Archives for posts with tag: food

Casting around for a slaw to go with Mark Bittman‘s fennel pork burgers, I remembered my old friend Sammy Gugino’s recipe for San Diego Fish Tacos. Sammy’s are better than anybody elses’ because of the well-thought-through cabbage/avocado/lime/creamy cilantro sauce/salsa verde thing. In an online fish taco discussion recently, I was grossed out by peoples’ arguing for the dry, over-picante,  naked grilled fish, nasty shredded iceberg lettuce, and grotty salsa combos. Crunch ‘n’ cream together kinda do it for me; conversely, fish and avocado alone — bag the taco — could take you to heaven. Avocado alone. Mmmm.

I don’t always — let’s face it, never — feel up to battering and frying fish. I have delightfully and blasphemously substituted fish stix for Sammy’s lovingly home-made fried fish. Stix is delicious.

What makes Sammy’s fish tacos the very best is the slaw, finely shredded cabbage with avocado, lime, green salsa, and Sammy’s outrageous special sauce.

You know how to shred cabbage finely, yes? Get a good chef’s knife, the $129 kind. Get a stone, a steel, and some mineral oil. Learn how to sharpen a good knife lovingly. Learn how to cut things by gripping the food with curled-in fingers, using your knuckles as a slicing guide.

You know you want it.

Quarter and core the cabbage. Lift off a segment of leaves no more than one inch thick. Flatten it on the cutting board with the palm of your hand while curling your fingers. The thinner, flattened segment allows you to cut hair-fine shreds of cabbage, or any size you want. I think maybe 1/8 inch shreds for Sammy’s fish taco slaw would suit me.

I think serving Sammy’s taco condiments without the fish would be the perfect slaw for pork burgers.

I think it will shape up this way, layered, not mixed, like on the taco. Cabbage, avocado, lime, creamy sauce, salsa verde. I might stick some crisp corn tortilla strips on the top. Mmmmmmmmm.

Doing foodie research lately into the influence of Edward Espe Brown and the San Francisco Zen Center (Tassajara cookbooks, Green Gulch Farm, Greens restaurant) on Alice Waters and the food revolution. Right now tracing the ancestry of recipes, to see the bloodlines, has me confecting one myself.

Offal is one of the great healthful and inexpensive meats. On today’s march, I am going to be cooking me a potful of tripe a la Paul Bertolli, Alice Waters’ second influential chef (the first being Jeremiah Tower).

Bertolli’s recipe in Chez Panisse Cooking is the best ever tripe recipe, after Jane Grigson’s in Good Things, Bertolli’s in a long-simmered minimalist tomato sauce, to offset what tripe does to a sauce, and Grigson’s French dish, Tripe de Gourin aux pruneaux, baked for hours with a bucket of shallots, carrots, prunes, thyme and butter, one of God’s gifts to the world. Yum. O.

Good Things, for its adventurous but unpretentious palate, its arrangement by chapters of Grigson’s favorite ingredients — Prunes, Carrots, Celery — is, I think I am now after 30 years prepared to assert, the best cook book of all time. A protege of Elizabeth David, who revolutionized British cooking in the early 1950s, when food was still rationed, Grigson was also a translator and the wife of the poet Geoffrey Grigson.

Jane Grigson, with the publication of English Food in 1974 set off the heirloom growers, locavore movement in Britain. In one of my favorite blogs, Neil Cooks Grigson, a young PhD. postgrad is doughtily cooking his way through English Food.

Jane Grigson, food hero.

But there are few sustained contemplations of pork neck bones. Not precisely offal but deeply inspiring and very cheap. Googling, I find mostly Kentucky mountain folks longing for home with their recipes for pork neck bones and poke sallit. Delicious, I have no doubt. In her early and authoritative The Art of Charcuterie, Grigson has a whole chapter called “Extremities”, with at least three recipes apiece for ears, tails, brains, tongues, heads, and feets of pork. But no neck bones.

But me, I am thinking, come fall and cooler weather, of browning them in the oven. Then making a Shanghai beef noodle flavor broth, with wine, soy sauce, star anise, fresh  ginger, scallions, orange peel. Then strain, defatten, pick off the meat, and serving boiling hot over cooked noodles, sliced kielbasa, cilantro, scallions, sizzled brown garlic slices, garnished with those outrageous pickled mustard greens. Bones to the dog nieces next door, Olivia and Maisie.

http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Pickled-Mustard-Greens

Mmmm hmmm. Mmmm hmmm.

I love grits with a blind passion, and have hacked and simplified a couple of recipes to come up with this delicious dish.

First, grill eight sweet peppers, red and yellow. Follow the directions in this recipe. Too hot to click the link? Preheat oven to 400. Core and halve eight peppers. Put them cut side down on a baking tray. Put them in the oven until the skins are well blistered, about 40 minutes. Let them cool. Julienne them. All those crazy people who insist the only way to roast a pepper is by holding it over a flame with tongs? And then skin them? Buh-bye. Skins is good for you.

Make four or more servings of grits following the directions on the back of the package of the five-minute quick kind, not instant. Omit the water and the salt. Use milk and a chicken bouillion cube instead. Stir constantly. When done, add two or three cups of grated smoked Gouda cheese. Stir and pour it into a serving dish. Or do it their way.

Serve it with half a cup of the pepper julienne on top of each portion, cold sliced meat, green salad and peach pah. Or just sliced peaches and blueberries, really, really, really cold, and tossed with a touch of peach jam.

Not exactly a cuisine dolce far niente candidate, but hacked sufficiently from its origins in onerous recipes to be headed that way. Irresistible enough to make you turn on the stove.

I am all about a new profit model and  System D. My father was a big Green, and I grew up composting and recycling and worrying about the archipelagoes of pellets floating on the surface of the Atlantic, which he started talking about  in the 1950s, composed of shit and petroleum emulsified with detergent.

Me, my father, and the ocean. Puerto Rico, ca. 1950.

I am still researching the piece on Edward Espe Brown as the most influential cook of the 20th century. I am encouraged by my research into the source of his recipes — forensic evidence noone else has — that research into the ripoff use of his recipes by Waters, Tower, Katzen and Batali will reveal similar unarguable lines of descent, Waters being the alleged most influential chef of the 20th century, Tower being her main early influence and employee, Katzen being the east coast hippie chef who now serves on Harvard nutrition panels, and Batali the current rage of Manhattan chefs. Like Brown’s,  Katzen’s hippie chef/vegetarian books were and are massive best-sellers. Unlike Brown, she did not sign all her profits over to the Moosewood collective. (Maybe she did. I have to check that out. I bet she didn’t.)

Always been a foodie, worked in a restaurant for a couple of years, avid reader of a wide range of cookbooks. With EEB, I’m getting to the place where it’s all porn and what I eat is simpler. Last night I had cantalope, smoked local Tucumcari Gouda, artisanal sourdough and Costco butter for dinner. (Got to check that out and go for the humane butter.)

So I was very interested to see people I suspect of the punk, straighter edge, food distribution, Gen X Gordon Edgar  and Rainbow Grocery ilk, pace old hippies, featured in the NYT piece on small farmers. Some of them are now former migrant workers who have been taught organic microfarming by awesome organizations like Viva Farms. http://www.vivafarms.org/p/our-farmers.html

And some of them are Lena Dunham dead-end urban job Gen Z refugees, living in an RV without internets and television, doting upon the doggie their rural setting now permits them to keep. They’re 25 and they met in college.

Jenny and Alex Smith, Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times.

They remind me a lot of the permaculture hustlers blog of young Australians I read. They make a living by inviting people to come and learn permaculture on their farm — while paying to farm it.
http://milkwood.net/

Planting freedom is a burgeoning idea, and not just at Viva Farms, which seems to be specializing in training former migrant workers. Black Americans returning to the south and planting Juneteenth emancipation gardens is one thread. Another is the discovery, preservation, and promulgation of nearly waterless vegetable crops and techniques, like pre-Colombian water catchment structures, developed by Native Americans in the southwest and sold as Noah’s ark crops, standing tall and dry against genetically engineered, faraway, water rights war-inspiring, unsustainable agribusiness.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/14/garden/juneteenth-gardens-planting-the-seeds-of-survival.html?pagewanted=all
http://www.nativeseeds.org/

I keep wondering if I plant the Tohono O’odham garden, will they prosper? I did plant their melons this year and await them with pleasure.
https://nativeseeds.org/index.php/store/992/2/seeds/seed-buckets-and-collections/sc003/P-tohono-oodham-seed-collection
http://www.tonation-nsn.gov/

On the EEB research, one of the key pieces of the puzzle is Sibella Kraus, Alice Waters’ first forager, who was a line cook at Chez Panisse and went on to study agricultural economics and become a food activist.

This is one of the punk, System D, locavore jobs of the future. My father spent his life teaching sustainable fish farming in the Third World. Now it comes down to doing the same in the New World.

Spring cleaning menu #2:

Barley Salad
Not beautiful, but neither would you be if buried in a glacier for 10,000 years.

Part of spring cleaning is to eat everything in the freezer and the cupboards. Yesterday we had corn pudding and cluster beans amandine with Ötzi upside down cake.

Today, barley.

Barley is the mother of all stodge. Cut it with a very bright citrus vinaigrette and lots and lots of well-caramelized sauteed mushrooms.

Barley salad, with mushrooms, leeks, kale and an orange-lemon vinaigrette

1 c unhulled barley
2 c boiling water, with a vegetarian bouillion cube
1 T butter (or olive oil, for salad)
(1 hour, plus up to 30 mins in 375 oven, tightly covered. After one hour, keep checking it and tasting it until all the liquid is absorbed and the kernels are tender.)

Vinaigrette

1/3 c orange and lemon juice, plus zest of one orange (one orange, 1 1/2 lemons)
Hot sauce, a sufficiency
Whisk in 2/3 c olive oil, saving some 4 T for sauteeing veg
Plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad

8 oz Crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (next time I will do 1 lb.)
2 leeks, washed and sliced
Saute, stirring, in hot reserved oil until mushrooms have given up their juices and the juice has reduced away so the mushrooms can brown, and add to the large bowl into which you have put

8 oz. kale, ribs removed, rolled into cigars and cut into 1/4 inch slices (chiffonade)
Boiled for 10 or so minutes, drained well and all water pressed out.

Add the vinaigrette and the hot barley to the cooked veg, s + p, toss. Serve at cool room temp.

This is a riff on Alton Brown’s adventures in barley.
www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/baked-barley-reci…
www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/barley-salad-reci…

And this stew from Bon Appetit which sounds kind of dreary:
www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Barley-Stew-with-Le…

(c) 2012, Jeannette Smyth. All rights reserved.

Why I could never get black beans to taste like they do in Cuban restaurants was another mystery of life. I thought water and beans, no salt until they’re cooked, or maybe even broth and beans, was enough.

I was weaned in Puerto Rico on cafe con leche and rice and beans, you comprehend, so this is a matter of real just-post-mommy-comfort-food, if not precisely the iconic red kidney beans and rice I was fed, along with all the other Puerto Rican babies, when the time came to let my mother off the hook. I had vainly searched, at least since the 1970s, for a cookbook of Caribbean food. You understand that none exists which could evoke the latitude of my first memory, which is of lying in my mother’s arms in the rocking chair in San Juan, looking out the window, seeing the billions of stars twinkling robustly, and thinking that the robust throbbing tones of the tree frogs was the sound the stars made. Proust asserts, I suppose, that there is such a cookbook, and all the Cambodians I know spent the genocide years, when they had as little as a half a cup of rice a day to eat, sitting around the campfire discussing pork stir-fried with garlic and lotus root.

Me, on the beach, in San Juan.

I have the 1970 Time-Life Foods of the World Caribbean cookbook, and can remember the disappointment with which I regarded, for example, the two-page spread of the Jamaican chef Lucille Tyson making a piece montee out of pumpkin, shrimp, and coconut milk in a chapter called “Tourism: Mother of Culinary Invention”. She is photographed making Cinderella’s coach and coachmen out of a pumpkin and some shrimp, for which she won a big prize.

Ms. Lucille Tyson

Then there was — I recall this was a feature of a lot of Michael Field’s/Time Life’s approach to cooking, French technique and the Gentleman Gourmet’s addition of vodka to every possible dish — like 20 pages of rum drinks. Got it. Then there was the essentially dreary slave flavor of things like breadfruit vichyssoise vs. memories of badly butchered curried goat. I’m sure breadfruit vichyssoise is delicious and it’s what you’d do if you had breadfruit to eat every day of the year. Maybe.

The Foods of the Caribbean Islands

Then I discovered Steven Raichlen’s Miami Spice. First of all, he loves south Florida and eats everywhere, from Little Haiti in Miami, down the Keys. He, unlike Time Life, does genuine grassroots cooking anthropology. He asks for recipes when someone else has done a good job, instead of applying culinary-ass school principles to delicious poor white and poor black people food.

He rejiggers the traditional recipes so that they taste good, and not depressing. A lot of grassroots Caribbean cookbooks are of the stone soup genre, which would be valuable were I to live there and cook foraged food over a brazier made out of an old oil can. I did that for a year after the weaning, on a boat with my parents. Another early memory is looking down upon my mother through the hatch, watching her cook sausages over a Primus stove. No fish caught that day, I guess.

Then, while providing real insight into and technique for the soul food stuff, Raichlen takes those amazing flavors — as well as the Florida cracker cuisine to which I am devoted — to a logical upscale conclusion, like baby back ribs with guava barbecue sauce or swamp cabbage (hearts of palm to you, Yankee carpet bagger) with pancetta and cream. How is this different from breadfruit vichyssoise, less horribly colonial, less depressing working for the Yankee dollar? Because it’s about the breadfruit, and not about the vichyssoise.

I’m just swooning right now over his grits with tomato gravy recipe to go with fried fish. Mmmmm. Shrimps and smokies: U-peel recipe from the Mucky Duck on Captiva Island. Poached in beer with kielbasa and coriander is classic cracker James Lee Burke boat captain fare. Those ole boys kin cook.

It’s exactly how I want to eat this stuff, and I finally realized why my black beans — and nor Michael Field’s or any Cuban cookbooks’ — don’t taste right. This is your method. Please note how he addresses, without fanfare, many of the mysteries of bean cookery. How much soaking water, and do you cook them in it? Ditto cooking water and how, for soupy beans, they should be submerged. Ditto add no salt until the end of cooking, while other flavorings are applied, and freshly reapplied at the end, during the cooking.

I have had fascists of the newly-converted-to-soul-food school of cooking tell me only white people add any seasoning to beans before the end of cooking, on the same principle as no salt until the end (it makes them impossible to soften). SNAP. 

This is an essay on cooking beans, erudition lightly worn and obviously learned from traditional cooks. The pinch of sugar at the end, for example, brings out the sweetness of the vegetables you boiled with the beans and removed, as supermarketty and home-withered in the refri as they were. Raichlen credits all kinds of cooks throughout.

Steven Raichlen’s New Florida Cuisine Soupy Black Beans
1 lb. dried black beans, washed and picked
1 small onion, cut in half
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
About 1 t cumin
About 1 t dried oregano

SOFRITO:
2 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch slivers (optional)
1 T olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, finely chopped
3 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped

SEASONINGS
2 T dry white wine
1 T red wine vinegar, or to taste (<——- this is the essential key, along with bell pepper, cumin, oregano)
1/2 t sugar
(dits!)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. In a large heavy pot, soak the beans in cold water to cover by at least 3 inches for no less than 4 hours, or overnight. (If omitting this step, add about 1 hour to the cooking time.)

2. Add the halved onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, bell pepper, cumin and oregano to the pot of beans and soaking water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface.

3. Reduce the heat, cover, and gently simmer the beans, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Add water as necessary to keep the beans submerged. Remove the onion, garlic, bayleaves and bell pepper with a slotted spoon and discard.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the sofrito. If using bacon, brown it in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Pour off the fat.

5. Add the olive oil and the remaining sofrito ingredients. (If not using bacon, heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the sofrito ingredients, and continue with the recipe.) Cook over medium heat until just beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Stir the sofrito into the beans along with the wine, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and continue simmering the beans, until very soft, about 20 minutes.

6. Just before serving, correct the seasonings, adding salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, or vinegar. The mixture should be highly seasoned. Spoon the soupy black beans over rice.

 

(c) Jeannette Smyth, all rights reserved.


Once upon a time, when I was running away from home, I worked as a kitchen wench for some rich hippies who ran a hotel restaurant, and also an organic farm. The restaurant served their meat. They were incredibly sanctimonious about “whole animal” cooking. I spent a lot of time making pates and charcuterie. All my sausage recipes are spattered with — mmmm. Let’s just call it sausage. There’s nothing I don’t know about rinsing chitlins and sliding them on to the sausage funnel. I once spent three days re-inventing the hot dog. It was delicious, and, including my labor, worth about $59.00 a pound. The secret is cardamom and pork liver.

What their “whole animal” philosophy did not include was tripe. Which is a shame. Because, as you know, what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, what makes the Latino salsa so smoothly, without any movement from the waist up, what makes the French peasant the wiriest little fucker on the planet who will whup the ass of any and all Eurocrats, past, present, and future, is tripe.

Haggis.

Menudo.

Tripes a la mode de Caen.

One of the great things about Macondo is the supermercado, where I recently bought nearly three pounds of honeycomb tripe for $6.75. One of the things about cutting up meat in a restaurant kitchen is that every meat cutter hits a wall, whereby the living animal whose meat you’re mincing reproaches you and makes you consider veganism for real. Sometimes the animal actually is living, like crabs and lobsters, and sometimes his entire body is all too apprehensible, like chickens and rabbits. There are things each meat cutter simply cannot bring himself to do. I made a swap with my buddy. I’d cut up the rabbits if he’d skin the eels. Each out of sight of the other. Then there was James the baker, to whom we all had to suck up because there was only one powerful Hobart kitchen mixer, complete with meat grinding attachment, and James had full control of it for pastry from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. There could be no “whole animal” meat cutting until after 3 p.m., by which time you were half dead from the lunch service. Long story short, you got a lot of sausage meat squirted in your eye, since the meat grinder was high above the mixing bowl, at eye level.

You attach the sausage funnel to the black valve, top left.

As much fun as that was, they bought their “sausage casings” already salted and coiled in plastic tubs, and were complete dilettantes about the “whole animal” concept. There would be no andouilletes, the French sausage which is basically chitlin’-stuffed chitlin’s, and very fine it is. Nor haggis, which is oatmeal-stuffed tripe braised and sliced. Nor menudo, which is finely chopped tripe braised with calf’s foot, chile ancho and hominy. Nor a la mode de Caen, which is oven braised for eight hours in a special small-mouthed marmite, with carrots, thyme and a touch of apple brandy. Larousse has fourteen recipes for tripe, which shows you just how wiry the French are. As for the seven recipes for lamb animelles, well, stone soup doesn’t even begin to tell the story. My mother used to make special trips to the Florida Avenue Grill, the venerable Howard University diner, for what they were calling “creamed eggs”. And ‘licious they were.

So, mindful of the coming depression, I am dusting off my offal recipes. There are three great ones for tripe. I am cooking, as we speak, a large pot of Paul Bertolli’s Italian granny tomato garlic tripe. The rest I cut up into tiny cubes for Philadelphia pepper pot soup, and if there’s enough left over, for Jane Grigson’s awesome long-simmered tripe, carrots, shallots and prunes,  tripe de Gourin aux pruneaux. This is from Good Things, which I decided the other day, in thinking of the best cookbook of all time to give a starting cook, is the best cookbook of all time. For no showing-off food, for homecooking which juxtaposes in ways new to me humble ingredients like walnuts and onions (Burgundian bread) and carrots and prunes (the aforementioned tripe), for solid technique, scholarship, fabulous palate and real working woman conviviality, nobody is better than Jane. And, you don’t have to eat the tripe. She has heavenly recipes for celery, too.

I also want to look at Jocasta Innes’ Pauper’s Cookbook and see what kind of offal she’s got cooking (tongue, brains, heart, head, oxtail, liver, kidney). Fergus Henderson, so very chic, is a “whole animal” sanctimone, who has got some great recipes for brains, sweetbreads, spleen, blood, a serious effin’ haggis, but pales, as so many of these meat-eatin’, bone-crackin’, marrow-suckin’ macho men do, at the merest whisper of ears, tails and….shhhhhh.

Brains is the one I can’t do. Ha ha.
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