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Elements of Dim Sum

I’ve only eaten dim sum a few times, but it has quickly found a place amongst my favorite foods. It isn’t just the food itself that I like (although that’s the most important part), but the whole experience. Americans tend to forget that food is more than filling the stomach to end the feeling of hunger or the cheap thrill of salty, greasy and sugary food, but just as much about everything accompanying the chewing and swallowing. You can’t just go to a dim sum restaurant, order food, eat it, and then leave.

There are lots of elements that make up the dim sum experience. First, dim sum is something that should be eaten during late morning or early afternoon (like brunch). Second, the more people eating eating together, the better. Since dim sum consists of lots of small dishes of food, which are themselves made up of small groups of things like dumplings, stuffed buns, and small torts, one or two people eating together won’t be able to try more than two or three kinds of dim sum before getting too full to eat more.

Char Sui Bao

If more people go, each person gets a smaller share of each dish, but gets to eat a greater variety of food. If you only eat one kind of dim sum per meal, then you’re just not doing it right. Lots of people per group eating many different dishes makes for a lot of bustling and clamor; the commotion and noise of a good restaurant is the third element. I’m absolutely certain that dim sum eaten in a quiet restaurant would just not taste as good. If I had to say that there is anything essential to eating dim sum, it’s multiplicity: lots of people, lots of different kinds of foods, lots of noise.

Char Sui Gok

The best place for dim sum in the Seattle area (in my opinion) is Jade Garden. If you go, don’t get scared away by the long wait; it’s definitely worth it!

Wu Gok

Recettes locales.

I’m inspired by a lot of things in life, but the inspiration that I’ll speak of today comes from my favorite lesbian wives, Krista and Jessica Thrift. Krista and Jess inspired me to start cooking at home (and vegan, at that) on a regular basis; they inspired me to make cold press toddy coffee; they inspired me to start blogging, to start shopping local, and to learn to love with all of my heart and be loved in return.

Okay, that ended up a bit more sappy than I’d intended it to.

The real reasoning behind the Krista and Jess mention comes directly from their self-imposed locavore challenge (making a dish that utilizes at least three local ingredients once a week), coupled with their nod to Martha Stewart’s colcannon. I like farmer’s markets; I like knowing where my food comes from; and, as a ½ Irish lassie (County Cork, bitchez), I like boxty, beer, and colcannon. Can I do it locally and toss in a delicious colcannon to boot? Let’s find out.

Today’s visits to the farmer’s market were two-fold: Pike Place is awful when it’s this warm (and on a weekend!). but necessary when one wants scallops. We snagged the fattest, healthiest scallops for grilling from the Pure Food Fish Market and then high-tailed it out of that miasma of plodding tourists. For the rest of our groceries, we went to the neighborhood Sunday standby and left with fistfuls of fresh green stuff and potatoes for colcannon. As for the leeks? I hate to say it, but I actually had to give money to QFC in order to have leeks. I tried, but… c’est la vie.

Asparagus, mustard greens, kale, potatoes, and scallops.

Instead of colcannon with cabbage (which I tolerate, but am not the biggest fan of), I used kale (which I will make any excuse to use); and instead of one leek, I used 1½ BIG leeks (because, like Krista, I *^%ing love me some leeks). For the other part of the meal, I decided to pay homage to my $8 cast iron grill pan. Yes, you read correctly: $8. I picked one up at the thrift store, cleaned it, re-seasoned it, and decided that it was time for some grillings of the foods. If there is one thing you should know about me, it is that I adore asparagus; and even more than just adoring asparagus on its own, I especially adore it grilled. Scallops? I like scallops and I like them grilled, but I’ve never grilled a single meat in my entire life. Let’s see how it goes.

I decided to stay simple with the scallops and the asparagus: a lemon-olive oil-salt-and-cracked black pepper marinade. For the colcannon? A fancy pants purple potato that I can’t remember the name of.

Sexy Spuds

And the result? Okay, I’m patting myself on the back again. The asparagus was slightly blackened, yet tender; the colcannon was gorgeous with purple potatoes and bright green leeks and kale; and the scallops were g.d PERFECT: seared on the outside and tender on the inside.

Bougie Dinner

Verdict: “It’s fucking amazing, F. I wish I had more right now. If I had more, I’d keep eating until I died.” – Paul

Note: Paul is a food snob. As someone who lives with Paul, I know that he will not heap these sort of compliments on me even if I am demanding them from him.

Taro Root Curry

I first stumbled upon the gnarly, hairy-looking corm (not to be confused with corn) that is sometimes called taro root about two years ago. As I wandered through the produce section of the neighborhood grocery store, I came across a pile of the scruffy things and remembered reading a recipe for them. I had never eaten them before, or even recalled seeing them on a restaurant menu. I really had no idea what they would be like when I bought them.

Gnarly, hairy looking corm.

Taro root is something like potato, but better. It is, in fact, not really a root, but a corm, which is more like a bulb. It’s eaten all over the world; one can find it in places as diverse as Cameroon, India, and Hawai’i. There are any number of ways to make it, but fried and boiled seem to be the most common. I especially like the creamy texture it gets when it has been boiled. Turmeric, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and fresh chilies give the porridge-like taro roots an almost addicting flavor.

Here’s a recipe for taro root curry that I like to make (and eat).

Ingredients:

1 lb. of taro roots, 2 tablespoons of canola oil, 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1 tablespoon of skinned, split black lentils (urad dal), 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric, 1/4 cup of cilantro leaves, 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt, 10-12 fresh curry leaves, 2-4 fresh green Thai or serrano chilies, with the stems removed and sliced crosswise.

1. I like to use the small taro roots, which are sometimes called sato imo. I’ve tried the bigger variety, but I did not like it since it has a strange, musty flavor that I do not enjoy (or at least didn’t work in the recipe I use). The taro roots first have to be peeled, then cut into quarters, then boiled for about 10 minutes. Be careful not to touch your face after peeling the roots, since the skin contains a toxin that causes itching.

2. Heat the canola oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mustard seeds, cover the skillet, and then cook until the mustard seeds have stopped popping (about 30 seconds). Add the lentils and then stir-fry until they are golden brown (15-20 seconds). Sprinkle in the turmeric and let it cook for about 5 seconds, then add the taro roots, 1 cup of water, the cilantro, salt and curry leaves and chilies. Give the mix a stir, then bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, then cook uncovered until the sauce thickens (about five minutes).

Being one whose task is to prepare everything other than Indian vittles, I am not to be found toasting or grinding spices; nor do I tear up as I slice tender banana peppers; nor do I futz with ingredients like wet tamarind, curry leaves, or smelly, smelly asafoetida. These things are Paul’s job. Paul is an excellent cook, as evidenced by my classmate (and Indian pop sensation and classical Indian devotional singer) Chandana proclaiming that “most Indians would be happy to eat so well.”

The thing about Indian food is not so much that it’s not as much difficult to make as it is difficult to find the correct ingredients (depending on your location in the US)… and it’s time-consuming. For ingredients, Seattle-dwellers are fortunate enough to have the fresh, fresh (and surprisingly inexpensive) produce at Uwajimaya; for spice-toasting and -grinding, I am fortunate enough to have a coffee grinder and Paul.

Let’s take a peek at one-third of what goes in to a three-dish (not counting the basmati rice) three-hour meal.

A few ingredients:

Okra, Thai chiles, and banana peppers.

And some spice toastings:

"Don't get too close; there are peppers in there."

And some spice grindings:

Mid-grind

And then some simmerings and slicings and stirrings that result in delicious foods:

Sorshe Channa, Mirch Ka Salan, and Vendakkai Bhajee

But Annika didn’t request this long diatribe; Annika requested recipes. To be truthful, Paul cooks almost exclusively from 660 Curries. It’s a pretty good cookbook, so long as you don’t try making the kale with fennel and cloves (you will gag). I’ll toss you one delicious (and complex!) recipe to whet your whistle: Continue Reading »

And one becomes two.

Almost two years ago, I was accepted as a student in the Aristides Classical Atelier at Gage Academy of Fine Art.

2008

Less than two weeks ago, mon bel ami de garçon was accepted to study mathematics at Seattle University (a/k/a adding another degree to his brain pile).

2010

The thing that you must understand about the two of us is this: we eat and we cook and we math and we paint; and so one becomes two and we’re blogging together now.

Getting Pythagorean With It (Paul)

Getting Spherical With It (Jen)

Carry on; Hans, give me zwei.

The thing that you’ve got to understand about mushrooms is that, up until recently, I did not like mushrooms at all. Not a bit. Not in the slightest. The thing that you’ve got to understand about me is that, up until recently, I’d only nibbled at those bland, white, “serve this on your pizza” type of mushrooms; and, as such, my body revolted at the mere mention of consuming anything fungal (i.e. I wanted to barf).

Imagine my surprise when I found myself getting jealous and really, really hungry while reading Anthony Bourdain‘s account of eating mushrooms in Spain. What the heck? Even worse, he’d had a raw egg cracked over his mushrooms. The thing you’ve got to understand about eggs is that, up until recently, I’d hated those, too. Especially fried. Especially sunny-side-upped. Especially if they were anything other than scrambled to hell and back, then covered in cheese and Sriracha.

I eventually started sampling mushroom-featuring dishes (like Eritrean Yeungudia Watt [!]) and, lo and behold, learned to love the little suckers. Eggs? I continued to stick to scrambled, with a slice of quiche thrown in every now and then. As for cooking dishes that relied heavily on mushrooms or eggs? Ack, no, never, gross!

OK so we all change our tunes and mine changed like so:
Foraged and Found started featuring morels at the Sunday Farmer’s Market.
– I became enchanted by the morels.
– I started craving a fritatta.
– I had never in my life eaten a fritatta and was perplexed by, yet ready to face my craving.

Since morels are expensive ($20/lb[!]), I decided to test-run my frittata craving with a tomato-and-leek recipe a la Martha Stewart. I like tomatoes. I love leeks. Martha Stewart is questionable, but her recipes are usually spot-on. Here we go:

Tomato-and-Leek Frittata

Holy crap, was this good. It was more like a soufflé than the dense frittata I imagined. We licked up every last scrap and looked around for more. OK, eggs are a go. Now to mess around with morels.

Morels from Foraged and Found edibles. Sage and chives from Sunseed Farm Plants. Fromage Blanc from Mt. Townsend Creamery. Also making appearances: Columbia City Bakery bread and Full Circle Farm mustard greens.

I decided to go with sage, chives, and a mild cheese so as not to detract from the morels’ delicate flavor. Per prior research, I discovered that there are many ways to clean a morel: salting, soaking, rinsing, and suchforth. I didn’t want to spoil the honeycomb texture or flavor, nor did I want bugs, so I simply double rinsed my morels, sauteed them up with sage and chives, and used them in ol’ Martha’s recipe. Viola! Another frittata-soufflé for my delectation.

Note: I don't own an oven-safe pan.

Also note: really low light situation!

I’m biased, of course, but I found it g.d. delicious. For a second opinion, let’s take a peek at the text I received from my dearest after he’d warmed up the leftovers:
EFF THIS STUFF IS GOOD.
Mon, Jun 07
12:35pm

Verdict: Martha Stewart? Yes. Eggs? Yes. Eggs and morels? Yes, yes, and eff yes.

Bonjour!

The problem with starting anything is knowing where to start.

Let’s start simply:

  1. I’m a Gemini.
  2. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.
  3. I study classical realist painting, but love art of all ilks and stripes.
  4. I love to eat.
  5. I love to cook.
  6. And a whole bunch of other stuff.

For serious,  this is (mostly, probably) all art and all food all the time. Bonjour, mes petits amis.