Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pork and beans

I browned up a slab of ribs, then added carrot, celery root and onion to caramelize. After that dried porcini, star anise, vietnamese five spice, wakame, ume and balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, parsley sprigs, black pepper, cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, and a little honey followed by water to cover. Cooked low for a couple hours while lima beans cooked with the remaining fennel and roots from the roast chicken a few nights back. Removed the meat (falling off the bone) and strained the liquid. Reduced the liquid a bit and served meat on bean mixture with a ladle of liquid over all. Finished with the alder smoked salt for a hint of barbecue. Rich, delicate, complex, and yummy. The earthy beans and roots tied to the slightly sweet pork via the fennel/star anise connection and the other notes harmonized well. There's about a pint of the cooking liquid left to play with next time (unsalted, it can be reduced as much as needed), and a little bit of the root/bean mix.

Opened a Thackrey sangiovese from 2000 or 2001- the year they didn't get capsules or labels. A good match, but the delicacy and slight Asian leaning of the dish might have worked better with a funky Rhône or maybe a Cannonau from Sardegna.

This dish is a variation on the "Pork and peas" I made for a dinner party a couple of years ago, where the meat was similar, but cooked twice as long in the oven at 220˙ instead of just low on the stove like tonight. Instead of the roots/beans, I had made some split pea soup the day before with chorizo and duck broth, then strained and chilled it in a low container so it gelled. Brought to room temperature, cut into cubes, it was tender yet held the shape. Meat went on one side, and fresh peas in a pea shoot purée went on the other. The smoky rich soup connected the deeply rich ribs to the bright spring pea flavors. This was a good one.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Hawaii memoir

I've been on a tear lately in the studio, so the cooking has been simpler as I spend less time on it. To spare you endless variations on rice & beans, etc., here's a transcription of the meals we made on a trip to the big island in December of 2002 with some friends. I'm leaving a few things out, but it was the best eating over a prolonged period any of us had done before or since due to the incredible ingredients, company, location, and time available to make it all.

Night 1
(on the Puna side; we had spent a few days on the Kona side first where we ate out more. The one great meal was actually the best tuna sandwiches of all time made with leftover grilled rare Ahi, homemade tahitian lime/ume plum/wasabi mayonnaise eaten on an incredible beach.):

Sashimi block marinated in shoyu & sake, seared one side, with jalapeño and reduced marinade mixed with ginger/garlic/kombu/lemongrass broth

Ahi Toro in a similar marinade but grilled low until well done (dubbed "bacon of the sea" by John)

Lotus root chips with poke and papaya salsa

Grilled Japanese eggplant

Salad and brown rice

Dessert was a lilikoi canten I made with kuzu starch (I was thinking more flan but overdid the starch so it was more like a gummy bear) and overripe breadfruit fried until crisp.

Day 2:

Brunch was fried rice with poke, eggplant, salsa and random leftovers mixed in, plus eggs and ahi with a sort of tropical tzaziki (yogurt, garlic, wasabi.)


The broth from night 1 had lime leaves, white & yellow miso, sake, tamari, lima beans, mustard greens, tangerine slices, and the cooking water from some edamame added to it. Served over soba with scallions & cilantro, I can say it didn't taste like anything ever made on Earth. Damn good.

Another avo/papaya salad/salsa on lotus chips with poke but this time with pickled jicama (overnight in the fridge in sake and rice, ume, and balsamic vinegar plus jalapeño, garlic, onion and cilantro

More Ahi toro because it was so damn good

Taro purée

Ahi steaks marinated in mustard & fenugreek seeds, sesame oil, ginger, tahitian lime zest, sake, lime juice, black pepper, red salt, and red wine (pay attention to this marinade, because it lasted for days...)


Day 3

Ahi "football" cooked over fire wrapped in ti leaves

Carl's pumpkin curry and rice


Day 4

Lunch was taro, soba, and ahi plus leftover broth mashed up and fried as patties served on tamari grilled bread with avo, kimchee, and pickled onions


The remaining taro/ahi paste mixed with egg and breadcrumbs and cooked like meatballs in an arrabiata sauce over spaghetti

Red snapper cooked over guava wood fire wrapped in ti leaves with that sauce from before plus white wine reduced and finished with butter for the fish sauce

Day 5


Brown rice with fresh turmeric mixed with black beans slow-cooked with garlic, onion, and kombu

Edamame cooked over the guava wood outside (the BEST edamame by far we'd ever had; the smoke flavor got into the beans)

And the sauce finally went down in glory sautéed over the fire with octopus poke and kimchee, finished with yogurt and parsley, and served on tamari grilled bread as crostini. Indescribably complex, funky, and amazing

Day 6

Ono on the grill basted with sake, wine, oil, tamari and herbs

Taro and blue sweet potato purée, cooked in coconut water

Seared ahi with serrano chile

Fat taro slices pressure cooked in coconut water/sea water, liquid plus sake reduced to gravy

Ahi tartare with tangerine juice, serrano & thai chiles served on lotus root chips garnished with ikura and grated barbecued coconut

Baby bok choy and gai lan steamed with ginger & garlic

We did the breadfruit thing again, but this one was even riper so while the outside was crispy, the inside tasted like fried vanilla pudding. Unbelievable.

Day 7

We went to the volcano, and cooked ahi in sake with ginger and turmeric right on top of the hot lava; the top had formed a crust, but through the cracks you could see the glow of 2000 degree liquid rushing by. We also made a pot of tea:

In the first picture you can see the faint orange glow (without the camera flash it was very bright; there are a bunch of the lava pics on my website on the photo page.)

Roast chicken

Nothing fancy, but in the pan along with the cumin/cinnamon/smoked salt crusted bird went quartered fennel, a quartered lemon, onion, whole garlic cloves, parsnip and jerusalem artichoke. The veggies browned and softened perfectly and I deglazed the pan with a little balsamic and a little ume vinegar mixed with the juices post-carving.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sweet potato pizza

There's a pizza place in Rome, right on Largo Argentina, with no charm at all, that makes a potato pizza with truffle butter which must be tasted to be believed.

So tonight the mandoline I got for my birthday came in handy for slicing sweet potato nice and thin. Brushed with good olive oil and overlapped on thinly rolled dough, then topped with a layer of equally thin onion, celtic salt, pepper, fresh rosemary from the tenacious plant still hanging on in the dining room, and a drizzle of truffle oil. Crispy, chewy, sweet, salty, earthy, and awesome. Steamed kale with cider vinegar on the side. Another Siduri 2004 pinot got fatter and rounder as the evening progressed.

I made some ratatouille again, with some variations, a few nights ago, and the next night I puréed the leftovers plus a handful of pine nuts. Steamed half a butternut squash, puréed, added 2 eggs and some flour, and cooked it into crêpes. Rolled the eggplant filling into the squash crêpes and baked with a simple tomato sauce on top like cannelloni. We had a few rinds left over from cheese bought for a cocktail party, and I grated that on top to finish. We had it with the 2004 Las Rocas old vine grenache which for the money is mighty yummy.

The remaining filling became little fritters for Milo. (He loved them.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dinner party

A couple of good friends came over, so we had a fancy 3-course dinner:

1. Puréed soup of roasted Kabocha and yellow beet with 1998 Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne

2. Shiitake risotto with Carciofi alla Romana (Roman style artichokes) and poached quail eggs with Thackrey's Pleiades XII

3. Pan-roasted duck breast on burdock-parsnip purée with pomegranate-tamarind-blood orange reduction with the 2001 Carver Sutro Petite Sirah

Our one vegetarian guest had patties made from mung beans and red quinoa mixed with a bit of flour, grated parmesan, and smoked salt fried up crisp over the same root purée.

Dessert was a very dense and yummy chocolate cake from Balducci's with my kumquat marmalade which goes so well with chocolate.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Land sushi

Wonderful organic tenderloin, rubbed with pepper and truffle salt, seared up and sliced over brown rice cooked with leftover burdock and brussels sprouts. A pan sauce of zin dregs, soy sauce, rice vinegar and a splash of ponzu. Crusty on the outside and totally raw in the middle. A side of leeks and pine nuts caramelized in olive oil and a bit of butter.

This preceeded a wine and cheese hang in the studio which involved a 2000 Thackrey sangiovese and a 1999 d'Arenberg Dead Arm, both of which are drinking beautifully right now; in their own ways, they represent the closest the New World has come to the funky terroir of Europe.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Stuffed peppers, etc.

Got a bit of perfect wild Alaskan salmon and ate half of it sashimi style with just nama shoyu, then cut the rest into cubes and added capers, lemon, parsley, onion, and oil to make a tartare. Let it sit for half an hour to marry the flavors and served it with a raw quail egg on top.

Then some ground lamb went in a bowl with choppped Kalamata olives, cumin, cinnamon, lemon juice, a splash of wine, (2002 Highlands zinfandel) garlic, herbs, smoked salt, and pepper. Stuffed it into more of those beautiful yellow peppers I bought the other day and baked them, surrounded by halved, cored brussels sprouts in the last of the chicken broth, for an hour. The center of the meat was just rare, and the whole thing was super juicy from the broth and the peppers.

The moroccan (cumin, cinnamon, lemon) flavors are frequent themes here, but damn if they aren't tasty and super wine-friendly.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Normally we try to eat vegetables which are in season and local, but this time I had a craving for some summer flavor and made a stir-fry of tofu with yellow bell pepper, zucchini, and grape tomatoes. Very simple, but good alongside burdock braised with arame seaweed, dried shiitake, and a bit of soy. Served on top of the red quinoa from the other night. Both went remarkably well with the 2002 Beringer Sbragia Chardonnay, which is a fat, buttery, pineapple bomb but nonetheless enhanced the bright notes in the sweet pepper and creamy tofu and had its own bright notes enhanced by the super-earthy burdock.