Sunday, May 29, 2011

CSA Recipe: Asian Risotto w/Snap Peas & Asparagus

Sorry for the delay on posting new recipes from my CSA produce - I've been traveling to Sequoia, photographing tons of other events around L.A. and then got terribly sick. But I'm back in action and while I eat a home-made pop tart that Callie whipped up last night, I want to type out a wild recipe idea that ended up being a huge success despite how bizarre it seems on paper.

Basically, this recipe is influenced by a couple of flavor ideas. The first being a post a wrote a bit ago about the restaurant Chego. I've been trying to think about Roy Choy's mode of building those massive flavors out of some asian-fusion concepts - his way of taking unexpected twists and adding layers of sweet and heat but still letting his dishes tons of heft. The second inspiration was a conversation I had with Lazy Ox chef Josef Centeno over coffee at a meet-and-greet for his new restaurant idea, Baco Mercat, last Saturday. We were talking about how acid levels seems to be one of the key ideas to his and some of the other more exciting contemporary L.A. cooking. (Which, now that I'm writing this out, makes me remember a very similar conversation with Jazz for Jitlada who said that the specific play between the triune of sweet, heat and acid is how you can which chef is in the kitchen on any given night).

Anyway, enough with the back story, here's the recipe I came up with!

Asian  Risotto w/Snap Peas & Asparagus 


For the Risotto Base:
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cup risotto rice (like Arborio)
1 C white wine
6 C veggie or chicken stock
3 Tbs Canola Oil

For the sweet potato mix:
1.5 C sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in to 1" cubes
1 Tbs Brown Sugar (more to taste)
1 Tbs Butter

The Rest:
8 oz snap peas, trimmed
8 oz asparagus, bottoms trimmed and cut in to 1.5" pieces.
zest of 1 lime
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro (more to taste)
2 tsp rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 C microgreens (or pea shoots)
1/4 C freshly grated parmesan (more to taste)
salt to taste
1/2 tsp white pepper
siracha to taste

1) Toss the sweet potato chunks into a small pan and cover with water. Put a lid on top, get that pan to boiling. Turn down the heat so it doesn't boil over and let cook for 15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and super tender.

2) While the sweet potatoes cook, pour your stock in to small pot and heat. You don't want it to boil, or even simmer, just be really hot for when you start adding it to you risotto.

3) Drain the sweet potatoes and add them to a bowl with the brown sugar and butter. Mash it all up until it's nice and smooth. Set aside.

4) Now it's time to start making the risotto. Heat the canola oil in a good-sized pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, saute the garlic and onions until they're soft, but not browned, maybe 5-6 minutes.

5) Add the rice, cooking for a couple minutes until the edges are translucent. This is called tempering the rice. Frankly, I have no clue what it does, but every risotto recipe calls for it, and risotto being the nearest kitchen process to voodoo, who am I to argue.

6) Add the wine. While stirring, cook until it's almost all evaporated.

7) If you didn't pour yourself a glass of wine in step 6, you should have. Also, you might have wanted to get a good book, since you'll be at step 8 for a long time. To diverge for a second, I have this issue with risotto, which is that mine always takes at least twice as long as it should to get creamy and nice. Most recipes say 20-25 minutes tops for the stirring step. I don't think I've ever done this next step in under 45 minutes. My rice is still crunchy and inedible at 25 minutes. Now, my risotto is good enough for friends who have Italian families and good enough that ex-roommates dream of it in technicolor risotto splendor, so I just deal with it, but still!

8) Add 1/2 C of the heated stock, stirring until it's almost entirely incorporated. I've heard various methods for telling what "incorporated" means, but basically it means that the liquid is in the rice (or evaporated). It's kind of finicky to judge, but it's not totally vital. If you miss a little bit one way or the other, it won't wreck it. One easy way to get close is that "incorporated" is that the spoon leaves a trail as it stirs and the rice-mixture very slowly oozes back to fill. But really, I'm mostly winging it and reading my book.

9) Repeat step 8 until the risotto is getting toward nice, creamy, light but viscous texture. You can taste it as you go - It shouldn't crunch. Keeping adding 1/2 C of broth, stirring until incorporated. 20-50 minutes...

10) About 8 minutes before it's done (about 2 additions of broth), which to make it easier, is when you taste it and the texture is almost right, but still too firm, toss in the snap peas and asparagus. Keep doing your broth-adding-stirring-thing.

11) When you think you are almost done, on the last addition of broth, scoop all of the sweet potato mixture in to the risotto, and stir it along with the broth to combine.

12) When you're happy with the risotto texture, turn off the heat and add the lime zest, white pepper, parmesan (Really - it works here for some weird reason! Probably umami... but you can leave it out for a less weighty dish), cilantro, rice vinegar. Stir that all in. Taste and season for salt.

13) Scoop the portions in to shallow plates. Sprinkle microgreens on top. Add a tiny tiny tiny amount of siracha on top of the greens, putting the bottle on the table for those of your guests who want more heat. Tell everyone to stir it up before they eat. Voila! Asian risotto!

I'd serve this with a Riesling, a Viognier, or a pleasant, simple lager.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

CSA Recipe: Asian Greens and Duck Fried Rice

After you fought through the lovely Gold, Pink and Green Pasta, I have another tough multi-part recipe to test your timing today! Callie & I always get amazing, interesting greens from the CSA - dinosaur kale, tuscan kale, broccoli greens etc - so I devised this recipe as a great asian twist on collard greens served with a wonderfully fragrant side of duck fried rice!  Also note that you could make either of these separately as tasty sides! 

Asian Greens with Duck Fried Rice

For the Greens:
1lb mix of greens - chard, kale, beet tops, kohlrabi greens etc. - stemmed and chopped
1 tbs salt
1/2 block tofu, drained in paper towels for 15 minutes, cut in to 1/2" cubes
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp + 1 tsp soy sauce
1 tbs canola oil
black pepper to taste
1-3 tsp gochujang - aka Korean chile paste (to taste - you could also use siracha, but 1/2 to 1 tsp will be more than enough)
1 tsp lightly toasted sesame seeds

For the Duck fried rice:
1/2 lb duck
2 tsp canola oil
1 medium onion chopped medium fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1" ginger, minced
2 c day-old rice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 green onions, sliced in to thin rounds
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
black pepper to taste
salt to taste

For Garnish: 2 tsp pickled ginger - the match-stick red kind (beni shoga)

1) Roast the duck: Preheat oven to 400 degree. Starting in a skillet, heat the 2 tsp canola oil over medium heat. Put the duck skin side down in the pan, drizzle on 1 tsp soy sauce and cook for for 5 minutes or until the skin is nice and crispy. 

2) Transfer the duck breast to an oiled baking pan, skin side up. Leave the duck drippings and leftover oil in the skillet. Place duck breast in preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes. If you want, drain the drippings from the baking pan in to the skillet. 

3) Roughly chop up the duck breast. Reserve.

4) For the greens: Bring a large pot of water to a boil with the 1 tbs salt in it. One handful at a time add the chopped greens. 

5) Boil greens for 15-20 minutes, until tender but still bright green (not dull green).

6) While you're doing that, heat the 1 tbs canola in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the drained and dried tofu chunks.

7) Cook, stirring occasionally, until all sides of the tofu are crispy. About 10-12 minutes. Drain on a paper towel. 

8) Going back to the greens, drain in a colander. Squeeze as much water out as you can (use a back of a spoon, not your hands…). Put greens back in the pot.

9) Add 1 tsp soy (or less to taste), sesame oil, chile paste, sesame seeds and black pepper. Stir and mix together with the greens. 

10) Now for the fried rice! (Note: if you want to be uber-pro, you could technically start this step about 10 minutes simultaneously from hitting step 8 - you will have to juggle at least three pans on the heat at that point, and the greens will hold fine if you don't want to risk a disaster - so no worries if you don't want to do it that way!)

11) Re-heat the pan with the duck renderings over medium heat. Once hot add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes.

12) Using your hands, break up the old rice grains and add it to the pan. Stir to combine with the veggies and fry for a minute or two.

13) Add the reserved chopped duck. Stir to combine.

14) Now the trickiest part. I did this under the strict watchful eye of my fried-rice-expert girlfriend, Callie, who has trained for years to make fried rice from the heavens. 

15) Make a large, 6" or so diameter, empty circle in the middle of the pan. Pour the eggs into this hollow.

16) Like you are making scrambled eggs, cook for about 1 minute scraping, chopping and stirring  until they are just stating to set and are broken into many tiny pieces.

17) Stir the almost cooked egg in to the rest of the fried rice.

18) Add the soy sauce, green onions and rice vinegar and stir to combine. Cook for another minute. Add salt and pepper to taste (plenty of pepper and a dash of salt for me).

19) Add the fried tofu to the greens and mix to combine.

20) Plate a scoop of each the greens and rice on a plate. Garnish with a teaspoon or so of pickled ginger. 

Up Next: Thai Roasted Chicken and Guavas!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CSA Recipe: Gold, Pink and Green Summer Pasta

This recipe was a bit of a shock to me - While I am creating recipes I usually have three "decent" and one solid success with each batch of goodies. I was confident the killer dish that it was going to be another recipe (thai roasted chicken with roasted guavas). But the combination of radishes and golden carrots sauteed into a butter sauce with pasta, tossed with some vinegar and fresh arugula and a touch of parmesan was glorious with a glass of wine on one of these early summer evenings in the shadow of the skyscrapers in downtown.

Serves 2 (with leftovers to take for lunch at work)

1 cup dried rotini
1 bunch French Breakfast or Easter radishes, chopped in to half-inch pieces
1 bunch golden or other heirloom carrots, chopped in to half-inch pieces
3 stalks of green garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp dried tarragon, or 1 tbs fresh
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar (or sherry, or even raspberry wine vinegar!)
1 tbs honey
pepper and salt to taste
2 handfuls of arugula, washed and roughly chopped
some sort of finishing salt, i.e. chardonnay smoked sea salt
2 tbs + 2 tbs butter (divided - which if you are curious, means you use it in two places)
freshly grated parmesan to taste

Intro & Notes: This recipe requires a bit of timing because you really really don't want to overcook the radish mixture. So you basically you get the pasta going as you're heating the butter in the large skillet; add the radish etc to the pan after 2-3 minutes of pasta cooking, and as you drain the rotini you should be at the step where you need it. Consider it a test of your kitchen timing ;) Also, this dish should have less pasta in it than you think you need - the pasta is playing a distinctly secondary note to the very lightly butter-poached spicy and sweet veggies. Also, you'll want some garlic bread or even just plain crusty bread with this!

1) Get some well-salted pasta water boiling (remember - the salt in this step is because under-salted boiled pasta will make the sauce taste bland, no matter how good it is!)

2) Add the rotini to the water. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbs of the butter over medium heat.

3) After the pasta boils for a couple of minutes, add the radishes, carrots, green garlic, dried tarragon (fresh would be added in step 6), vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper.

4) Saute until the radishes turn a nice light pink color, about 4 minutes. (Neat how they change color to let you know they are done, isn't it?)

5) Add the honey, the additional 2 tbs of butter and about 2/3 cup of the pasta water to the skillet. Stir it up until the butter is melted in. Reduce it slightly. Maybe one minute.

6) The pasta should now be almost to perfect al dente. Drain it and add it to the skillet.

7) Add the chopped arugula. Toss everything together in the skillet. Cook for about 1 minute, or until the arugula leaves just start to wilt.

8) Kill the heat, taste for salt and pepper. Slightly under-salt if you are going to add finishing salt on the served portions.

9) Dish in to shallow bowls, adding an even portion of the sauce to each (it is amazing buttery-herby-goodness to dip your bread in!)  Sprinkle with a bit of finishing salt to taste and a moderate amount of grated parmesan (so that the fresh flavors are complimented, not covered, by the taste of the cheese).

Voila - A glorious early summer dinner that almost shimmers with vibrant gold and pink and green!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Wine Pairing Quote

I just got this in my inbox as part of the Wine Expo newsletter, and I thought I would share since I spend so much time talking about wine and food pairings here! (Also this sort of culinary replacement forms part of the backbone of the recipes I come up with). These guys are the masters of interesting but approachable Italian gems. Check them out - the wine bar is fun and the store is filled with genius wine

“What's so culturally relevant about selling farmhouse wines from Italy in SoCal where authentic Cibo Italiano is hard to come by and Dim Sum, BBQ, Oaxacan, Thai, Persian and Korean food are everywhere?”
“Fair enough. This is actually the BEST part: once you understand WHY a Terrano is so acidic or a Vivace Barbera is so refreshing or an Alto Adige Kerner is so perfumed and how that is used in its NATIVE context you can then find culinary doppelgängers in other cultures and apply the same principles to match the wines. Joshua Wesson, David Rosengarten and I once talked about this for hours while they were preparing an article about my wine program at a Chinese restaurant for The Food & Wine Companion. The conclusions? The same reason that Fino Sherry is so good with Tapas makes it excellent with a broad range of Dim Sum, the same thing that makes Refosco and Wild Hare with Paprika so good in Friuli ALSO works with Mongolian Hot Pot Venison. The basic chemistries of acid, tannin, fruit and bubbles and how they work with fat, protein, char, spices and fruit acids does not change and understanding that gives you great tools to make culinary magic with. That's when the fun really BEGINS!”

Monday, May 16, 2011

CSA Recipe: Zwiebelkuchen Pizza!

I love Southern German and Nothern French white wines. Crisp, deeply flavored, elegant acidity, low alcohol, and a wonderful purity of flavor. Zweibelkuchen is a type of onion tart/pie from that area of the world that is fall specialty to compliment a German white equivalent of Beaujolais nouveau. But this recipe will pair amazingly with any yeasty belgian farmhouse beer, refreshing white wine or even hard ciders.

Because I've been playing around with fermented pizza dough (previous posts included a very tasty kale + Cauliflower pizza) I decided to develop a pizza variant of Zweikelkuchen to use our CSA produce which included amazing sweet onions!


For the dough:
1 Pizza Dough Recipe
flour for dusting

For the topping:
5 strips bacon
1 tbs butter
1 onion, sliced medium
3-4 green onions greens sliced into 1" chunks, whites cut in to thin rounds
1/2 C white wine
1 tsp caraway seeds
salt and pepper to taste
8 1/8" slices of mild white wedge cheese such as

For the custard:
3/4 C sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1 pinch cayenne powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

-1) Preheat oven, with pizza stone ideally, to maximum temperature. Usually around 525 or 550 degree F.

1) In a large skillet over medium heat cook the bacon, taking care to cook it less than you normally would (since it will be in a very very hot oven for 10 minutes at the end). When it's done, drain it on paper towels.

2) Once it's cooled enough to handle, chop it in to 1" pieces. Drain the fat and wipe out the pan (unless you want to use that additional bacon grease to make the onions even more delicious. Not that the healthy portion of my brain would tell you, dear reader, to do so ;)

3) Over medium heat, melt the butter. Toss in the caraway seeds and cook for about 30 seconds.

4) Add the onion slices and mix up well with the butter and seeds. Turn to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, but just before starting to caramelize, about  10-15 minutes.

5) While your onions cook, in a medium bowl add the beaten egg to the sour cream and mix it up. Mix in the cayenne powder, nutmeg, white pepper and about 1/4 tsp salt.

6) Going back to the onion, turn up to medium heat, add green onion pieces and cook for about 60 seconds.

7) Add salt and pepper (about 1/4 tsp of each), and stir to combine.

8) Add the white wine and cook until almost completely reduced.

9) On the back of a large cookie sheet that has been lightly floured, shape pizza dough (with floured hands!) You can use a toss method on your knuckles if you are a serious pizza-pro. You use the drape and tug method (like tossing in slow motion but pulling at the edges) if you are an expert. Or you can stretch the dough out into a decent oval with your hands, then place it on the pan and work the shape out. Slowly, slowly, and often reworking so the dough doesn't contract. I don't have this step figured out very well, but I'm getting there!

10) Spoon about 2/3 of the sour cream mixture on to the pizza dough, making sure to leave about 3/4" to 1" around the edges (if you don't put any toppings on the edges you will ensure that the edges puff and char pleasantly!).

11) Evenly distribute the onion mixture on top of the sour cream mixture.

12) Drizzle the remaining sour cream mix on top. Sprinkle with the bacon chunks. Place the cheese slices on top artfully, since they define the visual look of the pizza (or not, it's your call!)

13) Place in your silly-hot oven for 5-12 minutes, or until the crust is crispy on the bottom and the cheese is lightly brown on the top. (Note: if you crust burns and the cheese is no cooked, move your pizza to a higher oven rack. If you cheese burns and your crust isn't crisp, move your oven down.)

And that finally gets me caught back up with my recipes... until this Friday...... Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thinking About My Art

"1234 11th St. -The captain of a small unit in the frontier defnse forces..."
from Arcana, or, Fidning Context
Arhival Inkjet Print, 2007

One of the questions I've had the hardest time answering when I'm asked it about my art is, "Who are you making this for?" It's a question they plug at you to answer in undergrad - it's a form of getting you know know more about your own way of making art, if nothing else. It's a question I fought with in grad school where it was framed more precisely as a production model question — that a producer of stuff (you, the artist) would have a hard time delivering your product (your art/idea) if you didn't know what your market was (your ideal audience). It's a question that has been my downfall in my few brushes with success in a much more literally marketing question, in that when I had someone ready to fund my work, I wasn't able to convince them that I had a clear grasp of what my marketing trajectory should be - or who I even wanted to market the work to.

Possibly my toughest problem is that I do know who I am making my art for, just that I have a bastard of a time putting my word-fingers on it. My work has many seemingly contradictory ampules - high art/pop culture. analytical/lyric. personal/critical. fantastic/documentary. literary/visual. formal/fragmented. content/emotion. anxiety/elation. loneliness/completion.

Churning through the literary essays by M John Harrison in "Parietal Games" and both the implicit and more literally histories that emerge from the New Wave of science fiction contained in that volume, it got me to thinking. Thinking that, while not at the level of Harrison's "punitive" fantasy, nor the New Wave's more broad attempt to merge two places of art, sci-fi and literature, in many ways that liminal, ill-defined, anxious, fraught,  conflicted, interwoven, boundry-lands that lie between our dazzlingly subcultured, sub-specialized, sub-categories, daily lives lived in popular culture (our entertainment, our hobbies, our fandoms, our games, our online personas, our social media, our hyper-media-culture) and our life-long, deep-flowing, deeply-felt, often complex intellectual desires for the nourishment of, for lack of a better word, "high" culture (our broader community of the arts, of philosophy, feminism, anarchism, political thinking, sciences, the history of art, theories of the way culture evolves, the avant guard, art-as-challenge).

To make it simpler, my art is for anyone who has been on a date and you find that your date likes a genre of music you didn't even know existed. Or knows every genre of music. Or doesn't like music made before 1958 and after 1971. Or only likes classical. Or like karaoke. Or remembers, awkwardly, being in to punk in the '80s. Or a goth. Or. Or. Or. My art is for anyone that finds themselves out between worlds for one reason or another, from growing older, to education, to curiosity, to impatience, to desire, to personal tragedy, to wanderlust. My art is about how we communicate past the genre tags that seem to snow in the modern media world.

I'm not really comfortable making a singular allegiance to one cultural faction or another, so I inhabit these peripheries most of the time. I figure the least I can do is making the travels in these twilight lands a bit easier by building a few bridges, drawing a few maps, putting up a few signs in a few languages, and maybe even writing a travelog for you to read beside the fire along the way.

And maybe that sounds a bit nice... let's just say, I don't mind the bits of trickster-trouble and productive psychological conflict that happen when two places that both claim absolute knowledge have a path cut between them, and they only turn out to be down the block from each other.