The Perfect Spring Dish

April 16, 2016

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Salmon roe is one of Alaska’s great unsung products. Most of it is exported to Japan and Germany, which is a shame. Nothing tastes quite so elemental; eating this sparkling orange roe always reminds me that I’m glad to be alive.

One caveat: do not buy the pasteurized sort; heating roe changes the texture, making it tacky and tough. The flavor’s compromised too.  I buy mine from Zabar’s who will happily mail-order it  (although it’s about twice as expensive by mail as it is in the store).

To me these blini are best warm, so I make them one by one, so people can snatch them from the griddle while they’re still hot, slather them with sour cream and roe, and eat them with their fingers.  It’s hard to think of a better way to start a party.

Buckwheat Blini with Sour Cream and Salmon Roe

1 cup whole milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup buckwheat flour

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon yeast

2 eggs

Melt the butter with the milk and cool to lukewarm.

Meanwhile whisk together the flour, buckwheat flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

Whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture, cover with plastic wrap or a plate, and set aside to rise for 1½ hours in a warm place. The mixture should foam and double in size.

Whisk in two eggs, blending well.

Gently butter a hot griddle or skillet, and pour out enough batter to make a crepe the size you prefer.  Tilt the pan to make the crepe thin, and cook until bubbles have appeared all over the surface and have begun to pop.  Flip and cook another minute or so. Repeat.

Slather the blin with sour cream and top with salmon roe.  Eat gratefully. 

The batter will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.  Stir well before using.

Another use for salmon roe? On scrambled eggs.  Perfect breakfast.

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Things I Love: Bacon

April 14, 2016

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In my house, bacon is a staple.  I always have it on hand (along with eggs, parmesan and pasta) so I can make last-minute Carbonara.

For years I’ve been a Nueske’s fan.  And I still am. But lately I’ve discovered a locally made product I like even better.  Jansal Valley Bacon has the same sweet smokiness, but it’s less salty.  It’s uncured (no nitrates) and certified humane.  And it turns out, it’s nationally available.

The only downside?  Lately we’ve been eating an awful lot of bacon!

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A Pithy Meal

April 13, 2016

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If you haven’t heard of Jonah Reider and his pop up Pith restaurant, you haven’t been consuming your food media with due diligence.  Jonah is the Columbia senior who started a restaurant in his dorm and set off a media firestorm. He’s been written about everywhere: The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal,…. and that’s just for starters. The list is rather astonishing.  He’s been on Colbert too.

I did not go to Jonah’s restaurant, but the other night he brought his restaurant to the home of friends.  Although Jonah’s feats have been endlessly documented, there’s been remarkably little about his food. Here, without further ado, is how one extremely ambitious meal unfolded.

It began with a slew of appetizers, including the wonderful deep-fried ramps and hen of the woods mushrooms in Jonah’s hands.

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Tiny wild garlic. Impossible to stop eating….

 

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Harissa-marinated carrots with marcona almonds.

 

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Pate.

 

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Foie gras.  Goat cheese.

 

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Two flights of oysters – East coast and West – with homemade Champagne gelee.

On to the main event….

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Yellow cauliflower soup with Fernet Branca syrup. (My least favorite offering of the evening.)

 

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Hamachi crudo with yellow beets and a snap pea pesto.

 

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Octopus braised in wine and smoked paprika, with a puree of the braising liquid, meyer lemon zest and sunflower sprouts.

 

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Lamb chop (those green almond slices were a very nice touch), parsnip mash and garlic scape chimichuri, asparagus salad, and pasta tossed with black garlic and topped with grated preserved egg yolk.

 

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Lovely little salad of blood oranges, butter lettuce, radishes and nasturtium.

 

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Grapefruit sorbet.

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How To Eat on Ten Dollars a Month (Circa 1971)

April 12, 2016

IMG_5214Here’s something to add to the annals of Chinese food in America: this Mother Earth News guide to subsisting on Chinese food (or “CF” as our writer puts it) for less than $10 a month. Yes, we’re talking 1971 dollars – but keep in mind that’s still only some sixty dollars today. How does he do it: see for yourself. (Disclaimer: mother earth is in the details here. It’s THOROUGH.)

This was way ahead of its time.  I wrote my first cookbook in 1971, and ended up having a huge argument with my editor over the recipe for Hoisin Chicken.  Where, she wanted to know, were readers going to be able to get such an exotic sauce?  Did I have any substitutes?

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This goes on and on, so I skipped to the recipes. Aside from the pretty funky cooking times – and some dialed back flavors – these seem reasonable.IMG_5210-1image

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Totally, Crazily, Dreamily Delicious

April 10, 2016

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I can’t stop thinking about these….

After hours at the St. Louis airport (flight delays), and a ride on a tiny, frigid plane, I dragged my suitcase and my bedraggled self into Del Posto to meet some friends. The warm restaurant felt like the most welcoming place on earth, and I sank into a seat at the bar and gratefully took a sip of  Etna Bianco. Everything instantly felt right with the world.

Fantastic little bites began to arrive….

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A rich, crumbly little caccio e pepe biscuit.

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The most amazing little arancino – all crunch and crackle on the outside, all soft smoothness within. Rice has never been so lovingly disguised.

 

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The famous soup of many chickens.  Its intensity reminded me of a quote by the great chef Vatel.  When his employer, Fouquet dared to ask why 50 head of cattle were required for a feast he was preparing for Louis IVX the chef drew himself up. “Monsieur,” he replied, “I will reduce those animals to a single thimble.”  But this is not just soup:  hiding at the bottom of the cup is the most amazing masa ball.  When it dreams, every matzo ball aspires to this feathery lightness.

 

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Chef Mark Ladner has a sly sense of humor.  He calls this delicate dish suscmii del giorno -but I dare a Japanese restaurant to do better.  Arctic char with caviar, fluke, tuna…. Pure pleasure.

 

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I have always admired Ladner’s agnolotti del plin. Making them is painstaking work, and these are tiny bursts of intensity.

 

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Orecchiette with lamb sausage and broccoli rabe.  Pasta in an entirely different mood: the flavors here are almost fierce, and the little bits of crisped porcini add a welcome bit of crunch.

But impressive as they all are, its those bauletti above that will haunt my dreams. Ethereal sheets of pasta, tender as flower petals, wrapped around sheep milk ricotta and bathed in truffle butter.  A tangle of tastes and textures, the slight tanginess of the cheese echoed through my body long after the last bite was gone.

There was more – my friends went on to lamb and chicken and dessert. But I was still lost in those bauletti, reluctant to release the flavor by taking even one more taste.

Although Del Posto is expensive, I’d like to remind you about the $49 3-course lunch. Worth the voyage.

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