Tuesday, January 24, 2012


If you, like me, are a huge fan of Northwest seafood, you should definitely try this recipe. Even if you're just a fan of seafood in general, and don't live in the Northwest, you should give it a shot! It is from the Momofuku cookbook- a book that I have tried a few recipes from, and each has been perfect in every way.

The pork buns, which no-one should eat on a regular basis, are especially delicious in a sweet-salty-umami-porky way. In spite of knowing that the buns are made with lard, I eat at least three whenever the occasion arises. As you all know, I live near Seattle; far, far away from any Momofuku outpost, so the only occasion I get is when I make them myself!

But that, my children, is a different story for a different day: today we eat mussels. Like oysters, they seem to be in their prime when the water is coldest. I bought some gorgeous ones from Metropolitan Market this afternoon out of Penn Cove. Luscious! The shells were perfect, and though some of the meats were a bit on the small side, they were absolutely worth every penny. Minterbrook Oyster Company also carries fabulous mussels if you happen to be out that way.

Pan-Roasted Mussels with Denjang and Sake

yield: 4 servings
1/3 cup denjang, or shiro (white) miso
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
2 Tbs. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbs. sliced scallions (greens and whites)
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3-4 lbs. mussels
1/4 c. grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 c. dry sake
Clean the mussels: Put them in a large bowl of cold water and let them sit for a few minutes to purge any grit, then scrub their shells clean of debris, and pull off the ‘beards’ using a motion that drags the beard down towards the hinge, not up towards the opening. This keeps the creature alive longer- pulling upwards dislodges their stomach and they die instantly. Mix together the denjang/miso, sherry vinegar, ginger, sliced scallions, and garlic cloves in a small bowl. Set aside.
Pour the oil into a deep wide pot with a lid that will later comfortable accommodate all the mussels, and set over high heat. After a minute or so, when the oil is hot but not smoking, add the mussels. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add the sake. Cover the pot and steam the mussels until they’ve all opened, about 4 minutes.
Remove the lid from the pot, scoot all the mussels to one side, and add the denjang mixture to the liquid in the bottom of the pot. Stir to incorporate it, which should happen rather quickly, then toss the mussels to coat them with the sauce and pan juices.
Using a large spoon, transfer the mussels to four deep bowls. Discard any mussels that did not open. Pour the broth-sauce from the pot over the mussels, and garnish each portion with a heavy dose of black pepper and some of the julienned scallions. Serve at once- alone or with steamed rice.

Monday, January 23, 2012

This Weekend's Dinner Party

For a wonderful client:

Ham and Swiss "Sandwiches"

Warm Blini with Eggplant "Caviar" and Roasted Peppers 

Golden Beet Salad with Dill and Frisee

Seared Wild American Prawns with Braised Fennel, Endive, and Orange 

Painted Hills Beef Tenderloin with Potato Pave, Local Chard, and Red Wine "Tar"

Dessert Duo:
Lemon Cream, Torched Meringue, and Lemon Shortbread
Chocolate Ganache Tart, Caramel, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Roasted Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce

I have a long-standing relationship with eggplant.  Until I was well into my 20's, I wouldn't get near the stuff.  All I could associate with it was overcooked slimy-ness and breaded slices from my grandmother's freezer that were always bitter.  As I started cooking more and tried new applications for it, I discovered that I really enjoy eggplant.  That being said, I am still picky about the preparation, and am rather sensitive to the bitterness that can sometimes be overwhelming to the other flavors.  Fortunately for all of us, most of the bitterness has been bred out of eggplant, and good technique partnered with flavorful sauces takes care of the rest.  We've even come across a couple of varieties of Japanese eggplant that produce an incredible amount of fruit, even in the northwest.  I can't wait to try this recipe with eggplant straight from the garden!  Right, the eight inches of snow and the sheet of ice covering the entire Puget Sound region will have to melt first...  

The following recipe is a new favorite of mine.  It is simultaneously luxurious and lean, rich and tangy, earthy and bright.  Oh, and fruity from the pomegranate.  Sounds kind of weird now that I think about it...  This is from the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi.  I'm sure I've posted recipes from it in the past, the author is a contributor to British and US newspapers, and his book was a huge hit last year, so you've probably heard of him! 

Roasted Eggplant With Buttermilk Sauce
yield: four servings
  • large and long eggplants
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon thyme leaves (regular thyme is ok), plus a few whole sprigs to garnish
  • Maldon sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 teaspoon za'atar


  • 9 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus a drizzle to finish
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, cutting straight through the green stalk (the stalk is for the look; don't eat it). Use a small sharp knife to make three or four parallel incisions in the cut side of each eggplant half, without cutting through to the skin. Repeat at a 45-degree angle to get a diamond-shaped pattern.
Place the eggplant halves, cut-side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with olive oil and keep on brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed by the flesh. Sprinkle with the lemon thyme leaves and some salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, at which point the flesh should be soft, flavorful, and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
While the eggplants are in the oven, cut the pomegranate into two horizontally. Hold one half over a bowl, with the cut side against your palm, and use the back of a wooden spoon or a rolling pin to gently knock on the pomegranate skin. Continue beating with increasing power until the seeds start coming out naturally and falling through your fingers into the bowl. Once all are there, sift through the seeds and remove any bits of white skin or membrane.

To make the sauce, whisk together all of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, then keep cold until needed.

To serve, spoon plenty of buttermilk sauce over the eggplant halves without covering the stalks. Sprinkle za'atar and plenty of pomegranate seeds on top and garnish with lemon thyme. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bibimbap: Korean Deliciousness

The thing I love most about bibimbap is that there are only two constants: steamed rice and gochujang.  The name translates as "mixed meal" or "mixed rice" (depending on who you ask), and that's exactly what it is.  Essentially, the dish is a bowl of rice topped with a variety of separately cooked vegetables seasoned with soy sauce and sesame oil, whatever protein suits you - often bulgogi or grilled chicken, a fried egg with a runny yolk or just a raw yolk, and some rich tangy sauce to tie everything together.  Recipes always include the rice and sauce, but the rest is left up to interpretation.    

First, let's address the rice: it's super important so we might as well get it out of the way now.  Make sure to use a medium grain rice or rice mixture.  You can use brown or white rice, though white is the most traditional.  The reason for using medium grain rice is the texture; it's a bit tacky after cooking and holds up to all of the garnishes you place on top.  Allow about 1/3 cup of dry rice per person.

Next, the garnishes!  You can use any vegetables you have laying around; raw shredded carrots, raw or sauteed bean sprouts, some sauteed or steamed greens (spinach and bok choy are good options), steamed broccoli, and sauteed zucchini are all common and tasty.  After steaming or sauteing, I like to drizzle a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce over the veggies to give them a bit of flavor.  As far as protein goes, beef and chicken are the most typical.  They are usually marinated, thinly sliced, in a sesame-soy-garlic-ginger mixture and then grilled over hot coals.  You could also apply this treatment to firm tofu or seafood if you were so inclined.  A sunny side up fried egg, or a raw yolk, is a necessity- the runny yolk makes a fabulous sauce when mixed with the gochujang condiment

Gochujang Condimentmakes about 1/4 cup

1 tablespoon Korean red pepper paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Once you have all of the components cooked and ready, it's time to plate.  You have three options here- you can serve it chilled, you can serve it hot, or you can serve it hot in a pre-heated stone bowl, which will crisp the rice wherever it touches the stone.  The last is called dolsot bibimbap, and is my favorite.  So far I've only had it in restaurants; I ought to invest in some stone bowls...

To assemble, place a mound of rice in each bowl, arranging the meat and each type of vegetable like the spokes of a wheel.  Choose one or two vegetables to sprinkle decoratively with sesame seeds.  Top with a fried egg/yolk and about a tablespoon of the condiment.  After arranging everything so beautifully, serve each person and allow them to mix everything together before digging in!

**this meal can be adapted to just about any dietary restriction, so it's great for dinner parties where you have guests with preferences 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Regarding Gnocchi

I just want to say three things:
1. When made correctly, gnocchi are awesome
2. When made poorly, gnocchi are ghastly
3. Gnocchi are generally not photogenic

So, I am going to share with you my favorite gnocchi recipe and provide a stock photo, because it's much better than the photos we took. The recipe is adapted from Daniel Boulud and Alex Lee. It's
delicious, easy, and good with just about any sauce.
Most recently, I used this recipe to make plain gnocchi, and then after boiling, I transferred them to a baking dish with cubes of roasted caramelized butternut squash, shallots, parsnips and carrots, and about 1 cup of left-over cooked farro berries. I drizzled cream mixed with a bit of dijon mustard over, and then topped with some grated
Gruyere. After baking until browned and bubbly, it was a delicious meal, perfect for the darkest days of winter. Lots of textures and flavors, lots of veggies, and lots of comfort.

yield: 4 servings

1 1-pound russet potato

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    Preheat oven to 450°F. Pierce potato in several places with fork. Bake until tender, about 1 hour. Let stand until just cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Peel potato. Press potato through ricer or food mill or mash in large bowl. Add flour, egg, lemon peel, and salt, and stir just until blended. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; divide into 4 pieces. Roll 1 dough piece between hands and surface to 15-inch-long rope. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)

    Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add gnocchi and cook until rising to surface, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking 1 minute longer. Drain.

    ***To yield tender gnocchi, you must resist the urge to knead the dough; it will be a little tacky, just use a well-floured surface to roll the dough out and keep it from sticking. If you overwork the dough, you will develop too much gluten and the gnocchi will be tough.

***You can find the original recipe on Epicurious with an accompanying sauce of chicken livers, pancetta, and porcini mushrooms