of making mayonnaise for a while. The one time I tried, I used the large food processor for too little sauce and it didn’t emulsify properly. But I’ve watched chefs make aioli at cooking classes, and it didn’t look hard – then there was John Thorne’s essay about learning to make mayonnaise with nothing but a plate, a fork, one egg yolk, a little vinegar and some oil. If making it by hand was really that easy, it seemed like I had no reason not to try. Besides, I know I can make a very good hollandaise, so what was I afraid of? I checked proportions in a few cookbooks and gave it a whirl.
One of the treasures that we brought back from Kansas City (and, no doubt, were responsible for our suitcase being searched) was this bunch of gorgeous skewers. They’re just what we’ve been wanting: long, flat and wide. Finally, we thought, we can make ground-meat kebabs without the meat falling off the skewer!
We were wrong, of course. Continue reading