Nov 30, 2009

persimmon pomegranate salad with mixed baby greens

i am so done with thanksgiving. it was great, nicest one yet we all concurred. but that heavy holiday food. oh my. happily, one light spot on our menu is our traditional thanksgiving persimmon pomegranate mixed greens salad. crunchy, tart, leafy, tasty, acidic counterpoint to the rest of the meal. i invented this salad about 8 years ago and we've been eating it by popular request ever since. at the time, we were living in tiburon, california, with our lovely panoramic views of the golden gate bridge and the bay from our kitchen/living room windows (my that was nice) and locally grown persimmons as well as pomegranates from southern california were abundant in the markets.

luckily, due to the magic of modern food distribution and transport, something i am thankful for every day (and especially at the holidays), i can still get these ingredients, high quality and quite fresh here in connecticut. if i was going to be a locavore, which i never will be, i would have to live in central california i think, or some other equally fertile growing region in the world. i am sure someone from new england did not come up with that locavore concept, had to have been a californian, although i'm just guessing here. i would have to build a greenhouse system to get local food and apparently that has a higher carbon load than shipping food (according to BBC news) from its traditional growing region. i just cant live without grapefruit and avocados and artichokes, chocolate, coffee and tea. or wouldn't want to. anyway, other than the pumpkin pie, (which i have professed my profound love for here on cup and table many many times), this is one of my favorite items on our yearly thanksgiving menu:

pomegranate persimmon salad
serves 6 - 8
12 ounces mixed baby greens, rinsed and dried
1/3 pomegranate, seeds only (about 1/3 cup)
1 large or 2 small fuyu persimmons, peeled and sliced
1 leek, finely sliced

2TBSP pomegranate cherry juice
3TBSP seasoned rice vinegar
3TBSP extra virgin olive oil
(a touch of dijon mustard or some minced shallots is nice here but i usually skip it because i am overwhelmed in the kitchen at this point) assemble ingredients. whisk up the dressing. pour. toss. serve. bon appetit.

Nov 21, 2009

Local Turkeys

a local gang came by last week looking for trouble (love to dig up my yard with their rather large feet). but they did let me take a few pictures. i caught one looking in my back door window staring into the house for a long time. they seem to think they own the property, and begrudgingly tolerate our presence. sorry turkeys, but for now our name is on the deed.

i hear the first thanksgiving, the real one, included geese and fish as the main course. only later was turkey on the menu. turkeys were abundant at the first one, but were not eaten as they were considered sacred. maybe that means too strange looking to eat. they look rather reptilian i think. but somehow majestic at the same time, with all that elaborate plumage. however you celebrate it, happy thanksgiving everyone. i am grateful for all my friends old and new and my wonderful family. cheers, xo, g

Nov 18, 2009

vietnamese chicken noodle soup

there are many versions of pho. the most famous is made with beef stock and thinly sliced raw beef. we prefer chicken around here. either way it is hot, tart, salty, spicy (to taste) fresh delicious noodly pho. this is one of my all time favorite foods to make or to eat. i have never been to vietnam (but i tend to frequent a fair number of vietnamese restaurants, too many to count). i don't let that stop me from making pho. i have been improving this recipe for taste over the years while at the same time reducing the number of steps so it is less trouble. yes it is possible to improve the taste while reducing the number of steps. not easy, first you must strip away a recipe to its purest essence. anyway, if it is less trouble, i will make it more often and that is a nice bonus for one of my favorite foods. recipes are rigorously tested around here based on the time honored "too much trouble index." some recipes are worth a bit of trouble. some are not. in any case, one day i hope to go to vietnam and cambodia and taste the food in it's original environment. oh the flavors and colors of the authentic, i can only imagine. until then i will busy myself slurping up this inauthentic soup in blissful ignorance.

step number one, and the key to the success of this dish is the secret ingredient: crispy shallots. do not underestimate the complexity and nuance from this single ingredient. i begin here.

crispy shallots
thinly slice 3 or 4 shallots. chop lightly. saute in 4 BSP olive oil over high to medium high heat until they begin to brown. use plenty of oil here, they will soften rather than crisp if you dont use enough or the heat isnt high enough. when they are beginning to brown nicely turn off the heat. watch them as they cool, sometimes the pan is so hot they continue to cook for a while. when cooled, set aside in a bowl lined with a paper towel to drain the oil. scallions can be added to this mixture with great result. you can saute them togther.

2 quarts chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup minced cilantro stems
1 medium onion, sliced
4 TBSP good quality fish sauce
2 TBSP brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
bring stock, onion, garlic, stems, to boil. add fish sauce, brown sugar lime to taste. simmer until ready to use.

rice noodles
place in boiled water until soft, drain and rinse thoroughly in cold water to keep them soft and not stuck together until you are ready to use them. (save the hot water).

shredded chicken breast
i buy a rotisserie chicken from whole foods and remove the skin and gently shred the breast into large strips. set aside. (easy).

bean sprouts and napa cabbage
use the hot water from the rice noodles. add a little salt. bring to a boil and blanch the bean sprouts and napa cabbage seperately for a minute or so each. drain.

use the stems to perfume the broth they are wonderful and do not wilt like the leaves do. i can't believe most people discard the stems. tragedy. i have read that vietnamese cooks use them also. i really must go and find this out for myself. maybe a cooking/eating tour of southeast asia is in order.

cilantro leaves
crispy shallots
fresh scallions
thai chilli sauce
soy sauce
rice vinegar

everyone gets to assemble their own soup in our house. one child likes only the cabbage. another strongly prefers the bean sprouts. one only like the soy sauce and vinegar, one loves the chili sauce. these asian noodle soups are generally served up individually at stalls, everyone ordering just what they want. so sensible. place the noodles in the bowls. have everyone add in their meat and veg, pour the hot broth over all. add condiments. slurp slurp enjoy.

Nov 16, 2009

gourmet rhapsody by muriel barbery

currently reading. i must say it is a really great read. first few times i started reading it i had to put it down because it made me too hungry. the descriptions of food, taste, memory, longing, art, intellectualism, france, japan. i loved that hedgehog book too. brilliant.

postcard by lotta jansdotter.

Nov 12, 2009

fresh ramen at home

we are all crazy for ramen around here (ramen in particular and asian noodle dishes in general). and since the fabulous mr. kato, our local ramen proprietor, closes up his shack from november to may, we were left to go without or make it at home. well, actually we usually head into the city and stop for lunch at momofuku, which is a really incredibly delicious experience, but we didn't have time and we don't want to have to rely only on david chang for our ramen enjoyment all winter no matter how outrageously talented he is. sometimes home is best. anyway, previously we have tackled recipes for soba and udon and chicken pho with some success. see here and here. it follows naturally that we would try to replicate ramen at home. plus, i have been wanting to find a good use for some yuba (magical dried tofu skin rolled into sticks) that i love and needed a good recipe. since it is hard to find homemade ramen soup recipes, everyone seems to use the mixes and packets at home, it required both creativity and strategy. it was delicious and i would eat it again right now if there was any left.

serves 4

1 lb fresh ramen noodles (i used nasoy brand, but some asian markets sell locally made egg noodles)
1 cup chopped scallions or other green onions
2 hard boiled eggs (use david tanis' recipe from his book "a platter of figs..." really great)
napa cabbage
1 cup sliced fresh shitake mushrooms
8 sticks yuba (dried tofu skin)

6 cups chicken stock
4 TBSP soy sauce
2 tsp brown rice vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar

like most asian noodle soups, you assemble the parts just before serving. everything is cooked or prepared separately. this keeps the noodles from over cooking and the vegetables from ever becoming soggy. a great market noodle stall tradition that is worth honoring.

first, make the hard boiled eggs. then, get the broth going. heat to boiling. check for flavor. should have just the right hot salty quality. keep on simmer. next, set the water to boil for the fresh noodles. also, soak the yuba in quite hot or just boiled water until tender (10 - 30 minutes depending on brand). chop the yuba. chop the vegetables. reserve scallions for garnish. peel and halve hard boiled eggs. now, saute veg on high heat. first add the mushrooms, saute in a bit of olive oil on high heat for a few minutes. add chopped napa cabbage or bean sprouts or asian greens. stir until just softened (maybe 2 minutes) add in yuba and 2 TBSP soy sauce. now cook the noodles for a few minutes according to package directions (takes only 2-3 minutes).

okay. everything is ready. assembly time. place noodles in bowls. add egg and veg on sides. add scallions in center. ladle broth over the whole thing. serve immediately with chopsticks and soup spoons.

note: some people in our house strongly prefer pork ramen. this is really a veggie ramen with a chicken broth. soon we will make homemade pork ramen with pork broth. i am looking forward to this day already. stay tuned.

Nov 9, 2009

keeping it simple

by George Romney, of Emma Hart as Miranda, in the Tempest, late 1700s, public domain

for me, today is about trying to keep it simple. i can feel the impending maelstrom of holiday requirements approaching. or is it just the cool autumn chill in the air? elaborate events, events requiring new formalwear for growing children, black tie! gifts to buy and give. lots of gifts! cards to design and distribute. entertaining. decorating! cooking special meals, meals that take all day, meals to remember! so today. green tea and blueberries for breakfast. yoga practice. some time spent with my trusty notepad and sharpened pencil. strategizing. simplifying. organizing. focusing. prioritizing. i've got big plans to stay on top of things this year. for maybe the first time, ever. i will not get carried or swept away. (is it me or is that sounding like a desperate cry into the wind?) i will keep it simple. simplicity. simplicity. simplicity. make it manageable. my new mantra.

Nov 5, 2009

i heart aburiya kinnosuke

whenever i am missing japan i go here. a special place in nyc, rather near grand central on the east side, in an area filled with wonderful japanese restaurants, stores and places of cultural interest. there are noodle shops, tonkatsu shops, onigiri shops, japanese groceries, and the japanese culinary center.

aburiya kinnosuke. a wonderful restaurant where i enjoyed a great lunch today. it is just like walking into tokyo as you step through the doors. outside there is no sign, it is unmarked. only a multicolor striped facade. inside is incredible food in a kind of dark, homey, casual environment. (the opposite of most midtown restaurants). i have been here before. but every time their offerings make me swoon. the food is just what i want. it is like a happy dream. their black sesame pudding is incredible. their fish dishes. sushi dishes. grilled dishes, fried dishes. all great. i am not the only one who loves this place. it is always crowded, michelin and zagat praise it as well.

Nov 3, 2009

blogiversary and bloggers are nerds

cup and table is 1 year old this week. wow. it has flown by. i wasn't so sure when i started if it would be kind of fun to post or if it would become kind of a drag. i also wasn't sure whether i could maintain my enthusiasm over time. but i do enjoy it enormously it turns out. i plan to keep this going for a good little while. i have lots more to share and some new ideas up my sleeves, some excitement.

my favorite thing about blogging @ cup and table is that i've inadvertently created a place to go that has my recipes and travel photos published so i can remember what i cooked or did, or what i saw and enjoyed. its my new electronic recipe file and travelogue. pure and simple, c&t is a place that starts a dialog about food, travel, art, tea and design. but mostly food. healthy, maybe delicious, maybe mundane, and sometimes beautiful food. my least favorite thing about blogging is that people often roll their eyes and look at their toes or make disparaging remarks about bloggers and change the subject quickly as though you've just revealed something so embarrassing that they don't want to talk about it. and sometimes they simplistically assume you have some sort of outsize ego or something and that's why you are blogging. but what i think is there are always naysayers and you really shouldn't listen to them. and i think the fabulous john hodgeman has it right when he says "bloggers are nerds." yes. i am a blogging nerd. people focused on a topic and learning far too much about that topic so that the content spills out of them and they have to find some outlet, somewhere to put all this content, this collected information. blogging is inherently a creative endeavor and the tools are so available and accessible and easy to use that i wish everyone had a blog. that's right. everyone. i think everyone has valuable content locked up inside them waiting to come out. a view of the world worth noting. i want to know what all of you are cooking for dinner. what is on your minds. what you know too much about. where you are planning to go on your next vacation. i like sharing ideas, recipes, thoughts, creativity, with a wonderful community of individuals all over the world. it's awesome and new and endlessly interesting.

anyway, my dear readers and all of you lovely people who stop by once in a while. thanks for noticing. thanks for your wonderful, smart, kind, comments. thanks for your interest. i am so glad you're here.

(photo is of moules frites, well just the moules in the picture actually, from our first dinner in brussels in august. i would like to eat that all over again). another year, sign me up. let's go.