Posts Tagged ‘idolatry’

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YOU GOT VERJUICE NOW, MAN. (VERJUS)

April 13, 2012
Used Grapes. Gouache and pencil on paper bag
(This is a reprinted article I wrote a while back (6/16/08) for a site called cookingdistrict.com, formerly gigachef.com. I edited a bit of the blahblah but it’s still good stuff.)
    Verjuice is the slightly sweet, slightly tart juice of unripened wine grapes. It is bottled like vinegar or wine but it is neither fermented nor does it have an alcoholic content. The word verjuice or verjus is derived from the French word pairing ‘vert jus’ translated ‘green juice’ meaning the liquid pressed from unripened wine grapes. It will last for several years unopened, deepening in fruitiness and color while it ages. Once uncorked, it has only a few months to last in the refrigerator since it is an unfermented product and does not have the same stability as a fermented one. Its applications are wide and open to creativity.
    When used to deglaze the pan after roasting or sauteing meat or vegetables, the natural sugars in the young grapes help caramelize the leftover bits beautifully. In salad dressings, verjuice will not compete with wine being served, unlike vinegar or lemon which infamously sour the palate. The touch of acidity brightens soups, sauces and in my recipe-tweaking opinion,  goes swimmingly well with seafood. Dishes that normally call for white wine benefit from verjuice’s fruity, roundness without having to ‘cook out’ any of the alcoholic essence. Seemingly it shines in pared down recipes where the goal is to use just a few ingredients that are unique and/or possess some special quality that takes a simple dish to the next level.
    I like to splash some into the pan when wilting greens or as a part of a marinade. Not only a real winner* for savory courses, it can be used to poach or macerate fresh fruit or make a mean glaze when buddied up with some sugar.
    Verjuice is not a new ingredient. Its appearance in cooking dates back to the 1300’s. Now it is making a comeback for its merits of playing nicely with wine as well as the many above-mentioned uses. Though historically it appears in European and Middle Eastern cooking, an Australian chef, Maggie Beer, is credited with bringing it back to modern kitchens. She bottles and sells verjuice from her country’s Barossa Valley but most wine producing regions have their versions too: California, France, Italy (where it is called agresto), South Africa and locally here in New York on Long Island (Wolffer Estate), my personal favorite. Like everything, verjuice can be purchased online but also look out for it in wine shops and gourmet groceries.
Oh, and sometimes it is used for drinking straight up… or maybe on the rocks.
* I vaguely remember enjoying heavy use of the phrase ‘a real winner’ back in ’08.

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Accessorizing. (BLOODY MARYS + BASIC QUICK PICKLES)

January 13, 2012

I talk about Bloody Marys plenty. I love to drink them, I love to make them. Seems to be the drink that has a preparation most like cooking (and drinking it is alot like eating). And though I am loyal to a sturdy classic drink, I love the bells and whistles that people come up with to adorn a Bloody Mary making it achieve even more than its perfect basic self. Seven kinds of seafood on a stick, gold dusted rim or 30 year old scotch are not necessary to the success of a Bloody Mary, but I wouldn’t turn them down either. The beauty is in the flexibility. It is a kind of very sophisticated open relationship.

It’s not about one particular recipe so much as striking a balance which can be achieved in many ways, adventurous and non. Go ahead! Use fish sauce and hot pepper purees, roasted tomatoes and wine. It just needs to consists of that savory drinkability, slight thickness, peppery bits and stand up to a decent spill of vodka (or whatever spirit one chooses to use). My ideal also provides a slow heat and a briny under-layer. To get it right I usually taste, adjust, taste, adjust, etc. just like cooking. Some batches are better than others and some kill it! Sometimes all the favorite ingredients are on hand and often there is creative substitution. And then there’s mixing drinks with that person who insists on their own carte blanche move (i.e. my friend who always uses dijon mustard). It’s cool, it all works and I’ll drink it to hell. But I’ll always have my own crazy concoction to go home to.

ORI’S BROOKLYN BLOODY MARY MIX

(makes about 10 drinks)

6 cups tomato juice

1/4 cup horseradish

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño juice (or dill pickle juice)

2 tablespoons Pick-a-Peppa sauce

4-5 shakes Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

juice of one lime

1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon celery salt or regular salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
dash cayenne
a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce until desired spicy-ness is reached. (I like Texas Pete)
  • Stir all ingredients together in a pitcher.
  • Fill a short glass with ice.
  • Pour 2 ounces of your favorite vodka (I like Tito’s) and approximately 6-8 ounces of Mix over the ice and stir. Garnish with Spanish olives, pickles* of any sort and/or celery.

* Lately I’ve been making these easy quick pickles as a garnish. They perfect for stirring up a drink but they are also great on sandwiches, in salads, as a side dish, a snack. This is not limited to carrots, celery and string beans. Try with cabbage, radish, cauliflower, peppers, onions or beets, etc.

QUICK PICKLES

2 cups of vegetables (approximately)

1/3 cup vinegar (white, cider, rice or white wine)

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • Peel, slice and prep your vegetables accordingly and place them in a bowl. 
  • Put vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  • Pour vinegar mixture over the vegetables and wait 10 minutes. Veg should be submerged in liquid. 
  • Let stand in the brine for at least 2 hours or up to 24. When cooled place in the fridge.
  • Drain and enjoy within a few days.

Recipes are guidelines not rules!

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Useful as hell. (VEGETABLE GRILL PAN)

July 8, 2011

Grilling is the carnivore’s dream. Firing up the backyard bbq is a perfectly acceptable reason to cook up two, three, even four animals at a time. And I am totally down with that. But this post is to champion the underdog: vegetables. In support of vegetables everywhere, it could not be easier to add them to your grilling repertoire than with a good old vegetable grilling pan. Just prep your veggie (or fruit!) selection, drop it into the pan and place over the flame. You can shake it around, you can keep it still, but don’t take it off until charred to your preferred shade of black. I am not one for extraneous gadgets and all-around extra ‘stuff’ but the vegetable grill pan is a real summertime pal.

Zucchini, pineapple, jalapeno and shallots. Just chop into bite sized pieces and toss into the grill pan. When done add basil and lime, s + p.

Blackened Brussels with orange zest vinaigrette.

Experimenting es bueno.

 

 

 

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Side dish. (CUCUMBER APPLE SAUTEE with RAMP BUTTER)

May 17, 2011

MG rides his bike with two saddle bags strapped to each side. When he comes through the door after work and opens them up, an unexpected treat usually comes out. The other day it was a dozen t-shirts, today it was a whole red snapper packed in ice and last week it was a couple of sausages and a nice block of ramp butter from Dickson’s Farmstand. That ramp butter took the prize.

A ramp is a wild baby leek, indigenous to the New York area. Small bulb with a thin leaf stalk, ramps are cute and delicious. Chefs and food writers go hellbent for them during their short appearance in the early spring. A way to prolong their pleasant stay is to blanch them quickly, chop and stir into some softened butter, as the Dickson’s crew did. Store it in the freezer and you can unleash the magic for seasons to come.

MG threw the sausages on the grill and I got to work on a few side dishes with whatever was loitering in the kitchen. There was at least an apple and a cucumber. Though I am not in the habit of cooking cucumbers, I recalled a recipe that comes from Australian superchef Stephanie Alexander in which the cukes are sauted in butter. Having tried it once as written the result was interesting but didn’t really have any pizzaz. I thought that problem could be remedied by adding some more dimension; bright red freckled apple for sweet and sour, ramp butter for its herbaceous onion-likeness to go with the unusual juicy/crisp warm cucumber. It really came together, turning out just perfect to buddy up with grilled food.

CUCUMBER APPLE SAUTEE with RAMP BUTTER

1 crisp red apple such as Fuji or Gala

1 English cucumber

3 tablespoons ramp butter

salt and pepper

  • Chop the apple and cucumber.
  • Heat the 2 tablespoons of ramp butter in a skillet until foamy.
  • Toss in apples and cucumbers and saute vigorously for 7-10 minutes.
  • Taste for desired texture.
  • Season with salt and pepper. Taste again!
  • Spoon remaining ramp butter on top of warm cucumber and apples before serving.
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We all want to be useful. (FISH SAUCE)

April 12, 2011

During a recent class at the Astor Center, I was asked a question that I thought deserved public answering. One of the recipes we prepared included fish sauce. As an ingredient that is often used sparingly, my student wondered how to make a dent in the bottle that sits around after being used only once in an experimental while. In other words –allow me to paraphrase– ‘what the hell do I do with this stuff?’

A little background on fish sauce; it is the liquid extracted from salted and fermented fish or shrimp. Lending an aquatic (as in the bottom of an aquarium) and briny note, it is a major ingredient in many Asian cuisines. Each country has its own process by which they produce the stuff but Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Laos, Korea, Southern China, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Japan all use a variation of fish sauce in alot or at least a little of their cooking. In my experience with Vietnamese food, it is a ubiquitous and staple item, sort of like the t-shirts they sell in tourist shops that say ‘Good Morning Vietnam!’.

The truth is, it stinks like no one’s business only to be intensified when heated. This should stop aforementioned no one from using this product. Once mixed with other ingredients it turns on its magic, amplifying the existing flavors, doing that umami thing that I can’t describe. It does something to make a dish taste as delicious as it did sitting on a small plastic chair, overlooking the beach at Nha Trang.

Wikipedia does a great job of providing mostly the truth and lots more fish sauce details. My mission is to list a few ways to help get through that bottle a little quicker.

TOP 15 USES FOR FISH SAUCE

  • in a curry
  • in salad dressing
  • as a marinade
  • as a dipping sauce
  • in a peanut sauce
  • in a crab cake or fish croquette
  • in a vegetable soup/stew (fish sauce loves kale!)
  • in beef stew
  • in (Asian style) chicken soup
  • in fried rice
  • sprinkle on fish before roasting/grilling
  • in a dumpling filling
  • tossed with noodles
  • in kimchi
  • in a stirfry

(‘in a stirfry’ is such a cop-out.) Enjoy!