Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Moving on

Been on the road catering with the Skillet crew for a couple days. Tons of projects in the works and it feels great to be in a creative space. Tons of stories to share, including new characters that I have met along the way. I think it could be a couple days before I am back on the blog as I am working on opening up an event space with Elsom Cellars and volunteering for the International Food Bloggers Conference this weekend. I was also recently asked to be on the board of Slow Food Seattle, and I am pretty tickled pink about it all.

More soon...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Slicing Pineapple- Sometimes it's just nice to have a visual

Months ago I got my hands on a perfectly ripe pineapple. You could walk in the kitchen and inhale its candy sweet perfume. While traveling in Thailand, I gorged myself on fresh pineapple. Street vendors would use unnecessarily large knives to split the pineapple into perfect columns and sell three chilly columns in a sandwich bag for fifty cents. I tried to write down everything we ate while on our four-month S.E. Asia adventure back in 2003, and according to my notes, I  must have eaten a half a pineapple a day. 

I almost feel guilty when I buy pineapple in Seattle. It has traveled such a great distance to get to me. Though I can't always buy local and organic produce, I do try my best to stay local. So pineapple is considered a treat to me or super guilty pleasure- is there a difference? We grilled it and put it in a Thai Beef Salad (recipe post on that soon), I made a salsa out of it and of course we ate it raw.

Slicing into a pineapple can be damn intimidating. Not only does it have a sexy, skin-tight, reptile outfit on, pineapples also wear an obnoxious leafy hat! So instead of writing descriptive details on how to easily slice a pineapple, I've demonstrated through photos.
After ripping off the leafy-green top, I like to use a bread knife or the equivalent to slice off the outer skin. The main trick that is hard to master when slicing pineapple, is to remove as much of the peeling as possible without sacrificing fruit. I'm still working on mastering that. 
After discarding the leafy top, next slice off the top and bottom. Then, like slicing melon, you work your knife gently around the pineapple until it's clean. You can then make pineapple rounds (which will still contain a core) or you can split the pineapple in quarters and slice off the fibrous core from each quarter.
There are many ways to slice pineapple- since I was using it in multiple dishes, I kept it simple. For true inspiration for slicing pineapple, look up Thai fruit carving- it will blow your mind. Pineapple sliced into butterflies? Of course!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Asian-Style Salmon Head Soup

It's not what you think.
Salmon Head Soup? you: "It sure seems like what it sounds like."
Well, not exactly. At least it's not at all what I expected when I found this recipe. Remember when Mark went on that fishing trip and all he came back with were sardines? Well, he also came back with some fish heads and tails. Gross right? Quite the opposite actually.

So I am a huge fan of Langdon Cook, a forager, blogger and author of Fat of the Land. When I saw that he had a recipe for salmon head soup, I was certain that it was his recipe that I was going to use for the presents that Mark brought home. Plus, it included udon noodles and other Asian ingredients that I'm obsessed with.

I only made slight changes to the recipe because I didn't have Chinese wine, (by the way, if any of you know what this is, I was looking all over for it) and I also used a dark Asian green instead of cabbage and lastly, I doubled the fish sauce.

What's so funny about me making this dish is that in culinary school they explicitly tell you not to make stock out of salmon because salmon is too oily and rich and the strong flavor of salmon will completely overwhelm any soup made with it. I think this dish works because the Asian-style flavors added to this dish are stronger or just as strong as the stock itself. I've been avoiding salmon stock for years. Sometimes it feels so good to break the classic culinary rules. The results can be delicious.

Salmon Head Soup- By Langdon Cook
2-3 salmon heads, cut in half
2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
1 3-inch thumb of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 leeks, tops discarded, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Thai red peppers, thinly sliced
Chinese cooking wine- I used white wine
2 tbsp fish sauce (optional)- I doubled it
rice vinegar (optional)
aji-mirin (optional)
1 can Szechuan prepared vegetable (optional)- I didn’t have this, so I used fresh Thai chilies
1 can bamboo shoots- did not use
1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded- I used Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
1 handful cilantro for garnish, stemmed, with stems reserved
1 package Asian noodles (e.g., udon, soba, ramen)- I used Udon

1. Over medium-high heat, brown fish heads and ginger in oil for a few minutes, turning at least once. De-glaze pot with a splash of wine and add chopped leeks, garlic, and half the green onions and red peppers. Saute together for several minutes.

2. De-glaze pot again with another splash of wine, then add 8 cups of water and optional fish sauce. Bring to a light boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Strain contents, picking and reserving as much salmon meat as possible. Return soup to simmer. Adjust for salt. Add half the remaining green onion and the cilantro stems. (Optional seasoning: Add a tablespoon of each: Chinese wine, rice vinegar, aji-mirin; add a few heaping tablespoons of Szechuan prepared vegetables.) Simmer another 15-30 minutes.

4. Strain soup a second time and return to low heat to keep warm. Dole out reserved salmon meat into bowls, along with noodles, a handful of shredded cabbage, and spoonfuls of both Szechuan prepared vegetables (optional) and bamboo shoots. Ladle soup. Garnish with green onion, cilantro, and Thai red pepper. Serves 4.