Sunday, June 20, 2010

Steak and Potatoes

Pan roasted filet mignon with mushroom sauce and simple red wine pan sauce. Sauteed herbed mushrooms. Steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Duchesse potatoes with carmelized vidalia onion.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Saffron and Scallop Risotto

Saffron, Heirloom Grape Tomato, and Magdalena Bay Scallop Risotto with Grilled Baby Summer Squash and Broccoli Rapini


I made up the risotto as I went along, and it turned out to absolutely phenomenally. I prepared the risotto the right way, meaning 30 minutes of constant laborious stirring. I supplemented the standard shallot and garlic aromatic base with diced fennel, and used a nice minerally Spanish white called Sitios De Bodega Con Class Rueda for the wine. When working the risotto, I used homemade chicken stock. The scallops were cooked separately and added, along with their pan juices, a few minutes before the risotto was done and the tomatoes were added about 1 minute before completion. In addition to working in saffron throughout the cooking time of the risotto, I added a little fresh sage and parsley at the end for seasoning.

I was very very pleased with this outcome of this dish. Saffron is one of the most amazing flavors ever. I took a gamble with pairing sage with the saffron and the scallops, but it actually worked quite well... it added a subtle, unexpected depth to the dish. Somehow, I managed to get the risotto to come out perfectly al dente and the scallops perfectly cooked. At the end of the day, it was the quality of ingredients that really made this dish rock.

On the side, I made a very simple grilled baby zucchini and baby pattypan squash. I sliced medium on a mandoline, tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper and grilled. The flavor was sweet, well rounded, and an excellent compliment to the risotto.

A spoiler to an otherwise very successful plate, the broccoli rapini came out a little bitter and clashed with the risotto and the squash. For some reason I had it in my head that I wanted broccoli rapini, and I tried to force it even though it didn't harmonize with the rest of the dish. In retrospect, it should have been completely omitted.

Rapini aside, this was an awesome Friday night dinner.

Monday, June 14, 2010

True Blood & Tacos

We had our close friends Brian and Allison over to catch the True Blood season premiere on HBO this weekend.

Allison had some shrimp from San Miguel seafood, and we decided we'd do a "build your own tacos" thing. I offered to do a second protein for the tacos along with a side and some sauces.
Sunday Night Taco Bar
  • Grilled San Miguel shrimp marinated in olive oil, garlic, wild shallot, and lime
  • Five-hour slow braised spice rubbed pulled pork shoulder with tomato, citrus, and garlic
  • Fresh salsa with roasted tomatillo, tomato, onion, garlic, chipotle, and cristobal pepper
  • Garlic-citrus avocado aoili with cholula and ancho chili powder
  • Slow cooked black beans with scallions, garlic, cumin, and lime
  • Mixed vegatables - cabbage, bell peppers, carrots, avocado, and cilantro
  • Fresh from the factory El Milagro corn tortillas

Jessica contributed an excellent and refeshing watermelon agua fresca. For dessert, Brian brought a wonderful homemade peach coconut cream ice cream.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Raw Humbug

Jessica has been very into the idea of raw food lately and challenged me to do a week of cooking and eating 100% raw with her.

A raw diet has a few simple rules:
1. Use only vegan ingredients (i.e. no meat, seafood, dairy, or eggs)
2. Nothing can be heated to over 118 degrees farenheit
There is also a strong lean toward organic/local everything and also towards living foods.

As someone who is very interested in cooking, and of cooking meats in particular, the idea of vegan food that is never cooked above 118 degrees has never been something that was very appealing to me. However, after being very impressed by a completely raw meal at Pure Food and Wine in NYC and acquiring Charlie Trotter's gorgeous and seductively challenging "Raw" cookbook, My interest was piqued.

Since nothing may be heated above 118 degrees, this inherently excludes most pre-packaged, heavilly processed store bought products like tofu or soy milk which are generally pasturized and therefore not raw.

One of the primary goals of a raw diet is to preserve natural enzymes found in uncooked foods that are broken down above 118 degrees. These enzymes aid the human body in metabolizing nutrients. Without these enzymes, the body must rely on its own enzymes and cannot digest and metabolize completely. That is the theory at least.

Because one cannot cook raw foods, many of the fundamental heat based techniques for concentrating, mellowing, and transforming flavors cannot be used. One cannot reduce a puree 10x to get a highly concentrated reduction. One cannot mellow the taste of raw garlic or onion by sweating or carmelizing it. In fact without heat, pretty much all of the techniques fundamental to cooking go out the door.

Instead, with raw food, one has to rely on techniques such as juicing, soaking, and dehydrating, and fancy knife and mandoline work to transform food.

One interesting thing about Raw cooking, is its heavy reliance on nuts as a central protein. Furthermore, it frequently utilizes nut preparations as a substitute for dairy, using soaking and high power blenders to create things such as almond milk, cashew cheese, and pine nut butter.

So how did the experiment go? Well... Good and not so good. We ended up bailing out after just two days.

Let me start by saying that the Raw Food that we made as absolutely delicious. it is possible to make some truly amazing dishes using raw techniques. As was evidenced by our trip to Pure Food and Wine and by the results of some of the dishes I prepared from the Charlie Trotter Raw book, a really good raw dish can be every bit as complex and elegant as the best cooked dishes. They can also be quite challening and intricate in their preparation, which the cooking geek in me appreciates.

That being said, Raw food just doesn't fill me up. Plain and simple. I can eat raw food in huge quantities, all day long, and the stuff just never satisfies me. I can do it for a meal or two, but if I go any longer than that I am perpetually hungry and start devouring avocados, bananas, nut cheese, raw flatbread, grapes, nuts, etc. by the shovel... They just don't fill me up. I need my carbs. I need my animal protein.

So, we made it just over two days on the diet before I broke down and ordered Chinese delivery because I was starving to death. It didn't help that I was sick with a cold and a fever for the second part of the experiment. My throat was so sore and all I wanted was a hot bowl of egg drop soup. Jessica made it another day, but she gave in wanting a hot meal a day later.

It's not that I dislike raw food or raw cooking. I just couldn't eat it all the time, every meal.

So, without further adieu, here are some of the dishes that I prepared during this adventure:

Heirloom Tomato Soup With Arbequina Olives and Shaved Fennel

Charlie Trotter's Raw

Portobello Mushroom Pavé with White Asparagus Vinaigrette
-Charlie Trotter's Raw
Endive and Avocado Salad with Green Onions and Micro Arugula


Flatbread Pizza with Herbed Cashew Cheese, Tapenade, Grape Tomato, and Fennel
-Raw Food/Real World (Pure Food and Wine), improv by Jessica and I

All of these came out fantastic, espeically the mushroom pavé which was mind blowing. The mushrooms, actually were rather filling compared to any of the other things we ate over the two days. I certainly intend to leverage the approaches I learned here in interesting ways in my more traditional cooking endeavors. I will probably cook a full on raw meal here or there in the future as well...