Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fresh Chamomile Tea

Serves six
This is a refreshing tea especially if you mix it with a sharp ginger beer.

1 cup fresh chamomile flowers
1/4 cup honey

Fill medium stockpot with water, cover, and bring to a boil, stir in chamomile flowers and honey, steep four minutes, strain, allow to cool, serve over ice.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

1 -2 -3 Vinaigrette

In French cooking there are a few standard sauces that serve as the base for variations. Technically they're called "mother" sauces. Appropriately, I learned this from the mother of my French exchange program family. I always think of it as 1 - 2 - 3 sauce because that is the proportion of the recipe. One mustard, two acid, three oil. In any vinaigrette you need three basic elements: mustard, an acid (like a lemon juice, verjus, or vinegar), and an oil.

I call this sauce a base or "Mother" sauce because you can easily derive many variations of vinaigrette from it. Switch a sesame oil and a rice wine vinegar and the sauce has Asian flavors. Substitute a gentle hazelnut oil for the olive oil or a purple mustard for the traditional Dijon, or use a grainy mustard… you get the idea, the variations are infinite.

1 - 2 - 3 Vinaigrette
You need a lot less dressing than you think. A rough estimate is 5 cups of loosely packed bite sized pieces of salad to one recipe of vinaigrette.

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
pinch sea salt
pinch freshly ground pepper

The trick to getting a really creamy vinaigrette lies in emulsifying it properly.
Whisk together the salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar to form a uniform paste. Add the olive oil in an extremely slow steady drizzle while you whisk briskly. Every once in a while to check the olive oil is fully encorporated and the mixture looks creamy. This recipe can be multiplied and made in the blender.

There are a couple of things I like to keep in mind when I make a salad. I love to make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl, before I put in the greens. I set the greens loosely on top. This way the salad is all ready to go to the table and await tossing. If you toss the salad just before you serve it, you end up with crisp greens rather than the wilty sludge that comes from a premature tossing. When you do serve it, toss the salad a lot more than you generally believe is necessary. That way everything is definitely coated.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Spaghetti Omelet

Spaghetti Omelet
Makes 1

I tend to use real thick European butters because decadence isn’t decadence if you don’t go the whole way there. Omelets are one of my favorite ways to use leftovers. The best omelet fillings are always rich, full of fat and flavor. I use a spaghetti covered in a porcini tomato ragu, but use whatever leftover pasta you may have. I also loved using leftover pulled pork or Bolognese when I ate meat. The French and classically trained chefs tend to be quite fussy about omelets. And there are a few tricks, although none of them include leftover pasta, I'm pretty sure.

Omelet Tips

-the eggs should be cooked over a low flame, this creates the creamiest curd texture
- the fillings should be moist, but not dripping with sauce, as cooking is essentially a process by which, among other chemical reactions, the water contents is reduced or removed from food. This process can be slowed or produce nasty effects if there's too much extra liquid in an omelet.
- always remove eggs from a pan before you think they're completely cooked, the heat the eggs retain continues to cook them a bit after they leave the pan. You can always cook something more, but you can't go back and uncook it.

Spaghetti Omelet

3 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon rich European salted butter
1/3 cup cooked sauced leftover pasta
1 tablespoon sour cream, fresh ricotta or mascarpone

Whisk the eggs, salt and pepper together in a small bowl until well beaten. Heat a small skillet over a low flame. Add the butter, once it foams, add the eggs.

Gently whisk to create fluffy curds. Once you have a good amount of fluffy curds, but the batter is still sloppy- wet, let the eggs cook a bit to form a uniform skin on the bottom. Trace the edges and underside of the omelet with a rubber spatula to release from pan. Place the pasta on top of the wet eggs and cover until the omelet puffs up and the eggs are still a bit slick.

Use the rubber spatula to fold the omelet into a half moon shape and slide onto plate. Serve with a scoop of sour cream, ricotta or full fat yogurt.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Chicken Fried Tofu

Chicken Fried Tofu
I'm mostly vegetarian. I miss fried chicken. I miss the crust and the crunch. Now my palate has adjusted to lighter flavors, as I'm pescatarian and chicken tastes a little musky to me. So I'm giving this a go. I just read The Last Chinese Chef. In the book the chef boils tofu rapidly for 30 minutes, rendering the texture "spongy" so it can hold sauce. All the marinated tofu I've had isn't steeped enough in flavor for me. Although boiling makes the tofu texture less creamy than I'd like, the flavor is so much in the finished result.

1/8 teaspoon sweet smokey Spanish paprika
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 slices jarred jalapeno pepper
1 1/2 cups cultured buttermilk
Half a 12 ounce package firm tofu, cut into cubes
1/2 cup cornflakes, crushed coarsely in a food processor
Crisco, or vegetable oil for frying

Bring tofu to a boil in enough water to cover by 1 inch. Leave tofu at a rapid simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the first five ingredients in a resealable plastic container. Use a pair of tongs to lift the cubes of tofu from pot to the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to 2 days.

Place crushed cornflakes in low bowl. Arrange a few layers of paper towels on a large plate. Drain tofu from marinade and dry with paper towels. Heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Coat each cube of tofu with cornflake crumbs, pressing the crumbs into each plane of tofu. Tap to remove excess crumbs. Oil is ready when a cornflake dropped in the oil bubbles and floats immediately to the surface. Gently place cubes, a small batch at a time into the oil. Fry for about 2 minutes per side, or until a deep golden color. Drain to paper towels. Serve with lemon and sea salt. Use witch hazel on face and walls.

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