street food party

Supper club is back, and we really had a great theme this time – street food! We could easily repeat this theme every year and have a completely different dinner.

borek//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I made a variant of Turkish borek. This was the second version of borek that I’ve tried, from the cookbook Turquoise by Greg Malouf (a beautiful and inspiring cookbook, btw, but somewhat undependable in the ingredient lists and index). Both used the same yogurt and butter rough puff pastry (yum), but the first batch had a filling of steamed squash, herbs and feta. It was good but very subtle, so for the actual supper club I made a lamb and pine nut filling (the same one I use for my lamb pizza) and it worked very well. These guys are dense and rich and kind of a lot of work but well worth playing around with. Continue reading

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chicken noodle stirfry

stirfried noodles

Last week, after Thanksgiving, I absconded with my father’s copy of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Hunanese cookbook. I gave it to him for Christmas last year but don’t have a copy myself, so I spent the holiday sighing over the recipes until he offered to let me borrow it for a while. Ha!

I adore Dunlop’s Sichuan cookbook and make stuff from it constantly, but I’ve been intrigued by the spicy, yet more subtle flavors of Hunan. Some of the recipes use pungent ingredients like preserved vegetables, fermented tofu and salted chiles, but many are very simple and lightly flavored with soy, rice wine and aromatics. It seemed like the perfect type of food to make in the inevitable detox weeks after Thanksgiving.

chicken noodle

The first thing I cooked, after we got home and I was feeling a bit frail, was this lovely chicken and mushroom stir-fry with rice noodles. The recipe called for dried shiitakes, which I don’t have, so I used the excellent fresh shiitakes that are grown locally. I was also delighted to find thin-cut chicken breasts at our Co-op, which made it easy to sliver the chicken. The dish was very good, full of vegetables, and refreshing after a long week of heavy eating, with just a little kick of spice to keep it interesting.

Stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and mushrooms

adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook

  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into slivers
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine
  • about 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 pound rice noodles
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salted chiles (I haven’t made these yet, so I used Thai pickled chiles)
  • 1 package bean sprouts
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1 inch lengths
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • sweet chile sauce (optional)

Combine the sliced chicken in a bowl with the soy sauce and rice wine, mix well and set aside.

Cook the rice noodles in boiling water until just done, drain and rinse. (I know everyone always says to just soak them, but I’ve tried this and I’m tired of crunchy noodles)

Put a large wok over high heat and add a couple spoonfuls of peanut oil. Add the chicken and fry until the pieces separate, then add the mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and chiles. When the mushrooms are soft, add the bean sprouts and cook for a moment, then add the noodles and scallions and mix it all up. Add a bit more soy sauce and a little sesame oil to taste. Serve as is, or with additional soy sauce or Thai sweet chile sauce (what we call “sauce for chicken” in our house).

squid noodle

squid noodles

When you buy squid or shrimp in the grocery store around here (even at the fish market), it’s usually bagged frozen stuff that the shop has just thawed that day. This is why we usually buy big bags of it ourselves, so we can thaw it out in small quantities as we want it. We never have any lack of ideas for the shrimp, but somehow the squid wasn’t getting used very quickly. I spent some time hunting out recipes for pre-cut rings and tentacles, especially Chinese, which I thought would be particularly well-suited. I found surprisingly few Chinese recipes for squid, but lots for clams, and it occurred to me that if clams in black bean sauce was such a fixture, why not squid in black bean sauce? Why not on noodles? And a dinner concept was born.

So far I’ve been making it up as I go along each time, but maybe at some point I’ll settle on a particular recipe – or maybe not. I tend to cook by the “spoonful of this, spoonful of that” method in any case. If you have squid in the house, and you can remember to thaw it in time, this is a fantastic, blazingly-fast weeknight dinner – certainly no more than half an hour from start to finish, if you prep while the noodles are cooking. And you could use considerably less chile than I do, if you don’t happen to like having your sinuses cleared by your dinner. But what I really love is the contrast of texture between the squid and the noodles, and the saltiness of the black beans. Everything else is flexible.

squid noodles

The way I’m doing this at the moment (subject to change as I experiment, but this is way tasty): first I cook and drain the noodles – we’re really liking udon with this, but any kind of slithery noodle would work – and toss them in a large bowl with some of the sludge from our homemade hot chile oil and a splash of soy sauce. Then I get all my condiments, squid and vegetables ready to go, as none of this takes any time at all to cook. I heat peanut oil in the wok, and toss in chopped garlic and scallions. As those sizzle, I add a spoonful of chile-garlic sauce and a spoonful of fermented black beans. Then I add the squid and start stir-frying briskly, adding a splash of rice wine. As soon as the squid turns opaque (perhaps a minute), I turn it out into the bowl of noodles. Then I put the wok back over the heat and toss in a bunch of chopped greens, like bok choi or beet greens, and stirfry with a bit of soy sauce until wilted, then scrape those into the noodles as well. Serve hot. Slurp.

macaroni salad, very al fresco

northwest camping

This week we did our annual car camping trip to Washington Park on Fidalgo Island. It rained. Welcome to a Pacific Northwest summer.

Washington Park

campfire

Fortunately the firewood we brought burned well, and we were able to successfully cook our dinner. Hebrew National hot dogs, blistered over the fire and dressed with sweet relish and very hot Dijon mustard, macaroni salad, Bonny Doon grenache, and toasted marshmallows. I tend to think that, if you don’t cook it on a stick over the fire, it’s not real camping food. Except the macaroni salad, which can be scooped directly out of its tupperware in case you don’t feel like washing extra dishes. 

hot dog!

mac salad

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tamarind pork

threading the skewers 

Despite what the weather keeps telling us, it really is summer now, and therefore grilling season. Even if it’s raining, darn it. At least the sun came out for a few minutes while Jon was grilling these Vietnamese tamarind pork skewers – just long enough for us to eat our dinner outside, before getting cold and going back in. Yay, June.

pickled zucchini

pickled vegetables

We had gotten a pork roast out the freezer a few days ahead, but hadn’t quite decided what direction to go with it. Jon pulled out all of our meat cookbooks and finally settled on a Bruce Aidells marinade with tamarind, fish sauce and shallot. He also made the included recipe for pickled shredded zucchini, and since we had a bag of radishes and some carrots on hand, he pickled those as well. All I had to do when I got home from work was cook up some rice noodles.

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Bellingham farmer's market, and two pasta lunches

Bellingham Farmer's Market

Since our local farmer’s market doesn’t start for another month, we drove up to Bellingham last week to see how their market was doing. Man! I have serious market envy. Not that I don’t love ours, of course, but wow.

Bellingham Farmer's Market

Bellingham Farmer's Market

Bellingham Farmer's Market

Covering a large parking lot as well as filling the big permanent covered area the city built, the market is thriving, not just with local fresh vegetables and crafts, but food carts, plants, bread, meat, clothing and henna tattoo artists. Instead of a main stage, they have the old-fashioned approach of letting acoustic musicians set up in the intersections. A hula-hoop area is set up on one side for the amusement of limber youth, and the goat-with-a-cart sculpture on the corner is constantly beset by children. People are everywhere, shopping and visiting and hula-hooping and eating.

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beef-lebni stroganoff

stroganoff

This stroganoff was one of those dinners that naturally arises by examining a number of random leftovers: in our case, a container of lebni, a bag of mushrooms, some partial leeks and a bunch of fresh dill left from our post-Easter brunch. Combine all that with some sliced seared steak and some egg noodles and you have a really good quick beef stroganoff.

I don’t think it would have occurred to me to use lebni in a stroganoff, but I liked the effect. It’s similar to sour cream but has a denser texture and is slightly less tart. It worked great with the mushrooms and dill. Come to think of it, that would be a really nice dip or spread right there – maybe I’ll try that next time I have these particular leftovers in the house.

pasta al cavolfiore

pasta al cavolfiore

We had originally planned to have steak for dinner, but I was feeling tired and steak sounded like a lot of work to eat, so we did a little menu rearrangement. We had bought a cauliflower with the intention of making Pasta al Cavolfiore, a comforting Moosewood standby from our college days, and it was just the thing for my mood. My husband used to make this for me when we were first going out, and I find it soothing.

Because this is a recipe from the 1977 Moosewood Cookbook, a book that could have been commissioned by the Eat More Cheese Association, it’s less of an Italian pasta dish and more like a vat of cauliflower cheese with some pasta and tomato thrown in. You don’t really have to add as much cheese as the recipe says to – it would still taste great – but I admit a lot of the appeal here is the dense richness of the cheesy pasta, studded with tart bits of cauliflower and herb. We do veer away from the Moosewood vegetarian standard by adding some chunks of seared kielbasa, which adds a nice smokiness, as well as heft.

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dan dan mian, two ways

dan dan noodles

It’s always a bit odd to make a new recipe, taste it, then realize that you don’t know whether it turned out or not, since you have no idea of what it’s supposed to taste like. When we made dan dan noodles for the first time, it may or may not have been a success.

dan dan noodles

What I do know is that the noodles were flavorful, the sauce had an interesting sweet/spicy/salty tang, and the Sichuan pepper gave it so much ma that I couldn’t feel my mouth for half an hour afterwards. So perhaps it was a success. We decided to try it again another time.

preserved vegetable

That was our first time using Tianjin preserved vegetable, a fermented cabbage product that we had just recently found at a little Chinese market in Seattle’s International District. According to Fuchsia Dunlop, mistress of all things Sichuan, it’s not quite a perfect stand-in for traditional Sichuanese fermented vegetable, but it comes close. The flavor of it was sweet, a little funky and really, really, really salty. We keep trying to decide if we want to replace it when we use up the jar, or just use cabbage and lots of salt instead.

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setting fire to shrimp

flambe!

I don’t know if we make this dish mainly because it’s tasty, or because it’s so much fun to set fire to a panful of shrimp. Probably both.

shrimp fra diavolo

Shrimp fra diavolo (“Brother Devil”) is a traditional dish, the main idea being a spicy tomato sauce with shrimp, saucing long skinny pasta. The version we make comes from an old issue of Cook’s Illustrated. It adds an extra step or two to the typical recipe, but it’s well worth the effort. If you’ve never flambéed before, give it a try – it’s gratifyingly easy. Just make sure there’s nothing flammable right above your stove burners. You can skip the flambéing step, but the shrimp won’t have as deep and rich a flavor.

ingredients

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