Buttermilk Soup: Guilt by Association

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Chicken and Cornbread Buttermilk Soup

If you made biscuits this week (and I hope you did) I bet you bought buttermilk. I also bet that the extra, unused buttermilk you bought smirks and winks at you every time you open the refrigerator. Who buys a quart of buttermilk just to use a cup or two in a single recipe? Well, the answer is we all do. I’ve never seen it sold in smaller cartons. But we don’t have to waste the chortling remnants. Buttermilk is as versatile as milk, cream, or butter. Try it instead of Greek yogurt in your morning smoothy. Same tang, fewer calories. How about buttermilk soup or buttermilk sauce? Where you once reached for butter or cream choose buttermilk instead.

Are you surprised by my assertions on the virtues of buttermilk? Did you assume that buttermilk is laden with fat and calories because of its first two syllables? Did you think that because buttermilk shows its milky white smile in a variety of rich comfort foods that buttermilk must be guilty by association? Well, check the package. In most markets, the only buttermilk available is low-fat buttermilk. Or maybe you’re surprised I care about the calories per ounce.

Well, I don’t (really). It’s the comfort food aspect of buttermilk that I want to discuss. From syrupy buttermilk pancakes to garlicky buttermilk mashed potatoes. The tang of buttermilk is a fitting foil to super-sweet treats and extra-rich savories. Baked goods particularly shine when buttermilk is used. Its acidity – when set off with a good pinch of baking soda – gives cakes and such a sturdy rise and light, open crumb.

Buttermilk also makes a great marinade for lean protein. Southern cooks use buttermilk as a brine for fried chicken. I use the same brine for baked and grilled chicken too. Many folks will say that the acids in buttermilk and yogurt tenderize the meat, which is a simplistic way of explaining what actually happens. You see, the lactic acid in dairy products trigger “aging” enzymes within the meat, which loosen the proteins that bind muscle fibers together. It breaks them down. Much the way that too many reps at the gym activates enzymes in our own bodies that lead to that day after muscle-ache we all know and hate.

Buttermilk in Buttermilk Soup

Chicken and Cornbread Buttermilk Soup

But there I go again. Calories. Enzymes. Proteins. What I really want to discuss is Chicken and Cornbread Buttermilk Soup. An unusual combination that’s all at once rich and sharp. A perfect example of how simple, even rustic, ingredients can be creatively combined with elegant results. A bowlful is sure to satisfy your hunger in a deeply soulful way. For me, the best comfort food comes from the Southern United States. This is a recipe I adapted from John Fleer. A no-chicken version is often found on the menu of his restaurant Rhubarb in Asheville, NC. It’s based on the simple Southern tradition of eating day-old cornbread crumbled into a glass of milk.

So go ahead and buy that carton of buttermilk. Use a bit in the biscuits or pancakes you love. Then send the rest to the buttermilk soup pot. GREG

Chicken and Cornbread Buttermilk Soup

Chicken and Cornbread Buttermilk Soup

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Adapted from John Fleer, Rhubarb restaurant Ashville, NCPublished

This soup is also good served chilled.

Chicken and Cornbread Buttermilk Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half
  • 3½ cup chicken broth (or as needed)
  • vegetable oil (or other mild flavored oil)
  • ½ cup chopped leeks (white parts only)
  • ½ cup chopped celery
  • ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup crumbled, day-old cornbread (do not use cornbread sweetened with sugar) plus more as garnish
  • 1 cup buttermilk (full fat, if possible)
  • 3 tablespoon heavy cream
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (to taste)

Directions

Bring chicken and broth to a boil in a saucepan, the breast should be completely submerged if not, use a smaller pan or more broth. Lower the heat to simmer and cook, skimming the foam and scum that comes to the top, 8 to 10 minutes or until done. Drain, reserving broth. Let chicken cool, then shred or chop the chicken. Set aside.

Set a medium soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Heat the oil for a minute and then stir in the leeks and celery; reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables become lightly translucent without coloring. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then add 2 ½ cups broth and ½ cup crumbled cornbread; cook (uncovered) for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Combine the buttermilk and heavy cream in a heatproof mixing bowl. Gradually pour in the hot broth mixture, stirring constantly. Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion (stick) blender until smooth. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a touch of remaining broth.

Return the soup to the pot; add the shredded chicken and gently cook over low heat just until warmed through. Be sure to reheat slowly to keep the buttermilk from separating.

Serve with an additional sprinkle of crumbled cornbread on top.

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Goshimo Goodies: Spicy Sesame Edamame

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Spicy Sesame Edamame

I don’t know about you but I find edamame (pronounced: ed-ah-MAH-may) in the pods completely addicting. They’re typically served slightly salty and steamy hot, I just can’t stop myself when they’re set out before me. I think a bowl before dinner is not only a delicious and healthy way to start a meal, but it’s also a great way to gather the troops around the table as you put the finishing touches on whatever the main course might be. Though you were probably introduced to edamame in an Asian restaurant (and today’s Spicy Sesame Edamame has a Japanese flair) it needn’t strictly be a precursor to Asian feasts. Edamame is a versatile little guy.

Spicy Sesame Edamame

In the classic preparation, edamame is boiled or steamed and tossed with excellent sea salt. I love the way the briny flavors get licked from your lips and fingers. It makes edamame a uniquely enjoyable dining experience. Edamame tastes great served this simply, but what makes it completely addicting is the innovative pairing of spicy sesame salt to compliment its natural nuttiness.

My sesame edamame recipe has the same salty allure as the classic version, but there’s the added bonus of a slight tingle to the lips as you slip each pod into your mouth. Of course, you’ll lick your fingers and exhale with satisfaction as your reach for another, and another. You won’t be able to stop because you will experience the kind of thrill that you associate with an all too exciting but forbidden kiss. A healthy squeeze of aromatic lemon adds to the sensuality.

Goshimo

Spicy Sesame Edamame gets its allure from a combination of shichimi togarashi (Japanese chili powder) and a Japanese spice blend known as goshimo (also spelled gomasio). You can find both in the Asian section of good grocery stores. However, check the labels. While shichimi togarashi usually contains nothing but natural ingredients, several of the Asian brands of goshimo I looked at had all kinds of additives (even MSG). Good goshimo should be nothing more than unhulled sesame seeds and sea salt, so why not make your own. The traditional ratio is anywhere between 5 and 15 parts toasted sesame seeds to 1 part coarse sea salt. I tend to prefer 15/1. GREG

Goshimo Spice BlendSpicy Sesame Edamame

Spicy Edamame with Shichimi Togarashi and Goshimo

Print This Recipe Total time Yield Published
Spicy Edamame with Shichimi Togarashi and Goshimo

Ingredients

  • 1 pound frozen edamame (in pods)
  • shichimi togarashi (to taste)
  • goshimo (to taste, see recipe)
  • lemon wedges (as needed)

Directions

Fill a large pot fitted with a steamer insert or basket with 2 to 3 inches water. Bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Steam edamame, covered, until hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and sprinkle with shichimi togarashi and goshimo to taste. Toss and sprinkle again. Serve immediately with lemon wedges for spritzing.

Goshimo

Print This Recipe Total time Yield ⅓ cupPublished
Goshimo

Ingredients

  • 15 teaspoon sesame seeds (whole, raw, and unhulled )
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Place a small, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add sesame seeds and toast, swirling the seeds often until they start to crackle and pop, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from heat.

Immediately after toasting (they could burn if left in a hot skillet) place the sesame seeds and salt to a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind them a bit to a chunky powder.

Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.

 

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Tuna Wonton Bites “Poke Pie”

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Tuna Wonton Bites "Poke Pie"

A few years back on a trip along the Kona coast of Hawaii I made an effort to introduce myself to authentic Hawaiian food. Poke is a preparation of raw fish that represents the best of the traditional, but it’s also friendly to modern influences and flavors. According to my research, poke has been eaten on the Hawaiian Islands longer than any other food. Captain James Cook was even served a simple form of poke during his visits to Hawaii as far back as 1878. Today poke can be found everywhere from high-end resorts to hole-in-the-wall eateries. It comes pre-made at the grocery store, or lovingly prepared by home cooks. It’s a must at island parties and celebrations. No luau would be complete without at least 3 or 4 poke choices. So why not make one of those choices poke pie?

Poke (pronounced POE-kay) is a Hawaiian word meaning “to slice or cut crosswise into pieces as in fish or wood.”

Well, it’s good to have a word that covers both tasks, but eventually, the word became a shorthand phrase for any sort of raw fish that has been gutted, gilled and filleted. Initially, the entire slab of fish was passed around and eaten by everyone in the group each spitting out the inedible parts and bones. But that does not really appeal to me so I am presenting an updated version in the form of tiny little “pies” that can be enjoyed during more mundane dining practices like cocktail parties.

Tuna Poke Pie Wonton Cups

Poke Pie

I’m calling this little appetizer poke pie. But it’s not really pie. Instead, it’s a toasted wonton topped with a form of poke that may or may not strike you as traditional. That’s because poke has been evolving for a very long time and there are as many versions as there are fish in the ocean. It may have started as a simple food pulled from the sea and eaten on the spot, but creative chefs have long been innovating traditional poke styles to appease the multi-cultural palates of tourists and locals alike. Even the ancient Hawaiians began gentrifying the preparation to make it more suitable for “polite company” (or in the Hawaiian’s case– royalty). Some of the earliest preparations involved mashing the raw fish using the cook’s fingers. This way even the smallest bones could be detected and removed. But don’t worry my poke pie doesn’t require you to manhandle your meal. GREG

Tuna Wonton Bites

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 48Source Savory Pies by Greg HenryPublished

Choosing sustainable seafood can be very confusing. Seafood Watch rates troll, or pole-and-line caught albacore and bigeye tuna as “Best Choice”. I also like Kona kampachi (Seriola rivoliana). Which isn’t really tuna but a type of jack species. It is often sold as Hawaiian Yellowtail and the best of it is sustainably farmed and harvested.

Tuna Wonton Bites

Ingredients

  • 12 (4-inch) wonton wrappers (cut into 48 (2-inch) squared quarters)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass (white inner parts only)
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon prepared wasabi
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil
  • 3-4 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 pinch kosher salt (optional)
  • 10 ounce sashimi-grade tuna (well chilled & cut into ⅓-inch dice)
  • 3 tablespoon minced red onion
  • 3 tablespoon minced fresh chives
  • 3 tablespoon tobiko
  • 2 tablespoon black sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh seaweed ( such as ogo, as garnish, optional)

Directions

Place oven rack in center position. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Turn four 12 portion mini-muffin tins upside-down, coat their undersides lightly with cooking spray. You may work in batches if you only have 1 or 2 muffin tins.

Arrange 2-inch wonton squares on the raised portions of an upside-down muffin tin, so they drape uniformly and are not touching. The shape you are after is not so much a bowl as a slightly sloped plate. Place all 4 tins on a large baking sheet. Bake in the heated oven until crisp and golden, about 7 minutes. Let cool. The wonton crusts may be baked up to 3 days in advance stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Put lemongrass, ginger, garlic, lime juice, vinegar, wasabi & chili oil into the bowl of a mini-food processor or blender. With machine running slowly pour in vegetable oil. Process until a thick emulsification forms, you might not use all the oil. Add a pinch of salt if needed. You may alternatively use a bowl, whisk and elbow grease if you prefer.

Put diced tuna, red onion, chives, tobiko, and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Fold gently until well incorporated. Add dressing a little at a time, gently folding the ingredients together until fish mixture is coated but not too wet. You might not use all the dressing. Save any extra for another use. Cover and refrigerate poke mixture until chilled, about 20 minutes.

Lay wonton crusts onto a serving plate so that their sloped edges are facing upwards. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of tuna poke onto the center of each. Garnish with a bit of seaweed (if using) and serve while poke is still cool.

Poke Pie

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Rice Pudding Tarts are So Hollywood

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Rice Pudding Tarts with Cardamon and Blood Oranges

What do kids today think about rice pudding? The kind made by grandmothers. The kind you can stand a spoon up in. Do kids understand what rice pudding has meant to a waning generation raised on pudding that didn’t come in a plastic cup or a cardboard box? Well, that kind of pudding is probably gone forever. In fact, rice pudding is like the Hollywood neighborhood where I live: it’s changed a lot. When I first came to Hollywood it was overrun with tourists getting robbed in broad daylight. Sure tourists still get robbed, but the heist occurs in trendy pop-up restaurants with door policies so strict I’ve seen Vin Diesel waiting in line. I decided if Hollywood can evolve so can my rice pudding. Rice Pudding Tarts with Cardamon and Blood Oranges.

I make that statement about the good ole days of rice pudding with a certain air of false nostalgia. Because actually, as much as I loved homemade rice pudding, I was also a kid who loved pudding that came in a box with a bright red (all caps) JELL-O logo. The pudding of my youth seemed to me to be the perfect food. Well-suited to any meal. Sure it only came in two colors: yellow and brown (I hesitate to even call them flavors, but technically they were vanilla and chocolate) but these two colors seemed to fit any occasion.

When I was very young these pudding boxes were prepared with milk heated on the stove. As a new cook, my mom made JELL-O pudding as a treat. By the time the 1970’s were in full swing my mom had discovered Julia Child and JELL-O pudding was banned in our house. However it was too late, my childhood love of the stuff was already deeply ingrained. There was nothing my mother and Julia could do to dampen my desire for either yellow or brown JELL-O pudding.

This is also about the same time JELL-O introduced its instant varieties. Meaning even a shy boy could “cook” pudding all on his own. Just add milk, stir and chill. I was so enamored of the instant variety that I would often spend my allowance on the stuff. In hindsight, I realize my fascination with instant pudding wasn’t because I loved its taste (I don’t remember it having any taste). Rather it was the joy I found in the “cooking” of the pudding (behind my mother’s back).

Rice Pudding Tarts with Cardamon and Blood Oranges

Well, I still find joy in pudding (and in cooking). Only I’ve evolved beyond the stir and chill, instant JELL-O pudding of my youth. In fact, even my tastes in rice pudding have evolved. While I still like a big bowl of old-fashioned rice pudding, these days I’m far more likely to become fascinated with a type of cooking I call “fresh takes on the familiar”. Which is why these Rice Pudding Tarts with Cardamon and Blood Oranges appeal to me so much. Just like the Hollywood neighborhood where I live these little rice pudding tarts have benefitted from a bit of gentrification. GREG

Rice Pudding Tarts with Cardamon and Blood OrangesRice Pudding Tarts with Cardamon and Blood Oranges

Cardamom Rice Pudding Tarts with Blood Oranges

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from Martha Stewart LivingPublished

If you prefer a less sweet Rice Pudding Tart make these tarts, as I did, using pâte brisée instead.

Cardamom Rice Pudding Tarts with Blood Oranges

Ingredients

  • (as needed for rolling)
  • pâte sucrée (see recipe)
  • 4 blood oranges
  • ½ cup short grain rice (such as Arborio)
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • chocolate curls (as garnish, optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place six 4-inch tart pans with removable bottoms on a baking sheet lined. Set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll pâte sucrée out to a generous 1/8 inch thick. Cut out six 6-inch circles of dough with a sharp paring knife, using an overturned 6-inch bowl or plate as a guide if necessary. Press dough into tart pans; trim excess with a sharp knife. Dock tart shells by piercing the bottom all over with a fork. Transfer to the freezer until firm, about 15 minutes.

Cut out six 6-inch parchment paper circles, and line rings; fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven, and carefully remove parchment and beans. Return to oven, and continue baking until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes more. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Carefully remove tart shells from tart rings, and set aside.

Grate the zest of 1 orange, and set aside. Cut the ends off all 4 oranges, and remove the peel and pith with a paring knife, following the curve of the fruit. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, slice between the membranes to remove segments, being careful to leave them whole. Transfer to a separate bowl, and set aside. Squeeze the membranes to extract as much juice as possible; reserve ¼ cup juice.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add rice, and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain well, and return to saucepan. Add milk, zest, salt, and sugar; cook at a gently bubbling simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender and most of the liquid is quite thick and creamy; about 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes before proceeding.

In a large bowl, whisk together heavy cream, egg yolk, reserved ¼ cup orange juice, and ground cardamom. Gradually whisk in the somewhat cooled rice mixture, and return to saucepan. Place pan over medium-low heat; cook, stirring constantly until mixture boils and thickens; about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand for 5 minutes (keep in mind that rice pudding will continue to thicken even after cooking). Pour about ½-cup filling into each baked tart shell, smoothing the top as necessary. You may not use all the pudding. Let cool completely then arrange orange segments in a decorative pattern over rice pudding, and garnish with chocolate curls (if using). Serve immediately.

Pâte Sucrée

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 10/11-inch tartSource Adapted from Naomi PomeroyPublished
Pâte Sucrée

Ingredients

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 14 tablespoon cold butter (cut into ½ cubes)

Directions

Whisk egg yolks and cream in a small bowl; set aside.

Pulse flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor several times until well combined. Add the butter and pulse for 2 or 3 seconds 8-10 more times, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Remove the lid and drizzle egg-cream mixture all over the flour and butter, and replace the top. blend just to combine (do not overwork dough or crust will be tough). Pulse several more times to distribute moisture.

Transfer dough to a large work surface. Knead just to incorporate, 4-5 turns. Shape the dough into a 6-inch disc. Wrap the disc in plastic and chill at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Rice Pudding Tarts with Cardamon and Blood Oranges.

 

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Warm Tomato Relish: Blog Food or Spa Food?

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Warm Tomato Relish

I try to make creative choices for this blog. I like to post recipes that are unexpected. However, I put far less effort into my day-to-day meal making. Like you, I’m busy trying to bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan. I also have the responsibility of a live-in parent-in-law with challenging needs. While the blog represents food I love, my daily meals aren’t Malaysian street food garnished with pickled mustard seeds preceded by labor-intensive appetizers. Most days I opt for simple preparations of whatever lean protein suits my fancy. Which leaves me in a constant struggle to dress that protein up. It also leaves me wondering: does on-the-fly, Warm Tomato Relish count as blog food?

In fact, lean protein topped with a warm tomato relish (containing just a few quality ingredients) begins to sound an awful lot like fancy diet food. Not that there’s anything wrong with the “Spa Diet“. However, I made a choice on this blog to rarely wander into the world of dieting. That’s partly because I understand that the word “diet” is socially-loaded and very personal. We all have different needs. We all have different bodies, and we all have the right to take care of (or not take care of) our bodies as we see fit. However, the main reason I stay away from the subject is because I don’t diet. Or at least I don’t call my predominantly healthy eating choices dieting.

However, if I were to slap a label on my day-to-day dining I would call it a whole food, butter-friendly Mediterranean Diet with some Paleo aspects (I can’t believe I just used the word Paleo on my beautiful blog – insert smiley face here).

Which means I tend to favor lean protein served with wine and dressed up with seasonal goodies. These can include almost any combination of herbs, vegetables, grains, and (even) pasta. The struggle lies in keeping these simple day-to-day meals from being boring.

Which is how I came to the conclusion that even the humblest of lean proteins are best compared to a good pair of jeans – you can dress them up or dress them down. They’re appropriate for that fancy new spa or you can wear them day-to-day just because they’re so easy and comfortable. GREG

Warm Tomato Relish

NOTE: This Warm Tomato Relish is particularly helpful for those days when you open up the fridge and you see a plate of leftover sliced pork tenderloin or chicken staring back at you. You could reheat that pork or chicken but I bet you’d dry it out. This Warm Tomato Relish is just warm enough to bring these (or other lean proteins) back to life.

Warm Tomato Relish

Warm Tomato Relish

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 ¼ cupSource Martha Stewart LivingPublished
Warm Tomato Relish

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 10 ounce cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3 clove garlic (peeled and smashed)
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Directions

Heat oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add tomatoes, and cook, swirling pan often, until skins are blistered, about 5 minutes.

Stir in garlic, wine, and balsamic vinegar, and cook until liquid reduces by half and tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in sugar, salt, and red-wine vinegar, and cook for 1 minute. Serve immediately, or cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (Warm over low heat before using.)

 

 

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Sticky Scallops Malaysian Street Style

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Sticky Scallops Malaysian Street Style

As I sit here intent on pecking out just the right words to define these seared scallops I’d like to share a little secret. Describing food is not as easy as it seems. I constantly struggle to find better, brighter, more evocative terms to keep you hungry. To aid me in this task I keep a list of foodie words. I call them my “delicious words”. A blogger should learn how to describe taste without having to use the word delicious over and over again. I have a list for  “best” and a list for “perfect” too. Sticky is a delicious word. Sticky Buns. Sticky Pudding. Sticky Wings. Sticky Shrimp. Sticky Scallops. Stick to your ribs!

Spiced Sticky Scallops Raw

Sticky Scallops

Sticky. The secret to sticky is in the sauce. The savory version I like could best be described at a street-style Malaysian sauce. It’s patterned after the flavors in the street food chef Zak Pelaccio “fell in love with when he lived in Kuala Lumpur”. I make some sort of adaptation of his sticky sauce a lot. Today I’m sticking it on seared scallops. Sticky Scallops Malaysian Street Style.

This sauce goes with everything. It’s all at once sweet, salty, sour, and even a little spicy. Oh yeah, it’s also sticky. It will stick to your fingers. You’ll probably have to lick it off your lips. If you dribble some down the front of you I guarantee it’s going to stick. Now doesn’t that sound… delicious. (Oops! I just couldn’t think of a better word). GREG

Sticky Scallops Malaysian Street Style

Sticky Sweet Salty Sour Spicy Seared Scallops

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-8Source Sauce adapted from Food & WinePublished

“Dry” scallops (also called diver or day boat scallops) aren’t treated with the chemical known as STP which causes them to absorb extra water. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to achieve a nice brown crust when searing STP treated scallops.

Sticky Sweet Salty Sour Spicy Seared Scallops

Ingredients

  • 4-6 dried red chiles (such as arbol) to taste
  • 2 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ⅓ cup molasses
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 5 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
  • 8 large "dry" sea scallops (shelled and prepped) at room temperature
  • fine sea salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 teaspoon canola oil (or other mild flavored oil with high smoke point)
  • cilantro leaves (as garnish)

Directions

In a small skillet, toast the chiles, coriander seeds, anise seeds and cumin seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind to a fairly fine powder. Transfer the ground spices to a small saucepan and stir in the sugar, lime juice, molasses, soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger.

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and cook over low heat until reduced to a thick and syrupy *4 to 5 ounces, about 25 to 30 minutes. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Set aside in a warm place.

When you’re ready to sear the room temperature scallops pat them very dry with paper towels and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the oil and let it heat until it shimmers but is not yet smoking. Swirl the skillet to coat and pour off excess oil. Add the scallops in a single layer, do not crowd the skillet, work in batches if necessary. The scallops should sizzle as soon as they touch the pan. Cook, pressing down lightly on the scallops with a spatula to ensure an even browning if they don’t sit flat, for 2-3 minutes. Do not disturb them or peek at them during this time. Flip the scallops and repeat the pressing if necessary. Cook for an additional minute or so. Remove the scallops from the pan placing each one onto a small warm plate. Dress each scallop with a spoonful of the warm (not hot) sauce (to taste, remember it’s spicy) and garnish with a few small cilantro leaves.

*This recipe makes more sauce than is needed for eight scallops. You could probably dress 24 large scallops with this amount of sauce. Cover and refrigerate any unused sauce up to 1 week.

Sticky Scallops Malaysian Street Style

 

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Lamb and Rice Soup (and Other Life Hacks)

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Have you ever gone swimming with a cell phone in your pocket? This tragedy may seem like the end of the line for your favorite electronic device, but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of DIY geeks swear that if a phone gets flooded you can save it. You gotta act fast, but if you immediately pull the battery out and plunge all the parts into a bag of rice you might get lucky. I don’t know if this life hack really works (and I don’t want to find out) but the amazing absorption properties of rice is just the kind of thing I was thinking about when I was making today’s Lamb and Rice Soup.

You see this Lamb and Rice Soup starts with a flavorful broth that takes hours of monitoring to ensure deep flavor. So the cook has plenty of time to contemplate all sorts of subjects. While making this broth I got to thinking about the rice I planned to cook in it. The thing I love most about rice is how much it loves a flavorful broth. It literally soaks it up. This liquid affinity may be because rice is grown in flooded fields known as paddies. Or maybe it’s the fact that rice, like most grains, is dried before it’s used in cooking. Whatever the reason, by the time rice gets to the pot it’s ready to soak up whatever broths, juices, or gravy you splash its way.

Lamb and Rice Soup with Chile Peppers and Lemon Wedges

Lamb and Rice Soup

Lamb and Arborio rice, simmered in a garlicky broth, add enough body to this simple soup to make it feel like a satisfying meal. It’s seasoned with bay leaves and served with as many sliced chiles as you like. The finishing touch is lots of lemon juice and a touch of olive oil. Arborio rice is typically used in making risotto because it’s particularly good at absorbing flavor. It’s that same quality that makes it a great choice in this soup. The grain absorbs lots of flavors yet maintains its shape. It becomes meltingly tender on the outside with a firm bite on the inside. GREG

Lamb and Rice Soup with Chile Peppers and Lemon Wedges

Lamb and Rice Soup with Chile Peppers and Lemon Wedges

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6Source Adapted from Martha Stewart LivingPublished

Don’t add the broth to the rice until right before serving. It will soak it all up even after it’s cooked.

Lamb and Rice Soup with Chile Peppers and Lemon Wedges

Ingredients

  • 2 lamb shanks
  • 3 carrots (broken into 3-inch pieces)
  • 2 yellow onions (peeled and quartered)
  • 2 stalks celery (broken into 3-inch pieces)
  • 10-12 clove garlic (peeled and lightly smashed)
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 quart (plus 3/4 cups) water (divided)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper (as seasoning, to taste)
  • 3-4 Thai bird chile peppers (or to taste, sliced)
  • 1-2 lemons (sliced into wedges)
  • extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)

Directions

Make the broth the day before: Place lamb shanks, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves into a large stock pot. Pour in 5 quarts of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to a barely bubbling at the edges of the pot, very low simmer, skimming foam and fat often, for 2 ½ hours.

Transfer the lamb to a plate to cool completely. Remove the lamb meat from the bones, and shred onto a separate plate. Discard bones. Cover and refrigerate lamb overnight.

Strain the lamb broth through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean stock pot with a lid; discard solids. Cover and refrigerate broth overnight.

The next day: Peel off the coagulated fat from the surface of the broth. Gently reheat the broth and remove from heat.

To assemble the soup: Bring 1 cups of the warm broth, remaining 3/4 cups water, and rice to a simmer in a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to very low, and gently simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender about 15 minutes.

Place a big spoonful of rice onto the bottoms warm soup bowls. You might not need all the rice depending on how soupy you like it.

Meanwhile, bring remaining broth to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Add shredded lamb, and cook until heated through. Top each bowl of rice with some of the lamb and broth. Top with a few chile slices, a big squeeze of lemon to taste (you want it nice and lemony), and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with additional lemon slices on the side.

 

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Deserted Island Coconut Fish Chowder

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Coconut Fish Chowder

It’s been wet where I live. Which was fun for a while, but lately I find baked pasta and kümmel cocktails are no longer enough to fend off the chill. As the rain continues to come down in Los Angeles I’m reminded of the old phrase: “be careful what you wish for”. I admit I’ve been wishing for rain for the past six years. Which is ironic because now that it’s arrived I find myself slurping an Asian-Spiced Coconut Fish Chowder and reverting to another of my popular fantasies. The old “stranded on a deserted island” daydream. I find it comes in handy while negotiating oceans of standing water on Hollywood Blvd. It’s easy to imagine my Prius lost at sea.

But seriously, if I ever did find myself shipwrecked, I hope I’d wash ashore on an island full of coconut palms. The way I see it is this: a beachful of coconut trees is all I need to survive.

Coconut palms are very prolific. They contain enough liquid to quench my thirst and plenty of tasty meat to quell my hunger. They can bloom up to thirteen times a year and produce as many as sixty coconuts with each bloom. So if I were a castaway I’d need all sorts of coconut recipes, for all sorts of meals. In this country, coconut is used primarily as an ingredient in desserts such as coconut cream pie. However, my deserted island is far more likely to be found near Thailand or Indonesia where they use coconut meat to flavor curries and soups, not unlike this Coconut Fish Chowder.

Coconut Fish Chowder

However, coconuts are more than the primary ingredient in my deserted island kitchen. The trees also yield wood for shelter and fires, as well as fiber for rope. Rope, that I imagine I would use to macramé myself a fish net. You can’t make Coconut Fish Chowder without fish.

Because of the rain I’ve also tossed green beans and baby potatoes into my recipe to make this soup a chowder appropriate for the cool weather. Yes, I realize I’ll have trouble finding green beans and baby potatoes on my deserted island. But this is my rainy day fantasy. Just go with it. GREG

Coconut Fish Chowder

Coconut and Asian-Spiced Fish Chowder

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Published
Coconut and Asian-Spiced Fish Chowder

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon coconut oil (may substitute vegetable oil)
  • 1 yellow onion (peeled, halved, and thinly sliced)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • kosher salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • 3 cup fish stock (may substitute clam juice)
  • 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves (may substitute 2 teaspoon lime zest)
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger (peeled and julienned)
  • 6 ounce baby potatoes (cut into ½-inch pieces)
  • 2 celery ribs (thinly sliced on the bias)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • ¼ pound green beans (trimmed and cut into bite size pieces)
  • 1 pound firm white fish (such as halibut or cod, cut into 1-inch chunks)
  • 2 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • cilantro (as needed for garnish)
  • shredded unsweetened dried coconut flakes (as needed for garnish)
  • thinly sliced Thai bird chile (as needed for garnish, optional)

Directions

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and a big pinch salt; cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add fish stock, kaffir leaves (or zest), and ginger. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 4 to 5 minutes.

Add baby potatoes, celery, and bay leaf to the simmering stock and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and add the coconut milk. Bring the broth back to a simmer then add green beans and cook 1 to 2 minutes (depending on how crisp you like them). Add the fish, continue to simmer without stirring until the fish is just cooked through and the green beans are tender-crisp, about 3 to 5 minutes depending on thickness.

Stir in fish sauce and sugar. Discard the kaffir and bay leaves. Ladle the soup into bowls; garnish with cilantro, shredded coconut and chile slices (if using).

 

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Ziti with Bechamel: The Be All and End All

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Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Yes, it’s the first month of a new year. Yes, I’ve noticed fellow bloggers and their admirable resolutions. No grains. No dairy. No this. No that. Yes, I’m supposed to be embracing the latest foodie fads by guzzling green smoothies or chomping the new kale salad (whatever it may be). But frankly, I’m not ready to give up the decadence of the waning season. In fact, thanks to the rain that’s finally come to Los Angeles, I find myself craving creamy and comforting, hot-from-the-oven, super steamy, yet crunchy, baked pasta. Something your mom and mine might call a casserole. The thing that (the best) casseroles have in common is Bechamel.

Bechamel is made by combining hot milk with a pale roux made from butter and flour. Simply seasoned with salt and pepper, it’s a versatile sauce that can serve as the base for – well, this, that, and everything. I bet I could turn a green smoothie into a decent casserole with a healthy dose of Bechamel.

Bechamel is considered one of the mother sauces of classic French cooking. Add cheese to it (as in this recipe for Baked Ziti with Zucchini) and it technically becomes a Mornay sauce. I was raised on classic French cooking by a Julia Child obsessed mother. Even as a kid I knew what Bechamel (and Mornay) was even before I knew that baseballs were for boys and Easy-Bake Ovens were for girls.

BechamelTomato Sauce

Zucchini Slices

Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Baked ziti is an Italian baked pasta dish that all cooks should have in their repertoire. There’s nothing like pulling a bubbling casserole dish of noodles out of the oven to bring people to the table. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of the preparation, or maybe it’s because baked pasta is so easy to adapt to the situation and your pantry, but I’ve eaten endless variations. Most of these versions feature ricotta. That’s the traditional Italian way to go with the dish. However, I like the tips of the noodles to stick out and get dark crunchy brown in the oven. I find that ricotta, when cooked too long gets a bit dry and grainy. Bechamel is the perfect solution. It may not be traditional but it won’t dry out. So go ahead, don’t be afraid to leave it in the oven to get good and crispy.

Yes, because of the Bechamel turned Mornay sauce, this recipe is rich. It probably won’t work for most people’s New Year’s resolutions list. However, a healthy heaping of zucchini makes it practically the same as a green smoothie (or whatever salad the new kale salad may be), right? GREG

Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel
Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 6-8Source Inspired by Bon AppetitPublished

Depending on the number of eaters at the table I often divide this recipe into 2 smaller baking dishes. That way I can freeze one for later and bake the other immediately.

Baked Ziti with Zucchini, Pancetta, and Bechamel

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cup whole milk (gently warmed) plus a splash more if needed
  • 2 ½ cup grated Parmesan (divided)
  • ½ cup olive oil (divided)
  • 1 large onion (peeled)
  • 3 ounce pancetta (thinly sliced and finely chopped) optional
  • 4 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt, freshly ground pepper (as needed)
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup thinly sliced, lightly packed fresh basil
  • 2-3 small to medium zucchini (sliced on a bias into ½-inch pieces) about 1 pound
  • 1 tablespoon dried herbs de Provence
  • dried ziti pasta (or similar small tubular pasta, such as penne, or rigatoni)
  • 1 pound mozzarella (chilled and roughly grated)

Directions

Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until foamy. Sprinkle flour over and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in warm milk. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, whisking often, until béchamel is thickened and no longer feels grainy when rubbed between your fingers, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups Parmesan, whisking until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place.

Working over a bowl use the large holes of a box grater to grate the onion; set aside.

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Cook pancetta (if using), stirring often, until golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 4 minutes. Add grated onion and all its juice, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often until onion is softened and just beginning to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until slightly darkened, about 2 minutes.

Add crushed tomatoes to the saucepan. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until slightly reduced and flavors have melded, 20–25 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss zucchini, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs de Provence. Spread the mixture out onto a baking sheet in as close to a single layer as possible. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

While the zucchini is roasting bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain the pasta well and set aside.

Once the zucchini is out of the oven, lower the temperature to 350 degrees F.

Gently reheat the béchamel, using a splash of milk if necessary to get it moving in the pan then transfer to a large bowl; add partially cooked pasta, roasted zucchini, and grated mozzarella; toss to combine. Add all but 1 cup tomato sauce and gently fold mixture a few times, leaving streaks of béchamel.

Transfer pasta mixture to a 3-quart shallow baking dish, dollop with remaining tomato sauce, and scatter remaining ½ cup Parmesan over pasta. Bake until mozzarella is melted and sauce is bubbling around the edges, 15–20 minutes.

Heat broiler. Broil until pasta and cheese are dark brown and crunchy in spots, about 4 minutes. Let pasta sit 5 minutes before serving.

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Cream of the Crop Creamy Cabbage Soup

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Creamy Cabbage Soup with Chive Oil and Cumin Seeds

I know that creamy cabbage soup isn’t the sexiest sounding recipe I’ve ever presented. But trust me, this cabbage soup will have you wondering how a homely cabbage can develop such complex sweetness. The answer (of course) is butter. When smart cooks sauté cabbage with copious amounts of cream and/or butter it loses all its cabbagey-ness and takes on an unexpected sweetness. Of course, peak-season farmers market cabbage helps this recipe succeed as well. And not just any cabbage but the tastiest, most prized cabbage of the entire Brassicaceae/Cruciferae family. Savoy cabbage.

The Savoy variety is a bit harder to find than your standard cabbage; and where I live it is much more seasonal. So be on the lookout, its time is now. It’s not hard to recognize. It’s a beautiful emerald green and looks like a giant corsage. A big frilly green corsage, not unlike the one that accompanied you to your senior prom!

Fancy cabbage aside, I know what you’re thinking – cabbage soup is a stinky, slithery mass of green pulp dished up in nursing homes everywhere. While it’s true that boiled cabbage is infamous for its pungent odor, I promise that if you make this soup, your house won’t smell like burnt tires. The nefarious cabbage odor only happens when you boil it for hours on end.
Savoy CabbageSavoy Cabbage

Creamy Cabbage Soup

Which means cabbage deserves better PR. Cooked low and slow with onions in a bath of butter, this soup is stupendous. A bit reminiscent of a classic Leek and Potato Soup with simple but refined flavors and textures. I cannot say enough good things about this soup. Really, even now I can’t stop. It’s that good. This soup is not only delicious but pretty to look thanks to a swirl of bright green chive oil and a penetrating top note from a scattering of freshly toasted cumin seeds.

Which brings me to this creamy cabbage soup and its most important attribute: the wow factor. Nobody expects cabbage to be anything special, so the cook’s art becomes apparent when this lowly offering shines. Serve big fat beautiful spears of asparagus, and your guests will praise the vegetable. Serve a transformative bowl of creamy cabbage soup, though, and everyone will praise the cook. GREG

Chive Oil

Chive Oil

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 1 cupSource Bon AppetitPublished

Chive oil can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

Chive Oil

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 1 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley (thickest stems removed)
  • 1 ½ cup mild flavored oil (such as grapeseed or vegetable)

Directions

Set a coffee filter in a sieve set over a heatproof measuring cup or bowl.

Purée chives, parsley, and oil in a blender until well blended. Transfer to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until mixture is sizzling, about 3 minutes.

Remove chive oil from heat and strain through prepared sieve (do not press on solids or oil will be cloudy); let cool.

Creamy Cabbage Soup with Chive Oil and Cumin Seeds

Creamy Cabbage Soup with Chive Oil and Cumin Seeds

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from Naomi Pomeroy, Taste & TechniquePublished
Creamy Cabbage Soup with Chive Oil and Cumin Seeds

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled and crushed into a pulp)
  • 4 cup Savoy cabbage (cut into thin ribbons)
  • 1 ½ cup water (plus more if needed)
  • 1 cup whole milk (plus more if needed)
  • ½ cup cream
  • ¼ cup crème fraîche
  • ¼ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 dash red Tabasco sauce
  • chive oil (as needed, see recipe)
  • freshly toasted cumin seeds (to taste)

Directions

Melt the butter over low heat in a 4-qt or larger soup pot or Dutch oven with a lid. Add the chopped onion and half the salt. Sweat the onions, stirring often, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Raise the heat to medium-low, add the cabbage ribbons and water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 10 minutes.

Return the heat to low, add the remaining salt, and cook covered, for an additional 40 minutes until the cabbage is completely soft. Check the moisture level and stir the pot often. Add additional water if needed.

Once the cabbage is well softened remove it from the heat and let it cool about 10 minutes, add the milk, cream, and crème fraîche.

Working in batches as necessary use a high-powered blender to purée the soup until very smooth. Test the consistency, it should pour from a spoon in a slow steady stream. Adjust consistency with more milk if necessary. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and gently reheat without boiling.

To serve, stir in lemon zest and hot sauce and ladle the soup into warm soup bowls. Garnish with chive oil and a light sprinkling of freshly toasted cumin seeds. Serve immediately.

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