Monday, May 30, 2011

Sometimes, I forget how much I love pie...

..and then a little bit of rhubarb and a few strawberries make their way into my hands, and before I know it, this glory has happened...!
I was inspired by a recent Wall Street Journal post.  I liked the addition of allspice, bitters, and orange zest to the filling.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spicy Eggplant

This is one of my favorite recipes, and it's good even if you don't make it spicy.  It's originally from the book "The Food of India: A Journey for Food Lovers."  I think the book is a good introduction for Indian food beginners, it was my first Indian cookbook, and I have had good luck with most of the recipes.  This one is super and makes the whole book worth while.

Spicy Eggplant
yield: six servings

14 ounces ripe diced tomatoes (peeled and seeded if fresh)
1" of ginger, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, crushed

Fry to brown in oil then reserve:
1 3/4 # Japanese or Indian eggplants, cut into 2" section

Have ready:
1 t fennel seeds
1/2 t kalonji (nigella) seeds
1 T ground coriander
1/4 t turmeric
1/2 t cayenne

In a deep frying pan, heat a light film of oil until it begins to shimmer.  Add the fennel and kalonji, allowing them to pop for a few seconds.  Add the tomato mixture and the remaining spices.  Be careful, it will spatter!  Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently then add the eggplant.  Cover and simmer for about ten minutes, until the eggplant is fully cooked.  Season with salt as desired.  At this point, it is ready to serve, or can be held in the refrigerator for two days.  It does get better with time!   

Monday, May 2, 2011

Shucking for Dummies

I came across some lovely oysters this afternoon at Metropolitan Market and decided to splurge since it's the end of prime oyster season.  Even though the rule about only eating raw oysters during months with an "R" in them (i.e. absolutely in September but not in June), doesn't always hold true, the texture of the oysters is generally superior during the cooler months.  Some varieties like Kumamoto are lovely in the summertime as well, but unless I'm cooking them, I tend to enjoy these bivalves during the cooler months.

No matter where I am, I like to seek out local varieties and producers.  Being a West coast girl, I am very fortunate to have many fantastic options.  In Washington, I look for Hama Hamas, Kumamotos, and Olympia oysters.  In California, anything from Hog Island Oyster Company is great (but especially the sweetwaters when toted to the beach and eaten while watching the sunset...).  The above mentioned kinds are perfect for eating raw.  If you're going to cook them, go for a medium sized Pacific oyster of good quality- you don't have to be too specific since you won't be able to taste the subtle nuances through all the bacon you're going to put on top...

Now, on to the technical part:

Fold a towel as shown above, creating a bolster to hold the oyster at a perfect shucking angle while leaving enough towel for you to protect your hand with while holding the shell.

Place the oyster in the towel with the flatter shell on top.  You want the hinge exposed and the more curved half to hold all of the liquor inside the shell.

Next, work the very tip of your oyster knife into the hinge, trying not to flake any bits of the shell (these will inevitably end up in the part you want to eat...).  Make sure to use an oyster knife.  Really.  Not a screwdriver.  Not a butter knife.  And certainly not a regular kitchen knife.

Once you've got the knife into the hinge, twist gently until the shell pops open.  You will hear when the seal gives way, kind of like a champagne bottle (any coincidence that champagne goes perfectly with oysters??).  As you lift the top shell, you will need to run your knife along the side to cut the adductor muscle, and then the shell will open.

Remove the top shell and enjoy the view.

You then need to very gently slide the knife under the other side of the adductor (it looks like a little scallop inside the the way, the part you eat of the scallop is actually an oversized adductor muscle).  Now the oyster is free of it's shell and you can eat it as is or carry on with a topping and some heat.

You know which path I chose.