The Gastronomist Manifesto

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Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Pacific Northwest Pride With A Spanish Touch

I moved to Portland a little over two years ago. This burgeoning “foodie town” hasn’t let me down much, although I’m still skeptical as with all things Portland related that there isn’t a hype factor involved a bit. One thing I wont argue with is being so close to and surrounded by one of the agricultural Meccas of the United States. The produce! So good.

Felt like cooking up something special because it was a slow Sunday and I haven’t treated myself in a while. Thought maybe I’d play to the foods of my new home in the PNW, but add a little Spanish-French touch since, well, awesome + awesome…

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Salmon With Poblano-Hazelnut Pesto, Potatoes, Asparagus and a Garlic-Pimenton Butter

My inability to gauge portion sizes from raw ingredients lead to a rather hefty plate, which is fine by me when the food’s this good and it’s Sunday (I can nap, dammit!)

First thing is you want to start your potatoes. Depends on their size of course as to how long you need to cook them. Just stab ’em with a fork, ice pick or whatever you have handy after a while to test.

OH! But you think cooking potatoes is just that easy, do you?! Here’s the best trick I’ve learned for doing potatoes: never add potatoes to a boiling pot. See the heat and hot water that carries it takes time to travel from outside to in, when you apply that heat too fast, too hard it doesn’t make that distance very equitably. It’s a caloric class system. What you get is over-done outer parts and raw insides. Also, unless you have health reasons like hypertension, douse the water with salt. Not only does it flavor your potato but I believe something with the osmosis process makes for a more tender tater–least it seems that way to me but I’m not a scientist.

Now the fish… I got a nice bit of salmon, quintessential PNW staple. A sadly rare treat because I’m broke and I will not buy shitty fish (I used to be a fishmonger.) I went with a poaching method with this. Convinience, mostly, there were a lot of dirty dishes with this meal. One my potatoes were done I just popped the fishy right into the water, which was on a medium heat, not at a boil. Water boils at 212 degrees and fish should be cooked to 145 degrees to be safe. See what I mean?

The recipe I adapted this from suggested throwing white wine, garlic and parsley into the cooking liquid. Which is cool, but I find never adds enough flavor to be worth the trouble.

Asparagus. Blanch it for a few minutes. If you want to keep it extra green chill it in ice water after cooking. I’m told a little baking soda in the water also helps.

Now comes the fun part, the condiments!

Poblano-Hazelnut Pesto.

– One handful of hazelnuts (Oregon’s state nut!) Blanched if you want to put in the effort. Initially I was going to make this into a Romesco type sauce, but messed up my levels. But the pesto was a serendipitous result.

– One large poblano pepper, fire roasted. Don’t have a fire? A non-stick pan on the highest heat will burn that sucker black. I found putting our tea kettle over it for pressure got a nice blackness on the skin. You want black too. You can easily scrape off the burnt skin with cold, running water and a paring knife, and that’s the only way to get a soft, roasty pepper.

– Vinegar, just a capful. I like Sherry, but apple cider is more likely in your pantry and works fine.

– Cumin. Half teaspoon ground or about as many seeds.

Take food. Put in blender. Slowly add olive oil in batches or drizzle if your machine has an open top for such. Blend until you have a workable paste and, of course, season appropriately.

Garlic-Pimenton Butter

– Garlic. I used three cloves, small-medium sorts. You *could* just mince them. I have this super-handy toaster oven that I threw them in, in their jackets, for 18 minutes. Makes for a sweeter, less zingy garlic.

– Olive oil in a pain on med-low heat. Minced garlic in! Good dash of good paprika. And when I say good paprika I mean spend money on the real stuff. A lot of cheap brands are flavorless, basically coloring agents. I don’t normally advocate spending more for quality, but paprika’s an exception, the difference is night and day.

– So while your garlic slowly softens and the paprika/pimenton dissolve, how about a pat of butter? Nice texture, great depth, loves salmon.

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Serving is pretty evident I hope from the picture! Just sliced the potatoes into rounds (careful that they’re cool), fish, asparagus and distribute the pesto over and sauce around so you can get nice even bites.

Salmon, hazelnuts and asparagus! The only thing essentially Pacific Northwest not included were rain and handlebar moustaches. But that… that’s another post.

Celebrity Meat Snobs Can Go Tofuck Themselves

CAUTION: This post contains a fair amount of vulgar language and no recipe. I don’t know who follows me or what your personal line of decency is, but things get a little R-rated today. This may turn you off to beef wellington.

 

I like meat just fine. I don’t eat a lot of it compared to most Americans. I like tofu too and certainly consume more of it than the median level in this country. I also consume a fair number of shows related to cooking. But what I find completely inedible…

“Guuuuurrrrrr brrrrggg…. something about how gross tofu is. Vegetarian-option?! Here’s a carrot!”

-Sayeth numerous celebrity chefs

I get the whole macho image thing just fine. We all get it. No one has ever deeply questioned why meat is a slang term for a penis. The real connundrum is why people in a community that seems to cherish non-normative passions and behaviors, celebfaces suddenly develop WASP-y fratboy Tourette’s the moment “vegetarian” gets mentioned. Your cracks at the non-meat eaters echoes what I heard from my conservative aunts and uncles when I was sixteen, for whom salad was any sort of plant dressed in mayonnaise. Edgy!

“Tofu! Bland, white and flavorless!!” Yeah, you know what else is? A potato. And Americans consume the ever-living shit out of them and every gourmet raves about ’em. I think the real problem with these Star Chefs is that they simply just can’t cook outside of their petty little comfort zone. Yes, I’m calling you out… or I would if any of ’em read my trivial food blog.

If you can’t make tofu taste good, you suck or you’re not trying. It’s a blank canvass for sure, which is why anyone who’s cooking with inspiration can make it shine. And of all the “foodies” I know, vegetarians are very well-represented, which is believable as they’re obviously commited in some way to thinking about the food we grow, fix and consume. And given that a healthier, more eco-friendly sort of diet for America has solid numbers to support it, some of the top food minds in the media maybe should stop circle jerking it onto their beef wellingtons for a hot second, learn how to transform bland product to something tasty, and cut the really played-out veg-o-phobia.

 

One Last Bake of the Season – Eggplant and Polow

Yesterday was cold, today was cold, the end of the week is supposed to go up to 80 degrees. So what better reason to fire up the oven one more time? And I just happened to have one of my favorite vegetables to oven roast, eggplant!

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Roasted Eggplant

1. Pre-heat the broiler of your oven with a rack close to the top. As that’s heating take an eggplant and slice into rings. Optional: You may want to dose them with salt on both sides to draw a little of the bitterness out. Wash the salt off and dry them with a towel after about 10-15 minutes. Season the eggplant slices and coat with a thin layer of olive oil, both sides.

2. Place eggplant slices on a baking sheet and pop them under the broiler. When I made mine I wanted my eggplant to have little contact with the cooking surface so I rigged a sort of roasting rack out of rolled up aluminum foil. This prevented sticking and slightly better heat distribution, but is optional.

3. Check on your slices after 6-7 minutes. The tops should be slightly browned, give or take depending on your oven and the eggplant itself. If so, flip them over and let them go for another 5 minutes to brown the other side and soften the middle.

4. When you are satisfied with their doneness, sprinkle on some feta cheese and pimento peppers (i.e., what green olives are often stuffed with and readily available in jars.) Throw them back under the broiler for a minute or two if you want the feta to soften a little.

5. Garnish with some fresh herbs if you have some (parsley or mint = best; I had cilantro which also went well), some good olive oil and/or some cracked black pepper as you like it.

Polow

Polow is a transliteration of an Iranian rice dish, similar to pilaf in other countries. There are numerous types and interpretations on this basic dish, here is mine.

1. Cook basmati rice–brown or white–per instructions with a few shakes of turmeric or, if you’re a baller, some saffron threads (more traditional, but also more $$$.)

2. With the rice going dice plenty of onion (I made 1 cup of cooked rice and about 1/43 cup of onion), a couple garlic cloves–minced, a small handful/palmful of dried dates, the same of raisins and one tomato. Sautee the onion in olive oil over a medium-low heat until it turns translucent and begins to take on some color. Add the other ingredients to the pan and continue to cook until the fruits/veggies soften and meld flavors. Don’t rush this step. Let it cook slowly and gently.

More options! Polow is frequently made with meat. Diced chicken, beef or lamb can be cooked with or seperately with the onion. I kept things vegetarian and threw some TVP in with a little water–not flavorful but upped the protein content. Other common & tasty additions: pomegranate seeds, lentils, peas and nuts.

3. When your rice is done and your sautee mixture soft and happily married, combine with the rice along with about a level teaspoon of cinnamon or a little less than, plus some lime juice (about half a lime.) If you have garam masala spice that can be substituted for a deeper, more complex spice profile. I wanted to keep my flavors simple this time; choose what suits your mood.

4. Throw in some fresh herbs just before serving or over top of the dish. In Iran herbs are a crucial ingredient and many types are used if the many recipes I’ve found have anything to say. Parsley and mint again would be the best picks. I again used cilantro just because I had it, and it works splendidly. Basil, dill and tarragon would also be excellent. Just avoid stronger, pungent stuff like oregano and rosemary.

 

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