I came home one afternoon to a 15 pound whole salmon in my fridge. It wasn’t entirely a surprise or anything. A friend’s dad is a commercial fisherman and he said he’d get me a fish. I don’t think I fully comprehended how big this fish would be but it was amazing. I’d never butchered a fish that huge before. It was gutted of course but I cleared off my whole butcher block and started slicing away. It’s hard to tell the scale of the fish in this picture. This is a huge industrial-sized sink:
I broke the fish down into a few parts. I put the head and tail into the freezer to make fish stock later when I have a real stove again. I took one gorgeous fillet and grilled it for us and some friends:
~4lbs of salmon ready to grill
Grilling salmon and summer squash
I took another gorgeous fillet and made gravlax. I took 2 cups salt, 2 cups sugar and a drizzle of vodka and homemade limoncello. Packed all that together, weighted it down and left it in the fridge for 4 days. I flipped the fillets after 2 days (and drained the liquid).
I haven’t made gravlax in years but I’m pretty sure these are the best ones I’ve ever made. The fish was just so amazingly fatty!
Carving the gravlax
It’s not salmon every night around here though. We were heading to a potluck at our neighbors so I threw together a simple salad from my CSA box: Assorted lettuces, kohlrabi, cucumber:
Another night I made green curry ceviche but modified it for what I had in my fridge. I substituted basil for cilantro and left out the lemongrass and avocado. It was still so good!
Making green curry ceviche
And since most of our meals are made on the grill these days, it was time for burgers. I don’t grind my burger meat, I pulse it in the food processor about 15 times. It makes for a much more pleasant, less mealy texture. And serving the burgers on brioche buns can’t hurt!
I have been using my cast iron skillet on the grill all the time now since it’s the perfect substitute for a cast iron pan on the stove. I grilled the onions and bacon on that and the burgers on the main grill part.
Burgers, grilled onions, bacon
The adventures continue! I’ve only used my microwave once (for leftovers) and I’ve been without a kitchen for a month! Things are going well!
Everyone’s reaction to me telling them I’m remodeling my kitchen is first, “FINALLY!” and second, “Where are you cooking? When we remodeled our kitchen it was a lot of microwaving.”
No way! Not for me!
Pasta and broccolini boiled on my camp stove…garlic sauteed and pine nuts browned on the other burner. Topped with fresh CSA basil and a dash of chili flakes I made with last year’s crop:
Pasta with broccolini, pine nuts, garlic, basil and chili flakes
Locally caught sand dabs cooked in foil on the grill with CSA garlic, garden parsley and marjoram and olive oil. Served with grilled CSA leeks and grilled CSA lettuce (romaine-like but not actually romaine) topped with caesar dressing:
Sanddabs with garlic, parsley, marjoram, grilled leeks and grilled lettuce with caesar dressing
I think I’ve used my microwave twice and that was for warming up leftovers for lunch. No kitchen does not mean no Food Porn!!
Things have been quiet around the site for a few reasons. One is that my son is out of school for the summer so I don’t get a lot of contiguous time in front of the computer without the constant, “Mommmm! What can I do??!!” ringing through the house.
The other major reason is this is the state of my kitchen at the moment:
I set up a makeshift kitchen in my garage. I have my grandfather’s butcher block which I’ve designed into the layout of the new kitchen but for now it’s being stored and used as my prep area. I have my 2-burner Coleman propane camp stove which really does kinda kick butt as far as heat output. I have my appliances, my toaster oven, even a functioning dishwasher and my BBQ. So it’s really been working out quite well.
I’ve been posting pictures of my #outstandinginthegarage meals on twitter but just haven’t had the time to post here.
One thing I rediscovered when packing up my pantry was the jar of preserved lemons I made and never opened. I now know my favorite way to eat zucchini: grilled and topped with parsley and preserved lemon.
My first garage meal was grilled ribeye, grilled zucchini w/ parsley and preserved lemon and a salad:
The I got a little more creative and made Petrale Sole en papillote, quinoa salad, grilled fennel and onion.
And then I went back to the summer barbecue theme with Chili beer sausage, potatoes and zucchini.
All in all it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be but it’s only been a week and we have 7 more weeks to go!!
The first event of the year. Route 1 Farm is just a little way up the coast from Santa Cruz. We left our house when it was sunny and hot. We got 3 blocks from our house and it was socked in fog and freezing. I was numb by the end of the night but full and happy! A great start to the season. Just like last year, the Fogline chicken was the highlight of the evening. So incredibly good that I took a picture of an empty plate!
Fennel frond cracker with salmon and pickled dandelion
Jim and Leah - The make this all happen
Jeff from Route 1 Farms
Nettle ravioli with pork belly and milk thistle butter
Butter lettuces with beets, prosciutto, ricotta salata and balsamic
Caleb from Fogline Farm
That was good chicken
Strawberry tart with lemon verbena and meyer lemon cream
In December I took a baking class from Pim. You all might already know that I don’t bake but that’s one of the reasons I took the class, to try something new. I still don’t bake but I’ve taught my 7 year old to bake for me. What I do make is soup! What I’ve never made is ramen. I was very much looking forward to this class. It was more my speed. The class was full of ingredients from Mitsuwa (my favorite place to stop when on the other side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a Japanese grocery store) and lots of pork products. Wheeee!
The basic ramen broth is like most other soup broths: bones, veggies, simmer, strain. Voila! The flavor comes from additions to the broth called Tare. This allows you to make one broth but have choices as to the flavor people can have. The most common are Shoyu (soy sauce) and Shio (salt). I prefer shoyu tare. And the recipes we left with will flavor a whole pot of broth which will make and insane number of bowls of ramen.
The prize recipe I left with though was for Tonkotsu broth. I’d seen tonkotsu on ramen menus but I didn’t know what is was and always went with shoyu. What a mistake I’ve been making!!! Tonkotus is basically every iota of porkiness you can eek out of a pig. You boil the bejeezus out of pork bones…for many, many hours. You add sesame, mirin, garlic, soy. Nothing wrong with this idea. Then you top it like a beautiful bowl of any flavored ramen, with slices of luscious braised pork. (I think I just drooled on my keyboard)
I think one of the major things you miss out on as a vegetarian is good ramen topped with good braised pork. Vegetarian ramen is just a bowl of noodles in broth. Pork ramen is an ineffable experience. Have you seen Tampopo? If you haven’t, watch it tonight. For the entire ramen class I had scenes from that movie flashing through my mind. I don’t need to explain it, we have YouTube! Here’s a clip:
Pim braised the pork the day before the class since it takes hours and we wouldn’t have the time. It smelled heavenly. And the braising liquid is exquisite! I’m starting to run out of adjectives already.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a ramen joint that properly cooked the egg. I thought the egg was supposed to be hard-boiled. Apparently, it is supposed to be soft-boiled! The white should be set, the yolk should gush out into the broth. As Pim says, “Next time you’re served a bowl of ramen topped with over-cooked, hard-boiled eggs, get up from the table and walk out. How do you expect a good bowl of ramen if they can’t even figure out how out cook their eggs properly!” I don’t like runny eggs but I will still use this tactic as a benchmark for judging a good ramen joint. Ironically, the only dish I’ve ever eaten with runny egg that I liked was at Manresa! Actually, is that irony or coincidence? Whatever…anyway…
I had no idea what made ramen noodles ramen-y. They’re alkaline! That gives them the distinct ramen texture and flavor. Everyone rolled out their own dough for their own bowls of noodles. Since the pasta roller was a manual one, I had to rely on others to roll mine out for me, my wrists and hands are too shot to do that. But at home I have a pasta roller attachment for my KitchenAid so I can make noodles at home without pain!
Once the noodles were made, the eggs were cooked and cooling, the water was boiling (rapidly) it was time to eat! We were all starving after watching, smelling and sampling very tiny tastes of sauces and broths. I was so hungry, in fact, that I wolfed down my ramen before taking a picture. Then wolfed down a second bowl of Tonkotsu ramen without taking a picture of that either. I’m a dork. But I was a hungry dork and that’s the way it goes.
When I got home I immediately emailed my farmer buddies at my CSA and requested some pork bones from them. I picked them up yesterday. I will keep accumulating bones for a few weeks and hopefully christen my new kitchen (remodel starts next week!!) with a huge pot of Tonkotsu!
If you’ve never rolled your own sushi, WHY NOT!? So what if it’s ugly. So what if it falls apart. It’s fun and so much cheaper.
One of my son’s favorite books when he was a baby was First Book of Sushi. Every time he orders ikura, one of the lines goes through my head, “Ikura squishy salmon roe like dabby dots of jelly. Salty on my lips and yummy in my belly”
I could probably quote the whole book to be honest, we read it multiple times a day.
This is an easy and pretty healthy dish. It’s perfect for summer days. Next time I make it I’ll take a picture!
1 lb petrale sole (or any white fish)
1 cup cornmeal
Salt and pepper the fish fillets, dredge in cornmeal and pan fry in olive oil.
3 grapefruit: 2 sectioned, 1 juiced
1/2 small red onion, diced (I used a 1/4 of a huge one!)
1 avocado, cubed
1/2 japanese or english cucumber, diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
~1t sriracha (more or less to your heat tolerance)
Take the juice from the grapefruit and put it in a sauce pan with the diced onion. Cook on medium/low until the onion is soft. Stir in the sriracha.
Mix all those things together. By cooking the onion with the grapefruit it mellows out the onion and adding the juice and onion to everything while it’s warm brings the flavors together immediately rather than having the salsa have to sit overnight to integrate.
I was given the opportunity to go to a Pebble Beach Food and Wine event last weekend and while there popped in on the Ridge guys. We chat on twitter sometimes but had never formally met. I met the man behind the tweets, Christopher Watkins, and he invited me to the event he was hosting to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of the Ridge Vineyards blog that he writes. I really don’t get invited to stuff very often, I just go to things like a regular Joe and pay then write about it anyway. I don’t turn down free stuff. The tasting was on the day I was picking my husband up from his trip to Sydney. He would be getting off a 13 hour flight and I was dragging him straight up the crazy twisty Montebello Road to taste wine, jet-lagged and exhausted. Sounds like a great plan!
We arrived a bit early but I love just sitting and staring out over the Ridge Vineyards view. Silicon Valley actually looks pretty from that vantage point. Before long the tasting was set up and people were arriving so we migrated to the wonderfully air conditioned room where Christopher had a projector set up scrolling through quotes from Paul Draper (the Ridge winemaker) as well as quotes from Jazz musicians. There was also a jazz tune playing. I didn’t think much of it, Christopher seems like a Jazzy kind of guy. This becomes relevant later.
Once everyone arrives and is seated, we all introduce ourselves, plug our blogs and our twitter handles. Everyone is comfortable and chatty and we’re having a grand time. Christopher then explains what sounds like a complete crack-pot idea. He has four wines, hidden in brown paper bags–reminiscent of Thunderbird, but we know they’re all fabulous Ridge wines, the distinctive silver foil is just showing at the top. He has four jazz tunes cued up. We will be listening, drinking and pairing the wines with the tunes. But that’s not all, oh no, that’s not all. We will then be put in front of a camera to explain our choices! I am becoming less fond of Christopher all of a sudden.
Christopher’s background is in jazz and creative writing. He toured Europe playing jazz but came back and got a creative writing degree where his thesis was on jazz, abstract expressionism and haiku. Not too long after, wine joined those three to form a conceptual quartet. The whole idea behind the joining is that in order to create mojo-juju-funk sounds and make it seem completely effortless, you need structure, craft and discipline. The same goes with wine. Ridge doesn’t make blending decisions in the lab reading Brix levels, it’s by flavor and instinct but behind all that is years of discipline and study. You need experience as well as spontaneity.
Wine makes you chill out, be mellow and chatty. You crave quality. You don’t get drunk on wine and start a fight. It’s cerebral but funky and a little dirty. It’s the drink for the times you’re with people whose opinions you respect and want to talk to but also can relax with. These are all ideas from Christopher and they all make sense to me.
As all this discussion is happening, we’re sipping our blind tasting and listening to the jazz. This started getting fun. Quotes like, “There’s no way this wine goes with this bass line.” start popping up. And “There’s only one wine absurd enough to pair with Theolonius Monk.”
Once we started explaining the choices, people were coming up with things like:
Let me be alone with my wine and Miles Davis in the background.
Get into a groove and disappear with it
As much as we all moaned and groaned about the concept, we totally got into it. And none of us paired the wines with the same songs. We all had our reasons. Mine were purely instinctual and hard to pinpoint. I just felt like I wanted to drink certain wines with certain songs.
Here are what my pairings turned out to be:
So What: 1997 Geyserville
Bemsha Swing: 1999 Lytton Springs
Paul’s Pal: 2000 Montebello
Mister P.C.: 2001 Montebello
Everyone else was all over the map and swore by their choices and reasoning, it was beautiful. I’d say you should try this at home and you should! But good luck finding those exact wines to do this with. Instead, pick your favorite genre, some interesting grape juice and some open minded friends and see what happens! If you do this, post the results here in the comments!
You really can’t knock starting a foggy spring Sunday morning with a glass of 2003 Dom Perignon. I don’t typically drink DP, unless it’s given to me. I don’t think it’s bad champagne by any means but it’s not what I tend to buy. 2003, if you recall, was the year that hundreds of people died in France from the crazy heat wave. The summer was scorching but the spring had unprecedented freezing temperatures. This did not treat grapes well. DP lost 70% of their Chardonnay. This is why I was so interested in attending this tasting. That and the description of the wine made me chuckle: “The intensity of this wine is unique and paradoxical, hovering between austerity and generosity.” I really wanted to try what hovering between austerity and generosity tasted like. Turns out it tastes like lovely champagne. Minerality, slight sweetness, quite enjoyable. I had a pleasant chat with the winemaker as well, lamenting my horrible experience in Paris and praising the French countryside.
After finishing my glass of champagne and turning down a second, I made my way over to the Equestrian Center for the Lexus Grand Tasting. It was a huge, crowded tent full of who knows how many people, 200 wineries and 25 chefs. Along with some random Lexuses…Lexi…shiny cars…because, you know, when you’re drinking lots of wine, you should make decisions about car buying. There were also Fiji girls walking around handing out water, like old-school cigarette girls or umbrella girls at MotoGP. There were many face lifts and fashionable yet impossible to walk in heels. A lot of the Pebble Beach Food and Wine festival is too much Pebble Beach and not enough Food and Wine but that doesn’t mean that the food and wine that’s there isn’t great!
My first bite was from Michael Cimarusti from Providence in LA. Beautiful crispy-skinned fish with a plethora of pickled veggies. It was hard to get things together in one bite but all together the tart and tangy pickles with the mustard sauce and the perfectly cooked fish was a great plate of food. It was one of my favorite plates of the afternoon.
I then went next door to Gabriele Ask from Montage Beverly Hills. He had a bison ribeye tartare that absolutely loaded with truffles. I commented on that and he said, “Yes, we spent a lot of money!” I surely didn’t mind…oddly…since usually truffles are overwhelming for me but I very much enjoyed the tartare. He was also serving a duck confit with foie gras but I passed since foie is not for me. Everyone raved about it though.
My favorite plate of the day was the Pig’s Tail with herbs and fish sauce in gem lettuce served by Bryant Ng of The Spiced Table in LA. I didn’t even know you could eat the tail of a pig! I don’t picture there being much there. This was braised in slightly spicy, beautifully balanced sauce and had a generous amount of fish sauce but it wasn’t so much that it was offensive. It was a wonderfully composed dish. If you look at the picture, the things in the lower right corner…those are pig tails…mmmm…tail.
I saw Fabio Viviani by his table and I stopped by to say hello. I admit that I really love watching Top Chef and have since Season 2 when I discovered it. I saw Fabio at MotoGP at Laguna Seca a couple of years ago and could not figure out why I knew him for the longest time. I thought I actually personally knew the guy. I was convinced he worked with my husband or something and that I’d had a conversation with him because I could picture him laughing. No, I just watched him on TV so much I thought I knew him! I told him that; he was really nice.
I saw a table for Restaurant 1833 in Monterey and I’ve really been wanting to go there. It looks like such an interesting space and now I really want to try it. The dish Levi Mezick was presenting was a crispy pork with “BBQ” sauce which was more like a spicy mustard sauce. It was crispy, hot, spicy, tangy. My first bite from 1833 definitely moved the priority of getting a reservation there up.
I tried a few other dishes that were fine but not as good as the four I described so we’ll just move on to the few wines I dropped in on. The first was Almaviva. The lost grape. I was surprised to see them because I never see the bottles anywhere but my husband orders them from somewhere and I really love that wine. I had a taste of their ’09 and, although young, was drinking well and obviously could be put down for a few years.
I had to stop by Ridge. We’re members of their wine club and love almost everything they produce. I found it quite telling of the crowd there that they kept running out of Chardonnay. To be completely blunt, I don’t like Ridge for their white wine. To me they are all about Zin and their Petite Sirah is heavenly. Their big wine is the Monte Bello Cab blend. We have many bottles of that we won’t open for years. I wanted to get a peek at what I have waiting for me so I had the ’06 Monte Bello. Damn. That’s good. Can’t wait to open it! But I will. It will be even better later.
My last stop was for a glass of ’07 Alexander Valley Silver Oak Cab. I always love Silver Oak. They are consistently good and consistently not cheap. They were also pouring an ’07 Napa Valley Cab but from doing tastings at the winery I’ve found I prefer the Alexander. The other reason I picked it was because the Napa was in a fancier bottle and I went for the more austere…Oh, blending austerity and generosity! HA!
As I was leaving, there was a woman passing out free lettuce. She asked the gentleman in front of me, “Would you like some artisan lettuce to take with you?” He said, “What kind of lettuce?” She said, “Artisan lettuce.” He said, “You mean lettuce.” She said, “Artisan lettuce.” He said, “Does it grow in the dirt?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “Then it’s LETTUCE!” It was really funny and summed up the Pebble Beach portion of the event!
I had a nice time at this event and would love to attend on a press pass again but truly the Cayman Cookout spoiled me for any future food event. The intimacy of that gathering can’t be beat. Please send any donations to get me back to the Cayman Cookout next year to email@example.com ;-)