Friday, April 18, 2008


Slovenia is interesting.
We had dinner tonight as what is referred to as a 'family farm', and brother, if you're thinking this is nostalgic of some sort of Steinbeckien/Commie group of austere buildings by a highway with dour-faced women in aprons furiously baking bread, you're exactly right! The surroundings, however, are lovely, full of nature and nature's things. Streams, pine trees, pudding-faced children, etc.
So we were served a 'family style' dinner - what does this mean, exactly? is this or is this not a euphemism for crap? - and it was fine. Over-cooked but flavorful pork slices off a loin, mashed potatoes, and - here's what I want to discuss - really good cabbage, cooked down for what must have been 45 minutes or so with water, lard, salt galore, poppy seeds, pepper, and I don't know what else! What spices do Eastern European countries use?? There wasn't paprika. Hmm. Who knows? Anyways, it was cooked down to this unctuous savory mess that was still toothsome, it went SO WELL with pork. It got me thinking about cabbage which I feel deserves a defense.
I feel quite protective about cabbage. It gets a bad rap in American cooking. Well, fuck off and go bully something deserving, like okra! Cabbage is versatile, nutritious, cheap, and super-yum. I realize people's immediate association is that of a tenement in lower Boston, replete with wet diapers in a tin washtub, screaming red-faced bablies, and women with work-roughened hands named Mary, but seriously, cabbage is way good. Here are my relatively inexperienced favorite ways of making it:
1. Cabbage via Casey's mom 'a la Edinburgh'
Take a cabbage.
Cut it up. Into bite size pieces. Put in pan. Cover halfway with water. Salt. Boil 3o min. Drain. Return to pan. Add hell of butter and pepper. Taste and add more salt.
DUDE. I know this sounds way shanty, but listen, it's very tasty. Cabbage, once you get over the sulpherous cooking smell (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence) has an ephemerally sweet and vegetabley earthy taste that is reminiscent of other more cruciferous plants but is wholly its' own. And I know butter is sort of a cheat but really, if ever an elemental earthy flavor deserved that particular proverbial silk lining, it's cabbage. It just makes the dish - if such a basic idea deserves that moniker - shine. It's really good. When Casey's Scottish maw served it on a wintry eve, I was all set to snigger and disdain, but ended up asking for seconds.
2. Cabbage a la Sara Reeske.
Sara doesn't necessarily make her cabbage this way but I draw inspiration fron her fresh salads that go so far beyond what I thought of as 'salad greens'.
1 half green cabbage
handful chopped parseley
2 fistfulls spinach
1 clove garlic
juice half lemon
quite a lot of olive oil, well not TOO much, maybe 2 tablespoons
a big pinch sugar
splash white vinegar, apple or white wine - not much, tiny splash
whatever seeds you have around - pumpkin, poppy, or sesame - toast all these in a dry cast iron pan for a few min. before adding.
if you want to get real West Coast on this, add some Braggs or soy sauce. You don't? Okay, that's cool, whatevs.
Ok this recipe is pretty obvious - but here's the rub* - raw cabbage has a lovely nutty flavor and a pleasant resiliant texture, but you need to slice it FINELY. Like coleslaw fine. Otherwise it's really too daunting, jaw-wise.
Try it, it's very good. You feel sated after eating too and it's very very healthy. Not in a gay Co-op way, but really.

*Don't you hate when you read salad recipes online and they list all the ingredients and give complex further instructions? For mixing an uncooked salad? NO SHIT chop the ingredients into bite size pieces and toss with dressing! Jesus! What am I, five???

quickly, before Sergio

I am overseas at the moment so I can't really blog much, this week and the following two - so let me just put down some quick ob.s' before Sergio in the chair next door starts coughing pointedly and I have to leave the office;
1. Italian bread. What the fuck??? Emerging from the Mt Blanc tunnel, out of France where for all its' faults the bread is sans rapproche, we stop at the Autostrada. I get a sammitch. the filling is delicious, but what is this saltless gummy FLUFF it nestles in??? And here in Venice, we get breakfast at the hotel? It's this sweet oily mess that vaguely reimagines a croissant through a Dunkin Donuts drivethru. Who ARE these people????
2. Vegetarian lasgane. I have seen the light. INDIVIDUAL PORTIONS, RE-BAKED. With a dousing of white wine cream and gruyere. Broiled. Unfuckingbelievable.
Ok here come the Italian Bros, I have to go. More as soon as the wilds of Croatia will permit, next week.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

rice riot

My father is an excellent and quietly adventurous cook, and it was he who first discovered the basis for my latest experiment - the revolutionary whirlwind that is eggless emulsification. In a sauce typical of fat and liquid magically forming a happy cream, egg yolks are frequently used as a binder, with the obvious example being hollandaise, in which lemon juice and butter are emulsified via heat and egg yolk. Or mayonnaise. Which, not using heat but just yolks, is en even more perfect example. Yeah, forget hollandaise, roll with mayo.
My father at some point started making this insanely vivid and deliciously pungent creamy sauce, which is rad because it magically emulsifies olive oil with salt and garlic. I know you're imagining a kind of gritty oily slop but I'm telling you, it really does emulisfy to a creamy rich mayonnaisey pud. He pounded in a big mortar a handful fresh peeled garlic, three or four big cloves, with a tablespoon of table salt. REALLY bashed, pounding away, until the sandpaperyness of the salt and the bang of the pound made a smooth mush. Then, whisking with a fork I believe? or maybe a lil whisk - he whisked in a thin drizzle of olive oil until the desired creamy consistantsy resulted. Emulsified. Really. Weird, no? Anyway as you can imagine this sauce is quite flavorsome, salty and creamy and sharply hot from the raw garlic. It is fantastic spooned on the side of a serving of grilled tuna or any thick white fish, so the diner can gingerly dip pieces in the sauce to judge for themselves how much is enough. Also, a spoonful tossed with steamed broccoli is lovely.
In my variation, I diluted the sauce. I did so AFTER the initial preparation because I figured adding anything that wasn't entirely smooth, like a puree might interfere in the emulsification.
I made two. For the first, I whisked in a splash Marsala, a splash soy, and a few drops fish sauce. I then mixed in some finely minced ginger, a few finely minced Chinese black beans, a few minced scallion. Served with roasted cod and Chinese-style fried green beans with pork shreds. Although the combination of flavors was not original, the vividness of the raw garlic and the peculiar dense creaminess of the sauce was delightfully different than what the palate has come to expect from these standard Asian ingredients. I suppose one could try making the sauce with one part sesame oil to two or three parts olive. That might be good too.
The next one I made was more straightforward. I roasted the garlic first, and used six cloves instead of 3 or 4. Whisked it up with salt and oil, then decided it was ungarlicky for my now totally insane preference, whisked up a lil batch of the raw garlic version, and added a teaspoon of that. Added some chile pepper flakes. Thought about an anchovy but figured that'd be salt overkill. Added a tablespoon or more of finely minced parseley and spread on toasted slices French bread. Sprinkled the top with grated Gruyere and parmesan, put under grill for a minute, and Bob's your uncle. Just don't plan on making out after eating these.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I drink your milkshake!

I am really into garlic soup lately. Soup soup soup.
You know what has got to be the best food reference in cinema history? In 'There Will Be Blood', when Daniel Day Lewis is looking totally ferocious and drunk. Which is most of the film, actually. But when he's in the cafe? 'I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE. I DRINK IT UP!' Followed by loud aggressive slurping of said shake. What a whammy!
This is a soup I love. It sounds weird maybe, a water-based soup, but it is actually very filling and full-bodied.
Find a stooge to peel you forty cloves of garlic. Finely chop. Actually it doesn't need to be TOO fine. Coarse sea salt fine. Heat a half cup olive oil in a heavy pot, add garlic and brown, stirring. Add a teaspoon or so of chile pepper flakes, less if you don't like spicy foods. Add a lot of boiling water, maybe 10 cups. A hefty splooge of salt. Simmer. While that is happening, make some croutons by cubing white bread, good thick sliced bread, and shimmy in a hot pan with butter or olive oil, yet more garlic (pressed) and salt. When 'tons are nice and browned, turn off heat and let sit. Poach egg for 2.5 minutes in simmering soup. Ladle a bowl of soup. Egg floats on top. Sprinkle handful of croutons on top. Eat. It's simple but absolutely delicious and very easy and quick as long as you get that stooge.
I made these chickpea flour pancakes, well crepes more, the other day at Kyp's house. Any one know what they are called, I forget, something middle-easterny no doubt. With roasted eggplant, peppers, feta, cilantro. Super yum. This got me to musing though, about flours in general. Chickpeas are of course beans. Do they make other bean flour??? How would they taste? I imagine kidney beans are too rich maybe, like, the batter kidney beans would make would be kind of like cement. Pinto beans might work. Lima beans?? Green! I see St. Paddy's Day visions of lima bean fritters! I think I'll fool around with this and report.