31 October 2009


A variety of recent tsukemono that I've made. Mostly inspired by Ikuko Hisamatsu's book, Quick & Easy Tsukemono.
  • First, local ginger so fresh that it doesn't keep like cured ginger and also so fresh that it can be eaten on its own. I covered it in rice vinegar, added salt and lots of purple shiso. Two weeks later, it's pink, sweet and fragrant. The vinegar is amazing.
  • Then Ninniku Hachimitsu-suke, or garlic preserved in honey. Just garlic and honey. A few weeks later the cloves are sweet yet still quite strong and the honey is delicious. Also, it's traditional cold remedy.
  • Ninniku Miso-zuke: garlic in miso. Equal parts garlic and miso (homemade 1 year old miso) plus some mirin. The garlic loses its bite but gets very crisp after a week or two at room temperature (then store in the fridge). This is really amazing. And I'm guessing the miso will make great soup.
  • And Gobo Miso-zuke, or burdock in miso. This was so active that I could hear the miso going. I quartered burdock and packed it with miso so the pieces didn't touch each other. Two weeks later the burdock is crisp, salty and mild.

preserving lemons

Preserved lemons are great not only for their complex flavor, but they are a great source of tang when you don't have fresh lemons on hand. And they are incredibly easy to make. And two pounds of lemons, as pictured, could easily last a year. Buy organic lemons, obviously, as you'll be eating the skin (pickling lemons takes out the bitterness of the rind but makes the flesh too salty to use). This is the first time I've added spices: a dried cayenne pepper, a few cloves, some coriander and a bay leaf.

Either slice almost in quarters (as seen above) or cut four slits into the sides the lemon. Fill the cuts with salt. Pack tightly into a jar with more salt. Top off with some juice, if needed. I squeezed two pounds into a liter jar and only needed a few tablespoons of juice. Add more juice if needed later on. Let sit a month or so, until soft. Then refrigerate.

And next spring, these will be ready for asparagus and ramps.

30 October 2009

oxtail with brussels sprouts and turnip

Bought some oxtail yesterday. I had been thinking about it since seeing an "Oxtail Galette" on a menu. Never having had oxtail, I was excited about the prospect. Came across oxtail and did what seemed right: I cooked the hell out of it.

It's very fatty — as you can see from the fat I left on the meat and the fat in the background that the dog ate (although I wish I had, it was so good). I had two pounds of oxtail (one large, fatty one, two smaller). I seasoned and then fried them in olive oil and drained the oil and removed the meat. I added a leek and most of a head of garlic and sweated that. I added the meat, a huge sprig of thyme, a bay leaf, some beef stock (made with beef ribs, leek greens, allspice and pepper) and some mediocre Beaujolais. I covered it with parchment and a lid.

Two hours later I added brussels sprouts (quartered, in thirds or halved, depending on size), a carrot and a turnip.

And an hour after that, it was amazing. I seasoned it. I took out a section of oxtail, removed the meat from the bone and chopped it. I ladled vegetables and broth on the side. Growing up, I was the kid who hated "gristle" on meat. This has lots of fat and collagen and is so incredibly good. The fat just melts in your mouth. This would be amazing in a crock pot too.

23 October 2009

tarte tatin

Everyone loves a tarte tatin.

poulet à l'estragon

I had a remaining chicken from this summer's slaughter in the freezer and a whole pot of tarragon that may not survive many more frosts. Logical conclusion: make poulet à l'estragon (chicken with tarragon). I followed Julia Child's Poulet poêlé à l'estragon (after a summer of telling myself I'd make the cold aspic version, Poulet en gelée à l'estragon, and now it's too cold for that).

The chicken is seasoned, stuffed with tarragon and butter, trussed and seared on all sided in a dutch oven. It then gets roasted — covered — until done. I had worried that the chicken would steam, and the skin wouldn't have that great roasted texture. I was wrong. The skin was great. A sauce of more tarragon, the drippings and some beef stock made this sublime.

This was easily one of the best ways that I have ever had chicken. This was also a larger cockerel (four-and-a-half pounds!), so it benefited from this tenderizing preparation. I served this with roasted sunchokes and brussels sprouts.

Tiffiniy declared that she had never known she could like white meat. It was that good. That was how I felt when I cooked the first one.

matsutake in broth

Matsutake, day two.

A mix of very clear chicken and duck broths, lightly salted, and brought to the point of almost simmering. I let that reduce slowly while doing other things.

Add julienned leeks and thinly sliced matsutake. Bring to a quick simmer, serve immediately, garnished with a few drops of sesame oil.

Absolutely incredible. The broth was full-bodied but simple, the leeks lent a mild allium kick, together making a perfect backdrop for the lightly poached matsutakes.

21 October 2009


At the Tuesday Market I came across Paul Lagrèze's booth. He had two things to sell: hen of the woods (maitake) and matsutake. I had had hen of the woods —they are incredible — but I had only heard of the famous matsutake. They can't be cultivated, so they must be found in the wild.

I bought some that were open, although the closed fungi are more prized (allegedly fetching hundreds, even thousands, per kilo). They smelled of cinnamon and pine and were very delicate despite being almost the size of portobello.

I marinated them in a splash each of mirin, tamari, and grapeseed oil. I grilled them on an extremely hot grill for a minute or two, charring the skin but leaving them partially cooked. I tossed them in the marinate and cut them into bite-size pieces.

I served them with sweet brown rice, a ginger-garlic-kombu broth over leeks and carrots, bettara-zuke, and tempeh fried with shichimi togarashi (seven spice powder). This way the matsutake were the centerpiece, surrounded by other simple dishes.

The matsutake were incredible. They were firm yet gave easily to the tooth, with a velvety, rich flesh. They tasted faintly of pine but had an overwhelming yet subtle flavor that compares to nothing that I have ever had. Without any doubt, they are one of the most singular and delicious foods that I have ever tried.

01 October 2009

vegan kabocha pots de crème

I love the texture of kanten but imagined agar agar had more possibilities — It does.

I found this recipe for pumpkin custard with agar agar. I continued my love affair with kabocha (try it in pumpkin pie!) and substituted kabocha for the pumpkin. I used brown sugar instead of the suggested agave syrup (I find the agave craze ridiculous), used a quarter teaspoon of agar powder and upped the cashews just a bit.

The topping is coconut milk whipped over ice with some agar-sugar syrup. I then let them set (overnight, as I was pressed for time).

This was creamy like a pot de crème, which is thanks to the wonders of cashews and just enough agar agar to get a light set. Raspberries from the farm share were a perfect topping.

roasted kabocha soup

I had half of a roasted kabocha squash in the fridge, some goats milk that needed to get used up and a handful of scotch bonnets. It's also autumal in the cold, blustery and quiet sort of way. This is extremely comforting. The scotch bonnets give this a smooth heat that balances with the kabocha but leaves lingering heat on the lips. The goat milk is subtle but grassy and smooths it all out.

Temper a cardamon pod, a cinnamon stick and a tablespoon each of coriander and mustard seeds (heat on high in grapeseed oil until the mustard is popping and everything is fragrant). Add a diced red onion, and grated garlic and ginger. Then add a chopped whole (or seeded, if you like) scotch bonnet and a teaspoon each of turmeric and salt. Let sweat on high. Add a cup or two of goats milk (or cow or almond milk, I'd imagine), half a roasted kabocha and water to make it smooth, if necessary. Reduce to a simmer. Pass though a sieve or food mill.

Red shiso makes a fantastic garnish and goes splendidly with kabocha.